Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Partial Elections?

Robert Malley, former member of Clinton's NSC and Joost Hiltermann (that's right, "Joost")have an Op-Ed in today's NYTs wherein they propose partial elections in Iraq.
With the Bush administration, the Iraqi government and Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the religious leader of the country's Shiites, insisting that national elections must proceed as scheduled in late January, and a coalition of Sunni Arabs saying they should not, it seems more likely that the voting will be delayed, discredited or both. But a train wreck can be avoided: by delaying national elections while holding votes for provincial governments wherever possible, an acceptable compromise may yet be found.

The apparently successful re-occupation of Falluja aside, war is raging and anger is boiling in most of the country's predominantly Sunni Arab regions. Organizing elections there in two months' time is increasingly fanciful. Some have suggested holding them everywhere else. But because Iraq will not elect legislators by region like the United States Congress, but through a single nationwide ballot in which seats are to be allocated proportionately, setting aside a predetermined number of seats for regions where voting cannot occur will not work.

In addition, because the legislature is to double as an assembly for drafting a permanent constitution, Sunni Arabs would be excluded not only from immediate political life but also from having a voice in the longer-term makeup of the nation. This would decisively alienate the very segment of the population at the heart of the insurrection....
Malley and Hiltermann understand the dilemma and are trying to fashion a compromise, but I fail to see what this really accomplishes. The problem is that Sunni insurgents are determined to prevent national elections and this compromise hands them a victory.

As I've said before, if not now, when will the new government begin? When will the Sunnis allow an election? Never is my guess.

Vietnamization Not Going Well

The President and those close to him continue to deceive the public on the bleak outlook for handing Iraq over to Iraqis. And according totoday's NYTs, bleak is the word.
....While Bush administration officials say that the training is progressing and that there have been instances in which the Iraqis have proved tactically useful and fought bravely, local American commanders and security officials say both Iraqi forces are riddled with problems.

In the most violent provinces, they say, the Iraqis are so intimidated that many are reluctant to show up and do not tell their families where they work; they have yet to receive adequate training or weapons, present a danger to American troops they fight alongside, and are unreliable because of corruption, desertion or infiltration.

Given the weak performance of Iraqi forces, any major withdrawal of American troops for at least a decade would invite chaos, a senior Interior Ministry official, whose name could not be used, said in an interview last week.....
That's right, "at least a decade" said the fearful Iraqi official....When will G-dub tell the American people truth?

Monday, November 29, 2004

Exposing Hypocrites on The Supreme Court

Dahlia Lithwick has an entertaining piece in Slatepointing out the dilemma faced by the so-called states rights judges in the medical marijuana case argued today.

A little background. Until the Roosevelt administration, the Supreme Court took a very narrow view of Congressional power provided by the Commerce Clause. The Supreme Court initially blocked New Deal legislation finding Congress abused its Commerce Clause powers. Roosevelt in retaliation, sought to pack the court, which failed....but got the courts attention and they started expanding Congresses powers which seemed to expand exponentially until 1995. This expansion of the C Clause powers has made the states rights crowd CRAZY! Has this latter group gained power the court has started to reign in Congress C Clause powers.

Well with the medical marijuana case, we will find out who are actually principaled and who are hypocrites.
....Acting Solicitor General Paul Clement represents Ashcroft in this case, and he is arguing that states' rights are a good thing, unless the state in question is one of the 10, 11, or 12 states (depending on ow you count them) that have legalized medicinal marijuana. His opening comments are quickly interrupted by Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, asking whether the Supreme Court's recent federalism rulings in United States v. Lopez (1995) and United States v. Morrison (2000) cast doubt on his case.

Before Lopez and Morrison, the Supreme Court mostly kicked back and enjoyed a lengthy period of deference to Congress' view of the limits on its so-called "commerce clause" powers.....starting in the late 1930s and into the '40s—interstate commerce began to include just about anything Congress wished to regulate, like employment and wages, right on up to just about any conduct save for interstate burping. The Rehnquist court put a stop to all that madness with Lopez and Morrison—striking down, respectively, a federal gun law and a law creating a federal cause of action for female victims of violence—as straying far beyond the commerce-clause power. Suddenly, "interstate" and "commerce" were words with meaning again.

Clement tells O'Connor that those federalism cases can be distinguished from the marijuana one, but O'Connor shoots back with a question about Wickard v. Filburn, the classic commerce-clause case from 1942. Wickard involved a farmer who owned a family dairy farm and exceeded the annual wheat quota then allowed by the federal government. The farmer argued that his wheat was for his own consumption and that Congress had exceeded its commerce-clause powers in setting quotas. The Supreme Court disagreed. O'Connor points out that the wheat grown in Wickard entered a national market. Whereas pot grown on a windowsill by dying women or their caregivers does not. Or, to quote Ruth Bader Ginsburg: "Nobody's buying anything. Nobody's selling anything."
The article is good and entertaining. Go read the whole thing.

Lithwick concludes:
...should the court's staunchest conservatives get away with being for states' rights only when the state in question isn't California? No. Will they? Oh, you can bet your bong on it.

Troop Training and Equipping

Matthew Yglesias makes a good point today in TAPPED. It's not a new point, but it bears repeating.
There's something inspiring about the LA Times's account of basic training for soldiers headed to Iraq, but lurking beneath the surface it's rather disturbing. Thanks to the increasing levels of violence directed at non-infantry support units in Iraq it was deemed necessary to up the level of combat training every soldier receives, but the most obvious way to do this -- extend the training period -- was rejected because the Army can't afford to delay the deployment of new troops to the front. Similarly, the urgent need for high-tech equipment in Iraq means that body armor, night-vision goggles, and other elements of the modern military aren't available for use at training.

These are the sorts of things that happen in wartime, but normally they happen to countries whose resources base is genuinely depleted by a military crisis. Today's United States is an extremely wealthy country in which defense spending as a share of the economy is still relatively low by the standards of the second half of the twentieth century. The military is placed in these exigencies not because additional resources couldn't be made available, but because the administration is dedicated to a policy of rabid tax-cutting at home and its foreign-policy team has chosen to get us involved in a war with marginal popular support where the national interest at stake seems out of proportion to the scale of the conflict.

Delay in Iraqi Elections

I've been following on the blog and move to delay Iraqi elections.

Today, the NYTs provides more context.
...."It's going to be very hard to hold elections by the end of January, and we would be foolish to guarantee that we'll make it," said a senior administration official. "Some developments are working against us. But a lot of them are also working in our favor, and there is no reason to give up on our timetable right now."

Going further, many administration officials see the recent demands by some Sunni leaders for a delay as mere political gamesmanship by parties unable to gain a popular footing and determined to get more time to establish their political bases.

Leading the charge for a delay, for example, is Adnan Pachachi, a prominent Sunni politician who was once a favorite of the Bush administration to serve as Iraq's president. But a Western diplomat based in Baghdad said Mr. Pachachi's motivations, while based in part on concern about lack of security, were also self-serving.

"Politically, Pachachi is not in a very strong position," the diplomat said. "This is one way of his maximizing his position if he tries to get on a slate fielded by one of the other parties."

American insistence that the voting occur on schedule has been fortified by the opposition to a delay from Iraq's most revered Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, and by what American officials say is the support of Kurdish leaders, even though some Kurds are having second thoughts about the timing....

Moral Voters Are In Decline

That's right. The Economist has an excellent article out that actually compares the so-called moral issues voters in this election to recent elections and finds them in decline.
But they hardly formed a moral majority. Look at the figures: the moralists' share of the electorate was only 22%, just two points more than the share of those who cited the economy, and three points more than those who nominated terrorism as the top priority. A few points difference (and the exit polls are, after all, not entirely reliable) and everyone would have been saying the election was about jobs or Iraq.

Moreover, that 22% share is much lower than it was in the two previous presidential elections, in 2000 and 1996. Then, 35% and 40%, respectively, put moral or ethical issues top, and a further 14% and 9% put abortion first, an option that was not given in 2004. Thus, in those two elections, about half the electorate said they voted on moral matters; this time, only a fifth did.

Of course, in those previous elections there was no war on terrorism, nor had there just been a recession. So one could argue that it was remarkable that even a fifth of voters were still concerned about moral matters when so many other big issues were at stake. Maybe, but all that this means is that the war on terrorism has not fundamentally altered, or made irrelevant, the cultural, moral and religious divisions that have polarised America for so long.
Nothing like a little context.

