Sunday, December 31, 2006

Heroes update: NBC schedules a full night of episodes Monday night (and Wednesday night there's a new Friday Night Lights)

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Awhile back, Mags explained why she and her husband have become devoted watchers of NBC's action-adventure-mystery-fantasy extravaganza Heroes. Monday night, as the networks make a final gasp before being forced to open the vaults and trickle out some new programming, NBC is turning its entire prime time over to three episodes, before introducing a new episode next week.

Meanwhile, NBC has moved, Friday Night Lights, one of my picks among its impressive batch of rookie dramatic series (crowned, of course, by Studio 60), to Wednesday. Last week it too got the back-to-back-to-back episode treatment, with the last three episodes that have been shown. This Wednesday a new episode appears in the new time slot.
[Just because NBC's promo people put out dull, moronic photos like this one, don't think that Friday Night Lights is either dull or moronic. (If you want to make a wild guess about the NBC promo people, be my guest.) Here we see Connie Britton, Kyle Chandler and Aimee Teegarden as the Taylors--Dillon High guidance counselor Tami, Dillon Panthers football coach Eric and Dillon sophomore Julie.]



With Bush Regime hacks like McCain and Lieberman running around like chickens without heads squawking for escalation and "one more shot" and "surges," saner heads-- on both sides of the aisle-- are eager to get Bush and Cheney and their cowboy crew to start abiding by constitutional restraints on their activities. This morning Indiana Republican Dick Lugar, respected outgoing chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, warned Bush that he either starts taking Congress'-- and the American people's-- concerns about his bizarre and disastrous policies serious or... well, it sounded like he was saying that even if the Republican rubber stamp Congress let him do whatever he wanted, a new day has dawned. And that day could be an ugly one for the Bush Regime.

"'[I]n the past, the administration has been inclined not to disregard Congress but to not take Congress very seriously. I think this time Congress has to be taken seriously.' If Bush ignores Congress, Lugar said he should expect 'a lot of hearings, a lot of study, a lot of criticism,' and 'demands for subpoenas.'" It doesn't sound like Lugar is going to have Bush's back in the event of all this coming to pass either, does it?

Another Republican who's about had it with Bush is barely re-elected New Mexico Congresswoman Heather Wilson. Once the very definition of a Bush rubber stamp on the war, yesterday claimed the situation is not improving and that she opposes sending more American troops into Baghdad. Like Lieberman, she has just come back from a trip to Iraq. Unlike Lieberman, the trip apparently, of belatedly, opened her eyes to the catastrophic proportions of the Bush policies in the Middle East. She has told people since getting back that the McCain/Lieberman "surge" strategy (escalation) is a big mistake and that it will be counterproductive.

"There is no question that the situation in Iraq is very dangerous and not improving, particularly in Baghdad with respect to the sectarian violence... I don't believe that increasing U.S. forces in Baghdad in the way and size being discussed-- with a temporary surge of between 10,000 and 40,000 troops-- would secure the city. I think it would be the wrong way to go. At this point we cannot do for the Iraqis what the Iraqis will not do for themselves. They have to stand up and take the lead with respect to sectarian violence with respect to Sunni and Shia."

She was pessimistic after he meetings with Iraqi government officials and says the [puppet] regime there is unlikely to be able to salvage the situation. "The central government is, frankly, weak. The police are infiltrated by militias, and there are elements of the government that are loyal to different factions rather than to the government itself... We need a hard-nosed assessment of what we need, not what we wish. Sometimes I think our national objectives in Iraq-- including by our president-- are described in pretty broad terms. I want Iraqi people to live in a free and democratic society, but that's not our military mission there... that's an aspiration, that's not a vital national interest for the United States."

Of the 5 members of New Mexico's congressional delegation, only one still supports Bush and is gung-ho on the Bush-McCain-Lieberman escalation plans: Steve Pearce, an extremist and reactionary as well as a rubber stamp warmonger. Pearce's district sprawls over the rural southern half of the state and-- big surprise-- includes Roswell.


Not that many Republicans are supporting the Bush/McCain/Lieberman call for escalation in Iraq, the so-called "surge" strategy. Dead enders and die-hard rubber stampers like the aforementioned Steve Pearce are still sticking with Bush "but the proposition generates far less enthusiasm among rank-and-file Republicans, many of whom must face the voters again in 2008, presenting a potential obstacle for Bush as he hones the plan, according to lawmakers, aides and congressional analysts." Not that many have gone as far as Oregon Republican Senator Gordon Smith in referring to Bush policies as possibly "criminal," but 2 endangered Republican senators up for re-election in 2008, Norm Coleman (R-MN) and Susan Collins (R-ME) have both come out against the McCain/Lieberman proposals to send in more troops.

Even far right extremists and heretofore bloodthirsty yahoos like Sam Brownback (R-KS) and Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) are making their continued support for Bush's policies conditional. South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham is one of the few GOP senators up for re-election is 2008 to have come out-- not of his closet, but in support of the McCain/Lieberman escalation plan. Most, like Boehner, Sununu and even McConnell have their wet fingers to the wind.



I'm usually successful at making sure the worst elements of plastic celebrity "culture" are kept as far from me as is humanly possible. Sometimes when I go visit my pal Rus he likes to switch from TV station to TV station and through Rus I've been exposed to some of the most grotesque aspects of our celebrity worshipping culture. Last night, however, I have only myself to blame. I've been out of the country for 5 weeks and I've forgotten where the TV stations are on the dial, not that I watch that many. But where's the History Channel, Comedy Central, MSNBC? I started flipping around and I was confronted by one of the most unfortunate-looking women I had ever seen, unfortunate-looking and with a really nasty personality. I had first seen her on Rus' TV and he said watching her, Nancy Grace, has the fascination of watching a multi-vehicle pile-up on the NYS Thruway. I was about to move on when Grace, who if I recall, interviews celebrity criminals, addressed a question to "Congressman Poe."

Congressman Poe? The braying right wing nutcase from Houston? That might be worth watching. Turns out Nancy Grace was interviewing Congressman Ted Poe about whether or not Britney Spears-- pictured ad nauseum with that skanky Paris Hilton (proving beyond doubt in NancyGraceWorld that she's an unfit mother)-- should/would get custody of her and K-Fed's 2 unfortunate sons. Maybe they explained Poe's expertise in this matter before I tuned in but he felt neither K-Fed nor Brit were fit parents but that she'll get the kinds because "mothers always do." Checking on Poe's record of accomplishments as a congressman, I noticed he has the absolute worst voting record of anyone in his batshitcrazy party, scoring a perfect zero, in 8 legislative areas: Education, Humanities & the Arts, Fair Taxation, Family Planning, Housing, Human Rights & Civil Liberties, Justice For All: Civil & Criminal, Labor Rights and War & Peace. I suppose you could cobble that stellar record together and come up with a reason to invite Ted Poe on your TV show to talk about the Britney Spears/K-Fed divorce. Perhaps Newt Gingrich or Rush Limbaugh pulled out at the last minute and Grace needed just anybody to fill in. Or maybe she invited him because Poe used to be a judge. And Poe could have thought it would be as good as, or even better than, being on the Ali G Show or the Colbert Report.

Whatever the case, it's hard to imagine that his constituents think this is the best way for the congressman to spend his time. Of course, what do I know? I can't imagine anyone ever watching the Nancy Grace show or watching anything to do with Britney Spears, K-Fed or Paris Hilton... or voting for Ted Poe.



Probably in the last few days all my suggestions that Saddam's execution, albeit maybe a little bit barbaric and primitive, was a great idea and should start a trend for tyrants, especially George Bush, gave you the idea that I think Bush is a particularly evil fellow. Well, I never met the man and whatever I think about that doesn't amount to a hill of beans. It isn't Bush's personality traits that condemn him but the actions of his Regime, actions based on the extremist far right philosophy that guides him in all things.

To take it down to its simplest, there is a basic difference in governance between Democrats and Republicans. Democrats believe in the positive good of collective action. Republicans don't. Republicans believe in greed and selfishness-- "what's mine is mine and fuck you"-- and don't want to pay taxes for the "common good." They also believe that the unseen hand of "the market" will right all wrongs. Basically this is why they have never been fit to govern and why they are still not fit to govern. In fact, under Bush, it's much worse than ever before.

