Monday, July 26, 2004

Beyond Boston...

...there's still a war on.

Via Financial Times.
The spate of post-transition violence in Iraq showed no sign of let-up yesterday, as insurgents bombed an airfield in Mosul, a senior interior ministry official was assassinated in Baghdad, gunmen opened fire on five women cleaners working for the US company Bechtel in Basra, and kidnappers seized two Jordanian drivers.
Everything we do, every day, every vote we find, everywhere, matters.

It really, really matters.

Quote of the Day

Lots of fine words spoken today, lots of admirable sentiments expressed, but this, from General Wesley Clark at the Veterans For Kerry meeting in Boston, takes the honors.
"That flag is our flag. We served under that flag. We got up and stood reveille formation, we stood taps, we fought under that flag. We've seen men die for that flag, and we've seen men buried under that flag. No Dick Cheney or John Ashcroft or Tom DeLay is going to take that flag away from us."
Damn straight.

Forget the balloon drop...

...the real convention story is the name drop. Where else will you find big stars from so many fields - press, politics and show biz, for instance - in one place at one time (have I mentioned, for instance, the night in '92 when I was chatting with Brian Lamb, Dick Cavett and Christopher Hitchens in a Madison Square Garden alcove when Sen. Jay Rockefeller passed by to say hello?).

Scanning the blogs, Arianna is the clear leader at this point, managing to slip Toni Morrison, Bill Clinton, Al Gore, Uma Thurman, Barack Obama and Wonkette into a single post.

The bar is set, and set high, con-bloggers. Get to work.

We report...

...well, actually, Undelay reports. Undelay.org has been running a regular feature titled "I Got The News Today..." which features highlights from the DoD casualty reports. It's a constant reminder that the numbers you see in the news (907 US fatalities so far) are actual people from actual places, and they've graciously offered it up as a feed that I've added to the Upper Left sidebar.

'Thanks' is a peculiar word to use here. It's a valuable feature. I'm glad to have it. I think it's important that it be widely viewed. Just the same, it's not quite right to say I'm thankful for this particular content. I do appreciate the opportunity to be a vehicle for it, though, as sad as its neccessity may be.

So, thanks to Undelay, and I'll be thankful when I can drop the feed, too.

Blogging the night shift?

It looks like this is going to be a week for PM blogging, since most of the news will be made on the DNC podium in prime time, and early reports from around the blogosphere and elsewhere seem heavily focused on which party was where.

Still, a couple interesting tidbits from the future first family deserve notice. John Kerry's first pitch at Fenway may not have seemed to display major league stuff, but the curve ball he threw to get there was a solid strike. 'Politician goes to ball game' might not seem to be a big story, but it captured the news cycle for a couple reasons, not the least of which was the level of campaign discipline it took to keep the story under wraps until the press corps was on the plane. Altogether an all-star performance.

Re: the Theresa "shove it" flap, a couple notes. First, when Mrs. Kerry says something 'outrageous,' at least it can be quoted verbatim on the air and in family friendly blog space, unlike the output of, say, certain Vice Presidents. Other than that, I can only agree with the former first lady, Senator Clinton's advice to Theresa.

You go, girl.

Sunday, July 25, 2004

Blogging the Con

Well, the convention bloggers have started to check in, though so far they're mostly offering tales of flights and hotel arrivals. Jesse from Pandagon, though, has staked a claim to the first post from the convention floor.
...you realize that this is as much a production as a concert or, well, anything else. This isn't a wellspring of patriotic fervor, or of partisan furor - it's a bunch of people trying to make the lights work and get their skin tones balanced for the camera, people trying to make sure that we can make phone calls and get on the internet.

***

The set itself looks beautiful, but nothing comes to mind so much as when I used to act. The set, the entrance, the preparation...precisely because this has turned into such a show, it seems as if the politics itself has bled out of it in favor of putting on the absolute best show.
He's right, of course. It's been that way for a long time now. It's a prime time production, with the delegates on hand as the 'cast of thousands' extras. That doesn't mean there won't be some good stories to be found, but they'll be human interest, not political drama. The bloggers may be the folks best situated to find those stories once they get past the initial rush of just being there (and being there is a rush, no matter what year you make it or what kind of credential you're packing).

I have high hopes for 'em, anyway. Dave Winer's conventionbloggers.com is a handy one-stop shop for keeping track.

Good luck to all of ya - make us proud!

By George, I think she's got it!

MoDo can drive me as crazy as she drives oh so many of us oh so often, but when she's on, well, she's wonderful. From today's NYT...

Maybe it's because I've been instructed to pack a respirator escape hood along with party dresses for the Boston convention. Maybe it's because our newspaper has assigned a terrorism reporter to cover a political convention. Maybe it's because George Bush is relaxing at his ranch down there (again) while Osama is planning a big attack up here (again). Maybe it's because there are just as many American soldiers dying in Iraq post-transfer, more Muslims more mad at us over fake W.M.D. intelligence and depravity at Abu Ghraib, and more terrorists in more diffuse networks hating us more.

Maybe it's because the F.B.I. is still learning how to Google and the C.I.A. has an acting head who spends most of his time acting defensive over his agency's failure to get anything right. Maybe it's because so many of those federal twits who missed the 10 chances to stop the 9/11 hijackers, who blew off our Paul Reveres - Richard Clarke, Coleen Rowley and the Phoenix memo author - still run things. Call me crazy, Mr. President, but I don't feel any safer.
Me neither...

Yeah, I'm around...

...but blogging will probably be a bit light again today, in no small part because of the demands of activities more, ahem, renumerative (as always, you could relieve some of that stress right here) and a desire to block off some time to dig through Matt Bai's epic 'whither the Party' piece in the New York Times Magazine, about which I will doubtless opine before the close of business.

I'll be in and out today, though, and invite you to do the same. Hey, it seems a little slow throughout the lefty blogosphere as we all tune up for the impending festivities. I'll do my bit to keep things going as best I can.

Saturday, July 24, 2004

Different century, different war...

...same damn question.
Sgt. 1st Class James Tilley was on patrol on the road outside Ramadi later that afternoon, sitting in his Humvee for an hour or two in one spot - sweating profusely in the 105-degree heat - before moving a few hundred yards down the road to another place.

The patrol is designed to ward off insurgents from trying to put bombs in the road. "A lot of times, I look at this place and wonder what have we really done...When we first got here, we all wanted to change it and make it better, but now I don't give a s---," he said. "What the hell am I here for?"
via Damfacrats, which I'm pleased to report is back to full-tilt blogging.

Welcome back, we missed ya, man!

He's always been a Dick...

...but he wasn't always the Vice President. Once upon a time, Dick Cheney ran a multi-national 'oil services' company (although it seems to have been American taxpayers who were usually, ahem, 'serviced' by Haliburton).

Norbizness dips into the memory well to remind us about how very different some things were not so very long ago...
Cheney has frequently fought to lift US sanctions against Iran despite concerns about terrorist activity. Just last month, Cheney said that the US should lift sanctions against Iran and allow US oil companies to invest there. “There’s been a decision not to allow US firms to invest significantly in Iran, and I think that’s a mistake,” Cheney said.
2000 seems like, well, a whole different century, doesn't it?


Friday, July 23, 2004

Secrets of bloggers revealed.

Matt Stoller spills the beans.

Bloggers know how to levitate. Bloggers can see through walls. Bloggers can talk to the unicorns that are observing and protecting humanity at all times, unseen. Bloggers are also invariably prone to spin, lies, rumor, and innuendo, hapless against the wily ways of campaign consultants and PR people. Bloggers are real journalists, unconstrained by the normal rules of fashion. Bloggers are not real journalists, but they look great in blue. All of them. Bloggers are editors plus sprinkles and whipped cream. All bloggers want is to be loved by the establishment. Bloggers hate you. And bloggers can curse. F**k.
(Family friendly edit by me. We can curse, but we don't have to.)

And oh yeah, when confronted with arbitrary rules like this one...
In this post - which you are not under any circumstance allowed to link to, sending me delicious ego-gratifying trackbacks...
...we can just ignore them.

Senate Dems keep fighting back.

Before breaking for the Convention, the Senate Democrats turned back three more Bush US Court of Appeals nominees, Henry Saad, Richard Griffin and David McKeague, none of whom could muster more than 54 of the 60 votes they needed to close debate and move to a confirmation vote.

Senators Debbie Stabenow and Carl Levin of Michigan led the filibusters against Saad, Griffin and McKeague. According to the AP,
The Democrats acknowledged the filibusters were payback for the Republicans' refusal to hold hearings on two of former President Clinton's judicial nominees from Michigan.
Even Senate Judiciary Chair Orrin Hatch, while critical of the filibusters, had to admit
"The two senators from Michigan have been very upset and if I'd put myself in their shoes I'd feel the same way."
Some people say payback's a bitch. I think it can be a beautiful thing.

