November 05, 2008

Fox Reporter: Palin Thought Africa Was A Country Politics

It's even worse than you thought:

Interesting that Fox is leading the way on this. Sounds like somebody wants to send Palin back to Alaska before she can do any more damage.

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The Onion Strikes Again Humor & Fun  Politics

Ah, The Onion:

Nation Finally Shitty Enough To Make Social Progress

After emerging victorious from one of the most pivotal elections in history, president-elect Barack Obama will assume the role of commander in chief on Jan. 20, shattering a racial barrier the United States is, at long last, shitty enough to overcome.

Although polls going into the final weeks of October showed Sen. Obama in the lead, it remained unclear whether the failing economy, dilapidated housing market, crumbling national infrastructure, health care crisis, energy crisis, and five-year-long disastrous war in Iraq had made the nation crappy enough to rise above 300 years of racial prejudice and make lasting change.

"Today the American people have made their voices heard, and they have said, 'Things are finally as terrible as we're willing to tolerate," said Obama, addressing a crowd of unemployed, uninsured, and debt-ridden supporters. "To elect a black man, in this country, and at this time—these last eight years must have really broken you."

Added Obama, "It's a great day for our nation."

Carrying a majority of the popular vote, Obama did especially well among women and young voters, who polls showed were particularly sensitive to the current climate of everything being fucked. Another contributing factor to Obama's victory, political experts said, may have been the growing number of Americans who, faced with the complete collapse of their country, were at last able to abandon their preconceptions and cast their vote for a progressive African-American.

Citizens with eyes, ears, and the ability to wake up and realize what truly matters in the end are also believed to have played a crucial role in Tuesday's election.

According to a CNN exit poll, 42 percent of voters said that the nation's financial woes had finally become frightening enough to eclipse such concerns as gay marriage, while 30 percent said that the relentless body count in Iraq was at last harrowing enough to outweigh long ideological debates over abortion. In addition, 28 percent of voters were reportedly too busy paying off medical bills, desperately trying not to lose their homes, or watching their futures disappear to dismiss Obama any longer.

"The election of our first African-American president truly shows how far we've come as a nation," said NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams. "Just eight years ago, this moment would have been unthinkable. But finally we, as a country, have joined together, realized we've reached rock bottom, and for the first time voted for a candidate based on his policies rather than the color of his skin."

"Today Americans have grudgingly taken a giant leap forward," Williams continued. "And all it took was severe economic downturn, a bloody and unjust war in Iraq, terrorist attacks on lower Manhattan, nearly 2,000 deaths in New Orleans, and more than three centuries of frequently violent racial turmoil."

Said Williams, "The American people should be commended for their long-overdue courage."

Obama's victory is being called the most significant change in politics since the 1992 election, when a full-scale economic recession led voters to momentarily ignore the fact that candidate Bill Clinton had once smoked marijuana. While many believed things had once again reached an all-time low in 2004, the successful reelection of President George W. Bush — despite historically low approval ratings nationwide — proved that things were not quite shitty enough to challenge the already pretty shitty status quo.

"If Obama learned one thing from his predecessors, it's that timing means everything," said Dr. James Pung, a professor of political science at Princeton University. "Less than a decade ago, Al Gore made the crucial mistake of suggesting we should care about preserving the environment before it became unavoidably clear that global warming would kill us all, and in 2004, John Kerry cost himself the presidency by criticizing Bush's disastrous Iraq policy before everyone realized our invasion had become a complete and total quagmire."

"Obama had the foresight to run for president at a time when being an African-American was not as important to Americans as, say, the ability to clothe and feed their children," Pung continued. "An election like this only comes once, maybe twice, in a lifetime."

As we enter a new era of equality for all people, the election of Barack Obama will decidedly be a milestone in U.S. history, undeniable proof that Americans, when pushed to the very brink, are willing to look past outward appearances and judge a person by the quality of his character and strength of his record. So as long as that person is not a woman.

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November 03, 2008

Why I'm Voting For Obama Musings  Politics

I'm going to vote for Barack Obama. But you probably guessed that.

A few readers have, from time to time, chastised me for my enthusiasm for Obama, so I'd like to explain.

First off, I'm not someone who believes that a vote for a third party candidate is a wasted vote. On the contrary. No national election is ever going to be decided by a single vote, so I think you should vote for the candidate you believe in. People say that's wasting your vote, but you can just as well argue it's the other way around. When your vote is one of a hundred million, it counts for a lot less than when it's one of a million or two. In that sense, a vote for a third party candidate counts more, not less. But, people always say, what if everyone thought that way? Well, then we'd elect the candidate we really want, not the lesser of two evils.

So that's how I've voted most of my adult life. Usually, but not always. Sometimes the choice is so stark that I have to go with the lesser of two evils, quite deliberately. So I voted for Nader in 2000, but in 2004 I felt I had to vote for Kerry. I had no illusions about Kerry, but the evil of the Bush presidency was just too great. I knew the effect of my vote would be infinitesimal, but it was at least something.

I understand that the Democrats and Republicans are in many ways two wings of one Corporate Party, and I realize full well that most of today's Democratic politicians are basically what Republicans used to be before the Republicans swung so hard to the right. That said, I don't buy that there's no difference between the parties. If Gore had become president in 2000, for example, he never would have invaded Iraq. It never would have even occurred to him. The Democrats aren't progressives (there are a few exceptions), but they are better than the Republicans on most of the issues I care about. Of course that's faint praise indeed.

So a Democratic president is preferable to a Republican president, but that still doesn't explain my vote. After all, as I said, my one vote won't affect the outcome. So why vote for Obama? And why enthusiastically?

At bottom, I think it's not so much the laundry list of Obama's positions, it's more a question of who Obama is and what an Obama presidency will mean for this country.

First, as to who Obama is. I think he is self-evidently a man of rare gifts, with a level of emotional intelligence and maturity that is unequaled in American public life. He is a true grown-up, in the finest sense of the word. He embodies grace. It may sound like I've drunk the Kool-Aid, but that's what I sense in the man. And I am obviously not alone.

Second, as to what an Obama presidency will mean for the country. Think of where we've come as a nation. American politics has become so cheapened, so coarsened, so brutalized and corrupted and dumbed down that I think it will take a leader with Obama's gifts to pull us back from the brink. Think what it will mean to have a leader who appeals to what is best in us and not what is worst, who talks to us like fellow citizens of a great democracy, not like members of Jerry Springer's studio audience, and who genuinely wants government to succeed.

There are lots of other reasons why an Obama presidency will be good for America — Obama's standing in the eyes of the world; the transformative effect his presidency will have on American attitudes about race; Supreme Court nominations — but for me it's really more personal. It's the reasons I gave above. And it's this: I want to live in a country where Barack Obama is president.

Posted by Jonathan at 11:11 PM | Comments (5) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

November 02, 2008

Palin's Greatest Hits Politics

Beating a dead horse, maybe, but:

Just how cocky do you have to be to put yourself in a position where you are so utterly out of your depth?

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Cheney Endorses McCain Politics

Dick Cheney left his undisclosed location long enough to endorse John McCain.

Guess which campaign was quick to capitalize:

The kiss of death. What genius in the McCain campaign thought it would help?

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Palin Punk'd Humor & Fun  Politics

Sarah Palin gets a prank call from a Canadian comedian posing as French President Nicolas Sarkozy, and she never catches on:

Yes, it's for real.

This is who they want to put a heartbeat away.

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October 29, 2008

Charles Meets Barack Politics

Brought tears to my eyes:

[Via Digby]

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October 23, 2008

Polls: Obama Up Double Digits In Big Ten States Politics

I was about to do a post on this, but I see AmericaBlog already has one. So read it there.

Compare the two maps. What a difference a month makes.

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Amazing Factoid Politics

Hard to believe, but true.

When was the last time a Republican won the presidency without a Bush or a Nixon on the ticket?

Answer after the jump.

1928!

That's 80 years ago.

(Source)

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October 20, 2008

It's Getting Ugly Out There Politics

Cause for alarm:

[Via Digby]

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Blocking The Vote Politics  Vote Fraud

Bobby Kennedy, Jr., and Greg Palast have an important article at Rolling Stone on Republican efforts to block millions of Democratic voters from casting their votes. Here's a video that tells a little of the story:

I've never understood why Democrats lie down for this stuff. Are they really that afraid of being called cry babies? Florida in 2000, Ohio in 2004 — two Presidential elections stolen. Are Democrats too nice? Are they in on the fix? What? I just don't get it.

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Krugman On The Real Plumbers Of Ohio Economy  Politics

Paul Krugman looks past Joe the Plumber to ask how the real plumbers of Ohio are making out. NYT:

[W]hat's really happening to the plumbers of Ohio, and to working Americans in general?

First of all, they aren't making a lot of money....[A]ccording to the May 2007 occupational earnings report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average annual income of "plumbers, pipefitters and steamfitters" in Ohio was $47,930.

Second, their real incomes have stagnated or fallen, even in supposedly good years. The Bush administration assured us that the economy was booming in 2007 — but the average Ohio plumber's income in that 2007 report was only 15.5 percent higher than in the 2000 report, not enough to keep up with the 17.7 percent rise in consumer prices in the Midwest. As Ohio plumbers went, so went the nation: median household income, adjusted for inflation, was lower in 2007 than it had been in 2000.

Third, Ohio plumbers have been having growing trouble getting health insurance, especially if, like many craftsmen, they work for small firms. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, in 2007 only 45 percent of companies with fewer than 10 employees offered health benefits, down from 57 percent in 2000.

And bear in mind that all these data pertain to 2007 — which was as good as it got in recent years. Now that the "Bush boom," such as it was, is over, we can see that it achieved a dismal distinction: for the first time on record, an economic expansion failed to raise most Americans' incomes above their previous peak.

Since then, of course, things have gone rapidly downhill, as millions of working Americans have lost their jobs and their homes. And all indicators suggest that things will get much worse in the months and years ahead.

So what does all this say about the candidates? Who's really standing up for Ohio’s plumbers?

Mr. McCain claims that Mr. Obama's policies would lead to economic disaster. But President Bush's policies have already led to disaster — and whatever he may say, Mr. McCain proposes continuing Mr. Bush's policies in all essential respects, and he shares Mr. Bush's anti-government, anti-regulation philosophy.

What about the claim, based on Joe the Plumber’s complaint, that ordinary working Americans would face higher taxes under Mr. Obama?...[T]he typical plumber would pay lower, not higher, taxes under an Obama administration, and would have a much better chance of getting health insurance.

I don't want to suggest that everyone would be better off under the Obama tax plan. Joe the plumber would almost certainly be better off, but Richie the hedge fund manager would take a serious hit.

But that's the point. Whatever today's G.O.P. is, it isn't the party of working Americans.

The people who show up at McCain/Palin rallies are mostly the very people who would do better under Obama. But when McCain sneers that Obama "believes in redistributing wealth," the crowds erupt with outraged boos. Maybe they should stop for once and think.

McCain, too, believes in redistributing wealth. He just believes in redistributing it in the other direction, away from the people at his campain stops and toward the already wealthy — away from Joe the plumber and toward Richie the hedge fund manager.

And they boo Obama?

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October 19, 2008

The Right On Colin Powell Politics

You've no doubt seen that lifelong Republican Colin Powell endorsed Barack Obama.

How do people like George Will and Rush Limbaugh react? By writing it off as a race thing.

Deep thinkers.

Here's what Powell had to say about the McCain/Palin campaign:

Good for him.

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October 18, 2008

Somebody Finally Asks McCain About Gordon Liddy Politics

By the McCain campaign's own bogus standard, John McCain "pals around with terrorists."

McCain has a long-standing relationship with G. Gordon Liddy, who was sentenced to 20 years in Federal prison for his role in the Watergate break-in. Liddy also urged the Watergate conspirators to firebomb the Brookings Institution and assassinate columnist Jack Anderson.

In 1994, Liddy told listeners of his radio show, "Now if the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms comes to disarm you and they are bearing arms, resist them with arms. Go for a head shot; they're going to be wearing bulletproof vests. ... Kill the sons of bitches."

Nodody asks McCain about his relationship with Liddy, though.

But finally somebody did. Media Matters:

Finally, for the first time this year, a prominent media figure asked John McCain about his relationship with G. Gordon Liddy last night.

The lack of media attention to the Liddy-McCain relationship is one of the clearest double standards in recent political history. McCain and the news media have devoted an extraordinary amount of attention to Barack Obama's ties to Bill Ayers, yet until last night, McCain hadn't been asked a single question about his ties to Liddy, a convicted felon who has instructed his listeners on how best to shoot law-enforcement agents. Liddy has held a fundraiser for McCain at his home and describes the Arizona senator as an "old friend"; McCain has said he is "proud" of Liddy.

Imagine for a moment that Barack Obama had said he was "proud" of an "old friend" who urged people to shoot law-enforcement agents in the head. Do you think maybe he would have been asked a question or three about it? Do you think maybe there would have been more than the occasional passing mention in the news of the relationship? Of course there would have been.

Yet McCain hasn't been questioned about Liddy. The media have largely ignored the relationship, even while working themselves into a frenzy about Obama and Ayers. McCain's relationship with Liddy is obviously newsworthy in its own right, but coupled with his attacks on Obama over Ayers, it's a textbook case of hypocrisy -- exactly the sort of thing that political reporters supposedly drool over. But not when it's John McCain. [...]

Until last night, when McCain was finally asked, point-blank, about his relationship to Liddy and the similarities between that relationship and the Obama-Ayers relationship he has attacked so harshly.

Who finally asked the question? The New York Times? The Washington Post? CNN's "best political team on television"?

Nope.

David Letterman asked McCain about Liddy, putting the nation's journalists to shame in the process.

Here's the video:

I love how McCain first tries to pretend Liddy is someone he's only met. When Letterman asks about the fundraiser at Liddy's house, McCain acts like it's news to him. Pretty much exactly what he keeps accusing Obama of: initially minimizing what turns out to be a more substantive relationship. Except in McCain's case, we're not talking about a guy (Liddy) whose actions occurred when McCain was only eight years old.

None of this has any real importance. But the double standard — that is just maddening.

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Freaking Amazing Politics

Go check out this photo of the crowd at Obama's speech today in St. Louis. Holy cow.

Obama is going to be here in Madison on Thursday. Can't wait.

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Why The ACORN Flap Is So Stupid Politics

Some of ACORN's voter registration workers put bogus names like "Mickey Mouse" on some of their lists of new registered voters. They did this, no doubt, because they got paid by the name.

The McCain campaign and the Right generally have been screaming that this is voter fraud and even a threat to democracy itself.

But think about it. The bogus names aren't names of people who are actually going to try to vote. Who's going to show up at the polls and claim to be Mickey Mouse?

ACORN got cheated out of some money. That's all. It will have absolutely no effect on votes cast. None.

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Obama Tax Calculator Politics

Want an estimate of how you'd fare under the Obama and McCain tax plans? Go here.

If only paying taxes were that easy.

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October 16, 2008

I Wish Obama's Positions Were More Like Nader's Politics

I really hope Barack Obama wins. A McCain/Palin victory would be a nightmare. Literally.

That said, I wish Obama's positions were more like Ralph Nader's.

Nader's campaign website today points out a few important things about last night's debate. When McCain challenged Obama to name some occasions when he had stood up to the leaders of his own party, Obama said he voted for tort reform and clean coal technology. As Nader's people put it, by voting for tort reform Obama "stood with the National Association of Manufacturers against injured people." And by voting for clean coal technology, he "stood with the polluting coal industry against people who suffer the consequences." In both cases, he voted like a Republican, putting the interests of corporations over the interests of people.

They continue:

When McCain accused Obama of supporting a single payer, Canadian style national health insurance system, Obama said he didn’t.

And he doesn’t.

Despite the fact that a majority of doctors, nurses and the American people want it.

On national health insurance, Obama stands with the insurance industry and against the American people who are demanding single payer.

Over 5,000 U.S. physicians have signed an open letter calling on the candidates for president and Congress "to stand up for the health of the American people and implement a nonprofit, single-payer national health insurance system." (Here's the ad that ran in the New Yorker magazine.)

Obama says no.

I can't say I wish Ralph Nader would become president instead of Barack Obama. And I don't expect Obama — or anyone else — to be perfect. But I do wish Obama's positions were more like Nader's. That would be something.

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October 14, 2008

Olbermann: McCain Campaign "Tacitly Inciting Lunatics To Violence" Politics

Keith Olbermann brings it:

(Source)

I hate to even mention the A-word, but if McCain and Palin keep on going like they're going it will be hard not to conclude that they're trying to get Obama killed. An outrageous accusation, I realize, but they're not idiots. They see what they are stirring up, and yet they continue. If they're not actually trying to get him killed, clearly they are at least willing to run that risk. It's beyond despicable.

If you're too young to remember the assassinations of the sixties, this may all sound like hysteria. But believe me, it's all too real. By labeling Obama a terrorist and a traitor, they've not only given tacit permission for him to be assassinated, they've made it so whoever does it will be a hero defending the homeland. If that's not an invitation to violence, I don't know what is.

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Backlash: Independents Deserting McCain/Palin Politics

A new CBS poll has Obama up by 14. The swing to Obama is due to a huge swing among independents, who've been turned off by McCain's negative campaigning and his choice of Sarah Palin. CBS:

Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama is entering the third and final presidential debate Wednesday with a wide lead over Republican rival John McCain nationally, a new CBS News/New York Times poll shows.

The Obama-Biden ticket now leads the McCain-Palin ticket 53 percent to 39 percent among likely voters, a 14-point margin. One week ago, prior to the Town Hall debate that uncommitted voters saw as a win for Obama, that margin was just three points.

Among independents who are likely voters - a group that has swung back and forth between McCain and Obama over the course of the campaign - the Democratic ticket now leads by 18 points. McCain led among independents last week.

McCain's campaign strategy may be hurting hurt him: Twenty-one percent of voters say their opinion of the Republican has changed for the worse in the last few weeks. The top two reasons cited for the change of heart are McCain's attacks on Obama and his choice of Sarah Palin as running mate.

The hate message of the McCain/Palin campaign is hurting them enormously, but they continue. It's scorched earth, and it just may wind up getting somebody killed.

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Two Minutes Hate Politics

McCain/Palin rallies are invoking an ugly, Brownshirt vibe that is very, very dangerous.



This is an extremist brand of politics that should be shunned by all decent people. What they're stirring up isn't going to just evaporate come November 5th.

So much for Country First.

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October 10, 2008

"My Fellow Prisoners" Politics

WTF?

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October 09, 2008

Bush To "Assure" The Country Economy  Politics

This should knock another thousand off the Dow (Bloomberg):

President George W. Bush will address the nation tomorrow to tell Americans they should remain "confident" amid falling stock markets and a worldwide credit crisis, administration spokeswoman Dana Perino said.

The president wants to "assure" the country that Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and other administration officials are taking "every effort to stabilize our financial system," Perino said.

"Economic officials are aggressively taking every action," she said. "The Treasury is moving quickly to use new tools to improve liquidity, which is the root cause of this problem."

The timing of the statement, spurred by "volatility" in the U.S. markets today, hasn't been set, Perino said, adding that it likely will take place about 10 a.m.

"Volatility." Hah.

Pretty hilarious, actually, in the bitterest kind of way. Nothing says "assure" to the country like seeing Dubya on the teevee.

But maybe it's not such a good idea to keep reminding people of all the stunningly drastic steps government is taking. Not when people can see none of it's working. If this stuff isn't even making a dent, could be we're really up shit's creek.

Let's give Krugman the last word:

And by the way: liquidity is not the root cause of this problem. It's terrifying that the Bush administration still thinks it is.

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Tracking Poll Politics

Gallup's daily tracking poll has Obama up 11.

Three day rolling average, so it doesn't yet fully reflect the last debate, nor, of course, today's rout in the stock market.

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October 08, 2008

"That One" Humor & Fun  Politics

Now in four sizes.

[Thanks, Kevin]

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October 07, 2008

He Knows, He Knows Politics

Debate drinking game: every time McCain says "I know how to..." — as in, "I know how to fix the economy" or "I know how to fix Social Security" or "I know how to win the war" — but then doesn't let us in on the magic formula.

He thinks we're morons.

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The Party Of Economic Growth Economy  Politics

I'm always interested in things that "everybody knows" that turn out to be flat wrong.

"Everybody knows" that the Republican Party is the party of economic growth, with Ronald Reagan as patron saint. But here are the last 13 presidents ranked by the rate of growth in per capita real GDP (via Angry Bear):

  1. FDR
  2. LBJ
  3. JFK
  4. Clinton
  5. Reagan
  6. Carter
  7. Nixon
  8. Eisenhower
  9. Dubya
  10. Ford
  11. Bush Sr.
  12. Truman
  13. Hoover

Notice anything?

FDR, bête noire of Republicans everywhere, tops the list and nobody else even comes close. From 1932 through 1944, real per capita GDP grew 8.05% per year. But maybe it was the war? From 1932 to 1940, the growth rate was 5.37% per year, more than twice Reagan's rate.

LBJ's rate was 3.98%, about 1.6 times Reagan's rate. JFK's rate was 2.65%, and so on.

FDR and LBJ, who increased the federal government's role in social programs more than any other presidents, by far, were the heavyweight champs of economic growth, by far.

But "everybody knows" social programs kill economic growth.

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A Rout Politics

Town hall format was supposed to be McCain's forte, but so far this thing is a rout. McCain sounds completely out of his depth; Obama is masterful.

No contest.

What do you all think?

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Polls Politics

My friend Maurice turned me on to fivethirtyeight.com, the best site I've seen for poll results/analysis for the 2008 election.

Today's numbers are outstanding for Obama: up 13 in New Hampshire, 12 in Virgina, 11 in Pennsylvania, 7 in Florida, 6 in Ohio, North Carolina, and Colorado, 3 in Missouri. If these numbers hold, Obama wins the electoral college in a landslide.

[Thanks, Maurice]

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October 06, 2008

A Question Of Character Politics

Maybe you think of John McCain as basically a pretty heroic guy who only recently sold his soul, turning his back on a career as a straight-talking, reformist "maverick." If you live in America, it's hard not to have internalized the McCain brand, at least in part. But it's a load of bull. Tom Dickinson has a long article at Rolling Stone that's a real eye-opener. All his life, McCain, like Dubya, has used family connections to fail upward. But if Bush is Fredo Corleone, McCain is Sonny, a hot-headed, reckless, womanizing crook, violent, impulsive, and corrupt. The article traces McCain's personal history and there's too much to summarize here — you really need to go read it — but let me quote the initial anecdote:

At Fort McNair, an army base located along the Potomac River in the nation's capital, a chance reunion takes place one day between two former POWs. It's the spring of 1974, and Navy commander John Sidney McCain III has returned home from the experience in Hanoi that, according to legend, transformed him from a callow and reckless youth into a serious man of patriotism and purpose. Walking along the grounds at Fort McNair, McCain runs into John Dramesi, an Air Force lieutenant colonel who was also imprisoned and tortured in Vietnam.

McCain is studying at the National War College, a prestigious graduate program he had to pull strings with the Secretary of the Navy to get into. Dramesi is enrolled, on his own merit, at the Industrial College of the Armed Forces in the building next door.

There's a distance between the two men that belies their shared experience in North Vietnam — call it an honor gap. Like many American POWs, McCain broke down under torture and offered a "confession" to his North Vietnamese captors. Dramesi, in contrast, attempted two daring escapes. For the second he was brutalized for a month with daily torture sessions that nearly killed him. His partner in the escape, Lt. Col. Ed Atterberry, didn't survive the mistreatment. But Dramesi never said a disloyal word, and for his heroism was awarded two Air Force Crosses, one of the service's highest distinctions. McCain would later hail him as "one of the toughest guys I've ever met."

On the grounds between the two brick colleges, the chitchat between the scion of four-star admirals and the son of a prizefighter turns to their academic travels; both colleges sponsor a trip abroad for young officers to network with military and political leaders in a distant corner of the globe.

"I'm going to the Middle East," Dramesi says. "Turkey, Kuwait, Lebanon, Iran."

"Why are you going to the Middle East?" McCain asks, dismissively.

"It's a place we're probably going to have some problems," Dramesi says. "Why? Where are you going to, John?"

"Oh, I'm going to Rio."

"What the hell are you going to Rio for?"

McCain, a married father of three, shrugs.

"I got a better chance of getting laid."

Dramesi, who went on to serve as chief war planner for U.S. Air Forces in Europe and commander of a wing of the Strategic Air Command, was not surprised. "McCain says his life changed while he was in Vietnam, and he is now a different man," Dramesi says today. "But he's still the undisciplined, spoiled brat that he was when he went in."

And the article's conclusion:

MR. FLIP-FLOP

In the end, the essential facts of John McCain's life and career — the pivotal experiences in which he demonstrated his true character — are important because of what they tell us about how he would govern as president. Far from the portrayal he presents of himself as an unflinching maverick with a consistent and reliable record, McCain has demonstrated an unwavering commitment to taking whatever position will advance his own career. He "is the classic opportunist," according to Ross Perot, who worked closely with McCain on POW issues. "He's always reaching for attention and glory."

McCain has worked hard to deny such charges. "They're drinking the Kool-Aid that somehow I have changed positions on the issues," he said of his critics at the end of August. The following month, when challenged on The View, McCain again defied those who accuse him of flip-flopping. "What specific area have I quote 'changed'?" he demanded. "Nobody can name it."

In fact, his own statements show that he has been on both sides of a host of vital issues: the Bush tax cuts, the estate tax, waterboarding, hunting down terrorists in Pakistan, kicking Russia out of the G-8, a surge of troops into Afghanistan, the GI Bill, storing nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain, teaching intelligent design, fully funding No Child Left Behind, offshore drilling, his own immigration policy and withdrawal timelines for Iraq.

In March, McCain insisted to The Wall Street Journal that he is "always for less regulation." In September, with the government forced to bail out the nation's largest insurance companies and brokerage houses, McCain declared that he would regulate the financial industry and end the "casino culture on Wall Street." He did a similar about-face on Bush's tax cuts, opposing them when he planned to run against Bush in 2001, then declaring that he wants to make them larger — and permanent — when he needed to win the support of anti-tax conservatives this year. "It's a big flip-flop," conceded tax abolitionist Grover Norquist. "But I'm happy he's flopped."

In June of this year, McCain reversed his decades-long opposition to coastal drilling — shortly before cashing $28,500 from 13 donors linked to Hess Oil. And the senator, who only a decade ago tried to ban registered lobbyists from working on political campaigns, now deploys 170 lobbyists in key positions as fundraisers and advisers.

Then there's torture — the issue most related to McCain's own experience as a POW. In 2005, in a highly public fight, McCain battled the president to stop the torture of enemy combatants, winning a victory to require military personnel to abide by the Army Field Manual when interrogating prisoners. But barely a year later, as he prepared to launch his presidential campaign, McCain cut a deal with the White House that allows the Bush administration to imprison detainees indefinitely and to flout the Geneva Conventions' prohibitions against torture.

What his former allies in the anti-torture fight found most troubling was that McCain would not admit to his betrayal. Shortly after cutting the deal, McCain spoke to a group of retired military brass who had been working to ban torture. According to Wilkerson, Colin Powell's former deputy, McCain feigned outrage at Bush and Cheney, as though he too had had the rug pulled out from under him. "We all knew the opposite was the truth," recalls Wilkerson. "That's when I began to lose a little bit of my respect for the man and his bona fides as a straight shooter."

But perhaps the most revealing of McCain's flip-flops was his promise, made at the beginning of the year, that he would "raise the level of political dialogue in America." McCain pledged he would "treat my opponents with respect and demand that they treat me with respect." Instead, with Rove protégé Steve Schmidt at the helm, McCain has turned the campaign into a torrent of debasing negativity, misrepresenting Barack Obama's positions on everything from sex education for kindergarteners to middle-class taxes. In September, in one of his most blatant embraces of Rove-like tactics, McCain hired Tucker Eskew — one of Rove's campaign operatives who smeared the senator and his family during the 2000 campaign in South Carolina.

Throughout the campaign this year, McCain has tried to make the contest about honor and character. His own writing gives us the standard by which he should be judged. "Always telling the truth in a political campaign," he writes in Worth the Fighting For, "is a great test of character." He adds: "Patriotism that only serves and never risks one's self-interest isn't patriotism at all. It's selfishness. That's a lesson worth relearning from time to time." It's a lesson, it would appear, that the candidate himself could stand to relearn.

"I'm sure John McCain loves his country," says Richard Clarke, the former counterterrorism czar under Bush. "But loving your country and lying to the American people are apparently not inconsistent in his view."

In other words, McCain is an inveterate liar.

In 2004, the Republicans attacked John Kerry at what seemed like his strongest point — his combat service in Vietnam, while Bush was too drunk and coked up to show up for his piss tests at the Air National Guard unit Daddy had gotten him into — and turned it into a weakness. In 2008, they're doing it again, attacking Obama's character and honor. But if character and honor counted for anything, McCain would have been run out of public life a long time ago.

The McCain brand is a myth. Read the article. Send it to your Republican brother-in-law.

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October 05, 2008

Register To Vote Politics

Are you registered to vote?

If not, here's a site that tells you, state by state, what you need to do and by when. Here's another.

And here's some encouragement:

[Thanks, Erin]

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Obama And Israel Palestine/Middle East  Politics

Yes, I know it's political advertising, but it's beautiful. Pass it on.

[Via AmericaBlog]

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Daily Tracking Polls Politics

Gallup's daily tracking poll has Obama up 8.

Kos's daily tracking poll has Obama up 12.

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Homer Simpson Votes Humor & Fun  Politics  Vote Fraud

Video here.

Let's hope on November 5th we're still laughing.

[Thanks, Miles]

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Tina Fey Debates Humor & Fun  Politics

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October 03, 2008

McCain Debates... McCain Humor & Fun  Politics

Great Jon Stewart bit. Watch especially McCain vs. McCain starting at the 1:45 mark. Unbelievable.

But McCain is the straight talker. I heard it on the teevee.

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Sarah Palin Debate Flowchart Humor & Fun  Politics





Exactly.

(Source)

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October 02, 2008

Obama On Jobs Politics

This is good:

Meanwhile, John McCain is selling one of his many homes. This one has:

10 fireplaces (in the desert)
13 bedrooms
14.5 bathrooms
15,000 square feet
a wine tasting room
an air conditioned playhouse for the kids
6 car garage
an extra second garage
surrounding the pool, 3 ramadas with full size bars
22 flat screen tvs

But Obama is the elitist. I heard it on the teevee.

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October 01, 2008

Have You Changed Or Are You The Same? Activism  Politics

The last eight years have changed us all, or should have.

Sally Anthony reminds us of some of what has changed us — and why we desperately need change in our leadership — in this moving video. Go watch it.

[Thanks, Maurice]

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September 30, 2008

They Want Her To Be A 72-Year-Old Heartbeat Away Politics

Tina Fey can't top this:

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September 29, 2008

Our Shock Doctrine Moment Activism  Economy  Politics

The Right wants to use this economic crisis as a Shock Doctrine moment to take the country even farther to the right.

Digby asks the obvious question: why don't we turn it around and use it as a moment to move the country to the left? Republican policies have been so thoroughly discredited by the last eight years that if there were ever a time for advancing a Progressive agenda, this is it.

Go read it.

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September 26, 2008

Fiscal Conservatives Economy  Politics




Source

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Jon Stewart's "Freedom Memory" Economy  Humor & Fun  Politics

Jon Stewart nails it, as usual:

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice...

[Thanks, Miles]

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September 24, 2008

"You Need A Ride To The Airport?" Humor & Fun  Politics

Letterman on McCain's ridiculous stunt:

Awesome.

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September 23, 2008

They're Catching On Economy  Politics

A new poll shows people get the "bailout," even if Congress doesn't. Bloomberg:

Americans oppose government rescues of ailing financial companies by a decisive margin, and blame Wall Street and President George W. Bush for the credit crisis.

By a margin of 55 percent to 31 percent, Americans say it's not the government's responsibility to bail out private companies with taxpayer dollars, even if their collapse could damage the economy, according to the latest Bloomberg/Los Angeles Times poll.

Poll respondents say Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama would do a better job handling the financial crisis than Republican John McCain, by a margin of 45 percent to 33 percent. Almost half of voters say the Democrat has better ideas to strengthen the economy than his Republican opponent.

Six weeks before the presidential election, almost 80 percent of Americans say the U.S. is going in the wrong direction, the biggest percentage since the poll began asking that question in 1991.

After market chaos this month drove Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. into bankruptcy and prompted federal takeovers of American International Group Inc., Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, most survey respondents said financial companies shouldn't expect taxpayers to rush to the rescue.

"Why should we help companies that can't help themselves?" Tara Rook, 36, a Republican voter in Medford, New Jersey, asked in a follow-up interview. "The government is getting way too involved with private companies."

Congress, you listening?

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September 18, 2008

McCain Seems To Think Spain Is In Latin America Politics

This is astonishing. Go read it and listen to the clip.

John McCain is definitely running on empty.

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September 17, 2008

Tide Turning Politics

Looks like McCain/Palin's bounce is fading. CBS/NYT has Obama 5 points ahead nationally, and Gallup's daily tracking poll has him up 2. The latter is a five day rolling average, so it is slower to show the effect.

Update (9/17) - Today's daily tracking poll has Obama up 4.

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September 16, 2008

Obama On The Stump Politics

While McCain's stump speech is now mostly about Sarah Palin, Obama talks about real issues. No gimmicks, no character assassination, no Karl Rove-style appeals to the lizard brain.

Obama's no progressive — though he's probably as progressive as someone can be and get a major party's nomination in America in 2008 — but he does conduct himself with honor and intelligence and class. Compared to McCain, he's just in a whole other league. No contest.

If you don't believe me, watch this.

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AP: "McCain's Stump Speech More About Palin Than Self" Politics

AP reports that John McCain's stump speech now is more about Sarah Palin than about himself. Excerpts:

Two things jump out from John McCain's standard campaign speech: Sarah Palin and change. Mostly Sarah Palin bringing change.

It's a new pitch for McCain, and that's something that sets him apart from rival Barack Obama. The Democratic nominee settled early on what's known in the business as his stump speech and has varied it only a little since.

McCain's choice of Palin as his running mate injected an unexpected and enormous burst of energy into his White House bid, and now he tries to tap into that dynamic in his campaign speeches. Nearly unprecedented for presidential contenders in recent history, McCain's stump speech now is often almost as much about his No. 2 as it is about him.

In fact, McCain is expected to do few rallies without Palin through the fall. With McCain's uneven delivery and stiff stance on the stage, big events and formal addresses have never been a staple of his campaigns. He prefers roundtables and town-hall settings where he is more apt to shine. For a long time, he was content to leave the glitzy auditorium-filling events and smooth speechmaking to Obama.

But now crowds are gathering by the thousands for the Republican ticket, and they're there as much to see her as him. Even if she's not there, like at solo McCain rallies Monday and Tuesday, they want to hear about her.

And do they ever. [...]

McCain is a lot heavier on empathy than solutions, though. He spends nearly all his time defining problems, and very little time giving detail on how he would fix them.

It's kind of pathetic, really.

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September 13, 2008

Serial Liars Politics

The McCain/Palin campaign lies about everything. Here's another (Boston Globe):

WASHINGTON - Sarah Palin's visit to Iraq in 2007 consisted of a brief stop at a border crossing between Iraq and Kuwait, the vice presidential candidate's campaign said yesterday, in the second official revision of her only trip outside North America.

Following her selection last month as John McCain's running mate, aides said Palin had traveled to Ireland, Germany, Kuwait, and Iraq to meet with members of the Alaska National Guard. During that trip she was said to have visited a "military outpost" inside Iraq. The campaign has since repeated that Palin's foreign travel included an excursion into the Iraq battle zone.

But in response to queries about the details of her trip, campaign aides and National Guard officials in Alaska said by telephone yesterday that she did not venture beyond the Kuwait-Iraq border when she visited Khabari Alawazem Crossing, also known as "K-Crossing," on July 25, 2007.

Asked to clarify where she traveled in Iraq, Palin's spokeswoman, Maria Comella, confirmed that "She visited a military outpost on the other side of the Kuwait-Iraq border."

It was the second such clarification in as many weeks of the itinerary of what Palin has called "the trip of a lifetime." Earlier, the campaign acknowledged that Palin made only a refueling stop in Ireland. [...]

But she did not venture into Iraq, [Lieutenant Colonel Dave] Osborn said. "You have to have permission to go into a lot of areas, and [the crossing] is where her permissions were," he said. [...]

Palin also told ABC that she had traveled to Mexico and Canada. Her campaign had previously mentioned a Canada visit, but not a trip to Mexico. Comella said yesterday that Palin had visited Mexico on vacation, and Canada once last year.

Claiming she had visited Ireland because her plane touched down there briefly to refuel was pathetic. But claiming she had visited a "military outpost" inside Iraq when she hadn't — that's a lot more serious. But hey, she did go to Canada once.

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A Heartbeat Away Politics

You've probably seen this, but it's too good not to repeat.

In her interview with Charles Gibson, Sarah Palin was pressed about how her living in Alaska gave her foreign policy insight vis-a-vis Russia. She said:

They're our next-door neighbors and you can actually see Russia from land here in Alaska, from an island in Alaska.

Sounds like Miss Teen South Carolina.

Anyway, the perfect rejoinder was offered by commenter Krista, at Balloon Juice:

And when I look out my window I can see the moon. Doesn't make me a fucking astronaut now, does it?

"You can actually see Russia from land here in Alaska..." Gawd. That should have ended her public career. It's like people aren't even listening to the words anymore.

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September 12, 2008

The Palin Interview Politics

James Fallows on the Palin interview. Perceptive, as usual:

It is embarrassing to have to spell this out, but for the record let me explain why Gov. Palin's answer to the "Bush Doctrine" question — the only part of the recent interview I have yet seen over here in China — implies a disqualifying lack of preparation for the job.

Not the mundane job of vice president, of course, which many people could handle. Rather the job of potential Commander in Chief and most powerful individual on earth. [...]

Each of us has areas we care about, and areas we don't. If we are interested in a topic, we follow its development over the years. And because we have followed its development, we're able to talk and think about it in a "rounded" way. We can say: Most people think X, but I really think Y. Or: most people used to think P, but now they think Q. Or: the point most people miss is Z. Or: the question I'd really like to hear answered is A.

Here's the most obvious example in daily life: Sports Talk radio.

Mention a name or theme — Brett Favre, the Patriots under Belichick, Lance Armstrong's comeback, Venus and Serena — and anyone who cares about sports can have a very sophisticated discussion about the ins and outs and myth and realities and arguments and rebuttals.

People who don't like sports can't do that. It's not so much that they can't identify the names — they've heard of Armstrong — but they've never bothered to follow the flow of debate. I like sports — and politics and tech and other topics — so I like joining these debates. On a wide range of other topics — fashion, antique furniture, the world of restaurants and fine dining, or (blush) opera — I have not been interested enough to learn anything I can add to the discussion. So I embarrass myself if I have to express a view.

What Sarah Palin revealed is that she has not been interested enough in world affairs to become minimally conversant with the issues. Many people in our great land might have difficulty defining the "Bush Doctrine" exactly. But not to recognize the name, as obviously was the case for Palin, indicates not a failure of last-minute cramming but a lack of attention to any foreign-policy discussion whatsoever in the last seven years. [...]

Sarah Palin did not know this issue, or any part of it. The view she actually expressed — an endorsement of "preemptive" action — was fine on its own merits. But it is not the stated doctrine of the Bush Administration, it is not the policy her running mate has endorsed, and it is not the concept under which her own son is going off to Iraq.

How could she not know this? For the same reason I don't know anything about European football/soccer standings, player trades, or intrigue. I am not interested enough. And she evidently has not been interested enough even to follow the news of foreign affairs during the Bush era.

A further point. The truly toxic combination of traits GW Bush brought to decision making was:

1) Ignorance
2) Lack of curiosity
3) "Decisiveness"

That is, he was not broadly informed to begin with (point 1). He did not seek out new information (#2); but he nonetheless prided himself (#3) on making broad, bold decisions quickly, and then sticking to them to show resoluteness.

We don't know for sure about #2 for Palin yet — she could be a sponge-like absorber of information. But we know about #1 and we can guess, from her demeanor about #3. Most of all we know something about the person who put her in this untenable role.

That last point, of course, is crucial. McCain put her in this position. So much for "Country First."

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September 10, 2008

OK When McCain Says It Politics

Cheney, too.

It's enough to make you crazy.

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September 09, 2008

Sarah Palin's Church Politics  Religion

Wasilla Assembly of God was Sarah Palin's church from 1974 to 2002. The video below mixes footage from Wasilla AoG and Morning Star Ministries. In October, Wasilla Assembly of God will host a "Prophetic Conference" with Steve Thompson of Morning Star Ministries, as you can see on Wasilla AoG's website.

To see more of what Morning Star Ministries is into, go up on YouTube and search for Holy Spirit Breakout. There is a whole series of videos, starting with this one:

Not exactly the home of rational thought.

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September 08, 2008

Palin's Goof Politics

Sarah Palin thinks mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have, over time, "gotten too big and too expensive to the taxpayers." Only one problem. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are private corporations. They have never been taxpayer funded.

On Friday (after Palin spoke) they were put into conservatorship under the Federal Housing Finance Agency (a move supported by both John McCain and Barack Obama). So now taxpayers are on the hook. But Palin's comment made it clear she had no real idea what Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac do.

Sam Stein, Huffington Post:

Economists and analysts pounced on the misstatement, which came before the government had spent funds bailing the two entities out, saying it demonstrated a lack of understanding about one of the key economic issues likely to face the next administration.

"You would like to think that someone who is going to be vice president and conceivable president would know what Fannie and Freddie do," said Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research. "These are huge institutions and they are absolutely central to our country's mortgage debt. To not have a clue what they do doesn't speak well for her, I'd say."

Added Andrew Jakabovics, an economic analyst for the progressive think tank, Center for American Progress: "It is somewhat nonsensical because up until yesterday there was sort of no public funding there. Even today they haven't drawn down any of the credit line they have given to Treasury. 'Gotten too big and too expensive' are two separate things. The too big has been a conservative mantra for a while and there is something to be said of that in that they hold about half of the mortgage guarantees that are out there. And in the last year they have been responsible for roughly 80 percent out there. The 'too expensive to tax payers,' I don't know where that comes from."

Even conservative analysts acknowledged that the statement simply did not hold true.

"Heretofore, if the treasury had a balance sheet there would have been a liability but there was never a taxpayer payment before [the bailout]," said Gerald P. O'Driscoll, an economist with the Cato Institute. "[Fannie and Freddie] were not taxpayer funded. They had taxpayer guarantee, which is worth something, especially in the stock market..."

Listen to the clip. She's just winging it, talking through her hat.

And they want to put her a 72-year-old-heartbeat away from the presidency.

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Obama Ad Uses The "L" Word Politics

As in "Lie". Via DailyKos:

Good.

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September 07, 2008

You Go, Joe! Politics

This is outstanding (via James Fallows):

We need more of that. Much more.

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September 06, 2008

McCain's Faustian Bargain Politics

Another great Daily Show bit, this one on John McCain's journey from Maverick Reformer to Reformed Maverick. Includes some startling clips, starting at the 3:15 mark, of John McCain saying one thing before 2006 and the exact opposite after:

From Robert Greenwald, another collection of McCain flip-flops:

Whatever John McCain may have been in the past, today he's sold his soul to the Sarah Palin wing of the Republican Party. He's marketed as a straight-talking man of integrity and people buy it. They need to see these clips.

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September 05, 2008

Numbers Politics

An ABC News national poll, taken yesterday, includes these findings:

Do you approve or disapprove of John McCain's choice of Palin as his vice presidential running mate?
ApproveDisapproveUnsure
60%34%6%
Does McCain's choice of Palin for vice president make you more likely to vote for McCain, less likely, or won't it make any difference in your vote?
MoreLessNo DiffUnsure
25%19%55%1%
Does Barack Obama's choice of Biden for vice president make you more likely to vote for Obama, less likely, or won't it make any difference in your vote?
MoreLessNo DiffUnsure
22%10%67%1%
Regardless of your vote preference, does McCain's choice of Palin as his running mate make you more confident or less confident in the kind of decisions McCain would make as president?
MoreLessNo DiffUnsure
43%38%14%6%
Do you think [Biden, Palin] does or does not have the kind of experience it takes to serve effectively as president, if that became necessary?
 DoesDoes NotUnsure
Biden66%21%13%
Palin42%50%7%

Good news, bad news. People approve of the choice of Palin, but they don't have a lot of confidence in her ability to serve as president (which I thought was pretty much the whole point of the vice presidency).

