November 07, 2008

Just go Joe

By Libby

Reid and Lieberman had some kind of private confab yesterday. Here's Joe's press statement afterward.



Options? He has options all right. He should opt to not let the door hit him on the way out.

Jane Hamsher tells us he's having a series of meetings with Reid to decide what to do. What's to decide? He should resign his committee gracefully and leave the caucus for his new BFFs in the GOP. Make it official already. He hasn't voted with the Democrats on anything important in literally years.

Why bother with this silly charade? They don't need him if he doesn't come through the votes anyway and if he goes to the GOP then he can be all bi-partisanish when he crosses the aisle to support President Obama's proposals.

It's a simple choice. Joe must go. If you would like to make that clear to the Dems, sign the No More Joe petition.

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November 05, 2008

The audacity of hope

By Libby

Barack_baby It was quite a night, wasn't it? I laughed. I cried. I'm still tearing up at intervals as I look at the photos and the full impact of this historic moment hits me. I feel about as stunned as I did on this day in 04, only this time it's in a good way. I want to stand on my deck and shout, "Thank you America for repudiating the lies and the hatemongering of the extremists who hijacked our country for so many years."

I want to go out and hug every single person who fought so hard to make this moment happen. Every campaign worker who toiled beyond human endurance to get out the largest vote in a hundred years. Every person who talked to their friends and families and neighbors and sold them on the idea that hope still exists and can overcome hate. Every blogger that risked carpal tunnel in a relentless assault of pixels on the intertubes, pushing back against the false narratives that threatened to turn this election into an American Idol contest.

Of course, the election of President Barack Hussien Obama is not the end of this fight, it's just the beginning. It's clear that he understands that too. I was struck by the tone of his acceptance speech. There was little jublilation over victory in his sober rhetoric as he hoisted the weight of his new responsiblities onto his slender shoulders. One can see the heaviness of that burden already manifesting in the increasing lines in his face and the new gray in his temples.

There's much work left to be done in bringing the millions of citizens who are even now stockpiling weapons against what they apparently truly believe will be the coming of some kind of Marxist-Socialist-Communist-Muslim-Gay-terrorist coup, back into reality, (assuming that can ever be done) and the dire problems that plagued us two days ago didn't disappear with President Obama's election. The world as we knew it before Bush won't ever return again. But I don't want to deal with that today. For this one day, I just want to savor the moment.

The whole world changed last night and although the challenges ahead are great, I believe we finally took a step in a better direction. For the first time in eight long years, I woke up without that crushing weight of concern bearing down on my chest about the future of my child and my grandchild. For this one day I just want to breathe that in. I want to wallow in the audacity of hope, and relish my rekindled pride in my President and our country. It's been a long time since I've felt it. [photo credit]

(Cross-posted at The Impolitic.)

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November 04, 2008

Voting stories

By Libby

This first one is from yesterday but I'm including it anyway. Hecate passes on a beautiful story and photo from an Obama rally in Raleigh, NC.

Hecate also pulls a Tarot card. It's a very good omen. Might be NSFW if you work in very straight-laced place. It's just a picture of a card with a naked female angel, but use caution.

Pete Abel in Missouri saw lots of young people excited about voting.

1000 students lined up at Penn State.

Twitter the vote.

Turn out stories from many different locations.

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Moved to tears

By Libby

Although I weep at the end of It's a Wonderful Life every year, I'm not really one to cry over every little thing. I've been surprised how often a story about this race has made me so teary-eyed. Today's tear jerkers: First a voting story from Glen.

And I have a wonderful image from my small precinct to share. A young African-American mother can to vote with her three young daughters — we have those partially-enclosed plastic "booths." When she went to mark her vote, she told the girls "come, touch my hand, be a part of this — it's something you're going to remember the rest of your life."

Obama's first statement about his grandmother's death.


I'm just crushed that she didn't live one more day to see him to the end of his long journey. One bright spot in this dark moment is that yes, her vote will count.

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Yes. We. Can.

By Libby

Obama_rally_manassas_vi

Election day at last. I'm so jazzed today that I almost can't focus enough to blog so I'm just going to cross posting election day stories from my place. People in my internet circles are reporting long lines and no lines. Everyone is a good mood. You can feel the hope. It's so palpable, you could eat it for breakfast.

Dixville Notch, NH, traditionally the first to report results has it for Obama in a landslide, 15-6.

Obama closes out his campaign with 90,000 at a rally in Manassas, Virginia last night. This morning in Richmond, all their voting machines broke down. Some confusion at first, but they now have paper ballots. Good. Harder to steal the vote that way.

Sean is on the road and takes a look at the Obama ground game in Georgia. I'm too superstitous to make predictions but that state could surprise us.

Over in Right Blogstantinople and Wingnut Punditryville, heads are already exploding. Take your pick of comical coverage here. Breathless posts on McCain's optimism, horrified indignation over imagined voting fraud or dire warnings about our country lurching to the left.

Meanwhile, I don't know how much blogging I'll be doing today. I'm not much for hour by hour analysis, but I expect to be sharing voting stories as they come in. In the interim, visualize victory.

[Photo credit] (Cross-posted at The Impolitic.)

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October 31, 2008

Stealing the election

By Libby

Adding some context to Jay's post, here's a rundown of some of the voter suppression efforts that appear not to working as well as the GOP hoped they would.

McCain has taken to guaranteeing his supporters he will be victorious next week. Makes you wonder what he knows that we don't. Could be he's counting on things like the flyers being sent out by the PA GOP, targeted at Jewish voters, making false allegations against Obama and likening him to Hitler. Or the flyers in Virginia being distributed by an unknown organization falsely telling people that Democrats aren't supposed to vote until the day after the election is over?

More likely he's depending on the GOP's voter purges though. One in six voters in New Mexico are being challenged, like this supervisor of elections who happens to be Hispanic. 50,000 purged in Georgia, like this student who received notice she was struck from the rolls because she's not a citizen. Except that she is a citizen and received the notice days after the deadline to fix the problem passed. She will now be forced to use a provisional ballot. 10,000 registrations ruled invalid in Colorado.

And in Florida, "The state released a new and larger "no match" list Monday of 12,165 names, compared with 8,867 on an earlier list released Oct. 16. The list is disproportionately made up of African-Americans, Hispanics, Democrats and residents of South Florida. African-Americans and Hispanics combined account for 55 percent of would-be voters on the latest list, which includes 6,194 Democrats and 1,440 Republicans."

Hundreds of thousands of voters across the country are being targeted by GOP operatives - enough to steal an election in a close contest. I urge you once again, to check your registration status before next Tuesday to protect your vote.

(Originally posted at the Detroit News.)

[ Find Your Polling Place | Voting Info For Your State | Know Your Voting Rights | Report Voting Problems ]

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The straight ticket trap

By Libby

I haven't been around for a number of reasons too complicated to explain but I've been posting a lot at the Detroit News trying to reach out to McCain supporters and inform Obama voters about the potential pitfalls of the various methods of voter suppression. With the kind indulgence of my co-bloggers, I'm going to cross post some of these in the next few days here. Here's the first one.

Here in Michigan, as in my new home state of North Carolina, they still offer the straight party option to save time when you're filling out your ballot. Don't use it. It's a trap that could leave your vote uncounted.

THE PROBLEM: "Straight party voting" on voting machines is revealing a bad pattern of miscounting and omitting your vote, especially if you are a Democrat. Most recently (Oct. 2008), a firm called Automated Election Services was found to have miscoded the system in heavily Democratic Santa Fe County, New Mexico such that straight party voters would not have their presidential votes counted.

States with the straight ticket option are Alabama, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.

Here in North Carolina, if you use the option, it covers all the races except for president. You still have to fill that oval out separately or your vote for that office won't count. The disclaimer on my ballot is very hard to find, not to mention hard to read in the tiniest of type. So take the time to make all your choices separately even if you plan to vote only one party for every race. It only takes a minute or two more and it's worth it to protect your vote. And please pass the link on to everyone you know in these states.

[ Find Your Polling Place | Voting Info For Your State | Know Your Voting Rights | Report Voting Problems ]

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October 26, 2008

McCain supporters making fraudulent contributions

By Libby

The A-list wingers at The Corner and their cohorts in Right Blogstantinople have been busy trying to gin up a fundraising controversy in their latest ploy to smear Obama, with an eye to cast doubt on an Obama victory. I see the WaPo finally picked up on the theme and is asking if campaigns funded by the people instead of big money interests isn't really a threat to democracy.

Leaving aside that we're talking about 1% of Obama's fundraising here at best, hardly a massive problem, the WaPo is asking the wrong question. The Corner's minions have embarked on a huge effort to deliberately make fraudulent contributions to Obama's campaign in order to 'prove' the fraud exists. This is illegal. The perps are making public confessions, boasting of their criminality. So why aren't they being arrested?

Update: Thanks to the commenter who complained in comments, Mark Kleiman confirms the fraudulent contributors are breaking two different laws.

[Cross-posted from The Impolitic where the comment section is not amused]

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October 18, 2008

The new McCarthyism

By Libby

Apparently mistaking a recent Hardball appearance as an audition to become the latest face of reckless demagoguery, Rep. Michele Bachman gave voice to the most rabid and vile imaginings of the increasingly violent GOP base. She hints darkly of widespread anti-Americanism within the Congressional chambers. The video is at the link, I can't bring myself to repeat it here.

Immediately after the segment, Katrina Vandenheuvel issues the appropriate, and surprisingly impassioned, rebuke.

Chris, I fear for my country. I think what we just heard is a congresswoman channeling Joe McCarthy, channeling a politics of fear and loathing and demonization and division and distraction. Not a single issue mentioned. This is a politics at a moment of extreme economic pain in this country that is incendiary, that is so debased, that I'm almost having a hard time breathing, because I think it's very scary.

Bachman's hateful remarks are not only scary, they verge on criminally irresponsible. I think she should be immediately censured by her peers. If you agree, join concerned Americans and sign the petition and pass the link on. The signators have already doubled in number in the last few hours.

(Cross-posted at The Impolitic)

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October 17, 2008

Joe the Plumber works for McCain

By Libby

I don't mean he's replacing the toilets in McCain's eight homes or that he was a plant as I've seen suggested, but I'm wondering if McCain's repeated invocation of the his new blue collar BFF, was really just another wildly implusive gimmick or a deliberate pre-emptive trick to manipulate the news cycle. Think about it. On the day after another poor debate performance by McCain that could easily have been anticipated by Steve Schmidt, the media has been talking about Joe the Plumber all day long. They're still talking about him this morning instead of focusing in on McCain's obfuscations and false talking points. On those terms, the Joenanza frenzy is working in McCain's favor.

Anything that takes the focus off McCain specifically is a net plus at this point. Starting from the 'leaked' reports that Schmidt was furious at McCain for repeatedly bringing him up because of the man's connection to the Keating Five, which now may turn out not to be true, to the myriad of details that emerged in the media feeding frenzy, it suggest to me that the campaign actually did vet Joe the Plumber before deciding to make him the sacrificial lamb for one last distraction in the final days of the race.

As a poster boy, Joe is obviously fatally flawed but it fired up the wingnut noise machine and today their narrative has turned to hypocritical accusations that the "angry left" is irresponsibly destroying the man with undue scrutiny. Joe provides a new focal point to reinforce the ongoing meme of beleaguered conservatives as victims just at the moment that Palin's popularity, and thus usefulness in that regard, has tanked. And it keeps the whole "spreading the wealth" socialism theme that so charges up the base alive for the duration. So is it coincidence or contrievance?

That Joe the Plumber will live to regret his casual confrontation with Obama is clear enough. Every ugly detail of his personal life has been revealed to a national audience. He's been exposed as a fraud. That's embarassing, but this, in particular, will surely come back to haunt him.

“All contractors are licensed, and he does not have a license, either as a contractor or a plumber,” the union official said, citing a search of government records. “I can’t find that he’s ever even applied for any kind of apprenticeship, and he has never belonged to local 189 in Columbus, which is what he claims on his Facebook page.”

The upshot being, he's been plumbing illegally and will probably find himself unable to work before his fifteen minutes of fame are over. Instead of a poster boy, he's now set to become a martyr in the eyes of the rabid base and it might just work to get some of those who were planning to sit the election out after the Palinmania wore off too soon, to get to the polls after all.

It appears it will work. The base, of course, is blaming the left, rather than admit McCain is so crass that he would sacrifice one of their own simply to keep their hate of all things liberal alive long enough to get them to the ballot box.

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October 15, 2008

Bush busy behind the scenes

By Libby

While the nation worries, watching their investments melt away and their fellow citizens meltdown into pockets of partisan rage, Bush has been making the most of his remaining 96 days to quietly complete the total destruction of corporate oversight. Steve Benen has the story.

Corporate America has been calling for some mechanism to "preempt" product-liability litigation for years, and Bush had promised to deliver. The White House, however, had limited options in dealing with a Democratic Congress which cares about consumer protections.

So, the Bush gang is adding provisions to obscure federal regulations that will block product safety lawsuits by consumers and states. The scheme would affect products ranging from cars to prescription medication to railroad cars.

And don't be lulled into thinking there's a easy fix with a new administration taking power.

These new rules can't quickly be undone by order of the next president. Federal rules usually must go through lengthy review processes before they are changed. Rulemaking at the Food and Drug Administration, where most of the new pre-emption rules have appeared, can take a year or more.

And that's not all. Bush is also busy cementing unitary executive privilege with yet more signing statements.

In the authorization bill, Mr. Bush challenged four sections. One forbid the money from being used “to exercise United States control of the oil resources of Iraq”; another required negotiations for an agreement by which Iraq would share some of the costs of the American military operations there.

The sections “purport to impose requirements that could inhibit the president’s ability to carry out his constitutional obligations,” including as commander in chief, Mr. Bush wrote.

In the other bill, he raised concerns about two sections that strengthen legal protections against political interference with the internal watchdog officials at each executive agency. One section gives the inspectors general a right to counsels who report directly to them. But Mr. Bush wrote in his signing statement that such lawyers would be bound to follow the legal interpretations of the politically appointed counsels at each agency.

The other section requires the White House to tell Congress what each inspector general said about the administration’s budget proposal for their offices. Such a requirement, Mr. Bush wrote, would infringe on “the president’s constitutional authority” to decide what to recommend to Congress.

He may only have a little over three months left in office, but clearly he can still do a great deal of damage in that short span of time. I think it could take generations to undo it all. The Democrats may find they will rue not impeaching him in 06 when they had the clear mandate to do so. As the full scope of the Bush regime's misdeeds are exposed over the coming years, the public's anger will yet turn on them for their failure to follow through.

On the bright side, this may finally be the way we get rid of Reid, Pelosi and the rest of the entrenched and corrupted old guard and replace them with better Democrats. One can hope anyway.

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October 12, 2008

Joe Biden brings it on

By Libby

Joe Biden calls out the McCain campaign's catty tactics of smearing Obama and Biden behind their backs:

"Sarah Palin had great fun saying Joe Biden thinks paying taxes is patriotic. Well, let me tell you what Joe Biden thinks," the Delaware senator said at an outdoor rally. "Joe Biden thinks that anybody who takes millions of dollars offshore to avoid paying their fair share is unpatriotic."

"That is not patriotic and it will stop, it will stop in an Obama-Biden administration! Enough! I've had it up to here! Don't lecture me on patriotism," shouted Biden, getting drowned out by the applause of his supporters. "I'm dead tired of being taken advantage of. I'm getting tired of it."

In full fire mode, Joe goes on to mock McCain and Palin's lack of courage in making the same false accusations to their faces:

"In my neighborhood you want to say something about me, look me in the eye and tell me," said Biden. "Say it to me straight up. Say it to me head on. That's the code, that's the ethics! Say it to me! Ladies and gentlemen, I'm tired of losing, I'm tired of taking this stuff, I've had enough."

I got tired of it about eight years ago but even if it's late in coming, I'm glad to see Democrats finally ready to fight back. I hope Obama and Biden are also ready to clear out some of the dead wood on our side of the fence too. Reid and Pelosi would be a good place to start. We need new leadership all around.

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October 10, 2008

True colors

By Libby

I have to admit, this geeky stuff goes right over my head. I don't have a clue about what Waxy is doing here and with my old computer already running at a near glacier speed, I'm not going to download the algorithum to figure it out but maybe some of the techies around here can explain this to me in simple terms. I'm particularly interested because three of the blogs I post to, Newshoggers, my own blog The Impolitic and The Reaction are all on the list.

While most political blogs are extremely partisan, their biases aren't immediately obvious to outsiders like me. I wanted to see, at a glance, how conservative or liberal the blogs were without clicking through to every article.

The colors don't necessarily represent each blogger's personal views or biases. It's a reflection of their linking activity. The algorithm looks at the stories that blogger's linked to before, relative to all other bloggers, and groups them accordingly. People that link to things that only conservatives find interesting will be classified as bright red, even if they are personally moderate or liberal, and vice-versa. The algorithm can't read minds, so don't be offended if you feel misrepresented. It's only looking at the data.

The only part I understand is that the colors show your partisan leanings in terms of linkage, not content. I don't get the scoring at all. Maybe a braver soul than me can run the program and tell me what our colors are?

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October 09, 2008

We're all terrorists now

By Libby

As I've been saying for at least the last two years, every day we take one step closer to a police state. Here's the latest little encroachment.

Despite pledges by President George W. Bush and American intelligence officials to the contrary, hundreds of US citizens overseas have been eavesdropped on as they called friends and family back home, according to two former military intercept operators who worked at the giant National Security Agency (NSA) center in Fort Gordon, Georgia.

The administration and its apologists will tell you that they only target "likely terrorists" but according the one whistleblower, "likely" is loosely defined.

Kinne described the contents of the calls as "personal, private things with Americans who are not in any way, shape or form associated with anything to do with terrorism." She said US military officers, American journalists and American aid workers were routinely intercepted and "collected on" as they called their offices or homes in the United States.

According to another whistleblower, who came forward independently of Kinne, at least the eavesdroppers are having a great old time on the job.

Faulk says he and others in his section of the NSA facility at Fort Gordon routinely shared salacious or tantalizing phone calls that had been intercepted, alerting office mates to certain time codes of "cuts" that were available on each operator's computer.

"Hey, check this out," Faulk says he would be told, "there's good phone sex or there's some pillow talk, pull up this call, it's really funny, go check it out. It would be some colonel making pillow talk and we would say, 'Wow, this was crazy'," Faulk told ABC News.

So much for the right to privacy, but that has already become as quaint as the constitution in the administration's mind. Meanwhile, here at home, the definition of terrorist has been stretched to include innocent activists.

The Maryland State Police classified 53 nonviolent activists as terrorists and entered their names and personal information into state and federal databases that track terrorism suspects, the state police chief acknowledged yesterday.

Police Superintendent Terrence B. Sheridan revealed at a legislative hearing that the surveillance operation, which targeted opponents of the death penalty and the Iraq war, was far more extensive than was known when its existence was disclosed in July.

In the understatement of the year Sheridan told a Senate committee, ""The names don't belong in there. It's as simple as that." If only the wholesale destruction of our civil rights would be as easy to restore as it was for the Bush administration to destroy, I would be sleeping better at night.

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October 05, 2008

When politicians panic

By Libby

Avedon reminds me I meant to get to this earlier. TChris at Talk Left noticed a disturbing addition to the "improved" Wall St. rescue. This is what happens when the Congress rushes through legislation and trades off amendments for votes.

The bailout bill also gives the Internal Revenue Service new authority to conduct undercover operations. It would immunize the IRS from a passel of federal laws, including permitting IRS agents to run businesses for an extended sting operation, to open their own personal bank accounts with U.S. tax dollars, and so on. (Think IRS agents posing as accountants or tax preparers and saying, "I'm not sure if that deduction is entirely legal, but it'll save you $1,000. Want to take it?") That section had expired as of January 1, 2008, and would now be renewed.

What a waste of resources. As TChris goes on to point out:

We don't need IRS sting operations. There is no shortage of tax evasion schemes for agents to pursue without trying to sting taxpayers into committing new crimes. Increasing the audits of the wealthy taxpayers who are most likely to abuse the system would be a more reasonable approach to tax crime enforcement.

Exactly and that has certainly been a low priority under the Bush administration. They're much more interested in chasing down some bottom of the ladder taxpayers who wrongfully accept the Earned Income credit.

But this can't all be blamed solely on Bush or even Republicans. This rush to pass bad bills under political panic is same dynamic that gave us the Patriotic Act and a multitude of other bad legislation. Democrats are just as guilty for failing to exercise their leadership after 06 and their responsibilites as the oppositional minority before that. Small wonder 59% of the electorate would like to throw all the bums out and just start over.

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McCain campaign unmuzzles Palin

By Libby

Palin reminds me of nothing so much as those fine "Christian ladies" I used to encounter back in the days I taught Sunday School. They were well dressed, perfectly coiffed and pillars of the church, mainly because they donated lots of money. Usually they had a stained glass window or at least a pew named after them with a little brass plaque. They were sugary sweet to everyone to their face, but would make oblique insults about parishioners they didn't like behind their backs, subtly mocking their clothes or their social status. They took their greatest delight in making themselves feel bigger by tearing others down. That's Palin in a nutshell, with her desperate attempts to resurrect the long dead meme of Obama's nonexistent 'terrorist pals' with its thinly veiled racist subtext.

And proving once again that the rabid right thrive on cognitive dissonance, Palin apparently garnered great applause by quoting a Starbucks coffee cup. Leaving aside that she couldn't even get a single sentence quote right, for eight years now I've been hearing the right whine about "limousine liberals" who drink Starbucks coffee. So how come it's suddenly acceptable and how does that fit the "hockey mom" image? I thought they only drink Dunkin Donuts coffee.

I also wonder how she would have played that line if Hillary was Obama's VP? Personally, one of the things I find most offensive about McCain's little snarling pit bull is her selfish co-opting of all the work Hillary did in cracking the ceiling that gave her this opportunity she doesn't at all deserve.

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October 03, 2008

Biden soars, Palin bores

By Libby

I don't have a whole lot to say about the debate. I put up my requisite post debate analysis at Detroit News so all I'd add here is that Biden did great under difficult circumstances. He had to dance a fine line between shredding Palin on her still obvious ignorance and appearing too aggressive in doing so. I think he rose to the occassion admirably and managed to keep the focus on the top of the ticket rather than take the numerous cheap shots Palin offered up as targets.

Palin for her part managed to meet the sub-zero expectations of her perfomance but didn't manage to exceed them, not even by a subatomic particle. Her fan club will praise her as the winner, the rest of America will yawn at hearing the same talking points she's been pimping since the day McCain dragged her on stage. The only point that really resonated was her open admission that she wants the office of VP to accrue even more unlimited power than the wildest of Cheney's wet dreams. Low info voters probably won't pick up on that point, but if this debate changed anything, it will be to energize the Obama supporters to work even harder to prevent the disaster that a McCain administration would bring.

Bottom line, Biden came across as a serious candidate for a serious office at a critical time in our country. Palin came off as a vapid beauty queen with a fake, fixed smile and a badly hidden mean streak, running for Miss America. I don't think it will affect the polls much at all. It may reenergize the base for a while, but to the extent that the debate was any kind of game changer, it's that Palin showed she has nothing new to say and the media may start ignoring her and put the focus back on Obama and McCain, where it belongs. On those terms, it's a win for Obama.

(Cross-posted at The Impolitic.)

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October 01, 2008

Palin improving in interviews

By Libby

I watched Palin's latest interview with Couric last night and her diction is improving. Her answers to the questions, not so much.

"Couric: And when it comes to establishing your worldview, I was curious, what newspapers and magazines did you regularly read before you were tapped for this to stay informed and to understand the world?

Palin: I've read most of them, again with a great appreciation for the press, for the media.

Couric: What, specifically?

Palin: Um, all of them, any of them that have been in front of me all these years.

Couric: Can you name a few?

Palin: I have a vast variety of sources where we get our news, too. Alaska isn't a foreign country, where it's kind of suggested, "Wow, how could you keep in touch with what the rest of Washington, D.C., may be thinking when you live up there in Alaska?" Believe me, Alaska is like a microcosm of America."

They've obviously been coaching her, a la Eliza Doolittle, to speak "proper" English, although if you watch the video and see the clip where she's speaking at rally, she's all folksy twang there. As for her answer here, it boggles the mind that she couldn't even come up with the name of her local newspaper in response. I'm betting the first thing that came to her mind was People magazine and she could hardly admit that.

Interestingly, I had a similar question on a Zogby poll I filled out recently and I struggled to narrow it down to a dozen news sources and blogs that I read every single day. If I had to include all that I read regularly, I would probably still be filling in that answer, yet I would hardly qualify them as ALL of the available sources. For the record, I listed NYT, WaPo, LAT, Detroit News, Politico, all major network and cable news internet sites, Washington Monthly, Sideshow, Balloon Juice, Eschaton, and of course Newshoggers, The Reaction and my own blog, which is hardly an exhaustive list of even my daily reads.

I'd be curious to know what our readers would list. Please share in comments if you're so inclined.

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September 29, 2008

I get mail - Worthy causes

By Libby

Even though I'm just a B-list blogger I get asked all the time to review books and pitch worthy causes. I often don't get around to even reading them before it's too late but this one is a really worthy effort and you still have one day to participate.

The International Medical Corps has been named as a finalist in a contest sponsored by American Express. International Medical Corps has been matched to one of the Top 25 in American Express’ Members Projects, ‘Saving the Lives of Malnourished Children.’

Chosen out of 1,190 projects, “Saving the Lives of Malnourished Children” is now eligible to receive up to $1.5 million in funding. The project with the most votes receives $1.5 million, 2nd receives $500,000, 3rd $300,000, and 4th and 5th $100,000. The funding – made possible by your votes – would bring a vital lifeline to hungry and malnourished children around the world. We need your help between now and September 29th.

Voting is easy and doesn’t cost a thing! In just a click, you can save the lives of thousands of malnourished children. Click here to vote:

For severely malnourished children, we offer a step-by-step treatment program that gives them what they need to recover, including nutrient-dense food supplements like the peanut-based product, Plumpy'Nut. Our comprehensive monitoring system saves more than 90 percent of children being treated in our feeding centers. Being one of the Top 5 would mean our nutrition could reach more children around the world who need our help.

It's a little complicated to vote, you have to join the group first, but I checked out the greater project and it's legit. You won't be charged any money and of the 25 projects, I liked this one the best. So if you have a few minutes, it's good way to spend it to end world hunger.

Another project I've been asked to promote is Ban Cluster Bombs. They don't seem to be involved in any time sensitive project but with the world at perpetual war and seeing our country is also an offender, it's worth a few minutes to check out their site. It's an eyeopener.

Finally, I don't generally pitch books I haven't read, but this request was so polite, you might want to check out Oxford University Pres who are promoting a book on the Bush Doctrine that looks interesting based on the review they posted.

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September 28, 2008

Palin personifies the decline of the Republic

By Libby

Matt Taibbi has a good rant going on at the Smirking Chimp about the taint of what now passes for conservatism on society and the decline of an informed electorate after eight years of sustained assault by the Rovian culture warriors.

The great insight of the Palin VP choice is that huge chunks of American voters no longer even demand that their candidates actually have policy positions; they simply consume them as media entertainment, rooting for or against them according to the reflexive prejudices of their demographic, as they would for reality-show contestants or sitcom characters. Hicks root for hicks, moms for moms, born-agains for born-agains. Sure, there was politics in the Palin speech, but it was all either silly lies or merely incidental fluffery buttressing the theatrical performance. A classic example of what was at work here came when Palin proudly introduced her Down syndrome baby, Trig, then stared into the camera and somberly promised parents of special-needs kids that they would "have a friend and advocate in the White House." This was about a half-hour before she raised her hands in triumph with McCain, a man who voted against increasing funding for special-needs education.

Not all cheering for a Sunday evening, but worth reading in full for his astute analysis on why poor rural Americans vote Republican against their own interests and far removed from any common sense.

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September 27, 2008

Where was Sarah Palin?

By Libby

Whatever your take on the debate was, the real story wasn't what happened on stage, it's what didn't happen in the spin rooms after the debate was over. Joe Biden was out there doing a fine job of deconstructing McCain's cranky performance.



Conspiciously missing however, was Mr. McCain's running mate. Instead of his pet pit bull with lipstick, he had his drag queen from the Big Apple, Giuliani, doing the honors. And where was the illustrious contestant Ms. Palin? They dressed her up like a local sports fan and sent her to a bar in Philly.

Palin appeared at the bar on 20th and Walnut streets last night to shake hands with her fans for about an hour before the first presidential debate. While the crowd inside was friendly, hundreds of people lined the street outside in protest with signs that read things like "Palin is Santorum With Lipstick."

Palin did not take questions from reporters nor did she talk policy. She posed for pictures and chatted with supporters, many of whom were from outside the city limits, and made an approximately minute-long statement.

Ironically, although it was the campaign keeping her under wraps, the networks were receiving hate mail from McCain supporters about their bias in preventing their hot hockey mom from imparting her astute analysis of the event. I guess if you're deluded enough to think that she's qualified for office, it wouldn't occur to you that the media has been griping for weeks that they can't get any face time with her, so naturally they believe it's a conspiracy by the 'liberal' media.

I wouldn't be surprised if the McCain sends out a fundraising letter stating just that. Why not? They lie about everything else.

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Pulpit politics

By Libby

If there's a heaven and the Founding Fathers are looking down at us from it, they must be wondering why the hell they saved us from England in the first place. They did this in 04 as well, but of course no one was prosecuted except for some 'liberal' church in California, so they're at it again.

Setting the stage for a collision of religion and politics, Christian ministers from 22 states will use their pulpits Sunday to deliver political sermons or endorse candidates — defying a federal ban on campaigning by nonprofit groups.

The ministers' advocacy could violate the Internal Revenue Service's rules against political speech with the purpose of triggering IRS investigations. That would allow their patron, the conservative legal group Alliance Defense Fund, to challenge the IRS' rules, a risky strategy that one defense fund attorney acknowledges could cost the churches their tax-exempt status.

Congress made it illegal in 1954 for tax-exempt groups to support or oppose political candidates publicly.

"I'm going to talk about the un-biblical stands that Barack Obama takes. Nobody who follows the Bible can vote for him," said the Rev. Wiley Drake of First Southern Baptist Church of Buena Park, Calif.

Needless to say, by the time the legal challenges wend their way through the system, the election will be long over. The only justice we might ever see is if these churches finally lose their tax-empt status so they can never subvert the separation of church and state again.

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The debate: Morning after analysis

By Libby

I liveblogged the debate and put up my initial analysis and roundups at the Detroit News last night. Of course, I was spinning hard for Obama but here's my unspun morning after thoughts. Obama did a good job of drawing a pretty bright line between himself and McCain on the issues. I would have liked him to challenge McCain harder on the maverick reformer meme. I thought Obama missed a lot of opportunities to do so.

The best moment was when Obama brought up his actual voting record and McCain almost boiled over. I think if he had pressed harder, we would have seen a McCain meltdown. I'm hoping he's just saving that strategy for the last debate so it will be fresh on the voters' minds when they get to the ballot box.

I've always hated that Obama is adopting the "surge worked" and "Iran is teh big scary evil" themes but I don't really see how he can avoid that and still win over the low info voters. We can only hope that reflects political expedience and not so much his mindset. Not that it's a dealbreaker in comparison with bomb, bomb, bomb McCain.

Biased as I am, I tried to be a neutral observer and I thought McCain came off as mean, cranky, evasive and lost in the past. I don't know how much his inability to make eye contact is going to hurt him. I suspect not much with the low info voters but it was widely criticized in the high info crowd. Obama came off as cool, collected, knowledgeable and ready to lead into the future.

As for who "won" I'm not sure it makes any difference since there weren't any dramatic moments for the punderati to obsess over for the next few weeks. In the immediate response they were pretty much calling it for McCain with the exception of KO and I assume Rachel, although I never caught her response. Tweety was kind of the fence. Initially he was saying McCain but then I saw him later and he was leaning more towards Obama. I read this morning the media are now calling it for Obama. I suspect that's in reponse to the voter polling which overwhelming was going to him.

For myself, I'd say it was Obama's night. He didn't hit it out of the ballpark but McCain didn't score either and this was supposed to be his night to prove his superior foreign policy creds. Obama was a little too wonky but he demonstrated his creds well enough and goes into the next debate on the economy with the advantage. It will be interesting to see if he gets a bump in the election polls from it.

(Cross-posted at The Impolitic.)

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September 24, 2008

I was push-polled!

By Libby

Well I was just push polled by some apparent Liz Dole operatives. This was their second try. Yesterday they called looking for the youngest voting age male in the house. Since there are none here, the woman hung up yesterday but today the guy who called said he wanted to poll me anyway. The questions were pretty weird. He asked about my opinion of Chuck Schumer ( Chuck Schumer of NY?) and a few about the presidential race but mostly about the Dole and Hagan Senate race.

Most of the questions were pretty benign. What have I seen about the candidates; how it affects my vote; who do I think is more negative. The question on my most important issue was a little weird. He read off a long list starting with illegal immigration and running through the Wall St crisis all the way to healthcare and Iraq. My stand on pro-choice was a specific question that stood out in its emphasis.

But the real tell came at the end. He asked how it would affect my vote if I knew that Dole, as a member of the banking committee was working so very hard against corruption, greed and deregulation of Wall St. It was a much longer narrative but that's the gist of it. I laughed of course and asked if they had a box to check for I think that's total BS. Then he asked if it would affect my vote to know that Hagan sat on a similar state committee and while she was in office the unemployment rate here rose considerably. The wording was carefully couched to imply it was Hagan's fault without actually saying so, since of course it's not her fault the GOP's policies have ruined the economy in general.

Even more interesting, he asked for my name and if my phone number was listed but when I asked him what agency he was calling from he said he couldn't tell me. Well, he had already told me at the beginning of the call, so I asked him to confirm he was indeed calling from the Tarrance Research group. When I asked him to spell it, he hung up in mid-sentence. Or was cut off by his supervisor. I assume it was this Tarrance Group. Very creepy.

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September 23, 2008

Hey Big Media -- here's an idea

By Libby

The McCain's campaign strategy is pretty clear. Ask McCain and Palin no questions so they won't have to explain their lies. It's been 40 days since McCain has had a press avail and it's been 24 days since he unveiled his wind-up Palin VP doll and she has still not answered a single question in an open format. They weren't even going to let the national media into her drive-by photo op tour of NY today.

Big media is not happy. I don't blame them. They look like idiots chasing after their former hero while he completely blows them off after he got what he wanted from them. A big glam photo-op for his plastic fantastic running mate to build her phony metaphorical foreign policy creds, in trade for 30 seconds of eavesdropping time on those really excellent meet and greets.

So here's my idea Big Media. How about standing them down instead of letting you play you like a rube at at a Three Monte card game for the free air time? Call their bluff. It's so simple really. No press avail, no free press. Don't cover events where there isn't a press avail at the end, for any candidate. If it leaves you with air time to fill, well you could always do a historic retrospective of Keating Five or ask for McCain's health records. And while you're waiting for those you could convene panels of very serious pundits on the survivability rates of melanoma victims and the real life consequences of relying on metaphorical experience in crisis situations.

Just a thought. It's not like civilization as we know it depends on it or anything.

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Don't count your votes before they're stashed

By Libby

I'm suddenly wondering if this "shock and awe" Wall St meltdown wasn't part of the plan to keep us distracted from demanding verified voting. Via Avedon, this from Brad Blog.

The unbelievable is still happening in Palm Beach Co Florida. The county counted, re-counted by machine all previously machine counted ballots and recounted by hand all under and over voted ballots. The recounts showed that thousands of ballots were suddenly missing from the original count totals. A search was carried on by elections officials, police and fire personnel. That search found all of the missing ballots plus more. Now, under orders from the courts, a new recount is underway. The machine recount has added votes for both candidates from the original count, 227 ballots more than election officials reported were cast during the primary and 29 more ballots than officials said they had in their possession after the search and ballot count. Supervisor of Elections Arthur Anderson didn’t show up for the search or the re-recount that is still going on today and will probably not finish until tomorrow. He called in sick. Probably the right move and maybe he should just resign and let someone else fix the problems....

I suppose it's too late to demand paper ballots but I might suggest everyone request absentee ballots and photocopy them before sending them in. It won't stop them from 'losing' the ballots but at least we would have proof of the fraud.

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September 22, 2008

My hero, Zero

By Libby

I read about this poll and the first thing I thought of was the old Schoolhouse Rock video from whence I stole the title of this post. As regular readers know I don't generally put much stock in these things but I do follow them to some extent and I don't believe I've ever in my lifetime seen one that showed a metric of zero. Yet, here we have a poll with that result.

A new American Research Group poll shows that “[n]o Americans say that the national economy is getting better,” while 82 percent say it is getting much worse. Only 17 percent approve of President Bush’s handling of the economy, with 78 percent disapproving. Even among Republicans, more disapprove of his economic performance than approve:

Among Republicans, 46% approve of the way Bush is handling the economy and 48% disapprove. Among Democrats, 97% disapprove of the way Bush is handling the economy and 2% approve. Among independents, 8% approve and 87% disapprove of the way Bush is handling the economy. Bush’s overall approval rating fell to 19 percent, from 30 percent last month, with 76 percent disapproving.

Quite astounding really. I doubt we'll ever see such a thing again.

Meanwhile, speaking of polls, despite the GOP and their remaining loyalist's best efforts to paint the Democrats as the cause of the current economic meltdown, the majority of Americans aren't buying that line. "A new CNN/Opinion Research Corporation Poll suggests that by a 2-to-1 margin, Americans blame Republicans over Democrats for the financial crisis that has swept across the country the past few weeks..."

Considering how completely ineffectual the Democratic party has been in the last 8 years, the only surprise there is that the poll didn't also show a zero return. I guess the ones willing to blame the Dems are the same ones that think Sarah Palin was a great choice as a Veep.

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September 17, 2008

Today's 30 second activism - save access to birth control

By Libby

It's been a while since I've asked you to do a point and click activism but this one is important and time is short. Via Southern Beale, Planned Parenthood is trying to drum up some public input into this Bush administration scheme to eliminate birth control from Title X funded programs that serve the poor.

President Bush's regulatory change lets health care providers define abortion, which could threaten access to birth control and broader reproductive health care, and allow federal funding for so-called "crisis pregnancy centers" that refuse to inform patients of or provide patients with a full range of reproductive health care options.

Now that the new rule has been issued officially, we need you to speak out during the official 30-day comment period before the rule can go into effect.

We need as many people as possible to submit comments to the Department of Health and Human Services before the official comment period ends on September 25.

If you have time to edit the form letter, all the better, but even signing the point and click form will help greatly. It's just a name and email input. Less than thirty seconds to save access to birth control.

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Two minutes with Obama

By Libby

It's worth much more than two hours of overinflated gasbagging from McCain.



Via John Cole who wonders if it is too long at two minutes to hold the attention of the average voter. Well I certainly hope that's not true, because Obama packs a lot of substance into 120 seconds and it would do the average voter a great deal of good to listen to it.

John notes it won't be playing on the media talk shows because it's too much substance and no scandal. I think he's right about that so pass it on however you can. (Cross-posted at The Impolitic.)

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September 16, 2008

Press pack wants their Mac back

By Libby

I had three reactions when I read this Jonathan Martin post.

Reporters traveling with John McCain are slightly miffed that the senator hasn't had any face time with them in, well, a month and three days (but who's counting?).

So, when Straight Talk Air departed Tampa today, a dozen reporters chanted, "Bring Mac back! Bring Mac back!" (Some reporters expressed concern that chanting at takeoff could be against FAA regulations. Others joked that they could be taken away by the Secret Service agents on board.)

The chanting lasted under a minute as staffers in the business cabin smiled and then promptly closed the curtain between business and coach. No word on whether McCain heard the chanting.

But, alas, he never made it back.

My first reaction was, didn't that really just say everything about how cozy the traveling press gets with the candidate that they call him Mac? My second reaction was to wonder if they they were asking for him to come back and talk or were they lamenting the loss of their old buddy Mac who used to be so jovial and entertained them on these trips, giving them the run of the house.

My third was, I'm glad they did it. Maybe this means that the McSpell is broken.

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September 14, 2008

Signs of hope for Obama supporters

By Libby

It's been a depressing couple of weeks with all the brouhaha over Palin but it's useful to remember that she's only really energized the same crowd that would have voted for McCain anyway and while they're noisy, they're not really growing. Don't forget they couldn't fill the hall at the RNC and a lot of this hype is just a media invention. This being the same media that relentlessly hyped the PUMA revolution and insisted the Clintons would sabotage the DNC.

In any event the latest news out of Alaska is encouraging. Mudflats reports from the scene of the anti-Palin protest. Lots of pictures and commentary at the link and he just posted this video.



Mudflats also reports from the scene at Palin's welcome home rally. The elite media was reporting that as a big deal, but Mudflats says it was not that much. I think he's right that if this hall holds 5000, that is not 2000 people in this photo. You might think if a new popularity survey was held today that Gov. Palin would no longer be polling at 80 percent in her home state.

In other news, regular readers know I don't believe much in polls, but if you do, Obama just opened up a double digit lead in Iowa. I'd also note this old link I didn't get around to posting on registration numbers.

"Since the last federal election in 2006, more than 2 million Democrats [were added] to voter rolls in the 28 states that register voters according to party affiliation. The Republicans have lost nearly 344,000 thousand voters in the same states. The number of unaffiliated voters dropped by nearly 900,000 since 2006. Many joined the Democratic Party to take part in the primaries and caucuses."

I'd say that's a comfortable overall gain on the Dem side, which is why I don't put much stock in polling. Take heart dear readers. Certainly vigilance is required and nothing is guaranteed in politics, but neither is another four disastrous years of GOP rule assured.

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Drill baby, drill

By Libby

That's become the mantra of the McCain-Palin ticket and after having cruised some right wing and some truly wingnut blogs in the last 24 hours, it seems an apt one. The Bush - neocon loyalists have been depressed for months. Their former hero became a laughingstock that even they could no longer excuse. They had a standard banner in McCain that they didn't like in the first place and bored them besides. Enter Sarah Palin. Whoppee. They have a a new hero. Fresh face on the same old lies and I'm not talking about the stupid bridge to nowhere; I'm talking about the failed conservative agenda.

Palin drilled into their disturbed psyches and struck the mother lode of cognitive dissonance again. These people have never admitted it was the agenda that failed. It was always that the agenda of hate, fear and shortsightedness is great, but it just needed the right person to execute it. So in skates the hockey mom to save the day. And all the same old illogical excuses come gushing out again to pollute the discourse.

So she fires competent administrators and stacks the bureaucracy with incompetent cronies? No problem. Holds grudges and uses the power of her office for revenge against her enemies? What's the big deal? Illegally uses private email accounts to conduct state business and refuses to disclose them? So what? Wants to ban books about homosexuals? Who doesn't? Ran her tiny little city into a deep financial hole they're still digging out of? Oh, look at that shiny thing over there. She doesn't know Shia from shinola about foreign policy, has no grasp on domestic policy, makes snap decisions and refuses to back down if she's wrong? No problem. Competency is elitist. Knowledge is for losers. She's "one of us" and get this -- the exact opposite of Bush.

You can't cap that poisonous well of dissonance with reasoning and facts. All you can do is try to contain the toxic spill into the smallest area possible.

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September 13, 2008

The police state grows, and grows

Arrest_rnc_08
By Libby

Every day the police state gets a little bigger. The Bush administration just revised the rules for FBI intelligence gathering. It's all rather awful but this last bit is really disturbing.

One of the areas still under discussion, according to a senior Justice Department official, is the standard for the FBI's rare involvement in responding to civil disorder. Under the current standards, FBI involvement requires the approval of the attorney general and can last for only 30 days.

The new approach would relax some of those requirements and would expand the investigative techniques that agents could use to include deploying informants. FBI agents monitoring large-scale demonstrations that they believe could turn dangerous also would have new power to use those techniques.

Policy guidance for FBI agents and informants who work as "undisclosed participants" in organizations is still being written, the officials said yesterday.

In other words they're trying to figure out how to make infiltrating activist groups and acting as inside agitators to encourage violence, legal. This is particularly troublesome in light of what happened at the RNC. I didn't get around to blogging it at the time but it was the most frightening evidence of law enforcement overkill I've seen since the 60s.

By the end of the covention 818 people were arrested or detained. Most were innocent bystanders and many were raided before the convention even began. Of those, most were peaceful activists who were there to either record or simply observe the demonstrations. Granted there were a few anarchist types in the city intent on doing damage, but to my knowledge they only arrested a handful of those.

They arrested journalists, some even from the elite media. Amy Goodman's arrest was particularly horrifying. They stole her press credentials. The twitters made my blood run cold. And the police press conference was a brilliant exercise in double speak. If not for the bloggers there, probably no one would have asked the right questions.

And now our government is clearly planning for major protests. Send my tin foil if you must, but I have to wonder why they think there will be a need for such planning. Considering the problems being reported with voting machine glitches in early elections, I have to think they're planning to steal another election and they're afraid that this time the people might fight back.

By the way, has anybody heard how construction is going on those detention camps they ordered in case of an "immigration emergency?"  [Graphic via avye - check out the whole gallery]

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September 12, 2008

Diplomatic relations severed south of the border

By Libby

Building a bit on Ken's post, I meant to get to this earlier. Charles at Mercury Rising broke this news that I hadn't heard.

The Russians have landed long-range bombers in Venezuela and may soon be doing joint naval exercises. and both Bolivia and Venezuela have cut diplomatic ties over US meddling. Bolivia accuses the US of supporting separatists that have blocked highways, blown up a pipeline, and shut down the export of natural gas, thereby shutting off revenues to the central government. Chavez says he has new evidence of the US participating in a coup plot against him.

The Bush administration has a long history of meddling in Venezuelan politics and I don't doubt they could be agitating for yet another coup attempt against Chavez. I've also been aware that Bush and Morales' personal relations have been tense over the latter's stance on legalizing the coca leaf and trade relations, but while I heard some rumblings about US interference in Boliva I hadn't realized that the tensions had risen to this point in both countries.

I wonder how many more countries Bush will manage to completely alienate in his last few weeks in office?

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Big Brother vs. Big Business and other stray thoughts

By Libby

I haven't been around here much because I've been jobhunting like mad and I have this Thursday gig at AOTP. My last post generated another really interesting discussion thread. And Mark at Publius Endures has a couple of great posts at his place inspired by the debate. I'm finding out I have a lot more in common with libertarians than I thought.

I've also been burning up the blog at the Detroit News lately. I covered Palin's interview over there this morning. I'm as appalled as everyone else at her obvious lack of knowledge on world affairs. But I've been mostly focusing on McCain and his relentless lying. Those posts are before my Palin take.

Meanwhile, I just ran across a great quote myself at Sully's place. Sent in by a reader.

"John McCain isn't running against Barack Obama. He's running against reality."

I'd say that sums it up perfectly.

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September 10, 2008

McCain's insult to feminism

By Libby

I just had an ephiphany about Sarah Palin and posted my thoughts at Detroit News. I can't cross post it, but I can quote myself on what really bothers me about the campaign's handling of Sarah.

As I said in an earlier post here I've come to believe that she wasn't a rash pick at all, but was rather long in the planning and the lack of vetting was simply to preserve the shock value. Neither is she a fragile little neophyte. She has had years of political experience and has dealt extensively with the national press over the long course of Ted Stevens many scandals. The campaign is pushing that narrative to keep expectations low. But here's the key point.

She is perfectly capable of speaking for herself, yet the McCain campaign insists on muzzling their "pit bull." They aren't allowing her to make her own speeches. They aren't allowing her to talk to the crowds that are showing up to meet her after the event. She's not even allowed to make conversation with people when the campaign does meet and greet drop-ins at restaurants and wherever. She can only smile, shake hands and get back on the bus.

All she's being allowed to do is introduce McCain at events, using the same applause lines from her prewritten campaign speech, over and over again. In effect, they've turned this perfectly capable woman into arm candy for McCain. I can't think of anything more insulting to women than that.

If it wasn't for her far right fundie beliefs, I could admire Sarah Palin on a lot of other levels. It's really a shame that she's allowed herself to become the political version of a trophy wife.

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Radley Balko, live tonight at AOTP

By Libby

Art Of The Possible is hosting my long time fav, Radley Balko in a live chat tonight.

Radley Balko, Senior Editor of Reason, will appear here, on AoTP’s front page, on Wednesday, Sept. 10 at 7. p.m.[EDT]. We will have a post describing his superlative work in exposing drug “war” outrages and his other accomplishments shortly prior thereto on Wednesday, and Radley will take real-time questions in the comments to that post. Again, this WILL NOT take place in the chatroom!

I'm glad it's not in the chatroom. I'm not so good at using that format. Much easier to for me to chat in comments. It should be a great conversation. Hope to see you there.

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September 09, 2008

Pig lipstick - Updated with video

Pig_lipstick_2By Libby

I wouldn't even bother to answer the latest wingnut outrage over lipstick on a pig but Christy came up with such a great response that it's worth noting for that reason. Obviously, it's a common phrase and it's a huge stretch to make this into a sexist remark against Palin. But the attempt to manufacture some feminist outrage becomes more amusing when viewed in light of this quote that Christy dug up from McCain in Oct. of 07.

While [McCain] said he had not studied Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton's health-care plan, he said it was "eerily reminiscent" of the failed plan she offered as first lady in the early 1990s.

"I think they put some lipstick on a pig, but it's still a pig," he said of her proposal.

Even more amusing, McCain actually held an emergency press call about this. (Sigh.) It's going to be a long couple of months until November.

As Christy points out, a guy who jokes about rape, calls his wife a trollop and a c*nt in public and jokes about Chelsea Clinton being ugly because her father is really Janet Reno, is in no position to throw charges of sexism around. Maybe the campaign could get one of those community activists, who have all this free time since they have no responsibilites, to explain common idioms to them. [Graphic via Ariya]

Update:

This is my last word on this faux outrage.


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Barbara Boxer throws a punch

By Libby

Via Avedon, here's something that's likely to slip under the radar. Boxer comes out swinging against McCain in a recent appearance.

