Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Streams Of Consciousness- Nov. 30


Let's Start With A Message From Lady Gaga

And On To The Senate's Hectic Schedule

Today the Senate passed S. 510, Richard Durbin's FDA Food Safety Modernization Act, 73-25. Only 25 hard core obstructionist Republicans, led by DeMint and Miss McConnell, opposed it. Crossing over to the saner side of the asylum were many farm state Republicans like Burr (NC), Grassley (IA), Johanns (NE), Kirk (IL), LeMieux (FL), Lugar (IN) and Voinovich (OH). Before the Senate could vote on it, though, they had to reject a couple of frivolous Coburn amendment, one of which to enforce an earmark moratorium, which only got 39 votes (it needed 60). Miss McConnell was working from behind his closet door to sabotage it. Although they've opposed ending earmarks in the past, cowardly Republicans facing teabagger primaries in 2012-- Kay Bailey Hutchison and Olympia Snowe-- both voted YES this time. Evan Bayh led 7 Democrats across the aisle to vote with the GOP.

Mark Foley Must Be Bored With His Life As A Socialite And Realtor

Perhaps he's feeling empowered by the swearing in of his old crony and fellow congressional closet queen Mark Kirk as a U.S. Senator yesterday, or by the rapid rise of his irresponsible page scandal enabler, John Shimkus, but Mark Foley has been dropping hints again that he wants to run for office. The plan is to run for mayor of West Palm Beach and than use that to... sit down for this... leverage another run for Congress! Presumably he wasn't talking about pages when he told a right-wing blogger today that "my passion has always been in D.C.... I have never closed a door that I wasn't able to re-open."
With about 1.3 million dollars residing in his federal congressional campaign account (money that could only be utilized for federal elections), Foley has the means to mount a comeback.  The open questions are-- does he truly have the desire to return, and will he be embraced by the public once again after leaving Congress under such ? Either way, Foley is considering  the notion of returning to Congress.

After reapportionment, there's no telling who he would be running against, but newly elected homophobic maniac Allen West is one possibility-- at least for a fun primary. As for the City Hall run, there's still a month to go before the filing deadline and Foley says he's waiting 'til the last day before announcing his intentions (December 27). "I do have the luxury that I can be the last man to file if I choose to, and still have the name ID," Foley told a local reporter. County Commissioner Jeff Koons might have been the favorite to win but he was recently convicted of extortion

Blue Dogs Behaving As Badly As Ever

Yesterday Ed Perlmutter (D-CO) introduced a resolution providing for consideration of the Senate amendments to H.R. 4783 to accelerate the income tax benefits for charitable cash contributions for the relief of victims of the earthquake in Chile, and to extend the period from which such contributions for the relief of victims of the earthquake in Haiti may be accelerated. Today Republicans voted against even allowing the resolution to come up for a vote, although it passed 223-168. Nine conservative Democrats, all but one members of the devastated Blue Dog Caucus, crossed the aisle to vote with the Republicans, including recently-defeated reactionaries John Adler (NJ), Bobby Bright (AL), Scott Murphy (NY), and Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (SD). Retiring alcoholic Marion Berry (AR), driven by his psychotic hatred of Barack Obama, also voted with the GOP and the other miscreants, who will need to be dealt with in the future, were Dan Boren (OK), Joe Donnelly (IN), Jim Matheson (UT), and Heath Shuler (NC).

When the actual amendments themselves came up for a vote late in the afternoon, it passed 256-152, 16 Republicans abandoning Boehner/Cantor obstructionism, while 3 ridiculous Blue Dogs, Gene Taylor, Jim Cooper and, as always, Bobby Bright, voted with the GOP minority.

Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear Isn't A Blue Dog But...

Even if you didn't read Charles Pierce's brilliant book, Idiot America, just the graphic on the cover (on the right) would give you a good clue about the contents, particularly the riveting introduction, "Dinosaurs And Saddles," the story of the creationist theme park in southern Kentucky. I guess Kentucky thought everyone was laughing with them. Today the state's governor, a Democrat, announced that the museum's builders, Answers in Genesis, are building another creationist theme park, Ark Encounter, this one in northern Kentucky.
The attraction is envisioned as a full-scale wooden ark that would include associated museums, theaters, amenities, event venues and outdoor parking.

Preliminary indications are that the attraction could draw as many as 1.6 million guests per year and would cost at least $24.5 million to complete.

Answers in Genesis is an Apologetics Ministry that focuses on the absolute truth and authority of the Bible.

The Creation Museum, opened in May 2007, was estimated to draw about 250,000 visitors per year, but surpassed one million visitors in less than three years.

Its controversial exhibits represent the views of the ministry, including the belief that the earth is only about 7,000 years old and that dinosaurs were among the creatures on Noah’s ark.

...Beshear’s participation in the announcement suggests state incentives for the project may be included.

And... From The Ridiculous, To The Sublime

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Let's say we had a "progressive message." Do we have any way of spreading it?


It could just be a coincidence that Rupert Murdoch's ideological obsessions all lead toward greater influence and bigger profits. Or maybe not.

by Ken

We're going to assume for the moment that we actually had a "progressive message," the sort of thing that could be presented to significant segments of the American electorate to persuade them that progressive values are their values and the best route to bringing them a safe and fulfilled life. It's a large assumption, I know, but we're going to be coming back to this part of the equation in the days, weeks, and months to come. My immediate question is, assuming we had such a message, do we stand any reasonable chance to get it before the public?

I'm not going to say it's flatly impossible, but I am going to say that it would be very, very difficult, because of the stranglehold the extreme Right has acquired on the machinery of messaging -- and not surprisingly, a lot of that has to do with money. Tonight I just want to dust off this obvious structural factor we're up against.

In doing so, I'm going to register a point of disagreement with an esteemed colleague, AlterNet's Washington bureau chief, Adele Stan. Last week Addie wrote a rip-roaring diatribe against Apple's Steve Jobs for going into cahoots, I mean business, with none other than Satan's own media mogul, Rupert Murdoch. As she put it:
It's enough to launch an Apple boycott by progressives: Steve Jobs, master innovator of those hipster devices of choice, just delivered a kick in the teeth to Apple's most ardent fans with news of his deal with Rupert Murdoch for an iPad-only newspaper to be known as The Daily, to be made available through Apple's App Store. Subscriptions will go for 99 cents per week.

It was hinted by the New York Times's David Carr, Addie says, that Jobs picked Murdoch over other suitors for this sort of arrangement because of Murdoch's willingness )"against the wishes of other Fox executives") to offer Apple Fox programming for sale on iTunes at bargain prices. Assuming this is what was in the deal for Jobs, what about our Rupert?
What did Murdoch get? Carr crunches a few numbers to show that The Daily is not likely to be a big money-maker for Murdoch. Sure, not as a retail product. But Murdoch has long been willing to prop up enterprises that don't earn big bucks (or sometimes, as in the case of the New York Post, lose big bucks) for the sake of advancing his ideological agenda -- an agenda that, should it be enacted, would yield Murdoch billions more than the 6 billion he's already worth.

Take Glenn Beck (yeah -- please). If Glenn Beck's purpose in life was to earn mega-advertising dollars for Murdoch, he'd have been off the air more than a year ago, once Color of Change's successful advertiser-targeted campaign lost Beck nearly all of the big, corporate sponsors for his eponymous Fox News Channel show. Yet, Beck remains in place because he organizes grassroots activists in the service of Rupert Murdoch's anti-Obama, anti-regulatory, anti-labor, anti-government agenda. Should that agenda succeed, Murdoch stands to reap billions more than the measly millions a rehabilitated Beck might bring in if Proctor & Gamble sold soap in Beck's time slot.

And so Beck is free to draw his multi-episode, defamatory, lie-infused campaign against George Soros, billionaire and donor to progressive causes, straight from the pages of Mein Kampf (without attribution, of course). That Soros is a Jewish Holocaust survivor is somehow twisted to prove the point. If Rupert Murdoch had a problem with Beck's hate-mongering, with Beck's desecration of the memory of 6 million murdered Jews, Beck would be gone in a minute.

But Murdoch does not. And, apparently, neither does Steve Jobs. What's a little Holocaust revisionism when 99-cent episodes of "The Family Guy" are at stake?

In getting the green light to create, without competition, a brand-spanking-new product specific to the iPad, Murdoch will have the opportunity to make inroads into opinion-makers of a demographic group currently beyond his reach: the upwardly mobile hipster, the slick early adopters, cats who are too cool to subscribe to the Wall Street Journal and its iPad app but who just might go for a first-of-its-kind product developed specifically for the device, available nowhere else, especially if it's dressed up with smart-boy writers, such as New Yorker music critic and designer Sasha Frere-Jones, who is reported to have signed onto the Murdoch project.

