Monday, March 31, 2008



Art by tw3k: McCain's real economic agenda

Today's NY Daily News revealed that some of the 66 lobbyists driving the Double Talk Express have made close to a million dollars lobbying for a notorious predatory lender, Ameriquest, which lured people into unsustainable mortgages. McCain doesn't blame Ameriquest or his lobbyist pals-- one his chief liaison to Congress (John Green) and the other is his national finance co-chairman (Wayne Berman). Instead he blames the victims, calling them irresponsible and trying to paint them as somehow morally deficient and undeserving of society's help as they lose their homes. Of course, McCain himself has voted for every single piece of legislation that has wrecked a regulatory system that could have and should have prevented the business practices that led to this-- and those votes are paying off big time as scores of lobbyists he has helped flock to his campaign.
When Sen. John McCain addressed the nation's burgeoning mortgage mess last week, he insisted it was time for a little "straight talk."

"I will not play election-year politics with the housing crisis," the GOP presidential hopeful insisted while unveiling his plan, which many have since described as friendlier to the mortgage industry than the Democrats' proposals.

What McCain did not say-- which some believe smacks of politics-- is that two of his top advisers were recently lobbyists for a notorious lender in the mortgage meltdown.

McCain's lobbyist brigade were paid hundreds of thousands of dollars before Ameriquest went belly-up-- but not before thousands and thousands of their victims lost their homes. The company was forced to settle suits in 49 states and pay $325 million in liabilities. "They would be defined as the most blatant and aggressive predatory lenders out of everybody," said Bruce Marks, head of the nonprofit Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America.

McCain claims he kept Green and Berman out of the process when he decided to come down on the side of the predatory lenders and against the consumers and, in truth, that's the way his voting record shows he's always been. One of his p.r hacks, Tucker Bonds, blatantly lied to a press ever eager to believe every word: "Sen. McCain has never done anything that would violate the public trust and he has never done favors for special interests or lobbyists." I guess no one remembers McCain's close relationship with crooked Arizona banker Charles Keating, who admits he got what he expected from McCain for showering him with tens of thousands of dollars in expensive gifts and services-- while ripping off millions of dollars for Savings and Loans depositors.
[T]he migration of Green and Berman to McCain's campaign comes as the Arizona senator faces criticism on other fronts for aligning himself with lobbyists, whom McCain often derides-- but relies upon to staff his campaign.

They include McCain campaign manager Rick Davis, a former telecommunications lobbyist, as well as Thomas Loeffler, McCain's national finance co-chairman, who recently helped Europe's Airbus consortium land a deal for Air Force tankers [with McCain's help against U.S.-based Boeing].

McCain has been on the wrong side of every single economic issue since first getting to Congress. He represents corporate interests and the wealthiest Americans and ignores the needs of working people and the middle class. Well, that isn't fair of me to say. He doesn't ignore them; actually his speeches and p.r. hype cater to them. He just always votes against them. In today's Newsweek Daniel Gross examines McCain's economic agenda in a powerful column, Staying On Bush's Course-- McCain's Fiscal Program Is Either A Joke Or A Fantasy.
There's an emerging theme surrounding his campaign: The problem with the last eight years isn't that the Bush administration had the wrong policies or was incompetent. No, the problem is that it lacked intensity... Reading McCain's economic agenda, and listening to his speech, it appears that the problem with the last eight years is that we haven't seen enough tax breaks for the wealthy, that economic royalism hasn't been pursued with sufficient vigor, and that the middle and working classes haven't been stiffed sufficiently.

McCain wants to extend the Bush tax cuts, which he once opposed as a needless sop to the rich in a time of war. (I await David Brooks' inevitable explanation of how opposing taxes in a time of war in 2001 and 2003, when deficits were low, but supporting them in 2011, in a time of war and high deficits, is deeply moral and admirable.) But McCain wants to see Bush's tax relief and raise it some. McCain would slash the corporate-income-tax rate from 35 percent to 25 percent (because corporate profits as a percentage of GDP didn't spike enough this decade?), and he'd abolish the Alternative Minimum Tax, which would be a welcome move for many upper-middle-class taxpayers. "In all, his tax-cutting proposals could cost about $400 billion a year, according to estimates of the impact of different tax cuts by CBO and the McCain campaign," the Wall Street Journal reported. And how to make up for the lost revenues? Hmmm. McCain promises to cut earmarks; to eliminate waste, fraud, and abuse; and to reduce the projected growth of Medicare; but he won't provide many numbers. As the WSJ deadpanned: "The cost will make it difficult for him to achieve his goal of balancing the budget by the end of his first term." That's perhaps the understatement of the year. The 2009 budget calls for a deficit of $407 billion on projected receipts of $2.7 billion, as this table shows. Essentially, McCain wants to cut revenues by about 15 percent from current levels, with nothing close to that in spending reductions, in a time when, even after spending excess Social Security payroll taxes, the deficit is running at more than $400 billion. Here's some straight talk: McCain's fiscal program is either a joke or a fantasy.

...The Federal Reserve and the Bush administration have justified the extraordinary help offered to investment banks and investors by saying that it matters less how we got here and more how we deal with the situation as it is. For McCain, however, it's all about the journey. Poor decisions should not be rewarded-- unless those poor decisions are made by really rich people who run investment banks and hedge funds. While "those who act irresponsibly" shouldn't be bailed out as a matter of principle, it's OK to take extraordinary measures to help banks prevent "systemic risk that would endanger the entire financial system and the economy." Obama and Clinton-- and the Bush administration, through its various efforts to ease the mortgage crisis-- have argued that it might be possible to spare further systemic risk if something was done to buck up the fortunes of homeowners. Bollocks, says McCain. People should just put up more money for down payments and work harder to keep current with their mortgage payments.

And get those fucking kids off my lawn!

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Two sons of... privilege

I have a feeling, there are plenty of Americans, particularly younger ones, for whom the name Mosley doesn't mean much one way or the other. But we all know George W. Bush and many of us are also aware that George W. Bush's grandfather was a Nazi or, to keep to what can be proven absolutely, the Bush family made its vast wealth by illegally dealing with the German Nazis.
The debate over Prescott Bush's behaviour has been bubbling under the surface for some time. There has been a steady internet chatter about the "Bush/Nazi" connection, much of it inaccurate and unfair. But the new documents, many of which were only declassified last year, show that even after America had entered the war and when there was already significant information about the Nazis' plans and policies, he worked for and profited from companies closely involved with the very German businesses that financed Hitler's rise to power. It has also been suggested that the money he made from these dealings helped to establish the Bush family fortune and set up its political dynasty.

Nazism means different things to different people and it is next to impossible to separate it in many people's minds-- particularly its victims-- from concentration camps, exterminations, torture, and savage, brutal war. But Nazism is also a logical extension of the right wing political mentality that glorifies authoritarianism, order, racism, militarism, xenophobia, and, most importantly, corporatism. Many have made the case that the Bush family-- largely unpunished for their collaboration with the German Nazis in the 30s and 40s-- and especially, the dim-witted George II, are, by and large, fascists. You've had a chance to see him in action for the past 7 years and you can judge that for yourself.

Now back to Mad Max Mosley or, first, his progenitor, Sir Oswald Mosley. Sir Oswald's political career began as a Conservative member of the House of Commons although he eventually had a falling out with the Conservatives and became an Independent member, then a Labour member and eventually founded a party of his own, the New Party which went from corporatism to out and out fascism in a short time. Inspired by Mussolini, he founded the British Union of Fascists in 1932 and an anti-Semitic and violent right-wing militia called the Blackshirts. In 1940 Britain rounded up its homegrown wing-nuts, including Sir Oswald and his Nazi wife (who he had married at Goebbels manor house with Hitler as a witness), and threw them in prison. After the war he moved to Paris, although he returned to London in 1959 to campaign against immigrants. The early Elvis Costello song, "Less Than Zero," was written about him (see video below). Just before being incarcerated Oswald's wife gave birth to their second son, Max, currently the president of Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA), the parent organization of Formula One. Formula One doesn't prevent baldness; it's the governing body for high end international auto racing.

Like George W. Bush, Mad Max Mosley, denies he's a Nazi or a fascist. Yesterday a scandal broke that calls that into question. (At the time, most of his friends were standing up for him. Today, the very same friends are distancing themselves from him.) OK, first the juicy part:
Max Mosley, one of the most powerful men in world sport, was under pressure to resign as boss of Formula One’s governing body last night after he was exposed enjoying a Nazi-style orgy with five prostitutes.

Jewish groups condemned the behaviour of Mosley, 67, whose father, Sir Oswald, was the leader of the British Union of Fascists and a friend of Adolf Hitler.