I have seen him fight against raising the federal minimum wage 14 times.

I have seen him fight against making sure that women earn equal pay for equal work.

I have seen him fight against a women's right to choose so consistently that he received a zero percent vote rating from pro-choice organizations.

I have seen him fight against helping families gain access to birth control.

I have seen him fight against Social Security, even going so far as to call its current funding system "an absolute disgrace."

And I saw him fight against the new GI Bill of Rights until it became politically untenable for him to do so.

Refocusing on McCain instead of feeding the media's Palinmania strikes me as the right tactic in the long run for the Democratic politicians. Too much negative rhetoric against her only feeds the idiots who somehow have convinced themselves that Palin is at the top of the ticket and then their outrage is the news, instead of the issues.

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Reframing the McMavericks

By Libby

This new Obama ad knocked my socks off.


TPM's new video is good too, but I'm not sure I like the last line. I think it should have been phrased as a question.

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The good, the bad and the deluded

By Libby

I'm not inclined to panic over Palin just yet. I think once the novelty wears off, most thinking people will realize what a hoax this ticket is, but somebody please tell me that there really aren't that many voters who are this stupid. T Steel at TMV tells us this true story.

My “ultra-conservative till since the Great Wall” (his words) neighbor unveiled his new bumper sticker this morning to me. “Sarah all the way, baby!”, he exclaimed with a big grin on his face. “What happened to McCain?”, I asked. His reply:

McCain who? All my wife and I see is Sarah Palin. She can run with Donald Duck for all I care!

Stunning. Click over to see the bumper sticker. Do these people not understand that she's running for Vice President and if the ticket wins, they still get stuck with McCain in the top slot?

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September 08, 2008

Palin's pipeline

By Libby

What makes Palin so dangerous is she lies by implication and she does it really well. With carefully couched language that contains a germ of truth, she creates a false impression that the McCain campaign spins into conventional wisdom. The pipeline statement in her speech is a classic example.

The Anchorage Daily News takes note and debunks the spin saying, "In fact, no building has begun and actual construction is years away, if it ever happens." The piece goes on to summarize the situation but readers here are likely to be aware of the basics by now.

Meanwhile, Andrew Halcro gets deep into the weeds of the pipeline project and fills in a lot of details. It's a long piece not easily excerpted, but these two poll questions give you a sense of the flaws and potential landmines in the deal.

Congress passed a loan guarantee for $18 million dollars in 2004 to help promote the development and building of the gas pipeline. But TransCanada proposes to use that $18 million dollars, not to get going, which is the purpose of the loan, but to use some portion of the money to cover its cost overruns. What this means is TransCanada is asking US taxpayers to pay for any cost overruns of the project that TransCanada is managing. Do you feel…(READ LIST)

TransCanada’s plan asks for the U.S. Government to assume some of the project risk by agreeing to pay billions of dollars in pipeline transportation fees as a “bridge shipper,” in case initial gas commitments from the major oil companies are not enough to run the gas line at full capacity. Do you feel…(READ LIST)

A majority of Alaskans don't think it's worth the risk and prefer an alternate proposal. Unfortunately, I'm betting that John Gibson won't be getting into such an unsexy line of questioning when he conducts his powder puff interview with Palin later this week.

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September 07, 2008

The Palin Trap

Palin_and_stevens

By Libby

I haven't been blogging much here for a few reasons. One, I'm job hunting. Two, I'm blogging up a storm at The Detroit News on the premise that I'm reaching the most McCain supporters there. Three, I've been arguing for days with libertarians. And four, I've been doing a lot of research on Sarah Palin, trying to figure out the GOP strategy beyond the obvious ploy of keeping her away from the media in any sort of unscripted format in order to avoid a Fred Thompsonesque crash. I've come to the conclusion that we've walked into an incredibly intricate, Rovian trap that is breathtaking in the scope of its long range planning.

The current, carefully built narrative speaks of a hasty and rash pick, plucking a fragile and shallow neophyte, unprepared to battle with the big guns of the Village out of the wilds of Alaska, who nonetheless is showing her mettle and proving her critics wrong. Nothing could be further from the truth. For one thing, she's been in politics for a long time and from her tiny fiefdom in Wasilla to the statehouse in Juneau, she has demonstrated a strong ability to practice the ruthless politics of personal destruction. She forms alliances of convenience and does not hestitate to stab her allies in the back to further her own goals.

Continue reading "The Palin Trap" »

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September 04, 2008

Sarah Palin = Fred Thompson

By Libby

My friend Capt. Fogg flags a new poll showing that the McCain campaign's tactic of making Palin's pregnant daughter the center ring attraction in a media circus and then complaining about Sarah being victimized by all the attention appears to be working.

I saw it myself during a luncheon yesterday; hearing people complaining about how bad it was that "people" were harping on her daughter's plight - an idea they got all gift-wrapped in red paper from the media, of course.

There's a germ of truth there, but it had largely blown over already, and to say Sarah Palin is a victim of malicious press seems as woefully far from the truth as her assertion that the Pledge of Allegiance in it's 1954 edition was "good enough for the Founding Fathers." None the less, they have managed to draw attention away from the legitimate and serious concerns by stressing a non-issue about her daughter and dressing her up as a victim. It works.

Fogg laments the relentless gullibility of the deluded voting demographic that keeps falling for the same old tricks. I was initially appalled myself, but on reflection, I'm inclined to find it amusing. I found myself remembering Fred Thompson.

Fred, as you recall was going to be the great white hope of the GOP. As long as he managed to avoid any public appearances, he enjoyed mindboggling support from the same people who are now praising their new glamorous "It" girl as the latest, greatest player in politics. But once he was forced to enter the arena and deliver the goods behind the carefully crafted image, he couldn't close the deal.

Six days ago, nobody knew who Palin was and they still don't. She's made three public appearances that I know of, including last night's speech, which was very good for what it was, but it hardly constitutes any kind of test of her abilities. She may have played really well with the good ole boys who just loves themselves some VPILF, but it's too early to tell if McCain's crap shoot is going to come up 7/11 or just another snake eyed craps.

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September 03, 2008

My predictions for tonight's RNC

By Libby

Sarah Palin will give a great speech. She will lie her face off.

The GOP base will go wild and proclaim that this proves she is a true reformer who is ready to lead.

They will not see the irony in that they have been accusing Obama of being a candidate who only makes great speeches but is too inexperienced to lead.

The punderati will declare this brilliant stroke a gamechanger.

Everyone else will say yes, it was a great speech but she lied her face off and by the way when is she is going to give a press interview and -- you know -- answer questions about her vast knowledge of world and domestic affairs.

The base will howl about how the left is 'attacking' Palin with the facts and they're being mean to her because she is a good, God fearing Christian woman.

The McCain campaign will issue an outraged statement saying the Democrats have crossed the line with this over the top line of attack and use it as an excuse to avoid any future press avail.

Somewhere, in an undisclosed location, Karl Rove will be chortling and popping a bottle of champagne.

[Begging my co-bloggers indulgence, this is a cross-post from The Impolitic]

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Palins beg for privacy while parading daughter in public

By Libby

Call me crazy, but if the Palin family really wanted the media and everyone else for that matter to leave her daughter Bristol and the father of her illegitimate child alone, wouldn't it more appropriate for the two of them to stay out of the spotlight instead of appearing together at the Republican National Convention?

It seems to me that the story is polling well with the extreme religious right and the McCain campaign is willing to use the teens to score points with the base they badly need to energize. If the Palins really want to keep this a "private matter" then they shouldn't parade them around in front of the national press.

I'm beginning to think this whole Palin pick was just a Rovian trick to keep McCain out of the spotlight because if he gets too much scrutiny, his obvious unfitness for office would be the story instead.

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September 02, 2008

Whence once I loved McCain

By Libby

I don't know about you but I've been somewhat shocked to see the elite media suddenly noticing the Straight Talk Express is really just the Double Talk Daily spin. Josh Marshall has a post up reflecting on the media's apparent breakup with McCain, most recently evidenced by Campbell Brown's scathing interview with Tucker Bounds.

I think the reason may be slightly different. A lot of Washington reporters have spent a decade loving John McCain. Just a few days ago a friend of mine who was once among the courted explained to me just how different and successful McCain was in the courtship. Off the cuff, frank, entirely accessible. Because of all that, a lot of these people got heavily invested in the maverick and straight-talker image. I'll be honest: back in 2000 and probably until 2002 I was pretty invested in it. Why a lot of people have held on through the last half dozen years of contrary evidence is another question. But the Palin pick is that paradigm-breaking piece of evidence that takes you from 'maverick' to 'reckless' or worse. And claiming that Palin has 'military command' experience as head of the Alaska National Guard gets you from "straight talker' to 'bullshit artist'.

He reminded me that I also loved McCain back in 2000. I believe I may have become disaffected sooner than 02, but still, back then he really did seem like a maverick. I think maybe he really was, but something happened along the way. The McCain of today has no resemblence whatsoever to the man I once admired.

By the way, if you would like to thank Campbell for that fabulous interview and let her boss know you thought she did a great job, contact info here at the GOS.

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August 31, 2008

When the little head does the thinking

By Libby

I've seen a lot of commentary on the Palin pick that suggests this was some kind of brilliant move on McCain's part. Sure he managed to steal the news cycle from Obama's historic and incredible speech. For the last 48 hours it's been all Palin, all the time but much of it has been negative. I mean how is it smart to give Leftopia an oppo project on a holiday weekend where otherwise we would be searching for content?

For myself, I've been burning up the Detroit News blog with her negatives. I own the real estate over there at the moment. I've posted so much my regular critics are having apoplectic fits in the comment section. This incomprehensively stupid pick has been the gift that keeps on giving.

And tomorrow's still a holiday. Having made my case about Palin, I plan to ignore her and blog Obama's speech for the next 48 hours, as people come home and are ready to pay attention. I have a lot of links saved and I haven't blogged it all. The long range dynamic works in Obama's favor for my purposes.

McCain made this choice on his own and he didn't think it through at all. He spent a sum total of four or five hours with her, which included a private tete-a-tete in the back forty at Sedona, interrupted only by Cindy. Today he told Fox News that in that time he discovered a partner and a soulmate in Palin. His 'thought process' on this choice is painfully apparent.


Need more proof? It's clear to me McCain didn't make this choice with his left brain.

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No-shows grow for RNC

By Libby

So what if they Republicans held a convention and nobody showed up? In sharp contrast to the DNC, where they couldn't find enough room on the schedule for all the party bigwigs who wanted to speak, the RNC's guest list is looking a little thin with all the major players who are sending their regrets. "Only three incumbents in hotly contested races, including Kentucky's Mitch McConnell, the Senate minority leader, will join the partygoers."

Among the missing will be Schwarzenegger, Bobby Jindal, Rick Perry, Ted Stevens, Larry Craig, John Sununu, Susan Collins, Elizabeth Dole, Chuck Hagel, Richard G. Lugar and Pat Roberts of Kansas. Some have legitimate issues to provide cover for opting out but "an aide to a Republican senator, who spoke on condition of anonymity, offered another reason for the no-shows."

"The party brand is in tatters," said the aide. "The president is highly unpopular. There doesn't seem to be much excitement around the candidate. And there's a real fear of being tagged with the Republican label and being seen with George Bush."

Which again raises the question, if even the party loyalists don't want to be associated with the GOP brand, where are the pollsters finding all these people who allegedly support McCain?

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The United Police State of America - an ongoing series

By Libby

Apparently, it's no longer necessary to actually commit an act of civil disobedience to be considered a threat by our government. In Bush America, you can now be arrested for thought crimes. Glenn rounds up a goodly amount of links to eyewitness accounts, including his own, along with video of political activists being subjected to preemptive intimidation yesterday in SWAT style raids in the Twin Cities where various groups are assembling prior to the kickoff of the Republican National Convention.

To be fair, one group, the RNC Welcoming Committee, may actually have been planning to conduct protests that involved property damage and would certainly justify scrutiny but arresting them before they do anything certainly belies the notion of "land of the free." Even more disturbing, most of the raids were conducted against peaceful groups. Food not Bombs has no history of violence, unless you feel assaulted by being offered vegan stew and brown rice, yet a house where some members were assembled was subjected to a terrorist strike by the LEOs wearing camo or SWAT suits and carrying drawn rifles.

The same thing happened at home hosting LegalWatch members who were not even going to protest. They were just there to observe and the group included lawyers. A woman at that site simply asked to see warrant, and was immediately taken into cutody. The same scenario played out at another site where I-Witness Video, "a New York-based group that monitors police conduct during protests, were staying." Most of victims of these military style raids were merely detained, meaning they were handcuffed and forced to lie on the floor at gunpoint while the police made intimidating remarks, and eventually released without charge. To the best of my knowledge less then ten people were actually arrested and at least one of those was for "conspiracy to riot," a charge so vague that it's never been used before and thus its constitutionality hasn't been tested in court.

You'll recall the mass arrests in NYC in 04 at the RNC, where thousands of people, including innocent bystanders were swept off the streets and held without charge for over 24 hours. It's telling that the footage taken at that time by I-Witness Video was instrumental in the recent court ruling that awarded those detainees damages in New York and now the group is pre-emptively targeted today.

Those arrests were a travesty of justice, but at least the LEOs waited until the people were actually on the street. Now they've lowered the bar to detaining activists for merely assembling in private homes. As Glenn puts it, "This is truly repugnant, extreme police behavior designed to intimidate protesters, police critics and others, and it ought to infuriate anyone and everyone who cares about basic liberties."

It certainly infuriates me. Moreover it terrifies me to watch our country continue its relentless slide into fascism because when I ask myself how we're going to stop it, I don't have an answer.

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August 29, 2008

Marc Ambinder assists McCain

By Libby

I don't know how much more obvious it could be that Palin was an panicked 11th hour pick after Obama's incredible speech last night. They clearly didn't vet her first. In her acceptance speech, Palin touts her anti-pork creds by noting that she nixed now indicted, Sen. Ted "Bridge to Nowhere" Stevens pet project.

However, Marc Ambinder notices her website features an endorsement ad from the good Senator. Marc advises the McCain campaign to scrub the site. And shortly thereafter the damning video disappears. But nothing really dies on the intertrons. Catch it before it's pulled from YouTube. [via]

Update: She wasn't against the Bridge to Nowhere until it became a political liability and a national laughingstock. In fact, she was rather fond of pork projects as recently as March of this year.

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August 28, 2008

Looks like a unity pony to me

By Libby

I already have posts at Art Of The Possible and Detroit News about last night's convention speeches, so I won't repeat the points here. Suffice it to say that I thought the Democrats did good. As Ron already pointed out, Bill Clinton rocked, Kerry came through with a surprisingly strong showing and I'd add all the speakers did a good job of tying McCain to Bush and failed neo-conservative policies.

But Karen Tumulty may be on to something here. This was my one gripe about the speeches too.

But Democrats might find it would be more effective if they explained why they're so disappointed with their friend John McCain. How did this great guy they admire so much became a candidate whose positions appall them? It wasn't a fluke, it wasn't like he had a personality transplant. And the answer would seem to fit perfectly into a powerful Democratic narrative. John McCain changed because that's what he had to do to win the Republican nomination. That's what the reigning conservative ideology and interests demanded of him.

They do need better framing if they're going to use such a soft touch in going after McCain. As Tumulty notes, "Their current version leaves open the possibility that this good, decent man could revert to his old self--and that's not something Democrats want undecided voters to believe." Amen to that.

Meanwhile, the high point of the evening for me was watching the elite media meltdown as their fake narratives were slowly destroyed. For a while there, I didn't think Tweety was going to make it.

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August 27, 2008

Live Chat with Glenn Greenwald - Updated

By Libby

There's a live chat going on from 6:30-7:30 -- that would be right now -- at Art of the Possible with Glenn Greenwald, who will be talking about what's going on in Denver at the convention. Glenn is covering the big show as a credentialled journalist from Salon. Head on over and join in the conversation.

Update: You missed the chat. It was fun. John Cole showed up. Glenn told us that the Power of the PUMAs is a media manufactured myth, that the media elites are just as shallow and boring in real life as they are on camera and that the real action in Denver is happening at the corporate soirees that only the Village power brokers get invited to. Media, old and new, are not welcome. I hear he and Jane Hamsher had a bit of trouble outside the ATT event. Thanks to Mona for hosting the event.

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Happy Birthday Cernig

By Libby

Well, since he outed himself in comments, I'm editing the post.

Somebody here has a birthday today. I'm not telling you who, All the best Cernig and many happy returns. If you want to show him some love and you have a few spare bucks, how about hitting the donate button on our side bar? If you don't have the bucks to spare, that's cool but leave him a good wish here. Or if you're shy, you can email him.

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Freudian slip in GOP war room

By Libby

While the Democrats are enjoying their big party at the Pepsi Center, over at Dirty Tricks Central:

In an alley behind a non-descript row of brick buildings on North Speer Boulevard, and on the other side of a large metal gate with armed guards standing in front, Republicans have set up a "war room" in Denver.

In this west side location that is not far from the Pepsi Center yet out of sight from Democratic delegates and protesters walking downtown, Republicans will be crafting anti-Barack Obama messages nearly round the clock this week.

Republican National Committee Chairman Mike Duncan said the team of nearly two dozen staffers at the opposition headquarters will be "fact-checking" statements made by the Obama campaign and by speakers during the convention.

"Just consider this the Ministry of Truth," quipped Dick Wadhams, chairman of the Colorado Republican Party.

Hmmm.... Where have we heard that before? Am I the only one that's reminded of Bush's musing on dictatorship? [h/t Jules]

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Hillary delivers, Schweitzer shines

By Libby

Of course the big buzz this morning is about Hillary Clinton's speech. It was a great speech. Probably one of the best she's ever given, but if she wasn't the headliner last night, this speech would be the talk of The Village today. Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer was brilliant.


In cruising the intertubes, it seems just about everyone to the left of Fox News is praising Clinton to the heavens. A rare dissenter is Anonymous Liberal who is taking a fair amount of flack for his less than enthusiastic response.

He makes a good point though. It was a great speech, and she gave a strong endorsement to Obama's candidacy but she did stop short of endorsing Obama's character and didn't really do much to negate the "he's not really ready to lead" meme that she helped push during the primaries. So while the prevailing charaterization of her having "knocked it out of the park" is true, without that additional talking point, it wasn't really a four run homer.

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August 26, 2008

Rachel rocks

By Libby This is why I really love the internets. I heard about this segment last night but I missed it because I was watching CSPAN. However, thanks to YouTube, one never has to miss any of the good stuff.

Rachel so rocks. [via Creature]

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Michelle wows the crowd at convention

By Libby

Thank goodness for CSPAN. If I would have had to make it through the event listening to the cable news pundits interpret the proceedings, while they desperately searched for signs of dissent, I wouldn't have made it. But thanks to CSPAN's commentator-free zone, I saw it all unfiltered and I came away impressed.

Pelosi's speech was the weakest of the big name speakers but she did all right and was mercifully brief. The Kennedy tribute came off well. Caroline's introduction might have been a little overlong but I expect that was to allow Ted to keep his own remarks brief in deference to his current medical problems. The mini-documentary was very good, sentimental but not maudlin, and the Kennedy family's gift for lofty rhetoric was fully apparent in his speech, which had many viewers reaching for the kleenex.

However, it was Michelle Obama who stole the show. One would have to have a heart of stone not to be moved by her story. She looked elegant but came across as geniune and unpretentious and although we know the speech was scripted, she delivered it in a manner that made it feel extemporaneous. Americans could feel very proud to call her our First Lady. And the unscripted exchange between Obama and the children afterward, ended the event on a perfect note.

I hear Carville is complaining that the Democrats didn't draw enough blood on this first day. Not surprising coming from a card carrying member of the lazy pundits who seek to gin up meaningless controversy where none exists in order to avoid having to do any real analysis. In any event he's wrong. The lesser known speakers did fine with drawing a clear line between the choices in November and the Obamas did what they needed to do. Introduce themselves as a typical American family who are striving for and reaching their dreams. I'd say the Dems are off to a great start.

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August 25, 2008

RNC shows Hillary some love with happy hour

By Libby

This is hilarious. As part of their outreach to PUMAs and independents, the Republicans are hosting a Happy Hour for Hillary today. But few of her supporters will be likely to get in.

Space is limited, and attendees must present both a valid DNCC and press organization credential to gain admittance.

If you're one of the lucky few who have the credentials, run over to the Paramount Café from 8:30 p.m. – 10:30 p.m. Sounds like it will be as much fun as root canal. [via]

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Dueling polls

By Libby

Interesting jutxaposition in the polling this morning. Over at CNN Money, they ask if you're better off than you were seven years ago, worse off or about the same. When I looked, the results were about even on the first two, with better off holding a slight margin and 11% saying about the same. Somehow I doubt working class Americans are reading CNN Money and taking the poll.

In contrast, "A new USA Today/Gallup poll finds, 'Eight in 10 say they are dissatisfied with the way things are going in the USA, and even more rate the economy as ‘only fair’ or poor. Seven in 10 say it’s getting worse.' That sounds like a more realistic reflection on how ordinary Americans are feeling.

But the real lesson is, the media takes too damn many polls. Polls are easily manipulated to produce pre-determined results. You really can't trust them.

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This post is not telling you how to vote

By Libby

Avedon rarely posts a full length rant, but when she does, it's always brilliant. Read the whole thing but here's the closer.

As I said above, this post isn't about me telling you how to vote. But it is about how you can't trust politicians, you can't wait for one guy to come and be your leader - you have to fight like hell to push the country in the right direction, and you can't just pretend that the fight is over at the election, or that you can break the work up into electoral cycles. You can't blame the older generation or the younger generation, you can't let people get divided up by race or sex or by whatever jobs they do or talismans they wear. You have to recognize that we're all in this fight, that we all have things to bring to the table and concerns that matter. We are not "special interests", we are We The People, and that matters more than any individual politician or any tribal signifiers that might, even for an instant, make you forget that your real enemy is someone who is not listening and will not be stung by your insults, although your potential allies will be.

I have only a small quibble on not looking at the fight in terms of electoral cycles. I think sometimes you have to concede some ground at election time to change the power structure, small though the potential change may be. But she's right on with the notion that the work doesn't stop at the election. In fact I'd say it starts there.

It's the tedious holding the feet to the fire over the months between the elections that is going to change the dynamic. It's the relentless writing to your Congresscreatures to let them know you're watching. It's writing LTEs to your newspapers and talking to your friends and neighbors and long range planning for primary challenges against the entrenched pols who have long ago sold out to corporate interests.

I'm afraid a lot of people get caught up in the excitement of the contests but then don't follow through on accountability. The real change we can believe in will come when the voters pay attention all the time instead of once every four years.

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August 24, 2008

Things I learned from Atriots

By Libby

I spend entirely too much time in Duncan Black's comment section, but I find links there I would have missed otherwise. For instance, this old gem about McCain's military career from 3-20-00, when Rove was probably supplying the oppo to the media.

The instructor added that McCain was "positively one of the weakest students to pass our way, and received consistently poor marks and a number of Dangerous Down grades assigned by more than one instructor. He had no real ability and was clearly out of his element in an airplane, and way over his head even as a junior naval officer."

McCain crashed three planes, ruined another by flying too low and hitting power lines and one exploded on deck. He only saw 20 hours of actual combat. Which is not to imply that he didn't serve honorably. It's just that his service wasn't particularly exemplary or notable. This is the experience he's basing his campaign on and it's weak. If we had a functional media, this factual history would have replaced the mythical narrative a long time ago. [via]

I didn't spend much time with this map, but it looks like it might provide hours of fun for the wonks around this place. An interactive map of US military presence around the globe since 1950. [via chicago dyke]

And, if you stayed in a Holiday Inn, I don't know if you're smarter, but you're certainly luckier. If you stayed at a Best Western, your luck may have run out. A criminal hacker breached the booking system of the chain, and stole the personal information of every single guest of Best Western's 1312 continental hotels since 2007. The theft compromised an estimated eight million people. I hope you're not one of them. [via]

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Poppies still prop up Taliban

Poppy_carolyn_cole_lat By Libby

What progress has been made in the north and east regions of Afghanistan in eliminating the poppy trade, is being threatened by a failure to follow through on promised alternative economic development for the poverty stricken farmers.

Oguz said it was critical that the Afghan government and the international community 'show that they will ensure food supplies and massive and targeted long and short-term development' areas where farmers decided not to plant poppy last year. 'I am not sure that is going to happen,' she said in an interview in Kabul.

The locals certainly are losing their faith in the pledged support.

'We did not plant opium last year because the government banned it and said we would get dams, roads and jobs,' said Zarjan Adalkhel Shinwari, a local elder. 'People are wavering. We need the money and none of their promises have been fulfilled. But it is illegal.'

Ironically, the growing international food shortage may help more than all the eradication programs money can be wasted on.

However, the poppy harvest has been affected by a glut on the market which has lowered the price paid 'at the fa rm gate' and high global wheat prices which have made other crops more attractive.

Meanwhile, Karzai's area of government control, which has been limited mainly within a certain geographic range around Kabul, appears to be shrinking.

While clashes in remote Helmand dominate the headlines, another battle is being waged by the insurgents on Kabul's doorstep. There, the Taliban are winning support by building a parallel administration, which is more effective, more popular and more brutal than the government's.

It's said that the Taliban partly finance their activities by taxing the poppy growers and the processing of the opium which used to be conducted outside of the country is increasingly being done by mobile labs inside. It doesn't appear Afghanistan's politics will be kicking its poppy co-dependence any time soon. [via Moonbootica]

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The downside of Biden

By Libby

As events have unfolded in the last 24 hours, I'm generally satisfied that Biden was a good choice for VP. However, Radley flagged the one big negative that I've been reluctant to bring up in an effort to prolong the positive coverage. But since Radley didn't show my restraint, it's worth noting that Biden's record on the war on some drugs is abysmal.

In fact, Biden is largely responsible for every inane and counterproductive present day policy from asset forfeiture to the atrocious RAVE Act. The one mitigating position he currently holds is "a fairly strong position against federal raids on medical marijuana clinics." Which is not to imply he supports medical marijuana. He doesn't.

All that being said, it's still not a deal breaker. None of the candidates have anything close to resembling common sense drug policy planks, well except Bob Barr, who seems to have seen the light but has no appreciable chance of becoming president. So it's better to focus on Biden's positives. Clearly, after watching his debut, he's willing to get down and dirty to fight the GOP smear machine on its own ground. Better to help him win now and worry about the policy squabbles later.

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August 23, 2008

McCain's craps addiction

Dice

By Libby

Shades of Bill Bennett. It seems McCain has a gambling habit and he loves to play against the odds. Reminds me of Cheney and his One Percent Doctrine.

Word has it McCain "tends to play for a few thousand dollars at a time and avoids taking markers, or loans, from the casinos, which he has helped regulate in Congress." He has only recently stopped shooting craps and even then, only at the insistence of his handlers.

In the heat of the G.O.P. primary fight last spring, he announced on a visit to the Vegas Strip that he was going to the casino floor. When his aides stopped him, fearing a public relations disaster, McCain suggested that they ask the casino to take a craps table to a private room, a high-roller privilege McCain had indulged in before. His aides, with alarm bells ringing, refused again, according to two accounts of the discussion.

Of course, when you're as wealthy as McCain, I guess losing thousands on a roll of the dice isn't a such a big deal. In sharp contrast, Obama favors low stakes poker.

But he always had his head in the game. The stakes were low enough — $1 ante and $3 top raise — to afford a long shot. Not Obama. He studied the cards as closely as he would an eleventh-hour amendment to a bill. The odds were religion to him. Only rarely did he bluff. "He had a pretty good idea about what his chances were," says Denny Jacobs, a former state senator from East Moline.

Kind of a perfect metaphor for this election. Your choice is between a reckless guy who shoots crap and doesn't give a damn about the potential losses or a careful card player who's willing to take an educated risk, but only when he has a good hand. The safe bet in November couldn't more obvious. [via Tim F.]

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Barak Obama did not approve this message

By Libby

But I approve it. A blast from the past. McCain on illegal immigrants in April of 2006.



For context, here's the text version from Tom Tomorrow. I guess if you can afford to blow thousands on craps and a cool quarter of million or so on household help, it's easy to believe that "You can't do it my friends." Not even for fifty bucks an hour. [via]

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One House, One Spouse, Obama/Biden 08

By Libby

All of Blogtopia has weighed in on Biden and I've posted at The Impolitic already, so I'll just recap the positives on an unexciting but pragmatic pick.

Lefties are not wildly excited but neither are they unduly alarmed. I'm hearing their parents like the choice and it's moving the senior citizens towards support of the ticket. I'm also hearing he has a decent voting record on women's rights and he did apologize for supporting the AUMF. Further, he hasn't parlayed his many years inside the Beltway into a personal fortune. He's one of the poorest politicians, he donated his $800,000 in speaking honoria to charity, and his wife hasn't made money on their political connections. She's a schoolteacher.

Biden also teaches constitutional law and his understanding of foreign policy is pretty unassailable. But the clip below demonstrates what some are viewing as a potential timebomb, but I think is his strongest positive. His outspokeness.



He's a fighter and he'll be able to strike back against the GOP smear machine in ways that Obama can't. On the balance, I'm thinking they're going to make a formidable ticket. And by the way, if you like the title of this post, you can get the bumper sticker here. [links via Atrios and Ellroon]

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August 22, 2008

Fox airs illegal ad 'by mistake'

By Libby

Not content with an endless parade of incorrect chryons, Fox News went with the big error today and inadvertently aired an ad they had allegedly refused to run by the extreme right wing group American Issues Project which has ties to McCain through one of its board members.

The right-wing American Issues Project has spent $2.8 million on an ad questioning Sen. Barack Obama’s (D-IL) relationship to William Ayers, a founder of the 1960s radical group Weather Underground. ...

... Fox News accidentally aired the most of the ad. During a segment about Obama’s ties to Tony Rezko, Fox News attempted to play McCain’s latest ad on the subject. However, the Ayers ad began playing instead.

One has to ask, if they weren't going to run the ad, what the heck it was doing in the queue just waiting for someone to press the wrong button, but the mistake whether actual or contrived, may just have a silver lining.

Election experts yesterday raised concerns that this ad may violate election law. Laura MacCleery of the Brennan Center for Justice told Huffington Post that the ad is clearly “express advocacy” and “cannot legally be paid for with corporate money, including those of a non-profit.” In response, the American Issues Project has agreed to disclose its individual donors to the FEC.

I can't wait for someone to leak those names, which I believe the group has been keeping secret despite calls for disclosure. It would be very interesting to see who's financing this smear campaign.

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I'm not perfect

By Libby

I haven't been posting much here lately because I've been concentrating my efforts at the Detroit News, where the readers need educating on the inherent danger of voting Republican. Now, I have to agree with Hilzoy that in a perfect world, I would be posting about "how McCain doesn't know what an economic stimulus is, how he doesn't understand what a cap and trade system is and about his hysteria-based foreign policy." Unfortunately, we don't live in that world and I often post on the trivial non-issues of the day as determined by the elite media. Like houses.

However, when I see "Obama's 46% to 39% statewide advantage is especially aided by a 39-point bulge among voters in Wayne County, including Detroit," I'd like to think I had something to do with that, so it's worth it. I suppose that's really just wishful thinking, but I hear Michigan is going to be a swing state and I did inspire a letter to the editor the other day, so I just keep doing what I'm doing and hope it really does help.

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August 21, 2008

Unsung heroes

By Libby

Dan at Pruning Shears looks at those few brave souls who publicly stood up against the excesses of the Bush administration before his approval ratings fell into the toilet.

That Mori, Zanetti and the jurors were willing to do otherwise speaks eloquently of their high character, as does Radack’s insistence on serving the interests of justice even at substantial personal cost. A great many people have just gone along, or perhaps resigned in protest and quietly went away. The ones who did not, and chose instead to go against the prevailing culture and speak up, have rendered a great service to our country. Their names deserve to be remembered more than those of the ones they strove against.

Sadly, unlike the enablers that didn't jump ship until it was sinking, none of them got cushy jobs on talking head teevee and their names did not become familiar.

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The incredible rightness of being a POW

By Libby

Almost unbelievable. McCain admitted he didn't know how many houses he and Cindy own and after floating a couple of responses to the ensuing reaction from the Democrats, they settled on -- wait for it -- pulling the POW card that old Johnny just hates to talk about. Again.

"This is a guy who lived in one house for five and a half years -- in prison," spokesman Brian Rogers told the Washington Post. [...]

Also, Rogers made sure to play the anti-intellectual card: "In terms of who's an elitist, I think people have made a judgment that John McCain is not an arugula-eating, pointy headed professor-type based on his life story."

And which life story would that be Mr. McCain? The true one, or the one based entirely on lies?

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Zoning laws run amok

By Libby

Via Avedon, here's a fine example of nanny government taken to the extreme.

Jon Tennett loves to tinker in his garage. It's not an uncommon pastime for an 81-year-old man, but what is unusual is the city's response.

Because Tennett fixes his neighbours' lawn mowers and other small machines, the City of Pickering has charged him with operating an illegal business - even though he's never charged a penny for his work. [...]

Tennett's case is currently before the courts and if he loses, he could be fined up to $25,000. He's already refusing to pay. "They ain't getting it," he fumes. "I'll do jail time."

One expects it won't come to that, as the residents of the town appear to be as outraged as Mr. Tennet about the over zealous enforcement of the ordinance. But still, what a long way we've come from the days when they used to say, "A man's home is his castle."

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The new working poor

By Libby

The conventional wisdom is you go to school, get a good education, work hard and you'll live the American dream. Heather Ryan, a summa cum laude undergrad with a master's degree should have fit that description, and yet:

We only had to do it once last summer. Only once because when friends got wind of what was happening, they sent gift cards to Albertsons and Safeway, money even. I'm a writer, so I'm supposed to know how to say difficult things, how to blend the mundane with the significant, how to tell a story, how to make the sad at least bearable. I started e-mails in which I blathered on about my love for Mary Jane shoes, or my obsession with Neko Case, hoping to find a moment where I could say, "By the way. Last week? I took the kids to a soup kitchen." I wrote e-mails about Cuba and the welfare system and the crumbling middle class, yet none of them landed in an in box with the admission that I had taken my kids one Tuesday in July, drove downtown and walked into a soup kitchen to eat dinner -- parking far enough away so that no one would see we actually had a car. [...]

The entire summer of 2007, as I struggled to keep us fed, I hated thinking of politics, an unusual characteristic for me. It hurt to listen to any presidential candidate talk about the working poor, and not because they weren't genuine, but because all their talk was just that -- talk. It was like listening to my former self, the one who didn't know how bad things could get.

I don't doubt she has greater empathy for the poor now, but I think she may overstate the depth of her understanding. She had a good job with employer provided health and dental insurance. A 401k plan. She had a long way to go to truly experience poverty. For her this was a temporary setback, more a cause for embarrassment than hopelessness. Until you've faced an empty cupboard with no prospect of finding food, it's really impossible to fully grasp hunger.

For many at that soup kitchen, and I suspect most of them had at least minimum wage jobs, these sorts of programs become a permanent solution and their numbers are growing. They don't have friends who can help out and can't afford to stop working to pursue college degrees. And even if they could, they would be competing for jobs against people like Ms. Ryan, who was underemployed with her masters, and still be at the bottom of the employment chain.

It's our national disgrace that after years of what the experts described as a booming economy, not only did that wealth fail to trickle down, but poverty continues to trickle up. [via Avedon]

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August 20, 2008

Meet the marijuana users

By Libby

When you broach the subject of legalization of drugs, inevitably you hear howls of indigination from outraged non-consumers who predict mass addiction and decry the coddling of disgusting drug addicts. Of course, their doomsday visions of crack addicts lined up at the local Quickie-Mart is far removed from reality. Under a total legalization plan, hard drugs would be limited to controlled clinical settings designed to enable addicts to kick the habit, not encourage them to continue it, but that's an argument for another day. For the moment, let's just look at marijuana, a non-addictive herb that over 25 million Americans admitted using in 2005. Who are these marijuana consumers?

They are your friends, your neighbors, your shopkeepers, even your doctors and lawyers who won't be included in any statistics because they could never admit they might occassionally take a puff on a marijuana cigarette to relax at the end of a stressful day. They are the terminally ill who find more pallative relief in herbal medicine than they did in pharmaceutical toxins. They are responsible, otherwise law-abiding citizens who pose no danger to society.

Looking beyond the numbers, Marijuana Policy Project's new video documentary on the human cost of marijuana prohibition puts a face on these consumers. In Part One we meet a student who was denied financial aid for college solely on the grounds of a misdemeanor possession charge as a teenager. In Part Two below we meet a senior citizen, who grew some plants for himself and a few other medical marijuana users to whom he provided the herb at no charge.

Continue reading "Meet the marijuana users" »

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August 19, 2008

Breathtaking hypocrisy

By Libby

Even under the low standards set by the Bush administration, this is remarkably obtuse.

"Russia is a state that is unfortunately using the one tool that it has always used whenever it wishes to deliver a message and that's its military power," Rice told reporters en route to an emergency meeting of NATO foreign ministers set for Tuesday. "That's not the way to deal in the 21st century."

Maybe Condi could have mentioned that to her boss a few years ago and saved us a world of grief. [via]

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August 18, 2008

Quote of the Day

By Libby

Avedon's got it.

My friends, if having been a prisoner of war is now going to be an automatic qualification for the presidency, could we please start looking at the records of other POWs to see if we can't find someone who is less of a lying, cheating, right-wing crackpot? I'm sure there must be several.

Funny. I was just thinking the same thing but Avedon said it better. She also has a very interesting snippet of the official transcript from the Saddleback Scam. Draw your own conclusions.

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McCain cheated on 'cone of silence'

By Libby

It appears that the "cone of silence" at the Saddleback event was about as serious as the one in the old teevee series Get Smart. McCain arrived in his soundproof booth a half hour late, giving him plenty of time to be briefed on the questions. That could explain his seemingly well-prepared 'spontaneous' answers. Furthermore, he lied by ommission when asked about it directly at the beginning of his segment.

Mr. Warren started by asking Mr. McCain, “Now, my first question: Was the cone of silence comfortable that you were in just now?”

Mr. McCain deadpanned, “I was trying to hear through the wall.”

Warren said we'll have to take McCain's claim that he didn't try to game the interview on faith. Meanwhile, the McCain camp is appalled that anyone would dare question their man's integrity, saying, "The insinuation from the Obama campaign that John McCain, a former prisoner of war, cheated is outrageous."

However, the denials have been somewhat nuanced. McCain's team hasn't flatly denied that no one in contact with McCain accessed the program while he was in enroute, although another McCain spokesman said they have no to reason to lie. But as Jake Tapper points out, obviously they had every reason to do so. And as I added in a post at the Detroit News, our "above all criticism, former POW" has a long history of outright lies.

I don't suppose this will have much effect on McCain's support among the hard core fundies, but one can only hope that some of it filters out to the sane voters and cracks the "straight talk" facade at least a little bit.

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Who changed your world?

By Libby

Here's a moment's amusement for a Monday morning. Vote to determine the Top 10 Who Are Changing the World of Internet and Politics in the ninth annual PoliticsOnline and the World eDemocracy Forum awards.

This prestigious award seeks to recognize the innovators and pioneers, the dreamers and doers who bring democracy online. This year marked the toughest year ever in choosing the 25 finalists. The integration of politics and the Internet are reflected in this year's diverse, international nominees.

The winners, those top 10 nominees who receive the most votes, will be invited as honored guests to the world eDemocracy Forum October 16-17, in Issy-les-Moulineaux, (Paris, France), where they'll take part in an awards ceremony and other special programs throughout the two-day forum.

Really interesting list of nominees including 10 Downing St, Barack Obama and MTV's Choose or Lose. I haven't voted yet myself. I'm torn between Brave New Films and the Sunlight Foundation. [h/t George L]

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August 17, 2008

Reaching the depths of depravity

By Libby

Ruth at Cabdrollery flags a disturbing under-reported story on an alleged 'terrorist' that appears to have been abducted and held without counsel for the last five years by our own government.

Take the case of Dr Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani neuroscientist who grew up in the US and went to top universities including the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The woman who had been a star student and a topper throughout a remarkable career had to leave the US when the authorities began harassing her and her husband for their charity activities in the wake of September 11 upheavals.

The family settled down in Karachi and was never involved in any illegal activities. One day in March 2003, this talented young woman went missing with her three children when she was on her way to Karachi airport.

Five years later, she suddenly appeared in a New York court this month, billed as a 'top Al Qaeda terrorist'. She was reportedly barely able to walk and speak. She's not being charged with terrorism, but rather assault on FBI agents in Afghanistan. A charge, her attorney Liz Fink calls, "patently absurd."

Jim Henley picks up the story and adds much more, including some earlier coverage claiming "Siddiqui was concocting a plan to use biological agents to contaminate former president Carter’s water," among other implausible and nefarious plots against high ranking political leaders. As Jim remarks, this administration has become so arrogant they don't even try to come up with plausible lies anymore for their abuses. Worse yet, no one seems to know what happened to the children.

As an aside, I'd note that I know Liz Fink, having worked with her on a big federal case many years ago. She's an excellent lawyer and I'm glad to see she's the defense counsel. At least we can be sure that Siddiqui will have superior representation and if anyone can get to the truth on this one, Liz is the one that can do it.

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August 16, 2008

The United Police State of America

By Libby

The Bush administration takes us one step closer to a full out police state. Their latest ploy, streamlining intelligence information sharing, effectively makes your local cop a deputy spy for the feds.

The Justice Department has proposed a new domestic spying measure that would make it easier for state and local police to collect intelligence about Americans, share the sensitive data with federal agencies and retain it for at least 10 years.

Read it and weep for our formerly free country. The measure seeks to roll back the protections against government excess that arose out the Watergate era, ignoring the fact that the reasons those protections were enacted in the first place was because of abuse of the existing powers. It would be nice to think that Obama would fix all this when he's elected president, but as emptywheel notes -- don't hold your breath.

And let me repeat something I have said before: once law enforcement, political and prosecutorial entities are vested with power and dominion such as described herein; it is never substantially relinquished; it becomes the new norm.

And as I often say, the transformation to a police state is made in such tiny increments as to be almost unnoticed. I ran across this old link today, from when Al Gonzales was on the hot seat over the Ashcroft hospital visit seeking to authorize a domestic surveillance program that was so illegal Ashcroft wouldn't sign off on it. Back then, notes just released by FBI Director Robert Mueller, notes he made because he thought the situation was so unusual he felt the need to document it, contradicted the AG's sworn testimony.

The notes were heavily redacted and Conyers swore he would get an unredacted version. As far as I know he never did and we still don't know what this particular "Terrorist Surveillance Program" really was. All we know for sure that the ethical players at Justice were ready to quit over it. And anybody remember the 'Clergy Response Team' that helped avoid a public outcry over the quasi-martial law declared in NOLA in the wake of Katrina?

They enure us slowly to these encroachments, just like that proverbial frog in the boiling pot of water. And just like the frog, by the time we realize we're in danger of completely losing our liberties, it's going to be too late.

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Peter Pan arrested at Disneyland gates

By Libby

Mickey and Tinkerbelle too, along with a host of other characters involved in a workers' protest at the front door of the amusement park. It seems the Big House of Mouse wants to reduce costs on the backs of its poorest workers.

The dispute involves about 2,300 maids, bell hops, cooks and dishwashers at three Disney-owned hotels: the Paradise Pier, the Grand Californian and the Disneyland Hotel.

The workers' contract expired in February and their union says Disney's latest proposal makes health care unaffordable for hundreds of employees and creates an unfair two-tier wage system. The union also says Disney wants to create a new category of part-time employees who would receive greatly reduced benefits.

Creating a part time class of workers has been a classic corporate response to a downturn in revenues for as long as I remember, but taking away the established workers health benefits is relatively new. So I have to admit, although I'm a little conflicted about the idea of three year olds being traumatized by seeing Mickey arrested, I understand why they're doing it and I'm glad their dramatic protest is bringing some public attention to the issue.

The Sun has a slideshow of photos of the beloved characters being frogmarched to the pokey. Video coverage, here and here. [Thanks to our researcher Kat for the tip.]

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August 15, 2008

McCain's celebrity solution for healthcare

By Libby

If it wasn't such a serious problem, this would be more hilarious. McCain's plan for the crisis in rural health care. Send in celebrity athletes to inspire kids to lose weight and adopt a healthy lifestyle.

Now, there's nothing wrong with having Shaq inspire kids to be healthy, but what rural residents need right now is more health care providers. That doesn't seem to be mentioned in McCain's overall strategy. Indeed, it doesn't seem that McCain has much of a strategy at all outside of letting Shaq handle it.

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Russian roulette

By Libby

My co-bloggers have been covering the geopolitical implications of  the Georgia/Russia situation very well here so I'm not even going to try to get into the weeds on the wonkery but I think these two quotes sum up the bone-crushing irony of the Bush administration's response. On Wednesday Condi Rice said:

"This is not 1968 and the invasion of Czechoslovakia where Russia can threaten its neighbors, occupy a capital, overthrow a government and get away with it. Things have changed."

And today the NYT reports these words from our DefSec Gates.

“My view is that the Russians — and I would say principally Prime Minister Putin — is interested in reasserting Russia’s, not only Russia’s great power or superpower status, but in reasserting Russia’s traditional spheres of influence,” he said. “My guess is that everyone is going to be looking at Russia through a different set of lenses as we look ahead.”

I'll bet that's true, as they will be also be looking at the US through "a different set of lenses." Right now, thanks to the ongoing occupation of Iraq, we look like nothing so much as a little kid with a popgun, brandishing our 'fearsome' weapon in the face of a fully armed, oncoming military brigade. I suspect there's more than one world leader viewing the situation with amusement at our predicament, rather than respect for our ability to respond in any meaningful way.

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August 14, 2008

SWAT raids - it could happen to you

By Libby

Warren "Bones" Bonesteel emails in response to my latest SWAT raid post and kindly digs up Radley Balko's invaluable white paper and the interactive map on the subject. Bones appears to be pretty much on the opposite side of the fence politically, but the insanity of the war on some drugs provides us all with common ground. Let me quote briefly from his email.

Be assured that more than one family in your state has had this happen to them, which can be said of every state in the Union. Had Mayor Calvo not been who he was, living where he lived, and had he not known exactly what to do and say to protect his rights, you would have read and heard an entirely different story from the media, if you had read or heard about it at all. ...

This is not an issue about left vs right, Republican vs Democrat or religion vs secularism. This is not about race or nationality or even about the poor vs the wealthy. It isn't about the drugs. This is about Freedom.

Governments are about control and tyranny. Aside from controlling you, governments don't care who you are. The bigger the government, the worse the tyranny. The more powerful the government, the greater the tyranny, the more extreme the human rights abuses become.

Amen to that and it doesn't matter which political party is in control. The abuses of the war on some drugs have been perpetrated for decades through both Republican and Democratic administrations and did in fact lay the groundwork for the abridgement of our civil rights today in Bush's equally bogus 'war on terror.'

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August 13, 2008

SWAT team mentality

By Libby

My old friend David Borden has been at the forefront of drug policy reform for decades now at the helm of stopthedrugwar.org. Their website has evolved into a must read stop for those interested in ending the insanity called the war on some drugs, particularly their Speakeasy blog where I found this graphic that appeared on the website of the Lima, Ohio, SWAT team prior to their murdering an unarmed mother and maiming her infant child in a botched drug raid. (They were just acquitted of any wrongdoing in the matter by the way.) I can't think of a better illustration of the mindset of the SWAT team strategy.

Scrolling down at the blog, I find another post that enlightens us on the inherent danger of funding the LEOs via forfeiture laws.

A new push by Annapolis police officers to crack down on drugs and violence in the city is having an added benefit: Record vehicle seizures and revenues. Sgt. Dave Garcia, who oversees the vehicle seizure program, said city police seized 120 vehicles in the first six months of this year, netting $23,960 in the process.

That's a lot of cars for not that much money. This would suggest that (a) it's as much about power as it is about deterrence and (b) a lot of small time users are losing lower value vehicles to these seizures.

Time was police departments would exercise discretion and only seize property from perceived 'kingpins' in the drug trade. But since the zero-tolerance craze started, they will take your car no matter whether they find a cold marijuana pipe in the glove compartment or 50 pounds of heroin in the trunk. The cost and the hassle of regaining possession of the car are so prohibitive that most people don't bother to try. Often the cost alone is more than the value of the car anyway.

Meanwhile, our government spends a minimum of $40 billion a year on enforcing laws indiscriminately against reponsible consumers and problematic abusers alike while the availability of street drugs hasn't appreciably changed except I hear that the price of cocaine has dropped. Surely, there are better ways to spend this money.

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Cooking the books

By Libby

As regular readers know, I'm suspicious of polls and other statistical analysis that use weighted metrics. I ran across this post the other day that shows an interesting chart and would seem to prove my point. It suggests inflation is really much worse than the experts are telling us.

Fodder for thought for those curious about U.S. economic statistics. While conventional wisdom (or publicized rationale) often claims that the recent adjustments to the core methodology remove components that are "more volatile", the evidence here suggests that the new method basically removes 3% from the previously computed rates. Remarkable how stable this difference is over time.

As the author notes, "the secret is in picking the right comparables." I've been thinking for a long time that "weighted" analysis is really just a code word for cooking the books. Am I wrong?

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August 12, 2008

100% Snake Oil

By Libby

Today's editorial in the WaPo tries very hard to minimize the latest effort of the Natural Resources Defense Council Action Fund with a weak attempt to pump up the GOP's cruelly false promise that offshore drilling would lower the price of gasoline now -- or ever. But apparently, even the WaPo editorial board has its limits and is forced to admit, buried at the end of course, that, "No, the United States cannot drill its way to energy independence."

The worst part is Rasmussen Reports latest survey shows that too many Americans are gullibly buying the lie. They found "nearly two-thirds of Americans (64%) support going ahead with offshore oil drilling." I suppose if you put the environmental concerns aside, some argument could be made for that position. Even if you accept the fact prices won't be affected, most people seem to find it difficult to believe that clean energy technologies will be able to supply enough alternate fuels for our needs in the next decades and want to extract every last drop of crude from the earth.

