Monday, June 30, 2008

An afterthought, or maybe two, on the Media Infotainmenteers' preposterous assault on Wes Clark for telling the plain truth about McCranky


So, again, here is retired General Clark on Face the Nation Sunday expressing unstinting admiration for Young Johnny McCranky's courageous military service but insisting that none of that service is relevant to the job of presiding over the national security of the U.S. And then here's the howling horde of Media Infotainmenteers, braying that McCranky the war hero has been swiftboated!

Over there in the corner is candidate Obama whistling "Yankee Doodle" while General Clark is kneecapped, but that's not the part I want to come back to. Let's go back to the Infotainmenteers.

As everyone knows who is aware of what the general actually said, he never impugned McCranky's courage, military service, or patriotism, and there is no conceivable way that his actual comments can be twisted into any such thing. And yet all those shrunken TV heads babble away, and the Inside the Beltway pundits blogurgitate, with the result that from all sides we hear shocked demands for an apology and/or ridicule for the ludicrous or demonic (depending on your particular slant) political naivete required to attack McCranky's military service.

So, for example, we have ABC News political director Rick Klein blogurgitating:
Find me a single Democrat who thinks it’s good politics to call into question the military credentials of a man who spent five-and-a-half years as a prisoner of war.
As we know, the assumption behind this snotty imbecility is simply false. Now, my fantasy is to require Mr. Klein -- and all the other shrieking shrunken heads -- to answer two questions:

(1) Are you: (a) too lazy or (b) too stupid -- please specify -- to know that your statement is untrue, or (c) too dishonest to care?

(2) Four years ago, when Karl Rove promoted a band of ex-military pathological liars who really and truly swiftboated (hence the name) the naval combat hero John Kerry, were you expressing comparable scorn and/or outrage?

Think of Gerald Seib and Sara Murray blithering in the Wall Street Journal: "“The one certainty of the 2008 campaign, it might have seemed, was that Sen. John McCain would be acknowledged all around as a war hero for his service in Vietnam -- but apparently not.” Can we presume that this is an ironic recycling of the exact sentiment the duo voiced in 2004, except of course with "McCain" erroneously substituted for the real victim, Kerry.

So tell us, Mr. Klein, Mr. Seib, and Ms. Murray --

Do you chalk up your journalistic ineptitude primarily to: (a) laziness, (b), stupidity, or (c) dishonesty? With -- in any case -- a heaping helping of hypocrisy.

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Wes Clark says what a lot of us have been waiting to hear said about McCranky's national-security cred, and Senator Obama turns his back on him


"It's crucially important that we have a political debate in this country that's at least sophisticated enough to be able to handle the following rather basic idea: Arguing that a person's record of military service is not a qualification for the presidency does not constitute 'attacking' their military credentials; nor can it be described as invoking their military service against them, or as denying their record of war heroism.

"That's not a very high bar for sophistication. But right now it's one the press isn't capable of clearing."

-- Zachary Roth, this afternoon on the Columbia Journalism Review
"Campaign Desk" webpage

On one level, I think we need to get used to the fact that between now and November every day's news cycle is likely to include a new barrage of sniping at Barack Obama. We have to face the reality that as far as our sclerotic Infotainment Media are concerned, Young Johnny McCranky -- sleazy, ignorant, and ideologically whacked-out opportunist that he is -- is like unto a god walking among us, while the other guy is just some garden-variety Islamofascist-Marxist-Leninist off the Arab street.

Today's ruckus arises from comments made yesterday on Face the Nation by Gen. Wes Clark, who in response to questions said that while he certainly honors Young Johnny McCranky's service as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, that's not a qualification for the presidency. Nor does the "naval command" on his resume: "That large squadron in the Navy that he commanded—that wasn’t a wartime squadron. He hasn’t been there and ordered the bombs to fall." Finally, in response to moderator Bob Schieffer's observation that “Barack Obama has not had any of those experiences, either, nor has he ridden in a fighter plane and gotten shot down”, he said, “Well, I don’t think riding in a fighter plane and getting shot down is a qualification to be president.”

At this point, let's turn to Zachary Roth's online account for CJR:

The McCain camp, sensing an opportunity, complained that Clark had "attacked John McCain’s military service record." Of course, Clark had done nothing of the kind. He had questioned the relevance of McCain's combat experience as a qualification to be president of the United States. This is a distinction that you'd expect any reasonably intelligent nine-year old to be able to grasp.

But many in the press have been unable to. ABC News political director Rick Klein led the outrage, writing in a blog post on
Find me a single Democrat who thinks it's good politics to call into question the military credentials of a man who spent five-and-a-half years as a prisoner of war.

This is the perfect embodiment of the press's unbelievably destructive habit of assessing every piece of campaign rhetoric for its political acuity, rather than for its validity and accuracy. Clark’s comments may (or may not) have been impolitic. But that has no bearing on their validity or lack thereof—which is how the news media should be evaluating them.

Roth asks utterly reasonably, "Why should it be out of bounds for Democrats to argue that McCain's particular military experience has done little to prepare him for the decisions he'll have to make as president?" But the Infotainmenteers will have none of it, and he goes on to sample their veritable feeding frenzy.

By the time we sink to the level of Wall Street Journal analysis, we get Gerald Seib and Sara Murray writing: "The one certainty of the 2008 campaign, it might have seemed, was that Sen. John McCain would be acknowledged all around as a war hero for his service in Vietnam—but apparently not."

At which Roth wonders: "Did Seib and Murray even read what Clark said? Where did Clark say anything about McCain not being a war hero?"

And then today, on Day Two, Senator Obama turned his back on General Clark, with some obnoxious bloviating about patriotism:
Beyond a loyalty to America's ideals, beyond a willingness to dissent on behalf of those ideals, I also believe that patriotism must, if it is to mean anything, involve the willingness to sacrifice -- to give up something we value on behalf of a larger cause. For those who have fought under the flag of this nation -- for the young veterans I meet when I visit Walter Reed; for those like John McCain who have endured physical torment in service to our country -- no further proof of such sacrifice is necessary. And let me also add that no one should ever devalue that service, especially for the sake of a political campaign, and that goes for supporters on both sides. We must always express our profound gratitude for the service of our men and women in uniform. Period. Full stop.

Which makes you wonder, did Senator Obama even read what Clark said?

As a really smart colleague put it online earlier today, all Senator Obama had to do was issue this simple statement:

"That's not what General Clark said. He said he respects McCain's service -- as do we -- but that McCain has done nothing that shows he has the leadership ability to serve as commander in chief."

And then, of course, stick to it, however long it takes for this embarrassingly simple idea to penetrate the blockheads of the Infotainment Media. But this resoluteness is in fact something that the senator has shown himself to be quite good at.

I can only guess that Senator Obama and his people have made an all but exception-proof decision that they will fight no battle that they don't absolutely have to, apparently including even slightly risky battles that if won might pay off in significantly raising the candidate's stature, electability, presidential mandate, and consequently ability to govern.

Oh, they'll fight the battles they have to, as when the senator was inspired by necessity to make his outstanding speech on racism. They have no intention, in other words, of being swiftboated. But it appears that they won't venture onto less solid ground.

In fact, General Clark basically said the same thing that a lot of people, including a lot of military people, have been thinking and saying for a decade or more: that being a prisoner of war isn't any sort of credential to be commander-in-chief. In fact, a lot of them go further. I'm hearing a lot of military types who really do question the McCranky military record. But the general pointedly didn't do that. He talked only about qualifications for the presidency. And found himself out there on that limb all by himself.

I'm thinking now that a forceful, articulate national-security specialist like General Clark or Virginia Senator Jim Webb isn't going to find a place on the 2008 Democratic ticket. I'm thining that all the talk we're hearing about that dismal reactionary Sam Nunn maybe isn't just talk.

If I'm close to right about the Obama camp's take-no-risk strategy, it will quite likely get him into the White House. But I wonder what kind of leadership he'll be able to exert when he gets there. If he's thinking that he can be truly himself once he's in the Oval Office, history shows few instances of that happening. By and large, once you're "in command," you're far less likely to drive events than to be driven by them, especially in modern times.

I suppose you could argue that Chimpy the Prez is an exception. When the Supreme Court installed him in the Oval Office, he went on being what he always was: less than nothing. If this is supposed to be a reassuring example, however, it doesn't reassure me the least bit.