This is same Rupert Murdoch who walks hand-in-hand with David Koch, whose AFP Foundation and sibling organization, Americans For Prosperity, convinced a certain contingent of fearful white senior citizens that the new black president was looking to use health-care reform to kill them off. Together, the organizations headed by Koch -- who also heads a corporation that is a major polluter -- and Murdoch advance race-infused conspiracy theories in their campaign against the president of the United States that poison the national culture, render facts irrelevant and make bipartisan cooperation impossible.

Obviously, I don't disagree in any way with the perniciousness of the Murdoch empire, or of the Koch brothers'. I would just suggest disagree that with Murdoch and the Kochs ideology trumps profits. To me the problem is more sinister: Profits are these people's ideology.

As Jane Mayer wrote early on in her still-indispensable New Yorker exploration of the world of Charles and David Koch and Koch Industries:
The Kochs are longtime libertarians who believe in drastically lower personal and corporate taxes, minimal social services for the needy, and much less oversight of industry -- especially environmental regulation. These views dovetail with the brothers' corporate interests. In a study released this spring, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst's Political Economy Research Institute named Koch Industries one of the top ten air polluters in the United States. And Greenpeace issued a report identifying the company as a "kingpin of climate science denial." The report showed that, from 2005 to 2008, the Kochs vastly outdid ExxonMobil in giving money to organizations fighting legislation related to climate change, underwriting a huge network of foundations, think tanks, and political front groups.

As Mayer showed throughout the piece, by eerie chance the Kochs' massive cash investments in its chosen ideological instruments all seem to have the effect, or at least the intended effect, of enriching Koch Industries' bottom line. And yes, Rupert Murdoch is willing to operate some of his businesses, like the New York Post, without regard to maximum profits, or even any profits at all, because they serve to advance his influence and ideological predilections, but i would argue that the reason he wants to advance his influence and ideological predilections is to maximize his profits.

As I've pointed out before, he's even happy to have himself and his properties ridiculed by The Simpsons as long as the show continues to shovel money into his coffers. In my way of looking at Rupert's operation, it's why he doesn't care about the moral repulsiveness of Glenn Beck's psychotic fantasies; over the long haul Glenn B is going to help him raise the News Corp empire to even more dizzying heights of profitability.

In the end, I don't think it matters whether Addie's right or I am about the motivations -- the result is the same. The fact remains that the right-wing zillionaires who bankroll the Far Right these days can do so as an investment. And that's something we on the Left won't ever, as far as I can see, be able to compete with. As far as I can tell, for all the money George Soros has contributed to progressive causes, I don't see that he stands to make a dime on them.

So as the Supreme Court continues to make "Money Talks, Screw You" the electoral law of the land, what's most frightening to me is the prospect that the Right can raises these gigantic war chests from super-rich Righties who undoubtedly have ideological axes to grind but who also expect to turn a healthy profit on their investment.


There are important reasons why we tend to focus on Rupert Murdoch (the reach and calculated-for-influence organization of his media empire) and the Kochs (the scale and, again, organized-for-maximum-influence network of ideologically driven organizations). But of course they're hardly alone as cash cows for the Far Right. Brad Reed has a useful piece, also on AlterNet about "5 Right-Wing Scumbags Bankrolling Dangerous (and Plain Weird) Conservative Causes, leading off with an old DWT favorite, Sheldon "Moneybags" Adelson.

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The Pathetic Reelection Of Kentucky Blue Dog Ben Chandler


Ben Chandler just squeaked to the narrowest of victories... and only after a contentious recanvass. He's confused and disoriented about how that could happen to him-- and to his fellow Blue Dogs, the conservative wing of the House Democrats, which was nearly obliterated. Chandler, the grandson of Governor-Senator-Baseball Commissioner-Governor A.B. "Happy" Chandler was first elected to Congress from Kentucky's 6th CD in 1994 after losing a gubernatorial election to Congressman Ernie Fletcher who left that seat open. The 6th is a traditionally Democratic seat that includes Lexington and Frankfort but has been turning redder and redder in recent years. Bush took 55% in 2000 and in 2004, while Bush was beating Kerry 58-41%, Chandler was winning reelection with a healthy 59%. Two years later the Republicans couldn't even find an opponent to run against him and in 2008, while McCain was beating Obama in the district 58-41%, Chandler scored a whopping 65%. (It's worth noting that Lexington, the biggest city and the Democratic bastion, gave Obama 52%, gave Lunsford, the Democrat running against Mitch McConnell 54%, and re-elected Chandler with 65%.)

So you can imagine what a shock it was to Chandler this month when only 600 votes separated him from lobbyist Garland Hale Barr IV, AKA- "Andy," on election night in a 50-50 photo finish. 119,845 voters came out for Chandler and 119,245 for Barr. That was almost 37,000 fewer voters turning out for Chandler than in the last midterm and about 84,000 less than in 2008. Meanwhile the GOP turnout in 2008 actually grew by 8,000 (from 111,378). And in Lexington itself, Chandler barely scraped by with a 52-48% win!

But instead of looking at the numbers and trying to figure out why his core, base voters stayed away from the polls, Chandler lashed out at Obama and Pelosi. Chandler's ProgressivePunch score for the 111th Congress was pretty dismal for a Democrat-- 53.66 on the contentious substantive issues that divided the parties. He voted with his own party just a tad more frequently that with the Republicans. He had the exact same score as Chet Edwards, who was defeated and just a fraction better than fellow Blue Dog Allen Boyd, who lost. And, like Boyd and Edwards, he voted against health care reform. But he did vote to restrict women's right to choice by supporting the Stupak Amendment to that bill. But rather than ask himself if Democrats and left-leaning independents stayed away on election day because of votes like that, Chandler blamed Pelosi:
"If not there, where else does the responsibility lie? You're talking about the loss of 60 or something seats held by capable public servants. There had to be something going on at a level above them. If that isn't the lesson, I don't know what is."

If he doesn't know what's going on, maybe it's time to pack it in and become a lobbyist. He voted for Blue Dog Heath Shuler to be Democratic leader. "The candidate who was running against her is a much better fit for my district. He's more of a moderate. I can tell you, Nancy Pelosi, the way she has been portrayed by Republican attack ads against conservative Democrats, is as a San Francisco liberal. That doesn't go over well in my district."

If he doesn't know how to defend himself against GOP lies and smears... again, maybe it's time to pack it in. As of October 13 (the last date for which FEC reports are available) he had outspent Barr $1,958,432 to $1,116,405 and had almost three times more cash on hand for the final 3 weeks. The DCCC put $452,695.61 into Independent Expenditures against Barr, while the NRCC put $588,764.13 to work against Chandler. Shady GOP front groups like Americans for Tax Reform, Americans For Limited Government and Center For Individual Freedom put another $500,000 in against Chandler. But instead of standing up for Democratic ideals, he is still chosing to confuse voters by muddying the party's brand and looking forward to campaigning in 2012 as someone who bragged about voting against Nancy Pelosi.

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I Hope Judge Marisa Demeo Invited Jim DeMint To Her OUT 100 Acceptance Party


This morning I was thumbing through the latest-- 16th annual-- OUT 100. I recognized lots of people, like Ricky Martin, Christine Quinn, Nate Silver, Rachel Maddow, Scissor Sisters, and Rufus Wainwright, but there were far more who I had never heard of, especially in the fashion industry. I came across one woman though, who I had heard of-- via a Senate hearing and vote-- but who I had either forgotten was gay or just never knew. Her name is Marisa Demeo and she was nominated to the D.C. Superior Court by President Obama. This is how Out described her undera photo of her with country singer Chely Wright, Iranian-American indie-rocker Rostam Batmanglij of Vampire Weekend and playwright Marc Wolf.
Judge Marisa Demeo’s history of support for gay rights and work with the Mexican American Legal Defense Fund made her recent appointment to the D.C. superior court a contentious one. Senate Republicans, led by South Carolina senator Jim DeMint, obstructed her confirmation for more than a year before it was approved by a two-to-one margin in April. Demeo, a former D.C. magistrate judge, is a member of the Human Rights Campaign and Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund.