It's interesting that the approve/disapprove ratio for the choice of Palin is almost two to one, but then people are almost evenly split over whether it gives them more or less confidence in McCain's decision making ability. But nobody said people are consistent.

It's interesting, too, that Biden may actually be doing more good for Obama than Palin is for McCain. At least the difference between "more likely" and "less likely" for Biden is 12 percentage points, while for Palin it's only 6. That's a pretty weak measure (we don't know how strongly "more likely" or "less likely" people were in each case, for example) but at the very least it looks like Palin's benefit to McCain is in the same ballpark as Biden's to Obama. Which I'm guessing is not what most people would have expected. I wish they had asked the approve/disapprove question (question #1) for Biden as well so we could compare.

It looks to me like Democrats should make people think seriously about Palin as president. This isn't American Idol. It's not a question of who's more entertaining. It's a question of who can actually do the job when the election's over. I don't know about you, but the thought of President Palin terrifies me.

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September 04, 2008

McCain's Speech Politics

Well that was weird.

It was like he was reading a speech in another language. Major disconnect between content and affect. Smiles in all the wrong places. Stilted gestures and emphasis, like he was struggling to remember what they'd told him to do, when. Body language like a marionette's.

McCain must be running on empty.

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Jesus Was A Community Organizer Politics

In last night's RNC sarcasm fest, there was a lot of snide derision directed at Obama's having been a community organizer.

A number of national organizations of community organizers have responded. This is probably my favorite response, from John Raskin, founder of Community Organizers of America and a community organizer on the West Side of Manhattan:

Community organizers work in neighborhoods that have been hit hardest by the failing economy. The last thing we need is for Republican officials to mock us on television when we're trying to rebuild the neighborhoods they have destroyed. Maybe if everyone had more houses than they can count, we wouldn't need community organizers. But I work with people who are getting evicted from their only home. If John McCain and the Republicans understood that, maybe they wouldn't be so quick to make fun of community organizers like me.

Or maybe it's this one, left by a commenter at Faith in Public Life:

Jesus was a community organizer.
Pontius Pilate was a governor.

Amen.

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Palin's Foreign Policy Credential: Alaska's Right Next Door To Russia Politics

Last Friday Fox News Channel's Steve Doocy said:

But the other thing about [Sarah Palin], she does know about international relations because she is right up there in Alaska right next door to Russia.

Check out Jon Stewart's reaction in the Daily Show clip in this earlier post, at the 1:40 mark.

Just about the dumbest thing anyone's ever said in public, right? Apparently not everyone thinks so.

On Sunday, Cindy McCain repeated it, saying, "remember, Alaska is the closest part of our continent to Russia."

Yesterday, leading neocon Frank Gaffney picked up the theme:

Napoleon is said to have declared that "Geography is destiny." That certainly is true of Gov. Palin. Her state is adjacent to Russia... As that state's governor, Sarah Palin would know more by osmosis — if nothing else — about the necessity for US anti-missile systems than either Messrs. Obama or Biden.

And now it's been picked up by John McCain himself. On ABC today McCain said:

Alaska is right next to Russia. She understands that.

Can you imagine Barack Obama saying something so dumb? No, neither can I.

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Ali On YouTube Politics

My daughter Ali is up in St. Paul shooting footage for a video project on the street action outside the RNC. She's been tear-gassed and has filmed a number of arrests. Tuesday she happened to see the arrest of a couple of "medics" from the North Star Health Collective and was interviewed on camera briefly by some reporters from City Pages, an alternative weekly in the Twin Cities.

You can see her interview here. Not earth-shaking news, but she's my daughter and I'm proud of her!

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Today's Joke Politics

What a historic race. The first time an actual black person is leading the charge for a major American political party. I think that says something pretty great about America: we will accept a black man to lead us if the only other choice is a woman. — Bill Maher

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September 03, 2008

Reality And Reality TV Politics

Palin's speechwriters filled her speech with snide zingers that she delivered with snarky confidence. Never mind that it was riddled with untruths. The delegates ate it up. So we can probably expect to hear a lot of talk about her having "nailed" it. And she did, I guess, in a sort of reality-tv-show-winner-gets-to-run-for-vice-president kind of way.

But down here in the real world, people who run for vice president and win actually have to serve in the office.

Alexander Burns (politico.com) looked up the actuarial statistics on a man John McCain's age making it through his presidency. Without even factoring in McCain's history of four melanomas or the crushing stresses of the presidency, a man McCain's age would have about a 1 in 3 chance of dying before he could finish two terms and about a 1 in 7 chance of not making it through one.

So the question of Sarah Palin's fitness to be President of the United States has to be taken very seriously. This isn't some reality tv show — though you get the feeling that people are finding it harder and harder to distinguish reality from reality tv. They may think Sarah Palin as vice president would be "fun."

President Sarah Palin would most assuredly not be fun, though. Not in reality.

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Palin And Earmarks Politics

Expect to hear a lot tonight about Sarah Palin as reformer, foe of budget earmarks. True? KXMC (Via Atrios):

John McCain touts his running mate, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, as a force in his battle against earmarks and entrenched power brokers.

But under her leadership, Alaska has asked the federal government for almost $300 per person in requests for pet projects this year. That's more than any other state received, per person, from Congress and runs counter to the image the GOP ticket is pushing.

McCain's campaign says Palin realizes Alaska has been too reliant on earmarks and ordered state officials to cut back on their requests. It also says Barack Obama requested nearly a billion dollars in earmarks over three years for Illinois, a state with nearly 20 times the population of Alaska.

Obama hasn't asked for any earmarks this year. Last year he requested 311 million dollars roughly $24 worth for every Illinoisan.

To be fair, Alaska has reduced its earmark requests, which were more than $800 per Alaskan in Palin's first year in office. But the current figure of $300 per capita is still the highest in the land. The average across all states is only about $34 per capita.

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What Awaits Sarah Palin Politics

James Fallows on what's in store for Sarah Palin, even leaving aside all the embarrassing disclosures:

Unless you have seen it first first-hand, as part of the press scrum or as a campaign staffer, it is almost impossible to imagine how grueling the process of running for national office is. Everybody gets exhausted. The candidates have to answer questions and offer views roughly 18 hours a day, and any misstatement on any topic can get them in trouble. Why do candidates so often stick to a stump speech that they repeat event after event and day after day? Because they've worked out the exact way to put their positions on endless thorny issues — Iraq, abortion, the Middle East, you name it — and they know that creative variation mainly opens new complications.

If someone is campaigning for the presidency or vice presidency, there's an extra twist. That person has to have a line of argument to offer on any conceivable issue. Quick, without pausing in the next ninety seconds, tell me what you think about: the balance of relations between Taiwan and mainland China, and exactly what signals we're sending to Hamas, and what we think about Russia's role in the G-8 and potentially in NATO, and where North Korea stands on its nuclear pledges — plus Iran while we're at it, plus the EU after the Irish vote, plus cap-and-trade as applied to India and China, and what's the right future for South Ossetia; and let's not even start on domestic issues.

The point about every one of those issues is that there is a certain phrase or formulation that might seem perfectly innocent to a normal person but that can cause a big uproar. Without going into the details, there is all the difference in the world between saying "Taiwan and mainland China" versus "Taiwan and China." The first is policy as normal; the second — from an important US official — would light up the hotline between DC and Beijing.

The further point is that not even the most accomplished person knows all this off the top of his or her head. Example: Barack Obama. He is a quick study and has been campaigning very hard for 18 months. But this summer, when he tried to offer a reassuring message about his commitment to Israeli security with his AIPAC speech, he made a rookie error by getting the standard phraseology slightly wrong.

Let's assume that Sarah Palin is exactly as smart and disciplined as Barack Obama. But instead of the year and a half of nonstop campaigning he has behind him, and Joe Biden's even longer toughening-up process, she comes into the most intense period of the highest stakes campaign with absolutely zero warmup or preparation. If she has ever addressed an international issue, there's no evidence of it in internet-land.

The smartest person in the world could not prepare quickly enough to know the pitfalls, and to sound confident while doing so, on all the issues she will be forced to address. This is long before she gets to a debate with Biden; it's what the press is going to start out looking for.

So the prediction is: unavoidable gaffes. The challenge for the McCain-Palin campaign is to find some way to defuse them ahead of time, since Socrates, Machiavelli, and Clausewitz reincarnated would themselves make errors in her situation. And the challenge for Democrats is to lead people to think, What if she were in charge?, without being bullies about it.

One more reason — a big reason — why McCain's reckless gamble on Palin is crazy and doomed. I wish people would stop focusing on Palin's pregnant daughter. That's the least of her worries. It's going to be entertaining to watch Palin try to sound like she's got the goods to be a heartbeat away.

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September 02, 2008

GOP: Brand X Politics

Jack Cafferty on the self-destructing GOP. Worth a read.

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"This Can't Be Happening" Politics

Here's what some prominent Alaska Republicans thought of the Palin pick (Anchorage Daily News):

State Senate President Lyda Green said she thought it was a joke when someone called her at 6 a.m. to give her the news.

"She's not prepared to be governor. How can she be prepared to be vice president or president?" said Green, a Republican from Palin's hometown of Wasilla. "Look at what she's done to this state. What would she do to the nation?" [...]

The state Legislature is investigating whether Palin and her staff broke state law by pressuring the public safety department to fire a state trooper who was in a custody battle with her sister. [...]

State House Speaker John Harris, a Republican from Valdez, was astonished at the news. He didn't want to get into the issue of her qualifications.

"She's old enough," Harris said. "She's a U.S. citizen."

Former House Speaker Gail Phillips, a Republican political leader who has clashed with Palin in the past, was shocked when she heard the news Friday morning with her husband, Walt.

"I said to Walt, 'This can't be happening, because his advance team didn't come to Alaska to check her out," Phillips said.

Phillips has been active in the Ted Stevens re-election steering committee and remains in close touch with Sen. Lisa Murkowski and other party leaders, and she said nobody had heard anything about McCain's people doing research on his prospective running mate.

"We're not a very big state. People I talk to would have heard something."

It's not just that Palin isn't ready to lead the country. By picking her, McCain has shown — definitively — that he isn't ready either. These are not the actions of a serious grownup.

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September 01, 2008

"Hookers And Blow" Politics

John McCain publicly asked RNC conventioneers to cut back on the partying while their fellow citizens deal with Hurricane Gustav. How's that working out?

You get the feeling nobody in GOP politics really gives a damn about McCain. He's just the front man, the guy they hope will let them keep their noses in the trough. He can do his thing, they're going to do theirs.

[Via FireDogLake]

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Why Sarah Palin? Politics

John McCain's choice of Sarah Palin seems inexplicable. Yes, she's a woman, but there are lots of women. Why pick such a lightweight?

But maybe there's an explanation after all.

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August 31, 2008

Sarah Palin, Vagina-American Humor & Fun  Politics

The Daily Show nails John McCain's choice of Sarah Palin as running mate:

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June 08, 2008

Obama Plans 50-State Strategy Politics

People talk about the long, hard-fought Democratic primary season having been good for McCain. On the surface that seems true, but the primary campaign also pushed the Obama team to build organizations (and raise money) all over the country. The NYT reports that those organizations are now gearing up to take it to McCain in a number of Republican strongholds. NYT:

Senator Barack Obama’s general election plan calls for broadening the electoral map by challenging Senator John McCain in typically Republican states — from North Carolina to Missouri to Montana — as Mr. Obama seeks to take advantage of voter turnout operations built in nearly 50 states in the long Democratic nomination battle, aides said.

On Monday, Mr. Obama will travel to North Carolina — a state that has not voted for a Democratic presidential candidate in 32 years — to start a two-week tour of speeches, town hall forums and other appearances intended to highlight differences with Mr. McCain on the economy. From there, he heads to Missouri, which last voted for a Democrat in 1996. His first campaign swing after securing the Democratic presidential nomination last week was to Virginia, which last voted Democratic in 1964.

With Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton now having formally bowed out of the race and thrown her backing to him, Mr. Obama wants to define the faltering economy as the paramount issue facing the country, a task probably made easier by ever-rising gasoline prices and the sharp rise in unemployment the government reported on Friday. Mr. McCain, by contrast, has been emphasizing national security more than any other issue and has made clear that he would like to fight the election primarily on that ground.

Mr. Obama has moved in recent days to transform his primary organization into a general election machine, hiring staff members, sending organizers into important states and preparing a television advertisement campaign to present his views and his biography to millions of Americans who followed the primaries from a distance. [...]

While the lengthy, contentious Democratic primary fight against Mrs. Clinton exposed vulnerabilities in Mr. Obama that the Republicans will no doubt seek to exploit, it also allowed him to build a nearly nationwide network of volunteers and professional organizers. While early assertions by presidential campaigns that they intend to expand the playing field are often little more than feints intended to force opponents to spend time and money defending states that they should have locked up, Mr. Obama’s fund-raising success gives his campaign more flexibility than most to play in more places.

It's easy to forget what an overwhelming advantage Hillary Clinton had when the campaign began. Obama and his team are enormously effective organizers, as John McCain is about to find out. I love that Obama is going after red states, that he's not content to play for 50% plus one. The bigger the victory, the longer the coattails. This is going to be fun.

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June 03, 2008

What A Night Politics

Obama. What a night. What a speech.

I know real change will be hard to come by, but tonight I choose to be inspired. Tonight I choose to hope. The man has greatness.

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May 06, 2008

Miscellany Peak Oil  Politics

BookForum has a lengthy excerpt from Rick Perlstein's new book, Nixonland. For anyone who remembers 1972 and the McGovern campaign, it's a fascinating read.

Meanwhile, oil hit $122 a barrel today. It's remarkable how little talk there is in the mainstream, still, about the permanence of the trends that have brought this about. It's as if people think it's a temporary blip — a little gas tax holiday and it'll all blow over.

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April 04, 2008

81% Say Country On Wrong Track Politics

You are not alone. NYT:

Americans are more dissatisfied with the country's direction than at any time since the New York Times/CBS News poll began asking about the subject in the early 1990s, according to the latest poll.

In the poll, 81 percent of respondents said they believed "things have pretty seriously gotten off on the wrong track," up from 69 percent a year ago and 35 percent in early 2002.

Although the public mood has been darkening since the early days of the war in Iraq, it has taken a new turn for the worse in the last few months, as the economy has seemed to slip into recession. There is now nearly a national consensus that the country faces significant problems.

A majority of nearly every demographic and political group — Democrats and Republicans, men and women, residents of cities and rural areas, college graduates and those who finished only high school — say the United States is headed in the wrong direction. Seventy-eight percent of respondents said the country was worse off than five years ago; just 4 percent said it was better off.

The dissatisfaction is especially striking because public opinion usually hits its low point only in the months and years after an economic downturn, not at the beginning of one. Today, however, Americans report being deeply worried about the country even though many say their own personal finances are still in fairly good shape.

Only 21 percent of respondents said the overall economy was in good condition, the lowest such number since late 1992, when the recession that began in the summer of 1990 had already been over for more than a year. In the latest poll, two in three people said they believed the economy was in recession today.

Check the graph. Pretty much correlates with Bush's term in office. Let's hope people catch on to the fact that McCain is essentially running for Bush's third term.

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March 03, 2008

If Obama Was A Woman Politics

Last Tuesday, I heard Geraldine Ferraro on the radio discussing gender and the Clinton campaign. Ferraro, you may remember, was the Democratic nominee for Vice President in 1984. She's a year older than John McCain, but you'd never know it. She's ferociously smart — lightning quick and crackling with energy. She made an interesting point: if Barack Obama was a woman, with a resume as thin as his, he'd never have gotten past square one. She's right. No doubt.

People like to say it's about issues, but really it comes down to gut feel. We're just a bunch of primates who evolved to live in small bands with other primates. We look for a certain animal magnetism in a leader. We want someone who gives us confidence that he (or she) will keep us safe. We pick our leaders by instinct, by feel, and then we rationalize our choice by appealing to the issues. Most of us, anyway. Unfortunately.

I've been reading (and enjoying) Ken Wilber's Boomeritis, and it strikes me also that an important reason why Obama connects so well with younger voters is that he's the first post-Boomer candidate. Obama was born in 1961 — which may or may not make him technically a Boomer, depending on who you ask — but he doesn't feel like a Boomer. He feels like something new. People are just so tired of us Boomers. We've been hogging the spotlight forever, seems like. People want to take the next step. But you already knew that.

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February 28, 2008

Dick Gregory On The First Black President Politics

Dick Gregory at last weekend's State of the Black Union explains about the "first Black President":

[Thanks, Miles]

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February 27, 2008

How Embarrassing Media  Politics

Until last night, I hadn't watched any of the presidential candidates' "debates." Partly because I don't watch tv, but mostly because I just don't have the stomach for it: politics as an episode of "American Idol" (not that I've ever watched "American Idol," either.) But last night I did watch online, and I have to say: what's the deal with Tim Russert and his gotcha questions? That's the state of American journalism and politics? (Rhetorical question.)

Gawd, it's embarrassing. (Digby agrees.)

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February 20, 2008

Something's Happening Here Politics

Before last night, the record turnout for Democratic caucuses in Hawaii was 4,900, set in 1988. Democrats expected a record turnout last night, so they prepared 17,000 ballots, figuring that would be a safe number.

How many people showed up? 37,182 — 28,347 for Obama, 8,835 for Clinton. Three to one for Hawaii native son Obama, but that's not really the big story. In this campaign, the big story has been and continues to be turnout. Democrats are drawing unprecedented numbers of people to the polls and to caucuses in state after state. We have two people to thank for that: Barack Obama — and George Bush. Even Hillary's numbers dwarfed the previous record.

A tidal wave is building. If the Democrats manage not to shoot themselves in the foot, November could be an across-the-board Democratic blowout, a real mandate for change. Then it will be up to the Democrats to deliver. No excuses.

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Worst. President. Ever. Politics

Bush's approval rating has dropped below 20%:

George W. Bush's overall job approval rating has dropped to a new low in American Research Group polling as 78% of Americans say that the national economy is getting worse according to the latest survey from the American Research Group.

Among all Americans, 19% approve of the way Bush is handling his job as president and 77% disapprove. When it comes to Bush's handling of the economy, 14% approve and 79% disapprove.

Wow. Even Bush's hardcore base is bailing. Pity we don't have a parliamentary system that allows for an immediate vote of no confidence.

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February 19, 2008

Primary Day Politics

Just got back from voting in the Wisconsin primary. Polling place was crowded with Gen-X'ers, and I was voter number 1171, an unusually high number for a primary in our precinct. All of which I take as good news for Obama.

In other news... The chemo got my hair, so I shaved my head over the weekend. Totally bald. Turns out there are no major dents in my skill, which is nice, but my scalp sure does need to get some sun. Second treatment tomorrow.

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February 18, 2008

Obama's Coattails Politics

Last week's Obama event here in Madison was impressive. Thousands of people waited in single-digit temperatures for the doors to open, and when the doors did open, the Kohl Center's 17,000 seats filled quickly. Still more people watched in the overflow room on CCTV. The crowd was largely student-aged, but a cross-section of the community was there as well. I've never seen a more enthusiastic crowd at a political event.

Obama himself has an effortless sort of magic. No other American politician is as gifted. In person, he seems to radiate a relaxed, confident mastery and warmth. Other politicians importune. They want something from you, and badly. (One thinks of Hunter Thompson's lines that Hubert Humphrey "campaigned like a rat in heat," while Edmund Muskie sounded "like a farmer with terminal cancer trying to borrow money on next year's crop.") Obama, on the other hand, projects a kind of "here I am, I'm ready if you are" vibe. Not for nothing does he end his appearances with the Stevie Wonder song that goes, "Here I am, signed, sealed, delivered, I'm yours."

Having said all that, I continue to have my doubts about a man who could write, as Obama did in Foreign Affairs last summer:

To renew American leadership in the world, we must immediately begin working to revitalize our military. [...]

We must use this moment both to rebuild our military and to prepare it for the missions of the future. We must retain the capacity to swiftly defeat any conventional threat to our country and our vital interests. But we must also become better prepared to put boots on the ground in order to take on foes that fight asymmetrical and highly adaptive campaigns on a global scale.

We should expand our ground forces by adding 65,000 soldiers to the army and 27,000 marines. [...]

I will not hesitate to use force, unilaterally if necessary, to protect the American people or our vital interests whenever we are attacked or imminently threatened.

We must also consider using military force in circumstances beyond self-defense in order to provide for the common security that underpins global stability — to support friends, participate in stability and reconstruction operations, or confront mass atrocities. But when we do use force in situations other than self-defense, we should make every effort to garner the clear support and participation of others — as President George H. W. Bush did when we led the effort to oust Saddam Hussein from Kuwait in 1991. The consequences of forgetting that lesson in the context of the current conflict in Iraq have been grave.

Obama may be opposed to the Iraq War, but he's hardly anti-war. His candidacy is packaged as some kind of grass-roots insurgency, but he's got plenty of elite backing. Yes, his personal story is impressive, and yes, he says a lot of the right things, but it remains to be seen just how progressive a president he would be.

But one thing he said in his Madison speech really struck me. He said that to create real change a president needs to come into office with a "mandate for change."

That's when I saw why I should vote for Obama in tomorrow's Wisconsin primary. Hillary Clinton might be able to win — barely — in the general election, but Obama has the potential to win big. In last Tuesday's Virginia primary, for example, Obama beat Clinton almost two-to-one. Virginia is a red state, a state where Bush won easily in 2004. But last Tuesday, Obama got 623,141 votes; all Republican candidates combined got only 487,656.

And if Obama wins big in the general election, he brings a lot of Democrats in with him. Obama is not as progressive on the issues as we would like (neither, of course, is Clinton), but Obama with a solidly Democratic Congress — that could be a real watershed. Even, conceivably, like FDR in 1932. After all, FDR had been a relatively conservative governor, but when he swept into office with an overwhelmingly Democratic Congress that was well to his left, he adapted quickly.

A landslide like FDR's is unlikely. But Obama does have the possibility of coming into office with a real "mandate for change." Hillary Clinton does not. That's why I'm going to vote for Obama. One can hope that he'll live up to his rhetoric, but I'm not counting on it. The bottom line is this: Obama's coattails.

Don't get me wrong. I realize that today's Democrats are what Republicans used to be, back before Ronald Reagan and this country's hard right turn. Bill Clinton only seems liberal because people compare him to Reagan and the Bushes. So it's not that a Democratic majority is the answer. But it beats the alternative. And, who knows, maybe the energy mobilized by the Obama phenomenon will begin to break the DLC's hold on the Democratic Party, and the Democrats can finally stop trying to be Republican Lite.

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February 12, 2008

See You In 12,008 Humor & Fun  Politics

Meet John McCain:

[Thanks, Miles]

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Obama Fever Politics

I don't watch much tv, so I've been relatively immune from Obama mania. That may be about to change.

Obama's speaking at the Kohl Center here in Madison tonight (doors open around 6 PM), and I'll be going with my 18-year-old daughter Molly, who's on fire for Obama and can't wait to vote in her first election next Tuesday. It should be quite the event, something like that gorgeous autumn day in 2004 when John Kerry came to town with Bruce Springsteen. I just went back and read my post from that day. I was so much younger then...

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February 08, 2008

Gaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!! Environment  Politics

This'll leave you sputtering:

Your modern GOP.

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January 15, 2008

American Taliban Extremism  Politics  Religion

Digby points to this, in which Mike Huckabee shows his true colors:

"I have opponents in this race who do not want to change the Constitution," Huckabee told a Michigan audience on Monday. "But I believe it's a lot easier to change the Constitution than it would be to change the word of the living god. And that's what we need to do — to amend the Constitution so it's in God's standards rather than try to change God's standards so it lines up with some contemporary view."

That's the GOP front runner, and he's not joking. Theocracy here we come.

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December 27, 2007

Wrapped In The Flag, Carrying A Cross Extremism  Politics  Religion

Mike Huckabee says he doesn't believe in evolution. If only that were all there is to it. Excerpts from an excellent piece by Chris Hedges:

George Bush is a happy stooge of his corporate handlers. He blithely enriches the oligarchy, defends a war that is the worst foreign policy blunder in American history and callously denies medical benefits to children. Huckabee is different. He has tapped into the rage and fury of the working class, dispossessed and abandoned by the mainstream Democrats and Republicans. And he refuses to make the ideology of the Christian right, with its dark contempt for democratic traditions and intolerance of nonbelievers, a handmaiden of the corporate establishment. This makes him a much more lethal and radical political force.

The Christian right is the most potent and dangerous mass movement in American history. It has been controlled and led, until now, by those who submit to the demands of the corporate state. But the grass roots are tired of being taken for rubes. They are tired of candidates, like Bush or Bill Clinton, who roll out the same clichés about working men and women every four years and then spend their terms enriching their corporate backers. The majority of American citizens have spent the last two decades watching their government services and benefits vanish. They have seen their jobs go overseas and are watching as their communities crumble and their houses are foreclosed. It is their kids who are in Iraq and Afghanistan. The old guard in the Christian right, the Pat Robertsons, who used their pulpits to deliver the votes of naive followers to the corporatists, is a spent force. Huckabee’s Christian populism represents the maturation of the movement. It signals the rise of a truly radical, even revolutionary force in American politics, of which Huckabee may be one of the tamer and less frightening examples. [...]

Huckabee has close ties with the Christian Reconstructionist or Dominionist branch of the Christian right. The Dominionist movement, which seeks to cloak itself in the mantle of the Christian faith and American patriotism, is small in numbers but influential. It departs from traditional evangelicalism. It seeks to redefine traditional democratic and Christian terms and concepts to fit an ideology that calls on the radical church to take political power. It shares many prominent features with classical fascist movements, at least as such movements are defined by the scholar Robert O. Paxton, who sees fascism as "a form of political behavior marked by obsessive preoccupation with community decline, humiliation, or victimhood and by compensatory cultures of unity, energy, and purity, in which a mass-based party of committed nationalist militants, working in uneasy but effective collaboration with traditional elites, abandons democratic liberties and pursues with redemptive violence and without ethical or legal restraints goals of internal cleansing and external expansion."

Dominionism, born out of Christian Reconstructionism, seeks to politicize faith. It has, like all fascist movements, a belief in magic along with leadership adoration and a strident call for moral and physical supremacy of a master race, in this case American Christians. [...]

Dominionism teaches that American Christians have been mandated by God to make America a Christian state. A decades-long refusal by most American fundamentalists to engage in politics at all following the Scopes trial has been replaced by a call for Christian "dominion" over the nation and, eventually, over the Earth itself. Dominionism preaches that Jesus has called on Christians to actively build the kingdom of God on Earth. America becomes, in this militant Biblicism, an agent of God, and all political and intellectual opponents of America’s Christian leaders are viewed, quite simply, as agents of Satan. Under Christian dominion, America will no longer be a sinful and fallen nation but one in which the Ten Commandments form the basis of our legal system, in which creationism and "Christian values" form the basis of our educational system, and the media and the government proclaim the Good News to one and all. Labor unions, civil rights laws and public schools will be abolished. Women will be removed from the work force to stay at home, and all those deemed insufficiently Christian will be denied citizenship.

Baptist minister Rick Scarborough, founder of Vision America and a self-described "Christocrat,"...has endorsed Huckabee. Scarborough, along with holding other bizarre stances, opposes the HPV (human papillomavirus) vaccine on grounds that it interferes with God’s punishment of sexual license. And Huckabee, who once advocated isolating AIDS patients from the general public and opposed increased federal funding in the search for a cure, comes out of this frightening mold. He justified his call to quarantine those with AIDS because they could "pose a dangerous public health risk."

"If the federal government is truly serious about doing something with the AIDS virus, we need to take steps that would isolate the carriers of this plague," Huckabee wrote. "It is difficult to understand the public policy towards AIDS. It is the first time in the history of civilization in which the carriers of a genuine plague have not been isolated from the general population, and in which this deadly disease for which there is no cure is being treated as a civil rights issue instead of the true health crisis it represents."

Huckabee has publicly backed off from this extreme position, but he remains deeply hostile to gays. He has used wit and humor to deflect reporters from his radical views about marriage, abortion, damnation, biblical law, creationism and the holy war he believes we are fighting with Islam. But his stances represent a huge step, should they ever become policy, toward a theocratic state and the death of our open society. In the end, however, I do not blame Huckabee or the tens of millions of hapless Christians — 40 percent of the Republican electorate — who hear his words and rejoice. I blame the corporate state, those who thought they could disempower and abuse the working class, rape the country, build a rapacious oligarchy and never pay a political price.

We keep moving further and further into uncharted territory. Each new election cycle, things that would have seemed unimaginably grotesque in the not too distant past suddenly become mainstream. Then they, too, are surpassed. Like the proverbial boiling frog, we fail to act as things change by gradual degrees.

Resentment builds and is fed by people skilled in exploiting it. The bursting credit bubble, imploding dollar, and skyrocketing energy costs may yet push the US economy over the cliff. Then, look out.

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November 29, 2007

US Carbon Emissions Down In 2006; Bush Takes The Credit Energy  Environment  Politics

In a White House press release issued yesterday, President Bush declared:

I was pleased to receive the Energy Information Administration's final report today, which includes U.S. greenhouse gas emissions for 2006. The final report shows that emissions declined 1.5 percent from the 2005 level, while our economy grew 2.9 percent. That means greenhouse gas intensity - how much we emit per unit of economic activity - decreased by 4.2 percent, the largest annual improvement since 1985. This puts us well ahead of the goal I set in 2002 to reduce greenhouse gas intensity by 18 percent by 2012.

My Administration's climate change policy is science-based, encourages research breakthroughs that lead to technology development, encourages global participation, and pursues actions that will help ensure continued economic growth and prosperity for our citizens and for people throughout the world. [...]

Energy security and climate change are two of the important challenges of our time. The United States takes these challenges seriously, and we are effectively confronting climate change through regulations, public-private partnerships, incentives, and strong investment in new technologies. Our guiding principle is clear: we must lead the world to produce fewer greenhouse gas emissions, and we must do it in a way that does not undermine economic growth or prevent nations from delivering greater prosperity for their people.

Breathtaking in its cynicism.

Decide for yourself if you're willing to take the government's figures at face value. But let's suppose we do. As Andrew Leonard points out, here's what the EIA report actually says about causes of the drop:

U.S. carbon dioxide emissions in 2006 were 110.6 million metric tons (MMT) below their 2005 level of 6,045.0 MMT, due to favorable weather conditions; higher energy prices; a decline in the carbon intensity of electric power generation that resulted from increased use of natural gas, the least carbon intensive fossil fuel; and greater reliance on non fossil energy sources.

Andrew Leonard:

Call me partisan, but I'm finding it difficult to credit the Bush administration with responsibility for a year that featured both a mild winter and a cool summer. And while one can put some blame on the White House for high energy prices, the administration has actually fought tooth-and-nail against any kind of carbon tax or cap-and-trade system that would ensure stiff energy costs for greenhouse gas generating fossil fuel consumption. I'm also skeptical of the notion that "greater reliance on non fossil energy sources" has yet made any significant impact on emissions. Indeed, the EIA's own data have carbon dioxide emissions attributable to "renewable fuels" rising from 11.6 MMT to 11.9 MMT.

Which leaves us with the switch from coal to natural gas for electricity generation. I don't know the whole story of how that transition is playing out, but one major incentive has been the New Source Review requirement of the Clean Air Act, which was designed to encourage the phasing out of older, high-polluting energy-generating technologies.

Of course, the Bush administration attempted (and failed) to gut New Source Review.

And to that we can add this: natural gas is, in terms of its usefulness, the most valuable fuel we have. Think of a gas stove. Instant on, instant off, no fumes, no smoke, no soot. There is no substitute. Moreover, natural gas can't easily be shipped across oceans. When you use up what's on your own continent, you're pretty much done. Here in North America, natural gas production may already have peaked. So, if we're using more natural gas for electricity generation and building lots of new natural gas-powered generation plants, that's hardly cause for celebration.

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November 20, 2007

Scott McClellan: Bush, Cheney, Rove, Libby Lied About Plame Politics

Scott McClellan's squealing. CNN:

Former White House spokesman Scott McClellan says top administration officials — including President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney — were involved in his "unknowingly" passing along false information about the leak of a CIA operative's identity.

In October 2003, as controversy grew about the leak of Valerie Plame's name, McClellan stood at the White House podium and told reporters that Karl Rove, the president's top political adviser, and I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Cheney's chief of staff, had not been involved.

"There was one problem. It was not true," McClellan writes in his new book, "What Happened," which is to be released in April.

The excerpt, which consists of just three paragraphs from a 400-page book, reads in full:

The most powerful leader in the world had called upon me to speak on his behalf and help restore credibility he lost amid the failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. So I stood at the White House briefing room podium in front of the glare of the klieg lights for the better part of two weeks and publicly exonerated two of the senior-most aides in the White House: Karl Rove and Scooter Libby.

There was one problem. It was not true.

I had unknowingly passed along false information. And five of the highest ranking officials in the administration were involved in my doing so: Rove, Libby, the vice president, the president's chief of staff, and the president himself.

Time for somebody in Congress to start issuing subpoenas. They won't do it unless pushed, so let's get pushy.

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November 19, 2007

What Kucinich Should Do Politics

Madison's John Nichols, writing in this month's Progressive on what Dennis Kucinich should do now:

There is much to be said for the power of positive thinking, but in Presidential politics the practice can be futile — especially when more prominent and monied candidates are stealing your themes: economic populist (Edwards), anti-war (New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson), and time-for-a-transformation (Obama). In Kucinich's case, his optimism borders on off-putting and out of touch. Indeed, if he continues on his current course, he runs the risk of falling short of the 643,067 (3.9 percent of the total) votes he scraped together by the end of his never-say-die 2004 run.

If that happens, it will be a political tragedy, because Dennis Kucinich is more right on the issues than ever: with his demand that Congress defund the war in Iraq, with his warnings about the dangerous machinations of the Bush-Cheney machine regarding Iran, with his courageous stance on nuclear disarmament, and with his increasingly ardent advocacy of impeachment.

Kucinich may be more necessary to the process of choosing a 2008 Democratic President than even he may understand. The front-loaded race for the nomination will be a blur for most Democrats, who will likely be told who the party's candidate is going to be long before they actually have a chance to weigh in. At that point, the trailing candidates will be told by the money men who define American politics that it is time to start suspending campaigns.

More than two dozen states will select delegates after February 5. Many of them — Wisconsin, Washington, Maine, Massachusetts, Vermont, and Oregon — have Democratic voter bases that are ardently anti-war. If Kucinich were to commit now to mount a campaign that made no pretense of personal electability but rather promised to force the party to debate its direction — not just on the war but on the whole question of what a post-Bush America might look like — he could yet turn himself into the most effective protest candidate this country has seen in years.

What might the Congressman propose to the voters of later primary and caucus states, where the choice could well come down to Kucinich versus Clinton? By telling voters "this is your chance to vote for a peace plank," Kucinich could — and should — promise to use whatever bloc of delegates he is given to fight for a clearly anti-war platform, to provoke floor fights over foreign policy and the domestic agenda, and to have his name placed in nomination in order to take his message to prime time.

In a one-on-one race, where the Kucinich campaign is about an idea rather than a man, he could turn the tables on the elites. By ditching talk about actually being nominated — which only strains his own credibility — and instead making himself the tribune of the peace and justice movement that is alive and powerful at the grassroots of the Democratic party, Dennis Kucinich could win hundreds of delegates to the 2008 convention. He could renew and redefine the debate in the later primaries and at the convention. He could force the eventual Democratic nominee to listen to the party's neglected base — which polling suggests is now very close in its thinking to the self-identified independent voters who decide close contests in November — rather than to the Wall Street donors and Washington think tanks that invariably muddle the message once the pundits declare the nomination fight to have been settled. And, maybe, just maybe, Dennis Kucinich could make the Democratic nominee more appealing than a broken political process is supposed to allow.

The challenge for Kucinich is a real one. He can run according to the rules and be a Democratic Harold Stassen, or he can break the rules and make his campaign a redemptive force. To do the former, he need merely continue campaigning as he now is. To do the latter, he must level with himself and with the voters and offer himself up as a representative of the idealistic insurgency that both the party and the country so sorely need.

It makes so much sense, and it would be a beautiful thing to see. Politics might actually mean something again. Dennis, are you listening?

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It's Hard To Be This Breathtakingly, Jaw-Droppingly Dumb Media  Politics

Unless you're Tom Friedman. Gawd.

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October 29, 2007

Body Armor Profiteer Indicted Iraq  Politics

David Brooks, who made a fortune selling faulty body armor to the Army and Marines, has been indicted. Marine Corps Times:

The former CEO of the nation’s leading supplier of body armor to the U.S. military was indicted Thursday on charges of insider trading, fraud and tax evasion in a scheme that netted him more than $185 million, prosecutors said.

David H. Brooks, 53, the founder and former chief executive of DHB Industries Inc., appeared in federal court on Long Island and was ordered held without bail. His lawyer entered a not-guilty plea. [...]

The charges were outlined in a superseding indictment that also named Sandra Hatfield, 54, the former chief operating officer of DHB. The pair was accused of falsely inflating the value of the inventory of DHB’s top product, the Interceptor vest, to help meet profit margin projections. [...]

Authorities allege the scheme propelled the company’s stock from $2 a share in early 2003 to nearly $20 a share in late 2004. When the pair sold several million DHB shares at that time, Brooks made more than $185 million and Hatfield more than $5 million, according to the U.S. attorney’s office. [...]

Brooks and Hatfield also are accused of failing to report more than $10 million in bonus payments to themselves and other DHB employees to the Internal Revenue Service.

Brooks also is accused of using DHB funds to buy or lease luxury vehicles for himself and family members, and to pay for vacations, jewelry, cosmetic surgery, country club bills and family celebrations.

Prosecutors say he threw lavish bar and bat mitzvahs for his children in which entertainers like Tom Petty, Aerosmith and the Eagles performed.

Brooks, who owns more than 100 horses and races them at harness tracks around the country, also used DHB funds for his private horse racing business, prosecutors said.

At the beginning of the Iraq war, Brooks' company had a monopoly on the production of body armor. The Army and Marines eventually had to recall some 23,000 of his vests. Brooks, surprise, surprise, was a hefty contributor to Republican political campaigns.

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It's All Downhill From Here Economy  Future  Politics  War and Peace

Excerpts from a cheery rant by Stirling Newberry at The Agonist:

Technocrats are technocrats because they like measurable things. Thus there is a great deal of discussion of peak oil, because oil production is a measurable thing. As someone who has written about peak oil longer than most, and understood its implications better, I would be the last person to diminish the importance of physical scarcity and lessening bandwidth as a problem for the global economy. Particularly in the light of our dependence on petroleum and other carbon based forms of energy. However our present spike in oil has nothing to do with peak oil directly, but instead everything to do with a gush of dollars. Peak dollar capacity, not peak production capacity, is what is making $100/bbl the new "over/under" number among the oil traders I talk to. [...]

The present spike of oil is, to some extent, driven by offshoring and demand. This decade is really like the 1920's not the 1930's. While prosperity has not reached many in the developed world, this has been a boom time for the developing world. When America was a developing nation, we profited from similar consumption binges in the then core nations of France, Great Britain and Germany. We are making the same mistakes they did in their time in the sun.

The real reason for the spike in oil prices is the pouring of dollars into the global economy meant to bail out the banking sector without imposing any accountability on the people who run it.

The coming World War

So Bernanke pumps dollars into the system, those dollars go elsewhere, and the difference - we stagnate while others advance - makes inevitable, and at this point I say inevitable - that there will come a point where military conflict will be used by those others to evict the United States from the privileged position of having 6% of the world's population and using 25% of the world's oil. That day is coming and the question now is how many millions of people will die when it arrives. Americans have declined, and will in 2008 decline again, to do anything to stop the arrival of a real world war, to replace this fake made for cable one. There aren't many any chances left. This same was true in the 1840's and 1920's. The real instability is yet to arrive.

When it does arrive there will be several islamic states with atomic weapons and the means to deliver them. They will, as the underdogs in the conflict, have the ability politically to use these weapons, perhaps assymetrically, to bring down an order that they do not need. New York City and London are simply too tempting as targets, and the counter attack against the oil fields would destroy what we need. The arabs do not need our financial centers for much longer, we will need the oil in such a conflict.

There is at this point nothing that will be done about this. The current leadership of the US, and of Europe, is completely committed to a global conflict in the future in order to keep doing what they are doing in the present. The right that people are willing to kill for is the right to overconsume what is underpriced. The disutility of oil - in physical terms of war, pollution and scarcity - is well under priced. The price of oil will rise to just below the cost of solving the problems. It will always be a little bit cheaper to pay Saudi Arabia an oil tax not to solve the problem, than to pay ourselves to solve the problem. Just as it was always a little bit cheaper to let slavery continue than to buy it out. That is, until such time as it was clear that there were two mouths and one slice of pie. That day is inevitable, because right now many people are happily munching on the pie. Don't exclude yourself.

What's next, the short term

Short term, if you see a maniac running down the street randomly shooting people while the police look on, bet that he will keep shooting until he runs out of bullets. George Bush will keep fighting in Iraq until the second he leaves office. Congress will keep handing this maniac bullets, and the Central Bank will keep looking the other way. Don't get too attached, to your kid's left arm. [...]

Coal. Bet on coal. Coal. Coal. Coal. Coal. Why? Because both China and the US have lots of it, and will want to use that to get out of dealing with their energy problems, or face economic contraction. [...]

However, this particular farce doesn't have much longer to run, already the process of buying up the financial sector by arabs and chinese interests is proceding. That means that soon the bankers and the other elite are going to start hating this expansion as much as the rest of the country...Bet that the trough after the recession will be, as the last two have been, long, slow, and hard.

This is why I shout this now: get rid of debt, and work your butt off for every bit of money you can now, because this is the last year or so that it will be really easy to do. After that, we might have an expansion, but you won't see any advantage from it.

What can our current political leadership do? Can? Lots of things. Are? Nothing.

They after all, are getting very well paid. 2004 was the most important election in your lifetime. 2008 is the least important election in your lifetime. Nothing is going to be decided. Nothing. [Emphasis added]

Have a nice day.

[Thanks, Miles]

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October 26, 2007

Candidate Match Politics

This is pretty interesting.

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FEMA Stages Fake News Conference Politics

FEMA deputy administrator Vice Admiral Harvey Johnson held a press conference today regarding FEMA's response to the fires in southern California. The press conference was carried live on Fox News and MSNBC.

It all went smoothly; old Harvey did a heckuva job. Not surprising, considering there weren't any real reporters present, just FEMA staffers posing as reporters.

ThinkProgress has video. This wasn't some sort of misunderstanding — they went out of their way to make it look and sound like a real press conference. For example, WaPo:

FEMA press secretary Aaron Walker interrupted at one point to caution he'd allow just "two more questions." Later, he called for a "last question."

I don't know which is creepier: that they think this is what "news" should be — a totally stage-managed hoax — or that they are such mental infants that they thought it was a neat idea and they could get away with it. Is there no adult supervision in Washington any more?

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October 24, 2007

Dems Suck, Too Iran  Iraq  Politics

The other day, I got a fund-raising call from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC). I told the caller I was sick of the Democrats' caving in to Bush on Iraq, Iran, torture, wiretaps, and everything else, and they weren't getting any of my money, and I hung up. What surprised me was how angry I was. I've had it with the Democrats, and I guess I'm angrier than I knew. Chris Floyd is pissed, too:

Outrage follows outrage, surrender follows surrender: Every day the unreality of our political discourse worsens, even as the reality on the ground grows more bitter and uncontainable. As we approach the anniversary of the Democrats' recapture of Congress — an event that was supposed to mark the repudiation of the Bush administration's lawless, blood-soaked enterprise — it is undeniable that the situation is actually worse now than before.

The prospect of a Democratic victory in 2006 was for many people the last, flickering hope that the degradation of the republic could be arrested and reversed within the ordinary bounds of the political system. This was always a fantasy, given the strong bipartisan nature and decades-long cultivation of greed, arrogance and militarism that has now come to its fullest bloom in the Bush administration. But desperation can crack the shell of the most hardened cynic, and no doubt there were few who did not harbor somewhere deep inside at least a small grain of hope against hope that a slap-down at the polls would give the Bush gang pause and confound its worst depredations.