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Maybe the White House Correspondents Association isn't going far enough in its efforts to limit access to on-the-road "news" to paying media players


A better model for access to "news" when the president travels?

You can't blame correspondents who are forced by their employers to travel to goodness-only-knows-where with Chimpy the Prez for resenting that some of their colleagues are getting literally a free ride thanks to the pool system set up by the White House Correspondents Association. Now, Dan Eggen reports in his column of political notes in today's Washington Post, the WHCA is trying to deny the freeloaders access to some of those reports:

Everybody in the Pool -- or Not

Warning: Media navel-gazing ahead.

A brouhaha erupted last week among the ranks of the White House Correspondents Association, the official club of reporters who cover the aforementioned building. The trouble centers on a move by the WHCA board to limit distribution of some pool reports, which are dispatches describing photo opportunities, Air Force One flights, and other doings not open to the entire press corps.

A dwindling number of newspapers and media companies are paying to send reporters with the president when he travels at home or abroad, leaving it to a few big papers (full disclosure: You are reading one) to pick up the tab. As a result, the WHCA decided to limit some reports to those traveling with the president.

The move set off a fevered debate via e-mails that -- reporters being reporters -- were quickly leaked to's FishbowlDC.

"The idea that pool reporting on the road with the president will be available only to those who travel and pay for it should be repugnant to our profession," wrote Mark Silva of the Chicago Tribune. "I call it pay to play."

But Sheryl Gay Stolberg of the New York Times called the out-of-town pool system "broken" and wrote in an e-mail: "A system that called for pool duty -- let's not forget the word duty -- was set up so that we could share the responsibility for coverage, as well as the information gathered. Today only the information is shared."

So far the association is holding firm, but current WHCA President Ann Compton of ABC News has urged members to weigh in.

I think an opportunity is being missed here.

Why not convert all presidential briefings to a Wheel of Fortune-type format, where the content of each briefing point is reduced to the standard WoF format of a "puzzle" consisting of a familiar phrase, which the journalistic contestants compete to identify by guessing letters. Surely the NYT could afford, for example, to buy Ms. Stolberg the occasional vowel. And of course the kicker could be that only the correspondent who solves the puzzle gets, say, the single additional paragraph of information that the Bush regime is prepared to dole out for public consumption.

Press secretary Dana Perino would seem tailor-made for the Vanna White Wheel of Fortune role, but it shouldn't be too great a stretch to slot her into the Pat Sajak role. After all, she seems better suited to answering questions like "Is there a T?" than the ones she usually fields. Especially assuming she'll have an earpiece into which the answers can be fed.

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Today is the "last day of the quarter," a bogus and arbitrary milepost set up by sometimes unwitting but always dedicated enemies of democracy, the DCCC, DSCC, NRSC, NRCC, etc. It's their very successful method of ginning up cascades of grassroots donations for the pernicious little insider game of politician career advancement, and they use it to drive candidates-- even more than donors-- crazy. In the last week I've had over 100 urgent e-mails and far too many expensive, money-wasting snail mail pleas for donations. And the frequency is accelerating today. Even Blue Dogs, to whom I have explained that I don't donate to Republicans or Blue Dogs, have been sending their entreaties.

To date, Blue America has collected nearly $1.3 million for progressive candidates and causes, none of it for the DCCC, DSCC, NRSC or NRCC, all of which are anti-progressive and, to varying degrees, outright reactionary, the latter two in all ways and the former two at the minimum process-wise. The DCCC is especially interested in Blue America's assistance with raising money for the candidates who are progressive enough to be on our candidate list and who wear the Democratic Party label. That isn't what we plan to do today.

Instead, I want to urge DWT readers to donate to Democratic Party candidates the DCCC fears and wishes would go away.

First and foremost there is state Senator Regina Thomas who is on the front lines battling against a reactionary Democratic shill, Rep. John Barrow in GA-12. Their primary is July 15, and it is a long-shot attempt by a grassroots progressive to oust a conservative, corporate yes man. Barrow is loaded with loot from lobbyists and from the corporate special interests-- like the telecom corporations-- who he supports instead of his own constituents. Regina doesn't have one cent to spend other than what has been raised for her through the grassroots and netroots. She has won her state legislative seats by grassroots campaigning. Inside the Beltway, it is believed she has no chance because she refuses to spend her time and energy begging for money from interest groups and wealthy donors. They're probably right. It's the fundamental tragedy of our political system. Last month she had nothing. This week she has over $40,000 (average donation around $25).

There are four other primaries looming that pit progressive grassroots candidates against insider hacks. Howard Shanker and Alan Grayson are two phenomenally good candidates in Arizona and Florida battling against the odds to beat Establishment-backed conservatives. The DCCC has already violated its own rules by pushing a hapless and clueless state legislator in Arizona against the independent-minded Shanker. In the Orlando race, Grayson is up against a worthless conservative who has far more in common with Republicans than with Democrats. Even the DCCC sees that and has avoided endorsing in that race. Jon Powers is a progressive Iraq War vet campaigning for an open GOP seat in the suburbs between Buffalo and Rochester, against a self-funding millionaire who stands for nothing except a personal desire to have the title "Rep" in front of his name and against a former attorney for the Love Canal (who gave campaign contributions to the Republican Jon has frightened out of running again).

Finally, in Memphis the reactionary forces of former Rep. Harold Ford, now president of the Republican wing of the Democratic Party (the DLC), are trying for a comeback against exemplary Congressman Steve Cohen. Steve is a freshman who has proven himself to be a relentless fighter on behalf of regular folks against Big Business. The Ford allies are using Nikki Tinker as their cat's paw to win back the district, and Tinker is backed by several insider organizations with heavy financing. Steve has earned our trust and deserves our backing.

Times are tough and will probably get tougher. But if you can afford to donate today, please consider these five progressives in tough primary battles against the forces of reaction: Regina Thomas in Georgia, Howard Shanker in Arizona, Alan Grayson in Florida, Jon Powers in upstate New York, and Steve Cohen in Tennessee. Here's the place you can make your contribution. When times do get tougher, these are the people we need in Congress, not more insiders blindly and relentlessly serving the interests of insiders.


They're running some ads in 13 districts where the Republican incumbents have been bought out by Big Oil and have voted for Big Oil's agenda straight down the line. Although some of the challengers are typical DCCC schnooks, they are also going after some awful Republicans being challenged by great progressives like Vic Wulsin (OH-02), Larry Kissell (NC-08), Sam Bennett (PA-10), Dr. Steve Porter (PA-03), Dennis Shulman (NJ-05), and Tom Perriello (VA-05). The ad is fairly mediocre, but I'm sure some Inside the Beltway consultants think it will help, and they may well be right. You can hear it at the link above.

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Paul Krugman wonders whether the degree of "change" to be expected from this presidential election will be more like that of 1980 or 1992


President-elect Clinton visits former President Reagan in
his Los Angeles office after the November 1992 election.

"For Democrats, winning this election should be the easy part. Everything is going their way: sky-high gas prices, a weak economy and a deeply unpopular president. The real question is whether they will take advantage of this once-in-a-generation chance to change the country's direction. And that's mainly up to Mr. Obama."
-- Paul Krugman, in his NYT column this morning,
"The Obama Agenda"

A lot of my compatriots on the left are panicking over recent evidences that now-certain Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama is "moving to the center."

Oh, I'm not saying that I'm unconcerned. I just don't think that any of these evidences tell us any more about what Senator Obama really believes than we knew before, and as I've been saying all through this presidential cycle (which has been going on now, what?, about six years?), I don't know how to find out what the candidates actually believe, or what they would actually try to do if they made it to the White House -- what they would be prepared to fight for.

Again, I've felt that about all the candidates, or at any rate mostly all. I don't think there was much question about what Dennis Kucinich believed, on the Democratic side, or Sam Brownback and maybe Ron Paul on the Republican side. And over the course of the campaign, or as much of it as he lasted through, Chris Dodd gave me a growing sense of confidence about what to expect from a President Dodd, impossible though that always was.

As for the others, well, the more you listened to them, it seemed to me, the less you knew about them, except what their behind-the-scenes strategists had decided their target voters wanted to hear. Even a wacko ideologue like Minister Mike Huckabee seemed to be more concerned with "positioning" himself to pluck off the Republicans' Christian Right base than cluing voters in to his actual beliefs. (Say, Minister Mike, would you like to tell us now how you really feel about immigration?)