Before Judge Demeo was finally-- and overwhelmingly-- confirmed by the Senate on April 20, DeMint had managed to stall and filibuster her nomination for just over a year, Obama having nominated her in March of 2009. It was the longest pending nomination on the Senate calendar. What could you expect from the Republicans when dealing with a Latina and a lesbian? DeMint's "concerns"-- and that of the bigoted cronies he has around him-- were due to her work with gay rights groups and Mexican American Legal Defense Fund. Get the smelling salts!
As a result of delays on Superior Court Judges like Demeo, Lee Satterfield, the Chief Judge of the D.C. Court, has written Senators Reid and McConnell on several occasions to talk about the "dire situation" on the D.C. Court, which continues to face a backlog due to retirements and vacancies.

There's simply no legitimate reason why Demeo should be blocked from a confirmation vote. She is highly experienced and qualified for this position. 

• Since 2007, Demeo has served with distinction as a Magistrate Judge in the D.C. Superior Court’s criminal division. She has presided over more than 100 bench trials and more than 300 detention and preliminary hearings. 

• From 2004 to 2007, Demeo served as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in Washington, D.C.  As a federal prosecutor, she obtained 30 indictments and tried 45 criminal cases.

• Demeo served as regional counsel at the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF), where she became an expert on immigration law and other policy issues affecting the Hispanic community.

• Demeo began her legal career at the Department of Justice, where she served for three years as a trial attorney in the DOJ honors program.

• Demeo has also served as adjunct professor at Howard University Law School, teaching criminal and immigration law.

Ugly Republican faces of hatred & bigotry

The vote to break DeMint's filibuster was "the first time in history that the Senate has filed cloture on a D.C. Superior Court Judge." In the end only the 32 most bigoted Republicans voted against confirmation. Every Democrat plus 8 more mainstream Republicans voted to confirm her. GOP closet cases Lindsey Graham and Mitch McConnell both voted NO.

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House Democrats Cement Ritual Suicide Pact In Place With The Formal Appointment Of Steve Israel To Head DCCC, Coddle Republicans


New DCCC head forgot his clown makeup, but he's all ready to pummel progressives

"Peter King could go to Ireland for the next nine years and still get elected. He has the best Republican district in the state.'' That was reported in the NY Times on June 23, 2002. He's the last Republican on Long Island and his seat had just been made a lot stronger that year. And how did it get a lot stronger with Democrats as powerful as they are in New York? We've tried over the last week or so to introduce you to the new chairman of the DCCC, Steve Israel. If you follow DWT at all, you know how unhappy we've been with Debbie Wasserman Schultz, his rival for that position. Well, I'm afraid to say, he's even worse than she is-- and he is the one who guaranteed that Peter King would never lose his seat, the same Peter King who was all over the news yesterday screaming his head off about prosecuting Julian Assanage and declaring WikiLeaks a terrorist organization.

In 2000, before he made the shady deal with Israel, King had won reelection with 60%. Right after the deal went into effect, he won with 72%. In 2004 he took 63%. Israel went from a close win in 2000 (48%) to 58% in 2002 and then 67% on 2004. Without Israel's deal, demographics would have ended King's domination of NY-3. Dave Mejias might have knocked him off in 2006 when King was down to 56% (while Israel's share in NY-2 had risen to 70%). King was back to 64% in 2008 (while Obama lost to McCain 52-47%) and this year he won with a hefty 72% (while Israel's cushion served him well and gave him a 56-43% victory). The two districts are now so partisanly drawn that each wards off viable challengers... which was the whole idea Israel and King worked out between them.

The new districts that the two of them put together "transferred several Republican bastions on the South Shore from the Second District to the Third District, represented by the Republican Peter T. King of Seaford. In return, the Second District was extended into Nassau County to include Plainview, Syosset, Woodbury and Jericho, where the Democrats have an enrollment edge. In addition, it was extended north to encompass the rest of Huntington Town, where Mr. Israel, a Dix Hills resident, served for seven years as a town councilman." And it cut out of the district the home of Israel's predecessor, Rick Lazio... just in case.

So here's how the guy who is being rewarded for not running against Kirsten Gillibrand with the job of overseeing the efforts of Democrats to win back the House managed to make Peter King-- and himself-- bulletproof:
Mr. Israel said he had helped prepare various proposals to the State Legislature's redistricting task force for the once-a-decade redrawing of the state's congressional seats. But he insisted that he never envisioned the district he ended up with.

''A combination of math and geography dictated that he come into my district,'' Mr. Israel said of Mr. King. ''But I was surprised at just how far he came in. I didn't think it was possible for him to go all the way to East Islip.

''Any map that put my district office in Bay Shore out of my district did not resemble what I was looking for,'' he said.

Mr. King said he and Mr. Israel had submitted between 10 and 15 maps of proposed new districts, but he rejected any suggestion that there was an ''unlawful conspiracy'' between the two of them.

''You draw lines which obviously have governmental and political considerations,'' he said. ''The Senate, led by the Republicans, and the Assembly, led by the Democrats, has to find a way to accommodate both sides. Steve pushed what he thought was best for him, I what was best for me. That's what members of Congress did throughout the state.''

In the week before the new map was approved by the Legislature on June 6, Mr. King said State Senator Dean G. Skelos, the Rockville Centre Republican who is the State Senate's deputy majority leader and headed the redistricting task force in the Senate, told him the map ultimately adopted was ''the best he could do'' and still get it approved by Mr. Silver and Mr. Pataki.

Last night one Member of Congress told me to expect no changes at the DCCC and to expect to see longtime Israel cronies Jon Vogel and John Lapp with even more power to use the committee to further an agenda uniquely their own. This cycle Blue America took on the worst Blue Dog in the caucus, Bobby Bright, and contributed to his defeat. We will work in the coming months to help progressives and moderates mount effective campaigns against reactionary Blue Dogs. If you want to help us, you can do it here on our Bad Dogs ActBlue page. The worst of the worst-- Bright, Childers, Minnick, Nye, Kratovil, Taylor, Ellsworth, Carney, Hill, Mitchell, Marshall are gone, but there are still plenty of Blue Dogs who have a predilection for voting against working families and with Boehner and Cantor on a majority of the most crucial votes, slimy corporate whores like Boren, Altmire, Donnelly, Barrow...

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Monday, November 29, 2010

Streams Of Consciousness- Nov. 29


It's widely reckoned in the Senate that Arkansas ConservaDem Mark Pryor is the dimmest bulb in that body. He as much as admitted it in an on-camera interview with Bill Maher for the film Religulous 2 years ago when he excused his pandering to superstitious rednecks back home by smirking that there's no IQ test to be a Member of the Senate-- as if we didn't know. Watch:

Now as the lame duck session kicks in-- and Pryor thinks about his reelection bid in 2012 in a state that just decimated elected Democrats-- there is every reason in the world to believe that Pryor will be roosting on the other side of the aisle on the high-profile, divisive issues where Democrats can most use him. He's likely to vote against the DREAM Act, as he did in 2007, and he's telling the media that he'll oppose repealing DADT as well, possibly being the very vote to kill the effort, something that is sure to cause him the same grief progressives just gave Blanche Lincoln. The man who cynically claims he believes in talking snakes also says being gay is a sin. He told the Democrat-Gazette that "he opposes repeal; that he thinks homosexuality is a sin and that he has reservations about housing gay troops with straight troops (as if this hasn't occurred forever). He's been fully indoctrinated by the Religious Right's false arguments-- that military chaplains won't be able to continue to preach morally justifiable discrimination; that gays are just lying in wait to assault straight soldiers if only given the cover of open service."

And Speaking About DADT...

The Senate got it's third-- after Lindsey Graham and Miss McConnell-- notorious Republican closet queen today, as Illinois' Mark Kirk was sworn in. ThinkProgress welcomed him by pointing out that, although he insists he never ran into any gays during his 21 years in the military, he did promise during the campaign that he might be open to repealing Don't Ask Don't Tell. As when Kirk often says something, he was lying. It's a trait most closet queens like Kirk have honed down to a science.

That's especially sad because poll after poll has been showing most Americans think DADT should be repealed. A new one released today by PEW confirms all the rest of them. Opposition to gays serving in the military has steadily declined from 45% in 1994 to just 27% now. And support for equality for gays serving our country in the military has risen in that time period from 52% to 58%.
Large majorities of Democrats (70%) and independents (62%) favor allowing gays to serve openly. Republicans are divided (40% favor, 44% oppose). Among conservative Republicans, far more oppose than favor allowing gays to serve openly (52% to 28%).

Nearly half (48%) of white evangelical Protestants oppose letting gays serve openly in the military, while just 34% support this proposal. Majorities or pluralities across other religious groups favor allowing gays to serve openly.