Example: notwithstanding a much diminished gaggle of fanatic psychos and corporate tools like Oklahoma nutcase James Inhofe, even many, if not most. Republicanelecteds now recognize that the debate on Global Warming and Climate Change is over and that Greenland and Antarctica are indeed melting and sea levels are rising and weather patterns are changing. And that it was brought on by men. Late in 2003 McCain introduced a very tepid bill to pair back carbon dioxide levels caused by industrial pollution. It was defeated 55-43. The Bush Regime said McCain's bill would have seriously harmed the U.S. economy. That wasn't based on a study; just a reflex. Cleaning up meat packing procedures once elicited the same response from the GOP. It's what they're all about. One kook, currently being considered for the top job at the University of Missouri, Senator Kit Bond told his colleagues that the bill would cripple the U.S. economy. "Now is not the time to place more burden on our families and our communities," he said.

For a Republican, if something has even a short term negative impact on a business' bottom line-- regardless of the "common good"-- the economy is being crippled and Armageddon is nigh. If business practices are destroying the fabric of society or even planet earth itself, they're sure the unseen hand will be by any minute to fix everything up.

Yesterday David Sirota sent me a story he had worked on about how this attitude is boding very badly for Aids victims in the third world. The Bush Regime is doing its best to keep it quiet but, with the help of shameless former Republican congressman and corporate whore (he's not a former corporate whore or former Republican; he's still those) Billy Tauzen they are bullying Thailand, a country with a significant Aids problem, to back off from licensing generic medicines that could save the lives of thousands of people but might reduce the profits of some of Bush's and the Republicans' most "generous" campaign contributors.

This particular effort is making pharmaceutical giant Merck angry, because if Thailand moves forward, it will be producing cheaper versions of drugs Merck regularly profiteers off of. It doesn't seem to matter that this move could save tens of thousands of lives. It doesn't seem to matter to the Bush administration that Thailand is merely exercising its specific rights under the very same "free" trade agreements it publicly champions-- agreements that drug companies like Merck have used their clout pushing. All that seems to matter is that Merck has given millions to the Republican Party over the last decade, and now its time for a little payback. Thus, instead of say, our government's Centers for Disease Control publicly congratulating Thailand for its aggressive moves to stamp out this plague that presents a global security threat, we get our government's trade officials demanding Thailand back off.

Sirota points out that the Bush Regime has been using the legalisms in NAFTA and similar trade agreements to prevent other countries from taking similar action to prevent this plague from decimating their populations. He points to Brazil and it's hard for me to imagine that Brazil, a country that positively loathes Bush and everything about him, would be bamboozled by his regime. On the other hand, they've pulled similar stunts right here in the U.S. "In 2004, Abbott Laboratories jacked up the price of its key AIDS drug Norvir by 400 percent in one year, despite the drug being developed with $3.2 million of federal money. When Abbott faced questions about its move, the company's CEO said “Abbott is absolutely committed to ensuring that ... not a single patient goes without Norvir because of the re-pricing.” Yet he refused to reverse the price hike. Activists then petitioned the government to invoke a 1980 law that authorizes other companies to manufacture lower-priced, generic copies of taxpayer-financed drugs to address emergency "health or safety needs." Not surprisingly, the petition was rejected by the Bush administration. And perhaps the most middle-finger-giving moment of all, here was our government 'valuing life' by making sure the much-touted Global AIDS Fund would have its purchasing power watered down by holding it hostage to high prices: Within months of Bush appointing Eli Lilly's former CEO to head the Global AIDS fund, the White House said the fund's money had to be used only on expensive brand-name drugs, instead of cheaper generics, thus severely weakening the fund's impact."

This doesn't promise to be a very happy new year for millions of victims of the Bush Regime and their philosophy of Greed and Selfishness. Maybe some can hold on until New Years, 2009.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Quote of the day: Thank goodness, there'll always be a Turkmenistan. Now what do you suppose the guy on the right in this Reuters photo is saying?


I didn't exactly read about what's going on in Turkmenistan, but did you see this photo? It was in black and white in Saturday's Times ("Turkmen Exile Urges Interim President to Step Down"). Here it is in color (click on it to enlarge it):The guy in the middle is the interim president of Turkmenistan, Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov. If you actually clicked-to-enlarge, doesn't it look to you as if the guy on the right (i.e., to Gurbanguly's left) is saying something out of the corner of his mouth? Wouldn't you figure it has to be one of the following:

(1) "No, no, my dear Gurbanguly, of course you're Moe. All I'm saying is, I'm Larry, and the guy on the other end (Jesus, what the fuck is his name? even I can't remember more than four or five syllables of it) is Curly."

(2) "I think we're okay, Gurbanguly. I distinctly heard him say, 'Simon says, right hand over left nipple.' But if he gives us trouble, can't you just have him shot?"

(3) "If that's what you really plan to wear to Olympus Fashion Week, can't you at least find a different hat?"

(4) "You like this smile? I learned it from photos of the American president Bush. I talked to the great political tsar James Carville, and he says that with my looks and charisma, and the right amount of money, if I can just pick up some of the common touch, I would be a natural for the no. 2 spot on your ticket."

Okay, If you've just gotta know what's going on in Turkmenistan--

The actual photo caption in the Times was: "Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov, center, Turkmenistan’s interim president, listening to the national anthem at a nominating session on Tuesday."

And here's the start of C. J. Chivers' story:
MOSCOW, Dec. 29--A leader of the Turkmen opposition in exile demanded Friday that the interim president of Turkmenistan step down and allow for democratic elections in the authoritarian Central Asian nation. But there were signs of disorganization and discord in the opposition ranks.

The demand, by Nurmuhkammed Khanomov, leader of the exiled Republican Party of Turkmenistan, was almost certain to be ignored. Interim leaders in Turkmenistan have been consolidating their hold on the country since the death of Saparmurat Niyazov, the Turkmen president, on Dec. 21.

Turkmenistan, an arid nation of five million, sits atop some of the largest natural gas reserves in the world and is strategically located beside Afghanistan and Iran.

A former Soviet republic, it had been led until last week by Mr. Niyazov, an autocrat who gave himself the name Turkmenbashi, or Head of All Turkmen, and built an elaborate personality cult. . . ."



You may have noticed that sometimes I talk about "faithless Democrats," folks who get elected as Democrats but then vote with the Republicans on important, even crucial, issues. Last year we did our best to disrupt the happy lives of some of the worst of this lot: Holy Joe Lieberman (the worst of the worst), Jane Harman, Henry Cuellar, Al Wynn and I had plenty of unpleasantness to say about Democrats who generally support corporate legislation over the interests of workers and consumers, like the two awful Senators Nelsons and the half dozen Democratic House members who most consistently voted the GOP line, Gene Taylor (MS), Dan Boren (OK), Bud Cramer (AL) Collin Peterson (MN; just rewarded for his treachery and reactionary politics with the chairmanship of the House Agriculture Committee), Ike Skelton (MO) and Mike McIntyre (NC).

But it turns out there are worse Democrats than these. On election day the news from Pennsylvania was really good, really, really good. Democrats, independents and moderates got together and ousted far right senatorial dingbat Rick Santorum, as well as 4 Republican congressmen (the most of any state): Melissa Hart, Crazy Curt Weldon, Mike Fitzpatrick, and sexual predator Don Sherwood. Meanwhile incumbent Democratic governor Ed Rendell swamped GOP challenger Lynn Swann 60/40 and Rendell's coattails helped the Democrats gain a one vote majority in the State House, their first since 1994.

Enter Thomas Caltagirone (D-Reading), a spoiler and the ultimate faithless Democrat. Caltagirone is reactionary and a vicious homophobe who has no place in the Democratic Party to begin with. He's announced that he's casting his vote next week for Republican John Perzel for Speaker, in effect throwing all the committee chairs and all the power in the House to the Republicans. The anti-choice Caltagirone had previously joined forces with Perzel when they passed the violently unpopular legislative pay-raise last year.

All the Pennsylvania blogs are going bonkers over this and several have vowed to find and help finance a primary opponent for Caltagirone (if he has the gumption to even run again, which is doubtful). This is heartbreaking for Pennsylvania Democrats, not just because control of one of the 2 houses of the state legislature would have made it infinitely easier for Rendell to move his agenda but also because Perzel is widely considered the most loathsome person in state politics. DWT will help.


Better than a partridge in a pear tree, it looks like Democratic Leader Bill DeWeese may get the Speaker's job afterall. Six Republicans, who are as disgusted with Perzel as most Pennsylvanians, have announced that they will not vote for him despite Caltagirone's treachery. (Meanwhile Perzel is trying to lure more Democrats like Caltagirone with promises of chairmanships... what a mad house!)