Of course none of this affects my thinking about the choice in November. As Howie was indicating earlier today, this remains no contest. Young Johnny McCranky brings with him a lethal combination of the catastrophically failed policies of modern-day Movement Conservatism, which he has so furiously embraced, and his own well-documented lack of principle of any sort, beyond his steadfast commitment to his personal comfort and advancement.

And the muscle-flexing flourish with which the Roberts Court ended its present term, flaunting the evidence that the new hard-right majority is prepared to go on an ideological rampage (at least as long as Justice Anthony Kennedy signs on for the ride), reminds us that at the simplest level, replacing Justice John Paul Stevens, when the time comes, can't be left to right-wing ideologues. Let's not kid ourselves, even assuming President Obama gets to make the next Supreme Court appointment or two, it's not going to be an easy ride to get a qualified, civilized nominee confirmed, the way the sociopathic Republican minority now controls the Senate. Still, do we want that nominee named by Obama or McCranky?

As to what else to expect from President Obama, well, I'll be damned if I know. And so I'm especially open to the lines of speculation pursued by Paul Krugman in today's column.

The situation this year, he says, reminds him of two previous "change" elections: 1980, when Ronald Reagan was elected to replace Jimmy Carter, and 1992, when Bill Clinton was elected to replace Reagan's successor, George H. W. Bush. What concerns him is which model of "change" Barack Obama has in mind:

Reagan, for better or worse -- I'd say for worse, but that's another discussion -- brought a lot of change. He ran as an unabashed conservative, with a clear ideological agenda. And he had enormous success in getting that agenda implemented. He had his failures, most notably on Social Security, which he tried to dismantle but ended up strengthening. But America at the end of the Reagan years was not the same country it was when he took office.

Bill Clinton also ran as a candidate of change, but it was much less clear what kind of change he was offering. He portrayed himself as someone who transcended the traditional liberal-conservative divide, proposing "a government that offers more empowerment and less entitlement.” The economic plan he announced during the campaign was something of a hodgepodge: higher taxes on the rich, lower taxes for the middle class, public investment in things like high-speed rail, health care reform without specifics.

We all know what happened next. The Clinton administration achieved a number of significant successes, from the revitalization of veterans' health care and federal emergency management to the expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit and health insurance for children. But the big picture is summed up by the title of a new book by the historian Sean Wilentz: "The Age of Reagan: A history, 1974-2008.”

Just now, says Krugman, Obama is "definitely looking Clintonesque." Bill Clinton presented himself as "transcending traditional divides." Obama's economic plan also reminds him of what Clinton was advancing in 1992.

Krugman makes it clear that "we could -- and still might -- do a lot worse than a rerun of the Clinton years." But the very mushiness of Obama's positioning doesn't encourage him:
The Reagan-Clinton comparison suggests that a candidate who runs on a clear agenda is more likely to achieve fundamental change than a candidate who runs on the promise of change but isn't too clear about what that change would involve.

Which brings us back to where we started:
One thing is clear: for Democrats, winning this election should be the easy part. Everything is going their way: sky-high gas prices, a weak economy and a deeply unpopular president. The real question is whether they will take advantage of this once-in-a-generation chance to change the country's direction. And that's mainly up to Mr. Obama.

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Watching scores of Democrats in Congress stuffing millions of dollars from the telecom corporations up their asses and then voting to grant criminal telecom executives retroactive immunity made me remember-- well, it isn't like I ever forget, but it brought it to the fore-- that both Inside the Beltway political parties are corrupt and less than worthless. Even if only 40% of the Democrats are hopelessly corrupt-- compared with 95% 99% of Republicans-- as long as the Democratic caucus is controlled by elements like Rahm Emanuel and Steny Hoyer, it hardly matters. The country is doomed. Or am I wrong?

Sometimes something happens that reinforces that there are real and tangible differences between the two parties which have a substantive impact on the lives of people apart from the filthy game of politics. A few days ago, looking to placate the extreme and bigoted end of the crumbling Republican coalition, McCain endorsed the anti-gay constitutional amendment in California he knows very well is wrong. It reminds me of when he famously said that a border fence was a huge waste of money but if the extremists in his party's base wanted a fence, he'd give them a damn fence. Everyone who knows McCain-- especially the folks in Arizona-- knows he is the biggest phony-baloney in American politics and the most opportunistic rodent to ever seek the presidency.

Obama is no saint himself, but yesterday he came out clearly and firmly against the hate-inspired amendment proposal in a letter to the Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club. Obama:
As the Democratic nominee for President, I am proud to join with and support the LGBT community in an effort to set our nation on a course that recognizes LGBT Americans with full equality under the law. That is why I support extending fully equal rights and benefits to same-sex couples under both state and federal law. That is why I support repealing the Defense of Marriage Act and the "Don't Ask Don't Tell" policy, and the passage of laws to protect LGBT Americans from hate crimes and employment discrimination. And that is why I oppose the divisive and discriminatory efforts to amend the California Constitution, and similar efforts to amend the U.S. Constitution or those of other states.

For too long, issues of LGBT rights have been exploited by those seeking to divide us. It's time to move beyond polarization and live up to our founding promise of equality by treating all our citizens with dignity and respect. This is no less than a core issue about who we are as Democrats and as Americans.

Finally, I want to congratulate all of you who have shown your love for each other by getting married these last few weeks. My thanks again to the Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club for allowing me to be a part of today's celebration. I look forward to working with you in the coming months and years, and I wish you all continued success.

The biggest role a president can have-- aside from leading the country in war, which is the only function McCain is interested in and the reason he is willing to kiss the asses of right wing imbeciles he despises-- is to set a tone and offer inspiration. Whether he delivers or not, Obama offers hope where McCain offers hopelessness. I wish Donna Edwards was running for president. She isn't. We'll have to make do with Barack Obama, who is leagues ahead of McCain, despite his foolish feints towards the discredited political right.

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With the damned gays mounting their fiendish assault on marriage, thank God it has defenders like Larry "Wide Stance" Craig and David "Diapers" Vitter


[With thanks to that peerless patriot, Jesus' General, General JC Christian, Patriot.]

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Sunday, June 29, 2008

In case you missed it in the legendary Friday news dump, the Pentagon says that the Taliban have "coalesced into a resilient insurgency"


I'm going to go out on a limb here and guess that this wasn't breaking news on Friday, something that some precocious young Pentagon trend-spotter just happened to notice, and said, "By golly, I wonder if Secretary Gates knows about this." Actually, since the news came in the form of a report that was sneaked out on Friday, this startling conclusion was presumably known, well, at least days earlier.

In fact, according to the AP's Lolita C. Baldor:

The report was released Friday along with a separate plan for the development of Afghan security forces. They are the first two comprehensive Pentagon reports to evaluate progress in Afghanistan.

Vast problems -- corruption, the illegal poppy trade, human rights abuses and slow progress in reconstruction -- were detailed, as well as the struggle to train and equip the Afghan Army and police.

The report described a dual terror threat in Afghanistan that includes the Taliban in the south, and "a more complex, adaptive insurgency" in the east. That fragmented insurgency is made up of groups ranging from al-Qaida and Afghan warlords such as Gulbuddin Hekmatyar's radical Hezb-i-Islami group to Pakistani militants such as Jaish-e-Mohammed.

Insurgents will continue to challenge the government in southern and eastern Afghanistan, and the may also move to increase their power in the north and west, the report predicted.

The assessment was bluntly pessimistic as it described efforts to train the Army and police.

Now possibly the report could have been released earlier in the week, when it would have been likely to receive more normal media attention. Perhaps that was the plan, and the Pentagon supply office simply ran tragically short of those shiny report folders -- or maybe even, gasp, staples! Wouldn't you think they go through a lot of staples in an average week at the Pentagon? Let's say you forget to reorder one week. Boy, are you going to have a lot of loose papers!

In a panic you call over to Foggy Bottom to see if the State Department guy's got any staples he can spare, and it turns out she is a Colin Powell gal, still nursing grievances over the boss's serial humiliations at the hands of former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. No help there! So you mobilize a massive national-security crisis effort, and finally, in the wee hours of Friday morning, you lay hands on enough staples to release the report -- just in time to catch all those press guys 'n' gals heading out for the weekend.

The Friday news dump is a cherished D.C. institution -- in fact, it's probably known and beloved of governments all over the world. But in the Bush regime it's become something of an art form -- no, an entire genre.

