Thursday, January 31, 2008

HOW BUSH LOST AFGHANISTAN... AND WHY

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Bush's failure at Tora Bora set the tone for the rest of his disastrous presidency

After college I went abroad and lived overseas for over 6 years. Since then I've spent at least a month outside of the U.S. every year. In my spare time, I do a Travel Blog about my travels. And when people ask me to name my all-time favorite places I've been, I always include Afghanistan, which I visited twice-- in the 60s and 70s. It isn't a place I would recommend anyone visit these days.

Last month I was waiting on line at the New Delhi Airport when I heard an announcement about the arrival of a plane from Kabul. A few days later I found out that the pomegranate seeds I was having as part of my breakfast everyday were being flown in daily from Afghanistan, a new cash crop to replace opium. But while I was away Afghanistan wasn't in the news because of pomegranate seeds, but because of the disastrous turn of events there this year.

A bipartisan group of senators didn't have tourism or pomegranate seeds in mind this morning when they voiced "concern" about Afghanistan. Republican foreign affairs maven Richard Lugar summed up nicely: "The overall situation in Afghanistan remains grave."

Saul Landau would probably call Lugar a Pollyanna. His essay in today's Counterpunch doesn't pull any punches on the rapidly deteriorating situation in Afghanistan-- The Next Disaster.
In mid January, Bush dispatched 3,200 additional marines to Afghanistan. Curiously, the uncurious media didn't ask why US and NATO forces continue to fight there. Nation Building? With little or no budget for reconstructing the country?

Junior partners, the British leaders, haven't learned lessons any better than their Yankee counterparts. Defense Minister Des Browne predicted British troops could stay there for "decades." Did he not learn that from 1839 to 1842 British troops fought in Afghanistan so they could take that sphere away from Russia? Now, NATO makes war there, says Browne, to insure that it would not again "become a training ground for terrorists threatening Great Britain."

In the 19th Century, the British Empire suffered disastrous losses when it invaded Afghanistan and erected a puppet regime in Kabul-- just as the United States did (Hamid Karzai) after Bush's 2001 invasion. The puppet fell quickly when the British could not quell resistance. By 1842, Afghan mobs attacked Englishmen who remained in Kabul. The British army retreated toward India, its officers believing they had negotiated safe passage. Afghan "insurgents" slaughtered some 16,000 English soldiers.

Actually the Afghans slaughtered every member of the retreating British Army but one person they allowed to escape so he could tell the story. The Afghans are like that-- and the U.S. and modern Britain aren't the only ones who didn't learn anything. There isn't a Soviet Union today, in large part, because they didn't learn the lessons either.

I've just started reading an advance copy of Russ Hoyle's powerful new book, Going To War: How Misinformation, Disinformation and Arrogance Led America Into Iraq. Hoyle lays the groundwork for his exhaustive investigation by pointing out that after 9/11 the entire weight of world public opinion-- nor to mention support-- was with the United States. Bush went after the 9/11 culprits, bin-Laden, al-Qaeda, and their Taliban hosts and protectors. It's pretty much the only thing Bush has done right in his entire presidency. But as we were closing in on bin-Laden and his beaten, remnant band in Tora Bora, Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld out-sourced what should have been the last act to warlords who sell their services to the highest bidder. Bin-Laden bid highest while the Bush Regime was preoccupied with their Regime's fondest dream, the attack on Iraq and the seizure of that nation's oil reserves on behalf of the multinational energy companies they represent.

The Washington Post wasn't watching when Bush screwed up Afghanistan. In fact if the American media had been doing a decent job, perhaps Bush would never have gotten away with leading our country into a catastrophic situation. Today, however, the Post-- albeit buried on page 18-- bemoaned the state of affairs in that most unfortunate of countries.
NATO forces in Afghanistan are in a "strategic stalemate," as Taliban insurgents expand their control of sparsely populated areas and as the central government fails to carry out vital reforms and reconstruction, according to an independent assessment released yesterday by NATO's former commander.

"Make no mistake, NATO is not winning in Afghanistan," said the report by the Atlantic Council of the United States, chaired by retired Gen. James L. Jones, who until the summer of 2006 served as the supreme allied commander of NATO.

"Afghanistan remains a failing state. It could become a failed state," warned the report, which called for "urgent action" to overhaul NATO strategy in coming weeks before an anticipated new offensive by Taliban insurgents in the spring.



UPDATE: MISUSED AND ABUSED BY BUSH, MARINES SAY THEY CAN'T HELP IN AFGHANISTAN

According to the latest CongressDaily "Marine Corps Commandant James Conway warned today he would not have the manpower to boost the number of Marines in Afghanistan beyond the level announced recently by Defense Secretary Gates while continuing to maintain a significant presence in Iraq." He talked about stress on marines who have been shuttling back and forth between wars and who haven't spent time at home in years. "Our Corps is not big enough to do both. We cannot have one foot in Afghanistan and one foot in Iraq," Conway said. "If there is a determination to send more Marines into Afghanistan, I certainly would respectfully request that we reduce our presence in Iraq."

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REP. LUIS GUTIERREZ UN-ENDORSES LIPINSKI IN CHICAGOLAND SHOCKER

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Gutierrez, moved by his better angels

Many progressives were bitterly disappointed when Congressman Luis Gutierrez went along with the powerful Daley Machine to endorse reactionary incumbent Dan Lipinski in his hotly contested bid for re-election. But, like so many politicians from Chicago, regardless of how they are on national issues-- and Gutierrez is good-- when it comes to local issues, the Machine rules. He's almost a mini version of Dick Durbin, an excellent progressive in Washington, but a pathetic hack and tool at home. So it came as quite the shock in Chicagoland politics today when Gutierrez officially withdrew his endorsement of Lipinski. But bitter disappointment from progressives didn't figure into the unprecedented action Gutierrez took today.

Gutierrez, of Puerto Rican heritage, represents Chicago's 4th CD, one of the strangest-looking gerrymanders in the country. It connects the Mexican-American communities on the Southside with the Puerto Rican communities on the Northside, while avoiding the huge Westside African-American community that seperates them (see map), resulting in an over 75% Latino congressional district-- though far more Mexican than Puerto Rican. Gutierrez had very friendly-- and beneficial-- ties with Lipinski's father and it is generally believed that his endorsement of the worthless son was a payback to the helpful father. But pressure from Mexican-Americans, in light of Lipinski Jr's aggressively anti-immigrant votes and positions, was too intense for Gutierrez to ignore.

Although the Machine has dredged up endorsements from every political hack they own, most members of Congress had managed to steer clear of this race pitting a not well-liked incumbent with a marked propensity to vote with the GOP on crucial issues against a straight-arrow progressive who many see as part of a reformed future for Chicagoland. Only Gutierrez had endorsed Lipinski and that endorsement has now gone up in smoke because Gutierrez' fierce committment to legalization for the undocumented was more important to him than the go-along-get-along political culture that comes first for lesser leaders than he is.

Like I said yesterday, the immigrant communities of Lipinski's district-- not just Latino, but Asian and Muslim as well-- have been key elements in the broad coalition backing Pera, a coalition featuring women's right's activists, pro-peace activists, environmentalists, and clean government reformers. The primary in the solidly Democratic district is this Tuesday.

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THE WILLARD CAMPAIGN: RIP

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Don't feel too sorry for him-- he still has hundreds of millions of ill-gotten dollars

If you watched the debating pygmies last night, it would have been hard to not notice that Willard has all but given up. He seemed afraid to take on McCain or to go for an exposed jugular offered up several times by the doddering and clearly senile and delusional crackpot. According to Commentary's Daniel Casse, last night "was Mitt Romney’s last stand. He blew it. The conservative antipathy towards McCain involves real issues: his indefensible support of campaign finance reform, his opposition to Bush tax cuts, his throwaway lines attacking corporations, and so on. Romney should have been on attack mode from the first moment, stirring up every conservative trepidation about McCain, stressing his unreliability as a consistent voice for the cause. “We don’t need a maverick, Senator, we need a steadfast, principled and predictable conservative leader,” was the line I was waiting for." It never came. Willard just looked more pathetic, hapless, frustrated and defeated than ever. Conservatives who thought he would be their champion must be climbing the walls and rending their clothes!
Romney was handed one fine opportunity: A question about whether John McCain lied in Florida this week when he charged Romney with supporting a timetable for withdrawal in Iraq early last year. But Romney's response was a stammering, largely incoherent mess. His resulting back-and-forth with McCain seemed petty, and offered little clarity on what he'd actually said. Nor did it effectively spotlight McCain's cynical opportunism-- and, say people who followed the details more closely than I did, dishonesty-- in raising the charge. Romney clearly feels that McCain is lying, and that his candidacy is on the line. So why he couldn't muster a powerful, indignant, jut-jawed, "Senator, you are lying to win votes," is beyond me. (Or better yet, why not say that McCain "twists the truth like Clinton"?)