Much more disturbing though is that 42% believe "offshore oil drilling would have the biggest impact in terms of reducing the price of oil." That, as the Action Fund puts it, is "100% Snake Oil" and a frightening illustration of how successfully the GOP can still push false propaganda despite their ever diminishing credibility with the voters.

Meanwhile, if you're in the group that believes offshore drilling isn't the answer at all, today's thirty second activism is to send a point and click letter to your Congresslizards and let them know you're not buying the snake oil and want them to stop selling it.

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August 10, 2008

Surge success illustrated

By Libby

This post at Crooks & Liars didn't receive nearly enough attention. A Guardian journalist, who is a native Iraqi, returns to Baghdad to video the scenes the elite media can't show us because they would be killed if they tried to get the footage. Watch it in full. It's under 15 minutes long in total. This is what "the success" of the surge looks like.

Part Two: The Killing Fields.

Part Three: The Lost Generation.

Does this look like peace and normalcy to you? It surely doesn't to me.

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August 09, 2008

McCain needs his sleep

By Libby

Well I guess that McCain won't be making any "3:00am ads" after this awkward confession, obviously made in a moment of fatigue. And it's only the beginning of August.

"If I put in three or four 18-hour, 20-hour days in a row, I'm not sharp. It's just a fact," the Republican senator from Arizona said.

"I'm more sharp if I get a little rest." McCain said he feels best sleeping until 7:30 or 8 a.m., as opposed to his usual morning drill of rising at 5:30 or 6 a.m.

"It seems to help me to get up a little later in the morning," he said, joking, "Sorry to bother with that intimate detail."

What a comforting thought. If a major world crisis comes up and doesn't resolve in three or four days, the guy with his finger on the nuclear trigger, who is still fighting the Vietnam War in his head, would be feeling "not so sharp."   Of course, that describes the current occupier of the White House too. [via]

Update: Jed Report has more thoughts including this astute quote. "The fact is, McCain isn't doing one of his 2 jobs, he's doing the other one at half strength, and he's whining about it. Meanwhile, lots of American families are every bit as tired as he is, but without $100 million in the bank."
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August 08, 2008

From the mouths of conservatives

By Libby

I posted at Detroit News yesterday about McCain's questionable bundler, Harry Sargeant III, owner of an oil-trading company who is currently under investigation by Congress over the almost billion dollars in no-bid contracts he was awarded by the Pentagon. Surprisingly, even Marc Ambinder notices the hands-off policy of the elite media on McCain's dicey fundraisers.

If there were a group of questionable donations all with the name Abdullah, that were funneled through a guy in Jordan, who is a Jordanian national, who is under investigation for war profiteering, and it were Barack Obama, instead of John McCain, would this be a bigger deal?

They barely mention it in passing but you can sure we will be treated to non-stop coverage of the 'vital' story of John Edwards tawdry affair. As if who Edwards screws is more important than McCain's grand plan to screw us all over in favor of the interests of Big Oil.

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Money Bomb

By Libby

Today is the anniversary of Richard Nixon's resignation and also the day of the Strange Bedfellows money bomb. The Caucus has the short version of the current plans for the money.

AccountabilityNow, which aims to play a political role from which groups like the American Civil Liberties Union are barred, plans to buy print ads with the new funds criticizing Mr. Hoyer and Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Miami-area Republican, for co-sponsoring a measure endorsing a naval blockade of Iran, and they also plan to buy space to call for Congress to look into the F.B.I.’s handling of the anthrax investigation. By 2010, AccountabilityNow hopes to field primary candidates that support its civil libertarian, anti-war positions.

We could certainly use more candidates with those kind of creds.

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SWAT team insanity

By Libby

The Baltimore Sun continues to follow the story about the Maryland mayor whose home was raided. The added details are horrendous.

When the shooting stopped, two dogs lay dead. A mayor sat in his boxers, hands bound behind his back. His handcuffed mother-in-law was sprawled on the kitchen floor, lying beside the body of one of the family pets that police had killed before her eyes.

Even if they were guilty, how unnecessary is that sort of intimidation? Are we to believe a bunch of armed cops might feel so threatened by an old lady that she has to lie on the floor for two hours next to a dead dog? Worse yet, the cops did not have a no-knock warrant and tracked the dog's blood all over the home while they were ransacking it looking for some justification for their over the top Gestapo tactics.

The town's chief of police is still livid about not being notified in advance of the raid, noting the sheriff's SWAT team was "wearing street clothes, masks and carrying weapons as they approached the mayor's house." For all the local cops knew, this could have been a criminal home invasion and a confrontation could likely have become a shoot out.

It's clear that this use of force was completely unwarranted in this instance and I was right in thinking this was a set-up.

This week Prince George's police arrested two men for orchestrating a plot to deliver marijuana to the addresses of unsuspecting recipients -- among them, Calvo's wife, Trinity Tomsic.

One wonders what happened to the other people who were targeted? Maybe those raids were called off after this fiasco, but the long history of SWAT team drug raids is rife with the same kind of misconduct. The only good news is, with such a high profile victim as the mayor, maybe the issue will finally get the attention it deserves and something will be done to stop it.

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August 06, 2008

Paris responds to McCranky

By Libby

This time it's real. Paris Hilton responds to McCain's slam ad and does a pretty good of it. If you had to choose between the two of them, Paris would be the obvious choice. At least she knows how to deliver her lines.

See more funny videos at Funny or Die

Normally, I wouldn't bother fact-checking a parody like this but the elite media has picked it up so it's likely more low-info voters will see this ad than bother to watch the real ones and it's worth noting that Paris makes one truly egregious statement. That being that off-shore drilling would offer an immediate solution to "tide us over" until technology can rescue us from foreign oil dependence.

Steve Benen covers that point and going one step further, Joseph Romm outlines the high points of Obama's proposals. As Romm notes, it's far superior to what McCain laughably calls his plan.

Update: As I feared, CNN has a poll at the bottom of the home page right now that shows Paris' "plan" is beating out both Obama and McCain. Current standings are McCain 27%, Obama 33%, Hilton 40%, with 120,908 total votes. I also see some commentators are calling it an pro-McCain ad, but really it's just pro-oil corporation, which come to think of it, is sort of the same thing.

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August 03, 2008

Braising McCain

By Libby

Okay so Paris Hilton and Britney Spears aren't going to deliver a scathing video response to McCain's smear ad, but thanks to my old friend and long time reader Bruce Simpson, for sending me this really good parody.


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August 02, 2008

Blackwater seeps into domestic law enforcement

Ca_drug_raid_blackwater By Libby

You might read about this raid on a medical marijuana dispensary and think it was disgusting but not particuarly remarkable. Just your customary SWAT team thuggishness.

At the dispensary agents left behind trash, counters strewn with open and empty glass jars, piles of receipts thrown on the ground, upturned couch cushions, bits of marijuana on the edges of counters and an ATM with its doors torn open and emptied.

In the residents' rooms a safe was cut open, dresser drawers pulled open, and rumpled clothes and knickknacks thrown on the ground. An outdoor vegetable garden had plants uprooted, along with marijuana plants removed by the agents. [...]

Clyde Carey, 50, of Marina del Rey was at the store Friday visiting a friend when agents burst in through the locked front door, he said.

"We heard some noise outside, and then the door literally burst in, and the DEA came in in full combat gear, told everybody to get on the floor and put their hands behind their heads," Carey said. "It was like, literally, an episode of "24," when they bust in on a terrorist cell."

Nothing unusual in that but here's where it gets interesting. If you look closely at the photo, you'll notice the agent is wearing a Blackwater t-shirt. Now, one might think maybe it was just a freebie from a narc's convention, but Radley tells us that the photo was removed from the gallery after he posted about it. You have to wonder what they're trying to hide.

If that's not enough to make you a little nervous, how about the news [via] that Blackwater is now actively marketing itself to Fortune 500 companies, with the division being run by J. Cofer Black who is also Chairman of Total Intelligence Solutions, a private intelligence gathering group. The same guy who reportedly told an audience at the Special Operations Forces Exhibition in Amman, Jordan, that Blackwater could supply a "brigade-sized force on alert." Wouldn't that come in handy for a president who wanted to declare martial law?

Even if Blackwater isn't really assisting the DEA in drug raids, looking at the numerous scandals over their recklessness in Iraq and the reports on their private duty work in NOLA during Katrina, it's clear they're a dangerous 'security' force. The problem is their mission appears to be to keep the government safe from us.

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Paris and Britney slap McCain

By Libby

Well this could be really amusing. Apparently, hell hath no fury like a startlet scorned. Andy Borowitz reports:

One day after Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz) broadcast an anti-Obama ad in which he compared the presumptive Democratic nominee to celebrities Paris Hilton and Britney Spears, the two tabloid mainstays fought back with an eviscerating anti-McCain spot of their own.[...]

In their anti-McCain spot, the two starlets fight fire with fire, comparing Sen. McCain to the Joker from the smash-hit film "The Dark Knight."

"It's perfectly fair," Ms. Spears said of the ad. "They both have pasty white faces and totally creepy smiles."

Heh. That's the most intelligent thing I've ever heard her say. Unfortunately I can't seem to find a link to the video. I never thought I would be saying this about anything that Paris and Britney created, but I can't wait to see it.

[Note: Unfortunately, this is a spoof, so there will never be a video. But maybe it will inspire the pair to create one. One can always hope.]

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Blogger problems update

By Libby

Following up on yesterday's Blogger lockout, it appears that the problem was wide-spread and not confined to one category of blogs, so it wasn't that you were posting any particular content. However, the lockdown does remind me this morning about the importance of internet neutrality. If we lose it, this sort of thing could happen all the time and it could easily be content related.

Anyway, most of you should be unlocked by now but there's a new problem that affects the whole system. No one can open any Blogger blog in IE. Avedon figured out that it was a sitemeter issue. If you remove your sitemeter code from the template, it seems to solve it.

Good reason to switch to Firefox as your browser but in the interim, for those who can't give up their IE, I removed the sitemeter from The Impolitic until Blogger figures out what they broke when they fixed the lockdown.

Update: This is amusing. A lot of rightwing blogs were also affected and shockingly, immediately blamed the vast left-wing conspiracy and/or Obama supporters.

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August 01, 2008

Applause please

By Libby

Mad props to our long time favorite Mad Kane for receiving the 2008 Robert Benchley Society Award for Humor, along with a handwritten note from Bob Newhart. She certainly deserves the recognition.

John Cole has created a new award for media morons that may not be safe for work. His first awardee clearly deserves the 'honor.'

I feel like sending this judge some flowers for making this wise observation from the bench, where he presided over a trespassing case against some people trying to make a citizen's arrest of Karl Rove.

There's no award associated with this project yet, but I bet they could borrow a trophy from John Cole once Josh finishes tracking the media complicity in McCain's smear attacks. I'm betting a clear winner will emerge from the statistics. You can help.

And kudos to those wise respondents who voted correctly in this poll. Add your voice.

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Locked out...

By Libby

I had just posted to my personal blog last night and tried to go back to edit in a link I missed when I got this message:

Your blog is locked.

Blogger's spam-prevention robots have detected that your blog has characteristics of a spam blog. (What's a spam blog?) Since you're an actual person reading this, your blog is probably not a spam blog. Automated spam detection is inherently fuzzy, and we sincerely apologize for this false positive. We received your unlock request on August 1, 2008.

On behalf of the robots, we apologize for locking your non-spam blog. Please be patient while we take a look at your blog and verify that it is not spam.

I discovered I'm not the only one and at first it appeared it was only DFH lefty blogs that were hit. I've heard since it also happened to non-poliblogs so I guess I can put away the tinfoil for now. Anyway, you can still read the blogs and leave comments but the authors can't post until a human being "reviews your spam status."

Ellroon of Rants from the Rookery is not locked and is posting a list of known locked lefty blogs, which will be updated through the day. If you're locked out leave a comment over there. Here's the list so far.

SteveAudio
Sinfonian of Blast Off
Libby of The Impolitic
Fourlegs at Plush Life
Dr. Dawg at Dawg's Blawg
skippy of skippy the bush kangaroo

Update by Fester:  The old Newshoggers is also under suspician of being a spam blog --- I think one of the drivers might be the high density of linking and potentially any Google bombing/SEO techniques may have tripped a poorly designed algorithym. 

Check with Ellroon for updates and a handy tip on how to leave a notice for your readers.

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July 31, 2008

SWAT team murders mayor's dogs

By Libby

It's been a while since we looked at the war on some drugs and here's a particularly egregious abuse of law enforcement resources. The county Sheriff's SWAT team in Maryland raided a local mayor's home and killed his dogs.

The short backstory is someone sent a 32 lb. package of marijuana to Mayor Cheye Calvo's home. It was left on the porch while he was out walking his dogs. When he got home he brought in the package and went upstairs to change. The SWAT team broke down the door and shot the black Labs on entry. The younger pup was trying to run away and was shot in the back. They then handcuffed Calvo and his mother-in-law and interrogated them for hours while the dead dog's blood pooled on the floor around them. Calvo was in his underwear.

They hadn't bothered to notify the local police beforehand and justified the violent raid as necessary. But as one local spokesman noted, it's seems to hard to believe that the Chief of Police couldn't have simply knocked on the door and asked his honor about the package. And Calvo could hardly have flushed 32 lbs of marijuana down the toilet if they had waited for him to answer the doorbell.

This kind excessive use of force is the poison fruit of the forfeiture laws. The LEOs get to keep the money they make on busts but they can only spend it on equipment. So they buy all this cool SWAT team stuff and then of course they want to use it. So, every single bust becomes a life or death raid.

As to why the mayor was having marijuana delivered to his door in the first place, I'd speculate it was a set up. Nobody in their right mind would ship that much cannabis by public courier. Hell of way to discredit him though. Hmmm.... Anybody got 32 lbs of pot and Karl Rove's address?

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July 29, 2008

Republicans can't parody

By Libby

Pete Abel got a parody video from the RNC that is so bad it should have been funny, but it wasn't. It was just pitifully lame.

Slightly more amusing is the latest burst of innuendo out of wingerville. Apparently they've concluded that Obama drew such a huge crowd in Berlin by somehow bribing 200,000 people with food and booze. And yet, they call Obama's base crazy for believing in hope? The ulimate response to that leap of logic goes to a commenter at Cole's place.

I heard he fed the entire crowd with five bratwursts and two Heinekens.

Now that's funny.

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July 28, 2008

Let's get rid of Harry Reid

By Libby

I read in the WaPo this morning about the pending Tomnibus bill that the Senate is supposed to pass before they take their weeks long summer vacation and had the same reaction as Booman. Why is it that Reid could ignore Dodd's hold on the FISA bill but allows this yahoo Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) to block dozens of bills that have large bi-partisan support? Why didn't he just hold the damn votes right along? That's what the Republicans did when they held the majority.

I'm predicting this omnibus bill will get mired down in Beltway kabuki and will be tabled untl September, no matter how critical the included bills are to the people. Reid is a miserable failure as a leader and Pelosi has been almost as bad. We need better Democrats than this if we're ever going to repair the damage of the Bush regime.

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July 27, 2008

Anything sounds good to McCain

By Libby

If McCain wasn't running for president and still polling at 40% his pathetic cluelessness would be amusing. Today he denied ever using the word timetable in an interview with George Stephanopoulos, conducted at his Sedona ranch where he's entertaining the media and some powerbrokers this weekend. Needless to say, he did use the word while 'refining' his views on withdrawing troops. He also insisted that we had too been greeted as liberators in Iraq. But this boast was the lowlight of the day.

“I’m not going to telegraph a lot of the things that I’m going to do because then it might compromise our ability to do so. But, look, I know the area, I have been there, I know wars, I know how to win wars, and I know how to improve our capabilities so that we will capture Osama bin Laden — or put it this way, bring him to justice…We will do it, I know how to do it.”

One has to ask, if that's true, why he hasn't shared his superior strategy with the Pentagon? Surely, they would be interested in a foolproof method to catch America's most wanted terrorist. Isn't holding back that information, the ultimate in caring more about winning an election than winning the war on terror?

He also reversed his position on affirmative action, bringing Steve Benen's flip-flop list to 70 and it's only July. Steve didn't think it would go that high. I'm betting it will pass 200 by November.

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Declaring victory

By Libby

Well I've been asking for a long time for this and today Michael Totten defines victory in Iraq. I'm not going to bother to dispute what I see as the factual inaccurracies of the post. That ground has been well covered here by the other bloggers but I did find this bit rather curious.

Part of the problem here is that the war in Iraq is usually thought of as a single war in Iraq. But there have been at least three wars in Iraq since 2003 – the U.S.-led war against Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party regime, the civil war between Sunni and Shia militias, and the insurgencies against government and international forces waged by a constellation of guerrilla and terrorist groups. All three wars are distinct from each other, and two of the three are already over. [...]

Did I miss the day when the war mongers admited that there was a civil war going on in Iraq? I thought they were all about denying that there ever was one. But maybe this is a clue.

The civil war between Sunni and Shia militias likewise is over. We know that now because we can look back in hindsight. Not one single person was killed in ethno-sectarian conflict in May or June of this year. That particular conflict had been winding down since December of 2006 when the monthly casualties began freefalling in an almost straight line from a high of more than 2,000 a month down to nothing. Nobody won that war. It’s just over.

So is he saying that we can now acknowledge there was a civil war but it doesn't matter because the Shia and Sunni now are in complete accord and all that's left is the proverbial handful of insurgents? And isn't that what they were saying back in 2003?

Maybe I should stop trying to make sense of what passes for logic in that crowd and just be glad they're willing to declare victory and go home. Not that it appears Maliki left them much of a choice at this point.

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Learning to love tyrants

By Libby

Avedon is on fire today. Everything she linked to is worth reading but these two in particular are likely to fall under the radar.

Nearly everybody loves to hate Hugo Chavez and when he first offered free fuel oil to poor New Englanders, the GOP in New Hampshire thwarted a program that would have offered that relief to their state's economically disadvantaged residents. Apparently, not even Yankee pride can overcome the obvious impossibility of meeting fuel costs this winter and they're now willing to put aside their distaste for Venezuela's president and take him up on his offer.

Meanwhile, since Afghanistan's heroin trade dependency is in the news again, it's useful to remember that Bush gave the Taliban $43 million in May 2001.

Despite the fact the Bush Administration knew the Taliban was hosting Osama Bin Laden's terrorist camps, despite the fact that the U.S. Government had been trying to kill him for several years, the Bush Administration decided to give the Taliban $43 Million in hard, cold cash. For what? The War on Drugs. Yep. That superceded every known fact about the repressive Taliban regime and their special guest, Osama Bin Laden.

Of course, as any drug policy reformer already knows, the Taliban's poppy ban was a scam.

To make matters worse, U.S. officials were naive to take the Taliban edict at face value. The much-touted crackdown on opium poppy cultivation appears to have been little more than an illusion. Despite U.S. and UN reports that the Taliban had virtually wiped out the poppy crop in 2000-2001, authorities in neighboring Tajikistan reported that the amounts coming across the border were actually increasing. In reality, the Taliban gave its order to halt cultivation merely to drive up the price of opium the regime had already stockpiled.

Considering that the total GDP of Afghanistan at the time was about $2 billion, one might say that George Bush helped the Taliban become the threat they are to us today and was at least peripherally responsible for bin Laden's success on 9/11.

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July 26, 2008

Obama shows the audacity of intelligence

By Libby

ABC News is billing this as a private conversation that was picked up on air unbeknowst to Obama and UK Tory Leader David Cameron. Ms. Althouse thinks they were well aware they were being recorded. Maybe they knew. It doesn't really matter. It's still an intelligent conversation, quite a contrast from the candid convos our current Cretin in Chief has at these sort of events.

"That's exactly right," Obama said. "And the truth is that we've got a bunch of smart people, I think, who know ten times more than we do about the specifics of the topics. And so if what you're trying to do is micromanage and solve everything then you end up being a dilettante but you have to have enough knowledge to make good judgments about the choices that are presented to you."

Meanwhile, in case there was any question about why the wingnuts are losing the war of ideas, in the new media, here's Exhibit "A" from one of the more popular blogs in Wingnuttia. This is what they apparently consider smart analysis.

All the anointed one has done for the past year is campaign. Which involves giving the same stump speech once or twice a day and shaking hands with a few people — but mostly it entails a lot of (highly pampered) traveling.

Therefore, campaigning should afford a candidate plenty of time to think.

This is the sort of idiotic commentary that destroys the credibility of the handful of thinking bloggers on the conservative side of the fence.

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July 25, 2008

Giuliani's son sues Duke University

Giuliani_son

By Libby

I'm surprised, considering their long time fixation on the other Duke scandal, that the wingnuttians haven't gone into outrage mode about this story. Surely it's proof of a liberal academian plot against the dreams of a young Republican.

DURHAM - Andrew Giuliani, son of former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, has sued Duke University, saying the school breached a $200,000 contract with him by kicking him off the golf team.

The younger Giuliani claims in the court filing to be a victim of a "bizarre 'Lord of the Flies' scheme" by the new coach, who replaced the now deceased coach who recruited him, to kick him off the team for alleged misconduct that included throwing and breaking golf clubs and an altercation with another team member.

For what it's worth, his golf skill isn't an issue. His handicap was a plus-2 in 2007 and at least some of his teammates think he's getting a raw deal. In any event, it appears Andrew's dream of becoming the next Tiger Woods may have ruined. [photo from Duke athletics]

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More signs of the police state

By Libby

Nobody really knows how widely the Bush administration has breached the Fourth Amendment and violated our privacy rights. Maybe we'll never find out, but Salon offers up a disturbing clue here.

According to several former U.S. government officials with extensive knowledge of intelligence operations, Main Core in its current incarnation apparently contains a vast amount of personal data on Americans, including NSA intercepts of bank and credit card transactions and the results of surveillance efforts by the FBI, the CIA and other agencies. One former intelligence official described Main Core as "an emergency internal security database system" designed for use by the military in the event of a national catastrophe, a suspension of the Constitution or the imposition of martial law. Its name, he says, is derived from the fact that it contains "copies of the 'main core' or essence of each item of intelligence information on Americans produced by the FBI and the other agencies of the U.S. intelligence community."

An article in Radar magazine in May, citing three unnamed former government officials, reported that "8 million Americans are now listed in Main Core as potentially suspect" and, in the event of a national emergency, "could be subject to everything from heightened surveillance and tracking to direct questioning and even detention."

There's talk inside the Beltway about forming a body modeled on the Church Committee to investigate White House criminality in the matter. I wonder how much good that will do. If Bush decides to use this against us, he would do it in the next six months. I expect it would take that long just to form the committee.

I suppose with private entities tracking our every move electronically, it's unrealistic to expect the same level of privacy we enjoyed before computerized records. Heck, my computer knows more about my habits than I do. Nonetheless, a database of this magnitude held by our government clearly isn't designed to protect us. It's designed to protect the government from us. [Via Avedon]

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All rogues lead to Rove

By Libby

Shades of Valerie Plame. Brad Blog reports on new developments in Ohio where at least a few people haven't forgotten the voter fraud of 04.

Karl Rove has threatened a GOP high-tech guru and his wife, if he does not "'take the fall' for election fraud in Ohio," according to a letter sent this morning to Attorney General Michael Mukasey, by Ohio election attorney Cliff Arnebeck.

The email, posted in full below, details threats against Mike Connell of the Republican firm New Media Communications, which describes itself on its website as "a powerhouse in the field of Republican website development and Internet services" and having "played a strategic role in helping the GOP expand its technological supremacy."

Epluribusmedia has more. Rove, being a master at covering his tracks, didn't directly deliver the threat to Connell. It was sent by proxy, but the basic message was -- fall on the sword or your wife gets indicted for lobbyist fraud.

Connell, of course, is no angel. His fingerprints are all over every dirty electronic election trick the GOP has managed to get away with in the last several years, but in the interests of justice, I'd be happy to see him get off scot free if it helps to finally nail Rove for his lifelong perfidy.

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July 23, 2008

News you can view

By Libby

Since my colleagues are burning up the blog today with the important news along with their usual stellar analysis, I'm just going to share a few video links I picked as I cruised the intertubes.

Over at the Great Orange Satan, they have embedded videos of Barack in Baghdad. About 3,000 people from bureaucrats to GIs showed up at the embassy to enthusiastically greet Obama and listen to his short speech. But that's become somewhat par for the course. Much more astounding is a clip of Chris "Tweety" Matthews asking America to vote for Obama. You have to see it to believe it.

This new Obama attack ad is devastating. The credits are short, so allow me to point out the perps are those heinous un-Americans, Watertiger, Thers and Dan McEnroe. [Warning: profanity alert. May be NSFW]

On a different note, I never write about gun issues because my views on gun owner's rights lean to the rightwing side. I believe the Second Amendment clearly allows private citizens the right to bear arms, even those hideous "black guns." However, I also believe in far stricter gun control laws than most SA proponents do, and this video is a good illustration of why they're needed. Some people just aren't responsible enough to be trusted with firearms.

Finally, this is the must view video of the year and should be posted far and wide. McCain in his own words...

I believe this is what the McGeezer calls straight talk. [Via a post that should be read in full.]

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July 22, 2008

Fluffing Cindy McCain

By Libby

Yet another fluffer of a profile piece on Cindy McCain in the WaPo. It was so similar to one they ran recently, I had to check the date and make sure I wasn't reading the same piece again. That's okay. I don't really care if the WaPo wants to make the case that Cindy Lou is the perfect Republican political wife but is it too much to ask that traditional journalists like Ms. Copeland learn to use the google? I mean, this is just irritating.

John McCain had much the same reaction at a party in Honolulu in 1979. He was working as a naval liaison to the Senate and, by some accounts, was separated from his wife, Carol Shepp, who'd raised their three children alone during her husband's 5 1/2 years as a North Vietnamese prisoner of war. (Years later, McCain would acknowledge what biographer Robert Timberg called "dalliances" after his return from war. In one of his autobiographies, he would attribute the collapse of his first marriage largely to "my own selfishness and immaturity.")

Emphasis mine. The only people saying McCain was already separated when he was courting Cindy are Ms. Copeland and McCain himself in his memoirs. The court documents tell the true story. "In fact, when McCain obtained a marriage license to marry Cindy, on March 6, 1980, he was still married to Carol — and would be for nearly a month longer."

The first Mrs. McCain isn't talking, but either Cindy knew he was still very much married while he was courting her, or John McCain lied and she believed him. Either way, journalistic ethics would dictate that this be made clear in any account of the current Mr. and Mrs. McCain's history.

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Fight back against unfair credit card practices

By Libby

If you use credit cards, chances are you've been caught by the multitude of rules the industry uses to pad their profits with user fees. I recently got hit with a late fee myself when I forgot that my payment date hit on a Monday holiday and missed the cutoff for electronic payments by an hour. The good news is our government is proposing new regulations to prevent some of the more egregious tricks and you have until August 4th to tell the regulators what you think.

In May, the Federal Reserve proposed a sweeping set of rule changes that would ban a wide set of consumer-unfriendly bank practices. The rules would prevent credit card issuers from charging retroactive rate increases on outstanding balances, for example, and ensure that bills are mailed at least 21 days before the balance is due. It would also make it harder for banks to change overdraft fees in some cases, and clarify a wide set of bank practices that sometimes seem like booby-traps designed to cost consumers.

Industry insiders are using their considerable clout to lobby the regulators and dilute the changes as much as possible. The good news is you can weigh in with counter-arguments by leaving a comment at the Fed's web site. Scroll down to the bottom at the link. You can also leave comments on bank lending and savings practices.

Comments have already reached a nearly record 31,000 but the more the better. They won't know what you think, if you don't tell them.

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July 21, 2008

McCain groping for a campaign message

By Libby

Poor old McCain. Maliki ruined his campaign strategy and now he's left to mumble about how smart he was to support the surge. In making the rounds of the teevee talk shows he repeated this theme about Obama's trip throughout the day.

"He'll be able to have the opportunity to see the success of the surge. It is a success. This is the same strategy that he voted against, railed against," McCain told ABC News' Diane Sawyer.

I'm not going to bother to debate whether the surge was really a success. That notion has been thoroughly debunked by my colleagues here. But, I think McCain is setting a trap for himself. Even if one was inclined to agree that the surge was a success, the surge would not have been necessary at all if we hadn't invaded and occupied Iraq in the first place. Additionally there's reason to think Afghanistan wouldn't be in the mess we're in now, if we had stayed there instead of moving the operations to Iraq.

McCain may have quibbled with the White House over strategy but there's no escaping the fact that he supported the boneheaded policy of invading Iraq in the first place and thus is very much responsible for the disaster that is the Bush Doctrine. If we're to measure judgment calls by outcomes, Obama still comes out way ahead.

On another note, I know my posting has been light here lately. That's due to a number of reasons. I'm having some personal problems that are taking up a lot of time. I've been a little burned out generally and I've been doing most of my McCain bashing at the Detroit News on the premise that those readers need the education more than you well-informed readers here do.

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NYT finds unlikely support in London

By Libby

The outrage of the day in the wingosphere is over the NYT's refusal to publish an op-ed by McCain. I can't bring myself to link directly to Drudge, the King of Sludge, but you can find the link here, where he posts the proposed op-ed, along with links to the winger reactions. I don't blame the NYT for asking for a rewrite.

The op-ed was lame, a typical old geezer whine by McCain. Shockingly, the Times of London. who normally favor the right wing narrative, agrees.

Well, political pieces by elected officials or candidates can often be very boring - safe, unrevealing and tediously partisan. In general I required such pieces to jump over a pretty high importance barrier before I ran them.

Obama's piece vaulted that hurdle. It outlined his views, pretty much avoided point scoring, and dealt with the issue.

McCain's piece, on the other hand, knocked the hurdle over. It wasn't about Iraq. It was about Obama. If I received it I would have done exactly what the NYT did - send it back and ask them to redraft it so that it was about Iraq and was more, well, interesting.

Doubtless, the wingers will continue to rail about media bias for days over this, but their energy might be better spent in helping their candidate rewrite the witless prose to give it some relevancy to the issue, instead trying to sleaze through a free campaign ad.

For myself, I say good for the NYT for standing their ground. For the first time in ages, I have a glimmer of hope that our media might rediscover that their mission is to inform the public instead of acting as campaign cheerleaders.

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July 19, 2008

US Navy steaming to South America

By Libby

I missed this announcement earlier in the month. William Kern at TMV notes South Americans are somewhat alarmed over the resurrection of the U.S. Navy’s Fourth Fleet, which has been in mothballs since the 1950s and is being deployed south of the border. He flags a translated newspaper account from Argentina.

What reason could the United States have, to send such a powerful naval force to a region at peace, without nuclear weapons, without conflict or any real military threats? “They’re never going to admit that it’s because of our natural resources, but it’s no coincidence that this decision comes just as a structural change is underway in the global economy, in which reserves of fresh water, food and energy resources (which our region has in abundance) have assumed such vital strategic value,” said Clarín Khatchik Der Ghougassian, specialist on security issues at the University of San Andrés [Argentina].

This is way out of my realm of knowledge, so I'll leave the analysis to the resident wonks here, but I do find it odd myself and can't fail to notice that the timing seems to coincide with the discovery of the big oil reserves outside of Brazil. I don't blame the South Americans for being nervous.

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Don't you hate when that happens...

By Libby

Following up on Cernig's post, this is amusing. The White House accidentally promoted the story when an staffer who intended to send it to an internal list under the heading "Iraqi PM backs Obama troop exit plan - magazine" apparently pushed the wrong button and sent it to their media list instead. Ouch. Haven't we all done that at least once?

Not that there's any great harm done. One imagines the media would have picked this one up without the help, but I suppose that the last thing the administration wanted to do was draw more attention to the fact that they are suddenly adopting all of Obama's policy positions as their own.

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July 17, 2008

Eating my words

By Libby

Chomp. Chomp. Chomp. Hmmm, could use a little salt... Obama released his June fundraising figures today.

Sen. Barack Obama's campaign raised $52 million in June, his campaign manager said this morning - not quite a record for the high-flying campaign, but close to it. The campaign had raised $55 million in February, during the Democratic primaries. But it's still more than twice what Republican rival Sen. John McCain raised during June -- $22 million.

Guess the FISA effect wasn't all that I thought it would be and I'm happy to be proved wrong. Meanwhile, McCain is obviously pulling in big bucks donations and will probably continue to do so from the big business interests that would love to own the next president.

I think I'll make that donation to Obama now. His framing has been a whole lot better in his speeches lately and if you need more incentive, I understand if you donate any amount before the end of the month, you're in a contest to be one of ten people that get to be Obama's guest at the convention, which includes a spot backstage when he makes his acceptance speech. Can't get a better seat than that for the festivities. And you get to bring a friend.

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Obama v. McCain - the myth of media bias

By Libby

I see the McCain camp is whining that Obama gets more coverage than he does in the media. Apparently he does.

The imbalance has appeared in various analyses of the news coverage. The Tyndall Report, a news coverage monitoring service that has the broadcast networks as clients, reports that three newscasts by the traditional networks — which have a combined audience of more than 20 million people — spent 114 minutes covering Obama since June; they spent 48 minutes covering McCain.

However, the difference is that at least fully half the coverage on Obama is spent obsessing about his negatives, as they perceive them, and McCain gets a fluffer from the press almost every blessed time, no matter how badly he stumbles or how often he contradicts himself. And I'd like to see how many minutes they devoted to Iraq. I'd bet it was under ten. Additionally, I'd like to see the stats on the coverage of the ongoing revelations about White House criminality. I'd be willing to bet those stories didn't get any significant time either.

Not that it will stop the usual suspects from using this piece to "prove" bias towards the Democratic party in the "liberal press."  Which I suppose explains why they devoted so much ink to Hillary's new hairdo.

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July 16, 2008

Building a bigger police state

By Libby

If you still think that the US is not slipping slowly into totalitarianism, this is the must read of the day. The police state is knocking at our door. China is leading the way with the help of US corporations with their own version of homeland security called Golden Shield.

This is how this Golden Shield will work: Chinese citizens will be watched around the clock through networked CCTV cameras and remote monitoring of computers. They will be listened to on their phone calls, monitored by digital voice-recognition technologies. Their Internet access will be aggressively limited through the country's notorious system of online controls known as the "Great Firewall." Their movements will be tracked through national ID cards with scannable computer chips and photos that are instantly uploaded to police databases and linked to their holder's personal data. This is the most important element of all: linking all these tools together in a massive, searchable database of names, photos, residency information, work history and biometric data. When Golden Shield is finished, there will be a photo in those databases for every person in China: 1.3 billion faces.

It's the ultimate tool for population control. It was used in the recent protests in Tibet in conjuction with local police and state friendly media. It's being built with the help of corporations like L-1 Identity Solutions, a major U.S. defense contractor that produces passports and biometric security systems for the U.S. government, who managed to find a loophole in the prohibition against providing such technology.

The company intitally denied any involvement and when confronted with proof of its business dealings, refused to comment. They already have their own database of 60 million records of Americans. And L-1 is not the only company interested in breaking into the Chinese surveillance state market. GE, IBM, UT and of course, Google and Yahoo have all done trade related in some way Golden Shield. The financial incentives to break into a global market worth an estimated $200 billion are great. China alone is estimated at $33 billion. What's a little human suppression compared to that kind of dough?

But that's in China and we're not like them, you say? Think again.

Empowered by the Patriot Act, many of the big dreams hatched by men like Atick have already been put into practice at home. New York, Chicago and Washington, D.C., are all experimenting with linking surveillance cameras into a single citywide network. Police use of surveillance cameras at peaceful demonstrations is now routine, and the images collected can be mined for "face prints," then cross-checked with ever-expanding photo databases. Although Total Information Awareness was scrapped after the plans became public, large pieces of the project continue, with private data-mining companies collecting unprecedented amounts of information about everything from Web browsing to car rentals, and selling it to the government.

The Fourth Amendment prohibition against illegal search and seizure used to protect us from this sort of infringement but thanks to a power mad administration and the spineless legislative branch that enabled them, that's no longer true. We don't even have redress in the courts any more. As the NYT reported yesterday:

President Bush has the legal power to order the indefinite military detentions of civilians captured in the United States, the federal appeals court in Richmond, Va., ruled on Tuesday in a fractured 5-to-4 decision.

Think about that. The president has the power to declare any US citizen or legal resident an enemy of the state and can hold then indefinitely without charge. And don't hope for technology to save you. When the protests started in Tibet, the Chinese government limited or blocked access to the internet, blocked phone calls and assembled their most wanted list from surveillance tapes, which were duly publicized by their media. They didn't even need to send in the storm troopers to gain control.

You don't need a crystal ball to see that China's present is our future. [hat tip to our invaluable researcher, Kat]

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July 15, 2008

Conference call with David Walker

By Libby

Frankly, I can't imagine why I was invited, but I sat in on a conference call this afternoon with former US Comptroller General Dave Walker, who is now the CEO of The Peter G. Peterson Foundation, a new non-partisan think tank that's on a billion dollar mission to wake up America to its pending fiscal crisis. Considering that one its partners is Ross Perot, I wasn't expecting much.

Surprisingly, I found myself mostly in agreement with his broad definition of the problems but the presentation was a bit vague on solutions. I wasn't planning on talking myself, but I ended up rudely monopolizing the call by pressing for details. I was surprised they didn't cut me off sooner.

But even there I found more common ground than I expected. Hard to find fault with the idea of teaching children fiscal and civic responsibility and discouraging rampant consumerism. And demanding accountability from politicians is an easy sell. However, his big hobby horse is the dreaded entitlement programs.

I don't disagree Medicare is the biggest money pit and his suggestion to have a national standard of care is good one in terms of protecting doctors from lawsuits when it comes to end of life decisions. It may sound callous, but it doesn't really make sense to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on a 90+ year old with multiple medical problems, simply to give them a few more weeks or months of a diminished life. That's true no matter how the health care system is funded.

However, we diverged from there. I thought he put too much onus on the citzenry and not enough on the corporate exploitation of the system. He's sharply critical of the Medicare prescription benefit plan but when I pointed out that that atrocity was written for the benefit of the pharma corps, he made some vague illusions to long term reform of the election process. In fact, despite having grilled him for 15 minutes, I came away with no real specifics on their proposed solutions.

I left with the impression that the Foundation has some worthy goals but will be pushing an agenda towards privitatization. Certainly single payer health insurance isn't in their lexicon. Still I was impressed by his willingness to engage me in discussion. He's a good speaker and he comes across as genuinely concerned. You can see for yourself in this 60 Minutes segment.

As to whether he's overstating the problems, I'm no wonk, I don't know. But I have a feeling The Foundation's movie may convince a few people that there is one. Watch the trailer for yourself and see what you think.

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Under the cover

By Libby

I'm already tired of hearing about the New Yorker cover but the debate is still raging on all over the place so I'll share a few last thoughts. I didn't think it was funny. Good drawing. Bad satire. My friend Jules shows us how it could have been done better.

Jonathan Alter makes a good case for those who are arguing that it perpetuates the meme rather than succeeding in mocking it. That's probably true, but I don't know that it matters much. Those who are convinced about the veracity of the smears aren't likely to be swayed by logic or truth. The anecdotal evidence for that is this comment left on a listserv I'm on.

I've already had it sent to me a dozen times by wingers claiming it's proof that even the Liberal New Yorker knows what Obama's REALLY like, and that all the Democrats WANT this because they're all anti-american proMuslim terrorists...

But the best critique I've seen came from the imcomparable Jon Swift. Now he's funny. As they say, read it all, but here's a quick clip.

The illustration might also have been acceptable if the New Yorker ran it on the inside of the magazine where people who are sensitive to mockery would not have run across it casually on a newsstand. Or they might also have enclosed this issue in a brown paper bag the way pornographic magazines sometimes are to keep it away from the eyes of children and people with heart trouble (how many children have been traumatized for life and how many deaths this cover has caused will only be known in the coming weeks). While the cover may have met the community standards of a place like New York where people apparently don't mean what they say, there are some parts of the country where satire is just not acceptable in public.

Meanwhile, while all the chatter is over the cover, I wonder how many people have bothered to read the article? I suspect not many.

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July 13, 2008

SOFA agreement snags on details

By Libby

If this is true, I'm enormously relieved to hear that Bush has been thwarted in saddling the next administration with his self-serving goals for the Middle East via the SOFA agreement. Following up on Ron's post, it appears that the Iraqi government not only wants to take control of the Green Zone, they want to assert their sovereignty over the whole country.

The WaPo is reporting that negotiations over the SOFA have stalled and are unlikely to be resolved before the next president takes office. The sticking points are enormous.

In May, Iraqi and foreign media published U.S. negotiators' demands that one administration official now describes as "frankly unrealistic," including unilateral control over U.S. combat and detainee operations, immunity for U.S. personnel from Iraqi prosecution, and control over Iraqi airspace. Additional accounts outlined a list of 58 separate military installations that would remain under U.S. control.

The emphasis is mine, but I find it significant that the WaPo described the coverage in those terms. It's just one more indicator of the failure of the US media to properly inform Americans about what this administration is doing behind their backs. Granted this was covered to some extent in the US newspapers but I believe the teevee news barely mentioned it. Small wonder the average low-info voter isn't as alarmed as we are about the steady destrtuction of our system of government. I expect most Americans don't even know that Bush has been negotiating a long term binding agreement without the endorsement of Congress.

The negotiations have now moved to trying to hammer out a short term pact to keep US troops in the country through 2009. It's ironic that Maliki feels bound by stricter parameters than our own president does.

According to U.S. officials, Maliki also hopes that a temporary protocol would circumvent the full parliamentary review and two-thirds vote he has promised for a status-of-forces agreement. "He is trying to figure out, just as we did, how you can set up an agreement between the two and have it be legally binding," one official said, "but not go through the legislative body."

I guess the Iraqis, have higher expectations that their leaders follow the rule of law than Americans do. I suppose it's easier to pay attention since they can't just slap on the iPods and go shopping at the mall to distract themselves. And their media apparently reports on issues of import instead of spending days obsessing about the musings of bit players peripherally connected to their leaders.

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July 12, 2008

The FISA effect on fundraising

By Libby

I'm finding it curious that Obama hasn't released the June fundraising figures yet. I'm figuring the numbers are dismal or they would have done so by now, particularly in light of McCain's numbers looking good. In fact, I'm wondering if he came out with less than McCain for the month.

The WaPo said yesterday Obama's internet contributions have slowed. This is no doubt partly due to the usual summer slump in fundraising for everything and also partly due to the dynamics of campaigns in general. Nell, in comments, flagged this from TPM that describes that last point well.

But small dollar giving seems highly dependent on the intensity of the moment and the spikes of the campaign cycle. During the heat of the Obama-Clinton battle, giving money was one of the most direct ways supporters around the country could participate in the fight -- except when the campaign trundled into their states. And that applies to both campaigns since, by any standard other than up against Obama, Clinton's 2008 monthly numbers were astounding too. [...]

Perhaps too, when you hear that Obama's going to raise hundreds of millions of dollars, that the sense of participation you get from sending in your $25 isn't quite as great.

Good points but as Nell rightly notes, Josh ignores the FISA factor and by that I don't mean just FISA, although I think that's the most important, but the change in the way that Obama is framing the debate by more and more embracing conventional wisdom narratives instead of challenging them. It makes him look weak. The public is tired of the GOP's dirty tactics but they still want a fight, albeit a fair one. The more he embraces the same old centrist-bipartisan schtick that has resulted in a Congressional approval rating in the single digits, the more that earlier enthusiam dims.

The enthusiam that Obama generated among the young and first time older voters arose from the perception he was offering something completely different and had the courage to stand up to the entrenched interests inside the Beltway. Centrist rhetoric doesn't convey that same courage. I think the newly energized voters that drove his moneymaking machine feel betrayed by it and are not only closing their wallets, they're likely to stay home in November.

It's not too late to change that dynamic, but if Obama's 50 state strategy becomes a 50% plus one game instead, I have a bad feeling we're all going to lose.

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July 11, 2008

Simple answers to stupid questions

By Libby

First Read in a long and whining post about this A.D.D. election season and how peripheral nonsense is dominating the coverage, asks:

But seriously, can either of these candidates get the message THEY want out there for even a 48 hour period?

Well no, not as long as all you wankers in the media decide to brew up imaginary scandals 24/7 instead of -- you know -- covering the substantive issues.

Ironically the post goes on to prattle at length about the nonsense. And by the way, am I the only one that missed the outrage over Michelle Obama's earrings? I never saw a word about it.

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Texas justice: Arrest first - investigate later

By Libby

The backstory: A teenager who apparently has a bad temper got into some trouble and was ordered into community service. He fulfilled that obligation by working for MADD, who had him out delivering cookies to police stations. The cops found this suspicious.

Phillips, 18, was arrested Tuesday after Lake Worth officers smelled marijuana in the basket and their preliminary tests detected LSD, Chief Brett McGuire said.

I'd like to know what kind of test they did. Granted it's been a long time since I've been part of the drug culture but while I remember drinks being laced with it, I don't recall that LSD could be baked into cookies. I would think the heat would render it useless. In any event, it was a false alarm.

[L]ab results released late Thursday afternoon confirm that no drugs were present in any of the cookies. L. Patrick Davis said initial tests found no traces of LSD inside the cookies taken to police in Lake Worth, where Christian V. Phillips remained jailed on $75,000 bond on a charge of tampering with a consumer product. In the wake of the test results, Lake Worth Police dropped the charges against Phillips.

Whether or not this will prevent Phillips from clearing his record on the initial offense that left him delivering cookies in the first place remains to be seen. He would have fulfilled the terms of the agreement with the court on the day after his erroneous arrest on this charge. Ironically he was ordered into an anger management class as a result of that first offense. I have a feeling he's going to need all the anger management he can get after this incident.

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July 10, 2008

FISA fight far from over

By Libby

We may have lost the Senate vote on FISA but as my first husband was fond of saying -- payback's a bitch. The feckless fools that didn't think it was important to stand up for the Constitution will find there is a price to be paid for their complicity. And those who courageously took up the battle on the front lines will be rewarded. Digby has the details on how the Blue America PAC will be using their funds to do both.

Obama, as he and we well know, will not be punished in this effort even though he let us down tremendously. Neither will he be rewarded. Rather than receive rich praise, he will continue to reap criticism unless he finds a way to communicate his constitutional stance much more forcefully on the side of civil rights and the rule of law. Slate publishes a good article along those lines that offers some sound advice to the candidate, including this about his rhetoric on the Supreme Court.

Obama doesn't have to stumble here. Nor should he maintain the curious silence that leaves his supporters wondering about his constitutional values. A growing number of Americans believe the Roberts Court is too conservative. Polls indicate that the public likes progressive judicial results: The public responds favorably to questions asking whether judges should strongly protect civil rights and civil liberties, rule for the powerless over the powerful, and ensure broad access to justice. Put simply, Americans want to live in Justice Stevens' America, not in Clarence Thomas'.

If McCain genuinely thinks it's smart politics to run against the Warren Court in 2008, Obama simply needs to run against the Roberts Court. He must promise to nominate Supreme Court justices who will protect civil liberties, civil rights, and ensure equal access to courts and justice. He needs to talk and talk about these issues not because these are tender, liberal values he wants his judges to share, but because they are values enshrined in the Constitution, values that have been corroded and neglected in recent years.

Digby also sums up what's been bothering me about Barack's style in the last few weeks.

One of the things I had been hoping the Obama campaign would do was creatively frame the agenda on new terms rather than the old reliable issue matrix. It's not easy to do it because people see politics in a sort of shorthand and it's hard to change years of conservative propaganda in one go. But I did think that an election where the other side has been completely discredited and we have a candidate of unusual rhetorical gifts it would have been possible to do it. Certainly, it would have fit the change theme.

That's it exactly. It's hard to believe in change when you don't see any. He's not directing the debate at all at this point. He's building the conventional narrative instead. Not good.

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FISA: don't get mad...

By Libby

Do something, like signing the ACLU's ad.

It's outrageous, unconstitutional and un-American. That's why the ACLU is prepared to challenge this law the moment George Bush signs it -- and you can rest assured, they'll be meeting our lawyers in court.

Our lawsuit will send a powerful message to those in Congress who played it safe when they had the opportunity to defend the Constitution. You can join the ACLU in sending that message by signing on to our ad letting Congress know that if they won't stand up for freedom, you and the ACLU will.

We'll be taking out a full-page ad in a major national newspaper announcing our lawsuit and expressing our outrage at this abandonment of Constitutional principles. Our goal is to run an ad that contains the names of tens of thousands of Americans who believe in the Constitution and want Congress to hear us loud and clear: next time, stand up for our rights.

Then you might want to click over to Avedon's post and get some possible good news about impeachment.

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July 09, 2008

Well, the FISA fight is over

By Libby

There's a lot that could be said about this but I'm going to outsource all the talking to Glenn and my consolations to Dan, who also thoughtfully provides a soundtrack for the victors. I'll simply say thanks to everybody who worked to defeat this abomination.

We did good to get as far as we did with the Democrats we had to work with. Next step is to get some better Democrats.

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Priceless hypocrisy

By Libby

My friend Jules sent me this little item from Wingnuttia Central. It seems Fox News runs regular interviews with the so-called PUMAs, whom I'm sure you know are the remaining disgruntled Hillary Clinton supporters. Last night on CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360°, “businesswoman Lynn Forester,” said this about Barack Obama:

“This is a hard decision for me personally because, frankly, I don’t like him. I feel like he is an elitist. I feel like he has not given me reason to trust him.”

And who is “businesswoman Lynn Forester,” you ask? Not your average businesswoman to be sure.

Some background: Lady Lynn Forester de Rothschild was introduced to her husband British banking financier Sir Evelyn Robert Adrian de Rothschild by Henry Kissinger at the Bilderberg conference in ‘98. Portfolio labeled her “the flashiest hostess in London.” She’s “mistress” of the Ascott House, the 3,200-acre Rothschild family estate in Buckinghamshire. She’s on the board of Estée Lauder. She’s friends with Tony and Cherie Blair and other big-moneyed Brits, including the utterly corrupt Conrad Black and his wife, Barbara Amiel. She also owns what has been described as “the most beautiful apartment in New York”.

