Wednesday, January 31, 2007

THE SYMBOLIC ANTI-ESCALATION SCHOOL AND THE ABSTRACT SEMI-ANTI-ESCALATION SCHOOL JOIN WEAKNESSES FOR A MEANINGLESS RESOLUTION

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If they water this puppy down any further, Rove will just tell Bush to sign it, and the only senators voting "no" will be Lieberman and Cornyn. "Democratic and Republican opponents of President Bush's troop-buildup plan joined forces last night behind the nonbinding resolution with the broadest bipartisan backing: a Republican measure from Sen. John W. Warner of Virginia. Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) announced the shift, hoping to unite a large majority of the Senate and thwart efforts by the White House and GOP leaders to derail any congressional resolution of disapproval of Bush's decision to increase U.S. troop levels in Iraq by 21,500."

The Biden-Hagel-Levin version (nonbinding, symbolic) was already sickeningly weak. This version has its head about up Bush's ass beyond the adam's apple, expressing tepid "opposition to the troop increase but would vow to protect funding for the troops. The resolution does not include the Democratic language saying the Bush plan is against the national interest, but it also drops an earlier provision by Warner suggesting Senate support for some additional troops."

Hoyer and Emanuel seem to have won out over Pelosi and Murtha (again) and the House will also take this idiotic, unproductive and disgraceful path. Democratic leaders are asking Democrats-- and all Americans-- to trust them. We have no choice. But let's see if we can; I sincerely doubt it.

Meanwhile Warner is getting badly beaten up by the far right radicals in his own party.
"It is clearly not an act of leadership," said Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina, who joined two of his colleagues Wednesday in dismissing Mr. Warner’s proposal as they sought to hold off a Senate repudiation of the president's plan.

"To offer nonbinding resolutions which encourage our enemies and undermine our allies and deflate the morale of our troops is, to me, the worst of all possible worlds," said Senator John Cornyn, Republican of Texas.

Mr. Warner's approach has also caused a policy rift with Senators McCain and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, two Republicans he has often worked closely with on military matters and joined last year in confronting Mr. Bush over the treatment of terrorism detainees.


The knives are out and Warner is being swiftboated by the extremists. Mainstream Republican conservatives like Susan Collins, Olympia Snowe and Arlen Specter are aghast that Republicans have turned on an iconic figure like Warner with such vehemence and fury. A pissed off Collins said, "It is outrageous for anyone to question his support for our troops. There is no member of this body who cares more about our troops and the nation's defense than Senator Warner." Oh? Not John Kerry?


UPDATE: JUST WHEN I THOUGHT DWT WAS THE ONLY ONE WHO RECOGNIZED THE TREACHERY INHERENT IN THE BIDEN-LEVIN-HAGEL-WARNER COMPROMISE... RUSS FEINGOLD TO THE RESCUE

Russ Feingold has real legislation to rein in the Bush Regime and stop the insanity in Iraq. Today he denounced the pathetic nonbinding symbolic crap, the first (and only) senator to do so. "I oppose the weak Warner-Levin resolution as currently written because it misunderstands the situation in Iraq and shortchanges our national security interests. The resolution rejects redeploying U.S. troops and supports moving a misguided military strategy from one part of Iraq to another. The American people have rejected the President's Iraq strategy and it's time for Congress to end our military involvement in this war. We must redeploy our troops from Iraq so that we can focus on the global threats that face us."

AND DODD

Senator Dodd has also come out in opposition to this very flawed compromise. Basically, this is what Dodd is saying: The bill doesn’t oppose a surge in our forces per se-– it simply states that the 21,000 is too high a number. It doesn’t contemplate the phased redeployment from Iraq, quite the contrary, it says that the legislation "should not be interpreted as precipitating any immediate reduction in, or withdrawal of, the present level of forces." And it refuses to endorse one of the most critical elements of the Baker Hamilton plan-- engaging all of Iraq’s neighbors in a regional effort to bring peace and stability to Iraq.

UPDATE: STATES WANT TO END BUSH'S WAR TOO

The Progressive States Network has been talking with state legislators all over the country to help them draft resolutions to stop the escalation. Yesterday they reported on action to this effect in the Oregon House where Democratic legislators are pushing for a vote on the "Oregon Homeward Bound Act of 2007," which urges Bush and Congress to bring our troops home promptly and safely. There are also active resolutions in various states of action in Missouri, Colorado, Georgia, New Jersey, Connecticut, Montana, Texas, Massachusetts, Vermont, West Virginia, Oklahoma, Minnesota, New York, Kansas, Washington, Iowa, Maine, North Dakota and Rhode Island. You can watch what's going on-- and lend a hand-- in your own state on this page.


UPDATE: VIEW FROM THE EXTREMISTS

Republicans like John Kyl (AZ) and Joe Lieberman (CT) who just won re-election and don't have to face voters again for over 5 years are working actively to derail the compromise bill. Kyl was on Fox & Friends today (where else?) bad-mouthing it. "I haven't read the exact language," he admitted, "but I suspect that the exact wording matters less than the headline on Fox News the next morning or on newspapers all around the world, which will be something like 'Senate Rebukes President's Mission In Iraq.' ...That's the message that will be sent to our allies, to our enemies and to our soldiers." Oregon's Republican senator, Gordon Smith, is all over the map on this-- and he does have to face the voters next year. He's made impassioned speeches against escalation-- even calling the Bush Regime policies "criminal," but then after he gets slapped down by the White House he backs down. Today on Fox he was all giddy about the compromise bill-- right up his alley, allowing him to show the independents back home that he is "against" the escalation... without actually jeopardizing it in any real way. "My own sense is that you will have at least a majority for the Warner resolution. I'm for it. I'm a co-sponsor of it. It's, I think, respectful. It clearly opposes the surge but it does it in a way that also lays out the things we would like to see the president and the administration, our military doing in Iraq, in a way that doesn't needlessly put our troops in harm's way."

NANCY'S BACK-- READY TO RUMBLE?

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Speaker Pelosi led a congressional delegation over to Iraq and Afghanistan to do a little fact finding now that the escalation issue is starting to boil over back in DC. She said that the trip left them "more convinced than ever that there was no military solution" to Bush's Iraq war. Although Speaker Pelosi took along mostly very military-oriented Democrats like Ike Skelton and Jack Murtha, there was one Republican who came too, Ohio's David Hobson. Hobson who can only be described as a right-wing rubber stamp Republican, has a frighteningly reactionary voting record on war and peace issues and a perfect zero when it comes to Iraq, having never once deviated from a single Bush Regime diktat.

'Til now. Although he didn't say anything about ditching Bush's far right party, Congressman Hobson did say today that it was "imperative" that the U.S. mission shift from combat operations to training Iraqi troops, and that a regional diplomatic effort be launched. "Frankly, the United States has done its part. It's time for other countries to step up and do their part." Blunt, Boehner and Howdy Doody will probably say Pelosi fed him some acid.

This morning Speaker Pelosi told NPR's Morning Edition that "What is happening in Iraq is chaos. We don't have many good options. Everyone that we spoke to said that this escalation that the president is engaged in was the one last chance. Many did not believe it would be successful." Maliki?

I've been saying that pretty soon the only person advocating war and escalation will be Lieberman. Bob Novak is reporting today that even Bush-- or at least those around him-- is starting to realize the gig is up. "Although President George W. Bush officially is opposed to setting any time table for getting out of Iraq, senior administration officials and Republican leaders in Congress privately say there cannot be U.S. boots on the ground or blood being spilled in Iraq when 2008 begins if Republicans are to have a chance in next year's elections. That effectively sets a December 2007 deadline for getting out." Are people's attention spans that short?

WHAT HAPPENED TO OUR DEMOCRATIC FRESHMEN ON THAT LITTLE OLD WAR ISSUE?

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Virtually all the Democrats "oppose" escalation. Of course, at this point, there are resolutions "opposing" escalation from Mitch "My Bitch" McConnell, John McCain, John Boehner... everyone short of Joe Lieberman has some kind of cockamamie resolution. The gold standards in the House, though, are H.J. RES.18 (John Murtha's bill to redeploy U.S. forces from Iraq) and H.R.508, Lynn Woolsey's bill to end the war. Neither of these bills is nonbinding and neither is symbolic. These are the real deal.

Murtha's bill now has 98 co-sponsors, all Democrats of course. Among the 98 there are 8 freshmen. First to sign on was Iraq War vet Patrick Murphy (PA-08). I'm very excited that Steve Cohen (TN-09), a progressive who replaced reactionary Harold Ford, Jr, when Ford gave up the seat to make a botched and miserable run for the open Senate seat last year, has also come aboard (yesterday). Ford is violently pro-escalation, of course (a la Lieberman) so it is great to have Cohen sideing with the people instead of with Big Business and Beltway Insiders. The other Democratic freshmen who feel Murtha's approach is strong enough for them to become a co-sponsor are Mazie Hirono (HI-02)-- who also replaced a reactionary, Case, who gave up the seat in a failed bid to get in the Senate-- John Yarmuth (KY-03), Dave Loebsack (IA-02), Carol Shea-Porter (NH-01), Yvette Clark (NY-11), and Peter Welch (VT-AL).