One of the many things I cherished about Rachel Maddow's old morning show on Air America Radio was the regular Monday feature in which they sifted through the weekend dump to see what the regime was legally compelled to release and least wanted brought to public attention. There was always something.

Now, I'm hoping Rachel still does this on her evening show (which airs at an impossible time for me). Frankly, though, this is a feature you'd think would be emulated by, well, every news outlet in the country. Gradually readers and viewers could be trained to look forward to weekly treasures from the dump. It could become a highlight of the weekly news calendar. Why, it's possible to imagine Friday becoming the worst day of the week for these awkward disclosures.

That is, of course, if our news media were actually interested in reporting the news.

Meanwhile, perhaps the Pentagon will have some thoughts on how to deal with the mess in Afghanistan. Check back on Friday.

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The White House No-Brain Trust sets its beady eyes on an even excellenter adventure in Iran


The White House No-Brain Trust

"Late last year, Congress agreed to a request from President Bush to fund a major escalation of covert operations against Iran, according to current and former military, intelligence, and congressional sources. These operations, for which the President sought up to four hundred million dollars, were described in a Presidential Finding signed by Bush, and are designed to destabilize the country’s religious leadership. The covert activities involve support of the minority Ahwazi Arab and Baluchi groups and other dissident organizations. They also include gathering intelligence about Iran’s suspected nuclear-weapons program."
-- Seymour Hersh, in "Preparing the Battlefield,"
in the July 7 and 14 New Yorker

"Ooh, that Sy Hersh!"

This, I'm guessing, is what you would hear -- embellished with suitable expletives -- if you could plug into today's communications going in and out of the White House and the Pentagon and wherever the vice president is holed up this weekend.

Credit RawStory with alerting one and all to a new New Yorker piece, already published today on the magazine's website, in which investigative reporter Seymour Hersh (code-named "That Goddamn Busybody" in administration circles) tells us that last year Chimpy the Prez got congressional leaders to pass in silence on plans to spend up to $400 million for "a major escalation of covert operations against Iran," aimed at "undermining Iran's nuclear ambitions and trying to undermine the government through regime change."

Apparently precious little detail was provided in the "presidential finding" that Chimpy had to provide to the so-called Gang of Eight, the party leaders as well as the ranking members of the Intelligence Committees in both houses of Congress. And some of those leaders are reported to have gone so far as to grumble about the failure to specify what exactly the cowboys of the Bush regime plan to do. According to Hersh's source, “There was a significant amount of high-level discussion,” but not enough to derail the plans.

Interestingly, Hersh's sources report considerably more pushback coming from the Pentagon, from both Defense Secretary Robert Gates and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, confirming the view we quoted just yesterday from intelligence and foreign-affairs expert Thomas Powers: "It is a strange fact that the locus of opposition to attack on Iran is not in Congress but in the Pentagon." (Note that the Pentagon figures generally agree with the Bush regime high command about the danger from Iran. What they disagree about is the wisdom of attempting military action.)

Some of what Hersh reports is so familiar that it would be funny if the matter weren't so serious. For starters, it seems that the Cheney-Bush no-brain trust is once again stonewalling, providing the congressional Gang of Eight with the absolute minimum of information they can squeeze the law into requiring -- and of course these are people who believe that the law is what they say it is.

Apparently, the "presidential findings" on covert activities that the administration is legally bound to furnish are being confined to activities exclusively conducted by the CIA. Of course there's also all that cluster of agencies around the Defense Department doing covert operations, and increasingly even CIA operations are done under joint command. As far as the administration is concerned, it appears, none of these activities require presidential reporting, since in their view, of course, the president is the chimp-in-charge of all military matters.

It's hard not to imagine as well that that dribbling psychopath "Big Dick" Cheney, thinking he's oh so smart, is doing the same thing he did with the gathering and analysis of intelligence to make sure he could have his war in Iraq: diverting as much of our covert activity as possible away from that damned CIA to people he can control better, as long as those CIA people keep sassing him about something they keep calling "reality," and refuse to see the world the demented way his diseased brain does.

The other intriguing wrinkle Hersh reports is an extension of the above. From people involved in successful U.S. special ops, he's hearing of significantly increased administration management, even micromanagement, of special ops, about which the No-Brain Trust knows even less than all those things it has shown itself so catastrophically ignorant of. According to Hersh's Pentagon consultant:

We’ve had wonderful results in the Horn of Africa with the use of surrogates and false flags -- basic counterintelligence and counter-insurgency tactics. And we’re beginning to tie them in knots in Afghanistan. But the White House is going to kill the program if they use it to go after Iran. It’s one thing to engage in selective strikes and assassinations in Waziristan and another in Iran. The White House believes that one size fits all.

One special point of contention is the No-Brain Trust's demand for immediate results in special ops. This, it seems, is exactly what you can't order up, since successful ops generally require patience, allowing for proper care in the planning and execution.

Wouldn't the world be a safer as well as saner place if the U.S. no-brain trust, headed (for want of a better word) by Big Dick and his sock puppet Chimpy, were spending all their time preparing defenses for their war-crimes trials? At this point, an insanity defense looks like a sure winner.

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In re. Ciara Durkin: Thanks to the Bush regime's record of mendacity, we see what happens when we no longer trust anything our government says


October 6, 2007, St. John the Baptist Church,
Quincy, Mass.: Ciara Durkin is laid to rest.

What happens when we no longer trust our government? Rather obviously, we no longer trust the results when it undertakes to "investigate."

Yesterday Greg Mitchell, a much-respected journalist as well as the editor of Editor & Publisher magazine, reported on the magazine's website on the result, after nine months of private grief and public agitation and military fumblng, waffling, and "investigation," of the military's investigation of the death-by-gunshot of a 30-year-old Massachusetts National Guardswoman in Afghanistan.

Mitchell lays out the background:
The military's handling of the case has been disturbing from the outset, with claims of murder voiced by friends and family due to the fact that the victim was known to be gay and had written home that she had seen some troubling things that might cause her not to survive.

Officials first reported that Ciara Durkin, 30, of Quincy, Mass., who served in the National Guard, had died "in action," then revealed that she was killed in a "noncombat" incident that was being investigated.

Her family was told that she had been killed by a single gunshot near a church. They soon charged -- and the media widely covered the allegations -- that the military had been dragging its feet in giving them more details. They rejected any chance of suicide and suspected friendly fire or murder.

They said she had told them to push for an investigation if anything ever happened to her. She was in a finance unit and may have found some improprieties, according to a story in the [Quincy] Patriot-Ledger, which also disclosed that her family had notified the military about her concerns about her safety.

An e-mail she had sent friends in June 2007, claimed a fellow soldier had pulled a 9mm gun on her.

The Boston Globe reported that the family wondered if, as a lesbian, she may have been targeted. Sen. John Kerry and Sen. Ted Kennedy pushed for answers.

And now, after nine months, comes an answer of sorts:
Investigators concluded Durkin used her Army issue M-16 rifle to shoot herself in the head near a church on the secure Bagram Airbase on Sept. 28, 2007. The question of "why" remained and Durkin's family appears not convinced, saying they are "saddened" by the Army's final report.

The obvious problem, it seems to me, is that -- especially in the wake of the massive disinformation campaign that comprised the "investigation" into the friendly-fire death in Afghanistan of football hero Pat Tillman -- nobody trusts U.S. military investigations. Is there anyone now who doesn't believe that the "investigators" into the death of Ciara Durkin spent those nine months:

(a) hoping the fuss would die down and people would forget about it (except for the family, of course, but they know they can never satisfy them; and let's face it, the present U.S. administration has discovered that it doesn't have to worry much about the families of the servicefolk returned dead or maimed), and --

(b) figuring out what would be the very least they could get away with saying, whether true or not.

Of course, even in the event that the once-utterly-ruled-out suicide possibility is correct, it raises more questions than it answers. Greg Mitchell's biographical note tells us that his new book, So Wrong for So Long: How the Press, the Pundits -- and the President -- Failed on Iraq, "includes several chapters on soldier/vet suicides," and he concludes by referring to "an angry editorial" in Durkin's hometown Quincy Patriot-Ledger, which --
raises questions about the epidemic of suicides among vets, in the war zones and back home, before concluding: "We can treat the physical injuries received on the battlefields but the hidden wounds can be as potentially debilitating and fatal. Ciara Durkin died while in service to her country. It would be a dishonor and a disservice to her and the hundreds of others like her to treat their deaths as a personal failure rather than a victim of war."