It may be AFU...

...but the situation is anything but normal. Maybe I pay more attention to what's happening to our soldiers than the average citizen since, unlike most of the architects of our current war, I've been one. I understand that "supporting the troops" means a lot more than yellow ribbons, flowery rhetoric and flag-waving rallies. And failure to support the troops in more meaningful ways (little things like adequate equipment, decent chow, predictable deployments, accurate payrolls and all the other ways the Rumsfeld DoD has been failing them) can destroy any fighting force, no how dedicated its individual members may be. The fact is, our Army is damn near destroyed, and there seems to be new evidence every day.

For instance, stop loss orders, inactive reserve mobilizations, mobilization of the National Guard, deployment of training commands and tour extenstions haven't been enough to make up for Donald Rumsfeld's dramatically inadequate battle plan for Iraq, so now they're looking for troops willing to violate the GI's prime directive, "Never Volunteer."
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Army is asking some National Guard troops serving in Iraq to volunteer to stay on active duty beyond a statutory two-year limit for such service, officials said on Wednesday, in a fresh sign of the strain on the U.S. military amid operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said "we don't plan at the moment" to extend such reserve troops involuntarily beyond the two-year limit, but added "one should never say never."
...so when Rummy opines that "the two-year limit is an interesting question," someone should remind him that it's not a question at all. It's the law. A law about which every campaigning Congresscritter should be quizzed.

Because it's about to get even worse.
WASHINGTON, July 21 - In what critics say is another sign of increasing stress on the military, the Army has been forced to bring more new recruits immediately into the ranks to meet recruiting goals for 2004, instead of allowing them to defer entry until the next accounting year, which starts in October.

As a result, recruiters will enter the new year without the usual cushion of incoming soldiers, making it that much harder to make their quotas for 2005. Instead of knowing the names of nearly half the coming year's expected arrivals in October, as the Army did last year, or even the names of around one in three, as is the normal goal, this October the recruiting command will have identified only about one of five of the boot camp class of 2005 in advance.

****

Army officials disclosed Wednesday that none of the Army's five recruiting brigades met their missions between March and July, forcing the service to tap into its bank of recruits to make up the difference.
I hate a lot of things about the Bush administration, but I may hate what they've done to my Army most of all.

Just shut up, Ralph.

Of all the pathetically ridiculous words from America's most pathetically ridiculous Presidential candidate, this line delivered by Ridiculous Ralph Nader in an article by David Broder takes the cake.
"There is a propensity for whining, carping and dirty tricks on the Democratic side that exceeds that of Republicans."
Whining? There's a propensity for whining by Ralph Nader that exceeds that of the most petulant two year old. His biggest complaints continue to be about the insistence of Democrats, and state governments, and the courts, that he actually comply with the law in his attempts to get ballot access. For instance...
When I asked Nader if he had any qualms about accepting this boost from the GOP, he said, "Ordinarily, I would reject such help," but not after what the Democrats had done to him in Arizona...
What the Democrats did to Nader in Arizona, of course, is to point out that his paid signature gatherers repeatedly violated Arizona election law, and that many of his petitions were thus invalid.

I'm not unsympathetic to the difficulty that third parties and independents face when they try to get on the ballots of various states, but somehow it happens every year. It happens because groups like the Libertarians, Constitution Party, Socialist Workers Party and many others work hard within the law to get their ballot lines. Should they have to work quite so hard? Maybe not. That's why many disparate groups also work hard together on ballot access reform, all year, every year.

Ralph Nader thinks he deserves a pass on working hard within the law, because, well, because he's Ralph Nader, I suppose.

Next time he can take an easier path by running for the Republican nomination, which is where his money comes from and his support seems to lie.

Meanwhile he should just shut up.

The Report report.

I don't want to be the only political blogger on the planet with nothing to say about the 9/11 Commission Report, but I'm having a lot of trouble getting excited about it. There's plenty of bad news for Bush tucked inside (David Corn offers an excellent overview), but in terms of actual electoral effect, I'm afraid it will be largely an 'eye of the beholder' situation. Does anyone believe that a Bush supporter will be turned by the report? Does anyone really believe that a Bush antagonist will find themselves feeling more sympathetic to him because of the report? In fact, the Commission's dedication to achieving non-partisan unanimity was largely successful, so the utility of the report as a partisan instrument is largely non-existent.

Which would be fine, I suppose, if I believed that anything constructive was going to come from the report's recommendations. The Republican leadership has already made it clear that any real consideration is going to be put off until the next session, though, and that consideration is going to be heavily affected by the outcome of the November elections. My sense is that any changes that will be directly attributable to the Commission's work will be negligible, though some kind of nod will be made to the recommendations eventually, if only to provide cover against the continued demands of the 9/11 families for some kind of action.

Still, I'm glad the Commission was formed, and particularly grateful for the transparency of their efforts. One reason that the report seems somewhat anti-climactic to me is doubtless the extent of the public hearings the Commissioners held, some of which were dramatic, and some of which were truly informative (and in many cases, there was an inverser relationship between drama and true information). For that, we should also be grateful to the 9/11 families. Whenever and wherever Bush attempts to posture as grateful for, or interested in, the work of the Commission, everyone should keep this blast from the past in mind.
Bush Opposes 9/11 Query Panel

May 23, 2002

(CBS) President Bush took a few minutes during his trip to Europe Thursday to voice his opposition to establishing a special commission to probe how the government dealt with terror warnings before Sept. 11.

Mr. Bush said the matter should be dealt with by congressional intelligence committees.

CBS News Correspondent Bill Plante reports that Mr. Bush said the investigation should be confined to Congress because it deals with sensitive information that could reveal sources and methods of intelligence. Therefore, he said, the congressional investigation is "the best place" to probe the events leading up to the terrorist attacks.
Having the investigations handled outside the partisan controls in the Congress was a nightmare for Bush. His worst imaginings weren't quite realized, but as the David Corn piece cited above reveals, they weren't completely unfounded, either.

Thursday, July 22, 2004

Welcome home, Dennis.

You know we've loved you all along...
July 22, 2004

A Message from Dennis Kucinich.

For the past two and a half years, I have led a national effort for peace, for social and economic justice and health care for all. My campaign reached every state and territory. We participated in every primary and caucus. We pointed our party towards new directions. I am here to say that the next critical step we must take is to help elect John Kerry the next President of the United States.

Today I am happy to endorse the Kerry-Edwards ticket. And I look forward to helping to lead the way to elect John Kerry President and John Edwards Vice President of the United States.
He took a long time, but he picked the right time. If I wasn't already represented by the Honorable Jim McDermott, I'd wish Dennis Kucinich was my Congressman.

Safer than what?

And safer from who?

While Bush doggedly sticks to his claims that Americans are safer today than we were in the pre 9/11 days, the facts seem to be just as stubbornly refuting those claims.

While much of his focus is on the merits of his international adventurism and the effect it has on our day to day security, his policy of cutting support for internal law enforcement, such as the COPS program, in order to put more money in billionaire's pockets is having a devastating impact. In fact, it's literally killing us.

Here's the latest...
A decade after police crackdowns on drug gangs helped lead to historically low crime rates in cities across the nation, gangs suddenly are re-emerging in waves of violence that have jolted officials in Tulsa, the Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C., and many other communities well beyond the groups' traditional big-city bases.

The resurgence of gangs whose names became symbols of the turf wars over crack cocaine during the 1980s - the Crips, the Bloods, the Mexican Mafia, the Gangster Disciples and others - is helping to lift homicide rates in several cities at a time when overall crime rates remain low.

****

"This thing is growing, but it has been masked to a great extent by reports about how overall crime has been coming down," (LA Police Chief William) Bratton says. "Not a lot of people are paying attention to this. But the way it's going, it has the potential to explode as it did in the early '90s."
Putting a lid on the activities of fanatics in foreign ports is important, no doubt, but it becomes meaningless if we turn our neighborhoods over to homegrown thugs.

Putting first things first means putting our First Responders back on the federal funding list. Homeland security doesn't mean much if you don't live to enjoy it.


Reasonable people can disagree...

...about the merits of the competing Democrats in the race for Washington State Attorney General. I've got friends in former Insurance Commissioner Deborah Senn's camp, and friends in former Seattle City Attorney Mark Sidran's camp, which is why, although I have a preference, I haven't had much to say.

One thing seems indisputable, though. This has got to be the best damn endorsement letter I've ever seen.
Dear Washington State Democrat,

As much as I hate to interfere in the election of another state (other than Florida), I feel that I must write in order to urge you to support Mark Sidran for Washington State Attorney General.

I have known Mark since I was accidentally admitted to Harvard in the late 1960’s. Mark, who got in on merit and merit alone, was a classmate of mine, and has made something of himself.

