Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Hagel calls for unconditional direct talks with Iran

Steve Clemons:
I have just secured a private letter -- not yet publicly released -- from Senator Chuck Hagel to President Bush and copied to Condoleezza Rice, Robert Gates, and Stephen Hadley. I should add that I did not receive this letter from Senator Hagel but from other sources.

The letter urges the President to pursue "direct, unconditional, and comprehensive talks with the Government of Iran."

In the letter, both attached (Hagel letter pdf) and reprinted in full below, Hagel warns that "unless there is a strategic shift [from the current situation], I believe we will find ourselves in a dangerous and increasingly isolated position in the coming months." Hagel continues, "I do not see how the collective actions that we are now taking will produce the results that we seek."

There's much more.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Huckabee's money is starting to flow

Donations to Huckabee have quadrupled.

I think Huckabee will win Iowa.

Under what lawful authority?

The State Department promised Blackwater USA bodyguards immunity from prosecution in its investigation of last month's deadly shooting of 17 Iraqi civilians, The Associated Press has learned.

As a result, it will likely be months before the United States can - if ever - bring criminal charges in the case that has infuriated the Iraqi government.

"Once you give immunity, you can't take it away," said a senior law enforcement official familiar with the investigation.

A State Department spokesman did not have an immediate comment Monday. Both Justice Department spokesman Dean Boyd and FBI spokesman Rich Kolko declined comment.
As far as I know, the State Department does not conduct criminal prosecutions so under what legal authority are they empowered to grant immunity from criminal prosecution?

Assuming no such authority exists, are State Department officials who purported to grant immunity guilty of obstruction of justice?

UPDATE: CNN reports today (10-30-2007):
One of the senior State Department officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of a lack of authorization to speak on the matter, said the department's Diplomatic Security branch does not have the right or ability to offer blanket immunity and did not do anything that would inhibit prosecutors if charges are to be pursued.

"We want to see anyone who violated laws or broke rules held accountable," the official said. "Nothing that was done prevents anyone from being prosecuted if they broke the law.

It's not over til the votes are counted!

Despite what you see and read in the MSM, Both Hillary and Rudy are a long way from their parties nominations. Sure, it looks very good for Hillary, but it's also easy to imagine a precipitous fall.

How much of Hillary's lead is based upon the belief that she is the inevitable nominee?

According to Election Central Obama is effectively tied with Hillary in Iowa. Hillary losing Iowa could be catastrophic to her campaign. Not only would it be a huge boost to Obama or Edwards with a huge media circus (driven as much by a Hillary loss as a win by Obama or Edwards) but a devastating blow to Hillary's image as inevitable winner going into New Hampshire. If The Iowa boost is enough to cost Hillary New Hampshire than she's going into South Carolina with NO WINS and does anyone think Hillary will win in South Carolina?

This, by the way, is why Hillary would not withdraw from the January 15 Michigan Primary.

Don't let anyone tell you that Hillary has this sewn up. Hillary doesn't believe it and you should either.

And you can make the same analysis of the GOP race with Rudy behind Romney in both Iowa and New Hampshire.

Is the Mukasey nomination in trouble?

I think it's too early to tell, but what once appear to be a certainty, now appears in doubt, with some R's jumping on the bandwagon.

Paul Kiel has an excellent rundown of the fall from grace.

The Dems on the Judiciary committee lead by Sen Leahy (who has only recently located his long lost balls) say that won't pass him favorable out of committee unless he declares "waterboarding" torture -- and thus a war crime.

Mukasey is in a much trickier situation than most bloggers appreciate. As a lawyer I can appreciate where he's coming from. He correctly noted that torture is "abhorrent and unconstitutional" however the lawyer in him would not allow him to give definitive answers to ill-defined terms. This is exactly what I would demand of anyone I prepared for sworn testimony.

It is unreasonable to ask anyone to offer a definitive legal opinion on any subject on the spot. It is reasonable to assume that Mukasey is not an expert on all forms of physical and psychological coercion and thus prepared to definitively declare technique A is torture, B is not, etc.

This is where Bush has led us as a nation.

If Mukasey declares 'waterboarding' torture, is he now legally bound to prosecute all administration officials who were involved in, or authorized the practice? This is obviously Mukasey's concern.

Can he satisfy Leahy, et al, by responding, "The act of strapping a person down, placing a cloth over their face and pouring water on them to simulate the horror of drowning is torture" ? Probably so, but then he still has that whole "war crimes" bugaboo to deal with.

Every member of the Senate knows that Mukasey's problem will be the same for anyone Bush nominates to Justice -- they are damned if they do, and damned if they don't.

But Leahy is making an important point -- albeit indirectly: Members of the Bush administration at the highest levels are guilty of war crimes of which no honorable person can deny.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Healthcare industry switching horses

Kevin Drum observes,
Democrats have gone from 30% of all health industry donations in 2000 to 44% in 2004 to 57% this year. This is, obviously, good news and bad news. The good news is that lobbyist money follows winners, and the healthcare lobby seems pretty confident that a Democrat will become president next year. The bad news is that they might just get what they paid for.

Rudy a Lefty? Yeah, Right.

David Greenberg has a take down in today's WaPo of the silly notion of Rudy as a liberal on "social issues".
The "social" and "cultural" issues that divide Americans encompass much more than guns, gay rights and abortion. They include state support of religion; the legitimacy of dissenting speech; the president's right to keep information secret; the place of fair procedures in dispensing justice. The Bush administration's hard-line stands on these matters have polarized the nation as much as the Iraq war has. And on these issues, Giuliani is just as hard-line as the man he'd like to succeed.
Greenberg sites numerious examples of Rudy's lust for authoritarian power ranging from sending public school kids to parochial schools, moving to keep his mayoral papers secret, order the police - without the approval of the city counsel -- to permanently confiscate the cars of anyone accused of drunk driving whether convicted or not. Just consider this last one. The NYC police could take your car from you forever simply by accusing you of drunk driving -- no conviction necessary.