Anybody care to wager that she's supporting John McCain now? Video at the link.

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How the social safety net once saved me

By Libby

In my ongoing quest to lower my blood pressure, I've stopped reading the pundits that tend to raise it alarmingly with inane or intemperate rhetoric, relying instead on those bloggers who have a higher tolerance to keep me informed on their latest drivel. But those on my DNR (do not read) list do occassionally burst forth with something worth passing on and today it's David Gerson at the WaPo talking about the food stamp program.

Hunger exacts a social cost. Hungry adults miss more work and consume more health care. Hungry children tend to be sicker, absent from school more often and more prone to getting into more trouble. Larry Brown of the Harvard School of Public Health calculates that the total price tag of hunger to American society is about $90 billion a year. In contrast, Brown estimates it would only cost about $10 billion to $12 billion a year to "virtually end hunger in our nation."

And this raises a moral issue. We have in place an automated food stamp program that is generally efficient and effective. We know it could be expanded with little increase in overhead. And we know with precision when its benefit runs out each month. So how is it then possible to justify funding three weeks of food instead of four? What additional dependence, what added moral hazard could a full month of eating possibly create?

Many social problems seem complex beyond hope. But dramatic progress against hunger is not. There are many explanations why this effort has not been undertaken -- but there are no good excuses.

I had no idea they had computerized the program but I think that's a really good thing. I assume they got rid of those awful booklets, meant I suppose to resemble travellers checks, that fooled no one in the check out line. I expect they use some kind of debit card now, which is good for tracking certainly and also spares the recipients some embarrassment.

I know that embarrassment having once been on welfare for several months when my first husband was badly burned in an accident. He was self-employed as a carpenter and obviously couldn't work and neither could I since someone had to be there to change his dressings every three hours, a process made more labor intensive because he didn't respond to the Silvadene therapy and I had to cook up saline solutions every day.

I can't begin to tell you how awful it feels to see someone you know in the checkout line when you had to whip out your foodstamps in order to eat. And they always ran out before the end of the month, no matter how frugal you were. It was the most horrible time in my life, yet without the assistance of that safety net, we would have starved. And they're not exactly free. You spend a lot of time in the welfare office regularly reviewing your needs.

You hear a lot about welfare queens, and grumbling about people who look fit enough to work, living off the system. Certainly I fit that profile but in the long hours I spent in those offices, most of the women there were like me. Caught up in a situation over which they had no control and doing the best they could to ensure their minor children wouldn't unduly suffer more from it than they were already. We couldn't wait until the day we would be able to burn our welfare cards.

Gerson is right. We have a moral obligation to help our fellow Americans when they're in trouble and those who would seek to punish the few freeloaders who cheat the system by abolishing such programs would do well to consider that who they're really hurting are the innocent children and their families who have no other choice. [via]

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July 08, 2008

Fake access to McCain conference calls

By Libby

McCain likes to play up his 'straight talking' creds with his town meetings, where he does occassionally face a tough questioner that somehow escapes the pre-screening of attendees before they ever get into the building. Apparently, not all of them carry signs. And he's made a big show of reaching out to liberal bloggers on his campaign's conference calls. But it appears they're only allowed to listen in. David Corn presents some compelling evidence that they are screening out questions from unfriendly reporters on his campaign conference calls.

His theory is backed up by TPM reporter-blogger Eric Kleefeld, who often sits in on these calls. He says "that his sense is that more of the questions that do end up getting asked come from friendly news outlets, though there are definitely occasions where tougher ones get posed. Kleefeld adds, however, that he has frequently tried to ask a question and never gotten through."

The McCain campaign refused to answer Corn's query but they did sort of deny his claim to TPM. However, as Corn points out it was hardly an unequivocal denial and there is the long pause between when the questions are submitted and when they start answering is suspicious, particularly when known to be friendly right wing bloggers appear to getting through quite easily. Kind of a handy way to pretend to be open to all points of view while controlling the message.

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Strange Bedfellows

Become a StrangeBedfellow! By Libby [links repaired]

I'm fighting off the effects of the mother of all migraine headaches today so I'm going to beg my collegeaues indulgence and just cross post this from my own little blog. Once I could stand to look at the computer today, I poked around the internets and managed to pull myself together enough to join the Strange Bedfellows. I'd urge you to do the same.

This is the coalition that formed to fight the FISA cave-in and is part of a larger effort. You can join as a sponsor at this link. They've already been running ads. Glenn has a pdf of the latest one that ran today in the front section of the WaPo. He also tells us the vote has been postponed until tomorrow and there's a new amendment on the table today. "The Bingaman amendment would merely postpone the granting of telecom immunity until 90 days after Congress receives the Inspector General's audits of the President's NSA spying program which the new FISA bill mandates, and would freeze the telecom lawsuits in place until then." You might want to contact your senseless Senators and urge them to at least vote for that one.

They'll probably ignore it but at least they'll know we're watching. As always, Jane has more on this and the upcoming money bomb for August 8th. Do what you can.

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July 07, 2008

Final showdown on FISA

By Libby

The vote is scheduled for tomorrow so it's time for one last push to try and browbeat our feckless Senators into upholding the rule of law. Christy has the latest tools. I'm sure you need no further instructions outside of this info.

We are asking Senators to vote IN FAVOR of the Dodd-Feingold-Leahy Amendment (S.A. 5064 to H.R. 6304). We're asking for a NO vote on cloture, and a NO vote on the final bill as well.

Be sure to include this in your communcations, since I've found the staff is often woefully uninformed on what legislation is pending. So call, send a free fax, or just send an email but do it today -- please.

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July 06, 2008

The other side of child rape and the death penalty

By Libby

In light of a missed precedent, a WaPo editorial today says SCOTUS should rehear the recent child rape case and review their decision to forbid execution of the perpetrator to take into account "national opinion about the death penalty," and "accurately assess the view of the national legislature." Maybe they should, if only to acknowledge the missed case law but if they do so, then they should also acknowledge the needs of the victims, who have been woefully overlooked in the debate over this issue.

I've read thousands of words about this decision, much of it harshly critical of the court, but the two opinions that moved me the most were two courageous accounts of personal experience as victims of child abusers. The last thing they would have wanted was for their abusers to be executed. Both should be read in full but let me pull out a couple of pertinent quotes.

Barry Crimmins, whom I know personally, was viciously abused and says this:

I wouldn't have wanted my rapist put out of his own misery and into mine. I started life without blood on my hands and I aim to keep it that way. Had the man who raped me on numerous occasions not died in prison while serving his third term for sexually abusing very young boys, I might have gone to see him. My personal revenge would have been to show him that I did not become what I resisted, that I hadn't grown into a cruel and heartless man. I would have told him that he inflicted a burden upon me that almost killed me, and not just when I was nearly asphyxiated during his savage assaults. I'd have told him of the encumbrance I dragged along with me for decades that, through hard work, I had managed to lighten. In short, I would tell him that although he inflicted a lot of pain upon me, he had not succeeded in ruining me. Then I would tell him that I was sorry that he had such a miserable and wasted life. Finally, I would ask him why he thought he had ended up doing the things he did. Maybe I would have discovered some context for the man, even if I had to sort it out of the manipulative lies for which pedophiles are deservedly notorious.

Avedon in an equally eloquent post also tells us that capital punishment would not have felt like justice served for herself.

But I do know that I'm glad no one was executed "on my behalf" to satisfy adults who, as usual, would have been more interested in their own outrage than in my needs. That would only have added to the burden. [...]

I'll tell you what's pretty horrible and shocking, though: having the authorities asking you a lot of prurient questions because they are so obsessed with "getting the guy that did it" that they completely overlook what it's doing to you. I hated that.

Both overcame their trauma. I imagine it was difficult but to have also had to bear the burden of knowing, as a child, that someone was executed because of them I think would only have doubled the trauma. So what purpose would have served in executing their abusers? I'd say none.

My colleague, Capt Fogg put it very eloquently in a post at our place and again, should be read in full but here's the money quote.

Yes, I would love to inflict a great deal of suffering on people who rape children. Given the opportunity I probably would, but I do not try to fool myself that I'm talking about justice. I want revenge because revenge feels good and if feels good because like anyone who reads this, I am an animal and the heir to a host of animal instincts and emotions. Instinct is expressed as the urge to do what feels good. Somehow I believe that justice needs more justification than that.

Capital punishment is never the right answer, no matter how heinous the crime. There's no definitive evidence that proves it's a deterrent and there's ample instances of many people now being exonerated by DNA evidence after being wrongly convicted of terrible crimes and spending long years in prison. We can release them and make some reparation for robbing them of their freedom; none can be made for taking an innocent life.

Capital punishment doesn't protect us from criminals and it diminishes us as a society. Killing under sanction of the state makes us all murderers. Where's the justice in that?

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On the run again

By Libby

Our overseas White House steno of record, the Times of London, recounts the latest US-Iraqi offensive, Operation Lion's Roar, in Mosul. They went in looking for insurgents and a big bomb rumored to be stored there. They found neither but the Times breathlessly announces this is clear proof, "the insurgents are on the run." Hmmm. When have I heard that before?

5/25/2008
April 14, 2008
March 24, 2008
1-10-2008
November 30, 2007
October 01, 2007
9/28/2007
July 10, 2007
24 June 2007
Jun 28, 2005
April 26, 2005
November 18, 2004
11-17-04
Jan. 14, 1980 [This one is the Russians talking about their occupation of Afghanistan]

Every get the feeling that the insurgents plan is to keep us running in circles? This from the current Times article sums it up perfectly.

The last word was left to the beleaguered people of Mosul. Sa’ad Aziz, 47, stood in his shop, with ice-cream in the freezer and fizzy drinks and sweets on the shelves, watching the search for the Zanjali bomb in virtual darkness because there was no electricity.

His concerns were far removed from Al-Qaeda’s jihad: “We have only two hours of electricity out of 10. I need it for my business. There is only a little water in this area. We need jobs. My son has a university degree but he has no work. We’re all very tired of this insurgency.”

Not to worry Sa'ad Aziz. Our experts assure us those insurgents are on the run and we're going to turn that corner any time now.

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July 05, 2008

Portents of the police state

Jackboots By Libby

Fascism doesn't arrive overnight. By design, it creeps in by increments. Every week brings something new.

A recently passed law requires that Texas computer-repair technicians have a private-investigator license, according to a story posted by a Dallas-Fort Worth CW affiliate.

In order to obtain said license, technicians must receive a criminal justice degree or participate in a three-year apprenticeship. Those shops that refuse to participate will be forced to shut down. Violators of the new law can be hit with a $4,000 dollar fine and up to a year in jail, penalties that apply to customers who seek out their services.

I can't think of any reason for this rule other than to shut down small entrepeneurs and to facilitate searches of your hard drive when you bring it in for repairs. I assume the PI license would validate evidence obtained in such a search in some way.

Even more disturbing is this wider surveillance program deputizing municipal employees and utility workers as quasi-Homeland Security agents.

Hundreds of police, firefighters, paramedics and even utility workers have been trained and recently dispatched as “Terrorism Liaison Officers” in Colorado and a handful of other states to hunt for “suspicious activity” — and are reporting their findings into secret government databases. [...]

“Suspicious activity” is broadly defined in TLO training as behavior that could lead to terrorism: taking photos of no apparent aesthetic value, making measurements or notes, espousing extremist beliefs or conversing in code, according to a draft Department of Justice/Major Cities Chiefs Association document.

A lot of room for interpretation in those rules. Think about that. They're building a citizen's surveillance system with such broad parameters that any ordinary dissenter could fit the profile.

This is how they build the state. No one thing is so alarming as to to seem worth causing a fuss over. But taken in the aggregate, it quietly grows into totalitarianism.

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Celebrating 35 years of epic failure

By Libby

I'm a couple of days late in wishing the DEA an unhappy anniversary. Brainchild of Richard Nixon, the agency was created 35 years ago when Tricky Dick declared an open war on drugs. "At its outset, the DEA had 1,470 Special Agents and a budget of less than $75 million. Furthermore, in 1974, the DEA had 43 foreign offices in 31 countries. Today, the DEA has 5,235 Special Agents, a budget of more than $2.3 billion and 86 foreign offices in 62 countries."

What has the agency accomplished in these three and a half decades? Not much besides laying the groundwork for our budding present day police state, where it's considered patriotic in certain influential circles to support the abridgement of civil liberties in the name of false safety.

Meanwhile, a NYT editorial didn't mark this sad anniversary but did note the failure of the war on some drugs this week and correctly stated, "Over all, drug abuse must be seen more as a public health concern and not primarily a law enforcement problem. Until demand is curbed at home, there is no chance of winning the war on drugs." I would amend that to say drug abuse myself.

Today, a LAT op-ed goes them one better and looks at the costs of this failed 'war.'

The United States has been spending $69 billion a year worldwide for the last 40 years, for a total of $2.5 trillion, on drug prohibition -- with little to show for it. Is anyone actually benefiting from this war? Six groups come to mind.

These would be the drug lords, street gangs and terrorist groups, all of whom benefit from the tax-free profits of the black market created under prohibition. On the law enforcement side, the beneficiaries are politicians who talk tough on drugs to get elected, but legislate dumb in terms of solving addiction and abuse problems, the professional prohibitionists like those in the DEA and assorted private groups like Drug Free America and corporations that sell urine tests for example and last, but certainly not least, the prison-industrial complex which benefits greatly from the largest prison system in the entire world. Few lobbyist groups are as powerful as the prison guard union. The LAT op-ed gets it exactly right.

Ending drug prohibition, taxing and regulating drugs and spending tax dollars to treat addiction and dependency are the approaches that many of the world's industrialized countries are taking. Those approaches are ones that work.

Approaches the US is unwilling to embrace as long as there is so much profit to made in 'fighting drugs.' The beneficiaries of bad policy have no incentive to 'win' this 'war.' Until non-consuming citizens understand that these failed policies are doing much more harm than the use of illegal drugs themselves and call for an end to prohibition and its associated negative social costs, we will continue to waste tax dollars that could could be much better spent on badly needed social and civic programs that would better civil society instead of slowly destroying it. [h/t to TalkLeft and Media Awareness Project]

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July 04, 2008

What Didn't Happen

By Libby

Krugman puts on his media critic hat today with a good op-ed on the manufactured outrage over Wes Clark's wholly correct statement that McCain's experience as a POW does not qualify him for the presidency and other media manufactured myths. It's a good piece but Paul is a bit more optimistic than me about the future.

Since then, however, both the press and the Obama campaign seem to have recovered some of their balance. Opinion pieces have started to appear pointing out that General Clark didn’t say what he’s accused of saying. Mr. Obama has also declared that General Clark doesn’t owe Mr. McCain an apology for his “inartful” remarks and denies that his own condemnation, in a speech given on Monday, of those who “devalue” military service was aimed at the general.

Furthermore, my sense, though it’s hard to prove, is that the press is feeling a bit ashamed about the way it piled on General Clark. If so, news organizations may think twice before buying into the next fake scandal.

If so, the campaign has just taken a major turn in Mr. Obama’s favor. After all, if this campaign isn’t dominated by faux outrage over fake scandals, it will have to be about things that really did happen, like a failed economic policy and a disastrous war — both of which Mr. McCain promises will continue if he wins.

Right. Tell that to the horrendous Joe Scarborough and the equally despicable Andrea Mitchell. I'm sure we'll be hearing their mea culpas any day now....

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Happy Independence Day

Fireworks_flag2_2 By Libby

A safe and happy holiday to all. Don't over imbibe and drive and while you're resting up from the fireworks tomorrow, you might want to keep the celebration going by contacting your Senate sneaks and asking them to honor the occassion, and our Founding Fathers, by upholding the Constitution and protecting the Fourth Amendment.

Dan makes it easy to send them a message and you could pass along some of his suggestions if you find yourself at a loss for words.

And while you're at it, hug your favorite rabblerousers today.

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July 03, 2008

Barack answers FISA critics

By Libby

Obama posted a statement on his website in response to the group there that is organizing in protest of his current position on the FISA capititulation bill. I thought it pretty much stunk. He says he'll "work with" Dodd and Bingaman to strike the telecom immunity, whatever that means, but otherwise he's just repeating the same misguided justifications he's been giving all week.

The Inspectors General report also provides a real mechanism for accountability and should not be discounted. It will allow a close look at past misconduct without hurdles that would exist in federal court because of classification issues. The recent investigation uncovering the illegal politicization of Justice Department hiring sets a strong example of the accountability that can come from a tough and thorough IG report.

And what exactly will come of that? It may well have exposed wrongdoing but it's not accountability. There's no consequence outside of temporary embarrassment and the perps just deny everything and go on their merry malfeasant way to continue to flaunt the law. He also repeats this canard.

The ability to monitor and track individuals who want to attack the United States is a vital counter-terrorism tool, and I'm persuaded that it is necessary to keep the American people safe -- particularly since certain electronic surveillance orders will begin to expire later this summer. Given the choice between voting for an improved yet imperfect bill, and losing important surveillance tools, I've chosen to support the current compromise. I do so with the firm intention -- once I’m sworn in as President -- to have my Attorney General conduct a comprehensive review of all our surveillance programs, and to make further recommendations on any steps needed to preserve civil liberties and to prevent executive branch abuse in the future.

For the love of God, somebody send the man Glenn Greenwald's URL so he can grasp that we know this is not true and so should he. It's difficult to believe he doesn't know he's selling a load of BS. Judging from as far as I got in the comments, the true believers are buying it. But the few netrooters that weighed in that section aren't and note well that he won't lose our vote over it, but he is losing our respect and our enthusiasm. As one commenter put it so succinctly, we don't want a lesser of two evils candidate. We want to be proud to cast our vote for the next president.

I'll give him props for answering his critics directly but he's not making me proud right now. I'm withholding the campaign donation I intended to make from my stimulus check -- which I just received. Looking around the netroots I'm not the only one. I see even Kos is withholding money on the same premise. No one is feeling keen to reward bad behavior.

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Another Bush crony resigns suddenly

By Libby

This story barely made a blip on the radar today, but I'm finding this abrupt resignation of a long time Bush crony curious.

White House Deputy Chief of Staff Joe Hagin will be leaving his job this month, according to White House spokesperson Dana Perino. [...]

Hagin, an Ohio native, has been with President Bush since the 2000 campaign. Combined with experience during the first Bush presidency, Hagin has served 14 years in the White House.

Hagin was a behind-the-scenes player, who had a huge role in the post 9/11 reorganization of the U-S government and how terrorist responses would be reformed.

What do make of that dear readers? I don't recall anyone resigning who wasn't either about to be indicted for something or who wasn't suddenly struck by fear of retribution for actively participating in activities they knew were illegal. Considering the vast amount of illegal practices instituted in the aftermath of 9/11, I'm wondering what Mr. Hagin knows, that we don't.

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Full frontal assault on FISA capitulation

By Libby

As my favorite pundit in the world, Yogi Berra, once said, "It ain't over till it's over" and the activists are in overdrive this week in organizing the opposition to the impending sellout of the rule of the law in the Senate on FISA. As usual, FDL is leading the charge and today's post consolidates the current actions. They're busier than the shoemaker's elves over there and have invented a new call tool from Blue America that makes it easier than ever to make those phone calls and more importantly to track the results on the feedback. They also conjured up a much needed tool to track public appearances of our Congresslizards while they're at home in our districts and offer some practical actions we can take to focus attention on pending issues.

Meanwhile, at the GOS, McJoan has additional actions that have the potential to greatly impact the debate. My favorite comes from my old pal Ben.

One option for fulfilling your duty as a private citizen is Ben Masel's Operation Read the Bill. Print a copy of the bill, find your Senators while they are home during this recess--the 4th of July recess, no less--and ask them if they've done their duty of reading the bill. Ask them if they know that they're about to redefine the term "WMD" to possibly include many weapons that the U.S. military uses. Ask them if they know they are about to cede even more of their power--the power of protecting us, their constituents, from unlawful surveillance--to the executive.

Finally, in case you missed it, Russ Feingold issued a terrific statement on the FISA mess earlier in the week.

The outpouring of support from you and across the country, in letters and e-mails and phone calls and the blogs has been absolutely fantastic. It really made a difference, as we mounted a challenge this week that almost nobody thought could work. We did stop this thing for now -- it is delayed until after the July 4th weekend.

I teased some of my colleagues...I said, we can celebrate the constitution on July 4th, and when we come back maybe you'll decide not to tear it up....I'm deeply grateful for your support.

As they said at FDL. this is what a real patriot sounds like. One can only hope it goes from his mouth to Obama's ears. It would be really nice to see this kind of bold leadership from our presumptive candidate. In the interim, you know what to do. We may still lose, but we could still win and in any event, it's best to go down fighting.

Update: Dan at Pruning Shears checks into comments to remind us that you can also become a citizen co-sponsor of the Dodd-Feingold Amendment to strip retroactive immunity from pending FISA legislation. I signed onto that a while ago, but if you haven't, it only takes a minute to do so.

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FISA finds a friend in the court

By Libby

This is a somewhat comforting turn of events. I've been following this case for a while and if memory serves, this group was targeted by the Bush regime's homeland surveillance team for allegedly funneling money to terrorists. In the course of the discovery process, as it wound it's way through the lower courts, the government inadvertently sent a document proving they had been illegally spying on the charity. When the mistake was discovered, federal agents stormed the charity and their lawyer's offices to retreive the document and any evidence of its existence, going as far as seizing computers. The White House has been trying to kill the case in court ever since but the federal district judge is not buying the government's arguments.

The judge, Vaughn R. Walker, the chief judge for the Northern District of California, made his findings in a ruling on a lawsuit brought by an Oregon charity. The group says it has evidence of an illegal wiretap used against it by the National Security Agency under the secret surveillance program established by President Bush after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

The Justice Department has tried for more than two years to kill the lawsuit, saying any surveillance of the charity or other entities was a “state secret” and citing the president’s constitutional power as commander in chief to order wiretaps without a warrant from a court under the agency’s program.

But Judge Walker, who was appointed to the bench by former President George Bush, rejected those central claims in his 56-page ruling. He said the rules for surveillance were clearly established by Congress in 1978 under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which requires the government to get a warrant from a secret court.

This is especially heartening because the same judge will be presiding over the about 40 civil cases against the telecoms that have been brought by various parties. Of course, if the fiasco of the so-called FISA compromise passes in the Senate, the judge's frame of mind won't mean squat since it will effectively force him to dismiss those cases but still, it's good to know there's at least one sane jurist left in the higher courts who is willing to put the rule of law above political fealty. There may be hope for us yet.

Update: Glenn has the legalese and a much fuller explanation of what's at stake in this vote.

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July 02, 2008

Drivers sacrificing safety for savings

By Libby

As the sticker shock at the gas pump continues to shake up the citizenry's sense of economic security, a new movement called hypermiling is growing. While its aims are noble and should in theory be contributing to safer roads, it appears to having the opposite effect as its practitioners take it to the extreme.

It’s a good idea, of course, to try to save on fuel. The problem comes when people who don’t know what they’re doing seize on what they think are the principles of hypermiling, leading them to adopt dangerous tactics, such as driving too slowly in traffic, tailgating larger vehicles or “drafting” (driving in another vehicle’s slipstream to reduce wind resistance) too closely, rolling through stop signs or making turns without using the brakes.

My first husband wasn't much for driving slowly but he was a early adopter on drafting off ten wheelers on the road all the back to the 1970s. I used to hate to let him drive because it was so terrifying to be staring down the tailpipes of a big rig at 75 or 80 mph. Never seemed worth the trade off to me.

The experts also suggest that you can acheive significant savings by turning off your AC and keeping the windows closed in the car. That doesn't sound worth the trade off either. The savings probably won't mean much if you pass out from heat prostration and go off the road.

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McCain tanking in Connecticut

By Libby

Having grown up in Connecticut, I always thought of it as a state with a rather conservative population. That may have changed in the forty years since I've lived there but it's clear that in the present day the Republican brand is mud.

A Quinnipiac University poll released today shows Democrat Barack Obama maintaining his wide lead over Republican John McCain among likely Connecticut voters for president. [...]

"Obama is winning among the demographic groups where he seemed to be having problems when he faced Sen. Clinton: white voters, especially whites with less than a college degree," said Douglas Schwartz, the poll's director.

As for McCain's new BFF, Joe Lieberman is clearly more an albatross than an asset.

Thirty-two percent of voters say they would be less likely to vote for McCain if Lieberman is his running mate, while only 14 percent said that including the Connecticut senator would make them more likely to support McCain.

It's also interesting to note that Clinton wouldn't add any apparent value to Obama's ticket.

Clinton is not as risky a choice for Obama in Connecticut as Lieberman would be for McCain. Twenty-five percent of voters say they would be less likely to vote for Obama with the New York senator on the ticket, while 18 percent were more likely.

Looking at these stats makes Obama's recent embrace of GOP rhetoric all the more puzzling. It could hardly be more apparent that the voters are ready for change and the more Barack shifts toward the Republican/media definition of center, the more he undermines the hope of the electorate that he will be the agent of it.

It was this message that built the momentum that won him the nomination in the first place. He's polling well now, but every step he takes back from the bold ground he staked out in the primaries, is a step towards the status quo that the electorate is rejecting.

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Last look at Gen. Clark

By Libby

I posted on this yesterday at the Detroit News but didn't get around to rounding up what appears to be the last of the controversy over Clark's statement on McCain's experience. Clark to his credit didn't back down despite being undercut by the Obama campaign's almost immediate embrace of McCain's unwarranted criticism. It may well be that Clark was encouraged to hold his ground by the outpouring of support from the public, particularly from other war veterans. Steve Audio collected some pertinent reactions from the latter group and also pointed us to a letter of support from VoteVets. I would urge everyone to encourage such courageous truthtelling by signing onto that letter.

Meanwhile, in the midst of their caterwauling about the "horrible insult" to McCain's war record, a McCain surrogate, aptly named Orson Swindle, took the opportunity to issue a actual attack on Clark's own military service.

On a conference call with reporters, Mr. Swindle pointed out that Senator McCain has been endorsed by scores of former military generals, admirals and prisoners of war. “General Clark probably wouldn’t get that much praise from this group,” Mr. Swindle said. “As high ranking as he is, his record in his last command was less than stellar.”

Clark's last command was as Supreme Allied Commander of NATO and as Zenpundit points out in comments to this post, he did receive some criticism during his tenure, but it's telling that Swindle avoids mentioning Clark's service in Vietnam where he commanded a large combat unit in Vietnam and led his men into a successful counteroffensive against a Viet Cong force while he was bleeding from four AK-47 wounds. McCain's supporter Swindle also fails to note that Clark graduated from the military academy at the top of his class while McCain barely made it to graduation at the very bottom of his own.

You can be certain, if Clark was speaking in support of McCain, they would be touting his superior credentials to the high heavens. But even putting all that aside, it's useful to remember that McCain himself repeatedly stated that military service shouldn't be used as a criteria in judging a candidate's fitness for the office of president. I guess the McCain campaign doesn't have to worry about the price of fueling their fleet of vehicles since the "Straight Talk Express" appears to be running on pure hypocrisy.

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July 01, 2008

What conservatism has wrought

By Libby

Since Cernig has already flagged Andrew Bacevich's excellent op-ed this morning, let me send you to Shaun Mullen who has a bullet list of his own showing how the GOP's "Contract with America," designed to combat the 'destructive' influence of the dirty 'effin hippies, worked out for us. Go to the link for the full list, but here's a few of my favorites.

* Tax cuts for the rich at the expense of everyone else, including programs like Head Start that actually work.
* Economic policies the reward Wall Street and punish Main Street.
* Despite 9/11, a flimsy homeland security apparatus and a military that is focused not on defense but projecting American might.
* An energy policy predicated on foreign oil and global warming denial.
* Using their bully pulpit not to lead and inspire but to feign piety, sow fear and wage culture wars.

As for us dirty, 'effin, pot-smoking hippies, they solved that problem by throwing most of us into the now largest prison system in the world. Quite a legacy, but hardly one to be proud of. When I look at these lists I wonder why anyone would be willing to publicly admit they support the Republican party. It's become the antithesis of everything that once defined what made this country great.

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Faith based federal funding

By Libby

I gagged on my coffee this morning when I read the initial, and unsurprisingly incorrect AP report on Obama's embrace of the Bush administration's faith-based initiative program, which of course you know was little more than thinly disguised funding for fundie-based quasi-PACs for the GOP . I was relieved to see the opposite was true. While Obama is willing to keep faith based organizations within the federal grant system, his approach is mindful of the separation of church and state.

That's what it will be when I'm President. I'll establish a new Council for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. The new name will reflect a new commitment. This Council will not just be another name on the White House organization chart - it will be a critical part of my administration. Now, make no mistake, as someone who used to teach constitutional law, I believe deeply in the separation of church and state, but I don't believe this partnership will endanger that idea - so long as we follow a few basic principles. First, if you get a federal grant, you can't use that grant money to proselytize to the people you help and you can't discriminate against them - or against the people you hire - on the basis of their religion. Second, federal dollars that go directly to churches, temples, and mosques can only be used on secular programs. And we'll also ensure that taxpayer dollars only go to those programs that actually work. With these principles as a guide, my Council for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships will strengthen faith-based groups by making sure they know the opportunities open to them to build on their good works.

While many may find any funding of faith-based groups objectionable, Steve Benen reminds us that our government has been funding projects for church programs that address poverty issues for many decades without blurring the separation clause. I see no compelling reason our tax dollars shouldn't be alloted to a program that serves the needy just because it's housed and staffed by members of a particular religious group as long as religious conversion is not a requirement of receiving the aid, nor of obtaining employment in such programs.

Churches often donate their space and their members donate their time to such things as homeless shelters and soup kitchens and churches are subject to the same economic pressures as any secular organization providing the same services. To deny them funding solely because of their religious beliefs would be just as discriminatory as denying funding to a secular organization because of its political position. In this case, I think Obama is right is reaching out to everyone and anyone who is willing to assist in humanitarian programs that fill a vital need of our ever growing numbers of impoverished citizens.

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June 30, 2008

Why McCain's war record matters

By Libby

I agree with Cernig that McCain's war record shouldn't be an issue in this election. Unfortunately, McCain himself has made it one by running as a "war hero" and that refrain has been echoed endlessly in the media narrative. His time in Vietnam is being touted as a credential, an example of his experience, a test he successfully passed that in some way is supposed to better qualify him to lead us in "a time of war." 

Just look at the tag line that his campaign is promoting these days. I've seen this one everywhere. "John McCain is proud of his record of always putting the country first — from his time in the Navy, in Vietnam and through to today." Talk about empty words. What does that even mean?

Today the talking heads on the teevee are in a dither over Gen. Wesley Clark's remark that riding in a fighter plane and getting shot down is not a qualification to be president. It's being painted as a 'swift boat' attack but in essence it's a simple statement of fact, not an attack on the quality of his service. Surviving five years in a cage in the jungles of Vietnam, is just not the same as making command decisions on how to prosecute a military conflict yet this is the experience McCain waves around on the campaign trail daily and uses to deflect any criticism of his current stance on military policy.

McCain in having adopted the war hero persona is the one making his military service an issue and I don't really see how we can avoid addressing it. As I said in my Detroit News post this morning, if we're to judge McCain's fitness for office by his military service, then shouldn't it be material that he graduated from the military academy at almost the very bottom of his class and he left the service and went into politics instead, when it became clear that he would never be promoted to admiral because his superiors judged he just didn't have what it takes to be a leader? And if he wasn't fit for a high ranking military command, why on earth should "his record" be used as a credential to prove his fitness for the highest office in our nation? If anything, it proves the opposite.

That's not attacking the quality of his service to our country, as the GOP swiftboaters did to Kerry. It's assessing the value of the credential McCain is using to proclaim his superior life experience, which in fact, in terms of the presidency, is effectively worthless.

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June 29, 2008

Shorter McCain: Trust me

By Libby

This one had me gagging tonight. McCain had the nerve to say Obama's word can't be trusted, unlike his own.

"You know, this election is about trust, and trusting people's word, and unfortunately apparently on several items, Sen. Obama's word cannot be trusted," McCain said in Louisville, Kentucky. The comment came as McCain criticized Obama for reversing positions on public financing and other issues.

And this on the heels of his having told a Latino audience how much he cherished "the contributions of Hispanic-Americans to the culture, economy and security of the country I have served all my adult life." He was pumping up his support of the immigration bill he has reversed on when he's talking to his fundie base.

I'm with Creature on this one. The hypocrisy is astounding. And the author's failure to point out that McCain has taken the reverse position is not only nauseating, it's inexcusably negligent.

And by the way, if you've been wondering why I've slacked off on McCain here, it's because I have a lot of blogs. I've been concentrating my bashing at the Detroit News.

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Obama shifts off-center

By Libby

I'm beginning to think I misjudged Obama. His recent swing to a Republican appeasing campaign style is leaving me thinking he's not as savvy as I thought he was. Perhaps he's forgotten that a large number of Clinton supporters defected to him because they were unhappy with Hillary's embrace of GOP style tactics and rhetoric? As usual, Glenn articulates well the problem with his "shift to center."

Beyond its obsolescence, this "move-to-the-center" cliché ignores the extraordinary political climate prevailing in this country, in which more than 8 out of 10 Americans believe the Government is fundamentally on the wrong track and the current President is one of the most unpopular in American history, if not the most unpopular. The very idea that Bush/Cheney policies are the "center," or that one must move towards their approach in order to succeed, ignores the extreme shifts in public opinion generally regarding how our country has been governed over the last seven years.

The most distinctive and potent -- one could even say exciting -- aspect of Obama's campaign had been his aggressive refusal to accept GOP pieties on National Security, his insistence that the GOP would lose -- and should lose -- debates over who is "stronger" and more "patriotic" and who will keep us more safe. The widely-celebrated foreign policy memo written by Obama's adviser, Samantha Power, heaped scorn on Washington's national security "conventional wisdom," emphasizing how weak and vulnerable it has made the U.S. When Obama took that approach, he appeared to be, and in fact was, resolute and unapologetic in defending his own views -- the very attributes that define "strength."

One of the biggest reasons I voted for Obama was because he had energized so many young people and new voters and I believed he would be able to keep them engaged through the general. Glenn is right. The reason he was so appealing to this demo was because he was willing to push back against the false memes. That apparent courage to defy the media narrative and redefine the middle was the embodiment of the "change they could believe in."

People like me will still vote for him, but the more Obama shrinks back from his former boldness and embraces the same old conventions, the more likely it becomes that he will lose the enthusiasm of those new voters. That's not what they signed up for and they may well just keep their wallets in their pockets and sit it out in November.

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Shredding the evidence

By Libby

I think I saw this list a while back but it bears repeating. Stolen from Angry Bear who has the source link.

Federal Contracts for Paper Shredding Services FY 2000-2008

Yr. Total $
2000 $452,807
2001 $456,235
2002 $752,799
2003 $1,018,191
2004 $2,329,466
2005 $2,980,375
2006 $3,068,877
2007 $3,463,610
2008 2Q * $1,148,718
*Note: FY 2008 only includes data up to first and part of second quarter.

Taken in context with the ongoing refusal of so many agencies in this administration to turn over their email archives it's not difficult to conclude that no one connected to this administration is particularly worried about being prosecuted for their crimes because they're blithely destroying the evidence in blatant disregard of the law. [via]

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Just the fax on FISA

By Libby

Dan reminds us in a longer post that should be read in full that the FISA vote is now set for July 8th and we need to taking advantage of the space to keep pounding at our Congresslizards to do the right thing.

The Senate is of particular concern because the FISA vote is set for July 8th. Tell your reps and Democratic leaders to strip telecom amnesty from it. Emails are fine, phone calls are better, faxes better still because they take up space in Congressional offices, and money is best of all because, well, it’s money. FaxZero allows you to send two free faxes per day, and Senator Obama’s fax number is (202) 228-4260. Feel free to send requests for a belated birthday present to America.

I'm sure you need no further instructions.

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Gay pride and peace

Human_peace_sign_608 By Libby

I've been slacking off all morning, but here's a timely link to live coverage of today's San Francisco gay pride parade which should be starting just about now if I calculated the time change correctly. It wasn't live yet when I checked a few minutes ago, but one assumes it will be soon.

Also, following up on my earlier post about the largest human peace symbol, as you can see in the photo, they assembled almost 6,000 people and it seems likely they will get certified as a world record. Still no YouTube of the event, but Marc A. Catone, who was there in the left branch, promises to send a link as soon as it's up. [Marc by the way may possibly be the biggest remaining Beatles fan in the US.]

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June 28, 2008

'Partriotic' Americans trust in God and Bush

By Libby

Bush's approval rating may be in the tank, but where most might see a compost pile, Bob in Fredericksburg, VA sees fertile ground for a marketing ploy. From his soapbox at Keep America Strong Vote George W. Bush 2008 he tells us "[m]illions of partriotic Americans need to know that we can write in George Bush for president in 2008" and for only $7.99 you too can have a bumper sticker to spread the good word.

Yes, we can vote for George W. Bush in 2008. We have the right to write in the name of our chosen candidate, regardless of whether or not he is officially on the ballot.

We know that George Bush was God's Candidate in 2000. We know that George Bush was God's candidate again in 2004. And George Bush has been God's president for the last 8 years. Trust in God and vote your faith. Keep America safe. Write-in George W. Bush for President in 2008.

He urges the faithful to forget about the worrisome details to "Stay the Course" and stick with God's President. But what about term limits, you may ask? Not a problem.

The important thing to understand about so-called "term limits" is that they are man's law, not God's Law. The God who parted the Red Sea is surely not worried about so-called "term limits". When you vote your faith you let Almighty God take care of the details.

Presidential term limits are not in the Bible. And they were not in our Constitution until added by an activist congress in 1951.

I'm thinking Bob may be a marketing genius. Anybody who is still deluded enough to be supporting Bush at this point is likely to buy an overpriced bumper sticker. If they believe Bush is God's answer, then I suppose it's not much of a stretch to believe God could intervene in the political process to allow their feckless hero to stay in office forever. Maybe he'll call a press conference and descend from the heavens with an executive order on stone tablets overturning the constitution -- or something. [h/t to Jules]

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Can we trade him for Joe?

By Libby

One of the more curious phenomena of this election are the party defections on both sides of the fence. The Democratic defectors get most of the attention, but the GOP defectors are much more interesting.

June 27 (Bloomberg) -- Senator Chuck Hagel declined to endorse his party's likely presidential nominee, John McCain, and said he would consider serving as secretary of defense in a Barack Obama administration.

Hagel, who last year considered a White House run as an independent, said he would remain a registered Republican: ``I don't know forever, but right now I'm not considering changing my registration.'' [...]

Hagel said his disagreement with the Bush administration and his view that the Republican Party ``has veered and shifted, and come loose of its moorings'' don't mean he has given up on the party.

The ``Republican Party is bigger than George Bush or Dick Cheney,'' Hagel said. ``I'm an Eisenhower Republican and the party today is not an Eisenhower Republican Party. Will it come back? I don't know.''

I guess this one doesn't quite count as a defection yet, but I would gladly give the GOP Joe Lieberman in trade for Chuck. Hagel is a much better Democrat than Lieberman ever was, or could hope to be. Heck, there's been times during Iraq debates I almost forgot that Hagel wasn't one of us.

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June 27, 2008

House Committee Chairs push for accountability

By Libby

It would have been more helpful if we could have seen this happen two years ago, if not seven, but really, it's never too late to demand accountability and considering that it will probably take years to purge all the incompetent crony appointments made by Bush, Wexler's new bill is bound to come in handy down the line.

The bill, known as the Government Accountability Office Improvement Act of 2008, insists the GAO have access to pertinent documents it is entitled to for conducting investigations. It also reasserts the right of the GAO to challenge any refusal of documents in court, responding to a district court decision that favored the office of Vice President Cheney in withholding energy policy planning documents from the GAO.

In a statement, Rep. Waxman said "GAO needs unfettered access to federal agencies to help Congress identify waste, fraud, and abuse in federal programs. This bill says that federal agencies and the White House can't withhold records that GAO is entitled to review."

It occurs to me that if we were able to uncover the full extent of corruption within the Bush regime, it would probably tie up the courts for decades. That's unlikely to happen but still, it would certainly be satisfying to see even a handful of the worst perps brought to justice in the end.

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Big Brother - Eyes in the Sky

Big_brother By Libby

While we're busy fighting off FISA surveillance the White House has been quietly pursuing an even more disturbing domestic spying program that's said to be capable of taking very high-resolution photographs of buildings, vehicles and people.

A Bush administration program to expand domestic use of Pentagon spy satellites has aroused new concerns in Congress about possible civil-liberties abuses.

On Tuesday, the House Appropriations Committee approved an amendment denying money for the new domestic intelligence operation—cryptically named the "National Applications Office"—until the Homeland Security secretary certifies that any programs undertaken by the center will "comply with all existing laws, including all applicable privacy and civil liberties standards."

Considering the administration's track record, I think we can safely assume that no matter what assurances they give, the chances are great that they will simply ignore the laws and do whatever the hell they want. Certainly, the DHS spokesmouth issues the all too familiar standard Bushspeak.

But Russ Knocke, a Homeland Security spokesman, told Newsweek that fears about the program are unfounded. "We've repeatedly met with Congress to answer questions about the NAO," he said. "As we have said, the purpose of the NAO is not to expand existing legal authorities. Rather, it will allow the government to better and more efficiently prioritize the use of scarce resources in support of major disasters, homeland security efforts and perhaps—in the future—law enforcement. We have also been clear that we would brief Congress before moving to support law enforcement. Efforts to further stall the NAO are misguided and keep us from making the best use of overhead imagery for a number of public safety and security missions."

Just as with every other Fourth Amendment breaching 'security program' this administration has foisted off on us from the Patriot Act onward, they need this to keep us safe from bad people and horrible disasters and the potential to use it to get around longstanding legal safeguards for use in ordinary law enforcement is so remote as to be barely worth mentioning. Just look at all the terrorists they caught under the Patriot Act and that was never used to circumvent the law.... oh wait. And how convenient that unlike that messy FISA datamining operation, existing case law seems to allow aerial surveillance without a warrant. Not that they would dream of using it for such purposes...

It's like watching a child grow up. If you see him every day, you celebrate milestones but you don't really see the incremental changes so much as someone who only sees the kid once a year and is amazed at how much he's grown. And just as you wake up one day and wonder how that darling little tyke suddenly became a surly teenager almost unnoticed, if we allow these programs to stealthily proliferate we'll wake up one day to a full grown police state. By then it will be too late to stop it.

I'm glad to see the funding blocked for now. I would like even more to see some legislation banning the use of the program for ordinary law enforcement, before it gets off the ground. [h/t to our invaluable researcher, Kat]

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June 26, 2008

Breaking - FISA vote back on hold

By Libby

Funny, I was just about to bitch about this stall on the housing bill when I saw the breaking news that the same tactic just bought us another delay on the FISA debacle.

Objections by Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) will push back an overhaul of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) until after lawmakers return in July, Democratic leaders said Thursday. Feingold is strongly opposed to language that would likely give telephone companies that participated in warrantless surveillance retroactive immunity from lawsuits.

"It doesn't look like it," Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said of taking up the FISA bill this week. "Sen. Feingold wants additional time and would like to postpone it until after the Fourth of July."

Good for Russ. This isn't the first time I wished he was the one running for president. It's certainly heartening to see that at least one Democrat knows how to play the game by the GOP rules. Although to be fair, I should note that Dodd tried this tactic previously with a hold on the FISA bill way back when but at that time, Reid just ignored him.

I'm not sure what the difference is this time although I'd like to think it's that progressives have finally convinced the Democratic 'leadership' that we aren't as easily fooled by procedural kabuki as they thought we were and we don't forget betrayals -- ever.

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Fear Watch

By Libby

This looks like an interesting project. HuffPo, noting that McCain's pretty much got nothing to offer but fear, has started a new page called FearWatch08.

But things are always less scary when the lights are on -- so throughout the campaign HuffPost will be conducting a FearWatch, keeping our eyes peeled for the lowest, most base attempts to scare voters into voting their fears, and collecting them on a FearWatch08 page.

And we'd like your help. So be on the lookout for examples of fear-mongering in speeches, in press releases, in local TV spots, and in direct mail come-ons -- and send any you come across to fearwatch08@huffingtonpost.com so we can add them to our collection.

Sounds like it could be a good resource if it takes off and if nothing else, it would be good to have a catch page for the little items that might not get blogged, or even noticed, otherwise.

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Obama fails completely on FISA

By Libby

Considering all the political costs involved, I was willing to give Obama something of a pass on not leading the fight against the FISA capitulation but now he's gone too far in promoting the false narrative to excuse this destruction of the rule of law.

"The bill has changed. So I don't think the security threats have changed, I think the security threats are similar. My view on FISA has always been that the issue of the phone companies per se is not one that overrides the security interests of the American people."

What a steaming crock. This bill has not changed for the better and he specifically promised to support a filibuster. It's beyond insulting that he seeks to justify his walk back on that promise by spewing the same fear mongering talking points the White House has used to justify every constitutional breach of the last seven years. Since I'm late to the party and John Cole and I have been pretty much in sync on this all week, I'll just quote his post.

Before, when he accepted the compromise but promised to fight for removing immunity, it was one thing. This is a total collapse and a rapid abandonment of principle. From a voting perspective, nothing really changes. McCain is for it, Hillary would have been, now Obama is. Obama is still the better of the three on a wider range of issues.

As to whether I like it, no. I could understand the politics of supporting the filibuster and voting for the bill, but I don’t understand or accept getting out in front of this piece of shit and giving us more of the same “You can’t handle the truth.” It is a craven capitulation, and failure to support the filibuster tomorrow really is deciding the politics of fear trump “change.” We all know there are threats- the question is one of constitutionality and the executive Presidency. We are against it.

This was a test, and Obama is failing. It is of little solace that McCain refuse to show up and Clinton would have, too.

Avedon adds another important point.

Obama doesn't understand that the 4th Amendment is national security, and he's prepared to throw it out for some illusory Republican-defined "toughness" because he hasn't got the guts to actually be tough in defense of our country. When it comes to pushing Overton's Window back into some less distorted position, Obama is not your guy. (Yes, you still should vote for the Democratic nominee, but you should put all of your other efforts into doing things like getting people into Congress who will try to keep him in line - and doing things to make them want to keep him from these continuous forays into right-wing territory. You were always going to have to do that, no matter who the nominee was.)

And NTodd puts it into historical context and reminds us that total destruction of the rule of law that served us well for almost two and half centuries is just as devastating when it happens incrementally.

This nation survived an invasion of a superpower in the early 19th century when the country was young and rather defenseless. It survived a civil war that killed more Americans than every other war we've fought. It survived the War to End All Wars. It survived the most destructive conflict this planet has ever seen. It survived the Cold War and all its attendant small wars. And now, when faced with box cutters, we decide that our civil liberties are a burden, that the Constitution is a scrap of paper, that our ideals are quaint?

As Cernig noted earlier, FDL has a list of the 15 Senators who voted against cloture and explains the procedural machinations that will make it possible for the remaining turncoats to appear to vote no on the bill when in fact they already endorsed it with this vote. It appears our only hope is for Reid to keep it off the floor and that may be worth pursuing, though unlikely to succeed. Also, for those who want talking points in order to convey the importance of this issue, for whatever it's worth at this point, Avedon has a good post explaining FISA in simple terms.

Ultimately, we've been had by the Democrats again and we're left in a bad place for November. There is no other viable choice but to vote for Obama no matter how badly he disappoints us. The alternatives are simply too horrible to contemplate. It appears he doesn't care and will be pursuing the 50 plus one percent option in trying to woo over the pee-stained pants crowd to gain the White House. That may work for him, but he pursues it at his peril. The young people and progressives who enthusiastically supported him are not so easily fooled and he will lose more of that enthusiasm every time he sells us out to pander to the so-called center. I know he's lost mine. I'll still vote for him but I'm not going to put the energy into promoting him that I would have, had he only shown some real courage here.

However, we can and should make a point of turning our energies to the down ticket races. We need to oust every one of those 80 imbeciles who find political expedience more important than the health of our republic. The only way we're going to get a change we can believe in, is to change who's running the show. If we manage to unseat enough of them, the rest will take us more seriously in the next fight.

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June 25, 2008

FISA fight still on

By Libby

After the abysmal capitulation in the House, it's looking bleak for a victory on FISA but it appears all the noise we've been making will at least stall it for a little longer. Digby reports:

Senator Reid just informed his colleagues on the Senate floor that, because of all the other bills in the queue (like the housing bill, and the Iraq supplemental), FISA may not get a vote until after the July 4 holiday recess.

It may be that it will even be delayed beyond that into August with all the other pressing matters on the calendar. Read the rest of Digby's post to get a list of the ways our privacy is threatened by our complicit Congresslizards.

Meanwhile, my posting has been off on account of a perfect storm of medical problems, so let me recap a couple of related developments I didn't get to in the last couple of days. Glenn has an excellent post about the ongoing deceit coming out of the House in attempting to paint the "compromise" as some kind of victory for oversight. As always, read the whole thing, but here's a couple of key grafs.

Just as Nancy Pelosi ran to Time to justify her support for the FISA bill, Steny Hoyer yesterday spouted his justifications to The Politico and said this:

In an interview with Politico on Monday, Hoyer called the FISA legislation a "significant victory" for the Democratic Party -- one that neutralized an issue Republicans might have been able to use against Democrats in November while still, in his view, protecting the civil liberties of American citizens.

In other words, Democrats achieved a "significant victory" because -- by giving Republicans everything they demanded -- Republicans are no longer able to criticize Democrats on this issue. What a shrewd strategy: "if we comply with all their demands, then they can't criticize us for anything." That's the Democratic Party's plan for winning, according to Hoyer.

Digby again on Steny Hoyer and the Politico's fluffer of a piece they did the other day.