Woolsey's bill is even stronger and more willing to treat Bush like the imcomptent he's proven himself to be. There are 28 cosponsors, also all Democrats. Only 4 freshmen have been brave enough to sign on: Steve Cohen (TN-09), Keith Ellison (MN-05), Dave Loebsack (IA-02) and Blue America hero Jerry McNerney (CA-11).

BEN BARNES-- PULLING BACK THE LAYERS OF TEXAS' BIG ENIGMATIC DEMOCRATIC ENCHILLADA

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Nate Wilcox is a Texas friend of DWT and a political consultant specializing in online communications. Most recently he's worked for Mark Warner's and Richard Morrison's high-profile campaigns. Nate worked in the field since the late 1990s when he learned politics working for former Texas Governor Ann Richards, future Bush advisors Matthew Dowd and Mark McKinnon, Clinton staffers Paul Begala and Jeff Eller, Texas legend Jack Martin and direct mail guru Dave Gold. His mother's cousin-in-law, Texas Governor Preston Smith, was implicated but never charged in the Sharpstown scandal which brought down Ben Barnes and others. Family legends have always pinned the blame on Barnes, but research has shown that Smith was in all likelihood far more culpable. He's going to tell all us non-Texans the story of his state's ambiguous political figure, Ben Barnes. This is Part 1 of a 3 part series.

Blogging about Ben Barnes brings up a lot of conflicts-- conflicting emotions, generational conflicts, political conflicts, and especially conflicts of interest.

The powerful Barnes, sometimes called the "51st Senator," is easily the most charismatic living Texas Democrat. He is also easily the most controversial and dogged by scandal.

For those who are not students of Texas political history and/or modern big money politics, Ben Barnes is a Texan mega-lobbyist and power broker. In 2004 he inadvertently triggered "Rather-gate" with his admission that he helped George W. Bush get into the National Guard as Texas' Lt. Governor in 1968.

At age 26 Ben Barnes was the youngest ever Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives. At 30, Barnes was elected Lieutenant Governor and after cruising to re-election in 1970 he seemed a sure shot to be elected Governor in 1972.

I've seen Barnes speak many times-- most notably at the summer 2004 Austin for Kerry meetup where he admitted on video that he helped Bush get into the national guard in 1968-- and he's still a charismatic speaker who can rouse a crowd like few I've seen. For my dollar he's a far more powerful speaker than any living Texas Democrat.

When I think that he could have been the youngest elected governor in Texas history in 1972... and that he very well might have run for the presidency in 1976... a string of painful what ifs come to mind. I have no doubt that Jimmy Carter is the more ethical of the two men, but I also have no doubt that Ben Barnes is a far more effective politician and that had he been elected President in 1976 history would be very different today. Coulda woulda shoulda...

However, fate and Richard Nixon's dirty tricks crew intervened. In 1971, the Sharpstown scandal, a stock-for-legislation brouhaha, splashed enough mud on Barnes to end his career. Although never accused of accepting stock as a quid pro quo for passing legislation favorable to banker Frank Sharp, Barnes' political career took a mortal blow.

The plea-bargaining Frank Sharp, testified that he had been told the reason Barnes was not caught accepting payment was that "Barnes is too smart. He only takes cash."

I don't trust the word of jail-house rats, but enough Texas voters did to permanently damage Barnes' career.


Barnes makes a pretty convincing case in his 2006 autobiography "Barn Building, Barn Burning" that Richard Nixon's dirty-tricks crew played a major role in blowing up the scandal and dragging him into it. From a recent NPR interview:
Question: What was the scandal that brought you down? And
when you say Nixon was involved-- how so?

Answer: The scandal that ended my political career was an investigation at President Nixon's request of a gentleman named Frank Sharp, and an insurance company and bank he owned in Texas. The
speaker of the House and the governor were involved with Mr. Sharp and they bought stock with loans from his bank, and he then bought the stock back at a profit. I never met Frank Sharp, and as you can hear at my Web site, barn Burning, Barn Burning, you can hear clips of Nixon's Oval Office tapes, where the president talks to his Attorney General, John Mitchell, about Sharpstown.

Attorney General Mitchell apologized to me after he got out of prison. The evidence has been clear that Nixon's primary goal in Texas politics was to end my political career-- which he succeeded in
doing.

Question: In today's Reliable Source column, you imply that "Nixonian dirty tricks" brought your
career down. How so? What would Nixon have had to do with things happening in Texas?

Answer: The U.S. attorney in Houston years later revealed to a friend of mine that he was put under tremendous pressure by the Justice Department to try to use his powers to involve me in the Sharpstown scandal-- or some other scandal. They wanted to bring my political career down, because at that time I was the strongest Democratic politician in Texas, and Nixon had lost Texas in the 1968
election.


Despite being heavily favored going into the Democratic primary for Governor in 1972, by the time election day rolled around Barnes only managed 18% and a career killing third place finish.

The tragic destruction of Ben Barnes' political career cost Texas the heir of Lyndon Johnson's brand of moderate/progressive Democratic leadership. As a protege of Johnson, Barnes focused on being
progressive-- passing minimum wage laws, investing in education and Texas' technology industry, nurturing the career of Barbara Jordon-- while still maintaining a strong partnership with the business
community.

It wasn't always pretty, but it worked.

Without Barnes' leadership, the Texas Democrats staggered through the 1970s and Texas Republicans capitalized. There was a strong Texas Democratic revival in the 1980s and early 1990s but no clear model of Texas Democratic leadership emerged. Governor Mark White, Lt. Governors Bill Hobby and Bob Bullock, and House Speaker Pete Laney attempted to replicate the Barnes/LBJ pro-business stance but did little on the progressive front. Governor Ann Richards and San Antonio Mayor Henry Cisneros were charismatic but not especially effective. Jim Hightower tried to revive the old liberal wing of the party. Attorneys General Dan Morales and Jim Mattox tried running to the right.
None of them succeeded in defining the Democratic brand strongly enough in voters' minds to counter the impact of Reagan and Rove.

But the saddest part of the Ben Barnes story isn't the might have beens, it's what he did with all that wasted potential for the next three decades. It's a pretty epic tale spanning a failed real estate
empire, the paving of the Texas Hill Country, the biggest lobbying contract in Texas history, allegations of blackmailing Harriet Miers and then Governor George Bush into keeping that contract going, raising millions for John Kerry, being at the center of Rather-gate, and questionable motivations behind his raising millions for a Republican turned independent running for Texas Governor in 2006. I'm going to try to tell that tale in two blog posts, followed by a video interview with Governor Barnes.

-Nate Wilcox

Next: Barnes and Connally Get Rich and Go Bust and Barnes Wins the Lottery.

McCAIN MAKING FLIPPY FLOPPY... AGAIN?

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There are 49 Republicans in the U.S. Senate (not counting Lieberman). At the rate things are going, there may be 49 resolutions about Bush's Iraq plans, although by that time Bush will be looking at a second batch of 20-30,000 troops to send into the Iraqi Civil War-- or announcing that he just bombed Tehran.

Yesterday Glenn Greenwald posted a great piece on the hypocritical flip-flopping that has marked GOP attitudes towards war-- which is never about national security and always about their own selfish political advantage-- and especially about Senator Doubletalk Express.
Sen. John McCain - October 19,1993

There is no reason for the United States of America to remain in Somalia. The American people want them home, I believe the majority of Congress wants them home, and to set an artificial date of March 31 or even February 1, in my view, is not acceptable. The criteria should be to bring them home as rapidly and safely as possible, an evolution which I think could be completed in a matter of weeks.

Our continued military presence in Somalia allows another situation to arise which could then lead to the wounding, killing or capture of American fighting men and women. We should do all in our power to avoid that.

I listened carefully to the President's remarks at a news conference that he held earlier today. I heard nothing in his discussion of the issue that would persuade me that further U.S. military involvement in the area is necessary. In fact, his remarks have persuaded me more profoundly that we should leave and leave soon.

Dates certain, Mr. President, are not the criteria here. What is the criteria and what should be the criteria is our immediate, orderly withdrawal from Somalia. And if we do not do that and other Americans die, other Americans are wounded, other Americans are captured because we stay too long--longer than necessary--then I would say that the responsibilities for that lie with the Congress of the United States who did not exercise their authority under the Constitution of the United States and mandate that they be brought home quickly and safely as possible...

I know that this debate is going to go on this afternoon and I have a lot more to say, but the argument that somehow the United States would suffer a loss to our prestige and our viability, as far as the No. 1 superpower in the world, I think is baloney. The fact is, we won the cold war. The fact is, we won the Persian Gulf conflict. And the fact is that the United States is still the only major world superpower.

I can tell you what will erode our prestige. I can tell you what will hurt our viability as the world's superpower, and that is if we enmesh ourselves in a drawn-out situation which entails the loss of American lives, more debacles like the one we saw with the failed mission to capture Aideed's lieutenants, using American forces, and that then will be what hurts our prestige.