One year on, we can all see how the Democrats have made a mockery of those dreams. Their epic levels of unpopularity are richly deserved. At every step they evoke the remarks of the emperor Tiberius, who, after yet another round of groveling acquiescence from the once-powerful Roman Senate, dismissed them with muttered contempt: "Men fit to be slaves." The record of the present Congress provides copious and irrefutable evidence for this judgment.

After 10 full months of Democratic command in the legislative branch -- 10 full months under the "liberal," "progressive," "antiwar" Democratic leadership -- where are we? The Iraq war, far from being ended or even curtailed, was instead escalated by Bush in the face of popular discontent and establishment unease: the first, and most egregious, Democratic surrender. Bush's illegal spying on Americans was not only not punished, it was formally legitimized by Congress, whose Democratic leaders are now hastening to give their telecom paymasters retroactive immunity for taking part in what they knew to be a massive criminal operation...The Military Commissions Act -- which eviscerated 900 years of habeas corpus, as even Arlen Specter admitted (before slavishly voting for the bill anyway) -- remains on the books, unshaken by the Democrats, despite all the cornpone about "restoring the Constitution" they've dished out for the rubes back home.

And now we stand on the brink of another senseless, useless, baseless war, this time with Iran -- a conflict that, as Juan Cole pointed out on Salon recently, is likely to make the belching hell of Iraq look like a church picnic. Dick Cheney's bellicose outburst Sunday in a speech to the Washington Institute for Near East Studies -- a reprise of many similar war dances he performed in the run-up to the unprovoked invasion of Iraq -- takes us one step closer to this new crime. But Cheney's assertions of Persian perfidy -- all of them unsubstantiated, and in the case of the nuclear program, refuted by the IAEA -- were simply the culmination of a remarkable bipartisan campaign of demonization in which the Democrats have actually taken the public lead, repeatedly castigating the administration for not being "tough enough" on Iran, and repeatedly vowing that "all options are on the table" against the mad mullahs. [...]

The Democrats have already overwhelmingly -- and officially -- accepted the administration's arguments for war against Iran. The first on-the-record embrace came in June, on a 97-0 Senate vote in favor of a saber-rattling resolution from Fightin' Joe Lieberman [that] affirmed as official fact all of the specious, unproven, ever-changing allegations of direct Iranian involvement in attacks on the American forces now occupying Iraq. [...]

But even this was not enough. A few weeks later, there was a new resolution, carefully calibrated to mesh with the all-out propaganda blitz surrounding the appearance of Gen. David Petraeus on Fox News in September. (He also put in an appearance on Capitol Hill, it seems.) Once again, the majority of Senate Democrats voted with the monolithic Republicans for yet another Lieberman-sponsored measure, which effectively if not formally authorized military action against Iran by declaring the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard a "foreign terrorist organization" and tying it to attacks on American soldiers in Iraq. [...]

Even the clueless Joe Biden...gets it. He told George Stephanopoulos Sunday that Bush will seize on the resolutions exactly as predicted: "The president's going to stand there and say ... 'Ladies and gentlemen, as the United States Congress voted, they said these guys are terrorists. I moved against them to save American lives.'"

But Bush is not the only president -- or potential president -- who might seize on the Senate votes. Last week -- just a few days before Cheney's speech -- Hillary Clinton weighed in with a "major policy article" in Foreign Affairs that regurgitated the administration's unproven allegations against Iran as indisputable fact. This too is ominous stuff, coming from a strong front-runner who not only is leading in the opinion polls but is also way out in front among an elite constituency whose support is much more important and decisive than that of the hapless hoi polloi: arms dealers. Clinton has surpassed all candidates -- including the hyper-hawkish Republican hopefuls -- in garnering cash payments from the American weapons industry, the Independent reports. Obviously, these masters of war are not expecting any drop-off in profits if Clinton takes the helm.

And indeed, beyond her "all options" thundering at Iran, Clinton has vowed to do the one thing guaranteed to breed more war, more ruin, more suffering, more "collateral damage," more terrorist blowback: keeping American forces in Iraq, come hell or high water. Clinton's "withdrawal" plan calls for retaining an unspecified number of "specialized units" in Iraq to "fight terrorism," train Iraqi forces and protect other American troops carrying out unspecified activities. Is it any wonder that she's the apple of Lockheed Martin's eye?

But in fact, the "antiwar" plans of the other "liberal" candidates -- the "serious" ones, that is -- are remarkably similar. In other words, the Democrats are promising a permanent (or in the current weasel-word jargon, "enduring") U.S. military presence in Iraq -- which of course has been one of the primary war aims of the Bush administration all along (even before it took office). Credible analysis shows that up to a million people or more have been slaughtered in this ghastly enterprise -- and still the Democrats will not act to end it or, God forbid, try to remove its perpetrators from office. Instead they will keep the red wheel of death rolling toward the ever-vanishing horizon. [...]

[The people] turned to the only serious alternative the system provided: the Democrats. And this is what they got: more war, more torture, more tyranny, more corruption, more lies. [Emphasis added]

The game's rigged. Democrats and Republicans pretend to be different by having different positions on abortion and gay marriage. But on issues of war and peace, military spending, government surveillance, and even torture, they're peas in a pod. Fraternal twins. Coke and Pepsi. An exquisite scam: keep people excited about abortion and gay marriage to make them feel like they have a meaningful choice, then ignore what they want on everything that really matters to the Big Money that drives the system.

What's the difference between Democrats and Republicans? Democrats tell different lies to get elected. A pox on both their houses.

[Thanks, Miles]

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October 15, 2007

The Real Rudy: FDNY Radios 9/11, "War On Terror"  Politics

Watch this:

Be sure to catch Rudy's moment of testimony near the end. The guy never stops lying.

Now go sign the petition.

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October 10, 2007

What Is It With These People? Politics

I'll give him one thing. He showed imagination.

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October 09, 2007

Waiting On The Decider Iran  Politics

As we wait to see what Bush/Cheney will do vis-a-vis Iran, we read that former Mexican President Vicente Fox calls Bush "quite simply the cockiest man I have ever met in my life," while Bush tells his biographer he's "an October-November man." I.e., we may not have long to wait. David Bromwich:

Once again the president and vice president are ahead of us. Iraq is no longer on their minds. That chapter closed when Petraeus and Crocker administered the sedatives in Washington. Besides, Iraq had become tiresome to George W. Bush. The committee hearings in September were a necessary cover to tie down American soldiers in the Middle East. His excuse was signed by Congress, and now he is home clear.

The dates can only be guessed. November for the triggering incident, December for the trip to the U.N., February for the ultimatum, perhaps March again for the strikes. The repetition would suit his taste for boyish acts of defiance.

Diplomacy, to Bush, is one of those words you had to learn to say in school, like "serious consideration" and "concerted effort." There isn't any glamour in it, no kick. He intends to bomb Iran. He tells us so in every other speech and in everything he doesn't say and doesn't do. [...]

[The Democrats] won a mandate to stop an illegal war, but they let the war be widened; and they are about to consent to another war, before they ask for another mandate.

The president does not wait and he doesn't ask permission. In early February 2007, according to Robert Draper in his biography Dead Certain, Bush was looking to the end of the year, and to Iran: "I'm an October-November man." He had already factored in the pause for the summer, and the soothing September explanations. "The danger," he told Draper, "is that the United States won't stay engaged." But engagement means war: "People come to the office and say, 'Let us promote stability — that's more important.' The problem is that in an ideological war, stability isn't the answer to the root cause of why people kill and terrorize."

The only answer that goes to the root cause, Bush told his biographer, is to add more instability, the right kind of instability. After two wars and a proxy war, none of them yet successful, a lesser man might shrink from further dealing in blood; but in February, Bush was prepared: "I'm not afraid to make decisions."

Soon he will decide again. It is going to happen unless the lawmakers, the media, and those corporations that know they will find a war with Iran the reverse of profitable, overcome their lethargy and admit that this is really happening and decide to stop him. [Emphasis added]

Nobody seems to remark on how crazy it is, in this supposed democracy, that we're all in the dark, awaiting a unilateral decision by the man in the Oval Office. That's not how it's supposed to work. We might as well be Germans wondering what Der Fuhrer has in store for us. Der Fuhrer. The Decider.

[Thanks, Miles]

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October 03, 2007

Cash COW Politics

When they said No Child Left Behind, I didn't think they meant Neil Bush.

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September 26, 2007

Winding Down — Not Iraq  Politics

Bush's request for war funding in 2008 will be the biggest of the war. LAT:

After smothering efforts by war critics in Congress to drastically cut U.S. troop levels in Iraq, President Bush plans to ask lawmakers next week to approve another massive spending measure — totaling nearly $200 billion — to fund the war through next year, Pentagon officials said.

If Bush's spending request is approved, 2008 will be the most expensive year of the Iraq war. [...]

The funding request means that war costs are projected to grow even as the number of deployed combat troops begins a gradual decline starting in December. Spending on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is to rise from $173 billion this year to about $195 billion in fiscal 2008, which begins Oct. 1.

When costs of CIA operations and embassy expenses are added, the war in Iraq currently costs taxpayers about $12 billion a month, said Winslow T. Wheeler, a former Republican congressional budget aide who is a senior fellow at the Center for Defense Information in Washington. [Emphasis added]

Good thing we elected all those Democrats last year. What a difference it's made.

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September 23, 2007

I'm So Proud 9/11, "War On Terror"  Iraq  Politics

Our president:

(Via Cryptogon)

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September 21, 2007

President Creepy Politics

Sidney Blumenthal reviews Robert Draper's Dead Certain in Salon. It's creepy stuff. Excerpt:

In his interviews with Draper, [Bush] is constantly worried about weakness and passivity. "If you're weak internally? This job will run you all over town." He fears being controlled and talks about it relentlessly, feeling he's being watched. "And part of being a leader is: people watch you." He casts his anxiety as a matter of self-discipline. "I don't think I'd be sitting here if not for the discipline ... And they look at me — they want to know whether I've got the resolution necessary to see this through. And I do. I believe — I know we'll succeed." He is sensitive about asserting his supremacy over others, but especially his father. "He knows as an ex-president, he doesn't have nearly the amount of knowledge I've got on current things," he told Draper.

Bush is a classic insecure authoritarian who imposes humiliating tests of obedience on others in order to prove his superiority and their inferiority. In 1999, according to Draper, at a meeting of economic experts at the Texas governor's mansion, Bush interrupted Rove when he joined in the discussion, saying, "Karl, hang up my jacket." In front of other aides, Bush joked repeatedly that he would fire Rove. (Laura Bush's attitude toward Rove was pointedly disdainful. She nicknamed him "Pigpen," for wallowing in dirty politics. He was staff, not family — certainly not people like them.)

Bush's deployed his fetish for punctuality as a punitive weapon. When Colin Powell was several minutes late to a Cabinet meeting, Bush ordered that the door to the Cabinet Room be locked. Aides have been fearful of raising problems with him. In his 2004 debates with Sen. John Kerry, no one felt comfortable or confident enough to discuss with Bush the importance of his personal demeanor. Doing poorly in his first debate, he turned his anger on his communications director, Dan Bartlett, for showing him a tape afterward. When his trusted old public relations handler, Karen Hughes, tried gently to tell him, "You looked mad," he shot back, "I wasn't mad! Tell them that!"

At a political strategy meeting in May 2004, when Matthew Dowd and Rove explained to him that he was not likely to win in a Reagan-like landslide, as Bush had imagined, he lashed out at Rove: "KARL!" Rove, according to Draper, was Bush's "favorite punching bag," and the president often threw futile and meaningless questions at him, and shouted, "You don't know what the hell you're talking about."

Those around him have learned how to manipulate him through the art of flattery. Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld played Bush like a Stradivarius, exploiting his grandiosity. "Rumsfeld would later tell his lieutenants that if you wanted the president's support for an initiative, it was always best to frame it as a 'Big New Thing.'" Other aides played on Bush's self-conception as "the Decider." "To sell him on an idea," writes Draper, "aides were now learning, the best approach was to tell the president, This is going to be a really tough decision." But flattery always requires deference. Every morning, Josh Bolten, the chief of staff, greets Bush with the same words: "Thank you for the privilege of serving today."

Draper reports a telling exchange between Bush and James Baker, one of his father's closest associates, the elder Bush's former secretary of state and the one the family called on to take command of the campaign for the 2000 Florida contest when everything hung in the balance. Baker's ruthless field marshaling safely brought the younger Bush into the White House. Counseling him in the aftermath, Baker warned him about Rumsfeld. "All I'm going to say to you is, you know what he did to your daddy," he said.

Indeed, Rumsfeld and the elder Bush were bitter rivals. Rumsfeld had scorn for him, and tried to sideline and eliminate him during the Ford administration because he wanted to become president himself. If George W. Bush didn't know about it before, he knew about it then from Baker, and soon thereafter he appointed Rumsfeld secretary of defense. Draper does not reflect on this revelation, but it is highly suggestive.

Quoted in an Aug. 9 article in the New York Times on the lachrymose father, Andrew Card, aide to both men, lately as White House chief of staff, and a family loyalist, spoke out of school. "It was relatively easy for me to read the sitting president's body language after he had talked to his mother or father," Card said. "Sometimes he'd ask me a probing question. And I'd think, Hmm, I don't think that question came from him." [...]

"History would acquit him, too. Bush was confident of that, and of something else as well," writes Draper. "Though it was not the sort of thing one could say publicly anymore, the president still believed that Saddam had possessed weapons of mass destruction. He repeated this conviction to Andy Card all the way up until Card's departure in April 2006, almost exactly three years after the Coalition had begun its fruitless search for WMDs."

Bush grasps at the straws of his own disinformation as he casts himself deeper into the abyss. The more profound and compounded his blunders, and the more he redoubles his certainty in ultimate victory, the greater his indifference to failure. He has entered a phase of decadent perversity, where he accelerates his errors to vindicate his folly. As the sands of time run down, he has decided that no matter what he does, history will finally judge him as heroic. [Emphasis added]

What kind of jerk lets his chief of staff greet him, day after day, with the words, "Thank you for the privilege of serving today." I mean, come on. And how delusional does he have to be to still think Saddam had WMDs?

And all the rest of it, the constant nasty, petty ways he humiliates and bullies the people around him. It would be one thing if he were some kind of genius prima donna — a George Patton, maybe, or a Winston Churchill — but the guy's an absolute fly-weight, grotesquely out of his depth, without even a hint of self-awareness. What an asshole.

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September 12, 2007

"That's Not How Gay Works" Humor & Fun  Politics

Larry Craig's old news, but this is too funny.

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September 10, 2007

Petraeus' Performance Iraq  Politics

Watching Petraeus' performance, you get the impression that great strides are being made in Iraq. But note what he actually said: by mid-July of next year, if all goes well, the US should be able to go back to the same number of troops it had before the surge. I.e., the withdrawal he's talking about is withdrawal of the surge. Back to where we were before. That's all. Nearly a year from now. And after that — who knows. Petraeus:

Force reductions will continue beyond the pre-surge levels of brigade combat teams that we will reach by mid-July 2008. However, in my professional judgment, it would be premature to make recommendations on the pace of such reductions at this time.

Petraeus comes across as smart, competent, straight-forward, on top of things. No wonder, given how much prep and practice he's had. Still, you listen to him and you think, wow, that's encouraging.

But Iraqis beg to differ. BBC:

Coming at a crucial moment, a new BBC/ABC News opinion poll suggests ordinary Iraqis have a damning verdict on the US surge.

The poll, conducted in August, also indicates that Iraqi opinion is at its gloomiest since the BBC/ABC News polls began in February 2004.

According to this latest poll, in key areas - security and the conditions for political dialogue, reconstruction and economic development - between 67 and 70% of Iraqis, or more than two-thirds, say the surge has made things worse. [...]

Since the last BBC/ABC News poll in February, the number of Iraqis who think that US-led coalition forces should leave immediately has risen sharply, from 35 to 47%, although that does mean that a small majority - 53% - still says the forces should stay until security has improved.

But 85% of Iraqis say they have little or no confidence in US and UK forces. [...]

In terms of quality of life, 80% of Iraqis say the availability of jobs is bad or very bad, 93% say the same about electricity supplies, 75% for clean water, 92% for fuel.

And 77% of Iraqis say the ability to live where they want, without persecution, is bad or very bad. [...]

There are some more encouraging results.

Sixty-two per cent of Iraqis still say Iraq should have a unified central government, and 98% say it would be a bad thing for the country to separate along sectarian lines. [...]

This is the fourth BBC/ABC News poll since the US-led invasion. And the polling reveals two great divides.

The first is between the relative optimism recorded in November 2005, and the gloom reflected in the two polls conducted this year. [...]

The other great divide is that revealed between the Sunni and Shia communities.

Eighty-eight per cent of Sunnis say things are going badly in their lives.

Fifty-four per cent of Shias think they are going well.

Also, strikingly, 93% of Sunnis say attacks on coalition forces are acceptable, compared with 50% of Shia (the overall total is 57%). [...]

But both communities think equally overwhelmingly (by 98%) that sectarian separation is a bad thing. Iraqis are also somewhat suspicious of their neighbours.

Seventy-nine per cent of them think that Iran is actively encouraging sectarian violence in their country, 66% think the same of Syria and 65% think likewise about Saudi Arabia. [Emphasis added]

It's helpful, too, to know that people close to Petraeus call him "a walking mass of ambition" and "the most competitive person I have ever known — ever," a man who will not just beat you but "make a point of it." And he probably wants to be President. So take his performance with a heaping helping of salt.

And there's this. Military leaders are not supposed to be the ones to sell a policy. That's supposed to be a job for civilians. The White House is hiding behind the general, using the general to cow Congress, which is not how a democracy is supposed to work.

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September 07, 2007

Liar 9/11, "War On Terror"  Politics

Watch Rudy lie through his teeth:

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The Decider Down Under Iraq  Politics

Feel the pride. AP:

President Bush had a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day at the Sydney Opera House.

He'd only reached the third sentence of Friday's speech to business leaders, on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, when he committed his first gaffe.

"Thank you for being such a fine host for the OPEC summit," Bush said to Australian Prime Minister John Howard.

Oops. That would be APEC, the annual meeting of leaders from 21 Pacific Rim nations, not OPEC, the cartel of 12 major oil producers.

Bush quickly corrected himself. "APEC summit," he said forcefully, joking that Howard had invited him to the OPEC summit next year (for the record, an impossibility, since neither Australia nor the U.S. are OPEC members).

The president's next goof went uncorrected — by him anyway. Talking about Howard's visit to Iraq last year to thank his country's soldiers serving there, Bush called them "Austrian troops."

That one was fixed for him. Though tapes of the speech clearly show Bush saying "Austrian," the official text released by the White House switched it to "Australian."

Then, speech done, Bush confidently headed out — the wrong way.

He strode away from the lectern on a path that would have sent him over a steep drop. Howard and others redirected the president to center stage, where there were steps leading down to the floor of the theater.

The event had inauspicious beginnings. Bush started 10 minutes late, so that APEC workers could hustle people out of the theater's balcony seating to fill the many empty portions of the main orchestra section below — which is most visible on camera.

Even resettled, the audience remained quiet throughout the president's remarks, applauding only when he was finished. [Emphasis added]

Mr. Magoo.

Kinda funny, I guess, but then there's this (SMH):

[Bush] arrived in Australia in a chipper mood.

"We're kicking ass," he told Mark Vaile on the tarmac after the Deputy Prime Minister inquired politely of the President's stopover in Iraq en route to Sydney. [...]

[In his press conference,] Bush said [Afghanistan and Iraq] were "both theatres in the same war". [...]

His defiance on Iraq is growing. He implied that those who argued against the war in the first place had no role in the current debate.

Perhaps encouraged by the expectation that he will soon be able to withdraw some troops and claim success, regardless of what the rest of the world believes, Bush appeared as a man who has convinced himself he is on the right track and will crash or crash through. [Emphasis added]

"We're kicking ass." The guy's delusional.

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September 03, 2007

Dead Certain Iraq  Politics

The NYT has some excerpts from interviews Bush gave to author Robert Draper for his forthcoming book, Dead Certain:

[I]n an interview with a book author in the Oval Office one day last December, [Bush] daydreamed about the next phase of his life, when his time will be his own.

First, Mr. Bush said, "I'll give some speeches, just to replenish the ol' coffers." With assets that have been estimated as high as nearly $21 million, Mr. Bush added, "I don’t know what my dad gets — it's more than 50-75" thousand dollars a speech, and "Clinton's making a lot of money."

Then he said, "We’ll have a nice place in Dallas," where he will be running what he called "a fantastic Freedom Institute" promoting democracy around the world. But he added, "I can just envision getting in the car, getting bored, going down to the ranch."

For now, though, Mr. Bush told the author, Robert Draper, in a later session, "I'm playing for October-November." That is when he hopes the Iraq troop increase will finally show enough results to help him achieve the central goal of his remaining time in office: "To get us in a position where the presidential candidates will be comfortable about sustaining a presence," and, he said later, "stay longer." [...]

As Mr. Draper described it, Mr. Bush began the interview process over lunch last Dec. 12, in a week when he suddenly had free time because his highly anticipated announcement of a new Iraq strategy had been postponed.

Sitting in an anteroom of the Oval Office, he eschewed the more formal White House menu for comfort food — a low-fat hotdog and ice cream — and bitingly told an aide who peeked in on the session that his time with Mr. Draper was "worthless anyway."

But as Mr. Draper described it, and as the transcripts show, Mr. Bush warmed up considerably over the intervening interviews, chewing on an unlit cigar, jubilantly swatting at flies between making solemn points, propping his feet up on a table or stopping him at points to say emphatically, "I want you to get this" or "I want this damn book to be right." [...]

And in apparent reference to the invasion of Iraq, he continued, "This group-think of 'we all sat around and decided' — there's only one person that can decide, and that's the president." [...]

In response to Mr. Draper’s observance that Mr. Bush had nobody’s "shoulder to cry on," the president said: "Of course I do, I've got God's shoulder to cry on, and I cry a lot." In what Mr. Draper interpreted as a reference to war casualties, Mr. Bush added, "I'll bet I've shed more tears than you can count as president."

Yet Mr. Bush said his certainty that Iraq would turn around for the better was not for show. "You can't fake it," he told Mr. Draper in December. [...]

"I've been here too long," Mr. Bush said, according to Mr. Draper. "Every time I start painting a rosy picture [about Iraq], it gets criticized and then it doesn't make it on the news."

But he said he saw his unpopularity as a natural result of his decision to pursue a strategy in which he believed. "I made a decision to lead," he said, "One, it makes you unpopular; two, it makes people accuse you of unilateral arrogance, and that may be true. But the fundamental question is, is the world better off as a result of your leadership?" [...]

Mr. Bush acknowledged one major failing of the early occupation of Iraq when he said of disbanding the Saddam Hussein-era military, "The policy was to keep the army intact; didn't happen."

But when Mr. Draper pointed out that Mr. Bush's former Iraq administrator, L. Paul Bremer III, had gone ahead and forced the army's dissolution and then asked Mr. Bush how he reacted to that, Mr. Bush said, "Yeah, I can't remember, I'm sure I said, 'This is the policy, what happened?'" But, he added, "Again, Hadley's got notes on all of this stuff," referring to Stephen J. Hadley, his national security adviser.

Mr. Bush said he believed that Mr. Hussein did not take his threats of war seriously, suggesting that the United Nations emboldened him by failing to follow up on an initial resolution demanding that Iraq disarm. He had sought a second measure containing an ultimatum that failure to comply would result in war.

"One interesting question historians are going to have to answer is: Would Saddam have behaved differently if he hadn't gotten mixed signals between the first resolution and the failure of the second resolution?" Mr. Bush said. "I can't answer that question. I was hopeful that diplomacy would work." [Emphasis added]

So, he's The Decider, but he's got no idea how the Iraqi Army got disbanded. Doesn't remember all of that "stuff". I bet Cheney remembers.

Dead Certain. Could the irony of that title be any more grotesque?

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August 31, 2007

GOP Sleaze Politics

Every time you turn around, there's another news story about GOP scandal and corruption. Somebody should make a list.

Well, somebody has.

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August 27, 2007

Karma Politics

Payback's a bitch. Sen. Larry Craig (R-Idaho) then and now. What is it about these Republicans?

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"Cage Bush, Not Sydney" Corporations, Globalization  Politics

When Bush and the other bigwigs arrive in Sydney next week for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation conference, they will be ensconced behind a five-kilometer long security fence. Sydney's Deputy Lord Mayor's not happy. ABC (via Crptogon):

This Saturday, construction will start on a three-metre high, five-kilometre long fence in Sydney's CBD to protect leaders attending next week's Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) conference.

The fence will cause major traffic disruptions throughout the city and local workers and residents will have to go through special ID checks at access points.

But Sydney's Deputy Lord Mayor is appalled by the security measures being taken to protect officials attending the conference and wants to hang a huge banner from the city's Town Hall saying, "Cage Bush, not Sydney". The council will vote on the proposal.

The city's chamber of commerce has attacked the idea as "madness", saying such a decision would be rude and could affect businesses all over Australia.

Just last week, New South Wales police unveiled a new $600,000 water canon, warning that if APEC demonstrators got wild, they would get very wet.

Another visible part of security will be a five-kilometre long, three-metre high steel fence separating the Opera House, Botanic Gardens and a large part of the CBD from public access.

Workers will start building the fence this weekend.

Greens Councillor Chris Harris, who is also Deputy Lord Mayor of Sydney City Council, says he wants the council to take a stand against APEC - and particularly against US President George W Bush.

"I'm sitting in Town Hall today and there's Army personnel wandering through Town Hall with all these fancy devices," he said.

"This is the kind of stuff you see in despotic regimes. This is fearmongering, right-wing, red neck stuff that's being [exported] out of America [and] I think we should distance ourselves from it as far as we can.

"We're forcing the citizens of Sydney, the businesses that operate in the city, to forego hundreds of millions of dollars in business to protect one bloke. I just think this is extraordinary.

"So first of all we're asking that council acknowledge that and then the second thing I'm asking council to do is to demonstrate to our citizens how we feel by putting a banner up on Town Hall that says very simply, 'Cage Bush, not Sydney'."

Please do it, please do it, please do it, please!

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August 20, 2007

Petraeus Report To Be Written By White House Iraq  Media  Politics

We're supposed to all be waiting to hear what General Petraeus will say in his September "progress" report. But buried deep in an LA Times story about the upcoming report, we find this:

Administration and military officials acknowledge that the September report will not show any significant progress on the political benchmarks laid out by Congress. How to deal in the report with the lack of national reconciliation between Iraq's warring sects has created some tension within the White House.

Despite Bush's repeated statements that the report will reflect evaluations by Petraeus and Ryan Crocker, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, administration officials said it would actually be written by the White House, with inputs from officials throughout the government.

And though Petraeus and Crocker will present their recommendations on Capitol Hill, legislation passed by Congress leaves it to the president to decide how to interpret the report's data.

The senior administration official said the process had created "uncomfortable positions" for the White House because of debates over what constitutes "satisfactory progress."

During internal White House discussion of a July interim report, some officials urged the administration to claim progress in policy areas such as legislation to divvy up Iraq's oil revenue, even though no final agreement had been reached. Others argued that such assertions would be disingenuous.

"There were some in the drafting of the report that said, 'Well, we can claim progress,'" the administration official said. "There were others who said: 'Wait a second. Sure we can claim progress, but it's not credible to...just neglect the fact that it's had no effect on the ground.'"

The Defense official skeptical of the troop buildup said he expected Petraeus to emphasize military accomplishments, including improving security in Baghdad neighborhoods and a slight reduction in the number of suicide bomb attacks. But the official said he did not believe such security improvements would translate into political progress or improvements in the daily lives of most Iraqis.

"Who cares how many neighborhoods of Baghdad are secured?" the official said. "Let's talk about the rest of the country: How come they have electricity twice a day, how come there is no running water?" [Emphasis added]

Everybody pretends the report will be from Petraeus, but it's being cooked up by political hacks in the White House. Which is to say, it will be completely useless as a basis for deciding anything. Watch, though, as the mainstream media play along and portray it as a serious evaluation originating from Petraeus himself. Pardon me while I retch.

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August 02, 2007

Why Fredo Won't Fire His Consigliere Politics

Even Time gets it:

If cabinet members were perishable goods, Alberto Gonzales would have passed his "sell by" date sometime last spring. Since January, when he first faced sharp questioning over the firing of U.S. Attorneys, the Attorney General has earned disastrous reviews for his inconsistent testimony, poor judgment and for appearing to place loyalty to the White House above service to the public. By June it was hard to find a Republican willing to defend him. Now Gonzales' dissembling testimony about a controversial domestic-spying program has raised suspicions about what he is hiding and fueled new calls for him to go. Senate Democrats have called for a special prosecutor to investigate his activities as Attorney General, and a group of moderate House Democrats has called for the House to weigh impeachment proceedings against him.

Yet the embattled Gonzales' grip on his job seems unshakable. Bush tossed Donald Rumsfeld last fall despite support from conservatives for the then Defense Secretary, and the President chucked Joint Chiefs Chairman Peter Pace at the first sign of congressional resistance to his renomination. So why the extraordinary support for Gonzales in the face of a protracted meltdown at the Department of Justice (DOJ)? Here are four reasons why Bush can't afford to let Gonzales go:

1. Gonzales is all that stands between the White House and special prosecutors. As dicey as things are for Bush right now, his advisers know that they could get much worse. In private, Democrats say that if Gonzales did step down, his replacement would be required to agree to an independent investigation of Gonzales' tenure in order to be confirmed by the Senate. [...]

2. A post-Gonzales DOJ would be in the hands of a nonpartisan, tough prosecutor, not a political hand. Newly appointed Deputy Attorney General Craig Morford is in line to take over until a new Attorney General could be confirmed. Morford, a 20-year veteran of the department, was brought in to investigate the botched trial of the first major federal antiterrorism case after 9/11. He is in the mold of James Comey, the former Deputy Attorney General who stood up to the White House over its domestic-eavesdropping program. Even New York Senator Charles Schumer, one of Gonzales' harshest critics, called Morford's appointment a positive step. Over the past six months, more than half a dozen top political appointees have left the department amid scandal. The unprecedented coziness that once existed between the Justice Department and the White House now remains solely in the person of Gonzales.

3. If Gonzales goes, the White House fears that other losses will follow. Top Bush advisers argue that Democrats are after scalps and would not stop at Gonzales. Congressional judiciary committees have already subpoenaed Harriet Miers and Karl Rove in the firings of U.S. Attorneys last year. Republicans are loath to hand Democrats some high-profile casualties to use in the 2008 campaign. Stonewalling, they believe, is their best way to avoid another election focused on corruption issues.

4. ...Gonzales remains the last line of defense protecting Bush, Rove and other top White House officials from the personal consequences of litigation. A high-profile probe would hobble the White House politically, and could mean sky-high legal bills and turmoil for Bush's closest aides.

Keeping Gonzales isn't cost-free. But for now, Bush seems to have decided that the importance of running out the clock on investigations by keeping his loyal Attorney General in place is worth any amount of criticism. [Emphasis added]

So there you have it. Bush needs a crooked AG to keep him and the rest of his crooked gang out of jail. Nice country we've got.

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July 30, 2007

All About The Data-Mining After All 9/11, "War On Terror"  Black Ops  Politics

As has been pointed out here at PastPeak a number of times, the whole FISA warrant/wiretapping story was really about a whole lot more than wiretapping: the collection and data-mining of massive databases tracking Americans' phone calls, emails, financial transactions, etc., etc. The NYT reported Saturday that it was this data-mining that was the real story behind the contention between Congress and the White House (and within the Justice Department iself) on the FISA warrants. Pretty much like we've said all along. NYT:

A 2004 dispute over the National Security Agency's secret surveillance program that led top Justice Department officials to threaten resignation involved computer searches through massive electronic databases, according to current and former officials briefed on the program.

It is not known precisely why searching the databases, or data mining, raised such a furious legal debate. But such databases contain records of the phone calls and e-mail messages of millions of Americans, and their examination by the government would raise privacy issues.

The NSA's data mining has previously been reported. But the disclosure that concerns about it figured in the March 2004 debate helps to clarify the clash this week between Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales and senators who accused him of misleading Congress and called for a perjury investigation.

The confrontation in 2004 led to a showdown in the hospital room of then Attorney General John Ashcroft, where Mr. Gonzales, the White House counsel at the time, and Andrew H. Card Jr., then the White House chief of staff, tried to get the ailing Mr. Ashcroft to reauthorize the NSA program.

Mr. Gonzales insisted before the Senate this week that the 2004 dispute did not involve the Terrorist Surveillance Program "confirmed" by President Bush, who has acknowledged eavesdropping without warrants but has never acknowledged the data mining.

If the dispute chiefly involved data mining, rather than eavesdropping, Mr. Gonzales’ defenders may maintain that his narrowly crafted answers, while legalistic, were technically correct.

But members of the Senate Intelligence Committee, who have been briefed on the program, called the testimony deceptive.

"I've had the opportunity to review the classified matters at issue here, and I believe that his testimony was misleading at best," said Senator Russ Feingold, Democrat of Wisconsin, joining three other Democrats in calling Thursday for a perjury investigation of Mr. Gonzales.

"This has gone on long enough," Mr. Feingold said. "It is time for a special counsel to investigate whether criminal charges should be brought."

The senators' comments, along with those of other members of Congress briefed on the program, suggested that they considered the eavesdropping and data mining so closely tied that they were part of a single program. Both activities, which ordinarily require warrants, were started without court approval as the Bush administration intensified counterterrorism efforts soon after the Sept. 11 attacks. [Emphasis added]

So Gonzales has been denying the dispute was about eavesdropping — because it really was about something that was much more serious. I guess it depends on what the meaning of "is" is.

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July 25, 2007

Messin' With Texas Extremism  Politics  Religion

Texas governor Rick Perry has appointed a creationist dentist named Don McLeroy to head the State Board of Education. The Austin American-Statesman (via Pharyngula) tells us:

In 2001, McLeroy and a majority of the board rejected the only Advanced Placement textbook for high school environmental science because its views on global warming and other events didn't comport with the beliefs of the board majority. The book wasn't factual and was anti-American and anti-Christian, the majority claimed. Meanwhile, dozens of colleges and universities were using the textbook, including Baylor University, the nation's largest Baptist college.

In 2003, McLeroy voted against approving biology textbooks that included a full-scale scientific account of evolutionary theory. The books were approved.

Just the guy to put in charge of public education.

Need I add, both Perry and McLeroy are Republicans.

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July 20, 2007

WH To Bar US Attorneys From Prosecuting WH Officials For Contempt Politics  Rights, Law

Prepare to be shocked. As Congress prepares to initiate contempt charges against several White House officials in the US attorneys firing case, the White House has announced that it will prohibit any US attorney from pursuing such a case. Congress can issue all the charges it wants, and the Justice Department will simply ignore them. No matter what Federal law says. WaPo:

Bush administration officials unveiled a bold new assertion of executive authority yesterday in the dispute over the firing of nine U.S. attorneys, saying that the Justice Department will never be allowed to pursue contempt charges initiated by Congress against White House officials once the president has invoked executive privilege. [...]

Under federal law, a statutory contempt citation by the House or Senate must be submitted to the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, "whose duty it shall be to bring the matter before the grand jury for its action."

But administration officials argued yesterday that Congress has no power to force a U.S. attorney to pursue contempt charges in cases, such as the prosecutor firings, in which the president has declared that testimony or documents are protected from release by executive privilege. Officials pointed to a Justice Department legal opinion during the Reagan administration, which made the same argument in a case that was never resolved by the courts.

"A U.S. attorney would not be permitted to bring contempt charges or convene a grand jury in an executive privilege case," said a senior official, who said his remarks reflect a consensus within the administration. "And a U.S. attorney wouldn't be permitted to argue against the reasoned legal opinion that the Justice Department provided. No one should expect that to happen."

The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the issue publicly, added: "It has long been understood that, in circumstances like these, the constitutional prerogatives of the president would make it a futile and purely political act for Congress to refer contempt citations to U.S. attorneys."

Mark J. Rozell, a professor of public policy at George Mason University who has written a book on executive-privilege issues, called the administration's stance "astonishing."

"That's a breathtakingly broad view of the president's role in this system of separation of powers," Rozell said. "What this statement is saying is the president's claim of executive privilege trumps all."

The administration's statement is a dramatic attempt to seize the upper hand in an escalating constitutional battle with Congress, which has been trying for months, without success, to compel White House officials to testify and to turn over documents about their roles in the prosecutor firings last year. The Justice Department and White House in recent weeks have been discussing when and how to disclose the stance, and the official said he decided yesterday that it was time to highlight it.

Yesterday, a House Judiciary subcommittee voted to lay the groundwork for contempt proceedings against White House chief of staff Joshua B. Bolten, following a similar decision last week against former White House counsel Harriet E. Miers. [...]

Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) called it "an outrageous abuse of executive privilege" and said: "The White House must stop stonewalling and start being accountable to Congress and the American people. No one, including the president, is above the law."

Sen. Charles E. Schumer (N.Y.) said the administration is "hastening a constitutional crisis," and Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.) said the position "makes a mockery of the ideal that no one is above the law."

Waxman added: "I suppose the next step would be just disbanding the Justice Department."

Under long-established procedures and laws, the House and Senate can each pursue two kinds of criminal contempt proceedings, and the Senate also has a civil contempt option. The first, called statutory contempt, has been the avenue most frequently pursued in modern times, and is the one that requires a referral to the U.S. attorney in the District.

Both chambers also have an "inherent contempt" power, allowing either body to hold its own trials and even jail those found in defiance of Congress. Although widely used during the 19th century, the power has not been invoked since 1934 and Democratic lawmakers have not displayed an appetite for reviving the practice. [...]

Rozell, the George Mason professor and authority on executive privilege, said the administration's stance "is almost Nixonian in its scope and breadth of interpreting its power. Congress has no recourse at all, in the president's view. ... It's allowing the executive to define the scope and limits of its own powers." [Emphasis added]

Almost Nixonian? Even Nixon didn't go this far. And remember what happened to him.

There are very strange things happening in this country, but because they're happening in relative slow motion and don't make for exciting video, they are escaping most people's notice. But it's not good.

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Lying Liars' Lies 9/11, "War On Terror"  Iraq  Politics

As they say, if you're not pissed off, you're not paying attention.

Well, this should help:

A nation of suckers, that's us.

[Thanks, Kevin]

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July 18, 2007

That "Senior Leader Of Al Qaeda In Iraq" Iraq  Politics

It was all over the news today: the US military captured a senior al Qaeda in Iraq leader. CNN:

The U.S. military on Wednesday announced the arrest of a senior leader of al Qaeda in Iraq, an insurgent who, the military said, is casting himself as a "conduit" between the top leaders of al Qaeda and al Qaeda in Iraq.

But, in case you missed it, here's a little detail that didn't make the headlines: the guy was captured two weeks ago (July 4) and they only announced it today. He's supposedly this super-important al Qaeda guy, the "conduit" between global al Qaeda and al Qaeda in Iraq, the demonstration of a significant link between Bin Laden and the insurgency, a supposed proof of something the administration has been dying to establish forever. And they only thought to mention it today.

Yesterday, it was the National Intelligence Estimate that trumpeted the al Qaeda threat. Today, it's this. Neatly timed to take the Republican filibuster of the Senate vote on a troop drawdown and blow it off the front pages. Funny how that works.

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July 05, 2007

Despicable Extremism  Politics  War and Peace

Go read this, and follow its links.

These are very dangerous, very despicable people. Absolute lunatics.

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July 02, 2007

Mad Dreams Of Empire Politics

Reading Cullen Murphy's Are We Rome?, I was struck by the following passage:

...[O]ne summer morning not long ago...my plane touched down in the rain at Shannon Airport, in the Republic of Ireland. ...[A]s it happened, the president of the United States had arrived in Ireland shortly before I did, for an eighteen-hour official visit. His two Air Force One jumbo jets were parked on the shiny tarmac, nose to nose. The presidential eagle, a descendant of Rome’s, glared from within the presidential seal, painted prominently near the front door of each fuselage. A defensive perimeter of concertina wire surrounded the two aircraft. Surface-to-air missiles backed it up. The perimeter was manned by American forces in battle fatigues, flown in for the occasion — just one element of the president’s US security detail, a thousand strong. Other security personnel peered down from the rooftops of hangars and terminals, automatic weapons at the ready. Ringing the airport was a cordon of Scorpion tanks supplied by the Irish Republic. A traveling president...brings with him a government in microcosm... — cabinet members and courtiers and cooks, speech doctors and spin doctors. Provisioning has not been overlooked: the plane can serve meals for 2,000 people, the supplies bought anonymously at American supermarkets by undercover agents, the updated version of [the servants who tasted the Emperor's food as a protection against poisoning]. And if there's a medical emergency? An onboard operating room is stocked with blood of the president’s type; his personal physician is at hand. From the plane's command center a president can launch and wage a nuclear war, or any other kind, for that matter. The forward compartment is what passes for a throne room, containing the president's leather armchair and his wraparound desk and his telephone with its twenty-eight encrypted lines.

Off in the mist would be the Air Force cargo planes, which had brought helicopters, a dozen Secret Service SUVs, and the official presidential limousine (plus the official decoy limousine), its windows three inches thick and its doors so heavy with armor that gas-powered pistons must be used to help open them. Four US naval vessels plied the Shannon River estuary nearby. Outside the airport the roads were jammed with Irish soldiers and police officers — 6.000 in all, slightly more than an entire Roman legion — and on even the tiniest boreens security personnel with communications piglet tails trailing from their ears would emerge from hiding places in the bracken if a passing car, like mine, so much as slowed to avoid some sheep. [Emphasis added]

All for an eighteen-hour visit. Imagine being the person at the center of that frenzied whirlwind of brutal excess. The effect must be positively hallucinatory. No wonder they go mad, imagining themselves to be omnipotent, God's elect, inhabiting an altogether different reality from the rest of us. Consider how inimical such excess is to democracy. It truly is the stuff of Empire.

And then consider this, from the same book:

The idea that an American imperium is part of God's plan was the message of the Christmas card sent out in 2003 by Vice President Dick Cheney and his wife, Lynne. It read: "And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without His aid?"

Not exactly subtle: it's empire we're after, and it's God's plan. The Cheneys humbly commemorate the birth of the Prince of Peace.

Think of that the next time they tell you we're just trying to spread democracy and freedom.

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June 27, 2007

What They Say When We're Not Around Extremism  Politics

These are not nice people. Mean-spirited and godawful dumb.

Update: More here.

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June 25, 2007

Rudy And Ground Zero 9/11, "War On Terror"  Politics

Rudy Giuliani, hero of 9/11. NY Daily News (via Xymphora):

In an upcoming interview with WNBC-TV, former head of the EPA Christie Whitman says former Mayor Rudy Giuliani blocked her efforts to force WTC workers to wear respirators. [...]

She also said city officials didn't want EPA workers wearing haz-mat suits because they "didn't want this image of a city falling apart."

In an interview scheduled to run the day before Whitman testifies in front of Congress on Monday, she told WNBC-TV she warned the city of the risks almost every day.

And she said she believes illnesses killing first responders can be blamed on the city's lack of action.

"I'm not a scientist ... but I do [believe that]," she told WNBC's Brian Thompson.

"I mean, we wouldn't have been saying that the workers should wear respirators if ... we didn't think there might be health consequences."

She said the city had the responsibility to make sure workers wore respirators. But many took them off, complaining of heat. She said workers without respirators were barred from cleanup efforts at the Pentagon.

"We were certainly frustrated at not being able to get people to wear respirators because we thought that was critically important to workers on The Pile," Whitman said.

"Every day, there would be telephone calls, telephone meetings and meetings in person ... with the city when we repeated the message of the necessity of wearing respirators."

But her concern at the time only involved breathing air on The Pile.

Only seven days after the 9/11 attacks, as fires still raged at the site, she said, "I am glad to reassure the people of New York and Washington, D.C., that the air is safe to breathe."

Whitman also criticized Giuliani's handling of a suspected anthrax attack at NBC's Rockefeller Center headquarters weeks after 9/11.

"There was concern by the city that EPA workers not be seen in the haz-mat suits," she said. "They didn't want this image of a city falling apart. I said, 'Well, that's not acceptable.'" [Emphasis added]

Ground Zero workers paid the price. AP:

A study of more than 20,000 people by Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York concluded that, since the attacks, 70 percent of ground zero workers have suffered some sort of respiratory illness. A separate study released last month found that rescue workers and firefighters contracted sarcoidosis, a serious lung-scarring disease, at a rate more than five times as high as in the years before the attacks. [Emphasis added]

Yes, but respirators wouldn't have looked good on the teevee.