His campaign strategy has now come down to one thing: prayer. Yesterday Time reported that he's cutting his financial losses and pulling all expensive TV ad buys in the Super-Tuesday states. Today, flying in the face of Schwarzenegger's endorsement of McCain, the Romney campaign says it will do some TV ads in California after all.

Republican voters, notorious top-down conformists to begin with, are convinced that McCain-- love him or hate him-- is inevitable. And conservative leaders are still making lame noises as though there was still some chance to stop McCain from getting the nomination of the party they once thought they controlled. Far right propagandist Hugh Hewitt was raving and fuming after the debate last night.
John McCain won over few if any conservatives tonight, and his display of bad temper and his rambling filibuster of his wrongful "timetables" attack on Romney from last weekend may even have lost him some moderates. In the spin room heads were shaking. McCain was at his worst in the second half of the debate, and those who watched had to ask themselves how this sort of performance would play against a youthful, upbeat Obama with a MSM ready not to protect McCain but tear into him as aging and confused-- even obviously deceptive-- about his facts.

...If they are Republicans, they also will almost certainly walk away disquieted by the prospect of a McCain nomination, both because of his ideas and even more so because he just didn't look electable tonight.  Romney did.  In fact McCain's best part of the day was when Rudy was talking about him, and it went down hill from there.  McCain will get another assist from Arnold tomorrow or Friday, but it is hard to hide the fact that this would be a second Bob Dole campaign, with less energy and fewer conservative principles.  Many, many Republicans have to be worried not just about losing the White House, but about a dispirited party and a down-ticket wipe-out.

And Hewitt isn't the only far right extremist unable to accept that it's all over. Today Bob Novak is not just a genuine movement-conservative but also dishonest and suffering from severe memory problems. And Limbaugh is still trying to score points among extremists by attacking McCain.
"Here is the bottom line, ladies and gentlemen," Limbaugh said. "I think this is it. There was a lot of anxiety among a lot of conservatives about Senator McCain. It's simply indisputable. But there was no figure in our roster of candidates who rose up to challenge him or galvanize conservative support. All the candidates on our side, for various reasons, are uninspiring or worse."

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GRASSLEY BLAMES GIULIANI DISASTER NOT ON GIULIANI BUT ON NEW YORK

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You can put lipstick on a pig...

The News doesn't need any striking comedy writers to come up with the best headlines. Today: Hick Iowa Senator Says N.Y. Attitude Cost Rudy Giuliani; Apple Strikes Back. It features a photo of Rudy in drag I had never seen before (above)-- along with this caption: A possible example of Rudy Giuliani's 'New York lifestyle': Hizzoner's alter ego, Rudia, channeling Marilyn Monroe-- as well as one of Chuck Grassley, with a reminder that one of America's most brilliant journalists, Jimmy Breslin, dubbed him "a moron" and "another one of those low-IQ loudmouths."

Grassley blamed Giuliani's "lifestyle" and "personality" for his inability to connect with Middle America. Most New Yorkers were even more turned off to Giuliani's campaign than Iowans; they know him better. And those who have heard about Grassley blaming NY for Giuliani are offended. The founder of the Guardian Angels, Curtis Sliwa, put it like this: "I've seen Grassley before. He wears polyester, waffle-weave, flame-retardant pants that look like they survived the high waters... What does he know? There are more pigs than people [in Iowa]. Iowa is not a reflection of America."

Giuliani-hater Ed Koch, another former Mayor, agrees. "Rudy did not project New York. He projected his own personality, which was more than insensitive, it was ruthless. New Yorkers are pussycats. We're not ruthless. Most of the children from [Iowa] come here to live because of the freedom and anonymity."
Iowa's Chuck Grassley, a dour, 74-year-old Corn Belt Republican, said Wednesday that Giuliani's spectacular flameout stemmed from "that New York personality."

"The New York lifestyle hasn't gone over [in] some places. It seemed like the more people got acquainted with him, the less they liked him," he said.

Not content to leave it there, the Big Apple-baiting butthead from Butler County said that unlike Las Vegas, "Things you do in New York don't stay in New York."

Perhaps Grassley was referring to Giuliani's operatic personal life, complete with three wives, estranged children and appearances prancing around in drag. Maybe he meant Giuliani's refusal to declare holy war on immigrants and gays.

Giuliani's endorsement of McCain is unlikely to derail the sick and elderly Arizona senator's relentless quest for the Republican nomination.

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POSSIBLE BREAKTHROUGH IN ANTI-HALLIBURTON WAR PROFITEER CASE

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Hopefully you had a chance to catch the exciting discussion we had last Saturday over at FDL with one of the most provocative and best qualified Democratic congressional candidates of the year, Alan Grayson (FL-08). He hopes to bring his tremendous expertise in prosecuting war profiteers to Washington next year. I can't think of much Washington needs more.

So when I saw an A.P. story about an appeals court reconsidering a quashed case against Halliburton, the first person I turned to was Alan.
A federal judge in Houston had thrown out lawsuits filed by truckers and their families against Halliburton and its former subsidiary, KBR Inc., over a deadly ambush on April 9, 2004, that killed six KBR drivers, wounded others and left one missing and presumed dead.

On Wednesday, lawyers for the truckers and their families asked the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans to overturn the judge's ruling and reinstate their cases. The plaintiffs accuse KBR of knowingly sending its workers into harm's way while delivering fuel to U.S. troops at a Baghdad airport.

"We're cautiously optimistic that the 5th Circuit is going to get it right," said Roger Hawkins, lawyer for former KBR trucker Reginald Lane, who was wounded in the convoy attack.

A three-judge panel of the 5th Circuit heard arguments from lawyers for both sides during a rare closed-door session. It could take several months for the court to issue a ruling.

Truckers' relatives were allowed into the courtroom, but the hearing was closed to the public and media.

Halliburton and Houston-based KBR asked for the closed hearing because they said "confidential information," including an Army investigative report on the ambush by Iraqi insurgents, would be discussed.

Tobias Cole, a lawyer for wounded trucker Kevin Smith-Idol, said he didn't hear any references to "top secret" information during the hearing. He questioned the companies' motives for seeking a closed hearing.

"They're just trying to hide their own negligence," Cole said.

Alan can relate. "The most interesting thing about this report on the appeals court argument," he told me yesterday, "is that Halliburton was able to get the court to conduct the argument in secret. Halliburton's central strategy, from beginning to end, is to keep the American public in the dark about what it's been doing in Iraq. That's why they insist on these closed-door sessions. That's why they require their employees to arbitrate their claims in secret. That's why they get draconian 'protective' orders (really, gag orders) in all their federal cases. That's why they block every FOIA request for their records. What they seem to forget is that they're bathing in OUR MONEY, taxpayer money, and we have a right to know how they've been spending it, wasting it, and stealing it."

Alan is challenging the ultimate rubber stamp nonentity in central Florida, a do-nothing lump named Ric Keller. Keller's biggest claim to fame was some kind of hysterical grandstanding to prevent customers from suing fast food chains like McDonald's-- just before he collected some hefty campaign contributions from OSI Restaurant Partners and the National Restaurant Association, helping bring his total of legalized bribes from the Food & Beverages industry to $64,450 in 2006 alone (not counting the further $34,600 he scooped up from the booze industry). Last year Keller outspent his Democratic opponent $1,691,408 to $984,771. Let's narrow that gap a little this year with a little Blue America action video


UPDATE: AND BUSH LETS THEM GET AWAY WITHOUT PAYING TAXES

This from the March 6 Boston Globe: "Kellogg Brown & Root, the nation's top Iraq war contractor and until last year a subsidiary of Halliburton Corp., has avoided paying hundreds of millions of dollars in federal Medicare and Social Security taxes by hiring workers through shell companies based in this tropical tax haven."

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Wednesday, January 30, 2008

HAS THE NY TIMES GIVEN OVER HEADLINE WRITING TO STRIKING COMEDY CENTRAL WRITERS?