What a guy. Clearly, those who demand that the party should hew closer to the positions that put it in power should be happy to have such a "masterful" leader who will sell out their most cherished principles in order to make a deal with people who would like to turn the US into a police state.

Do read the whole Politico article, which doesn't bother to spend even one paragraph describing why people were opposed to the bill. For that matter it doesn't bother to tell us why the other side was so adamant that it get passed either. The fact that it wasn't some typical congressional agenda item which might naturally be "horse traded" but rather a matter of fundamental constitutional principle isn't worth mentioning. Even the fact that the whole thing stinks to high heaven of financial corruption gets no mention.

Speaking of that financial corruption here's some numbers on telecom contributions to the Congresslizards that rolled over. They average close to $10,000 each in political payola from telecom lobbyists, with Steny Hoyer coming in at $29,000 and Rahm Emanuel clocking $28,000 prior to the sellout.

Jane has the info on who to harrass. You know what to do.

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June 22, 2008

Dems fail on more than FISA

By Libby

With all the attention focused on FISA in the last couple of days, there's a couple of other matters of some import that received short shrift. For one the testimony of Scott McLellan before the House Judiciary Committee. Emptywheel was there and came home underwhelmed. See the post for the quotes but her summation says it all.

Well there you have it--confirmation of two things we've known all along. Rove is a liar, and Cheney an oil-hungry war-monger. At least we accomplished that much.

And I didn't see much about the rubberstamping of the next round of Iraq funding. Here's the list of those who voted no in the House. You might want to respond appropriately.

My guy is on the list so I'll be sending him a thank you note. I feel lucky that I ended up in one of few, if not only districts in NC with a decent House Rep since I made the move here by necessity more than choice. I wish I could say the same for my useless Senators.

I don't remember where I got these links but probably from Avedon who is celebrating her 23rd wedding anniversary with the fabulous Mr. Sideshow. I'm sure I speak for my fellow Newshoggers in wishing them both a hearty congratulations and wishes for just as many more to come, and then some.

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June 21, 2008

World's largest human peace sign

By Libby

They're going to establish the Guinness World record tomorrow for the largest human peace sign at 3:00pm in Ithaca, NY. They're expecting thousands.

The Ithaca Festival, a 30-year tradition celebrating "our community and the creative artist in each of us," has embraced the idea as part of its "I Am Ithaca" theme for 2008. Trevor Dougherty, a sophomore at Ithaca High School, is organizing the event. Dubbed "Ithaca's YouTuber" by the Ithaca Journal last year, he will also aid in the creation and web syndication of a viral video documenting the event. One of his past videos, a video for peace, has received worldwide attention. You can view it here.

Sounds like a fun event and with no official record haven't been recorded, if you live near Ithaca -- you could help set one. I don't live nearby myself, but I like Trevor's work so I'll be looking forward to the YouTube.

[Post <a href="http://www.newshoggers.com/blog/2008/06/gay-pride-and-p.html">updated here</a>.]

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Stages of grief over FISA

By Libby [Updated below]

Tell you the truth, I can never remember exactly what the stages of grief are, but having spent the last 24 hours or so sorting through my reaction to Obama's embrace of this very flawed bill, it kind of feels like a bad breakup of a relationship you thought was sound until the moment your partner dropped the bomb on it. It's not even that I didn't half expect it, the signs were certainly there, but I guess I was just hoping for better.

The buzz of course is ongoing and the response has ranged widely. John Cole reminds us that it's not just about the netroots and my man Capt Fogg ponders whether Obama really did show leadership here, just not the kind of leadership opponents of the bill wanted. I have some sympathy for that view. To the extent that I operate outside of the Blogtopian bubble at the Detroit News, where a large portion of the readership is if not low info, at best only mildly informed on many issues, I've found FISA was a hard sell. Telecom immunity is comprehensible to them but the larger issues of surveillance and the constitutional issues involved just didn't alarm them as I thought it should. The Bush regime propaganda mill has rather successfully sold the need for the program and firmly planted the meme that it prevents terrorism somehow. So while it's true that there is no great constituency clamoring for the FISA program, neither is there as large a constituency as we might think clamoring against it.

McJoan thinks Obama's "support of the remainder of the bill is disappointing, but that would be in large part offset if he can help kill immunity." I'm not sure that's enough to offset his embrace of the whole narrative with me. He basically is reinforcing the false meme that this expanded presidential spying power is necessary for national security. It's simply not and it's destructive in a very deep way to our constitutional rights.

However, if we put in the context of where we started in this fight, which was the horrible bill Congress passed last August, and the subsequent tries to slip in reauthorization of that abomination, we succeeded in delaying the inevitable for a very long time. If Obama does step up to at least prevent telecom immunity from passing, then we're better off than we were when we started. At least we preserved an avenue for accountability that could ultimately lead to abolishing the whole sorry expansion of power when, and if, the true extent of the lawbreaking is revealed.

It's not that I'm not angry about how Obama handled this but I think I'm reaching acceptance. As I said many times before, Obama is not going to save us. He's a professional politican, the same as any other. He may profess loftier goals. Heck he may even believe in them, but in the end he's going to play the game by the current rules until he wins control of the board. Whether he will then change the rules remains to be seen but this isn't the first time he's disappointed me and I feel certain it won't be the last.

So the question becomes, what is the appropriate response? I don't think it's fair to expect him to singlehandedly wrest a better bill out of the Congress. In a rare disagreement with Digby, I don't think he's the presumptive leader of the party just yet and despite his high profile, there are hundreds of votes against his one. On the other hand I think criticism is valid and necessary. It was a horrible cave-in and we should press Obama to take a better stance, but I wonder if it won't be more productive to couch that criticism overall as a Democratic party failure rather than focus it too much on solely on Obama.

An approach Glenn Greewald is certainly taking. The first ad against against Steny Hoyer is a good start.

Update: Dan has the list of yes votes in the House. You know what to do.

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Much ado about public financing

By Libby

I've been offline for the better part of the last couple of days so I'm just catching up on the news. Most of it is more than a little depressing but I found the shirt rending over the demise of the public financing system of presidential campaigns rather amusing. The NYT practically accused Obama of single handedly murdering the system.

Glaringly missing in the prevailing narrative was any mention of McCain's ongoing and illegal gaming of the system. For those who haven't been following along TPM has a short video explanation about how McCain pulled a fast one, opting in when his campaign was broke, and then allegedly opting out when he didn't need the money. The problem with the latter is the FEC hasn't authorized the opt-out so McCain may well have been breaking the law for months now and the media offers little more than a collective yawn. Guess they're too busy figuring out ways to spin McSame's ongoing gaffes on policy as 'straight talk' instead of pure cluelessness.

The other prevailing talking point is accusing Obama of reneging on 'his promise' to opt in on public financing. McCain's favorite news outlet Politico publishes what they appear to consider some kind of damning timeline that includes the entry: "Obama again vows to “aggressively pursue” a publicly financed campaign." That's a far cry from signing a blood oath that he would take public campaign funds from the system and really, considering his huge success in amassing a war chest derived largely from small donations from ordinary citizens, isn't he actually keeping that pledge? Effectively, Obama is using public finance in its purest form. He just cut out the middleman, in this case being the government. I'm not seeing how that's such a bad thing.

Besides, does anybody believe there's a politician alive that would opt into a system that restricts their spending if they came up with a more successful model of fundraising as Obama has created? It's not like we've seen restricted spending as a result of the govenment backed system. In the 2000 campaign Bush spent $186 million to win his first term in 2000, while Gore spent $120 million and in 2004 Bush spent a total of $306.3 million while Kerry spent $241.7 million. "These figures do not include spending by the political parties or advocacy groups on the presidential election."

Public financing is a good idea that has so far been rather badly executed. Insofar as it establishes limits on deep pocket contributions, it should be continued but it's got a long way to go before it becomes an effective tool in limiting the influence of special interests on our politicians or their campaigns. If Obama is somehow responsible for its demise in its current form, I don't really see it as great cause for mourning, much less condemnation.

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June 19, 2008

'Crap cannon' on tap for Denver

By Libby

So far, it's a just a rumor but activists planning rallies outside the Democratic convention are concerned that a crowd control weapon commonly known as the 'crap cannon', so named for its rumored ability to loosen the bowels, might be deployed by the police against them. That aspect may be overstated but it is clearly a metabolically disruptive weapon intended to affect large groups of people indiscriminately. Certainly a problem as there will surely be children and elderly people in the crowds and anyone just passing by and not involved in the protests would also be affected.

Cohen, who described Brown Note as a “sonic weapon used to disrupt people’s equilibrium,” cited eyewitness accounts of its use during free-trade agreement protests in Miami in 2003.

“I think these weapons were mostly intended for military use and so their use for dealing with innocent protesters seems highly inappropriate,” he said. “The idea that they might be field testing them on people who are doing nothing more than exercising their first amendment rights is disturbing.”

Even more disturbing is the " 'Active Denial System' or 'ADS,' a ray gun used to send high levels of microwave frequencies that cause a burning sensation the skin." This has been under development for some time now and it's also being rumored it will tested in Denver prior to being approved for use in Iraq.

It begins to sound less like crowd control and more like practice for martial law all the time. One can only hope these rumors are unfounded but with a $50 million federal grant for security, half of which the city intends to spend on equipment, they're obviously going to be on the streets with serious firepower. This purchase hardly made a dent in those funds.

Denver police are stocking up on guns that fire a pepper spray-like substance instead of bullets - a less-lethal weapon used to disperse crowds - in advance of the Democratic National Convention. The department recently ordered 88 Mark IV launchers and projectiles at a cost "in the low six figures," the company that makes the weapons stated in a news release Monday.

So what do you suppose they're buying with the rest of that money? The city refuses to tell for 'security reasons.'  Sound familiar?

One wonders why they're anticipating so much mayhem in the first place. I don't know what groups are planning actions, but we've have dozens of demonstrations in the last four years without any large incidents of mass violence. Our law enforcement system is slowly being transformed from a public protection service into a quasi-military control force being used as a weapon against the citzenry. It's not good.

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He doesn't speak for me

By Libby

I was wondering if I was the only one who had never even heard of the Media Bloggers Association that is allegedly negotiating with AP on behalf of bloggers. I'm not. Neither had Teresa, but she's done some digging and tells us at considerable length who the heck they are. Apparently it's mostly one guy, Robert Cox, on an ego trip who has somehow convinced the clueless MSM powerbrokers he's a real player. [via]

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June 18, 2008

Congress funds police corruption program

By Libby

Bill Piper of Drug Policy Alliance brings the bad news. Congress has once again funded one of the worst programs in the war on some drugs.

Congress has rubber stamped (yet again) the Byrne Justice Assistance Grant program, a federal law enforcement grant program that is feeding the war on drugs and fueling racial disparities, police corruption, and civil rights abuses. The U.S. House Judiciary Committee voted unanimously today to renew the controversial but politically popular program. The Senate has already voted to renew the program.

The Bryne Grants should rightly be called a corruption slush fund for prohibitionists. Some of the worse law enforcement corruption scandals have arisen out of projects directly funded by this program, the most famous being the Tulia scandal where 16% of the black people in one small Texas community were jailed for drug violations based solely on the bogus testimony of a single informant. They were finally released four years after the fact, when the informant's deceit was finally proven and the wrongly accused received a small settlement.

Piper doesn't give the monetary amount of the new funding but program throws away hundreds of millions annually and the grants are freely distributed with little to no oversight. Further, there is no statistical evidence that they have been effective in reducing the amount of drugs on the street and much evidence that the task forces have contributed greatly to the overcrowding of our jail with non-violent offenders who are mostly people of color.

The money would be far more effectively spent if they abolished this program and for instance funded drug counselors for public schools instead.

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The helicopters come back

By Libby

Long time readers know my history with odd helicopter sightings. For those who don't suffice it to say, in the three and a half years I've lived here in NC, I've had a lot of them, ever since I was visited early on by someone I'm sure was a federal agent of some kind.

It's been a while since I last saw one, but they made up for it today with the five helicopters that flew right over my McPartment early this morning. I just went to the nearby convenience store this afternoon and darn if all five didn't pop up over the tree line again. I didn't think too much of it. It being election season, I'm figuring with that many aircraft together they could have been ferrying some candidate around.

The really odd part was that I went straight home within ten minutes. Moments after I arrived, a single helicopter buzzed straight over my deck, and then circled the perihery of the McCompound for a couple of minutes, still within sight of the deck. Then it came in and circled right over my deck -- twice -- before it flew off. Weird.

Again I'm sure there's a reasonable explanation for this, but since I've been logging the sightings right along, it seems worth mentioning.

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A meme is born

Internet_traditions_three_4

By Libby

I couldn't resist. John Cole explains. More here. There's even a new blog devoted to it already.

My other contribution to the meme at The Impolitic. Both covers courtesy of speech bubbler.

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June 17, 2008

FISA sellouts under fire

By Libby

Glenn Greenwald has all the details and is updating regularly but I'll give you the condensed version. The Democratic "leadership" in both houses are about to sell us out to the telecoms with a classic cave-in 'compromise' that effectively gives the White House everything they demanded on the FISA bill.

The Democrats think they have us over a barrel. They know we're going to vote for the Democratic ticket. There is no other choice. But they also think this gives them license to pocket all that lovely money the telecoms have been pouring inside the Beltway and deliver some cute kabuki in lieu of keeping their promise to hold this adminstration accountable.

The script to this delightful sellout show calls for much grand rhetoric about having the courts decide, when in fact it will prevent the court from ruling on the legality of the domestic spying program. The major architects of the sellout bill, will first ensure there are enough votes to pass it and then boldly vote against it themselves. They will then tearfully tell us there was nothing they could do and rush backstage into the waiting arms of the telecom lobbyists, who will no doubt be there to deliver their final sums of payola.

Russ Feingold and Chris Dodd have already issued a joint statement vehemently condemning this "compromise" but they're unlikely to muster enough votes to stop it. It will probably pass. The 'leadership' believes they have nothing to lose.

Glenn has other ideas and is already organizing a broad coalition willing to join in to preserve "basic constitutional liberties against the ongoing erosion by the Beltway establishment." They're assembling as you read this. This is the beginning of what will be a long range campaign to save what's left of our civil rights, but the immediate goal is make chief architect of the sellout, Steny Hoyer, and a handful of the enablers pay a heavy price for betraying us. Details will be announced soon but the first thing they need is money.

For the moment, contributions can be made here. All the money raised will be spent exclusively on ad campaigns aimed at the short-term vulnerabilities of those in Congress responsible for delivering this indescribably tyrannical package of surveillance powers to the President and the accompanying corrupt gift to lawbreaking telecoms.

Even if you can't give money, please spread the word.

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Some might call it corporate-miltary corruption

By Libby

Some might call it a crime, but at the Pentagon this is called business as usual. An army official, who recently retired, comes forward with an all too common tale of privatized corruption in military contracting. Unsurprisingly, it involves Pentagon fav, KBR -- a former subsidary of Halliburton. We're not talking pocket change here, even by government standards.

Charles M. Smith oversaw the contracts and reveals today he was removed from his position after refusing to pay substantial undocumented charges from the corporate behemoth.

Army auditors had determined that KBR lacked credible data or records for more than $1 billion in spending, so Mr. Smith refused to sign off on the payments to the company. “They had a gigantic amount of costs they couldn’t justify,” he said in an interview. “Ultimately, the money that was going to KBR was money being taken away from the troops, and I wasn’t going to do that.”

But he was suddenly replaced, he said, and his successors — after taking the unusual step of hiring an outside contractor to consider KBR’s claims — approved most of the payments he had tried to block.

The Army says they had no choice but to cave into KBR's extortion.

Army officials denied that Mr. Smith had been removed because of the dispute, but confirmed that they had reversed his decision, arguing that blocking the payments to KBR would have eroded basic services to troops. They said that KBR had warned that if it was not paid, it would reduce payments to subcontractors, which in turn would cut back on services.

Got that? This patriotic supplier on the privatization gravy train was willing to starve the troops in order to get their blackmail money. Hell, I bet even the mafia has higher moral standards than that. But of course, the administration having been burned by this highway robbery will now find a new contractor to deliver the services, won't they? Nope.

While it was previously reported that the Army had held up large payments to the company and then switched course, Mr. Smith has provided a glimpse of what happened inside the Army during the biggest showdown between the government and KBR. He is giving his account just as the Pentagon has recently awarded KBR part of a 10-year, $150 billion contract in Iraq.

Leaving aside the insanity of continuing to subsidize this privatized corruption, I'm wondering just why the Pentagon is entering into ten year contracts on Iraq when it's not at all clear the next president will be willing to stay that long. Either they know something we don't know about those 'non-permanent' bases, or this is one of the most blatant looting of tax dollars in the history of our country. Probably both. I imagine the buyout provisions should the occupation end in less than ten years is more than generous.

Hilzoy has more on the privatization angle.

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June 16, 2008

Nunn-sense

By Libby

By now you've probably heard that Obama released a list of new hires for the national campaign and most notable was Hillary's former campaign manager Patti Solis Doyle, who will be acting as chief of staff for the as yet unnamed VP candidate. I saw a lot of speculation about what it all means in terms of Hillary's chance at being asked to fill that slot on the ticket. I'm in the camp that thinks this hire pretty much rules that out and judging by the reaction from the Clinton loyalists, who are not happy campers, it would appear we're correct in that assessment.

As regular readers know, I didn't think Obama/Clinton would be a good ticket, so I'm not unhappy to see this development. Otherwise, I haven't had strong feelings about it, until I read Chris Bowers post. Chris makes a pretty good case on why he thinks Sam Nunn is now becoming a serious contender. I hope he's wrong. It would be a disaster as Chris sums up well himself.

Putting a 70-year old, white, southern, corporate dude on the ticket would almost entirely wipe away any notion that Obama is a "change" candidate. Sam Nunn is more status quo than David Broder. He is the least "change" candidate one can find.

I find it difficult to believe Obama wouldn't realize that as well, so I'm reserving my panic. I'm betting on Obama ignoring the speculation, along with the billions of bytes of free advice currently clogging the intertubes and naming someone that no one expected.

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Nothing matters without verified voting

By Libby

Via Avedon comes a story about a touchscreen voting machine screwup so convoluted I can barely follow the particulars about what happened but the bottom line is the results of this vote are in no way guaranteed to reflect the will of the voters.

There was probably no nefarious attempt at sabotage here. It appears to be simple human error, but that's the point. The machines are operated by humans who are prone to make errors in programming and mistakes in judgment. And this was just a minor local election but the ramifications for November, when it will really matter, can't be overstated.

No system is perfect and someone can always find a way to commit fraud if they're determined but still, we need a tally that the public will have in confidence in as accurately reflecting their votes. I think paper ballots are our best bet, even if they use an optiscan system to tally. At least there's a hard copy to hand count in the event glitches arise.

I'm thinking now would be better than later to push our legislators into decertifying touchscreens altogether and mandating paper balloting for everyone. Having a publicly accepted vote is more important than a instant tally. Besides, the only people who really care about instant results are political junkies and the media.

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June 15, 2008

The real legacy of liberation

By Libby

I've always thought the most dangerously ignored issue in any military conflict our country has engaged in has been the toxic weaponry that modern technology provided to more efficiently kill 'our enemies.' In Vietnam, it was Agent Orange, whose effects are still being felt in that country today. In contemporary military operations, we have even deadlier weapons of mass destruction at our disposal and as always, the toxins don't discriminate between the innocent and those who truly wish to do us harm.

FALLUJAH, Jun 12 (IPS) - Babies born in Fallujah are showing illnesses and deformities on a scale never seen before, doctors and residents say. The new cases, and the number of deaths among children, have risen after "special weaponry" was used in the two massive bombing campaigns in Fallujah in 2004.

After denying it at first, the Pentagon admitted in November 2005 that white phosphorous, a restricted incendiary weapon, was used a year earlier in Fallujah. In addition, depleted uranium (DU) munitions, which contain low-level radioactive waste, were used heavily in Fallujah. The Pentagon admits to having used 1,200 tonnes of DU in Iraq thus far. [...]

"Many babies were born with major congenital malformations," a paediatric doctor, speaking on condition of anonymity, told IPS. "These infants include many with heart defects, cleft lip or palate, Down's syndrome, and limb defects."

The doctor added, "I can say all kinds of problems related to toxic pollution took place in Fallujah after the November 2004 massacre."

The evidence is all anecdotal since no studies have been conducted and medical records aren't allowed to be released but the numbers suggest this not mere conjecture. Even worse, the weapons don't exempt our own troops from the toxic fallout.

Many doctors believe DU to be the cause of a severe increase in the incidence of cancer in Iraq, as well as among U.S. veterans who served in the 1991 Gulf War and through the current occupation.

Again, there have been few studies and the Pentagon has done its best to suppress and deny what evidence exists that our own troops pay this long range cost that is not visible to the naked eye. But again, the anecdotal evidence is strong.

For myself, I've known veterans of both Vietnam and the first Gulf War, both as friends and as patrons of the VFW where I tended bar for two years. I watched many of them deteriorate before my eyes and attended far too many funerals of once robust men who died untimely deaths from mysterious maladies beyond the drug and alcohol abuse fueled by PTSD.

It's a sorry legacy and when we tally up the cost of war, it seems to me to be very wrong not to include these souls among the war dead, even though they died far from the battlefields and long after the fighting was over.

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Internet in danger

By Libby

Internet neutrality is one of those unsexy issues that I've found difficult to interest people in, mainly because they don't seem understand what's at stake when you allow the corporations to set up virtual toll booths on the information highway. I did a long series of posts on it at least a year ago at the Detroit News and encountered a surprising lack of concern, along with active resistance to requiring neutrality by regulation. Our relentless researcher Kat, sends me this link today that perhaps will make the importance of neutrality more apparent to the naysayers.

Some people use the Internet simply to check e-mail and look up phone numbers. Others are online all day, downloading big video and music files.

For years, both kinds of Web surfers have paid the same price for access. But now three of the country’s largest Internet service providers are threatening to clamp down on their most active subscribers by placing monthly limits on their online activity.

Time Warner has already set up a test metering system in one Texas city as a dry run for the concept. Comcast and AT&T are poised to follow in their footsteps.

In that trial, new customers can buy plans with a 5-gigabyte cap, a 20-gigabyte cap or a 40-gigabyte cap. Prices for those plans range from $30 to $50. Above the cap, customers pay $1 a gigabyte. Plans with higher caps come with faster service.

The corporations say average users won't be affected but they define average as someone who "merely send e-mail messages, check movie times and read the news." The stats on what they consider bandwidth hogging are more telling.

Streaming an hour of video on Hulu, which shows programs like “Saturday Night Live,” “Family Guy” and “The Daily Show With Jon Stewart,” consumes about 200 megabytes, or one-fifth of a gigabyte. A higher-quality hour of the same content bought through Apple’s iTunes store can use about 500 megabytes, or half a gigabyte.

A high-definition episode of “Survivor” on CBS.com can use up to a gigabyte, and a DVD-quality movie through Netflix’s new online service can eat up about five gigabytes. One Netflix download alone, in fact, could bring a user to the limit on the cheapest plan in Time Warner’s trial in Beaumont.

Even services like Skype and Vonage that use the Internet to transmit phone calls could help put users over the monthly limits.

Maybe I just travel in different circles than Comcast's average user, but what they call hoggers looks more like average use to me. I'd say this is another bait and switch; like when they promised cable rates would drop if we allowed media consolidation in the first place. Of course, the telecoms deny any nefarious intent.

But the companies imposing the caps say that their actions are only fair. People who use more network capacity should pay more, Time Warner argues. And Comcast says that people who use too much — like those who engage in file-sharing — should be forced to slow down.

Time Warner also frames the issue in financial terms: the broadband infrastructure needs to be improved, it says, and maybe metering could pay for the upgrades.

I love that qualifier maybe. It leaves them free to raise the rates also. And one wonders why they can't pay for their own damn upgrades. Time Warner's fourth quarter profits in 2007 were $1.03bn, while their overall revenue rose by 2% to $12.64bn. In 2004 doubled profits in one quarter. Did they invest any of those profits in necessary upgrades? Why no. Last August, they spent $5 billion buying back their own shares.

We're only talking about a tiered system for usage here, but it's a small step from there to censoring content, which has already happened in numerous instances where critical remarks about Bush have been edited out of live performances. Neither is it a great leap to imagine them eventually charging according to what sites you want to frequent which would seem to be a handy way to track where you go as well, without the bother of breaking the law on datamining.

Clearly, if we don't ensure neutrality by statute, we risk losing what makes the internets so valuable and powerful a tool for citizen activism. Without neutrality we lose the freedom to communicate freely outside of the dictates of the corporate gatekeepers. If we wait until it's lost, it will be too late. See Save the Internet for much more information and how you can help save our last remaining vestige of truly free mass expression.

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June 14, 2008

One vote away from constitutional chaos

By Libby

A great post by JB at Balkinization on the failure of movement conservatism's constitutional revolution. He lays out the legal angles of their plan beautifully.

Following the 9/11 attacks, George W. Bush and his supporters proposed a significant chance in constitutional norms, centered around increased presidential power to fight the war on terror. This vision included (1) a doctrine of preemptive war, (2) new surveillance techniques, including domestic surveillance, (3) a new system of preventive detention, including detention of american citizens without access to courts, (4) the creation of legal black holes like Guantanamo Bay and CIA black sites, (5) use of torture and torture-lite to obtain information, (6) enhanced secrecy and classification policies, and (7) a version of unitary executive theory that claimed that Congress could not constitutionally limit the President when he claimed to act under his powers as Commander-in-Chief. The last idea was also articulated in (8) the expansion of the use of constitutional signing statements, in which the President would state that he would disregard certain features of laws passed by Congress without telling the public any details about the scope or extent of his non-enforcement.

I never understood why more people weren't horrified enough to complain about that last one. It strikes at the heart of the whole system of checks and balances. And I agree that it's going to be a helluva mess to clean up.

Read JB's whole post to see how close we came to seeing it succeed. It still could. We're one SCOTUS vote away from destroying centuries' worth of precedents and progress. At the end of the day, nothing matters more to me than making sure it's not McCain who gets to pick the next justices. It would be a constitutional disaster.

Update: Thanks to Geoff for the link to another must read post on the subject by Scott Horton. The importance of preventing another round of GOP appointed justices really can't be over-emphasized.

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America's real drug problem

By Libby

This isn't exactly news. It's long been known and remarked on within drug policy reform circles, but it's worth mentioning when the media periodically rediscover that legal drugs kill more people than illegal ones do.

MIAMI — From “Scarface” to “Miami Vice,” Florida’s drug problem has been portrayed as the story of a single narcotic: cocaine. But for Floridians, prescription drugs are increasingly a far more lethal habit.

An analysis of autopsies in 2007 released this week by the Florida Medical Examiners Commission found that the rate of deaths caused by prescription drugs was three times the rate of deaths caused by all illicit drugs combined. [...]

The report’s findings track with similar studies by the federal Drug Enforcement Administration, which has found that roughly seven million Americans are abusing prescription drugs. If accurate, that would be an increase of 80 percent in six years and more than the total abusing cocaine, heroin, hallucinogens, Ecstasy and inhalants.

There's two major points we can take from this. One is that the urge to alter our perceptions and our mood is strong in humans and people will take mind altering substances to do so. They've been doing it from the beginning of time and no threat of penalty will stop them.

The second point is that deaths attributable to the abuse of legal pharmaceutical drugs are three times greater than illegal ones, but you don't hear any huge calls to ban those drugs. Instead our professional prohibition profiteers use the same failed approach as they do in the war on illegal drugs. They go after those least culpable. In this case, the doctors who prescribe them and the pain patients who legitimately need them . See Richard Paey and Radley's voluminous chronicles of persecuted doctors.

As an aside, it's useful to note that at 4,179 incidences, "alcohol was the most commonly occurring drug" found in bodies of the dead, although listed as the sole cause of death in only 466, but marijuana remains the only so-called dangerous drug which has not been attributed as a cause of a single fatality in 5,000 years. Yet in 2007 there were 44,640 Americans imprisoned at the state and federal level solely for offenses related to this natural herb. There's no count on the numbers held in local and county jails.

America's real drug problem is its addiction to prohibition. It hasn't worked in the last 40 and more years and it won't ever work. For a fraction of the billions we spend on failed policies that rely on eradication, interdiction and incarceration, we could invest in treatment facilities that would actually solve the problems of addiction and abuse, which are the only real dangers of drug use and allow responsible substance consumers to live in peace and productivity. [h/t Tits McGee]

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June 13, 2008

FISA fight back on the frontburner

By Libby

I swear this battle will never end. Apparently our Congresslizards think they can sneak in telecom immunity over the summer while everyone is distracted by vacations and worrying about the economy. Thankfully, FDL is on the job and assembles the latest pertinent information in case you need to get up to speed. And of course, Glenn Greenwald has the talking points on the couple of tiny tweaks to FISA that are the only part that truly needs fixing.

For those who have following along the whole time, you know what to do. Let them know you're still watching and care about the outcome. Contact your Senators and Congresspeople and tell them again, that telecom immunity and basket warrants are not acceptable. As Christy said, "[T]here are only a couple of minor tweaks required to fix the few real, honest issues under the law -- we expect members of Congress to do their jobs. Ask yours to do just that -- and nothing more -- until after the election."

I remind you, if we don't defeat telecom immunity, we've lost our best chance to uncover the true extent of the Bush regime's criminality. We've made it this far, let's see it through to the end.

Update: Dan at Pruning Shears in an excellent post suggests we contact Obama and ask him to show leadership on not only FISA, but also ask him to challenge Bush on the SOFA with Iraq. Read his post for the talking points and then contact Obama at either his campaign site or at his Senate office. I expect the latter would be the better avenue to get his attention on these issues.

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Obama never left the center

By Libby

Are there really that many Obama supporters that believed the GOP narrative that Obama is some kind of radical liberal? I think it's been rather clear right along, that Obama is a centrist who is unwilling to embrace a truly liberal agenda. That's one reason it took me so long to get on board for him. He was far from my first choice when the primaries started. In fact both he and Hillary were my last choices.

One of the reasons I finally went with Obama is that I think he's about as centrist as Hillary is, but I'm hoping he will be less willing to triangulate in favor of the conservative agenda, as I thought Bill Clinton did way too much during his tenure and expected Hillary to continue. At worst, at least he comes into power with less predetermined conceptions by dint of his youth and lesser tenure and will cast fresh eyes on our old unsolved problems. I'll admit it's not much of a hope, but at least it's a hope for change.

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June 12, 2008

FEMA failures ongoing

By Libby

Via John Cole, I see FEMA's failures on Hurricane Katrina are still playing out. After spending two million tax dollars in storage costs, they finally gave away some $85 million worth of stockpiled relief supplies. Only they didn't go to Katrina victims.

The material, from basic kitchen goods to sleeping necessities, sat in warehouses for two years before the Federal Emergency Management Agency's giveaway to federal and state agencies this year. [...]

"Upon review of our assets and our need to continue to store them, we determined that they were excess to FEMA's needs; therefore, they are being excessed from FEMA's inventory," McIntyre wrote in an e-mail.

That's bad enough but the truly tragic aspect of this negligence is that those supplies are still needed by the victims, many of whom remain homeless to this day.

Martha Kegel, the head of a New Orleans nonprofit agency that helps find homes for those still displaced by the storm, said she was shocked to learn about the existence of the goods and the government giveaway.

"These are exactly the items that we are desperately seeking donations of right now: basic kitchen household supplies," said Kegel, executive director of Unity of Greater New Orleans. "These are the very things that we are seeking right now. FEMA, in fact, refers homeless clients to us to house them. How can we house them if we don't have basic supplies?"

On a slightly cheerier note, The New Orleans Saints took a day off from practice to go to a New Orleans neighborhood and help clean up some Katrina destruction. In an especially classy move, the work day was unpublicized and was over before the media got wind of it and could turn it into a circus. That speaks to the American spirit I remember growing up. Neighbors helping each other, not for recognition, but simply because they could.

Of course this all raises the question of why, almost three years later, the clean up in NOLA is still uncompleted and its restoration is a sorry joke. Why are the NOLA victims either still homeless or housed in toxic trailers deemed too dangerous for FEMA workers to enter?

I recall when I complained at the time they were passing out huge no-bid contracts to mega-corporations and suspending workers' protection regulations, being lectured by Bush administration apologists about how this was necessary in order to speed up the cleaning and restoration of the city. We gave these corporations billions for their alleged speed and efficiency. For their alleged expertise in major project management. So why isn't the work done yet? Instead what I've seen is too many stories out of the Gulf coast like this one.

They sold their homes. They said goodbye to their families. After paying recruiters $20,000 for visas to take part in this nation's H-2B guest worker program, they traveled from India to Pascagoula, Miss. There, the Indian welders and pipe fitters were promised good jobs at the Signal International shipyard and the chance to bring their families here.

Like many of our relatives, they came to the United States in search of the American Dream.

Yet, what they found was modern-day forced labor. They were forced to live in a cramped space with two dozen other workers—and pay more than $1,000 per month for the privilege. Toilet and shower facilities were few, and they were not allowed off-site to purchase groceries to replace the company's intolerable food.

I don't know that this particular case is related to Katrina reconstruction in any way, however I recall similar stories about Latino workers during the initial stages of the clean up. I feel certain the permissive attitude of the federal government about worker abuse that arose at that time surely has had an effect on these men's situation today. In fact, it reminds me of the kind of worker abuse company owners were guilty of a century ago that gave ultimately gave rise to worker protection laws in the first place. It's just sad to see how far basic humanity has been rolled back under this regime.

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Nowhere to run to for Bush

By Libby

File this one under poetic justice of a sort. I'm sure most of you remember the interest this purchase generated at the time.

Back in late 2006, it was widely reported in the Latin American media that President Bush, or perhaps his old man, had bought a 100,000-acre farm in a remote area of Paraguay. What struck people at the time was the choice of country. Paraguay, of course, has gained a certain Club Med status among the world's villains and criminal elements as the place to go when the law's on your tail. The country, ruled for six decades by the dictatorial and fascist Colorado Party of Gen. Alfredo Stroesser, an almost cartoon caricature of a Latin American dictator, has no extradition treaty with any nation.

That's why it has long harbored aging Nazis, bank robbers, and a string of ousted or retired Latin American dictators and their assistants over the years.

One might have thought this was a wise buy for a family with a son whose war crimes, when fully revealed, are likely to rival the worst dictators in the world's history. Unfortunately, no one could have predicted this would happen.

Last month, a former Roman Catholic Bishop with leftist, populist tendencies, Fernando Lugo, surprised almost everyone in Paraguay, and no doubt President Bush, by winning the national presidential election, ousting the Colorado Party for the first time in 61 years. There is talk that among other things, Lugo is thinking of returning Paraguay to the community of nations, by signing some of those extradition agreements.

So much for that hidey hole. I have to admit that I'm taking an untoward delight in the idea that they spent all that money to escape justice for naught. I have to believe that someday Bush will be called to account for his lies, by someone. I hope I live to see it.

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June 11, 2008

World's biggest hashish bust

By Libby

I don't know if that is true, but this is a lot of hashish.

KABUL, Afghanistan - Afghan counternarcotics officials said Wednesday that they uncovered 260 tons of hashish hidden in 6-foot-deep trenches in southern Afghanistan in what one DEA official said appears to be the world's biggest drug bust.

The hashish, found in the southern province of Kandahar on Monday, was worth more than $400 million and would have netted about $14 million in profits, NATO's International Security Assistance Force said.

It's being touted as a huge victory in the war on some drugs and a deadly blow against the terrorists. I seriously doubt that. Yes, it's an impressive bust, and it sounds like a lot of cash but at that level of dealing, it's an easily absorbable loss. The real money is in heroin.

This may dent the local Afghani hash market for a while but it's unlikely it seriously disrupted the drug trade in Afghanistan. In fact, I have to say I find the storage scheme odd. It feels like a setup to me. The government gets a glamourous bust of the least profitable product to prove it's seriously fighting the drug problem and drug lords get to keep the opium trade running. In reality, the government can't afford to shut down the heroin industry. It's the only thing keeping the country's economy alive.

Still, I'm glad to see that at least they busted at a high level instead of harassing the dirt poor farmers at the bottom of the chain.

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Just walk away

By Libby

I haven't seen any numbers on how widespread this practice is, but I keep seeing stories about the phenomena. I was wondering how people manage to do this.

Next month, Michelle Augustine plans to walk away from her four-bedroom house in a Sacramento, Calif., subdivision and let the property fall into foreclosure. But before doing so, she hopes to lock in the purchase of another home nearby.

"I can find the same exact house as what I live in right now for half the price," says Ms. Augustine, 44 years old, who runs a child-care service out of her home. She says she soon will be unable to afford her monthly payments, which will jump to $4,000 from $3,300 in August, and she doesn't want to continue to own a home that is now worth $200,000 less than what she paid for it two years ago.

So it's a scheme only available to those with good credit and who have enough resources to have kept up payments to this point. Apparently, it's legal but there's something about it that strikes me as fundmentally immoral. It just feels dishonest and it strikes me that this sort of gaming the system ultimately hurts lower income people. For one thing, if enough people do it, the taxpayer will be bailing out the banks in the end and not only do taxes hit the poor disportionately, but also the billions spent on any bailout will be money not available to fund the social safety net.

Furthermore, it likely will have a negative impact on the bank's willingness and ability to work with troubled homeowners who don't have the kind of credit rating that enables them to pull off this scam, in restructuring existing mortgages. In short, those with the most ability to take the loss for their inopportune speculation, will actually benefit at the expense of those least able to come back from losing their investments.

Not that this dynamic is anything new, but it occurs to me that at least part of the housing meltdown is due to the fact that banks expected homeowners to less willing to cheat the system as a matter of conscience. It seems moral standards really aren't what they used to be.

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June 10, 2008

Who's fist jabbing now?

By Libby

I wasn't surprised, but was more appalled then usual at this ridiculous teaser this weekend over the "fist bump" exchanged between Obama and his wife.

During the June 6 edition of Fox News’ America’s Pulse, host E.D. Hill teased an upcoming discussion by saying, “A fist bump? A pound? A terrorist fist jab? The gesture everyone seems to interpret differently.”

Actually, everyone except the braindead White House stenos at Fox pretty much interpreted it as a perfectly innocent gesture but if Fox wants to speculate about the deeper meanings of this, perhaps they want to analyse Gov. Easley's greeting to Obama at yesterday's rally. And while they're at it, perhaps they would like to ask the first President Bush, the signifigance of this gesture.

If only life was really like an episode of Survivor, we could have voted the idiots at Fox off the island by now.

<b>Update by Fester</b>  Ol'Froth has more on this...

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Never too late to impeach

By Libby

In fact, I'm thinking it's the perfect time. It would at least keep the White House too busy to perpetrate any more of their evil plots. Dennis Kucinich agrees, and introduced thirty-five articles of impeachment into the record yesterday.

The first article Kucinich presented, and many that followed, regarded the war in Iraq: "Article 1 - Creating a secret propaganda campaign to manufacture a false case for war against Iraq."

And while it's true bloggers still don't have much power to sway the public at large, this might illustrate how much impact they have inside the Beltway.

On several occasions, Kucinich referenced RAW STORY and its noted investigative news chief, Larisa Alexandrovna, as source material for the articles.

Clearly, this probably won't go anywhere as long as Pelosi refuses to put it on the table, but you might want to contact your Congresscreatures and tell them you think it's a good idea anyway. Enough public pressure might convince Nancy we're seriously interested and while it's unlikely there's enough time left to complete the impeachment process, as I said, it would put the White House on the defense and might just prevent them from bombing Iran in the interim.

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June 09, 2008

Elizabeth Edwards on board with Obama

By Libby

Well I'm feeling better about our prospects for change already. In an aside during his speech at an invite only event in Raleigh, Obama announced he would be partinering with Elizabeth to work on a national health insurance plan. Good on a lot of levels. It's a big step for party unity; Elizabeth is really smart on policy and it demonstrates that Obama is commited to bringing women into his inner circle.

He said a lot more in that speech that the AP didn't cover. The local paper quotes it extensively. Here's a couple I liked.

Obama called for the immediate creation of a $10 billion Foreclosure Prevention Fund to provide direct relief to victims of the housing crisis. He said he'll also help those who are facing foreclosure refinance their mortgages so they can stay in their homes at rates they can afford. And he pledged a tax credit to low- and middle-income Americans that would cover 10 percent of their mortgage interest payment every year.

"The principle is simple - if the government can bail out investment banks on Wall Street, we can extend a hand to folks who are struggling on Main Street," he said.

--Eliminate income taxes for any retiree making less than $50,000 per year. He said he will not privatize Social Security.

--Reform bankruptcy laws to help those in debt and make sure CEOs can't "dump your pension with one hand while they collect a bonus with the other."

I know you can't put campaign talk in the bank, but the idea of focusing the relief funding on those who need it the most strikes me as being right on the money.

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Cannabis capitalism - part two

By Libby

Some will probably use the NYT's latest piece on medical marijuana that details community complaints about the current businesses in operation in California as proof that a legalized cannabis industry won't work. However the complaints are mainly about the encroachment of grow houses in residential neighborhoods and people who have abused the current somewhat amorphous language to create commericial operations that go beyond the intent of the law. And a lot of people don't like the smell of the plants, although if you ever smelled a livestock farm for instance, it's far less offensive and in any event technology exists to mitigate odors.

These small problems don't so much illustrate a failure in legalizing marijuana, as they underline the danger of taking half measures. The laws are unclear and since the current legislation leaves the cannabis industry with only a quasi-legal status these problems are to be expected as people test the limits. In a fully legal environment, these problems could be easily solved with standardized regulations and zoning restrictions.

The bottom line is medical marijuana is a wanted and needed commodity with huge potential to generate much needed revenue. If we also legalized recreational use, the potential growth of the industry is almost limitless. The current problems are simply a result of the failure to fully commit to this plant as a legitimate agricultural crop. [Part one is here]

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June 08, 2008

To the victor, goes the decision

By Libby

Respect was a word thrown around a lot in the last few months of this bitterly contested primary and I'd agree it was sorely lacking in much of the discourse. I'm not pointing any fingers because everyone was guilty to some degree, including myself. Much of that was mitigated yesterday by the positive response to Hillary's concession speech. Even her harshest critics mostly managed to choke out an acknowledgement of her acheivements and those less emotionally invested in the outcome offered up some truly warm praise.

However, now that the this race is finally over I'm finding the demanding tone of some supporters that Hillary be offered the VP slot -- or else -- to be somewhat disrespectful of Obama's accomplishments, and indeed rather dismissive of the reality that he in fact, won the contest. I'm almost equally puzzled by Obama's supporters who are demanding he doesn't offer her the position. I mean, either you trust your candidate to make a good choice, or you don't.

Leaving aside whether or not Hillary even wants to be VP, this is choice that rightly belongs to Obama, and no one else. While speculation over the possible choice and lobbying for preferred candidates is inevitable, I can't recall another election where so many apparently feel entitled to dictate the decision.

All that being said, I of course have an opinion not so much on who Obama should choose as who he shouldn't. I think Hillary would be the wrong choice for a number of reasons, mainly one that Avedon touches on here.

Natasha Chart finds someone recommending another completely inappropriate conservative* to get Obama's VP slot - Blanche Lincoln. No, no, no. Putting an anti-choice woman on the ballot just because she's female would be an incredible insult. And to be honest, I'm not really comfortable with most of this talk about finding some other woman to be on the ticket "instead of" Clinton. Don't turn this into The Minority Ticket, please.

We've already made history by nominating a black man. Let's not get greedy and try to get a two-fer out of it by adding a woman to the ticket. Although this is a favorable year for Democrats and we have an extraordinarily charismatic candidate, Obama will have enough to overcome in winning over that demographic of white Americans who find a brown man alien and scary. While it might feel good to break down all the barriers at once with a minority ticket, the end goal is to win the White House and this would only complicate the contest in a way that would benefit McCain.

On a purely pragmatic basis it would make sense for Obama to offer the VP to a white man and if he does so, his decision should be accepted by all Democrats with the kind of grace and respect that acknowledges he earned the right to make his own choice.

[*quote edited to reflect changes in the original]

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Ari's hiss-tory

By Libby

It's long been known that the gang of thugs who dragged us into the ill-fated occupation of Iraq believe in creating their own reality, but this is ridiculous. Ari Fleischer has an op-ed in the WaPo today that basically says, the press did too ask tough questions and he offers up a list of the thorny queries that bedeviled his tenure as spokesliar for the administration. What he fails to mention is that the elite White House press corps then just meekly accepted the answers and dutifully transcribed the White House lies without putting them into any sort of context at all, much less challenging their veracity.

That's the complicity part that the worst perpetrators seem unable to admit -- even to themselves. Ari's defense of his media enablers would be laughable except that their joint deceits resulted in so much death, disorder and destruction. As it stands, it's just one more chapter in an overly long and tragic tale of negligence verging on treason.

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June 07, 2008

Happy Birthday Prince

Prince

By Libby

I was surprised to learn Prince turned 50 today. I saw him not so very long ago doing a big half time show in the rain and he still looked young.

I would have posted a video in honor of the ocassion but he's so paranoid about protecting his work, you can't get one. They apparently even block the sound on the YouTube covers. Bizarre. I liked some of his songs but his whole prima donna persona always bugged me so I wasn't a big fan. Anyway, it's odd to think of him as getting old.

The same for Michael Jackson, who will turn 50 in August, although I don't find that as jarring. I suppose because I watched him grow up.

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Time for tyranny of the masses

By Libby

I've heard a lot of arguments, pro and con, for abolishing the Electoral College and in the end, I'm convinced the time has come to do away with this antiquated methodology. The world is a very different place from the days when that institution was created and there's no logical reason left to prevent Americans from choosing their own leader directly.

Additionally, as we've seen in this protracted primary, when people believe their votes count for something, they participate in the process so it would be beneficial to our form of democracy to modernize the system. It also strikes me as a good way to prevent election stealing. When every vote truly counts, then it broadens the base enough that it's less possible to tip the balance with voting machine manipulation in a few key states.

Thankfully, this thinking has now manifested on Capitol Hill.

Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) introduced a constitutional amendment to abolish the Electoral College on Friday, less than a week after the Democrats settled on how to handle delegates from Florida at their national convention.

“It’s time for Congress to really give Americans the power of one-person, one-vote, instead of the political machinery selecting candidates and electing our president,” Nelson said in a release announcing the amendment.

I also like the other provisions attached to this bill.

...In addition to the Electoral College amendment, the bill would establish rotating primaries for presidential nominations, expand voting options and methods and try to improve voter registration and verification. [...]

The second part of the initiative would establish rotating, interregional primaries between March and June during a presidential election year as an alternative to the current primary and caucus system. The third portion would permit early presidential voting nationwide, require voting machines to produce a verifiable paper record, and encourage voting by mail, among other things.

Whatever concerns there are about high population states overriding the interests of smaller ones seem to me to be moot, since that's what happens now. In any event I'm sure some kind of safeguards can be built into a new system and the bill overall addresses a lot of my concerns about the upcoming election and sets us up well for the future. I'd love to see this at least debated vigorously, if not passed, by November.

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Hillary delivers

By Libby

I'm still not feeling quite up to blogging speed yet so I've pretty much dithered away the day but I did watch Hillary's concession speech this afternoon. I'm told it's the best speech she ever made but I haven't seen many of them in their entirety so I'll have to take their word on that. I thought this one was very good. Not brilliant in the sense of soaring rhetoric, but she's a wonk, not an orator. Nonetheless, she did a very good job of balancing the acknowledgement of her own, and her supporters', acheivements in the course of the campaign and calling for everyone to join together in support of Obama.

This was the speech I expected her give on Tuesday and I still think the delay robs it of some of its impact, but as not as much I initially thought. Overall she did what she had to do and she did it really well. I'm proud of her today. She delivered my pony and I'm glad to feel good about her again.

Of course there are still too many who aren't as forgiving as me. Judging from the chitchat in the comment sections I cruised today, old resentments die hard and not everybody is ready to ride the unity pony just yet, but I think they'll mostly come around -- eventually. In the end, who doesn't love a pony ride?

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June 06, 2008

Feeling the audacity of hope

By Libby

It's a funny thing. When they excised that tumor, it seems it also rid me of a great despair that I thought I'd never overcome. I got the stitches out this morning and the pathology is back. I don't have cancer. I feel like a new person, or perhaps I should say the old person I was before Bush took office. I feel like I regained my zen and the future looks brighter than it has in seven long years, not just for me but for our country.

Hecate catches the first whiff of a sea change in the political atmosphere with this quote.

"We're going to try to reach out to all her supporters and tell them that we want to unify the party," Obama told reporters. He recounted his comments to the St. Paul group: "I understood that they were as inspired by her candidacy as some of my supporters are inspired by mine. They're not alone in drawing inspiration from her campaign. My own daughters now take the possibility of a woman being president for granted."

More at the link, including a really nice photogragh.

I believe as time goes on, most everyone will realize that both candidates contributed to an incredible change in the way the public relates to politics and in that sense everybody wins. I'm optimistic that the new interest in engaging in the process will outlast the instant election for generations to come. At this moment in time, it feels like a whole lot more than just a fool's hope.

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June 05, 2008

Group hug pending

By Libby

The rhetoric got so vicious in the course of this contest, I'm sure it's going to take a while for the wounds to heal. For some few who will refuse to stop picking at the scab of their sore disappointments, maybe they never will but this certainly gives me hope this morning.

No one is making that healing easier than Obama. Last night, after he had finished the sort of speech that leaves his followers exhilarated and exhausted, Obama did not just leave the arena. Nor did he head to the nearest television camera or the nearest fat cat. Instead, he went to a room where the Clinton supporters had been gathered and one by one, shook the hands of the 25 people, stopping to chat with each of them.

Of course no one can really predict how things will play out in the months to come but I believe Obama will be able to heal the party and move it in a new direction. I hope we end up in a better place.

As for Blogtopia, I wonder if it will ever be the same. I have a feeling it's going to take a long time to rebuild all the burned bridges. I'm pretty sure it's never going to be the same as it was before this election but I have to believe we'll mostly find our comity again.