The balance of opinion across age groups is in favor of letting gays serve openly. Those 65 and older are the only age group in which fewer than half (44%) favors this; still just 28% of seniors are opposed to gays and lesbians serving openly while an identical percentage offers no opinion.

Two-thirds of college graduates (67%) favor gays and lesbians serving openly, as do more than half of those with some college experience (55%) and those with no more than a high school education (54%).

And, predictably, Know Nothings, currently called Tea Partiers, are in complete opposition to gays serving in the military. I guess that's part of smaller government or something... not the bigotry and hatred some people use to equate them to the Taliban.

Teabagger Congressmen Looking For Places To Sleep

Maybe they didn't expect to ever win or maybe they expect to be defeated in 2012, but the Wall Street Journal estimates that around 15% of the freshmen are planning to sleep in their offices instead of getting apartments in Washington. In 2008 it was kind of funny when we wrote about this in regard to Utah kook Jason Chaffetz (above with his cot, looking for a Capitol Hill office).
"Since I'm here on a temporary basis, I don't see any need to have a permanent kind of residence," says Rep.-elect Joe Heck, a Nevada Republican, who was thinking roll-out cot when he looked at office space this month.

Earlier this month, freshman lawmakers drew lots and chose the three-room suites they and their aides will inhabit in one of three House office buildings.

For many of them, a key selling point was not proximity to the House chamber, where they'll vote, but to the House gym, where they'll shower.

Rep.-elect Tim Griffin, an Army reservist, stood near the gym in the Rayburn House Office Building and used some compass software on his phone to navigate the paths to potential offices.

"We want to get as close to Rayburn as possible," Mr. Griffin, an Arkansas Republican, told an aide. "I've got to walk all the way down this hall in the morning."

He settled on a suite in the Longworth building with plenty of space for the six-foot sofa he says will be his bed for the foreseeable future. "I don't want to see you in your bathrobe," Rep.-elect Cory Gardner (R., Colo.), a non-office sleeper, told Mr. Griffin as freshmen rushed about Capitol Hill looking at available offices.

...Nobody seems to know for certain how many lawmakers currently dwell in their offices; estimates range into the dozens. The practice appears to crest after Republican wave elections.

In the mid-1980s, then-Speaker Tip O'Neill (D., Mass.) rousted the office sleepers, including Texas Republican Dick Armey, who later became House majority leader and is now a booster of the anti-Washington tea-party rebellion. "The theory was the offices weren't for sleeping," says Stan Brand, who was House general counsel at the time. "They were for transacting business."

Mr. Armey moved out briefly, then quietly started sleeping on his office couch again, according to a former aide.

After Republicans took the House in 1994, ending four decades of Democratic control, the number of office sleepers grew. The new speaker in 1995, Georgian Newt Gingrich, gave the practice his blessing.

...Freshman Todd Rokita (R., Ind.) was floored when shown a 600-square-foot, $2,000-a-month studio. He'll sleep in his office instead. "I'm not doing this as a political stunt," he says. "I'm doing this because I'm a cheap bastard." Most House members earn $174,000 a year and maintain homes in their districts.

Professor Cornbread

I got every question right. See if you do too-- and learn about why term limits should be on the table and up for discussion-- especially if read with Frank Rich's terrific NY Times column from yesterday in mind.

Two Execrable Choices For New House Appropriations Chair

The old guard wants career criminal Jerry Lewis (R-CA) and the right guard, lead by the hysterical Club For Growth is insisting on extremist Jack Kingston (R-GA). Lewis would have to get a waiver of GOP rules to grab the chair again and many of loathe to grant it since it is no secret Inside the Beltway that although Rove successfully defused the criminal investigations, Lewis was far more guilty of rank corruption than his less cautious sidekick Duke Cunningham, currently rotting in prison. In the end it will be, more or less, Boehner's decision and he and Lewis have worked very closely in the past.
Each of the three candidates running for the post have downsides for GOP leaders, making their decision all the more difficult.

Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-Calif.) is pitching himself as “battle-ready” and tested, but given his long record as a pork-barrel spender his selection could enrage tea party-backed freshmen. They might be more likely to support Kingston.

Kingston is marking himself as the outsider candidate since he sponsored anti-earmark legislation in 2007, though his record is not earmark-free. Taxpayers for Common Sense says Kingston obtained $66 million in earmarks in fiscal 2010 compared to Rogers’ $93 million and $97 million for Lewis.

But the fact that Kingston is more of an outsider could be a problem for leaders, since he could be more difficult to control.

An appropriations chairman can win loyalty for the leadership by pressuring agency officials to fund pet projects under threat of reduced funding for other projects. Some observers believe Kingston could balk at such requests from leaders.

Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) also has a long track record of bringing home the bacon and he therefore has similar liabilities and strengths as Lewis. But the Kentucky Republican helped himself by announcing his support for the GOP earmark ban. In letters to colleagues he has pledged to open up the appropriations process to the wider membership.

But some supporters of the other candidates say Rogers has not performed well in front of the media and that could be a liability given the importance of explaining GOP spending positions to the public. In response to the criticism, Rogers has promised to prioritize media outreach in letters to colleagues touting his candidacy.

Lewis’s track record as a fundraiser for GOP lawmakers is a mark in his favor. It was seem as the deciding factor when Lewis fended off a 2004 chairmanship challenge from Rogers.

Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch said that Lewis will be calling in his chits before the Nov. 30 meeting, reminding members of past favors.

The Senate broke a GOP filibuster on Tom Harkin's FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (S.510) today. Every Democrat plus 14 Republicans voted for cloture, which passed 69-26 in the face of mindless, ritual opposition from DeMint and his pack of hyenas. The bill gives the FDA the authority to proactively work on preventing foodborne illnesses instead of just reacting after an outbreak occurs.
"The statistics are that Americans are getting sick and they are dying because of food borne illnesses," said Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, a chief architect of the measure.

Food recalls are now voluntary, but the Senate-passed legislation would give the FDA the power to order food producers to recall their products, a step that could prevent tainted food from reaching consumers' tables.

Food producers would have to increase safety requirements and record keeping to keep the food supply safer. The bill would also increase safety standards for imported foods.

Some Republicans, including Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., opposed the bill, saying it represented a government overreach that would create unnecessary burdens on food producers and increase food prices.

If The Afghan Police Are The Solution To Our Problem, We Might As Well Just End This Thing By The Weekend

Did you watch Peter Galbraith explaining the utter futility of trying to train an Afghan police force on 60 Minutes last night? He sounded like the only person in the report who wasn't on powerful Mazar-i-Sharif opiated hash. If you missed it, you can watch the segment below. Get through all the silly feel-good prpoaganda and listen carefully to Galbraith. And then think about what happened there today.
A gunman in an Afghan police uniform has killed six US service members in eastern Afghanistan, officials say.

The man opened fire during a training mission in Pachir Wagam district, Nangarhar province, said Nato. He was also killed in the incident.

US officials later confirmed that all six were Americans, but declined to give further details.
The Taliban issued a statement saying it was responsible for the killings, AP news agency reported.

Spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said the gunman had joined the border police in order to kill foreign soldiers.

"Today he found this opportunity and he killed six invaders," he said.
Nato said the incident was being investigated.

"An individual in an Afghan border police uniform turned his weapon against International Security Assistance Forces (Isaf) during a training mission today, killing six service members in eastern Afghanistan," Monday's statement said.

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Bush v. Gore "didn't just scar the Court’s record; it damaged the Court’s honor" (Jeffrey Toobin)


The scene in front of the Supreme Court in December 2000

"George W. Bush, for his part, found little reason to dwell on the controversial nature of his ascension to office, and in his memoir, “Decision Points,” he devotes less than a page to the Supreme Court decision. ('My first response was relief,' he writes of his reaction.) In public appearances, Antonin Scalia, a member of the majority in Bush v. Gore, regularly offers this message to people who question him about the decision: 'Get over it!'”
-- Jeffrey Toobin, in "Precedent and Prologue,"
in the Dec. 6 New Yorker

by Ken

It puzzled me why New Yorker legal correspondent Jeffrey Toobin should choose to write this "Comment" piece for the new issue on the Gore v. Bush decision by which the Supreme Court stopped the Florida vote-counting and installed George W. Bush in the White House. The first paragraph left me even more puzzled.

"Momentous Supreme Court cases," Toobin writes, "tend to move quickly into the slipstream of the Court’s history," and he cites Brown v. Board of Education (more than 25 case citations in the first ten years after the decision that barred segregation in public education) and Roe v. Wade (more than 65 citations in the first ten years after the decision that established a constitutional right to abortion). And then:
This month marks ten years since the Court, by a vote of five-to-four, terminated the election of 2000 and delivered the Presidency to George W. Bush. Over that decade, the Justices have provided a verdict of sorts on Bush v. Gore by the number of times they have cited it: zero.