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June 24, 2007

Bush Joins Cheney In Claiming Oversight Exemption Politics  Rights, Law

A few days ago it was reported that Dick Cheney's office has decided to exempt itself from President Bush's own executive order requiring oversight of the handling of classified information by executive branch agencies and "entities." Cheney argues, not for the first time, that the VP, because s/he also serves as President of the Senate, is a "unique office" that is not a part of either the executive or legislative branch. The Gavel:

The Oversight Committee has learned that over the objections of the National Archives, Vice President Cheney exempted his office from the presidential order that establishes government-wide procedures for safeguarding classified national security information. The Vice President asserts that his office is not an "entity within the executive branch."

Well, it gets worse. Now Bush's office claims it, too, is exempt. LA Times:

The White House said Friday that, like Vice President Dick Cheney's office, President Bush's office is not allowing an independent federal watchdog to oversee its handling of classified national security information.

An executive order that Bush issued in March 2003 — amending an existing order — requires all government agencies that are part of the executive branch to submit to oversight. Although it doesn't specifically say so, Bush's order was not meant to apply to the vice president's office or the president's office, a White House spokesman said.

The issue flared Thursday when Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Los Angeles) criticized Cheney for refusing to file annual reports with the federal National Archives and Records Administration, for refusing to spell out how his office handles classified documents, and for refusing to submit to an inspection by the archives' Information Security Oversight Office.

The archives administration has been pressing the vice president's office to cooperate with oversight for the last several years, contending that by not doing so, Cheney and his staff have created a potential national security risk.

Bush amended the oversight directive in response to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks to help ensure that national secrets would not be mishandled, made public or improperly declassified.

The order aimed to create a uniform system for classifying, declassifying and otherwise safeguarding national security information. It gave the archives' oversight unit responsibility for evaluating the effectiveness of each agency's classification programs. It applied to the executive branch of government, mostly agencies led by Bush administration appointees — not to legislative offices such as Congress or to judicial offices such as the courts.

"Our democratic principles require that the American people be informed of the activities of their government," the executive order said.

But from the start, Bush considered his office and Cheney's exempt from the reporting requirements, White House spokesman Tony Fratto said in an interview Friday.

Cheney's office filed the reports in 2001 and 2002 but stopped in 2003.

As a result, the National Archives has been unable to review how much information the president's and vice president's offices are classifying and declassifying. And the security oversight office cannot inspect the president and vice president's executive offices to determine whether safeguards are in place to protect the classified information they handle and to properly declassify information when required.

Those two offices have access to the most highly classified information, including intelligence on terrorists and unfriendly foreign countries.

Waxman and J. William Leonard, director of the Information Security Oversight Office, have argued that the order clearly applies to all executive branch agencies, including the offices of the vice president and the president.

The White House disagrees, Fratto said.

"We don't dispute that the ISOO has a different opinion. But let's be very clear: This executive order was issued by the president, and he knows what his intentions were," Fratto said. "He is in compliance with his executive order."

Fratto conceded that the lengthy directive, technically an amendment to an existing executive order, did not specifically exempt the president's or vice president's offices. Instead, it refers to "agencies" as being subject to the requirements, which Fratto said did not include the two executive offices. "It does take a little bit of inference," Fratto said.

Steven Aftergood, director of the Federation of American Scientists' government secrecy project, disputed the White House explanation of the executive order.

He noted that the order defines "agency" as any executive agency, military department and "any other entity within the executive branch that comes into the possession of classified information" — which, he said, includes Bush's and Cheney's offices. [Emphasis added]

If President Bush intended from the outset that the offices of the President and Vice President were exempt, and if the Vice President's office has never been part of the executive branch, then why did Cheney's office file the required annual reports for a couple of years before it decided to stop? Riddle me that.

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June 22, 2007

The Politics Of Energy Energy  Politics

A commenter to the previous post points out that when fuel efficiency increases, people just drive more. He/she has a point. This effect is an example of the Jevons Paradox: increasing the efficiency of the use of a resource is effectively the same as cutting its price — so people buy more of it. Total consumption may actually go up as the lower price makes new usage patterns affordable.

If the increases in efficiency are sufficiently great, however, it seems unlikely that usage will keep pace. If people started driving cars with three or four times better mileage than cars today, it seems doubtful that they would drive three or four times as many miles as a result. There are only so many hours in the day. Not that the proposed increase in CAFE standards will get us to those kinds of efficiencies, but you see my point.

The commenter also says (correctly, I think) that a stiff gasoline tax would be more effective than CAFE standards in getting people to conserve. I don't doubt that's true, although it would be an awfully regressive tax. But it's a moot point. A significant gas tax is, at present, a political impossibility.

By the target date of 2020, 35 mpg will seem ridiculously inefficient, so the CAFE increase may be of purely symbolic importance, telling the car companies to do something they were going to do anyway. Which may explain why the Senate was willing to pass it. But it at least acknowledges conservation as an important goal. And I guess that's worth something.

Meanwhile (CNN):

Republicans blocked Democratic efforts to pass a $32 billion package of tax incentives for renewable energy and clean fuels, objecting to increasing taxes on oil companies by $29 billion over 10 years to pay for it.

That's the real story of this energy bill.

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June 19, 2007

Rudy And The Iraq Study Group Politics

From Newsday (via Josh Marshall):

Rudolph Giuliani's membership on an elite Iraq study panel came to an abrupt end last spring after he failed to show up for a single official meeting of the group, causing the panel's top Republican to give him a stark choice: either attend the meetings or quit, several sources said.

Giuliani left the Iraq Study Group last May after just two months, walking away from a chance to make up for his lack of foreign policy credentials on the top issue in the 2008 race, the Iraq war.

He cited "previous time commitments" in a letter explaining his decision to quit, and a look at his schedule suggests why — the sessions at times conflicted with Giuliani's lucrative speaking tour that garnered him $11.4 million in 14 months. [Emphasis added]

Suppose that had been Hillary (or any other Democratic candidate). The media would crucify her. But not Rudy (or any other Republican candidate). What do you want to bet he skates? Watch.

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June 14, 2007

Scary Weird Politics

US Senator Joseph Lieberman went on CBS Sunday and advocated bombing Iran "to stop them from doing what they're doing." What kind of guy says such things? Check out this anecdote from Jeffrey Goldberg's profile of Lieberman in the New Yorker (via Glenn Greenwald):

Lieberman likes expressions of American power. A few years ago, I was in a movie theatre in Washington when I noticed Lieberman and his wife, Hadassah, a few seats down. The film was "Behind Enemy Lines," in which Owen Wilson plays a U.S. pilot shot down in Bosnia. Whenever the American military scored an onscreen hit, Lieberman pumped his fist and said, "Yeah!" and "All right!"

Weird. Scary weird. Literally. "Behind Enemy Lines" was an utterly juvenile piece of crap. What is the guy, a 12-year-old? A not very bright one at that?

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May 09, 2007

Support The Troops Iraq  Politics

In case you haven't already seen this...

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May 06, 2007

28% Politics

The good news: Bush's approval rating is now a paltry 28% (Newsweek).

The bad news: "that sort of means you go walking down a street — or go to a mall — and more than 1 out of every 4 people you pass is completely insane" (Tristero).

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April 27, 2007

Unevolved Extremism  Politics  Religion  Science/Technology

This is disheartening, putting it mildly. The graph below shows public acceptance of human evolution in 2005. You'll find the US at second-to-last.

From National Geographic's description:

Adults were asked to respond to the statement: "Human beings, as we know them, developed from earlier species of animals." The percentage of respondents who believed this to be true is marked in blue; those who believed it to be false, in red; and those who were not sure, in yellow.

A study of several such surveys taken since 1985 has found that the United States ranks next to last in acceptance of evolution theory among nations polled. Researchers point out that the number of Americans who are uncertain about the theory's validity has increased over the past 20 years. [Emphasis added]

Note that the question was just whether humans evolved from earlier animals. It said nothing about evolution being by purely natural means, via natural selection, or without participation by a deity. It's just: "did humans evolve?"

It would be hard to overstate how clueless you have to be to say no.

The study also found — no surprise here — that evolution deniers in the US tend to be Republicans:

The team found that individuals with anti-abortion, pro-life views associated with the conservative wing of the Republican Party were significantly more likely to reject evolution than people with pro-choice views.

The team adds that in Europe having pro-life or right-wing political views had little correlation with a person's attitude toward evolution.

The researchers say this reflects the politicization of the evolution issue in the U.S. "in a manner never seen in Europe or Japan."

"In the second half of the 20th century, the conservative wing of the Republican Party has adopted creationism as part of a platform designed to consolidate their support in Southern and Midwestern states," the study authors write.

Miller says that when Ronald Reagan was running for President of the U.S., for example, he gave speeches in these states where he would slip in the sentence, "I have no chimpanzees in my family," poking fun at the idea that apes could be the ancestors of humans. [Emphasis added]

It would be funny, in a sick sort of way, if it weren't so downright scary, considering the belligerence and military power of the US. People who have flipped the mental switch that lets them ignore the evidence of physical reality so they can be accepted by the herd are people who can be led into all sorts of mischief. And they're armed to the teeth. Superstitious primates with guns.

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April 23, 2007

Kucinich To Announce Impeachment Bill Tomorrow Politics

Pandagon:

Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) will hold a news conference tomorrow afternoon to announce the introduction of articles of impeachment against Vice-President of the United States Richard B. Cheney.

A start. It'll be interesting to see Kucinich's particulars.

I don't believe Kucinich does this kind of stuff to get on the tv. I think he believes in it. So do I. Impeachment needs to get on the table. The line has to be drawn somewhere, and this White House passed it long ago. It's a Republic, if we can keep it, and impeachment is one of the tools. It's the firewall. That's what it's for.

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April 19, 2007

Good For The American People Politics

USA Today (via Atrios):

While Congress and the White House remain divided over what to do with the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants living in the USA, a new poll shows the American public appears to have reached a consensus on the question.

A USA TODAY/Gallup Poll taken last weekend found that 78% of respondents feel people now in the country illegally should be given a chance at citizenship. [...]

But many conservatives strongly oppose to putting illegal immigrants on a path to citizenship. "You'd be rewarding them for breaking our laws," said Rep. Brian Bilbray, R-Calif. [Emphasis added]

Just one more example (alongside Iraq, institutionalized torture, illegal wiretaps, denial of global warming, etc., etc.) of how far out of the mainstream American conservatives really are — though you'd never know it from watching tv.

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"Bomb, Bomb, Bomb..." Iran  Politics

Un-freaking-believable.

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April 18, 2007

Loan Wolf Humor & Fun  Iraq  Politics

A great Jon Stewart bit on Paul Wolfowitz:



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April 14, 2007

Abstaining From Abstinence Politics

There seems to be a penchant on the Right for policies that fit their prejudices and preconceived notions but just don't work. Trickle-down, for example, in all its forms. And abstinence education. AP:

Students who participated in sexual abstinence programs were just as likely to have sex a few years later as those who did not, according to a long-awaited study mandated by Congress.

Also, those who attended one of the four abstinence classes reviewed reported having similar numbers of sexual partners as those who did not attend the classes, and they first had sex at about the same age as their control group counterparts — 14.9 years, according to Mathematica Policy Research Inc.

The federal government now spends about $176 million annually on abstinence-until-marriage education. Critics have repeatedly said they don't believe the programs are working, and the study will give them reinforcement. [Emphasis added]

Don't expect this kind of scientific study to make a dent, however. The purpose of the programs is to use public funds to reinforce a political/cultural agenda. Who cares if they actually work. Besides, the jury's still out on that science thing.

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April 03, 2007

Iraqis Unimpressed By McCain Visit Iraq  Politics

Baghdad residents were unimpressed with Senator McCain's Baghdad photo op. AP:

Iraqis in the capital said Tuesday that Sen. John McCain's account of a heavily guarded visit to a central market did not represent the current reality in Baghdad, with one calling it "propaganda."

Jaafar Moussa Thamir, a 42-year-old who sells electrical appliances at the Shorja market that the Republican congressmen visited on Sunday, said the delegation greeted some fellow vendors with Arabic phrases but he was not impressed.

"They were just making fun of us and paid this visit just for their own interests," he said. "Do they think that when they come and speak few Arabic words in a very bad manner it will make us love them? This country and its society have been destroyed because of them and I hope that they realized that during this visit."

Thamir said "about 150 U.S. soldiers and 20 humvees" accompanied the McCain delegation. [...]

"I didn't care about him, I even turned my eyes away," Thamir said. "We are being killed by the dozens everyday because of them. What were they trying to tell us? They are just pretenders."

Karim Abdullah, a 37-year-old textile merchant, said the congressmen were kept under tight security and accompanied by dozens of U.S. troops.

"They were laughing and talking to people as if there was nothing going on in this country or at least they were pretending that they were tourists and were visiting the city's old market and buying souvenirs," he said. "To achieve this, they sealed off the area, put themselves in flak jackets and walked in the middle of tens of armed American soldiers." [Emphasis added]

Fly in, use the war as a backdrop for campaign visuals, smile for the camera, tell the folks at home that up is down and black is white, fly out again. Can it get any more grotesque?

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March 30, 2007

How Dumb Is Homeland Security? Politics

This dumb. The mind boggles.

Update: Looks like I'm the dumb one. April Fool's came early this year. Serves me right for posting in a hurry.

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March 26, 2007

Stacking The Deck Environment  Politics

A Maryland paper reports that Republicans who want to serve on the global warming subcommittee have to have decided in advance that humans don't cause global warming. Otherwise, the Republican leadership won't let them on the committee:

House Republican Leader John Boehner would have appointed Rep. Wayne Gilchrest to the bipartisan Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming — but only if the Maryland Republican would say humans are not causing climate change, Gilchrest said.

"I said, 'John, I can't do that,'" Gilchrest, R-1st-Md., said in an interview. "He said, 'Come on. Do me a favor. I want to help you here.'"

Gilchrest didn't make the committee. [...]

Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, a research scientist from Maryland, and Michigan's Rep. Vern Ehlers, the first research physicist to serve in Congress, also made cases for a seat, but weren't appointed, he said.

"Roy Blunt said he didn't think there was enough evidence to suggest that humans are causing global warming," Gilchrest said. "Right there, holy cow, there's like 9,000 scientists to three on that one." [Emphasis added]

Hey, here's an idea. How about we actually look at the science and try to come up with constructive public policy solutions. You know, like grownups.

Meanwhile, the Republicans seem to revel in being the Flat Earth party. They diverge farther and farther from reality. It's weird. And dangerous.

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March 24, 2007

Gates: Close Gitmo — Cheney: No 9/11, "War On Terror"  Politics

When Robert Gates started as Secretary of Defense, he wanted to close the Guantanamo prison. Bush himself has said that he'd like to close Guantanamo. But Cheney says no. NYT:

In his first weeks as defense secretary, Robert M. Gates repeatedly argued that the detention facility at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, had become so tainted abroad that legal proceedings at Guantánamo would be viewed as illegitimate, according to senior administration officials. He told President Bush and others that it should be shut down as quickly as possible.

Mr. Gates's appeal was an effort to turn Mr. Bush's publicly stated desire to close Guantánamo into a specific plan for action, the officials said. In particular, Mr. Gates urged that trials of terrorism suspects be moved to the United States, both to make them more credible and because Guantánamo's continued existence hampered the broader war effort, administration officials said.

Mr. Gates's arguments were rejected after Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales and some other government lawyers expressed strong objections to moving detainees to the United States, a stance that was backed by the office of Vice President Dick Cheney, administration officials said. [Emphasis added]

In case you were wondering who's really in charge.

Proof that time travel will never be invented: no one came back from the future to strangle Dick Cheney at birth.

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March 22, 2007

Rove (And Bush) Gave The Order Politics

Sidney Blumenthal, in Salon:

In the U.S. attorneys scandal, Gonzales was an active though second-level perpetrator. While he gave orders, he also took orders. Just as his chief of staff, Kyle Sampson, has resigned as a fall guy, so Gonzales would be yet another fall guy if he were to resign. He was assigned responsibility for the purge of U.S. attorneys but did not conceive it. The plot to transform the U.S. attorneys and ipso facto the federal criminal justice system into the Republican Holy Office of the Inquisition had its origin in Karl Rove's fertile mind.

Just after Bush's reelection and before his second inauguration, as his administration's hubris was running at high tide, Rove dropped by the White House legal counsel's office to check on the plan for the purge. An internal e-mail, dated Jan. 6, 2005, and circulated within that office, quoted Rove as asking "how we planned to proceed regarding the U.S. attorneys, whether we are going to allow all to stay, request resignations from all and accept only some of them, or selectively replace them, etc." Three days later, Sampson, in an e-mail, "Re: Question from Karl Rove," wrote: "As an operational matter we would like to replace 15-20 percent of the current U.S. attorneys — the underperforming ones ...The vast majority of U.S. attorneys, 80-85 percent I would guess, are doing a great job, are loyal Bushies, etc., etc."

The disclosure of the e-mails establishing Rove's centrality suggests not only the political chain of command but also the hierarchy of coverup. Bush protects Gonzales in order to protect those who gave Gonzales his marching orders — Rove and Bush himself.

"Now, we're at a point where people want to play politics with it," Rove declared on March 15 in a speech at Troy University in Alabama. The scene of Rove's self-dramatization as a victim of "politics" recalls nothing so much as Oscar Wilde's remark about Dickens' "Old Curiosity Shop": "One must have a heart of stone to read the death of little Nell without laughing."

From his method acting against "politics," Rove went on to his next, more banal talking point: There can be no scandal because everyone's guilty. (This is a variation of the old "it didn't start with Watergate" defense.) "I would simply ask that everybody who's playing politics with this, be asked to comment on what they think of the removal of 123 U.S. attorneys during the previous administration and see if they had the same, superheated political rhetoric then that they've having now." Instantly, this Rove talking point echoed out the squawk boxes of conservative talk radio and through the parrot jungle of the Washington press corps.

Indeed, Presidents Clinton, George H.W. Bush and Reagan replaced the 93 U.S. attorneys at the beginning of their administration as part of the normal turnover involved in the alternation of power. A report issued on Feb. 22 from the Congressional Research Service revealed that between 1981 and 2006, only five of the 486 U.S. attorneys failed to finish their four-year terms, and none were fired for political reasons. Only three were fired for questionable behavior, including one on "accusations that he bit a topless dancer on the arm during a visit to an adult club after losing a big drug case." In brief, Bush's firings were unprecedented, and Rove's talking point was simply one among several shifting explanations, starting with the initial false talking point that those dismissed suffered from "low performance." [...]

Bush's resistance to having Rove placed under oath or even having a transcript of his testimony appears to be a coverup of a series of obstructions of justice. The e-mails hint at the quickening pulse of communications between the White House and the Justice Department. But only sworn testimony can elicit the truth.

On Wednesday, the House Judiciary Committee issued five subpoenas, including one for Rove, and on Thursday the Senate Judiciary Committee plans to follow suit. With these subpoenas, a constitutional battle is joined. "The moment subpoenas are issued, it means that they have rejected the offer," said White House press secretary Tony Snow. Bush is barricading his White House against the Congress to prevent its members from posing the pertinent question that might open the floodgate: What did Karl Rove know, and when did he know it?

Let's hope the Dems follow the trail as high as it goes. This administration has been guilty of all manner of criminality. Nailing them for this would be like nailing Al Capone for income evasion (or Nixon for the Watergate break-in): not entirely satisfying, but effective.

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March 21, 2007

"Captain Ahab In Charge Of Saving The Whales" Humor & Fun  Politics

Jon Stewart interviews John Bolton. Awesome.

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Paging Dr. Freud Humor & Fun  Politics

John McCain accidentally tells the truth, here.

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March 20, 2007

Editing Global Warming Out Of Government Reports Environment  Politics

NYT:

A House committee released documents Monday that showed hundreds of instances in which a White House official who was previously an oil industry lobbyist edited government climate reports to play up uncertainty of a human role in global warming or play down evidence of such a role.

In a hearing of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, the official, Philip A. Cooney, who left government in 2005, defended the changes he had made in government reports over several years. Mr. Cooney said the editing was part of the normal White House review process and reflected findings in a climate report written for President Bush by the National Academy of Sciences in 2001.

They were the first public statements on the issue by Mr. Cooney, the former chief of staff of the White House Council on Environmental Quality. Before joining the White House, he was the "climate team leader" for the American Petroleum Institute, the main industry lobby.

He was hired by Exxon Mobil after resigning in 2005 following reports on the editing in The New York Times. [Emphasis added]

From the oil industry lobby's "climate team leader" to White House chief on environmental quality issues to a position at Exxon Mobil. All with no science background.

Everything's politics to this White House, but these are issues that put the health and safety of millions of people at risk. There's actual physical reality at work here. No amount of political hackery can change that. Putting a political hack in charge is like putting a political hack in charge of working up your cancer diagnosis.

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WH: Congress Can Talk To Rove — In Private, No Oath, No Transcript, No Subpoenas Politics

The White House says Congress can talk to Karl Rove and Harriet Miers — provided it's in private, not under oath, no transcript taken. AP:

The White House offered Tuesday to make political strategist Karl Rove and former counsel Harriet Miers available for congressional interviews — but not testimony under oath — in the investigation of the firing of eight federal prosecutors.

Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said he would still press for White House aides to testify under oath but that White House counsel Fred Fielding "indicated he didn't want to negotiate" whether Rove and others would have to appear in a full hearing. "That doesn't mean we're not going to try," Schumer said. [...]

The White House offered to arrange interviews with Rove, Miers, deputy White House counsel William Kelley and J. Scott Jennings, a deputy to White House political director Sara Taylor, who works for Rove.

"Such interviews would be private and conducted without the need for an oath, transcript, subsequent testimony or the subsequent issuance of subpoenas," Fielding said in a letter to the chairman of the House and Senate judiciary committees. [Emphasis added]

Not under oath. Gee, I wonder why.

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March 19, 2007

Gonzales Is Toast Politics

ABC News:

New e-mails released this evening by the Justice Department reveal the depth of White House involvement in the discussions to fire eight U.S. attorneys last year. The thousands of pages of e-mails suggest the White House was involved in the plan from the beginning.

The e-mails detail conversations about attorneys targeted for dismissal. There are no e-mails from Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, who reportedly does not use e-mail, though the Justice Department says messages show some indication that Gonzales' former chief of staff, D. Kyle Sampson, kept the attorney general apprised.

The Justice Department has taken heat from Democrats, who stepped up harsh criticism and calls for Gonzales to step down last week. "They [the U.S. attorneys] should not be sent packing on a whim," said Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., adding, "especially when the circumstances suggest that their departures may have been motivated by politics."

"First of all, he's [Gonzales] not telling the truth. These were all political," declared Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. "Never in the history of the country has anything like this ever happened. What is done is untoward, it is wrong, it is unethical, it's immoral. I believe it's illegal, and Gonzales should be fired or he should resign." [Emphasis added]

Better yet, if Gonzales perjured himself, indict him. This has been a lawless administration, front to back. People need to start going to jail. How else are you going to save the principle that the laws apply to everyone, White House included?

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March 17, 2007

The Serious Candidate Politics

When presidential candidates speak, we're used to seeing them weigh every single utterance against what they know from polling and focus groups. The wheels never stop turning. You can see it in their eyes.

But here's a presidential candidate who says what's true, not what's expedient (via Poputonian):

Mostly, Kucinich talks in this clip about the possibility of a US attack on Iran. He makes the following essential point:

The most ominous development in this whole matter came a few days ago when the Appropriations Committee made a decision to take out of the budget, of the appropriation, a provision that would have required the president to come back to Congress for permission [before attacking Iran]. In effect what Congress did, by taking that provision out, was to open the door for the president to launch an attack. It was a disastrous move on the part of congressional leaders.

(Congress apparently made this move at the behest of American supporters of Israel. The awful irony is that an attack on Iran would almost certainly be disastrous for Israel — and for the US.)

Kucinich makes the other candidates seem like wind-up toys by comparison. Too bad he can't get a fair shake from the corporate media, who don't think he's a "serious" candidate. The reality, of course, is the opposite. Kucinich is the one candidate who's serious about the issues. Everybody else is auditioning for a part.

Listen for yourself. Part Two here.

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McCain: "You've Stumped Me" Politics

John McCain is:

A) a shameless political whore.
B) a clueless idiot.
C) all of the above.

Answer: C

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March 12, 2007

Cheney's Cheney Politics

Will Bush pardon Scooter Libby? Frank Rich thinks it's a slam dunk:

Even by Washington's standards, few debates have been more fatuous or wasted more energy than the frenzied speculation over whether President Bush will or will not pardon Scooter Libby. Of course he will.

A president who tries to void laws he doesn't like by encumbering them with "signing statements" and who regards the Geneva Conventions as a nonbinding technicality isn't going to start playing by the rules now. His assertion last week that he is "pretty much going to stay out of" the Libby case is as credible as his pre-election vote of confidence in Donald Rumsfeld. The only real question about the pardon is whether Mr. Bush cares enough about his fellow Republicans' political fortunes to delay it until after Election Day 2008.

Either way, the pardon is a must for Mr. Bush. He needs Mr. Libby to keep his mouth shut. Cheney's Cheney knows too much about covert administration schemes far darker than the smearing of Joseph Wilson....[Libby] has the makings of an explosive Washington tell-all that could be stranger than most fiction and far more salable. [...]

Its first chapter would open in August 2002, when he and a small cadre of administration officials including Karl Rove formed the White House Iraq Group (WHIG), a secret task force to sell the Iraq war to the American people. The climactic chapter of the Libby saga unfolded last week when the guilty verdict in his trial coincided, all too fittingly, with the Congressional appearance of two Iraq veterans, one without an ear and one without an eye, to recount their subhuman treatment at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

It was WHIG's secret machinations more than four years ago that led directly to those shredded lives. WHIG had been tasked, as The Washington Post would later uncover, to portray Iraq's supposedly imminent threat to America with "gripping images and stories not available in the hedged and austere language of intelligence." In other words, WHIG was to cook up the sexiest recipe for promoting the war, facts be damned. So it did, by hyping the scariest possible scenario: nuclear apocalypse. As Michael Isikoff and David Corn report in "Hubris," it was WHIG (equipped with the slick phrase-making of the White House speechwriter Michael Gerson) that gave the administration its Orwellian bumper sticker, the constantly reiterated warning that Saddam's "smoking gun" could be "a mushroom cloud." [Emphasis added]

Bush doesn't care what the rest of us think, and he doesn't care about the law. He thinks he is the law. He'll do the pardon and it'll be a news story for a day or two, and then it will be gone. Livin' in the USA.

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March 07, 2007

Seven Countries In Five Years 9/11, "War On Terror"  Iran  Iraq  Politics

I'm astonished that this hasn't been all over the news. On February 27, Amy Goodman interviewed General Wesley Clark. Clark said this:

About ten days after 9/11, I went through the Pentagon and I saw Secretary Rumsfeld and Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz. I went downstairs just to say hello to some of the people on the Joint Staff who used to work for me, and one of the generals called me in. He said, "Sir, you've got to come in and talk to me a second." I said, "Well, you're too busy." He said, "No, no." He says, "We've made the decision we're going to war with Iraq." This was on or about the 20th of September. I said, "We're going to war with Iraq? Why?" He said, "I don't know." He said, "I guess they don't know what else to do." So I said, "Well, did they find some information connecting Saddam to al-Qaeda?" He said, "No, no." He says, "There's nothing new that way. They just made the decision to go to war with Iraq." He said, "I guess it's like we don't know what to do about terrorists, but we've got a good military and we can take down governments." And he said, "I guess if the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem has to look like a nail."

So I came back to see him a few weeks later, and by that time we were bombing in Afghanistan. I said, "Are we still going to war with Iraq?" And he said, "Oh, it's worse than that." He reached over on his desk. He picked up a piece of paper. And he said, "I just got this down from upstairs" — meaning the Secretary of Defense's office — "today." And he said, "This is a memo that describes how we're going to take out seven countries in five years, starting with Iraq, and then Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and, finishing off, Iran." I said, "Is it classified?" He said, "Yes, sir." I said, "Well, don’t show it to me." And I saw him a year or so ago, and I said, "You remember that?" He said, "Sir, I didn't show you that memo! I didn't show it to you!" [Emphasis added]

It seems inconceivable that Clark is just making this up. So I guess it's official: we're in the hands of complete and utter lunatics. Seven countries — seven unprovoked, preemptive wars — in five years. They think they're Hitler, or Napoleon, or Alexander the Great — with nukes. In their minds, the Republic is over; it's Empire time.

People who think like this, what are the chances they're going to accept defeat in Iraq quietly? If you're not scared yet, you should be.

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The I-Word Politics

Hagel says the I-word.

At least 36 Vermont towns do, too.

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March 06, 2007

It Didn't Start With Dubya Iraq  Politics

Before Bush's lies about Iraq's WMD, there were Clinton's lies, as former chief weapons inspector Scott Ritter reminds us:

From January 1993 until my resignation from the United Nations in August 1998, I witnessed first hand the duplicitous Iraq policies of the administration of Bill Clinton, the implementation of which saw a President lie to the American people about a threat he knew was hyped, lie to Congress about his support of a disarmament process his administration wanted nothing to do with, and lie to the world about American intent, which turned its back on the very multilateral embrace of diplomacy as reflected in the resolutions of the Security Council...and instead pursued a policy defined by the unilateral interests of the Clinton administration to remove Saddam Hussein from power.

I personally witnessed the Director of the CIA under Bill Clinton, James Woolsey, fabricate a case for the continued existence of Iraqi ballistic missiles in November 1993 after I had provided a detailed briefing which articulated the UN inspector's findings that Iraq's missile program had been fundamentally disarmed. I led the UN inspector's investigation into the defection of Saddam Hussein's son-in-law, Hussein Kamal, in August 1995, and saw how the Clinton administration twisted his words to make a case for the continued existence of a nuclear program the weapons inspectors knew to be nothing more than scrap and old paper. I was in Baghdad at the head of an inspection team in the summer of 1996 as the Clinton administration used the inspection process as a vehicle for a covert action program run by the CIA intending to assassinate Saddam Hussein.

I twice traveled to the White House to brief the National Security Council in the confines of the White House Situation Room on the plans of the inspectors to pursue the possibility of concealed Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, only to have the Clinton national security team betray the inspectors by failing to deliver the promised support, and when the inspections failed to deliver any evidence of Iraqi wrong-doing, attempt to blame the inspectors while denying any wrong doing on their part. [...]

In February 1998 the Clinton administration backed a diplomatic effort undertaken by then-Secretary General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, to help get the weapons inspection process back on track (inspections had been stalled since January 1998, when a team I led was prevented by the Iraqis from carrying out its mission because, as the Iraqis maintained, there were too many Americans and British on the team implementing the unilateral policy of regime change instead of the mandated task of disarmament)...[President Clinton] initially supported the Annan mission, not so much because it paved a path towards disarmament, but rather because it provided a cover for legitimizing regime change.

I sat in the office of then US Ambassador to the United Nations, Bill Richardson, as the United States cut a deal with then-United Nations Special Commission Executive Chairman Richard Butler, where the timing and actions of an inspection team led by myself (a decision which was personally approved by Bill Clinton) would be closely linked to a massive US aerial bombardment of Iraq triggered by my inspection. I was supposed to facilitate a war by prompting Iraqi non-compliance. Instead, I did my job and facilitated an inspection that pushed the world closer to a recognition that Iraq was complying with its disarmament obligation. As a reward, I was shunned from the inspection process by the Clinton administration.

In April 1998 Bill Clinton promised Congress that his administration would provide all support necessary to the UN inspectors. In May 1998 his National Security Team implemented a new policy which turned its back on the inspectors, seeking to avoid supporting a disarmament process which undermined the policies of regime change so strongly embraced by Bill Clinton and his administration. When I resigned in August 1998 in protest over the duplicitous policies of Bill Clinton's administration, I was personally attacked by the Clinton administration in an effort to divert attention away from the truth about what they were doing regarding Iraq. Four months later Bill Clinton ordered the bombing of Iraq, Operation Desert Fox. [...]

It turned out Saddam was in fact already disarmed. And it turned out that...President Bill Clinton...knew this when he ordered the bombing of Iraq in 1998. [Emphasis added]

As I've noted before, Bill Clinton probably killed more Iraqis than George Bush ever has (although Bush is far from done). Clinton killed via sanctions, quietly, off-camera, not via bullets and bombs.

But Ritter's article is aimed directly at Hillary Clinton. I cut that part out just because I wanted to bring Bill Clinton's role into sharp focus. But in 2002 Hillary voted to authorize Bush to use force against Iraq, and she, of all people, knew better.

Weapons inspections work. They are a highly sophisticated technical enterprise. We're supposed to picture a collection of hapless Inspector Clouseaus bumbling around aimlessly, but that's not how it works. Inspections rely on teams of highly skilled scientists and technicians, armed with a variety of extraordinarily sensitive sensors, satellite and aircraft surveillance, and so on. The inspectors knew Iraq had no WMDs. Clinton knew it. Bush knew it. Hillary knew it, but still she voted for war.

What we need now is peace. Let's not settle for less. We can do better than Hillary Clinton.

[Thanks, Miles]

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March 05, 2007

Busting The Joint Out Politics

The still-missing body armor. The billions in cash "missing" in Iraq. No-bid contracts for Halliburton and the rest. A complete failure to even attempt reconstruction in Iraq or the Gulf Coast. And now Walter Reed and the rest of the military medical system.

It's tempting to chalk it up to incompetence. They want us to. And Dubya is nothing if not a poster child for the incompetence defense. But incompetence is way too passive an explanation. They're ravenous, vicious vultures, picking the bones clean. Tax cuts for the rich, private contracts for their cronies, and the rest of us can go screw ourselves.

It reminds me of nothing so much as the scene in Goodfellas where the owner of the Bamboo Lounge takes mobster Paulie as a "partner." Ray Liotta's character says in voiceover:

Now the guy's got Paulie as a partner. Any problems, he goes to Paulie. Trouble with a bill, he can go to Paulie. Trouble with the cops, deliveries, Tommy, he can call Paulie. But now the guy's got to come up with Paulie's money every week. No matter what. Business bad? Fuck you, pay me. Oh, you had a fire? Fuck you, pay me. The place got hit by lightning, huh? Fuck you, pay me. Also, Paulie could do anything. Especially run up bills on the joint's credit. And why not? Nobody's gonna pay for it anyway. And as soon as the deliveries are made in the front door, you move the stuff out the back and sell it at a discount. You take a two hundred dollar case of booze and you sell it for a hundred. It doesn't matter. It's all profit. And then finally, when there's nothing left, when you can't borrow another buck from the bank or buy another case of booze, you bust the joint out. You light a match.

That's America today. They're busting the joint out. Trillions in debt? So what, they're not going to pay for it. Sociopaths and pirates, no scruples, no conscience. And that's their edge over the rest of us. We think they've got to be at least a little like us: wanting to do the right thing, caring about what other people think. So we struggle for an explanation. It's got to be incompetence. But it's not. It's criminality on a scale so vast that the rest of us can't even begin to get our heads around it.

Posted by Jonathan at 10:36 PM | Comments (1) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

March 02, 2007

23%, 25%, 29% Politics

Two weeks ago, David Broder, "Dean" of the Washington press corps, wrote:

It may seem perverse to suggest that, at the very moment the House of Representatives is repudiating his policy in Iraq, President Bush is poised for a political comeback. But don't be astonished if that is the case.

So, how's that working out? NYT:

In the months since the Congressional elections, President Bush has lost substantial support among members of his own party, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News Poll.

Mr. Bush's approval rating dropped 13 percentage points since last fall among Republicans, 65 percent of whom now say they approve of the way he is handling his job as president, compared with 78 percent last October.

Over all, Mr. Bush's job approval remains at one of its lowest points, with 29 percent of all Americans saying they approve of the way he is doing his job, compared with 34 percent at the end of October. Sixty-one percent disapproved, compared with 58 percent in October, within the margin of sampling error.

Twenty-three percent of those polled approved of the way Mr. Bush is dealing with the situation in Iraq. Twenty-five percent approved of his handling of foreign policy. [...]

Seventy percent, including 52 percent of Republicans, say there is not much the United States military can do to reduce the sectarian fighting in Iraq.

Over all, 23 percent of the public say the country is going in the right direction and 68 percent see it as "on the wrong track." [Emphasis added]

Approval rating in the 20s. The downside: desperate men do desperate things.

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March 01, 2007

Goring Gore Media  Politics

Two things.

First, the world would be a very different place today if Al Gore had been elected (or selected) President in 2000. No war in Iraq, for starters. No attack on Iran, should it come to that. Nothing like the worldwide antipathy towards the United States we see today. One could go on.

Second, Al Gore would have been elected President — probably with relative ease — if the mainstream media had given him a fair shake. All that nonsense about Gore being stiff, unlikable, a serial exaggerator — inventor of the Internet, the subject of Love Story — while George Bush was the likable, straight-talking guy everybody'd want to have a beer with. It was unrelenting, and it made all the difference.

Which is to say, the US media have a lot of blood on their hands. But don't hold your breath waiting for them to acknowledge, let alone apologize for, the great wrong they did to Gore and the great harm they did to the country and the world.

Which brings us to Bob Somerby. He chronicled many of the media outrages at the time, and he hasn't forgotten who said and did what. And is still saying and doing what. In yesterday's Daily Howler, Somerby looks at how little things have changed, and he's pissed. It's a good read, and an important one, as the media prepare once again to sanctify the likes of McCain and Giuliani, while covering Hillary and Obama — and Gore — with snide innuendo. Go read it.

This isn't a game. The media's consensus narrative shapes people's perceptions and changes history. Millions of lives have been shattered by Bush's presidency. While the pundits feed their egos, ordinary people pay the price. You'd think the pundits would look around at what they have wrought, at the rising tide of wreckage and ruin that surrounds us, and feel chastened. But you'd be wrong.

Now watch, as they get ready to do it all again.

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February 27, 2007

Are We Being Played? Iraq  Politics

Digby had an interesting post yesterday on ways the Senate Dems are soft-pedaling Iraq, supposedly out of fear that Joe Lieberman will jump to the GOP, thereby ending the Democratic majority and (supposedly) putting the Republicans in control of Senate committees.

Except for one thing. As Digby points out, WaPo and MediaMatters have reported that the current Senate's organizing rules don't require the Democrats to relinquish control if they lose their majority. To regain control, the Republicans would have to pass new organizing rules, something that the Dems could — and presumably would — filibuster.

It's hard not to conclude, therefore, that Lieberman is being used as a convenient excuse by timid Senate Democrats who don't want to stick their necks out on Iraq. Yes, politics is a devious game, but there's a war on. The country needs principled and decisive action, not phony political theater.

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February 22, 2007

Recycling: Incentives Needed Economy  Environment  Politics

How are Americans doing at recycling plastic bottles? The answer is disappointing. Andrew Leonard, at Salon:

In 1995, nearly 40 percent of all plastic PET bottles sold in the United States were recycled. Ten years later, in 2005, the figure was only 23 percent.

The vast majority of water and plastic soda bottles consumed in the world are made of PET, aka polyethylene terephthalate. And perhaps contrary to expectations, this is one petroleum byproduct that is eminently recyclable. Indeed, and here's a second baffling peculiarity, producers of ground-up recycled PET "flake" cannot keep up with demand. Prices per pound are strong, propelled by Chinese buyers who will buy all the flake or bales of flattened bottles that they can get, to turn into pseudo-polyester and other materials.

So, we are recycling a smaller percentage of plastic bottles than 10 years ago, and yet supply of what is lovingly referred to as "post-consumer PET" can't keep up with demand. What's wrong with this picture? Why hasn't the market solved this problem?

The answer to the first question turns out to be simple. A handy chart provided by the National Association for PET Container Resources reveals that in 1995, the U.S. recycled 775 million pounds of PET bottles, out of a total of 1.95 billion pounds of bottles estimated to be on retail shelves. The actual total poundage recycled over the next 10 years stayed more or less the same, albeit finally beginning to tick up steadily in 2004. But the total amount of bottles produced more than doubled, jumping to nearly 5 billion pounds by 2005. Those of us who do recycle aren't necessarily recycling less as the years go by, we just haven't been able to keep up with the deluge.

But now that we've answered the first question, there's still the second. With so many bottles available to be recycled, why can't we satisfy demand? One reason is that we don't have enough installed capacity to clean the bottles and chop them up into flakes. But another is that voluntary programs for recycling plastic don't appear to work too well. Maybe most people are like me, and didn't realize until today how recyclable the bottles are. Or maybe they don't live in one of the 11 states that mandate refundable deposits for PET bottles.

Because if you want to know why PET bottle recycling rates started to rise again in recent years, the answer appears to be simple: California. In 2004, California enacted a law that increased redemption values for PET containers. As a result, PET recycling in California surged.

Strange: Legislation and financial incentives make a difference! If government properly sets up a system that encourages people, whether you, me or the neighborhood poacher, to ferret out those bottles and turn them in, we can reduce landfill waste and clean up our neighborhoods. [Emphasis added]

The free market, all by itself, won't protect the environment. Regulation is needed — which means government regulation.

Give people an incentive, and they'll do the right thing. Providing that incentive just requires political will. What are we waiting for?

Posted by Jonathan at 05:18 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

February 19, 2007

Starving Climate Science Environment  Politics  Science/Technology

From an interview with NASA climatologist Drew Shindell in yesterday's NYT:

Q: As a physicist and climatologist at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, you recently testified before Congress about ways in which the Bush administration has tried to prevent you from releasing information on global warming. Can you give us an example? Sure. Press releases about global warming were watered down to the point where you wondered, Why would this capture anyone's interest? Once when I issued a report predicting rapid warming in Antarctica, the press release ended up highlighting, in effect, that Antarctica has a climate.

If your department is that politicized, how does that affect research? Well, five years from now, we will know less about our home planet that we know now. The future does not have money set aside to maintain even the current level of observations. There were proposals for lots of climate-monitoring instruments, most of which have been canceled.

By NASA? Well, it's a NASA decision following the directives from their political leaders. The money has been redirected into the manned space program, primarily.

Are you referring to President Bush and his plan to send Americans to Mars? The moon and Mars, yes. It's fine to do it for national spirit or exploring the cosmos, but the problem is that it comes at the cost of observing and protecting our home planet.

Why is NASA involved in climate research in the first place? There is no federal agency whose primary mission is the climate, and that's a problem, because climate doesn’t command the clout that it should in Washington. Since NASA is the primary agency for launching new scientific satellites, it has ended up collecting some of the most important data on climate change. [...]

Why do you think the federal government has been so phobic about adopting energy-efficiency regulations? "Phobic" is the right word, because it's irrational not to conserve when you think of all the advantages, such as keeping money in consumers' pockets instead of sending it to Middle Eastern countries that hate us. [Emphasis added]

It always seemed a little odd that the Bush White House took an interest in promoting manned spaceflight to Mars and the moon. It seemed out of character.

Pardon my cynicism, but could it just be their way of diverting funding away from research into the inconvenient truth of global climate change? Seems like just the sort of move that Bush, Cheney, and Rove might think was oh so very clever.

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February 16, 2007

Happy President's Day Politics

USA Today's founder Al Neuharth, today:

A year ago I criticized Hillary Clinton for saying "this (Bush) administration will go down in history as one of the worst."

"She's wrong," I wrote. Then I rated these five presidents, in this order, as the worst: Andrew Jackson, James Buchanan, Ulysses Grant, Hoover and Richard Nixon. "It's very unlikely Bush can crack that list," I added.

I was wrong. This is my mea culpa. Not only has Bush cracked that list, but he is planted firmly at the top.

[Via Atrios]

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February 12, 2007

Securing The Homeland Politics

Daft.

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February 05, 2007

Cognitive Dissonance Iran  Iraq  Politics

While administration rhetoric against Iran grows more heated, a new US National Intelligence Estimate finds it "not likely" that Iran is a significant cause of violence in Iraq. Seattle Times:

The Bush administration is escalating its confrontation with Iran, sending an additional aircraft carrier and minesweepers into the Persian Gulf as it accuses the Islamic regime of arming Shiite Muslim militias in Iraq for attacks on U.S. troops.

A new U.S. intelligence estimate Friday, however, concluded that Iranian and other outside meddling is "not likely" a major cause of the bloodshed in Iraq, and a new McClatchy analysis of U.S. casualties in Iraq found that Sunni Muslim insurgents, not Iranian-backed Shiites, have mounted most — but not all — attacks on American forces.