Am I the only one that finds it shocking that our current press coverage which is extensive on this issue has been so completely lacking in context?

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Today's Message from Homeland Security

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The Motorcycle Diaries

I realize I am late to this movie. There is nothing I can say that is not contained in the NYTs review by A O Scott.

If you've not yet seen the movie, go. It's excellent. Not just the story, which is wonderful, but the cinematography. It's still in theatrical release in Saint Louis at the Landmark Plaza Frontenac, but I can't imagine it will be for much longer.

Note: This post has been correct to reflect that it is A O Scott at the NYTs who reviews movies.

Sunday NYTs

I receive home delivery of the Sunday New York Times. It's waiting for me outside my door every Sunday. Going through it with a cup of coffee is a ritual.

On the front page, 'above the fold' is this:Bush's Social Security Plan Is Said to Require Vast Borrowing. At last, a comprehensive piece on Social Security reform? No really. It's long, to be sure. But what a waste of perhaps the most valuable newsprint real estate in the world.
In fact, "vast borrowing" is about as specific as this article gets. No mention that I could see of the Commission President Bush formed in his first term to study the problem and reported the need to borrow trillions over 20+ years. Go ahead and read it and let me know if you found it informative.

So then I go to the NYTs Book Review and see a review for Tom Wolfe's new novel,"I Am Charlotte Simmons" . The book is panned as his worst novel. Good! About time someone spoke the truth about this self-important blowhard. I love to read serious fiction more than anything else. It's my escape. I'm currently reading "East of Eden" by Steinbeck, which I had never read before. I read "The Grapes of Wrath" and "Of Mice and Men" in high school, and they were so bleak I never wanted to read another Steinbeck again. On the centennial of his birth, Steinbeck is enjoying a resurgence and a friend had just finished "East of Eden" and raved about it. So, I thought I'd give it a try. What a masterpiece....but I digress. Anyway, after having endured "Bonfire" and "A Man in Full" I vowed I'd never again indulge this self-important blowhard and darling of the pseudointellectual set. His last great work was "The Right Stuff" and you can stop there.

On to Week in Review. Todd Purdum has a decent piece on the section front page: Week in Review: A Steamroller That May Lose Its Steam. Purdum attempts to provide some historical perspective to one party rule.

...history also suggests a perilous twist on an adage as old as Athens: Whom the Gods would destroy they first give control of both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue. With responsibility for all of government comes accountability for all of government, and the picture is not always pretty.
Go read it.

Now, I'm going to see "The Motorcycle Diaries" while I can still see it on a big screen.

Saturday, November 27, 2004

Predictable Shiite Response.

A statement by 42 Shi'ite and Turkmen parties, including the influential Dawa Party and Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), said a postponement would be illegal.

Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, leader of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, told Reuters if the election was postponed, "this would mean that the terrorists have been able to achieve one of their main objectives."....
They are, of course, right on both counts.


The strafing of a school by a National Guard F-16 fighter jet has divided residents of the fast-growing region around the Warren Grove Gunnery Range. Some fear for their safety, while others consider it profoundly unpatriotic to question the military during a time of war.
If patriotism requires the sacrificing of our children to keep our pilots aim sharp, so be it! How else can they prepare to strafe Iraqi schools if we don't let them practice at home.

My advice would be that all those patriots who seek to quell any criticism of live fire gunnery practice on local schools show up at the base for live fire target practice. It would be a win - win situation.

Today's Message from Homeland Security

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One Party Government

Imagine the outcry had Ds done this? It's remarkable.

In scuttling major intelligence legislation that he, the president and most lawmakers supported, Speaker J. Dennis Hastert last week enunciated a policy in which Congress will pass bills only if most House Republicans back them, regardless of how many Democrats favor them.

Hastert's position, which is drawing fire from Democrats and some outside groups, is the latest step in a decade-long process of limiting Democrats' influence and running the House virtually as a one-party institution. Republicans earlier barred House Democrats from helping to draft major bills such as the 2003 Medicare revision and this year's intelligence package. Hastert (R-Ill.) now says such bills will reach the House floor, after negotiations with the Senate, only if "the majority of the majority" supports them....
Frankly, I don't think this can last. They won't get anything done (which is probably good given their agenda) and how long before powerful Rs rebel?

I consider this license to filibuster at will in the Senate.

You can read the rest here.

Another Ashcroft Debacle?

John Ashcroft's Justice Department has yet to have a single successful terrorism prosecution. In fact, his record has been a complete debacle. Several supposedly deadly terrorist held without charge are being released, because prosecutors have no basis for charges. Jose Padilla will be next. If he was what Ashcroft said he was, how much valuable intelligence was lost by not tailing him to uncover his contacts and web of killers? How much more are we all endangered by this incompetence? We will never know what Padilla was, but what he will soon be is a free man, as soon as the Justice Dept runs out of excuses to prevent the inevitable,....Padilla's release.

Then there's this disaster. Ashcroft's first terrorism trial ended with charges by the DoJ of prosecutorial misconduct, the convictions reversed and the prosecutor suing Ashcroft and the DoJ under a whistleblower statute.

And now this bizarre story complete with the key Federal witness having recently set himself on fire in front of the WH:
....The transcripts by federal prosecutors depict a scene that could be out of a B-movie. In a German hotel room bugged by American agents, a Yemeni sheik was murmuring about jihad, a federal agent was posing as a former Black Panther eager to give millions to terrorists, and a roundish Yemeni man with a checkered past was egging on the others in his new role as one of the United States government's favorite - and best-paid - informers.

In time, the informer, Mohamed Alanssi, would come spectacularly undone. This month he set himself on fire outside the White House because of a tangled dispute with the F.B.I. His act, and the attention it has drawn to his strange story, have damaged what may be the biggest terrorism financing case in this country. He is, it turns out, a former American Embassy employee in Yemen who was fired twice and left his country with a warrant out for his arrest for his role in a financial dispute...
You can read the rest here.

Jan Elections Doubtful

Several days ago I wrote on the current situation in Iraq and my belief that elections must go forward, with or without the Sunnis.

The NYTs reports today that an impressive list of Iraqi groups are calling for a six month delay.

The Shiites who want the elections to go forward for obvious reasons. They will dominate any new government.

The Sunnis and now the Kurds, who each make up about 20% want the delay, and this list includes many powerful and pro-American secular groups who are not well know and want more time to become known -- although the official reason for the requested delay is safety concerns.

....The list of groups includes some that have been among the strongest backers of American policy in Iraq, and their call gives sudden momentum to those arguing for a postponement. The two main Kurdish parties supported the delay request, marking the first time the Kurds, closely allied with the Americans, have taken a clear stand on the issue.

The Iraqi government itself did not join in a petition issued Friday to the electoral commission calling for a delay. The party of Prime Minister Ayad Allawi gave oral assent rather than a signature to the document.

It was signed by 15 groups and orally backed by dozens of individual political and religious figures after an impassioned two-hour meeting at the Baghdad home of Adnan Pachachi, a prominent Sunni politician.

"The participants call for postponement of the elections for six months in order to address the current security situation and to complete the necessary administrative, technical and systematic arrangements," the petition said.....

The Bush admin supports the elections going forward so long as the Iraqi government does...and there is the problem that the interim constitution requires elections in January...

In response to my earlier post on Iraq, a reader wrote me and suggested I didn't appreciate the seriousness of the security issue and its impact on the elections. I'm sure the reader is correct, but what is going to change in six months? And how are the Shiites going to react to any delay? Violently?

The reader also pointed out that the government elected at the end of January would create the permanent constitution, and how could this have any legitimacy if the Sunnis were not participating? I can't argues with this either, but then it is the Sunnis who have chosen not to participate and why would we think that will change in 6 months or a year? As I wrote earlier, the Sunnis really don't have anything to gain from this election, so why put it off.

Despite my best advice, it appears the elections will be delayed. Frankly, I don't think Allawi ever intends to hold any election that might remove him from office. I think his role model is Egypt's Mubarak. One of my best friends likes to remind me that I've been wrong a lot lately. Let's hope that trend continues.

Friday, November 26, 2004

Today's Message from Homeland Security

The Propaganda Remix Project

Plame Investigation Update.

The Plame investigation is alive and well, according to today's WaPo.