When we tot up the costs of the Bush regime's catastrophic wars, what dollar value do we assign to the lives disrupted and destroyed? And how do we put a price on the total loss of credibility the regime has inflicted on our government?

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I always wondered how Republican voters-- the confused and conned non-millionaire ones-- could imagine that someone like George Bush could solve their most basic problems when he expressed shock when someone informed him at a press conference that gas would soon hit $4/gallon-- this when it was clear that the price was hurtling towards $5/gallon already. I guess he had more important things to deal with, like trying to gin up a war with Iran (which would drive the cost of gas to $10/gallon). Meanwhile, ole King McCole, always eager to reassure the Republican voters that his would be a third George Bush term, drooled at the prospect of provoking Iran into a war... and also admitted he doesn't know what people pay for gas. Testy Mr. Gas Tax Holiday told the Orange County Reporter, "I don’t recall, and frankly I don’t see how it matters."

It does matter. It matters to good hard-working people-- the ones, unlike the McCains, who pay their taxes-- who are being ruined financially by the Bush-McCain-GOP-Blue Dog economic policies that are fine for multimillionaires and terrible for everyone else. It isn't enough to defeat McCain in November; every single Republican and every single Blue Dog defeat will count as a step towards righting the wrongs of the past 7 years.

Meanwhile if Bush's (and Condi's) bellicose statements about Zimbabwe's sham election struck me as the height of hypocrisy, they made me realize that politicians will say and do anything if they think voters aren't smart enough to see through them. Bush's and Condi's declaration that President Mugabe's "reelection" in Zimbabwe undermined democracy in the eyes of the international community was perfectly true, but didn't take into account that Bush's election and reelection were viewed-- and are still viewed-- very similarly by the whole world outside of the Confederacy and Utah. It's as absurd as if Larry Craig and David Diapers Vitter got together to sponsor a Marriage Protection Amendment.


Rafael Noboa doesn't think that his active duty service in the military, where he saw combat, qualifies him to lead the country. Nor does he think McCain's military service qualifies him. Most of McCain's military service involved fucking up everything he touched, crashing planes because he refused to follow instructions, and suffering during a 5 year stint in prison where he says he was tortured. But I wouldn't even recommend him for a job as a warden since he hasn't learned the most basic lessons that have caused mankind to outlaw torture. McCain makes a lot of self-righteous noise about it-- part of his grotesque shtick of "Look at this gaping wound I still have from serving the nation while you didn't; look, look, look-- but in the end, he facilitated a policy that most international law scholars believe could lead Bush and Cheney and others in their regime to be charged with war crimes.

McCain is known for three things, and three things only:

1. His role in the Keating Five Scandal, which may have led to
2. His role in fashioning a weak campaign finance reform package, and
3. Being shot down and consequently, spending five years as a prisoner of war.

Look, let’s accept, for argument’s sake, that the Vietnam War started in earnest in 1965, and essentially ended in 1973. That’s eight years. McCain was shot down in 1967, taken prisoner, and wasn’t released until 1972.

McCain suffered greatly at the hands of the enemy, that’s beyond question. I respect what he went through over there, even if he doesn’t. His combat experience, however, was fundamentally different from that of Wes Clark, or mine, or my uncle’s, for that matter.

There’s a further reason why Wes Clark or me or many other veterans don’t really talk about combat — it’s because we have other things to talk about! Essentially, we bring our game to the field, and leave everything on it.

McCain, on the other hand, has…no…game. None. Zip. In other words, Mad Jack is a punk, and he knows it! He knows it!

All he does is hint at his suffering, with a wink and a nod, and because regular folks don’t know how to deal with that when faced with it (trust me, they don’t, and that’s OK, as it goes), they give him a pass-- and they’ve been doing it for the last four decades.

Well, it all ends now. It starts with Wes Clark, continues with me, and there will be others, some louder than others. I refuse to sanctify or venerate some service more than others.

And Rafael isn't even mentioning that McCain has done all in his power to suppress his officer fitness reports so that when he uses the myth of his supposedly inspiring military leadership, no one can read the record of incompetence and insubordination that are the real hallmarks of his military career. If he wants to claim-- as he always has-- that his military career somehow makes him eligible for political office, then why not open up the records and let the voters see what kind of an officer he really was and why he was considered the worst screw-up in the Naval Academy and why he was permanently grounded and why virtually all of his superior officers thought he was unfit to lead men?

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Saturday, June 28, 2008

The McCrankys aren't dodging taxes -- they merely declared their own personal property-tax holiday on just one of their (at least) seven homes


Young Johnny and the lovely Cindy -- it's so
hard to keep track of every last home you own

Shout-out to HuffPost for breaking this news that Newsweek now has up online. Some people will see it as good old-fashioned tax-dodging. Others may chalk it up to a wee glitch in the vast network of the McCrankys' financial holdings. Personally, we think it was a statement of principle on the part of Young Johnny and the lovely Cindy.

As we all know, before Young Johnny was for Chimpy the Prez's slash-till-it-hurts tax cuts for the rich, he was more or less against them, but now he's so crazy for them that perhaps the McCrankys are looking to find any way they can to show that Young Johnny is the tax-cuttiest tax-cutter of them all. And that's why they took their own personal four-year holiday from paying taxes on their beachfront condo in La Jolla, California:

When you're poor, it can be hard to pay the bills. When you're rich, it's hard to keep track of all the bills that need paying. It's a lesson Cindy McCain learned the hard way when NEWSWEEK raised questions about an overdue property-tax bill on a La Jolla, Calif., property owned by a trust that she oversees. Mrs. McCain is a beer heiress with an estimated $100 million fortune and, along with her husband, she owns at least seven properties, including condos in California and Arizona.

San Diego County officials, it turns out, have been sending out tax notices on the La Jolla property, an oceanfront condo, for four years without receiving a response. County records show the bills, which were mailed to a Phoenix address associated with Mrs. McCain's trust, were returned by the post office. According to a McCain campaign aide, who requested anonymity when discussing a private matter, an elderly aunt of Mrs. McCain's lives in the condo, and the bank that manages the trust has not been receiving tax bills on the property. Shortly after NEWSWEEK inquired about the matter, the McCain aide e-mailed a receipt dated Friday, June 27, confirming payment by the trust to San Diego County in the amount of $6,744.42. County officials say the trust still owes an additional $1,742 for this year, an amount that is overdue and will go into default July 1. Told of the outstanding $1,742, the aide said: "The trust has paid all bills shown owing as of today and will pay all other bills due."

Dan McAllister, treasurer- tax collector for San Diego County, said that about 3 percent of San Diego's approximately 1 million property owners default on their property taxes each year. The county assesses a 1.5 percent penalty for each month that goes by unpaid and puts houses up for sale after five years. "We do hear an awful lot of excuses for why people don't pay," McAllister said. "Under the law, the property owner is responsible for keeping the address current. We're only as good as the information we are given."

"At least seven properties," eh? No wonder it's so hard to keep track of the address to which every last property-tax bill is supposed to be sent.

And it's no wonder that ordinary Americans are so comfortable with their straight-talkin' Johnny. Why, Young Johnny must be the "home"-iest darned feller we've heard tell of since the heyday of that other American folk hero, the late Kenny Boy Lay, who you recall had to start selling off some of his homes (were there seven of them too?) in the wake of all that Enron legal fuss.

But we can all rest assured: Once the McCranky's become aware that they're about to be humiliated in a national magazine as tax deadbeats, the checkbook opens with startling rapidity.

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Can either of the presidential candidates get us out of Iraq? And as long as we're asking, will either presidential candidate KEEP us out of IRAN?


"Of all the unintended consequences of the US invasion of Iraq, surely the most paradoxical is the way it has boosted Iran's position in the region. . . .

"With America's Iraqi allies urging the United States to negotiate with Iran, and with the Iranians themselves eager for such contacts, the Bush administration's resistance seems puzzling. Indeed, Washington's refusal to engage in vigorous regional diplomacy may be its most serious political blunder of all. If the United States is ever to withdraw from Iraq, reaching some accommodation with Iran would seem essential."