The Bush administration, which made exaggerated or incorrect claims about Iraq's weapons programs and ties to al-Qaida to justify its 2003 invasion of Iraq, hasn't provided evidence to back up its charges. [...]

"The vast majority of Americans who are being killed are still being killed by IEDs [improvised explosive devices] set by Sunnis," said Kenneth Pollack, a former CIA and White House expert on Persian Gulf affairs. [...]

"The evidence that I am seeing does not seem to support the level of rhetoric, let alone the military actions" the administration is taking, Pollack said. [...]

On Friday, the National Intelligence Council, comprising the top U.S. intelligence analysts, released an assessment of the Iraq crisis that said "lethal support" from Iran to Shiite militants "clearly intensifies" the conflict, but isn't a significant factor.

"Iraq's neighbors influence, and are influenced by, events in Iraq, but the involvement of these outside actors is not likely to be a major driver of violence or the prospects for stability because of the self-sustaining" sectarian strife, said the analysis, known as a National Intelligence Estimate.

Intelligence officials said they have strong evidence of Iranian support for Iraqi Shiite militias, especially the Mahdi Army. The question is how great a role they're playing in the conflict.

"No one sees a problem," said a U.S. defense official who requested anonymity because the issue involves top-secret intelligence. [Emphasis added]

The analysts who generated the NIE have seen whatever evidence exists. If they haven't seen any evidence that Iran is playing a significant role in Iraq, it's because there isn't any evidence.

No one should be giving the White House the benefit of the doubt on this. Not after all the lies they told us to sell their attack on Iraq. The penalty for lying is not to be believed.

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Texas GOP: Proud To Look Stupid Environment  Politics

Texas Republicans don't care about your grandkids — or theirs. Not when there's money to be made. Austin Star-Telegram:

Despite warnings from President Bush about global warming — and in the face of what many experts and even industry leaders describe as overwhelming scientific consensus on the issue — top leaders in Texas have continued to question the validity of man-made climate change.

"Absolutely," Gov. Rick Perry replied when asked recently by the Star-Telegram whether there is scientific doubt that human activity causes global warming. "I am not going to put the state of Texas in a competitive economic disadvantage on some science that may or may not be correct."

State Rep. Phil King said: "I think it's just bad science. I think global warming is bad science." The Weatherford Republican has responsibility for electric-utility issues in the House.

The global-warming debate has exploded in prominence during the legislative session, especially against the backdrop of TXU's controversial plan to build 11 coal-fired plants that environmentalists say will contribute dramatically to greenhouse gases in Texas. Other utilities also propose new facilities.

Perry and other key Republicans have expressed general support for those utility plans even as they have rejected the validity of global warming or sidestepped the question.

In a recent opinion piece, Perry said there remains great debate among scientists about the validity of man-made global warming. Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst said Wednesday that there's an "absence of scientific consensus on the causes of climate change" but added that "we should take every reasonable step to support the development of new technologies and renewable energy sources."

House Speaker Tom Craddick, R-Midland, said he did not know whether there was scientific consensus.

Contrast that with a recent cover story in Scientific American, in which Gary Stix wrote that "the debate on global warming is over" and that "carbon dioxide from SUVs and local coal-fired utilities is causing a steady uptick in the thermometer."

David Kennedy, writing for Science magazine, has noted that "consensus as strong as the one that has developed around this topic is rare in science." [...]

Perry has signed an executive order directing state regulators to expedite permits for new power plants, and in an interview this month with the Star-Telegram he repeated skepticism about the science of global warming.

King said he hopes the Legislature does nothing to restrict emissions that environmentalists associate with global warming.

"For every study and every report that somebody points to and says this is occurring, you can find just as many that say it's not," King said. "I just haven't seen anything that [convinces me that this is] anything other than the natural swing that the climate takes throughout the eons." [...]

D. James Baker, a former administrator for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, was quoted in a May 2005 issue of Mother Jones as saying that "there is a better scientific consensus on this than on any other issue I know — except maybe Newton's second law of dynamics." [...]

"Anybody, regardless of their position, reaches a point where they just look silly denying what is so clear to the rest of the world," said Rowan, of Environmental Defense. [Emphasis added]

Sooner or later, the gap between what these people say and what the rest of us can see with our own eyes will grow so large that they'll be discredited forever. Or at least one can hope so.

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February 04, 2007

Super-Veep Politics  Rights, Law

Under the Constitution, the Vice President is an executive branch officer who also serves as President of the Senate. But because of the veep's Senate role, Cheney has decided that (via Digby):

The Vice Presidency is a unique office that is neither a part of the executive branch nor a part of the legislative branch, but is attached by the Constitution to the latter.

The US theory of government rests on the principle of three coequal branches. Separation of powers. But in Dick Cheney's world, the Vice President is some kind of super-official. He, and he alone, is bigger than the system. Belonging to neither the executive nor legislative branch, he need follow the rules of neither. So when Cheney's office was asked to submit the required list of its staff, they submitted the statement quoted above. Super-Veep. If it was any other Vice President, you'd have to laugh. But it's Cheney. No laughing matter.

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February 02, 2007

Fool Me Once Global Guerrillas  Iran  Iraq  Politics

The influence of Israel (via AIPAC) on US politics is enormous, and that influence is pushing us towards war with Iran. The Democrats are, if anything, more in AIPAC's debt than the Republicans. On Iraq, the Dems are making gestures, at least, of opposition, but Iran is another story. Digby has a very important post on this subject. It deserves to be read in full, but let me just highlight a few things.

First, Hillary Clinton speaking the other night at an AIPAC dinner (IHT):

Calling Iran a danger to the U.S. and one of Israel's greatest threats, U.S. senator and presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton said "no option can be taken off the table" when dealing with that nation.

"U.S. policy must be clear and unequivocal: We cannot, we should not, we must not permit Iran to build or acquire nuclear weapons," the Democrat told a crowd of Israel supporters. "In dealing with this threat ... no option can be taken off the table."

And John Edwards, speaking in Israel (RawStory):

Although Edwards has criticized the war in Iraq, and has urged bringing the troops home, the former senator firmly declared that "all options must remain on the table," in regards to dealing with Iran, whose nuclear ambition "threatens the security of Israel and the entire world."

"Let me be clear: Under no circumstances can Iran be allowed to have nuclear weapons," Edwards said. "For years, the US hasn’t done enough to deal with what I have seen as a threat from Iran. As my country stayed on the sidelines, these problems got worse."

Their rhetoric is utterly indistinguishable from the White House's. So much for the opposition party. Digby says he's "starting to get agitated" about the Democrats' approach to Iran. He calls it "discouraging," a misguided political strategy. But it goes way beyond just a strategy. It's who the Democrats are. Unfortunately.

All the hysteria about Iran getting a bomb is wildly overblown. As Jacques Chirac put it:

"Where would Iran drop this bomb? On Israel?" he asked. "It would not have gone off 200 metres into the atmosphere before Tehran would be razed to the ground."

Iran doesn't want to nuke Israel. The Iranians want a deterrent, so they won't be attacked by the US and/or Israel. The US attack on Iraq — but not North Korea — has proved the importance of a deterrent. Especially, if you've been designated a member of the "Axis of Evil." In any case, international inspections could keep a rein on an Iranian weapons program. But, as was the case with Iraq, the US refuses to take yes for an answer and let inspections do their work.

The final, horrifying irony is that an attack on Iran is certain to be far more dangerous and destructive to Israel than would be a situation where Iran is sitting with a bomb or two as a deterrent. As Digby says:

It is very unfortunate that it came to this. But you also have to recognise that as unpalatable as it might be to have another nuclear armed nation in a volatile region, it doesn't really take us much closer to the end of the world or even the end of Israel, despite all the kooky talk coming from Ahmadinejad.

Attacking Iran, however, just might. The repurcussions of such a move would cut the last frayed ties with many allies, finally destroy all of our moral authority and convince the world that we are a super-power to be contained, not an international leader that can be relied upon to behave rationally. It is a disasterous strategic move on virtually all levels that only someone with a puerile "might makes right" strategic vision would even contemplate.

As John Robb says, a war between the US/Israel and Iran "would quickly destabilize every state in the Middle East and allow them to fall prey to open source war like Iraq." I.e., we'd have not just one Iraq on our hands, but many. Failed states, torn apart by tribal guerrillas, jihadists, and criminal gangs, as in Iraq. It's hard to imagine what centripetal force would ever put those Humpty-Dumptys back together again. There are right-wingers in Israel — and here in the US — who embrace that scenario: if the other nations in the Middle East collapse, Israel will be left to dominate the region. But it's lunacy. Once those atomizing forces are put in motion, chaos will be inexorable. These people are playing with matches in a world of gasoline.

But more and more people seem to buy that Iran is "on the brink" of getting nukes (plural), that that's "unacceptable," that the Iranians are madmen, worse than Hitler, etc., etc. Why? Because that's what they're saying on the teevee? It's exactly the same script that was used to sell Iraq, but for some reason a lot of people think this time it's on the level. Please.

The people telling us what to think about Iran are the same people who lied through their teeth to get us into Iraq. They are the same people who were absolutely wrong about what the outcome of that would be. Everything they have ever said on the subject was a lie or wrong. Everything.

What are we, suckers?

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The Great War Powers Flip-Flop Iraq  Politics

This post by Glenn Greenwald is fascinating.

The wingnuts love to say that President Clinton "emboldened" terrorists by "cutting and running" from Somalia after the Black Hawk Down incident in 1993. Something I didn't realize, pardon my ignorance, was that it was Republican senators who forced Clinton to withdraw by setting troop withdrawal deadlines and threatening further restrictions. The same Republican senators who today say Congress lacks the power to limit troop deployments to Iraq.

Leading the way, the great flip-flopper himself, John McCain, who in 1993 said:

Dates certain, Mr. President, are not the criteria here. What is the criteria and what should be the criteria is our immediate, orderly withdrawal from Somalia. And if we do not do that and other Americans die, other Americans are wounded, other Americans are captured because we stay too long — longer than necessary — then I would say that the responsibilities for that lie with the Congress of the United States who did not exercise their authority under the Constitution of the United States and mandate that they be brought home quickly and safely as possible. [Emphasis added]

As Glenn Greenwald says, the Constitution hasn't changed since 1993.

[Thanks, Ken]

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February 01, 2007

When Presidents Lie Politics

There are lies about sexual indiscretions, and there are lies about stuff that matters.

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January 30, 2007

More Double Talk Politics

McCain flip-flops again. Does he think no one's listening?

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The Way Of The Ostrich Environment  Politics

This is outrageous, crazy, you name it. AP:

Two private advocacy groups told a congressional hearing Tuesday that climate scientists at seven government agencies say they have been subjected to political pressure aimed at downplaying the threat of global warming.

The groups presented a survey that shows two in five of the 279 climate scientists who responded to a questionnaire complained that some of their scientific papers had been edited in a way that changed their meaning. Nearly half of the 279 said in response to another question that at some point they had been told to delete reference to "global warming" or "climate change" from a report. [Emphasis added]

If we just ignore it, maybe it will go away. As if reality is only what we say it is.

Insanity.

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January 29, 2007

Politics Trumps Science — Again Politics  Rights, Law

The NYT reports that the White House has issued a directive giving its political commissars more direct control of regulatory policy at the various agencies of the executive branch, taking control away from civil servants and scientists. Excerpts:

President Bush has signed a directive that gives the White House much greater control over the rules and policy statements that the government develops to protect public health, safety, the environment, civil rights and privacy.

In an executive order published last week in the Federal Register, Mr. Bush said that each agency must have a regulatory policy office run by a political appointee, to supervise the development of rules and documents providing guidance to regulated industries. The White House will thus have a gatekeeper in each agency to analyze the costs and the benefits of new rules and to make sure the agencies carry out the president’s priorities.

This strengthens the hand of the White House in shaping rules that have, in the past, often been generated by civil servants and scientific experts. It suggests that the administration still has ways to exert its power after the takeover of Congress by the Democrats.

The White House said the executive order was not meant to rein in any one agency. But business executives and consumer advocates said the administration was particularly concerned about rules and guidance issued by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

In an interview on Monday, Jeffrey A. Rosen, general counsel at the White House Office of Management and Budget, said, "This is a classic good-government measure that will make federal agencies more open and accountable." [Satire?] [...]

The directive issued by Mr. Bush says that, in deciding whether to issue regulations, federal agencies must identify "the specific market failure" or problem that justifies government intervention.

Besides placing political appointees in charge of rule making, Mr. Bush said agencies must give the White House an opportunity to review "any significant guidance documents" before they are issued. [...]

Peter L. Strauss, a professor at Columbia Law School, said the executive order "achieves a major increase in White House control over domestic government." [...]

Representative Henry A. Waxman, Democrat of California and chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, said: "The executive order allows the political staff at the White House to dictate decisions on health and safety issues, even if the government's own impartial experts disagree. This is a terrible way to govern, but great news for special interests." [...]

Wesley P. Warren, program director at the Natural Resources Defense Council, who worked at the White House for seven years under President Bill Clinton, said, "The executive order is a backdoor attempt to prevent E.P.A. from being able to enforce environmental safeguards that keep cancer-causing chemicals and other pollutants out of the air and water." [Emphasis added]

Many, if not most, regulatory matters are highly technical applications of specialized expertise. The White House couldn't care less about such technical matters. It wants control of the regulatory carrot and stick. Instead of scientists and civil servants, people like Karl Rove will get the final say on regulatory policy. Which means it will be about politics, period. And which gives the White House enormous leverage to reward corporations friendly to it and punish those that aren't. A gigantic protection racket. Everything's for sale. Science is for liberal suckers. The thing is, though, if you ignore what science tells you about reality long enough, reality has a way of getting the last word.

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Double Talk Politics

John McCain's popularity has always been a triumph of style over substance. People seem to think he's some kind of moderate and non-ideological "maverick", but he's got one of the two or three most conservative voting records in the entire US Senate.

And while he styles himself a "straight talker," he's anything but. Check out this short video, all in McCain's own words. Excellent.

Lots more here. An excellent resource.

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January 28, 2007

Clinton: US Should Withdraw Before End Of Bush Term Iraq  Politics

Hillary Clinton has finally taken a position on Iraq that seems like a step in the right direction. AP:

Hillary Rodham Clinton said Sunday that President Bush should withdraw all U.S. troops from Iraq before he leaves office, asserting it would be "the height of irresponsibility" to pass the war along to the next commander in chief.

"This was his decision to go to war with an ill-conceived plan and an incompetently executed strategy," the Democratic senator from New York said her in initial presidential campaign swing through Iowa.

"We expect him to extricate our country from this before he leaves office" in January 2009, the former first lady said.

A clever move, politically. Creates a timetable without seeming to pick an arbitrary date out of the air. Defines the war as Bush's war and, by extension, the GOP's war. Gives Hillary a way to hammer Bush and the eventual Republican candidate from now through election day.

Bush is determined to foist the war onto his successor. Even if he succeeds in that, the war must be seen as Bush's failure, since that's what it is. The danger in Clinton's position, however, is that it could be taken as giving Bush two more years to try to "win".

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Bush Approval: 30% Politics

Newsweek:

President George W. Bush concluded his annual State of the Union address this week with the words "the State of our Union is strong … our cause in the world is right...and tonight that cause goes on." Maybe so, but the state of the Bush administration is at its worst yet, according to the latest NEWSWEEK Poll. The president's approval ratings are at their lowest point in the poll's history — 30 percent — and more than half the country (58 percent) say they wish the Bush presidency were simply over, a sentiment that is almost unanimous among Democrats (86 percent), and is shared by a clear majority (59 percent) of independents and even one in five (21 percent) Republicans. Half (49 percent) of all registered voters would rather see a Democrat elected president in 2008, compared to just 28 percent who'd prefer the GOP to remain in the White House. [Emphasis added]

Next stop, ratings in the 20s. And yet The Decider flouts the will of the country and single-handedly escalates the war.

Meanwhile, those of us who said from the outset that Bush/Cheney would be a disaster, that the Iraq attack was based on fabricated justifications and would end in catastrophe — will the day ever come when the "serious" journalists of the capitalist media recognize and admit that maybe we ought to be listened to? Not holding my breath, but it really is an astonishing state of affairs, when one's status as a "credible" voice bears no relation whatever to whether one has ever actually been right about anything.

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January 24, 2007

Facing Reality Politics

Kerry won't run.

Good.

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Alternatives Humor & Fun  Politics

Shorter SOTU: cartoon version.

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January 21, 2007

Newsweek Poll Iraq  Politics

The latest Newsweek poll is a doozy.

Bush's handling of the situation in Iraq:
Approve: 24%
Disapprove: 70%

Trust more to make decisions about Iraq:
Bush: 32%
Democratic leaders in Congress: 55%

US making progress in Iraq:
Making progress: 24%
Losing ground: 67%

US troop levels in Iraq:
Increase: 23%
Decrease: 50%
Same: 18%

Bush's "surge" plan:
Favor: 26%
Oppose: 68%

Democrats in Congress block funding for Bush's "surge" plan:
Should: 46%
Should not: 46%

The level of support for blocking funding for the troop "surge" is remarkable, considering that it's a question of withholding funding in the middle of a war.

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January 15, 2007

Gratitude Iraq  Politics

From Scott Pelley's 60 Minutes interview of President Bush:

PELLEY: Do you think you owe the Iraqi people an apology for not doing a better job?

BUSH: That we didn't do a better job or they didn't do a better job?

PELLEY: Well, that the United States did not do a better job in providing security after the invasion.

BUSH: Not at all. I am proud of the efforts we did. We liberated that country from a tyrant. I think the Iraqi people owe the American people a huge debt of gratitude, and I believe most Iraqis express that. I mean, the people understand that we've endured great sacrifice to help them. That's the problem here in America. They wonder whether or not there is a gratitude level that's significant enough in Iraq.

Wow. How creepy is that?

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January 12, 2007

Starting Impeachment Politics

David Swanson, co-founder of AfterDowningStreet.org among other things, has an interesting post regarding impeachment:

There is a decent chance that within the next month or two the New Mexico State Legislature will ask the U.S. House of Representatives to begin impeachment proceedings against President Bush and Vice President Cheney. And there is the definite possibility that a Congress Member from New Mexico will take up the matter when it gets to Washington. The Jefferson Manual, rules used by the U.S. House, allows for impeachment to be begun in this manner. It only takes one state legislature. No governor is needed. One Congress Member, from the same state or any other, is needed to essentially acknowledge receipt of the state's petition. Then impeachment begins. [...]

In New Mexico, a leading light of that state's politics, State Senator Gerald Ortiz y Pino of Albuquerque, will be leading the way on impeachment. He deserves the support of all the world, and you can thank him at jortizyp@aol.com or 505-986-4380. Let's help him make New Mexico the land of enchantment and impeachment.

I had no idea it can be done that way. Things could get interesting.

[Via Poputonian]

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January 04, 2007

Olbermann On "Sacrifice" And The "White Noise" Of Endless War Iraq  Media  Politics

As Bush prepares to sell a troop surge escalation in Iraq in terms of "sacrifice", Keith Olbermann provides blistering commentary:

 

One of Olbermann's best. Just outstanding.

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December 14, 2006

White House Clamping Down On USGS Scientists Politics

In Stalinist Russia, science was made to conform with Soviet policies and propaganda. But we live in the Free World. Or not. AP:

The Bush administration is clamping down on scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey, who study everything from caribou mating to global warming, subjecting them to controls on research that might go against official policy.

New rules require screening of all facts and interpretations by agency scientists. The rules apply to all scientific papers and other public documents, even minor reports or prepared talks, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press. [...]

"I feel as though we've got someone looking over our shoulder at every damn thing we do. And to me that's a very scary thing. I worry that it borders on censorship," said Jim Estes, an internationally recognized marine biologist who works for the geological unit. "The explanation was that this was intended to ensure the highest possible quality research," said Estes, a researcher at the agency for more than 30 years. "But to me it feels like they're doing this to keep us under their thumbs. It seems like they're afraid of science. Our findings could be embarrassing to the administration."

The new requirements state that the USGS's communications office must be "alerted about information products containing high-visibility topics or topics of a policy-sensitive nature."

The agency's director, Mark Myers, and its communications office also must be told — prior to any submission for publication — "of findings or data that may be especially newsworthy, have an impact on government policy, or contradict previous public understanding to ensure that proper officials are notified and that communication strategies are developed."

Patrick Leahy, USGS's head of geology and its acting director until September, said Wednesday that the new procedures would improve scientists' accountability and "harmonize" the review process. He said they are intended to maintain scientists' neutrality. [...]

The changes amount to an overhaul of commonly accepted procedures for all scientists, not just those in government, based on anonymous peer reviews. In that process, scientists critique each other's findings to determine whether they deserve to be published.

From now on, USGS supervisors will demand to see the comments of outside peer reviewers as well any exchanges between the scientists who are seeking to publish their findings and the reviewers.

The Bush administration, as well as the Clinton administration before it, has been criticized over scientific integrity issues. In 2002, the USGS was forced to reverse course after warning that oil and gas drilling in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge would harm the Porcupine caribou herd. One week later a new report followed, this time saying the caribou would not be affected. [Emphasis added]

Among other things, USGS is the US agency responsible for estimating the world's remaining oil and gas reserves.

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December 10, 2006

Manifestoon Humor & Fun  Politics

The words of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, illustrated by clips from Looney Tunes and Disney cartoons. Interesting and subversive.

It's remarkable that the words were written more than a century and a half ago. Some archaic terminology aside, a lot of it's pretty descriptive of events today. Check it out.

[Via Stan Goff]

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December 08, 2006

Zogby: Bush Approval 30% Politics

People are onto him. Zogby (via Atrios):

The national job approval rating of President Bush has plummeted to 30%, an all–time low in the latest Zogby International telephone poll, sinking below the 31% approval rating he dropped to in early June. [...]

Sixty–eight percent said they believe Bush is doing only a fair or poor job leading the nation.

Support for the President waned in key demographic groups, the Zogby poll shows. Among all Republicans, just 60% gave him a positive job rating, while 39% gave him negative marks. Just 9% of Democrats and 22% of political independents gave him good marks for his work. Among married respondents – typically a group who favors Republicans – just 35% said Bush was doing a positive job. Among men, another favorable GOP demographic, just 31% gave him positive marks, while 69% gave him a negative rating. Even among stalwart Born Again respondents, just 43% had positive ratings for the President on his overall job performance.

You've got to wonder about that 30%, what it is they find worth approving.

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December 04, 2006

Leahy: Bush Should Be "Terrified" Politics

Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy at a Democratic Party function Saturday night (via BuzzFlash):

[Leahy] related a conversation where he was recently asked if President Bush should be "worried" that [Leahy] was now to be Chair of the powerful Senate Judiciary Committee. The crowd started cheering.

"No, no" he said, calming the crowd, as if to be prepared for a softening of his rhetoric.

"No, he shouldn't be worried. He should be terrified."

And the room exploded.

Leahy went on to assure the crowd that, unlike "some in the administration," he'd "actually read the Constitution," and went on to promise that no judges nominated to the federal bench who would ignore that Constitution would ever get past his committee. [Emphasis added]

Let's hope he means it.

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Bolton Quits Politics

John Bolton, diplomat:

Good riddance.

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December 03, 2006

Bill O'Reilly's Question Activism  Iraq  Politics

Stan Goff is somebody worth reading and listening to. He's a veteran of the US Army Rangers, Airborne, Delta Force, and Special Forces, who served in Vietnam, El Salvador, Grenada, Panama, Honduras, Venezuela, Colombia, Peru, Somalia, and Haiti. Which is to say, he's seen imperialism up close in a way few of us ever will. Now he's a very determined, very smart, and very thoughtful activist, working against war, patriarchy, and empire. Here's a post of his on a question of Bill O'Reilly's:

There is nothing more tragically amusing than watching the right-wing catch liberals off guard.

Bill O'Reilly has caught the whole crew flat-footed with one of those trick questions: Do you want the United States to win in Iraq? Set aside for the moment that this ignores the fact that the US government has already lost in Iraq, and that the question is constructed a little like, "Yes or no, have you stopped beating your wife?"

This is pissing off the Democratic Party establishment because it is outing them, the same way Republicans outed John Kerry by stating, quite accurately, that Kerry supported the war when the national blood was up. Not a single public official will answer this question the way it needs to be answered if we want go on record saying that the lives of people from abroad are as valuable as American lives.

O'Reilly needs his bluff called.

Do you want the United States to win in Iraq?

ANSWER: No.

The US occupation force in Iraq is there with a malignant purpose. It was sent there to install a puppet government and establish permanent US bases as part of the post-Cold War re-disposition of an imperial military. The invasion and occupation was illegal and immoral; and it has been characterized by the slaughter of innocents by US forces, by premeditated murder and rape, by prisoner abuse, by the systematic humiliation of the people who live there, by the destruction of whole cities, and at the material, mental, and moral expense of the people who — for a host of reasons — find themselves in the US military. The Iraqis have a right to defend themselves, and a right to fight invaders.

Moreover, the US reliance on the miltiary to prop up its domestic economy and justify the future employment of militarism against other people is a net negative in the world. It is also a net negative for the US people, as opposed to defense contractors and politicians. One way to inhibit the future use of military invasion and occupation as a tool of US control over other peoples' lives and economies is to learn the hard way — by accepting the humility that comes with divesting of our overweaning naitonalist pride, our self-delusion of superiority, and our belief that we have the right to direct the affairs of the whole damn world (using soldiers, of course...none of the engineers of these adventures suffer a day of discomfort).

Not only do I not want the US to "win" in Iraq — whatever that is supposed to look like. More importantly, Bill, the US has already lost. What I want is, I want the US to acknowledge its loss sooner than later. Because the Bill O'Reillys and George Bush's of the world are not paying the price; and neither are the Democrats who are wringing their hands when they are confronted with the terrible specter of their own inescapable national chauvinism.

You're acting like cornered rats. Oh me, oh my, yes, we want to win, but it's complicated. Your complication is your desire to further your shitty careers by avoiding the uncomplicated truth. I'm glad Bill O’Reilly put Democrats' asses on the spot. You are walking over the bodies of the dead when you equivocate.

The price of this standing defeat is being paid right now, today, by Americans and Iraqis inside Iraq. And the civil war there now is not being quelled by the American presence; it is being catalyzed by it.

Bring them home now. [Emphasis added]

Amen to that. Dennis Kucinich aside, where is the Democrat with the courage and heart to say such things?

(See also this, from a year and a half ago.)

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December 02, 2006

Democrats Politics

It was nice to see Democrats win back the House and Senate, if only because it was a repudiation of sorts of the last six years of Republican rule. But let's not kid ourselves. Democrats aren't the answer.

First, Iraq. It's entirely possible that Democrats never would have invaded Iraq, but the ugly truth is that Bill Clinton killed more Iraqis than George Bush has. Clinton killed via sanctions, not an invasion.

During the 1990s, according to the World Health Organization, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, and the UN International Children's Emergency Fund, the sanctions imposed on Iraq by the US and UK killed at least a half a million Iraqi children (as a percentage of population, equivalent to well over 5 million American children). Hundreds of thousands of adults died as well.

Democrat Madeleine Albright, then Secretary of State, was asked by a television correspondent, "More than five hundred thousand Iraqi children are already dead as a direct result of the UN sanctions...Do you think the price is worth paying?" Albright replied, "It is a difficult question, but, yes, we think the price is worth it." Notice that she didn't dispute the question's premise.

For most of the past six years, Republicans have controlled Congress as well as the White House. What if Clinton had had a Democratic Congress? Well, he did, for two years, in 1993 and 1994. What happened during those two years? MickeyZ:

In just two years, the notorious liberal [Clinton] managed to abandon his pledge to consider offering asylum to Haitian refugees, renege on his promise to "take a firm stand" against the armed forces' ban on gays and lesbians, and back away from his most high-profile campaign issue: health care. He also signed the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), increased the Pentagon budget by another $25 billion, fired Jocelyn Elders, dumped Lani Guinier, ordered the bombing of Iraq and the Balkans, renewed the murderous sanctions on Iraq, ignored genocide in Rwanda, deported hundreds of thousands of "illegal" immigrants, and passed a crime bill that gave us more cops, more prisons, and 58 more offenses punishable by death. (All this came before the much-hyped Republican "revolution" in 1994. Can someone please explain to me why the right wing didn’t like this guy?)

What about the environment? The Bush Republicans have been a disaster for the environment. Surely, the Clinton/Gore administration was pro-environment. MickeyZ again:

Then we have the environment — allegedly Bill Clinton and Vice President Al Gore's domain. In 1996, David Brower, former president of the Sierra Club, penned a Los Angeles Times op-ed entitled, "Why I Won't Vote for Clinton." In this piece, Brower offered a litany of Clinton administration moves, which utterly smashed the public image of Bubba and Gore as "pro-environment." Some of these moves include: the passage of the salvage logging rider, the continuation of the use of methyl bromide, the weakening of the Endangered Species Act, the lowering of grazing fees on land, subsidizing Florida's sugar industry, weakening the Safe Drinking Water Act, reversing the ban on the production and importation of PCBs, and allowing the export of Alaskan oil.

These, and other proud Clinton/Gore accomplishments, led Brower to declare that the dynamic Democratic duo had "done more harm to the environment in three years than Presidents Bush and Reagan did in 12 years." That's Bush the Elder he's talking about, of course. As for Bush the Lesser, consider this: the total logging cut in national forest during his first three years of Dubya's reign was less than the annual logging cut in national forests was under Clinton (Bill, not Hillary).

It sounds like a cliche, but it's true: the real power in the US is corporate power. Corporations — especially the giants in weapons manufacture, media, energy, finance, and pharmaceuticals — call the shots. Both parties are fronts for corporate power. Both are married to a system founded on rapacious exploitation of nature and the powerless.

There are some differences between Democrats and Republicans, but they're a lot more similar than they are different. Coke and Pepsi. At bottom, MickeyZ may have it right: the real difference between Democrats and Republicans is that they tell different lies to get elected.

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December 01, 2006

Lind: No Amount Of Additional US Troops Will Help Iraq  Politics

Fourth Generation War expert William S. Lind explains why putting more US troops in Iraq is doomed to fail:

The latest serpent at which a drowning Washington Establishment is grasping is the idea of sending more American troops to Iraq. Would more troops turn the war there in our favor? No.

Why not? First, because nothing can. The war in Iraq is irredeemably lost. Neither we nor, at present, anyone else can create a new Iraqi state to replace the one our invasion destroyed. Maybe that will happen after the Iraqi civil was is resolved, maybe not. It is in any case out of our hands.

Nor could more American troops control the forces driving Iraq's intensifying civil war. The passions of ethnic and religious hatred unleashed by the disintegration of the Iraqi state will not cool because a few more American patrols pass through the streets. Iraqis are quite capable of fighting us and each other at the same time.

A second reason more troops would make no difference is that the troops we have there now don't know what to do, or at least their leaders don’t know what they should do. For the most part, American troops in Iraq sit on their Forward Operating Bases; in effect, we are besieging ourselves. Troops under siege are seldom effective at controlling the surrounding countryside, regardless of their number.

When American troops do leave their FOBs, it is almost always to run convoys, which is to say to provide targets; to engage in meaningless patrols, again providing targets; or to do raids, which are downright counterproductive because they turn the people even more strongly against us, where that is possible. Doing more of any of these things would help us not at all.

More troops might make a difference if they were sent as part of a change in strategy, away from raids and "killing bad guys" and toward something like the Vietnam war's CAP program, where American troops defended villages instead of attacking them. But there is no sign of any such change of strategy on the horizon, so there would be nothing useful for more troops to do.

Even a CAP program would be likely to fail at this stage of the Iraq war, which points to the third reason more troops would not help us: more troops cannot turn back the clock. For the CAP or "ink blot" strategy to work, there has to be some level of acceptance of the foreign troops by the local people. When we first invaded Iraq, that was present in much of the country.

But we squandered that good will with blunder upon blunder. How many troops would it take to undo all those errors? The answer is either zero or an infinite number, because no quantity of troops can erase history. The argument that more troops in the beginning, combined with an ink blot strategy, might have made the Iraq venture a success does not mean that more troops could do the same thing now.

The clinching argument against more troops also relates to time: sending more troops would mean nothing to our opponents on the ground, because those opponents know we could not sustain a significantly larger occupation force for any length of time. So what if a few tens of thousands more Americans come for a few months? The U.S. military is strained to the breaking point to sustain the force there now. Where is the rotation base for a much larger deployment to come from?

The fact that Washington is seriously considering sending more American troops to Iraq illustrates a common phenomenon in war. As the certainty of defeat looms ever more clearly, the scrabbling about for a miracle cure, a deus ex machina, becomes ever more desperate — and more silly. Cavalry charges, Zeppelins, V-2 missiles, kamikazes, the list is endless. In the end, someone finally has to face facts and admit defeat. The sooner someone in Washington is willing to do that, the sooner the troops we already have in Iraq will come home — alive. [Emphasis added]

What's maddening — and disgusting — is the way wars are prolonged and intensified simply to serve the egos and ambitions of individual politicians and generals. It's hard to believe anyone would be willing to prolong a war just to advance his own career (McCain) or save himself from personal embarrassment (Bush), but we see it all the time. Sociopaths in high places.

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November 29, 2006

Gingrich: "Reexamine Freedom Of Speech" 9/11, "War On Terror"  Politics

Newt Gingrich proves once again that he's a dangerous extremist:

Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich yesterday said the country will be forced to reexamine freedom of speech to meet the threat of terrorism.

Gingrich, speaking at a Manchester awards banquet, said a "different set of rules" may be needed to reduce terrorists' ability to use the Internet and free speech to recruit and get out their message.

"We need to get ahead of the curve before we actually lose a city, which I think could happen in the next decade," said Gingrich, a Republican who helped engineer the GOP's takeover of Congress in 1994. [Emphasis added]

The well-worn recipe: make people afraid enough, and they'll give their freedom away, bit by bit. But once you give it away, you never get it back. Not without a fight.

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Parting Shot Humor & Fun  Politics

Source

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November 21, 2006

Olbermann On Bush And The Lessons Of Vietnam Politics

Bush says the lesson of Vietnam is that "we will succeed unless we quit." Olbermann takes him to school:

Excellent. Watch it.

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November 20, 2006

McCain Fumbles Iraq Question Politics

Count the number of times McCain checks his notes as he answers this question on Iraq (via Carpetbagger):


Weird. Maybe the guy's losing it, a la Reagan.

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McCain: Send More Troops Iraq  Politics

People need to get it through their heads that John McCain is a dangerous man. A Cheney with charm. Now he wants to send "an overwhelming number" of additional US troops to Iraq. IHT:

"I believe the consequences of failure are catastrophic," said McCain. "It will spread to the region. You will see Iran more emboldened. Eventually, you could see Iran pose a greater threat to the state of Israel." [...]

McCain, a front-running Republican presidential hopeful for 2008, said the U.S. must send an overwhelming number of troops to stabilize Iraq or face more attacks — in the region and possibly on American soil.

"The consequences of failure are so severe that I will exhaust every possibility to try to fix this situation. Because it's not the end when American troops leave. The battleground shifts, and we'll be fighting them again," McCain said. "You read Zarqawi, and you read bin Laden. ... It's not just Iraq that they're interested in. It's the region, and then us." [Emphasis added]

Part of what this is about is Israel's impact on US politics. But McCain's record generally is one of the most conservative records in the Senate. People confuse his personal likability with his poliicies and beliefs. A dangerous mistake.

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November 18, 2006

Gonzales: Spying Foes A Grave Threat To Liberty And Security 9/11, "War On Terror"  Politics  Rights, Law

Alberto Gonzales says foes of the administration's warrantless electronic surveillance are a "grave threat" to the "liberty and security of the American people." AP:

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales contended Saturday that some critics of the Bush administration's warrantless surveillance program were defining freedom in a way that presents a "grave threat" to U.S. security.

Gonzales was the second administration official in two days to attack a federal judge's ruling last August that the program was unconstitutional. Vice President Dick Cheney on Friday called the decision "an indefensible act of judicial overreaching."

Gonzales, in remarks prepared for delivery at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado, said that some see the program as on the verge of stifling freedom rather that protecting the country.

"But this view is shortsighted," he said. "Its definition of freedom — one utterly divorced from civic responsibility — is superficial and is itself a grave threat to the liberty and security of the American people."

Gonzales and Cheney's attacks on the court order came as the administration was urging the lame-duck Congress to approve legislation authorizing the warrantless surveillance. The bill's chances are in doubt, however, because of Democratic opposition in the Senate, where 60 votes are required to end debate and vote. [...]

In August, U.S. District Judge Anna Diggs Taylor in Detroit struck down the warrantless surveillance program, saying it violated the rights to free speech and privacy and the constitutional separation of powers. She was the first judge to rule on the legality of the program, which is operated by the National Security Agency.

Bush and other administration officials sharply criticized the ruling, which the government appealed. They argued that the program is legal under the president's constitutional powers and saved lives by helping to disrupt terrorist plots.

Cheney, in an address Friday to the Federalist Society, said Taylor's order was troubling because it was "tying the hands of the president of the United States in the conduct of a war." He added: "And this is a matter entirely outside the competence of the judiciary."

In his prepared remarks, Gonzales dismissed as "myth" the charge that civil liberties were being sacrificed in the fight against terrorism. He defended the USA Patriot Act and the handling of detainees at the U.S. military base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. [Emphasis added]

Criticism of warrantless wiretapping a grave threat to liberty. Orwell lives.

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November 13, 2006

Lieberman: "I'm Not Ruling It Out" Politics

Joe Lieberman says he won't rule out switching to the GOP, but for now he wants to be known as an "Independent Democrat." Boston Globe:

Senator Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut said yesterday that he will caucus with Senate Democrats in the new Congress, but he would not rule out switching to the Republican caucus if he starts to feel uncomfortable among Democrats.

Lieberman, a Democrat who won reelection as an independent, also said he wants to be called an Independent Democrat.

A strong backer of the Iraq war, Lieberman was returned to office on Election Day with strong GOP support. He ran as an independent after he lost the Democratic primary in August to Ned Lamont.

He said yesterday on NBC's "Meet the Press" that he will begin his new term as a Democrat because it would make him part of the congressional leadership. The senator is in line to become chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. [...]

Democrats will hold a 51-49 edge in the Senate, so Lieberman, the Democratic nominee for vice president in 2000, could find himself courted by Republicans.

He was asked about the possibility that he might switch caucuses if he became uncomfortable as Democrats sought to enforce party discipline, particularly if the GOP offered to keep him as a committee chairman and respect his seniority.

"I'm not ruling it out, but I hope I don't get to that point. And, and I must say, and with all respect to the Republicans who supported me in Connecticut, nobody ever said, 'We're doing this because we, we want you to switch over,'" he said. [...]

"I am going to Washington beholden to no political group except the people of Connecticut and, of course, my conscience," he said. [Emphasis added]

His conscience. Uh-huh. His ego, more like it. With the Senate split 51-49, any Democrat could threaten to switch parties. But to actually make that threat? That takes a Lieberman.

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November 12, 2006

Russ Won't Run Politics

Russ Feingold's not going to run for President after all. Madison's Capital Times:

Wisconsin Sen. Russ Feingold has decided against seeking the Democratic nomination for president in 2008.

He states in a letter to friends and supporters of his Progressive Patriots Fund, formed in early 2005 as he explored the possibility of a run for the party nomination, that he has decided to continue his work as senator and not make the run for president.

According to the letter, he is excited by the results of Tuesday's elections in which Democrats won control of the House and Senate, giving them the chance to "undo much of the damage that one-party rule has done to America" and "actually advance progressive solutions to such major issues as guaranteed health care, dependence on oil and our unbalanced trade policies."

Feingold, 53, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, as reported on its Web page, that he realized he would be a long-shot candidate in a run for the presidency.

He said running as an underdog appealed to him, but not the way it would "dismantle" his work in the Senate and his personal life.

As an outspoken opponent of the Iraq war, the Patriot Act and other Bush administration policies, Feingold had formed the political action committee and gone to key presidential primary states such as Iowa and New Hampshire.

Still, he said he started the process more predisposed against a run than for it.

"I began with the feeling I didn't really want to do this but was open to the possibility that getting around the country would make me want to do it. That never happened," he said.

He said he had come closer to making his decision in the past few weeks, and the final factor came when Democrats won both houses of Congress because it provided added appeal to focus on work in the Senate. [Emphasis added]

It would have been a near impossible task for Feingold to win, but it would have been good to have him participating in the debate, keeping the other candidates honest. Hopefully, he can take a leading role in the new Senate alignment. He is truly one of the good guys.

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November 09, 2006

White Folks Politics

This is depressing. Billmon:

I know I'm looking for dark linings to silver clouds here, but I still find this exit poll data depressing:

Republican share of two-party vote

Whites: 51%
White men: 53%
White women: 50%

Granted, if you back out the lop-sided results in Dixie (and oh how I wish we could) the totals aren't as bad. But still, in the midwest heartland, the best the Dems could manage was 47% of the white vote. In the west it was 49% — a meager one percentage point plurality.

Only in the Northeast (the part of the country that Barry Goldwater once hoped would fall into the sea) did the Dems manage a solid 58% of the white vote. If there's are reasons to put up with the overcrowding, pollution, crumbling infrastructure and suburban sprawl of the Boston-to-Washington corridor, that's one of them. It's still the most civilized part of the country.

But it does make you wonder: Is there anything the Republicans could do, any line of incompetence or plutocratic indulgence they could cross, that would cost them their national majority among the honkies? I'm seriously beginning to doubt it. [Emphasis added]

Actually, it's worse than depressing. It's scary.

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November 08, 2006

The Senate, Too Politics

I was sitting in Border's when my cell phone rang: my 17-year-old daughter Molly. I don't know when I've heard her so excited. "Have you seen the news?" she asked. "What?" "We got the Senate!!!", screaming now with glee. "Come on over, I'm making cookies!!!"

Yeah, baby! Let the games begin.

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Timing Politics

I have to admit I was mystified why the White House would announce Rumsfeld's firing the morning after the elections. It seemed like an open admission that the Democrats' victories forced a change in course, which in turn seemed to give the Dems a share, at least, of the credit. Not exactly standard operating procedure for this White House.

Billmon may have hit on the answer: by doing the announcement today, the White House gets to shift the media's attention from the Democratic sweep to a story that reflects credit on the White House. It's all about dominating the news cycle — and looking conciliatory and constructive in the process. Politics.

Still, you have to wonder how much different yesterday's results would have been if the White House had fired Rumsfeld a month ago and made a big show of trying a fresh approach in Iraq back then. Luckily, we'll never know.

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Tester Wins Politics

Networks have called Montana for Tester. That leaves Virginia.

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Rumsfeld Gone Politics

CNN says Rumsfeld's gone.

The day after the election? Why not a month ago when it could have let the GOP keep control of the Senate, at least? What in the world are they thinking?

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Oh-Fer Politics

So far, as Billmon points out, it looks like Republicans failed to unseat a single Democratic incumbent in any House, Senate, or Gubernatorial race. A shutout. Pretty stunning.

Moreover, as Norm Ornstein just pointed out on Al Franken's show, most of the 30 or so seats that the Dems picked up in the House were in districts where the Republican incumbent won with 60% or more of the vote in 2004. Even more stunning.

One number I'd like to see: the total number of votes nationwide for all Democratic congressional candidates v. the total number for all Republican candidates. That would give an interesting measure of where we stand looking ahead to 2008.

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Ballot Questions Politics

Referenda were a mixed bag.

Raising the minimum wage won in all six states where it was on the ballot: Arizona, Colorado, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, Ohio.

Banning same-sex marriage appears to have lost in Arizona, but it won in Colorado, Idaho, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Virginia, and, I'm sorry to say, here in Wisconsin.

Legalization of marijuana lost in Colorado, Nevada, and South Dakota.

Parental notification lost in Oregon and is losing in California. An outright abortion ban lost in South Dakota.

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Virginia Politics

So, it looks like control of the Senate comes down to Virginia. Were it not for aggressive GOP vote suppression tactics there, it probably wouldn't have been this close. But as it is, a recount is in the cards.

The good news: the vote count in Virginia is the responsibility of Katherine Hanley — a Democrat, for once.

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November 07, 2006

15 Politics

According to the DCCC, Dems have picked up the needed 15 seats to take control of the House.

 
© Kent Tenney 

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CNN: Judge Denies Extended Voting Hours In Denver Politics

Rolling Stone:

CNN just had a helicopter shot showing massive lines in Denver and is reporting [that] a judge has denied Democratic requests to extend voting hours.