Rudy Giuliani is a nut. You read it here first.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Right-wing establishment pushes back against Huckabee

This is interesting. First, I read a hit piece on Huckabee by John Fund in the WSJ, and now The American Spectator weights in.

Ideological Inquisition

Ron Brownstein,
This ideological inquisition among Republicans isn't confined to the presidential race. The two House Republicans most critical of the Iraq war (Walter Jones of North Carolina and Wayne Gilchrest of Maryland) have drawn serious primary challengers from the right. So had Nebraska's Chuck Hagel, the Senate Republican most critical of the war, before he announced his retirement last month. Virginia Republicans recently decided to choose their next Senate nominee by convention rather than primary -- a move that favors conservative former Gov. Jim Gilmore over moderate Rep. Tom Davis.

The percentage of independents who view the GOP favorably has plummeted from 68 percent in 1994 to just 40 percent now in surveys by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center. In 2006, independents preferred Democrats over Republicans nearly 3-to-2 in House elections, and by crushing margins in most truly competitive Senate races.
Beating these guys should be like shooting fish in a barrel and yet....

A Giuliani / Brownback ticket?

Sounds to me like Rudy cut a deal yesterday.

The once skeptical Brownback seems to now only have eyes for Rudy. And Romney's ambassador to the right-wing kooks smells a rat.
There's obviously something more going on here than fidelity to the pro-life cause," said Bopp, a legendary pro-life activist and lawyer who is an important voice for Romney because he vouches for his conservatism. "Brownback is angling for some personal political benefit by cozying up to Giuliani."

Bopp's stinging criticism of Brownback is somewhat surprising, because the support of Brownback, who recently dropped out of the Presidential race, is coveted by GOP candidates such as Romney because it would shore up their conservative credentials. Romney and Rudy are engaged in a heated war over the evangelical and social conservative vote.

Brownback's dalliance with Rudy, Bopp said, is "particularly surprising in light of his unwillingness to accept Romney's conversion, which happened several years ago. Now he is willing to accept Giuliani's statements of the last day or so."

Rummy won't be traveling overseas much longer

Some human rights groups have filed a civil suit in France accusing Rumy of war crimes for torturing people in Iraq and Cuba, etc. Rumy is scheduled to be in France next week and they want him taken into custody.

These suits will dog Rumsfeld the rest of his life. It only takes on Magistrate to place him in jail somewhere as Pinochet learned when he was arresting in the UK on a Spanish warrant.

Criminal contempt citations against Bolten and Miers?

The Politico reports that House Dem leaders are quietly asking their members if they have the balls to hold the WH Chief of Staff and former legal counsel in criminal contempt for ignoring their subpoenas. The Politico quotes members saying they have the votes from Dems alone and would expect no Republican defectors.

Anyone want to bet that in the end, Pelosi will wilt?

FEMA fakes a press conference

Aired on Fox, MSNBC, etc. in which FEMA employees lobbed softballs at deputy administrator Harvey Johnson. The legit press was given 15 minutes notice making it impossible to appear live. There was an 800 dial in number that was 'listen only'. The questions taken live were all from FEMA employees pretending to be reporters.

I get tired of saying this, but again, just imagine the play this would get in the MSM had the Clinton administration fake a news conference?

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Hillary the safe choice?

Ross Douthat thinks so,
As I've probably said before, Hillary may not be the best choice for the Democrats, but she's definitely the safest; I think nominating her more or less guarantees the party 48 percent of the vote, since she's sufficiently tested and savvy and all the rest of it to make a Dukakis or Dole-style wipeout almost completely unimaginable. And in a year when things will (probably) be going the Democrats' way anyway, there's a lot to be said for nominating a known quantity and assuming that, in spite of what Jonah rightly calls the "irreducible core" of anti-Hillary sentiment, the political landscape alone will ensure that her guaranteed 48 percent rises to 51-53 percent by November '08. Whereas Obama and to a lesser extent Edwards both have a higher ceiling, but also a much lower floor, since neither has been through the fire already the way Hillary has (indeed, Obama has never run against significant GOP opposition of any kind), and either one could flame out disastrously in the heat of a general-election campaign.

How does Hillary tout her national lead?

Greg Sargent asks this question today in an article on TPM.

The answer is simply: She doesn't.

Hillary has nothing to gain by boasting about her national lead. She has to run in Iowa (where's she not as strong) like an underdog. Losing Iowa could be crushing to her campaign. Remember Howard Dean. Dean went into the Iowa caucus the presumptive nominee and ended up third after a last minute surge by Kerry and a strong Edwards finish. Dean was reduced to a punchline in about 7 days.

The biggest concern about Dean going into Iowa was his electability and this is even more true of Hillary. Hillary could easily lose Iowa and if she's does, her campaign could quickly collapse.

It's going to be a wild ride.

I'm not holding my breath

Leahy and Durbin are suggesting they will hold up Mukasey's nomination to AG unless he admits that waterboarding is torture.

Leahy hasn't had a spine in years, so I'm having a hard time imagining him backing this threat up. But I'd love to be wrong.

Living the dream of the one party Republican government

I love these stories because they kill my Republican friends. George W. Bush is the biggest spending president in history even outspending LBJ (Okay, FDR might top him, but that's it).
"When adjusted for inflation, discretionary spending — or budget items that Congress and the president can control, including defense and domestic programs, but not entitlements such as Social Security and Medicare — shot up at an average annual rate of 5.3 percent during Bush’s first six years, Slivinski calculates.