But really, Mr. Toobin, why should we be surprised? Wasn't that written into the decision itself? The conservative majority that installed Chimpy the Prez (which included then-Chief Justice Rehnquist and retirement-bound Justice O'Connor, who by report needed a Republican president to enable her to vamoose from the Court, and therefore predates the ascension of those luminaries Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Alito) made it clear that this decision was not to serve as precedent of any sort.

Of course Toobin knows this:
Even at the time, Bush v. Gore was treated as a kind of novelty item, a one-off decision that applied only to the peculiar facts then before the Justices. The majority itself seemed to want it that way. In the most famous sentence from the decision, the Justices wrote, "Our consideration is limited to the present circumstances, for the problem of equal protection in election processes generally presents many complexities." (Unlike most weighty decisions, Bush v. Gore had no single author and was delineated "per curiam," or by the Court, a designation the Justices usually reserve for minor cases.) In light of all these admonitions to leave the case be, might getting over it be the best advice?

Actually, no. To return briefly to the distant world of chads, hanging and otherwise, it's worth recalling what Bush v. Gore was about. The pervasive uncertainty about the results of the election in Florida -- at the time, Bush led by five hundred and thirty-seven votes out of nearly six million cast -- prompted the Florida courts, interpreting Florida election law, to order a statewide recount of all undervotes and overvotes; that is, ballots that indicated no Presidential preference or more than one. (Chads were the tiny paper rectangles that voters were supposed to push through punch-card ballots.) That recount had already begun on Saturday, December 9th, when five Justices -- Scalia, William H. Rehnquist, Sandra Day O'Connor, Anthony M. Kennedy, and Clarence Thomas -- issued a stay, barring the Florida authorities from continuing their labors. Three days later, the same five issued the per-curiam decision that stopped the recount once and for all.

What made the decision in Bush v. Gore so startling was that it was the work of Justices who were considered, to greater or lesser extents, judicial conservatives. On many occasions, these Justices had said that they believed in the preëminence of states' rights, in a narrow conception of the equal-protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, and, above all, in judicial restraint. Bush v. Gore violated those principles. The Supreme Court stepped into the case even though the Florida Supreme Court had been interpreting Florida law; the majority found a violation of the rights of George W. Bush, a white man, to equal protection when these same Justices were becoming ever more stingy in finding violations of the rights of African-Americans; and the Court stopped the recount even before it was completed, and before the Florida courts had a chance to iron out any problems -- a classic example of judicial activism, not judicial restraint, by the majority.

Toobin explains finally why the ruling has such resonance for him in 2010:
[T]he case also represents a revealing prologue to what the Supreme Court has since become. As in Bush v. Gore, nominally conservative Justices no longer operate by the rules of traditional judicial conservatism.

The Court is now led, of course, by Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., who was appointed by Bush in 2005 (and who, in 2000, travelled to Florida as a private lawyer working on Bush’s behalf). Under Roberts, the Court has continued to use the equal-protection clause as a vehicle to protect white people. In 2007, in Roberts’s first major opinion as Chief, he struck down the voluntary school-integration plans of Seattle and Louisville, which had been challenged by some white parents. Likewise, under Roberts the conservatives have abandoned their traditional concern with states’ rights if, for example, the state is trying to protect the environment. In another 2007 case, Roberts, Scalia, Thomas, and Samuel A. Alito, Jr. (who replaced O’Connor), argued in dissent that states had no right to force the Environmental Protection Agency to address the issue of global warming.

And as many writers, yours truly included, have pointed out frequently in recent years, the modern Court has abandoned all but the pretense of outrage at the Right's once-hated "judicial activism."
The echoes of Bush v. Gore are clearest when it comes to judicial activism. Judicial conservatism was once principally defined as a philosophy of deference to the democratically elected branches of government. But the signature of the Roberts Court has been its willingness, even its eagerness, to overturn the work of legislatures. Brandishing a novel interpretation of the Second Amendment, the Court has either struck down or raised questions about virtually every state and local gun-control law in the nation. In Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, decided earlier this year, the Court gutted the McCain-Feingold campaign-finance law in service of a legal theory that contradicts about a century of law at the Court. (Citizens United removed limits on corporate expenditures in political campaigns; the decision is, at its core, a boon for Republicans, just as Bush v. Gore was a decade ago.) When the Obama health-care plan reaches the high court for review, as it surely will, one can expect a similar lack of humility from the purported conservatives.

Many of the issues before the Supreme Court combine law and politics in ways that are impossible to separate. It is, moreover, unreasonable to expect the Justices to operate in a world hermetically cut off from the gritty motives of Democrats and Republicans. But the least we can expect from these men and women is that at politically charged moments -- indeed, especially at those times -- they apply the same principles that guide them in everyday cases. This, ultimately, is the tragedy of Bush v. Gore. The case didn’t just scar the Court’s record; it damaged the Court’s honor.

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Since Obama Will Never Be Judged As A Good President, He Seems Determined To Prove He's More Destructive Than Bush!


The anti-people Cat Food Commission presidency

Obama has managed to piss off just about every core constituency that voted for him in 2008. It's basically why Democrats and left-leaning independents didn't show up at the polls 3 weeks ago and why the Democrats lost 63 House seats. It's also why many political observers are certain he's destined to be a one-term president who will go down in history-- aside from being the first African-American president-- as the president who followed George W. Bush and was just as awful. Who would have imagined such a thing was possible and that such promise would turn to shit?

I should also mention that in his shortsighted mania to try to make everyone like him he has only infuriated the right. No matter what he does, they will always hate him and always say he doesn't do enough (Look at that tweet from vicious right-winger Darrell Issa, the richest plutocrat in Congress within minutes of the President's announcement.). So now his base of support has eroded to some African-Americans and those who just blindly support the presidency as an institution. Today's decision to impose a two-year pay freeze on most civilian federal workers is probably the final nail in his political coffin.
The president’s proposal will effectively wipe out plans for a 1.4 percent across-the-board raise for 2.1 million civilian federal government employees in 2011 and 2012. The military would not be affected.

Obama will not be announcing a cut in what the U.S. pays well-connected contractors or in payoffs to the Taliban. Here's the press release the White House sent out this morning to try to put a good face on this latest mess:
Because of the irresponsibility of the past decade, the President inherited a $1.3 trillion projected deficit upon taking office and an economic crisis that threatened to put the nation into a second Great Depression. He moved quickly to get the economy moving again. Now, the economy is growing, and we have gained private sector jobs for the past 10 months. But families and businesses are still hurting, and our top priority is making sure that we are doing everything we can to help boost economic growth and spur job creation.

Now, we need to turn our attention to addressing the massive deficits we inherited and the unsustainable fiscal course that we are on. Doing so will take some very tough choices. Just as families and businesses around the nation have tightened their belts so must their government. That must be done in a targeted way that focuses our investments in what works and in what will lay the foundation for job creation and economic growth for years to come while cutting back elsewhere in our budget.

That is why the President has decided to propose a freeze in civilian pay for federal employees for two years, 2011 and 2012.

• This two-year pay freeze will save $2 billion for the remainder of FY 2011, $28 billion over the next five years, and more than $60 billion over the next 10 years.

• It will apply to all civilian federal employees, including those in various alternative pay plans and those working at the Department of Defense-- but not military personnel.

This was a decision that was not made lightly. From the doctors and nurses who care for our veterans to the scientists searching for better treatments and cures, the men and women who care for our national parks, and the thousands who make sure that the Social Security check is in the mail and that students get their scholarships, federal workers serve their fellow Americans. They do so often with great sacrifice and motivated by a patriotic love for their country. This freeze is not to punish federal workers or to disrespect the work that they do. It is the first of many actions we will take in the upcoming budget to put our nation on sound fiscal footing-- which will ask for some sacrifice from us all.

Except, of course, the Wall Street banksters whose greed and avarice caused the economic crash and who have gotten richer and richer since Obama was elected. Instead of making millionaires and billionaires pay their fair share of taxes, Obama will now preside over giving them unwarranted and tyrannical tax decreases paid for my cuts to the middle class. He's as bad as any Republican-- but with a nicer bow on the package. He is, in effect, cutting the buying power, when you take inflation into account, of nearly one percent of the population. He should resign and go run for mayor of Chicago.