Mr Mosley was caught on video by the News of the World with five women in an underground “torture chamber” in Chelsea, where he spent several hours allegedly indulging in sado-masochistic sex.

The Oxford-educated former barrister, who is president of the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA), reenacted a concentration camp scene in which he played the role of both guard and inmate.

Speaking in German and brandishing a leather whip, he beat the women after allowing himself to be subjected to a humiliating inspection for lice and an interrogation in chains.

Mr Mosley, a close confidant of Bernie Ecclestone, who holds the commercial rights to Formula One, paid £2,500 cash for the sex services, the Sunday newspaper claimed.

His antics stunned Jewish leaders and motorsport insiders. “This is sick and depraved,” Karen Pollock, chief executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust, said. “For anyone to be in such a position of influence and power beggars belief. I am absolutely appalled.”

Yes, "appalled" would be a good description and the sentiment started spilling over today. His aspirations to run (as a Conservative, obviously) for Parliament appear to be dashed and his billionaire pal, Formula One boss, Bernie Ecclestone, who was giggling about it and downplaying it yesterday today said he didn't think it would be appropriate for Mosley to attend this weekend’s Bahrain Grand Prix-- and if not in Bahrain, where?
Ecclestone’s comments came as Formula One teams and car manufacturers involved in the sport [particularly Mercedes Benz, BMW, Toyota and Honda] began expressing deep unease at Mr Mosley’s apparent determination to continue in his post, despite revelations in the News of the World at the weekend that have shocked the sport.

...Despite suggesting that he should not travel to the Gulf, Mr Ecclestone continued to stand by his friend and said he would not be calling for Mr Mosley to resign. “What Max should do is what he thinks is right because it is only him that’s involved, not the FIA,” said Mr Ecclestone. “He must do what he believes, in his heart of hearts, is the right thing.”

Mr Ecclestone admitted that many would find the disclosures of Mr Mosley’s personal conduct hard to understand. “If Max was in bed with two hookers, they’d say ‘good for you or something like that,'” Mr Ecclestone said. “But this, as it is, people find it repulsive. I think that’s the problem.”

Mr Mosley was unavailable for comment but his spokesman said he had no intention of resigning and was planning to tough it out. He is pursuing legal action against the News of the World and has already forced the paper to remove a video of the orgy from its website.

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Yesterday we met, briefly, a 22 year old hustler in Miami who the Bush Regime felt should be showered with hundreds of millions of dollars worth of contracts to supply the military with ammunition all over the world, including to front-line troops in Afghanistan. His "company," AEY is now being investigated by the FBI for fraud. Much of the ammunition was obsolete or so deteriorated as to be worse than useless. Republicans call this privatization and the miracle of a free and unregulated market. It isn't unrelated to the Bear Stearns crisis or the mortgage crisis or to the wreckage of an economy 7 years of Bush/Republican misrule is leaving the country.

This morning's CongressDaily features a story by George Wilson called "War Pays," which details how the Bush war economy has been geared towards a few very well-off companies and their executives, many of whom are major donors to Republican Party activities. This is also the major theme in John Cusack's incredible new film, War, Inc, which takes Bush's privatization policies to it's logical-- and catastrophic-- conclusion. [See the movie.]

If the economy isn't quite working as well for you and your family as you'd like it to-- and 46% of Americans say their own household financial situation is getting worse (as opposed to 7% who say it's getting better)-- consider yourself fortunate that you're not one of the 28 million Americans forced into the Food Stamps program by the miracle of Bush economics, the highest number ever since the program was started in the 1960s.

Now, if you're a defense contractor (like so many cronies of this regime, starting with the vice president)... happy days are here again. "Bush's war in Iraq," the article begins, "has been good for defense contractors."
The Pentagon's own figures, along with published stock prices, document that firms like Halliburton and Humana Inc., which provide the military with services rather than weapons, have done especially well during the five years of the Iraq war.

Among the big questions the next Congress and president will have to answer is whether this subcontracting out to private firms of everything from G.I. meals to construction to protecting the American ambassador to Iraq has gotten so out of control that new laws must be passed.

House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Henry Waxman tells horror stories about Halliburton contracting in arguing that the gouging of taxpayers must be stopped.

The Pentagon issues annual reports-- which Congress and the mainstream press largely ignore -- telling who in the military industrial complex is getting how many of the taxpayers' defense dollars.

Unfortunately, the reports lag far behind the awarding of contracts but do show authoritatively that the defense business under Bush became like an oasis of prosperity in the midst of what has now become a harsh economic desert for much of the rest of America.

Warnings the Pentagon numbers shout out to lawmakers and the next administration include these:

*The biggest bucks are going to contractors whose super weapons are soaring above predicted costs and have little to do with winning battles against terrorists who specialize in asymmetric warfare. Terrorists blow up American armor with bombs dug into roadways and kill soldiers and allied civilians with belts of explosives hidden under their clothing. They don't use planes, tanks or warships...
*The Defense and State departments are turning over so much of their traditional work to private contractors that the tail threatens to wag the dog with controversy.
Congressional protests against no-bid contracts awarded to Halliburton, which Vice President Cheney headed before he became Bush's running mate in 2000, and Iraqi charges of murderous conduct by the State Department's hired guns supplied by Blackwater USA are two examples of this.
*Healthcare costs for military people are skyrocketing and will remain high long after the Iraq and Afghanistan wars end, as veterans receive physical and mental care at government facilities...

The cost of caring for military people long after the shooting stops is a major reason behind Nobel-prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz' recent prediction to the Joint Economic Committee that the Iraq war will end up costing in excess of $3 trillion.

Lockhead Martin scooped up the most dough from the Pentagon in 2006-- over $26 billion. A couple years like that and they'll be in fat city. Their stock has soared and the recent downturn in the market hasn't hurt them at all. Halliburton was the 6th biggest recipient of Pentagon largess, up drastically since Cheney-- whose still receives gigantic compensation from the company-- started running the show (in Washington). I'm not saying Lockhead Martin and Halliburton are as sleazy as AEY-- just that, in terms of war profiteers, way, way slicker and more successful.

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Bad vibes: Cole & Boehner

A few days ago the NY Times published a kind of a preview/promo for a major article, "The End of Republican America," they were promising for Sunday's Magazine section. It is the story of NRCC Chair Tom Cole (R-OK) and the Times's teaser was in a section about how dire everything looks for the Republicans in Congress:
Many conservative activists have become so dissatisfied with the party’s heresies, particularly on immigration and government spending, that as Cole’s staff took over, the committee’s fund-raising pleas were being ignored and, on at least one occasion, returned in an envelope stuffed with feces.

But the news is far worse than an envelope stuffed with right-wing feces here and there. As we've been mentioning, the Republicans have been unable to attract credible candidates, First-tier candidates are out of the question-- as Cole sadly explained in a story about trying to find an opponent for mediocre Blue Dog freshman Joe Donnelly (D-IN)-- and the GOP is starting to realize that even second tier candidates are out of their grasp.
After 2006, most observers thought that those results suggested a onetime event, a so-called wave election, and predicted that come 2008, Republicans would reclaim some of those seats, the usual correction after a wave like this passes. But now, seven months before the 2008 election, that does not seem likely. The influential, independent Cook Political Report recently concluded that 12 of the 14 districts most vulnerable to change parties in this election will belong to Republicans, suggesting that Cole’s party is likely to end up in an even deeper hole.

As always, Cook is a lagging indicator and extremely conservative in his predictions. If the Republicans were to lose only a dozen seats in November, it would be an occasion of great rejoicing. They're basically trying to keep losses down to as few as they came-- probably a couple dozen-- and then hope they can start making up the lost ground in 2010. Cole, himself a far right loon and across-the-board extremist, speculates that the reason normal Americans have grown to hate the GOP brand is because the part is too far from the mainstream. "This isn’t an ideologically conservative country, and maybe some of us overreached in thinking that it was, and have been corrected for that. But I believe that it is still a center-right country, and I think this election will show that." He isn't taking his own implied advice and continues, lemming-like, to vote hard right on every single issue that comes before the House, like most of the reflexive rubber stampers. Cole, of course, tries to present himself as optimistic that the Republicans will fare well under his leadership. He doesn't sound very convincing and at one point gets wistful about how a North Carolina reactionary freshman really belongs in the GOP. "Heath Shuler, the North Carolina Democrat, 'who is,' Cole says, with a certain envy, 'to the right of Genghis Khan.'”