-- Michael Massing, in "Embedded in Iraq," in the
July 17
New York Review of Books

"It is a strange fact that the locus of opposition to attack on Iran is not in Congress but in the Pentagon."
-- Thomas Powers, in "Iran: The Threat," in the same NYRB

Much to absorb in the new New York Review of Books, starting with -- yes! -- a new book review by Russell Baker, which is where I went first, and which I want to talk about later. The next most grabbing piece for me is the one I've quoted from above, and to appreciate why, you need to know that Michael Massing has been one of the most relentless and uncompromising journalistic opponents of the U.S. invasion of Iraq. And now here he is, embedded in Iraq?

His daylong embed took him to the southern Baghdad neighborhood of Dora, a once "solidly middle-class district full of ex-Baathists," which was "taken over by al-Qaeda in Iraq," imposing "an Islamic reign of terror," against which Shiite militiamen "waged their own bloody war on the population, with mutilated bodies regularly turning up on the street. More than two hundred US soldiers had died there in the first half of 2007 alone." The neighborhood has been brought back, however, thanks to "the Sunni backlash against al-Qaeda and the parallel adoption of counterinsurgency tactics by the US military," and is now "a showcase for visiting journalists and pundits."

It's a fascinating experience, the embed proper, but for that you'll have to read Massing's own account. Back in safe quarters, here's how he sums up the experience:
As I'd expected, my embed had provided little opportunity to hear the Iraqi point of view. Rather, it offered a look at the war through the eyes of the US military, and in that respect it had been very revealing. On the one hand, it had left me with little doubt about the very real gains the surge had brought about, and about the effectiveness of the Petraeus-led counterinsurgency strategy. The situation in Dora had obviously improved, and the combination of aggressive raids, large-scale detentions, and mixing with the community (together with the Sunni Awakening) had had a big hand in achieving that.

At the same time, I'd gotten a look at the crushing effect the war is having on the troops. The breakdown in the Army has advanced so far that in a mere thirteen hours, I could see the rising dissatisfaction, anger, and rebellion within it. The message from the soldiers themselves was that keeping so large a force in the field over the long term seemed unsustainable.

With virtually no opportunity to get genuine Iraqi perspectives, Massing sought out "Iraq specialists at American and British universities and think tanks who, traveling into and out of the country, are less beholden to government dogma."

He learned, for example, about a heavily funded but little-publicized major U.S. initiative, a "political surge" -- "a huge state-building campaign, spearheaded by a sharp expansion in the US advisory effort."
The campaign got under way last summer. Specialists from Treasury and Justice, Commerce and Agriculture were assigned to government ministries to help draw up budgets and weed out sectarian elements. The Agency for International Development and the Army Corps of Engineers set up projects to boost nutrition and reinforce dams. Provincial Reconstruction Teams were stationed in Baghdad and elsewhere to help repair infrastructure, improve water and electrical systems, and stimulate the economy. One main goal was to use some of Iraq's new oil wealth ($41 billion in 2007 alone) to create jobs that would help occupy the legions of aimless young men who might otherwise join the country's many militias.

About a year has passed since the campaign began. And from talks with several Green Zone visitors who are familiar with it, I learned that, by and large, it has been an utter failure. "Dysfunctional" is how one visiting adviser described it, citing bitter interagency battles, micromanagement from Washington, and an acute mismatch between the skills of the advisers and the needs of the Iraqi government. "What we have," he said, "are cattle calls -- a bunch of random people sent over with widely varying skills who can't speak the language, who've never worked in this type of environment, and whom the Iraqis didn't even ask for."

But more than anything, Massing learned that the influence of Iran, which he went to Iraq thinking was exaggerated by U.S. officials, is wildly understated.

He meets with CNN's man in Baghdad, Michael Ware:
[A]ll he wanted to talk about was Iran. "Iran's agents of influence go to the top of the Iraqi government," he said. "Twenty-three members of the Iraqi Parliament are permanent members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard." Hezbollah operatives, he said, were training JAM members in guerrilla warfare, while a senior member of al-Qaeda was being sheltered in Iran. Even the Kurds were in deep with the Iranians, he said. Under Saddam, for instance, Jalal Talabani, the head of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan who is now president of Iraq, ran weapons and communications lines through Iran. Finally, there was Ahmad Chalabi, the influential former exile who had urged the Americans to invade and then fallen out with them, allegedly over his ties to Tehran. "All the time, he was working for Iran!" Ware told me.

This leads Massing to the observation I quoted at the outset:

"Of all the unintended consequences of the US invasion of Iraq, surely the most paradoxical is the way it has boosted Iran's position in the region."

Of course the Bush regime has not only declared itself unwilling to negotaiate with Iran, but has aggressively primed the primitive nativist element of American "thought" with the idea that negotiation is evil -- or, worse, wimpy.

With America's Iraqi allies urging the United States to negotiate with Iran, and with the Iranians themselves eager for such contacts, the Bush administration's resistance seems puzzling. Indeed, Washington's refusal to engage in vigorous regional diplomacy may be its most serious political blunder of all. If the United States is ever to withdraw from Iraq, reaching some accommodation with Iran would seem essential.

Trying to make sense of this, I recalled something [British Iraq specialist] Toby Dodge had told me: "When the Americans go home, the Iranians will inherit the earth." Iranian hegemony over Iraq: that is the Bush administration's worst nightmare. The Iraq invasion was designed to project American power in the region at Iran's expense; instead, it has done the exact opposite. And so it dawned on me: no matter what happens in Iraq, the Bush administration doesn't want to leave, since if it does, Iran, in one way or another, will take over. That helps explain recent reports that Washington, in negotiating a long-term status of forces agreement with Iraq, is determined to maintain nearly sixty bases there indefinitely -- a position the government of Prime Minister al-Maliki is strongly resisting.

At this point, a short paragraph (dealing with the Obama and McCranky positions as stated so far) from the end, Massing inserts a footnote:
In his new book War Journal: My Five Years in Iraq (Simon and Schuster, 2008), NBC correspondent Richard Engel relates a fascinating hour-and-a-half interview he had with George Bush in 2007 in which he urged the President to undertake a major diplomatic initiative in the Middle East—the only way, Engel argued, some degree of stability could be achieved in Iraq. Bush dismissed the idea, telling Engel that the war in Iraq "is going to take forty years." Engel also writes that Bush "seemed genuinely surprised" at the suggestion that US actions in Iraq are helping Iran.

Now is that our Chimpy all over, or what? He's the one who'd go to war with Iran in a heartbeat, the one who tells us that everything that happens in Iraq is Iran's fault, and he's "genuinely surprised" that anyone might think that Iran has been empowered beyond imagining, and at virtually no cost, by Chimpy's excellent adventure in Iraq.

There is, by the way, a separate piece in this issue of NYRB by Thomas Powers, whom we last encountered deep in gloom over the prospects of our extracting ourselves from Iraq anytime in the near (or not-so-near) future. The new piece is called "Iran: The Threat," or at least I assume this is the title Powers intended for the piece. This is how it appears on the contents page and on the piece itself. The cover line has it differently, though: "The Threat to Iran." And indeed, after carefully weighing the threat from Iraq, he pursues the question of why -- if not for offensive might -- Iran might want nuclear weapons.

The seriousness of American threats is confirmed by the fact that no significant national leader in the United States has ever disowned or objected to them in clear, vigorous, principled language. It is as if the whole country listens to the administration's threats with breath held, wondering if Bush and Cheney really mean to do as they say, and in effect leaving the decision entirely to them. Americans may count on the President to think twice, but why would leaders in Tehran, responsible for the lives of 70 million citizens, want to depend on President Bush's restraint for their survival and safety? Bush has a history. On his own authority, without the sanction of any international body, he attacked Iraq five years ago and precipitated a bloody chain of events that shows no sign of ending. It would be natural, indeed inevitable, for any government in Tehran, seeing what has happened next door, to ask what could save Iran from a similar fate. An answer is not far to seek: nuclear weapons with a reliable delivery system could do that.

As Powers pointed out in the earlier piece mentioned above, by going military with Iraq, the brain-dead American neocons created a hellish situation that can't be ended except with a military solution, of which there is none available. And yet it's clear that both Chimpy the Prez and his puppetmaster, "Big Dick" Cheney, really want to add a war in Iran to the ones in Afghanistan and Iraq, an idea that Powers demonstrates nicely is just about insane any way you look at it.

And yet, as Powers points out, "It is a strange fact that the locus of opposition to attack on Iran is not in Congress but in the Pentagon."