Among the progressive groups mortified at Obama's latest betrayal of working families on behalf of the Wall Street interests that financed his campaign are the Economic Policy Institute, Demos and The Century Foundation, all of which insist it's a mistake to freeze pay until the economic recovery from the recent recession has taken hold more firmly.
“We think that is a terrible idea. We should be raising wages,” Irons said in a press call. “It is unclear why the president would want to do this.”

“It reinforces the concern we have that the focus has shifted from creating jobs to deficit reduction. It is far too soon to be doing that. We need to be focusing on ways to lower 9.6 percent unemployment,” Anrig said.

The representatives argued that federal pay has lagged private-sector pay and the reduction announced by Obama today would exacerbate the difference.

EPI, Demos and The Century Foundation today released their own plan for reducing the deficit, titled “Investing in American’s Economy,” which they said reduces the deficit to a “sustainable” level while protecting economic growth and entitlement benefits.

In contrast to the plan proposed by the chairmen of the president’s deficit commission, the liberal groups’ plan focuses more heavily on raising revenue.

The deficit commission draft proposal relied on 75 percent spending cuts compared to 25 percent in revenue increases. Irons said the EPI-Demos-Century Foundation plan relies on about one-third spending cuts, one-third revenue increases and one-third reductions in tax expenditures such as tax credits.

The plan also proposed short-term stimulus spending in order to bolster the recovery, to the tune of $250 billion in 2011 and $200 billion in 2012. This spending would be focused on early childhood development, transportation infrastructure, expanding rural access to broadband, bolstering healthcare information technology and research, and development spending, Draut explained.

Paul Krugman was just as thrilled with Obama's rush to the rght: Yep, that’s exactly what we needed: a transparently cynical policy gesture, trivial in scale but misguided in direction, and in effect conceding that your bitter political opponents have the right idea.

Nothing is going to make me vote for any of the GOP kooks who want to replace him but it would be tragic for progressives to not challenge him in a primary where, at the very least, a progressive agenda can be laid out to contrast to Obama's conservative vision and the GOP's reactionary push. Blue America is urging Bernie Sanders to consider such an option. I have the impression that no one is even listening to Obama any longer. People-- including his most ardent former supporters-- just want it to be over. See if you can get through this whole thing:


The Inside The Beltway Corruption Beat, 1.5


Van Hollen & Israel-- smooth transition expected

If you follow DWT with any regularity, you probably know that since September we've been looking into how the DCCC, and to a lesser extent, the other Inside-the-Beltway party committees, decide how to allocate the funds they've collected from contributions. Last Tuesday we finally published the first installment, Have Contributions From Donors Been Finding Their Way Into DCCC Officials' Pockets? Several threats of law suits followed.

What we're trying to get at is how it is determined that some candidates get than a million dollars in independent expenditures on their behalf or, more commonly, against their opponents and why others-- including incumbents and including some who were polling as well, or as badly, as the ones who got help, got nothing at all or got inconsequential help. My preconception was that it had to do with the same old Rahm Emanuel era ideological war against progressives and that the DCCC was, once again, helping Blue Dogs and conservative Democrats rather than any candidates with grassroots (independent) backing. But that hypothesis, while still apparent, didn't explain all the activities fully. What seems to is even scarier. And that has to do with corruption, revolving doors and a look at who inside the DCCC--it's the same story with the DSCC, the RNCC and the RNSC-- actually has financial and proprietary interests in the consulting firms that were getting all the business.

Yesterday Kim Geiger and Matea Gold published a story in the L.A. Times, Election Tone Was Anti-incumbent, But Old Pros Handled The Cash, that ever so slightly brushed up against the DWT investigation and which I urge everyone to read. Disappointingly Geiger and Gold seemed to dismiss the commissions earned by the consulting firms as "a small percentage," neglecting to mention that the small percentage amounted to tens of millions of dollars. Now that's real money and anyone who follows the money in DC knows that real money always brings on real corruption. The word "corruption" wasn't used once-- or even implied-- anywhere in the L.A. Times story. No one's nose will be out of joint.
An analysis of campaign finance records and data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics found that 15 firms raked in more than $400 million just from the candidates, party committees and outside groups that advertised in federal elections.

"Especially when it comes to television advertising … it's dominated by a few key players and a few key firms," said Erica Fowler, assistant professor of government at Wesleyan University and co-director of the Wesleyan Media Project, which tracks advertising in federal elections. "Key actors on both sides are going to go to the known quantities to place those advertisements."

Much of that money was used to purchase airtime on local television stations, the firms said, noting that media buyers typically earn a small percentage as a commission or fee.

"We had a lot of the hot races and we did very well, but the vast majority of that money-- and I mean virtually all of it-- is going to pay the television stations," said Jim Margolis, a partner at GMMB, a Democratic political consulting and advertising firm. "Consequently, it is a complete distortion to think in any way, shape or manner that is all income to GMMB."

The air war resembled an arms race, with both Republican and Democratic campaigns frantically pumping more money into advertising to keep up with their competitors.

In all, candidates and political committees spent an estimated $3 billion airing television, radio and Internet commercials in local, state and federal races, up from $2.7 billion in 2008 and $2.4 billion in 2006, according to Campaign Media Analysis Group, a division of Kantar Media that tracks political advertising.

About two-thirds of the money-- an estimated $2 billion-- was used to purchase airtime from local television stations.

An examination of the volume of business handled by media firms with the highest total revenue for federal elections produced a list of operatives who probably benefited the most from this year's buying spree.

The top-grossing media shop was GMMB, which took in at least $112 million for advertising in federal campaigns. Three prominent Democratic Party committees-- the congressional and senatorial campaign committees and the Democratic Governors Assn.-- sent their business to the Georgetown-based firm, as did California Sen. Barbara Boxer and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

Experienced GOP media consultants also raked in a large share. Topping the list were National Media Research Planning & Placement, an Alexandria, Va.-based firm that handled advertising for George W. Bush's 2004 presidential campaign, and Mentzer Media, a Towson, Md.-based firm headed by Bruce Mentzer, who has placed more than $300 million in ads since 1985.

Also on the Republican side was Crossroads Media, a media-placement firm that took in close to $40 million in ad buys for clients that included American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS, advocacy groups cofounded earlier this year by Republican strategist Karl Rove.

Patti Heck, president of Crossroads Media, said the firm took in more than the approximately $40 million that was disclosed in federal campaign finance reports, but she declined to specify how much.

In the end, though, "it was the television stations that benefited the most," Heck said. "I would say they were the real winners."

Heck said her firm-- founded in 2001 by conservative activist Michael Dubke-- is not affiliated with the other two Crossroads groups. She dismissed the similar names as coincidental. However, Carl Forti, political director at American Crossroads, worked with Dubke to form another firm, the Black Rock Group. Crossroads Media and the Black Rock Group share the same Alexandria, Va., address, according to their websites.

Television stations have unquestionably been the winners-- and that's something legislators looking into campaign finance reform need to address -- but that doesn't mean the revolving door warriors who work in the party committees and who own stakes in the consultancies they hire and recommend the campaigns hire aren't also ... winners. They are, year after year after year. And they can even win -- and win big -- when the party they're supposed to be working for loses and loses big.

Below is a depiction of just a small part of what's going on in Washington but do notice that Abramoff admits having bribed at least 20 Members of Congress. He's in jail... but, with one exception, they're not.

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For Rupert Murdoch and the Koch Bros., isn't their hobby also their business?


One category of people I've always envied like crazy is people whose hobby, or to put it another way the thing they most like to engage in, is what they do for their livelihood. At times in my life I thought I was sort of within striking distance, but the reality really didn't come all that close. This envious soul burrowing inside me guesses that this isn't a problem for people like the Koch brothers of Koch Industries, Charles and David, and NewsCorp's Rupert Murdoch and his hand-picked master of Fox Noise, Roger Ailes.

I raise the point not to expose my envious inner self but to suggest one of the scarifying realities we on the Left face in grappling with the archdemons of the Right. In this connection I'm going to take issue with someone I rarely find myself in disagreement with, AlterNet's estimable Washington editor Adele Stan, who wrote a provocative piece not long ago which included among its targets none other than our Rupert. In the end, as I'll try to argue, I think our difference is inconsequential practically speaking, but the basis for my disagreement seems to me important for a fundamental difference in the relative posture and long-term sustainability of Left and Right.