If they're in line when the polls close, they should be allowed to vote. How is it in the public interest in a democracy to deny that?

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Head Slapper Politics

Atrios has a simple, but brilliant, idea.

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Memory Lane Politics

Just went back and read my last post from Election Night 2004. Rough night, that.

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Early Exit Polls Politics

Some early exit polls, but I refused to get excited yet. The exit polls in 2004 broke my heart.

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A Criminal Enterprise Politics  Vote Fraud

Billmon's got it right:

Like everybody else, I don't know what's going to happen today, but this election has already illuminated one critical truth: The modern GOP — or, more specifically, the axis of '70s campus Republicans now running it — really is just a criminal enterprise disguised as a political party.

Dirty tricks, large and small, are a sorry fact of life in American politics, but what the Republicans have done over the past few weeks — the surrealist attack ads, the forged endorsements, the midnight robo calls, the arrest threats, the voter misinformation (did you know your polling station has been moved?) — is sui generis, at least at the national level.

Even Dick Nixon never tried anything like this on such a grand scale — although, of course, he also didn't have the technology. The only thing we haven't seen yet is a break in at DNC headquarters. And if the Rovians thought they could get anything out of it that would be useful in this election (nobody else has) we'd probably be reading about that, too.

It's always possible to point to Democratic/liberal offenses, but at this point the comparisons look pretty silly: some downed yard signs here, a few crooked and/or stoned ACORN canvassers there. Not even in the same universe, much less the same ball park.

Couple the GOP's rat-fucking campaign with all the other stuff we already know about — the collectivized bribery of the K Street Project, the Abramoff casino extortion ring, the Defense and CIA appropriation scams, the Iraq War contracting scams, the Pacific Island sex trade protection racket, the church pulpits doubling as ward halls, the illegal wiretapping, the lies, perjury and obstruction of justice in the Plame case (I really could go on like this all day) — and it's clear that what we need most isn't a new Congress but a new RICO prosecution, with lots of defendents and unindicted co-conspirators. [Emphasis added]

Of course, the mainstream media will never dare to report it that way. But it's the truth.

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Pelosi: "Will We Have An Honest Count?" Politics  Vote Fraud

San Francisco Chronicle:

In an interview from her Capitol office, [House Democratic Leader Nancy] Pelosi characterized Tuesday's vote as a referendum on the war, shrugged off President Bush's efforts to make her liberalism a national issue, described the current GOP leadership as a "freak show," and expressed confidence about her party's prospects to pick up the 15 seats it needs for a majority.

"I know where the numbers are in these races, and I know that they are there for the 15; today (it's) 22 to 26," Pelosi said Friday.

Pelosi cautioned that the number of Democratic House victories could be higher or lower and said her greatest concern is over the integrity of the count — from the reliability of electronic voting machines to her worries that Republicans will try to manipulate the outcome.

"That is the only variable in this," Pelosi said. "Will we have an honest count?" [Emphasis added]

What's incomprehensible to me: why Democrats haven't made more of an issue of voter suppression and election fraud. Why do they wait until it's time for an election before they bring it up?

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November 06, 2006

"Unchecked, And Unbalanced" Politics

Keith Olbermann on the importance of voting:

Vote.

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More GOP Robo-Calling Politics

Here.

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More GOP Vote Suppression Politics  Vote Fraud

Wayne Madsen Report:

WMR has learned this afternoon that the GOP and the George Allen campaign are conducting a massive statewide voter suppression operation throughout Virginia. [...]

We have learned that GOP robo-callers are phoning Virginia voters who changed their voter registration from other states during at least the past five years. Registered legal Virginia voters are being told that if they attempt to vote tomorrow they will be prosecuted. [Emphasis added]

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Robo-Calling Dirty Tricks Politics  Vote Fraud

As you may have read on other blogs, the RNC is paying for automated dirty-trick phone calls in dozens of districts across the country. These calls are designed to trick recipients into thinking they came from Democratic candidates. They reportedly are placed at inconvenient times and are repeated, sometimes immediately after the recipient hangs up. The goal clearly is to piss off voters who would otherwise vote Democratic. Rolling Stone:

Just got off a conference call with Rahm Emanuel of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

He called the burgeoning Republican robo-call scandal — in which the National Republican Campaign Committee is aparently violating state do-not-call registries by placing repeat robocalls after midnight to Democratic voters, calls that are recorded to leave bleary-eyed and angry recipients with the impression that they have been placed by Democratic candidates — "the worst of dirty tricks."

"They're doing again the very thing they got fined for," Emanuel said. "We'll be dealing with this." Unfortunately, Emanuel admitted, any "dealing" will be done after election night. [Emphasis added]

They'll get fined, after the election, but so what? A monetary fine is no disincentive. The only way these tactics could hurt the Republicans is if the mainstream broadcast and cable media picked up the story and covered it extensively, now, before the election. Won't happen. Your liberal media at work.

So we need to make our own coverage. Protect Our Votes:

For this to break through, there needs to be visual evidence that voters are being called back immediately. Bloggers: please tell your readers to get video cameras ready and start rolling when the phone rings. Use the speaker phone so that the call can be heard. We need just one example of that up on YouTube and VideoTheVote.com.

Even better would be emails leaked from the robo call house responsible (or any robo call house for that matter) that offer the service or mention the strategy in question. [Emphasis added]

Stay tuned.

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Pareto Fallacy Politics

An interesting and useful point from Ezra Klein.

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November 04, 2006

Independents Favor Dems 2-To-1 Politics  Vote Fraud

A new Newsweek poll shows the Democrats continuing to surge, with a nearly 2-to-1 advantage among independent voters:

As President George W. Bush jets across Red State America this weekend, Republican candidates are falling further behind Democratic rivals, according to the new NEWSWEEK poll. While the GOP has lagged behind Democrats throughout the campaign season, the trend in the past month — when NEWSWEEK conducted four polls in five weeks — had suggested the Republicans were building momentum in the homestretch.

No more. The new poll finds support for Republicans (and for President Bush) receding. For example, 53 percent of Americans want the Democrats to win enough seats to take control of one or both houses of Congress in the midterm elections on Tuesday. Those results are close to early October levels, while less than a third of Americans (32 percent) want Republicans to retain control. If the elections were held today, 54 percent of likely voters say they would support the Democratic candidate in their district versus 38 percent who would vote for the Republican — a 16-point edge for the Democrats. [...]

Meanwhile, the President's approval has fallen back to 35 percent, after a slow but steady rise from 33 percent at the beginning of October to 37 percent in the NEWSWEEK poll last week.

The good news for Republicans is that their voters are coming home; 90 percent of likely Republican voters say they would vote for the GOP's candidate if the elections were held today, not far behind the 95 percent of Democrats who back their party's nominee. But independents say they would vote for the Democrat over the Republican in their district nearly 2 to 1 (26 percent versus 51 percent.) [...]

[O]nly 29 percent of Americans [say] they’re satisfied with the direction of the country — and 64 percent [say] they're not. [Emphasis added]

The good news: people grasp, finally, that the Bush Republicans have got to go. The bad news: they'll be voting in an election system that's pretty well rigged.

So far, election fraud has tended to be applied in cases where the pre-election polls were somewhat close, where we could tell ourselves the outcome was within the margin of error. But this time around, the polls are lopsided. If elections are stolen under these circumstances, it will be like a decree announcing the end of American democracy. We will have crossed a Rubicon from which we may never return. Meanwhile, the mainstream media will refuse to credit the evidence that will be too scary to acknowledge but too obvious to ignore. We'll see black, they'll say white.

The cognitive dissonance will cause a lot of people to just throw up their hands and say, well that's how elections are now. Nobody knows who really won. And anyway, they're all crooks, on both sides. If that happens, elections will be just another form of reality tv with a predetermined outcome. Democracy will be over. But at least we'll know where we stand.

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November 02, 2006

Cui Bono? Politics

How much is it going to matter if Democrats win on Tuesday? Not as much as we'd like.

Democrats, Republicans — they have the same owners.

Check out these lists (via Billmon).

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October 31, 2006

"A Stable Of Thieves And Perverts" Politics

Matt Taibbi writes in Rolling Stone that the current Congress is the worst ever:

These past six years were more than just the most shameful, corrupt and incompetent period in the history of the American legislative branch. These were the years when the U.S. parliament became a historical punch line, a political obscenity on par with the court of Nero or Caligula — a stable of thieves and perverts who committed crimes rolling out of bed in the morning and did their very best to turn the mighty American empire into a debt-laden, despotic backwater, a Burkina Faso with cable.

How did they do it? In five easy steps, say Taibbi. Read his explanation here.

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October 30, 2006

51% Politics

Karl Rove's GOP ruled like they had a mandate, despite getting into office by the thinnest of margins. Billmon explains:

There is nothing in the record of the past six years that suggests building a broad majority coalition has ever been the objective of the Rovian political project. Just the opposite, in fact. The goal has always been to create a narrow, but solid, majority — a dependable 51% or 52% — that would leave the GOP machine in firm control but reduce the need for the kind of moderate compromises required to hold a broad coalition together. Thus the overwhelming emphasis on keeping the conservative base energized and motivated, no matter what. As long as the base is on board, the extra 12 or 15 percentage points needed to reach a majority can always be picked up one way or another — without having to cut too many non-conservatives a slice of the pie. Or so the theory holds.

It's really just a redneck variation on the old Leninist strategy for a party dictatorship — if the GOP machine can control a majority of conservatives, and conservatives can control a majority of Republicans, then Republicans should be able to control (barely) a majority of the voters, and thus the country. [Emphasis added]

They don't care about mandates. They care about power, power that doesn't depend on consensus, coalition, or compromise. People marvelled when Bush squeaked into office and then acted like he'd won by a landslide. But the rules had changed.

It's a thug's game now, a game for pirates, cutthroats, and cold-blooded killers. I doubt very much we've hit bottom. They've got the election machinery well in hand, and November 7th may just turn out to be the bummer of all time. I hope I'm wrong.

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The Simple Logic Politics

Digby sums up the choice November 7th:

Let's say you have a problem. You have the choice of two people to solve the problem — the one who caused the problem, refuses to admit it even is a problem and won't change anything even as the problem grows worse — or the other one. Which do you choose?

That's the simple logic of this election.

QED

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October 29, 2006

Funny How That Works Politics

According to Media Matters, the verdict in Saddam Hussein's trial has been postponed until November 5, two days before the midterm elections:

The Bush administration has a long history of timing national security-related actions with the political calendar, and the media should be asking if it has done so again. The verdict of the Saddam Hussein trial, which was originally scheduled to be announced on October 16, 2006, has been postponed until November 5, 2006, just two days before the U.S. midterm elections.

Given the importance of the midterm elections, the administration's documented history of manipulating Iraq and terrorism announcements for political gain, and the heavy influence of the U.S. on the Iraqi court, David Brock, President and CEO of Media Matters for America, today called on the media to question the new date set for the release of the Saddam verdict. [Emphasis added]

Could anything be more transparent, more blatant, more obvious? Imagine the howls for his blood had Clinton had this.

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October 25, 2006

Staying The Course Iraq  Politics

Awesome video (via AmericaBlog):

They were for "stay the course" before they were against it. Has a familiar ring.

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October 24, 2006

Cindy Sheehan Considers Forming A Third Party Activism  Politics  War and Peace

Joshua Frank interviews Cindy Sheehan at GNN:

Joshua Frank: Cindy, we are in the armpit of another election season and it seems that the mainstream antiwar movement is rallying behind the Democrats once again, hoping if the Dems can just recapture the House that the Republicans will finally be held accountable for all their horrible faults. Impeachment will follow and the war will end. What do you think? Where do you stand on all of this?

Cindy Sheehan: I hold very little hope that, due to the utter corruption of our electoral system, and the Republican reign of terror and fear against the American public, the Democrats will even take back one or more Houses of Congress.

Even if the Democrats take back the lower House, the potential Speaker, Nancy Pelosi (D-Ca) has already said that impeachment would not be "in the cards." Rep. John Conyers (D-Mi) has also backed off of impeachment rhetoric. Since Bush has said over and over again that the troops aren't coming home while he is president, it is up to us to make sure that his presidency is cut short.

We all know that the Vietnam War ended when Congress cut its funding. There is a bill that has been sponsored by Rep. Jim McGovern, (D-Ma) HR4232 that cuts funding to leave our troops in Iraq, but he has very little support and even a smaller chance of getting it to the floor for a vote. I believe that most representatives don’t support the bill because they will be accused of "not supporting the troops." I believe that it is not supporting the troops to leave them in that nightmare.

Although I admire the Democrats on many issues, when it comes to war and peace, most get their pockets lined by the same corporate interests.

No matter which party has control of Congress come November, we the people have to keep the pressure up to stop the current course our country is taking.

Frank: You are currently serving on the Board of Directors for the
Progressive Democrats of America, a pro-Democrat organization that calls for reform of the Democratic Party from within. The PDA consistently ignores progressive antiwar alternatives to the Democrats. Do you think that such a position could actually hurt the antiwar movement? Should we instead be supporting antiwar candidates who want to hold both parties accountable?

Sheehan: I think that the PDA endorses candidates based on their entire platforms. Of course, I only care about candidate's record on the war and what they say about peace. I prefer to call our movement a "peace" movement, because "antiwar" is too narrow.

I think it would be great if we didn't need a PDA, if all Democrats were progressive peace candidates, but we know they are not.

I would vote for a Republican if they were calling for the withdrawal of troops and for impeachment, and I definitely think a viable third party could rein in the "two" parties we have now.

We will never have a viable third party, though, as long as we vote out of fear and not out of integrity. Instead of voting for the "lesser of two evils" we should be voting for a candidate that reflects our "beatitudes" and not the war machine's. [...]

Frank: I've heard a rumor that you may be looking to start your own third party. Is that true?

Sheehan: Yes, it is true. I think that to save our democracy our country needs a viable and credible third party. This nation was founded on rule by a few rich white males, and for all intents and purposes, we are still ruled by a corporate elite.

We need a third party that will represent all the people, not just the wealthy. [Emphasis added]

Cindy Sheehan is the kind of figure who could mobilize the passionate support needed to make a meaningful third party possible. She's the closest thing we have to a Martin Luther King or a Gandhi.

Her energy is the energy of peace, not of angry opposition. It's what we all hunger and thirst after. It's what the world desperately needs. And it's time for a woman to lead.

I hope she goes for it.

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October 23, 2006

Perspective 9/11, "War On Terror"  Humor & Fun  Politics

Doonesbury (via Bruce Schneier) explains faulty risk assessment and the politics of fear:

First cartoon
Second
Third
Fourth
Fifth
Sixth
Seventh

A voice of reason.

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Two Weeks To Go Politics  Vote Fraud

Bush and Rove talk like they're convinced they can't lose control of the Congress. NYT:

Mr. Bush has been saying for months that he believes Republicans will keep control of the House and the Senate, and he is not changing his tune now, even if it means taking the rare step of rebuking his own father.

In an interview shown Sunday on ABC News, Mr. Bush was asked about a comment by the first President Bush, who said this month that he hated to think about life for his son if Democrats took control of Congress. "He shouldn't be speculating like that, because he should have called me ahead of time," the president said, "and I'd tell him they're not going to."

The president's professed certainty, shared with outside friends and advisers, is a source of fascination among even his staunchest allies. In lobbying shops and strategy firms around town, the latest Republican parlor game is divining whether the White House optimism is staged, or whether Mr. Bush and his political team really believe what they are saying. [...]

Mr. Bush and Mr. Rove are discounting predictions of Republican demise in part because they believe they have turned out wrong before. "I remember 2004," Mr. Bush said in the interview shown on "This Week." "I was history as far as the punditry was concerned."

Mr. Rove has told associates that the party's turnout machinery, through which the White House will continue to pump an unrelenting message against Democrats on taxes and terrorism, gives Republicans an advantage of four to seven percentage points in any given race. Though Democrats call that too generous, they acknowledge that it accounts for at least a few percentage points. [Emphasis added]

They could be faking it. They could be in denial. Or, they could know something we don't: that the election's already in the bag, courtesy of electronic voting. The incessant harping on a supposed 4-7 point Republican advantage based on their GOTV ground game preps the conventional wisdom for explaining, post-election, why the polls once again mysteriously turned out to be so wrong. Let's hope not, but it is a measure of how far we've sunk that we even have to entertain such thoughts.

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October 17, 2006

Stepping Off The Normal Career Path Politics  Rights, Law

Charles Swift, American hero:

He that would make his own liberty secure must guard even his enemy from oppression; for if he violates this duty he establishes a precedent that will reach to himself. — Thomas Paine

John Robb has an interesting take on Swift's case:

The only thing that prevents the US or any western society from sliding into authoritarianism is the complexity and intelligence of the government machine. It pushes back when sent orders that it deems wrong. This process operates in cycles much faster than the rectification process enabled by opposition parties. IF this machine ever breaks down, we are truly screwed. ... [As Edward Luttwak wrote in his analysis of coups, the] more efficient and hierarchical...government (in that it can execute orders with little noise) is the easiest to "take over."

Charles Swift, and those like him, are heroes. More and more, our liberty depends on people like him, the Congress having pretty much surrendered its role as check and balance.

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October 16, 2006

W Humor & Fun  Iraq  Politics

The leader of the free world. It's so embarrassing:

And as for cuttin' and runnin'...

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October 15, 2006

Why We're Still In Iraq Iran  Iraq  Politics

Conservative William S. Lind, a leading thinking on fourth-generation warfare, tells us why we're still in Iraq:

At least 32 American troops have been killed in Iraq this month [as of October 11]. Approximately 300 have been wounded. The "battle for Baghdad" is going nowhere. A Marine friend just back from Ramadi said to me, "It didn't get any better while I was there, and it's not going to get better." Virtually everyone in Washington, except the people in the White House, knows that is true for all of Iraq.

Actually, I think the White House knows it too. Why then does it insist on "staying the course" at a casualty rate of more than one thousand Americans per month? The answer is breathtaking in its cynicism: so the retreat from Iraq happens on the next President's watch. That is why we still fight.

Yep, it's now all about George. Anyone who thinks that is too low, too mean, too despicable even for this bunch does not understand the meaning of the adjective "Rovian." Would they let thousands more young Americans get killed or wounded just so George W. does not have to face the consequences of his own folly? In a heartbeat.

Not that it's going to help. When history finally lifts it leg on the Bush administration, it will wash all such tricks away, leaving only the hubris and the incompetence. Jeffrey Hart, who with Russell Kirk gone is probably the top intellectual in the conservative movement, has already written that George W. Bush is the worst President America ever had. I think the honor still belongs to the sainted Woodrow, but if Bush attacks Iran, he may yet earn the prize. That third and final act in the Bush tragicomedy is waiting in the wings. [Emphasis added]

Lind sees no reason to expect Democratic victories in next month's midterm elections to change anything:

A Democratic Congress will be as stupid, cowardly and corrupt as its Republican predecessor; in reality, both parties are one party, the party of successful career politicians. The White House will continue a lost war in Iraq, solely to dump the mess in the next President's lap. America or Israel will attack Iran, pulling what's left of the temple down on our heads. Congress will do nothing to stop either war. [Emphasis added]

It is disgusting to think of a war being continued just to protect the egos of powerful men, but we've seen it before. Vietnam lasted for years after it was evident that no victory would be forthcoming, simply because neither Johnson nor Nixon wanted to be the first American president to lose a war. Now it's happening again. Except the danger this time around is that Bush et al will expand the war by attacking Iran, applying the desperate gambler's strategy of last resort: doubling the size of the bet, then doubling it again.

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October 14, 2006

Goldman Sachs And The Price Of Gasoline Economy  Energy  Politics

As we've noted in the past, presidential approval ratings historically closely track the price of gasoline. The higher the price of gas, the lower the approval rating (see the graph here). That makes the recent plunge in gas prices good news for the White House, and for Republican candidates generally, going into the November elections.

Why have gas prices dropped so precipitously? Why now?

One significant factor that has gone largely unnoticed is a decision by investment bank Goldman Sachs to restructure its Goldman Sachs Commodity Index (GSCI) in a way that prompted the sudden selling of some $6 billion in gasoline futures. NYT:

Politics and worries about oil supplies may have caused gasoline prices to go up at the pump earlier this year, but one big investment bank quietly helped their rapid drop in recent weeks, according to some economists, traders and analysts.

Goldman Sachs, which runs the largest commodity index, the G.S.C.I., said in early August that it was reducing the index's weighting in gasoline futures significantly. The announcement did not make big headlines, but it has reverberated through the markets in the weeks since and some other investors who had been betting that gasoline would rise followed suit on their weightings.

"They started unwinding their positions, and those other longs also rushed to the door at the same time," said Lawrence J. Goldstein, president of the Petroleum Industry Research Foundation.

Wholesale prices for New York Harbor unleaded gasoline, the major gasoline contract traded on the New York Mercantile Exchange, dropped 18 cents a gallon on Aug. 10, to $1.9889 a gallon, a decline of more than 8 percent, and they have dropped further since then. In New York on Friday, gasoline futures for October delivery rose 4.81 cents, or 3.2 percent, to $1.5492 a gallon. Prices have fallen 9.4 percent this year.

The August announcement by Goldman Sachs caught some traders by surprise. [...]

Unleaded gasoline made up 8.72 percent of Goldman's commodity index as of June 30, but it is just 2.3 percent now, representing a sell-off of more than $6 billion in futures contract weighting.

Like many market indexes, trading in the Goldman Sachs Commodity Index is publicly available, allowing individual investors and third-party asset managers to participate in that market. The $100 billion invested comes from brokers, fund managers and individuals, probably including some of the same people who were hurt by high gasoline prices earlier in the year.

Goldman's announcement on Aug. 9 was not the only downward pressure on prices that week, market participants stress. And while it may have played a part in sending prices down, the market would never have continued its downward trend unless supplies had loosened up, they say.

Also during that week, climatologists revised their hurricane forecasts, easing fears that oil supplies could be disrupted. And BP said it would still produce some oil from its field in Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, where leaks were being repaired. Meanwhile, the peak gasoline season was ending, and new supplies of ethanol were coming online. [...]

"We saw gasoline fall 82 cents in the wholesale market over a four-week period, which is unprecedented," he said. Mr. Goldstein said that the decline in gasoline prices helped send prices of the whole group of energy-related products down.

Now, rather than highs, these products are hitting lows — natural gas, for example, traded on Wednesday at its lowest price in four years. [Emphasis added]

There's an element of crowd psychology in commodities futures trading, as there is in the trading of stocks, real estate, etc. A number of factors contributed to the crowd's psychology changing course with respect to gasoline futures. But the fact that Goldman's announcement came on August 9 and gasoline futures plunged more than 8% the following day is hardly coincidence.

It is impossible to know if Goldman's motives were in part political, but one could be forgiven for concluding that Bush administration economic policy is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Goldman Sachs. Henry Paulson, current Secretary of the Treasury, was CEO and Chairman of GS, as was Stephen Friedman, formerly the chair of Bush's National Economic Council and currently the chair of his Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board. Bush Chief of Staff (and former director of the Office of Management and Budget) Josh Bolten is a GS alumnus, as is Reuben Jeffery, chair of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. It would be the responsibility of the latter to investigate any questions about manipulations of the futures markets. Not for nothing did Tom Wolfe call them "Masters of the Universe".

See also this and this. (Thanks, Miles)

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October 11, 2006

Crisis In Our Nation's Pants Humor & Fun  Politics

Jon Stewart on the Foley mess. Excellent, as always.

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October 10, 2006

Augering In Politics

Not a good day to be a Republican. Billmon.

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Free Fallin' Politics

New poll numbers from the New York Times:

The public's view of Iraq is as dark as it has been since the war began in 2003, with two-thirds saying it is going somewhat or very badly, while only 3 percent are saying the war is going very well. Two-thirds said they disapproved of how Mr. Bush was handling Iraq.

Mr. Bush's job approval rating has slipped to 34 percent, from 37 percent in September. That is one of the lowest levels of his presidency and poses a complication for the White House as it seeks to send him out on the road to rally base voters. Mr. Bush's job approval rating has even slipped with his base: 75 percent of conservative Republicans approve of the way he has handled his job, compared with 96 percent in November 2004.

The president clearly faces constraints as he seeks to address the public concerns about Iraq that have shrouded this midterm election: 83 percent of respondents thought that Mr. Bush was either hiding something or mostly lying when he discussed how the war in Iraq was going. Fifty-seven percent of respondents said Mr. Bush was personally aware of intelligence reports before Sept. 11 that warned of possible domestic terrorist attacks using airplanes. When the same question was asked in May 2002, 41 percent said they believed Mr. Bush was aware. [...]

So far, at least, it appears that, at least nationally, Republicans have had little success in pressing what have been their two biggest lines of attacks against Democratic challengers this fall: taxes and terrorism. The poll found that 41 percent of respondents thought Republicans were stronger on handling terrorism, compared with 40 percent who named Democrats, a statistically insignificant difference. Before Labor Day, Republicans had a 42 percent to 34 percent edge on handling terrorism.

And in a month in which Republicans have sought to discredit Democratic challengers as advocates of big spending and high taxes, 52 percent of respondents said that Democrats would make the right decisions on how to spend taxpayers' money, while 29 percent said Republicans would. [Emphasis added]

Election Day is four weeks from today.

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October 09, 2006

Apocalypse Soon Iran  Politics

Chris Hedges, who used to be the Middle East bureau chief for the New York Times, thinks a Bush administration attack on Iran is inevitable. And the disaster that follows, he says, will be, quite literally, apocalyptic. Excerpts:

The aircraft carrier Eisenhower, accompanied by the guided-missile cruiser USS Anzio, guided-missile destroyer USS Ramage, guided-missile destroyer USS Mason and the fast-attack submarine USS Newport News, is, as I write, making its way to the Straits of Hormuz off Iran. The ships will be in place to strike Iran by the end of the month. It may be a bluff. It may be a feint. It may be a simple show of American power. But I doubt it.

War with Iran — a war that would unleash an apocalyptic scenario in the Middle East — is probable by the end of the Bush administration. It could begin in as little as three weeks. This administration, claiming to be anointed by a Christian God to reshape the world, and especially the Middle East, defined three states at the start of its reign as "the Axis of Evil." They were Iraq, now occupied; North Korea, which, because it has nuclear weapons, is untouchable; and Iran. Those who do not take this apocalyptic rhetoric seriously have ignored the twisted pathology of men like Elliott Abrams, who helped orchestrate the disastrous and illegal contra war in Nicaragua, and who now handles the Middle East for the National Security Council. He knew nothing about Central America. He knows nothing about the Middle East. He sees the world through the childish, binary lens of good and evil, us and them, the forces of darkness and the forces of light. And it is this strange, twilight mentality that now grips most of the civilian planners who are barreling us towards a crisis of epic proportions. [...]

These men advocate a doctrine of permanent war...[b]ut this war will be different. It will be catastrophic. It will usher in the apocalyptic nightmares spun out in the dark, fantastic visions of the Christian right. And there are those around the president who see this vision as preordained by God; indeed, the president himself may hold such a vision.

The hypocrisy of this vaunted moral crusade is not lost on those in the Middle East. Iran actually signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. It has violated a codicil of that treaty written by European foreign ministers, but this codicil was never ratified by the Iranian parliament. I do not dispute Iran's intentions to acquire nuclear weapons nor do I minimize the danger should it acquire them in the estimated five to 10 years. But contrast Iran with Pakistan, India and Israel. These three countries refused to sign the treaty and developed nuclear weapons programs in secret. Israel now has an estimated 400 to 600 nuclear weapons. The word "Dimona," the name of the city where the nuclear facilities are located in Israel, is shorthand in the Muslim world for the deadly Israeli threat to Muslims' existence. What lessons did the Iranians learn from our Israeli, Pakistani and Indian allies? [...]

Those in Washington who advocate this war, knowing as little about the limitations and chaos of war as they do about the Middle East, believe they can hit about 1,000 sites inside Iran to wipe out nuclear production and cripple the 850,000-man Iranian army. The disaster in southern Lebanon, where the Israeli air campaign not only failed to break Hezbollah but united most Lebanese behind the militant group, is dismissed. These ideologues, after all, do not live in a reality-based universe. The massive Israeli bombing of Lebanon failed to pacify 4 million Lebanese. What will happen when we begin to pound a country of 70 million people? As retired General Wesley K. Clark and others have pointed out, once you begin an air campaign it is only a matter of time before you have to put troops on the ground or accept defeat, as the Israelis had to do in Lebanon. And if we begin dropping bunker busters, cruise missiles and iron fragmentation bombs on Iran this is the choice that must be faced — either sending American forces into Iran to fight a protracted and futile guerrilla war or walking away in humiliation.

"As a people we are enormously forgetful," Dr. [William R.] Polk, one of the country's leading scholars on the Middle East, told an Oct. 13 gathering of the Foreign Policy Association in New York. "We should have learned from history that foreign powers can't win guerrilla wars. The British learned this from our ancestors in the American Revolution and re-learned it in Ireland. Napoleon learned it in Spain. The Germans learned it in Yugoslavia. We should have learned it in Vietnam and the Russians learned it in Afghanistan and are learning it all over again in Chechnya and we are learning it, of course, in Iraq. Guerrilla wars are almost unwinnable. [...]

An attack on Iran will ignite the Middle East. The loss of Iranian oil, coupled with Silkworm missile attacks by Iran on oil tankers in the Persian Gulf, could send oil soaring to well over $110 a barrel. The effect on the domestic and world economy will be devastating, very possibly triggering a huge, global depression. The 2 million Shiites in Saudi Arabia, the Shiite majority in Iraq and the Shiite communities in Bahrain, Pakistan and Turkey will turn in rage on us and our dwindling allies. We will see a combination of increased terrorist attacks, including on American soil, and the widespread sabotage of oil production in the Gulf. Iraq, as bad as it looks now, will become a death pit for American troops as Shiites and Sunnis, for the first time, unite against their foreign occupiers.

The country, however, that will pay the biggest price will be Israel. And the sad irony is that those planning this war think of themselves as allies of the Jewish state. A conflagration of this magnitude could see Israel drawn back in Lebanon and sucked into a regional war, one that would over time spell the final chapter in the Zionist experiment in the Middle East. The Israelis aptly call their nuclear program "the Samson option." The Biblical Samson ripped down the pillars of the temple and killed everyone around him, along with himself.

If you are sure you will be raptured into heaven, your clothes left behind with the nonbelievers, then this news should cheer you up. If you are rational, however, these may be some of the last few weeks or months in which to enjoy what is left of our beleaguered, dying republic and way of life. [Emphasis added]

You think: they can't possibly be this misguided, this reckless, this insane. But then you look at everything else they've done, and you realize that the expectations and standards you use with your friends and neighbors simply don't apply with these people.

It's an administration of psychopaths. Anyone who wasn't a psychopath got weeded out long ago.

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October 06, 2006

GOP Corruption Files Politics

When you see it all in one place, it's a pretty stunning list.

[Thanks, Maurice and Sue]

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September 20, 2006

Olbermann Demands An Apology 9/11, "War On Terror"  Media  Politics

[Thanks, Kevin]

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September 06, 2006

CIA Task Force On Iraq Ramped Up Months Before 9/11 9/11, "War On Terror"  Iraq  Politics

David Corn drops some bombshells in an article on what it was Valerie Plame Wilson really did at the CIA:

In the spring of 2002 Dick Cheney made one of his periodic trips to CIA headquarters. Officers and analysts were summoned to brief him on Iraq. Paramilitary specialists updated the Vice President on an extensive covert action program in motion that was designed to pave the way to a US invasion. Cheney questioned analysts about Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction. How could they be used against US troops? Which Iraqi units had chemical and biological weapons? He was not seeking information on whether Saddam posed a threat because he possessed such weapons. His queries, according to a CIA officer at the briefing, were pegged to the assumptions that Iraq had these weapons and would be invaded — as if a decision had been made.

Though Cheney was already looking toward war, the officers of the agency's Joint Task Force on Iraq — part of the Counterproliferation Division of the agency's clandestine Directorate of Operations — were frantically toiling away in the basement, mounting espionage operations to gather information on the WMD programs Iraq might have. The JTFI was trying to find evidence that would back up the White House's assertion that Iraq was a WMD danger. Its chief of operations was a career undercover officer named Valerie [Plame] Wilson. [...]

In July 2003 — four months after the invasion of Iraq — Wilson would be outed as a CIA "operative on weapons of mass destruction" in a column by conservative journalist Robert Novak, who would cite two "senior administration officials" as his sources. (...[O]ne was Richard Armitage, the number-two at the State Department; Karl Rove, Bush's chief strategist, was the other. I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Cheney's chief of staff, also talked to two reporters about her.) Novak revealed her CIA identity — using her maiden name, Valerie Plame — in the midst of the controversy ignited by former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, her husband, who had written a New York Times op-ed accusing the Bush Administration of having "twisted" intelligence "to exaggerate the Iraqi threat."

The Novak column triggered a scandal and a criminal investigation. At issue was whether Novak's sources had violated a little-known law that makes it a federal crime for a government official to disclose identifying information about a covert US officer (if that official knew the officer was undercover). A key question was, what did Valerie Wilson do at the CIA? Was she truly undercover? In a subsequent column, Novak reported that she was "an analyst, not in covert operations." White House press secretary Scott McClellan suggested that her employment at the CIA was no secret. Jonah Goldberg of National Review claimed, "Wilson's wife is a desk jockey and much of the Washington cocktail circuit knew that already."

Valerie Wilson was no analyst or paper-pusher. She was an operations officer working on a top priority of the Bush Administration. Armitage, Rove and Libby had revealed information about a CIA officer who had searched for proof of the President's case. In doing so, they harmed her career and put at risk operations she had worked on and foreign agents and sources she had handled. [...]

In the early 1990s, she became what's known as a nonofficial cover officer. NOCs are the most clandestine of the CIA's frontline officers. They do not pretend to work for the US government; they do not have the protection of diplomatic immunity. They might claim to be a businessperson. She told people she was with an energy firm. Her main mission remained the same: to gather agents for the CIA.

In 1997 she returned to CIA headquarters and joined the Counterproliferation Division. (About this time, she moved in with Joseph Wilson; they later married.) She was eventually given a choice: North Korea or Iraq. She selected the latter. Come the spring of 2001, she was in the CPD's modest Iraq branch. But that summer — before 9/11 — word came down from the brass: We're ramping up on Iraq. Her unit was expanded and renamed the Joint Task Force on Iraq. Within months of 9/11, the JTFI grew to fifty or so employees. Valerie Wilson was placed in charge of its operations group. [...]

"We knew nothing about what was going on in Iraq," a CIA official recalled. "We were way behind the eight ball. We had to look under every rock." Wilson, too, occasionally flew overseas to monitor operations. She also went to Jordan to work with Jordanian intelligence officials who had intercepted a shipment of aluminum tubes heading to Iraq that CIA analysts were claiming — wrongly — were for a nuclear weapons program. [...]

The JTFI found nothing. The few scientists it managed to reach insisted Saddam had no WMD programs. Task force officers sent reports detailing the denials into the CIA bureaucracy. The defectors were duds — fabricators and embellishers. (JTFI officials came to suspect that some had been sent their way by Ahmad Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress, an exile group that desired a US invasion of Iraq.) The results were frustrating for the officers. Were they not doing their job well enough — or did Saddam not have an arsenal of unconventional weapons? Valerie Wilson and other JTFI officers were almost too overwhelmed to consider the possibility that their small number of operations was, in a way, coming up with the correct answer: There was no intelligence to find on Saddam's WMDs because the weapons did not exist. Still, she and her colleagues kept looking. (She also assisted operations involving Iran and WMDs.) [...]

As a CIA employee still sworn to secrecy, she wasn't able to explain publicly that she had spent nearly two years searching for evidence to support the Administration's justification for war and had come up empty. [Emphasis added]

It's been pretty obvious that the Bush team had Iraq in their crosshairs from the very beginning, but this is the first published evidence I can recall that months before 9/11 the administration already had the CIA ramping up a major effort on Iraq. Then 9/11 came along and triggered the military phase of the plan. How very convenient, that.

Posted by Jonathan at 08:21 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

August 31, 2006

Olbermann's Murrow Moment Media  Politics

Great stuff from Keith Olbermann:

The last three minutes, especially.

[Thanks, Ken]

Update: [5:08 PM] - Text is here.

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August 30, 2006

Amplifying Terror 9/11, "War On Terror"  Politics

Security expert Bruce Schneier on how Western governments and media are doing terrorists' work by constantly exaggerating the threat of terrorism, amplifying our fear:

The point of terrorism is to cause terror, sometimes to further a political goal and sometimes out of sheer hatred. The people terrorists kill are not the targets; they are collateral damage. And blowing up planes, trains, markets or buses is not the goal; those are just tactics. The real targets of terrorism are the rest of us: the billions of us who are not killed but are terrorized because of the killing. The real point of terrorism is not the act itself, but our reaction to the act.

And we're doing exactly what the terrorists want. [...]

We're all a little jumpy after the recent arrest of 23 terror suspects in Great Britain. The men were reportedly plotting a liquid-explosive attack on airplanes, and both the press and politicians have been trumpeting the story ever since.

In truth, it's doubtful that their plan would have succeeded; chemists have been debunking the idea since it became public. Certainly the suspects were a long way off from trying: None had bought airline tickets, and some didn't even have passports.

Regardless of the threat, from the would-be bombers' perspective, the explosives and planes were merely tactics. Their goal was to cause terror, and in that they've succeeded. [...]

Our politicians help the terrorists every time they use fear as a campaign tactic. The press helps every time it writes scare stories about the plot and the threat. And if we're terrified, and we share that fear, we help. All of these actions intensify and repeat the terrorists' actions, and increase the effects of their terror. [...]

...Imagine for a moment that the British government arrested the 23 suspects without fanfare. Imagine that the TSA and its European counterparts didn't engage in pointless airline-security measures like banning liquids. And imagine that the press didn't write about it endlessly, and that the politicians didn't use the event to remind us all how scared we should be. If we'd reacted that way, then the terrorists would have truly failed.

It's time we calm down and fight terror with antiterror. [...]

[O]ur job is to remain steadfast in the face of terror, to refuse to be terrorized. Our job is to not panic every time two Muslims stand together checking their watches. [Emphasis added]

Schneier is actually too kind. Governments trumpet terrorist threats not out of some accidental, misguided wrong-headedness. It's a whole lot more purposeful than that. They actively seek pretexts for instilling fear, and they drive that fear home with constant reminders in the form of useless airport security measures, armed soldiers in terminals, and so on. They do it because they believe it enhances their power. They do it because it lets them control the media news cycle.

They have as much of a vested interest in our being afraid as do the terrorists themselves. Terrorists and Western governments (especially those of Bush and Blair) exist in a kind of symbiotic relationship. If terrorists didn't exist, Western governments would invent them.

Meanwhile, regarding the British plot to blow up 10 planes, it now appears that the number 10 was made up out of thin air. NYT:

In fact, two and a half weeks since the inquiry became public, British investigators have still not determined whether there was a target date for the attacks or how many planes were to be involved. They say the estimate of 10 planes was speculative and exaggerated.

Nobody will remember that, though. They'll just remember all the scary images of machine gun-toting soldiers at airports, etc. So now when a guy accidentally drops his iPod into an airplance toilet, it sets off a full-scale terror alert. It's nuts.

Posted by Jonathan at 08:37 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Photo Op Time Disasters  Politics

Their cynicism is boundless. NYT:

On the eve of the first anniversary of Hurricane Katrina's strike here, President Bush returned to the devastated region on Monday...

Winding his way through tattered towns in Mississippi on his way here, Mr. Bush spent the day demonstrating empathy and optimism...

In sweltering midday heat, his shirt soaked with sweat, Mr. Bush told a group of Biloxi, Miss., residents that he knew the rebuilding was so slow that to some it felt as if nothing was happening.

Still, Mr. Bush said, "For a fellow who was here and now a year later comes back, things are changing."

"I feel the quiet sense of determination that's going to shape the future of Mississippi," he said.

In an event with echoes of his prime-time speech in Jackson Square here last September, Mr. Bush spoke in a working-class neighborhood in Biloxi against a backdrop of neatly reconstructed homes. But just a few feet away, outside the scene captured by the camera, stood gutted houses with wires dangling from ceilings. A tattered piece of crime-scene tape hung from a tree in the field where Mr. Bush spoke. A toilet sat on its side in the grass. [...]

Nearby, along the ocean, ravaged antebellum homes and churches dotted the waterfront. The beach from Gulfport, Miss., to Biloxi, was deserted. Debris hung from trees and motels stood shuttered. Blue tarpaulins still patched the roofs of most dwellings. Written in green spray paint on a fence around a home in Biloxi was "You loot, I shoot." [...]

"There will be a momentum, momentum will be gathered," the president said. "Houses will begat [sic] jobs, jobs will begat [sic] houses." [Emphasis added]

Lights, cameras, but no action. Nothing in a year. They have no interest in governing; they're too busy staging events that give the appearance of governing. The sheer audacity of it really is stunning: they haven't bothered to try to get anything right in all the time they've been in office. Anything, that is, beyond their permanent campaign for more power.

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August 23, 2006

Damaged Goods II Politics

This (via Raw Story) is creepy. Bush's portion is a little over two minutes long. It's more than the usual insufferable posturing: the guy's getting flat-out incoherent.

Watch for the Max Headroom glitch at about the 1:35 mark. Absence seizure?

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August 22, 2006

Damaged Goods Politics

Forever a boy, and a silly one at that. USN&WR:

He loves to cuss, gets a jolly when a mountain biker wipes out trying to keep up with him, and now we're learning that the first frat boy loves flatulence jokes. A top insider let that slip when explaining why President Bush is paranoid around women, always worried about his behavior. But he's still a funny, earthy guy who, for example, can't get enough of fart jokes. He's also known to cut a few for laughs, especially when greeting new young aides, but forget about getting people to gas about that. [Emphasis added]

"Paranoid around women, always worried about his behavior"? Whaaat? That aspect of his character has to be pretty pronounced for it to be a topic of conversation by a "top insider". Yeah, Barbara Bush must have been a scary mom. No doubt. But Dubya's sixty years old now.

Where are the grownups?

Posted by Jonathan at 08:29 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

August 20, 2006

Chauncey Gardiners Media  Politics

Following a trail of links, I happened to arrive at Robert Parry's 1999 review of Edmund Morris's Reagan biography, Dutch. In a remarkable passage, Morris provides a rather shocking list of examples of Reagan's utter cluelessness. Parry:

[T]he Reagan in Dutch comes across as a shallow human being — a man so self-absorbed that he failed to recognize his own son, Michael, at his high school graduation.

Morris also judges Reagan as a one-dimensional leader who himself mixed fantasy with fact in the service of his ideological goals, a man who possessed an "encyclopedic ignorance."

In one sardonic passage, Morris wrote that "the world that rotates inside [Reagan's] cerebellum is, if not beautiful, encouragingly rich and self-renewing. It is washed by seas whose natural 'ozone' produces a healthful brown smog over coastal highways, and rinsed by rivers that purify themselves whenever they flow over gravel. ...

"Reagan's world is not entirely without environmental problems. It glows with the 'radioactivity' of coal burners (much more dangerous than nuclear plants), and is plagued by 'deadly diseases spread by insects, because pesticides such as DDT have been prematurely outlawed.' Acid rain, caused by an excess of trees, threatens much of the industrial northeast.

"Geopolitically, the globe presents many challenges. ... North and South Vietnam should never have been permitted to join, having been 'separate nations for centuries.' The Soviet Union [is] bent on invading the United States via Mexico (a strategem of 'Nikolai' Lenin). ... The economy of South America is a mess, particularly in Portuguese-speaking Bolivia."

See also Helen Caldicott's account of a meeting she had with Reagan, one of my very first posts here at Past Peak.

Morris calls Reagan an ideologue with a "Daliesque ability to bend reality to his purposes." He was aided immeasurably in this by his "encyclopedic ignorance." This was one of the secrets of Reagan's success as the Great Communicator. He could utter all manner of nonsense and lies with completely convincing sincerity because his inner world was unencumbered by facts. He believed what he was saying, and that made him believable.

The appearance of sincerity is one of the factors that made Reagan the perfect front man for the television age. It didn't hurt, too, that he was an "amiable dunce" (all the more so after his shooting by Bush family friend John Hinckley, from which Reagan never fully recovered). He seemed well-meaning and was so obviously clueless that to criticise him too sharply violated Americans' sense of fair play. Sure he was muddled, but he seemed such a sweet old guy. Picking on him was like picking on the mentally handicapped. This consequence of Reagan's cluelessness, together with his amiable sincerity, was the source of his famous Teflon coating.