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This little map spells big trouble for the GOP

G.O.P. Faces Challenge in Efforts to Reclaim House I can't imagine Carl Hulse or David Herszenhorn, the writers of the piece, even saw the absurd headline before they opened the early edition tonight. Just as appropriate, maybe more so, would have been "How Drastically Will the G.O.P. House Caucus Shrink After November?" Hulse and Herszerhorn start with the "swelling exodus of senior Republican incumbents from the House, worsened by a persistent disadvantage in campaign money, threatens to cripple Republican efforts to topple the Democratic majority in November." And then how Tom Davis' much anticipated retirement announcement this morning makes it 5 this week and 28 Republicans in total-- and 5 Democrats, 3 of whom, Tom Allen, Mark Udall and Tom Udall, are looking to move to the U.S. Senate.
...[T]he disparity in open seats-- typically the most competitive House fights, as voters oust relatively few incumbents-- makes it highly unlikely that Republicans could seize the seats necessary to regain the House. The current House has 199 Republicans and 232 Democrats, with four vacancies to be filled by special elections.

“The open-seat situation is so lopsided as to deny Republicans any chance of taking back the House in 2008,” said David Wasserman, who analyzes House races for The Cook Political Report, a nonpartisan publication.

Compounding their problems, Republicans face a worrisome financial gap in comparison to House Democrats. New fund-raising figures to be made public on Thursday will show that the national campaign committee of the House Democrats ended 2007 with $35 million in the bank and $1.3 million in debt. The Republicans’ committee had $5 million in the bank and $2 million in debt.

...“It is a challenge,” said Representative Tom Cole of Oklahoma, chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee. “What this does is make it more difficult to have offensive opportunities when you have to defend what you have.”

Good point... and very true. A great example is in Update New York, where Republicans had once hoped to make serious challenges to freshmen Kirsten Gillibrand and John Hall. Like in many districts around the country, the Republicans are putting out the word that they'll accept any old piece of garbage as their candidate as long as he can self-fund. They found some clueless multimillionaire to be a sacrificial lamb in Gillibrand's district but can't find anyone to take up their offer against Hall. Instead of going after 2 of the upstate seats they lost in 2006, they are desperately trying to defend the 3 upstate seats they'll probably lose in 2008, James Walsh's (he's one of the new retirees), Randy Kuhl's and Tom Reynolds', a real trio of clowns who will be facing a powerful team in Dan Maffei, Eric Massa and Jon Powers, who we've invited back to Blue America this Saturday (2pm NY time) for a discussion about how their races are going so far.

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WHICH IDIOTS IN CONGRESS ENDORSED GIULIANI?

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3 U.S. Senators-- Kit Bond of Missouri, David "Diapers" Vitter of Louisiana, and Norm Coleman of Minnesota-- plus 21 congressmembers (22 if you want to count Puerto Rico Resident Commissioner Luis Fortuno) endorsed Giuliani. Three of the congressmen have the great excuse of being homestaters, Vito Fossella of Staten Island, Peter King of Long Island, and the retiring Jim Walsh of Syracuse. The rest look as clueless as the non-candidate, who busily and pointlessly spun his wheels for the last half year, wasting millions and millions of dollars on a campaign that was so overly consulted that it never got off the ground.

Maybe because they appreciated his choice of dresses and wigs, but, interestingly, two of the House Republican caucus' most notorious closet queens-- David Dreier (R-CA) and Phil English (R-PA)-- plus the biggest "fag hag" wanna-be, Mary Bono of Palm Springs, were big Rudy boosters. Now they look like big fools, along with those who are retiring (Jim Walsh, Jerry Weller), those who will need presidential pardons to keep from spending much of the rest of their lives in prison (Jerry Weller, Jerry Lewis), and those who are almost sure to need a job after being defeated in November (Dave Reichert, and Norm Coleman).

Ideologically, the group went from whacked out and unstable extremist loons like Pete Sessions (R-TX), who has never voted right on a single bill under the ProgressivePunch Chips Are Down analysis), Devin Nunes (R-CA), Ed Royce (R-CA), Charles Boustany (R-LA), Jerry Weller (R-IL), and George Radanovich (R-CA) to a hapless gaggle of on-again-off-again, always fake, self-professed "moderates" like Reichert (R-WA), Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ), Judy Biggert (R-IL), Charlie Dent (R-PA), Jim Gerlach (R-PA), and Jon Porter (R-NV).

Presumably they'll all wind up in McCain's camp, along with Rudy himself. "'This is a man who is prepared to be president,' Giuliani said of his 'old friend.' Giuliani said McCain gives the Republican Party the best chance to hold onto the presidency. 'I am very proud to endorse my friend and fellow Republican-- a hero-- John McCain.'"

Interestingly Giuliani was still attacking this "hero" as recently as 2 days ago. ALthough Giuliani's casmpaign website will be edited to reflect the new reality, Democrats.org was kind enough to capture 15 of the most effective slams Rudy made against his good friend McCain, everything from his being a liberal on the economy and not supporting tax cuts to his stand on immigration reform and his lack of executive experience.

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UPDATE: HOW DO PROGRESSIVES TALK ABOUT FISA?

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It's easy-- and it isn't the way defeatist reactionaries like Ben Nelson (NE), Mary Landrieu (LA), Blanche Lincoln (AR) and Mark Pryor (AR) do it. There is a difference between right and wrong and a way to communicate it to the public.

Watch Martin Heinrich, who is likely to replace Republican criminal Heather Wilson as the Representative from the Albuquerque area. He's the right kind of Democrat and he knows how to make a case to his constituents. I'd like to see more of our candidates sending out this kind of material instead of bragging about how much money they are scooping up.

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GIULIANI DID THE COUNTRY A SERVICE BY GOING AWAY. EDWARDS' DEPARTURE IS A TERRIBLE BLOW-- BUT I'LL PROBABLY VOTE FOR HIM ANYWAY

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Around this time in the election cycle in 2004, the grassroot's first choice for president, Howard Dean, was driven from the race by a vast MSM conspiracy led by Bush allies Clear Channel and Fox. Dean was still on the California ballot when we had our primary but I decided to vote for John Edwards and not send some kind of amorphous "message" by voting for Dean. Right now I'm actually leaning towards sending a very clear message to Obama, Hillary and other Insider Democrats that I expect candidates of our party to stand up for progressive values.

Ironically there was no lack of vast MSM conspiracy over Edwards' candidacy either, although one based on ignoring him and what he stood for. Most Democrats are clueless about what John Edwards has been saying for the last year. They just know about The Haircut. A populist leader scares the hell out of corporate interests. Neither Hillary nor Obama is offering anything any corporate powers need to fear. They're both infinitely better than any of the pygmies but both are basically Insider candidates and neither ever held a candle to Edwards. My gut tells me the Clinton Machine is the worst eventuality the Democrats could offer but I don't feel that Obama, on balance, is so much better than Hillary for me to bother voting for him. We'll see.

I just got a phone call from one of Ken's and my oldest high school friend's, Stephan. He's a retired public school administrator in New York City who's going back and forth between Obama and Hillary. He likes them both and his main concern is electability. He didn't seem all that aware of what Edwards was all about except that he "seemed gay." I wonder how many Democrats are aware-- even vaguely-- that Edwards beat Hillary in Iowa and that focus groups showed him winning almost every single televised debate. Whatever modicum of coverage he was getting before Iowa, completely disappeared after the caucuses.
Edwards' biggest problem may have been that he was too compelling-- so compelling that his rivals effectively adopted his agenda. From the beginning, Edwards was positioning himself as the champion of Americans struggling to get ahead financially. And rather than simply offer populist rhetoric, he backed it with a serious, comprehensive set of policies.

By the time Clinton and Obama had fleshed out their respective agendas, however, there simply wasn't that much difference among them. Pundits frequently criticized Edwards for his unabashed populism and, it's true, his rhetoric was the most openly confrontational of the three leading Democrats.But in terms of what the three were actually proposing to do, the agendas were virtually identical-- not to mention widely popular, if the polls are to be believed. We're all populists now.

...Critics frequently accuse Edwards of being a phony and I claim no special insights into whether that's true. Maybe all of the talk about fighting for struggling Americans is heartfelt. Or maybe it's all just an act, the kind a good trial lawyer like Edwards could surely pull off. But whether genuine, artificial, or (as is usually the case with politicians) some combination thereof, Edwards' advocacy has served his party-- and his country-- well.

One of my friends working for Obama's campaign just sent me a statement from his candidate about Edwards. "John Edwards has spent a lifetime fighting to give voice to the voiceless and hope to the struggling, even when it wasn’t popular to do or covered in the news. At a time when our politics is too focused on who’s up and who’s down, he made a nation focus again on who matters-- the New Orleans child without a home, the West Virginia miner without a job, the families who live in that other America that is not seen or heard or talked about by our leaders in Washington. John and Elizabeth Edwards have always believed deeply that we can change this-- that two Americans can become one, and that our country can rally around this common purpose. So while his campaign may end today, the cause of their lives endures for all of us who still believe that we can achieve that dream of one America."