Addie made the case that what makes someone like Old Rupe so dangerous is that, however important profits may be to him, ideology is more important. And when you have pockets as deep as his, an ideological commitment of this intensity is an exceedingly powerful and dangerous force. Really, our disagreement is slight. Rupert Murdoch is indeed an exceedingly powerful and dangerous force. I would merely argue that this isn't in spite of his hunger for profits but because of it. As best I can tell, Old Rupe and the Kochs and most of the other solons of the extreme Right, especially the ones who are actually in business to make money as opposed to dispensing inherited wealth (although of course many of those business-serious types had a leg up from starting with at least a modest financial cushion), are in the enviable position of having that seamless connection between their personal appetites and their livelihood.

This was a point that Jane Mayer stressed in her remarkable New Yorker exploration of the financial world of the Koch brothers "Covert Operations: The billionaire brothers who are waging a war against Obama." Almost at the outset of her remarkable piece-- and if you still haven't read it, it has become if anything more timely over these three months -- she reports:
The Kochs are longtime libertarians who believe in drastically lower personal and corporate taxes, minimal social services for the needy, and much less oversight of industry -- especially environmental regulation. These views dovetail with the brothers' corporate interests. In a study released this spring, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst's Political Economy Research Institute named Koch Industries one of the top ten air polluters in the United States. And Greenpeace issued a report identifying the company as a "kingpin of climate science denial." The report showed that, from 2005 to 2008, the Kochs vastly outdid ExxonMobil in giving money to organizations fighting legislation related to climate change, underwriting a huge network of foundations, think tanks, and political front groups.

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Can Transpartisan, Racist Conservatives Kill The DREAM Act In The Senate?


Do you ever wind up on any psychotic right wing e-mail lists? Somehow this Tony Caputo guy-- no idea who he is-- started sending me daily, often 2 or 3 a day, actually-- right-wing propaganda screeds. Normally I just delete them without opening but yesterday I saw one about Harry Reid bring up the DREAM Act again, I decided to take a look. And sure enough, crazy as the rest of the garbage these bigots and rightists are poisoning themselves with. I guess this is for the ones who don't spend 2-3 hours a day commuting from their suburbs to work when they're at the mercy of Hate Talk Radio, listening to Limbaugh, Hannity and Beck spew anti-American propaganda and insurrection. The hysteria began with this:

And that's the calm part. After that it's pure racist, Know Nothing screed. For the anti-Latino nativist Republicans the DREAM Act is all about "stealth amnesty," even claiming that fake colleges are going to "pop up faster [than] tequila bottle in Tijuana." These are really sick, hateful people poisoning themselves and poisoning the whole country with their hatred and fear. "Illegal aliens," he continues, "probably delivered to Harry Reid his margin of victory against Sharron Angle in the election earlier this month. Now it is payback time."

The missive ends with a semi-coherent call to action:
In Tennessee, we have to [sic] RINO’s who have mastered a great trick. They will vote for cloture (to end debate, which requires 60 votes), and then when the bill is up for an actual vote, and only requires a simple majority, they will vote against it. “I was for the bill before I was against the bill.” Doesn’t that sound familiar?
Tell your Senators to vote no on any vote related to the DREAM act.
Then call the Office of Senator Mitch McConnell. His number is (202) 224-2541. Tell them you are a Tea Party activist and this is one issue we will not forgive the Republicans for if they fail us. There are 41 Republican Senators. They can kill this bill. The good news is, there are also a few Democrats who might defect and help us out as well.

You almost feel sorry for the Republicans for enabling these misfits and racists who can now exercise so much control over the party! Almost.

When the DREAM Act came up in October, 2007, the Republican filibuster prevented a vote. Cloture failed 52-44. At the time there were 8 conservative Democrats who voted with the racists, Max Baucus (MT), Robert Byrd (WV), Kent Conrad (ND), Byron Dorgan (ND), Mary Landrieu (LA), Claire McCaskill (MO), Mark Pryor (AR), and Jon Tester (MT). And there were exactly a dozen Republicans voting in favor of ending the filibuster and allowing a vote: Bob Bennett (UT), Sam Brownback (KS), Norm Coleman (MN), Susan Collins (ME), Larry Craig (ID), Chuck Hagel (NE), Orrin Hatch (UT), Kay Bailey Hutchison (TX), Trent Lott (MS), Dick Lugar (IN), Mel Martinez (FL), and Olympia Snowe (ME).

The political dynamic around the bill has changed somewhat since then and it's not likely that the same people will vote the same way. Bennett has been defeated by teabaggers in a primary and he has no reason to bow to their will and switch up. On the other hand Olympia Snowe, Kay Bailey Hutchison and Orrin Hatch are all facing the ugliness of teabagger primaries before their 2012 reelection campaigns and none are exactly Profiles-in-Courage types. (Keep in mind that the whole concept of the DREAM Act was thought up and proposed by Dick Durbin and... Orrin Hatch, as a bipartisan solution.) Hatch and the other two three are likely to walk the straight and narrow teabagger line from now until reelection time. Coleman has been replaced by Al Franken, an avid DREAM Act supporter. But Larry Craig, Trent Lott and Chuck Hagel have been replaced by racist kooks, Jim Risch, Roger Wicker and Mike Johanns. And Mel Martinez has been replaced by George LeMieux who is leaving the Senate after the lame duck session but who has political ambitions likely to determine how he votes. He's being heavily lobbied by both sides. If LeMieux is the deciding vote, he'll be a no vote. The guy's one of the most craven and cowardly Members of the Senate ever. There's a chance Scott Brown could vote for it but that's a long shot too.

On the Democratic side of the aisle, it's just as complicated. Ben Nelson, also up for reelection in 2012, has already announced he is flip flopping from his yes vote in 2007 to a no vote this week. “I’m not going to support any act that I don’t think adds to jobs, or military or to the economy. Consequently I won’t support any motion to proceed or any kind of cloture on the DREAM Act. In addition, I think that has to be part of an overall comprehensive solution to immigration once we have the border secured, not until then.”

Byrd has been replaced by the far more conservative Joe Manchin so that's not likely to be a change for the better on this one. Given the character of the Democrats who would be needed to support it if it were to pass-- pathetic wretches like McCaskill, Pryor, Landrieu and Conrad, I'd say this is going to be one of the toughest battles Harry Reid has ever faced... and that his chance to win is minuscule.

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Sunday, November 28, 2010

Streams Of Consciousness


Wednesday the Congressional Progressive Cause picks a chair for the 112th Congress. They'll be deciding between 3 outstanding nominees: Raúl Grijalva, Keith Ellison and Donna Edwards. Blue America isn't taking sides; we love 'em all. Donna Edwards will be live at Crooks and Liars tomorrow (Monday) at 7pm (ET) to talk about the race-- and about the lame duck session and where progressives are headed from here.

Wikileaks Annoying World Leaders

That Wikileaks thing is embarrassing a lot of folks, although mostly ones who were up to no good.
The first tranche of more than 250,000 classified cables released by the WikiLeaks site says American officials were also told to spy on the United Nations’ leadership and get biometric information on its secretary general Ban Ki-moon.

The cables detail claims of inappropriate behaviour by a member of the Royal family and criticism of Britain’s military operations in Afghanistan and David Cameron.

The cables include requests for “specific intelligence” about British MPs. The communiques last night threatened a global diplomatic crisis and put America’s relations with Europe and the Middle East under a cloud.

The leaked memos also disclose how American diplomats compared Iran’s President Ahmedinejad with Adolf Hitler and labelled France’s President Nicolas Sarkozy as the “emperor with no clothes."

The German Chancellor Angela Merkel was depicted as “risk aversive,” while the Russian prime minister Vladimir Putin was an “alpha dog" [with ties to organized crime]. Afghanistan’s president Hamid Karzai was “driven by paranoia.” The unguarded comments were contained in the classified cables from US embassies, details of which were published by several newspapers on the internet last night. Some of the cables were sent as recently as last February.

...One of the most damaging allegations was that Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah repeatedly urged America to attack Iran.

The Saudi leader was recorded as having “frequently exhorted the US to attack Iran to put an end to its nuclear weapons programme."

The leak said he told the Americans to “cut off the head of the snake” at a meeting in 2008. The leaks also disclose how leaders in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt referred to Iran as “evil” and a power that “is going to take us to war."

...The documents also claimed that Italy’s prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, was known for his “wild parties” while Libya’s president Muammar Gaddafi had a “sumptuous blonde as a nursing sister."

It's just going to be so embarrassing for everyone if Julian Assange wins Time Magazine's Man of the Year. He's ahead so far, beating out Obama, Palin, Lady Gaga, the Chilean miners and... the Unemployed American. My bet is Obama would rather see Assange win than the Unemployed American.