That tops the 4.6 percent annual rate Johnson logged during his 1963-69 presidency. By these standards, Ronald Reagan was a tightwad; discretionary spending grew by only 1.9 percent a year on his watch.

Discretionary spending went up in Bush's first term by 48.5 percent, not adjusted for inflation, more than twice as much as Bill Clinton did (21.6 percent) in two full terms, [CATO's] Slivinski reports.

Even Blackwater's own people

Blackwater's own people have reservations,
They described a grating sense among many of Blackwater guards, especially those with years of experience, that the killings on Sept. 16 were unjustified.

“Some guys are thinking that it was not a good shoot, that it was not warranted,” said one Blackwater contractor, using military jargon for an episode that results in a wrongful death. “I don’t think there was criminal intent involved. I just think it was the application of the use of deadly force gone horribly wrong.”

He added, “To mitigate one threat, 17 people had to die?”

Putting a happy face of global warming

Today'spress briefing by Dana Perino,
I’m sure lots of people would love to ridicule me when I say this, but it is true that many people die from cold-related deaths every winter. And there are studies that say that climate change in certain areas of the world would help those individuals.

An airstrike a day won't keep insurgents at bay

Fred Kaplan says that US casualties are down in Iraq because we are abandoning the counterinsurgency offensive and bombing more.

National security policy based on lies

In a lengthy post, Andrew Sullivan notes that Bush's "creation of an extra-legal dictatorship within a putatively democratic society - was explicable only if you believe that the very existence of the U.S. is in peril." Andrew repeats the story that a month after Sept 11, 2001, Bush was told that informant "Dragonfire" had told the CIA that Al Qaeda has smuggled a 10 megaton nuclear bomb stolen from the old USSR into New York City. The POTUS understandable flipped his wig.

Supsequently, "Dragonfire" was completely discredited -- there was no bomb.

Andrew observes that torture "was never designed in the first place to get at the actual truth of anything; it was designed in the darkest days of human history to produce false confessions in order to annihilate political and religious dissidents. And that is how it always works: it gets confessions regardless of their accuracy."

How was the false information from Dragonfire obtained? Is all of the Bush / Cheney grab for power based upon lies extracted from torture like the false confession of Abdallah Higazy?

Gallup's analysis of support for Obama

It's worth reading but here's the summary,
Obama and his Democratic rivals have their work cut out for them in trying to defeat Clinton for the Democratic nomination. The fact that Clinton leads not only among Democrats nationwide but also among every key Democratic subgroup makes targeting one’s campaign efforts a challenge. Obama’s relatively strong appeal to black and young Democrats is somewhat of a double-edged sword, because those groups are usually among the least likely to turn out to vote. But Obama’s ability to inspire people may help him capitalize on his strengths among these groups. His relatively weak support among older Democrats (and older Americans) is somewhat of a liability, because this is one of the groups most likely to vote.

Should Obama survive the Democratic primaries, he may be fairly well positioned to win the presidency, given his relatively high favorable ratings and a political environment that currently advantages the Democratic Party.

Supporting the troops

The words of soldier,
I have no use for the support of people who uncritically assume that, since we're at war, it's their duty to support it in order to help the troops. History is replete with examples of troops getting the shaft during wartime, and the only way to protect them against that is through critical thought. You can oppose the war without opposing the troops; people do that every day. I would much prefer the support of people who have examined the war, found it wanting, and seek to bring me home than those who will continue mindlessly beating the war drum regardless of the circumstances on the ground. (Please note that my own position on the war remains one of principled uncertainty.)

The sooner people realize that critical thinking is an asset rather than a liability, the better off we will all be.

Steney Hoyer born again?

In a speech at the Georgetown Law school this week, Steny Hoyer made the obvious point,
"Simply stated, it would be grossly irresponsible for Congress to grant blanket immunity for companies without even knowing whether their conduct was legal or not."
It's worth noting that these comments are from a man who recently drafted a bill granting blanket immunity for companies without even knowing whether their conduct was legal or not.

One wonders why a company would need retroactive blanket immunity for lawful acts.

Perhaps after full disclosure it will be obvious that immunity is in order.

Evangelical issues

Alex Carpenter at the Faith In Public Life blog notes a recent CBS poll describing issues important to self-described evangelical Christians,
...the top issues white Evangelicals want to hear candidates discuss are Healthcare (23%) and Iraq (20%); abortion and gay marriage didn't even crack the top 4 issues. Poverty topped the list (at 33%) when Evangelicals were asked, "Which issue should Evangelical Christians get involved in?"
Wouldn't know this to hear their leaders speak.

The Art Of The Hissy Fit

The GOP has mastered faux outrage and now uses it as their first attack.

Digby so eloquently states what I've been trying to say for years now,
The political cost to progressives and liberals for their inability to properly deal with this tactic is greater than they realize. Just as Newt Gingrich was not truly offended by Bill Clinton's behavior (which mirrored his own) neither were conservative congressmen and Rush Limbaugh truly upset by the Move On ad --- and everyone knew it, which was the point. It is a potent demonstration of pure power to force others to insincerely condemn or apologize for something, particularly when the person who is forcing it is also insincerely outraged. For a political party that suffers from a reputation for weakness, it is extremely damaging to be so publicly cowed over and over again. It separates them from their most ardent supporters and makes them appear guilty and unprincipled to the public at large.
This is all part and parcel of GOP 'bitch-slap' politics.