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If you don't live in Virginia's fifth congressional district there are probably two stories you know about its member of Congress, Virgil Goode, Jr. One is how integrally tied up he has been in the Republican Culture of Corruption, particularly in regard to congressional bribers Mitchell Wade and Brent Wilkes. They were both found guilty, but the man they paid the most bribes to is still a member of Congress! And their MZM fiasco is not just about corruption but also about a local tragedy that cost the taxpayers of the City of Martinsville and Henry County upwards of $775,000 after Goode's deal with them went bust. And if GOP corruption has faded from your memory, you may still remember Goode's moment on the national stage when he introduced anti-Muslim bigotry and old fashioned racism with a gratuitous and deranged attack on a newly elected congressman from Minneapolis, Keith Ellison. (Oh, and Goode isn't too good at math or working and playing well with others.)

When I met Virginia activist Tom Perriello for the first time he told me he is running for Congress to replace the culture of corruption in Washington with a culture of service. I liked how it sounded. As I got to know him better over the months, and to meet his friends and colleagues, I came to understand that that isn't a slogan; it's at the core of his life. Tom struck me as one of the most earnest guys I had ever met running for office. He comes from a faith based background-- in the finest and most admirable sense of the term-- which has community service front and center. He's spent years working on solutions to human rights issues in Africa and security issues in Afghanistan.
I'm not willing to cede on inch of my faith or my values to one side of the equation claiming to know God's will on earth. I believe this is a chance-- even bigger than our politics-- to reclaim the very debate about what it means to live in what Martin Luther King called "the beloved community." That's because loving your neighbor as yourself is not just a good idea, it's an actual Commandment.

Before we go on to ask Tom about his specific plans to bring a new perspective to Congress, I'd urge you to watch this little video he made for us that explains why he decided to run for Congress.

There's a chance Virginia Democrats could pick up as many as 4 seats in the House and almost a sure thing that they are picking up an open Republican Senate seat. If Obama wins one southern state this year it is likely to be Virginia. Tom's district has a PVI of R+6 and Bush won in 2004 with 56% of the vote. On the other hand, Mark Warner and Jim Webb are probably the most respected and best liked politicians in the area and local Democrats have been winning elections in VA-05 lately. In the last congressional race, Al Weed held Goode down to under 60%. Since then, the Republican agenda, which he has consistently rubber stamped, has turned toxic in the minds of most people. Tom is running neck and neck with Goode in the fundraising race; each has just over $600,000 on hand-- Goode from lobbyists, PACs and big industries whose interests he looks out for, and Tom from individuals looking for a new kind of political leader. We just added Tom to the Blue America candidate's list and I hope you'll be moved to make a donation to his campaign today after hearing what he has to say in the over at Firedoglake (comments section), where he'll be live blogging today from 2pm-4pm, EST.


You can hear Tom speaking about the issues driving the campaign in Virginia at Blog Talk Radio right here at their archive.

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Yesterday Tran Trong Duyet, the jailer at the Hanoi Hilton who was charged with watching prisoner of war John McCain, told a reporter that if he were an American vote, "I would vote for Mr. John McCain." And, no he didn't say he liked McCain because he was the most cooperative prisoner who told the North Vietnamese whatever they wanted to know with the least amount of fuss and bother. However, he remembers McCain as a political extremist, even back then and he does point out that McCain's marked penchant for fiddling with the truth is hardly a new development. He says McCain was never tortured. If anyone takes him seriously that could hurt McCain since the torture claim is one of his biggest talking points and has always been the one special card he uses to clobber opponents over the head with when he's backed into a corner.
Duyet claims the presumed Republican presidential nominee made up beatings and solitary confinement in an attempt to win votes.

His statements seem to echo the communist leadership's overall line on America: It insists the torture claims are fabricated, but that Vietnam now considers the U.S. a friend and wants to lay the past to rest. Duyet said one of the reasons he likes McCain for president is the candidate's willingness to forgive and look to the future.

Duyet, 75, grew testy during the interview when repeatedly questioned about torture and why so many other former POWs say they too were mistreated. He preferred to talk about McCain as an old buddy.

It's difficult to question McCain's shrill insistence that he was tortured-- and most people, whether they believe him or not, just give him a pass. A great deal of proof has been put forth that he sang like the proverbial canary while in captivity-- and not just the names of baseball players. He's always tried to pass the wounds he has from having ejected after bombing civilian targets in Hanoi and being shot down by a surface-to-air missile in 1967 as torture. It is clear that the broken leg and two broken arms came from his reunion with earth not from his captors. The Vietnamese mob who found him smashed his shoulder and he was bayoneted, probably because they were pissed off about American pilots dropping bombs on civilian homes and hundreds of thousands of women and children.

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Friday, June 27, 2008



Yesterday the Senate approved $161.8 billion in new funds to continue fighting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan for the next year, without timetables for withdrawing combat troops, same bill the House passed last week. Big victory for Bush over the useless and untrustworthy Congress. Six right-wing Republicans voted against it; Kennedy is recuperating and McCain was out kissing anti-choice butt in Ohio. Everyone else voted yes. I never met either Warren Fischer or Casey Spooner but I'm guessing they would have voted "no." I would have. Enjoy:




The fighters: if they can't fight Iranians or Koreans, they'll fight each other

Instead of appealing to mainstream American voters, McCain is still trying to convince the extreme right wing of the GOP that he's an acceptable replacement for their hero, George W. Bush. Yesterday he was in Ohio begging religious fanatics with bizarre views for their votes, and ignoring the independent and moderate voters who will decide the 2008 election. He's paying attention to extremists like Grover Norquist-- who referred to Senator Obama as "John Kerry with a tan," and to the snake-handlers and warmongers that make up the rest of what's left of Ronald Reagan's frayed and disintegrating GOP coalition.
“He needs to find his voice a little better in Ohio,” said Mike Gonidakis, executive director of Ohio Right to Life, one of several leaders who met with McCain for more than an hour. “He pledged to us we’d hear a lot more from him and that he’d be speaking his voice on these issues.”

The officials said they walked away impressed with McCain’s positions, and said they believed the “ship is turning” in conservative support for the Republican presidential candidate.

The group spoke about McCain’s pro-life voting record, as well as his support for state amendments banning gay marriage (though he did not support a federal one). They urged him to highlight these stances, especially in events in their swing state.

The problem for McCain, of course, is that if the ship is turning on the fringes of GOP extremism, the ship is all but sunk for the three-quarters of Americans who have had enough of the kind of divisive and hate-filled politics that excites these kooks. And if it's bad for McCain, it's even worse for the rubber stamps who have posed as members of Congress for the past few years. Karen Hanretty is the communications director for the panic-stricken NRCC and the message she communicated to Republican House incumbents isn't the message anyone was looking for: "This is a challenging environment. Any Republican running for office has to run basically on an independent platform, localize the race and not take anything for granted. There are no safe Republican seats in this election." That probably accounts for why they haven't been able to recruit any top tier candidates, not even in traditionally Republican districts. Instead they're stuck with a gaggle of clueless self-funding millionaires who can't relate to ordinary Americans.

This would also account for why Boehner and Blunt have lost control of the Republican congressional caucus. Members have been deserting them and their hated and destructive policies in greater and greater numbers. Every day more Republicans are crossing the aisle and voting with the Democrats, leaving Boehner, Blunt and Doody isolated with a shrinking band of far right extremists and Bush dead-enders. Yesterday's Hill:
House Republican leaders' embarrassing failure to hold the line against a Medicare-related bill this week raised new questions about whether the rank and file will adopt an every-man-for-himself strategy as the election draws near.

The 355-59 drubbing came despite a personal plea from Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) to rally his caucus against Democratic attempts to shove the so-called Medicare "doc fix" down the GOP's throat.

While some argue that the bill was a special case, the vote also symbolized a potential turning point in the GOP leadership's ability to hold its troops in line, even on politically difficult votes.

It remains to be seen what it could mean for votes on children's health care legislation and other measures, with Democrats looking to pad the remainder of the House legislative calendar with issues that could reverberate at the polls.

Boehner made an aggressive push to persuade Members to oppose the doc fix bill during Tuesday morning's weekly GOP Conference meeting-- including telling one Member to vote no on the bill if he wanted a choice committee assignment. While aides said later that the comment was made in jest, not everyone in the room took it that way.

Boehner also employed the term "dead asses" in making his pitch, a phrase he used previously when imploring Members to step up their fundraising for the party.