Just a brief word on primaries for faithless Democrats like Ellen Tauscher and Rahm Emanuel and then I won't mention them for the rest of this story. The beauty, though, in primaries is that targeting can be done based substantially, or even entirely, on the record of the incumbent. In other words, if the incumbent gets elected as a Democrat but then votes like a Republican, Democrats have the right duty to hold his or, in Tauscher's case, her, feet to the fire. The $20 million that it cost Holy Joe Lieberman to retain his "safe" seat should serve as a warning to Tauscher-type Democrats. Judging by her actions since the primary, one Tauscher-type Democrat, Jane Harman, has learned a valuable lesson in politics and I think we can expect better things from her because of Marcy Winograd's muscular primary challenge.

Unfortunately, in targeting for the general election, the degree of odiousness of the incumbent is all too often not the determining factor of whether or not to target a seat. The reality of electibility takes precedence. Believe me, it's purely coincidental when the seat of an especially hideous Republican winds up an electoral priority for the DCCC or DSCC. That's what made Jerry McNerney's race against Dirty Dick Pombo so important and that was the one saving grace of the victory by anti-choice Emanuel puppet Heath Shuler over Charlie Taylor.

Late in October I was working on a piece I never got to finish: "The Dirtiest Dozen Republicans in The House." It was meant to be more than just another list of the worst of the worst. I started by noting how all the Democrats seriously targeted by the GOP for the midterm elections were the Democrats who voted most frequently with Republicans on substantive issues. They' didn't go after the liberals, the populists and the progressives who they can't stop screaming about. They targeted the Democrats who have supported Bush and who have most frequently rubber stamped his policies and gone along with his anti-human, corporatist agenda. In this huge anti-Bush year, which augured so well for Democrats, Democratic incumbents reckoned to be endangered included reactionaries like Charlie Melancon (LA), Jim Marshall (GA), Chet Edwards (TX), Leonard Boswell (IA), John Barrow (GA), Alan Mollohan (WV), John Salazar (CO), Melissa Bean (IL), John Spratt (SC). By voting records, outside of housekeeping tallies, these incumbents are hardly Democrats at all. But that's where the GOP put it's money. Conservatives in Georgia, for example, who donated money to the GOP saw their contributions paying for partisan campaigns against Jim Marshall and John Barrow, Democrats who generally vote very much how Georgia conservatives want them to vote, while not a red cent went into defeating a Georgia liberal whose voting record drives them crazy-- John Lewis-- who they didn't even bother to oppose.

Now what about the Republican incumbents being targeted by Democrats? In the true sense of the term, there are no longer any moderate Republicans, but of the dozen least fascist-oriented Republican incumbents-- ones who occasionally vote in the interests of their constituents instead of for corporate interests-- only 4 were seriously targeted: Chris Shays (CT), Michael Fiztpatrick (PA), Nancy Johnson (CT), and Rob Simmons (CT). (All but Shays were defeated.) Way on the extreme end of the political spectrum, however, where it gets hard to sort out who's a conservative and who's an actual fascist, quite a few lively races were under way that were meant to oust some of the most extreme hate-mongers and right wing fanatics in Congress. Among the worst Republicans who had serious challenges to face in November are Mean Jean Schmidt (OH), Chris Chocola (IN), John Kline (MN), Jim Ryun (KS), Marilyn Musgrave (CO), Thelma Drake (VA), Michael Sodrel (IN), Barbara Cubin (WY), John Doolittle (CA), Dirty Dick Pombo (CA), J.D. Hayworth (AZ), Dennis Hastert (IL), Robin Hayes (NC), Charles Taylor (NC). Six of these extremist ideologues went down to ignominious defeat.

Still, the vast majority of far right fanatics in the Republican House caucus, including some of the absolute most bigoted and most corrupt, got off scott free with virtually no serious challenge. Look, for example at the list of the 33 unreconstructed neoConfederates who voted against renewing the Voting Rights Act this year: Richard Baker (LA), Gresham Barrett (SC), Roscoe Bartlett (MD), Joe Barton (TX), Jo Bonner (AL), Dan Burton (IN), John Campbell (CA), Michael Conaway (TX), Nathan Deal(GA), John Doolittle (CA), John Duncan (TN), Terry Everett (AL), Virginia Foxx (NC), Trent Franks (AZ), Scott Garrett (NJ), Phil Gingrey (GA), Joel Hefley (CO), Jeb Hensarling (TX), Wally Herger (CA), Sam Johnson (TX), Steve King (IA), John Linder (GA), Patrick McHenry (NC), Gary Miller (CA), Charlie Norwood (GA), Ron Paul (TX), Tom Price (GA), Dana Rohrabacher (CA), Edward Royce (CA), John Shadegg (AZ), Tom Tancredo (CO), Mac Thornberry (TX), and Lynn Westmoreland (GA). Although grassroots Democrats supported vibrant campaigns against Doolittle and Tancredo (and against the retiring Hefley's even worse replacement), the other 30 on this list of human scum had almost nothing to worry about. And that doesn't even go to the virtually unchallenged kingpins at the helm of the whole Republican culture of corruption-- Roy Blunt, John Boehner, Don Young, Jerry Lewis, Duncan Hunter...

So who are Democratic targeters zeroing in on for 2008? The first rule of thumb, after watching for retirements, is to look for seats where the Republicans won by 5% or less. Just going by the numbers that would put 40 Republican-held seats into contention. Seven of them are also freshmen, traditionally considered to be an incumbent's most vulnerable year since they haven't had time to establish themselves as institutions in their districts, delivering bacon to the locals in return for political fealty above and beyond ideology. The seven freshmen who won tight races are Vern Buchanan (FL-13; who didn't really even win and may not be seated), Bill Sali (ID-01), Peter Roskam (IL-06), Tim Walberg (MI-07), Michele Bachman (MN-06), Adrian Smith (NE-03), and Dean Heller (NV-02).

Several grassroots and netroots favorites nearly unseated Republican incumbents and know they can count on no-strings-attached support if they try again. This puts 19 Republicans from the under 55% list in jeopardy: John Doolittle (CA-04), Brian Bilbray (CA-50), Marilyn Musgrave (CO-04), Michael Rogers (MI-08), Joe Knollenberg (MI-09), Thaddeus McCotter (MI-11)-- Michigan will definitely be a battleground state in '08-- Michele Bachman (MN-06), Adrian Smith (NE-03), Mike Ferguson (NJ-07), Jim Walsh (NY-25), Randy Kuhl (NY-29), Robin Hayes (NC-08), Mean Jean Schmidt (OH-02), Deborah Pryce (OH-15), Phil English (PA-03), Jim Gerlach (PA-06), Thelma Drake (VA-02), Dave Reichert (WA-08), and Barbara Cubin (WY-AL).

Several of these Republicans won with less than 50% of the vote, making them particularly interesting as targets-- including Doolittle (49%), Musgrave (46%), Buchanan (officially it was 50/50 but the voting irregularities were so blatantly egregious that this race should be re-run), Jon Porter (NV-03; 48%), Ferguson (49%), Heather Wilson (NM-01; 50/50 with less than 900 votes separating the 2 candidates), Hayes (even closer-- 50/50 with less than 400 votes separating the two), Pryce (50/50 with around 1,000 vote disparity), and Cubin (48%).

The other Republicans who managed to stay in office with 55% or less of the vote were Richard Renzi (AZ-01), Chris Shays (CT-04), Dick Keller (FL-08), Mark Kirk (IL-10), Jerry Weller (IL-11), Mark Souder (IN-03), Geoff Davis (KY-04), Lee Terry (NE-02), Scott Garrett (NJ-05), Tom Reynolds (NY-26), Charlie Dent (PA-15), and Mike McCaul (TX-10).

If you go back to the Blue America archive of candidates we raised money for, you'll find several we will be encouraging to run again in 2008, particularly Charlie Brown, either Vic Wulsin or Paul Hackett, John Laesch (who will be ready to run as soon as Planet Denny Hastert announces he's resigning to replace Bush's ex as the new ambassador to Japan), Angie Paccione, Larry Kissell, Tony Trupiano, Eric Massa, and Steven Porter. Personally I feel we made tremendous headway in CA-25 and CA-45 with Robert Rodriguez and David Roth and I'd like to see them both continue to build a Democratic base in those districts. (And my fingers are crossed that a close watch on incumbent Democrats Al Wynn, Tim Mahoney, and the aforementioned Jane Harman, will either yield acceptable behavior or fresh primary challenges from Donna Edwards, David Lutrin and Marcy Winograd.