I recall Hillary said something equally touching, if slightly less eloquent. It would be great if whichever of them become president incorporates Edwards' perspective into the system of running the country. I can't imagine Hillary ever would, although she may actually believe she will. Obama? Probably not... but at least a chance, I guess.

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MORE AND BETTER DEMOCRATS, NOT WORSE DEMOCRATS-- LIKE KENTUCKY REACTIONARY INSIDER BRUCE LUNSFORD

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Yesterday corrupt multimillionaire Bruce Lunsford entered the Democratic primary which will pick a candidate to run against Mitch McConnell. Lunsford's candidacy comes as a big disappointment to Kentucky progressives and moderates. Many Democrats had hoped they would never heard from Lunsford again after the very expensive thrashing he took when he tried injecting himself into the governor's race last year. Unless the kind of Democrat you like is Zell Miller or Joe Lieberman, Lunsford ain't your kind of guy.

Count on DWT to follow this race closely. How ironic it would be to finally get rid of Mitch McConnell only to see him replaced with some just as bad-- and a former supporter to boot! It should come as no surprise that anti-grassroots Insiders Harry Reid and Chuck Schumer both encouraged DLC hack Lunsford to run. There is also a moderate in the race, Andrew Horne. I expect Daily Kos will become a hotbed of activity promoting his campaign.

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Tuesday, January 29, 2008

BIG NIGHT FOR McCAIN-- BUT HE STILL LOST REPUBLICAN CONSERVATIVES

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If Willard wasn't such a worthless and detestable slithering creature, I'd almost feel sorry for the way the whole Republican Establishment is telling him they're sorry about his $60 million but that he can't buy the GOP nomination just now. The powers behind the Republican Party think their one shot-- no matter how slim-- to hold on to the White House is through fake-independent/fake maverick John McCain.

Interestingly, though, McCain won among all ideological groups except the party's dominant one: conservatives. In Florida 28% of Republicans call themselves "moderates" and a confused 11% call themselves "liberals." McCain beat Romney 40-22% among moderate Republicans and 46-25% among liberal Republicans. But among self-described conservative Republicans (62% of the Florida GOP), Willard beat McCain 37-27%. Imagine if the conservatives actually had a candidate they truly admired and felt comfortable with!

As we reported last night, Rudy Giuliani is giving up his sort of tentative race for the worthless Republican nomination. He'll be endorsing McCain and actively campaigning for him. Apparently Giuliani's not going to show up at the California debate tomorrow.

Regardless of extremist loons like Rick Santorum, conservatives would rather have McCain win than Hillary or Obama and they will rally round even someone they dislike as much as McCain. Two disgruntled elderly right-wingers were grousing on MSNBC tonight that a McCain candidacy can be summed up as less jobs and more wars. A few of the hard core and most extremist of the GOP nuts will make a last stand against McCain, but in the end, they'll all hold their noses and cast their votes for McCain in November-- not that it will make much difference. Keep in mind, in this 50/50 state-- where the Democratic primary wasn't even official-- that Hillary got 856,944 votes, compared to McCain's 693,425 votes (in a primary that was official).


UPDATE: REPUBLICAN HISPANICS WON THE FLORIDA PRIMARY FOR McCAIN

McCain's leadership role on trying to grant undocumented immigrants amnesty has paid off for him big time, making him the undisputed frontrunner in the race for the Republican nomination. Ironically, he lost self identified conservative voters to Willard but Spanish language robo calls to Latino households from Senator Mel Martinez saved the day-- narrowly-- for McCain. (Willard only got 14% of the Hispanic vote.)
Immigration was the issue that many on the Right-- especially panderers like Romney-- thought would define the 2008 elections. And it was the issue that was supposed to help doom McCain among GOP voters. Instead, it was the issue that in the end probably killed Romney's last hope of getting the nomination. And the GOP will likely nominate one of the key authors of the supposedly hated comprehensive immigration reform legislation.

There is some justice that it was GOP Hispanics who delivered the death blow to Romney. McCain led Romney is a number of demographic groups, but it was Hispanics-- more than veterans or elderly voters-- who gave McCain a disproportionate number of their votes. McCain received 54% of Hispanic voters to the 14% of Hispanics who supported Romney. With Hispanics making up 12% of the GOP primary voters and that difference, doing the math, adds up almost exactly to the overall 5% McCain margin of victory in Florida.

Ole!

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PISSING OFF THE IMMIGRANT COMMUNITY IN CHICAGO HAS BEEN A VERY BAD IDEA FOR DAN LIPINSKI

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click the picture to enlarge

After Democratic Party Boss Rahm Emanuel ordered Democratic House candidates to "move to the right" on immigration issues and then got one of his most subservient shills, pathetic North Carolina freshman Heath Shuler, to work with Tom Tancredo on an anti-immigrant bill, Blue America teamed up with the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights to try to hold Emanuel accountable.

But Emanuel isn't the only anti-immigrant reactionary in Chicago. Next week one of Emanuel's puppets, Dan Lipinski, is facing the most difficult election of his life. Netroots activists and the ICIRR have also been working to make Lipinski and his Inside the Beltway backers understand that you can't expect to ride to an easy re-election by targeting immigrant communities. Like Emanueel's district, Lipinski's has a huge-- and motivated-- immigrant population. IL-03 contains some 125,000 immigrants and is home to 139,000 Latinos and 39,000 Asians. Instead of working with these communities to help integrate them into American society, Lipinski has consistently voted against the interests of these constituents. He voted for the Patriot Act, the Sensenbrenner legislation, to build the fence between the U.S. and Mexico, and for a Tancredo amendment that would cost Chicago federal funding as a "sanctuary city."

Lipinski is anti-choice, pro-corporate, pro-war, anti-stem cell... and an all-around Bush supporter, enough to attract a great deal of support from progressives around the country. The immigrant community is a big part of the Pera coalition on the ground, mostly because of his steadfast support of a humane approach to immigration reform. Several years ago, after Sensenbrenner's viciously anti-immigrant legislation, the ICIRR started a citizenship drive in Chicago and every year since then the number of citizenship applications has climbed dramatically-- from 28,000 in 2004 - 2005, to 35,000 from 2005 - 2006, to 56,000 in the past year. The ICIRR has helped over 53,000 immigrants register to vote.

The efforts immigrants rights activists is making in Asian, Mexican and Muslim communities on behalf of Mark Pera is sending a message to anti-immigrant Democrats and Republicans who have sizable immigrant populations that they can expect career difficulties for pushing hatred and bigotry instead of viable solutions.

During the current race the Mexican and Muslim immigrant leadership have formed a strong political alliance. ICIRR sponsored a voter’s forum with over 400 Mexican and Muslim immigrant leaders that was attended by Pera and another challenger, but not by their own congressman. The absence of Lipinski was heavily noted in the Spanish and ethnic language media.

And immigrant activism has gone much further. The Mexican and Muslim communities have collaborated on fundraising for the Pera Campaign, bringing in thousands of dollars locally and using the money to open a second campaign office and to hire two experienced immigrant organizers to mobilize Mexican and Muslim voters.

In addition the immigrants in the campaign have recruited Immigrants List to make this campaign a national target. An e-mail fundraising request went to over 18,000 people nationally and raised an additional $14,000 for the immigrant organizing in the Pera campaign. Finally, the national Campaign for Community Change (the 501c4 sister organization to the Center for Community Change) decided to send a first in the nation series of bi-lingual educational mail pieces, informing Latino voters in the district of Lipinski’s vote for the Sensenbrenner legislation.
Over the course of the campaign this volunteer driven immigrant field operation expects to have:
•          lit dropped 2,300 Arab households and sent an additional 2,300 a "dear neighbor" letter
•          lit dropped 7,300 latino households
•          mailed 23,000 Latinos with an immigration specific piece
•          mailed 23,000 Latino households 5 times with regular Pera literature
•          called 3,000 immigrant voters through a phone bank
•          doorknocked 5,000 immigrant voters through a canvas
• Involved over 300 Mexican and Muslim volunteers in the Pera campaign


There has never before been this type of alliance between the progressive community, the national netroots community, and the immigrant’s rights movement to punish an anti-immigrant incumbent Congressman. Lipinski is faced with a vigorous and well financed primary. The immigrant’s rights movement has organized candidate forums; educational mailings that informed the immigrant electorate of the incumbent’s anti-immigrant record; local and national fundraising; a staffed field operation with Mexican and Muslim voter i.d. and GOTV efforts; and targeted partisan mail that held the incumbent accountable for his anti-immigrant record.