In the 2004 election, the primary tactic of the GOP coming out of their convention was to mock Kerry into oblivion. I thought this was the dumbest damn thing I'd ever heard and that the voters were ready to demand more of the incumbent -- not to mention the irony of those supporting Bush mocking anyone. But of course, it was extremely effective and the Kerry campaign was completely unprepared to respond and Kerry remains a laughing stock to this day.

Every time Nancy Pelosi or Harry Reid issues a statement condemning a Democrat for being critical of the president the GOP has won a battle and the image of a weak and impotent Democratic party is bolstered.

Just imagine how the GOP would have looked if Pelosi, when asked about the comments of Congressman Stark, had responded by mocking them for their hysteria in the face of criticism. "Surely the big brave commander in chief can handle a little criticism? When did the "Bring'em on" President become such a shrinking violet? Do I need to have fainting couches placed in the chamber for our Republican colleagues?"

It's becoming increasingly clear that neither Pelosi nor Reid are up to the job.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The jigs up

The Iraqi government today revoked legal immunity for Blackwater and other contractors in Iraq.

For most contractors (cooks, janitors, etc) this is no big deal, but for the security contractors it's everything. The very nature of their job makes it impossible for security contractors to operate without immunity. They run the risk of being tried for murder every time they fire a weapon in defense of their protected -- a risk they cannot take.

The NYC Firefighters call Rudy a fraud

The meme that Rudy is a beloved father figure to the NYPD and especially the FDNY is a manufactured myth. The firefighters hate him, and their union has produced a 13 minute video to make the case that his failures of leadership cost them lives on September 11, 2001.

The firefighters make 3 charges against Giuliani. First, that he did not supply NYFD with radios that worked properly. Second, that his insistence on placing the NYC emergency command post at the WTC after the 1993 bombing was negligent. And, third, that he stopped search and recovery of operations to soon after the attack to clean up the site.

Here is the video.

posted without comment

"I took a city that was full of pornography and licked it to a large extent," - Rudy Giuliani.

(Thanks to Andrew Sullivan for the pointer)

Can't make this stuff up

From The Blotter,
Presidential candidate Rudolph Giuliani hired a Catholic priest to work in his consulting firm months after the priest was accused of sexually molesting two former students and an altar boy and told by the church to stop performing his priestly duties.

The priest, Monsignor Alan Placa, a longtime friend of Giuliani and the priest who officiated at his second wedding to Donna Hanover, continues to work at Giuliani Partners in New York, to the outrage of some of his accusers and victims' groups, which have begun to protest at Giuliani campaign events.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The 'guess who said that' game

Read these quotes and see if you can guess who said them.
Do you think that the terrorists hate us for our freedoms, or do you think they have specific geopolitical objectives?

Well, I believe that terrorism is a tool that has been utilized throughout history to achieve certain objectives. Some have been ideological, others territorial. There are personality-driven terroristic objectives. The bottom line is, you can't lump all terrorists together. And I think we've got to do a much better job of clarifying what are the motivations, the raisons d'ĂȘtre of terrorists. I mean, what the Tamil Tigers are fighting for in Sri Lanka, or the Basque separatists in Spain, or the insurgents in al-Anbar province may only be connected by tactics. They may not share all that much in terms of what is the philosophical or ideological underpinning. And I think one of our mistakes has been painting with such a broad brush, which has not been particularly helpful in understanding what it is we were up against when it comes to those who pursue terrorism for whichever ends they're seeking.

It sounds like you're saying it's not particularly useful when Bush and others say terrorists hate us for our freedoms?

Well, some do. But is that a diagnosis? I don't think it's proven to be an effective one.
It's just as much fun to try and imagine George Bush making these comments.

Click here for the answer to today's quiz.

Matthew's hammers bomb Iran now case

It's no secret that I am not a big fan of Chris Matthews. I think he's a flaky dip shit who sucks up way to much to despicable people out of desperation to get guests on his show.

But, he clearly is bright and can do a good job when he's so inclined. In this clip from his show he disembowels the 'bomb Iran now' argument very effectively. Demanding that any guest explain the logic of their position seems basic, and yet, it almost never happens.

It's medicare stupid!

Jon Chait explains that the real problem is with Medicare and not Social Security.

Monday, October 22, 2007

A must read

When I hear the Bush administration talk about Iran I think that they can't possible be this dumb or nuts.

Apparently, Fareed Zakaria is having the same feeling,
The American discussion about Iran has lost all connection to reality. Norman Podhoretz, the neoconservative ideologist whom Bush has consulted on this topic, has written that Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is "like Hitler … a revolutionary whose objective is to overturn the going international system and to replace it in the fullness of time with a new order dominated by Iran and ruled by the religio-political culture of Islamofascism." For this staggering proposition Podhoretz provides not a scintilla of evidence.

Here is the reality. Iran has an economy the size of Finland's and an annual defense budget of around $4.8 billion. It has not invaded a country since the late 18th century. The United States has a GDP that is 68 times larger and defense expenditures that are 110 times greater. Israel and every Arab country (except Syria and Iraq) are quietly or actively allied against Iran. And yet we are to believe that Tehran is about to overturn the international system and replace it with an Islamo-fascist order? What planet are we on?
The Iranians have been trying to talk to us for years and we've simply ignored them.
The one time we seriously negotiated with Tehran was in the closing days of the war in Afghanistan, in order to create a new political order in the country. Bush's representative to the Bonn conference, James Dobbins, says that "the Iranians were very professional, straightforward, reliable and helpful. They were also critical to our success. They persuaded the Northern Alliance to make the final concessions that we asked for." Dobbins says the Iranians made overtures to have better relations with the United States through him and others in 2001 and later, but got no reply. Even after the Axis of Evil speech, he recalls, they offered to cooperate in Afghanistan. Dobbins took the proposal to a principals meeting in Washington only to have it met with dead silence. The then Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, he says, "looked down and rustled his papers." No reply was ever sent back to the Iranians. Why bother? They're mad.