We suffered a terrible tragedy in Beirut, Mr. President; 240 young marines lost their lives, but we got out. Now is the time for us to get out of Somalia as rapidly and as promptly and as safely as possible.

I, along with many others, will have an amendment that says exactly that. It does not give any date certain. It does not say anything about any other missions that the United States may need or feels it needs to carry out. It will say that we should get out as rapidly and orderly as possible.


Today Senator Speaks-With-Forked-Tongue is blabbling out of various other sides of his mouth. Desperate now to distance himself from the Bush Regime, watching his carefully nurtured image as a "moderate" and straight-talker go up in flames, suddenly Senator Escalation is talking benchmarks-- "tough ones." After the Senate dragged a list of already missed deadlines that Maliki had promised to fulfill, McCain joined Carl Levin in publicly blasting the Bush Regime for their continuing pattern of deception:
"What Secretary Rice's letter makes abundantly clear is that the administration does not intend to attach meaningful consequences for the Iraqis' continuing to fail to meet their commitments. What has been said before is still true: 'America supplying more troops while Iraqi leaders simply supply more promises is not a recipe for success in Iraq.'"



Of course, at the same time Senator Flip Flop was joining Levin to castigate the Regime, he was also joining the Regime's most reliable point person on the Hill, Holy Joe Lieberman, to undermine all the efforts to hold Bush's feet to the fire and instead by putting forward a weak and utterly meaningless resolution urging benchmarks so inconsequential that even Mitch "My Bitch" McConnell is supporting them! Even the most far right wing extremists, who usually have nothing but contempt for McCain, are applauding him for working with Lieberman to undermine the resolutions that could stop escalation.
McCain’s draft resolution is a powerful defense of the surge. Moreover, Sen. Joe Lieberman, who takes a backseat to no one in his commitment to victory in Iraq, revealed over the weekend that he is working on the resolution with Sen. McCain... it should be pointed out McCain applies no timeline at all to these benchmarks. But one could argue that the McCain resolution is part of a strategy to ensure no one resolution gets the necessary 60 percent required for passage; meaning support for a McCain resolution by enough Senate Republicans might thwart the Warner resolution and result in no resolution passing at all-- precisely the outcome [all right wing fanatics] want.

NONBINDING RUMOR CIRCULATING IN DC: BIDEN TO CONSIDER VENTURING OUTSIDE THE BELTWAY

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Joe Biden was first elected to the Senate in 1972, at age 29. Thousands of dollars in hair plugs, Crest whitening strips and contributions from credit card companies and Big Banking interests later, Biden may be about to spend 4 or 5 consecutive hours outside the Beltway, a sacrifice one must make if one wants to be president. [Note: last time Biden threatened to leave the cozy comforts of the Beltway Bubble that he has so incorporated into his very essence, it was to campaign for his close friend-- and fellow recipient of Big Banking largess-- Holy Joe Lieberman. He managed to get as far as Union station but missed his train.]

Today Biden joins the ranks of future also-rans like Duncan Hunter, Mike Gravel and Tom Tancredo to announce his pointless, sad bid for the presidency (of the United States... of America). Is there a constituency somewhere of people who like the bankruptcy bill? Will his campaign slogan be "Joe Biden: Nonbinding and Symbolic?"

I woke up this morning before 4AM and he was chatting with Soledad O'Brien on CNN, smearing other Democrats with Rove's talking points. (He may have missed the train to Lieberman, but it looks like Lieberman caught up with his pal Biden.) If anyone has forgotten what a worthless waste of a Senate seat Biden is, today's New York Observer has an interview with the worst Democrat to announce for the presidency yet.

Apparently he thinks his superfluous nonbinding symbolic sense of the Senate resolution entitles him to trash more serious candidates' approaches to Iraq. This overstuffed bag of wind actually makes Hillary look good! He refers to her proposals for Iraq as 'nothing but disaster," straight out of the Karl Rove/Joe Lieberman playbook. "To hear him tell it, Hillary Clinton’s position is calibrated, confusing and 'a very bad idea.' John Edwards doesn't know what he's talking about and is pushing a recipe for Armageddon in the Middle East. Barack Obama is offering charming but insubstantial fluff. And all of them are playing politics."

Biden's first hour and a half as a candidate makes one wonder wistfully, when will he drop out. If he's really hoping to be Secretary of State-- he certainly doesn't have enough... well... anything to be seriously considered for a running mate slot for anyone-- maybe he shouldn't insult the actual candidates.

Barely registered at all in the national opinion polls, Biden says his time has finally come. His immediate family may feel the same way. (Biden ran for President in 1988 but no one remembers anything about it other than him plagiarizing someone's speech.) "Although he admits to a tendency to 'bloviate,' he thinks that an aggressive advocate [for credit card companies and Big banking???] with rough edges [compulsive teeth whitening?] might be just what the party needs right now. 'Democrats nominated the perfect blow-dried candidates in 2000 and 2004,' he said, 'and they couldn't connect.'" And instead of blow-dried it's time to try... the hair plugs candidate?


But if you object to Biden parroting GOP talking points when he besmirches Hillary and Edwards, hold on to your jaw when you read what he had to say about Barack Obama. He doesn't mention that Obama has come up with a plan to actually end the war, instead of just debating it endlessly, Biden's forte. But he does manage to start his campaign by insulting every Black person in America, describing Obama as "the first African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy." Clean? Were Shirley Chisum and Jesse Jackson dirty? Is Biden claiming Carol Mosley-Braun is ugly and that Al Sharpton is a dummy and inarticulate? Maybe if he got out of the Beltway once in a while... (A 5 hour campaign swing into New Hampshire doesn't count.)

Maybe the little photo on the left is Biden doing the opposition research which cleared Obama of being dirty. Now, if Biden were an actual comic strip character...


UPDATE... LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON

Same day Biden announces he's running for president and that he'll announce it on Comedy Central, his son, a Beltway lobbyist, was slapped with an ugly and very embarrassing lawsuit involving the kind of hedge-fund investment firm his dad spends so much time dealing with to the exclusion of real issues that plague real Americans. "R. Hunter Biden, a Washington lobbyist and son of U.S. presidential hopeful Senator Joseph Biden, fraudulently excluded a partner from the purchase of a hedge-fund investment firm, the partner claims in a lawsuit. Biden and his uncle James Biden squeezed investment consultant Anthony Lotito Jr. out of the 2006 acquisition of New York-based Paradigm Cos., Lotito says in a complaint filed Jan. 5 in New York state court. The Bidens lied to Lotito about their joint offer while negotiating a better deal alone, Lotito's complaint says. The Bidens deny the claims. 'He wants back what was stolen from him,' said Lotito's lawyer, Brian Wille of Kostelanetz & Fink LLP in New York. 'He entered into this transaction believing in the honesty and integrity of the Bidens.' Hunter Biden, 36, founder and partner of Washington-based lobbying firm Oldaker, Biden & Belair LLP, stepped down this month from daily oversight of Paradigm Global Advisors LLC, a unit of Paradigm Cos. that manages investments in hedge funds. He became the firm's chairman and remains a lobbyist, an unusual dual role as scrutiny of the hedge-fund industry has increased." Cozy but I guess there is no Senator Oldaker or Senator Belair to help the firm.

A NEW CAUCUS IS BORN-- SPREADING HATRED IS US-- AND IT'S BIPARTISAN; AS LONG AS YOU'RE A MORON IT DOESN'T MATTER WHICH PARTY YOU BELONG TO

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Any congressmen can form a caucus or a study group or a task force. They're just a group of members meeting to pursue common legislative objectives. A bunch of xenophobic, right wing loons, a bipartisan bunch, I might add, just started a new caucus today. I'm wondering if Virgil Goode, Jr. will be named Chairman Emeritus For Life. The organizers are Sue Myrick (R-NC), Bud Cramer (D-AL), Kay Granger (R-TX), and Ben Chandler (D-KY) and the "dear colleague" letter they sent out says the purpose is to educate members about "radical Islamists, their goals and their use of jihad to achieve them."


63 congressmen have already signed up and Myrick said the caucus has not formed before now because of the "bitterly partisan" divide in Congress in recent years. Now xenophobes and wingnuts from both parties feel free to fraternize and waste time and money on this nonsense together. Bud Cramer, the Democrat with the third most reactionary lifetime voting record among House Dems and who sits on the House Intelligence Committee and the new Select Intelligence Oversight Panel, said the caucus will seek to answer, among other questions, "Who are the terrorists, where do they come from, what motivates them?"

Of course Bud is practically a progressive compared to Texas fringe fanatic Kay Granger. He's also practically an Einstein and captain of the debate team compared to her. Speaking to reporters today about the new caucus she blurted out "The more we know, I think, the more we know we don't know." No one asked her if she studied rhetoric from the same master as the Bushes.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

IF CONGRESS DOESN'T STOP THIS WAR, IT ISN'T BECAUSE IT DOESN'T HAVE THE POWER BUT BECAUSE IT DOESN'T HAVE THE WILL

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In case you haven't noticed, Bush, Cheney and I all agree that Biden's approach to stopping escalation in Iraq is completely futile. Biden and Levin call their nonbinding resolution "symbolic." The time has passed for nonbinding symbolism and Beltway Bubble games. This is too serious for careerist hacks like Biden. Fortunately for our country, Russ Feingold is taking a more realistic approach.