For Democrats and Republicans who vote to criminalize their immigrant constituents this is a foreshadowing of what they face in the future. Lipinski would have done himself a big favor by paying attention to how his state's junior senator relates to latinos.

Pera's isn't the only crucial primary coming up in Illinois. Please consider donating to his campaign, as well as to the campaigns of Illinois progressives John Laesch and Randi Scheurer.

Dear Chicago...

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HULSHOF LEAVING CONGRESS TO RUN FOR GOVERNOR OF MISSOURI-- PLUS BONUS: TOM DAVIS & RON LEWIS

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Kenny Hulshof-- finally a job that will get him out of Congress

Over the last 6 years extreme right wing Representative Ken Hulshof has seen his margin of victory steadily shrink from 68% in 2002 to 65% in 2004 and to 61% in 2006. Today Hulshof becomes the 26th Republican to abandon the dismal House Republican caucus for a risky run for Missouri governor. Hulsdorf, a dependable rubber stamp for all things Cheney and Bush, has constructed a voting record that is even beyond extreme by GOP standards. Among Missouri's congressional delegation, and using ProgressivePunch's Chips Are Down analysis, you find only bizarre wingnuts Roy Blunt and Todd Atkin voting more consistently for the radical right agenda in the current Congress. Hulshof has been trying to get out of Congress for some time and applied to become president of the University of Missouri. After the interview he was laughed off the campus and has remained in Congress looking for another opportunity. So far two Democrats, Marion County Commissioner Lyndon Bode and State Rep. Judy Baker, D-Columbia, have filed to run and others may jump in now that Hulshof is out.

Hulshof will have to defeat state treasurer Sarah Steelman and Lt Gov. Peter Kinder in what promises to be a contentious and bloody primary.

And number 27 looks to be northern Virginia rubber stamp Tom Davis, who can't take the heat any longer in an increasingly moderate district.

And I put together a little video clip in honor of Representatives Hulshof and Davis-- and all their cuttin' and runnin' colleagues who will make the U.S. Congress a better place by their departures




UPDATE: TOO LATE FOR THE VIDEO BUT...

Number 28-- Kentucky wingnut Ron Lewis, who "abruptly withdrew his name to run for re-election Tuesday, only minutes before the filing deadline, setting off a late scramble for a replacement... [I]t was Lewis' sudden decision not to run again that was the most surprising, and filled with last-minute intrigue. Lewis chief of staff Daniel London went to the secretary of state's office to withdraw his boss' name - and file his own papers to run for the seat, according to state Board of Elections executive director Sarah Ball Johnson.

About the same time, state Sen. Brett Guthrie also filed papers to run. So, Guthrie [favored by the NRCC] and London will face off in the Republican primary on May 20... Two Democrats, state Sen. David Boswell and Davies County Judge Executive Reid Haire also filed, and will face off in the Democratic primary.

The West Kentucky congressional district is solidly Republican, though Democrats contested the seat last cycle. President Bush won 65 percent there in 2004. But Lewis won only 55 percent in his re-election bid against Democrat Mike Weaver in 2006."


UPDATE: TOM DAVIS MAKES IT OFFICIAL-- 5 IN 5 (BUSINESS) DAYS... EXCELLENT RATE

No 8th term for Republican Tom Davis (VA-11). He made what everyone already knew, official today, announcing he would be retiring from Congress at the end of this session. Of course there were a few obligatory words about spending more time with the family, but the often and increasingly frustrated Davis "said it is simply time to do something new." Let's hope he convinces a few dozen of his colleagues to follow his example. Davis is trying to engineer a coup by wealthy self-funder Keith Simian and has donated $300,000 of his campaign fund to him.
Davis believes the best Republican candidate to succeed him is Oakton resident Keith Simian, a former football player and business owner who has "quietly raised $670,000, more than any of the Democrats who have formed exploratory committees," he said.

Several prominent Democrats have already announced their intentions to run for Davis' seat, including former U.S. Rep. Leslie Byrne and Iraq War veteran Doug Denneny. Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Gerry Connolly (At large) has formed an exploratory committee for the seat.

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McCAIN'S BIG LIE IS BUSH'S BIG LIE-- THAT THE WAR IN IRAQ IS BEING WON

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McCain: "War is over." Lindsey: "Where are those adorable little rugs?"

McCain is basing his electoral strategy on a bold-faced lie that the Bush Regime, his entire campaign and a compliant media are all happy to perpetrate, quite mindlessly-- the we're winning the war in Iraq. We're not, despite Bush's clueless assertion to the contrary in his SotU speech last night. Willard of course, knows McCain's assertions are patently false-- but they're the only thing the Republican base wants to hear and it would be suicide for Romney to go beyond his general claims that McCain is a liar and explain how.

Respected historian Andrew Bacevich, however, has no such constraints. Surge To Nowhere would have been a far better answer to Bush last night than Kathleen Sebelius' very lame and tepid response. He urges his readers not to buy into McCain's hype; Iraq is a disaster.
In President Bush's pithy formulation, the United States is now "kicking ass" in Iraq. The gallant Gen. David Petraeus, having been given the right tools, has performed miracles, redeeming a situation that once appeared hopeless. Sen. John McCain has gone so far as to declare that "we are winning in Iraq." While few others express themselves quite so categorically, McCain's remark captures the essence of the emerging story line: Events have (yet again) reached a turning point. There, at the far end of the tunnel, light flickers. Despite the hand-wringing of the defeatists and naysayers, victory beckons.

From the hallowed halls of the American Enterprise Institute waft facile assurances that all will come out well. AEI's Reuel Marc Gerecht assures us that the moment to acknowledge "democracy's success in Iraq" has arrived. To his colleague Michael Ledeen, the explanation for the turnaround couldn't be clearer: "We were the stronger horse, and the Iraqis recognized it." In an essay entitled "Mission Accomplished" that is being touted by the AEI crowd, Bartle Bull, the foreign editor of the British magazine Prospect, instructs us that "Iraq's biggest questions have been resolved." Violence there "has ceased being political." As a result, whatever mayhem still lingers is "no longer nearly as important as it was." Meanwhile, Frederick W. Kagan, an AEI resident scholar and the arch-advocate of the surge, announces that the "credibility of the prophets of doom" has reached "a low ebb."

Presumably Kagan and his comrades would have us believe that recent events vindicate the prophets who in 2002-03 were promoting preventive war as a key instrument of U.S. policy. By shifting the conversation to tactics, they seek to divert attention from flagrant failures of basic strategy. Yet what exactly has the surge wrought? In substantive terms, the answer is: not much.

...The United States has acquired a ramshackle, ungovernable and unresponsive dependency that is incapable of securing its own borders or managing its own affairs. More than three years after then-national security adviser Condoleezza Rice handed President Bush a note announcing that "Iraq is sovereign," that sovereignty remains a fiction.

It awes me that so many of our fellow citizens-- albeit only Republicans-- are still so desperate to hear what they want to hear instead of what is reality, that they are about to nominate a clueless and out-of-touch old man to carry their party's banner-- and that the mainstream media is cheering them along every step of the way. Did I just say "only Republicans?" This morning's Hill corrects me.
Clinton and Obama’s divergent views on the troop surge in Iraq, however, were plainly visible.

When Bush proclaimed, “Ladies and gentlemen, some may deny the surge is working, but among terrorists there is no doubt,” Clinton sprang to her feet in applause but Obama remained firmly seated. The president’s line divided most of the Democratic audience, with nearly half standing to applaud and the other half sitting in stony silence.
No one threw tomatoes.

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Monday, January 28, 2008

BYE BYE GIULIANI

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GOP won't be having a nominee in drag, not in 2008 anyway

Giuliani is dropping out after his expected landslide loss in Florida tomorrow. He'll finally be able to go back to doing drag shows and trading on 9/11 to make himself richer.
In a meeting in the back of his chartered plane en route to St. Petersburg, Fla., a short while ago, the onetime, longtime GOP front-runner told a small group of reporters, including the [L.A.] Times' Louise Roug: "The winner of Florida will win the nomination."

...So far, he's yet to finish first anywhere and ended up behind Rep. Ron Paul in Iowa and Nevada.

Every poll bears out the conventional wisdom that although he may well beat Ron Paul in Florida, he's not coming in first or even second and it will be a tough battle to even win third place. Earlier today his campaign chairman said it's pretty much all over for Giuliani, a victim of his own elitist strategy, which failed dismally.
...[I]n an unusually candid assessment, [Pat Oxford] the Giuliani strategist did not rule out the possibility that a distant third or fourth-place finish could force the former New York mayor to reassess whether to abandon his presidential bid before Super Tuesday on Feb. 5.