Reagan's backers may not have anticipated in advance how spectacularly well Reagan's ideologically-driven cluelessness would play on tv, but the lesson surely was not lost on them as it played out. Bush, Sr. and Clinton, in contrast, were obviously not dunces, so they lacked the ignorance defense, and it cost them.

As the Republicans searched for someone to cast in the role of President in 2000, it seems clear that they looked for a telegenic figure with the same kind of ideological sincerity unencumbered by facts. Dubya doesn't have Reagan's doddering amiability, but he's got the encyclopedic ignorance and the reliance on "gut instinct" over analysis. And he's got something Reagan didn't have: a well-crafted image as a born-again, evangelical Christian. So, once again, we're in the position where pointed attacks on Bush's ignorance seem like picking on a dummy — rude and off-putting. Bush plays the front man, and behind him Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rove, et al, run the country.

Democrats look back on Clinton with nostalgia because he was so bright, so knowledgable, so nuanced, so talented. Republicans look back on Reagan with nostalgia because he was so uncomplicated, appealing to simplistic ideological belief, not analytical thought. You really didn't have to think or to know anything, you just had to believe in the man.

Look again at Morris's small peek into Reagan's bizarre inner world and consider that this man was leader of the free world for eight years. And now we've got Dubya. A political formula is being perfected. If we don't demand knowledgable, capable leaders, we are going to be subjected to a succession of dunces whose job is to go on tv, while the real power is exercised elsewhere.

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August 15, 2006

Terror Theatre 9/11, "War On Terror"  Politics

More on the alleged British plane bomb plot. Craig Murray, formerly UK's ambassador to Uzbekistan, doesn't buy it (via Xymphora):

I have been reading very carefully through all the Sunday newspapers to try and analyse the truth from all the scores of pages claiming to detail the so-called bomb plot. Unlike the great herd of so-called security experts doing the media analysis, I have the advantage of having had the very highest security clearances myself, having done a huge amount of professional intelligence analysis, and having been inside the spin machine.

So this, I believe, is the true story.

None of the alleged terrorists had made a bomb. None had bought a plane ticket. Many did not even have passports, which given the efficiency of the UK Passport Agency would mean they couldn't be a plane bomber for quite some time.

In the absence of bombs and airline tickets, and in many cases passports, it could be pretty difficult to convince a jury beyond reasonable doubt that individuals intended to go through with suicide bombings, whatever rash stuff they may have bragged in internet chat rooms.

What is more, many of those arrested had been under surveillance for over a year - like thousands of other British Muslims. And not just Muslims. Like me. Nothing from that surveillance had indicated the need for early arrests.

Then an interrogation in Pakistan revealed the details of this amazing plot to blow up multiple planes - which, rather extraordinarily, had not turned up in a year of surveillance. Of course, the interrogators of the Pakistani dictator have their ways of making people sing like canaries. As I witnessed in Uzbekistan, you can get the most extraordinary information this way. Trouble is it always tends to give the interrogators all they might want, and more, in a desperate effort to stop or avert torture. What it doesn't give is the truth.

The gentleman being "interrogated" had fled the UK after being wanted for questioning over the murder of his uncle some years ago. That might be felt to cast some doubt on his reliability. It might also be felt that factors other than political ones might be at play within these relationships. Much is also being made of large transfers of money outside the formal economy. Not in fact too unusual in the British Muslim community, but if this activity is criminal, there are many possibilities that have nothing to do with terrorism.

We then have the extraordinary question of Bush and Blair discussing the possible arrests over the weekend. Why? I think the answer to that is plain. Both in desperate domestic political trouble, they longed for "Another 9/11". The intelligence from Pakistan, however dodgy, gave them a new 9/11 they could sell to the media. The media has bought, wholesale, all the rubbish they have been shovelled. [...]

We will now never know if any of those arrested would have gone on to make a bomb or buy a plane ticket. Most of them do not fit the "Loner" profile you would expect - a tiny percentage of suicide bombers have happy marriages and young children. As they were all under surveillance, and certainly would have been on airport watch lists, there could have been little danger in letting them proceed closer to maturity - that is certainly what we would have done with the IRA.

In all of this, the one thing of which I am certain is that the timing is deeply political. This is more propaganda than plot. [...]

Be sceptical. Be very, very sceptical. [Emphasis added]

Bush learned of the plot on Friday, August 4th, according to White House press secretary Tony Snow. Bush and Tony Blair had several conversations about the plot over that weekend. On Tuesday, anti-Iraq-war candidate Ned Lamont beat pro-war Joe Lieberman. On Wednesday, Dick Cheney held a "highly unusual" conference call with reporters in which he and Tony Snow "argued that Democrats wanted to raise what Snow called 'a white flag in the war on terror.'" They did this knowing that arrests were imminent in the UK. The arrests took place the following day. MSNBC reports that the US pressured the UK to make the arrests when it did. The Brits wanted to wait.

It's political theatre. Expect to see machine gun-toting soldiers in airports until election day.

Posted by Jonathan at 08:11 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Terror / Danger / Madman 9/11, "War On Terror"  Humor & Fun  Politics

Pardon my cynicism, but why are US airports full of machine-gun toting police and soldiers after the plot is uncovered?

Three months before an election.

Here's a Jon Stewart bit from February, 2004, a little reminder how the Bush/Cheney White House is all about pushing the fear button:

Terrorists hope to make us afraid. That's why it's called terror. Bush, Cheney, et al do the terrorists' work by constantly reminding us to be afraid.

Meanwhile, expect more pre-election Terror Alerts. They think we're suckers.

Update: YouTube pulled the video. It was good though. :-)

Posted by Jonathan at 05:28 PM | Comments (3) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

August 08, 2006

Too Lame Politics

A fun little story for all you geeks out there.

Joe Lieberman's site went down today, and Lieberman aides immediately blamed liberal bloggers and Lamont supporters for a "denial of service" attack.

Ah, but through the magic of the internets, they're shown to be complete idiots, pretty much in real time. Somebody checked, and it turns out Lieberman's campaign pays $15/month for rinky-dink hosting by an outfit called MyHostCamp. 10 GB bandwidth limit. They share their server with 73 other sites. Some, if not all, of those other sites stayed up, hence no DOS attack. Presumably, Lieberman's site simply maxed out its bandwidth for the month. Doh.

By way of comparison, $15/month happens to be what I pay for my little out-of-the-way site. 10 GB bandwidth limit, too, just like Joe. But guess what. Unlike the Lieberman campaign, I have no budget. I'm not running for the US Senate. I have nothing at stake if my site goes down (on election day, no less). For a better comparison, DailyKos pays $7000/month, and Kos isn't running for anything.

I really don't care if Lieberman's people are too clueless and cheap to get adequate hosting. I just think they ought to consider not pointing fingers when their lame-ass site implodes on election day.

And now of course because of this news everybody and their brother is hitting MyHostCamp to see what their operation looks like, so they're down, too. Bet they're thrilled.

Update: I just checked, and I actually have 15 GB a month. So I've got 50% more bandwidth than Lieberman. LOL

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August 04, 2006

The Dems and Israel: The Precipice Beckons Palestine/Middle East  Politics

When Ned Lamont beats Joe Lieberman in Connecticut, people will say it's because Lamont is "anti-war". But as Billmon reminds us in an outstanding and extremely important post, Lamont — and Democrats generally — are only anti-war when it comes to Iraq. When it comes to Israel, they compete to see who's quickest to snap to attention and salute. And that is a recipe for disaster. Billmon:

I know Ned [Lamont] says he's anti-war, but he only means the war in Iraq. The war in Lebanon, on the other hand, is just fine by him. And he's already pledged he'll be just as staunch a friend of Israel and the Israel lobby in this war as Holy Joe ever was or ever could be. So bombs away. [...]

Lamont's stance...reflects a glaring contradiction in the emerging Democratic consensus on U.S. policy in the Middle East...Politically, it's a position that won't be sustainable for long. And as a matter of policy, it's a recipe for an even wider and more destructive war — one I fully expect most Democrats, including Lamont, will end up supporting, despite the consequences.

The contradiction is between the growing sentiment among both grassroots Democrats and party leaders in favor of a rapid withdrawal of U.S. military forces (or at least ground forces) from Iraq, and the effect such a withdrawal would have, both on the overall strategic balance in the Middle East and on Israel's war against Hizbullah.

If the United States were to begin pulling troops out of Iraq now, it would be interpreted correctly throughout the Middle East as an open admission of defeat — one that would likely lead fairly quickly to a complete American evacuation of the country. [...]

[T]he U.S. Army is the only significant force standing between Iran and it's closest allies, and thus between Iran and Israel. If, as it now seems, Washington and Jerusalem both perceive Iran as the primary threat (and/or target for aggression) in the region, then there is no real distinction between America's occupation of Iraq and Israel's intended re-occupation of southern Lebanon. They are, in essence, both part of the next war.

It seems increasingly probable that that war will come soon — perhaps as early as November or December, although more likely next year. Israel's failure to knock out Hizbullah with a rapid first strike has left the neocons even deeper in the hole, enormously ratcheting up the pressure to try to recoup all losses by taking the war to Damascus and Tehran.

In other words, it's almost time for the ultimate "flight forward" — the one that finally pushes the Middle East into World War III.

What's become clear to me is that the Democratic Party (even it's allegedly anti-war wing) will not try to stop this insanity, and in fact will probably be led as meekly to the slaughter as it was during the runup to the Iraq invasion. Watching the Dems line up to salute the Israeli war machine, hearing the uncomfortable and awkward silence descend on most of Left Blogistan once the bombs started falling in Lebanon, seeing how easily the same Orwellian propaganda tricks worked their magic on the pseudoliberals — all this doesn't leave too much room for doubt. As long as World War III can be sold as protecting the security and survival of the Jewish state, I suspect the overwhelming majority of Democratics will support it.

And it is being sold, ferociously. A number of wealthy pro-Israel donors, including Ronald Lauder, the perfume heir, have given millions to something called the Israel Project — a "public education" cum PR cum grassroots lobbying machine — to fund a program specificially aimed at building support for a military strike on Iran. You can't turn on Fox News these days without finding James Woolsey or Newt Gingrich or Bill Kristol or some other pro-Israel mouthpiece demanding war with Syria and/or Iran, and painting it as the only way to stop the rockets falling on Haifa. [...]

The lesson learned from the Democratic reaction to the Israel's war of choice is that the Dems are only likely to oppose war as long as the war in question can be framed as a fight against Iraqi insurgents and/or Shi'a death squads, rather than a fight for Israel. But the Iraq occupation isn't going to fit neatly into that frame much longer. In fact it's already slipped out of it. The Dems — always a little slow on the uptake — just haven't realized it yet. But when the time comes to choose (for Israel, or against war with Iran) I fully expect to see Ned Lamont in the front ranks of the pro-war phalanx, right next to the last great white Democratic anti-war hope, Howard Dean.

People tell me I shouldn't get hung up on this because, you know, if the Dems get in they'll make sure the seniors get their Social Security checks a little faster — or they'll keep the Supreme Court out of the hands of legal madmen or do something about global climate change or save the whales or whatever else it is that's supposed to make the Democratic Party infinitely preferable to the Republicans.

It's not that I discount these differences entirely -- although they're easily oversold. But compared to the fate that awaits the republic, and the world, if the United States deliberately starts a war with Iran, those other considerations start to look pretty insignificant. I mean, we're talking about World War III here, fought by people who want to use tactical nuclear weapons. I'm supposed to put that out of my mind because the Dems might be a little bit more generous about funding the VA budget??? I'm sorry, but that's fucking nuts.

The truth is that on the most important issue of our time — the cliff that drops into total darkness — the only real opposition left in this country is in the Pentagon, where, according to Sy Hersh, at least some of the generals are trying to stall the march to war. Plus whatever scattered resistance is left in the intelligence agencies following the purges of the past couple of years.

It is a stunning testament to the political devolution of this country that the most effective anti-war movement in America is inside the walls of the Pentagon or buried deep in the bowels of the CIA! But that is the reality, thanks in no small part to the Dems and the Israel lobby.

I had hopes once that the Democratic Party could be reformed, that progressives could burrow back in or build their own parallel organizations (like MoveOn.org or even Left Blogistan) and eventually gain control of the party and its agenda — much as the conservatives took over the GOP in the 1980s and '90s.

But I think we've run out of time. Events — from 9/11 on — have moved too fast and pushed us too far towards the clash of civilizations that most sane people dread but the neocons desperately want. The Dems are now just the cadet branch of the War Party. While the party nomenklatura is finally, after three bloody years, making dovish noises about the Iraq fiasco, I think their loyalty to Israel will almost certainly snap them back into line during the coming "debate" over war with Iran.

I hope like hell I'm wrong about this, but I don't think I am. So I guess I'll just have to accept being labeled a traitor to the cause — or whatever the hardcore partisans are calling it. Sure, why not. They're certainly free to follow their party over the cliff (we're all going over it anyway) but I'd at least prefer to do it with my eyes open. [Emphasis added]

Americans generally have long held a completely one-sided and dangerously simplistic view of Arab-Israeli relations: Israel good, Arabs bad. Add to that the years of propaganda about Arab "terrorists" and the "war on terror", and the result is a populace with a dangerously distorted view of reality, a view that has, to a great extent, been deliberately instilled in them by people who think they're advancing Israel's interests or who push the Israel button as a means to other ends. The final irony will be that blind loyalty to Israel's interests (or to what are portrayed as Israel's interests) may just bring about Israel's destruction. And get untold numbers of other people killed in the process.

Just being a Democrat isn't enough. Just opposing the war in Iraq isn't enough. What we need are progressives who understand that most problems are not solved by the use of military force. And who understand that you don't get out of a hole by digging faster.

The stakes couldn't be higher.

[Thanks, Miles]

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August 03, 2006

Widening The War Palestine/Middle East  Politics

Robert Parry reviews the evidence that the Bush/Cheney regime has wanted to use Israel's attack on Lebanon to widen the war and go after Syria, Iran, or both:

George W. Bush and his neoconservative advisers saw the conflict between Israel and Hezbollah as an opportunity to expand the conflict into Syria and possibly achieve a long-sought "regime change" in Damascus, but Israel's leadership balked at the scheme, according to Israeli sources.

One Israeli source said Bush's interest in spreading the war to Syria was considered "nuts" by some senior Israeli officials, although Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has generally shared Bush's hard-line strategy against Islamic militants. [...]

In an article on July 30, the Jerusalem Post hinted at the Israeli rejection of Bush's suggestion of a wider war in Syria. "Defense officials told the Post last week that they were receiving indications from the US that America would be interested in seeing Israel attack Syria," the newspaper reported.

On July 18, Consortiumnews.com reported that the Israel-Lebanon conflict had revived the Bush administration's neoconservative hopes that a new path had opened "to achieve a prized goal that otherwise appeared to be blocked for them – military assaults on Syria and Iran aimed at crippling those governments." [...]

Though the immediate conflict between Israel and Hezbollah was touched off by a Hezbollah cross-border raid on July 12 that captured two Israeli soldiers, the longer-term U.S.-Israeli strategy can be traced back to the May 23, 2006, meetings between Olmert and Bush in Washington.

At those meetings, Olmert discussed with Bush Israel's plans for revising its timetable for setting final border arrangements with the Palestinians, putting those plans on the back burner while moving the Iranian nuclear program to the front burner.

In effect, Olmert informed Bush that 2006 would be the year for stopping Iran's progress toward a nuclear bomb and 2007 would be the year for redrawing Israel's final borders. That schedule fit well with Bush's priorities, which may require some dramatic foreign policy success before the November congressional elections.

At a joint press conference with Bush on May 23, Olmert said "this is a moment of truth" for addressing Iran's alleged ambitions to build a nuclear bomb.

"The Iranian threat is not only a threat to Israel, it is a threat to the stability of the Middle East and the entire world," Olmert said. "The international community cannot tolerate a situation where a regime with a radical ideology and a long tradition of irresponsible conduct becomes a nuclear weapons state." [...]

In a speech to a joint session of Congress, Olmert added that the possibility of Iran building a nuclear weapon was "an existential threat" to Israel, meaning that Israel believed its very existence was in danger. [...]

By spring 2006, Bush was reportedly weighing military options for bombing Iran's nuclear facilities. But the President encountered resistance from senior levels of the U.S. military, which feared the consequences, including the harm that might come to more than 130,000 U.S. troops bogged down in neighboring Iraq.

There was also alarm among U.S. generals over the White House resistance to removing tactical nuclear weapons as an option against Iran. [...]

[A former senior intelligence official] said the White House refused to remove the nuclear option from the plans despite objections from the Joint Chiefs of Staff. "Whenever anybody tries to get it out, they're shouted down," the ex-official said.

By late April, however, the Joint Chiefs finally got the White House to agree that using nuclear weapons to destroy Iran's uranium-enrichment plant at Natanz, less than 200 miles south of Tehran, was politically unacceptable, Hersh reported.

"Bush and Cheney were dead serious about the nuclear planning," one former senior intelligence official said. [...]

One interpretation of the Lebanese-Israeli conflict is that Bush and Olmert seized on the Hezbollah raid as a pretext for a pre-planned escalation that will lead to bombing campaigns against Syria and Iran, justified by their backing of Hezbollah.

In that view, Bush found himself stymied by U.S. military objections to targeting Iran's nuclear facilities outside any larger conflict. However, if the bombing of Iran develops as an outgrowth of a tit-for-tat expansion of a war in which Israel's existence is at stake, strikes against Iranian targets would be more palatable to the American public.

The end game would be U.S.-Israeli aerial strikes against Iran's nuclear facilities with the goal of crippling its nuclear program and humiliating Ahmadinejad. [...]

Washington Post foreign policy analyst Robin Wright wrote that U.S. officials told her that "for the United States, the broader goal is to strangle the axis of Hezbollah, Hamas, Syria and Iran, which the Bush administration believes is pooling resources to change the strategic playing field in the Middle East." [...]

Another school of thought holds that Iran may have encouraged the Hezbollah raid that sparked the Lebanese-Israeli conflict as a way to demonstrate the "asymmetrical warfare" that could be set in motion if the Bush administration attacks Iran.

But Hezbollah's firing of rockets as far as the port city of Haifa, deep inside Israel, has touched off new fears among Israelis and their allies about the danger of more powerful missiles carrying unconventional warheads, possibly hitting heavily populated areas, such as Tel Aviv.

That fear of missile attacks by Islamic extremists dedicated to Israel's destruction has caused Israel to start "dusting off it nukes," one source told me. [Emphasis added]

These guys are self-destructively reckless gamblers. Unfortunately, it's not just them who gets hurt.

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August 02, 2006

Political Science Humor & Fun  Politics  Rights, Law

Good old Onion:

Bush Grants Self Permission To Grant More Power To Self

WASHINGTON, DC — In a decisive 1–0 decision Monday, President Bush voted to grant the president the constitutional power to grant himself additional powers.

"I promise the American people that I will not abuse this new power, unless it becomes necessary to grant myself the power to do so at a later time." [...]

"In a time of war, the president must have the power he needs to make the tough decisions, including, if need be, the decision to grant himself even more power," Bush said. "To do otherwise would be playing into the hands of our enemies."

About sums it up.

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August 01, 2006

Have A Nice Day Politics

Billmon on the possibility that the Dems may regain control of the House (and maybe even the Senate) this fall:

More and more, I've come to believe the Dems are insane for even wanting a share of the responsibility for running this out-of-control madhouse of a country. It's like being invited to grab hold of a downed high-voltage power line.

As for those of us who still think of ourselves as progressives, the question is this: Is it really worth swallowing so much shit to see John Conyers become the next chairman of the House Judiciary Committee? After watching our purported opposition party's disgraceful foreign policy performance, first in Iraq and now in Lebanon, I've finally come to the conclusion that it isn't.

I used to argue that progressives in this country had no choice but to support the Democrats — even pathetic frauds like Howard Dean and inept Thurston Howell III clones like John Kerry. I used to quote Frederick Douglas's despairing comment about what the Republican Party of his day represented for African Americans: the rock; all else is the sea.

Maybe that was true, once. But I've finally come to realize that in modern-day America there is no rock — just a vast, featureless expanse of reactionary ocean, like something from the set of Waterworld, except without a gilled Kevin Costner.

So here's my confession: At this point I really don't give a flying fuck whether the Democrats take the House or the Senate back. No, wait, that's not true. The truth is I hope they don't. It wouldn't save us from what's coming down the road, in the Middle East and elsewhere. It wouldn't force President Psychopath to change course or seek therapy. But it would make sure that the "left" (ha ha ha) gets more than its fair share of blame for the approaching debacle.

That may well be the natural role of the Democratic Party in our one-and-a-half party system, but I don't want any part of it any more. [...]

For the rest of us, and for whatever is left of this country's soul, it doesn't really matter. We've already lost. [Emphasis added]

Not exactly cheerful, but I take his point. There is such a shit-storm headed our way; this is no time to be reaching out for a share of the blame. And it's not like Democratic control of the House is going to usher in some kind of progressive renaissance: Democrats today are what Republicans used to be before Reagan. They only look liberal when you stand them next to the crazies across the aisle.

The problem is that the Democrats are portrayed as "the left", so anything that discredits them discredits everybody to the left of them, only more so.

Not that I think the Democrats will regain control anyway. Not while there's e-voting.

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Dirty Pool Politics

In Pennsylvania, Republican donors have contributed tens of thousands of dollars to put a Green Party candidate on the ballot. AP (via AmericaBlog):

Thanks to the generosity of GOP donors, a Green Party candidate is expected to make it onto the ballot in Pennsylvania's Senate race and siphon votes from Democratic front-runner Bob Casey in his bid to unseat Republican Sen. Rick Santorum.

While Santorum said Monday that he would welcome another candidate on the ballot, Casey's campaign accused Republicans of "trying to steal the election."

Green Party candidate Carl Romanelli, making his first bid for statewide elective office, acknowledged Monday that Republican contributors probably supplied most of the $100,000 that he said he spent gathering signatures to qualify for the Nov. 7 ballot. [...]

"I have friends in all political parties. It's just that my Republican friends are more confident about standing with me than my Democratic friends. And as a group, my Republican friends are a little better off," he said in a telephone interview. [Emphasis added]

I'm all for Green Party candidacies, but if you're going to take GOP money at least don't pretend that the donations have any purpose other than taking votes away from the Democratic candidate. Yes, it's politics, and politicians lie, but Greens are supposed to be better than that. Otherwise, what's the point?

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July 31, 2006

Morons In High Places Politics

Can the Bush people really be as dumb as they seem? I go back and forth. The incompetence defense sure has come in handy, after all. But then I read something like this. It takes your breath away.

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Rumsfeld "In A Parallel Universe And Slightly Deranged" Iraq  Palestine/Middle East  Politics

Newsweek editor Fareed Zakaria on ABC Sunday (via ThinkProgress):

If I were a Democrat, I would make up a campaign commercial almost entirely of Donald Rumsfeld’s press conferences, because the man is looking — I mean, it's not just that he seems like a bad Secretary of [Defense]. He seems literally in a parallel universe and slightly deranged as a result. If you listen to what he said last week about Iraq, he's living in a different world, not a different country. [Emphasis added]

Rumsfeld and Cheney both. They're delusional men with enormous egos and enormous power. Not a happy combination. Incapable of admitting error or defeat, they will continue to escalate. Bush won't stop them and they won't stop themselves. They'll go to their graves convinced that they were right. The only question is whether they will take the rest of us with them.

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July 29, 2006

State Of The Union Politics

As a kind of follow-on to the previous post, here are excerpts from an interview with Gore Vidal in the current issue of The Progressive:

The people don't matter to this gang. They pay no attention. They think in totalitarian terms. They've got the troops. They've got the army. They've got Congress. They've got the judiciary. Why should they worry? Let the chattering classes chatter. Bush is a thug. I think there is something really wrong with him. [...]

What is it going to take to stop the Bush onslaught? Economic collapse. We are too deeply in debt...I think the Chinese will say the hell with you and pull their money out of the United States. That's the end of our wars. [...]

We've never had a government like this. The United States has done wicked things in the past to other countries but never on such a scale and never in such an existentialist way. It's as though we are evil. We strike first. We'll destroy you. This is an eternal war against terrorism. It's like a war against dandruff. There's no such thing as a war against terrorism. It's idiotic. These are slogans. These are lies. It's advertising, which is the only art form we ever invented and developed.

But our media has collapsed. They've questioned no one. One of the reasons Bush and Cheney are so daring is that they know there's nobody to stop them. Nobody is going to write a story that says this is not a war, only Congress can declare war. And you can only have a war with another country. You can't have a war with bad temper or a war against paranoids. Nothing makes any sense, and the people are getting very confused. The people are not stupid, but they are totally misinformed.

[Our rulers] don't want us to know anything. When you've got a press like we have, you no longer have an informed citizenry. [...]

A huge number of Americans still believe that Saddam Hussein was responsible for 9/11. You have a people that don't know anything about the rest of the world, and you have leaders who lie to them, lie to them, and lie to them.

It's so stupid, everything that they say. And the media take on it is just as stupid as theirs, sometimes worse. They at least have motives. They are making money out of the republic or what's left of it. It's the stupidity that will really drive me away from this country. [...]

We certainly are not warlike. We don't want [military service]. We want to make money, which I always thought was one of the most admirable things about Americans. We didn't want to go out and conquer other countries. We wanted to corner wheat in the stock market or something sensible like that. So we are very unbelligerent. [...]

[The Democrats aren't] an opposition party. I have been saying for the last thousand years that the United States has only one party — the property party. It's the party of big corporations, the party of money. It has two right wings; one is Democrat and the other is Republican. [...]

The tactic [to energize democracy] would be to go after smaller offices, state by state, school board, sheriff, state legislatures. You can turn them around and that doesn't take much of anything. Take back everything at the grassroots, starting with state legislatures. That's what Madison always said. I'd like to see a revival of state legislatures, in which I am a true Jeffersonian. [...]

I hope [Newton's Third Law] is still working. American laws don't work, but at least the laws of physics might work. And the Third Law is: There is no action without reaction. There should be a great deal of reaction to the total incompetence of this Administration. It's going to take two or three generations to recover what we had as of twenty years ago. [Emphasis added]

Not a pretty picture, but who can argue with it? Lots of chickens coming home to roost, sooner or later.

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July 28, 2006

Republican McCloskey Says Vote Democratic Politics

Former Republican Congressman and Presidential wannabe Pete McCloskey has written a long letter explaining why Republicans should vote for Democrats this fall. A short excerpt (read the rest at Seeing the Forest):

I am a Republican, intend to remain a Republican, and am descended from three generations of California Republicans. [...]

It has been difficult, nevertheless, to conclude as I have, that the Republican House leadership has been so unalterably corrupted by power and money that reasonable Republicans should support Democrats against DeLay-type Republican incumbents in 2006. [...]

These Republican incumbents have brought shame on the House, and have created a wide-spread view in the public at large that Republicans are more interested in obtaining campaign contributions from corporate lobbyists than they are in legislating in the public interest. [...]

I have therefore reluctantly concluded that party loyalty should be set aside, and that it is in the best interests of the nation, and indeed the future of the Republican Party itself, to return control of the House to temporary Democrat control, if only to return the House for a time to the kind of ethics standards practiced by Republicans in former years. [Emphasis added]

Guess who won't be doing any McCloskey fundraisers.

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July 25, 2006

Ignoring Congress Politics  Rights, Law

The White House continues to flout the will of Congress. Congress won't repeal the estate tax, so what does the White House do? They fire the IRS lawyers who enforce it. NYT:

The federal government is moving to eliminate the jobs of nearly half of the lawyers at the Internal Revenue Service who audit tax returns of some of the wealthiest Americans, specifically those who are subject to gift and estate taxes when they transfer parts of their fortunes to their children and others. [...]

[S]ix I.R.S. estate tax lawyers whose jobs are likely to be eliminated said in interviews that the cuts were just the latest moves behind the scenes at the I.R.S. to shield people with political connections and complex tax-avoidance devices from thorough audits.

Sharyn Phillips, a veteran I.R.S. estate tax lawyer in Manhattan, called the cuts a "back-door way for the Bush administration to achieve what it cannot get from Congress, which is repeal of the estate tax." [Emphasis added]

Refusing to enforce a law is one way Bush has circumvented Congress. So-called "signing statements" are another. Yesterday, the American Bar Association weighed in on Presidential signing statements, calling them "contrary to the rule of law and our constitutional system of separation of powers." The Nation:

[Monday], a bipartisan American Bar Association task force released its report challenging George Bush's flagrant misuse of signing statements to circumvent the constitutional separation of powers.

Bush has issued more than 800 challenges to provisions of passed laws (more than all previous presidents combined) and he has asserted "his right to ignore law." Among the areas of laws Bush has threatened through this "shortcut veto" are the ban on torture, affirmative action, whistleblower protection, and limits on use of "illegally collected intelligence."

The 10 member ABA panel includes three well-known conservatives, including Mickey Edwards – a former Republican Congressman who places protecting the Constitution above lock-step partisanship. Edwards, a former chair of the American Conservative Union and a founding trustee of the Heritage Foundation, is a true maverick whose recent article in The Nation signals his commitment to protecting our constitutional design. "The President. " Edwards wrote, [has] "chosen not to veto legislation with which he disagreed – thus giving Congress a chance to override his veto – but simply to assert his right to ignore the law, whether a domestic issue or a prohibition against torturing prisoners of war."

Task force member Bruce Fein, who served in the Reagan administration, concurs: "When the president signs a bill and says he is not going to enforce parts of a bill that he finds unconstitutional, it is in effect an absolute veto, because the Congress has no power to override him."

According to The Washington Post, panel members wrote: "The President's constitutional duty is to enforce laws he has signed into being unless and until they are held unconstitutional by the Supreme Court or a subordinate tribunal. The Constitution is not what the President says it is." [Emphasis added]

Bush has issued more than 800 signing statements, a couple of hundred more than all previous presidents combined.

The ABA panel optimistically recommends "that Congress pass laws enabling judicial review of any instances in which the President claims authority to refuse to enforce legislation against the clear intent of Congress." No word on what happens when such a law is itself met with a signing statement, as one assumes it will be.

[Thanks, Mark]

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July 24, 2006

Freedom-Haters Politics  Rights, Law

Yes, this has been going on for a while, but WTF? AP (via C&L):

When school was canceled to accommodate a campaign visit by President Bush, the two 55-year-old teachers reckoned the time was ripe to voice their simmering discontent with the administration's policies.

Christine Nelson showed up at the Cedar Rapids rally with a Kerry-Edwards button pinned on her T-shirt; Alice McCabe clutched a small, paper sign stating "No More War." What could be more American, they thought, than mixing a little dissent with the bunting and buzz of a get-out-the-vote rally headlined by the president?

Their reward: a pair of handcuffs and a strip search at the county jail.

Authorities say they were arrested because they refused to obey reasonable security restrictions... [Emphasis added]

What a bunch of cowardly, un-American weasels. Tom Paine spins in his grave.

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July 20, 2006

Classy Move Politics

Only a woman, after all.

(Video)

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July 19, 2006

With A Stroke Of His Pen Ethics  Politics

What's scarier than a country ruled by know-nothing fundamentalist fanatics who inhabit a pre-scientific mental world, fanatics who place a greater value on rigid extremist dogma than they do on the rights and well-being of their fellow humans? WaPo:

President Bush today used the first veto of his presidency to stop legislation that would have lifted restrictions on federally funded human embryonic stem cell research.

"This bill would support the taking of innocent human life in the hope of finding medical benefits for others," Bush said at the White House, following through on his promise to veto the bill. "It crosses a moral boundary that our decent society needs to respect. So I vetoed it." [Emphasis added]

But, but, but — "acceptable losses" due to "collateral damage" in an elective, pre-emptive war of aggression founded on a deliberate campaign of lies — no moral boundary there. And so, to make political hay with his base, Bush condemns countless people with Parkinson's, diabetes, spinal cord injuries, etc., etc., to continued suffering and death. Has the guy ever been right — about anything?

For a discussion of the morality of stem cell research, please see this.

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July 15, 2006

Safeguarding Amish Country Popcorn 9/11, "War On Terror"  Politics

Your tax dollars at work. Indiana's IndyStar, via Digby:

About three miles from the nearest town, Brian Lehman's popcorn factory near Berne has somehow ended up on the federal government's list of potential terrorist targets.

"I don't have a clue why we're on the list. We're on a gravel road, not even blacktop. We're nowhere," said Lehman, owner of Amish Country Popcorn, which employs five people.

Nevertheless, Amish Country Popcorn is one of 8,591 places or events in Indiana that the Department of Homeland Security regards as serious potential terrorist targets, according to an inspector general's report that raised questions about the accuracy and relevance of what's known as the National Asset Database.

Indiana has about 30 percent more listed potential targets than New York (5,687) and nearly twice as many as California (3,212), putting Indiana atop the nation's list of potential terrorism targets.
What's more, the number of potential Indiana targets rose from 322 in 2004 to 8,303 in 2005.

Amish Country isn't the only odd-sounding site in the federal database.

Without divulging specifics, the list includes 77,069 U.S. sites where terrorists might strike — including a flea market, a petting zoo, ice cream parlors, several Wal-Marts and a tackle shop.

The government's database is used to determine how much states should get out of hundreds of millions of dollars in federal anti-terrorism grants. [...]

The findings drew the ire of some lawmakers, particularly in New York, which saw its portion of funds shrink this year.
"Now we know why the Homeland Security grant formula came out as wacky as it was," Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., told The New York Times. "This report is the smoking gun that thoroughly indicts the system." [...]

The list may have become inflated because states were left to interpret a request for potential targets however they wanted.

Pam Bright, a spokeswoman for the state's Homeland Security Department, said federal administrators asked Indiana to make a list of "critical infrastructure and resources," not a list of potential terrorist sites.

"There was not a clear definition of what they wanted, so Indiana took the safe side and submitted all of our important infrastructures," Bright said. "If that's not what they wanted, they should have sent it back and said that's not what they wanted. [Emphasis added]

Amish Country Popcorn. It makes us laugh, but it should also make us angry. It would be one thing if somebody at DHS carelessly published a bogus list. But this is much worse than that. This information made it all the way through the grant process for allocating over $700 million in Homeland Security funds to the states. Imagine the level of incompetence and inattention that requires.

I've said this before, but it really does matter whether people in government believe in government. The Bush regime is full of people who don't believe in the public good and don't believe government has a legitimate, useful role to play in safeguarding and supporting the public good. They have an ideological distrust of of government. It's small wonder, then, that they suck at governing. Boy, do they ever.

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July 12, 2006

Friends In High Places Politics

President Bush and Laura Bush Former President Bush and Barbara Bush today attended the star-studded Houston funeral of Ken Lay. But here's a question. Ken Lay made his fortune by fooling the world into believing in a mirage. He had connections in high places like nobody else. A lot of people, from Bush on down, owed him favors.

So why do we believe he's dead and not retired to some Caribbean isle? He's staring at 20 years jail time and then, poof, he's gone. No open casket. The remains cremated. Convenient. Pure speculation? Of course. But tell me you're not wondering.

In related news, Enron witness found dead in park. Tidying up.

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Bush At Stanford Media  Politics

Did you know this? I sure didn't. Paul Craig Roberts:

Gentle reader, did you know that, in April, President Bush went to Stanford University to speak to the Hoover Institution fellows at the invitation of former Secretary of State George Shultz but was not allowed on campus? The Stanford students got wind of it and blocked Bush's access to the campus. The Hoover fellows had to go to Shultz's home to hear Bush's pitch for war and more war.

A person might think that it would be national news that Stanford University students would not allow the President of the US on campus. It happened to be a day when hundreds of prospective freshmen were on campus with their parents, many of whom joined the demonstration against Bush. I did not hear or read a word about it. Did you? I learned of it from faculty friends in June when I attended Stanford's graduation to witness a relative receive her degree. The June 16 edition of The Stanford Daily reprinted its April 24 report of the episode. [Emphasis added]

How could this not have been news? Stanford's not just any university. Weird. And pretty unnerving. Where's our free press, now when we need it most?

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July 05, 2006

On Underestimating The Enemy Politics

I listened to most of George Lakoff on "On Point" tonight. One thing he said really brought me up short. We think of Bush as the most incompetent president ever, a president who's been wrong on absolutely everything. But, Lakoff said, from Bush's perspective his presidency has been astonishly effective. It has pushed the country in a certain direction farther, faster, than anyone would have thought possible. Since 9/11, Bush has had his way pretty much across the board (Social Security privatization aside). He's taken the country exactly where he wants it to go. That's not incompetence. It's a disgusting thought, but it's also pretty hard to argue with.

A certain path to defeat: underestimating the enemy.

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June 22, 2006

Crackpots 9/11, "War On Terror"  Politics

Reading Ron Susskind's The One Percent Doctrine, I came across the following anecdote that pretty much sums up the crackpot flailing of the Bush White House in its "war on terror":

The result [of 9/11]: potent, wartime autority was granted to those guiding the ship of state...In the wide, diffuse "war on terror," so much of it occurring the shadows — with no transparency and perfunctory oversight — the administration could say anything it wanted to say. That was a blazing insight of this period [2002]. The administration could create whatever reality was convenient. [...]

What, for instance, did all of this mean upon the capture of [Abu] Zubaydah? A freeing of rhetoric for the "wartime" President to say what he felt desperately needed to be said.

Which Bush did, first, in a speech...on April 9, 2002. "The other day we hauled in a guy named Abu Zubaydah. He's one of the top operatives plotting and planning death and destruction on the United States. He's not plotting and planning anymore. He's where he belongs," the President said to raucous cheers from a room full of Republican Party contributors. [...]

This message — and the characterizing of Zubaydah as the "chief of operations" for all of al Qaeda, a putative "number three" to bin Laden and Zawahiri — would be a drum the President, the Vice President,...Condoleezza Rice, and others would beat relentlessly that April and the months to follow.

Meanwhile, Dan Coleman and other knowledgeable members of the tribe of al Qaeda hunters at CIA were reading Zubaydah's top secret diary and shaking their heads.

"This guy is insane, certifiable, split personality," Coleman told a top official at FBI after a few days reviewing the Zubaydah haul. "That's why they let him fly all over the world doing meet and greet. That's why people used his name on all sorts of calls and e-mails. He was like a travel agent, the guy who booked your flights. You can see from what he writes how burdened he is with all these logistics — getting families of operatives, wives and kids, in and out of countries. He knew very little about real operations, or strategy. He was expendable, you know, the greeter...Joe Louis in the lobby of Caesar's Palace, shaking hands."

This opinion was echoed at the top of the CIA and was, of course, briefed to the President and Vice President. While Bush was out in public claiming Zubaydah's grandiose malevolence, his private disappointment fell, as it often would, on [CIA Director] Tenet...

"I said he was important," Bush said to Tenet at one of their daily briefings. "You're not going to let me lose face on this, are you?"

"No sir, Mr. President."

Back in Langley, Tenet pressed subordinates over what could be done to get Zubaydah to talk. His injuries were serious, but...[the CIA] found [him] some of the finest medical professionals in America. CIA agents alighted at their medical offices and soon they were on flights to Pakistan.

"He received the finest medical attention on the planet," said one CIA official. "We got him in very good health, so we could start to torture him." [...]

"Around the room a lot of people [at CIA] just rolled their eyes when we heard comments from the White House. I mean, Bush and Cheney knew what we knew about Zubaydah. The guy had psychological issues. He was, in a way, expendable. It was like calling someone who runs a company's in-house travel department the COO," said one top CIA official. {...]

According to CIA sources, [Zubaydah] was water-boarded, a technique...creating the sensation of drowning. He was beaten, though not in a way to worsen his injuries. He was repeatedly threatened, and made certain of his impending death. His medication was withheld. He was bombarded with deafening, continuous noise and harsh lights. [...]

Under this duress, Zubaydah told them that shopping malls were targeted by al Qaeda. That information traveled the globe in an instant. Agents from the FBI, Secret Service, Customs, and various related agencies joined local police to surround malls. Zubaydah said banks &mdash yes, banks — were a priority. FBI agents led officers in a race to surround and secure banks. And also supermarkets — al Qaeda was planning to blow up crowded supermarkets, several at one time...And the water system — a target, too. Nuclear plants, naturally. And apartment buildings.

Thousands of uniformed men and women raced in a panic to each flavor of target. Of course, if you multiplied by ten, there still wouldn't be enough public servants in America to surround and secure the supermarkets. Or the banks. But they tried. [Emphasis added]

The stuff of some particularly vicious satire. They pick up a mentally ill nobody, pump him up in public statements as al Qaeda's number three, then, to save face for Bush, they act as if it were actually true. They give him medical treatment to get him well enough to torture, and under torture he starts spewing out every conceivable plot under the sun. Then, the final insanity: thousands of agents and law enforcement officers are sent scrambling to Zubaydah's imaginary targets, when they presumably could have been doing something useful.

These jokers have our collective futures in their hands. It's embarrassing.

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June 19, 2006

US Rejected Iranian Proposal In 2003 Iran  Politics

The Washington Post reported yesterday that in 2003 Iran sought to open a dialogue with the US, but the administration rejected the proposal out of hand. Excerpt:

Just after the lightning takeover of Baghdad by U.S. forces three years ago, an unusual two-page document spewed out of a fax machine at the Near East bureau of the State Department. It was a proposal from Iran for a broad dialogue with the United States, and the fax suggested everything was on the table — including full cooperation on nuclear programs, acceptance of Israel and the termination of Iranian support for Palestinian militant groups.

But top Bush administration officials, convinced the Iranian government was on the verge of collapse, belittled the initiative. Instead, they formally complained to the Swiss ambassador who had sent the fax with a cover letter certifying it as a genuine proposal supported by key power centers in Iran, former administration officials said.

Last month, the Bush administration abruptly shifted policy and agreed to join talks previously led by European countries over Iran's nuclear program. But several former administration officials say the United States missed an opportunity in 2003 at a time when American strength seemed at its height — and Iran did not have a functioning nuclear program or a gusher of oil revenue from soaring energy demand.

"At the time, the Iranians were not spinning centrifuges, they were not enriching uranium," said Flynt Leverett, who was a senior director on the National Security Council staff then and saw the Iranian proposal. He described it as "a serious effort, a respectable effort to lay out a comprehensive agenda for U.S.-Iranian rapprochement." [...]

Parsi said the U.S. victory in Iraq frightened the Iranians because U.S. forces had routed in three weeks an army that Iran had failed to defeat during a bloody eight-year war.

The document lists a series of Iranian aims for the talks, such as ending sanctions, full access to peaceful nuclear technology and a recognition of its "legitimate security interests." Iran agreed to put a series of U.S. aims on the agenda, including full cooperation on nuclear safeguards, "decisive action" against terrorists, coordination in Iraq, ending "material support" for Palestinian militias and accepting the Saudi initiative for a two-state solution in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The document also laid out an agenda for negotiations, with possible steps to be achieved at a first meeting and the development of negotiating road maps on disarmament, terrorism and economic cooperation. [...]

Leverett said Guldimann included a cover letter that it was an authoritative initiative that had the support of then-President Mohammad Khatami and supreme religious leader Ali Khamenei. [...]

Paul R. Pillar, former national intelligence officer for the Near East and South Asia, said that it is true "there is less daylight between the United States and Europe, thanks in part to Rice's energetic diplomacy." But he said that only partially offsets the fact that the U.S. position is "inherently weaker now" because of Iraq. He described the Iranian approach as part of a series of efforts by Iran to engage with the Bush administration. "I think there have been a lot of lost opportunities," he said, citing as one example a failure to build on the useful cooperation Iran provided in Afghanistan. [...]

Parsi said that based on his conversations with the Iranian officials, he believes the failure of the United States to even respond to the offer had an impact on the government. Parsi, who is writing a book on Iran-Israeli relations, said he believes the Iranians were ready to dramatically soften their stance on Israel, essentially taking the position of other Islamic countries such as Malaysia. Instead, Iranian officials decided that the United States cared not about Iranian policies but about Iranian power.

The incident "strengthened the hands of those in Iran who believe the only way to compel the United States to talk or deal with Iran is not by sending peace offers but by being a nuisance," Parsi said. [Emphasis added]

The gang that couldn't think straight. Have they ever been right about anything?

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June 13, 2006

Bush Administration Slashing Energy Efficiency R&D Programs Environment  Politics

More lunacy on the energy front. CSM:

A few years ago a little-known US Energy Department program helped produce a design technology for lightweight cars and trucks that in 2004 alone saved the nation 122 million barrels of oil, or about $9 billion.