John O'Neil in today's New York Times takes a look at the groundwork Feingold and his colleagues on the Judiciary Committee are laying towards actually stopping Bush, rather than playing politics-as-usual games the way Biden-- with an eye on a pointless run for the presidency-- is doing.
Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee began laying the constitutional groundwork today for an effort to block President Bush's plan to send more troops to Iraq and place new limits on the conduct of the war there, perhaps forcing a withdrawal of American forces from Iraq.

They were joined by Senator Arlen Specter, the Pennsylvania Republican who led the panel for the last two years, in asserting that Mr. Bush cannot simply ignore Congressional opposition to his plan to send 21,500 additional troops to Iraq.

"I would respectfully suggest to the president that he is not the sole decider," Mr. Specter said. "The decider is a joint and shared responsibility."

Mr. Specter said he considered a clash over constitutional powers to be "imminent." The Senate next week will take up competing proposals that would express disapproval of Mr. Bush's plan.


My friend Matt, a senior VP at Citibank, just called IM-ed me and asked me why Feingold isn't running for president. He had just read this: "Senator Russell Feingold, a Wisconsin Democrat who acted as chairman for the hearing, said he would soon introduce a resolution that would go much further. It would end all financing for the deployment of American military forces in Iraq after six months, other than a limited number working on counterterrorism operations or training the Iraqi army and police. In effect, it would call for all other American forces to be withdrawn by the six-month deadline. 'Since the President is adamant about pursuing his failed policy in Iraq, Congress has a duty to stand up and prevent him,' Mr. Feingold said."

Right wing kook, Orrin Hatch (R-UT), still screaming "Stay the Course," managed to croak out the worn out, utterly false, Rove talking point-- so very over-used by Lieberman, Cheney and McCain-- about demoralizing the troops. Back last May I thought that canard was put out of its misery by General Peter Pace, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, at a Senate Appropriations Committee meeting when Specter asked him if there "has there been any significant impact on the morale of the men and women in the Department of Defense because of those disagreements?" Pace's answer, even with Rumsfeld breathing down his neck: "... as far as morale of the force: no impact, Sir."

To call these Republicans hypocrites is a waste of energy, beating a dead horse. And no one is worse than McCain. As Glenn Greenwald pointed out this morning, McCain's flip-flopping game playing with the safety of our country is astoundingly irresponsible. Take a look at this video of a few minutes of the Judiciary Committee today, important speeches from Feingold, Durbin and Specter (who sounds like someone should be talking to him about coming over from the Dark Side. Maybe we can trade him for Lieberman?)

KARL ROVE LOANS HIS BITCH TO JOHN BOEHNER AND THE HOUSE REPUBLICANS TO USE AS THEY WILL-- THE SAD, SAD STORY OF EX-DEMOCRAT JOE LIEBERMAN

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There are a lot of terrible things that can be said about Joe Lieberman, probably more than anyone else in the entire U.S. Senate, but no one can say Lieberman doesn't repay debts he owes other politicians. Many people wondered how Lieberman would repay Bush, Cheney and Rove when they decided to signal Republicans to vote for Lieberman after he lost the Democratic primary and decided to run on his own Connecticut For Lieberman Party. Would he finally make it official and join the Republicans? Nah... he's very valuable to the GOP as a mole inside the Democratic caucus and as a fake Dem who runs from TV show to radio show to newspaper interview undercutting Democrats and praising Bush to the heavens.

Today, though, the exact terms of the repayment was spelled out when Raw Story revealed a secret memo House Minority Leader/corporate whore John Boehner sent to all Republican congressmen. The memo, a set of talking points to help Republican legislators respond to questions from the media encourages Republicans to use a quote from Holy Joe to attack Democratic resolutions calling for U.S. redeployment. "The people in Congress, and the public," pontificated Lieberman condescendingly, "were quite right in saying the president's got to come up with a different approach. And he did. It's better than any other plan I've seen because it holds the hope of success. Most of the other plans are effectively just giving up and walking away."

Bush and Cheney bring up Lieberman's support at every opportunity as though use of this pariah in the Democratic Party is supposed to signal bipartisan support for a failed policy rejected by 70% of Americans and a like number of senators. If they hadn't saved his neck in November they'd be reduced from getting Zell Miller out of the insane asylum and using him instead.

In 2000 the Inside the Beltway crowd were still propping Lieberman's already spurious Democratic credentials up, so much so they he faced no primary opponent. He ran against Republican Phil Giordano who spent just over a million dollars to win a third of the vote (448,077, or 34% to be exact). Lieberman spent nearly $4,000,000-- simultaneously running for the vice presidency-- and garnered 828,902 votes (63%). This year, after losing the Democratic nomination to an anti-war good government type with massive grassroots support, Ned Lamont, Lieberman was forced to spend over $20,000,000 to save his seat in the general election. Lamont brought it 448,077 votes and the official Republican brought in 109,329 votes, 340,000 less than Giordano had. Where did those 340,000 Republican votes go? Lieberman's 563,725 votes were overwhelmingly cast by Republicans.
Rove made sure that Schlessinger's campaign was cash-starved and the official Republican had only $221,019 with which to get his message out. Most Republican voters just assumed Lieberman was their candidate. And he was. And now he's Rove's bitch.

DownWithTyranny HAS A BIRTHDAY WISH FOR DICK CHENEY-- YOU ALREADY KNOW WHAT IT IS

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But if you're planning a Dick Cheney b-day party this evening, this wonderful new movie from Atom Films is an absolute must. Break out the party hats and get ready to discover The Truth Behind 2/11-- Chicks With Dick:




UPDATE: BUSH IS AS DEADLY AS CHENEY-- JUST LAMER

Newsweek is gathering evidence for the inevitable trial to remove Bush from office for reasons of insanity.

UPDATE: MOST REPUBLICANS BACK DOWN ON MINIMUM WAGE

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Only 28 of the most extreme right wing maniacs supported Wayne Allard's proposal to end the minimum wage. (Obviously no Democrats, not even Ben Nelson, supported it.) However, the Republicans have been filibustering the minimum wage increase and last week the Democrats failed to shut them down. They succeeded today and most Republicans were shamed into agreeing to end their filibuster-- after Reid agreed to some of their selfish demands for $8 billion dollars in boondoggles for business interests. Cloture passed 87-10.

So who were the 10 Republicans so obsessed with hatred for working men and women that they still wanted to filibuster it to death? First let me point out that two of them, Georgia's Saxby Chamberpot and Oklahoma whacko James Inhofe (each pictured here), are up for re-election (or, preferably, defeat) next year. Here's the list:


• Burr (R-NC)
• Chambliss (R-GA)
• Coburn (R-OK)
• DeMint (R-SC)
• Ensign (R-NV)
• Gregg (R-NH)
• Inhofe (R-OK)

• Isakson (R-GA)
• Kyl (R-AZ)
• Vitter (R-LA)

FBI, IRS CLOSING IN ON FAR RIGHT CONGRESSKOOK GARY MILLER

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Usually when I have something to say about the Inland Empire's vicious right-wing congressman, Gary Miller (R-CA) it's that he's the single most reactionary member of California's congressional delegation-- worse than John Doolittle, worse than Duncan Hunter, worse than Ken Calvert, worse than Dana Rohrabacher, worse than Devin Nunes, Wally Herger, Buck McKeon, Jerry Lewis, Dan Lungren, Darrell Issa... the whole sick bunch. I feel I haven't spent nearly enough time talking about Miller's corruption. And although Miller is a small time crook-- think Randy "Duke" Cunningham-- compared to crime bosses like Jerry Lewis and Duncan Hunter, he has literally been getting away with millions of dollars in criminal activities since he managed to worm his way into Congress.

The sleazy real estate speculator-turned-congressman may not be getting away with it too much longer. Today's San Gabriel Valley Tribune is reporting that the FBI has been investigating Miller... seriously. Miller's case surfaced last summer when "a government watchdog group filed a complaint with the Internal Revenue Service alleging that Miller failed to report or pay capital gains tax on a nearly $11.8 million sale of 165 hillside acres to the city of Monrovia for a wildland preserve."

Following standard operating procedure for all cornered congressional Republicrooks, Miller has hired a flack to deny everything-- just as Cunningham and Ney did-- and even to deny, as they did, that there's are investigations into his criminal behavior by both the FBI and IRS. "It surprises me," he said. "I have no idea why they would (be investigating). There has been no impropriety."
A former Monrovia mayor confirmed FBI agents contacted her about Miller in December, and Monrovia city officials acknowledged Monday that federal agents had requested documents from them in the past three weeks. A Fontana redevelopment official said he was contacted by an FBI agent several months ago about the congressman... Monrovia spokesman Dick Singer said federal agents have contacted city officials, but he refused to comment on any specifics or to name the agency that had contacted the city. City Manager Scott Ochoa added that Monrovia is part of a "timeline of events" involving Miller. When asked whether his staff had been contacted about the congressman, Ochoa said only that federal agents had asked him to use the "utmost discretion" if asked about an inquiry. Ray Bragg, the redevelopment special projects director for the city of Fontana, said FBI agents called his office "a couple of months ago" and asked him to confirm details about Miller's business dealings with the city that had appeared in a Los Angeles Times article.