To refresh your memory, syndicated columnist Robert Novak, citing "two senior administration officials," betrayed his country in a July 14, 2003 column by disclosing that Joseph C. Wilson IV was married to a CIA specialist Valerie Plame. Wilson is the former diplomat sent by the CIA last year to check out allegations that Iraq had purchased uranium from Niger. Plame was working undercover for the CIA, and apparently had been for years. She worked as a 'NOC' meaning she was operating under "non-official cover". In other words, she was not a diplomat with the protections of being a diplomat.

It is a Federal Crime to 'out' an undercover CIA agent punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

In a Sept 28, 2003 story the WaPo blew open the story. The Post reported that a "senior administration official" revealed to the Post that "two top White House officials" disclosed Plame's identity to at least six journalists. The key paragraphs:

A senior administration official said two top White House officials called at least six Washington journalists and revealed the identity and occupation of Wilson's wife. That was shortly after Wilson revealed in July that the CIA had sent him to Niger last year to look into the uranium claim and that he had found no evidence to backup the charge. Wilson's account eventually touched off a controversy over Bush's use of intelligence as he made the case for attacking Iraq.

"Clearly, it was meant purely and simply for revenge," the senior official said of the alleged leak.

Sources familiar with the conversations said the leakers' allegation was that Wilson had benefited from nepotism because the Niger mission had been his wife's idea. Wilson said in an interview yesterday that a reporter had told him that the leaker said, "The real issue is Wilson and his wife."

The official would not name the leakers for the record and would not name the journalists. The official said he had no indication that Bush knew about the calls. Columnist Robert Novak published the agent's name in a July column about Wilson's mission.

It is rare for one Bush administration official to turn on another. Asked about the motive for describing the leaks, the senior official said the leaks were "wrong and a huge miscalculation, because they were irrelevant and did nothing to diminish Wilson's credibility."

Patrick Fitzgerald was supsequently appointed as special prosecutor to investigate the leak.

According to today's WaPo story Fitzgerald's focus is apparently on the timing of WH dissemination of Plame's name.

Here's the gist. Novak publised Plame's name in the July 14, 2003 column. This column was sent over the AP Newswire on July 11. Around this time many WH personnel where feeding her name to the media.

It seems the investigation may be booged down determining who leaked her name before July 11 or 12, to Novak and others versuses who was mearly spinning following the publication of Plame's name by Novak. Once Novak's column was published, it would no longer be a secret and thus, not a violation.

The list of who has been interviewed or testified so far is impressive:

Among those who are known to have been interviewed by the FBI or testified before the grand jury are Bush White House national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, political adviser Karl Rove, Vice President Cheney's Chief of Staff Lewis I. Libby, Republican National Committee consultant Mary Matalin, former Cheney press aide Catherine Martin, White House press secretary Scott McClellan, communications director Dan Bartlett, deputy press secretary Claire Buchan, and former assistant press secretary Adam Levine. Bush and Cheney also have been interviewed, as has Secretary of State Colin L. Powell.

The so-called open secret in Washington is that Cheney chief-of-staff 'Scooter' Libby is the source of the leak to Novak and the grand jury target. today's story states that Libby is claiming that he heard that Plame was a NOC from reporters.

Another issue not mentioned in today's story is the obstruction of justice investigations that always go hand in hand with federal investigations. Earlier reports indicated that a second investigation was under way based up differences between statements given FBI agents and documents produced by the WH.

We shall see what comes of this.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Today's Message from Homeland Security

The Propaganda Remix Project

Friedman Is Not Happy With DeLay

Friedman has interrupted his endless soul searching over Iraq long enough to take on DeLay and those who cower to him.

In his next life, Friedman wants to be Tom DeLay. Why you ask?
I want to get almost the entire Republican side of the House of Representatives to bend its ethics rules just for me. I want to be able to twist the arms of House Republicans to repeal a rule that automatically requires party leaders to step down if they are indicted on a felony charge - something a Texas prosecutor is considering doing to DeLay because of corruption allegations.

But most of all, I want to have the gall to sully American democracy at a time when young American soldiers are fighting in Iraq so we can enjoy a law-based society here and, maybe, extend it to others. Yes, I want to be Tom DeLay. I want to wear a little American flag on my lapel in solidarity with the troops, while I besmirch every value they are dying for.

If I can't be Tom DeLay, then I want to be one of the gutless Republican House members who voted to twist the rules for DeLay out of fear that "the Hammer," as they call him, might retaliate by taking away a coveted committee position or maybe a parking place.

Yes, I want to be a Republican House member. At a time when 180 of the 211 members of the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit in Iraq who have been wounded in combat have insisted on returning to duty, I want to look my constituents and my kids in the eye and tell them that I voted to empty the House ethics rules because I was afraid of Tom DeLay.
Tom's got other grips too, if you're interested.

Although, if you're looking for him to offer up an honest assessment of the role he played beating the war drum for Iraq, you won't find that. You'll just have to be satisfied with his immanent return to endless soul searching.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

American Taliban Alert

I completely missed this story today, but Atrios pointed me to it. Reuters carried a false story today claiming a teacher was banned from referring to the Declaration of independence in his classroom.

This is a carefully orchestrated attempt by the American Taliban to spread misinformation and insert their brand of Christianity into public schools (Catholics need not apply). The whole thing is a set-up from start to finish complete with a media plan to get the headlines they want.

Follow this link for the story

MO's Congressional Delegation

THE DAILY DELAY: Votes on DeLay Rule

Nina, in comments, pointed me to this blog that has cataloged the votes on the Delay Rule.

Daily DeLay says that Graves, Blunt and Akin all voted for the rule. Congressman Hulshof, on the Ethics Committee, voted against the rule.

But Akin's office told Ruth that he did NOT vote for it, although he supported it.

More Akin constituents should call his office for clarification. Make of note of the name of the staffer providing the info.

Ruth, if you have the name of the staffer to whom you spoke, send me that name.

Todd Akin Supports DeLay Rule

Last night I asked readers to contact the Republican members of Missouri's Congressional Delegation to see how they voted on the DeLay Rule.

Reader Ruth live in Missouri's 2d Congressional District, and contacted Rep Todd Akin to see where he stands on the new rule.

Ruth writes:
After a little obsfucation about what happened, the clerk told me Akin wasn't present for the voice vote but is supportive of the rule change. He said the rule was changed because an indictment is not a conviction, which we all obviously know, and therefore a person who happens to be indicted for something is entitled to stay as a leader until he is convicted. He also said Akin's support of the rule change was not a contradiction of his principles about the integrity of R leaders because Akin didn't vote on the original rule. It was a very interesting and fun conversation.
Such principles!

Thanks Ruth for calling Akin's office. No word on the others. If I don't hear, I'll try contacting them myself next week.

Today's Message from Homeland Security

The Propaganda Remix Project


I struggle on a daily basis to figure out just what I think about the current situation in Iraq. We can’t change the past, but what should US policy be moving forward?

I’ve felt that pulling out was not a reasonable option. Having made this miss, we are morally obligated to not just abandon those poor people to chaos. But it is undeniable that our presences is a catalyst to the insurgency.

And there is no quick fix coming in the way of more allied troops or even Iraqi troops. Bush lies every time he claims 100,000 plus well trained Iraqi troops are just around the corner. Our allies don’t have enough troops to replace us even if they wanted to, which of course they don’t. We can use contracts as a carrot for more foreign troops that will help somewhat, but there is no miracle in the offing.

Perhaps the biggest problem facing us in Iraq is the fact that the Sunni minority really doesn’t have anything to gain from elections. The Sunnis account for roughly 20% of the population and for generations have brutalized the Shiite majority. They can see what’s coming with a new government that reflects their percentage of the population. Obviously, they want to prevent elections for self preservation.

So what in the hell do we do?

I don’t see any choice to going forward with elections with or without the Sunnis. The Sunni mullahs can blame the US all they want as their reasons for objecting to January elections, but if not the US, there will be another reason for boycotting the elections. There motives are as transparent as Bush’s for invading in the first place.

The elections must go forward and if the Sunnis are left out, so be it. The Sunnis have to see that they will not stop a new government from being formed. And the US has to make sure that the new government protects minorities from the tyranny of the majority. Being left out can serve as an incentive to participate next round.

The prospects in Iraq even with elections and a new constitution that guarantees minority rights are not good, but without minority guarantees, the process is doomed.

Sadly, this Bush administration is the least equipped of the last 60 years to protect the rights of minorities.

Afraid of Canadian Parliament

What do you say about a President on an official state visit who is afraid to address the Canadian Parliament.

The President's handlers are afraid of a repeat of the address to the Austrailian Parliament. The so-called leader of the free world can't even appear before allies.