....This would all be funny if it weren't so dangerous.

Read the whole column.

Two problems with torture

Have you noticed how all those who publicly defend torture by the US and those such as Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney who not so secretly champion it's use have never interrogated a soul?

Stuart Herrington is a retired Army colonel, an expert in interrogation and counterinsurgency operations and the author most recently of "Traitors Among Us: Inside the Spy Catcher's World" has lots of interrogation experience.
I served 30 years in the U.S. Army as an intelligence officer, which included extensive experience as an interrogator in Vietnam, in Panama and during the 1991 Gulf War. In the course of these sensitive missions, my teams and I collected mountains of excellent, verified information, despite the fact that we never laid a hostile hand on a prisoner. Had one of my interrogators done so, he would have been disciplined and most likely relieved of his duties.
The colonel's two problems with torture are that it's wrong and it doesn't work. These are the same two problems that everyone raises but this guy is a serious dude and he explains why.

Question: What do these three men have in common?

A wounded North Vietnamese Army sergeant, captured only after he exhausted his ammunition, brags that his Army is "liberating" the South and refuses to cooperate under harsh treatment by South Vietnamese interrogators. He then provides Americans with information about his unit, its missions, its infiltration route. He even assists in interrogating other prisoners. Granted amnesty, he serves in the South Vietnamese Army for the duration of the war.

A captured Panamanian staff officer, morose and angry, initially lies and stonewalls his American interrogator but ultimately reveals his role in his leader's shadowy contacts with North Korea, Cuba, Libya and the Palestine Liberation Organization. He provides information about covert arms purchases and a desperate attempt to procure SAM missiles to shoot down American helicopters in the event of an American invasion.

An Iraqi general, captured and humiliated during Operation Desert Storm, is initially frightened and defiant but eventually cooperates, knowing that Saddam Hussein's penalty for treason was certain death. Before repatriation, the general hands his captor his prayer beads and a scrap of paper bearing an address, saying with emotion, "Our Islamic custom requires that we show gratitude to those who bestow kindness and mercy. These beads comforted me through your Air Force's fierce bombings for 39 days, but they are all I have. When Saddam is gone, please come to my home. You will be an honored guest and we will slaughter a lamb to welcome you."

Answer: All three were treated by their American captors with dignity and respect. No torture; no mistreatment.

The Values Voter Summit

The SundayNew York Times writes up the "Values Voter Summit" that ended Saturday in DC.

A couple interesting things. First, the final straw poll that Josh posted yesterday doesn't tell the real story. People could vote in the straw poll online since August, and Romney narrowly beat Huckabee by five tenths of a point. However, as The Times points out, for those present and voting at the event, Huckabee won more than 50% of the vote, and was treated to "repeated boisterous standing ovations".

Huckabee, a Baptist minister, is the religious right's guy and it is only their own foolishness that kept them from embracing him early on (Matt points out that they stayed away from him because he has compassion for brown skinned immigrants and tax reform on the rich) when their support could have made a real impact on Huckabee's campaign.

Never the less, Huckabee could win Iowa.

Second, although the leaders of the religious right are willing to accept a second Clinton presidency to preserve their own political power, the base isn't so keen and Rudy have made enough promises to prevent a spoiler.
Rick Scarborough, an influential conservative leader who heads the group Vision America, said Mr. Giuliani may have succeeded in defusing that possibility with his strong performance Saturday. “He might have derailed the effort to a third party today,” Mr. Scarborough said. But he added that he would still do all he could to “prevent him from getting the nomination.”

There have been signs of growing unease in the movement anyway about the third-party possibility, with many contending that it will ensure the election of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, who is leading in national polls among the Democratic contenders.
As I pointed out in an earlier post, talking about 3d party is one thing, but finding someone willing to actually be a spoiler, and with enough credibility to draw a following and raise enough money to fund a campaign is very different.


Bush's approval rating in the latest American Research Group Survey. This ties his low mark in this survey. The Admin worked it hard to spin the Petaeus report in their favor and did a very good job (or it's just that the Dems are that bad -- probably both) but any minor bump seems to have been short lived,...lipstick on a pig, etc.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Prosecute Gonzales?

Fired Washington State US Attorney John McKay thinks the U.S. Inspector General will recommend that Gonzales be prosecuted for acts of official misconduct. The report could be out within a month or so.

My response? Recommendation or not, Gonzales will never be prosecuted. Bush will issue a blanket pardon of Gonzales and everyone else who cheated, lied under oath, tortured and murdered at the direction of the President.

Why do you think Gonzales had that wry smirk on his face every time he lied?

The list of Bush Pardons in January, 2009, will be larger than the Manhattan White Pages.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Obama misses opportunity to show some leadership

Obama releases a statement opposing the Telecom Immunity Bill.
“I have consistently opposed this Administration's efforts to use debates about our national security to expand its own power, whether that was on the Iraq war, or on its power grab to curb our civil liberties through domestic surveillance programs. It is time to restore oversight and accountability in the FISA program, and this proposal -- with an unprecedented grant of retroactive immunity -- is not the place to start.”
Opposition to retroactive immunity for unknown conduct is a no brainer and Obama should have been out front on this issue. It would cost him nothing. No immunity until there has been full disclosure and members of both chambers can make informed decisions and the appropriatness of such an unprecidented measure.

Sen Christopher Dodd is a patriot

An exclusive from out friends at TPM: Senator Chris Dodd Will Put A Hold On Telecom Immunity Bill.

I can think of only two reasons why any member of Congress would agree to retroactive immunity without full disclosure: A fool or bribery.