Miller had claimed he was forced to sell some land in 2002 that he was speculating on by the cities on Fontana and Monrovia-- under eminent domain, and then he used that argument to rip off the IRS. Both cities have testified that Miller wanted to sell the land and that there was no threat of eminent domain.

Right now Miller has another sleazy deal he's working on, attempting to develop a 381-acre property in the Rancho Cucamonga foothills, where he has proposed to build a 110-home, high-end housing tract. Neighboring residents are fighting the development and there is some thought that he is trying to create a situation similar to the ones he created in Fontana, Monrovia and Whittier so that he can rip off the tax payers without actually having to develop anything.

Hopefully the California Democratic Party and the DCCC will stop ignoring the district and start the long hard process of building a Democratic infrastructure that can take on crooks and extremists like Miller.


UPDATE: TALK ABOUT CLUELESS...

House Republicans have apparently learned nothing at all from the thrashing their corruption got them at the polls in November. "After months of GOP ethics scandals, House Republicans chose Rep. Gary Miller (R-Calif.) as the ranking member of a panel charged with investigating financial institutions-- even as the FBI was looking into his land deals. Representative Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.), ranking member of the Financial Services Committee, named Miller to the top GOP spot on the oversight and investigative subcommittee Jan. 9, according to a committee release. Watchdog groups have been raising red flags on several of Miller’s land deals since The Hill and other media outlets first scrutinized them early last year. Yesterday, a spokesman for the southern California city of Monrovia confirmed that agency officials had contacted the city about Miller’s land deals in the last two months. Bachus’s office did not return calls for comment."


ANOTHER UPDATE: THERE'S A VIDEO

The Miller case is heating up and getting wider and wider coverage. Apparently there's even a video. Thank God there isn't one of Calvert doing any of his perverted transgressions.

RIGHT WING ACTIVISTS HATE ALL THE GOP CANDIDATES RUNNING FOR PRESIDENT

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As far as I know, I've never agreed with Rush Limbaugh about anything in my life. Until today. He hates all the third-rate assholes the GOP is putting up to run for president in 2008. And Limbaugh isn't the only far right extremist filled with disdain for the field. "From consultants to bloggers to talk show hosts, there is a climate of suspicion-- at times bordering on contempt-- among conservative activists about their 2008 choices." Limbaugh, whining last week to whatever audience of reactionary robots he has still managed to hold on to, moaned "To be honest with you, there's nobody out there that revs me up so why should I pretend there is?"

McCain is courting social and economic conservatives this year, but still faces grave doubts because of his past attacks on conservative religious leaders and his frequent willingness to make common cause with Democrats. Romney, who is positioning himself as the true conservative alternative, faces charges of opportunism because of his recent past as a social moderate. Giuliani's potential candidacy would test whether a leader with liberal views on abortion and gay rights could prosper in a party whose activists are steadfastly opposed to both.

Some activists see all three men failing the test. "The party is headed for the wilderness," complained conservative publicist Craig Shirley, author of a book on Ronald Reagan's insurgent 1976 campaign. "In some ways it's a victim of its own successes, but it's also been co-opted by folks from the inside with less than pure intentions: People who've come to party for power, money, access, celebrity."


Romney "is a question mark" who has "got problems because of his past," Shirley observed. As for McCain and Giuliani: "I don't know of any conservative who is excited about either one of them."

"I really feel strongly that if the slate is what we have now, then we're not going to win in 2008," added Erick Erickson, the founder of the influential blog, RedState. Erickson, who recently posted an entry about the GOP contenders titled "They All Suck," said in an interview that he's "not sure if there is a Republican out there who can win" the general election next year.


Last week's bloggers poll of right wing extremists showed they hate everyone but could live with Newt Gingrich. And there's a groundswell developing for Jeb Bush, although many think this is being stoked by smart Democratic operatives who feel that although any Democrat could beat any Republican in 2008, a Bush at the head of the ticket will guarantee the Democrats super-majorities in both houses of Congress.

CHUCK HAGEL-- A GQ KINDA GUY?

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Sure... why not? But he's certainly not a Blue America kind of guy. Chuck Hagel is a far right Republican who has rubber stamped virtually every stinking turd the Bush Regime has sent careening down the pike-- even when he's spoken out against one or two. Look at that voting record; it's more reactionary that Tom Coburn's, Kay Bailey Hutchison's or Thad Cochran's-- and there are only 23 senators with worse records.

But people who haven't been paying close attention only know Hagel because of his vocal opposition to Bush's Iraq policy-- although, I want to point out that when it came to voting in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, he voted against Chris Dodd's bill (the one with teeth) and just joined Biden on the contemptible nonbinding, symbolic thing. Many have forgotten that Hagel's first senate election was a dress rehearsal for GOP vote theft on a grand scale.

The Wil Hylton interview in the new GQ starts out by drawing a clear demarcation between a fake, hyped-up war hero (McCain) and the real thing (Hagel): "As an infantryman, he had not bombed from above or commanded from behind; he had stood knee-deep in the muck, face-to-face with the enemy, firing on men and watching them die." And, far more important, another clear demarcation from phony-baloney McCain: "Even after four decades and a lifetime of change-- a fortune earned in the investment-banking business; a decade as a senator from Nebraska; and a position as one of the GOP’s conservative torchbearers with a shot at the White House-- Hagel has put everything on the line to oppose the war in Iraq, refusing to send a 'surge' of new troops into battle, or to forget the lessons he brought home from the killing fields long ago."

McCain and Hagel both realize they were badly deceived by Bush. I'd say most Republican senators realize that now. Unlike McCain, Hagel has chosen an open and public break with the Regime over it-- a stronger break in some ways than many of the centrist Democrats in the Senate. The far right of the GOP base is apoplectic and the swiftboaters are revving up their engines

Hagel's analysis of the Bush Regime is absolutely devastating. The far right blogosphere loathes him even beyond their much ballyhooed contempt for McCain and a cross-dresser who supports choice and gay marriage. Hagel, for all his flaws-- and they are flaws that make him completely unfit for higher office-- is speaking out more plainly and more forcefully than almost any Democrats. Most Democratic voters hear him speaking about Iraq and then hear Hillary or Obama, let alone Biden, and they hear from Hagel a message infinitely closer to their own feelings.
Why do you oppose the “surge”?
For almost four years, this administration has been saying, “Just give us another six months. Give us more time. The Iraqis need more help. We need more troops. We need more money.” I am not willing to sacrifice more young men and women for a policy that isn't working.
What do you think the real effect of the “surge” would be?
More American lives lost. Billions of dollars going into this hole. It will erode our standing in the Middle East and the world. It will destroy our force structure. It will divide this country in a bitter way not seen since Vietnam. And what do we get in return? The administration likes to point to these benchmarks—the Iraqis wrote a constitution, they had an election, they elected a unity government. The administration takes great pride in saying, “It's now a sovereign nation. They're in charge of their own affairs.” It's completely untrue, but they say it anyway.
What would it take to secure Baghdad?
It's not ours to secure. We have never understood that! We have framed this in a way that never made sense: “Win or lose in Iraq.” Wait a minute! There is no win or loss for us. The Iraqis will determine how this turns out. We can help them with our blood and our treasure and our standing, but in the end they have to deal with the sectarian problems. That is what's consuming that country. It's not Al Qaeda. It's not the terrorists. That's not the main problem over there. It's a civil war!


Democratic senators are still tip-toeing around "civil war;" Hagel is screaming it from the rooftops. One of the worst and most reprehensible shills in the Democratic Party, DLC Chair Harold Ford learned nothing from the fact that every single hot senate race was won by the Democrat except one-- his own. Today he was using the old Inside-the-Beltway canard: "Democrats aren't going to win if we are perceived as the anti-war or anti-national security party." Ford lost; Sherrod Brown won. Sheldon Whitehouse won. Bernie Sanders won. John Tester won. Claire McCaskill won. Amy Klobuchar won. Jim Webb won. Did I already mention that Harold Ford lost and that Harold Ford is a loser, a loser whose outsized ego makes him utterly incapable of learning from his mistakes? Meanwhile Hagel derides that Republican end of the same mindset as the DLC's: " They won't call it civil war. Everybody calls it a civil war! Of course it's a civil war. The generals call it a civil war. And it's even worse than a civil war... We can't solve that!"

And Hagel even calls out his own party, even the congressional end of it, for shirking its responsibility. (In all fairness, I'd like to point out that many in the Democratic Party have been just as supine before Bush as the Republicans-- and for a lot less reason.) "We've abdicated our responsibilities. That has to do with the fact that the Republican Party controlled the White House, the House, and the Senate. When that happens, you get no probing, no questioning, no oversight." He sounds like our anti-Republican campaign theme song from last year! And he doesn't stop there! He's frank about admitting that the Regime doctored everything. "All this stuff was doctored. Absolutely. But that's what we were presented with. And I'm not dismissing our responsibility to look into the thing, because there were senators who said, “I don't believe them.” But I was told by the president-- we all were-- that he would exhaust every diplomatic effort."