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Change for the better

By Libby

Hilzoy posts on the historic import of Obama's candidacy and in reading it I realized how removed I was emotionally from the historic aspects of both Democratic candidates. Race and gender had absolutely no bearing on my decisions. Not unusual for me. I've never weighed my interactions with people on the basis of social status or on any external factors. My only criteria in choosing friends and associates is on their honesty and compassion for their fellow humans.

The full import of this long awaited outcome finally hit me this morning. In a coutry where only a few decades ago, a person of color couldn't even use the same drinking fountain as white folk, it seems likely our next president will be a black man. I can only imagine what it feels like to the black community but even for me, this is huge.

After seven long years of watching the GOP and the Bush administration chip away at the civil rights we all fought so hard for in the sixties, it feels like we've finally taken a step back towards sanity and humanity again. It feels good.

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June 04, 2008

I was going to call her Virtuous - Updated

Unity_pony

By Libby

Out of deference to the Clinton supporters I know and love, I was determined to ignore Hillary's speech but I find I can't move past it without venting some of my thoughts. I had many and I'm glad I was offline most of the day so I could reflect on them for a while without becoming distracted by the buzz. I've read little reaction beyond the speech itself.

I found it bizarre and ungracious, but I'm more disappointed than angry. I expected better of her. I wanted her to confound the toxic media narratives and make a brilliant concession speech. I wanted her to highlight the good her candidacy brought to the women's movement and trot out my unity pony.

She could have pledged to take the battle to the GOP. She could have announced she was going back to the Senate and redouble her efforts to deliver on her platform promises in her quest to serve the people. That would have been stunning and would have restored people's respect to a great degree. Or at least it would have restored mine. As it stands at the moment, I've lost the last shreds I had.

I feel sad and embarrassed for her.

Update: I no sooner posted than the news broke. It's over. I think I'll name that pony Hallelujah.

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June 02, 2008

What Cheney wants

By Libby

Cheney gets. Well, thanks to all the positive energy sent my way cherished friends and readers, I'm enjoying a remarkably rapid recovery from the surgery and went back to work this afternoon. I had connectivity problems this morning so I haven't scanned much of the news today but Dan Froomkin's column is well worth a read in full. He has extensive excerpts from McLellan's new book and this one is the most singularly frightening of the lot.

Later, he writes: "[L]urking behind it all remained the magic man, Vice President Cheney. No one knew better how to orchestrate what was happening from behind the curtain while the grand production was playing out on stage. Quietly slipping in and out of internal deliberations, his influence and wand waving barely discernible to the outside world, Cheney rarely showed all his cards and never disclosed how he made things happen. Yet somehow, in every policy area he cared about, from the invasion of Iraq to expansion of presidential power to the treatment of detainees and the use of surveillance against terror suspects, Cheney always seemed to get his way."

What Cheney wants is to bomb Iran before he leaves office and the media smoke generated by the horserace gives him a lot of cover under which to brew his evil plots. I always feel uneasy when he hasn't crawled out from hiding in a long time. He's up to something and I doubt it's good.

Update: Speak of the devil. I no sooner posted this than I noticed the story the Memeo trailer. "Cheney was at the Press Club to congratulate this year's winners of the Gerald R. Ford Journalism Prize for Distinguished Reporting on the Presidency." At the Q&A afterward he made an offhand incest joke about West Virginia.

This does nothing to assuage my uneasiness. It sounds like a guy who's intoxicated on his own power and no longer gives a flying leap about what anyone else thinks.

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June 01, 2008

Cannabis capitalism

By Libby

The professional prohibitionists and other naysayers have successfully avoided the scientific evidence and discounted the medical efficiacy of marijuana, but there is no way to deny the revenue generating capacity of the cannabis industry.

JANE WELLS of CNBC keeps a blog called Funny Business, but her recent reports on California’s medical marijuana industry are about a business that is increasingly being taken seriously. They amount to a short primer on how the business works and how the operators of the state’s estimated 500 dispensaries deal with the high risks and high costs of working in a legal gray area.

Medical marijuana is legal in California, but federal law still bans sales. Amid the uncertainty that this creates — including the occasional raid by federal agents — a full-fledged industry has blossomed, taking in about $2 billion a year and generating $100 million in state sales taxes, CNBC reported.

That's a lot of pot. Medical marijuana has been legal in California for many years now. Those numbers suggest a whole lot of people are smoking it regularly and nothing bad has happened. No mass psychosis. No marijuana fueled mayhem. No huge drain on the medical system from massive influxes of marijuana addicts. In fact, it's far more likely that taxpayers paid less collective costs because subsidized, terminally ill medical marijuana patients were able to obtain pallative relief with an relatively inexpensive, natural herb as opposed to prohibitively expensive pharmaceutical poisons.

Add that to the postive revenue flow created by the current Cali entrepreneurs, and I don't think those numbers even include the ancillary businesses. Multiply that by 50 states and I can't think of a better argument for national legalization. Perhaps the current economic meltdown might finally accomplish what 40 years of activism couldn't, that being bringing some common sense to cannabis policy.

A legal cannabis industry could create millions of jobs in every field from the farms to the cafes and as a added benefit, the industrial hemp industry could be reestablished at the same time, as should have been done lone ago. Hemp is one of the most environmentally friendly crops to grow and has hundreds of uses already. I'd be willing to bet if they allowed the research to be conducted, a far superior biofuel than ethanol could be made from it.

Cannabis capitalism. Think about it. It could not only save our economy, it could save the planet.

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May 31, 2008

Same old story, same old song and dance

By Libby

I'm still moving kind of slow but it's not just the hideous pharmaceutical cocktail my doctor prescribed that's causing my ennui, the news simply isn't doing it for me. I've been spending the last couple of days clearing out old saved links and I feel like I'm caught inside an old vinyl record skipping on the turntable.

Four years ago Islamic insurgents held sway in Anbar. That was before they called them AQI and declared The Awakening. Today, if you ignore the little suicide bombings cropping up again in Anbar, the new last stronghold is in Mosul. Yes, that would be the same last stronghold that was supposed to be secured in the offensive last January as part of Operation Iron Harvest, the U.S.-led offensive in Nineveh, Diyala, Tameem, and Salaheddin provinces that kicked off at that time. Which is not to be confused with the early signs of surge strategy success in Diyala in 2007.

I read about the assault on Fallujah in April 04:

For the past three weeks, around 2,000 troops from the US 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, supported by jet fighters and attack helicopters, have carried out the most ferocious urban street fighting in Iraq since the start of the war last year. [...]

Inside Falluja, a city of 300,000, the marines prevented access to the city's only hospital for more than two weeks. Dozens of houses were destroyed, mosques were bombed and clerics turned a football ground beside the Euphrates into a crude cemetery. [...]

On the day that Wisam and Thair died, a US general in Baghdad said the aim of the new combat in Falluja, codenamed Operation Vigilant Resolve, was to "take the fight to the enemy".

Actually that one was launched in response to the four Blackwater contractors that were killed and hung off the bridge. Back then the White House was still maintaining the fiction that the insurgency was small and confined to Fallujah. Nonetheless, it doesn't read all that differently from the news accounts of the recent crackdown in Sadr City.

Four years ago Doug Feith testified before the House Armed Services Committee.

Combatant commanders will no longer "own" forces, he said. "(Secretary Rumsfeld) makes clear to everybody, the only person who owns forces, as it were, is the president, who can use the armed forces of the United States across regions as necessary," he said.

At the same time it was discovered the Pentagon lost track of thousands of exported Stinger anti-aricraft weapons. As far as I know they never found them or the thousands of other small arms that disappeared along with the pallets of US cash along the way. This week, CIA chief Michael Hayden announced we've defeated AQ -- again. Nothing changes except the names of the spokesliars who parrot the latest rosy predictions of victory.

Meanwhile our dead and wounded still arrive home by the thousands in the dark of night but everybody is talking about delegate counts and Obama quitting his church. I doubt that will change by tomorrow.

Seems like just yesterday everybody was complaining about how the media dwells too much on trivia. I'm so glad bloggers are better than that.

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Where do we go from here?

By Libby

Like BJ, I didn't care about the Rules hearing today either, as much I'm concerned about the fallout. Marc Ambinder is reporting that it's over, the delegations have been seated and Clinton gained 24 delegates. I don't even want to begin to speculate on what it all means, but judging from the initial reactions I'm seeing, I have a bad feeling that they won't be delivering my unity pony tonight.

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May 30, 2008

Media morons inartfully dodge their malfeasance

By Libby

While I remain completely unimpressed by McLellan's mea culpa, I'm liking that our malingering media are being forced to account for their own failures to inform the public of the deceits leading up to the invasion of Iraq. Not that they're taking the scrutiny particularly seriously. The major culprits are laughing it off and adding insult to injury.

Politico reporter Mike Allen, formerly of The Washington Post and Time, appeared yesterday on the show of right-wing radio host Mike Gallagher. The two of them guffawed together at how absurd are Scott McCellan's claims that the media was "deferential" to the Bush administration and then Allen said this:

ALLEN: And indeed, Scott does adopt the vocabulary, rhetoric of the left wing haters. Can you believe it in here he says the White House press corps was too deferential to the administration?

This was exactly the narrative they were plying back then that allowed this disaster to occur. Anyone who dared question the White House lies was a left wing hater and besides it's not their job to question authority. They were of the mind that they deserved their bloated salaries for mere stenography. And it wasn't just in the runup to the invasion that they failed us. They continued their fluffing right through the 04 elections. One had to go to the foreign press to find a functioning media. Take for instance, the attack on Richard Clarke, who blew the whistle on Bush's long pre-planned invasion of Iraq.

The swiftness and ferocity of the Bush White House's attack on Richard Clarke tells you two things: his story may be largely true, and the Bush administration is terrified that the American people will believe it. [...]

The White House did not let a single news cycle go by before questioning that the alleged encounter between the president and Clarke had ever taken place, assigning dark motives to a man who has served four presidents, three of them Republicans.

And the self-serving US media stars, along with their pet neo-cons, jumped right in with their long knives to stab Clarke in the back. Small wonder so few thereafter showed any similiar courage, although the knowledge of the deceptions was widespread.

"The conversation absolutely took place. I was there, but you can't name me," the witness said. "I was one of several people present. There was no doubt in anyone's mind that the president had Iraq on his mind, first and foremost." This former national security council official was too terrified to go on the record - he knows how vengeful this administration can be.

Former treasury secretary Paul O'Neill paid the price for truthtelling with his account of "how the Bush White House set its sights on Iraq from day one." Rumsfeld threatened him and when he failed to kowtow, he "instantly became the target of an investigation by his former department, which claimed that he had revealed state secrets."

Yet the facts were obvious and irrefutable. "The fact that the Pentagon pulled the fighting force most equipped for hunting down Osama bin Laden from Afghanistan in March 2002 in order to pre- position it for Iraq cannot be denied." After spending five months establishing rapport on the ground in Afghanistan, the elite unit was given two days notice to turn over their mission to those most ill-equipped to carry it out. But this was probably the most egregious failure.

Along with the redeployment of human assets came a reallocation of sophisticated hardware. The US air force has only two specially-equipped RC135 U spy planes. They had successfully vectored in on al-Qaida leadership radio transmissions and cellphone calls, but they would no longer circle over the mountains of the Pakistan/Afghanistan border.

We had AQ in our sights. We could have taken out bin Laden, actually won the so-called on terror right there, but Bush had other priorites, long in the planning. Back then, few expected our media to become so complicit in the lie, but they not only allowed the Bush administration to proclaim "it was the only qualified protector of national security," they actively persecuted the truthtellers on the administration's behalf. The Guardian said then that, "Sooner or later - and certainly before November - that truth will out." But it didn't out, it was buried in reams of White House press releases dutifully transcribed by a craven press corps too enamored of their own place on the guest lists of the powerful to do their duty to their profession or the American people.

Yesterday, Scott McClellan ran into Richard Clarke and apologized for denouncing Clarke's book at the time. That's not enough by a mile. He should set up on a street corner and apologize to every family who lost a loved one in this occupation, to every soldier who came home broken and to every Iraqi who lost everything to the lies he perpetrated in service to his former masters.

But really, that's even not enough. Almost the entire corporate media not only failed to tell the truth, they actively worked to destroy anyone brave to do so on the public record. There's no apology, no penance great enough to undo the damage and destruction caused by the negligence of McLellan and all those of his ilk in the punditry who enthusiastically 'created the reality' the White House demanded. In a sane world they would have long ago been relieved of their microphones and banished from civil society.

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May 26, 2008

Concerning contractors

By Libby

Avedon flags an interesting post at My DD about a new White House policy geared towards electronically automated security clearances. I don't have any real objections to that idea but the one gaping hole in the scheme, and in fact in the whole administration of the occupation, that remains unaddressed does give me pause.

The Bush administration has yet to resolve the loophole that allows overseas contractors go unregulated and unaccounted for. Even if the Joint Security Reform Team were to surprise us all and put together a program that actually strengthened our security, it wouldn't matter because of the legislation that allows contractors to make their own rules, accountable to no one.Given March's report on waste, fraud and abuse of war funding, which found that a significant amount of both weaponry and money had somehow ended up in the hands of the insurgents, thanks to the lack of accountability enforced upon the contractors, shouldn't we be worrying about the prospect of classified materials ending up in enemy hands?

The Bush administration has claimed to be tough on security. But when measures of security interfere with safeguarding the enormous profits reaped by favored corporate interests, President Bush continues to throw security to the wind. ...

It's a good point. Losing money and weapons to infernally corrupt contractors is irritating but the same laxity relative to security is dangerous. I would say far more dangerous than the terrorists we're supposed to be defeating.

By that I mean, if we weren't still in occupation in Iraq, there would be far less opportunity for our enemies to get their hands on classified information that is exchanged among our military. If they're getting their hands on our money and weaponry, I see no reason to believe they aren't also able to get damaging documents that endanger our troops abroad and ourselves at home.

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May 25, 2008

America's Waterloo

By Libby

I've been meaning to get to this story for a couple of weeks, but it's unfolded since then. David Neiwert covered the current status today and asks if this ICE raid is a harbinger of a police state. The short answer to that smart question, is yes and it's useful to look at how this raid went down. Two weeks ago the feds set up the operation in the aptly named town of Waterloo, Iowa.

Federal officials have imposed a news blackout at the National Cattle Congress fairgrounds in Waterloo, where they have leased almost the entire property through May 25. Tim Counts, a Midwest spokesman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, known as ICE, declined to say Monday whether an immigration raid is pending that would use the fairgrounds as a detention center.

The Waterloo Courier on Sunday reported that contractors have installed generators adjacent to many buildings at the fairgrounds.In addition, windows on many buildings have been covered up, blocking views inside. A number of mobile-home-size trailers have been transported to the privately owned grounds.

The blackout included the state's US Senator.

At Grassley's request, his staff called ICE officials on Monday.

"During the call, the ICE officials would neither confirm nor deny anything to Senator Grassley's staff," said Beth Pellett Levine, a Grassley aide.

Then came the raid a few days ago.

Buses have begun arriving at the Cattle Congress grounds in Waterloo after hundreds were detained in an immigration raid on a Postville meatpacking plant today. Officials are not allowing media or others near the entrance. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials have declined to say how many buses are being used in the raid on the Agriprocessors Inc. plant.

At least 300 people were arrested during the operation, the largest of its kind in Iowa, said Claude Arnold, a special agent with ICE. ... He said the two helicopters circling the complex were there to provide EMT support and to watch out for the agents on the ground.

A sub-contractor working at the complex said "he was on break at 10 a.m. when '200 agents' stringed into the complex." He was questioned and released but read this media description of the deployment.

Earlier this morning, a helicopter hovered over the scene, and a number of agents formed a perimeter around the Agriprocessors facility. Vehicles from ICE and at least eight cars and vans from the Iowa State Patrol were at the plant. There were also reports of two moving vans at the scene, along with an ambulance and two black Chevrolet Suburbans.

Sounds more like Baghdad than America to me. The only difference being these agents are probably wearing black instead of camouflage. But the main point is they refused to account to anyone for their actions. Today it was illegal immigrants. Tomorrow it could just as easily be political dissenters.

If you think I'm overstating my case, then read Kirk James Murphy, MD on his life with plants. Meaning government planted agitators in activist groups. They're not just watching us, they're infiltrating and they have databases -- massive databases -- on everyone.

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May 24, 2008

Hillary's gaffe

By Libby

Having read through billions of bytes from Hillary supporters endlessly parsing every stray remark of Obama's and proclaiming it 'proves' his unfitness for office, it's tempting to join in the pile on over Clinton's unfortunate reference to Bobby Kennedy's assassination. But I've tried for the most part to avoid this on both sides of the fence and I'm not going to condemn or excuse this one. You could spend the day reading through all the links or you just read Joe Gandelman's roundup. I recommend the latter. He does his usual excellent job of compiling a cross section of views.

For myself, I only find it interesting in terms of the greater pattern of incendiary remarks Clinton has been making in the last week or so. I think it's telling that Obama has moved beyond the partisan sniping of the primary and has turned his focus on the GOP while Clinton continued to pound her talking points on electability. An argument made more difficult despite her strong showing in the last few tiny states by Obama's ability to draw massive crowds to rallies and his overwhelmingly superior fundraising from small donors.

I don't believe she intended to incite violence against Obama and I don't care to speculate whether the Kennedy remark was calculated or simply an inadvertent gaffe born of fatigue. I'm inclined to give her the benefit of the doubt. It's been a long campaign. But I've been pondering her strategy on threatening to take the fight to the convention in the face of the growing call for party unity.

The media and most of the bloggers have been largely ignoring her for a couple of weeks but with her latest series of outrageous comparisons relative to the MI-FL votes she was suddenly capturing the news cycle again. As the old saying goes, there's no such thing as bad press as long as they spell your name right. I'm truly hoping all this tough talk about fighting to the bitter end is just a tactic to maximize her returns in the few remaining contests so she can exit the race on a high note and allow the party to regroup for the larger battle.

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May 22, 2008

Hillary loses her moral compass

By Libby

I drafted a much longer post on the Michigan/Florida issue but I didn't want to get into it, hoping it wouldn't become an issue. I'm still hoping that's true but my hopes fade with Hillary's latest speech. I still don't want to go into full outrage mode because I think her ploy will fail but I do want to add to the chorus on one point, that being, all the candidates agreed prior to those primaries that the DNC sanction would stand. Jon Chait links to historic coverage.

It's worth repeating: They supported this "disenfranchisement." Here's a New York Times story from last fall, headlined, "Clinton, Obama and Edwards Join Pledge to Avoid Defiant States."

I also agree with Scott, there's no good reason for Obama to push back against this rhetoric. It would be counterproductive and shutting down this line of attack is a job that rightly belongs to the 'leadership' of the party and in a sane world, her supporters would threaten to bail if she didn't stop it.

It wouldn't bother me so much if there was any evidence that these arguments were being made prior to SuperTuesday, but I don't recall any and in fact, John Cole in rant mode this morning, has a YouTube posted where Hillary unequivocally said, "It's clear, Michigan isn't going to count for anything so it doesn't matter if I keep my name on the ballot."

If anyone can find any indication whatsoever that Clinton was making these arguments prior to SuperTuesday, I'm happy to apologize but failing any evidence to the contrary, I'm simply appalled by the dishonesty of this tack at this time. Meanwhile, as it has been often said, if she's lost TBogg, she's lost the country.

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May 21, 2008

Lieberman channels his inner neocon

By Libby

There was a time in my life when lunatic ravings like this would have been regulated to street corners in Times Square. Now they get prime real estate at the Wall St. Journal. Joe Lieberman laments the loss of 'his' former party. Choosing a quote out of this exercise in overblown inanity at random:

This was the Democratic Party of Harry Truman, who pledged that "it must be the policy of the United States to support free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressures."

And this was the Democratic Party of John F. Kennedy, who promised in his inaugural address that the United States would "pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, to assure the survival and the success of freedom."

The key words in the first graf would be "resisting attempted subjugation." That might imply to a sane mind that intervention would be appropriate when there's an active resistance to tyranny that needs help. Not so much to interjecting military interference in a tyranny where the oppressed aren't already fighting.

As for JFK, I don't think he means what Joe thinks he means. Unlike our current president and his supporting cast of clueless neocons, JFK actually fought in a war. He understood the underlying meaning of the claim. The words weren't just a slogan designed to excuse unilateral aggression. I shudder to think what might have happened in the Bay of Pigs if Bush had been president then.

I don't suggest you read the rest. The short version is "Oh no, I guess I finally have to admit I'm really a George Bush Republican." Steve Benen as usual sums it up perfectly in a post that should be read in full.

"It’s not that Lieberman has changed, necessarily, but rather it’s that his hackery has become more intense and bellicose. He’s gone from being a largely incoherent neocon to being a largely incoherent belligerent neocon."

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The beginning of the end

By Libby

Well, the last major contests are over and it seems apparent that failing a major swing by the superdelegates, Obama won the nomination. Of course Hillary is not conceding and Obama is not claiming victory outright. I think that's the right way to handle it. There's still a lot of passion out there for Clinton's candidacy and at this point I don't see any point in Hillary dropping out. It's so close to the end and it's great for democracy that every state gets some attention. But for the love of the Goddess, if Hillary wants to make speeches about every vote counting, then excluding caucus states and uncommited votes in MI when the campaign calculates its status is just a little contradictory.

Speaking of speeches, I was in bed before dark last night, but only half dozing so I caught Hillary's victory speech in Kentucky. This line made me laugh out loud.

And it’s often been said, as Kentucky goes, so goes the nation.

Maybe it's just my dry sense of humor but if I had a nickel for every time I heard somebody say that, I'd have -- a nickel.

But I really don't want to bash Hillary. I may not agree with her tactics but I believe in going down fighting for what you believe in and on that level you have to admire her for not giving up. On the other hand, I can't think of single thing to admire about MoDo. I see she's posted some self-absorbed dreck about the campaign today. Fortunately, thanks to Molly, who has made translating MoDodoisms her life's work, I didn't have to read it and neither do you.

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May 19, 2008

Ask and ye will receive better messaging

By Libby [*Link repaired]

If only we had seen more of this kind of citizen journalism for the last 15 months. Goddess knows we won't get it from the legacy media. Blogher interviews Obama on women's issues, wherein he answers 12 questions submitted by the Blogher community.


I thought the interview was really well conducted and Obama came across as informed and geniune. But make your own mind. Blogher also invited McCain and Hillary to participate in interviews. McCain, as I understand it, refused. Hillary hasn't responded yet. She should accept the invite. It's a good forum for her to make her case.

Meanwhile, keeping an eye on the real battle, here's Robert Greenwald's latest video take down of McNasty, The Real McCain - Part Two*. Now that's the kind of messaging we really need. Pass it on. The media surely won't.

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May 18, 2008

Better messaging please

By Libby

Man, I really don't want to step into this but it just really bothers me. Yes, the blatant sexism in this Youtube is horrible. It's unfair, but so is the central message the video seems to be conveying, at least to me.

I'm hearing that I should be blaming Obama for not solving sexism. That he is unfit for office because he's failed to stand up against it strongly enough. But it uses mainly statements from surrogates, pundits and right wingers. The couple of direct statements by Obama were badly worded but Hillary has made equally awkward statements about him. Maybe I don't get around enough but I have yet to see those acknowledged by the heavily invested Clinton supporters nor have I seen the invested Obama supporters creating similar videos complaining about them.

And yes the graphics are especially disgusting but I've seen the same and similar ones circulating on right wing blogs for years before the primaries ever started. That's not Obama's fault. Further, even as the video decries these horribly unfair images, they use equally unfair images of Obama. There are thousands of photos of them out there and they deliberately chose the one with Obama looking disdainful. Isn't that still playing the equally bogus elitist card?

Sorry, this doesn't look so much like a defense of women or a outcry against sexism as much as it looks like a hit piece on Obama to me. I don't see what it hopes to accomplish. I loathe sexism and spent the greater part of my life trying to push back against it. But it seems to me if you want to demand fairness, you have to play fair yourself. This video didn't leave me feeling sympathetic -- just irritated -- and I support the feminist cause, however imperfectly.

Whoever made this video should take the advice Hillary gives at the end of the speech. Move beyond rhetoric, move beyond recognition of problems to working together to build the common effort to have the common ground we hope to see.

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GED Dad out of jail

By Libby

Following up on my earlier post, Mr. Gergen has been granted at least a temporary reprieve by the courts but he's not quite a free man yet.

But Gegner, who landed in jail May 7 for failing to ensure his daughter attended school, risks serving another 171 days unless his daughter attends pre-college mathematics classes at Miami University’s Hamilton campus. Gegner must return to court July 16. He will go back to jail that day unless Brittany attends the classes as arranged, Niehaus ruled.

The reprieve means Gegner will keep the data-entry job he has held for 14 years at Christ Hospital and can go back to parenting another daughter, 16, who is an honor-roll student at Fairfield High School. [...]

The teen has said it's not fair that her father was punished for her behavior. But the law in Ohio is clear, parents can be held legally responsible for truant children. [...]

Usually stoic on the bench, Niehaus got choked up as he spoke about why truancy is a big deal. Children who don’t get educations typically end up with low-paying jobs, committing crimes or relying on public assistance, he said.

I assume then the honorable judge is out there advocating for sentencing reform so communities can spend money on schools instead of pouring money into prisons filled with non-violent offenders who fell victim to the war on some drugs. And as I noted earlier, he certainly hasn't demonstrated the same level of concern about teens who get caught in sexual misconduct.

I'm sure the Ohio law, which was amended in 2000, was well intentioned but it's difficult to feel much sympathy for the judge, who has endured some very bad press, when he failed to take any mitigating circumstances into account. I find it especially interesting that the other daughter, who presumably actually lives with him, is an honor student. Doesn't exactly make the case for irresponsible parenting but makes a pretty good one for over-zealous ruling from the bench. [via Jules]

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May 17, 2008

Industrial agriculture is killing us - literally

By Libby

I'm reluctantly linking to this open letter to Hillary Clinton by Linn Cohen-Cole even though I think it's unfair in laying the blame solely at the Clinton's feet, because she brings up some critically important points on Monsanto, GM foods and monolithic agricultural practices in a really well researched piece. Here's the money graf.

Cattle bloated by steroids, lapse and loss of 10,000 year old normal seeds [here], immense pollution from factory farms [here], deadly-disease-ridden feed, world-wide bee colony collapse, poisoned soil and depleted water supplies, Superweeds, lawsuits against farmers, loss of family farms, and … India farmers killing themselves in what may be the largest mass suicide in recorded human history (on average … one farmer suicide every 30 minutes since 2002 - The Hindu 1.30.08) - that is industrial agriculture.

Like everything else the corporatocracy has sold us as a panacea to some problem, the only real benefit is to the corporate bottom line and the ultimate price we'll pay for buying the snake oil they're selling is worldwide devastation and premature extinction.

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Notable quotes on Clinton

By Libby

I'm not big on articles based entirely on anonymous sources but in this case, it seems justified. Considering that Hillary is still running an active campaign, Ms. Cottle allows her sources discretion appropriately in analyzing what went wrong on the path of inevitability . This quote pretty well nails where they went off track.

"There was not any plan in place from beginning to end on how to win the nomination. It was, 'Win Iowa.' There was not the experience level, and, frankly, the management ability, to create a whole plan to get to the magical delegate number. That to me is the number one thing. It's starting from that point that every subsequent decision resulted. The decision to spend x amount in Iowa versus be prepared for February 5 and beyond. Or how much money to spend in South Carolina--where it was highly unlikely we were going to win--versus the decision not to fund certain other states. ... It was not as simple as, 'Oh, that's a caucus state, we're not going to play there.' That suggests a more serious thought process. It suggests a meeting where we went through all that."

"Harold Ickes's encyclopedic understanding of the proportional delegate system was never operationalized into a field plan. The campaign inexplicably wrote off many states entirely, allowing Obama to create the lead of 100+ delegates that he has today. Most notably, we claimed the race would be over by February 5, but didn't devote any resources to the smaller states that day and in the weeks that followed, allowing Obama to easily run up margins and delegate counts on the cheap--the delegate margin he will win by."

We can argue all day and night about sexism and racism and all the other roadblocks on the path to the nomination, and all surely had an effect, but the bottom line is Obama simply outplanned Clinton. Everyone knew the rules of the game going in, and he used them to his advantage. If he was running against anyone besides Clinton, I have to think some of those who now argue that he doesn't deserve the nomination would be arguing the opposite and in fact might be praising his superior organizational abilities.

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May 16, 2008

The war is over

By Libby

Well, not really over, although that's what Jesse Jackson was shouting on the House floor yesterday in the aftermath of this vote.

The House failed to pass a measure funding the war in Iraq on Thursday afternoon by a vote of 141 to 149, with 132 Republicans voting “present” to protest what they see as unfair treatment by the Democratic majority. [...]

The House did approve two other war-related measures, one that included nonbinding language to remove troops from Iraq and another that included an expansion of veterans' education benefits and other domestic spending initiatives.

Neither of the last two votes are veto proof and the non-binding withdrawal language is the usual meaningless theater of course. The whole thing now moves to the Senate where no doubt the funding will be restored, but still, it's the most action we've seen from the Dems in a long time and Matt Stoller unearths this gem from the proceedings.

Finally the GI bill passed with overwhelming margin of 256 votes in the House, including 32 Republicans. It included a war surtax of one half of one percent on people making over $500k a year to pay for the GI bill, at the behest of Blue Dogs.

That's rather phenonmenal in an election year and one hopes it indicates that the Beltway is finally wising up to the temperment among the masses. Meanwhile, this could really complicate matters.

The so-called Ag-Jobs amendment, sponsored by Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Larry Craig (R-Idaho), would create a process that allows undocumented workers to continue to work on farms. Without the amendment, Feinstein warned that the U.S. would lose $5-9 billion to foreign competition, tens of thousands of farms would shut down and 80,000 workers would be transferred to Mexico. The bill would sunset in five years.

"Agriculture needs a consistent workforce," Feinstein said. "Without it, they can't plant, they can't prune, they can't pick and they can't pack.

She's right of course. With food prices skyrocketing already, the farmers need the immigrants, legal or not to get in the crops but the anti-immigrant crowd, which is large and somewhat bi-partisan within the public, is going to raise a ruckus and it could well delay the funding for a long time.

In any event, I think Jesse is right that this is beginning of the end of the 'war.' As Matt notes, we've reached a tipping point and continuing the occupation is becoming politically unsustainable. Our next job in Blogtopia will be to fight against leaving residual troops beyond those absolutely necessary to protect the boondoggle otherwise known as the US embassy.

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May 15, 2008

Someone's got to kick his....

By Libby

Whoa baby. This is the best rumor I've heard for a long time.

Just off the House floor today, the Crypt overheard House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers tell two other people: “We’re closing in on Rove. Someone’s got to kick his ass.”

Asked a few minutes later for a more official explanation, Conyers told us that Rove has a week to appear before his committee. If he doesn’t, said Conyers, “We’ll do what any self-respecting committee would do. We’d hold him in contempt. Either that or go and have him arrested.”

Conyers said the committee wants Rove to testify about his role in the imprisonment of former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman, among other things.

“We want him for so many things, it’s hard to keep track,” Conyers said.

And dreams of a frog march dance in my head.

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Let's just call it a war tax

By Libby

I keep hearing these arguments that the oil corporations shouldn't be penalized for making a profit but I'm with Skimble on this. Even if we acknowledge that the profits are partly, or even largely, a result of supply and demand, the fact remains that there's a correlation between the rising price of oil and the mess Bush created in Mesopotamia. Skimble is right in that the corporations profit from the war without having to lift a finger to support it. And the profits have been huge.

Today's WSJ shows quarterly net income (i.e., profit) for Shell of $9.08 billion. For BP it's $7.62 billion. Those profits are billions, not millions, for three months of income.

That's almost $17 billion of profit for just two companies, excluding ExxonMobil, in this quarter alone. At this rate, the combined profits of the industry for the year will exceed $100 billion.

Even in rapidly decaying US dollars, that's a f*ckload of money. [...] On the other hand, we the American taxpayers are not volunteers. Indiana's middle class is paying more for the war than the oil conglomerates. It is only fitting that BP, Shell, and ExxonMobil be harshly taxed to help pay for the war that makes them so f*cking profitable.

Skimble is right on and spare me the free market arguments. Between futures trading and supply machinations, the oil market is one of the most manipulated marketplaces we have and fuel is not a commodity that's particularly discretionary. For millions of Americans, not driving is not an option and the handful of megacorps essentially have a monolopy on the product.

But let's not look at a windfall tax as a punishment, but rather a patriotic contribution from the megacorps to the overall wellbeing of the nation. They've made a fortune from this war and really they should be voluntarily tithing some portion of those obscene profits to paying for it in order to take some burden off the working class. But since we can't count on their altruism, then a war tax seems fair to me. [via]

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May 13, 2008

Man jailed for daughter's GED failure

By Libby

Read this and be glad you're not the parent of problem teenager in Ohio. Judge David Niehaus of Butler County Juvenile Court sentenced Brian Gegner to six months in jail because his 19 year daughter Brittany has been unable to pass the math portion of the GED test. Even more astounding, although Gegner has legal custody of the daughter, she has been living with her birth mother since she herself gave birth to a child at the age of 17.

The court claims jurisdiction over the case because it began when the girl was 16 years old when she came before the bench on account of her truancy problems. Ironically, she ended up in the court system because Mr. Gergen and his second wife sought help from the authorities in trying to control the child.

Gergen's sister adds some context to the story. Gergen never married Brittany's mother and sought custody of the girl and her brother when they were toddlers. She has a history of acting out in her teen years and after she gave birth, she pleaded to be allowed to move in with her birth mom, which she did along with her baby and the baby's father. Both the daughter and birth mother agree that Gergen should not be the one held responsible for her failure to pass the test. Again, it is the only the math portion of the GED she has failed. She successfully passed the other subjects and is still trying to pass the math portion.

As for the judge, a Republican who was elected to the bench, he has an interesting record of decisions. He apparently is more offended by truant schoolgirls than he is by teenage rapists.

Two 15-year-old boys have been sentenced to a rehabilitation center for the rape of a third boy on a school bus. The Butler County Juvenile Court Judge originally gave each of the boys a one-year sentence -- one boy for rape and the other for complicity to rape.

David Niehaus then suspended the sentences in favor of a rehabilitation program in Hamilton, north of Cincinnati. The judge warned them that if they aren't successful in rehabilitation they could be put behind bars. When the boys finish the program Niehaus will decide whether they should be classified as sexual offenders.

And I couldn't find the final disposition on this case of child molestation but he did let the perpetrator plead down.

A teenage boy has pleaded guilty to reduced sex charges involving two younger boys he was babysitting in Butler County. The baby sitter, now 16, pleaded guilty to six counts of gross sexual imposition. He had originally been charged with rape of two boys who were ages 9 and 11 at the time of the alleged crimes. Judge David Niehaus set sentencing for 9 a.m. April 11 in Butler County Juvenile Court. The teen was released on electronic monitoring awaiting sentencing.

However, he apparently believes in throwing the book at parents.

A judge ordered jail time for a man and woman convicted of attempted assault for tying the woman's 12-year-old son to a lawn chair with duct tape. Butler County Juvenile Court Judge David Niehaus sentenced David Edester, 41, to 20 days in jail for confining his stepson to the chair for 2 1/2 hours May 5. The boy suffered a severe sunburn, police said.

That's not to condone the parent's choice of punishment but considering his decision here that caused the death of an infant, one might suggest he review his approach to penalites.

Tiffany died Sept. 30, 1986, from gangrene when the wounds she suffered from continuous beatings became infected. She had been living with her father for 27 days. Butler County Children Services had taken the child away from Jackson alleging poor living conditions.

Butler County Juvenile Court Judge David Niehaus placed Tiffany with Hubbard even though a psychologist’s report cautioned against it, and despite Hubbard’s juvenile conviction at 17 for molesting a 7-year-old.

Ironically he's been named Judge of the Year at least twice. If this is the best Ohio has got, I'd hate to see what the worst are like. [h/t Paul Wright]

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New security threat - scientific researchers

By Libby

We all know by now that the Bush administration has been waging an undeclared war on climatology along with all other realms of scientific knowledge but declaring oceanography students to be threats to national security seems a little over the top, even for them.

A German graduate student in oceanography at M.I.T. applied to the Transportation Security Administration for a new ID card allowing him to work around ships and docks. What the student, Wilken-Jon von Appen, received in return was a letter that not only turned him down but added an ominous warning from John M. Busch, a security administration official: “I have determined that you pose a security threat.”

Similar letters have gone to 5,000 applicants across the country who have at least initially been turned down for a Transportation Worker Identification Credential, an ID card meant to guard against acts of terrorism, agency officials said Monday.

There's no indication that the letters detail the grounds on which the decision was based other than their status as foreign nationals, even if they hail from US friendly countries. Last I heard Germany and England were still listed as allies but I'd guess the real threat is that their work is likely to prove detrimental to the economic security of US corporations that profit from ecological disruption.

That's our DHS. Keeping us safe from grad students. Meanwhile, despite a flurry of U.S. government initiatives since 9/11 that create the illusion of port security, the vast majority of cargo containers still enter uninspected based mainly on unverified assurances of compliance and air cargo inspections remain negligible.

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The 'new' normal life in Baghdad

By Libby

Bill Ardolino is peddling surge success with pictures today. He strolls the Shorja Market with the Sons of Iraq and defines the new normal.

Since the improvement in security, central Baghdad has regained a sense of normalcy. Aside from the legion of security personnel bristling with weapons and ubiquitous concrete barriers, portions of the capital bustle and hum with an energy common to all big cities. At the market, children played in the streets while adults shopped, ate, and socialized over chai. The Sons of Iraq moved easily among them and seemed well-received by the locals. [emphasis added]

I'm sure they do seem to be well-received. How would anyboby treat armed enforcers of the peace except with at least feigned respect? Oddly, I was thinking about the old definition of normal in Baghdad this weekend and posted about it at my own blog. Contrast Roggio's photos with this mundane video of a typical street scene before the invasion. [Note it's a little glitchy for the first couple of minutes and the bulk of the nightime scenes start from about the four minute mark]. Especially poignant are the last frames in which an local Iraqi speaks.

Tell all the Western foreigners. We are like this. Normal. No problem.

One can't to fail to notice there are no women in Roggio's pictures but he does take care to capture the smiling children. However, look at the difference in the children between Roggio's photos and the candid snaps here. The knowledge of the horrors these children have witnessed, now reflected in their eyes, breaks the heart. I posted links to many more photos of the old normal before the trees were cut down, before the ancient buildings were bombed, before the Tigris was fouled, but the greatest damage can't be shown in pictures. As Baghdad's Kassakhoon said in comments to my post:

We may be able to regain our buildings, streets and treasures but the thing we can't get back and I think it is bigger than all your losings is that the damage that has affected our society.

It is something we have not seen before: the Shiite hates his Sunni neighbor and vice versa and the Sunni man can't marry a Shiite woman and vice versa.

No matter how the warmongers define, and redefine, success in Iraq, this new normal will be the real legacy of the invasion. The bitter divisions fostered in their society as a result of the liberation will take generations to heal.

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Propaganda is funny, but it's not a joke

By Libby

I haven't been digging into the DOD document dump myself but it is proving to be a treasure trove, as documented here by our resident wonks. Today TPM reveals the lighter side of the Pentagon's illegal domestic psyops campaign.

Back in June 2006 there's this email ...

hi. jed babbin, one of our military analysts, is hosting the michael medved nationally syndicated radio show this afternoon. he would like to see if general casey would be available for a phone interview any time between 3 and 6 pm. topics would be: status of operations in iraq and if troop levels should/can/will be reduced. ... please feel free to contact jed directly (contact info below) if the general can/would be available for the interview. this would be a softball interview and the show is 8th or 9th in the nation.

A short time later a press flack from the Office of the Secretary of Defense writes back ...

Hi Thanks for sending this. Just fyi, probably wouldn't put "softball" interview in writing. If that got out it would compromise jed and general casey.

If you happen to be harboring any stray doubts that the Pentagon also successfully co-opted the wingosphere into their game plan, TPM adds, Babbin is now the editor of Human Events Online.

I'd be more amused by this if I thought it would have any effect on diminishing the credibility of all these perpetrators of misinformation but considering the legacy media's determined avoidance of covering this gross fraud, I doubt if these revelations will filter out to the majority of the electorate. I expect they'll get the last laugh. They'll simply ride out the well deserved ridicule from the alternate media and continue to pummel the people with the propaganda.

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May 11, 2008

MoDo's malicious musings

By Libby

Why the NYT continues to give MoDo's spiteful adolescent fantasies such an important forum remains one of life's great unsolved mysteries. John Cole endures her mindnumbing prattle so we don't have to and his reaction is pretty close to my own.

One of the things Obama supporters would be wise to remember is that when Clinton supporters and her campaign point out that a lot of people hated Hillary before this campaign even started, they aren’t lying. Dowd is one such example- she was brutal to the Clinton family throughout the 90’s, and she has been just as brutal the past year and a half. It is easy to understand how at this late point in the game, Clinton and her supporters feel she has not been given a fair shake by many in the media, and the reason they feel that way is because she hasn’t. That doesn’t mean that any distaste for the direction the Clinton campaign has taken is unwarranted, but it would be good to remember that it is not wholly unnatural for Clinton supporters to be, well, bitter, at this point.

Additionally, the “advice” Dowd gives is just horrible, and the rhetoric even worse. A consistent base of Hillary’s support is not going to react well to attempts to “punish” Hillary, or to “put her in her place.” I can’t imagine any more loaded rhetoric than that, and feminists and Hillary diehards would be right to be livid by any attempts to do that. I happen to think that Hillary’s campaign is over and that she is doing more harm than good, but she does not need to be “punished” or any of that nonsense- losing something you have worked for for all these years is hard enough. She also has every right to continue on until the last primary, and it is sort of absurd to assert that continuing your campaign is something that is, in and of itself, something that should be “punished.”

As I said in comments over there, I’ve been thinking along those lines myself. It makes sense for her to keep going. I mean the losing team doesn’t walk off the field at the bottom of the ninth just because they’re 15 runs behind. Yes the game is over by any realistic measure but she can't just forfeit now. Not when her fans haven’t left the stadium.

The loss will be painful for everyone and it seems to me her supporters deserve a chance to hold onto to their dream as long as they can. Let the game play to the last out. They poured their body and souls into this campaign and to demand any less is to dishonor their passion and commitment to their cause.

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Supporting the troops for their sacrifice

By Libby

Well, we already know that Bush is threatening to veto Webb's GI Bill because it contains enhanced benefits for returning troops, a position that McCain supports fully, but this really adds insult to injury.

In August 2006 the 10th Mountain Division, 2nd BCT, 1-89 Cavalry was sent to Iraq for 12 months. In April 2007, the troops were told the Army was adding three additional months to their time in country.

In November 2007 the troopers of 1-89 arrived back in New York from their tour. They are now being told by the IRS, via the IRS Web site, that they haven't earned enough money to qualify for the economic stimulus check.

Bush and his remaining warmongers beat their chests over honoring the troops previous sacrifices by continuing to send them back to the deathtrap repeatedly until they're either too broken to fight anymore or die. The ones that remain useable are housed in barracks and hospitals that would be condemned in the private sector or denied existing benefits altogether on the weakest of technicalities. That is when they're not being dunned for getting injured before the their contract was up or for equipment lost at the front while they were gravely injured. And now they don't qualify for the stimulus check because they didn't make enough taxable income while at the same time the mercenaries that are making ten times the salary for the same work will probably receive the highest amounts possible?

The sheer inhumanity of this administration just leaves me speechless with disgust.

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May 10, 2008

Media malfeasance

By Libby

If you need inspiration to participate in this action, via Avedon, read Daily Howler's rundown of media manipulations and other acts of malfeasance to remind yourselves of how the Village Idiots play us for fools.

If that's not enough, Bob Herbert offers up the classic illustration of media malignancy in this column of recylced memes from the 90s. Even if you're mad as hell at the Clintons at this point, this column should piss you off for its air of Beltway insider entitlement. In fact, don't even read it. I'll do the short version Villager edition for you: Those Clintons have no class. Those damn hicks thought they could take this place over and it's not their town -- it's ours.

Sign the petition. It's time we remind these freeloaders that they don't own that town either. We do and they enjoy their special privileges at our will. The only way to do it is to wrest control away from the six guys that are choking out open debate with their own narrow, profit driven agenda.

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Today's point and click activism

By Libby

It's been a while since I asked for thirty seconds of your time and this is a far more important issue than who is winning the horserace and is likely to slip through the cracks. In two words, it's media consolidation. I don't need to tell you that this is single biggest cause of our dumber than a box of rocks political discourse but here's the details on what's at stake.

This is the moment of truth for the U.S. media. In December 2007, the Federal Communications Commission voted 3-2 to gut the longstanding "newspaper/broadcast cross-ownership" ban that prohibits a local newspaper from owning TV and radio stations in the same market. This decision will mean less local news, less diverse perspectives and less competition in our country's media system.

The new rules will let big media conglomerates get even bigger, gobbling up local news outlets in your town. This is bad for journalism, bad for media diversity, and bad for our democracy.

However, on March 6, members of the Senate stepped up to overturn the FCC's dangerous rule changes. A "resolution of disapproval" introduced by Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) would nullify the FCC decision and protect local news around the country. That's the good news. The bad news is that according to Senate rules, we only have 60 legislative days to get this bill passed. We need your help to build the momentum and overturn the FCC's rule changes.

The clock is quickly running out on this one. Stop the Rupert Murdochs of the world and please sign the petition at the link. Our future literally depends on breaking the stranglehold our malignant media has on the discourse. This petition could at least fracture one finger of it.

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May 09, 2008

Tell a superdelegate

By Libby

The two superdelegates from the College Democrats of America are clearly enjoying their moment in the spotlight and they're asking for advice on what to do. You can contact them via any of the means they suggest in the video or email them at khaleela@collegedems.com and wolfel@collegedems.com with your thoughts.

One word of advice. Threatening them is probably not a good idea. Anger can surely end an argument, but it rarely wins one. Keep that in mind no matter who you support.

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How do Republicans get away with obstruction?

By Libby

When I first read that the Republicans are so crass that they would even vote against motherhood in order to stall the Congress, I wasn't so much offended by their tactics as I was irritated that Congress is wasting their time on meaningless resolutions in the first place. One might think they have more important matters to address.

Nonetheless, the GOP has been shameless in using such childish tactics to prevent any meaningful legislation from being passed, presumably so they can say the Democrats got nothing done in the last two years when they're running for re-election.

Whatever happens in Mississippi, Boehner has enough trouble to preoccupy him here in Washington, where House Democrats have been passing their agenda with little thought for Republican preferences. "The majority has taken, once again, their go-it-alone policy," Boehner lamented yesterday. "It's time for Democrats and Republicans to work together."

To induce this working together, Boehner decided to stop the House from working at all. As House Democrats tried to pass legislation to ease the mortgage crisis on Wednesday, Republicans served up hours of procedural delays, demanding a score of roll call votes: 10 motions to adjourn, half a dozen motions to reconsider, various and sundry amendments, a motion to approve the daily journal, a motion to instruct and a "motion to rise."

The high point came just after 6 p.m., when, after one of the motions to adjourn, 61 members lined up to change their votes, one by one. Forty-six went from aye to no, while 15 changed from no to aye. The maneuver ate up 28 minutes in all -- and caused an eruption by Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, who accused the minority of a "filibuster by vote changing."

Which raises a couple of questions in my mind. How is it that the GOP is so successful at using this tactic and why didn't the Democrats do the same to prevent all the rubberstamping the GOP did of Bush's agenda in the years prior to 06? The Dems told us at the time they couldn't prevent the majority from having their way. Now, they're the majority and they still can't prevent the minority from hijacking the proceedings. They can't have it both ways. Why aren't the Democrats using whatever parliamentary rules the GOP invoked in the former times, so they can get something of consequence done?

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An issue of hair raising importance

Brenda_starr_3

(By Libby ) While everyone else is busy issuing post-mortems on the Democratic primary, following the standards set by our superior legacy media, I'm turning my attention to questions of greater import, namely what do we call Chris "Tweety" Matthews now that he colored his hair?

When I saw the change, my first thought was of the red-headed heroine of the comic strips, Ace Reporter Brenda Starr. The hair color works and after all she was famous for loving manly men, just like our Tweety. But I rejected that choice for the obvious reason. She was a real reporter who went out on the streets looking for stories. The hair works, but the personna doesn't.

I'm not the only one who is pondering this question and I have to agree with Avedon that Gossamer isn't working for me. Too esoteric and not a wide enough historic context. Frankly I don't know who that character is and I suspect I'm not the only one. I think we need a more recognizable reference.

Elmo I mean giving up the Tweety nickname is traumatic enough and many are resisting the change altogether. I was thinking we need a similarly warm and fuzzy character if we're going to give up our beloved Tweety reference. I flirted briefly with Clifford. In keeping with the original logic behind the Tweety nickname, he does have a big red head but the name is so generic that it wouldn't be instantly recognizable. Then it struck me. Elmo. I think he's perfect. He even bears a resemblence to Matthews, don't you think? [graphics credits]

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May 08, 2008

Disclosure is for little people

By Libby

Cindy McCain says she will never release her tax returns, even if by some act of mass insanity on the part of the electorate, her husband manages to become the president. She says it's a privacy issue.

The Arizona senator released his tax return last month, reporting he had a total income of $405,409 in 2007 and paid $84,460 in federal income taxes. He files his return separately from his wife, an heiress to a Phoenix-based beer distributing company whose fortune is in the $100 million range.

Sorry Cindy. I'm a big advocate for privacy but it's not in the job description for President. The voters are the ones doing the hiring here. The deal has always been, you want the power, the price is to live in a fishbowl. That goes for the First Lady too. Separate tax returns doesn't mean that the candidate doesn't benefit directly from her wealth and she benefits from his political status. The voters deserve full disclosure.