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The other day Holy Joe Lieberman offered cover for the Bush Regime's intention to ignore the bipartisan nonpartisan recommendations of the Iraq Study Group, even though that committee is made up almost entirely of fellow conservatives, corporatists and militarists. But McCain and Lieberman are staking out a position for themselves for 2008-- they think of it as the "grown ups;" others call it the "senile." With virtually all the generals diplomatically telling Washington the war can't be won militarily and that the occupation should end, Lieberman went to the Middle East for 10 days and found himself some ambitious colonels who want to throw some more fresh meat into the grinder. Lieberman, Cheney, Bush and McCain were overjoyed.

They were probably less happy today when their moment of delicious, bloody revenge was interrupted by reports that support for the Bush Regime's military adventures among active duty troops is diminishing... rapidly. According to a Military Times poll, only about a third of American service members approve of Bush's handling on the war. "The American military-- once a staunch supporter of President Bush and the Iraq war-- has grown increasingly pessimistic about chances for victory. For the first time, more troops disapprove of the president's handling of the war than approve of it."

Optimism about Bush's job as Commander in Chief-- at least in regard to Iraq-- has fallen from a high of 83% in 2004 to 50%-- with only 35% of our soldiers, airman, marines and seamen saying they approve of the way Bush is handling the Iraq War (down from a high of 63%). "Just as telling, in this year's poll only 41 percent of the military said the U.S. should have gone to war in Iraq in the first place, down from 65 percent in 2003. That closely reflects the beliefs of the general population today-- 45 percent agreed in a recent USA Today/Gallup poll."

A lack of any real progress, coupled with more and more fatalities and casualties have had a profound impact on the trust the military has in Bush and his Regime. Being cheated and treated like shit by AT&T, Halliburton and other GOP war profiteers is starting to take a toll as well. Support for the Republican Party among the military has also dropped sharply. "In the three previous polls, nearly 60 percent of the respondents identified themselves as Republicans, which is about double the population as a whole. But in this year's poll, only 46 percent of the military respondents said they were Republicans." More and more service members are identifying themselves as political independents.



Yesterday Ken wrote about the fracture inside the Republican Party in Virginia, one that promises to be valuable to Democrats desperately seeking more leverage for the reapportionment battle coming up in 2010. There's an even more vicious Republican civil war going on in Kansas, one that has been building all year and has already had some significant dividends for Kansas Democrats.

In November mainstream conservatives and moderates abandoned the Kansas GOP in droves, defeating far right extremist kooks like Attorney General Phill Kline and Congressman Jim Ryun-- "and the ideological wars inside the Kansas Republican Party show no sign of ending... 'I think the divide between the moderates and conservatives is deepening rather than closing,' said Kansas State University professor Joseph Aistrup. 'This type of politics is continuing into our future, at least another four years'... Against that backdrop, Kline made headlines with his assault on abortion clinics while the Board of Education [several of whom also went down to defeat] drew worldwide attention -- and some ridicule -- for its endorsement of challenges to firmly established Darwinian theory.

Interestingly, one of the most far right and batshit crazy Republicans in the federal government, Kansas lunatic fringe Senator Sam Brownback, has just announced he wants to run for President (of the United States). Scores of mainstream Republican elected officials have switched parties and become Democrats to escape the opprobrium of being associated with fanatics like Kline, Ryun and Brownback. The incoming Attorney General, Paul Morrison, and the incoming Lieutenant Governor, Mark Parkinson (a former State Chairman of the Kansas Republican Party) started 2006 as Republicans and ended it as Democrats. The vast majority of Kansas voters, embraced them as well as other ex-Republican moderates.

In one of the strongest examples of Howard Dean's 50 state strategy-- an utter repudiation of the Inside-the-Beltway/Rahm Emanuel trageting approach-- the Democratic Party re-elected popular Democratic Governor Kathleen Sebelius, ousted the 5 term Ryun and defeated right-wingers like Kline all over the state. Seven new state Reps are Democrats, including Annie Tietze, right in the backyard of far right psycho "Rev" Fred Phelps.

Friday, December 29, 2006



It looks like when you wake up tomorrow morning Bush will have had Saddam Hussein executed, hung. Brutal revenge? Primitive? Barbaric? Yeah. But I'm not crying over Saddam's carcass. The poor and the powerless and their innocent children get killed everyday as a result of decisions made by the wealthy and powerful. It's nice when ruthless political leaders take it in the neck. It happens far too rarely; it should happen far more often. I would hope Saddam's fate would put some fear into the Putins and Bushes of the world. It won't though. The question the members of the DWT team have been debating all day is whether or not Bush should also be hung. No one doubts that Bush deserves severe punishment for his gross crimes. Those who don't believe in the death penalty, however, oppose Bush ever facing execution.

Me, I've always been a big death penalty fan. Even when I was a kid I was all for it. I was so "liberal" on everything else, but I just loved that death penalty. In high school I even won a small scholarship from the UN for debating that point of view. The catch for me is that I feel our Justice system is so utterly imperfect that it is incapable of making a fair and certain decision meriting the death penalty. So I oppose it in practice as strongly as I encourage it in theory. In the case of Bush and his accomplices, though, I'd make an exception. I don't think anyone else at DWT would. Mags mentioned to me that she would rather see a long drawn out life of torment and humiliation. Along similar lines Ken said Bush should be forced to earn an honest living for the rest of his life with no assistance from any of his family's friends.

Looks like the Brits and the rest of the Europeans aren't too pleased with Bush's execution-happy-demeanor in regard to Saddam.

I pointed out that I might be convinced to be satisfied with the long-drawn out torment-- if I could make sure the person supervising was a practiced and venal torturer. But that is so uncivilized. I used to go target shooting, although I haven't in a couple of years. I enjoyed it. I bet there are a lot of people who would pay a lot of money to be on a firing squad if Bush, a huge death penalty fan like me, were tried and found guilty and sentenced to death.

But I'm jumping so far ahead of myself. Let's see Henry Waxman and John Conyers get started with the investigations in the next few weeks before we start figuring out the proper method of execution.


CNN, al-Hurra, al-Arabiya, Fox "News" (but they're so ideologically tainted that they're not even remotely reliable for reality-based news), Reuters, and both the Washington and Huffington Post are all reporting that it happened. Yes, Saddam is rotting in that special ring of hell reserved for politicians-- and the New York Times reports the great debate among TV news execs about how graphic the pictures they show of the execution should be. Martin Lewis at HuffPo has the best explanation for why Bush did it.


Bob Scheer, no Saddam Hussein fan, doesn't have a very sanguine view of the circumstances of Saddam's trial to begin with. "It is a very frightening precedent that the United States can invade a country on false pretenses, depose its leader and summarily execute him without an international trial or appeals process. This is about vengeance, not justice, for if it were the latter the existing international norms would have been observed. The trial should have been overseen by the World Court, in a country that could have guaranteed the safety of defense lawyers, who, in this case, were killed or otherwise intimidated."

But, aside from the usual perceptiveness and brilliance with which Sheer essays tends to be imbued, there is something more here that needs further thought-- how they've now managed to shut Saddam up... permanently. "The irony here is that the crimes for which Saddam Hussein was convicted occurred before the United States, in the form of Donald Rumsfeld, embraced him.  Those crimes were well known to have occurred 15 months before Rumsfeld visited Iraq to usher in an alliance between the United States and Saddam to defeat Iran. The fact is that Saddam Hussein knew a great deal about the United States’ role in Iraq, including deals made with Bush’s father. This rush to execute him had the feel of a gangster silencing the key witness to a crime."


Today historian Robert Fisk published a story in Britain's Independent, "Saddam takes his secrets to the grave. Our complicity dies with him. (The subtitle is "How the West armed Saddam, fed him intelligence on his 'enemies', equipped him for atrocities-- and then made sure he wouldn't squeal.")
We've shut him up. The moment Saddam's hooded executioner pulled the lever of the trapdoor in Baghdad yesterday morning, Washington's secrets were safe. The shameless, outrageous, covert military support which the United States-- and Britain-- gave to Saddam for more than a decade remains the one terrible story which our presidents and prime ministers do not want the world to remember. And now Saddam, who knew the full extent of that Western support-- given to him while he was perpetrating some of the worst atrocities since the Second World War-- is dead.



In theory I don't mind my customer service calls getting routed to a call center in Bangalore. The harsh reality of a cultural divide, though-- when I'm just trying to get something mundane, and annoying to begin with, done-- sometimes drives me up the wall. I have to admit I've fantasized about creating a page of companies that use Americans for customer service and urging people to send a message to corporations by using those companies instead of the ones that make life harder for us with these damn call centers.