I need to get me one of these.

What's the Frequency Kenneth?

Dan Rather is stepping down. Should have done that 10 years ago. I guess as an anchor, he's no longer 'cracklin like a hickory fire'.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

So How Did MOs Republican Congressional Delegation Vote?

As I mentioned last week, Josh Marshall has been working hard to figure out which Rs actually voted for the DeLay rule to allow criminally indicted members of Congress to remain in leadership roles.

So, I've been wondering how Missouri's Rs voted. Josh already found out that Jo Ann Emerson claims to have voted against.

But what about the others?

Can someone who lives in Todd Akin's district contact his office and ask them how he voted on the DeLay Rule? I would do this myself but I think it is better if a constituent calls. Email me the results.

And while we are at it, by chance does anyone live in the following districts:

Dist 6: Sam Graves
Dist 7: Roy Blunt
Dist 9: Kenny Hulshof -- Congressman Hulshof is on the House ethics committee so this one would be really interesting.

Here is the contact info:Missouri's Congressional Delegation Contacts

Tuesday's With EJ

Sorry, I'm a little late on this. I've just returned from a 29 hour trip to Boise Idaho.

Today, EJ highlights a series of lectures that Justice Stephen Breyer recently gave at Harvard.

Per EJ, Breyer is concerned about a new form of judicial activism coming from the Right.

Here's a taste:
...The new conservative judicial activism is a greater threat to our democracy than the prospect of some future court striking down the Roe v. Wade decision on abortion. If Roe is lost (and I doubt it will be), states will still be free to pass liberal abortion laws. But if extreme conservative judges limit the authority of Congress and state legislatures to pass environmental, civil rights, labor and consumer laws, our democracy will be less robust, less effective and less just.

Breyer's worries about the new trends are rooted in his criticisms of the courts of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He argues that they "underemphasized the constitutional importance of participation by black citizens in our representative democracy and overemphasized the importance of constitutional protections of property."

Ronnie Earle Defends Himself

Ronnie Earle is the prosecutor in Austin who has indicted 3 of Tom DeLay's cronies, and is on DeLay's trial.

He defends his actions on the OP/ED page of today's NYTs. .

Here is the crux:
...In terms of moral values, this is where the rubber meets the road. The rules you apply to yourself are the true test of your moral values.

The thinly veiled personal attacks on me by Mr. DeLay's supporters in this case are no different from those in the cases of any of the 15 elected officials this office has prosecuted in my 27-year tenure. Most of these officials - 12 Democrats and three Republicans - have accused me of having political motives. What else are they going to say?

For most of my tenure the Democrats held the power in state government. Now Republicans do. Most crimes by elected officials involve the abuse of power; you have to have power before you can abuse it.

There is no limit to what you can do if you have the power to change the rules. Congress may make its own rules, but the public makes the rule of law, and depends for its peace on the enforcement of the law. Hypocrisy at the highest levels of government is toxic to the moral fiber that holds our communities together.

The open contempt for moral values by our elected officials has a corrosive effect. It is a sad day for law enforcement when Congress offers such poor leadership on moral values and ethical behavior. We are a moral people, and the first lesson of democracy is not to hold the public in contempt.
I like this guy.

Today's Message from Homeland Security

The Propaganda Remix Project

Here's Your Mandate

Here's your mandate:
At a time when the White House has portrayed Mr. Bush's 3.5-million-vote victory as a mandate, the poll found that Americans are at best ambivalent about Mr. Bush's plans to reshape Social Security, rewrite the tax code, cut taxes and appoint conservative judges to the bench. There is continuing disapproval of Mr. Bush's handling of the war in Iraq, with a plurality now saying it was a mistake to invade in the first place.

While Democrats, not surprisingly, were the staunchest opponents of many elements of Mr. Bush's second-term agenda, the concerns extended across party lines in some cases. Nearly two-thirds of all respondents - including 51 percent of Republicans - said it was more important to reduce deficits than to cut taxes, a central element of Mr. Bush's economic agenda.
We comforted ourselves with similar poll results in 1986, but that is not the point. These results don't give us cause to whine more.

These results are our mandate to stand up to these loons! And we each should write our representatives in Congress, no matter the party, to let them know how we feel.

I Stand Corrected

Wrong again, damn it! I've always said it was absurd to suggest that hunters use assault rifles. I grew up in southern Illinois and used to go hunting often. I thought I knew what I was talking about.

Turns our I'm wrong again. Not a good month for me. "Cardinals in 7." "Kerry wins in a walk." "Peterson gets a hung jury."

And, with 8 men shot, 6 of them having now died, he needed that assault weapon with a 20 round clip (the shooter emptied the 20 round clip in the attack). He could have never shot so many people (shooting people is what the gun is designed to do) with the 3 or 4 rounds contained in an ordinary hunting rifle -- especially if it was a single action. The victims would have had a chance to shot back!


Just Don't Count It

Republicans are looking for ways to gut the SS safety net that won't reflect the multi-trillion dollar cost. That's right, trillion with a "T".
Republican budget writers say they may have found a way to cut the federal deficit even if they borrow hundreds of billions more to overhaul the Social Security system: Don't count all that new borrowing.

As they lay the groundwork for what will probably be a controversial fight over Social Security, Republican lawmakers and the Bush administration are examining a number of accounting strategies that would allow the expensive transition to a partially privatized Social Security system without -- at least on paper -- expanding the country's record annual budget deficits. The strategies include, for example, moving the costs of Social Security reform "off-budget" so they are not counted against the government's yearly shortfall.
In the years before the slower growth in benefits compensates for the loss in revenue, the government would have to borrow, raise other taxes, or cut other spending to maintain benefits for Social Security recipients. An analysis of one plan produced by Bush's Social Security Commission concluded that the interim financing would cost as much as $104.5 billion the first year, balloon to $194.4 billion in the 10th year and would peak in roughly 20 years at $258 billion.

Any accounting mechanism that obscures or minimizes those costs is sure to be controversial. John M. Spratt Jr. (S.C.), the ranking Democrat on the House Budget Committee, called it "the budgetary equivalent of having your cake and eating it too." ...

Monday, November 22, 2004

DeLay Off the Hook? Hardly

Josh Marshall points to this CBS story asserting that DeLay appears to be off the hook. The story quotes a prosecutor close to the case as saying that an indictment of DeLay is doubtful, and that DeLay's attorneys know this.

The press doesn't seem to understand how such investigations work. Don't these reporters watch The Sopranos?

This is a classic corruption investigation and it is just beginning. They are working their way up the food chain and it may take some time. They have indicted the cronies and if convicted, as I understand it, they each face up to 99 years in prison. I provided the background on this story a few day ago.

99 years is a long time. People facing prison tend to get chatty avoid a lot less than 99 years. So if they convict the cronies, they sweat them to rat on Delay (or the buffer between them and DeLay, who they indict, etc. ) and, if all goes according to plan, Delay is indicted in round two or three, but that could be a year or more and a couple grand juries away.

The perfect example is Patrick Fitzgerald's (and I think he inherited this from his predecessor) grand jury investigation of former IL Governor George Ryan. Indict, convict, flip, indict, convict, flip, etc.

If DeLay's cronies walk, that will be the end of it, but if even one of them is convicted, I would expect him to rat and on up the chain.

Having said all this, I agree with Josh who found it odd that DeLay would ram through the DeLay Rule with the predictable fallout if he didn't believe an indictment was coming sooner as opposed to later. I'm assuming he is concerned that one or more of the cronies will rat before trial for a better deal in exchange for testimony and a few years. Someone flips pre-trial and that speeds up the timetable on these investigations.

Given the target it is not at all surprising that the DA's office is playing this close to the vest. That is a positive sign that this is a professional investigation being treated very seriously.

Who know how good these cases are against the cronies. From what I've seen and read, they seem pretty good, but I haven't seen anything that discussed any possible defenses. DeLay's recent actions suggest they're is something from him to worry about.

Let's hope so. I get a smile on my face thinking of the bug chaser doing hard time.

Too Many US Troops?

The story line on Iraq since the invasion has been not enough troops. Earlier today I posted a story that the DoD was seeking more troops.

The Boston Globe today has a story wherein some on the right believe we have too many soldiers. Here is the crux:
....Those making a case for immediate troop reductions include key Pentagon advisers, prominent neoconservatives, and some of the strongest supporters of the Iraq invasion among Washington's policy elite, The Boston Globe reported Monday.