The fact that Emanuel nabbed Shuler instead of Tom Reynolds (then NRCC head who tried convincing Shuler to run as a Republican in Tennessee) isn't anything Cole can do anything about. He has his own problems and can't even recruit credible candidate in pretty red districts. "It is possible to interpret this as a recruiting failure by Cole’s committee. But it’s also possible to see the void in these districts as an acknowledgment by up-and-coming Republican politicians that something has changed, and that this land has been swallowed by the tide." And it isn't a red tide.
In their intimacy with the numbers, many Republican operatives now worry that crucial segments of the electorate are slipping away from them. Republicans had traditionally won the votes of independents; in 2006, they lost them by 18 percent. Hispanic voters, who gave the Democrats less than 60 percent of their votes in 2004, cast more than 70 percent of their votes for Democrats in 2006. Suburban voters, long a Republican constituency, favored Democrats in 2006 for the first time since 1992. And Democrats won their largest share of voters under 30 in the modern era, a number particularly troubling for some Republicans, since it seems to indicate the preferences of an entire generation.

“What is concerning is that we lost ground in every one of the highest-growth demographics,” said Mehlman, the former R.N.C. chairman and Bush political adviser, who is now a lawyer at the lobbying firm Akin Gump.

For operatives like Cole, focused on expanding the party’s appeal, the conservative movement had become too demanding: its aggressive rhetoric on some social issues alienated young voters, its swagger on immigration hardened Hispanic voters against Republicans and its emphasis on tax cuts for the wealthy made it difficult for the party to appeal to populist voters. Buffeted by those movement passions, the great thing at the center of it all-- the party-- began to fray. “If there are Republicans out there who think that 2006 was a year that could be changed by a few votes in a few districts, they need to wake up,” Mehlman told me. “It was a rejection.”

Maybe the primaries woke them up. Even in deeply red states, as many as double the number of Democrats turned out as Republicans. Among the states Bush won in 2004, half a dozen of them saw Obama alone take more than both top getting Republicans together: Colorado, Georgia, Iowa, Missouri, North Dakota and South Carolina. They can spin that all they want but in November they'll be eating it with their cold porridge.

And spinning is what Cole does-- although not very convincingly. I was excited though when he promised that the GOP would take Jim Marshall's seat. They're welcome to it. But overall Cole's strategy is based on a firmly held belief that voters are stupider than the feces that was mailed in to the NRCC. "At a moment when Washington is deeply unpopular, he wants his candidates to run as insurgents, but voters still identify Republicans with what they don’t like about Washington-- they prefer a generic Democratic Congressional candidate by a margin of 49 percent to 35 percent, according to a March 7-10 NBC/Wall Street Journal poll; in an ABC/Washington Post poll released in early February, they preferred Democrats to Republicans on seven out of seven issues." He'll combat that by a smear campaign against Nancy Pelosi, trying to take back Congress by running millions of dollars-- not too many millions though; they're broke-- calling her a "San Francisco liberal." It may well help them... in Macon, but Cole's most prescient statement was, when asked what it would mean if a Democrat beat Hastert's handpicked successor in Illinois, "My God, it’s the end of the Republican Party.” Hold that thought 'til November 'cause you ain't seen nothin' yet.

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Quote of the day: At least one visitor is less than overwhelmed by our nation's capital's new ballpark


Yes, that's the Capitol Dome in the distance. If you look really closely,
you can see brand-new $611 million Nationals Park in the foreground.

"Washington is a city where people can stare straight at the most powerful symbol of their democratic enfranchisement, and still feel absolutely powerless to change the course of our winner-takes-all society."
--culture critic Philip Kennicott, in an evaluation of newly opened Nationals Park, "This Diamond Isn't a Gem," in today's Washington Post

Nationals Park, the new $611 milliion (all of it taxpayer money) home of the NL Washington Nationals, had a grand opening last night, with the home team winning on a two-out ninth-inning walk-off home run by the Nats' Great Young Hope, already being described as "the face of the franchise," 23-year-old third baseman Ryan Zimmerman (seen here watching the ball he's just crushed travel toward the center-field fence).

Of course it won't be Nationals Park for long--only until somebody ponies up the right price for the "naming opportunity." The guessing says $8-12 million will do it, if you're interested.

It is, apparently, a perfectly all right place to watch a ballgame, if you can afford it. (Kennicott suggests that at least up on the third level of the joint "people of normal economic means can buy seats without dipping into their kids' college funds.") Elsewhere in the paper Post sports columnist Thomas Boswell, who is--or at least used to be--one of the best baseball writers around, describes the stadium as "a vibrant, intimate new ballpark already basking in praise."

"For the first time since the 1920s and '30s," Boswell writes,
so long ago that archival columns by the late Shirley Povich might be the only accounts, Washington finds itself with a franchise that has a fighting chance at a future. Thanks to a District-paid ballpark that already has exceeded most expectations, the Nats have the financial foundation necessary to be competitive. If a winning team is built -- far from a certainty -- the Nationals boast a facility that can please fans, gush cash and create credibility.

Naturally, you expect an architectural evaluation to take a larger view. "As people circulate through the stadium's public spaces, where beer can cost $7.50 and the cheapest hot dog is $4.50," Kennicott writes, "the human traffic flow unifies the two central purposes of the building: baseball and the fleecing of baseball audiences. This circulating motion wrings money out of you like wet laundry on the spin cycle."

Kennicott argues that the building is not only undistinguished in its own right, but almost totally closed off from its surroundings. For all the talk--principally from the team's principal owners, the father-and-son Lerners--about the park taking advantage of its historic setting, in line with the Captol Dome, Kennicott notes that on the inside the building looks almost entirely inward (without even any views of the neighboring Anacostia River), and on the outside it is, seemingly intentionally, cut off from the blighted Anacostia neighborhood whose economic revitalization it is theoretically intended to spark.
There were so many lost opportunities. Approached from the South Capitol Street bridge, the building might have been better framed by more greenery -- but a parking lot for the team has been placed right where a garden should be. Along South Capitol, the face of the building might have been opened up for street-level retail, something to make it inviting and even useful for the residents of the very poor neighborhood. There are even glass windows that suggest what storefronts might have looked like, but those windows are filled with Nationals advertising and they hide empty, useless space.

As for that famous sightline to the Capitol:
From the top of the stadium, look out at the skyline, toward the Capitol Dome. At first, it seems like a happy accident that it is most visible from the cheapest seats. But now look down into the neighborhoods where public schools have become dilapidated brick bunkers, their windows covered in forbidding metal mesh. It's enough to make you weep. Not about the stadium, which is as generic as it goes. But rather the cynical pragmatism that governs our priorities, socially and architecturally. Washington is a city where people can stare straight at the most powerful symbol of their democratic enfranchisement, and still feel absolutely powerless to change the course of our winner-takes-all society.


To me the most notable part of the evening was seeing Dear Leader treated so unkindly by the unruly baseball louts. Thank goodness it was only the worst booing any president has ever experienced and that, it being Washington, no one was armed. Silent Patriot over at Crooks & Liars has the disgraceful video.

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A prescription for an even worse economy

Saturday we looked at the fake regulatory reforms Bush is trying to throw as a sop to a concerned and angry public, a public seeing the economy spiraling into the toilet, one sign of which is the highest number of people on Food Stamps ever. I mentioned how I'd be eager to see Paul Krugman do a little slicin' and dicin' on Monday. He doesn't disappoint. Basically he's confirmed my instincts that they were just shuffling around the deck chairs. "[I]t’s all about creating the appearance of responding to the current crisis, without actually doing anything substantive."
[I]f financial players like Bear [Stearns] are going to receive the kind of rescue previously limited to deposit-taking banks, the implication seems obvious: they should be regulated like banks, too.

The Bush administration, however, has spent the last seven years trying to do away with government oversight of the financial industry. In fact, the new plan was originally conceived of as “promoting a competitive financial services sector leading the world and supporting continued economic innovation.” That’s banker-speak for getting rid of regulations that annoy big financial operators.

To reverse course now, and seek expanded regulation, the administration would have to back down on its free-market ideology-- and it would also have to face up to the fact that it was wrong. And this administration never, ever, admits that it made a mistake.

Krugman finds all the reforms, substantively speaking, bogus and hollow. Bush had to pretend to be doing something to show he learned a lesson. The Regime is counting on the likelihood that your typical TV announcer is exactly as clueless and preoccupied as everyone else and that people won't be much attention, just notice something appears to be happening. Krugman must have been watching the same cookie recipe lady on CNN that I was watching on Saturday because he also laments the fact that "some news outlets report as fact the administration’s cover story-- the claim that lack of coordination among regulatory agencies was an important factor in our current problems. The truth is that that’s not at all what happened. The various regulators actually did quite well at acting in a coordinated fashion. Unfortunately, they coordinated in the wrong direction."