Do corporations know how much people hate the call centers? Yesterday I get a strong clue that they do. Having just gotten back from over a month in South America, I went to catch up on some banking business. There was someone new at the counter and-- damn luck-- that's who I got. I prefer the tellers who already know me and my... quirks and minor eccentricities (especially since I don't know my account numbers and have no ATM card). Anyway, the business was easy enough and afterwards the teller informed me that my account qualifies for an upgrade to a CitiGold Account. "What's that?" I asked, suspiciously.

He rattled off the benefits: you get $50 if you maintain a $100,000 balance and you get your own line. "My own line?" I asked, looking around. I hate waiting on lines and I've done my best to figure out which days and what times the bank is most likely to have the worst lines so I can avoid them. Usually it works; but not always. But I never saw a sign saying "CitiGold Line." I eyed him with more suspicion; "Where's the line?" He figured out where I was coming from and quickly corrected me... "No, no... phone line; you get your own exclusive phone number just for CitiGold members. No more Indians."

"No more Indians? Do we get Pakistanis? Uruguayans? What do you mean?" He got right to the point. Their "best customers" (people with a balance of over $100,000) get to talk to real live Americans when they have a customer service problem. Everyone else undergoes call center torture. Another reason to hate corporations.


CNN International may not be any good but it's a lot better than the garbage CNN broadcasts in the U.S. While I was in Argentina I saw an international program about the hopes and aspirations for the new year that young people in India were harboring. Oy... do they love those call centers. It's like the best thing going and all these poor kids in villages were talking about their dreams of going to Mumbai and getting a shot at a job in a call center.

Quote of the day: Paul Krugman says the GOP's "revolution" (a) was always based on a lie and (b) has failed but (c) is, alas, far from gone for good


"As long as people like [Dick] Armey [right], Newt Gingrich and Tom DeLay were out of power, they could run on promises to eliminate vast government waste that existed only in the public's imagination--all those welfare queens driving Cadillacs. But once in power, they couldn't deliver. . . .

"In the end, Republicans didn't shrink the government. But they did degrade it. Baghdad and New Orleans are the arrival destinations of a movement based on deep contempt for governance. . . .

"Is that the end for the radical right? Probably not.
As a long-suffering civil servant once told me, bad policy ideas are like cockroaches: you can flush them down the toilet, but they keep coming back."

--Paul Krugman, in his NYT column today, "A Failed Revolution"
December 29, 2006
Op-Ed Columnist

A Failed Revolution

After first attempting to deny the scale of last month's defeat, the apologists have settled on a story line that sounds just like Marxist explanations for the failure of the Soviet Union. What happened, you see, was that the noble ideals of the Republican revolution of 1994 were undermined by Washington's corrupting ways. And the recent defeat was a good thing, because it will force a return to the true conservative path.

But the truth is that the movement that took power in 1994--a movement that had little to do with true conservatism--was always based on a lie.

The lie is right there in "The Freedom Revolution," the book that Dick Armey, who had just become the House majority leader, published in 1995. He declares that most government programs don't do anything "to help American families with the needs of everyday life," and that "very few American families would notice their disappearance." He goes on to assert that "there is no reason we cannot, by the time our children come of age, reduce the federal government by half as a percentage of gross domestic product."

Right. Somehow, I think more than a few families would notice the disappearance of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid--and those three programs alone account for a majority of nondefense, noninterest spending. The truth is that the government delivers services and security that people want. Yes, there's some waste--just as there is in any large organization. But there are no big programs that are easy to cut.

As long as people like Mr. Armey, Newt Gingrich and Tom DeLay were out of power, they could run on promises to eliminate vast government waste that existed only in the public's imagination--all those welfare queens driving Cadillacs. But once in power, they couldn't deliver.

That's why government by the radical right has been an utter failure even on its own terms: the government hasn't shrunk. Federal outlays other than interest payments and defense spending are a higher percentage of G.D.P. today than they were when Mr. Armey wrote his book: 14.8 percent in fiscal 2006, compared with 13.8 percent in fiscal 1995.

Unable to make good on its promises, the G.O.P., like other failed revolutionary movements, tried to maintain its grip by exploiting its position of power. Friends were rewarded with patronage: Jack Abramoff [left] began building his web of corruption almost as soon as Republicans took control. Adversaries were harassed with smear campaigns and witch hunts: Congress spent six years and many millions of dollars investigating a failed land deal, and Bill Clinton was impeached over a consensual affair.

But it wasn't enough. Without 9/11, the Republican revolution would probably have petered out quietly, with the loss of Congress in 2002 and the White House in 2004. Instead, the atrocity created a window of opportunity: four extra years gained by drowning out unfavorable news with terror alerts, starting a gratuitous war, and accusing Democrats of being weak on national security.

Yet the Bush administration failed to convert this electoral success into progress on a right-wing domestic agenda. The collapse of the push to privatize Social Security recapitulated the failure of the Republican revolution as a whole. Once the administration was forced to get specific about the details, it became obvious that private accounts couldn't produce something for nothing, and the public's support vanished.

In the end, Republicans didn't shrink the government. But they did degrade it. Baghdad and New Orleans are the arrival destinations of a movement based on deep contempt for governance.

Is that the end for the radical right? Probably not. As a long-suffering civil servant once told me, bad policy ideas are like cockroaches: you can flush them down the toilet, but they keep coming back. Many of the ideas that failed in the Bush years had previously failed in the Reagan years. So there's no reason to assume they're gone for good.

Indeed, it appears that loss of power and the ensuing lack of accountability is liberating right-wingers to lie yet again: since last month's election, I've noticed a number of Social Security privatizers propounding the same free-lunch falsehoods that the Bush administration had to abandon in the face of demands that it present an actual plan.

Still, the Republican revolution of 1994 is over. And not a moment too soon.

Here's a site for anyone interested in seeing how the rest of the world sees the world, including us


By Mags

Lately I have been scouring the net for varying perspectives on American foreign policy (do we have one?) and the world's reactions to Bush's handling of the Iraq war. Like everyone else, I am mystified by what I hear coming from the WH on a daily basis. My usual habit is to piece together news from these perspectives and combine that with what I can understand of human behavior and try to make some sense (even if it is a twisted kind of sense) of what I see and hear. As you well know, this is an ongoing challenge.

However, my purpose in this post is not to lay out for you any methodology to my own mad rantings, but to draw your attention to a web site that is worth visiting. The website is Watching America. You are gonna like it:

Watching America helps us to view ourselves through the eyes of others across the globe. The site is very accessible, easy on the eyes, organized and attractive, with an easy-to-use format. When you visit, you will find the news sorted by region. And in the right-hand margin you will find domestic sources and resources. There are even some MP3 downloads of interviews with Watching America co-founder Robin Koerner.

Koerner and William Kern bring a world of reporting and opinion to your screen. Give them a look-see. (If you have used the site in the past but were frustrated by updates interrupting your reading, you should check it out again. It is now very user-friendly.)

The bitter geographical and ideological divide in the Virginia GOP seems worth keeping an eye on


"Secret Talks Seek Unity For Feuding Va. GOP" (in today's Washington Post) sounds like just a local story. But maybe this bitter split among Virginia Republicans--an ideological divide that is reflected both in a north-south geographic split and in the very different Republicans who dominate the State Senate and House leaderships--is of a kind we need to pay attention to. (The photo is of State Attorney General Robert F. McDonnell, about whom more below.)

If I I've got it right, the immediate issue that has caused intraparty gridlock, if not open warfare, is legislative inaction toward meeting the state's increasingly urgent transportation needs. But this is a stand-in for larger philosophical issues. On the one hand are Republicans, especially in northern Virginia, which has become increasingly hospitable to Democratic candidates, and especially among State Senate Republicans, who are trying to find ways to meet those transportation needs, which means a need to find more money, which all but inescapably means more taxes, as against those, especially in the still more conservative southern part of the state, and especially among Republcans in the House of Delegates, who are unalterably opposed to taxing-and-spending.
The resulting perception is of Washington-style gridlock that two Democratic governors have used to blame the GOP and that has helped Democrats gain six seats in the [state] House in the past three years.

The rift is also fostered by personal dislike. A GOP senator once called House Republican budget negotiators "dumb as rocks." House GOP leaders often deride their Senate counterparts as arrogant, patronizing and mean.

Sources in both camps expressed some optimism that the talks have helped. But getting both sides to compromise after more than five years at each other's throats is proving difficult. No agreements have been reached, they said.