..."The question is whether he has any momentum coming out of Florida," Mr. Oxford said in an interview. "If he is second or first, he certainly has momentum. But if he finishes third, it's going to be hard to get momentum out of it."

Just as well for ole Rudy; this race is getting really vicious and McCain will do anything to win what he is certain he is entitled to. His last few days of relentlessly attacking Willard are beyond what any Republicans are used to inside their own party. They usually save this kind of stuff for Democrats:



Mr. Romney, former governor of Massachusetts, began attacking at dawn, accusing Mr. McCain of allying himself with liberal Democrats in the Senate and betraying conservative principles on legislation involving immigration, the environment and campaign finance.

“If you want that kind of a liberal Democratic course as president, then you can vote for him,” Mr. Romney said at a Texaco gas station in West Palm Beach at 6:30 a.m. “But those three pieces of legislation, those aren’t conservative. Those aren’t Republican.”

Mr. McCain volleyed back by describing Mr. Romney as a serial flip-flopper who had taken multiple positions on a variety of issues, including gay rights, global warming and immigration. “People, just look at his record as governor,” Mr. McCain said at a shipyard in Jacksonville. “He has been entirely consistent. He has consistently taken two sides of every major issue, sometimes more than two.”



UPDATE: CNN IS PREDICTING RUDY WILL DROP OUT

... and endorse McCain.

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JERRY LEWIS BACK IN THE NEWS: MORE CORRUPTION

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It would be hard to make a cogent argument that there is anyone in Congress, of either party, more steeped in corruption than Inland Empire Republican Jerry Lewis. It isn't likely that when Bush gets up tonight to rail against earmarks he will talk about Jerry Lewis or Don Young or any of the worst abusers of the system. Last week Bob Novak pointed out that "Rep. Jerry Lewis, the Appropriations Committee's ranking Republican, is leading fellow appropriators against the moratorium [on pork barrel spending]. They are joined by the most seriously challenged Republican incumbents, who see political salvation in bringing funds home to their districts, principles be damned."

But arguing with Bush and with conservatives about earmarks and pork is hardly the worst of Lewis' troubles. Today's Roll Call has some very unwelcome news for Lewis. The criminal cases pending against him are far from going away.
Scandal-tinged Reps. Jerry Lewis (R-Calif.) and Jerry Weller (R-Ill.) both paid substantial legal bills late last year, hinting that allegations of ethical lapses against them may not be winding down anytime soon.

Lewis, ranking member on the House Appropriations Committee, paid the law firm Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher roughly $105,000 during the last quarter of 2007. The recent payments bring Lewis' total legal bills during the past three years to roughly $1.27 million, according to campaign finance records.

Lewis is part of a grand jury investigation in Los Angeles involving former Rep. turned lobbyist Bill Lowery (R-Calif.). Investigators are looking into whether Lewis gave government handouts to clients of Lowery, a former partner at the lobbying shop Copeland Lowery Jacquez Denton & White.

This is the influential Republican law firm that was able to get two U.S. Attorneys fired after they opened bribery cases against Lewis. Money well-spent.

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A FISA VICTORY IN THE SENATE... FOR NOW

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McConnell blockage fails

Bush and Cheney aren't getting their retroactive immunity. McConnell needed 60 votes-- he wound up with 48-- to do his obstructionist song and dance and Arlen Specter voted with the Democrats. The only Democrats crossing over to the Dark Side were Ben Nelson (NE), Mary Landrieu (LA), Blanche Lincoln (AR) and Mark Pryor (AR), 4 of the most most consistently reactionary Democrats in Congress. Glenn Greenwald doesn't think this little victory today will amount to much more than a hill of beans.
In one sense, this is an extremely mild victory, to put that generously. All this really means is that they will now proceed to debate and vote on the pending amendments to the bill, almost certainly defeat all of the meaningfully good ones, approve a couple of amendments which improve the bill in the most marginal ways, and then end up ultimately voting for a bill that contains both telecom immunity and warrantless eavesdropping. Moreover, it seems clear that Senate Republicans deliberately provoked this outcome and were hoping for it, by sabotaging what looked to be imminent Democratic capitulation so that Bush could accuse Democrats tonight of failing to pass a new FISA bill, thus helping their friend Osama.

Still, in another sense, this is significant. Preventing a vote today means that there is more time to work on opposing immunity, including by working on ensuring that the House stays firm behind its relatively decent bill. It also means that the Senate -- for once -- has refused to capitulate to brazen White House pressure tactics, whereby the President demanded that the Senate give the administration everything it wants before the Friday expiration of the PAA. Also, the presidential candidates responded to public pressure by joining in the filibuster, which is encouraging.

And, perhaps most significantly, this slight stirring of resolve might carry over into the next vote, to extend the PAA by 30 days and thus force Bush's hand either to veto the extension or back down (they will need 60 votes just to vote on that proposal). Again, anything that prevents quick and quiet resolution of telecom immunity and new FISA powers is a real benefit.

They will now vote on the 30-day extension. Reid just said the House was sure to vote in favor of it. That means the Republicans can either allow this "Critical Intelligence Tool" to continue (by voting for a 30-day extension) or deprive our intelligence professionals of the ability to Keep Us Safe.

Let the absurd and inherently dishonest Bush regime fearmongering begin! No one believes anything he says anymore anyway.

The two heroes of the whole FISA bill were Chris Dodd and Russ Feingold, who consistently stood up to the Bush machine and to their own weak, confused leaders. Dodd's remarks on the floor of the Senate are worth reading. Here are some highlights:

So much hinges on the bill before us; so many of my colleagues have come to this floor to tell us just how vitally important it is. It will set America's terrorist surveillance policy well into the next presidential term, and beyond. Depending on the outcome, it has the power to bring that surveillance under the rule of law-- or to confirm the president's urge to be a law of his own. It has the power to bring the facts of warrantless spying to light and to public scrutiny-- or to lock down those facts as the property of the powerful. It has the power to declare that the same law applies to all of us, rich or poor, well-connected or not-- or to set the precedent that some corporations are too rich to be sued, that immunity can effectively be bought.


And yet-- the Senate is frozen today. I've objected passionately to retroactive immunity—but I did not shut out debate. Republicans have frozen the Senate since debate began last week.  And they unwittingly created a perfect microcosm of retroactive immunity right here in this body. Because both flow from the same impulse: shutting down the organs of government-- the courts, or the Senate-- when you are afraid you won't get your way. That's why President Bush wants his favored corporations saved from lawsuits. And that is why the Republican Party wants this bill saved from any and all amendments-- saved from serious and thoughtful discussion.

...Tonight, President Bush will come to Congress to speak to us, and to the American people, about the state of the Union. I hope he will use that opportunity to realize that the Senate needs more time to do its constitutional duty to debate and consider this important legislation. 
 
However, I am concerned he will instead continue to threaten to veto this legislation unless it includes retroactive immunity for the telecommunications companies.
 
The President has said that this bill is essential to 'protecting the American people from enemies who attacked our country.' So why is he trying to stop it? Why did he promise to veto it? Why would he throw it all away to protect a few corporations from lawsuits?

Seantor Feingold's statement is also the kind of thing all Americans should look at so they can hold their representative to a higher standard than the the overly partisan and clueless Insiders have come to think they can get away with.
“Today’s vote against jamming a deeply flawed FISA bill through the Senate is a win for the American people and a rejection of the bullying tactics of the administration. We all agree that FISA needs to be updated so our government can go after the foreign communications of suspected terrorists. But we must not provide overly broad and unnecessary powers that infringe on the rights and privacy of law-abiding Americans, especially to an administration that has proven it cannot be trusted. I hope that Republicans will now allow the Senate to consider and vote on amendments to improve the FISA bill, such as adding privacy protections for Americans and stripping immunity for telecom companies that allegedly participated in the president’s illegal warrantless wiretapping program.”

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FOURTH AMENDMENT GONE WILD: PART I

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-by Jon Dodson, DWT Constitutional Law expert

The Fourth Amendment reads: "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized." 
 
The Fourth Amendment is simultaneously procedurally specific and substantively open-ended. In terms of checks and balances, the Founders were very particular about searches and seizures, due to their immediate experience with the overzealous policies of King George in pursuit of potential tax-evaders. With the warrant procedure, they placed the regulation of searches in the hands of judges or magistrates, creating a fundamental check and a most important separation of powers. 
 