They argue that as the U.S.-led coalition goes on the offensive against the insurgency, the United States is provoking the resistance with its very presence.

"Our large, direct presence has fueled the Iraqi insurgency as much as it has suppressed it," Michael Vickers, a conservative-leaning Pentagon consultant and longtime senior CIA official who supported the war, told the Globe.

Retired Army Major General William Nash, the former NATO commander in Bosnia and a supporter of Hussein's ouster, said a sharp reduction after January's Iraqi elections "would be a wise and judicious move" to demonstrate that the Americans are leaving. U.S. Forces that remain should concentrate their energies on border operations, he said.
These two views illustrate the catch-22 that is this war.

Our presence is a catalyst for our enemies in and out of Iraq, but the fear of our leaving without someone (and there is no one else) to fill the void will guarantee a civil war.

Of course, this was completely foreseeable, but that is another matter.

Today's Message from Homeland Security

The Propaganda Remix Project

Tax Reform Republican Style

It is no secret that the GOP wants to 'overhaul' the tax code to essentially exempt the wealthiest Americans for taxation.

When I state it this clearly my moderate R friends (and I have fewer all the time) just dismiss this. But it's true. The Rs just try to package it such that the removal of nearly all taxes on the ultra wealthy is 'economic stimulation'. "We want to encourage investment" or "encourage savings" or "remove tax incentives not to reinvest", yada, yada, yada. That sounds good, but what it is are attempts to remove all income taxation from non-wage income. Those in the "investor class" don't care about any minor wage income, so long as their millions aren't taxed.

Now this is a fight that we Ds should not lose. As I've said before, we should beat them over the head with this until the beg for mercy.

But it appears we likely won't get the chance, because, most of the GOP constituency can't agree on who to do an overhaul.
....Even though it will be months before President Bush proposes an overhaul of the income tax, key Republican groups are already divided about how or even whether to proceed. Regardless of which path Mr. Bush pursues, he is likely to be pulled by conflicts between parts of his political base.

Economic conservatives share an ideological belief in flattening income tax rates and eliminating as many tax preferences as possible. And business groups want to preserve breaks for research, oil drilling, health insurance, equipment leasing and scores of other purposes.

Christian conservatives want to promote charitable deductions and "family values," and may want to defend tax breaks for married couples with children.

"People are not going to give the kind of support necessary for tax reform that leaves the investor class untaxed," said Dr. Land, who is president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Religious Commission. "That is not going to be politically viable."

These differing constituencies pose a significant challenge for Mr. Bush, so much so that many Republican lawmakers are openly doubtful about whether to attempt a tax overhaul. Some Senate Republicans wonder about public enthusiasm for tax reform, despite widespread discontent with the complexity and apparent unfairness of the current tax code.

"You can't very well claim there was a mandate in this election for tax reform," said Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona. "It was just one of many ideas, and it wasn't specific. There is no consensus in the country about what to do."

News Flash: More Troops Needed in Iraq.

This is not news, except for the fact that it is the DoD saying it. And, of course, the DoD is suggesting that the need for more troops is a recent occurrence.

What is more interesting is what they have to do to find even 5,000 more troops. We're out of soldiers. No one wants to admit it, but we just don't have any to spare. In other words, we bogged down.
The officers said the exact number of extra troops needed is still being reviewed but estimated it at the equivalent of several battalions, or about 3,000 to 5,000 soldiers. The number of U.S. troops in Iraq fell to nearly 100,000 last spring before rising to 138,000, where it has stayed since the summer.

To boost the current level, military commanders have considered extending the stay of more troops due to rotate out shortly, or accelerating the deployment of the 3rd Infantry Division, which is scheduled to start in January. But a third option -- drawing all or part of a brigade of the 82nd Airborne Division on emergency standby in the United States -- has emerged as increasingly likely.

Hinting at this possibility at a Pentagon news conference on Friday, Lt. Gen. Lance Smith, the deputy chief of U.S. Central Command, recalled that airborne forces were deployed to Afghanistan on a short-term basis to bolster military operations. Smith noted, however, that the Afghan case was "a little bit different" because "we had a very small number of forces to begin with" there.

If airborne units were rushed to Iraq, commanders here said, they likely would not be used in the offensive actions being planned, given their lack of heavy armor and their unfamiliarity with the targeted neighborhoods. Rather, their purpose would be to take over policing and other functions in Baghdad's International Zone, where American and top Iraqi government officials work. That would free locally seasoned units of the 1st Cavalry Division for such actions.

Much of the division's 2nd Brigade, which had been patrolling Baghdad, was shifted to Fallujah for the battle there earlier this month and remains unavailable for action elsewhere. This situation is the cause of much of the pressure for reinforcements.

"We feel that we need to keep the 2nd Brigade out there longer than we had originally thought, so we're not going to have all the flexibility we wanted in December," one senior military officer here said.
(via Kevin Drum)

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Today's Message from Homeland Security

The Propaganda Remix Project

DeLay's Croonies Really Stick it To Indian Tribe

I caught the end Friday night of NOW with Bill MoyersIndian Gaming Scandal surrounding Tom DeLay croonies Jack Abramoff and Michael Scanlon. These men are sole-less demons, and ironically, they worked closely in this screw job with Xtian Soldier Ralph Reed.
Etched in the history of our great nation is a long and lamentable chapter about the exploitation of Native Americans.... Every kind of charlatan and every type of crook has deceived and exploited America's native sons and daughters. While these accounts of unscrupulous men are sadly familiar, the tale we hear today is not. What sets this tale apart, what makes it truly extraordinary, is the extent and degree of the apparent exploitation and deceit.
— Statement of Senator John McCain, Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, Oversight Hearing on Lobbying Practices Involving Indian Tribes, 9/29/04
The Moyers link above has some info including a PDF of the emails exchanged.

The WaPo has been following the story which until recently, has not gotten a lot of attention. Here is the latest in the Post.

If you get a chance, don't miss a replay of NOW.

Bill Frist: Liar

Joe Conason in Salon reminds us of Frist's slander of Richard Clarke following Clarke's public testimony before the 9-11 Commission.

Frist went to the Senate Floor and accused Clarke of perjury. Frist alleged that Clarke's classified testimony during the Senate inquiry and his public testimony before the 9-11 Commission were contradictory. As the story evolved, Frist eventually admitted he had neither heard nor read Clarke's senate testimony but was accusing him of perjury because some had told him the two differed. Clarke responded to the slander by requesting the immediate release of his Senate testimony. R Senators who had heard Clarke's testimony, including Senate Intelligence Committee chairman Pat Roberts, stated that the two did not differ, but Roberts refused to release Clarke's testimony.

Now that the election is over, Clarke's testimony has been declassified and Clarke is vindicated. Joe has read Clarke's testimony and sums it up thusly:
In fact, Clarke's declassified testimony contains very few references to the Bush administration -- but what he did say wasn't flattering. Neither criticizing nor praising the administration's efforts, Clarke offered a dry factual account of the bureaucratic approach toward terrorism taken by the president's appointees and advisors during the months that preceded 9/11. Clarke allowed the lawmakers to draw their own conclusions -- if they chose to do so -- by contrasting the slow official process with his vivid recollection of CIA warnings during the summer of 2001, when al-Qaida was preparing an "imminent" offensive that might include "multiple, simultaneous attacks, some overseas and some in the U.S." He didn't say one word that was later contradicted by his far more dramatic testimony before the 9/11 Commission.

Clarke's circumspect attitude toward the Bush administration was understandable, since he was still working for the president in 2002. But perhaps to the annoyance of the Republican legislators in attendance at the closed hearing, he went out of his way to praise the counter-terror efforts of the prior occupant of the Oval Office.

"You know," said Clarke, whose government résumé dates back to the Nixon era, "it is very rare in my experience when the President of the United States picks an issue after his administration has begun because the world has changed, and says, 'This is a priority, guys. I want you to create some new programs and deal with it.' But that happened, and I think both [of Clinton's] national security advisers and the Clinton administration spent an enormous amount of time on the overall issue of counterterrorism and the new threats."

His detailed description of those efforts, which explodes Republican attempts to blame Clinton for 9/11 and confirms both his testimony and his book, should be required reading for mythologizers like the Senate majority leader. And when Frist has finished reading the 103 pages, the majority leader ought to be decent enough to apologize publicly for lying about this remarkable public servant.
You can find Clarke's testimony here.