"It's like marriage counseling, and transportation is the adulterous affair," said one Republican familiar with the meetings but not authorized to talk about them. "If you don't deal with that first, nothing else matters."
What's interesting is that the split has become so bitter that these talks between the factions apparently have actually had to be kept secret. Many of the participants' participation is merely alleged, the alleged participants refusing even to confirm that they have participated in talks aimed at bridging the divide.

Attorney General McDonnell is apparently the driving force behind the "secret talks," though even he won't confirm that such a thing is going on. His interest in bridging the party gap isn't surprising, since he's clearly preparing to run for governor in 2009, and you don't have to be a political Einstein to see that the way things are going for the Virginia GOP, the climate is going to be increasingly inhospitable for statewide Republican candidates.

How exactly this affects us on the other side of the aisle and of the political spectrum, I'm not quite sure. I guess we should be rooting for the neanderthals, on the theory that they will drive more and more moderate Republicans out of the fold? But if that happens, won't they be fairly conservative Democrats?

I don't know. I just know that this is a scenario that's likely to be played out, in one form or another, among Republicans in many parts of the country. And I think it's worth paying attention.

"This country has gone to hell on a rocket sled since the pardon," says Noah--and then there's Jerry Ford's work on the Warren Commission


Our friend Noah passes on these thoughts about the passing of President Ford:

I've been away from my computer machine for several days and here I am catching up at 1:30 am.

I've been struck by a couple of things about the general media's coverage of former President Gerald Ford's death:

(1) Despite how it may or may not have come about, I have always felt that the pardon of Richard Nixon was one of the worst things that ever happened to the social fabric of this country. I have not seen or heard anyone in the media address this other than to spew forth some mindless talking point cliche about healing, which, in reality is the opposite of what the pardon helped bring about.

You see, it has always seemed to me that the pardon of Nixon sent a horrible message to all, particularly younger, Americans. That message was and is that it's perfectly OK for anyone, even the person whose job it is to protect the Constitution, to commit high crimes and misdemeanors, and get away with it. The pardon set a very poor example.

In any group of mammals, no matter how small or large, the Alpha sets the tone, defining what is permissable. In this case, Gerald Ford was the Alpha. The result of the pardon has been a generation of people growing up with a different view of right and wrong, social responsibility, and crime and punishment. On a smaller scale, it's like a kid growing up with a crook for a father setting the family example and then having people wonder whether the kid will grow up to be a thief, a used car dealer setting back the odometers, a counterfeiter, or whatever. There have always been people who twisted ethics. Sometimes it even seems that that is taught in law school.

However, I am of a certain age where I have seen the very way in which people conduct themselves change. Post pardon, things got a lot looser. Locked doors and car alarms became a necessity of modern life after the pardon, not during the so-called wild and crazy 60s.

(2) The other thing that I haven't seen or heard from our media parrots is any mention of the fact that Gerald Ford was a member of the Warren JFK Murder Coverup Commission. I guess that the Warren Commission must be quietly seen as a blot on Ford's career in their eyes, too; something that would detract from their glowing portrait of the man. So, it gets swept under the lumpy carpet. (This reminds me of when Nixon died and the media gave Nixon the credit for ending the Vietnam War but none of the credit for being an architect of it in the first place back in the 1950s.) These things are a case of "All the
News That Fits the Agenda." I also guess Ford thought it was OK to take a pass on fairly and honestly examining the murder of a President in the street, too. No, instead we got now-Senator Arlen Specter's nonsensical Single Bullet Theory crap.

The end result to date has been pardons for Iran Contra, the aforementioned public attitudes towards the flexibility of right and wrong, and, now, a group of despicable clowns in the People's White House (some of which were Ford's proteges) who not only think they are above the law in EVERY way, but are enabled by a media and a country of corporate and religious leaders who just regard the situation as one big laugh fest while they fatten their off-shore accounts at the taxpayers' expense and, in all too many cases, LIVES.

This country has gone to hell on a rocket sled since the pardon and, as it continues to go down hill, it's gaining speed. While this happens, the media hacks give us this day our daily photo-ops and little more. In fact, looking back, the pardon itself shifted the discussion of what Watergate was all about to the pardon and away from any further examination of the Watergate crimes. See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil. "Just Do It."

As for Gerald Ford being a decent guy? Maybe. At least compared to what we have now, but then, virtually any humanoid on Earth would look good compared to that.



I travel a lot. I'm not quite in the Travelers' Century Club (68 out of the 100 needed), but since 1969 I've been all over Europe (where I lived for over 4 years), Asia (I spent 2 years driving from London to India and back), Africa and Latin America. I've never experienced the degree of contempt for our country's leadership that exists everywhere for the Bush Regime. No matter where I went in the world, especially in the past 4 years, people have expressed nothing but fear and loathing for Bush and his cronies. Even in remote villages in Turkey people would manage to say "America good, Bush bad."

Only in the most backward regions of America, in places steeped in bigotry, paranoia, hatred and sheer ignorance and religionist intolerance-- you know, like in Texas and Alabama and Utah-- did I see any sympathy whatsoever for Bush and his policies. Somehow, because of support in these areas, he has managed to stay above the 30% mark in his approval rating.

Yesterday, though, the Associated Press conducted a poll that shows Americans view Bush as a bigger villain-- the world's worst-- than Osama Bin Laden, Saddam Hussein, Iran's Ahmadinejad, Kim Jong II, Donald Rumsfeld and Satan combined. 25% of respondents voted for Bush as the Villain of the Year. (A paltry 13% saw him as Hero of the Year, more than voted for Jesus, Oprah, Bono, Barack Obama or Angelina Jolie.) 43% of Democrats chose Bush as Villain of the Year and 27% of Republicans picked Bush as their Hero.

As far as the "culture wars" plaguing Americans, the three worst-faring celebrities, in terms of their suitability as role models, are shallow Republican airheads Britney Spears, Paris Hilton and Mel Gibson.
(Thanks to John Amato from Crooks & Liars for the classic graphic.)


I'm happy enough to see Saddam hang. It sets a good precident that exceptionally bad political leaders pay the ultimate price for their crimes. I might add that a helluva lot of Americans seem to think Bush is a helluva lot worse than Saddam. Does that mean they'd support hanging him too? I'm not even advocating a kangaroo court for Bush, like he gave Saddam. Bush should have a fair trial before he's hung.



Did you ever get the feeling that we were over the top in our jihad against Holy Joe Lieberman? Act Blue collected $453,000 for Ned Lamont's campaign, most of it for his victorious primary battle against Lieberman. Of that $77,000 came through Blue America (the community formed by Firedoglake, Crooks & Liars and DownWithTyranny). Between us we published hundreds of pieces on the perfidy of Lieberman, seeking to warn Connecticut voters about the inherent dangers that went with re-electing Holy Joe. Democrats got the message loud and clear and rejected him. Republicans embraced him and he's in the Senate again.

Today Lieberman has penned a disgraceful editorial of distortions and right wing propaganda in the Washington Post. He seeks to articulate the discredited McCain plan for giving Bush the cover to escalate the disastrous Iraq occupation and to ignore the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group. Lieberman starts his propaganda screed by stating he's just spent 10 days in the Middle east meeting with leaders. He the demonstrates how he learned nothing at all-- not from the 10 days in was there, not from the 4 years we've been fighting in Iraq. His analysis is unrelated to objective reality. The man is clearly unfit for the Senate.

Like Bush and McCain, he is completely confused by the politics of the Middle East and unable to cope with the complexities. He decries the dangers from Iran but seems utterly incapable of realizing that his and Bush's policy has been to act as the cat's paw for Iran's goals. It was so when Bush first stumbled into the region and it so is now, as Bush backs the Shi'a against the Sunni in the civil war that is raging there, a civil war, predictably ostrich-like, Lieberman only mentions as something that could happen if his and McCain's bellicose plans are rejected. (The other main beneficiaries of the Bush-Lieberman policies in Iraq-- not counting their campaign contributors-- have been Al Qaeda.)

The two main points in Lieberman's piece are escalate now-- although it is an ill-defined escalation of more-of-the-same, stay-the-course, pointless and bloody mayhem-- and get ready to attack Iran. "On one side," he babbles idiotically, "are extremists and terrorists led and sponsored by Iran, on the other moderates and democrats supported by the United States." They want it so, so they see it so. They are incapable of leading our nation-- Lieberman, McCain, Bush, Cheney, Rice... utterly unable to take off the ideological blinders and look at reality and deal with it. Lieberman is still trying to tie 9-11 to Iraq. Lieberman is still claiming the big problem is the lack of security in Baghdad. Is he insane? Venal? A little of both? A lot of both?
To turn around the crisis we need to send more American troops while we also train more Iraqi troops and strengthen the moderate political forces in the national government. After speaking with our military commanders and soldiers there, I strongly believe that additional U.S.
troops must be deployed to Baghdad and Anbar province -- an increase that will at last allow us to establish security throughout the Iraqi capital, hold critical central neighborhoods in the city, clamp down on the insurgency and defeat al-Qaeda in that province.
In Baghdad and Ramadi, I found that it was the American colonels, even more than the generals, who were asking for more troops.