But hours later, 129 Republicans joined with all 226 Democrats present to pass the bill, which would prevent cuts in physician fees under Medicare. Many Republicans switched their vote to yes after it became clear the bill was going to pass overwhelmingly. By that point, Republicans had given up efforts to whip the bill and accepted that they weren't able to hold their troops in line.

One Republican Congressman, Wayne Gilchrist of Maryland says the vote was just more evidence that Republican members of Congress are putting their own diminishing chances of re-election ahead of party discipline. "The ship is sinking and somebody yelled 'every man for himself,'" explained the veteran legislator.

The fear and smear tactics and the reactionary policies helped Republicans lose 3 recent special elections in deeply red districts. The internal Republican memo circulating around Washington says its going to get much, much worse. The review says the coming catastrophe for Republicans is a combination of hatred for Bush's policies, which they have all rubber stamped, and out-of-touch extremist candidates running bad campaigns. A vicious war between Tom Cole of the NRCC and Minority Leader John Boehner is exacerbating the Republicans' dismal outlook. What you hear over and over in GOP circles these days is about the "negative brand" the Republican Party has become.

And for those wondering just who the last of the Bush Cheney dead-enders are still left rubber stamping and obstructing progress in the House are... well the full vote is here but I would like to highlight some names of the worst of the worst I don't think there will be any surprises here:

Michelle Bachmann R-MN)
Marsha Blackburn (R-TN)
Charles Boustany (R-LA)
Paul Broun (R-GA)
Eric Cantor (R-VA)
Scott Garrett (R-NJ)
Steny Hoyer-supported Kay Granger (R-TX)
Steve King (R-IA)
Patrick McHenry (R-NC)
John Shadegg (R-AZ)

Since, as usual, John Shadegg was at the bottom of the barrel, we called his progressive Democratic opponent, Bob Lord for a comment. He told us that this week "John Shadegg said that he thinks all Americans have health care. When 9 million children and 47 million Americans don't have health care coverage, it is hard to imagine a more careless and uninformed statement coming from a member of the House Subcommittee on Health. Unfortunately for Arizona, this is a continuing pattern for Shadegg. He voted against SCHIP 3 times and even wants to do away with Head Start and the Department of Education. He is a Washington extremist and Arizona's families deserve better."

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It is rare that a congressional incumbent loses a primary battle. In 2006 it happened twice-- mainstream conservative Republican Joe Schwarz lost to raving right-wing maniac Tim Walberg in Michigan and controversial Cynthia McKinney-- a victim of a media pile on-- was beaten by Hank Johnson. Schwarz v Walberg was a completely ideological and the McKinney v Johnson race had a different dynamic.

So far in 2008 there have been 3 incumbents beaten in primaries: progressive leader Donna Edwards vanquished a corrupt Insider in Maryland and two mainstream conservative Republicans, Wayne Gilchrest and Chris Cannon, were beaten by extreme right fanatics, Andy Harris and Jason Chaffetz, respectively in Maryland and Utah.

This morning's CQPolitics lists 8 more primaries in this cycle with potential upsets. First and foremost, of course, is the challenge underfunded grassroots progressive state Senator Regina Thomas is giving the most reactionary Democrat in the entire House, Blue Dog John Barrow in GA-12. According to CQ "racial demographics are a factor in this sprawling east Georgia district, which includes areas in and around Augusta and Savannah. Two-term Democratic Rep. John Barrow, who is white, faces a primary challenge from state Sen. Regina Thomas, who is African-American and is seeking to galvanize support from black residents who make up 45 percent of the district’s population... Challenger Thomas may be further hindered on the money front." Barrow is a special interests rep, taking massive contributions from every big corporation looking to buy a vote. Most recently, for example, he was a recipient of a great deal of money from the telecom industry looking for enough Democrats to cross the aisle and vote like Republicans to grant their criminal executives retroactive immunity. Barrow helped provide them with the margin they needed-- and helped fill his warchest. He has more than $1.3 million dollars on hand. Regina has only the $38,000 that have been donated to her through ActBlue. She isn't worried because her electoral career has never been about money and she has always won in the Savannah area by running grassroots campaigns.

The other hot primary in Georgia, on July 15, like Regina v Barrow, is on the GOP side, where extreme right wing loon Paul Broun, with one of the most breathtakingly fascist voting records in Congress, is being challenged by state Rep. Barry Fleming who says Broun far enough to the right. His voting Progressive Punch voting score is 0.55 (out of 100), making him the 435th most progressive member of Congress (out of 435). In other words, he is further right than any other member of Congress from Georgia or anywhere else. And he's being challenged for not being a "true conservative." Yes, these people are bat-shit crazy. (Broun even joined 16 other die hard psycho-paths to vote against the Americans With Disabilities Act this week.) Democrats in the district are hoping that the spectacle of the two far right nuts, Broun and Fleming battling for the far right, will turn voters off enough in GA-10 so that Iraq War vet Bobby Saxon beats whichever damaged Repug washes up to face him in November.

August 5 features a contentious Democratic primary in Detroit (MI-13) where the incumbent, Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick, is the mother of the controversial and wildly unpopular mayor, Kwame Kilpatrick. She has to face two well-know challengers trying to hold her accountable for her son, state Sen. Martha Scott and former state Rep. Mary Waters.

Two days later there is a really important race in Memphis, where progressive incumbent Steve Cohen is facing a challenge from the right. Nikki Tinker supporters have run an anti-semitic, anti-white, and typically Republican campaign against Cohen.
But Cohen faces a greater degree of difficulty than Republican Davis across the state, in the form of his district’s demographics. Cohen, who is white, represents a district where about three-fifths of the residents are black. The district had been represented by black Democrats, the father-son combo of Harold E. Ford (1975-97) and Harold Ford Jr. (1997-2007), for the previous 32 years. Some black activists argued Cohen, the only major white candidate in the 2006 primary, won only because the black vote was fractured among multiple candidates.

That proposition will be tested in this year’s primary in which Cohen has drawn four African-American opponents — including airline executive Nikki Tinker, his closest competitor in 2006, when she took 25 percent of the Democratic vote. Some members of the Congressional Black Caucus have already donated to Tinker’s campaign. But Cohen has the advantage of incumbency and strong support from prominent members of the local black community, as well as some leading black colleagues in Washington, such as Ways and Means Chairman Charles B. Rangel of New York.

In the eastern part of Tennessee (TN-01) a couple of wing nuts are also having a primary. Far right freshman David Davis is being challenged by Johnson City Mayor Phil Roe, who nearly beat him in 2006 and has been pointing out that he reeks of corruption, taking money from every special interest under the sun and then voting for whatever they like. This is true of 95% of Republicans and nearly a third of the Democrats. But people in the district can only vote against (of for) one member of Congress and it would be a good sign if Davis is defeated. Needless to say, he's loaded with cash.

The August 12 primary in Colorado features a three way race pitting extremist kook Doug Lamborn against 2 other right-wing Republicans. It doesn't matter who wins. Although it would be great to see someone as extremist as Lamborn be driven out of politics.

August 26 has a major primary in Alaska which Phil Munger covered for us in great detail on Monday. Basically it looks like one of Congress' most corrupt Republicans, Don Young, who has been in the seat since 1973, will be defeated by an equally conservative but even stupider Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell. Parnell, though, is supported by the popular governor, Sarah Palin and that is probably the death knell for Young's ill-starred career. On the same day Democratic insider Ethan Berkowitz faces grassroots progressive Diane Benson and the winner of that race win go up against either Young or Parnell. Rahm Emanuel and the most corrupt elements of the Democratic Party in DC are behind Berkowitz.

Primary season wraps up on September 6 with another corrupt member of Congress trying to hold on to his seat, this time a Democrat, William Jefferson in New Orleans. "Jefferson is seeking re-election even though he faces 16 federal bribery and corruption charges related to his business dealings with companies seeking contracts in Africa. His trial is tentatively scheduled to begin on Dec. 2." In 2006 he managed to survive a challenge from fellow Democrats with the cynical help of Republicans from Meterie. It is unclear-- like almost everything regarding Louisiana politics, who will be running against Jefferson in September.

It is clear that there are two progressive Democrats who need our help, Congressman Steve Cohen and state Senator Regina Thomas. I urge you to donate generously to both of them but there is a special incentive today. A generous DWT reader has offered to match all donations for Regina up to $500 at the Blue America ActBlue page. Please give. Barrow has been one of Bush's most reliable votes on keeping the war going and on all the little tricks Bush has pulled, like granting retroactive immunity to his cronies.

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