Even without that breakthrough, the tiny Industrial Technologies Program routinely saves the United States $7 worth of energy for each dollar it spends, proponents say.

So, with energy prices spiking and President Bush pushing for more energy research, the ITP would seem a natural candidate for more funding. In fact, its budget is set to get chopped by a third from its 2005 level. It's one of more than a dozen energy-efficiency efforts that the Energy Department plans to trim or eliminate in a $115 million cost-saving move.

[T]he Bush administration is anxious to fund its new Advanced Energy Initiative — long-term research into nuclear, coal, wind, solar, and hydrogen power. But to accomplish that, it is cutting lesser-known programs like ITP whose payoffs are far more near-term. [...]

If Congress accepts the Energy Department's proposed 2007 budget, it will cut $152 million — some 16 percent — from this year's budget for energy-efficiency programs. Adjusting for inflation, it would mean the US government would spend 30 percent less on energy efficiency next year than it did in 2002, the ACEEE says. [...]

One energy-efficiency program on the chopping block is the Heavy Vehicle Propulsion and Ancillary Subsystems. It helps improve the fuel efficiency of heavy-duty trucks, one of the nation's biggest oil consumers. That program is "zeroed out" in the 2007 budget request.

The same fate awaits the $4.5 million Building Codes Implementation Grants program. It helps states adopt more energy-efficient requirements for new buildings, the nation's largest consumer of electricity and natural gas. [...]

Dr. Muller's Industrial Assessment Centers program annually conducts about 600 energy audits and trains a new crop of about 250 new energy-efficiency engineers. The $7 million program, which is estimated to save enough power to supply half a million homes each year, wins plaudits from the small businesses that have been able to reduce their costs.

But budget cuts slated for 2007 would trim the program by a third, slashing the number of its university-based auditing and training programs from 23 to 16. Savings: about $2.4 million. [...]

These programs are minuscule compared with the big-ticket research programs envisioned by the White House. Mr. Bush's Hydrogen Fuel Initiative, for example, would cost $1.2 billion over five years.

Proponents of the small-scale efficiency programs point out that the ITP, with 1/20th of the budget, has already saved more oil than the hydrogen-fuel program would save, if successful, by 2025. [...]

One of the nation's priorities is improving the security and reliability of the electric grid. One option for doing that sooner, rather than later, is the emerging technology of "distributed generation." Under that approach, the nation would build more but much smaller power plants so that small businesses and even individual homes could have them.

True, such systems would burn costly natural gas — but at twice the energy efficiency of today's grid — to produce both heat and electricity for homeowners. If such systems caught on, they could vastly reduce load demand on central power stations and slash the need to build new power plants.

But that vision of the future may be delayed, since the DOE's "distributed energy" program has been cut in half and the remainder is being heavily earmarked by federal lawmakers for specific projects that they favor. The program is slated to be terminated in 2008, observers say.

"Hurricanes, terrorism, and blackouts have given us so many reasons to emphasize distributed generation, and instead we're putting emphasis on new forms of centralized power," says John Jimison, executive director of the US Combined Heat and Power Association, a Washington advocacy group. "It's too bad it's getting cut because it was a very modest program."

There may be a glimmer of hope for energy-efficiency programs. The House Committee for Energy and Water Development subcommittee moved last week to restore some funding to ITP and hybrid technology for heavy trucks. The committee voted earlier this month to fully fund the president's $2.1 billion Advanced Energy Initiative. [Emphasis added]

It takes your breath away. Energy efficiency is the low-hanging fruit. It doesn't require massive, centralized capital investment. It has proven that it works and yields enormous returns on investment. But it's not sexy, somehow. It's what grownups would do, but grownups are in short supply in this administration. And everybody wants their own back scratched. Everybody wants to bring home some pork. Who cares what really works. Fiddling while the world burns.

The Iraq War is proving to be expensive in ways people never dreamed of. Think opportunity cost. All those billions that could have been used to do something about energy, peak oil, and global warming, instead are being used to blow stuff up. Suicidal insanity.

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Politics And NIMBY Stop Wind Farm Development Environment  Politics

It takes some energy to build, transport, install, and maintain wind turbines, yes, but after that wind power is basically energy for free. No carbon emissions, no pollution. Who could oppose it? Chicago Tribune:

The federal government has stopped work on more than a dozen wind farms planned across the Midwest, saying research is needed on whether the giant turbines could interfere with military radar.

But backers of wind power say the action has little to do with national security. The real issue, they say, is a group of wealthy vacationers who think a proposed wind farm off the coast of Cape Cod in Massachusetts would spoil the view at their summer homes.

Opponents of the Cape Wind project include several influential members of Congress. Critics say their latest attempt to thwart the planting of 130 turbines in Nantucket Sound has led to a moratorium on new wind farms hundreds of miles away in Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota.

Federal officials declined to reveal how many stop-work orders have been sent out. But developers said that at least 15 wind farm proposals in the Midwest have been shut down by the Federal Aviation Administration since the start of the year.

The list of stalled projects includes one outside Bloomington, Ill., that would be the nation's largest source of wind energy, generating enough juice to power 120,000 homes in the Chicago area. The developer had planned to begin installing turbines this summer and start up the farm next year. [...]

[D]espite the government's recent concern about proposed wind projects, it is allowing dozens of current wind farms to continue to operate within sight of radar systems. [...]

Critics of Cape Wind include members of the Kennedy family, whose summer compound is on Cape Cod. Both U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and his nephew, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., have said the turbines would spoil the ocean views, threaten the local tourist economy and endanger migratory birds.

The younger Kennedy, an environmental lawyer and activist who has supported wind power in other parts of the country, said putting a wind farm in Nantucket Sound would be akin to placing one in the Grand Canyon or Yellowstone National Park. [...]

Another opponent is U.S. Sen. John Warner (R-Va.), who has tried several times to block the Cape Wind project. In a 2002 letter to the Army Corps of Engineers, Warner included a handwritten note saying he often visits Cape Cod, which he called a "national treasure."

But the project continued to move forward until late last year, when Warner, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, slipped an amendment into a military spending bill. The one-sentence congressional order directs the Defense Department to study whether wind towers could mask the radar signals of small aircraft.

Since then, at the Defense Department's behest, the FAA has been blocking any new wind turbines within the scope of radar systems used by the military. [Emphasis added]

It's stuff like this that makes me despair for our prospects. As noted the other day, the time for "grudging incrementalism" is over, but people just don't get it yet. By the time global climate change has gotten so bad that nobody can doubt it's seriousness and urgency, it will be too late. By then, feedback loops will have been set in motion that will push the global climate much, much farther into disastrous new territory, no matter what we do. The time to act is right now, and we need to act with urgency and determination.

Wind farms are an obvious good. I don't really understand this idea that they spoil the view. When I see a wind farm, it makes me feel good. It connotes a peaceful future, a harmonious relationship with the Earth. The turbines are quiet and graceful, beautiful in more ways than one. You might even say they're a gesture of love for our Mother Earth.

The time for NIMBY is over. Every site is in somebody's backyard, but global warming puts many millions of lives at risk. NIMBY is for a different world than the one we're living in. NIMBY is obsolete.

Feel free to build a wind farm in my backyard.

Posted by Jonathan at 10:12 PM | Comments (7) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

June 12, 2006

The al-Zarqawi Bounce Iraq  Politics

We're supposed to think the death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi is some sort of turning point in Iraq. But people aren't buying it.

CBS poll:

80% of Americans think attacks on US troops will increase (30%) or stay the same (50%) in the aftermath of al-Zarqawi's death. Only 16% think attacks will decrease.

83% think the terrorist threat against the US will increase (22%) or stay the same (61%). Only 13% think it will decrease.

Bush's approval rating: 33%, down from 35% last month.

It's really got to suck to be Dubya.

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June 05, 2006

Rule Of Law Politics  Rights, Law

What good is a law if the Bush administration refuses to enforce it? WaPo:

In the three years since Americans gained federal protection for their private medical information, the Bush administration has received thousands of complaints alleging violations but has not imposed a single civil fine and has prosecuted just two criminal cases.

Of the 19,420 grievances lodged so far, the most common allegations have been that personal medical details were wrongly revealed, information was poorly protected, more details were disclosed than necessary, proper authorization was not obtained or patients were frustrated getting their own records.

The government has "closed" more than 73 percent of the cases — more than 14,000 — either ruling that there was no violation, or allowing health plans, hospitals, doctors' offices or other entities simply to promise to fix whatever they had done wrong, escaping any penalty. [...]

The debate has intensified amid a government push to computerize medical records to improve the efficiency and quality of health care. Privacy advocates say large centralized electronic databases will be especially vulnerable to invasions, making it even more crucial that existing safeguards be enforced. [Emphasis added]

Congress wrote penalties into the law for a reason. But the health care industry is a big source of campaign contributions to Republicans, the people complaining about privacy violations are not. End of story.

[Thanks, Maurice]

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June 03, 2006

The Bigotry-Based Campaign Politics

This being an election year, they're back at it again. WaPo:

[President] Bush has invited some of the nation's leading social conservatives to the Rose Garden on Monday, to cheer him on as he strongly endorses a proposed constitutional amendment that would ban gay marriage.

Reaction from CNN's Jack Cafferty:

Guess what Monday is? Monday is the day President Bush will speak about an issue near and dear to his heart and the hearts of many conservatives. It's also the day before the Senate votes on the very same thing. Is it the war? Deficits? Health insurance? Immigration? Iran? North Korea?

Not even close. No, the president is going to talk about amending the Constitution in order to ban gay marriage. This is something that absolutely, positively has no chance of happening, nada, zippo, none. But that doesn't matter. Mr. Bush will take time to make a speech. The Senate will take time to talk and vote on it, because it's something that matters to the Republican base.

This is pure politics. It has nothing to do with whether or not you believe in gay marriage. It's blatant posturing by Republicans, who are increasingly desperate as the midterm elections approach. There's not a lot else to get people interested in voting for them, based on their record of the last five years.

But if you can appeal to the hatred, bigotry, or discrimination in some people, you might move them to the polls to vote against that big, bad gay married couple that one day might move in down the street.

And AmericaBlog's Joe Sudbay:

What leaders will be there? How about Dick and Lynn Cheney? Will they join the gay bashing? How about all the homos working at the White House and the RNC? Will all of them — and there are plenty — be there to cheer on the homophobic president?

Your modern Republican Party: appealing, as always, to people's bigotry, fear, and ignorance.

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June 01, 2006

Gore In 2008 Politics

I have no idea if this is authoritative, but it's interesting:

A new behavior prediction tool is forecasting a landslide victory for former Democratic Vice President Al Gore in the 2008 presidential election. However, should Hillary Clinton gain the Democratic nomination, any potential Republican challenger will win the presidency.

These are among the surprising findings reported by Dr. James N. Herndon, a media psychologist with Media Psychology Affiliates. Using a new research tool called Affective Encryption Analysis, Dr. Herndon led an investigation into the likely outcome of the 2008 Presidential election.

"Affective Encryption Analysis is a new behavior forecasting tool that looks at how our feelings and emotions can influence our long-term actions," explains Dr. Herndon. "Traditional survey techniques are not very good at predicting trends. Affective Encryption Analysis was developed to dig deeper into the emotional factors that control our future behaviors."

Although created as a potential tool for the intelligence community, Affective Encryption Analysis has seen its early uses in the political arena.

"Voter behavior is not primarily issue-driven," states Dr. Herndon. "Subtle emotional factors drive our actions at the ballot box. When we decided to study the potential outcome of the 2008 Presidential election, we had no preconceptions about what we’d find. Nonetheless, there were some surprises."

Among the surprises was the overall weakness of potential Democratic presidential challengers.

"Despite the widespread public dissatisfaction with the George W. Bush administration, our results showed even greater ill-feelings toward potential Democratic challengers," says Dr. Herndon. "But there was one exception: Al Gore."

"With a predictive accuracy of 93%, our results showed that Al Gore would easily defeat any Republican challenger in 2008. However, he is the only Democrat on the scene today who has the ability to defeat the likely Republican challengers, who we believe will be either John McCain or Jeb Bush."

Results were not rosy for Hillary Clinton. "Hillary Clinton would suffer a disastrous defeat at the hands of any Republican who receives the nomination," states Dr. Herndon.

Should Al Gore decide not to seek the 2008 nomination, the Democrats "have their work cut out for them," according to Dr. Herndon.

"Our results suggest that a potentially successful Democratic nominee may be lurking in the entertainment industry. Does this sound strange? Maybe. But when it comes to politics, we may have to get used to a future full of surprises." [Emphasis added]

Who knows if this "Affective Encryption Analysis" has any merit, but my gut feeling is that the conclusions are probably correct. I think Al Gore, who has shed the robotic stiffness and air of superiority that alienated voters in 2000, would be a very formidable candidate indeed, especially given rising public anxiety around the global climate and peak oil issues. People want a reason to hope, and his "loss" in 2000 and subsequent redemption make him a sympathetic figure. I also think Hillary would get creamed. I'd love to see Feingold in the White House, of course, but I'm afraid that remains the longest of long shots.

Posted by Jonathan at 09:28 PM | Comments (2) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

May 24, 2006

Congress Discovers Civil Liberties Politics  Rights, Law

Congress is all upset because the FBI, who had a search warrant, raided the office of Louisiana Congressman William Jefferson. Funny how they suddenly become champions of civil liberties when they're the ones in the crosshairs. CNN's Jack Cafferty says it well (video):

Congress seems to think it's fine for the NSA to spy on all of us without any sort of a warrant whatsoever. But it's not OK for the FBI to conduct a raid on Congressman William Jefferson's office with a warrant after finding 90 grand in his freezer and after waiting weeks for him to comply with a subpoena to turn over evidence in an ongoing corruption investigation, evidence which he has refused so far to turn over.

Now, members of both parties are all worked up about this. They positively have their shorts in a knot over this. You see, they want the Capitol police to handle their stuff, you know, the same ones who failed to give Congressman Patrick Kennedy a breathalyzer after Kennedy crashed his car into a stationary barrier a couple of weeks ago. Instead, they just drove Kennedy home and said, "Good night, Congressman, and have a nice evening." You see, the Capitol police answer to Congress. The speaker of the House, Dennis Hastert even complained personally to President Bush about the raid on Congressman Jefferson's office. It's believed this was the first raid of a congressman's office in 219 years. Well, judging by the reaction on Capitol Hill, maybe the FBI ought to raid their offices more often. What is it do you suppose they're hiding in those offices?

Once again, Congress is demanding a different set of standards for themselves. [Emphasis added]

Seems they're learning the hard way the lesson of Pastor Martin Niemöller:

First they came for the Communists, and I didn't speak up, because I wasn't a Communist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I didn't speak up, because I wasn't a Jew.

Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn't speak up, because I was a Protestant.

Then they came for me, and by that time there was no one left to speak up for me.

Congress has spent the last five years letting the Executive Branch trample on the Constitution and basic civil liberties, with scarcely a peep of protest. What did they think was going to happen?

Hey, Congress: welcome to our world.

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May 22, 2006

AT&T Whistleblower: NSA Taps Internet Trunk Lines At Telecom Sites Politics  Rights, Law

As I've been saying here for a while, the little that we've been told about NSA snooping on electronic communications inside the US is just the tip of a very large iceberg. It's axiomatic: what gets released publicly is always just a small glimpse of the whole ugly reality. We will likely never know the full extent of what they've been up to, but every new story enlarges the scope.

Now, from Wired, here's an affadavit by former AT&T technician Mark Klein, who says the NSA is tapped into the main trunk lines of the Internet, from where they can monitor literally everything that goes over the Net: email, IM, chat, web site usage, file uploads and downloads, you name it. Excerpt:

In 2003 AT&T built "secret rooms" hidden deep in the bowels of its central offices in various cities, housing computer gear for a government spy operation which taps into the company's popular WorldNet service and the entire internet. These installations enable the government to look at every individual message on the internet and analyze exactly what people are doing. Documents showing the hardware installation in San Francisco suggest that there are similar locations being installed in numerous other cities. [...]

The essential hardware elements of a TIA [Total Information Awareness]-type spy program are being surreptitiously slipped into "real world" telecommunications offices.

In San Francisco the "secret room" is Room 641A at 611 Folsom Street, the site of a large SBC phone building, three floors of which are occupied by AT&T. High-speed fiber-optic circuits come in on the 8th floor and run down to the 7th floor where they connect to routers for AT&T's WorldNet service, part of the latter's vital "Common Backbone." In order to snoop on these circuits, a special cabinet was installed and cabled to the "secret room" on the 6th floor to monitor the information going through the circuits. (The location code of the cabinet is 070177.04, which denotes the 7th floor, aisle 177 and bay 04.) The "secret room" itself is roughly 24-by-48 feet, containing perhaps a dozen cabinets including such equipment as Sun servers and two Juniper routers, plus an industrial-size air conditioner.

The normal work force of unionized technicians in the office are forbidden to enter the "secret room," which has a special combination lock on the main door. The telltale sign of an illicit government spy operation is the fact that only people with security clearance from the National Security Agency can enter this room. In practice this has meant that only one management-level technician works in there. Ironically, the one who set up the room was laid off in late 2003 in one of the company's endless "downsizings," but he was quickly replaced by another.

Plans for the "secret room" were fully drawn up by December 2002, curiously only four months after Darpa started awarding contracts for TIA. One 60-page document, identified as coming from "AT&T Labs Connectivity & Net Services" and authored by the labs' consultant Mathew F. Casamassima, is titled Study Group 3, LGX/Splitter Wiring, San Francisco and dated 12/10/02. This document addresses the special problem of trying to spy on fiber-optic circuits. Unlike copper wire circuits which emit electromagnetic fields that can be tapped into without disturbing the circuits, fiber-optic circuits do not "leak" their light signals. In order to monitor such communications, one has to physically cut into the fiber somehow and divert a portion of the light signal to see the information.

This problem is solved with "splitters" which literally split off a percentage of the light signal so it can be examined. This is the purpose of the special cabinet referred to above: Circuits are connected into it, the light signal is split into two signals, one of which is diverted to the "secret room." The cabinet is totally unnecessary for the circuit to perform — in fact it introduces problems since the signal level is reduced by the splitter — its only purpose is to enable a third party to examine the data flowing between sender and recipient on the internet. [Emphasis added]

Wired has the full statement here (pdf). We don't have to just take Klein's word for it, he's got supporting technical documentation and wiring diagrams, all available via links in his affadavit.

On the one hand, it's not surprising. One always assumed they were listening in. But on the other hand, it's outrageous. Treasonous, in fact. They've crumpled the Constitution into a little ball and tossed it out the window. If laws don't apply to the government, all bets are off.

Posted by Jonathan at 10:27 PM | Comments (2) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

May 21, 2006

The Big Chill Politics  Rights, Law

The shredding of the Constitution — what's left of it — continues. Attorney-General Gonzales now says journalists can be prosecuted for publishing classified information, and he won't hesitate to track their phone calls in leak investigations. AP:

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said Sunday he believes journalists can be prosecuted for publishing classified information, citing an obligation to national security.

The nation's top law enforcer also said the government will not hesitate to track telephone calls made by reporters as part of a criminal leak investigation, but officials would not do so routinely and randomly.

"There are some statutes on the book which, if you read the language carefully, would seem to indicate that that is a possibility," Gonzales said, referring to prosecutions. "We have an obligation to enforce those laws. We have an obligation to ensure that our national security is protected." [...]

Lucy Dalglish, executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, said she presumed that Gonzales was referring to the 1917 Espionage Act, which she said has never been interpreted to prosecute journalists who were providing information to the public.

"I can't imagine a bigger chill on free speech and the public's right to know what it's government is up to — both hallmarks of a democracy — than prosecuting reporters," Dalglish said.

Gonzales said he would not comment specifically on whether The New York Times should be prosecuted for disclosing the NSA program last year based on classified information. [...]

But he added that the First Amendment right of a free press should not be absolute when it comes to national security. If the government's probe into the NSA leak turns up criminal activity, prosecutors have an "obligation to enforce the law."

"It can't be the case that that right [the First Amendment] trumps over the right that Americans would like to see, the ability of the federal government to go after criminal activity," Gonzales told ABC's "This Week." [Emphasis added]

How's that for legal reasoning: the Constitution does not trump what "Americans would like to see." It's embarrassing.

Whether they prosecute or not, whether they track reporter's phone calls or not, the purpose of these kinds of pronouncements is clear: to create a chill that will keep sources from talking to reporters and keep reporters from publishing what the White House doesn't want published. It's disgusting what they're doing to this country.

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May 17, 2006

"Carbon Dioxide...We Call It Life" Environment  Politics

Not an April Fool's joke, apparently, nor satire. Reuters:

A little girl blows away dandelion fluff as an announcer says, "Carbon dioxide: they call it pollution; we call it life," in an advertisement targeting global warming "alarmists," especially Al Gore.

The television ads, screened for the press on Wednesday and set to air in 14 U.S. cities starting on Thursday, are part of a campaign by the Competitive Enterprise Institute to counter a media spotlight on threats posed by worldwide climate change.

The spots are timed to precede next week's theatrical release of "An Inconvenient Truth," a documentary film on global warming that features Gore, the former vice president and Democratic presidential candidate.

Against backdrops of a park, a beach and a forest, one celebrates the benefits of greenhouse gas-producing fuels.

"The fuels that produce CO2 (carbon dioxide) have freed us from a world of back-breaking labor, lighting up our lives, allowing us to create and move the things we need, the people we love," the ad runs. "Now some politicians want to label carbon dioxide a pollutant. Imagine if they succeed — what would our lives be like then?"

The other ad questions media reports of the threat of climate change, especially a Time magazine issue devoted to the topic, and shows film of a glacier melting and then runs in reverse to show the glacier reconstituting itself.

"We had started work on this several months back, but we sort of changed course once the flood of glacier-melting stories began," said Sam Kazman, an institute lawyer who worked on the ads. "So we did want to get out there before the Al Gore film got into national opening." [...]

"They fly in the face of most of the science," Charlie Miller of Environmental Defense said of the institute ads. "The good news is that there's not a trade-off here between prosperity, jobs, growth and protecting the Earth. We can do both." [Emphasis added]

Kinda takes your breath away. What dimwits.

[Thanks Jeff]

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Keeping Reality At Bay Humor & Fun  Politics

Defending the border with Reality. Bob Harris. Funny stuff.

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May 15, 2006

Government Tracking Reporters' Phone Records Politics

The administration would never use phone records for political purposes, right? ABC (via Atrios):

A senior federal law enforcement official tells us the government is tracking the phone numbers we call in an effort to root out confidential sources.

"It's time for you to get some new cell phones, quick," the source told us in an in-person conversation.

We do not know how the government determined who we are calling, or whether our phone records were provided to the government as part of the recently-disclosed NSA collection of domestic phone calls.

Other sources have told us that phone calls and contacts by reporters for ABC News, along with the New York Times and the Washington Post, are being examined as part of a widespread CIA leak investigation. [...]

Under Bush Administration guidelines, it is not considered illegal for the government to keep track of numbers dialed by phone customers. [...]

A pattern of phone calls from a reporter...could provide valuable clues for leak investigators. [Emphasis added]

People who think they can trust the government to use phone records solely for combatting terrorism are fools.

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May 13, 2006

Bill Of Particulars Politics

A dear friend recently asked for a list of the Bush administration's most egregious high crimes and misdemeanors. Via Big Gav, I see that the Angry Liberal Guy (C. B. Shapiro) has already done it for me. It's quite a list:

You might be saying "Man, what are you so angry about, Angry Liberal Guy?"

I've compiled a short (and by no means complete) list just so I could see it all in one place:

I'm angry about the shredding of the constitution...illegal wiretaps...falsified intelligence...secret prisons...use of torture as an accepted means of interrogation...Terry Schiavo...the war on science...denial of Global Warming...the fascistic secrecy of our elected officials...presidential signings that declare the President above the law...the breakdown of the wall between church and state...the outing of a clandestine CIA agent for purely partisan political gain...the corrupting influence of K Street...the total sell-out of the legislative process to corporate interests...appointments of unqualified cronies at every level of government...Harriet Miers...Brownie...Abu Ghraib...Scooter...the complete mismanagement of the war in Iraq...the lies about the complete mismanagement of the war in Iraq...the grotesque budget deficits...the pathetic response to Katrina...a civil rights division dedicated to undermining civil rights...an environmental protection agency that refuses to protect the environment... (Take a breath, Angry Liberal Guy.)

And I'm angry about a smug, simple-minded, incompetent, unqualified President, and a press that denies the obvious fact that we have a smug, simple-minded, incompetent unqualified President.

If these things don't make you angry, I have to ask — what the hell is the matter with you?

There you go, Nan. Read it and weep.

Posted by Jonathan at 01:16 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

May 12, 2006

More On The Data-Mining Iceberg Politics  Rights, Law

Greg Palast, writing for BuzzFlash, on the revelations that major telco and other corporations are assisting NSA/CIA/FBI/DHS in their surveillance of Americans, focuses on one of those companies, CheckPoint, Inc.:

[T]he snooping into your phone bill is just the snout of the pig of a strange, lucrative link-up between the Administration's Homeland Security spy network and private companies operating beyond the reach of the laws meant to protect us from our government. You can call it the privatization of the FBI — though it is better described as the creation of a private KGB.

The leader in the field of what is called "data mining," is a company, formed , called, "ChoicePoint, Inc," which has sucked up over a billion dollars in national security contracts.

Worried about Dick Cheney listening in Sunday on your call to Mom? That ain't nothing. You should be more concerned that they are linking this info to your medical records, your bill purchases and your entire personal profile including, not incidentally, your voting registration. Five years ago, I discovered that ChoicePoint had already gathered 16 billion data files on Americans — and I know they've expanded their ops at an explosive rate.

They are paid to keep an eye on you — because the FBI can't. For the government to collect this stuff is against the law unless you're suspected of a crime. (The law in question is the Constitution.) But ChoicePoint can collect if for "commercial" purchases — and under the Bush Administration's suspect reading of the Patriot Act — our domestic spying apparatchiks can then BUY the info from ChoicePoint.

Who ARE these guys selling George Bush a piece of you?

ChoicePoint's board has more Republicans than a Palm Beach country club. It was funded, and its board stocked, by such Republican sugar daddies as billionaires Bernie Marcus and Ken Langone — even after Langone was charged by the Securities Exchange Commission with abuse of inside information.

I first ran across these guys in 2000 in Florida when our Guardian/BBC team discovered the list of 94,000 "felons" that Katherine Harris had ordered removed from Florida's voter rolls before the election. Virtually every voter purged was innocent of any crime except, in most cases, Voting While Black. Who came up with this electoral hit list that gave Bush the White House? ChoicePoint, Inc.

And worse, they KNEW the racially-tainted list of felons was bogus. And when we caught them, they lied about it. [...]

And now ChoicePoint and George Bush want your blood. Forget your phone bill. ChoicePoint, a sickened executive of the company told us in confidence, "hope[s] to build a database of DNA samples from every person in the United States...linked to all the other information held by CP [ChoicePoint]" from medical to voting records.

And ChoicePoint lied about that too. The company publicly denied they gave DNA to the Feds — but then told our investigator, pretending to seek work, that ChoicePoint was "the number one" provider of DNA info to the FBI.

"And that scares the hell out of me," said the executive (who has since left the company), because ChoicePoint gets it WRONG so often. We are not contracting out our Homeland Security to James Bond here. It's more like Austin Powers, Inc. Besides the 97% error rate in finding Florida "felons," Illinois State Police fired the company after discovering ChoicePoint had produced test "results" on rape case evidence...that didn't exist. And ChoicePoint just got hit with the largest fine in Federal Trade Commission history for letting identity thieves purchase 145,000 credit card records.

But it won't stop, despite Republican senators shedding big crocodile tears about "surveillance" of innocent Americans. That's because FEAR is a lucrative business — not just for ChoicePoint, but for firms such as Syntech, Sybase and Lockheed-Martin — each of which has provided lucrative posts or profits to connected Republicans including former Total Information Awareness chief John Poindexter (Syntech), Marvin Bush (Sybase) and Lynn Cheney (Lockheed-Martin).

But how can they get Americans to give up our personal files, our phone logs, our DNA and our rights? Easy. Fear sells better than sex — and they want you to be afraid. Back to today's New York Times, page 28: "Wider Use of DNA Lists is Urged in Fighting Crime." And who is providing the technology? It comes, says the Times, from the work done on using DNA fragments to identity victims of the September 11 attack. And who did that job (for $12 million, no bid)? ChoicePoint, Inc. Which is NOT mentioned by the Times. [Emphasis added]

As I noted last night, reports that they've assembled the largest database in the world imply that it's a whole lot more than phone records. Phone companies, after all, already have databases of phone records. This has to be much, much more. I think Palast's right, they're tying everything together: your phone records, your medical records, your credit card payments and bank statements, your Internet use, your political affiliations — who knows what else.

Posted by Jonathan at 05:43 PM | Comments (5) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Tip Of The Iceberg Politics

This could be huge. Watch for it next week. From ThinkProgress:

CongressDaily reports that former NSA staffer Russell Tice will testify to the Senate Armed Services Committee next week that not only do employees at the agency believe the activities they are being asked to perform are unlawful, but that what has been disclosed so far is only the tip of the iceberg.
A former intelligence officer for the National Security Agency said Thursday he plans to tell Senate staffers next week that unlawful activity occurred at the agency under the supervision of Gen. Michael Hayden beyond what has been publicly reported, while hinting that it might have involved the illegal use of space-based satellites and systems to spy on U.S. citizens. [...]

[Tice] said he plans to tell the committee staffers the NSA conducted illegal and unconstitutional surveillance of U.S. citizens while he was there with the knowledge of Hayden..."I think the people I talk to next week are going to be shocked when I tell them what I have to tell them. It's pretty hard to believe," Tice said. "I hope that they'll clean up the abuses and have some oversight into these programs, which doesn’t exist right now." [...]

Tice said his information is different from the Terrorist Surveillance Program that Bush acknowledged in December and from news accounts this week that the NSA has been secretly collecting phone call records of millions of Americans. "It's an angle that you haven't heard about yet," he said...He would not discuss with a reporter the details of his allegations, saying doing so would compromise classified information and put him at risk of going to jail. He said he "will not confirm or deny" if his allegations involve the illegal use of space systems and satellites. [Emphasis added]

Tice has a history for blowing the whistle on serious misconduct. He was one of the sources that revealed the administration' warrantless domestic spying program to the New York Times. [Emphasis added]

They've basically thrown the Constitution in the dumpster. They're data-mining everything they can aggregate. If they're also using space-based surveillance systems and satellites to sweep up data on all of us, well, it's a whole new world. One way they may have miscalculated: powerful elites don't want the government snooping into their affairs, nor do powerful corporations. The administration may be about to be slapped down, hard.

Posted by Jonathan at 05:21 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

The Free Fall Continues Politics

29%. E&P:

President Bush’s job approval rating has fallen to 29%, its lowest mark of his presidency, and down 6% in one month, according to a new Harris poll. And this was before Thursday's revelations about NSA phone surveillance.

Of 1,003 U.S. adults surveyed in a telephone poll, 29% think Mr. Bush is doing an "excellent or pretty good" job as president, down from 35% in April and 43% in January.

Roughly one-quarter of U.S. adults say "things in the country are going in the right direction," while 69% say "things have pretty seriously gotten off on the wrong track."

Some 28% of Americans said they consider Iraq to be one of the top two most important issues the government should address, up from 23% in April. Interest has faded slightly in the immigration issue.

Other recent major polls have pegged Bush's approval rating from 31% to 37%. [Emphasis added]

Just wait until the Foggo scandal erupts for real, Karl gets indicted, more NSA lawlessness comes out in next week's hearings, etc., etc. Bush is toast.

Posted by Jonathan at 04:41 PM | Comments (2) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Holy Sh*t Politics

The FBI today raided the home of the just-resigned Executive Director of the CIA. CNN:

The FBI searched the home and office of former CIA Executive Director Kyle "Dusty" Foggo on Friday, a law enforcement official told CNN.

Foggo, who was the spy agency's third-ranking official, is part of a broad law enforcement investigation into allegations of corruption, according to officials familiar with the probe.

Search warrants were executed Friday at his CIA office and home in northern Virginia.

"As part of an ongoing joint investigation by the CIA's Office of Inspector General and law enforcement agencies into allegations of misconduct by the former Executive Director Dusty Foggo, the FBI and CIA's Office of Inspector General this morning executed search warrants for his agency workplace and residence," said CIA spokeswoman Jennifer Millerwise Dyck.

"The agency is cooperating fully with the Department of Justice and the FBI."

Whoa. The junta's unraveling.

Posted by Jonathan at 12:57 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

May 11, 2006

"The Largest Database Ever Assembled" Politics  Rights, Law

You're no doubt aware that USA Today is reporting that AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth have, since shortly after 9/11, been supplying the NSA with detailed information on every phone call made by any of its customers, private or commercial. From USA Today's article:

"It's the largest database ever assembled in the world," said one person, who, like the others who agreed to talk about the NSA's activities, declined to be identified by name or affiliation. The agency's goal is "to create a database of every call ever made" within the nation's borders, this person added.

If it's really the largest database ever assembled, it's a hell of a lot more than phone records. The phone companies, after all, already have databases of phone records. This would have to be something much bigger. It would have to be data-mining on a colossal scale. As I wrote immediately after it was revealed that NSA was listening in on calls without getting FISA warrants:

The reason the White House didn't just go get FISA warrants for their wiretaps is almost certainly because they weren't doing wiretaps in the usual sense of the word. They were doing automated, broad-based scanning of enormous numbers of calls. For all we know, they were scanning every phone call in the country. Think Echelon and Total Information Awareness. Think data mining.

Is this normal government practice? Reed Hunt at TPMCafe:

No one should imagine that what NSA has done, if reports are accurate, is normal behavior or standard procedure in the interaction between a private communications network and the government. In an authoritarian country without a bill of rights and with state ownership of the communications network, such eavesdropping by people and computers is assumed to exist. But in the United States it is assumed not to occur, except under very carefully defined circumstances that, according to reports, were not present as NSA allegedly arm-twisted telephone companies into compliance. That is a topic that can't be avoided in [General Hayden's] hearing, if he gets that far. [Emphasis added]

CNN's Jack Cafferty says it best (video here):

We better all hope nothing happens to Arlen Specter, the Republican head of the Senate Judiciary Committee, because he might be all that is standing between us and a full-blown dictatorship in this country.

He's vowed to question these phone company executives about volunteering to provide the government with my telephone records and yours and tens of millions of other Americans. Shortly after 9/11, AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth began providing the super-secret NSA with information on phone calls of millions of our citizens. All part of the war on terror, President Bush says.

Why don't you go find Osama bin Laden and seal the country's borders and start inspecting the containers that come into our ports? The president rushed out this morning in the wake of this front page story in "USA Today" and declared the government is doing nothing wrong and all this is just fine.

Is it? Is it legal? Then why did the Justice Department suddenly drop its investigation of the warrantless spying on citizens? Because the NSA said Justice Department lawyers didn't have the necessary security clearance to do the investigation.

Read that sentence again. A secret government agency has told our Justice Department that it's not allowed to investigate it. And the Justice Department just says, OK, and drops the whole thing. We're in some serious trouble here, boys and girls.

Here's the question: Does it concern you that your phone company may be voluntarily providing your phone records to the government without your knowledge or your permission? If it doesn't, it sure as hell ought to. [Emphasis added]

And the thing is, you know this isn't all of it. Probably not even close. They're probably data-mining everything they can get their hands on: credit card records, bank statements, Internet usage.

And Cafferty's right. The fact that the NSA told the Justice Department to take a hike because it didn't have a sufficient security clearance to investigate them — and the fact that the Justice Department agreed — is the stuff of dictatorships.

Anybody who says it's ok that the government has completely shredded all civil liberties guarantees with respect to privacy and search and seizure, who says that it's ok because they've got nothing to hide, just doesn't have a clue what the US Constitution and the rule of law are all about. No one can be trusted with unchecked power. No one. Ever. That is why we have a Constitution and a body of laws that limit governmental power. Civics 101. This was the bedrock principle on which the Founders built the nation. People who want to consent to let all that go are just sheep voluntarily marching to slaughter.

Perhaps the most ludicrous thing of all is that Bush and his ilk declare themselves to be conservatives, when they are destroying every fundamental check and balance, every basic right, that a real conservative would be trying to conserve.

Posted by Jonathan at 08:12 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

May 08, 2006

Toast Politics

31% and falling fast. USA TODAY:

President Bush's approval rating has slumped to 31% in a new USA TODAY/Gallup Poll, the lowest of his presidency and a warning sign for Republicans in the November elections.

The survey of 1,013 adults, taken Friday through Sunday, shows Bush's standing down by 3 percentage points in a single week. His disapproval rating also reached a record: 65%.

"It is a challenging political environment," acknowledges Tracey Schmitt, a spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee...

Bush's fall is being fueled by erosion among support from conservatives and Republicans. In the poll, 52% of conservatives and 68% of Republicans approved of the job he is doing. Both are record lows among those groups. [...]

Only four presidents have scored lower approval ratings since the Gallup Poll began regularly measuring it in the mid-1940s: Harry Truman, Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter and the first George Bush. When Nixon, Carter and the elder Bush sank below 35%, they never again registered above 40%. [...]

"Historically it's been pretty devastating to presidents at this level," Franklin says. Even Republican members of Congress are "now so worried about their electoral fortunes in November that he has less leverage with them than he normally would with his own party controlling Congress." [Emphasis added]

Circling the drain.

Posted by Jonathan at 10:44 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

May 06, 2006

Rumsfeld And "The Intelligence Business" Politics  War and Peace

When he was confronted the other day in Atlanta by CIA veteran Ray McGovern, Rumsfeld claimed he hadn't lied about Iraqi WMD. He hadn't lied, because he had been fooled by bad intelligence from the CIA. He hadn't lied, because, Rumsfeld said, "I'm not in the intelligence business." Which, of course, is itself a lie if there ever was one.

The Defense department is home to numerous intelligence agencies, which collectively dwarf the CIA. According to the official website of the US Intelligence Community:

Three major intelligence agencies in the Department of Defense (DoD) — the National Security Agency (NSA), the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) — absorb the larger part of the national intelligence budget. NSA is responsible for signals intelligence and has collection sites throughout the world. The NRO develops and operates reconnaissance satellites. The NGA prepares the geospatial data — ranging from maps and charts to sophisticated computerized databases — necessary for targeting in an era dependent upon precision guided weapons. In addition to these three agencies, the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) is responsible for defense attaches and for providing DoD with a variety of intelligence products. Although the Intelligence Reform Act provides extensive budgetary and management authorities over these agencies to the Director of National Intelligence, it does not revoke the responsibilities of the Secretary of Defense for these agencies. [Emphasis added]

In addition to the NSA (the largest US intelligence agency), NRO, and NGA, the DoD is home to Air Force Intelligence, Army Intelligence, Defense Intelligence Agency, Marine Corps Intelligence, and Navy Intelligence, as well as various Special Forces and other clandestine ops capabilities. And Rumsfeld has long pushed hard to increase the Pentagon's autonomy in intelligence-gathering and clandestine ops.

In December, I noted something called the Counterterrorism Field Activity (CFIA) that seeks to centralize all counterterrorism intelligence collection inside the United States under Pentagon control.

Rumsfeld has also been extending the Pentagon's reach in human intelligence and black ops activities abroad. WaPo:

While the stature and role of the CIA were greatly diminished under Goss during the congressionally ordered reorganization of the intelligence agencies, his counterpart at the Pentagon, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, continued his aggressive efforts to develop a clandestine intelligence operation within his department. The Pentagon's human intelligence unit and its other clandestine military units are expanding in number and authority. Rumsfeld recently won the ability to sidestep U.S. ambassadors in certain circumstances when the Pentagon wants to send in clandestine teams to collect intelligence or undertake operations.

"Rumsfeld keeps pressing for autonomy for defense human intelligence and for SOF [Special Forces] operations," said retired Army Col. W. Patrick Lang, former head of Middle East affairs at the Defense Intelligence Agency. "CIA has lost the ability to control the [human intelligence] process in the community."

Now, "the real battle lies between" Negroponte and Rumsfeld, said retired Army Lt. Gen. Donald Kerrick, a former deputy national security adviser and once a senior official at the Defense Intelligence Agency. "Rumsfeld rules the roost now." [Emphasis added]

Pretty impressive for a guy who's "not in the intelligence business."

Posted by Jonathan at 05:11 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Goss And Negroponte Politics

The big media outlets are buying the spin that Goss was forced to quit without warning, without so much as notifying the heads of the Congressional intelligence committees (remember that Goss was himself Chair of the House Intelligence Committee), effective immediately, because of some previously unknown turf battle with his old fraternity brother John Negroponte. Before you buy it, though, you should go read Laura Rozen:

The story line until today has been far different: that much of the operative camp of the Agency perceived Goss as a political enforcer, someone who wasn't seen to be looking out for them but for the White House's interests; that Goss was rather passive and out of touch and overly delegated day to day affairs to his staff, "the Gosslings," led by the fiercely partisan Patrick Murray. I don't believe I have ever heard from people in that world a sense that Goss was looking out for them. The newspaper coverage has suggested rather that a lot of the experienced bench strength cadre at the Agency had left in fights with Goss and his staff during his rocky tenure, and that the Agency had never been more demoralized. So all that time, during all those departures, Goss was covertly fighting for his folks against the new intel reorganization? He was a misunderstood champion of the Agency?

Does something about this story line that Goss suddenly left because of his long-standing tension with Negroponte, his fraternity brother from Yale, over Goss fighting to hold CIA turf seem a bit canned to you?

The main question is why Goss's departure suddenly became a matter of the deepest urgency yesterday.

Think back to yesterday morning. The top news after the Patrick Kennedy crash was that Bush's poll numbers were at an all time low, and that he was starting to see a real erosion of support from conservatives. Gas prices and immigration and Iraq. So Bush gets briefed by his staff that day, and decides: hey, let's fire Porter Goss. He's killing morale at the Agency. He's just seen as far too political. And John Negroponte is threatening to quit if he stays. He's given me an absolute ultimatum. Let's get this out today.

Come on. That's just not how this White House has responded to these sorts of tensions in the past. They never move fast. They withstand criticism of appointments for months. They resist criticisms of unpopular agency heads for weeks (Michael "heckuva job" Brown), months (Snow), years (Rumsfeld). Think how much speculation there was in the press before Card's and McClellan's announced retirements, and how warm and friendly were those departures. It's hard not to believe that something moved very quickly on the radar this week that prompted an unusually quick decision. One that took a lot of people who would normally have been advised by surprise. (It's my understanding that the heads of Congressional intel committees were not informed in advance).

Negroponte has President Bush's ear every single day when he delivers the President's daily intel brief. If he had been lobbying to get rid of Goss, and the President was inclined to support that decision, there were a hundred ways to do it in a way that would project stability, confidence, normalcy. There was hardly a show of that yesterday. They could have named a successor. There could have been a leak to the press about Goss being tired (remember all the foreshadowing in the press about how tired Andy Card was after all those 20 hour days that preceded his departure?) and wanting to spend more time with his family, or that Bush was unhappy with him. There was none of that. It was a surprise move. What happened this week that Negroponte and Bush acted so swiftly?

Does the way it happened resemble the slo-mo, warm and fuzzy way Andy Card and Scott McClellan were retired? Or does it rather have more in common with the swiftly announced departures of Claude Allen and David Safavian from their posts, a few days before we hear of federal investigations? [Emphasis added]

Another possibility that nags at me, though I have no evidence for it, is that Goss got wind of something the administration has in the works that he just had no stomach for. Another terrorist attack on US soil, perhaps, to launch a war with Iran. Let us hope not.

Posted by Jonathan at 01:51 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

May 05, 2006

Goss Gone Politics

CIA Director Porter Goss resigned today, completely out of the blue, effective immediately. Of course the big question is why. The answer may lie in the ongoing Duke Cunningham hooker/bribery scandal. WSJ:

Federal prosecutors are investigating whether two contractors implicated in the bribery of former Rep. Randall "Duke" Cunningham supplied him with prostitutes and free use of a limousine and hotel suites, pursuing evidence that could broaden their long-running inquiry.

Besides scrutinizing the prostitution scheme for evidence that might implicate contractor Brent Wilkes, investigators are focusing on whether any other members of Congress, or their staffs, may also have used the same free services, though it isn't clear whether investigators have turned up anything to implicate others.

In recent weeks, Federal Bureau of Inve