Not only did the Regime do absolutely nothing about regulating speculators-- other than cheering them on as free market avatars-- they "actively blocked state governments when they tried to protect families against predatory lending."

If Bush is Calvin Coolidge, McCain is absolutely Herbert Hoover, something Krugman hints at in the last line of his column. McCain brags about his economic ignorance, surrounds himself with Bush Regime retreads who largely authored the current crisis, and chose his old pal, Phil Gramm, one of the worst financial reactionaries in American politics, as his chief economics advisor. Ironically, it you had to point to just two people who were responsible for the subprime mortgage meltdown, one would be McCain's guy, ex-Senator Phil Gramm.

McCain's concern for financial matters, though, has to do with winning over wealthy GOP donors, many of whom have been sitting on their hands so far in this election season. He probably thinks he can lure them into his camp with promises of fulfilling the Republican Party's long-held dream of destroying Social Security. Yes, Mr. Straight Talk may be flipping and flopping all over the stage now, but he has been a huge advocate of privatizing (GOP-talk for destroying) Social Security

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Sunday, March 30, 2008



Carol Shea-Porter & Sheila Jackson Lee in Kuwait last week

You may have seen a crawl go by under one of the CNN exposes of the Reverend Jeremiah Wright last week, concerning some crooked contractors selling defective ammo to the U.S.-led military and police forces in Afghanistan. Or maybe you blinked and missed it. The NY Times also reported on it (here and here).
With the award last January of a federal contract worth as much as nearly $300 million, the company, AEY Inc., which operates out of an unmarked office in Miami Beach, became the main supplier of munitions to Afghanistan’s army and police forces.

The company is was run by a 22 year old hustler whose vice president was a licensed masseur. Our tax dollars have gone to purchasing "unreliable and obsolete" ammo that is over 4 decades old from them.
AEY is one of many previously unknown defense companies to have thrived since 2003, when the Pentagon began dispensing billions of dollars to train and equip indigenous forces in Afghanistan and Iraq. Its rise from obscurity once seemed to make it a successful example of the Bush administration’s promotion of private contractors as integral elements of war-fighting strategy.

But an examination of AEY’s background, through interviews in several countries, reviews of confidential government documents and the examination of some of the ammunition, suggests that Army contracting officials, under pressure to arm Afghan troops, allowed an immature company to enter the murky world of international arms dealing on the Pentagon’s behalf-- and did so with minimal vetting and through a vaguely written contract with few restrictions.

In addition to this week’s suspension, AEY is under investigation by the Department of Defense’s inspector general and by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, prompted by complaints about the quality and origins of ammunition it provided, and allegations of corruption.

...Public records show that AEY’s contracts since 2004 have potentially been worth more than a third of a billion dollars. Mr. Diveroli set the value higher: he claimed to do $200 million in business each year.

Henry Waxman's Oversight Committee is investigating and will hold hearing starting April 17. AEY has been charged with fraud and is barred from selling to the government but there is a great deal more that needs to be known about how this kind of a shady, fly by night company came to wind up with contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars. As we've been seeing, when Republicans aren't stealing from us and from each other, they're just incompetent and letting others do the stealing. Ideologically they abhor regulations and think business should just be left to do what it does-- the magic of the free market. In many of these cases the magic is a disappearing act-- of taxpayer money.

Yesterday's Washington Post reports on what could potentially be a far more serious case, a corrupted auditor in Iraq. Did I saw a corrupted auditor? Stuart W. Bowen Jr. is the top auditor for the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR). The FBI is investigating and SIGIR employees "questioned before the grand jury have complained of mismanagement and abuse of authority, including retaliatory firing of staff members." Unlike Diveroli and the masseur, Bowen is a high level Bush Regime crony. He worked as a White House associate counsel, one of the most corrupt and criminal divisions of the Bush Regime and "on the basis of the grand jury questioning and testimony, several witnesses said they believe that the government has strong evidence against Bowen... who heads the lead U.S. agency in charge of tracking fraud, waste and abuse of more than $21 billion in funds for Iraq reconstruction. 'Based on what I saw, they should have a good case,' said one key witness who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the case is ongoing."

I have a feeling this will be one of the clearest cases of Bush having placed a fox to watch over the chicken house we are likely to see. One person who will surely be watching very closely is Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter (D-NH). She just returned from a fact-finding mission to Iraq-- a real one, not a campaign junket like McCain did a couple weeks ago-- and we spoke this afternoon. I was eager to try to understand how the Congress is trying to hold the Bush Regime accountable for its behavior. A member of the House Armed Services Committee, she told me about a recent hearing on waste, fraud and corruption. "I asked witnesses," she told me, "who said they did not have enough accountants to provide oversight why they didn't simply contract it out like the Bush Administration did with everything else. Every dollar that was stolen from our people means a dollar less for health care in America, a dollar less for veterans, a dollar less for education, a dollar less for infrastructure. As we hold oversight hearings, Americans are becoming more outraged, and rightfully so."

One of the worst of the rubber stamps who mindlessly followed Bush and Cheney as they mired us in this situation is Republican Jeb Bradley, the ex-congressman Carol defeated in 2006. He's trying to run against her again this year-- although many Republicans in the district see him as a loser and would rather nominate someone else, an even worse and more clueless right wing kook named John Stephen. When asked what he thinks should be done about Iraq, Bradley is still as clueless as he ever was. He says we should just do whatever the generals say. Policy in a democracy is set by the people through their elected representatives. And, as Carol pointed out, how do you even know what generals to listen to since every time one expresses a view at variance to the Regime line, Bush fires him.

I hope you've looked at the videos of these two clowns (at the links above) and that you'd rather see less waste in government and less incompetence and lack of accountability. If so, please consider making a contribution to Carol's campaign at the Blue America ActBlue page. Since being elected, she's been a model representative and a tireless fighter for workers and consumers against the special interests. She gets the big picture and its going to take legislators like Carol to start the process of cleaning up the mess Bush and the Republicans are leaving us.

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-by Matthew Grimm

The cynical and counter-democratic nature of marketing has done a great disservice to the Republic in this election cycle, as it always seems to. "Change" versus "Experience" has become Coke versus Pepsi, just with particular consumers of each sniping at other in the blogosphere over which tastes better, becoming conditioned to a myopia where no other ideas, much less beverages, exist outside this dialectic.

Coke and Pepsi pretty much taste the same, yet if Coke's formula contained the cure for cancer, you would think they might incorporate that into their millions of dollars worth of brand communications.

The shit of it is, somebody damn well should be promising the cure for cancer, at least figuratively, insofar as its figurative Bushian cells and their money-driven cronyist orthodoxy have infested the country and too much of the globe. What we're told way too often, however, is that to vet people on whether they are pro-cancer or not in this endeavor is just impolitic, or, worse, unrealistic. When some of us demand actual, hard, legislative redress against the sins, even crimes, committed against us or in our names, we somehow become wiggy, starry-eyed dreamers. Advocating we hold the collaborators in our midst accountable gets painted as quixotic at best, at worst treasonous.

Ed Fallon, economic populist, 14 years a state representative here in Iowa and candidate for governor in 2006, wants that kind of accountability, and is unsurprisingly getting so painted, yet his
candidacy for Iowa's 3rd District Congressional seat has already disproven that cynical ascription. A good eight months prior to election, it prompted the Des Moines Register to assess real vulnerability of a 12-year incumbent Congressman, Blue Dog Democrat Leonard Boswell, this in a year when his party is set for a national sweep, an almost unheard of electoral conundrum. The story began illuminatively enough, "Splits with more traditionally liberal Democrats have hardly been rare for U.S. Rep. Leonard Boswell during the 12 years since the Des Moines Democrat first was elected to Congress."

Fallon's assets are many, but as important as anything is his commitment to cutting the real cancer out of American politics, "the influence of corporate money in politics, something that obstructs progress on issue after issue," as he wrote here on DWT last Friday. In addition to a genuine progressive platform, he can also make an electoral argument: he won the 3rd District in the last gubernatorial primary. This not only shows his disproportionate support there in a three-way contest in which he earned 26% of the vote statewide, but, moreover, it shreds the conventional wisdom that a candidate must triangulate, like Boswell, to gain both the urban voters of Des Moines, Iowa's largest city, as well as the yawning stretches of ostensibly more provincial small town precincts.

More viscerally, Fallon's bid to unseat Boswell has already spurred the latter to shuffle leftward [towards the mainstream], assenting to a withdrawal timetable attached to war funding, publicly reconsidering his previous stalwart NAFTA support, and recanting on his previous toeing of the Bush line on telecom retroactive immunity. Like Al Wynn (D-MD) in a similar predicament, he even signed onto the Cheney impeachment bill. It didn't save Wynn, who lost decisively to progressive Donna Edwards and it may well be too little, too late to save Boswell.