Bill Gives Lawmakers Access to Your Tax Returns

This is how they do business. They just ram things through at the last minute and load these bills up with all kinds of BS that no one has an opportunity to read.
Congress passed legislation Saturday giving two committee chairman and their assistants access to income tax returns without regard to privacy protections, but not before red-faced Republicans said it was all a mistake and would be swiftly repealed.

The Senate unanimously adopted a resolution immediately after passing a 3,300-word spending bill containing the measure, saying the provision "shall have no effect." House leaders promised to pass the resolution next Wednesday....
The fact is, R leadership is in complete disarray and they can't get anything done. They promised the Intelligence bill would be rapped up yesterday. After lengthy conference negotiations the bill was blocked in the House. And thankfully, we in the minority haven't had to do a thing. The Rs are too busy fighting themselves.

Josh Marshall picked up the story of the tax returns yesterday. He has an exchange on the matter between Tim Russert and John McCain this morning on Meet The Press:
MR. RUSSERT: In the House version of this spending bill, there was a provision which said that the Appropriations Committee should have access to taxpayers' tax returns. How did that happen?

SEN. McCAIN: What happens here is that they slap these omnibus bills together--as you mentioned, this one's nine bills that we should have passed separately--nobody sees them or reads them. It was a 1,630- page document yesterday that was presented to us sometime in the morning, and we voted on it in the evening. The system is broken, and everybody, of course, wanted to get out of town, understandably.

MR. RUSSERT: Why should Congress have access to citizens' tax returns?

SEN. McCAIN: According to--Senator Stevens' explanation on the floor last night was that two staffers put in this provision and no one knew about it until another Senator Conrad staffer discovered it.

MR. RUSSERT: What was their motive?

SEN. McCAIN: That should--you know, I don't know. I can't imagine. But the fact that our system is such that that would ever be inserted and passed by the House of Representatives--if there's ever a graphic example of the broken system that we now have, that certainly has to be it.

MR. RUSSERT: House...

SEN. McCAIN: How many other provisions didn't we find in that 1,600-page bill?

MR. RUSSERT: That provision won't become law ever.

SEN. McCAIN: No. No. No. We worked out a procedure where the House--it doesn't matter but it'll be fixed, but the fact that it got in there in the first place is chilling.
And don't believe the nonsense they're peddling now that this was a "mistake". It may have been a mistake that more didn't know about the language in the bill, but the language was inserted intentionally for a purpose. Josh has a theory on this.

Saturday, November 20, 2004

Today's Message from Homeland Security

The Propaganda Remix Project

Solution: Dump the NEA?

Jonathan Chait is an idiot.

In this OP/ED in the LATs Jonathan Chait argues that Ds can make up votes by agree to dump the National Endowment for the Arts, a favorite target of the right.

This piece was brought to my attention by Majikthise who is fed up with self-loathing democrats. Majikthise is a new blogger who was brought to my attention by James Wolcott.

I commented on this self-loathing BS a couple days ago.

Here is the crux of the idiots argument:

Democrats spent about a week desperately casting about for some social issue to chuck overboard so they could get right with middle America. Alas, after running through the usual list, they decided that they weren't prepared to abandon abortion or gay rights and had all but given up on gun control anyway, so there wasn't much they could do.

Well, even though the search was called off early, I have a late entry: Abolish the National Endowment for the Arts.

The NEA is a major stick in the eye to the, um, culturally traditional. (I was going to write "guys named Jethro who own pickup trucks" but I'm trying not to inflame cultural sensitivities here.)
Sometimes I think that you folks on both coasts have your heads so far up you asses I don't know how you breath. The people who support abolishing the NEA wouldn't vote for a D if you held a gun to their head. As Majikthise correctly points out, our sudden abandonment of the NEA will only amuse them and affirm for them that we are unprincipled worms.

No one here in the heartland gives a rats ass about the NEA. I've never heard anyone ever talk about it.

It's the war on terror stupid! We win on nearly every issue. But everyday Americans are afraid and slightly more of them believe Rs will protect them better. R use fear to hold power with the votes of people they proceed to screw in the ground, once elected. When the cold war ended they lost 3 straight elections (well, they got their man on the third, but not by votes) and didn't win again until post 9-11.

We must convince the American people that we will protect them. Once we do that, we will run the table. And by the way, you idiot, Jonathan Chait, being completely unprincipled does NOT inspire confidence.

To begin this process, we need to start defending ourselves from these scurrilous attacks. How can we expect the American people to believe we will defend them when we won't even defend ourselves?

Brand Democrat

Atrios is correct, Oliver is on to something with Brand Democrat.

Go check it out.

Saturday Comics

Click on image to enlarge

Mark Fiore presents: Hello Alberto!

Friday, November 19, 2004

Haven't We Been Here Before?

Anyone remember the old Styx song, "Haven't We Been Here Before"?

Here's a big surprise:Nuclear Disclosures on Iran Unverified
Secretary of State Colin L. Powell shared information with reporters Wednesday about Iran's nuclear program that was classified and based on an unvetted, single source who provided information that two U.S. officials said yesterday was highly significant if true but has not yet been verified....
Read the rest of the article to learn that the single source for Powell's disclosure is someone who just walked in with alleged plans. Much like the single person who walked in with proof of Iraq buying yellow cake from Niger.

Powell can't leave soon enough to suit me.

(via Digital Dissent)

Today's Message From Homeland Security

The Propaganda Remix Project

A Message from Big John


I want to thank you personally for what you did in the election -- you rewrote the book on grassroots politics, taking control of campaigns away from big donors. No campaign will ever be the same.

You moved voters, helped hold George Bush accountable, and countered the attacks from big news organizations such as Fox, Sinclair Broadcasting, and conservative talk radio.

And your efforts count now more than ever. Despite the words of cooperation and moderate sounding promises, this administration is planning a right wing assault on values and ideals we hold most deeply. Healthy debate and diverse opinion are being eliminated from the State Department and CIA, and the cabinet is being remade to rubber stamp policies that will undermine Social Security, balloon the deficit, avoid real reforms in health care and education, weaken homeland security, and walk away from critical allies around the world.

Regardless of the outcome of this election, once all the votes are counted -- and they will be counted -- we will continue to challenge this administration. This is not a time for Democrats to retreat and accommodate extremists on critical principles -- it is a time to stand firm.

I will fight for a national standard for federal elections that has both transparency and accountability in our voting system. It's unacceptable in the United States that people still don't have full confidence in the integrity of the voting process.

I ask you to join me in this cause.

And we must fight not only against George Bush's extreme policies -- we must also uphold our own values. This is why on the first day Congress is in session next year, I will introduce a bill to provide every child in America with health insurance. And, with your help, that legislation will be accompanied by the support of hundreds of thousands of Americans.

There are more than eight million uninsured children in our nation.

That's eight million reasons for us to stay together and fight for a new direction. It is a disgrace that in the wealthiest nation on earth, eight million children go without health insurance.

Normally, a member of the Senate will first approach other senators and ask them to co-sponsor a bill before it is introduced -- instead, I am turning to you. Imagine the power of a bill co-sponsored by hundreds of thousands of Americans being presented on the floor of the United States Senate. You can make it happen. Sign our "Every Child Protected" pledge today and forward it to your family, friends, and neighbors:


This is the beginning of a second term effort to hold the Bush administration accountable and to stand up and fight for our principles and our values. They want you to disappear; they are counting on that. I'm confident you will prove them wrong, and you will rewrite history again.

Here is what I want you to know. I understand the strength, commitment, and passion that are at the core of what we built together -- and I am determined to make our collective energy and organization a force to be reckoned with in the weeks and months ahead.

Let's roll up our sleeves and get back to work for our country.

Thank you,

John Kerry

'Respect Does Not Mean Submission'

An excellent post up today at NewDonkey.com that I recomend you read.

He brings to our attention an excellent piece in TNR by Peter Beinart which challenges the Xtian rights claims that "respecting" their beliefs equals accepting them.

After quoting from Beinart he conludes:
the Christian Right's effort to make "respect" equal "agreement" is even more deeply disrespectful to people who actually share their religion. I'm a Protestant Christian myself, and read the same Bible that James Dobson reads, and I see no evidence at all that the message (much less the primary message) of Scripture to the faithful of this time is to outlaw abortion and stigmatize gay people. So it really offends me to be told I'm an "anti-Christian bigot" for disagreeing with the Christian Right on such subjects.

It behooves Democrats to challenge Christian conservatives for playing identity politics and refusing to engage in civil discourse about the intersection of faith and policy, and to challenge themselves to reject the false choice of disrespect or submission.

