Wednesday, April 30, 2008



If you're feeling inundated with all that trash on the TV about Rev Wright and all the anti-Obama garbage being thrown by the vile insiders and their media, take a minute to watch this Roger Waters song. (Although first take a look at this Wall Street Journal/MSNBC poll which basically makes the case that even with the entire corporate media smearing Obama 24/7 about Rev. Wright, the biggest problem any candidate is facing because of an association is McCain-- and the association is George W. Bush.
In the survey, 43 percent of registered voters say they have major concerns that McCain is too closely aligned with the current administration.

By comparison:

36 percent have major concerns that Clinton seems to change her position on some issues (like driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants and the North American Free Trade Agreement, which her husband signed but which she now opposes)
34 percent say they’re bothered by Obama’s “bitter” remarks
32 percent have a major problem with the Illinois senator’s past associations with Wright and the 1960s radical William Ayers
27 percent have serious concerns that Bill Clinton would have too much influence on U.S. policy decisions if his wife is elected

On my way back from the airport today I was listening to an interview on NPR about the political attitudes in a KKK bastion of Indiana, Martinsville. One guys who sounded like he may have spent some time running around in a sheet and pillow case once or twice in his lifetime, seemed very uncomfortable with the idea of a woman or an African-American president. But he absolutely dismissed out of hand the idea of voting for McCain who he said is too aligned with Bush. I don't think he reads the Journal. In the end he said his male chauvinist side was pushing him towards Obama. I was hoping he may have seen Pink Floyd's Obama pig (see above) floating by and that that had convinced him. But it wasn't.
"I think a lot of things would change. Probably the male chauvinist in me is going to vote for the man just because. I'm going to be honest, it probably won't be McCain, since he stands for everything George Bush stands for. I think [Obama] says he doesn't take money from the lobbyists, which I think can be real positive."

Anyway, here's Roger:

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The Indiana photo-ID decision sets the stage for state legislators to restrict voting rights any way they can, as long as they invoke "voter fraud"

By Jon Dodson

DWT constitutional correspondent

The Supremes recently decided the biggest voting rights case since Bush v. Gore. The issue was whether Indiana's law requiring state-issued photo IDs for everyone voting in person violates the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment.


In a long line of cases, the Equal Protection Clause attaches to certain fundamental rights. The landmark case on voting rights was Harper v. Virginia Board of Elections, 383 US 663 (1966), where the Court held Virginia's poll tax unconstitutional. The Court concluded that any state "violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment whenever it makes the affluence of the voter or payment of any fee an electoral standard." Moreover the Court stated that even rational restrictions on the right to vote would be unconstitutional if they "invidiously discriminate."

However, in Anderson v. Celebreeze, 460 US 780 (1983), the Court clarified that "evenhanded restrictions that protect the integrity and reliability of the electoral process itself" are not invidious. This is the law the Court applied to Indiana's statute.


We've all had the luxury of a visit to the DMV, which has become a trite parody of bureaucratic excess and inefficiency. In Florida, getting a photo ID costs $20 and about an hour of waiting at DMV--when one has all the documentation one needs.

But birth certificates can get lost or destroyed, and (as I found out) can be relatively expensive to replace (over $50 if you were born in North Carolina). So, depending on the various hoops one must jump through, getting an ID can take hours and a significant sum of money.

The good news is that if a person has the documentation and transportation he or she needs, the Indiana law ensures that photo identification can be obtained for free. The plurality repeatedly pointed this out, which leads me to believe--or desperately hope--that the Court may hold unconstitutional a law requiring voter ID that costs money.

On the other hand, the Virginia poll tax held unconstitutional in 1966 cost $1.50, so maybe that's the cutoff. But then the Court would have to calculate how much $1.50 is in 2008 dollars. And so, really, "not free" would be the easiest place to draw the line.


The other good news is that the Indiana law provides an alternative for persons who do not have an ID: They can cast a provisional ballot, which will be counted so long as they fill out an affidavit at the circuit court clerk's office within 10 days.

Now, if there's anything more likely to drive a person to suicide than going to the DMV, it's going to the clerk's office. Clerks in any populous jurisdiction are incredibly busy, generally grumpy, and, from the standpoint of customers, painfully slow. Not to mention that this alternative does nothing for persons without transportation.

So, again, the provisional-ballot/affidavit method is easier said than done. One can't help but wonder, why not fill out the affidavit right there at the voting precinct? Wouldn't that be a lesser burden on the voter? Although the Indiana law is not nearly as bad as it could be, it still places severe obstacles in the way of many people--particularly poor persons, elderly persons, naturalized immigrants, college students, and anyone else with transportation, financial, or paperwork problems.


What's more troubling than the law itself is the Supreme Court's opinion. Once again, the Court stuck its head in the sand, rather than deal with what everyone knows: First, these laws are politically motivated, and second, no state has had an even moderate problem with voter fraud.

Regarding the politics behind this law, the Court concluded that "valid neutral justifications for a nondiscriminatory law . . . should not be disregarded simply because partisan interests may have provided one motivation for the votes of individual legislators."

This understatement is in line with the Equal Protection cases basically holding that discriminatory intent is not enough to offend the Constitution where there's no discriminatory effect--see Washington v. Davis, 426 US 229 (1976). But it also appears to be an application of the relaxed "rational basis" standard of review, in a case where strict scrutiny is warranted.

Under the rational basis standard, so long as the legislators can dream up a "conceivably rational" justification, the law should be upheld. This standard is supposed to apply in cases that involve neither a fundamental right nor a suspect classification such as race or gender. Strict scrutiny requires a more compelling justification of the state.

So the Court seemed to apply the wrong standard of review, or misapply the correct standard, in discounting the impermissible political motivations of the law. (Can we say "invidious"?)

In contrast to the short shrift given to the obvious political motivations, the Court took very seriously the rationale that the law was intended to prevent voter fraud, despite the paper-thin record of voter fraud ever being a problem. As far as I could tell, the Court cited two incidents of the kind of fraud to be prevented here--voter impersonation. One happened in a gubernatorial race in Washington state, and another in a mayoral race in Indiana. Justice John Paul Stevens concluded for the plurality that this "demonstrates a real risk that voter fraud could affect a close election's outcome."

If another justice had written the majority opinion in this case, I would insert here a rant about the hypocrisy of such hand-wringing over whether "fraud" would determine the outcome of an election. Because, frankly, I consider the justices in the majority of Bush v. Gore a fraud. That case exposed them as partisan hacks rather than judges. But, Justice Stevens actually wrote a brilliant, biting dissent in Bush v. Gore. So I must concede that his concerns with voter fraud must have been genuine in this case.

Be that as it may, the record is very, very flimsy. In a case where the Court supposedly applies some iteration of strict scrutiny, it's hard to believe that such a lack of evidence could be the basis of a compelling state interest which trumps Equal Protection when it comes to voting.


One final note: the challenge to Indiana's law was a facial challenge, essentially arguing that the law is unconstitutional per se. The Court did leave open "as applied" challenges to the law in the future.

So perhaps a person who tries to vote in person without an ID because of financial or transportation issues but can't . . . perhaps she will somehow come up with the resources and lawyers to challenge the statute as applied to her. Or barring that, maybe this person who could not afford to vote will represent herself. She can just take a pro se writ of certiorari before the Supreme Court! This is a reasonable remedy, no?

At any rate, one thing is certain: The Supreme Court declared open season for state legislators to dream up all kinds of restrictions on the right to vote, so long as they remember to wink and say "voter fraud." This is not the last we will hear from the Court about this issue in the coming years.

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From the DWT Least Surprising News of the Day Department: Say, wasn't that somethin' about that Lamont fella screwin' up Joe Lieberman's website?


"On April 10, The New York Times also reported that, according to the FBI email obtained by The Advocate, 'it was not angry bloggers or Mr. Lamont's insurgent campaign workers who rendered the site inaccessible, but sheer technological ineptitude.' . . .