Bush's Brother Hasn't Bothered Reading That Ridiculous Book Someone Wrote For Him... But Gerhard Schroeder Did

Jeb Bush and I have something in common. Neither of us has bothered to read his brother George's idiotic and childish book. Unlike me, though, he bought 40 copies of it, which is after all-- at least in Republicanville-- far more important than actually reading the silly thing, right? I doubt Jeb was turned off to the idea of plowing through the whole thing just because former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder did read it and accused George W. of lying.
In his book Decision Points, published this week, Mr Bush writes that he told Mr Schroeder in an Oval Office meeting on 31st January 2002 that he was determined to make diplomacy work but he would invade Iraq if all else failed.

He quotes Mr Schroeder as saying: "What is true of Afghanistan is true of Iraq. Nations that sponsor terror must face consequences. If you make it fast and make it decisive, I will be with you."

Mr Bush writes that he put a "high premium on trust" and Mr Schroeder was guilty of betrayal. "Once that trust was violated, it was hard to have a constructive relationship again."

Mr Schroeder responded to Mr Bush's claims, accusing him of "not telling the truth."

In a statement, he confirmed that he had told Mr Bush he would "stand reliably on the side of the US" if it was confirmed that Iraq was sheltering those responsible for the September 11 terrorist attacks.

"But this link, as it became clear during 2002, was false and contrived. This goes for reasons [for the invasion] given by Bush and [then vice-president Dick] Cheney too.

"As we know today, the Bush administration's reasons for the Iraq war were based on lies."

The reaction of former Schroeder aides was scathing. "We noticed that the intellectual reach of the president of the most important nation at the time was exceptionally low," said Uwe-Karsten Heye, Mr Schroeder's spokesman at the time told German news channel N24.

"For this reason it was difficult to communicate with him. He had no idea what was happening in the world. He was so fixated on being a Texan. I think he knew every longhorn in Texas."

Dieter Kastrup, Mr Schroeder's top foreign policy official, who was at the meeting, said: "In no way did Schroeder express anything that could be understood by Bush as a charter to start a war against Iraq with German assistance."

See, it wasn't just Kanye who noticed something was amiss.

How Do You Know If You're A Republican?

Bruce Linder has 50 tell-tale signs! Here are the first 25. If you want to read the rest... they're here.

You Might be a Republican If…

1. You believe George W. Bush’s redistribution of middle-class tax cuts to the top 1% of tax-payers was good for America, but Obama’s plan to return it to the middle class is ‘socialism.’

2. You believe stem cells are living human beings, but thousands of Iraqi children are ‘expendable collateral damage.’

3. You believe tax cuts for billionaires is a great idea, yet you wonder why the economy has stalled, your job just got outsourced to India, and oil company executives receive $400,000,000.00 retirement packages.

4. You believe the surge worked because the violence in Iraq is back to 2006 levels, which is only horrible, compared to what it was in 2007; intolerable. Besides, Brit Hume said so.

5. You think trial lawyers are harmful to America, yet you support prosecuting some guy in Muncie Indiana who burned his 99¢ American flag that was made in China by forced child labor.

6. You’re all for the ‘rule of law’ when it’s applied to Bill Clinton for lying about his infidelity, but not for prosecuting Karl Rove and Scooter Libby for committing treason.

7. You think George W. Bush is actually a really smart guy, but his folksy manner just makes him seem dumber than he really is.

8. You believe that those privileged from birth achieve success all on their own, and that those who are born to poverty and never have opportunities for advancement, got what they deserved.

9. You believe Ronald Reagan was a great president who had complete control of all aspects of government, but the Iran-Contra Affair was an insignificant scandal that went on without his knowledge.

10. You believe Democrats tax and spend, but George W. Bush was a fiscal conservative.

11. You believe Oliver North, who was CONVICTED of perjury, obstruction of justice, destroying evidence and accepting bribes, is a patriot. But John Kerry, who saved a man’s life while under enemy fire in Vietnam is a coward.

12. You believe George W. Bush kept us safe from terror, and the failure to prevent the 9/11 attacks were Clinton’s fault.

13. You actually believe Fox News is fair & balanced.

14. You still believe Saddam had truckloads of WMDs, and that he somehow managed to sneak them into Syria, right under our noses.

15. You believe Terri Schiavo was sentient all along, and Bill Frist had the ability to diagnose her condition by watching a 5 second video of her sleeping.

16. You’re in favor of stronger prison sentences for drug users, yet your favorite radio personality is Rush Limbaugh.

17. You complain about having to press 1 for English, yet you hire undocumented workers to mow your lawn because they’re cheaper than hiring the kid next door.

18. Homosexuality is abhorrent to you, except when a Republican senator, the president of the National Association of Evangelicals, and a planted White House journalist get caught having sexual affairs with gay men. Then you suddenly feel sorry for them.

19. The war in Iraq makes perfect sense to you, but any suggestion by Barack Obama that we target al Qaeda specifically is ‘dangerous and reckless.’

20. You don’t mind that president Bush tortured men who were never charged with a crime, yet you’re horrified by the wrath of al Qaeda when they capture one of our guys.

21. You believe the 1/10 of 1% of scientists who claim global warming is a hoax, and reject the 99.9% who say it’s real, because Sean Hannity and his friends in the oil industry have convinced you that science is a part of a greater liberal conspiracy.

22. You believe patriotism means you should support your government right or wrong … unless a Democrat’s in power, then it’s your patriotic duty to call him a closet Muslim, challenge his birth certificate, expose his sex life and impeach him.

23. You’re proud of your party’s ‘culture of life.’ Yet you support the death penalty for minors, you believe 600,000 dead Iraqis is justified because one of them was Saddam Hussein, and you oppose confronting the genocide in Darfur because they don’t have oil.

24. You support prayer in school, as long as your kids aren’t subjected to Muslim prayers.

25. You think Darwin’s theory of evolution is a loony fairy tale, and mankind actually began with two naked teenagers, a magic apple and a talking snake.

Now About That Dangerous Brinkmanship In Korea

I've been reading some of the papers from the '60s recently about how LBJ manipulated the North Vietnamese into the Gulf of Tonkin casus belli he wanted so badly in order to really go in with all we had to kick some ass. That worked out poorly for everyone concerned, especially poor LBJ, whom history might otherwise remember as a great and valiant president instead of a shameful war criminal. Right now I'm getting nervous about that little island that got shelled off the coast of Korea last week. When you hear a mindless warmonger like Jon Kyl on Meet the Press this morning demanding North Korea "be dealt with," you have to look closely.
But what we ought to do is what we’re doing right now. And that is not backing down in terms of having very legitimate exercises with the South Korean Government, which we-- gave plenty of advance notice of. And then see how it-- how it plays out. Obviously, we’re not trying to provoke anything there. But-- with news, the IAEA from the United Nations just released a report a couple weeks ago detailing how North Korea was proliferating nuclear technology to Iran and Syria. And clearly this is a country that needs to be dealt with. And I think we need to focus a lot more on it.

But not everyone is as blasé about the "war games" as Senator Kyl. Peace activist Bruce Gagnon notes that "the U.S. and South Korea have been running aggressive military war games each month since last July and these massive drills are directed right at North Korea. North Korea must each time put their military and their population on alert because they can't take any chances. Having seen the U.S. record of attacking weaker countries they must consider that this time the war games could be for real."

...Like any bully, the U.S. military is poking a sharp stick at North Korea (and China) and basically daring them to fight back. The U.S. (and their junior partners in South Korea and Japan) are out to militarize the region and are just itching for a military response that would then "justify" an overwhelming response.

The U.S. weapons corporations love this game of hardball, or as it used to be called, gunboat diplomacy. The power tripping U.S. government intends to keep pushing North Korea into a corner and will keep pissing on them until they get another response. At the rate things are now going it likely won't take long.

The key factor in all of this is China. How long will China allow the U.S. to keep pouring gasoline on the hot fire in the Asian-Pacific? They hold our debt yet know that if they cut the U.S. loose then the entire global economy will suffer even more. But China is quickly getting fed up with U.S. military bravado in their back yard.

China must support North Korea because if that country is toppled then the U.S. would put military bases right on China's border. This was an important reason for the Korean War in the first place, the U.S. wanted to take control of the entire Korean peninsula and thus have bases right alongside Russia and China.

Rob Krall worries that what we're seeing unfold around the Korean peninsula now is the fabric of lies on which the next American war will be built. He says it's neither Admiral Mullens' theory that North Korea is trying to blackmail the world for more aid nor others' assertion that the new North Korean leader is psychotic that is driving the train here. He agrees with Gagnon that North Korea is just responding to the war games the U.S. is having on their disputed border so very provocatively.

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