As you may know, he has spent the last 28 years as a prosecutor, Seattle City Attorney, and as a practicing lawyer. Mark’s experience is what I like to call one of his three E’s. The other two E’s are integrity and energy. Wait. Scrap integrity. Although Mark has it in spades, it does not start with an “E.” I remember learning that at Harvard. But I digress. Let’s get back to his experience.

As City Attorney, Mark took on some of the most egregious corporate polluters in Puget Sound. I could name names, but I may be planning to run for public office in Minnesota someday, and why burn a bridge?

Speaking of Minnesota, I was a good friend of Paul and Sheila Wellstone. Sheila, especially, was an advocate for women and children who were victims of domestic violence. Mark shares this passion. He created Seattle’s first domestic violence unit, which became a model for other communities in Washington.

As Attorney General, Mark will continue his fight on behalf of citizens by doubling the size of the state’s consumer protection division. Tired of finding out your senior citizen mother has been ripped off by scam artists? Besides telling your mom to be more alert, you can take action by electing Mark.

Oh, now I remember the other two “e’s”. Endorsements and Electability. Besides me, Mark has been endorsed by every single Democratic county prosecutor in the state. These are people, who unlike me, actually know what the Attorney General does. Bill Gates Sr., former president of the Washington State Bar and father of someone who I’d like to get to know better when I get ready to run for office, has endorsed Mark as well. So have civil rights leaders like Norm and Constance Rice. Others include environmentalists, led by Washington Conservation Voters, the State’s largest environmental political group, and a long list of elected officials such as Governor Gary Locke, Congressman Norm Dicks, former Governor Booth Gardner, many civic leaders and leading lawyers. Governor Locke, I have learned, is the only Asian American state governor to make an endorsement in this race. That alone says it all.

I could go on and on with the endorsements. But frankly, no one cares about endorsements. Let’s move on to what really matters to Democrats – electability. Republicans don’t want Mark to be the Democratic nominee because they know he will be the most difficult candidate to beat in a statewide race that isn’t fixed by the use of paperless machines. This is the first time in 12 years that the Attorney General’s seat has been open and the Republican Party and their special interests are salivating at the chance of putting one of their lackeys in one of the most powerful jobs in your state. Mark is a common sense Democrat with a proven track record and the clear ability to win in November or whenever the Department of Homeland Security allows us to vote.

George W. Bush does not want Mark Sidran to be your next Attorney General. Neither does Deborah Senn, who did not go to college with me.

In conclusion, give your vote, and if possible, your check to Mark Sidran. And if you really want to see more of those endorsements, check out the partial list below or visit Mark’s website, www.MarkSidran4AG.com. As you can tell from the “4,” this is one hip campaign.

Sincerely,

Al Franken
The humorless response from the Senn campaign does nothing to strenthen their hand, and tends to confirm my initial feelings about the race...I did mention that I have a preference, right?

I think I'll be a bit noisier about supporting Mark Sidran in the future.


Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Hypocritical bastards.

Yeah, that's relatively strong language in this space, but there's really no other way to describe the Bush administration at this point.
...White House officials opposed the tentative deal worked out between House and Senate Republican leaders that would have extended the tax cuts for two years at a cost of about $80 billion.

That left Republicans conceding that the tax-cutting effort is over, at least until Congress returns from its recess in September.
Yep, Bushco killed a Republican deal to maintain the middle class tax cuts. George Bush is going to raise your taxes, if you're married, if you're a parent, or if you're a working man or woman who was hoping to be included in the 10% tax bracket. Why would Bush kill those cuts?
...Republican Congressional officials said the administration did not want a deal that Democratic lawmakers might support, giving them a tax-cutting credential, too.
Of course, the ultimate reason, the thing that makes him willing to play partisan games with your personal paycheck, is simple.

George Bush does not care about you.

If it's Wednesday, it must be the...



Last week's Scandal Scorecard Update was dedicated to Tom DeLay, who makes an encore appearance this week as well, but we can't let seven more days slip by without a look at the Administration, and as is so often the case, Rummy's DoD obliges with an all too common case of contract irregularity.

The General Services Administration is reviewing a technology company, Affiliated Computer Services (ACS), for its role in using a technology contract to provide dozens of interrogators and intelligence support personnel at the U.S. naval base prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, according to an administration procurement official.
Although the $13.3 million contract was written for technology engineering services and managed by the Interior Department, the agreement has been used largely for hiring 30 intelligence analysts and 15 to 20 interrogators, according to Raul Duany, spokesman for the U.S. Southern Command, which oversees Guantanamo.

What's a high-tech rubber hose look like, anyway?

On the Congressional side, we have this via Off The Kuff.

Peter Cloeren, who owns a plastics company in Orange, Texas, is a good Republican. The kind with the means and the will to max out his contribution limits, as he did for East Texas congressional candidate Brian Babin, a Woodville dentist.
Enter Tom DeLay.
In an affidavit he gave House investigators two years later, Mr. Cloeren said he was frustrated that he couldn't do more for Dr. Babin. According to the affidavit, Mr. DeLay, then majority whip, replied that "it would not be a problem for him to find, in his words, 'additional vehicles,' " and Mr. DeLay told an aide to provide "details of how to funnel additional moneys" to the Babin campaign.

Within months, federal records show, Mr. Cloeren and his wife gave tens of thousands of dollars to out-of-state congressional campaigns and groups. Donors to some of those groups later assisted the Babin campaign.
In 1998, Cloeren filed a complaint with the Federal Elections Commission accusing Mr. DeLay of luring him into the alleged donation scheme. A Democratic attempt to hold a House Government Reform Committee investigation was blocked by committee Chairman Dan Burton, R-Ind.

When someone confesses to a crime, I'm inclined to believe them. When they implicate Tom DeLay, well, I see scandal.

That brings the Scorecard total to 52 items, which can be seen, today and every day, in full at the Scandal Scorecard homepage.

Black like...

...well, not like the leadership of some of the more prominent "Black" conservative groups. Following up on Kweisi Mfume's charge that some of those groups are little more than "make-believe black organizations," and a "collection of black hustlers" who have adopted a conservative agenda in return for "a few bucks a head," Joshua Holland does a little digging at The Gadflyer and proves Kweisi correct.
...I tuned into C-SPAN with interest to hear what a leading voice in the black conservative movement had to say. But then a funny thing happened: the African-American spokesperson for Project 21 caught a flat on the way to the studio, and the group's director had to fill in. And he was white.

As the segment began there was an awkward Wizard of Oz moment as C-SPAN's Robb Harlston – himself black – turned to Project 21's Caucasian director, David Almasi, and said, "Um...Project 21... a program for conservative African Americans...you're not African American."
Project 21, a subsidiary of the National Center for Public Policy Research, has a white president and vice president to go with their white executive director. Of course, that's not surprising. Those are probably the folks that NCPPR's all white board of directors know best. Still, kind of unusual for an organization billed as a leading voice for Black conservatism, don't you think?

Well, not that unusual at all, it turns out. For instance, the African American Republican Leadership Council, has a 15 member Advisory Panel. 13 of them are white, including the Free Congress Foundation's Paul Weyrich, Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform, the Reverend Lou Sheldon, Gary Bauer of the Family Research Council, David Keene of the American Conservative Union, and Fox News host Sean Hannity.

Uh-huh. Champions of civil rights, each and every one.

There's nothing wrong with white folks, of course, but something here's not right.

What's Cooking?

It's hard to tell sometimes, unless you can afford a pricey sub to the National Journal. This link, though (via Mark Kleiman- thanks!) will get you a free email copy of Charlie Cook's weekly column, and insights like this encouraging news...
This race has settled into a place that is not at all good for an incumbent, is remarkably stable, and one that is terrifying many Republican lawmakers, operatives and activists.

You win some...

...and then you win some more.

Congrats to shiny new Congressman G.K. Butterfield, whose victory in NC-1 yesterday gave the House Democrats a clean sweep of this year's special elections. One more step on the road to Speaker Pelosi.

Keep 'em marching! Toss a buck or two at the Campaign for a New Majority. The Upper Left Majority Makers page would be a dandy place to do it...

Senate success

I've had occasion to praise the House lately, where Democrats have reached across the aisle to forge some alliances that have led to some legislative victories, but yesterday the Democratic Senators got some help to win one themselves...
The Senate today blocked confirmation of William Myers to the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Only 44 Senators voted to cut off debate, far fewer than the 60 required.
TalkLeft offers some insight into just how important it was to stop the Myers confirmation, courtesy of People For The American Way.
With no judicial experience, William Myers is one of the least qualified nominees the Bush Administration has put forward, and among the farthest from the mainstream of judicial philosophy. His record demonstrates his willingness to take his private-sector advocacy as a lobbyist for the mining and cattle industries directly to his job as a public servant at the Interior Department. His anti-environmental stance and disregard for the rights of Indian tribes have led to fierce opposition from environmental groups and tribal leaders.
Seems like I'm a little prouder to be a Democrat every day lately...and I was pretty damn proud in the first place.