"Despite having reported the August 2006 allegation by Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman's re-election campaign that supporters of Ned Lamont, then his rival in the Democratic Senate primary, had "hacked" Lieberman's campaign website, numerous media outlets--including ABC, CNN, and CBS--have yet to report that an FBI investigation reportedly concluded before the November 2006 general election that there was 'no evidence of (an) attack.'"

--from Media Matters' new report on the "story of the story" of the crashing of the Lieberman campaign website in 2006, and the aftermath this month

I assume by now everyone who's found his/her way to DWT has heard the much-belated sequel to the 2006 campaign "story" of how those left-wing crazies of Ned Lamont's insurgent Connecticut Senate campaign nefariously conspired to crash the Lieberman campaign's website. The sequel, only too predictably, was that it was like the outgoing Clinton staffers' trashing of the White House as they cleared out in January 2001: It never happened.

Of course the Republicans who made up the stories about the White House vandalism were just plain flat-out lying. Imagine that! The Bush regime began, at its very instigation, with a complete, flagrant, malicious fabrication, which was never retracted, accommodated, or otherwise amended as the evidence slowly seeped out that it was all Republican lies. At least in the case of the crashed Lieberman website, the senator and his media lackey the Abominable Gerstein [above] could claim to have been misled by others, and so they continued to claim when it finally came out recently that the FBI had investigated promptly and quickly reported back to the Lieberman campaign that it was all untrue, the whole story about the demons of the Lamont campaign doing them dirt.

In fact, the vaunted Lieberman website crashed of its own lack of weight--you get the impression that it wasn't much more than a few spare parts from somebody's basement held together with duct tape and spit. Then, within a few days we learned that not only did the Liebermaniacs almost immediately know that everything they had accused the Lamont campaign of, with such certainty, was a total fabrication, but that the Democratic state attorney general, Richard Blumenthal, and the Republican U.S. attorney, Kevin O'Connor, had this information and seem to have erected an impenetrable public stonewall, which kept the facts of the matter secret and allowed the Lamont campaign to suffer continuing contumely from its already-disproved bad behavior.

Even now, not surprisingly, Holy Joe and the Abominable Gerstein bat their eyes demurely and blame it all on their wicked and deceitful computer guy, who dagnab it told them it was all the Lamont meanies' fault. And then they have the world-class chutzpah to declare "case closed." Without troubling to explain how it happened that they never got around to publicly correcting the supposedly inadvertent lies they had spread so feverishly.

Certainly you would think that the most rudimentary honest and decency require, before they go talking about any cases being closed, that they offer a public explanation and apology--if only for the inadvertent error of their accusations. It is, after all, quite possible that this lie made the difference between Holy Joe slithering back into the Senate versus shuffling off, with Mrs. Holy Joe, to full-time, on-the-books employment with their K Street masters.

What? You think His Holiness's lie about opposing the war in Iraq was the lie that got him reelected? Or the lie that he would vote as a Democrat? OK, you could be right. Considering that pretty the Lieberman campaign was pretty much all lies all the time, it's hard to know without some good-quality research the relative importance of the individual lies.

Still, don't the rules say that when you're caught in a lie, you've got to acknowledge it and apologize, however quietly and insincerely, before you can blithely move on? Apparently not in the "Connecticut for Lieberman" inner sanctum.

Nor, apparently, among the media puppets who stoogefully reported the Lieberman campaign accusations. Now those meanies at Media Matters, with their tiresome fetish for facts have investigated and found that by and large the media that reported the Lieberman accusations have similarly found no need to set the record straight, one notably honorable exception being Keith Olbermann on Countdown.

Some of the detail in the Media Matters report is staggering. I encourage you to let your eyes wander through it:

Despite having reported the August 2006 allegation by Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman's re-election campaign that supporters of Ned Lamont, then his rival in the Democratic Senate primary, had "hacked" Lieberman's campaign website, numerous media outlets--including ABC, CNN, and CBS--have yet to report that an FBI investigation reportedly concluded before the November 2006 general election that there was "no evidence of (an) attack." To the contrary, according to an April 9 article in The Advocate of Stamford, Connecticut, an October 25, 2006, FBI email indicated that the FBI had found Lieberman's website "crashed because Lieberman officials continually exceeded a configured limit of 100 e-mails per hour the night before the primary." Thus, despite coverage of the Lieberman campaign's allegations against the Lamont campaign, ABC, CNN, and CBS have yet to report that the FBI not only exonerated the Lamont campaign, but that it was reported this month that the FBI concluded the website crash was the fault of the Lieberman campaign itself.

CNN reported the Lieberman campaign's allegations repeatedly on August 8, 2006, and a total of nine times from August 8, 2006, to September 8, 2006. As late as February 23 of this year, CNN correspondent Josh Levs reported on CNN Newsroom that "back in 2006, Joe Lieberman's campaign website went down. You remember this campaign. It was a big deal, him against Ned Lamont. Well, at the very end of his campaign, his site just pretty much disappeared, and his campaign is convinced it was an attack."

On the August 9, 2006, edition of ABC's Good Morning America, senior national correspondent Jake Tapper reported: "Lieberman's campaign complained to law enforcement that its website was hacked yesterday by devious anti-Lieberman forces. Lamont said he knew nothing about the hacking. But the incident was symbolic of the tornado of anti-war liberal Internet writers, called bloggers, that Lieberman faced." On the August 8, 2006, broadcast of the CBS Evening News, then-correspondent Trish Regan reported that Lieberman supporters were "nervous not only because of this race, but also because Lieberman's campaign website was hacked into and shut down today. They're pointing the finger at the Lamont camp."

A search conducted by Media Matters for America on April 29 turned up no instances of CNN, ABC News, or CBS News programs reporting on the FBI's reported findings as of 11:59 pm ET on April 28. By contrast, MSNBC host Keith Olbermann, who reported the Lieberman campaign's allegations on the August 8, 2006, edition of Countdown, covered the reported results of the FBI investigation on April 9, 2008.

Lieberman's campaign website went down on August 7, 2006, the day before the Democratic primary. Quoting from the October 25, 2006, FBI email it obtained via a Freedom of Information Act request, The Advocate reported:

A federal investigation has concluded that U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman's 2006 re-election campaign was to blame for the crash of its Web site the day before Connecticut's heated Aug. 8 Democratic primary.

The FBI office in New Haven found no evidence supporting the Lieberman campaign's allegations that supporters of primary challenger Ned Lamont of Greenwich were to blame for the Web site crash.

Lieberman, who was fighting for his political life against the anti-Iraq war candidate Lamont, implied that was hacked by Lamont supporters.

"The server that hosted the website failed because it was overutilized and misconfigured. There was no evidence of (an) attack," according to the e-mail.

A program that could have detected a legitimate attack was improperly configured, the e-mail states.

"New Haven will be administratively closing this investigation," it concluded.


The Lieberman campaign alleged it was the target of a "denial of service attack," which can involve bombarding a Web site with external communications to slow it or render it useless.

"Our Web site consultant assured us in the strongest terms possible that we had been attacked," former Lieberman campaign spokesman Dan Gerstein said in December 2006.

According to the FBI memo, the site crashed because Lieberman officials continually exceeded a configured limit of 100 e-mails per hour the night before the primary.

"The system administrator misinterpreted the root cause," the memo stated. "The system administrator finally declared the server was being attacked and the Lieberman campaign accused the Ned Lamont campaign. The news reported this on Aug. 8, 2006, causing additional Web traffic to visit the site. The additional Web traffic then overwhelmed the Web server. ... Web traffic pattern analysis reports and Web logging that was available did not demonstrate traffic that was indicative of a denial of service attack."

On April 10, The New York Times also reported that, according to the FBI email obtained by The Advocate, "it was not angry bloggers or Mr. Lamont's insurgent campaign workers who rendered the site inaccessible, but sheer technological ineptitude." The April 9 Advocate report was also published in The Greenwich Time; both newspapers are owned by Gannett Co.

After losing the Democratic primary to Lamont, Lieberman ran for re-election to the Senate as an independent. Shortly after Lieberman defeated Lamont in the November 2006 general election, The Advocate reported that the U.S. attorney's office and state attorney general in Connecticut had "cleared" the Lamont campaign and its supporters of any wrongdoing. ABC, CNN, and CBS ignored that report as well. From a December 20, 2006, article in The Advocate:

The U.S. attorney's office and state attorney general have cleared former U.S. Senate candidate Ned Lamont and his supporters of any role in the crash of U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman's campaign Web site hours before last summer's Democratic primary.