He now sits on the reconciliation committee drafted to make the Senate's gutless and prostrate FISA bill somehow mesh with the House's Constiutionally supported version. But if he simply assents to the Senate bill, like many in his Blue Dog cell have vowed, it would be another ominous step towards suspending the Constitution of the United States, which, outwardly-- and stacked with his appalling previous record on the issue-- would appear a betrayal of the oath Boswell took upon assuming office.

The crux of the Fallon-Boswell contest lies here: can you sell out your constituency and get away with it just because you're packaged as Brand D, or can you be held accountable for your actions, as most healthy, functioning societies require?

Boswell, to be fair, is not a bad guy, at least compared to America's welter of bottom-of-the-barrel pols, IA-5's Steve King being embarrassingly representative thereof. He has been consistently
pro-labor, at least at face value (about which more below), and voted with the party majority 93% of the time last year. Both to trumpet his bona fides in an election year and to deflect Fallon's challenge from the left, the Boswell campaign has been brandishing about a recent Drum Major Institute rating of "A" on his voting record, an uptick from the C-rating its given him from 2003-05, the Register reported. [A more sophisticated rating at Progressive Punch's When The Chips Are Down scale shows that when substantive matters with sharp partisan divides are voted on, Boswell is frequently ready to rubber stamp much of the Bush corporate agenda.]

The starker assessment is, like Clinton, whom he prominently endorsed just weeks before she finished third here in Iowa, Boswell's stances and voting behavior can be qualified as "just enough," nothing resembling anything visionary or palliative of what ails the nation, and, on the most vital issues it faces, grossly capitulative. Fallon is quick to point out that 74% of Boswell's campaign warchest comes from PACs, half of that corporate or business trade association dough, even if much of the other half comes from unions. Less mitigable, Boswell's supporters' rhetoric sounds eerily familiar to anyone following the party's presidential primary. Let's look at a quote from the Iowa progressive blog BleedingHeartland, and generalize the proper nouns:
Now I am no fan of Washington politics, but the truth is you need influence to get the job done. [This person] knows how to get the job done and will continue to get the job done. Why should we even think about contesting an honorable Democrat like [him/her].

Whether the author is talking about Boswell or Clinton doesn't matter (it's Boswell). Why anyone should consider contesting him is made evident, as such things are when weighed in rational discourse, in his voting record. In addition to rubber-stamping every corporate-penned orthodox "Free Trade" agreement to come down the pike (other than CAFTA), Boswell's page bears some glaring red-flags:
Voted YES on 'Fast Track' authority for trade agreements. (Sep 1998)
Voted YES on eliminating the Estate Tax. (Apr 2001)
Voted NO on banning soft money donations to national political parties. (Jul 2001)
Voted NO on raising CAFE standards; incentives for alternative fuels. (Aug 2001)
Voted YES on implementing Bush-Cheney national energy policy. (Nov 2003)
Voted YES on restricting bankruptcy rules. (Jan 2004)
Voted YES on passage of the Bush Administration national energy policy. (Jun 2004)

This record evinces an arrogant mindset too prevalent among pseudocon Democrats, that they can eat their cake and have it too. Not only that, they are entitled to it. When somebody like Fallon comes along to challenge that notion, the shrill cry goes up, as with the BleedingHeartland comment, that he is trying to take what belongs to them.

"My critics tend to be those in the status quo, tend to be those in the establishment, who are very comfortable with a Democratic Party that is cozy with big business, that is cozy with corporations," Fallon said in an appearance last month on IPTV's Press Talk. "That's not my vision of how government should be working. Government should be about basic services, government should be about staying out of people's private affairs and personal decisions. [Government] should focus on maintaining a free market economy not distorted by all these big business handouts and giveaways, again like the $14 billion Boswell supported for oil and gas companies."

It is worth restating something intrinsic to small-d democratic processes here: no one is owed someone's vote by dint of the brand "D" behind their name. The landmark issue being weighed in this election, whether MiaSMa wags broach it or not, is toxification of our government by an institutional sense of entitlement. For Bush, it has been his entitlement to power by dint of his family, entitlement by dint of his presidency to bomb, bug and spy on whomever he finds inconvenient and entitlement to funnel taxpayer money to his and his cabinet's golfing buddies. For what sadly became the vanguard of the Democratic Party in the last fifteen years, it has been the entitlement to hobnob routinely with adherents of neoliberal orthodoxy, to validate the dogma of corporations and their lobbyists over those who point to the empirical evidence that it doesn't work, to streamline their gutting of the domestic economic infrastructure-- to do all this and still feel entitled to the votes of working, and increasingly not-working, Democrats.

"They learned how to suck up to the same big money trough that the Republicans used to have dibs on," Fallon told me in a phone interview, "and once they owed allegiance to the corporate financiers of a lot of American politics, they became the corporate wing of the Democratic Party."

Now, with that same vanguard finally being challenged by people like Fallon, they protest their entitlement to office, no matter what their record shows they actually stand for, and against. For these, like Geraldine Ferraro, who harped her Obama-as-quota charges with a very pointed insinuation that senator from Illinois is seeking to usurp what Hillary Clinton is entitled to-- no, sorry, doesn't work that way.

Entitlement, recall, is an anachronism we attempted to crush out of the social compact by violent and principled revolution 200 years ago. Our Constitution, imperfect as it was, was drafted to establish republican representation in accordance with what ideas and enactments the represented weighed to be in their and their neighbors' best interests. As important, it empowered citizens of the republic to hold their representatives accountable for veering from those simple metrics.

And yet, some now tell us, we are supposed to suspend critical thinking for some people. Whether their Big Business-fellating postures connote cynicism or incredulity, on the part of Boswell or Emanuel, Al Wynn or Clinton, it does show all grossly out of touch constituencies overtly wary of and increasingly suffering from the working machinations of corporate-written policy from "free trade" to simple enforcement of domestic regulatory law.

The 3rd District does not have to look far to find the impact of the Republican/pseudocon economic consensus. "Free trade" has left a crater in the state's economic infrastructure just a few miles east of Des Moines on I-80. In the wake of Whirlpool's buyout of 100-year Iowa institution Maytag, Newton, IA, has lost a thousand manufacturing jobs, many of them to Mexico, and 1,200 white collar jobs, simply gone. Just a few days back, the state destroyed some 160,000 pounds of California beef purchased from the scandalized Hallmark/Westland Meat Co., recalled over its revealed processing of potentially diseased "downer" cows, just one egregious outcrop of a corporate meatpacking industry that, freed of regulatory enforcement, has regressed to The Jungle. The meat was the first of some 240,000 pounds scheduled to be used in Iowa public school lunches.

But playing their game, competing for bribes, for which they trade off the general welfare, Clintonistas, Schumerians and Emanuelites dutifully remain amid the trees, unable or unwilling to see how these things exist in a continuum. If we pull the camera back, cause locks in with effect:

"Pro-labor" becomes a questionable ascription when one rubberstamps "free trade" that has effected a huge track to funnel manufacturing jobs to the Third World. "Anti-war" becomes as dubious when one endorses an exploitive corporate economic hegemony that seeds war. Fallon is one of too few Democrats to perceive and state this in no uncertain terms in his website's wiggy, starry-eyed call for fair trade versus the orthodoxy:
"Fair trade also means building up the middle class in other countries, as well as our own. Poverty is not only a humanitarian crisis but also a threat to national security. Terrorism around the world is fed by increasing poverty levels, so improving the well-being of workers in other countries is a vital means of protecting American interests as well.

See, in the continuum, economic policy is foreign policy. Right-wing assholes, including Rahm Emanuel and Heath Shuler, would have a lot less to bitch about in re scary funny-talkin' minorities crossing the southern border if the U.S.didn't, say, stage a quiet coup in Mexico to buoy pro-corporate right-wing assholes who think NAFTA just dandy. Get how that works? Let's make it crystal: if a progressive like López Obrador actually becomes president of Mexico, defies the Republican/pseudocon consensus and re-invests, say, national oil revenues in his own country's small businesses and gringo-ravaged agrarian economy, maybe our Mexican neighbors find decent jobs at home and fewer come here to tend Rahm's golfing partners' lawns. Cause-and-effect is not rocket science.

"If you rewrote the treaties to require a minimum-wage threshold, if you required decent working conditions, safety standards, environmental standards, there would be a lot less incentives for companies to move south of the border," Fallon told a gathering at his Des Moines HQ recently, as reported by the Register. "And if they did, they would be paying better wages."