There are always two sides...

...at the very least, and Sandy Berger's attorney, Lanny Breuer, fed Wolf some facts from another perspective yesterday


BLITZER: Let's talk about those notes for a second. Did he take notes -- did he take those notes from the room without authorization?

BREUER: He took notes and he did take them out. It's a violation of the Archives procedure. He took those notes. From the very beginning, he openly took the notes. He was allowed to take notes. And then he took the notes with him. He put them in his coat pocket and in his pants pocket...

BLITZER: He knew this was not authorized.

BREUER: Well, he knew it was a violation of Archives procedure. It's not against the law. No one has suggested to him it's against the law. The Department of Justice has not been concerned with it. And indeed, Wolf, in October, when the Archives contacted him, Sandy Berger returned those notes even though he wasn't asked for those notes.

BLITZER: I know Sandy Berger. You know Sandy Berger. Why would he violate Archives procedure?

BREUER: Because there's something more important than Archives procedure and that's the hard work of the 9/11 commission. Sandy Berger knew that he was going to be asked questions about what happened in the early '90s and mid '90s and that the 9/11 commission and the families of those victims had a right to know what happened.

BLITZER: You know that eyewitnesses, staffers at the National Archives say they saw him stuffing documents in his jacket, in his pants. And one even said he saw Sandy Berger put something in his socks.

BREUER: And you know that's categorically false and ridiculous.

****

BLITZER: Where is -- where does the criminal probe right now stand? You've been informed that your client, Samuel Berger, is under criminal investigation.

BREUER: I've been told since October that he was no more than a subject of this investigation. I was told to draw absolutely no negative inferences whatsoever from the fact that this investigation had been going on. I've been told by the Department of Justice that they couldn't be more pleased with the manner in which Sandy Berger and I have been handling this and have been cooperative. And I've been told that the Department of Justice had wanted to get this resolved.

The only thing that I had asked was that this not become a partisan affair and that people who didn't understand the facts would start making assertions. And, Wolf, that's exactly what happened this week when someone in the administration, some law enforcement person decided it was time to leak the document and treat this investigation not seriously.
There's more, and I'm glad that Berger's side of the story got at least some of the attention in the midst of the political feeding frenzy orchestrated by the Republicans yesterday, but it's a sad day when that kind of partisan combat shoves a story like the following down the page.

BLITZER: In Iraq, two U.S. Marines and two U.S. soldiers were killed west of Baghdad in an area that's been the scene of fierce fighting. The deaths raised the number of American troops killed in the war to 902. And in Basra, gunmen killed an Iraqi Council member along with his bodyguard and driver. It's the third straight days suspected insurgents have killed a prominent Iraqi government or political figure.
Priorities, people. Priorities.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Why legislate...

...when you can insinuate?

Port and airport security are in the news today. For instance, there's Senator Gordon Smith (R-OR).
"The American people deserve better than this. And frankly, we expect more than this."
Is he talking about the ineffectiveness of our container inspection program? The miles and miles of unpatrolled coastland? the ineffectiveness of the airport screening procedures?

Nope, he's just trying to score political points against John Kerry.

It seems that some of the documents that Sandy Berger carried away inadvertently from the National Archives while preparing for his 9/11 Commission testimony had to do with port and airport security, and John Kerry has, not suprisingly, urged that port and airport security be improved. He's hardly the only one. Up here in the Upper Left, our own Senator Patty Murray has been all over the issue for approximately forever.

But why address the issue when you can issue inuendo?

Smith's hardly the only guilty party. For instance, there's Bill "No-Budget" Frist.
The Republican majority leader, Senator Bill Frist of Tennessee, told reporters in the Capitol he did not know whether the classified documents that Mr. Berger took had been sent to the Kerry campaign. "But I think it's pretty interesting that the press is now reporting that these documents had to do with airport security and seaport security, and that those are two areas where the Kerry campaign has seemed to focus on relative to alleged deficiencies in homeland security," Mr. Frist said.
I don't know whether Dr. Frist has sexual relations with domesticated animals, but I think it's pretty interesting that Bill Frist is from Tennessee, and there are pregnant dogs in Tennessee.

The borders are a problem, folks. Fishing for political leverage isn't a solution.


Update: Josh Marshall explains why it's silly season in the Senate.
That makes no sense. As someone who runs in those circles, I can tell you that there are at least half a dozen Democratic think-tank homeland security mavens who will happily go on about port security with you until you're ready to strangle them, or even until you do strangle them.

The thought that Kerry needed Sandy Berger to pilfer one of Richard Clarke's after-reports about the millenium terror alerts to get whatever boilerplate he discussed at this particular press conference is truly ridiculous....

If you're keeping score...

Matt Yglesias offers a handy half-time recap...

This much we know:

Joe Wilson's credibility: Not so hot, but not totally destroyed.

Niger Claim, strong version (Iraq got uranium): Dead.

Niger Claim, intermediate version (Iraq was likely to get uranium): Dead.

Niger Claim, weak version (Iraq sought uranium, but couldn't get it): Not so hot, but not totally destroyed.
And above all...

Exposing the identity of a covert CIA operative for partisan purposes: Still illegal.

Kossacks Go Krazy!

When Pennsylvania Republican Jim Greenwood decided to drop his re-election effort, it had to be one of the happiest days of Democratic candidate Ginny Schrader's life. She instantly moved from 'sacrificial lamb' to 'contender' in the eyes of many, not the least of those being the folks out there in the blogosphere who started kicking in dollars to a campaign that had generated little previous interest. She pulled in about 20 grand in an afternoon, basically doubling her take to date. It's not much in the grand scale of things, really (estimates of the price of a winning campaign in PA-8 run about $750,000), but it's a start.

I'm sure the news caught her by surprise, and she wasn't the only one. For any number of reasons, not the least of which was her status as a challenger against a popular incumbent, Schader wasn't on anyone's target list. There are hundreds of Democratic Congressional candidates, and even the Press Secretary of the DCCC is bound to come up a bit short on the details of each and every one of those. That's no doubt why Greg Speed was pretty generic in his comments to The Hill when they called for comment.
This is a very good opportunity for a Democratic pickup. This a district that is every day becoming Democratic," said Greg Speed, spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

"Bucks County was carried by [Gov.] Ed Rendell [D-Pa.] by over 50,000 votes. We're watching developments closely and are optimistic should the seat open up," Speed said.

Speed declined to comment on whether Schrader could -- or even would -- be replaced with another candidate
Uh-oh.

Because Speed wouldn't respond to an unsourced rumor the Hill reporter was flogging that Democrats might be looking for a more formidable candidate now that the seat is open, Kos went off. And when Kos goes off, the Kossacks go wild. Of course, Speed also declined to comment on whether Schrader should be replaced, and on an incalculable number of other topics. Apparently Speed has somehow failed to maintain a knowledge of Pennsylvania election law, primary schedules, candidate profiles, and who knows what else at his fingertips. Based on the verb tenses he used, "...should the seat open up...", he doesn't even seem to be on Jim Greenwood's speed dial! There was stuff he actually didn't know! And he actually didn't talk about what he didn't know! Unlike, of course, those of us in the armchair punditocracy of the internet, who know all, and say more.

Not only did the DKos comments start to flow, but the overflow vitriol hit the DCCC blog, The Stakeholder, prompting Jesse Lee, the erstwhile blogger-in-chief there, to post a late night note that he didn't have any comment on Speed's non-comment. That only made matters worse, of course. How could anyone fail to instantly recognize the magnificance of Ginny Schrader! Hasn't every Democratic primary winner from time immemorial been the ideal candidate? And don't those DCCC staffers make the big bucks to maintain a close personal relationship with each and every one of them?

Now, maybe Kos was already intimately familiar with the race, but I, at least, didn't know a damn thing about Ginny Schrader, and having spent a couple hours reading her website and googling all the press coverage I could find of her race to date, I still don't know a whole lot. Seems like she's a very nice person, with a wonderful family, who has made her living as a staff attorney for an insurance company until she got excited about politics a couple years ago. She's got some fine boilerplate platititudes on a variety of issues, a handful of endorsements from her county Party, some elected officials and what I suppose are some prominent locals. Her endorsement list doesn't, curiously, include a single labor union, environmental group, women's organization, teacher's organization, civil rights organization or any other meaningful Democratic constituency (given her profession, I wouldn't expect to find the trial lawyers on the list, but not a single union? Not even a local? Whassup, Ginny?)

She also hasn't, to this point, got enough money to compete. Maybe the Kossacks will change all that. I hope so, but there's a long, long way to go. Maybe the union PACs will jump aboard now. I hope she merits and recieves their support. Maybe the DCCC will target the seat now that it's open. That would be good.