"Even more than the generals?" The generals know it is pointless. Colonels are thinking about battlefield tactics, not strategies for winning wars. The generals have been clear that they think escalation or-- as McCain and other right wing propagandists call it-- "surge," is a losing strategy. Bush, McCain and Lieberman refuse the listen; refuse to hear. "In nearly four years of war, there have never been sufficient troops dispatched to accomplish our vital mission. The troop surge should be militarily meaningful in size, with a clearly defined mission." And why was that, Mr. Lieberman? Was it because you and Bush and Rumsfeld and the rest of your war party fired military officers-- even General Shinseki-- who said we needed more-- many more-- troops to have even a chance to win in Iraq? Now it's past too late. Why should anyone care what people like Lieberman and Bush-- who have made every wrong decision from day one and have caused the catastrophe that is Iraq-- have to say now. They are proven losers and should be consigned to the scrap heap of history-- the sooner the better.

Thursday, December 28, 2006



These numbers are all based on projections of estimates of 2005 census information. Things could change between now and 2010 but they are as likely to charge for the worse as for the better. The way it stands now the big winners will be 2 red-leaning states, Texas and Florida with each state gaining three seats in Congress. And with state legislatures and governorships firmly in the hands of partisan rightists in both states, it isn't likely that any of those 6 seats are going to look blue or even blueish. Arizona looks to gain 2 seats and there will be one each for Nevada, Georgia and Utah. The states that will lose seats are all in the Northeast and Midwest, with New York and Ohio probably losing 2 each. Single seat losses are likely for Massachsetts, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Illinois, Missouri, Iowa and Minnesota. It is likely that Democrats in control of most of these states will be able to make sure that it will be Republicans in New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Illinois, Iowa and Minnesota who lose out, offering at least some modicum of balance for the GOP new districts in the Sunbelt.



I haven't made my mind up about John Edwards. I liked him when I first met him in the 2003 and, until Howard Dean came along, I was thinking Edwards was the best the Democrats had to offer. By the time Dean dropped out of the race it was time for the California primary and I had no problem voting for Edwards. But I still don't completely trust him. I mean it isn't like the kind of deep distrust I feel for ruthless, unblinking pathological liars like Bush, Lieberman Cheney and McCain. I'm not even certain Edwards is as untrustworthy as political animals like Clinton, Biden, Obama, and Kerry.

I was pissed that Edwards allowed a big pussy and careerist pol like Kerry to push him around and keep him from challenging Bush's stolen 2004 election-- as though Kerry owned the millions and millions of votes against our country's headlong rush towards fascism. And I was pissed off last summer when Edwards lamely allowed his name to be used by the Rahm Emanuel forces seeking to shape a less progressive Democratic team that would be challenging Republicans in the congressional races. On the other hand, I was happy to see Edwards respond to grassroots anger and immediately revisit his endorsements and add an Emanuel bete noir from North Carolina, Larry Kissell. And I liked the straightforward, hell-with-political-calculations approach Edwards took to the Murtha-Hoyer dust-up (endorsing Murtha's Quixotic bid).

So I'm still undecided here. I have a feeling his populism is genuine and that he really does mean what he says about two Americas and that a President Edwards would work hard and effectively to start the long and difficult process of cleaning up after the criminal clique that has held our nation in thrall for the last 6 years. So I'll be watching closely and keeping an open mind, maybe even cheering John Edwards on a little.

One of my friends, Bob Geiger seems to feel Edwards' announcement today had a far greater significance than anyone else has given it, beyond the drama of announcing in the backyard of a Katrina victim in the 9th ward and beyond his clear and unambiguous mea culpa regarding his 2002 pro-war vote in the Senate. (He called it "a mistake" and explained that "we need to reject this McCain doctrine of surging troops and escalating the war in Iraq. We need to make clear we're going to leave and we need to start leaving Iraq.")
But more than anything, Edwards announcing so early and, more importantly, the way he's entered the race has changed the entire landscape for aspiring Democratic nominees.

For Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack and Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich-- the only other declared candidates at the moment-- Edwards is setting a standard for energy and relevance that they will either equal or drop quickly from the radar screen, as Edwards attracts all of the early support and media attention.

For Senators Hillary Clinton (D-NY), Barack Obama (D-IL), Joe Biden (D-DE), John Kerry (D-MA) and Christopher Dodd (D-CT), along with General Wesley Clark and Governor Bill Richardson, the sheer magnetism and established support that Edwards brings so early, forces them to either declare their intentions as well or risk losing support to the former North Carolina Senator with every passing week.

And why exactly would I say something like that when we're not even out of 2006?

To begin with, Americans are bone-tired of disliking and disrespecting their president and, I believe, are unusually anxious to begin the presidential season to, if nothing else, give them the feeling that a change is coming sooner than later. People hungered for a change in the Congress and made it happen-- now that strong desire to take out the trash moves to the executive branch of government.

Second, Edwards is starting his campaign in an interesting way by making it not about him personally, but about the problems of the world, the loss of global American prestige, our domestic strife and the extent to which his campaign is about getting people to make change now and not wait for the actions of a newly-elected president.

"We want people in this campaign to actually take action now, not later, not after the next election," said Edwards this morning. "Instead of staying home and complaining, we're asking Americans to help."

Finally, many people, including yours truly, believed in hindsight that Edwards would have defeated Bush in 2004 had he been at the top of the Democratic ticket. Edwards was undeniably a more engaging personality than John Kerry and with so much of the vote driven by sheer disgust with Bush, Edwards would have picked up Kerry's 49 percent of the vote and then some based purely on the likeability factor -- that's not the way a president should be chosen but, in our country, it just is.


No, I'm kidding, But the American Research Group (ARG) just released polling data for the early primary/caucus states: Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada. Predictably, Clinton is ahread in each state. Edwards is coming up on her in Iowa (beating out Vilsack) and his native South Carolina. Obama is #2 in Nevada and New Hampshire. No one else-- including Kerry, Biden and Clark-- breaks out of single digits... anywhere. Jonathan Singer has all the numbers at MyDD, including the Republican numbers. Giuliani's ahead in Iowa and Nevada and McCain is ahead in South Carolina and New Hampshire (with McCain #2 where Giulini is #1 and Giuliani #2 where McCain is #1). Gingrich is #3 in every state. No one else is into double digits in any state. No one cares about Mitt Romney anywhere, not even Nevada where there are loads of Mormans or in New Hampshire, which is in the Boston media market.

As you may have noticed, not many things leave me at a loss for words--this one did


Probably I should just have dumped this on the current READERS' POST. I don't know what to say about this, and I don't expect anyone else to. Somehow, though, I just needed to get it out of MY head.

I have a friend who celebrated his 69th birthday last week, who was born in Belgium and spent the war years (that's World War II to you young-uns) in Cuba--of which he has by far his happiest memories--before the family returned to Belgium after the war.

Just for context, I had no inkling that he was LOOKING for such a thing. He just sent me an e-mail with the subject heading "German bureaucracy" which reads:

"I looked and found on the internet the name, date of birth, date of death in Auchwitz at age 62 of my grandfather...."

THE READERS' POST for Thursday, December 28: Jay says he'll "take ambition over genius any day of the week"--but you don't have to talk about that


Over the years, the press has generally favored Letterman, critically anointing him as the heir to Johnny Carson. Leno, meanwhile, has taken a more populist approach, telling TV Guide that he takes "a certain perverse pleasure" in knowing he works more weeks a year than Letterman, makes less money and turns out a more profitable show. "I'll take ambition over genius any day of the week," he said.
[from an L.A. Times piece by Brian Lowry]
In fairness, this maybe makes Leno sound worse than it should. He's actually responding to persistent reports that the ratings gap between him and his onetime friend gnaws at Letterman:

"You'd think after all this time it would be, 'Oh, well, he's successful, I'm successful, everybody is rich beyond their wildest dreams.' I don't know why there has to be such animosity. It just seems odd to me," Leno told TV Guide.

Anyway, this space is for you to talk--to us or among yourselves--about whatever is on your mind. READERS' POST Roundup on Saturday. (New POST on Sunday?)