The substance of the Fourth Amendment vindicates the "living tree" metaphor, invoked by non-strict-constructionists as a rationale for giving contemporary meaning and relevance to vague provisions ("due process" being the most inevitable question-begger). With the probable cause requirement, the Founders intentionally began a never-ending conversation about the appropriate balance between the interests in law enforcement and those of privacy. 
 
I'd like to delve into the Fourth Amendment in a series of posts. This body of law is so interesting, relevant to our current "constitutional crisis," and applicable to us all, that every progressive should be familiar with it. The goal is to inspire a good discussion of technology, privacy, and the proper balance between regulating crime and regulating cops (the balance between regulation of individuals and regulation of the state, no less). 
 
Despite its subtleties, interpretation of the Fourth Amendment should be fairly simple: abide by the warrant procedure, and measure probable cause by explicitly balancing law enforcement against privacy, giving due weight to prior practice and modern exigencies. As for "searches" and "seizures," those terms should be pretty self-explanatory. 
 
However, thanks mostly to the Berger and Rehnquist courts, the Fourth Amendment has become a most tortured, nuanced and Orwellian body of constitutional law-- a paradoxical universe where a search is not a "search," a seizure is not a "seizure," "probable cause" is riddled with new-found exceptions, and "warrants," (no longer important enough to be capitalized), are all but optional. (Notwithstanding our justifiable anger over warrantless wiretapping, "warrantless" is really an exception that has swallowed the rule). 
 
Exhibit A:  Searches that are not "searches"
 
With expanding technologies, the judicial system needed a way to deal with new, nontraditional investigative techniques, such as phone taps and wires.  Enter the "reasonable expectation of privacy" standard, first adopted in Katz v. United States, 389 U.S. 347 (1967), where the Court held that FBI agents, who had attached electronic listening devices to the outside of a phone booth, violated the Fourth Amendment rights of their suspect.  Hence, the phrase is used by courts to delineate when a … umm… an investigative technique … is a "search" regulated by the Constitution.  Initially, this standard seemed a promising way to ensure that technology didn't outpace our constitutional framework. Unfortunately, the standard was hijacked by judicial conservatives (along with the rest of the Constitution), and has become the principal vehicle by which the Court has brought the Fourth Amendment down to size. Even Justice Stevens, an otherwise reliable vote for liberty, has often jumped at the opportunity to narrow the textually-mandated judicial oversight of invasive police practices. (Perhaps this is the rare example of why he still considers himself technically a Republican). 
 
Among others, the Court has found the following expectations of privacy unreasonable: the contents of our trash (just about everything we do is manifest in our trash-- its not as if any of that is personal); our privately owned "open fields" (even when we post no-trespassing signs); the scents emanating from our vehicles only detectable by canines (because we should reasonably expect to be subjected to canine sniffs anywhere we go); and anything that could be seen by someone in a plane or helicopter that happens to be flying over our backyards... as long as they're at the minimum elevation required by the F.A.A. or other regulations.  (?!?)
 
The only recent opinion where the Court has foregone the urge to shrink the Fourth Amendment was Kyllo v. United States, an opinion shockingly written by Justice Scalia. There, the Court held that the use of heat detecting devices on a person's home amounted to a search. Apparently, there is at least a reasonable expectation of privacy in when "the lady of the house draws her sauna." (Yes Justice Scalia really said that.) 
 
Now, mind you, including a search within the purview of the Fourth Amendment means only that the police are required to have probable cause and, (theoretically), a warrant signed by a magistrate. And probable cause is a very low standard. Here's an example: I call the cops, and leave an anonymous tip that my neighbor has drugs in his red car, and will be driving home in his red car at 5:30pm. I know my neighbor has a red car, and I know he gets home from work at 5:30. I'm otherwise full of it. But the cops don't know that because I'm anonymous. They see my neighbor drive home in his red car at 5:30pm, and they have probable cause to search his car, and the resultant right to handcuff him and place him in the cruiser while they do it. (Don't get any ideas, people!) 
 
So, with probable cause being the obvious textual basis for evolving the Fourth Amendment, and being traditionally easy to establish, what did the Court do? It defined some police activities right out of the Constitution.  Remind you of anything the executive branch has done recently? 

Tactically, modern judicial conservatives and modern political conservatives are the same: rather than honestly, explicitly justifying its actions, both political and judicial conservatives take the slicker, more duplicitous approach of turning the operative terms on their heads, so that anyone not paying close attention hardly notices the change until its way too late.  Meanwhile, the same conservatives have the gall to demonize the "activist judges" of the Warren Court, who reasonably concluded that "due process" needed some clarification. Ah well. I suppose there's some comfort in knowing that one thing (probably) hasn't changed: if the redcoats ever break down my door looking for black market tea or gunpowder, they may still require a warrant.

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Sunday, January 27, 2008

I HATE TO THINK WHAT McCAIN'S "ANOTHER 100 YEARS IN IRAQ" WOULD COST

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Not to mention whatever other wars he's envisioning leading the country into.

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HILLARY TO FIGHT BUSH'S RETROACTIVE IMMUNITY-- WHAT ABOUT OBAMA?

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Neither Clinton nor Obama has a stellar voting record. Both records are OK; neither is the record of a leader; both seem over-cautious and defensive-- like someone who knows they'll have to defend it when they runner for higher office one day. Compare their voting records to other senators by looking at the analysis from ProgressivePunch based on their lifetime votes. Hillary's is tied with Patrick Leahy at #17 and Obama comes in at #24.

Firedoglake has been doing yeoman's work in trying to get Hillary and Obama to take leadership positions on the FISA legislation that would prevent Bush and Cheney from giving retroactive immunity to themselves and to their criminal cronies in the telecommunications industry. Neither Obama nor Clinton (nor McCain) bothered showing up last week to participate in the preliminary votes. FDL just got word that Hillary will make it her business to be in the Senate so she can vote against Miss McConnell's cloture bill to shut down debate.

It will be interesting to see if Obama feels he needs to be campaigning for the Democratic nomination more than doing his job in the U.S. Senate. I doubt McCain will bother showing up. He has missed almost every important vote since he declared he was running for the worthless GOP nomination.


UPDATE; OBAMA'S KEEPIN' UP WITH THE JONESES CLINTONS

Within an hour of Jane posting that Hillary had promised to be there to vote against McConnell's obstructionist ploy, Obama's campaign confirmed that he will be there too. Right on! As I suggested the other day, Hillary and Obama should convince their more reactionary backers to get on board as well. Hillary could prove she's a leader by bringing in Evan Bayh, Daniel Inouye, Bill Nelson, Barbara Mikulski, and Mark Pryor, and Obama could do likewise with Tim Johnson, Claire McCaskill and Ben Nelson.

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WHAT TO DO ABOUT FAINTING GOATS INSIDE THE BELTWAY

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An old pal from MusicForAmerica sent me this adaptation of the Plain White T's "Hey There, Delilah." It makes the point that the timid, compromised Democratic leadership Inside the Beltway is not a force for change and that if we want change we cannot depend on them. They suggest that replacing corrupt and reactionary Establishment Insiders with younger, fresher, tougher fighters with ideas and who share our values is the way to go. We couldn't agree more. Earlier this year I gave up on the "More and Better Democrats" refrain. At this point, it's exclusively the BETTER DEMOCRATS that I care about.

You are already familiar with Donna Edwards and Mark Pera if you've spent any time at DWT. Ed Fallon is running against overly conservative Democrat Leonard Boswell and like Donna Edwards and Mark Pera, Ed Fallon is taking on the whole Establishment to say WE WILL HOLD YOU ACCOUNTABLE. It's worth checking Ed out and supporting him.

One Democratic challenger who is not included in the video-- since he isn't running against an entrenched incumbent, but rather for the right to represent progressive values in IL-14 now that Denny Hastert has cut and run-- is John Laesch, in my mind as important as any electoral contest this year. On February 5 Illinois goes to the polls to help pick a Democrat for president. In the 14th CD they will also pick between John Laesch and a millionaire Insider being backed by the Establishment and a union carpenter armed with great ideas and solid principles.