But trashing the DCCC because they weren't ready with a blogger-approved response to a blind question from a Capitol Hill reporter (and we still don't know what the question that Speed offered the 'no comment' response to was) is just silly, folks. There was no suggestion, from Greg Speed, Jesse Lee or any named source at all, that Ginny Schrader could, would or should be replaced. There is word from Schrader herself that "No one has asked me to step aside and I would not step aside."

I know that there's substantial suspicion of the Party heirarchy out there. Some of it is doubtless justified, but not over this. If Ginny Schrader is going to get elected, it will probably involve some degree of cooperation with the DCCC. If she's elected and hopes to be effective, it's going to take some degree of cooperation with the Caucus. Let's not poison the well, for her or anyone else.

If you want to drop some dollars on Schrader, you can do it right here.

But she's one of hundreds. While you're doing that, how about spreading a little of the wealth. You can help a bunch of folks at once by sharing a little with the Campaign for a New Majority right here.

Meanwhile, maybe some of y'all know what Ms. Schrader's position on plaintiff's rights might be. And why the unions have been so shy with their support.

And take a deep breath. There's an enemy out there, but they don't work for the DCCC. Really.

What's wrong with Ralph?

The never-ending story.

Today's words of wisdom come via The Whiskey Bar, on the heels of the Nader campaign's decision to go ahead and accept those Republican signatures in Michigan after all...
...Ralph's motives are immaterial now. The point is that he has joined (to borrow Saruman's phrasing) with the enemy. And so has become the enemy.

Which, as far as I'm concerned, means the Democrats should use any legal and feasible means to keep Nader off the ballot in as many states as possible. And more power to them. Ralph's a lemon - the political equivalent of a '65 Corvair. He needs to be recalled and scrapped, to keep the Republicans from using him to run George Bush's real opponents off the road.
Billmon's on a roll. Read the whole thing.

Monday, July 19, 2004

So it's come to this...

White House spokesman Scott McClellan pointed to Mongolia's continued presence in the coalition as evidence of its strength...
Yep, the strength of our coalition and the international prestige of our nation seems to rest in the hands of our 180 Mongolian allies.

While the withdrawal of the Philippines 51 man contingent from Iraq has captured headlines, it may be the least of the problems the US faces in holding together its 'coalition.' The original group of 32 countries has now dwindled to 27 (Spain, Honduras, Nicaragua, and the Dominican Republic having withdrawn before the Philippines) and of those remaining, some are mere shadows of their previously meager selves. Singapore has drawn down its forces from 191 to 33, Norway has pulled 140 of its 155 combat engineers. Moldava's 42 troops have been drawn down to 12, and while Australia plans to reinforce its delegation to bring it to a total of 880, that's actually less than half the number originally comitted for the invasion, and most of the Aussies aren't in Iraq at all, but offshore in sea and air support postitions.

Thailand and New Zealand plan to be gone by September and the Polish government has announced that its forces will be cut in half by the time of the elections scheduled for January, although a UN resolution calls for Poland to maintain some presence through 2005.

Many of the withdrawals have come from internal pressures in the coalition countries (even relative stalwarts, like Italy, are remaining on razor thin parlimentary approvals that could shift at any time), and there's little happening on the ground to reassure them. There have been three major offensives in the Iraqi war, and while the initial battle for Baghdad was argubably a victory, it contained the seeds of the subsequent defeats in the pacification attempt in Fallujah and Sadrist uprising.

Yes, defeats. Two months following the pullout of the US Marines at Fallujah, the city is off limits to coalition forces, with the Fallujah Brigade holding sway over a city described as "a den of terrorists and a refuge for foreign Muslim fighters waging global jihad..." The only response available to American forces has been a series of bombing raids which US officials claim are aimed at safe houses used by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Residents dispute the claims, which are impossible to verify. Certainly, Fallujah could be retaken, but the cost of the door to door urban warfare that would be required is a price that American officials seem unwilling to pay. Fallujah is just one of the areas that was left unpacified and insecure in the rush to Baghdad, a strategy that was necessitated by the refusal to commit an adequate force for an effective occupation following the original invasion.

That failure also led to what can only be counted as a defeat in the Sadrist uprising this spring. Launched with the expressed goal of capturing the Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, it led to al-Sadr's Mahdi Army capturing a number of underdefended cities in southern Iraq while solidifying their hold on the Baghdad ghetto called Sadr City, and although much of the ground was recaptured and thousands of Sadrist fighters were killed, al-Sadr himself, rather than being "brought to justice," found his prestige among the Shiite rank and file enhanced and is now being courted politically by the interim government. Symbolic of that courtship is the decision of Prime Minister Allawi to approve the reopening of the Sadrist newspaper, Al-Hawza, the closure of which was one of the main events provoking the uprising.

Having lost two major military campaigns and steadily losing even the token support of our token coalition partners, it's harder every day to judge Iraq as anything less than the first defeat of the United States in the 21st century. It's clear that the current administration hasn't learned enough to make it the last. The fate of Iraq remains uncertain, but there's no doubt that the fate of the US depends on domestic regime change this November.


Unsurprisingly....

Common Cause and Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington see eye to eye...
Two government watchdog groups asked the House ethics committee Thursday to appoint an independent counsel to investigate a complaint that House Majority Leader Tom DeLay traded political contributions for legislative favors.
Unsurprisingly, DeLay disagrees...
A spokesman said DeLay opposes the groups' request.
...but there must be some investigator, somewhere, that DeLay hasn't paid off.

Hey, if it was good enough for Jim Wright and Newt Gingrich, it must be good enough for DeLay.

Hey, I'm the first to admit it...

...math is hard.

That's why I majored in poli sci instead of engineering, after all. Even someone with a lifelong bias for essay questions over equations can tell that the Bushco claims of economic recovery are overblown, though, and you don't have to take my word for it. I'll yield to Scott Lilly's facility with crunching numbers, and his ability to put them in terms that even social science students can understand in his latest report on the job market for the Center for American Progress.
During the first six months of 2004 employment grew from 130,035,000 in December to 131,301,000 in June or by 0.97%. Is that significantly better than previous six month periods? The answer is no. When compared to the first and last six months of each year for the last 50 years, this past six months ranks 59th out of the 100 — in other words not only not great, but not even quite middling.

Does the performance improve if we examine only the last quarter? The second quarter was a little better than the first and certainly was the best of this administration. But a very similar comparison emerges for the second quarter when compared to the 199 other quarters in the last 50 years. The 0.51% increase in employment in the second quarter of 2004 was exceeded by 116 of the 199 other quarters. Again, a performance that did not reach the median for job growth.
More, (with color coded charts for the visual learners in the audience) behind this link.

A real pro life President...

The New York Times opines...
...President Arroyo deluded herself into thinking she could actually do something about the situation, and has now allowed the kidnappers to alter Filipino policy. One can understand the desire to save a life, but Manila's retreat will only place all other foreign nationals in Iraq in greater peril.
Really? What evidence is there to support that notion?

In fact, the willingness of other nations to sacrifice their citizens rather than negotiate with their captors did nothing at all to keep the Filipino hostage out of peril. It's only the willingness of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to accelerate the already scheduled withdrawal of her country's token force (if it wasn't in the papers, would anyone even know that the 51 Filipinos were gone?), a presence that was unpopular at home at any rate, in order to save the life of Angelo de la Cruz.

A President who places the life of a citizen above blind adherence to meaningless symbolism. What a concept!

The truth is, the people who sieze and murder hostages will do so without respect to the response. The notion that there's an appropriate 'one size fits all' response is ridiculous. The withdrawal of the Filipino forces from Iraq will have no substantive effect on the war one way or another. It will neither provoke nor deter future kidnappings and murders. The choice set before President Arroyo wasn't whether to encourage or discourage the behavior of madmen. It was to whether to prop up George Bush's pretense of an effective 'coalition' or protect the life of one of her citizens.

She chose life.

Good enough for me, and good for President Arroyo.

Sunday, July 18, 2004

As analogies go...

...this one's as good as I've seen. Via Blogitics:
Imagine getting your car fixed. It’s seriously damaged and you know it’ll take awhile. About half-way through the process, you check up on the mechanic’s progress only to find everything completely wrong. The steering wheel is in the back seat, one wheel is on the roof. Nearly everything’s broken- worse, in fact, than when you dropped it off. You naturally decide you’re going to take your car elsewhere and tell the mechanic. Rather than apologizing, or at least admitting to even the slightest of failures, he confidently tells you to give him another few weeks and insists everything’s going great.

Would you believe him and give him some more time?

Somebody didn't get somebody's memo...

The President, in his weekly radio address.
...We are making progress in changing the culture of America from one that said, "if it feels good, do it; and if you've got a problem, blame somebody else," to a culture in which each of us understands we are responsible for the decisions we make in life.
The Vice President, on spouting obscenities on the Senate floor.
"I expressed myself rather forcefully, felt better after I had done it," Cheney said.

I'm humbled...