It's About System Integrity

This is the most important story not being reported. A few days ago, I did a very brief rundown of the allegations of a stolen election. I was skeptical then, and remain so. But that doesn't mean that allegations of vote fraud or system failure are not important. Quit the Contrary, accountability for it's own sake is a worthy goal.

The most complicated part of the vote fraud arguments are the alleged statistical anomalies that occurred in Florida's e-voting. I linked to an article by Colin Shea that attempted to explain just how unlikely some of the results in Florida are. They may also be the best evidence of system failure, if not fraud. I had an intro to statistics class in college that taught this liberal arts major just enough to know that statistics is science that can produce very accurate results and it's overwhelming complicated. So, I won't pretend to understand it, but I do recognize that these folks know what they are talking about and if they are concerned, we all should be.

This morning I searched all the major news outlets and none are covering this story. Yesterday, Berkeley's Quantitative Methods Research Team released a statistical study that should concern all Americans of every party.
Today the University of California's Berkeley Quantitative Methods Research Team released a statistical study - the sole method available to monitor the accuracy of e- voting - reporting irregularities associated with electronic voting machines may have awarded 130,000-260,000 or more excess votes to President George W. Bush in Florida in the 2004 presidential election. The study shows an unexplained discrepancy between votes for President Bush in counties where electronic voting machines were used versus counties using traditional voting methods - what the team says can be deemed a "smoke alarm." Discrepancies this large or larger rarely arise by chance - the probability is less than 0.1 percent. The research team formally disclosed results of the study at a press conference today at the UC Berkeley Survey Research Center, where they called on Florida voting officials to investigate....
more here.

The point of this is not to suggest the election was stolen. The point is that our voting system appears broken! Our democracy depends on everyone having faith in the elections. We can't be spending literally billions of dollars to "modernize" on new systems that do not work, are subject to fraud and / or failure.

"For the sake of all future elections involving electronic voting - someone must investigate and explain the statistical anomalies in Florida," says Professor Michael Hout. "We're calling on voting officials in Florida to take action."

Unfortunately, this story seems to be getting drowned out by those who are perceived to be 'chicken littles' screaming to everyone who will listen that the election was stolen.

As I have said, I don't think the election was stolen, but if it was, or even if some tried to steal it (which I'm much more inclined to believe), I want to know. And I want to have faith in the integrity of the system for all future elections.

You Rs out there need to care to, because next time your people may be on the receiving end.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Debt Limit to Rise to $8.18 Trillion

Debt Limit to Rise to $8.18 Trillion (washingtonpost.com)

Fiscal conservatives:
The collapse of statutory restraints on the growing budget deficit has alarmed Wall Street, befuddled the Treasury Department and elicited calls for a rethinking of the way the government handles its authority to tax its citizens and spend those proceeds.

"The fact is, very little [budgetary restraint] is left in any real form or substance," said Robert D. Reischauer, a former director of the Congressional Budget Office, now president of the Urban Institute.

With last night's passage of the debt ceiling increase, the government's borrowing limit has climbed by $2.23 trillion since President Bush took office: by $450 billion in 2002, by a record $984 billion in 2003 and by $800 billion this year. Just the increase in the debt ceiling over the past three years is nearly 2 1/2 times the entire federal debt accumulated between 1776 and 1980.

You have to be a complete idiot to actually believe the Rs are fiscally conservative.

Headless Body in Topless War

James Wolcott's cheery assessment of the war in Iraq.

It's difficult to pick out a quote that does it justice. Go read the post. I fear he is exactly correct.

Today's Message from Homeland Security

The Propaganda Remix Project

Matthew Yglesias on 'The Persian Puzzle'

Big Media Matt weighs in on Pollack's new book:Matthew Yglesias: The Persian Puzzle

Matthew asks a good question: Has anyone actually read Pollack's new book and does it advocate an invasion of Iran?

By way of an update, he quotes Praktike thusly:
"If anything, the book is meant to forestall a foolish course of action such as a military invasion (he's got a section aptly named "The Case Against Invading Iran") or a covert regime destabilization campaign (there's another section called "The Ghost of Kim Roosevelt")."
As I mentioned earlier, I'm still deciding how I feel about the Iranian issue. My initial feeling was that we must prevent a nuclear Iran, period. Diplomacy first, but while "negotiating" make it clear to all parties, that one way or another, there will be no nuclear Iran.

I never believed Saddam was a real threat to our security interest but have always felt that Iran was just that.

The more I think about the complexities of this issue, the more I realize I don't know what I think as to how far we should be prepared to go to prevent nuclear Iran.

But here is a thought. Assuming that it is a good idea to use military force to prevent nuclear Iran, why is the assumption always seem to be that the military action means a full scale invasion? Never mind the fact that the US military is not operationally capable of such an invasion anytime in the foreseeable future and certainly not before Iran goes nuclear. But such an invasion seems completely unnecessary. A cruise missile strike ends Iran's nuclear program in minutes, mission accomplished. We could tell them it's coming in time for them to evacuate the facility and they couldn't stop it.

Of course, retaliation in some form is another issue.

I'm sure I'm missing something here. Feel free to tell me what it is.

James Wolcott: The Pollack Always Rings Twice

James Wolcott is a tremendously gifted writer and his relatively new blog has become a daily stop for me.

Go read him today. James Wolcott: The Pollack Always Rings Twice.

As Wolcott points out, the whole Iran issue is feeling like 'deja vieu all over again.'

My opinions on Iran are still being shaped, but his observations of Ken Pollack and his latest book are spot on.

So Who Voted for 'The DeLay Rule'?

Are you wondering just who would vote to change a rule that would allow a criminally indicated congressman to remain in House leadership?Josh Marshall has and he is all over this story. He has his army out calling local politicians and asking them. If you're interested, go to TPM and follow it. It's becoming amusing.

It's All About Perspective

I'm really getting tired of all the whining over the election and what amounts to Democratic self-loathing.

We could whine endlessly and it won't change a thing. I'm convinced the vote recounts won't either but good for all those who are pressing for them and working tirelessly for accountability (and God knows my predictions lately really suck).

Accountability for it's own sake is a valid goal.

But get over all the self-pitying hopelessness talk! Not only is it not productive, but it's destructive and infectious to the base we are working hard to build.

Here is how I see this past election. The Republican party just won their first national election in 16 years and it took a war to do it.

How the hell are they going to follow that up? Sure, they dream of endless war, but that dog won't hunt.

Now, what are we going to do about it?

The Tax Battle

Earlier today I posted on the goal of the Bushies on tax reform. Through various mechanisms they seek to eliminate nearly all non-wage income. They want to appear revenue neutral so they are sending out trial balloons on stealth taxes to make up for the cuts to the very wealthy.

If we lose this fight, we might as well disband as a party. We should beat them over the head with each and every tax cut they propose to exempt passive income until they beg for mercy.

We should filibuster until 'hell won't have it' and make a GD stand.

For now, nothing is to be gained by presenting a plan ourselves which they can pick apart. We need to take a page from their book and force them to lead and then attack.

Like so many have said, we need to define our party as the party of reform and this is where it starts. No new spending bills not funded, and no tax cuts not off-set. It's not rocket science.

And when they lie about the goals of their tax breaks ("we want widows and orphans to be able save money from their stock returns,...") we need to learn to call them liars!

Round two of each fight should then be our alternative. Millionaires do not need "tax free" savings accounts. We already provide tax shelters for middle America with IRAs, Roth IRAs (which btw, I don't qualify for because of income), etc. If ordinary savings accounts are an issue, then exempt the first $3k of interest income on families earning less than $150k.

Speak honestly and loudly about the cost of each tax cut. When so-called journalist quote their spin as fact, call them on it and don't let them get away with that BS. Make them confront the facts.

We as voters also need to keep the heat on our elected pols from both parties as well. Call your Rs and ask how they can support tax breaks for the wealthy while our soldiers don't have the armor they need. Politely, make the person on the phone give you an answer.

Call your Ds and tell them you support them 100% as long as they fight.

This is a battle we can't afford to lose, and should not lose.

How Does 06 Look?

I've been looking for some analysis of the coming Senate races.

The first I've found is by Sam Rosenfeld at TAP.

I don't have an opinion on this topic as I haven't even began to study any of the races.