"The investigation has revealed no evidence the problems the Web site experienced were the result of criminal conduct," said Tom Carson, spokesman for U.S. Attorney Kevin O'Connor.

State Attorney General Richard Blumenthal confirmed the joint investigation "found no evidence of tampering or sabotage warranting civil action by my office." Both men declined to provide additional information, such as what might have happened to the site.

According to an April 22, 2008, Advocate article, the office of state Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said it "never saw or read the [October 25, 2006] FBI e-mail until its contents were reported by The Advocate" on April 9.

"Even when we work cooperatively, the FBI never shares such internal documents with my office, a practice and policy we respect given our very different roles and responsibilities," Blumenthal said.

Blumenthal, a Democrat, said his investigation into the crash "was active and ongoing" until December 2006.

"Throughout the investigation there were discussions between my office and the U.S. attorney's office regarding the direction of the federal investigation but not any conclusion until after the election," Blumenthal said. "To have made any premature public predictions before our investigation ended... would have been irresponsible and improper."

Thomas Carson, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney, said in a statement that the office updated the Lieberman campaign and Blumenthal on the investigation in late October 2006.

"In accordance with our usual practice ... the Lieberman campaign, as the alleged victim, and the office of attorney general, which had been conducting a contemporaneous investigation ... were provided with limited information," Carson said. "The investigation was administratively closed several weeks later."

Like the December 2006 and April 9 articles before it, the April 22 Advocate report has also been ignored by the major media outlets mentioned above that covered Lieberman's allegations against Lamont and his supporters.

So, in addition to the need for some public acknowledgment by the sleazoids of the Lieberman campaign, there is rather urgent need for coming clean on the part of Attorney General Blumenthal, perhaps with a friendly jog from U.S. Attorney O'Connor.

But then, what really is the point? Most of the media who were so eager to pass on the bogus story seem eerily uninterested in setting the record straight. Maybe the solution would be for Senator Lieberman to do the honorable thing and resign his Senate seat. He could do so with clean conscience, knowing that he would be replaced, not by the man who would have been elected to that Senate seat in an honest race in 2006, but by an appointee of Connecticut's Republican governor, Jodi Rell--in other words, a Republican like himself.

Well, we hope not quite like himself. We'd like to think that even Connecticut Republicans have higher standards than that.

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McCranky has the gall to pass off his hare-brained "market-based" gibberish as a health-care plan. Maybe we should be calling him McBullshit?


"McCain's prescription would seek to lure workers away from their company health plans with a $5,000 family tax credit and a promise that, left to their own devices, they would be able to find cheaper insurance that is more tailored to their health-care needs and not tied to a particular job."
--reporter Michael D. Shear, in today's Washington Post

So, really, the only question is whether McCranky is too stupid to understand that no "market-based" approach can even begin to address the health-care crisis, for the screechingly obvious reason that the "market" has less-than-zero incentive to address the needs of anyone except healthy people, who by definition aren't party to the health-care crisis (at least not yet), or he's just running a little con game.
(Hypothetical Crankyman: "Everybody says I gotta have a health-care plan but I don't wanna have no health-care plan and nobody can make me have a health-care plan. Luckily American voters are really, really stupid, so I'll just sling 'em a line of bullshit.")

A number of people have pointed out that members of Congress (both houses) are in one important way uniquely un-qualified to have an opinion on health-care costs, because of the sweet plan that comes with their job. Of course in McCranky's case it's even worse: Thanks to his foresight in dumping his previous wife in favor of the lovely Cindy with her beer-heiress fortune, as long as people are still drinking beer the McCrankys won't have to worry where their next aspirin (or, more likely, designer prescription pain-killer) is coming from.

I'm not even going to bother quoting any more of the WaPo piece, which dutifully passes on all the McCranky health-care bullshit as if it were serious discussion. Well, maybe I'll offer just this additional bit:
McCain's plan is aimed primarily at giving individuals the power to make health-care decisions by granting the same tax breaks for insurance whether workers get a policy from an employer or on their own. Aides call it a "radical" rethinking of health care that would drive costs down and give people more choice.

If you really have the stomach for such insulting nonsense, by all means follow the article link above. It's a shame that so-called journalists have resolutely narrowed their job description to passing on whatever nonsense they're fed--all with a straight face, with no attempt at reality-checking the crap, except of course getting a comment from the other party in a "he said-he said" squabble.

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On tap tonight: Our crack constitutional consultant Jon Dodson ponders--SUPREME COURT FRAUD?


Our intrepid correspondent has been looking from every possible angle at the Supreme Court's peculiar ruling in the Indiana photo-ID voting-rights case--written by, of all people, Justice John Paul Stevens--trying to find an angle from which the ruling makes a lick of sense, constitutional or common.

We hope we're not giving away too much when we report that Jon didn't have a whole lot of luck.

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Bye-bye, Lurita! Life is unfair. Once upon a time, disgracing yourself and your country the way you did could have earned you a Medal of Freedom


Actually, the Bush-regime rats aren't so much deserting
this sinking ship as shoving one another over the side.

Remember the good old days of the first term of the Bush regime, when there seemed to be no malfeasance a regimist could commit that could get him/her fired? By and large, the more egregious your misdeeds, the likelier you were to find Chimpy the Prez draping a Medal of Freedom around your neck. (Personally, I don't think I would want the world's most maladroit human being getting anywhere close to my neck, especially not when he's wielding an object capable of strangulation. But hey, it was probably better than the shit-canning they deserved.)

Well, those were the old days. Now the steady outflow of regime lackeys being frog-marched out of government service in disgrace is coming to resemble a stampede. The misconduct has become so egregious that instead of the usual image of rats deserting a sinking ship, we've got the rats pushing one another over the side of this leaky tub.

Latest ejectee from this squalid swamp: the unspeakable Lurita Doan, who devoted her time as administrator of the General Services Administration to turning the GSA into just another shameless enclave of the Right-Wing Political (and Money-Siphoning) Machine. Here is the Politico's account:
Lurita Doan Finally Forced Out At GSA

By John Bresnahan

Lurita Doan, head of the General Services Administration, was forced to offer her resignation tonight, according to an e-mail she sent out this evening.

Doan was appointed in late May, 2006, becoming the first woman to serve as GSA Administrator. With 12,000 empioyees and a $20 billion annual budget, GSA has responsibilty for overseeing the thousands of building and properties owned by the federal government.

Doan became the subject of congressional scrutiny last year for allegedly using GSA to help Republican lawmakers win re-election. Doan denied the allegation, but her appearance before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee was disastrous. Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), chairman of the panel, called on Doan to resign over the allegations, but Doan refused to do so.

Here is the text of the e-mail that Doan sent out earlier this evening announcing her forced resignation:

"Dear Friends and Colleagues at GSA,

Early this evening I was asked to submit my resignation, and I have just done so. It has been a great privilege to serve with all of you and to serve our nation and a great President.

The past twenty-two months have been filled with accomplishments: together, we have regained our clean audit opinion, restored fiscal discipline, re-tooled our ability to respond to emergencies, rekindled entrepreneurial energies, reduced bureaucratic barriers to small companies to get a GSA Schedule, ignited a building boom at our nation's ports of entries, boldly led the nation in an aggressive telework initiative, and improved employee morale so that we were selected as one of the best places to work in the Federal government.

These accomplishments are made even more enjoyable by the fact that there were lots of people who told us they could never be done.

Best of luck to all of you, it has been a true honor."

As fellow flopperoos Gen. Tommy Franks and Iraq-occupation bungler L. Paul Bremer III look on, former CIA director George Tenet is rewarded for his bumbling by Chimpy the Choker.