While I was out of the country, Oregon Republican Senator, Gordon Smith, denounced the Bush Regime's Iraq policies, calling them "absurd" and possibly "criminal." I doubt anyone in Buenos Aires had ever heard of Gordon Smith before that. By December 8, Portenos, along with Americans who live neither in Oregon nor in DC, heard quite a lot about Senator Smith. Today's New York Times described him as a rather colorless Republican backbencher who had voted for the war and then shut up about it-- until December 7.

In a state that has been turning bluer and bluer, the 2-term Senator Smith is up for re-election in 2008. Bush only managed to get 47% of Oregonians to vote for him in 2000 and again in 2004. Distancing oneself from him and his unpopular war is not politically heroic back home. I'm not claiming Charlie Cook is a negative indicator of future results but Cook's current rating of the Oregon Senate race as "Solid Republican" is premature, naive and, as usual, based on an old and thoroughly outdated analytical perspective. This year all of the Republican senators up for relection with lower approval ratings than Smith's tepid 54% were defeated-- DeWine, Talent, Santorum, Burns, Macacawitz, and Chafee and one, Doctorbill Frist, resigned. With an average approval rating across the Senate of 57%, Smith looks like he's in trouble, or at least in enough trouble to have a more careful prognosticator than Cook downgrade that "solid" to maybe a "likely" (like Susan Collins, Libby Dole, John Sununu and Crazy James Inhofe") or a "leans" (like Wayne "Walking Dead" Allard or Norm Coleman).

The Beltway Republican Establishment was furious. Smith says he sensed "a cold shoulder or two." He also says many of his colleagues came up to him-- surreptitiously-- and said "Boy, you spoke for me." Judd Gregg (R-NH) isn't up for re-election in 2008. "I don't believe it's true that a lot of Republican senators are ready to break with the White House on Iraq. I don't think the views he expressed represent a significant number of senators in the Republican caucus." (New Hampshire voters, who Gregg won't be facing any time soon, just made it clear-- by unceremoniously dumping two GOP House incumbents for two outspoken, grassroots, anti-war Democrats, and by voting against Republicans in every race they could-- that Gregg and the dominant reactionary elements of the GOP are out of step with voters, not Gordon Smith.)

"Smith's attitude began to change over the past year, particularly after he visited Iraq in May. In an interview, the senator recalled two occurrences in Baghdad during his visit, one in which a massive bomb killed about 70 people and a second in which some American troops were killed on patrol." Smith purposely used the word "criminal" to describe Bush's Iraq policies because of a history text he's been reading and mulling over-- something virtually no higher ups in the Regime ever do. It's a book on World War I by British military historian John Keegan. Smith has been haunted by the book, which explains the "practice of British generals, sending a whole generation of British men running into machine guns, despite memos back to London saying, in effect, machine guns work." Smith, like Keegan, has concluded that Rumsfeld's strategies are "needlessly getting kids killed." Rumsfeld's sunny day stay the course blatherings started getting Smith sick-- and angry.

Smith says he "had decided not to speak out before the midterm elections, both out of political loyalty and a fear that his words would be drowned out by partisan attacks." (See my comments earlier this morning about ex-President Jerry Ford's fear of the Bush Hate Machine, amply illustrated within hours of his death and the printing of his anti-Iraq opinions, by right wing hack Bill Bennett.) "Then we were back in Washington for the lame-duck session," he said, "and I woke up one morning and turned on the news and another 10 soldiers had been killed. And I went from steaming to boiled. And then I went to the floor... It is not easy to stand up to the president of your own party to say you are unhappy with the way this has been managed," Smith told The Times. "But if you can't speak up, then you should go home."

Judd Gregg will be able to avoid that for a few more years. His colleagues John Sununu, Susan Collins, Pete Domenici, Elizabeth Dole, Norm Coleman and Wayne Allard won't. These are Republican senators who will have to face angry voters in November, 2008 and if this crew doesn't get behind Smith fast they can all expect to go the way of DeWine, Santorum, Talent, Burns and Macacawitz.

(Photo above shows Senator Smith on the right.)



When it was announced that Ford died I can't say it had much (any) impact on me. I don't hate him; I never admired him. He just was. Then I got pissed. It was all over the TV news... blah, blah, blah... as though it was as important as the passing of James Brown or someone who really did have an impact on people. "Gee, I don't want to write about this," I thought. And when I powered up DWT Ken had already done a superb job. End of story? It should have been; but I couldn't leave well enough alone and I had to butt in on what I was basically thinking of a fake non-story. It was Bush's hollow, canned praise for Ford that put me over the top; Bush has that effect on me.

But finally, today, there actually is a story beyond some unelected president who pardoned his crooked predecessor getting real old and dying: Ford did an embargoed interview with Bob Woodward denouncing the Bush's Regime's invasion and occupation of Iraq. He had agreed to the interview if Woodward agreed not to publish it until he was dead. The body's not even in the ground yet and it's all over the boob tube.

The interview was done in late July, 2004. CNN ran an audio tape this morning of this comment by Ford: "Well, I can understand the theory of wanting to free people. Whether you can detach that from the obligation number one, of what's in our national interests, there comes a point where they conflict. And I just don't think we should go hellfire damnation around the globe freeing people, unless it is directly related to our own national security." Other quotes: "I don't think if I had been president, on the basis of the facts as I saw them publicly, I don't think I would have ordered the Iraqi war. I would have maximized our effort through sanctions, through restrictions, whatever, to find another answer... I think Rumsfeld, Cheney and the president made a big mistake in justifying going into the war in Iraq. They put the emphasis on weapons of mass destruction... And now, I've never publicly said I thought they made a mistake, but I felt very strongly it was an error in how they should justify what they were going to do."

Maybe Ken knew what he was talking about when he was less rough on Ford than many in the blogosphere. Woodward's piece in today's Washington Post makes Ford look pretty decent-- especially when you compare him to what we have now came after him. Too bad Ford was too scared of the Bush Hate Machine to allow his thoughts to be known when they could have done some good though.


The face of right wing hypocrisy in America, blowhard Bill Bennett, was a lot harsher on Ford for not making his criticisms known before he died than I was. Basically, he called him an indecent coward this morning. (See, that's what I meant about the fear many feel in regard to the Rove-managed Bush Hate Machine of which Bennett is a small, but thoroughly repulsive, cog.) Your man Bill Bennett: "The effect of what Ford did is to protect himself, ensuring he can't be asked by others about his critiques, ensuring that there can be no dialogue. The way Ford does it with Woodward, he doesn't have to defend himself...he simply drops it into Bob Woodward's tape recorder and let's the bomb go off when fully out of range, himself. This is not courage, this is not decent."


click on Bush's nose if you want to be able to read his stupid remarks



I was surprised this morning by the number of e-mails I got from people with questions about the "Paris Hilton story" yesterday. And, wisely, no one acknowledged Paris Hilton's existence. Basically, everyone was stunned by one fact. Here's an example from Dan:
holy shit. so I just read your amazing/chilling "Paris Hilton" post, and, well, among the whole sordid cesspool of numbers, one jumped out at me:

"Number of households using credit to cover basic living expenses: 7 in 10."

Does that not count mortgages on homes? Like, does it only count groceries and health care and stuff like that? (Hint: please say it also counts mortgages. Please...)

This morning's Agonist has a powerful piece showing how American households are in the worst financial shape since World War II. Considering the competence, selfishness and ideological mania of our national leadership, this should surprise no one. But it's laid out so well that I want to recommend that everyone read it in full and look at the charts as well. Briefly, consumer debt is doing American families in. A comparison of the total outstanding household mortgage debt with total household real estate holdings-- the leverage ratio that economists and financial people use to determine if a household has enough assets to cover all its liabilities-- shows that homeowner equity, which represents the amount a person actually owns in real estate, is at a post WWII record low.

"Household liquidity fell to a post-WWII low in the third quarter of 2006... Households already have borrowed so much that their level is at a post-WWII high. Secondly, households have already borrowed so much that their debt service burden is at a 25-year high. And thirdly, residential real estate which accounts for 30.5% of the total market value of households assets, is the single largest asset in households portfolios compared with deposits, credit market instruments, corporate equities and other tangible assets. Of these other asset categories, residential real estate probably is the least liquid. In sum, household have never been as highly leveraged as they are now or as illiquid as they are now, and their single largest asset is in danger of actually falling in value." In effect, we now have a record low in family assets to pay off debts... Households," he concludes, "have never been as highly levered as they are now or as illiquid as they are now, and their single largest asset is in danger of actually falling in value."