...by the work of a master.

Digby has pounded out the best damn blog post of the weekend. Maybe the week. Possibly the year.

Hell, it might be the best ever.

You're not there yet?

John Kerry - Butt Kicking DA

The LA Times has the details.
It was at the Middlesex district attorney's office that Kerry got his first extensive management experience. He nearly tripled the size of the operation, introduced specialized units and won a conviction of the man once suspected to be the state's notorious "Torso Killer."

And it was there that he displayed qualities that would become trademarks of his almost 20-year U.S. Senate career — a willingness to work long hours, an enormous appetite for the details of policy and an interest in digging deep into controversial topics...
This is a John Kerry a lot of people don't know yet, and one I think a lot of people are going to like.

Saturday, July 17, 2004

Values? Oh, puhleeeze go there!

David Brooks, not content with slamming Kerry for a perceived (by Brooks, at least) lack of overt religiosity, launches a more generalized 'values' attack, with a somewhat bizarre class warfare twist, in today's New York Times.
When Kerry uses the word "values," it's meant to send a message: I am not who I am. I am not the blue-blooded prep-school kid who married two millionaires, dated a movie star and has a prenup and umpteen homes in tony locales; who has spent the past two decades as a moderately liberal senator from Massachusetts; and who likes to snowboard at Sun Valley and windsurf off Nantucket. I'm just your back-fence neighbor in Mayberry, out there in overalls, sidlin' over to the fence to chat: "Howdy neighbor! Would you like to come visit for a spell and hear about my values of faith, hope and opportunity?"
This is in contrast to the blue-blooded prep-school kid who, during his decades as an alky, used family connections to avoid service in the active duty military, run a few companies into the ground and get planted on a few corporate boards before becoming a visciously conservative governor from Texas, who likes to pre-emptively invade countries and undermine civil liberties.

Some choice, huh?

Of course, Brooks, whose own journey has been from big city college boy to a couple of decades hanging with the media elite in places like New York City, Washington, D.C. and Brussells (that's a suburb of France, right?), exposes his own contempt for 'Mayberry' with his crude stereotype. He's hardly in a position to pass judgement on anyone's values, especially John Kerry's.

Posting at Eschaton, Athenae nails the problem with the 'values' debate as people like Brooks and Bush would define it...
I could go on all day with this nonsense, but the real reason it irritates me is that every time Bush talks about "values," it's code word for God, manners and pissing in a cup after lunch hour. And if you need child care, or housing assistance, well, those aren't subjects to be talked about under the guise of "values." Those don't "strengthen communities."
...and offers an alternate view with which I heartily agree, and on which our opponents can't compete.
It's time for a radical redefinition of what constitutes the "values issues" in this election. Instead of trying to be slightly less craven than the other guy, slightly less offensive on what Bush defines as "values issues," we should raise our own, what we consider "values." And then make him try to out-liberal us.
What kind of values can liberals in general, and Kerry in particular, win on? How about a commitment to the service of others even when that involves risk to self. Faith so deep, so genuine, that it need not be spoken. Compassion that's reflected in deeds, not words. Gratitude enough for what some of us have to provide an avenue for advancement to the rest of us. The honesty to recognize a mistake and the integrity to correct it.

Sorry Mr. Brooks, values aren't about a down-home facility for fracturing the language, or a up-town facility for op-ed snark. Values are a reflection of a life led and lessons learned, and they're reflected in qualities like courage and compassion. When it comes to values, people like Brooks and Bush aren't in the same league as John Kerry. I know it, and come November, the folks in America's Mayberrys, who are a lot sharper than you give them credit for, will know it too.

Come home, Amy...

...all is forgiven. Or, if not, I'm sure we can work it out.

Ms. Sullivan finally gets it right...to a point.
When it comes to talking about faith in politics, I think John Kerry is right and George W. Bush is absolutely wrong. It's true that Kerry is reticient when talking about his personal faith -- but that's not only okay, that recognizes the fact that many Americans don't want their politicians to wear religion on their sleeves. Bush's constant references to his own religiosity are inappropriate and often unpopular.
OK, then. We agree.

Now, Amy, stop writing articles with titles like "Preach It Brother" that slam Kerry that claim he's decided to "stop talking about faith" and "steered clear of all mention of religion." Stop posting about the campaign's need to make religious messages "part of their overall communications and policy strategy." Stop saying things like "If you listen to Bush and Kerry talk, you would be excused for thinking Bush is an incredibly religious man and Kerry is not [religious] at all" to Washington Post reporters - or anyone else for that matter.

If you really believe this...
No one is saying -- and I certainly have not said -- that John Kerry should start talking like an evangelical, that he needs to give testimonials about how much his experience as an altar boy has shaped his life, or that he should start spouting religious language that he doesn't believe just to make voters happy.
...stop putting yourself in the position of explaining that that's really what you believe.

You've convinced me. I really believe you're on the side of the good guys, Amy. I really believe you have the best of intentions. I even believe you have the right answer.
"When it comes to talking about faith in politics, I think John Kerry is right and George W. Bush is absolutely wrong."
Perfect. Next time someone asks, say that and then turn quickly away.

Doo dah, doo dah....

Watch for Bush to make a big 'inclusivity' push for the next few days, hauling Paige, Powell and Rice before the cameras and hugging every kid of color he can find in a prelude to his scheduled appearance before the Urban League, as Mr. 'Uniter, not a divider' pits one civil rights group against another.

While Bush sets the stage, though, Bob Herbert paints a realistic backdrop in the New York Times, pointing out just what kind of show the R's are putting on in the barn out back...
Four years ago, on the first night of the Republican convention, a parade of blacks was hauled before the television cameras (and the nearly all-white audience in the convention hall) to sing, to dance, to preach and to praise a party that has been relentlessly hostile to the interests of blacks for half a century.

I wrote at the time that "you couldn't tell whether you were at the Republican National Convention or the Motown Review."

That exercise in modern-day minstrelsy was supposed to show that Mr. Bush was a new kind of Republican, a big-tent guy who would welcome a more diverse crowd into the G.O.P. That was fiction. It wasn't long before black voters would find themselves mugged in Florida, and soon after that Mr. Bush was steering the presidency into a hard-right turn.
It's still fiction, of course.

Black, brown, white working class, out of work, sick, tired, old...it seems like no matter what societal subdivision you find yourself in, there's one abiding truth.

George Bush doesn't care about you.

OK, it's a start...

WASHINGTON -- President George W. Bush said Friday he will return a campaign donation after the Free Press reported on an Iraqi-American donor from Michigan who had business dealings with former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's government.

So now will he send Rummy back to wherever he belongs, too?



Friday, July 16, 2004

Demand the evidence!

Another Atrios sub, pie, offers this at Eschaton

Bush attacks hard-working Cubans
Bush, in Florida, Assails Castro on Sex Tourism

TAMPA, Fla. (Reuters) - President Bush accused Cuba's Fidel Castro on Friday of welcoming sex tourism and contributing to a global problem of human trafficking, as he courted Cuban voters in Florida, a pivotal state in the election.
Which leaves me wondering if Jack Ryan has the pictures to prove it...

Tales of New Iraq®

Here's a little something for Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi's new secret police to look into...
Iyad Allawi, the new Prime Minister of Iraq, pulled a pistol and executed as many as six suspected insurgents at a Baghdad police station, just days before Washington handed control of the country to his interim government, according to two people who allege they witnessed the killings.

They say the prisoners - handcuffed and blindfolded - were lined up against a wall in a courtyard adjacent to the maximum-security cell block in which they were held at the Al-Amariyah security centre, in the city's south-western suburbs.
892 American soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen have died to put this man in power.

Way New™
brand sovereignty by Bushco®. Makes ya proud, don't it?


If it's Friday...

...you just know I'm bound to steal some of whatever's in the space that Pierce borrows from Alterman. As usual, there's something particularly good to share.
So, now we are faced with the question: Do you want to live in a country where these people no longer feel even the vaporous restraints of having another election to win?

BUSH-CHENEY UNLEASHED. Up or down? Yes or no?

That's the only issue that matters.
Of course, there's more, and it's even better if you read the whole thing.

217 Cheers for Congress!

That's how many votes were assembled (156 of them from Democrats, I note with appropriate partisan pride) to put the smack down on the Saudis yesterday.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Lawmakers cheered as the House of Representatives voted on Thursday to strip financial assistance for Saudi Arabia from a foreign aid bill because of criticism that the country has not been sufficiently cooperative in the U.S. war on terror.

The vote was a stinging defeat for the Bush Administration which had strongly opposed the measure...
Good on the 60 reasonable Republicans who did the right thing, too, and, of course, my favorite independent, Bernie Sanders of Vermont. It may seem symbolic, since the amount cut was only $25,000, but it's an important symbol, and the implications extend beyond the dollar amount.
The funds were designated for military training but approval would have triggered millions of dollars in discounts on hardware and other military training, lawmakers said.
More cheers, too, for the 187 Democrats who teamed up with 82 Republicans and Bernie on a vote to bar some federal loans to companies that have escaped paying some federal taxes by moving offshore.