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If we allow ourselves to be manipulated and cheated by cynical political hacks like McCain and Clinton, a sharp businessman might reason, why couldn't he get in on the action too? The Enron boys sure did and, under the protection of Bush and Cheney, they stole billions from American taxpayers and rate-payers. But they're part of a long and disreputable tradition that has businessman paying off politicians who allow they to plunder the citizens. Republicans call it a free market and citizens rarely hold anyone accountable anyone. If they did would McCain have even the meager support he does after he was caught red-handed taking bribes from banker Charles Keating who then proceeded-- with McCain's active assistance-- to rip his bank's customers off for hundreds of millions of dollars?

Today's Wall Street Journal asks its readers to stop thinking about Rev Wright for a moment or two and consider the case of the nation's biggest mortgage brokerage, Countrywide Financial Corp., who CEO received $100 million last year-- while the company lost $893... in the first quarter.

In an hour I'm having breakfast with a former manager of a mortgage brokerage office in Colorado. He's going to explain the internals of how his company systematically ripped off its customers and helped to wreck the housing and real estate industries while enriching top executives-- and throwing the country into recession. This is the Republican vision of unfettered capitalism. I hope to write more about this in the coming week. For now, let me commend you to today's report in that commie rag, the Journal.
A federal probe of Countrywide, the nation's largest mortgage lender, is turning up evidence that sales executives at the company deliberately overlooked inflated income figures for many borrowers, people with knowledge of the investigation say.

Some of the problems are surfacing in a mortgage program called "Fast and Easy," in which borrowers were asked to provide little or no documentation of their finances, according to these people and to former Countrywide employees. Both Countrywide and Fannie Mae, the government-sponsored company that bought many of the loans, classify the loans as "prime," meaning low-risk.

Fast and Easy borrowers aren't required to produce pay stubs or tax forms to substantiate their claimed earnings. In many cases, Countrywide didn't even require loan officers to verify employment,
according to an October 2006 presentation by Countrywide's consumer-lending division. That left the program vulnerable to abuse by Countrywide loan officers and outside mortgage brokers seeking loans for customers who might have been turned away if their finances had been more closely scrutinized, according to three current and former Countrywide senior executives and to several mortgage brokers who arranged loans through the program.

The quarterly financial results, which included $3.05 billion of credit-related charges, did not provide details about the performance of the company's "no-doc" loans, including the Fast and Easy ones.
Late payments increased across the board: About 36% of "subprime" loans to people with weak credit records were at least 30 days overdue, up from 20% a year before. For all loans serviced by
Countrywide, a category mostly made up of prime loans, the delinquency rate was 9.3%, nearly double the year-earlier 4.9%.

In early January, as fears mounted that declining home values and rising defaults had left the company close to collapse, Countrywide agreed to be taken over by Bank of America Corp. in a stock swap valued at about $4 billion.

...In recent years, about one-third of all Countrywide prime mortgages eligible for sale to Fannie Mae were Fast and Easy.

During a conference call with investors last July, Countrywide acknowledged that Fast and Easy loans were riskier than fully documented prime loans. A chart provided to investors showed that a borrower who wasn't required to document income would be at least 50% more likely to fall behind on payments than a similar borrower who did provide documentation.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation is looking into a wide variety of Countrywide mortgages that didn't require full documentation, not just the Fast and Easy loans. People involved in the inquiry say the FBI has concluded that extensive fraud occurred on the loans, and they are looking into whether the company violated securities law by failing to disclose that to investors.

Perhaps the FBI should save themselves the trouble and go ask John McCain, who claims he doesn't know anything about economics but certainly knows more about corruption than the average politician. McCain can explain to the FBI that the cause of the mortgage crisis is irresponsible homeowners who were greedy and morally deficient and who need to fix the mess by getting second jobs and stop taking summer vacations.

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McCain and Hillary-- two pandering fools

You may think of Thomas Friedman primarily as one of the cheerleaders behind Bush's illegal attack on Iraq, but he also sometimes makes a little sense-- like in his NY Times column today. Like anyone everyone who takes the problems of the economy seriously, he is very disappointed that Hillary would lower herself to the standards of McCain-- and he explains why. Their proposal is "not an energy policy. This is money laundering: we borrow money from China and ship it to Saudi Arabia and take a little cut for ourselves as it goes through our gas tanks. What a way to build our country. When the summer is over, we will have increased our debt to China, increased our transfer of wealth to Saudi Arabia and increased our contribution to global warming for our kids to inherit." He commends Obama for resisting the politician's inborn urge to pander. I'd go further and point out that their respective positions show that Obama is the only one of the three fit to be president.
our problem is so much worse than you think. We have no energy strategy. If you are going to use tax policy to shape energy strategy then you want to raise taxes on the things you want to discourage-- gasoline consumption and gas-guzzling cars-- and you want to lower taxes on the things you want to encourage-- new, renewable energy technologies. We are doing just the opposite.

Are you sitting down?

Few Americans know it, but for almost a year now, Congress has been bickering over whether and how to renew the investment tax credit to stimulate investment in solar energy and the production tax credit to encourage investment in wind energy. The bickering has been so poisonous that when Congress passed the 2007 energy bill last December, it failed to extend any stimulus for wind and solar energy production. Oil and gas kept all their credits, but those for wind and solar have been left to expire this December. I am not making this up. At a time when we should be throwing everything into clean power innovation, we are squabbling over pennies.

These credits are critical because they ensure that if oil prices slip back down again-- which often happens-- investments in wind and solar would still be profitable. That’s how you launch a new energy technology and help it achieve scale, so it can compete without subsidies.

The Democrats wanted the wind and solar credits to be paid for by taking away tax credits from the oil industry. President Bush said he would veto that. Neither side would back down, and Mr. Bush-- showing not one iota of leadership-- refused to get all the adults together in a room and work out a compromise. Stalemate. Meanwhile, Germany has a 20-year solar incentive program; Japan 12 years. Ours, at best, run two years.

“It’s a disaster,” says Michael Polsky, founder of Invenergy, one of the biggest wind-power developers in America. “Wind is a very capital-intensive industry, and financial institutions are not ready to take ‘Congressional risk.’ They say if you don’t get the [production tax credit] we will not lend you the money to buy more turbines and build projects.”

It is also alarming, says Rhone Resch, the president of the Solar Energy Industries Association, that the U.S. has reached a point “where the priorities of Congress could become so distorted by politics” that it would turn its back on the next great global industry-- clean power-- “but that’s exactly what is happening.” If the wind and solar credits expire, said Resch, the impact in just 2009 would be more than 100,000 jobs either lost or not created in these industries, and $20 billion worth of investments that won’t be made.


You wouldn't vote for McCain, I'm sure. Hillary is better than he is... to some extent. Obama is the only one qualified to be president. He's willing to tell the truth to the American people. McCain and Hillary are just dishonest political hacks.


Alter is a smart guy and in Newsweek today he asked, rhetorically, why McCain and Hillary don't know any better than to propose this horribly pandering gas tax holiday. I think they did the American voters a great service by both coming out for it. It shows voters exactly who is willing to try to buy them off with cheap counter-productive tricks and who is willing to stand up and speak the real straight talk. And it shows the American people-- or at least those willing to use their noggins-- how pathetic the mass media is.
Hillary Clinton has now joined John McCain in proposing the most irresponsible policy idea of the year-- an idea that actually could aid the terrorists. What's worse, both of them know that suspending the federal gas tax this summer is a terrible pander, and yet they're pushing it anyway for crass political advantage.

Clinton and McCain have learned a destructive lesson from the Bush era: as Bill Clinton said in 2002, it's better politically to be "strong and wrong" than thoughtful and right. The goal is to depict Barack Obama as an out-of-touch elitist. By any means necessary.

I could highlight a long debate among economists on suspending the gas tax, but there is no debate. Not one respectable economist [though all of McCain's and Hillary's repulsive cadres of lobbyists]-- and not one environmentalist or foreign policy expert-- supports the idea, unless they are official members of the Clinton or McCain campaigns (and even some of them privately oppose it). To relieve suffering at the pump, send another rebate check or provide tax credits or something else, but not this.