During the course of the interview he makes it clear that Bush, Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld were all consciously lying to him and deceiving Congress. His conclusions ultimately lead only one place: impeachment.
Does it seem like the president is basically daring you to cut funding?
He is. He feels, as I think a number of Republicans do, that it would be a disastrous thing politically. These are bright people. They understand politics about as well as anyone. President Bush has been elected twice. Some might argue that he wasn't elected the first time. With the popular vote, he actually wasn't. But he's very savvy politically. He's never going to stand for election again, and he believes this is right for the country. The president is trying to do something very difficult: sustain a war without the support of the American people.


Does this sound like a Republican talking? "Look, it has not gone unnoticed that President Bush served a little time in the National Guard. Secretary Rice never served. Wolfowitz never served. Feith never served. Cheney had five deferments. Rumsfeld might have done something at one time. But the only guy that had any real experience was Colin Powell. And they cut him off. That's just a fact. That's not subjective. That's the way it was." It doesn't even sound like a Democrat-- at least not for the record. It sounds like Bob Fertik.

I'm reading this to Jane as I'm typing and she asked me what Hagel is thinking. What's his objective? Hylton asked him the same thing. Is it strange for you to be allied on these issues with the anti-war left, which is not exactly your constituency?


"I think these issues are starting to redefine the political landscape. You are going to see alliances and relationships develop that are based on this war. You are going to see a reorientation of political parties... We are living through one of the most transformative periods in history. If we are going to make it, we need a far greater appreciation and respect for others, or we're going to blow up mankind. Look at what zealotry can do. Religious zealotry has been responsible for killing more people than any other thing. Look at the Middle East today. It's all about religion. We need to move past those divisions and learn to be tolerant and respectful. If we go out there full of intolerance and hatred, we'll never make it."

He also said he doesn't care if gays want to marry each other. It doesn't sound like he's running for the Republican nomination. An independent run? To the left of Hillary?


UPDATE: ANOTHER GOP SENATOR WANTS BUSH TO GET SOMEONE TO READ HIM THE CONSTITUTION

Today Arlen Specter, the remaining Republican Senator from Pennsylvania, directly challenged Bush's declaration that "I am the decision-maker" on issues of war. Specter was polite but kind of blunt in pointing out that Bush knows less about the U.S. government than a junior high school student who took a civics class. "I would suggest respectfully to the president that he is not the sole decider. The decider is a shared and joint responsibility."

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Monday, January 29, 2007

ARE THERE ANY DEMOCRATS LOOKING AT CALIFORNIA POPULATION SHIFTS AND THINKING ABOUT TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY POLITICS?

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A few days ago I went to visit my friend Rick. He had maps up, ominous maps-- he always does-- that show how more and more counties are blood red GOP electoral strongholds. Whenever I see Rick's maps I always tell myself that so many of those counties have hardly any people living in them... I mean I was involved in Robert Rodriguez' congressional campaign so I'm very aware that Mono and Inyo Counties have, respectively 12,509 and 18,156 people-- no matter how much space they take up on the maps. L.A. County was nudging 10,000,000 in 2005. I don't think any Republicans live in Alameda County and they have a million and a half. Modoc County may be red, red, red but there are only 9,524 people living there. Would it make a difference if every single person in Alpine County voted for a Republican-- all 1,159 of them? Rick's maps look scary but I shrugged them off.

Then today I saw a post by a guy I met last week at Rick's house, D-Day. It was a lot scarier than Rick's maps, although the feeling of nausea I always get when I see those damn maps is because I know precisely how to read a map-- and they're not really about Mono and Alpine and Inyo. Rick's maps and D-Day's posts are about the lightning fast growth counties of Southern California, the counties that have been responsible for some of the worst trash infesting the U.S. Congress-- Jerry Lewis, Gary Miller, Ken Calvert, David Dreier, Buck McKeon, Darrell Issa. San Bernardino County has about 2,000,000 people (more than double San Francisco) with a 15% growth rate (as opposed to 6.7% for the state) and Riverside County has another 2,000,000-- and is growing at 26% per year!

D-Day writes that a report from the California Budget Project shows "job growth n the inland counties of the state grew nearly FIVE TIMES LARGER than job growth in the coastal counties between 1990 and 2005. In fact, they've contributed to more than half of the total job growth in the state, despite having only 1/5 of the jobs currently. What used to be bedroom communities in the Inland Empire of SoCal, for example, are now very much self-sustaining and thriving, particularly in the western edges of San Bernardino and Riverside counties."

D-Day considers this as either a very ominous threat for progressives or an incredible opportunity. "The power bases in L.A. and SF are only going to retain their power for so long. Places like Ontario and Auburn are goin to have more and more importance, and it's time RIGHT NOW to ensure that there's some Democratic infrastructure in place to identify and engage people in those areas who share progressive views."

Let me hearken back to Robert Rodriguez' campaign to unseat far right barnacle Buck McKeon in CA-25. The district includes the northeasternmost chunk of L.A. County (the furthest from the beaches) plus northern San Bernardino, and all of Inyo and Mono counties. McKeon had never had any real Democratic opposition-- nor have Gary Miller, Ken Calvert, Jerry Lewis or most of the rest cited above; there is no Democratic infrastructure and almost no Democratic community. The Democratic Party in CD-41 practically functions as a subsidiary of Jerry Lewis, Inc! But over the last year and a half Rodriguez started bringing Democrats together in CA-25 and putting together an effective campaign organization. He didn't beat McKeon but he knocked down his numbers considerably and beat him-- for the first time-- in parts of the district that have had the most rapid growth rate.

Howard Dean's 50 state strategy is also a multi-decade plan. I spoke with a friend from the DCCC the other day. He told me they're concerned with one thing and one thing only: electing Democrats in this cycle, not in the next cycle or, God forbid, 2 cycles from now. If we don't take long-term political development seriously, the way the GOP does, we'll never be able to compete seriously and take advantage of demographic trends that are favorable to Democrats. CA-25, for example, is now a majority non-white district. McKeon is a crusty, out-of-touch old Mormon with ideas and values that went out of style in the 1930s. Over 45% of San Bernardino County is Latino and about a third of the population is under 18 years old, a much younger population than the state in general (27%). Democrats can win in districts like these-- and they must. But it costs money.

Seriously contested seats in 2006 were all won by candidates who raised at least $1,000,000. No exceptions. In CA-04 we came very close with Charlie Brown (who spent $1,700,000) but he was edged by incumbent Repug John Doolittle's $2,342,000. Jerry McNerney beat Dirty Dick Pombo ($2,385,000 vs $4,539,000), partially because of a great deal of independent environmental money spent narrowing the financial gap.

But let's look at the southern California districts that show up in the red counties on Rick's maps. Buck McKeon spent $1,245,000 against Robert Rodriguez' $207,000. David Dreier spent $2,219,000 this year against Cynthia Matthews' anemic $54,000, after she nearly beat him in 2004. Jerry Lewis spent $1,376,000 to defend his seat against Louie Contreras who spent... nothing at all. The Democrats didn't even put someone up against Gary Miller, a vicious extremist and, by far, the most right wing member of the California delegation. Ken Calvert spent over $900,000 against Louis Vandenberg's $8,000. David Roth did manage to put Mary Bono on the defensive by spending over $700,000-- and she doubled what he spent.

One wonders if there's anyone looking at these Inland Empire districts seriously. I don't wonder. I know there isn't.

CHARLIE CRIST MOVES TO CLEAN UP FLORIDA POLITICS FROM THE BUSH STENCH

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A little Florida catch-up. Last we left moderate Republican Charlie Crist he had weathered the exposes of his closeted gay life, and then gone on to be elected governor at the same time that Florida voters were massively defeating bribetaking, far right nut-case Katherine Harris in her bid for a Senate seat. Crist has gone from fending off stories about gay prostitutes to a paternity case. But he's also earned high marks for moving Florida politics back towards the mainstream.

Jeb Bush may have been personally popuar but he was also a far right extremist in his politics. And Crist has moved to clean the state up after Bush's two divisive terms. This weekend Charlie Crist's handpicked candidate for state party chairman, a moderate like himself, Jim Greer, defeated Bush's far right hold-over, loony Carole Jean Jordan, 102-89.

And Crist's attempt to govern from the center in a more bipartisan fashion than the rightist Bush has not gone unnoticed by the state's Democrats. "Democrats are still shellshocked by the way Crist included them in the recent negotiations on insurance reform and adopted some of their big-government solutions. He invited two Democratic lawmakers to join him in a statewide tour Friday when he signed the bill. 'It's harder for us to be the opposition party when he keeps doing things we like,' said state Rep. Dan Gelber of Miami Beach, who attended the bill-signing ceremonies. Even Republicans admit that Crist's insistence on lowering insurance rates forced them to become more consumer-friendly and turn away from the business interests favored by the former governor. Many of Bush's recommendations were rejected."