And while we're talking about disclosure, I understand McCain hasn't released his medical records since 2000. Cindy claims he's a ball of fire, but the health of a 72 year old man with a history of serious medical problems who wants to take on the most stressful job in the country is also material. He should release them immediately or explain why he won't.

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Should she stay or should she go

By Libby

I haven't weighed in on Tuesday's results for a number of reasons, mainly because of my work schedule but I've been reading as much of the speculation as I could stand and I see Marc Ambinder has a pretty good list of reasons she should stay in. The only one I find really compelling is the last one.

7. Unity. If Clinton campaigns appropriately, she can help Obama begin to help heal the party.

That's a big "if" as far as I can see from the latest spin coming out of the Clinton camp but one lives in hope that Senator Clinton can find her way towards waging a more positive campaign in these remaining contests. If she can turn her attacks on McCain's transgressions instead of relentlessly framing her Democratic opponent in GOP terms that have been used against all Democrats for all these many years the Republicans have been in power, then something good can come of this prolonged race. Anything less robs the Democrats of an opportunity to gain the Oval Office with the largest mandate in recent history.

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May 06, 2008

FBI finally nabs sightseers

By Libby

Gee, it seems like only yesterday that the wingnut blog mob was leading the panic over those suspicious looking Middle Eastern fellows on the Seattle ferry. How time flies. Here we are a mere ten months later.

The FBI has called off a global manhunt for two men who looked Middle Eastern and were spotted snapping pictures and demonstrating "suspicious behavior" on a Washington ferry last summer.

My headline is a little misleading. The FBI didn't actually find them. They finally turned themselves in.

The men appeared at a U.S. Embassy two weeks ago and identified themselves as European business consultants who were on a trip to Seattle, FBI officials said Monday. Special Agent in Charge Laura Laughlin said the men took a couple of days off in the middle of the July visit and decided to ride a car ferry. They took photos to show relatives back home, she said.

And this really inspires confidence in national security.

The FBI, in a statement issued Monday, thanked "the many media organizations worldwide that published the photographs and ultimately played a prominent role in resolving this matter, allowing the investigative resources of the multiple law enforcement agencies to be redirected to other important matters."

Emphasis mine. I mean really. If our intelligence agencies can't even find the innocent tourists, how the hell are they going to protect us from the real terrorists? Somehow, I don't think those guys will be showing up voluntarily at the nearest US Embassy. But, I'm not blaming the agencies. I think they've fallen victim to the widesweep surveillance imperative mandated by the Bush administration.

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Going to be that kind of day

By Libby

The buzz today is likely to be all speculation, all the time about who will win today's super duper primaries, but there are actually other things going in the world. Since I'm pressed for time this morning and can't really expound on anything at length, I'm going to channel Avedon and just give you some linky goodness.

Starting with a link I picked up via Avedon, if you're wondering why the media seems to push memes that help the terrorists, it may be because the terrorists own our airwaves. Who knew?

Then there's the trouble with Harry. It's really time to get rid of Mr. Reid. His 'leadership' has been sliding from less than useless to outright destructive for too long.

It's probably time to give back the Statute of Liberty too. It's clear when our government can effectively murder legal immigrants, that we really don't deserve to keep her anymore.

Oh and how unsurprising. John McCain hated Bush before he fell in love with him. They do say that love and hate are two sides of the same coin.

Meanwhile, if you missed the Million Man Marijuana March in Manhattan, you can see some videos and pictures of the event.

And if you simply must have some primary day pontification, Kyle gets a jump on the post results spin and Ezra does the math. It's useful to remember when we started this endless primary, everyone agreed on certain rules, the most important being that the delegate count would determine the winner. They tell me the value of numbers are absolute and really, they speak for themselves.

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May 05, 2008

Everywhere there's signs

By Libby

It's a curious thing, having voted early, I'm in a whole different mindset about tomorrow's vote here in North Carolina. I've never been able to vote early before. I'm feeling oddly detached, removed from the excitement of election day. But you can feel the excitement building all the same. A forest of lawn signs for the national race sprang up like spring flowers in the last 24 hours. Until now, it was mostly a handful of signs for the downticket candidates.

For what it's worth, and as I noted before I'm in a sort of liberal bubble here on the far edge of the Raleigh/Durham Triangle, the Obama signs outnumber the Hillary signs by at least eight to one. More interestingly, the Ron Paul signs outnumber Clinton by about three to one. I was wondering why, since he's not on the ballot, but as it turns out the Republicans are holding a primary on Wednesday Tuesday as well.

I'd note I haven't seen a single McCain sign anywhere in the greater Triangle but I see he's arrived to do some fundraising. I especially loved this vignette.

McCain said Monday he did better raising money in April than in March, when he raised $15 million, but an aide said the campaign was not ready to release the numbers and stopped McCain from doing so himself.

I read something else recently where he asked an aide to tell him what his position was on some issue or another. I find it incredible that a man that has to be handled to this degree is actually running for president.

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It's not about winning but how you play the game.

By Libby

I'm with Booman. I'm tired of the endless parsing of every little word in this endless primary. I don't want to talk about either campaign anymore or which candidate has betrayed the progressive cause more this week. I'm beginning to feel like a hamster caught in exercise wheel, endlessly covering the same ground over and over again. Frankly, the whole process has really started to depress me. I was hoping for better.

Never having been bowled over by either candidate, and recognizing that people will have good and legitimate reasons to support one or the other, all I ever wanted was to see a change in the tenor of the debate. I wanted a fair fight. Which brings to mind this story I picked up from Avedon over the weekend.

Central Washington first baseman Mallory Holtman wasn't doing anything more lofty than keeping track of the baserunners and pitch count in a game last Saturday when Western Oregon's Sara Tucholsky hit the first home run of her career. Never having had occasion to practice, Tucholsky's trot around the bases quickly turned into a disaster - she missed first, turned back to tag it and collapsed with a knee injury.

As Tucholsky crawled back to the bag, Western's first base coach shouted, "Nobody touch her," knowing that any assistance from teammates or her trainers, or replacing Tucholsky with a pinch-runner, meant the home run would only count as a single. While the coaches and umpires tried to figure what to do next, Holtman waded into the huddle and asked, "Excuse me, would it be OK if we carried her around and she touched each bag?"

And they did. Recognizing that she had earned it, the opposing team picked her up and carried her around the bases so her run would count.

It's worth noting the game, which had NCAA tournament implications for both schools, was won by Western Oregon 4-2.

This story nearly brought me to tears. It's so rare to see good sportsmanship like this. Fair play at its finest. If only our political contests could follow these same rules of ethics, our world would be a better place.

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So when do we get the microphone?

By Libby

It's only Monday but the NYT already gets the failed media award of the week for journaistic malpractice with this joke of an op-ed gathering. They invite the 'experts' to explain how the mission in Iraq can be accomplished. Leaving aside that the stated mission of deposing Saddam was accomplished years ago, the point is they only invited the ususal cabal of the always wrong whose 'learned' advice got us into this mess in the first place.

Tristero calls it. We still don't have a voice in this debate. For the love of all that is holy, would it be too much to ask to give the people were were right from the beginning a chance to weigh in once in a while? Or ever?

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May 04, 2008

Court orders medical records scrubbed on taser deaths

By Libby

Raw Story reports on the lastest inching towards the police state with this blessing of the courts.

A Summit County Common Pleas judge ordered the county medical examiner to delete any reference that Tasers contributed to the deaths of three Ohio men. [...]

Five sheriff's deputies had been indicted on charges related to the death of one of the men, who also had a history of mental illness. The judge further ordered that man's death be ruled as "undetermined" and to "delete any references to homicide and the death possibly being caused by asphyxia, beatings or other factors."

The court hearing centered around the "very narrow issue" of whether or not the use of the Taser Model X26 could contributed in any way to the cause of death.

I'm not a lawyer, but it sounds like the decision fairly overstepped the narrow issue with the ruling on all references to possible police misconduct. Which brings up this video Paul Wright sent me about the LA prison riot. The most disturbing bit comes at the end when we're blithely told that the Emergency Response Team isn't confined to quelling prison violence but is cross-training to "go out on the streets."

Taser Corp., not unexpectedly is lauding the decision. Funny how the corporation has such a remarkable record in avoiding liability in deaths after tasering. Radley adds context to that point.

Taser would rather medical examiners attribute such deaths to “excited delirium,” a vague condition relatively unheard of in medical research before the advent of the Taser, but that now seems to be a frequent cause of death in Taser-related cases–but totally unrelated to the actual Tasering, of course. Coincidentally, Taser is apparently also shoveling money at researchers willing to lend medical bona-fides to the “excited delirium” theory.

Taser, Blackwater, ERTs, SWAT team raids for routine crimes -- start putting all the pieces together and it surely begins to look like fascism to me. As I've become fond of saying lately, just because you're not doing anything wrong, doesn't mean they won't someday come to get you anyway.

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Oh Baby, Ohio

By Libby

It happened 38 years ago, today.



Rest in peace Kent State Four.

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Asparagus and human arrogance

By Libby

I see Insty has joined in to the gleeful mockery over "Switzerland's enshrining of 'plant dignity'." He quotes:

It also reflects the triumph of a radical anthropomorphism that views elements of the natural world as morally equivalent to people."

Talk about overstating your case. Nobody bothers to link to the actual study, but having scanned it myself, it appears to be a very wordy argument, couched in esoteric terms, over the implications of genetically modifying seeds. In fact, there is indeed a moral case to be made about whether or not for instance, it should be acceptable in a civil society to allow Monsanto, (or whatever corporation) to develop sterile plant stock for the sole purpose of allowing said corporation to gain control of the world's food supply.

But beyond that, I can't fail to notice that those who are outraged by the idea that we should treat the natural world with respect are the same suspects who routinely deny human impact on climate disruption and make their own moral judgments about the relative worth of their fellow human beings as well. These same people, who by accident of birth enter into a world of privilege and its inherent advantages are the first to arrogantly scorn "the others" that don't have the wherewithal to rise above their lowly stations of their birth, for which they are no more responsible.

And it's an interesting coincidence that they would choose to use the metaphor of the silent scream of asparagus. As it turns out, thanks to climate disruption, the asparagus crop was wiped out in the northeast last week because it came up weeks earlier than it has in 50 years and then was decimated by a unusally hard late season frost.

Does the asparagus scream when it freezes to death? Who knows? The human ear can't hear a dog whistle either but that doesn't mean the sound doesn't exist on the spectrum. All that's certain is that this attitude of human superiority over lesser natural beings could very likely leave the planet barren and unhabitable in the future.

I have a different metaphor. The web of life is as fragile as any spider web and all living organisms contribute to its overall health. Break enough strands and the web no longer fulfills its function. The spider catches no flies and dies of hunger. Humans might consider that before they arrogantly dismiss and disrespect the inherent value of species that can't speak for themselves.

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May 03, 2008

One bitter, working class white vote for Obama - Updated

By Libby

I woke up this morning as I have for the last several months, hating both candidates, but today was different. Today, I had to vote. For a number of reasons, I can't make it to the polls on Tuesday so this was my last shot at early voting. I almost didn't make it but arrived with about 7 minutes to spare. That was lucky. The woman ahead of me told me she had come by an hour earlier and the line was way down the street. I was one of the last 25 voters they let in so the wait wasn't long.

The woman I was talking to was older than me, middle class and well informed. I'm thinking she probably voted for Clinton. But fully 75% of the people in line were black.The guy just in front of us was wearing an Obama pin. Privacy was a joke. You could easily see what circles people were filling in as you walked past and the ballot is fully exposed when you put into the scanner. I know it's impolite to look, but I did anyway and all the ballots I glimpsed, from both black and white voters were for Obama.

Which brings me to this NYT piece on whether Obama can win the white vote.

The question is this: Have white Democrats soured on Obama? Apparently not. Although his unfavorable rating from the group is up five percentage points since last summer in polls conducted by The New York Times and CBS News, his favorable rating is up just as much.

On the other hand, black Democrats’ opinion of Hillary Clinton has deteriorated substantially (her favorable rating among them is down 36 percentage points over the same period).

While a favorable opinion doesn’t necessarily translate into a vote, this should still give the Clintons (and the superdelegates) pause. Electability cuts both ways.

For a number of reasons, I may or may not detail in another post, I voted for Obama. The bottom line is I think he's the more electable. One can analyze and model and spin the demographics endlessly, but he's the one that has energized the most new participants in the process. And while it's true that a favorable opinion doesn't necessarily translate into a vote in November, it's a sure bet that unfavorable opinion definitely won't. In the end, it's as simple as that.

Update: To be clear, I live in a small semi-rural town that has essentially become an exurb of the Raleigh-Durham Triangle. Thanks to people like me, it's gentrifying rapidly but it still has a large and solid base of working class locals who grew up here when the roads were still unpaved.

Update Two: For the demographic fans, here's some stats from 2005.

Males 48.7%, Females 51.3%
Average median income $56,025
Traditional family households 73.3%
White population: 15,772
Black population: 3,967
American Indian population: 79
Asian population: 144
Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander population: 1
Some other race population: 253
Two or more races population: 328

Most of those numbers will have gone up a bit in the last three years but the porportional distribution is about the same over the last eight.

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SWAT team folly of the week

By Libby

Here's the latest in my ongoing series of botched drug raids.

Police and federal agents raided 50 marijuana grow houses around Florida on Thursday, calling it "Operation D-Day." They seized $7 million worth of pot plants, but they also kicked in the door of Noel Llorente's Opa-locka home and found nothing but bewildered homeowners.

The irony here couldn't be more bitter.

The Llorentes said they don't speak much English – they're immigrants from Cuba. They said one of the reasons they came to the U.S. was to escape oppression from the Cuban police.Isabel Llorente said she never thought this could happen here."Never, because they criticize Cuba so much," she said.

Welcome to the police state of America Mr. and Mrs. Llorente.

"What added salt to this injury was after the situation – house is searched, door is broken – they just walked away," the Llorentes' lawyer said. "Like, 'We're the government. We made a mistake.'" The homeowner said he received only a minimal apology from police and federal agents. "When I asked them about the door, they said, 'Sorry," Noel Llorente said. "When I asked them about my reputation, they said, 'Sorry.'"

As usual, Radley adds an important bit of context.

It's worth noting that while police say these tactics are necessary because drug distributors tend to be violent and armed to the teeth, this operation apparently turned up just eight guns from 150 homes.

This is your government on drugs folks. The valuations of the seized plants are no doubt vastly overstated and in comparison to the costs of the raid, hardly justifiable, but that's not the point of these raids anyway. They're not really after the plants. They don't give a flying leap about getting pot off the streets. It's all about the forfeiture. They'll make millions in seized property which they get to keep on mere suspicion that anything of value was obtained via drug profits, even if any of those grows were only for personal use and the growers never made a cent.

They get to take everything without having to prove the crime. Abolishing the forfeiture laws, or even amending them so the LEOs didn't directly benefit from the forfeiture, would go a long way towards ending these overblown para-military police actions.

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In search of a mandate

By Libby

As long as I'm cleaning up old links today, I agree with Scarecrow on this point.

Folks on all sides need to stop focusing on denials and excuses and start thinking about how all this is being perceived by the supporting groups. And the picture is getting ugly.

Today's polls show McCain holding his own against either Democrat, but the argument is that this will change once the Democratic nominee can refocus attention on McCain in November. Even if that risky gamble pays off, I don't see any way for this contest to continue on its present path without seriously jeopardizing any chance for a blowout-mandate. And I see a real risk that in cobbling together a coalition of the non-frustrated to win a narrow victory, we will lose one or more groups that have traditionally been the heart and soul of the Democratic Party.

In fact I was saying this long before Leftopia lost its collective mind. Winning with a 50+1 strategy is not going to be enough to change the big stuff. All that will do is change who's blamed for the problems. The next president needs to come in with a real mandate, a blowout, and as long as people are spending their energy on winning a battle, we're still in danger of losing the greater war against conservatism.

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A half-step forward against genetic discrimination

By Libby

Avedon flags a story I meant to get to last week, noting that Louise Slaughter has been trying to get this Genetic Test Bias bill passed for 13 years. On the one hand it is an important bill and not only will it pass, apparently Bush will not veto it. It will protect workers from genetic discrimination in hiring, but it does have its flaws, significantly that it won't compel insurers to cover people who need health care the most.

Senate action on that legislation has been slowed by Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., who joined some business groups in warning that the bill could encourage a flood of lawsuits.

A compromise worked out earlier this week tightens language to ensure there is a "firewall" between the part dealing with health plans and the section regarding employment, so as to discourage inappropriate claims.

It also makes clear that, while individuals are protected from discrimination based on genetic predisposition, insurance companies still have the right to base coverage and pricing on the actual presence of a disease.

Not to diminish Slaughter's accomplishment here, this is an important step in the right direction towards encouraging people to participate in potentially life-saving studies in the growing field of genetics, but once again the extraordinarily powerful insurance lobby wins the day by escaping similar anti-discriminatory strictures. And I wonder what real effect this step will have on people's willingness to expose themselves to prior knowledge of genetic dispostition to illnesses.

I happen to have a family member who works in the field and tells me of people who refused testing for fear of losing their insurance. I fear without the dual protection, this bill will not assuage the patient's fears of backlash enough to contribute meaningfully to the pool of people willing to participate in the studies. Still it's a good step and kudos to Slaughter for having taken us this far down the road towards better policy.

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May 02, 2008

The upside of the high price of gas

By Libby

As far as I'm concerned this is welcome news. I'll probably get hate mail for admitting this, but I loathe SUVs and Hummers and all the other ridiculous giant vehicles that became the status symbol of the last decade or so.

DETROIT — Soaring gas prices have turned the steady migration by Americans to smaller cars into a stampede.

In what industry analysts are calling a first, about one in five vehicles sold in the United States was a compact or subcompact car during April, based on monthly sales data released Thursday. Almost a decade ago, when sport utility vehicles were at their peak of popularity, only one in every eight vehicles sold was a small car.

The switch to smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicles has been building in recent years, but has accelerated recently with the advent of $3.50-a-gallon gas. At the same time, sales of pickup trucks and large sport utility vehicles have dropped sharply.

Can't drop sharply enough for me. I think these gas guzzling behemoths are as responsible for rising gas prices as anything else and I have no sympathy for those who are now crying about paying over a hundred bucks to fill these sorry excuses for transportation. And yes, I've heard all the arguments about needing the room but that's just BS.

Here in the McCompound, just looking from my deck I counted a dozen large SUVs and a Hummer. I've yet to see anyone carry anything more in them than a couple of kids and few bags of groceries. I understand that some families do need a roomy car but I don't see that SUVs deliver all that much room for the amount they take up on the road and they're a hazard.

You can't see around them on the highway. You can't see past them when you're backing out of a parking space and they take up a huge amount of room in the parking lots. If you find two parked badly, which they often are, with a space in between, you can't even always fit a little Toyota like mine in between.

My old Subaru wagon could turn on a dime and held twice as much cargo as any SUV I've ever seen. Granted you didn't have quite the same leg room but in the dark ages when I was young, a standard American made station wagon held pretty much the same amount of luggage or whatever and were perfectly comfortable and didn't block visibility because they didn't feel the need to be built two feet higher than every other car and they were less likely to turn over than an SUV. Not to mention, they didn't use nearly as much fuel. I can't but think that in all the years these monsters were popular, we used up a lot more gas than was necessary for the function they filled.

I can live with mini-vans and even the smaller SUVs if someone has a real need to go off road but anything that drives these huge follies off the road, is fine with me.

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April 30, 2008

Good intentions - really bad tactics

By Libby

I don't know what to make of this. I haven't received one of these robo-calls in NC and I'm an unmarried woman. Then again, I rarely answer my phone and I don't have an answering service anymore. By all accounts however, they've been troublesome and now Facing South discovered they are being conducted by a women's advocacy group.

Who's behind the mysterious "robo-calls" that have spread misleading voter information and sown confusion and frustration among North Carolina residents over the last week?

Facing South has confirmed the source of the calls, and the mastermind is Women's Voices Women Vote, a D.C.-based nonprofit which aims to boost voting among "unmarried women voters."

What's more, Facing South has learned that the firestorm Women's Voices has ignited in North Carolina isn't the group's first brush with controversy. Women's Voices' questionable tactics have spawned thousands of voter complaints in at least 11 states and brought harsh condemnation from some election officials for their secrecy, misleading nature and likely violations of election law.

Now you might think this was some nefarious Republican group, but you would be wrong. Long time Democratic insider John Podesta is on the board as is Mike Lux of Open Left. Mike weighs in and says it's just a mistake.

I am completely confident that this was an accident. As far as I can tell, I think it was more a consequence of trying to move on 24 states in a short amount of time, and having nothing to do with the upcoming primary.

He vouches for Page Gardner who says Women's Voice has no ill intent and Matt Stoller posts an email from a personal contact there. Even Digby has an inadvertent, peripheral connection to the place.

The general explanation is that these calls and mailings are "part of a 24-state effort targeted at a list of 3 million voters, especially unmarried women." They don't intend to deceive voters and neither are they pleading incompetence. Apparently they're targeting these voters at an optimal time to get them registered in time for the general with full knowledge that primary deadlines have passed and their internal stats show that the scheme is working, at least of terms of getting people registered to vote.

Speculation is already running rampant that the whole project is a scam to benefit Clinton. I'm not ready to point any fingers myself, barring better evidence beyond former connections and a few political donations. Certainly, you can support one candidate or the other and still be honestly working to further general voter participation.

I think their goals are good, but I'm having a problem with their methodology, which by any measure is simply deceitful. Perhaps the tactics are successful in obtaining the registration numbers that would justify their funding, but one might think the confusion and anger they are generating with the subterfuge and the timing won't necessarily result in people actually turning out to vote in November -- especially if the misled registrants showed up to vote the primary and were turned away.

The goal is admirable but the ends simply don't justify the means. I hope they're able to continue their work, but only if they conduct their business in a more transparent manner.

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10 steps to saving the planet

By Libby

Bolivia's president Evo Morales spoke before the UN Economic and Social Council and offered up a blueprint for saving the planet in the form of ten new commandents. I suppose many would deride them as a call for utopian socialism but they make a lot of sense to me, even as they strike me as impossible to sell to the larger world.

1-Stopping the capitalist system
2-Renouncing wars
3-A world without imperialism or colonialism
4-Right to water
5-Development of clean energies
6-Respect for Mother Earth
7-Basic services as human rights
8-Fighting inequalities
9-Promoting diversity of cultures and economies
10-Living well, not living better at the expense of others

Fuller explanations are at the link but pared down to their bare essence, he's calling for a rejection of greed, waste, materialism and dismantling the stranglehold the corporatocracy has on the global economy. As I said, he'll never sell it on a wide scale as a choice people would make willingly, but as he points out, given the finite nature of our essential resources, eventually we won't have a choice.

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April 29, 2008

Rev Wright - opportunist or saboteur?

By Libby

As Rev. Wright continues on his single handed quest to roil the masses, I've been wondering about his motives. I pretty much write it off to opportunism. He's got he spotlight and he's capitalizing on it. Surely all this press, good or bad, is good for him even though it's clearly been troublesome for Obama. Today, Errol Louis ponders on whether there's a sinister motive in the untoward amount of attention being given a small potatoes preacher who was virtually unknown before the gotcha media decided to make him an issue.

The Rev. Jeremiah Wright couldn't have done more damage to Barack Obama's campaign if he had tried. And you have to wonder if that's just what one friend of Wright wanted.

Shortly before he rose to deliver his rambling, angry, sarcastic remarks at the National Press Club Monday, Wright sat next to, and chatted with, Barbara Reynolds. A former editorial board member at USA Today, she runs something called Reynolds News Services and teaches ministry at the Howard University School of Divinity. (She is an ordained minister). It also turns out that Reynolds - introduced Monday as a member of the National Press Club "who organized" the event - is an enthusiastic Hillary Clinton supporter.

I'm posting on this because in cruising the blogs in the last couple of days, I've seen some speculation in comment sections that the Clinton campaign was somehow behind this. While I don't believe that the campaign itself would stoop so low, I have certainly witnessed some incomprehensibly unfair tactics from avid Clinton supporters seeking to "save us" from nominating Obama. More than one has told me personally, they will do "what it takes' to take him down.

In any event, even assuming this was just an innocent invitation, I think the longer Wright is kept in the spotlight, there's a real danger that this suspicion will grow and I don't think that's good for Clinton or Democrats in general. Clinton supporters may want to consider that before they spend any more time promoting the false media narrative that such peripheral associations have any relevancy and Clinton should be more strenuously defending Obama on those grounds herself.

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McCain's free ride on wife's wealth

By Libby

McNasty McCain isn't only getting a free ride from the media, he also owes his lifestyle to his lovely,younger, second wife. Kevin Drum has the details.

JOHN McCAIN'S FINANCES....Even though I've commented on this before, I didn't realize just how skimpy John McCain's financial disclosure was until I read this Moneybox piece over the weekend:

Aside from a Wachovia checking account, in which he keeps between $15,000 and $50,000 (wouldn't some of that money earn more interest in a certificate of deposit?), all of the couple's assets are in Cindy's name. John McCain's tax return is so anemic, so marginal to the couple's actual financial situation, that he doesn't even take a deduction for interest on his home mortgage. Presumably Cindy does, since disclosure forms indicate that she has several mortgages.

Our 'liberal media' insisted for weeks that both Clintons simply had to disclose their tax returns, yet they're apparently entirely disinterested in informing the public on Mr. McCain's less than straightforward disclosure of his own. Clearly his wife holds the purse strings in that family and her finances are material since he's obviously hiding their collective worth behind her skirts. Not to mention, that he's on tour selling himself as just a regular guy, albeit a war hero, and calling Obama an elitist when in fact his own lifestyle is much farther removed from the daily struggles of middle class America. Those tax breaks he's proposing to make permanent will surely benefit his wife and by extension, himself.

If one accepts at face value the paltry income McCain discloses, in light of his wife's assets one might be tempted to call him a gigolo. It does fit the dictionary definition. Certainly his own claimed assets would not allow for fancy private barbecues for the media who are supposed to be asking these questions for us.

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April 28, 2008

SCOTUS upholds law on fantasy fraud

By Libby

This is why we need to elect Democrats. So we don't get any more judges who uphold laws that "solve" non-existent problems. Just in time for the primary, SCOTUS okayed Indiana's voter ID scheme, scam, election fixing law. Marty Lederman analyzes the precedents the court based their 'considered' judgment on, and Kevin Drum has already unpacked Marty's piece, so I'm just going to quote him.

And what are the examples of voter fraud that John Paul Stevens managed to adduce to support this paragraph? Marty Lederman tells us: (1) Boss Tweed stuffing ballot boxes in 1868, (2) a case in Washington state in which one person committed voter fraud, and (3) a 2003 case of fraud in Indiana which, as Stevens acknowledges, the new law wouldn't cover because it was done via absentee ballot.

Presumably these were the best examples that anyone could come up with. And what do you conclude from them? That's easy: in-person voter fraud is vanishingly rare while absentee voter fraud is, perhaps, a problem genuinely worth addressing. Needless to say, though, Indiana's law does exactly the opposite: it requires voter ID for in-person voting and does nothing to ensure the integrity of absentee voting.

Kevin goes on to point out the obvious, "restricting in-person voting tends to reduce turnout among minorities, the elderly, voters with disabilities, the poor, and the young tend to vote Democratic. Absentee voters, by contrast, tend to vote Republican." [Insert your own conclusions here.]

Of course, as shameful as that is, it won't make as big a difference as this will

Voting rights activists who hoped the federal government would help local governments pay for paper trails and audits for electronic voting machines have gone from elation to frustration as they watched Republicans who supported such a proposal in committee vote against bringing it to the House floor.

The result: The elections in November will likely be marred by the same accusations of fraud and error involving voting machines that arose in the aftermath of the 2004 presidential race.

When New Jersey Democratic Rep. Rush Holt’s Emergency Assistance for Secure Elections Act came up for a vote in the House Administration Committee on April 2, the Republicans on the committee gave it their unanimous support. But two weeks later, those same Republican members voted against moving the bill to the House floor. It would have taken a two-thirds vote to push the bill to the floor; with most House Republicans opposed, the bill didn’t make it that far.

In other words, we won't have a verifiable vote in key areas of the US and all this fighting over the primary isn't going to mean a damn thing without it . All your votes still belong to a GOP friendly corporation.

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Stop that pig thief!

By Libby

Don't let the disguise fool you, I think Roger Waters stole our pig. On the bright side, it appears he wasn't intending to hold him for ransom and he let him go, so I suppose he'll just fly back home here where he belongs.

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Finance industry to Fed - don't fence me in

By Libby

Since it appears it would take Congress three days short of never to address the mortgage situation, the Fed is attempting to step in and issue some new regulatory controls on lending. Needless to say the financiers are not happy

As the Federal Reserve completes work on rules to root out abuses by lenders, its plan has run into a buzz saw of criticism from bankers, mortgage brokers and other parts of the housing industry. One common industry criticism is that at a time of tight credit, tighter rules could make many mortgages more expensive by creating more paperwork and potentially exposing lenders to more lawsuits.

Right because if they made rules setting ethical standards then they might get sued for breaking them. The Fed is already backing down and it's clear Congress isn't about to take up the slack. DWT notices the cozy relationship between the lenders and their would be overseers.

In 2006 the finance, insurance and real estate industries donated a total of $258,824,573 to candidates for office, most of it to Republicans and reactionary Democrats. So far this year-- and we're not even halfway done-- these public-minded industrialists have already given $209,078,445, an amount estimated to reach around $750,000,000 before November. Isn't that special? 54% has gone to Democrats, although much of it to very conservative Democrats who work closely with the GOP to push the agendas of these paymasters.

Go to the post for the complete list, which by the way includes all three presidential candidates with Hillary Clinton leading the pack on deep pocket money. I don't know how it could be any clearer that the only thing that this election is going to change is how we elect the next person who will end up kowtowing to the corporatocracy.

That's not to say that changing the electoral dynamics isn't good, just pointing out that it's probably not going to change the dynamics inside the Beltway very much.

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April 27, 2008

John McCain's own personal 'Nader'

By Libby

Frank Rich picks up on a storyline about the PA primary that was largely ignored. The Republicans had a primary too and the results weren't taken into account in all the electability arguments. I'll let Frank explain why they were material.

But as the doomsday alarm grew shrill, few noticed that on this same day in Pennsylvania, 27 percent of Republican primary voters didn’t just tell pollsters they would defect from their party’s standard-bearer; they went to the polls, gas prices be damned, to vote against Mr. McCain. Though ignored by every channel I surfed, there actually was a G.O.P. primary on Tuesday, open only to registered Republicans. And while it was superfluous in determining that party’s nominee, 220,000 Pennsylvania Republicans (out of their total turnout of 807,000) were moved to cast ballots for Mike Huckabee or, more numerously, Ron Paul. That’s more voters than the margin (215,000) that separated Hillary Clinton and Mr. Obama.

That suggests two things to me. One, any Democrat is going to be able to take PA and two, McCain has a Ron Paul problem. Paul took 16% to Huckabee's 11%, if memory serves, I lost the link, but the problem is not confined to PA. In Nevada, so many RP supporters showed up that the party shut the convention down rather abruptly.

Outnumbered supporters of expected Republican presidential nominee John McCain faced off Saturday against well-organized Paul supporters. A large share of the more than 1,300 state convention delegates enabled Paul supporters to get a rule change positioning them for more national convention delegate slots than expected.

The party leaders claimed they had to shut the hall down because they ran out of time under the terms of their lease of the hall. I guess there was another convention standing around outside the building just waiting for them to finish up. I'm sure it had nothing to do with needing time to develop a counter strategy. I can't to see how that one is resolved, assuming our lazy legacy media will report it.

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Well there goes another keyboard...

By Libby

I don't normally bother to read Karl Rove's tripe at Newsweek, but I couldn't resist when it started out with Dear Senator Obama. Fair warning, do not read while consuming liquids. He did however give Obama one piece of good advice that harks to my own letter to Barack, that being the "don't explain" rule.

As a practical matter, of course Obama can't ignore the negative memes that his opponents invent and the media promotes. We all remember what happened to Kerry when he ignored the Swiftboaters, but -- and I can't believe I'm saying this -- Rove is correct when he tells him he should have just repudiated the initial statement and then stayed with it. To the extent that he would be forced to elaborate further, he should have stuck with simply stating that he doesn't agree with the Rev's statements and he had nothing additional to say because he's not planning to give the man a cabinet post and it's not material to how he would run the government.

Otherwise, Obama should take my advice on the chattering class, and ignore Rove's blathering. But I'm sure he doesn't need me to tell him that.

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Obama interview on Fox

By Libby

The transcript is up. I managed to catch about a half an hour of the show myself. My first reaction is -- Meh. If you wanted fireworks, there weren't any. Not unexpectedly, he played it to the center and for all practical purposes disowned progressives. That doesn't make me happy, but I've never thought of him as advancing a progressive agenda, so I'm not disappointed either. IMO, he's still holding hewing a little more left than Hillary and that's the best we can hope for from either candidate.

As far as his delivery, he was pretty good, no major flubs, but he's not projecting the level of confidence I'd like to see. He immediately walked back from the single time I heard him say, "when I'm president." But I can see his dilemma. As a black man, if he projects too much confidence, it will be spun as arrogance and he risks stirring up the latent fear of angry black men that hides deep in the psyche of white America, whether we want to admit it or not. On the other hand, if he's too mild, he risks looking weak. He's walking a tightrope in this race and while he didn't dazzle with any impressive tricks, he didn't fall off either.

What effect this will have on his numbers remains to be seen. I'm anticipating it won't impact them much either way.

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The hidden perils of negative politicking

By Libby

Tom Hayden points out the ultimate danger of the Clinton forces making too big a deal out of Ayers. I'm not going to quote any of it, but if you read it, you'll see it belies the theory that Hillary is so fully vetted that she is less attackable. Two can play at that game and it's to his credit that Obama hasn't brought this up, but does anybody think that the GOP will ignore these past associations if Hillary manages to get the nomination? Especially after the Clinton camp themselves have validated the same meme against Obama?

Hillary's associations are much more damning. Unlike Obama, who was just a kid when the big stuff went down, Hillary was there and an active participant. Clinton supporters might want to consider Hayden's points before they do anything further to legitimatize this line of attack against another Democrat.

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April 26, 2008

A letter to Obama

By Libby

Well since everybody else seems to be telling Obama what to do, I figure I may as well offer my two cents worth of free advice.

Dear Barack:

You've come a long way in this race. Beyond all early expectation you've become the frontrunner in the race for the White House. Chances are good that you will be the next president of the United States. Let go of the underdog persona and start acting like a winner.

By that I mean, and I try to live by this rule myself, don't explain. It's so rarely necessary. When McCain demands you apologize for Ayers -- ignore him. When Hillary Clinton demands you have another debate -- just say no. The losing candidate always wants more debates but believe me, nobody else does.

Ignore the polls and take charge of the narrative. Act like a leader. Just tell the people how you're going to fix what the GOP has broken. The chattering classes will cluck but they couldn't be more out of touch with the real world. Don't react to your critics, direct the dialogue instead. The average voter doesn't care about the wonkery, they want hope. Make those inspirational speeches again and give them some.

Sincerely,

Libby Spencer

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And the race goes on...

By Libby

Standing before a backdrop emblazoned with the repeating slogan, Solutions For A Strong Military, Hillary spoke to a crowd of about 1000 in Jacksonville, NC, several hundred of which were high school students. Accounts conflict, but a couple of the kids got arrested prior to the event for either wearing or waving around Obama tshirts. The commenters section depressingly was supporting the school for quashing their First Amendment rights, but that's no surprise in today's zero tolerance environment. Then they wonder why kids have no respect for authority anymore...

Anyway, I watched about ten minutes of the video and it was a pretty good speech outside of her taunting Obama over doing yet another debate. I really wish she would stop flogging that dead horse. Her reasoning was that there are regional issues of concern to debate, but isn't that really a job for the gubernatorial candidates and why does she need a debate to tell the people what her solutions are to the problems? Why not just tell them while she's standing there already? It strikes me as a losing argument.

Otherwise though she was doing a pretty good job of highlighting her own differences with Republicans and dissing Bush more than Obama. If she keeps up that tenor in her speeches and Obama also follows suit, I won't mind as much if they keep this primary going through June. What the hell, we've come this far, might as well let every state have their moment of relevancy now.

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The tears of a DefSec

By Libby

I've been meaning to get to this story for a few days now. It flickered briefly on Memeorandum and apparently nobody picked it up, but it struck me as significant in light of the growing beat of the war drums on Iran. Speaking to graduating cadets at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, our DefSec nearly broke down in tears and his remarks were somewhat odd. [emphasis added]

Gates delivered a lengthy lecture about the complexities of war, underscoring the responsibility of junior officers to challenge their superiors even if it put their careers at risk. A tape of the talk was released by the Department of Defense's Pentagon Channel.

"I encourage you to take on the mantle of fearless, thoughtful, but loyal dissent when the situation calls for it," he urged.

Gates appeared near tears as he choked out the words, "I feel personally responsible for each and every one of you, as if you were my own sons and daughters."

Is it me, or he is urging them to consider mutiny here? Did he almost break down because of a guilty conscience? I get the uneasy feeling that Gates knows something we don't know and I really hope it isn't the inevitability of the Bush administration ordering an air strike on Iran as their parting 'gift' to America and the world.

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Nothing to brag about at Fort Bragg

By Libby

Brandon Friedman uncovers the latest outrageous failure of our government to take care of the men and women that lay their lives on the line every single day for years on end, for the sole purpose of protecting the folly otherwise known as the Bush Doctrine. I don't know how anyone could watch this video without becoming outraged at the way the Pentagon 'rewards' our troops for their service with this kind of maltreatment when they get home. If you don't want to watch the whole ten minutes, at least scroll to the last two to see the soldier who just got back from 15 months of hazardous duty in Afghanistan and ends up having to stand in a sink while trying to unclog a drain to get rid of the three inches of raw sewage from overflowed toilets that is pooling on the floor.

As Brandon said, "America has three-quarters of a billion dollars to spend on the embassy in Baghdad, but our troops have to live like this. It's a disgrace."  Call your Congresslizards and tell them to do something about this travesty.

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April 25, 2008

More on media bias

By Libby

To be fair to Hillary I suppose I should weigh in on Keith Olbermann's comments. Was he actually suggesting violence against Hillary in this clip that's making the rounds? Even given the tiny context here, I'd say no, but he clearly was implying she should be told to drop out of the race. What's not clear from that short a clip is whether he meant that as a personal opinion.

It sounds like it may have been part of larger conversation about what the choices are for the superdels in general. Which is not to say that it wasn't an extraordinarily poor choice of words. KO is a professional and should have known better than to use such loaded imagery. Being a former battered wife myself, I have to admit I felt a twinge of PTSD listening to it. Even those few words conjured up a small flood of long suppressed horrible memories.

I'm probably not the best person to pass judgement though. Even when he was everybody's hero, I didn't follow him closely. In fact, I think I've only watched his special comment feature live one time. I find his delivery grating and prefer to read the transcripts. Nonetheless, he should probably apologize. I expect it was just a thoughtless remark but given the charged atmosphere of this primary and the history of blatantly sexist remarks made by others in the media about Clinton -- read that especially Tweety -- it would be the civil thing to do.

And speaking of Tweety, how does this jerk still have a job? I don't see any way to view this remark about Obama as anything but purely racist. Besides, even when he's not dishing out sexist and racist stereotypes, his political commentary never rises above inane gossip. It's ridiculous to pretend he's a serious analyst. He's a disgrace to the industry and should be taken off the air.

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You want talk about being fair...

By Libby

I'm really trying to stay out of the day to day fray on the primary but this really irked me. Geoff Garin, the Clinton campaign's replacement for Mark Penn, has an op-ed at the WaPo that is just insulting to the intelligence. I get that this is politics and politicians are going to spin but this op-ed is really over the top. In the interests of sanity, let's just look at this one section.

This was in keeping with the direct, personal character attacks that the Obama campaign has leveled against Clinton from the beginning of this race -- including mailings in Pennsylvania that describe her as "the master of a broken system."

How is that a character attack? Do they think I forgot when Hillary was inevitable and her whole schtick was about running on her experience within the system. Prepared from day one and all that. She described herself as the master of it and damn it, the system is broken. Obama has consistently run on the platform of changing it from the get go and Hillary co-opted that meme from him much later. That is just fact. There's no innuendo there. But moving on, here's how Hillary's tactics are not character attacks.

And we believed it was appropriate to debate Obama's comments about working people in small towns, because they expressed a view of small-town Americans with which Hillary Clinton strongly disagrees. But throughout that debate, Clinton deliberately focused on the content of Obama's comments without making sweeping statements about his character.

Oh really? Calling him an elitist and out of touch isn't attacking his character? Saying she and McCain were ready to lead on day one and all Obama has is a speech wasn't attacking him personally? Pounding the inconsequential Wright meme isn't attacking his character? Going back to Ohio, she wasn't attacking his character with her Rezko ads? Justin Gardner has more and I sure anyone could come up with addtions to all these.

I mean come on. I know Obama isn't faultless either, but attempting to paint herself as above all that is just ridiculous. And we don't even have to look to the past to find examples of character assassination. Jake Tapper unearths a current push poll in NC that I personally find rather egregious and it's being conducted by Mr. Garin's agency.

Furthermore, the timing of this op-ed is questionable. It seems to me to be an odd moment to be complaining about unfair treatment in the press when the entire establishment media has joined into the campaign's contention that the PA win was some kind of knockout blow. It simply wasn't a game changing win, it merely kept her in play a little longer, but it gave rise to endless headlines in the legacy media that favored her narrative about electability.

If this was supposed to engender sympathy for her, it didn't work with me. It diminished what sympathy I had left. It smacks of the same kind of denial and false accusations we've been subjected to by Bush and the GOP for the last seven years. Yes, the press has been unfair. They're unfair to all Democrats. If this op-ed had contrasted the media's treatment of McCain with their treatment of both candidates or even only her, I would have been impressed. This just left me extraordinarily irritated.

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April 24, 2008

They don't hate us for our freedom

By Libby

It never ceases to astound me how clueless many Americans are about world opinion. When I pitch the importance of good foreign relations, I'm often arrogantly dismissed as if the only thing that matters is what we think. It's a foolish attitude and one that puts us in grave danger. World opinion matters.

Look at a world map. We are a very small country compared to the rest of the globe and thanks to the dunderheaded Bush Doctrine, we are no longer the mighty world power we once were. That's especially true as our economy continues on its slow-mo crash, effectively destroying the monetary advantage that once underwrote our influence.

Via Radley, the point is well illustrated by this poll of Arab nations. They hate us for our policies, not our freedom, whatever that means these days and a majority want us to stop occupying the Arab St everywhere. Looking beyond the graphics at the post to the (pdf) link, in terms of Iraq, only 6% believe the surge worked. 61% believe a US withdrawal would allow Iraqis to reconcile their differences with only 15% believing it would increase the civil violence and most of them do not view Iran as a threat, even if it ever manages to acquire nuclear weapons.

Furthermore, threatening the annihilation of Iran may play well with the cowering masses in America but it's like lighting a match in a closed room full of gasoline fumes in the rest of the world. I didn't get around to blogging this earlier but I was horrified when Hillary made that remark a couple of days ago and now the LAT collects the international reaction, including this from the Saudi-based daily Arab News.

"This is the foreign politics of the madhouse. It demonstrates the same doltish ignorance that has distinguished Bush’s foreign relations. It offers only violence where there should be negotiations and war where there could be peace. At a stroke, Clinton demonstrated to everyone in this region that if she were the next occupant of the White House, Iraq-like death and destruction would be the order of the day."

I can't say I disagree with that. There may well be compelling reasons to support Hillary but when she makes the same kind of incendiary comments that we hear constantly from the warmongers that got us into this mess, her diplomatic skills are certainly not one of them. Frankly, I don't see how her supporters can, in good conscience, excuse or ignore that kind of rhetoric .

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Dishonoring the troops - Updated

By Libby

No, it's not Code Pink or ANSWER that's doing it, it's the Pentagon. The families give the media permission to cover the services but the press is blocked at Arlington Cemetery from getting close enough to do so in any meaningful manner.

The Pentagon and by extension, the Bush administration, would prefer that Americans not trouble their beautiful minds with the human costs of the occupation and they're willing to go to any length to make sure we don't see it.

Update: I couldn't really properly articulate my anger and disgust about this so I'll send you to Gun Totin Liberal who has a righteous rant and to Blue Girl who has a moving post that brought me to tears.

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All I want

By Libby

I've accepted the fact that this miserable primary process is going to play out all the way to June at least. All I want now is to stop hearing these silly arguments.

Media bias - Yes, the media has been brutal to Hillary but they have been just as brutal to Obama. That's what the media does. They savage Democrats. The only candidate getting a free ride from the press is McCain.

Electability - Both candidates have their weaknesses and their strengths and there is no way to predict which one would be better able to beat McCain in November. The electorate is fickle and prone to be influenced by nonsenical side issues. Both Dems have their baggage and if either one of them was so much more electable than the other, one of them would have definitively sewn up the nomination by now. Either one can beat McCain if their fellow Democrats don't kill them before they get out of the gate.

Sexism and Racism - Both still exist in America. Electing a woman won't magically eliminate sexism and electing a black man won't end racism. Supporting one over the other doesn't automatically make that supporter a misogynist or a racist.

The Historic Aspects - If either Democrat wins, it will be a historic moment. It doesn't matter whether it's a woman or a black man. Either one, presuming they govern well, will crack the door open a little farther for future candidates and maybe next time we'll get a real progressive to vote for because we sure as hell don't have one now. What we have are two professional politicians who will more likely sell out progressives for political convenience, than not, once they get into office.

All I want is for Leftopia to remember we started blogging to change the system, not to become just another cog in the same machine that's been screwing us over since we started.

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April 23, 2008

Bill Clinton flips the bird

By Libby

Bill held a rally in little town near here today. I found out when I stopped at the convenience store on the way home from the doctor. I had time enough to drive there but after almost passing out during the thin needle aspiration -- yes that's just as much fun as it sounds -- I wasn't up for standing around on a soggy ballfield.

One of the local teevee stations covered it though and reported about 300 people in attendance. Watching the video at the link, that looks like a good guess. They seemed kind of subdued, but that wasn't the funny part. I had to watch the video twice to be sure I saw correctly the first time, but about one minute in, Bill scratches his eyebrow with his middle finger, while he's talking about Obama. I'm not saying that implies a thing, just noting in light of the recent flip-off silliness, that it is rather common for people to scratch their face when they're talking.

What did irritate me though, Bill at that moment was trying to paint Obama as having chickened out of the cancelled debate. Nobody applauded the line. That proposed debate was well covered here for over a week. I suspect I'm not the only one who knows that it was originally proposed for an earlier date on which Hillary refused to participate. Besides, I don't think anyone but the hardest core junkies care about seeing any more of them.

On another note, the guy who told me about the rally, literally sneered that Obama was never going to win this state. He was as blue collar as they come but I don't think he's a Clinton supporter. He was sneering at her too. He was dressed in a filthy work uniform of some kind and had a really deep tan, so I assume he's a road worker of some kind. He was there playing scratch lottery tickets. I mean he's one of those people who hang around for a while and scratch off the tix in the store and then go buy some more. I didn't ask, but I'm pretty sure he's voting for McCain in November.

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The slow-mo scandal that everyone forgot

By Libby

The wheel of Justice does indeed grind slowly. Jack Abramoff has long dropped out of the media narrative but the indictments related to that scandal continue to trickle in.

Prosecutors filed court papers Monday against Robert E. Coughlin II, the former deputy chief of staff of the department's criminal division, signaling that Coughlin has agreed to plead guilty.

In the court papers, Coughlin is accused of accepting gifts from an unnamed lobbyist between March 2001 and October 2003 while providing assistance to the lobbyist's firm and negotiating prospective employment with the firm. [...]

A spokeswoman with the U.S. attorney's office in Baltimore, which made the allegations, wouldn't comment. Coughlin is at least the second Justice Department official to come under scrutiny in the wide-ranging Abramoff probe, which has implicated at least five congressmen, a deputy Cabinet secretary, a White House aide and eight others.

Those include Sue Ellen Wooldridge, former lead Justice prosecutor who resigned last year and Rep. John Doolittle, R-Roseville, who announced his retirement, both of whom are yet to be indicted. It will be decades before we discover the full extent of the criminality of the Bush administration and none of the perps are likely to receive the punishment they deserve. Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of ordinary Americans languish in jails for smoking a plant.

Hard to understand why we call it a system of justice.

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All UR internets belong to them

By Libby

No surprise here. Comcast lied to a Senate Committee when it testified that it only blocked certain internet activities because of traffic congestion. According to FCC chair Kevin Martin not only did Comcast unilaterally block access even when traffic was low, it also did so in a content specific manner. The company claimed the blocked access was contact agnostic. Meanwhile an industry lobbyist is pushing hard against any regulation of their activities.

"He urged the federal government to not pass new laws or regulations regarding network management but to allow private companies and markets to determine the best way forward. Like other opponents of network neutrality, he said the Internet has boomed without government intervention. McSlarrow added that it would be impossible for the federal government to keep pace with evolving technologies."

I believe that's pretty much the same argument the financial industry used when they told the government regulating their "creative lending practices" would stifle innovation and growth. We've seen how well that worked out. This is why we need to fight for internet neutrality. [h/t David D]

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April 22, 2008

Bernie Sanders for President

By Libby

This interview made me wish Bernie Sanders was running. As incumbents go, he's one of the best we've got and we need much more talk like this.

"Clearly one of the serious problems we have in our nation is not just in George Bush being the worst president in the modern history of the United States, but it is a corporate media which consistently deflects attention from the reality of American life. The middle class has been in decline for decades now, and it's manifested in a transformation of the economy from a General Motors economy of good wages, strong union, good benefits, to a Wal-Mart economy of low wages, no benefits, and vehemently anti-union. That's the transformation of the American economy. The corporate media has virtually ignored that."

Read the rest of the interview at the link. It made me want to write him in on my ballot.