Why is this gas pander so bad? Let me count the ways:

* It's a direct transfer of money from motorists to oil companies, which are getting ready this week to again report record obscene profits. If the federal excise tax were lifted, oil companies would simply raise prices and pocket most of the difference. Clinton's proposal to recover the money with a windfall profits tax on oil companies sounds nice but won't happen. That tax was easily blocked by the Senate in December and would likely be blocked again.

* It offers taxpayers only peanuts. The Congressional Budget Office says the average savings to motorists this summer would be a total of $30. Did I miss something, or was that measly number somehow not included in Clinton's explanation of her support?

* It sends more hard-earned money to the Middle East, which is terrible for our national security. Remember, 15 of the 19 terrorists on 9/11 came from Saudi Arabia. How did they get the terrorist training? The madrassa indoctrination? Oil money.

* It worsens global warming by encouraging gasoline consumption. When you flee your house in 2020 because of flooding, remember which politicians pandered.

* It makes it more likely you'll have a car accident or will waste even more time in traffic. The proceeds from the gas tax go for highway construction and upgrades. Because the tax (24.4 cents a gallon on diesel fuel) was last raised 15 years ago, our infrastructure is a mess, with potholes and dangerous crossings practically everywhere. Thousands of repair projects will be further delayed.

* It will cost 300,000 construction jobs, according to the Department of Transportation. Makes it kind of ironic when Clinton starts her rallies saying she wants "jobs, jobs, jobs."

* It will cost the U.S. Treasury at least $8.5 billion and probably much more, according to state highway officials. For McCain that's no money at all-- merely one month in Iraq. For Clinton it's money she's already spent. She has said in the past that any proceeds from a windfall profits tax would go for renewable energy. The $8.5 billion figure assumes the tax would be reapplied after Labor Day. Fat chance. The one-year costs are probably closer to $30 billion.

* It won't happen anyway because Congress isn't usually quite that stupid, and if it is, President Bush would veto the bill.

So why are McCain and Clinton doing this? Because when they learned that Obama had supported a similar suspension of the Illinois gas tax in Springfield, Ill., before realizing it was a bad idea, they saw an opening. It was like Hillary's whiskey shot in the bar, only sleazier. Try to show that the guy just doesn't get it.

Of course, McCain and Clinton do get it. They get that people are hurting and want some relief, even if this form of it makes no sense. They get that voters have been conned into believing that both
candidates are responsible public servants because they're not as bad as some others, so they can trade on that reputation. They get that smacking Obama is more important than anything else on the planet right now, and that for Obama to respond by calling them panderers will take Obama about as far as it took Paul Tsongas in 1992 when he leveled the same charge at Bill Clinton.

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Tuesday, April 29, 2008

From the bookshelf: If you've been waiting to order your copy of "Nixonland," now's the time to get cracking--plus some other book notes


One thing that should be obvious by now is that the final descent into right-wing darkness marked by the Age of Bush has also stimulated and focused a wave of progressive writers like gangbusters. Howie is the DWT book guy, and he keeps you apprised of the books he's devoured. Me, in my 9-to-5 grind I mostly dream of finding the time and concentration for so grand a project as, you know, reading a book.

Now word comes from our friend Rick Perlstein that for-real retail copies of his long-awaited Nixonland : The Rise of a President and the Fracturing of America actually exist and are being shipped to buyers. ("I can't really believe it myself," Rick writes. "I signed the contract for the thing in November of 2001, first started thinking seriously about it in 1998, and wanted to write just this book since I was sixteen years old.")

If you haven't heard about Nixonland, what you need to know is that Rick Perlstein has always been a close observer of the right side of the great left-right political split that erupted in the '60s. His 2001 book Before the Storm: Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American Consensus looked at how the seeming conservative debacle of the 1964 presidential election in fact laid the groundwork for the ascension of the new Right. In Nixonland, I gather, he's carried that chronicle (watch out, it's 896 pages and weighs a whopping 2.4 pounds) forward to the years 1965-72 and the emergence of the conservative movement as a political force, with emphasis on how those culture wars looked from the other side.


If your book source of choice happens to be Amazon, you'll notice that the hefty discount offered on Nixonland, which brings the price down from $37.50 to $24.75, also drops you below the magic $25 mark for free shipping. If you're as cheap as I am, this is a problem.

Now we've probably all got so many books on our reading list that the solution is obvious: piggyback one of the others onto your order. I'd been meaning for weeks now to get hold of Cliff Schecter's The Real McCain, the book I'm hoping will provide both a framework and a lot of raw material for penetrating the fake halo of that double-talking phony McCranky and keeping his sorry ass out of the White House.

Probably you already know that The Real McCain was conceived and substantially written--by Cliff and another of our favorite writers, the patrician Bob Geiger--before the embarrassing collapse of the McCranky campaign, which seemed to drag the book down the drain with it. Until, with the GOP presidential field looking like some sort of circus freak show, the McCranky campaign was reborn, and The Real McCain was back in business.

By tossing The Real McCain in my shopping cart, thereby getting free shipping on both books, I added only about six bucks to the total I was about to pay for just Nixonland.


I don't want to leave the subject of important new books without a quick mention of Jeffrey Feldman's latest, Outright Barbarous: How the Violent Language of the Right is Poisoning American Democracy, due out May 1 from enterprising progressive publisher Ig Publishing.

You probably know Jeffrey from his Frameshop blog, in which case you know that he is a careful student of language. I've been tinkering with a set of advance galleys of Outright Barbarous, with a view to bracketing it with one of the most remarkable books I know (as much for its genesis as for its actual content), Victor Klemperer's LTI--Lingua Tertii Imperii (The Language of the Third Reich): A Philologist's Notebook, the study of the Nazi perversion of language which Klemperer (a first cousin of the great conductor Otto Klemperer) extracted after World War II from the remarkable diaries he kept secretly all through the reign of National Socialism. (As it happens the book I'm trying to get through now is the final volume of the Klemperer diaries, from 1945 throuh his death in 1959. It's a tough subway read.)

All smart politicians know that language is important. Smart totalitarians, however, understand that control of language is crucial. Manipulation of the language was a key factor in the rise of the American Far Right. One of these days we need to talk about this a little.

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We can dedicate these to the McCain campaign ploy all over the country

This morning I was inundated with e-mails about some kind of cockamamie Jimi Hendrix porn tape story in the NY Times. Even my baby sister called me and said, "I read about you in the Times today." No, no, no... It's some other Howie Klein in L.A. It isn't me. Yes, I had a quasi-friendship with Hendrix in the late 60s but not close enough for this kind of thing. And, sure, I've had my share of vices; but porn was never one of them. The other notable occurrence in my world this morning, before running off to the airport, was watching Bush' execrable and venal speech on the economy. It made me sick just seeing him still-- even with his approval ratings headed towards single digits-- just lying his ass off.... and with the same old lies that no one believes anymore. Except McCain. McCain either believes or is making believe he believes. But even Bush couldn't go along with McCain taking the Bush Economic Miracle to it's logical conclusion.

I tried coming up with a coherent post about it before catching my plane. I love the art work Lucas did based The Blind Leading the Blind but few minutes ago I found Krugman's column, Gas Tax Follies (same edition as the Hendrix case of mistaken identity). I respect Krugman a lot and I've been disturbed over the course of the last few months as he leaned heavily in the Hillary direction. What, I thought, could make him so blind? It looks like her signing on to a version of McCain's cynical summer gas holiday ploy has finally opened his eyes (a little tiny bit). He terms McCain proposal "a really bad idea" and notes that "Hillary Clinton is emulating him (but with a twist that makes her plan pointless rather than evil), and Barack Obama, to his credit, says no."
Why doesn’t cutting the gas tax this summer make sense? It’s Econ 101 tax incidence theory: if the supply of a good is more or less unresponsive to the price, the price to consumers will always rise until the quantity demanded falls to match the quantity supplied. Cut taxes, and all that happens is that the pretax price rises by the same amount. The McCain gas tax plan is a giveaway to oil companies, disguised as a gift to consumers.

Is the supply of gasoline really fixed? For this coming summer, it is. Refineries normally run flat out in the summer, the season of peak driving. Any elasticity in the supply comes earlier in the year, when refiners decide how much to put in inventories. The McCain/Clinton gas tax proposal comes too late for that. So it’s Econ 101: the tax cut really goes to the oil companies.