A leading State House Democrat-- who helped push through Crist's insurance legislation in last week's special session-- told Ron Grunzburger that "Charlie is the best Democratic Governor we've had since LeRoy Collins."

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HOW TO RECOGNIZE A PUFF PIECE-- CHRIS CILLIZZA ON HAROLD FORD, JR.

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I started reading Cillizza's Washington Post piece on Harold Ford, Jr. this morning with an open mind. (Why, you ask? Hey, it's always important to know what corrupt and opportunistic careerist pols like Ford are up to in their never-ending battle to wreck the values and principles of the Democratic Party.) Anyway, it only took 3 paragraphs, short ones, before I saw that Cillizza, had been employed to write a hyped-up puff piece on Ford. It's sickening; doesn't the Post pay Cillizza enough so that he doesn't have to freelance for the DLC?


In touting the magnificence of Ford's new job as DLC frontman, he talks about Ford following in the footsteps of Bill Clinton (rather than the quintessential DLC Chairman, Joe Lieberman, someone Cillizza has always done so much to support). He refers to the shameful and irrelevant job at the much-despised DLC as a "lofty platform." (I guess it could be looked at as "lofty" in an aloof, disconnected sort of way, totally out of touch with everyday Americans, but I doubt that's what Cillizza had in mind.)

And he refers to Ford's 50,000 vote loss to right wing Republican Bob Corker in November as "closer-than-expected" instead of pointing out that Ford's consistent pandering to the right made him the only loser among Democrats with targeted races. To Cillizza, Ford had nearly pulled off "a stunning upset" by focusing on the future instead of the past-- which I'm sure has great meaning in Cillizza's and his paymasters' minds-- instead of mentioning that Ford lost while Democratic challengers with races every bit as tough-- like Jim Webb, John Tester, Claire McCaskill, Sheldon Whitehouse, Sherrod Brown-- won by not confusing voters as to who was the bigger right wing asshole.


It was the third paragraph that inspired me to write a piece about the anatomy of a puff piece. "At first glance Ford and the DLC appear to be a perfect fit. First elected in 1996 to a House seat his father formerly held for more than two decades, the younger Ford has been forced to beat back the idea that he is a lightweight on issues. His seat atop the DLC should considerably strengthen his heft on domestic and foreign policy matters." Cillizza follows that with a string of positive adjectives and then a quote from thoroughly discredited Beltway hack, Al From, about how the washed up Ford is part of "a new generation" of Democratic leaders.

I kept reading to see who Cillizza would dig up to present the other side of the picture-- about how Ford and the DLC are corporate tools who always sell out the interests of working men and women to whore for political dollars from Big Business. Maybe that got edited out of Cillizza's piece. I doubt it. Oh wait! Maybe this is the other side of the story, fair and balanced bit: "While the DLC has drawn considerable criticism from the liberal blogosphere for advocating so-called Republican lite policies, Ford insisted that the organization is miscast by its Democratic detractors." Does the DLC write that for Cillizza word for word or is his being so in sync with them that they know they don't have to?

And in backing Bush's Iraq plans, Ford uses the old DLC Lieberman strategy of painting mainstream Americans and mainstream Democrats as fringe: "Democrats aren't going to win if we are perceived as the anti-war or anti-national security party." What the DLC, Ford and Chris Cillizza seem to have forgotten is that Harold Ford lost and that real Democrats who challenged Bush for real won. I think the Post needs to re-examine who they have writing about politics for them.

IF BUSH ASKS TO READ NEWSWEEK TODAY, SOMEONE BETTER SLIP HIM A COPY OF HIS 3 FAVORITE SHAKESPEARES FAST

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The new Newsweek has all kinds of bad news for the Bush Regime today. First of all, there's a new poll-- taken right after the State of the Union Address-- and it shows Bush's approval rating at unprecedented, historic lows. Bush's "approval ratings are at their lowest point in the poll’s history-- 30 percent-- and more than half the country (58 percent) say they wish the Bush presidency were simply over, a sentiment that is almost unanimous among Democrats (86 percent), and is shared by a clear majority (59 percent) of independents and even one in five (21 percent) Republicans. Half (49 percent) of all registered voters would rather see a Democrat elected president in 2008, compared to just 28 percent who'd prefer the GOP to remain in the White House. Public fatigue over the war in the Iraq is not reflected solely in the president's numbers, however. Congress is criticized by nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of Americans for not being assertive enough in challenging the Bush administration's conduct of the war. [I wonder if Biden, Levin, Durbin, Hoyer, Emanuel and the rest of the congressional cowards get this magazine-- or even care what people think.] Even a third (31 percent) of rank-and-file Republicans say the previous Congress, controlled by their party, didn't do enough to challenge the administration on the war."

But that isn't even the worst of what Newsweek left on Bush's doorstep. There's an interview with Cheney. Is there anyone in the Regime even smart enough to be humming this today? When Durbin mentioned the other day that Cheney is clearly delusional, he was being polite. Here are some examples of a Regime that has lost any grip on reality it may have ever had:


"I think [Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki] has been direct and forthright in responding to our concerns...
we don't have any reason to doubt him."

"I think most of the nations in [the Middle East] believe their security is supported, if you will, by the United States. They want us to have a major presence there."

"My sense of it is that what's happened here now over the last few weeks is that the president has shored up his position with the speech he made a couple of weeks ago, specifically on Iraq. And I think the speech, frankly Tuesday night, the State of the Union address was one of his best. I think there's been a very positive reaction of people who saw the speech." [I'm guessing no one showed him the polling data.]

After singing the praises of Joe Lieberman ad nauseum Cheney went on to blurt out: "Let's say I believe firmly in Ronald Reagan's 11th commandment: Thou shalt not speak ill of a fellow Republican. But it's very hard sometimes to adhere to that where Chuck Hagel is involved."

"I think we have made significant progress [in Iraq]."

Delusional indeed. And the bad news doesn't end with Cheney's dementia. Richard Wolffe has a story about how badly the pro-war stances of Republicans will hurt them in 2008. McCain's, Giuliani's and Romney's "strategy of carrying Bush's baggage seems politically reckless. It might help them in the primaries: most of the Republican base still supports the war and President Bush. But as the GOP discovered in November, the base isn't big enough to secure victory in a general election."

And that doesn't even tackle the coverstory, Blackhawk Down, which just sums up everything that has gone wrong with Bush's and Cheney's malevolent endeavors in Iraq-- and from the worst possible perspective, that of the American people. Maybe the Libby trial will take everyone's mind off Iraq-- especially when Cheney, Libby, Fleischer, Rove all turn on each other. Now there's something for the Regime to look forward to.

FATHER ROBERT DRINAN, RIP

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I serve on the Board of Directors of a large Washington-based civil liberties advocacy organization and there are plenty of legendary names on that Board. But when I first joined, nothing thrilled me more than when I realized I would be working with Rev. Robert Drinan. Father Drinan died yesterday, age 86.

Over 35 years ago he was an iconic figure for me. In the middle 60s many Americans hadn't woken up to the tragedy our country's leaders had dragged us into: a pointless and horrific war against the Vietnamese people. Students-- primarily because of the draft-- did realize. I was a student then and the Vietnamese war helped me understand politics far better than anything I learned in my PoliSci classes. Students were looking for establishment figures to support our cause. There were very few "adults" behind us when Father Drinan started speaking out. Much the way Lieberman and Cheney are yammering today that protest will embolden people who oppose their malevolent policies, Father Drinan's willingness to speak out forcefully against the immoral war, encouraged us step up the opposition.


By the time Father Drinan challenged the reactionary Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, a Beltway careerist Democrat much like the Bidens and Hoyers of today, I was getting ready to leave America and go live abroad. Father Drinan beat Phil Philbin in the primary-- and again in the general (Philbin was a Lieberman-like creep)-- and became the first, and only, priest elected to Congress. He didn't disappoint either. Scrupulously honest, he served for 10 years and spoke out loudly all the time. He was the first member of Congress to call for the impeachment of the arch Republican criminal Richard Nixon. Eventually the Pope forced Father Drinan to leave Congress. Barney Frank now represents the district. Please join me in saying a little prayer for Father Drinan's soul and a word of thanks to him for never being afraid to speak truth to power.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

THE DOUBLE-TALK EXPRESS

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Who would have ever thought that religious right kook James Dobson and I would be praying together? But we are. Each of us is praying that the United States never gets saddled with one of the American political world's biggest snakes: John McCain. Two friends, each of whose political acumen I greatly admire, Robert Greenwald and Cliff Schecter, are launching a new website this morning to make sure the corporate mass media can't keep deceiving the public about "moderate," "straight talking" John McCain: The REAL McCain. I've added them to the DWT blogroll and I urge you to watch them closely as they peel away the carefully constructed layers of lies and deceptions that have come to embody an image with no basis in reality. McCain is neither "moderate"-- he has a clear and consistent voting record as a radical right extremist, opposing much of what  Americans value and cherish-- and he is about the furthest thing from a "straight-talker" this side of... his pals Joe Lieberman and Dick Cheney.