The minority is starting to look pretty muscular - just imagine what could be accomplished by Speaker Pelosi leading a Democratic Majority! You can help make that happen by tossing them a little financial ammunition or just signing up for the team at the Campaign for a New Majority.

Low Bid America?

I don't pay too much attention to the shenanigans of the Governator down south of here, but it's a fact that as goes The Golden State, so goes America on many issues, so you really can't ignore Gov. Schwarzenegger altogether, especially when he's in the midst of what's being called "...his most forceful public condemnation of Democratic lawmakers." The current brouhaha is over the state budget, which is two weeks overdue (although that's nothing compared to the federal budget, which may never appear). The Governor, frustrated because some folks have actually had the temerity to publically disagree with his decrees, proclaims
"Nothing in the state gets done, because as soon as you start becoming partisan and as soon as the parties start fighting — the infighting — and the special interests get involved, we start not representing the people, but representing the special interests, then there's chaos here."
So, what's the source of all the turmoil? Two things, basically. One is the Democratic majority's reluctance to repeal the so-called "sue your boss" law, which gives employees who have been wronged in the workplace redress in the courts. What, exactly, that has to do with the state budget is unclear, but it upsets the business community, so it upsets the Governator. So, employees are a 'special interest,' and employers are 'the people' in the Schwarzenegger model of Lotus Land.

The other issue does directly impact the state education budget. The Republicans want to (surprise!) expand the ability of schools to contract out services like transportation. Here's how the Gov frames it.
"Why would we go and give the money so much needed for education in this state to the union drivers rather than keeping it right in the classroom?" Schwarzenegger asked. "I always said in my campaign the children should have the first call on our treasury, not the drivers. They should be able to contract out to the lowest bidder."
First of all, it sounds like his problem is the union, not the drivers, but what about the children? Does he really think, can anyone really think, that it's best for the kids to put them on a bus selected on the basis of the lowest bid? Shouldn't things experience, professionalism, safety and quality of maintainence be at least part of the equation when the transportation of kids is involved? Even if it bumps the bid a couple bucks? Let's face it, it doesn't really matter how many dollars you put in the classroom if the kids crash enroute.

My kids rode busses operated under an SEIU contract. I don't know how much extra we paid for the privilege, but the peace of mind was worth it. I don't want to live in Arnold's "Low Bid America."

Psychic Science?

Dr. Jean Peduzzi-Nelson of the University of Alabama at Birmingham seems to have missed her calling. Rather than offering 'expert' testimony to the Senate Commerce science subcommittee, she ought to be running a psychic hotline. After all, she has enough confidence in her extra-sensory communication with the spirit world to assure the committee that "There is no doubt that President Reagan would not favor federal support of research using human embryos."

Funny, that's information that seems unavailable to Reagan's widow and son, who one presumes might have insight into his opinions at least equal to Dr. Peduzzi-Nelson's.

The UAB researcher's comment spoiled the day for the committee chair, Sen. Sam Brownback, who attempted to stage a "good news hearing" on adult stem cell research, skirting the issue of embryonic stem cells altogether. Peduzzi-Nelson opened the door, though, prompting Senator Frank Lautenberg to ask the obvious. "Are you a member of a pro-life committee?" Lautenberg inquired, and the Doctor ducked, responding "Whether I'm pro-life or pro-choice, I wish all these types of things could be kept out of the discussion." But all those types of things can't be kept out, of course, because people like Peduzzi-Nelson are reduced to channelling support from the afterlife, while those whose agenda is the actual advancement of medical science advocate research in the land of the living. For instance...

Robert Goldstein, chief scientific officer of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation International, said the embryonic cells show much more promise for treating diabetes than adult cells do. "Pursue both avenues simultaneously and with equal vigor," Goldstein said. Irving Weissman, a Stanford University scientist and a leading advocate of embryonic stem cell research, also said both approaches hold tremendous promise.

Me? I'm still waiting for the hearings on the Ronald Reagan Medical Research Act of 2004.

Thursday, July 15, 2004

"...invaluable..."

I didn't say it.  And it wasn't my Mom, either.  Certainly the Brilliant and Beautiful Bride of Upper Left knows better.
 
That's what they called Upper Left at the DCCC blog, The Stakeholder, though, and I harbor no false modesty. I appreciate the compliment.  Thanks, Jesse!
 
The kind word appears in the intro to a guest post by yours truly that appears as part of The Stakeholder Blog Tour.  Watch for a reciprocal post here in the near future.  Meanwhile, hop over there to see what I said, and to get good news like this...

Washington, D.C. - The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) out-raised the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) by $2.2 million ($9.2 million vs. $7.0 million) in June, according to numbers released by the NRCC today. The DCCC is also nearly at parity with the NRCC in cash-on-hand - $20.2 million vs. $18.5 million.
"...nearly at parity..."  Sounds good, but not quite great.  Now, if you want to do something truly invaluable, you could throw the DCCC a few bucks, and give them the tools to go toe to toe with the R's.  If you use this link you might even send me to Boston in the process! 
 
Update:  Links fixed thanks to the alertness of Carl from the Washington State Political Report.  Thanks, Carl!
 

Massachusetts dreamin'...

...on a summer day.

When the DNC offered credentials to a few dozen bloggers, I didn't bother to put in an application. I've already done a national convention on a shoe string, having spent a few days sharing a cell...err...room in a Manhattan YMCA in '92, and I figured the cross country travel expenses alone put the idea out of reach this year.

The DCCC has offered up a deal I can't resist, though. As part of their Majority Makers program, they're giving away five all expenses trips to Boston, including credentials, to the top five fundraisers between now and Friday, July 23. It's a lot like the Kerry Core deal, except these dollars go toward the drive to pick up the 11 seats that make the dream of Speaker Pelosi come true.

Anyway, I set up a Majority Makers page, and if you'd like to help Upper Left move cross country for a few days to blog the convention, this is your chance. Maybe you'd just like to see a Democratic majority in the House of Representatives (which I would trade for 100 trips to Boston, or anywhere else). Either way, it would be grand if the folks who enjoy this blog decided to express their appreciation by chipping in a few bucks to the DCCC.

Even if you're as short of spare change as I am, hop over and sign up on the DCCC email list. They're doing some great stuff, and you should be keeping track.

And we're proud of it!

Tom McPhail, a journalism professor at the University of Missouri, offers this description of bloggers in USA Today.
"They're certainly not committed to being objective. They thrive on rumor and innuendo."
Apparently, Prof. McPhail thought that was a criticism, which only proves he doesn't know enough about us to offer a meaningful opinion.

Some of us, in fact, are Proudly Partisan.

Blame Bush

I have to admit that I was a little stunned by this graph I found over at The Talent Show.


 

I mean, I knew he had a compliant congress, and has been generally disengaged from domestic matters since he vested himself fully in his self designated role as a 'War President', but I would have thought he'd have used his executive authority at least a couple times. It's the traditional way, after all, for a President to show that he's in charge, making 'tough decisions' to reign in the excesses of the legislative branch. It's the ultimate expression of Presidential swagger, and no President has ever swaggered like this President. But it turns out that the Presidential signature is just a rubber stamp for Frist and DeLay.

As Greg at The Talent Show says,

"Despite his tough talk, when it comes to pressing the Congress to fall in line with his stated agenda, Bush hasn't acted even once. Without ever distancing himself from the Congressional leadership, Bush has painted himself into a corner that he'll have a hard time getting out of. Unlike past presidents, Bush doesn't get to blame the explosion in federal spending (or weakened environmental laws, lack of adequate homeland security funding, prescription drug 'benefits' that hurt seniors, etc.) on the Congress. One can only assume that Bush's failure to issue any vetoes is a tacit endorsement of everything that the 107th and 108th Congresses have passed.


That's everything. No passing the buck. No one else to blame. His fault.

Fire him.


Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Everybody sing!

They're beginning to look a lot like Fascists
Ev'rywhere you go
Take a look in the Pentagon,
infested with neocons
With culture wars and media whores aglow

They're beginning to look a lot like Fascists
Toys for ev'ry war
But the prettiest sight to see
is the brownshirt that will be
At your own front door...

Lambert's got more at Corrente. Go see.

Fifty and fabulous!



Just one addition to the Upper Left Scandal Scorecard this week, because that brings us to fifty - count 'em - separate instances of reportable wrongdoing by the DC Republicans. I've done my best to keep a balance between the Executive branch and the Congress, but it's been largely a thankless chore. With the Execs logging 36 of the first 49 entries, it's hard to believe that the GOP Congresscritters are even trying.