The Clinton twist is that she proposes paying for the revenue loss with an excess profits tax on oil companies. In one pocket, out the other. So it’s pointless, not evil. But it is pointless, and disappointing.

I happen to agree with Hillary on the excess profits tax. She's right and Krugman's wrong but Hillary, Krugman and everyone in Washington knows that that proposal will get through Congress and be signed by Bush on the same day that Bush has Cheney arrested for treason and sent to Guantanamo for enhanced questioning. Hillary is being deceptive and treating the voters like fools to even bring it up in the context of a summer gas price reduction. It's a cheap Inside the Beltway trick that shows that she and McCain are just opposite sides of the same worthless coin. In case you missed it last time:

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How far will "Big Dick" Cheney go to get whatever the hell he wants? We might equally well ask, "How deep is the ocean? How high are the stars?"


"Vice Presidential staff have previously testified before Congress and I am aware of no authority -- and counsel's letter cites none -- for the proposition that such staff could be immune from testimony before Congress."
--House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers [right], responding to the VP's office's latest preposterous claims that his staff isn't accountable to Congress, no way, no how

Am I the only one who did a double take, and then giggled, at the opening line of Dan Froomkin's column today, "Cheney's Total Impunity"? You tell me:

"How far will Vice President Cheney go to shield himself and his office from public scrutiny?"

How far will Vice President Cheney go??? Doesn't the very act of asking such a question suggest that somewhere in the universe there exists some limit to how far this vice president will go to get what he wants? Does anyone really believe that such a limit exists?

Let's say someone had asked back in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, "How far will Vice President Cheney go to get us into war in Iraq?" Can anyone think of anything, anything at all, he wouldn't--in fact didn't--do?

So the latest blunt refusal to offer up Cheney chief of staff David Addington for congressional testimony runs true to form. Indeed it's heartening to see that stripping Big Dick's boy Irving Libby from the team hasn't led to any diminution of the gall and effrontery level. Because, of course, the Dickster still has Addington, the remaining half of his old pair of Spawns of Satan Bookends, on the job.

And the loads of crap these so-called legal geniuses of the Bush regime come up with--my goodness, if you submitted one of these briefs as a paper in a Government 101 class, you'd be lucky to come away with an F-minus.

Here's our Dan's take on the latest round:

Cheney's Total Impunity

By Dan Froomkin

How far will Vice President Cheney go to shield himself and his office from public scrutiny?

Last spring, Cheney asserted that he wasn't subject to executive-branch rules about classified information because he wasn't actually part of the executive branch.

Now his office argues that he and his staff are completely immune from congressional oversight. That's right: Completely immune.

Cheney's latest claim came in a response to a House Judiciary Committee request for vice presidential chief of staff David S. Addington to testify about his central role in developing the administration's torture policies.

Cheney lawyer Kathryn L. Wheelbarger wrote back: "Congress lacks the constitutional power to regulate by a law what a Vice President communicates in the performance of the Vice President's official duties, or what a Vice President recommends that a President communicate in the President's performance of official duties, and therefore those matters are not within the Committee's power of inquiry."

As it happens, that was only one of three startling responses in Wheelbarger's letter.

She also wrote: "The Chief of Staff to the Vice President is an employee of the Vice President, and not the President, and therefore is not in a position to speak on behalf of the President."

Disregard, for a moment, the fact that Addington wasn't actually asked to speak on behalf of the president - but about his "unique information and perspective." Contrary to Wheelbarger's central assertion, Addington actually does work for the president. When he took over the job previously held by Scooter Libby -- who has since been convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice in the Valerie Plame CIA leak case -- Addington also inherited Libby's title as "assistant to the president." See, for instance, his official White House profile.

Cheney's office somehow managed to omit Addington from the White House staff list submitted to Congress. But Addington isn't on Cheney's public Senate payroll either.

Finally, Wheelbarger cites, "separate from any question of immunity from testimony," questions of privilege "protecting state secrets, attorney-client communications, deliberations, and communications among Presidents, Vice Presidents, and their advisers."

In a letter to Addington, Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers yesterday lamented Wheelbarger's "legalistic and argumentative response" and warned that if Addington refuses to appear voluntarily, he may be subpoenaed. (Conyers issued the same threat to former Attorney General John Ashcroft and former Justice Department lawyer John Yoo, both of whom also declined to appear voluntarily.)

The Conyers letter cites media reports that describe Addington as the driving force behind the administration's most controversial legal arguments. Among the citations: Jane Mayer in the New Yorker, Phillippe Sands in Vanity Fair, Barton Gellman and Jo Becker in the Washington Post and Chitra Ragavan in U.S. News.

And Conyers notes: "Vice Presidential staff have previously testified before Congress and I am aware of no authority -- and counsel's letter cites none -- for the proposition that such staff could be immune from testimony before Congress."

He also attempts to turn one of Cheney's arguments against him: "While the issue of the immunity of senior advisors to the President is currently under litigation, there has been no suggestion that such immunity, even if recognized, would reach to the Vice President's office, an entity that, as you well know, is constitutionally quite different from the Office of the President.

"As to privilege, such concerns are traditionally and appropriately raised in response to specific questions and not as a threshold reason to decline a Congressional Committee's invitation to appear."

And Conyers concludes: "Presumably, you believe that whatever actions you took were necessary and comported with the law; in such circumstances, I cannot imagine why you would decline to appear and set the record straight. The American people deserve no less."

I know it gets tiresome to keep repeating it, but that's not going to stop me from asking once again how far anyone thinks the loyal squadrons of Republican rubber-stampers--in government and in the media--will tolerate the assertion of even the slightest privilege from the next Democratic president. Why don't we get together a pool to predict the exact decibel level of the right-wing stuck pigs' squealing?

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The McBush economic team

When I saw the name on the article I thought it was by John McCain's embedded publicist at the Washington Post. Then I realized it was in the NY Times and saw it was John Broder, not the Post's pathetic old hack with the same last name. The story highlights what Broder calls Democratic division over McCain's cynical summer gas tax holiday. As soon as Obama pointed out that it was a bad idea, Hillary jumped in to support their respective campaign's common enemy: the American people.
Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton lined up with Senator John McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee for president, in endorsing a plan to suspend the federal excise tax on gasoline, 18.4 cents a gallon, for the summer travel season. But Senator Barack Obama, Mrs. Clinton’s Democratic rival, spoke out firmly against the proposal, saying it would save consumers little and do nothing to curtail oil consumption and imports.

While Mr. Obama’s view is shared by environmentalists and many independent energy analysts, his position allowed Mrs. Clinton to draw a contrast with her opponent in appealing to the hard-hit middle-class families and older Americans who have proven to be the bedrock of her support. She has accused Mr. Obama of being out of touch with ordinary Americans who are struggling to meet their mortgages and gas up their cars and trucks.

Mrs. Clinton said at a rally on Monday morning in Graham, N.C., that she would introduce legislation to impose a windfall-profits tax on oil companies and use the revenue to suspend the gasoline tax temporarily.

Above I referred to McCain as cynical, which he certainly is, but in the interest of fair play, I might add that Mrs. Clinton's cynicism is every bit as virulent as his. I'm so sure Miss McConnell, who has obstructed everything the Democrats have tried to do and even every bipartisan proposal to ease the energy crisis, is going to allow a windfall-profit tax on one of the Republican Party's biggest corporate donors, the oil and gas industry. And Bush is just frothing at the mouth to sign it, right? Look, McCain has made a record of not even voting for the most dire national security needs-- like safety in our ports and equipment for our troops in the field-- if it meant closing corporate tax loopholes or doing away with even a fraction of the tax breaks for people making over a $1,000,000 a year. So... this is a total non-starter.