As to our most egregious elements of foreign policy, and the ominous cloud it has cast over the homefront, we reach the breaking point on Boswell's tenure.

The telecom immunity fight boils down, too, to nothing more or less than entitlement, whether a certain class of people (like AT&T, which reportedly funneled $5,000 to Boswell last year) rates super-citizen status because they played ball with the right people-- in this case those seeking to proscribe the law of the land. Boswell's flip on the issue with the March 14 House vote was, of course, welcome, but conspicuous insofar is it came just a month and a half after he signed onto a Blue Dog Coalition letter to Speaker Pelosi demanding in no uncertain terms "[t]argeted immunity for carriers that participated in anti-terrorism surveillance programs."

So Boswell now acted against the Blue Dogs' collective threat to oppose a FISA bill that did not include their provisions, seemingly flaunting, in essence, the Boswell-ratified warning that "the consequences of not passing such a measure could place our national security at undue risk." In other words, Boswell 3/14/08 has crippled the nation's defenses in the opinion of Boswell 1/28/08.

This in and of itself casts grave doubts on his grasp of the Constitutional gravity of the issue, namely whether or not American corporations may operate free of legal constraint or accountability. And it further raises questions as to the sincerity of Boswell's recent progressive coming-to-Jesus, just in time for an electoral challenge. If a spoiled-rotten asshole brat starts being good a few weeks before Christmas, does that make him not a spoiled-rotten asshole brat?

A fuller rundown of his "War on Terror" CV:
Voted YES on authorizing military force in Iraq. (Oct 2002)
Voted YES on approving removal of Saddam & valiant service of US troops. (Mar 2004)
Voted YES on continuing intelligence gathering without civil oversight. (Apr 2006)
Voted YES on declaring Iraq part of War on Terror with no exit date. (Jun 2006)
Voted YES on allowing electronic surveillance without a warrant. (Sep 2006)
Voted NO on redeploying US troops out of Iraq starting in 90 days. (May 2007)
Voted YES on removing need for FISA warrant for wiretapping abroad. (Aug 2007)

Yes, sorry, but it remains a giant, persistent cloud over both Boswell and his pseudocon brethren (Hillary!) that they voted for the Patriot Act, that they granted a doctrinaire, Dominionist, crusade-minded dullard sweeping war powers, that they rolled over and gave reign to the worst angels of American nature. It persists and colors them something other than blue-- even if they quibble about it now-- because it shows a grander pattern of abrogating principle, or simple common sense, in favor of triangulative expediency. Boswell and other Bush Dogs' persistence in voting in seeming knee-jerk reaction to the politics of fear, of xenophobia, of us versus some creeping, looming Other, can be couched as little other than betrayal of his constituency because somehow, in his mind, it justifies the suspension of the Constitution and the flaunting of the laws of mankind as signed off on, and many drafted, by this nation.

Boswell attempted a kind of mea culpa in the Register's piece:
"I regret it so much," Boswell said of the [war] vote, made after President Bush looked him in the eye and "nodded his head yes" when Boswell said he asked-- twice-- if there was hard evidence that Iraq had possession of weapons of mass destruction.

But Boswell, who often refers to his own military experience in Vietnam, is also unhappy that so much criticism has been directed his way. "You'd think I started the war in Iraq," he said.

The problem is, he did. All the I-didn't-knows and I-never-dreamts that have cascaded through the party get snagged on one simple hook of logic: we do not live in an absolutist monarchy, which means King George needed his vote to embark on his bloody crusade; and if he claims King George started the war unilaterally, then Boswell has conceded absolutist power to the executive, an utter abrogation of his duty to his district and his country. I can forgive, if not forget, if I perceive real atonement in a candidate-- I did with John Edwards-- but I can see nothing of the sort when the candidate trots right along, Patriot Acting, enabling criminality and paving the way for a last Bush hurrah in Iran. Being good only in election years would seem to make you something other than good [as Maryland voters showed ex-Rep. Wynn].

Further, if Boswell is so ready to trot out his Nam card, it's just as easy to ask him, as I've asked too many supporters of caucus candidates who continued to hem and haw around their war votes: Did any of these supposed "leaders" even recall or maybe read about the Tonkin Gulf "incident"-- you know, the tissue of lies that started a capricious war that broke the country-- and subsequent war resolution? Could any of them actually parse events and motivations, consider who they were enabling, synthesize history to where it crystallized the gravity of their capitulation, Tonkin Gulf-plus-39?

Twelve million people did that, and marched on Feb. 16, 2003 through the streets of the great cities of the world to warn others. "Our" leadership ignored it, and us. They suspended the War Powers Act put in place to make sure Vietnams never happened again, and they didn't once examine the tragic cause and effect thereof. Those in "our" party who did, to a person, now sit in leadership positions in the Congress. All of those 12 million are more fit for high office in this country than any one of them who did. You don't get a pass on that. You get disqualified from teaching junior high social studies for that.

Four thousand American corpses later, more than a million Iraqi, countless crimes against humanity later, 935 lies later, a Constitution shredded in the interest of "wartime exigency" later, Bush took to a podium last week to echo his great successes, the benign City on a Hill being carved out of Mesopotamia for all our sacrifices, even as Iraq exploded, as shells fell on the Fort Apache that is the "Green Zone," as his and McCain's obfuscation unraveled. Any responsible news network would have done a split-screen.

I could only think one word: Tet.

I digress here not to told-you-so, but with a heavy heart for the stupid tragedy of it all, and for finding myself asking again, are there so few people vying to be leaders who can actually expend the thought and simple common sense to step back and see the goddamn forest already?

Ed Fallon is one. He backs Obama, who appears to be another, and even staid Iowa wags have estimated Obama's vast popularity here could translate to a rising-tide effect for Fallon, in the same way Obama's dynamism and organization swept the awesome Donna Edwards to stunning upset of Wynn in Maryland. Obama's energetic footsoldiers in the 3rd District have already expressed common cause with Fallon, as a kindred spirit and ally in putting an end to the ancien regime, the "mindset that led to war," as Obama has said, in whatever party it resides. That same mindset abides corruption to "get things done," and buttresses a bought-and-paid-for ultraorthodox status quo for its own sake, all critical analysis to be shunted into the spam file.

To wit, Boswell's initial snipes against him portend an issue-less and furious ad hominem defensive strategy heading into the June 3 primary. As BleedingHeartland blogger desmoinesdem has pointed out, one fundraising email Red-smears Fallon for his 2000 Nader support (long since atoned for and *yawn*), trumpets Boswell's party "loyalty" twice but barely broaches any concrete
discursive points how Boswell's platform demonstrates that loyalty versus Fallon's-- all on the way to positing "Ed Fallon is no Democrat." To complete the McCarthyist imagery, Boswell reportedly has a spy named "Joseph" shadowing Fallon at public events.

Funny how we could say that about too many guys stamped with Brand D, foremost among them those who caucus with the Bush Dogs and who vote, on anything with Steve Fucking King. Either way, an energized progressive community in Iowa sees Boswell fighting the tide of history, not to mention, with our hard work, a progressive resurgence within the party, with people like Fallon and Edwards in its vanguard. Ask the people losing their homes or schlepping to their second job, or the onetime "career" Maytag workers in Newton-- cause-and-effect is coming home to roost on all of us, making us dutybound as citizens to re-examine those who would sacrifice principle for fake-ass patriotism, and the general welfare for a few dollars more.

"The connection between big money and bad policy is becoming evident to a vast majority of Americans," Fallon said. "As a result you're seeing presidential campaigns that in past years wouldn't've been taken seriously. But this year, one of them is wining."

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Bush used a napkin

It took a bipartisan majority to make the threat of impeachment vivid enough for Nixon to force him to resign. It will be far, far more difficult-- given the narrow partisan bent of today's GOP-- to find a bipartisan majority to ever allow Bush and Cheney to be brought before a war crimes tribunal. But this morning one Republican predicts that it is bound to happen. "Abu Ghraib was never, ever an exception. It was permitted, enabled, authorized and pre-meditated by Bush, Cheney, Yoo, Rumsfeld, Miller, and Addington, among many others. The techniques testified to correspond with chilling accuracy to techniques authorized by the president, for which we now have overwhelming evidence."

Writing at the Atlantic's blog, Andrew Sullivan lays out the case for Bush and Cheney turning a torture regime into national policy. Sullivan doesn't discuss the politics of criminalizing Bush's behavior. Sure, only 18-24% of Americans think he's doing a good job, but how many would agree to handing him or Cheney over to a war crimes tribunal? Everyone I know, of course... but not many others. And fewer politicians from either party. I think it would take Bush and Cheney inviting the Central African Republic's deposed Emperor Jean-Bedel Bokassa for a nice meal of American school children-- providing it was captured on film-- for Americans to ever agree to hand Bush over to face justice. (By the way, Emperor Bokassa, despite eating some of his subjects, first had his death sentence commuted and was eventually pardoned.)