Call Sen Dodd's office and thank him for his courage and patriotism. His DC number is (202) 224-2823

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Compare the health care plans of each candidate

The Kaiser Family Foundation's Health in '08 site has a cool feature allowing side-by-side comparisons of the different candidates health care plans.

Huckabee rising

I have had very little to say about the current state of the presidential race because I don't care who the front runners are at any given time, until the voting actually starts, I think it's anybodies race. Just ask the Deaniacs.

For instance, did you know that Mike Huckabee is in second place behind Romney and on the rise? Or that Rudy is in fourth!

The ‘Culture Of Death’

includes contraception according to Bush's new director of family planning at HHS.

The inability of Dems to beat their GOP counterparts over the head with these kooks is the reason Dems are not sitting on top of a permanent majority in Congress and the White House.

Independents and moderate republicans share my view that such policies are absurd but live in a world of denial that when Bush says such things that he actually pursues the policies too. They like to tell themselves as they vote republican that all this 'abstinence only stuff' is just window dressing and really doesn't impact policy.

Dems pay a very heavy electoral price by not getting this message out.

Message, message, message.

Lipstick on a pig

The House Dems are getting frustrated with the lack of leadership in the Senate and starting to say so publicly.

Ways and Means Chair Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.) complained last month about a “Republican-controlled Senate” and hasn’t backed down since. The House Dems think it's time their Senate colleagues started forcing some actual filibusters to see just how public the GOP is willing to go in obstructing legislation.

Sounds like a plan to me.

Steve Benen has more.

Gen X Conservatives and Obama

A reader (to Andrew Sullivan) writes,
I'm a young, newly-minted assistant professor here at a large state school in Mississippi and I've got to say I've had just had an interesting conversation with one of my more conservative students. As far as I can tell he's a pretty 'die hard' Republican. He's really big into state and local politics and is even participating in a big way in a statewide campaign - and not for the first time. He is bright, sophisticated, and probably a future power in state and local politics here in Mississippi.

What surprised me was both his anti-war attitude and, moreover, his positive view of Obama versus Hillary. Though I did not ask, as it was not my place, who he intended to vote for, it seemed clear to me that he recognizes that 2008 is going to be a disaster for the GOP outside of the deep south and that Obama was probably the best the Democrats had to offer in terms of leadership potential. What most impressed him, he said, was that Obama was against the war from the beginning - giving credence to the effectiveness of the 'Obama has superior judgement' meme that is being put out by Obama's campaign.

Andrew, this is a young, white, male conservative, from the deepest of the deep south professing support for an intellectual, African-American liberal from Chicago. Democrats have written these folks off for decades.

A Hillary candidacy would merely continue this tradition and would represent a return to the familiar, divisive politics that has divided the baby-boomers for decades. Reagan and then the '94 election killed the 'old left' in this country. Let's hope 2008 and Obama kills the 'old right' because, like Dick Gephardt and the UAW, movement conservatism has outlived its usefulness. Maybe once both these old boomer ideologies are well and truly discredited something new, from both the left and right, can emerge.

An Obama presidency would be a stake through the heart of the vampire politics bequeathed to this country by the baby-boomers inability to set aside their differences over Vietnam and the cultural changes that shook this country to the core in 60s and 70s. We cannot be rid of their influence soon enough.
I'm trying to collect my thoughts on this topic.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Posted without further comment

Green Bay Press-Gazette,
The chairman of the Republican Party in Brown County faces criminal charges for allegedly fondling a 16-year-old Ethan House runaway and providing the boy with beer and marijuana late last year.

The Plan for Iraq: Never leave

Via Atrios and this morning's WaPo.

First the good news.
Al-Qaeda of Iraq is dead or dying,The U.S. military believes it has dealt devastating and perhaps irreversible blows to al-Qaeda in Iraq in recent months, leading some generals to advocate a declaration of victory over the group, which the Bush administration has long described as the most lethal U.S. adversary in Iraq.
So, we've won and the troops can come home? Nope. Apparently we are planning the next phase of the war which will continue even after the enemy has been defeated,
But as the White House and its military commanders plan the next phase of the war, other officials have cautioned against taking what they see as a premature step that could create strategic and political difficulties for the United States. Such a declaration could fuel criticism that the Iraq conflict has become a civil war in which U.S. combat forces should not be involved. At the same time, the intelligence community, and some in the military itself, worry about underestimating an enemy that has shown great resilience in the past.
Of course AQI will never be defeated and any one who thinks this group will ever leave Iraq voluntarily is about as dumb as they come.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Divest from Iran berore we bomb

Newsweek has an interesting column from Jonathan Alter about pressuring Iran and other nasty regimes by removing US investment. It's easy to forget just how much money state pension plans invest and the power they have to divest from any given state. Recall the divestment movement from South Africa.

Turns out Missouri was the first state to begin to divest from Iran. MO State Treasurer Sarah Steelman (R) took office in 2004 and set out to make the state's pension fund 'terror free'. Despite warning of investment disaster and losses, the terror free fund outperformed the market last year by 4% with a 29% return.

Other states are jumping on board. Of course, the Bush administration opposes any non-military action including these divestments.
As the antiapartheid movement found, divestment helps put more starch in government sanctions. If the 400 or so European and Asian companies doing business in Iran were forced by global investors to withdraw, they would be upset about it, but less motivated to weaken sanctions imposed by their own countries. Isolation and the threat of economic collapse wouldn't necessarily drive the regime from power...but it could strengthen the opposition in ways that angry rhetoric from Washington won't.
Divestment can be complicated. Lots of profitable companies may do business in places like Iran and Syria making it harder to get out, but doing so as much as possible seems like a very good idea.