Bush's "economic speech" this morning was one of the most nakedly partisan rants I've heard from the bumbling idiot in months.
"It's a tough time for our economy," he muttered. "Across our country, many Americans are understandably anxious about issues affecting their pocketbook, from gas and food prices to mortgage and tuition bills. They're looking to their elected leaders in Congress for action. Unfortunately, on many of these issues, all they're getting is delay." The Bush Economic Miracle was replaced by the Bush Recession, in his mind at least, by Democratic foot dragging on his incredibly unsound economic agenda-- an agenda that has been disastrous for the economy and for the American people. But what does this imbecile know? Two weeks ago he seemed flabbergasted when some mentioned that the price of gas was near $4/gallon. [I wish it would go back to that in L.A., where it is heading towards $5/gallon, thanks to the Bush-Cheney Energy Plan to enrich the few at the expense of the rest of us.] Would he like to leave the country with a full fledged Depression instead of a Recession?

But even the doltish Bush isn't stupid enough to buy into McCain's and Hillary's gas price cynicism. When a reporter asked Bush about the McCain-Hillary plan he just smirked, babbled some noncommittal answer-- not wanting to mention that McCain is even more clueless than he is-- and said he didn't want to inject himself into the ongoing presidential race.

The presidential race? McCain and the Hilldog are talking about this summer and this summer, alas, we'll have the same jerk in the White House who first stole the election in 2000. He doesn't want to inject himself? He's the only one who could sign or veto this "proposal," which is strictly campaign fodder, as even Bush recognized.

Meanwhile, not everything is getting more expensive every day. Housing prices dropped in February at the fastest rate ever, a widely watched index showed on Tuesday, reflecting that the housing slump is gaining momentum and showing no signs of letting up.


"At a time when so many Americans are struggling, we deserve better than special interest giveaways from the White House and transparent political gimmicks on the campaign trail. George Bush's solution to a recession and an energy crisis of historic proportions is warmed-over Washington proposals that would pad oil company profits and give more tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans who don't need them and didn't ask for them.

"Meanwhile, the two Washington candidates in this race are playing the same old Washington game where you try to distract voters without doing anything to deliver meaningful relief for working families. As President, I'll pursue real change by providing a tax cut of up to $1000 for working families, and investing $150 billion in clean, affordable, renewable sources of energy to create millions of jobs and end our addiction to oil. It's time to stop dusting off tired Washington ideas like gas tax holidays and drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge so that we can finally be honest about the challenges we face, bring this country together, and push back against the special interests that have blocked progress for decades."

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Ex-Senator John Edwards could do the transformative agenda he has espoused a great deal of good by making an endorsement. One candidate is a committed, grassroots progressive and the other is a pitiful Big Money corporate shill, in some ways only marginally better than the Republican incumbent. No, no, I'm not talking about Hillary; she may be a corporate shill but she's certainly better than the Republican incumbent and she's also much better than his sadly transformed doppelgangerish would-be replacement. You see, while everyone else is urging the Edwardses to do what Governor Easley just did and endorse in the presidential race-- where I doubt he would have much impact-- I would like him to do the right thing in the race for the U.S. Senate seat, currently held by pathetic rubber stamp Republican Elizabeth Dole.

In a race like this, where not many people are aware of the giant chasm between the two candidates, Edwards really could make a difference. One candidate, Kay Hagan, stands for everything he claims to detest. She is owned, lock, stock and barrel, by the same pernicious Big Money interests that own Dole-- and whom Edwards just spent two years railing against. The other candidate-- the one endorsed by Blue America-- is Jim Neal and he has a long way to go in the next 7 days if he's going to be able to beat back the Establishment and give North Carolina voters a real choice-- other than a basically meaningless choice between generic party labels-- in November.

Hagan rarely goes on the record saying anything. Her victory plan is to just be the establishment Democrat against the outsider in the primary and the generic Democrat against the hated Republican in November. And when she does go on record about something, she comes out against the basic values and principles that differentiate between the party of FDR and the party of George Bush. A corporate tool like Chuck Schumer may love her but she can't be trusted on choice, is as clueless as Dole on Iraq, is basically a George Bush Republican when it comes to tax policy, weak on economic policy, weak on ethics, adamantly unwilling to be pinned down on Equal Rights, on the wrong side of the health care issue, untrustworthy and confused about torture, weak on privacy rights, absolutely plutocratic when it comes to campaign finance reform, etc. She sounds like one of them, not one of us-- and certainly not the kind of progressive Democrat that Edwards has evolved into. In fact, you have to ask yourself, is Kay Hagan really a Democrat in anything but name? Hers is the party of corporate campaign contributions that are exchanged for favors at the expense of regular folks. 

It isn't likely that a Republican-light version of Elizabeth Dole is going to beat Elizabeth Dole, regardless of what Chuck Schumer's lizard brain is telling him. A few days ago the weekly paper in North Carolina's most Democratic area made passionate endorsements of the two candidates for real change-- Barack Obama for president and Jim Neal for U.S. Senator. The ten cogent reason they list for endorsing Obama are all also applicable to Neal-- except for #9:
He has a better chance of beating John McCain than Hillary Clinton does.

Jim Neal has the only chance of beating Elizabeth Dole. But the editors don't need to give Jim Neal a me-too endorsement. They had a whole set of reasons why he is a far better candidates-- and would make a far better U.S. Senator-- than Kay Hagan.
On the issues, there's a clear progressive choice in the Democratic primary: Chapel Hill businessman Jim Neal is our pick to take on Republican Sen. Elizabeth Dole come November. And let's put it right out there: Neal is openly gay, which should no more influence whether he gets your vote than the fact that he's also openly white. What should influence it is his platform: Neal opposed the U.S. invasion of Iraq and supports getting our troops out now; he supports universal health care; is against capital punishment; wants to scrap No Child Left Behind, Bush's counterproductive education program; proposes making the federal tax system more progressive; and advocates an Apollo-style program to wean the country from imported oil and develop alternative-energy sources, including conservation.

On gay rights, Neal supports full equality, including marriage, as a matter of law. But he also recognizes that the First Amendment guarantees religious freedom when it comes to whether same-sex unions should be sanctioned by various faiths.

Given his background as a Wall Street investment banker and venture capitalist, Neal is at his best when dissecting the causes of the nation's widening gap between rich and poor and the erosion of middle-class jobs. He calls it "unconscionable" that corporate CEOs make 400 times as much money as the average worker. His prescription for fixing what ails us includes sweeping investments in education and our economic infrastructure, not war, and for junking free-trade policies in favor of fair-trade ones. He thinks the federal government should prepare to buy mortgages and refinance them to prevent foreclosures.

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Monday, April 28, 2008



I was exaggerating... un poco. The message that Time Warner and CNN actually sent the Congressional Hispanic Caucus was "Me da igual." So why is a heavily regulated company-- one very dependent on the goodwill of government-- dissing 20 members of Congress? Jennifer Yachnin has the full story in today's Roll Call. [Disclaimer: I was president at one of their divisions and know most of the people involved in this story but I have no financial connection to Time Warner any longer-- and all my remaining stock options expired, completely worthless, 2 months ago.]

When Rahm Emanuel's reactionary Know Nothing from North Carolina introduced an anti-immigrant proposal in Congress-- and then worked with the GOP to embarrass Nancy Pelosi and defeat freshmen Democrats-- it was the 20 embers of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus who stood up and said "No." They slapped down the reactionary and racist Heath Shuler and put him back in his place (in the peanut gallery with his pal Tom Tancredo).

Now they're taking on a far more formidable for, America's most vicious xenophobe, CNN's Lou Dobbs, a man who makes a living by stirring up hated every single day against immigrants. Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and CHC chairman Joe Baca (D-CA) sent Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes a letter complaining that CNN presents consistently biased coverage of immigration issues, biased against immigrants and against politicians looking for a serious and practical solution.
CHC leaders expressed outrage that their appeals for a meeting with Bewkes have been rebuffed for several months, and that even letters to the Time Warner head have landed instead in the hands of CNN President Jim Walton.

"We are deeply offended that you did not take the time or effort to respond to a request from twenty Members of the United States House of Representatives and a United States Senator, but instead simply passed the letter along to Mr. Walton," the lawmakers wrote. "It is additionally offensive that you did so on a topic as important and sensitive as your company's treatment and portrayal of Latinos in this country."