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I'm in the middle of reading the new book by David Brock and Paul Waldman, Free Ride: John McCain and the Media and one of the first things I realized is that the Washington Post shouldn't allow David Broder to write about John McCain. He's proven himself to be a steadfast p.r. agent for John McCain over the years and the Post should just ask him to cover other topics instead.

So was I surprised to wake up this morning and see another misleading Broder piece extolling the greatness of John W. McCain? Not at all. In fact I was prepared for it because when I woke up Howard Kurtz and one of the Republican Party's embedded reporters on CNN, Amy Holmes, were making the point about how fairly and scrupulously the media has treated McCain and how they most certainly do not have their collective head up his ass.

I laughed as I pulled on my socks and shut off the TV and remembered something I had read yesterday at the live blog session over at Firedoglake with Paul Waldman in response to a question from CMike: "Do you believe if you make an effective enough case the press can be persuaded to conduct itself more objectively [towards McCain]?"
That’s the $64,000 question. Our book alone may not be enough to convince the entire Washington press corps to do some introspection on the way they’ve been covering McCain. But we hope we can start a conversation-- one that will be enhanced in the blogosphere-- that will ultimately push the issue to the point where they can’t ignore it. And while some of my friends might not agree, I do believe that reporters want to do a good job. So our hope is that they can be persuaded to take a step back and ask whether their coverage of McCain has been what it should be, or whether they’re just repeating that he’s a principled maverick delivering straight talk, over and over and over…

That's very idealistic of Paul... but by reading his own book I imagine he can't possibly include Broder in his hopeful construct. If there's one thing Broder is likely to me remembered for after he's worm food, other than being McCain's biggest cheerleader in the Washington press corps, was his disgraceful role in urging the country to invade Iraq on trumped up and manipulated intelligence. The campaign broadside that Broder did for McCain today certainly flows right out of his own role as someone who helped push the country into the Iraq fiasco.

He sets it up as a comparison between Barack Obama's historic and inspiring speech on race-- which he denigrates into another anti-Obama Pastor Wright smear that Broder has made into his 2008 personal trademark-- and McCain's grubby and completely unremarkable talk in L.A. last week about maintaining and expanding the Bush Regime's Crusader mentality towards the Middle East. The key purpose of Broder's love letter to McCain today seems to explain how his is "a vastly different approach from President Bush's and one that might heal the wounds left here at home and abroad by the past seven years." You might think it was written for him by one of the 66 lobbyists driving the Double Talk Express or by Mark McKinnon except this is the standard Broder line that should have caused the Post, if it were even vaguely interested in objectivity-- which it certainly isn't-- to bench Broder from writing about his pal McCain for the duration of the presidential campaign.

Broder always takes all of the McCain p.r. tropes as gospel and amplifies and aggrandizes them for the masses. In this case, he is building on the carefully crafted McCain campaign theme that he is a "military hero" (though he never did anything heroic) and a "warrior" (although his only war-making was one dismal failure after another, crashing 5 planes due to his own pigheaded refusal to pay attention to instructions, accidentally killing hundreds of American sailors, bombing innocent Vietnamese civilians from 20,000 feet, and eventually being shot down, captured and imprisoned). Tragic, yes, but heroic? Why?)
Like Obama's address, this McCain speech is worthy of careful study and analysis. It began with a note that only a warrior such as McCain could choose-- a declaration by the son and grandson of combat veterans and the survivor of a Vietnamese prisoner-of-war camp that "I detest war" as only a man who has experienced its horrors can do. "Only a fool or a fraud sentimentalizes the merciless reality of war," he said, in rejecting the caricature of his own belligerence and explaining why he emphasizes diplomacy as the principal tool in a presidential arsenal and says that scholarships will be more important than smart bombs in winning the war on terrorism.

Broder is misleading his readers. McCain craves war and is running for president primarily to be a war president. His entire campaign is geared towards persuading Americans that they must forget that his economic and social positions are anathema and detrimental to their own well-being and instead vote for his as Commander-in-Chief. Broder makes no mention of "100 more years of war," or of the inevitability of a military draft if McCain's agenda ever gets enacted or of McCain's little "Bomb Iran" singing debut. Broder claims McCain repudiates unilateralism but he and McCain are as convincing as Bush and Condi are when they make believe they also repudiate it. At least Cheney, who speaks for all of them, is honest enough to embrace it.

And, of course, Cheerleader Broder never tries to compare or contrast McCain's hot air with his actual votes. Hot air is cheap; votes are the bottom line. And their is always a vast chasm between McCain's p.r. position and his actual votes in the Senate. "America must be a model citizen if we want others to look to us as a model," he said. "We can't torture or treat inhumanely suspected terrorists we have captured. I believe we should close Guantanamo and work with our allies to forge a new international understanding on the disposition of dangerous detainees under our control." Who, reading that would think that McCain has voted in favor of torture? No one, but if Broder were an actual journalist, rather than an insipid old p.r. hack, he would provide the facts rather than just the soaring rhetoric.

When Chris Matthews let the truth of McCain's relationship with the national media-- “The press loves McCain, we’re his base"-- he didn't single anyone out for special attention but always at the head of the line to press a big wet one on McCain's butt is David Broder. Free Ride does what Broder and the national press corps will never do. It examines how the media aided McCain's rebirth following the Keating Five savings-and-loan scandal, and how it then reinvented his half dead carcass as the “maverick,” “straight-talking” hero of the 2000 primaries, never once looking at his extremist voting record, a record that places him firmly with the radical right on every important issue facing America. McCain's voting record mimics the voting records of extremists like Larry Craig (R-ID), Jeff Sessions (R-AL), David Vitter (R-LA) and Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and is immeasurably closer to the neo-fascist bloc in the GOP caucus-- crackpots like Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), James Inhofe (R-OK), John Cornyn (R-TX)-- than he is to mainstream conservatives like Arlen Specter (R-PA), George Voinovich (R-OH), Richard Lugar (R-IN), Pete Domenici (R-NM), Chuck Hagel (R-NE), John Warner (R-VA), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), or Chuck Grassley (R-IA).


Arizona journalists are more aware, or at least more willing to be forthright, than the Beltway Insider hacks in regard to who the Real McCain is. The best, of course, is Amy Silverman at Phoenix's New Times, a one-women antidote to Boderism. But you don't always have to go all the way to Arizona to find the truth about McCain. Today's Boston Globe published an article by Susan Milligan questioning McCain's "commitment" to public financing and the false media talking point that he is a reformer.
Senator John McCain has retreated from his longtime commitment to public financing of campaigns since he started planning his 2008 bid for the presidency, according to nonpartisan advocates who had hoped McCain would be a strong voice for reform during the most expensive presidential campaign in history.

McCain, who angered conservatives when he coauthored a bipartisan law aimed at taking big money out of politics, in 2003 cosponsored legislation to expand the federal matching system to help fund presidential campaigns, but failed to add his name to similar measures in 2006 and 2007. And while McCain once supported a law in his home state of Arizona providing full public financing of campaigns, he now says he opposes that idea at the federal level.

One theme that has never changed in McCain's career: rules are for other people, not for John W. McCain.

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Saturday, March 29, 2008



This could be your life if McCain wins in November

This morning when I woke up, one of the CNN announcers who normally does cookie recipes and interviews firemen who rescue kittens stuck in trees was explaining how Bush was going to reform the federal regulatory system and make America a wonderful and fairer place where everyone will have de-licious cookies, and kittens will all get rescued fast by big, strong firemen who don't sweat.

Asking Bush-- or any Republican-- to reform the regulatory system would be like asking a convocation of Wahabi religious leaders to help reform the state of Israel. The GOP fought against every regulation that ever kept Big Business from poisoning our drinking water, selling us contaminated meat, protecting employees, defrauding us out of our bank deposits and investments, etc. They have wet dreams just imagining weakening and doing away with regulations that protect consumers and workers. The regulatory agencies that have allowed the U.S. to transform itself into a stable middle class society impinge on the right of the rich and powerful to prey on the weak-- ergo, the mortgage crisis (for which McBush is willing to bail out the culprits, greedy and reckless speculators, but not their victims, homeowners the GOP is labeling as "irresponsible" and somehow morally inferior).