Blackwater shoots Iraqi civilians in the back

and the US Army wants them out of the country.
Blackwater USA guards shot at Iraqi civilians as they tried to drive away from a Baghdad square on Sept. 16, according to a report compiled by the first U.S. soldiers to arrive at the scene, where they found no evidence that Iraqis had fired weapons.

"It appeared to me they were fleeing the scene when they were engaged. It had every indication of an excessive shooting," said Lt. Col. Mike Tarsa, whose soldiers reached Nisoor Square 20 to 25 minutes after the gunfire subsided.

His soldiers' report -- based upon their observations at the scene, eyewitness interviews and discussions with Iraqi police -- concluded that there was "no enemy activity involved" and described the shootings as a "criminal event." Their conclusions mirrored those reached by the Iraqi government, which has said the Blackwater guards killed 17 people.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Without a hint of irony...

Condi addressing the Russians,
"In any country, if you don't have countervailing institutions, the power of any one president is problematic for democratic development," Rice told reporters after meeting with human-rights activists.

"I think there is too much concentration of power in the Kremlin. I have told the Russians that. Everybody has doubts about the full independence of the judiciary. There are clearly questions about the independence of the electronic media and there are, I think, questions about the strength of the Duma," said Rice, referring to the Russian parliament.

No argument here.

Missed headline of the year

Today's WaPo is running a story about the ongoing struggle of Qwest former CEO Joseph Nacchio to overturn an insider trading related conviction and all the info he has revealed by the NSA and their demands on Qwest to facilitate the warrantless spying on Americans. In appellate court filing Nacchio alleges that the government withdrew millions of dollars in contracts from Qwest following their refusal to play ball.

The WaPo headline: Former CEO Says U.S. Punished Phone Firm.

The blockbuster, however, is buried inside the story and inexplicably missed by the headline writers at the WaPo,
Nacchio's account, which places the NSA proposal at a meeting on Feb. 27, 2001, suggests that the Bush administration was seeking to enlist telecommunications firms in programs without court oversight before the terrorist attacks on New York and the Pentagon. The Sept. 11 attacks have been cited by the government as the main impetus for its warrantless surveillance efforts.
Yea, that right. If Nacchio is to be believed, the Bush administration was demanding warrantless spying on Americans immediatly upon taking office and 8 months before Sept 11.

Meanwhile, the Dems in Congress work night and day to draft legislation to complete the cover-up.

Clearly, the screaming headline should have been,


Friday, October 12, 2007

Mother of the year

From the AP,
NORRISTOWN, Pa. (AP) - The mother of a 14-year-old who authorities say had a cache of guns, knives and explosive devices in his bedroom for a possible school attack was charged Friday with buying her son three weapons.

Michele Cossey bought her home-schooled son a .22-caliber handgun, a .22-caliber rifle and a 9 mm semiautomatic rifle, authorities said. The teenager felt bullied and tried to recruit another boy for the possible attack at Plymouth Whitemarsh High School, authorities said.

Well that didn't take long....

US-Russia Missile Defense Talks Fail

Gore wins

The Nobel Peace Prize with the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Watch right-wing talk media explode.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

The Power of the Religious Right

I wanted to follow-up on the post below and this post from last week on the threat of the religious right and Dobson to run a third party.

Many argue that Dobson and company are simply making an idle threat in hopes of derailing Rudy in favor of anyone else.

I think the apparent panic of Terry and the forced pregnancy crowd is real.

Steve Benen sums it up well,
These religious right leaders are making bold threats, but they really don’t have any choice. Dobson & Co., not to mention their loyal followers, believe they have enormous influence in Republican circles, and can dictate the party’s direction. If the Republicans nominate a pro-choice, pro-gay, pro-gun control, thrice-married serial adulterer who wants to invest in stem-cell research, the religious right’s masquerade will be over. It will be obvious that the movement is practically powerless in the party, and the groups’ benefactors will have far less reason to keep writing the checks that keeps the movement afloat.
The next best thing to an evangelical President is a Clinton presidency. You don't need Jesus if you don't have the devil. A Clinton presidency would keep the money rolling in.

The disaster is a Rudy republican revealing to all the world that the evangelical
"base" is impotent and powerless and never again able to exert influence over the GOP.

Further, the demographics of the GOP ( I think this is what Andrew Sullivan was talking about) are such that it is very hard to imagine how they elect a President without the religious right. This is a reality that our moderate republican friends don't get, but which Karl Rove understands very well.

And it's all very good news for the country and those of us who believe in liberty, reason, science and education.

Randal Terry of Operation Rescue


MEDIA ADVISORY, Oct. 9 /Christian Newswire/ -- "As horrifying as it seems, Hillary Clinton would be a better president for the Pro-Life movement than Rudy Giuliani. Therefore our mission is simple; deny Giuliani the Republican nomination. Failing that, we must deny him the White House at all costs – even if it means Hillary becomes President." Randall Terry, Founder, Operation Rescue.

"Rudy is the GOP's crazy aunt. Every family has a crazy aunt in the basement. So what do you do with her? Don't give her the family checkbook; don't give her the keys to the car; and by all means, keep her in the basement."

Randall Terry, founder of Operation Rescue, is on a ten week, 20 state tour of college campuses, churches, and pro-life groups, recruiting pro-life Republicans to fight against a Giuliani Presidency – even if it means the election of Hillary Clinton.
I think Andrew Sullivan gets this right. The GOP could collapse with a Rudy nomination.

If the anti-choice movement loses control of the GOP, they are done as a national movement -- they have nothing left. Terry is fighting for his survival.