Representatives of Time Warner did not return calls Friday, and a CNN spokeswoman declined to speak for attribution.

In an April 23 letter to Menendez and Baca, Walton said Time Warner's corporate chief would be unable to address lawmakers' concerns.

"As a matter of long-standing policy, Time Warner's corporate management never interferes with the editorial decision-making of its news operations," Walton wrote.

According to the letter, Walton offered to meet with both lawmakers, as well as any other CHC member, noting that corporate employees and Congressional staff had been in contact in recent weeks.

"I share your interest in providing CNN's viewers with the accurate and balanced reporting and commentary they need to make informed decisions, and in that regard, value very much your perspective and feedback in our programming," Walton wrote.

But Hispanic lawmakers dismissed Walton's explanations.

"It really is a slap in the face, that as many members as there are in the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, in the House and the Senate, that we don't get a direct response," Menendez said in an interview on Friday.

According to Menendez, many of CNN's news programs have adopted "the language Lou Dobbs uses," referring to the host of "Lou Dobbs Tonight," who uses the platform to complain about illegal immigration.

"The news program has become the equivalent of opinion and not information," Menendez said, asserting that news anchors opt for language describing "hordes" of immigrants crossing borders, and use phrases such as "illegal" rather than "undocumented" when describing such immigrants.

Baca said he met with Walton several weeks ago to raise the matter-- not as a CHC representative, he said, but as an individual lawmaker. He recommended that the network produce a show to "counterbalance" Dobbs.

"It was a very positive meeting. I said look, there's a lot of good programs that CNN puts on, and we watch a lot of it. We're only talking about a specific individual. The other programs are pretty good in terms of the news that they bring out," Baca said.

He said the CHC's opposition to Dobbs does not infringe on the First Amendment.

"You still have freedom of speech, but you've got to put out the facts and information. He lavishes it in a negative connotation, and that goes beyond freedom of speech. He's a news broadcaster and he should be fair and objective," Baca said. "He oversteps his bounds on the freedom of speech."

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So whose side is HRC on, anyway?

In the gay political universe HRC doesn't only stand for the candidate working with John McCain to tear down the Democrat McCain will face in November. It also stands for something far more loathsome and treacherous than Hillary, the Human Rights Campaign. HRC is an Inside the Beltway kiss ass advocacy group for gay people. I was very proud in 1997 when they gave me a Leadership Equality Award for my work at fostering equality in the workplace at Warner Brothers. I even wrote them into my will.

But what opened my eyes to what HRC has become was their endorsement of Holy Joe Lieberman over Ned Lamont. After I learned more about them I smashed my award and removed them from my will. HRC is one of those Inside the Beltway organizations that has long ago lost sight of its original mandate. Instead of fighting for gay equality, they fight to win DC status games and to enhance the future career prospects of the staff. When it comes to electoral politics, you can almost always expect the worst from HRC.

This past February their in house magazine prominently featured Republican rubber stamp and fake moderate Susan Collins (R-ME), including a 2 page spread giving the false impression that Collins is not the enemy of gay people. One of the more outrageous parts of their interview with Collins is a bit about the Gang of 14. They make it sound like her membership in it should be praised, but that’s pretty naive considering that one of the only accomplishments of the Gang was to ensure the confirmation of viciously homophobic, right-wing crazies on the federal bench like Janice Rogers Brown, Priscilla Owen, and Bill Pryor. But that's exactly what HRC has turned into-- an organization so concerned with looking "mainstream" and "adult" Inside the Beltway, that they will support the worst enemies of gay people on the political scene.

Today HRC announced its endorsements for Senate races around the country. They are asking the gay community to donate money to 10 cash-rich incumbents and four Democratic challengers, Jeanne Shaheen (DLC-NH), Mark Udall (D-CO), Tom Udall (D-NM), and Al Franken (D-MN). Among the incumbents is Collins, of course, who is running against a Democratic congressman, Tom Allen, who's voting record on gay issues is excellent and who is a true friend of the gay community and someone who, again, unlike Collins, will never ever, vote to confirm rabid homophobic judges. Among the other incumbents they endorsed are some outstanding senators like Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), John Kerry (D-MA), Tom Harkin (D-IA), and Jack Reed (D-RI) and at least one with a spotty voting record, Louisiana's conservative Democrat, Mary Landrieu, who, like Collins, routinely rubber stamps homophobic judges the Bush Regime pushes for lifetime appointments.

This morning I called Tom Allen and asked if I missing something about why HRC has endorsed Collins. Tom, the most positive campaigner I've ever met, never wants to say a negative word about anyone. Instead he wanted to talk about his own record on his support for gay people. “My record of fighting discrimination on all levels and for standing up for equality is consistent. When I was on the Portland City Council in Maine, we led the state in nondiscrimination practices by banning bias based on sexual orientation for housing, credit and employment. As a Member of Congress, I have consistently supported fairness and equality measures while opposing discrimination. As a member of the Senate, I will continue to do what is right for all people. Specifically, I will not support judicial nominees who don’t understand fairness and equal rights.” It would have been nice if HRC could have at least wrung something like that out of Collins before sending a confusing signal to gays and lesbians in Maine.

HRC's own scorecard for the 109th Congress-- the 110th isn't out yet-- gave Tom Allen a 100% rating and gave Collins a 78% although that rating doesn't reflect her votes and maneuvering for anti-gay judges. (She voted for both Alito and Roberts). None the less, aside from fundraising against Tom on her behalf, they claim they are also doing "on-the-ground organizing [and] GOTV efforts" on behalf of Collins and pushing her at gay pride events.

But it was a Senate race they chose to ignore that is the most shocking and disappointing element of their announcement today. North Carolina has two extreme right wing senators, Elizabeth Dole and Richard Burr, each of whom can always be counted on to do whatever they can to make the lives of gay men and women less palatable and less safe. One, Elizabeth Dole, is up for re-election in November. There are two Democrats in a neck and neck primary battle to take her on, Republican-lite Establishment-backed Kay Hagan and grassroots progressive Jim Neal. Frankly, I don't know where Hagan stands on gay issues. I do know where Neal stands-- 100% with the gay community, of which he is an upfront member. Yes, one of the first times that an uncloseted gay man is running for the U.S. Senate-- in a race he can win-- and HRC is... abstaining. When we reached Jim this morning, he seemed disappointed. "There's no question their endorsement would have helped in fundraising and I certainly would have liked to have had it. People look to the HRC to encourage participation and promote change in the political system. Is it doing that? That's a valid question, and after this election is over, I think we need to look at groups like HRC and their endorsement process." Amen!

Tom Allen and Jim Neal have both been endorsed by Blue America. If you're a member of HRC how about skipping your HRC dues this year and sending the money to where it will do some good instead? Like here, for Tom and Jim. By the way, the first five donations today of at least $30 get, as a thank you, an autographed copy of Al Franken's book The Truth.


Pam pointed out this afternoon that Jim Neal is very clear on where he stands on gay issues. Kay Hagan? Not so much.
Even when I saw Hagan's communications coordinator Colleen Flanagan in person at the BlueNC blogger gathering yesterday (many pro-LGBT candidates were there, including Jim Neal), she didn't say when or if Hagan would issue any positions on:

1. Federal hate crimes legislation.
2. Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA).
3. "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" repeal
4. The Uniting American Families Act (H.R. 2221, S. 1328)
5. The federal Defense of Marriage Act
6. Whether her view that the definition of marriage should be left up to state law can be reconciled with 1967's Loving v. Virginia, a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that invalidated state bans on interracial marriages and whether that should have been left a state matter.

This is basic stuff. Sen. Hagan has in fact sponsored anti-discrimination measures at the state level, but for whatever reason, she can't manage the gumption to state her positions on the above for publication. A simple "Yes" or "No" would have been clear. Follow up questions to the campaign were not only not answered, but not acknowledged in any way, as I said above.

If HRC is looking at who would be the best candidate on our issues, we already have a non-responsive fossil sitting in that seat right now-- Elizabeth Dole. No matter what you think of Jim Neal, he has been both responsive and clear on our issues, and Kay Hagan has been MIA.

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