I know there is talk of trying to knock off 'Appeasement Joe' Lieberman in a primary, and I'm trying to make up my mind on how I feel about that. I do know this, given what we are up against, I would not support taking on more than one D. The Rs are our enemy and we cannot use very limited resources in time, people and money fighting our own party. But, I know, Lieberman is a special case.

The Dangerous Dollar

I've mentioned the fall of the dollar here several times. I have no problem admitting that I struggle to understand the implications.

Robert Samuelson in the WaPo offers a good explanation.
George Bush hasn't much discussed what could be his biggest economic problem. It's not budget deficits or jobs. It's the possible crash of the dollar on foreign exchange markets. Even if Bush understood it, he would be hard-pressed to explain it to the public. Worse, there are no obvious ways to prevent it. Nor is it certain how big the threat is. Little wonder Bush hasn't said much. If John Kerry had won, the situation would have been the same. But a dollar crash, if it occurred, could trigger a terrifying global slump.....

Marine Officers See Risk in Cuts in Fallujah Force

This story just keeps getting better.

According to the NYTs if planned troop reductions occur in Falluhah, the insurgants may rebound.

Here's the lede:
WASHINGTON, Nov. 17 - Senior Marine intelligence officers in Iraq are warning that if American troop levels in the Falluja area are significantly reduced during reconstruction there, as has been planned, insurgents in the region will rebound from their defeat. The rebels could thwart the retraining of Iraqi security forces, intimidate the local population and derail elections set for January, the officers say.

They have further advised that despite taking heavy casualties in the weeklong battle, the insurgents will continue to grow in number, wage guerrilla attacks and try to foment unrest among Falluja's returning residents, emphasizing that expectations for improved conditions have not been met....
The catch-22 that seems to sum up Iraq II.

Eliminate All Tax on Ultra Wealthy.

I define 'ultra-wealthy' as those who are not dependant upon wages for significant support, but earn their income from investments and speculation -- and not middle-class retirees.

As I suggested earlier here, it appears that "tax reform" for the Bushies will take the form of removing all tax on non-wage income such that nearly all of the federal budget will be borne by men and women who work every day. Millionaire real estate and stock speculators would pay no income taxes.

But it gets better.the WaPo reports:
....The administration plans to push major amendments that would shield interest, dividends and capitals gains from taxation, expand tax breaks for business investment and take other steps intended to simplify the system and encourage economic growth, according to several people who are advising the White House or are familiar with the deliberations.

The changes are meant to be revenue-neutral. To pay for them, the administration is considering eliminating the deduction of state and local taxes on federal income tax returns and scrapping the business tax deduction for employer-provided health insurance, the advisers said.
That's right, working middle-class families will have to pay more taxes (by the loss of those deductions) and may lose health insurance! WTF!

And don't let these creeps tell you that this is necessary to encourage savings. We can very simply encourage savings by exempting the first $3000 of interest income from taxation, much like retirees can now cash in on the sale of one home. Of course, this simple solution means the ultra wealthy would be taxed on their income, which is the real "problem" they are trying to solve.

(via Atrios)

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Why DeLay May be Indicted

Preblog I wrote about DeLay's legal problems in TX. Now with the R House Rule changes that seem to anticipate DeLay's indictment, some are wondering just what his legal problems might be. Salon did a nice piece on this last March. Since Salon makes you sit through ads to get access, I will explain it in a nutshell.

Delay and his cronies engaged in money laundering to get around a 100 year-old Texas law that forbids corporations and labor unions to donate to state legislative candidates.

It's a pretty simple scheme that should make for a pretty simple trial. DeLay wanted to take over the Texas legislature so that he could redistrict and pick-up seats in Congress. So for the 2002 Texas legislative election cycle he used his political action committee, Texans for a Republican Majority (TRMPAC) to shakedown corporations in Texas and elsewhere for big dollars. He couldn't give that money directly to the candidates because of the 100 year old law, so he gave the money (hundreds of thousands of dollars) from TRMPAC to the Republican National Committee, which, in turn, had the Republican National State Elections Committee contribute to seven Texas State House candidates, who as I understand it spread the money around so that about 20 Republican candidates were helped by TRMPAC activities to win Texas State House seats.

And, this plan was successful. Rs took over the state legislature, redistricted and picked up 4 seats in Congress earlier this month.

So far, DeLay political aide Jim Ellis, fundraiser Warren RoBold and John Colyandro, the executive director of TRMPAC were indicted by a Travis County (Austin) Texas grand jury for money laundering and eight corporations also were indicted for illegal political contributions. It is my understanding that if convicted these gentlemen are facing 99 years in prison.

This has all the marking of the classic white collar criminal investigation: indict the minions, convict and then sweat the convicted to flip on those up the food chain.

DeLay has yet to be touched by this grand jury investigation. The recent House rule change seems to confirm, however, that DeLay, at least, believes an indictment is coming.

Here is an article I found in the WaPo:3 DeLay Workers Indicted in Texas (washingtonpost.com)

Still Fighting

Dave and Kevin are as upset, and fed up as the rest of us, and they want to do something about it.

They have put together an excellent blog that is worth your time. You can find them at Still Fighting.

Dave and Kevin know that the battle is not over, but has just begun. Go to their page for great ideas on how to get active, stay active and make a difference.

Allow Me a Moment of Vanity

Mathew Gross (that is one "t") was a key player in modernizing political campaigns in a very big way. Mathew was hired by Joe Trippi for the Dean campaign as the first ever official campaign blogger. He founded Blog for America for the Dean campaign which brought the Internet (singular) to political campaigns and in the process made history. Every major campaign now has an official blog including BC 04. Mathew is the reason why.

Mathew subsequently left the Dean campaign and can now be found at Deride and Conquer.

Here is an interview with Mathew shortly after he left Dean.

Mathew's blog is a daily stop for me and on several occasions has been the basis of posts.

Why do I mention all of this and what does this have to do with vanity, you ask?

Mathew is a fan of The Ward Report and I could not be more flattered.

These People Question Our Values?

Josh Marshall reports:

Rep John Dingell (D-MI) on Majority Leader Tom DeLay (TX-R): "These folks talk about values and decency, but then think it's okay to change the rules once it appears one of their own may have broken them. This amounts to a work release program for the ethically challenged. We should all remember that a decade ago, Mr. DeLay helped to create this rule. Republicans said at the time they were the party of reform and good government. Now they've become the party of moribund hubris."
Hubris, indeed. They really are completely full of themselves. Another perfect example is the 'nuclear option' apparently now approved. They will blow apart what little comity is left between the parties in Washington, and don't seem to care in the least.

Remember the famous 'Contract with America' and its call for term limits? I'll never forget Newt commenting after the R takeover of the house that term limits were no longer necessary now that they were in charge.

So what are we going to do about it

Today's Message from Homeland Security

The Propaganda Remix Project

Frist Approves "Nuclear Option"

Jeff Dubner in TAPPED today quotes The National Journal's Congress Daily as stating that Frist has approved the Nuclear Option.

During a closed-door meeting of the GOP Conference today, Frist will inform his colleagues that while the so-called "nuclear option" of changing Senate rules will be reserved as a last resort, Republicans will no longer tolerate Democratic efforts to block Bush's nominees to the federal bench, an aide to Frist confirmed.

According to this source, no immediate action on changing the rules is planned. Frist will wait for the next floor debate on a contested Bush appointee.

During that process, he will attempt to negotiate with Democrats and pursue any and all options to break the deadlock. Assuming those overtures fail, Frist would then ask the presiding officer of the Senate to rule on the 60-vote requirement.

Dubner thinks this might be a big mistake if done on a high-profile SC confirmation, as opposed to a district judge confirmation in which case the American People might not notice.

But here is where I take issue with Dubner. He assumes that Frist would have the 51 votes to change this rule any time he chose. Now I have no contact to speak of in DC, and know that Jeff has plenty, but I really don't think this is a safe assumption.

Besides being an idiot and a stooge, Frist is a man of science. Like all my friends whose background is in the sciences, they have no sense of history or tradition. At least until very recently, the Senate has been a club which not only operated under it's rigid rules but honored and respected those rules. The Rs blocked well over a hundred Clinton court nominees with never a suggestion of changing the rules when the Ds were in control.

What makes Dubner so certain that Senators Snowe, Collins, Hagel, McCain, Grassley, Chafee, Reed, and other (at least sometime) moderates whose names now escape me, would just rubber stamp the nuclear destruction of longstanding traditions? Especially during a controversial nominee.

And that's not a rhetorical question. I really want to know.