The "regulations"-- or the press release from the White House that announced them-- that the cookie recipe lady was all gushy over are also explained, kinda, sorta, in today's NY Times, although I expect that Paul Krugman will do them more justice next week. Basically, the fanatically anti-regulation Bush Regime says it is asking Congress to "give the Federal Reserve broad new authority to oversee financial market stability" which they envision as "part of a sweeping blueprint to overhaul the nation’s hodgepodge of financial regulatory agencies, which many experts say failed to recognize rampant excesses in mortgage lending until after they set off what is now the worst financial calamity in decades."

I expect Blue Dogs and DLC hacks to erect statues in town squares in honor of Bush, but the proposal is 99.8% cosmetic and window dressing and accomplishes next to nothing-- or, in some cases, makes it easier for corporations to victimize consumers. Even the Repugs admit that there is no inclusion in this pathetic proposal of anything that would even mildly regulate crooked or irresponsible Wall Street wheeler-dealers.
The plan would not rein in practices that have been linked to the housing and mortgage crisis, like packaging risky subprime mortgages into securities carrying the highest ratings.

The plan would give the Fed some authority over Wall Street firms, but only when an investment bank’s practices threatened the entire financial system.

And the plan does not recommend tighter rules over the vast and largely unregulated markets for risk sharing and hedging, like credit default swaps, which are supposed to insure lenders against loss but became a speculative instrument themselves and gave many institutions a false sense of security.

Parts of the plan could reduce the power of the Securities and Exchange Commission, which is charged with maintaining orderly stock and bond markets and protecting investors. The plan would merge the S.E.C. with the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, which regulates exchange-traded futures for oil, grains, currencies and the like.

The blueprint also suggests several areas where the S.E.C. should take a lighter approach to its oversight. Among them are allowing stock exchanges greater leeway to regulate themselves and streamlining the approval of new products, even allowing automatic approval of securities products that are being traded in foreign markets.

Sounds familiar? Straight from the McCain campaign-- but, of course, the members of his economic team were former Bush Regime insiders anyway. Fortunately-- if Pelosi can exert some control over the Blue Dogs (a big "if")-- this Coolidge-like approach is D.O.A. and Democrats will get down to the serious business of modernizing the regulatory system that has been destroyed by the GOP and DLC-- hopefully along the lines that were advocated by Barack Obama earlier in the week.


I hope residents of districts represented by Blue Dogs like Leonard Boswell (IA), Melissa Bean (IL), Nick Lampson (TX), Heath Shuler (NC), Chris Carney (PA), Joe Donnelly (IN), Mike Ross (AR), Collin Peterson (MN), David Scott GA), Tim Mahoney (FL), Brad Ellsworth (IN), Baron Hill (IN), John Barrow (GA) and Joe Baca (CA) realize that the culprits in this aren't just reactionary Republicans but that Blue Dog Democrats are just as guilty-- and just as deserving of defeat at the polls, especially where there are primary opponents like in the case of Baron Hill, Leonard Boswell and Joe Baca. Tomorrow's NY Times focuses in on right-wing Republicans who have pushed the legislation that enabled the predatory practices that have wreaked havoc on the economy. And like Lincoln and Mario Diaz-Balart in Florida, they were handsomely paid off by their campaign donors for their votes and will now have to face angry constituents at the polls. The Diaz-Balart Brothers are in one of the top 10 areas for foreclosures in the whole U.S. and their voting records and lists of their campaign donors prove direct complicity. Each is being challenged by a Democrat who backs real legislative proposals to help ameliorate the problems and prevent them from coming back in the future. The Times explains why Lincoln Diaz-Balart is stuck in a bind, a bind he shares with the vast majority of GOP congressmen.
On one side, Democrats emboldened by the Federal Reserve’s intervention in the collapse of Bear Stearns are demanding help for “everyday Americans.” On the other, Republicans including Senator John McCain, the party’s presumptive nominee, are urging restraint, reluctant to commit taxpayer funds to what they say is simply a bailout for greedy lenders and reckless buyers.

It is a bind shared by other Republicans, especially from high-foreclosure states like Arizona, California, Michigan, Nevada and Ohio. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has a list of 18 districts where it plans to highlight high foreclosure rates in its effort to oust Republican incumbents this year.

Even someone as extreme as arch-reactionary Johnny Isakson (R-GA) is shaking in his boots-- and he isn't even up for re-election in November, like his hapless colleague Saxby Chambliss. Isakson: "The two things you hear most about from people are the price of gasoline and the housing problem. I don’t think we could get away with not addressing it forthrightly, and hopefully we will."

Aside from the Diaz-Balart Brothers, other House members who could well lose their seats over this issue are Ric Keller and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, also in Florida, John Shadegg in Arizona, Tim Walberg (R-MI), Joe Knollenberg (R-MI), Jon Porter (R-NV), Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), Gary Miller (R-CA), Steve Chabot (R-OH), Mean Jean Schmidt (R-OH), and Patrick Tiberi (R-OH).

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"Speaking of old guys, how about that John McCain?" More on McCranky from Dave Letterman


"I like John McCain. He looks like the guy who gets frisky with the new waitress at IHOP.

"He looks like the guy who watches his Cadillac go through the car wash.

"He looks like the guy in the supermarket yelling into his cell phone, 'I'm in aisle three, Marge. I can't find the brownie mix.'"

Then there's this: "Did you hear about this? Two State Department employees were fired -- this is a bit of a scandal -- because they were looking at Barack Obama's passport file. Not only that, but the same person was also looking at John McCain's Civil War records."

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We've tried to keep out of the vituperative aspects of the fight between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. Personally I voted for Obama, although the decision wasn't a slam dunk. I think they're both decent candidates-- though neither is great, until compared to trash like Bush or McCain-- and that each has some serious drawbacks for committed progressives. Each also represents something symbolic that is awe-inspiring-- Hillary, the shattering of the ultimate glass ceiling for every woman in America (and much of the world) and Obama, the triumph of hope over hopelessness, despair and societal impotence. Her overall voting record is slightly better than his. Hers is moderate leaning towards progressive. His is moderate and not leaning nearly as progressive. On the progressive scale among Democrats, Hillary is the 29th of 50 and Obama is the 40th, down there with problematic Democrats like Tom Carper (DE), Max Baucus (MT) and Byron Dorgan (ND), not as supportive of progressive legislation as-- hold your breath-- Ken Salazar (CO) but a bit more progressive than Blanche Lincoln (AR) and Claire McCaskill (MO). Neither of them has a voting record like an actual progressive, such as Frank Lautenberg (NJ), Ben Cardin (MD), Sheldon Whitehouse (RI), Barbara Boxer (CA), or Dick Durbin (IL). Even the always suspect Dianne Feinstein has a generally better record than either of them.

What ultimately made me cast my vote for Obama-- the tiebreaker, more or less-- was the sleaziness and corruption she's surrounded herself with. He may not be ideal either and his voting record is too moderate for my tastes but she is the DLC and people she chose to run her campaign are nearly as bad as the people driving the Double Talk Express-- and not nearly as smart or ruthless. It goes beyond just McAuliffe and Penn and Wolfson, 3 especially bad actors inside the Democratic party. The whole upper echelon of her campaign is all about looking backward instead of looking forward.

James Carville is the perfect example. Forget that he served as the conduit for information about the Kerry campaign to Cheney via his wife. Forget that he tried engineering the replacement of the popular and successful-- and elected-- DNC Chairman Howard Dean with the unpopular, unsuccessful and electorally defeated reactionary Harold Ford. Just go to his latest outburst, denouncing New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson as a "Judas."

Richardson was all torn up between personal loyalty and affection for the Clintons and doing what he knew was the right thing for his country. To a slime-bucket insider like Carville, that makes him a Judas Iscariot, someone who betrayed Jesus, God, mankind... I didn't vote for Hillary Clinton because her campaign-- and presumably the plans for her administration-- are filled with people like James Carville.

Carville was at the Young Democrats convention in North Carolina yesterday. I hope he didn't charge them as much as he charged me when I hired him to entertain at a convention for my company a few years ago, but I noticed that any young Democrats who wanted to hear him spewing his poison had to pay $50 to get in. I imagine it was all about how people should vote for Hillary, in a state where Obama is polling over 20 points ahead of her. But then he went further. He endorsed the Insider, anti-grassroots hack, Kay Hagan in a way that purposely made it seem like she was the nominee of the party, when in truth she's only the nominee of the Lizard Man and the lobbyists. The progressive grassroots candidate for the Democratic nomination, Jim Neal, was in the room and he loudly reminded Carville and the Insiders that "We have primaries here in North Carolina. We don't have coronations... It was the first time I've ever seen him quiet," Neal said. I guess in Carville-World, Neal, who has also endorsed Obama is another Judas.

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