"Sea change" at the Pentagon

McClatchy has an excellent story today on the dramatic, if low-key changes taking place at the DoD.

Here's the lede,
The change at the Pentagon is striking but little-noticed, in part because Defense Secretary Robert Gates, a longtime veteran of the CIA, is quiet where his predecessor Donald H. Rumsfeld was not.

"It's part of a sea change," said Loren Thompson, a military analyst at the Lexington Institute, ..."The ideologues have been replaced by managers who view Iraq not as a cause, but a problem to be solved."

Gates, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Michael Mullen, Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England, Undersecretary for Intelligence Gen. James Clapper and other top officials also are concerned that the war may be crippling the military's ability to respond to other crises. They have allies in the congressional Democratic leadership — particularly House Armed Services Committee Chairman Rep. Ike Skelton of Missouri — who've been speaking out about that for months.
The new leadership at the Pentagon is the only hope I have that we will not attack Iran. Of course, it is because of this leadership that I fear that the Cheney band of kooks and nuts are working so hard to goad Iran into a confrontation.

Diplomacy, what a concept

Bush is sending Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Robert Gates on a rare joint mission to Moscow this week in a bid to break arms disputes that have helped plunge U.S.-Russian ties to their chilliest depth since the Cold War.

Over Russian objections, Bush is pursuing the deployment of U.S. missile defenses in Eastern Europe. In apparent retaliation, Russian President Vladimir Putin is vowing to pull out of an accord limiting deployments of troops, tanks and combat aircraft in Europe and Russia. Their governments disagree on replacing an expiring treaty that's allowed each side to monitor the other's promised cuts in nuclear weapons.

"We want to work on these areas regardless . . . of differences that we have with the Russians in other areas," Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Fried said.
The great tragedy of this Bush presidency was the missed opportunity presented by the September 11 attacks to redefine the post cold war world in a united effort to tackle terrorism in all forms. Perhaps this entreaty is a signal that at some level someone inside the beast is starting to rethink some of the blunders that have been devastating to the US and the rest of the world.

The choice of Rice and Gates tells me just how serious Bush is about at least talking.

It's funny cause it's true.....

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

When will we have a serious conversation about guns in this country?

At least 5 students have been shot today at a Cleveland High School.

How long will this continue to occur before the public really gets behind meaningful handgun reform?

Yglesias on Clinton

Matt has an excellent post up this morning on the problem with Clinton.

I've always defended Hillary because I thought the attacks on her were outrageous and often bordered on misogynistic.

But I also have been uncomfortable with Clinton as a candidate and written about that many times here. I just think criticism of Hillary, like any candidate, should be fair and not based upon gender.

Matt's post does a very nice job of calling into question Clinton's judgment on foreign policy matters with quotes from others that you really need to read. It's not just her vote for the war in Iraq, but much more recently her vote to authorize military action against Iran.

Matt concludes,

In some ways, it's the point Dowd raises here -- about political strategy -- that worries me the most. I don't think it's really going to be possible for Democrats to address the big problems facing American foreign policy unless they're willing to try to break out of the long post-9/11 defensive crouch they've been in for years. John Edwards, as has often been the case, led the way here with a bold move to repudiate the "war on terror" conceptual scheme. Barack Obama, having opposed the war from the beginning, wound up mostly attracting to his banner the substantive advisors who were less invested in the crouch and doesn't seem to have those instincts personally, and wound up essentially forced out of the crouch for his position that we should be willing to conduct diplomatic talks without preconditions.

Clinton's team isn't all bad nor is her record, but she seems the least inclined to make a bold, self-confident big-picture challenge to the conservative conception of how we ought to conduct ourselves in the world.

There is no question in my mind that Clinton is the smartest candidate, from either party, in the race. She understands exactly what the world is like and the importance of, and limits to, American power. She knows how the Pentagon works and how the Generals think. Clinton is clearly qualified for the job, and would hit the ground running like no other candidate from either party would be capable of doing. But would President Clinton continue to conduct foreign policy like candidate Clinton, focused more on projecting an image to win re-election?

These concerns are enough for me to look elsewhere in the primary.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Playing to the biggoted base,...

Again, via TPM,
Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA): "We have right now a real danger of people that are illegally in the country being rounded up, herded into the polls, we've seen that in California, voting illegally. That disenfranchises everybody in that community."
This is classic race baiting and about all the GOP has to hold what's left of the base together. It only varies by region. Here in St. Louis the message is the tens of thousands of blacks voting illegal, and in southern Cali, it's latinos. The point is the same: non-whites are taking over and you better be with us on this.

GOP "Stall of Fame"

What is it with these guys?

Josh reports on another GOP Poll with bathroom issues. Joey DiFatta was running for state senate in Louisiana.

After the details, Josh concludes,

Only days ago, DiFatta was hawking the DiFatta plan to "defend our conservative values from attacks by extreme liberal groups."

He now joins Idaho's Larry Craig and Florida's Bob Allen in the GOP Stall of Fame.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

The Real Romney

"What about Romney", I asked below on the issue of anti-abortion bonafides.

Here is the answer.

Who's your daddy?

Via TPM James Dobson confirms that religious conservatives have agreed to back a 3d party candidate if a pro-choice politician wins the nomination.

While this is clearly intended to derail Rudy, what about Romney? He's been pro-choice much longer than he been anti-abortion.

Of course, this assumes there will be a 3d party anti-abortion candidate to back. That is hardly a certainty. Dobson said there was no consensus among these religious conservatives for forming their own party. Quality people like Huckabee may well prefer to sit out this year in hopes of Rudy getting creamed and then stepping in 2012 as the GOP savior.

This is going to be the most interesting election of my lifetime. I have no feeling for how it will all play out, but it's going to be a real show.