Still, there is on standout player - an all-star on anybody's scandal scorecard - who deserves a day of his own, a time to shine in the scandal spotlight. He's the guy that's offered more help in balancing the score than you could expect of mere mortal man. Of course, I'm talking about Tom "The Hammer" DeLay.

I'm playing a bit loose with my self imposed rules to include #50 on the Scandal Scorecard.The investigation into the ethical implications of the offense hasn't actually begun. It may not, in fact, it will probably will not begin. That doesn't mean there's nothing there, though. It just leaves us wondering, who does watch the watchmen. Via Eschaton...
Of the five Republicans investigating an ethics complaint against House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, four have received campaign contributions from DeLay's political action committee, splitting $28,504 over the past seven years, records show.
Yep. Reps Kenny Hulshof of Missouri, Steven LaTourette, Judy Biggert of Illinois, Doc Hastings have all received PAC money controlled by the man whose control of PAC money they're charged with investigating. Only the Chairman, Joel Hefley of Colorado hasn't taken any PAC dollars from DeLay.

So, if we're going to hold the Committee to any reasonable standard related to appearance of impropriety, well, we'll need to go to another level, right? We need a special investigative subcommittee, with Members of Congress who have held themselves beyond conflict and above reproach, right? Members who have caught the Speaker's attention as particularly suited for such a purpose.

Oops.
In addition, DeLay's PAC gave money to most members of the "ethics pool," a group designated by House Speaker Dennis Hastert to serve on potential investigative subcommittees. The PAC contributed $65,902 to eight of the 10 Republican members...
The depth of DeLay's personal corruption is such that its stench lingers wherever he passes.

As always, you can find this particular fume logged with the other 49 entries at the Upper Left Scandal Scorecard homepage.

Left out?

Or just out of it?

As low as my regard for Ralph Nader is these days, I'm still willing to concede that there may be a few well-meaning, if misguided, progressives mixed in among his ranks of Republican signature gatherers. I know some fine people who are frustrated by the failure of the Democratic Party to put forward a leftist candidate with a leftist agenda, but the simple fact is that the Democratic Party isn't a leftist party. It's a centrist party influenced, but not dominated by a liberal wing. Right now, in fact, the liberal wing is somewhat ascendent, with one of its central figures having captured the Presidential nomination, and another holding the highest position in the House caucus.

Still, American liberalism isn't really a leftist political philosophy. It just plays one in a government dominated by radicals who have stolen the mantle of conservatism. Liberalism is the American mainstream, although it's been in exile for a bit, largely due to the effective propaganda of the radical Republicans. Liberalism will never fully satisfy the genuine left, but the genuine left simply hasn't made its case to Americans. Not in our history, not in our present, and not in the forseeable future.

But there are leftists out there, and they can choose to be irrelevant in the context of election politics, or they can order from the menu offered. I'm absolutely not one of those who feels that we need to make any concessions whatsoever to Nader in order to appeal to those folks, but I do think it's still worthwhile to appeal to them on the basis of simple reason and common decency. If they ignore the appeals, well, we just have to work on the voters we can reach, and leave the ideologues in the dust.

With that in mind, here are a couple appeals to left leaning Naderites that bear repeating.

Matt Yglesias scores some telling points on his personal blog.
To steal a point from Eric Alterman, the truly astounding thing about the Nader program is that it proposes to build a progressive movement in America by taking steps condemned by every labor union, ever civil rights group, and feminist group, every gay and lesbian group, and every environmental group of any note in America. It would seem that working people, racial minorities, gays and lesbians, and environmentalists all feel that a Democratic administration would offer them a thing or two.

I could go on. Suffice it to say that unless the Left for some reason doesn't care about the interests of poor people and unpopular minority groups, John Kerry is offering them quite a bit more than nothing. Is he offering them everything? No. Is he offering me everything? No. I want an assault rifle in every garage, developers running roughshod over local zoning ordinances, and draconian measure to limit CEO pay. And it looks to me like it's not going to happen. But I'll take lower premiums, health care for millions of additional citizens, cleaner air, fairer treatment of the sexually unorthodox, and a higher minimum wage. If that stuff is "nothing" to you, then I don't know what your problem is.
And Jesse Berney makes the case as plainly as it can be made at the DNC blog, Kicking Ass.
Look, this election is no longer about rejecting the failed policies of George W. Bush (although that's certainly a nice benefit). It's about John Kerry's vision for making a stronger, better America. And as Matt points out, that means a higher minimum wage, fewer people without health insurance, more kids going to college, and much more.
This election is about bringing real results that will change the lives of real people for the better. And that's why John Kerry is the right choice.
Real results for real people.

Yep, that's our ticket.

The heroes come home to roost.

When Atrios went on vacation, he called up the reserves, and his subs arrived fully trained and ready to serve. My guess is that given the chance, they'd happily re-up. Not so for the troops returning from Iraq, though, according to this item supplied by Eschaton reservist Holden.
JASPER, Ind. -- Almost two-thirds of Indiana National Guardsmen in a battalion that spent a year in Iraq chose not to re-enlist when their service time expired.

Over the past 21 months, the service contracts of 102 soldiers in the 1st Battalion of the 152nd Regiment expired. Of those, 32, or less than one-third, chose to re-enlist.
The unit typically keeps 85 percent of its members, a sergeant in charge of retaining members said.

****

"What killed us was the stop-loss," (Sgt 1st Class Gary) Love said. "There wasn't a whole lot we could do."

****

But the stop-loss order, which lasted 18 months, meant some battalions, instead of spreading manpower losses over a manageable period, have dropped members all at once.
Eighty percent of the unit's soldiers affected by the order - 59 of 74 Guard members - did not re-enlist, Love said. The goal was to keep at least half of those troops, he said.
What this portends for the areas served by that Guard unit the next time the area is hit by a natural disaster...well, I shudder to think. What it portends for regular Army units is more second and third tours in Iraq, as Guard and Reserve units find it increasingly harder to maintain a deployable troop level. And it's only just begun.

How long will it take the military to recover from the debacle of the Bush/Rumsfeld regime? Too long. By their policies, they've managed to simultaneously put the nation at increased risk while weakening our defenses.

Why do Bush and Rumsfeld hate America?

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Fighting feeble with fire...

Chris Gruber at Open Source Politics deflates a bit of one of his co-blogger's arguement for ideological purity with some responsive quotations for "those of you who feel comfortable with voting for Ralph Nader" under the heading Practicality is no sin.

A sampling...
"To be proud of virtue is to poison oneself with the antidote."
Benjamin Franklin

"If one sticks too rigidly to one's principles, one would hardly see anybody."
Agatha Christie

"ZEAL: n. A certain nervous disorder afflicting the young and inexperienced. A passion that goeth before a sprawl."
Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary

"Principles have no real force except when one is well fed."
Mark Twain

"Nobody ever did anything very foolish except from some strong principle."
William Lamb Melbourne
There are more. I've saved 'em all. Don't wait on me to mete them out though. Go read.

You like me! You really like me!

Or so it would seem...

It's been my custom to do a little bragging and begging each time the hit counter has rolled over another 5,000 visits to Upper Left. 25,000 blew by unnoticed, though, and given the growth of this thing, I may just amend practice to every 10,000 visits anyway.

Sometime just before noon, some lucky Seattlite fired up his or her cable modem (you learn a lot from those visitor logs) and registered the 30,000th hit on this site. I know there are folks that do that in an hour or so, but I'm downright tickled. When I first turned on the meter last November, I was pretty pleased when the daily count would edge up to 20. Now, a day with less than ten times that is something of a disappointment. It's a lot more fun to do this when you know people are paying attention.

Along the way, we've moved into the top .03% of the sites monitored by Technorati, and this morning I notice that Upper Left is slotted in the 101st position in the Blogdex rankings. Pretty heady stuff.

None of this would be happening without all of you logging in, and linking up, and leaving comments and generally making most all of my wishes for this thing come true. Thanks so very much, each and every one of you.

It's important to have goals, though, and I've still got a few. You can see the graphics here because a faithful reader hit the PayPal button in the nick of time last month (thanks again, Lucy!), and I was able to pay off the provider of the server space where all the pictures reside. It would be dandy if this thing paid all its own bills, on time, every month. That's a goal.

Another goal derives from an achievement I'm already pretty proud of. Thanks to many of you, the Upper Left Kerry Core account has grown to $1811.00. I started it up when I sent JK a piece of my last unemployment check, knowing that I wouldn't be able to chip in a lot more personally, but hoping I could create an avenue to bundle a few hundred bucks just the same. If that got pumped up to $2000 before the convention (the equivalent of one person's contribution limit) I think it would be remarkable. My original hopes for the Kerry Core account are already surpassed. Now we're on the way to making my wildest dreams come true.

Finally, my ultimate goal is to keep creating content that will keep you coming back, and attract more readers, more links and more comments. And to keep having, and hopefully providing, fun.

And once again, thanks y'all!