Take a look at the wonderful mini-documentary The REAL McCain has put together for their launch. It is the epitome of the real McCain-- and you're not likely to see it on CNN or Fox or ABC any time soon.




UPDATE: LOOKS LIKE NO ONE HAS TOLD COLLINS AND SNOWE WHAT A LYING SACK McCAIN IS

I'm guessing most DWT readers already know about the essence of the Double-Talk Express. Republican voters need to hear about it and I'm hoping someone gets Schecter's and Greenwald's new site to Giuliani and Romney and the other right-wing candidates. It was kind of revolting today to read that Maine's two senators, Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe signed on to co-chair McCain's exploratory committee in their state.

DOES ANYONE (IE- REAL VOTERS) CARE ABOUT POLITICIANS' ENDORSEMENTS?

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I wonder how many people make up their minds about who to vote for-- or contribute to-- based on endorsements from other politicians. Chris Cillizza And Shailagh Murray in today's Washington Post say the sheriff and state assemblyman might not matter but there are 3 Democrats and 3 Republicans that everyone is courting. Jeb Bush I understand, especially if-- as looks likely-- Florida moves its primary up to February 5 but South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford and Iowa far right extremist kook Steve King? That is just crazy.


Sanford already showed the value of his endorsement in 2000 when he gave McCain the nod, only to watch South Carolina turn into the graveyard of McCain's presidential pretensions of that year. And Steve King? Maybe as a contrary indicator. I mean even Republicans know that this guy is nuts. Even Republicans in Iowa's 5th CD. In fact, in 2002 and 2004 he garnered, respectively 62% and 63% of the vote. And that was 168,500 votes in 2004. This year he wound up with 58% of the vote (an 8% drop) and only 105,000 people showed up for him, the smallest number of votes of any congressional victor in Iowa this year. (Even newly elected Democrats Braley and Loebsack brought in, respectively 113,700 and 107,000.) His endorsement of fellow xenophobe Tom Tancredo isn't going to make one bit of difference to Tancredo's pointless, divisive, hate-filled campaign.

No mention of Swingin' Dick Cheney? Not even as an endorsement to be avoided at all costs. If he teams up with Lieberman they could make an impact on the GOP race... I guess.

And if Jeb is so important because Florida moving up their primary, what about Schwarzenegger? His expected endorsement of McCain will probably do McCain a lot more good than whatever Sanford or King can do in their states.

Now on the Democratic side, the Post is touting Ted Kennedy ("liberal icon"), South Carolina senior African American congressman/party machine boss Jim Clyburn and Jeanne Shaheen, an ex-governor who lost her race for the Senate. I doubt any of those endorsements will mean a great deal. Liberals, who might care what Kennedy has to say, aren't robots who take cues from politicians. Clyburn might bring Obama or Clinton some votes in South Carolina but with Florida and California (and New Jersey) with early primaries, South Carolina probably isn't going to do much for anyone's momentum, especially since everyone knows their electoral votes are going to either the Republican or to a further right independent, if it comes to that, before a Democrat, Clyburn Machine or no Clyburn Machine.

And as for Shaheen... if she jumps into the Senate race against Sununu, she's going to be pretty busy bringing all the supporters of all the Democratic presidential hopefuls together for herself. I don't see an endorsement that could hurt her among partisans of any of the candidates.

So whose endorsement would really mean something among Democrats? Speaker Pelosi (not going to happen) and Howard Dean (not going to happen) would be meaningful. Russ Feingold and Wes Clark have real national grassroots followings that are meaningful. Markos from Kos probably means more than most politicians. L.A. Mayor Antonio Villraigosa might have some sway in California and Jane just reminded me that-- assuming he doesn't run himself-- Al Gore has a devoted following which will care what he has to say.

Who else? You tell me.

WHO WON THE HOUSE FOR THE DEMS REDUX (HINT: IT WASN'T RAHM EMANUEL)

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-by Dan Drasin

Back in November, after recovering from the heady celebration of the Dems storming the House and getting over the top in the Senate, I sat down to crunch some numbers in an attempt to gain some understanding about what worked and what didn't. At the time, the theme of the day in the MSM was that the Dems dominance of the House was due in large part to Rahm Emanuel's carefully crafted strategy. However, by looking through the FEC campagn contributions information, the data showed that it was in fact Howard Dean's "50 state strategy" that was the key in the 2006 house elections.
Of course that analysis was based on the information that was available at the time and since then more campaign spending information has come in. So I thought it was time to compile the new data, mix it with the old data, and see what came out. In this process not only did I update my data with the latest and greatest from the FEC (an additional 10% more data in the latest data and more importantly lots of stuff from October) but I also was able to fix up a lot of "data errors" in the raw FEC data.  ( Yeah, it surprised me how much data scrubbing was needed to make everything match up-- as a silly example, one of the candidates from MN [Bachmann I think] had her district listed as '0A'. And there were hundreds of errors like this. If a person is looking at any of these individual issues, they'll be able to correct them, but if you're doing a large analysis, they'll fall through the cracks-- this is the kind of thing that the FEC-- or someone-- should keep their eye on.  After all, accountability is only as good as the information on which it relies... ). So with that said, below is what i found relative to my original analysis.

Findings:
    1. up until 9/1/06, the DCCC spent a total of $2.1M on House races and $1.2 of it went to races that were eventually winning districts.
    update: DCCC actually spent a total of $4.7 million before 9/1/06 (only 1.2 of it went to districts that were pickups)

    2. up until 9/1/06, the DCCC spent less than $5,000 on only 15 districts that were eventual winners. (FL-16 can be forgiven as this was before the Mark Foley scandal...) C'mon, 5K is nothing...
    update: no change

    3. in 3 (maybe 4-- i'm not clear on CT2), the DCCC actively supported a different ("centrist," non-grassroots) candidate than the eventual winner and then refused to provide support to eventual winner. Note: these were all pickups.
    update: CA11, KY3, NH1, and OH2 all showed the DCCC supporting an alternate candidate during the primaries and then having their contributions drop to nothing after their candidate lost.  The DCCC did in fact pour a lot of money into CT2 (even after their candidate lost)-- over a million.

    4. In September, the DCCC investment pattern was roughly the same: of $7.3M spent, $5.3 went to only 15 districts that were eventual winners.
    update: DCCC spent $8.7 million between 9/1 and 10/1 and $6.2 million went to districts that were pickups

    5. In September, the DCCC spent crazy money in some expensive markets that didn't fall (600K in KY4, 500K in OH15, 350K in PA6, 300K in VA2) and still NO money in a number of races that were eventual pickups or close recount situations (or had polls showing them as competitive-- CA-11, CT-02, IA-02, KS-02, KY-03, NC-08, NH-01, NH-02, NY-19, OH-02, PA-07, and WY-AL). They underspent in some additional races that were pickups (like PA-08) or very close (like WA-08) as well.
    update: Not much change, however updated analysis did show significant spending by the DCCC in CT-02 and PA-07, and trivial spending in NH-02.

    6. At the same time, the races where the DCCC didn't spend, were kept alive by different groups (like MoveOn, The Netroots, Blue America, etc working through ActBlue) following different investment strategies (like the 50-state strategy.) The ALL Contributions in PICKUPS tab shows all investment (by all parties) in each of the districts by time-period. This gives an idea of the total amount of money effecting these races and hence the impact that DCCC participation (both in dollars and publicity) would have had.
    update: As true as ever

    7. After October 1, the DCCC investment pattern improved as they finally jumped into some of the winning races that that they had previously ignored (like IN-02, MN-01, PA-04, PA-08) in a significant way. But even so, their record was only $8.2M out of $14.1M going to winning races and significant support in only 18 winning races.
    update: Still true although the total spending after 10/1 came to $20 million and of that $11.3 was spent in pickup races

    8. In October they spent large sums of money on some key "swing races" that didn't break ($2.5M in PA-06, $800K in KY-04, $500K in OH-01, $450K in OH-15, $300K in VA-02, $250K in CT-04, and $100K in CO-04.)
    update: Add to that $800k in IL-06, $750k in WA-08, $400K in NM-01, and $325K in MN-06

Summary:
So with all of the data in, the conclusion of the original analysis still hold - had the DCCC "swing state" strategy been the dominant strategy in operation during the 2006 election cycle, then the Dems might not have taken the house. And in particular, this update shows that a lot of the late spending by the DCCC in expensive media markets was wasted. At the same time, analysis of DNC spending on infrastructure as part of the "50-state strategy" has been shown to have been quite effective in the 2006 house election cycle (Elaine Kamarck has an article in The Forum on "Assessing Howard Dean's Fifty State Strategy and the 2006 Midterm Elections" where she shows through statistical analysis that the impact of DNC infrastructure spending doubled the overall Democratic shift in votes.) With that said, the questions I posed in the original post are still out there-- in particular, why did some of these "swing states" fail to fall under intense spending by the DCCC while other "2nd tier" races were picked-up with minimal or no DCCC support.

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