This evening John will be the featured guest on Air America with Sam Seder. You'll be able to watch here and find out why Air America feels a race in IL-14 is of national interest. You'll also get an idea about why Laesch has been endorsed by progressives like Noam Chomsky, Lt. Governor Pat Quinn, Studs Terkel and virtually all the district's Democratic precinct committee people (as well as both the local and the national Progressive Democrats of America, the UAW, VET-PAC, the AFL-CIO and most of the local unions. (John's Blue Dog opponent has endorsements too-- from the Republican newspapers in the area and from the Insider Establishment types-- like war enabler Steny Hoyer-- this video is about and the Insider interest groups like NARL whose treachery was responsible for saddling us with Lieberman again.) John has also been endorsed by Blue America and I want to urge you to please consider making a contribution to his campaign today, here. Thanks. Enjoy the clip:




UPDATE FROM MELODY

Voting ends tomorrow in the first round of the search for a DFA All Star congressional candidate. Right now Nancy Skinner (MI-09) is in first place; great candidate. Right behind her is Roy Carter (NC-05) whose is opposing the deranged Virginia Foxx. Rounding out the top 3 is two-time Blue America endorsee Larry Kissell (NC-08). Also in the top 10 are Victoria Wulsin and John Laesch. One person who doesn't deserve to be in the top 10-- but is hanging on at #10-- is the Insider shill Christine Jennings (FL-13). Many progressives were upset that the Republicans stole her victory last year but the fact is, Jennings is the worst kind of fake-Democrat who would get into office and vote with the GOP on substantive matters the same way Melissa Bean, Jim Marshall, John Barrow, Heath Shuler, Dan Boren, Jason Altmire and Chris Carney do. These people are part of the problem, not the solution. That said, please consider voting in the DFA contest right now.

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POOR LITTLE RICH WILLARD SENSES McCAIN IS A PATHOLOGICAL LIAR... BUT HE CAN'T QUITE PUT HIS FINGER ON IT

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This morning's Washington Post has a front page story about the vicious fighting between the pygmies in Florida. Before Gov. Crist endorsed McCain yesterday, polls showed a neck and neck race between Willard and McCain-- with Huckabee, Ron Paul and poor, pathetic Giuliani-- no longer a factor and likely to try to cut a deal with someone and drop out-- struggling for third place. Desperation has set in and the candidates are lashing out at each other so blatantly that one has to wonder what happened to the let's-play-nice dullards from last week's Boca Raton debate. After McCain deceitfully claimed that Willard favored withdrawing from Iraq, Romney pointed out that he was being "dishonest." He missed an opportunity to explain just how fundamentally dishonest John McCain actually is.
Both Republicans abandoned all pretense of civility as they campaigned across central Florida in advance of the state's primary Tuesday. Recent polls show a dead heat between McCain and Romney, and the winner here will gain a huge advantage as the nomination fight moves to 21 states a week later.

Stumping in Fort Myers on Saturday, McCain went on the attack first, linking Romney with Democratic Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.): "If we surrender and wave a white flag, like Senator Clinton wants to do, and withdraw, as Governor Romney wanted to do, then there will be chaos, genocide, and the cost of American blood and treasure would be dramatically higher."

He added to reporters that "one of my opponents wanted to set a date for withdrawal that would have meant disaster."

Romney, who said in April that the military should consider a "private timetable" but not public deadlines, shot back: "That's dishonest, to say that I have a specific date. That's simply wrong. . . . I know he's trying desperately to change the topic from the economy and trying to get back to Iraq, but to say something that's not accurate is simply wrong, and he knows better."

Later, Romney added that McCain's comment on Iraq is "simply wrong and it's dishonest, and he should apologize."

I almost feel sorry for the dismal Willard as he watches his gold chip campaign circle the bowl. He can't very well call McCain out on the pile of Neocon claptrap he spews out at every opportunity-- since it's what he believes adheres to as well. (One has no idea what-- if anything-- Willard believes, since it changes with every focus group.) Instead of attacking McCain's basic premises-- the only thing that almost holds the fast-dissolving Bush coalition together-- all he can do is whine that McCain lied about him, which he clearly did. In fact, the National Review challenges anyone to come up with anything that supports McCain's smear. They themselves offer tons of proof that Willard is a clueless Neocon, just the way Republicans want their candidates.

McCain's entire political career-- despite the success of his Orwellian p.r. machine  (his daughter is a public relations executive in the music business)-- is built on bold-faced lies and deception. Now he smells the presidency he's lusted after for so many decades and he certainly isn't going to let human decency or any semblance of honesty stand in the way-- not at this point in his life.
McCain not only refused to apologize to Romney yesterday, but at his next campaign appearance McCain lashed out at his rival, saying: "The apology is owed to the young men and women serving this nation in uniform, that we will not let them down in hard times or good. That is who the apology is owed to."

His campaign then issued a statement in which McCain said that Romney may have changed his mind on the idea of a buildup of troops in Iraq but that "the fact is, like on so many other issues, Governor Romney has hedged, equivocated, ducked and reversed himself."

...McCain and his aides, angry that Romney has made a point in recent days of questioning the senator's lack of private-sector experience, publicly took the former governor to task for his comments.

During a town hall meeting in North Fort Myers on Saturday, McCain questioned "people who say you haven't had a real job" if you served in the military. "Those of us who have served in the military, we think it's a real job," he said.

McCain added that if elected president, he would appoint managers to work beneath him, rather than seek that role for himself-- a dig at Romney's repeated assertion that his experience as a manager in the business world should qualify him for the presidency.

Or maybe the problem is that Willard is just as big a liar as McCain and he doesn't want to get into a cat fight about who lies more? I used to work at AOLTimeWarner. I was president of one of their divisions. When Romney's vulture capital firm, Bain, bought it, they stripped it of it's value and left it to rot. Today's Boston Globe tells a little of the Bain Capital-Mitt Romney story. This guy is using his experience in the business world as the reason why Republicans should vote for him. His experience in the business world-- beyond anything else-- is exactly why no one in their right mind should consider voting for him for anything. When "his political interests... conflicted with his business responsibilities" he didn't care what happened to peoples' jobs, careers, or even what happened to the shares of the companies, their investors, their future viability. Romney was always about how to get ahead-- for Romney.
Throughout his 15-year career at Bain Capital, which bought, sold, and merged dozens of companies, Romney had other chances to fight to save jobs, but didn't. His ultimate responsibility was to make money for Bain's investors, former partners said.

Much as he did when running for Massachusetts governor, Romney is now touting his business credentials as he campaigns for president, asserting that he helped create thousands of jobs as CEO of Bain. But a review of Bain's investments during Romney's tenure indicates that job growth was not a particular priority.

...Bain Capital is a private equity firm that invests in start-ups and established firms. It provides venture capital for emerging companies, such as Staples in the 1980s, but specializes in leveraged buyouts. Leveraged buyouts combine small amounts of investors' money with large amounts of borrowed money to buy established companies, increase their value, and resell them at a profit.

Increasing value means boosting profits. That can require a range of approaches including cost-cutting, modernizing plants, adding products, expanding into new markets, and acquiring similar companies.

Bain employed all these strategies under Romney. It's impossible to say precisely if more jobs were created than cut by Bain since the firm does not track employment in its investments.

Warner Bros Records isn't precisely flat on it's back because of Bain, but every bad management decision that could have been made was made and the company has shrunk down to a shadow of its former self and is on the verge of bankruptcy. It employs less than half the people in once employed. On top of that, the future for the company looks extremely bleak. Obviously Romney isn't involved with Warner Bros. His company, Bain, still operates exactly the way it did when he ran it. What a horrible set of choices the Republicans are left with! That's why so few of them are bothering to participate in the selection process.

How ironic that two of the very issues that should disqualify these two politicial pygmies-- national security for McCain and the economy for Willard-- are exactly what they tout as their strong point! As yesterday's Time points out, "McCain wants the Florida primary to be an election about national security, his best issue [another myth perpetrated by the media with zero basis in fact]. But until Saturday, the contest was humming along as an election more about the economy, Mitt Romney's best issue." Romney may achieve his dream of getting into the White House-- as unlikely as that sounds-- but those who vote him in will yearn for a nice old Bush Recession once the Willard Depression starts. And McCain? Well... if you want Americans fighting and dying in Iraq for 100 years, he's your man. They sure make Hillary and Obama look good!


THE HUCKSTER COMES OUT SWINGIN'... FOR McCAIN

Huckabee says he's unimpressed with Willard's business credentials. How could anyone not be? And he is clearly trying to boost McCain over Willard. As as an impressive array of Democrats jumps in against Hillary-- Ted Kennedy and Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius the latest-- Republicans are making their last stands to derail the candidates they hate most. As we pointed out yesterday, the hard core and most extreme elements of the Right would do anything to stop McCain. Today a surrogate for Darth Cheney, his radical right, somewhat deranged daughter Liz, showed her family's disdain for McCain by endorsing Willard-- and going to work for his campaign. Meanwhile Hillary was endorsed by the ex-Governor of New Mexico, Bruce King, who unlike ex-Gov. Gary Johnson-- also of New Mexico and who endorsed Ron Paul-- does not support legalizing marijuana.

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