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YouTube interlude

By Libby

Since I'm busy obsessing about my doctor's appointment tomorrow and can't really settle down to blogging today and my colleagues are covering all the serious stuff anyway, I thought I might post some YouTube links to amuse you while we're waiting for the returns to start coming in.

This is my favorite of the week. I think it's about time our elite media started covering The Fabulous Life of John McCain. And when are they going to start asking Mr. McNasty to share his tax returns with the same vigor that they demanded the Democrats produce their own?

I didn't really understand the point of WWE but Avedon kindly decoded it for me. And I do wonder, how would you answer the question. "Whatcha gonna do when John McCain and all his McCainiacs run wild on you?" My immediate response isn't really printable for polite company.

Meanwhile, it's little noticed, but he's still in the race and Ron Paul's High Tide is really something else. I'm wondering if the videographer is same one that does Mike Gravel's stuff.

Gravel is still running as well, now on the Libertarian ticket. This one has been around for a while, but in case you missed it, Helter Skelter will surely go down in the history books as one of the truly awesome ads of the YouTube era.

And if you haven't received your email pitch for money from the DNC yet, they have their first ad for the general. Are you better off today? So so video and an old question, but newly relevant in this troubled economy.

Finally, I almost don't want to post this because some people will invariably think I'm doing it just to be mean to Hillary, but I didn't think it was that bad. I liked being reminded of when Bill Clinton believed in hope and it was interesting to see him when he was young and being compared to JFK himself. Kind of like looking at the old family albums. I've always loved that.

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Obama could close the deal today

By Libby

Amidst all the logical projections for a close contest, Democratic consultant Tad Devine strays far outside the CW in predicting an outright Obama win based on psychological factors.

“Even though the polls, the demographics of Pennsylvania, and political factors like endorsements and a closed primary would lead inevitably to the conclusion that Hillary will win,” he says, “primary elections are sometimes decided by more intangible factors, like the gut feelings that voters have about the candidates, which choice empowers voters the most, and the state of the race. I think that may be happening in this primary, and Obama may be able to win because of it.”

Granted it's a long shot but as anyone who has ever bet on the horses knows, sometimes the long shot does come in against all odds and it always pays well. I'm hoping Devine is right. Nothing short of a surprise Obama win will end this interminable primary and I am so ready for it to be over.

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Who's counting?

By Libby

For all the focus on the polling and turnout models, one very important point has been omitted from the discussion.

This Tuesday's crucial contest will be primarily run on 100% faith-based, Direct Recording Electronic (DRE, usually touch-screen or push-button) e-voting machines across the state. There will be no way to determine after the election whether the computers have accurately recorded, or not, the intent of those voters who voted on them. As VerifiedVoting.org summarizes the crucial contest, it "will be essentially unrecountable, unverifiable, and unauditable."

It's useful to remember that ultimately, the final tallies are still in the hands of GOP friendly corporations. U.S. Rep. Rush Holt attempted to address the issue with House Bill 5036, that would have helped states move to paper ballots over touch-screen electronic machines. Unfortunately, it died out of committee.

On Tuesday, the bill, which needed a two-thirds majority to pass, went down to defeat in the House 239-178, with 223 Democrats in favor and 176 Republican opposed, after the White House sent out a statement opposing the measure. The statement said the administration "strongly opposes" the bill because it would "create a new program that is largely redundant with existing law, and therefore unnecessary, to reimburse States for the costs of making last-minute changes to their voting systems by Election Day 2008."

Holt vows to keep fighting and says "it's possible to get some of this done before this year's November elections." Looking back on 2000 and 2004, it seems to me this is a lot more important battle for progressives to be fighting than bickering over which Democrat is more electable. That won't mean jack if we don't have a verifiable vote in November.

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April 21, 2008

Bowled over by Obama

By Libby

Kristen Beam, who blogs from my old haunts in the Happy Valley, reports that her dad has queued up for Obama. [photos at link]

My dad called me Saturday night to tell me he was at a Barack Obama rally. He must have been pumped, because when I texted him later to ask him if he was going to vote for Obama, he sent back "Obama rules!"

... He's a white male registered Democrat in Central Pennsylvania and was until recently undecided about his choice for Democratic presidential candidate. ...

My dad emailed me his reactions to Obama's speech: "After 8 years of listening to GWB the bar had been lowered considerably but he was riveting to watch. It was all off the cuff and he never repeated himself for 45 minutes. The crowd was predominantly a white crowd, too. I may have been one of the oldest people there, which will hurt him in the PA primary given that PA has the second largest population of seniors in the country."

I had no idea there were so many old people in PA. That demo could well explain the discrepancy between the public displays of support and the polls that I was pondering in this post. It makes sense that they wouldn't necessarily turn out for rallies but they will most likely show up to vote for Hillary. It's her most reliable block and the only one that Obama can't easily crack. I guess we'll find out tomorrow whether those big rallies translate into enough votes to roll over it and finally end this ridiculous primary.

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They were watching TV

By Libby

Dan at Pruning Shears has been looking at how we became a state sponsor of torture. He reminds us that the right wing scoffed at the idea of the TV show "24" inspiring the inhumane practices and digs into Philippe Sands’ Vanity Fair article to unearth a pertinent quote that proves it was true after all. Links and fuller quote at Dan's post, but here's the choice cuts from Lieutenant Colonel Diane Beaver:

Jack Bauer had many friends at Guantánamo, Beaver added. “He gave people lots of ideas.

... The younger men would get particularly agitated, excited even. “You could almost see their dicks getting hard as they got new ideas,” Beaver recalled, a wan smile flickering on her face.

Meanwhile, Tom Tomorrow has the illustrated version. Funny how those "few bad apples" who were responsible for all the atrocities were sitting at the top of the barrel the whole time. Sadly, they could have been easily discarded before they ruined the whole harvest if only we still had a functioning system of quality control in our government and major media. [h/t]

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April 20, 2008

A poll conundrum

By Libby

I've never given much weight to polling in trying to predict long term trends. Polls by their nature take a snapshot of a moment in time and by the time they're published some new factor has likely as not already swayed public opinion in another direction. But still, the polling in PA has puzzled me because it seems so far removed from the reality on the ground. I mean consider this recent rally for Obama in Philly. By all accounts at least 35,000 people showed up and their enthusiasm didn't end with the rally.

5,000 people (at least) had nowhere to go but up Market Street. Obama's charge of the night: "Declare independence!" was with them. They started with the familiar "O-Bam-A." By 7th and Market, they had graduated to "Yes we can!" By 10th and Market, with hundreds streaming in between cars on the road, they were just cheering. At first, a few Philly cops, killjoys, tried to rough the crowd to the sidewalks. It didn't work. The cops retreated to the sidewalks. By the time I ducked into my hotel, a full mile away from Independence Park, the Obama crowd was still marching. [...]

I counted at least a hundred Philadelphia police officers. There were state troops. TSA personnel magging the crowd. A helicopter hovered over the square. The fire department set up a command post with extra medical supplies. It was some way to start Obama's final Pennsylvania push.

That sounds more like the aftermath of the World Series win in Boston than a simple political event. Meanwhile, Clinton is drawing mere hundreds to her rallies, yet the pollsters show her leading in PA.

Hillary Clinton leads among bowlers, gun owners and hunters in Pennsylvania, a blue-collar trifecta that is helping her hold an edge over rival Barack Obama heading into Tuesday's pivotal primary there.

Overall, Clinton leads Obama by a margin of 48-43 percent, with 8 percent still undecided. The telelphone survey of 625 likely Pennsylvania voters was taken April 17-18 and had an error margin of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

Do Obama supporters never answer the phone? Are bowlers, gun owners and hunters too busy to go to Clinton's rallies? Clearly, judging by the fundraising figures, they don't contribute money to the campaign either. So what explains the discrepancy between the close predictions and the obvious disparity between the public show of support?

Update: On another note, via Balloon Juice commenter Martin, an uncommited superdelegate is asking people to vote on who he should support. The tally when I checked was 98% in favor of Obama. Granted, it doesn't mean much in terms of the PA vote since anyone can vote in it, but still it indicates a level of support that I see consistently in news reports about these rallies that never seems to be reflected in the polls.

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Pentagon's domestic psych-ops revealed

By Libby

The only thing that surprises me about this story is that the NYT reported it. I've long suspected that the Pentagon PR machine has completely infiltrated the homeland media market. I don't see how it could have been more obvious really. Now this investigation reveals that all those allegedly neutral, retired military experts you regularly see trotted out on the talking head gossip fests on the teevee have a dirty little secret that they somehow neglected to disclose.

Those business relationships are hardly ever disclosed to the viewers, and sometimes not even to the networks themselves. But collectively, the men on the plane and several dozen other military analysts represent more than 150 military contractors either as lobbyists, senior executives, board members or consultants. The companies include defense heavyweights, but also scores of smaller companies, all part of a vast assemblage of contractors scrambling for hundreds of billions in military business generated by the administration’s war on terror. It is a furious competition, one in which inside information and easy access to senior officials are highly prized.

Records and interviews show how the Bush administration has used its control over access and information in an effort to transform the analysts into a kind of media Trojan horse — an instrument intended to shape terrorism coverage from inside the major TV and radio networks.[...]

Analysts have been wooed in hundreds of private briefings with senior military leaders, including officials with significant influence over contracting and budget matters, records show. They have been taken on tours of Iraq and given access to classified intelligence. They have been briefed by officials from the White House, State Department and Justice Department, including Mr. Cheney, Alberto R. Gonzales and Stephen J. Hadley.

Equally unsurprisingly, these 'neutral' experts deny that they have been co-opted but the historical record of their remarks easily exposes that delusion. Few people are unaffected by inclusion into the secret reaches of the realms of power. They're swayed whether they realize it or not and become tools of the powerful who gained their influence with exactly such calculated manipulations. Besides, even if they purposefully engaged in pushing the propaganda, who would expect them to admit it?

No surprises here. Simply more proof that we have more to fear from our own government than we do from terrorists.

Update: I love it when that guy who wears the footie PJs is so awestruck with my brilliance that he's reduced to penning love notes. Hell of a counter argument there but he forgot to mention that my mom wears combat boots.

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April 19, 2008

Crimmins-ally funny

By Libby

Barry Crimmins, who won my friendship and my everlasting admiration from the moment he told he once refused to shake Henry Kissinger's hand, has the best analysis on the Democratic debate (and other related and unrelated thoughts) that I've seen so far. I would suggest thin-skinned Clinton supporters not click the link since Barry is political satirist possessed of a biting wit and he's not a Clinton fan, but here's one vignette from the post that all can enjoy.

Let me tell you about flag pins. My father was forty years ahead of his time with them. He bought them by the long ton and every time I left the house, he implored me to fill my pockets with them so I could distribute them. Ever the dutiful son, I did as my father asked. I'd leave the house, walk a block to Skaneateles Lake, stroll onto the pier that jutted well out into the water and once I got fifty or so yards out, I would distribute the flag pins... usually overhand. ...

Barry is one of the most intense people I've ever met. He delivers stories like that in a rapid fire manner during even the most casual of conversations. It's a shame he doesn't post in audio because you lose something without the droll delivery of the lines but nonetheless, his perspective is astute, unflinchingly honest and often painfully funny. Check out the rest of his blog from the top. I'd bet you'll want to bookmark it too

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Building a better electorate

By Libby

Robert Reich wrote an elegant endorsement for Obama yesterday. I give Reich's opinion a lot of weight. Probably more than most people because I worked on his MA gubernatorial campaign as the number two man in the Western Regional office. The movement largely centered there, so I was in the thick of that one and I was impressed by the man and his organization. I've worked on a lot of campaigns. I'm not easily impressed.

It's tempting to highlight Bob's criticism of Clinton's campaign tactics and I can't say I disagree with his assessment but let's focus instead on the affirmative side of his endorsement.

He also presents the best chance of creating a new politics in which citizens become active participants rather than cynical spectators. He has energized many who had given up on politics. He has engaged young people to an extent not seen in decades. He has spoken about the most difficult problems our society faces, such as race, without spinning or simplifying. He has rightly identified the armies of lawyers and lobbyists that have commandeered our democracy, and pointed the way toward taking it back.

For all the venomous bickering going on between the two camps, this sums up the electability argument the best for myself and reminds me of Reich's own run for governor. His campaign was similar to Obama's in many ways. Reich came in late and was running outside of the machine. The CW was that he would never get on the ballot but he energized new voters. His supporters organized in less than a month's time and flooded the caucuses to get him on. It was the purest grassroots uprising I had ever witnessed in my long lifetime. Why he didn't win the nomination is a long story for another day but suffice it to say that he carried the vote in almost the entire state. He was defeated solely by the machinations of the MA Democratic machine.

And there's also a cautionary lesson in this little parable. This sort of new voter enthusiam is a fragile thing. When the machine thwarted the will of the people and Shannon O'Brien received the nomination instead, those newly activated voters were bitterly disillusioned. The hope they saw in Reich for a change in old style politics was dashed and many stayed home despite Reich's gracious endorsement of O'Brien. The machine's reward for gaming the system was a loss to Mitt Romney in the general. I leave you to draw your own moral from that outcome.

Electing a president is always a crapshoot. Truly no one can predict what any man or woman will do once they hold the ring of power in their hand but there's no denying the here and now effect that Obama has had on the electorate. His support speaks of the same truly grass roots excitement that I witnessed those many years ago. Millions of formerly disengaged voters are enthusiastically participating in the process. That can only be a good thing for democracy and for our nation.

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April 18, 2008

Fortress America

By Libby

Here's some new exclusive video of the US Embassy in Baghdad. A mighty fortress for our president who thinks he talks to God at a cost of $700 million and counting. By the time they get this monstrosity up to code, I'm betting it will cost close to a billion to build and even worse, it will cost $2 billion a year to run the place.

Another fine production brought to you by the Republican party, who tell us they can't afford to do such things as insure child victims of catastrophic accidents and illnesses because it costs too much. I guess everyone has their own priorites.

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Maddow scares Scarborough off the set

By Libby

This is a delicious exchange. Rachel Maddow made such a good point on MSNBC's newest horserace program that, since he apparently had no effective comeback, Joe Scarborough walked off the set. Watch the video at the link or see Kyle, who has a transcript of her remarks but here's the money part of the quote.

But, for example, John McCain had this incredibly controversial relationship with this Florida campaign co-chair who was caught in a bathroom offering money to a police officer to do something that we can all imagine in a bathroom. Nobody’s going to John McCain about that and saying, “He was your Florida campaign co-chair? What do you think about men doing that in bathrooms? What do you think about entrapment from police officers? What do you think about public sex?” But nobody’s brought that stuff [crosstalk… actually someone says, “That’s not what general elections are for,” but they are off camera] but nobody’s brought that stuff up to John McCain at this point and it’s a decision made by political opponents. It’s not something that happens organically because of how long you’ve been around the block.

Scar mumbled something about not being interested in talking about bathrooms before he skulked away but you can be sure if the bathroom behavior in question involved a Democratic campaign co-chair he would have developed a keen interest in plumbing.

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April 17, 2008

No more Democratic debates

By Libby

I was thinking this when I got home this evening, before I read Obama's comments.

Sen. Barack Obama on Thursday suggested he doesn't see any point in having another debate with Democratic rival Sen. Hillary Clinton.

They want to set one up in Raleigh for the 27th I think. Obama had agreed to an earlier date that Clinton refused to accomodate. No doubt, Obama's refusal for the later date will be framed as some kind of avoidance but he's right. We've seen 21 debates already and after yesterday's debacle, it's clear that they serve no purpose other than to give our idiotic major media a chance to keep their phony horserace scandals alive so the lazy effers don't have to do any actual research on positions. That would be too much like work. It struck me today that Charlie and Georgie didn't ask any substantive questions because they're as clueless about policy as McCain is, themselves.

Obama has been running as the underdog all this time and if you think of it dispassionately, in terms of the political machine, he has been the underdog. To the extent that any of them are removed from the CW Beltway machinations, Obama is most outside the system. The GOP has their own machine that they're loaning to McCain. Clinton has her own machine that includes by association the DLC machine. The media have a machine. They are all built from the top down. Obama is building his own machine as he goes from the bottom up and coming this far with it is a testament to his tenacity, his organizational finesse and his grasp of modern technology.

He'll remain the underdog in the circles of power but I think its time for him to start running like a winner. He should refuse to do any more debates, and not apologize for it, on the grounds that he would rather spend time talking with the people. Let the chattering classes cluck as they will. The single party debates are pointless this far into the process. They only feed the media sloth.

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You'll never guess who said this

By Libby

I'm on early call and on my way out the door but this little item requires little comment. It's truly amazing and I'd love to hear if anyone guesses the answer to this question correctly. I certainly didn't. It was the last person I expected but it did remind me about how good a man Mike Dukasis really was.

He's a good friend of my former employer and although I never met him, I spoke with him often on the phone. He was congenial and down to earth in conversation and he was a hell of good governor. It made me wonder how the world would have been different if they hadn't destroyed his presidential run with Willie Horton.

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Debate debacle

By Libby

After an exhausting day yesterday, I tuned in about 15 minutes late and saw a few minutes of Obama talking before I passed out cold. He looked a little shaky and he was clearly answering a stupid question about the phony scandals the mindless media had been flogging. Looking at the reviews this morning, Greg Mitchell gives a good rundown, I'm not sorry I missed it. I don't think my blood pressure would have fared well.

Crooks and Liars has a mash-up of some of the most egegrious moments and notes that it wasn't well received by the public at large, if the 10,000 comments at the ABC site are any indication. And I hear Gibson got booed by the audience at the end. I think the only thing made clear last night is the electorate is not served by having the insipid talking heads ask the questions. It's time to bring back the League of Women Voters or some neutral entity, whose agenda has nothing to do with ratings and promoting their overpaid media stars, to run these events again.

But I'd love to hear from some of you who managed to get through it. Was it as awful as the reviews say? Did either candidate "win?"

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April 16, 2008

Joseph's coat of many colors

By Libby

This, I'm sure will surprise no one. Lieberman has apparently finally decided that red is really his color.

Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), the Democratic Party’s 2000 vice presidential nominee, is leaving open the possibility of giving a keynote address on behalf of Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) at the Republican National Convention in September. [...]

“If Sen. McCain, who I support so strongly, asked me to do it, if he thinks it will help him, I will,” Lieberman said in a brief interview. [...]

A Lieberman aide said even though there are no plans for the Independent to give a speech at the convention, it is a “likely possibility” he will address the Republican audience in some form.

The author speculates that such an event could finally cause the Democratic 'leadership' to strip him of Homeland Security chair, but I wouldn't hold my breath, considering this quote.

One Democratic leadership aide said losing his chairmanship could happen in that scenario, but “the bar would have to be very high.” That’s because Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has a close relationship with Lieberman.

I believe, as Kat and I were discussing in comments on another post, that this is best argument I've heard yet for throwing every incumbent out of office. It's difficult to see how we could do worse with fresh faces. At the very least it would take a while for them to get corrupted.

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Today's two minute activism

By Libby

I don't have time to recap, so just go over to Christy's post for the latest round in the FISA fight. It's time to push the Senate into accepting the House version as the main bill, instead of their own addle-pated, White House rubberstamping version. As Christy points out, that they haven't passed that atrocity is a testament to all of you that took the time to contact your Congresslizards, proving once again that point and click activism really works.

While you're practicing your point and click skills, you might as well take the ten seconds to sign on to Democrats.com petition asking for impeachment proceedings to begin immediately. I'm convinced, late though it seems, that impeachment would be our best protection against any further malfeasance from this administration. [via]

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Take a walk on the wing side

By Libby

It's shaping up to be another crazy day, so just a quick link at the moment to the must read of the day by Roy Edroso at the Village Voice. Somehow, the most appropriate shorter version strikes me as being, Heh.

If you don't have time to read it, at least check out Tom Tomorrow's illustrations.

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April 15, 2008

Blogger Barbecue

By Libby  [Broken link repaired]

I was excited to stumble across the announcement for this event, the BlueNC Barbecue. I've been in this state for three years and still haven't really bonded with it. I follow mostly national, international politics and I don't know who the politicians are here. Outside of checking out my own Beltway reps, I haven't really paid attention to the local scene. For one thing I don't even get to vote for Mayor. But that's a story for another day.

Anyway, I just got my voters phamplet in the mail and realized I have no idea how to vote downticket. I'm hoping to get some clues from this meetup of local lefties and judging from the RSVPs at the link, I'll get a chance to meet quite a few candidates as well. I'm particularly keen to learn about the judges. I've never voted for a judge before.

If you live in the Raleigh/Durham area, it's in Chapel Hill on April 27th and open to everyone. You don't have to be a blogger to attend. Details at the link.

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Go ask Alice

By Libby

The Balloon Juicers are on a roll today. Tim F. ponders the incomprehensible mindset of the wingers and comes up with the perfect quote, which happens to be my favorite from Alice Through the Looking Glass.

Alice laughed. “There’s no use trying,” she said: “one can’t believe impossible things.”

“I daresay you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen. “When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”

I thought that rather good advice the first time I read it, but in those days I thought it would always be used for good, not to excuse evil.

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People Get Ready

By Libby

For a number of reasons too complicated to explain, I've been mostly offline for a couple of days. I'm catching up on my reading and John Cole pretty well sums up my reaction to current events.

The front page of the NYT:

Two Bombs Kill Dozens in Iraq
Retailing Chains Caught in a Wave of Bankruptcies
Fuel Choices, Food Crises and Finger-Pointing
Oil and Food Prices Renew Inflation Worries

I can’t be the only one who feels like we are one bit of bad news away from rivers of blood and plagues of locusts and hail mixed with fire. And damnit to hell, I am the first-born son in my family.

Links to those stories at his post. I'd add this from yesterday. The slow-mo implosion of the US economy is sucking the whole world into the same black hole. One might think this is the downside of the much touted global economy. I have a feeling nobody is going to be buying our debt for a while.

And then there's Colombia's Nevado del Huila volcano that just erupted sending thousands fleeing. Notable because, "Eruptions last year at the Nevado del Huila were its first on record since the mid-16th century."

It's been decades since I read the Book of Revelations myself, but I dimly remember a verse about brother fighting against brother, war, famine, pestilence and the earth experiencing natural disasters at a pace likened to the pangs of childbirth. I suppose that could describe the state of the planet many times in the past, but sometimes it really does feel like "the end times" are just around an Iraq corner.

[Post title reference. I saw these guys live in 1968. They've held up pretty well.]

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April 14, 2008

Reinflating the housing bubble

By Libby

This housing rescue is the most thinly disguised corporate welfare I've seen in some time. You take your eyes off the politicians who aren't running for a president for a minute and they're up to their old tricks. Kevin Drum noticed the "housing bill easily passed the Senate on Thursday: "

The most expensive item is a tax break for homebuilders and other money-losing businesses that would cost the federal government more than $25 billion over the next three years. Missing entirely: A new mechanism to aid borrowers who can't afford their mortgage payments and, due to falling home prices, owe their banks more than their homes are worth, the group most at risk of foreclosure.

One of the bill's chief sponsors, Senate Banking Committee Chairman Christopher J. Dodd (D-Conn.), called the measure "a major, positive step in the right direction," but he acknowledged that the package offers little in direct aid to the nearly 8,000 families thrown into foreclosure each day.

How depressing that Dodd would sponsor this atrocity and praise it besides. The whole premise of the bailout defies logic. What's the point of bailing out the builders who helped create the bubble in the first place? Give them more money so they can build more houses that no one can afford? Increase the current glut? Michael O'Hare answers that question and pinpoints just how crass this bailout really is.

This part of the bill allows homebuilders who are losing money now but made profits back to 2004 to get back taxes they paid in their good years; "get back taxes" of course means "to reach into your pocket and help themselves". But of course if you didn't have profits back then, you can't get anything from this deal, so it's a subsidy to the fattest cats most complicit in building too many houses, each too big. It's also a particularly cowardly and disreputable way to give away everyone's money, because tax breaks don't look like actual spending.

And damn if it's not Democrats that are driving this train wreck of a 'rescue.' This is why I'm amazed that so many progressives are so emotionally invested in which candidate is the best in the primary race. No single politician is going to save us. In the end, they mostly all sell us out, no matter what letter comes after their name. The only question, who is likely to sell us out the least.

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April 13, 2008

We are all Steve Benen

By Libby

Darn it all. Steve confessed and now the secret is out. I guess I'll never get that book contract now...

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Booman's question

By Libby

In light of Bush's admission, after years of denial of any knowledge of same, that sure he knew his most highly placed officials were plotting a course for institutionalized torture, Booman asks:

I hear John Conyers asked an assembled crowd today in Philadelphia whether any of them would object to impeaching the president. No one objected. Then he asked whether anyone would object to impeaching Cheney. Again, no one objected. I don't know the full context of Conyers' remarks, but the timing indicates it is related to Bush's admission.

If you were strategizing a blogswarm to get Congress, the press, and the administration to do something, what would you suggest we focus on? Should we focus on the lack of media coverage? Should we focus on getting a special prosecutor? Should we focus on getting the administration to comply with requests for documents and testimony from congressional committees?

Tristero thinks we'll never get a decent prosecutor as long as the GOP holds the reins at Justice, nor can we compel the White House to produce sufficient documents and that our time is better spent in reinforcing the narrative that this administration dragged us into a moral gutter by condoning and fully embracing torture.

I'm not sure what would be most effective but it occurs to me that taking it on in a multipronged attack that embraces all those tactics and framing it within the context of impeachment would be good. Even at this late date, I think impeachment is our best safeguard against any further insane military actions, such as an attack on Iran which the White House still clearly desires and I would think it would be our best bet to pry documents from these thugs.

As Avedon notes, the executive privilege defense doesn't work in impeachment hearings and there is no rule that says the impeachment proceedings can't go on even after the miscreants have left office.

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Libertarians can't dance - Updated

By Libby

It was a simple enough plan. A small group of about 20, from my perspective youngish, libertarian Jefferson admirers decided to celebrate Tom's birthday by dancing at the Jefferson Memorial, at midnight, for about ten minutes. They would video the event and go home. Apparently the local constables descended on the group immediately and ordered them to disperse. One person was arrested on disorderly charges for the henious crime of asking why.

To be clear, by all accounts, they were wearing iPods so the music wasn't audible. It seems unlikely a case could be made they were disturbing the pubic enjoyment of the memorial at that hour, although they say there were six other people there who were unrelated to the group. There's no indication any of them complained. Julian Sanchez and Radley Balko, who was there after the fact, have more.

James Joyner also weighs in to note there may possibly be some obscure statute about assembling even a small group without a permit. If that's true then I would think any organized tour or school groups on class field trips would be prohibited from visiting the site. But even if there is such a rule, what a sad illustration of the state of our freedoms when we're not allowed to assemble freely in a peaceful manner on taxpayer funded public property. Apparently, this is what the administration really meant when they told us that 9/11 changed everything.

Update:Radley has new developments.

She was apparently charged with “interfering with an agency function,” which to me sounds like a catch-all they can trot out that means, “she pissed off a cop.”

I'd agree that's exactly what it sounds like. He also posts a short video interview with two witnesses. It seems clear the cops way overstepped their bounds. Meanwhile, Mark at Publius Endures notes that the comment section at Megan's post is more frightening than the incident itself. Oh, and by the way, it's Mark's birthday so click over and wish him a happy one.

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April 12, 2008

The year of the single woman

By Libby

Move over soccer moms and Nascar Dads. This might be the year of the spinster vote.

Here is what it means to be an unmarried woman in 2008: Amid a declining economy, a tattered social safety net, and higher energy prices, you likely make less money, have fewer assets, have less access to health care, and face more job insecurity than other Americans. You also often take care of children and sometimes elderly parents. For these voters the 2008 campaign is not an intellectual exercise; they are looking for real solutions.

Not to mention we get screwed at tax time. We comprise 26% of the electorate, so where's the outreach to our voting block? [via Jill]

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Eyes in the sky

Big_brother By Libby

Once again, while everyone is busy handicapping the horserace primaries, the dull rumble of the Iran war drums begin to sound and the Bush regime continues its assault on democracy almost unnoticed.

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said his department will activate his department's new domestic satellite surveillance office in stages, starting as soon as possible with traditional scientific and homeland security activities -- such as tracking hurricane damage, monitoring climate change and creating terrain maps.

Sophisticated overhead sensor data will be used for law enforcement once privacy and civil rights concerns are resolved, he said. The department has previously said the program will not intercept communications.

"There is no basis to suggest that this process is in any way insufficient to protect the privacy and civil liberties of Americans," Chertoff wrote to Reps. Bennie G. Thompson (D-Miss.) and Jane Harman (D-Calif.), chairmen of the House Homeland Security Committee and its intelligence subcommittee, respectively, in letters released yesterday.

What all this Bushspeak means is they are most definitely going to use the satellites to intercept domestic communications, which is probably why they suddenly stopped fighting over telecom immunity. That they already co-opted the telecom industry is made clear in this Democracy Now interview. This really can't be repeated enough.

Babak Pasdar is a computer security expert who was hired in 2003 to help restructure the tech infrastructure at a major wireless telecommunications company. What he found shocked him. The company had set up a system that gave a third party, presumably a governmental entity, access to every communication coming through that company’s infrastructure. This means every email, internet use, document transmission, video, text message, as well as the ability to listen to and record any phone call.

Via Avedon, Charles has more details on the interview.

I used to laugh at conspiracy theorists who thought the government was watching their every move once. Twenty years ago, it was a laughable concept, but the technology has now caught up to the paranoia. Now they can do it and I see no reason to believe they won't, if it serves their purposes.

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Defending Democrats

By Libby

I spent a couple of hours reading news this morning and then spent the rest of the day avoiding politics because this Obama story is burning up Memeorandum and probably will for the foreseeable future. It's all too depressing to watch Blogtopia drive this phony narrative. I don't understand how a bunch of privileged, mostly white Republican elitists, accusing Obama of being out of touch with the common man is newsworthy.

I read his remarks in context. He's right. Bitter may have been an indelicate way of putting it, few people want to admit they are, but haven't we all remarked at one time or another about the incomprehensible tendency of working class, Bible thumping, gun slinging Americans to vote for Republicans, against their own interests, based on a wedge issues and fake narratives about elitist Democrats?

Which reminds me of being lectured a couple of weeks ago about how I'm supposed to be defending Hillary against media attacks and the right wing smear machine, not as a candidate, but as a Democrat. So I have to wonder why I'm seeing the candidate herself, her campaign surrogates and Clinton bloggers driving this narrative. Did Obama switch parties when I wasn't looking?

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April 11, 2008

Fill 'er up...

By Libby

Ah, the beauty of the free market. A careless keystroke by an employee of a Kangaroo convenience store allowed drivers to pay 35 cents a gallon for premium gas for a whole day. At 9:00am an employee inadvertently set the bargain rate at the pump. The beauty of the story is that no one at the store figured it out until 6:00pm when word of mouth sent hundreds flocking to the station to take advantage of the bargain rate.

I find it hilarious that it took the store ten hours to figure it out and fix it. A direct result of the corporatization of the convenience stores I'd guess. It's rare to find a privately owned one anymore. They join conglomerates in order to survive in a 'free market' that favors corporate buying power.

Whoever made the mistake was probably a close to minimum wage employee and it took a long time to fix because the store had to get permission from the regional manager to change the price. One expects that's because there is some kind of blocking system that prevents them from changing it more than once a day to prevent inside theft. In any event, one of the clerks is blaming the public for the long duration of the mistaken price.

“People had been coming in all day stiffing us, not telling us nothing,” Weller said. “They knew something was wrong because regular gas was still $3-something a gallon, and when have you ever known premium gas to be lower than regular?”

You might also have thought that the clerks would notice a lot of people suddenly buying ten bucks worth of gas instead of thirty or more when it still took just as long to fill up but leaving that aside, what would do if you suddenly discovered 35 cent gas? Would you tell the clerk or tell your friends?

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McCain reverses stance on homeowner help -- sort of

By Libby

Having endured much criticism for telling Americans that the government shouldn't be helping struggling homeowners, McCain came up with a new talking point.

Instead, McCain proposed a federal program that would require individual homeowners to seek help from the government and, if they qualified, enable them to restructure mortgages and stay in their homes. Families who can afford their current, albeit higher, mortgage would not qualify, and the aid would cover only primary residences.

Isn't that what Bush pledged for New Orleans after Katrina? Maybe McCranky should ask those folks how that turned out for them. More encouraging is that both Clinton and Obama appropriately criticized McCain, apparently without taking potshots at each other. More of that please.

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Apt occupation analogies

By Libby

The morning news is leaving me pretty well uninspired but this post on Iraq occupation analogies amuses and provides good ammunition for future debates with White House supporters. Here's my favorite.

2) I’ve heard people say that being against Bush or Petraeus or the war in Iraq is equivalent to being against the troops. That’s like if I knew someone who repeatedly sent brave puppies out into traffic. I called that person an asshole for abusing the puppies and abusing their power. Then you accused me of being anti-puppy.

They're all good. Click the link to read the rest.

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April 10, 2008

Obamania hits North Carolina

By Libby

Most eyes are on the PA primary but early voting starts here in North Carolina in just a week and Michelle Obama is winning hearts and minds with a sweep of speaking engagements across the state. Earlier reports indicate both Democratic candidates for Lt. Gov. of NC have endorsed Obama and the leader of the two is actively campaigning for him. Meanwhile the local Obama organization hit the streets last weekend to conduct a voter registration drive.

Over the weekend, all 20 Obama field offices sent out more than 1,000 volunteers to register "thousands and thousands" of new voters, according to Deputy National Campaign Manager Steve Hildebrand. "We've registered Democrats, we've registered Republicans, we've registered independents," Hildebrand said.

Speaking for myself, I'd say that lends some credibility to Obama's unity theme. They're out there inspiring everyone to get involved.

Recent polling shows Obama with a 20-point lead over Clinton and it's been reported of 56 regional Democratic chairs, 20 have endorsed with 12 for Obama and 8 for Clinton. However, four in 10 voters are said to be still undecided, so I suppose there could be a surprise Clinton comeback but barring any alarming development, one can feel rather confident that Obama will take this state in the primary.

The general election remains more of a mystery at this point. For one thing, 20 percent of Clinton supporters say they would vote for McCain if their candidate doesn't win the Democratic nomination, while 13 percent of Obama supporters say the same in reverse. This early in the game, I expect many who make these impassioned vows now will come to their senses nationally, but in NC, a state with a large military family presence, while one third of the voters believe McCain's age is an issue, pro-McCain sentiments such as this are of some concern.

"[It's] his whole background," said Democrat Robert Brown, 46, an online trader from Chapel Hill. "He was a prisoner of war. He's an upfront, straight-talking man."

To call McCain "an upfront, straight-talking man" should rightly elicit sardonic laughter. That it's so widely believed is thanks to a free booze plied, barbecue fed, adoring press corps. That's why I keep asking the partisan bloggers to let the race go to the people and focus on McCain. That narrative isn't going to change itself and we're going to need all the lead time we can get to force the truth into the media upon whose coverage most of America will decide its votes.

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The Blog Report - Goodbye great aggregator

By Libby

This is really sad news.

The Blog Report closes its doors: Three years and 12,000 blog posts later, the Blog Report is no more - Regrettably, Salon.com has decided to close down the Blog Report, which I've been editing for more than two years, after inheriting the site from my friend Peter Daou. It's been a pleasure highlighting content from the left, right, and center, from blogs with 15 readers or 150,000 readers, and everyone in between. Thanks to the Blog Report's readers for all the support.

Peter Daou, and then Steve Benen, did a fantastic job of collecting the best posts on whatever was currently buzzing on the blogs and I've been thrilled and honored to be featured there myself from both The Impolitic and among the many Newshoggers posts that have made the cut. I'm glad that both will be represented in the mix here at the end.

Thanks to Peter and now Steve for their fine eye and hard work on this project. I'm going to miss it.

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April 09, 2008

Chris Matthews unplugged

By Libby

This is the amusing read of the morning. Media Bistro previews the NYT Sunday magazine's upcoming profile on Chris Matthews. He's just as pompous and inane in real life as he is on air. But the takeaway point is that they're paying $5 million a year for his pretentious pseudo-punditry and his contract is up in June.

Word has it NBC thinks they're paying too much for his stale stylings. Keep your fingers crossed. Maybe economics can do what years of protestations couldn't and we'll be rid of Tweety at last.

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April 08, 2008

Biden nails Crocker

By Libby

I've spent the better part of the day going to, and recovering from, a visit to the doctor so I'm just catching up on the Crocker-Petraeus hearings. I see our own grumpy Cernig has recapped the early highlights so I'll just add the latest tidbit that hit Memeorandum.

I expect the big three candidates for prez will be getting most of the attention but Spencer Ackerman catches what I think is the biggest moment I've seen so far. Joe Biden backs Crocker into a corner and forces him to admit that the important front in the "war on terror" is on the Aghanistan-Pakistan border.

Think Progress has the video and as dday notes, they could end the hearings right there. Crocker just exploded the White House myth that Iraq is central to eliminating the threat of AQ into smithereens. I almost felt sorry for Crocker. Either way he loses, but you have to respect that he chose to go down by telling the truth.

Any bets on whether our 'professional' media will be informing their viewers about this pivotal moment?

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April 07, 2008

Dual citizenship - divided loyalties? (UPDATED)

By Libby

UPDATE: I didn't fact check this myself and it's been brought to my attention that this list has not been independently confirmed in any way. Chances are good that it's some kind of urban legend. My apologies for the laxity in researching the claims made by the original posters I linked to. I am however going to leave the last paragraph of this post up because I am interested in learning about the benefits of dual citizenship in general, so if you have knowledge or thoughts on that specific point, please do leave them in comments.

[Remainder of post deleted for reasons stated above.]

In considering my own retirement plans, I've put Belize high on the list because they offer dual citizenship and it seemed a good option mainly to protect any financial interests I might have in investing money into a retirement property. I've heard many horror stories about retirees losing such investments in Mexico for instance, which is also on my short list. Outside of that I know nothing about the process or its benefits and I'm curious about why so many high powered pols would do so. Can anybody tell me what practical reasons there are for holding dual citizenship if you're not living in the other country?

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Penn out or just in hiding?

By Libby

When I read the headlines last night, I thought it was a smart move to dump the pompous windbag but once I read the careful parsing of the statement, I had to agree with Josh. It didn't sound like Penn was so much being fired as being locked in closet somewhere and forbidden in appear in public on behalf of the candidate anymore.

This latest post from Marc Ambinder would lend creedence to that theory. Penn's still in on the conference calls and will no doubt remain influential in Hillary (and Bill's) strategizing. This demotion appears to be little more than a public rebuke for PR purposes.

Too bad really. I said at the time that they should have canned him entirely after Super Tuesday when they made Solis the scapegoat for the failure to lock up the nomination. I thought then and I continue to believe that the Clinton's campaign biggest failure has been to allow Penn to do their thinking for them.

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Ed Shultz won't retract remarks

By Libby

I see that Ed Shultz refuses to back down from calling McCain a warmonger. As I said yesterday at The Detroit News, I don't think he should. Neither did I think it was necessary for Obama to apologize for him, although Obama to his credit did go on to make clear that McCain fit the definition. Which is the point really.

Maybe some would consider the label impolite but it's not an obscenity and by any reasonable definition, McCain fits it to a tee. He very much believes in war and military force as a foreign policy. He's been allowed to skirt that fact by a compliant press who chose to focus on whether he really meant he wanted to fight in Iraq for 100 years or 'only' ten or so. And the media conveniently forgets his little ditty -- bomb, bomb, bomb Iran. That clip should be played every time McCain claims he's not really a warmonger.

It's clear McCain seriously believes war is the answer and I have some very serious, and I think legitimate, fears about his possible psychological need to exorcise his personal demons over Vietnam by exercising power as  a 'war president.'

Update: Well I no sooner posted than this story popped up on Think Progress.

Today, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) spoke to the Veterans of Foreign Wars, making the case for the “unmistakable progress” in Iraq. A telling moment in his remarks came when he was arguing why President Bush’s surge “dramatically turned around the situation in Iraq.” Just as he reached this point in his speech, MSNBC cut away to report on escalating violence in Iraq: [...]

MSNBC: And speaking of Iraq, we do have breaking news out of Iraq, where at least four mortars have been fired into the heavily-fortified Green Zone today. It’s unclear at this time if there are casualties or any major damage. Now the news comes just a day after five U.S. soldiers were killed in Iraq. Two, again, inside that Green Zone.

It astounds me that anyone can believe we've made any real progress in Iraq when the Green Zone isn't even safe anymore. I remember when the debate was over whether anyone had a clear picture of what was happening on the ground because they never left that safety zone. That seems a long time ago now.

In any event watch the video at the link. It's clear McCain wants to stay in Iraq indefinitely and is willing to push the same propaganda that got us into this mess, to keep us there. If that doesn't fit the definition of warmonger, I'd like to know what does.

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April 06, 2008

Meghan's blog

By Libby

Maybe I'm the last person who found this out, but I just discovered that John McCain's daughter Meghan has a blog. Peppered with song lists and charming little family factoids, like Cindy McCain's favorite snack is Cheetos, at The McCain Blogette Meghan tells us just how awesome it is to be a child of privilege typical American family on the campaign trail with Daddy -- with photos. Lots of photos.

And videos. Like this one of the fabulous private barbecue for the press corps in Sedona last month. Put up in response to the great reception the photo gallery of the event received. They don't seem to have permalinks on the posts, but if you scroll past the thanks to Politico on this page, you can get all the intimate barbecue pix. It does warm the heart to see the press corps having such a good time, doesn't it?

Surely this little weekend getaway had no effect on their professional relationship. As you can see the press is ready to ask the serious questions even while they're laughing at his little jokes. Oh, haha, how funny. John just said Iran was training AQ... [via]

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Doctor shortage in MA and universal health care

By Libby

Certainly some of the shortage of practitioners in MA can be attributed to the mandatory insurance that poured hundreds of thousands of new patients into the system, but the root of the shortage lies not so much in increasing coverage as it does with the embedded problems of the medical profession in general.

For one thing, it's no longer a profession, it's a corporate driven business where profits take precedence over best medical practices. Furthermore, the cost of obtaining a medical degree are so prohibitive that new grads are flocking to specialities where the money and hours are better in lieu of the more stressful and less lucrative disciplines such as the general practice of internal medicine. It's telling that the most difficult field in which to obtain a fellowship is currently dermatology, which is the easiest, and some would say least challenging, field.

It's the onerous paperwork requirements and illogical reimbursement practices of the current insurance industry that have made the other fields less attractive and raised the costs of medical care to the current unsustainable levels. General practitioners have to hire several people just to process insurance claims and hospitalists can't treat for multiple conditions under one admission if they want to be paid for their work. So in other words, if someone comes into a hospital with a broken leg and it's discovered during testing that they also have cancer, they have to be discharged and readmitted for each malady separately in order for the treatments to be reimbursed.

I was particularly interested in this NYT piece because I know Kate Atkinson. I remember when she started that practice from scratch and I admired her for choosing a path so fraught with difficulty. She didn't begin with a surplus of patients and as the article points out even now, it's not easy to cover expenses even with an overloaded patient base. She's a great and dedicated doctor who eschewed the protection of a corporate umbrella. Her patients are lucky to have her, even if they have to wait to see her.

A universal health insurance program may well cause some short term shortages but in the long run it would eliminate one of the biggest obstacles to more doctors choosing her same path. It would be shortsighted and unwise to deem the MA program a failure because it didn't immediately overcome ingrained flaws in the entire medical system within the first year or two.

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April 05, 2008

Legally prescribed drugs the biggest killer

By Libby

You often hear from the prohibitionist profiteers that drug overdoses from illegal drugs are such a huge problem, they justify pouring 40+ billion a year into the black hole of the war on some drugs. If you look at the numbers, that argument doesn't really hold. Sure, with no other context, this sounds alarming.

According to a little noticed January report from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), drug overdoses killed more than 33,000 people in 2005, the last year for which firm data are available. That makes drug overdose the second leading cause of accidental death, behind only motor vehicle accidents (43,667) and ahead of firearms deaths (30,694).

What's more disturbing is that the 2005 figures are only the latest in such a seemingly inexorable increase in overdose deaths that the eras of the 1970s heroin epidemic and the 1980s crack wave pale in comparison. According to the CDC, some 10,000 died of overdoses in 1990; by 1999, that number had hit 20,000; and in the six years between then and 2005, it increased by more than 60%.

The rise can be largely attributed to the abuse of illegally diverted prescription drugs but this 2002 report that just surfaced in my inbox points to a bigger villian in drug deaths.

According to a recent study, an estimated 2 million people were hospitalized in one year alone for reactions to properly prescribed medications and 100,000 of these people died, making unexpected adverse reactions to drugs a leading cause of death in the United States.

In other words these legal drugs were prescribed under routine good medical practices but killed three times as many people as illegal drugs because of the adverse side effects of pharmaceutical poisons. Meanwhile, it's useful to remember that there has never been a recorded death due to a marijuana overdose in the history of mankind. Kind of puts the drug war into a different perspective, doesn't it?

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Surfing the YouTubes

By Libby

This is why I love the intertubes. For a number of reasons I don't watch much TV, so if it wasn't for YouTube I would miss all the political commericials. I love the ads, good and bad.

Ask Hillary is quite good. Plain and straightforward, Hillary came across genuine rather than trying to act out some imposed persona. Certainly a vast improvement over the made for mockery 3:00am messaging. [via]

McCain's latest on the other hand, Proud to be a Snitch was truly bizarre. Although the 44 on his football shirt was too precious, I understand why he focused on graphics of himself in college. But the messaging behind the the emphasis on ratting out his fellow classmate is as murky to me as the significance of the curling stream of cigarette smoke that permeated the entire video.

Meanwhile, Mike Gravel continues to amuse with the predictably odd Helter Skelter. I wouldn't want the guy to be president but I'm beginning to appreciate his sense of the macabre even as his messaging remains completely incomprehensible.

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April 04, 2008

Mukasey lying and crying 9/11 tears

By Libby

On the premise that I'll reach more White House supporters there, I've been blogging Glenn Greenwald's  revelations on Mukasey at the the Detroit News.  Our sobbing AG really put his foot into it this time. As Glenn pointed out, if Mukasey's tearful tale was true, he effectively proved that the White House failed to use the tools at its disposal to prevent 9/11. 

However, as replies to Glenn's inquries have arrived, it's rather clear that Mukasey was just lying about the so called "safe house in Afghanistan" incident. We can take some small comfort from the fact that the administration apparently did not allow 9/11 to happen by failing to use its surveillance tools effectively. On the other hand, it's more than a little depressing that the Attorney General of the United States is willing to go to such lengths as crying and lying in an attempt to force Congress into caving into the coverup of White House criminality that telecom immunity would provide.

I can't wait for this administration to be over.

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April 03, 2008

State of the Race

By Libby

I don't understand why this is such big news. So the Clintons are allegedly telling superdelegates directly that Obama can't win the general. What would they be expected to do? Tell them they think Obama can win but the superdels should vote for Hillary anyway?

The big story for me this morning is that Hillary released a new ad that targeted McCain instead of Obama. Unfortunately, I find the ad a little odd, to put it kindly, but the tactics are good. She's responding to the public outcry for a united attack against the Republican and should be acknowledged for that and encouraged to keep it up.

Meanwhile, Obama, after a few days of keeping his focus on McCain, strays off track with remarks at an AFL-CIO convention. Again, much of it is a customary sort of rhetoric and rather mild taken in historical reference but still, I don't think it's helpful in this protracted contest.

“I know there’s been some talk about Rocky Balboa over the last couple of days. We all love Rocky. And last time I checked, I was the underdog in this state. But we’ve got to remember that Rocky was a movie. And so is the idea that somebody can fight for working people and at the same time, embrace the broken system in Washington, where corporate lobbyists use their clout to shape laws to their liking.”

Obama assured union workers that the Democratic Party will not be divided by the lengthy primary. “America can’t afford another four years of the Bush policies and that’s what John McCain’s offering,” he said. However, he was quick to liken Clinton to George W. Bush, accusing her of supporting unions only because she is running for president.

“It’s time we had a president who didn’t choke saying the word union,” Obama said. “It’s time we had a Democratic nominee who doesn’t just talk about unions during the primary.”

It's good that he worked in McCain, but while I don't think it's fair to call this likening Clinton to Bush, in my opinion, he goes too far by tacitly smearing Democrats as antiunion.

I understand that to some extent they still need to run against each other and it's impossible for either candidate to completely ignore the other's positions, but I just wish they could both consistently focus on why their policies are better than McCain and highlight their own differences as little and as subtly as possible. And yeah, I still want a pony too. 

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April 02, 2008

Karl Rove sees what he likes

By Libby

This interview with Karl Rove at GQ is already generating some buzz at Memeorandum. It was a long and fascinating exchange with some decent questions. Everyone seems to have their favorite quote and Karl's wankery is already being dissected by the wonks. Leaving the debunking to them, my personal favorite speaks to how he justifies his own existence.

So there's good calculating and bad calculating?
Absolutely.

I'm sure that I don't need to tell you Karl believes his calculating is good and Democrats' calculating is bad. But I do wonder what benefit he calculated from giving this interview. It certainly wasn't to promote his new book.


What's your goal with this book? You intend to set the record straight, as you see it?
Absolutely, absolutely. Sure. You bet. I intend to set the record straight.

I imagine you're going to have a lot to say.
Yeah, exactly. Available soon for $29.95…. I gotta go! I gotta go!

So why do you suppose he was willing to give away the 'family secrets' at this moment in time? Call me paranoid but I never underestimate the long range thinking of Rove. I have to believe he had a reason and I wonder what it was.

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Improving tactics in Democratic primary

By Libby

It looks like Obama got the message. In a somewhat snarky piece for the AP Devlin Barrett reports that Obama is shifting his focus to McCain.

Sen. Barack Obama is talking about the elephant in the room — Republican rival John McCain — and all but ignoring the Democrat who stands between him and his party's presidential nomination.

Devlin seems to find this objectionable.

Of course, there's the little matter of a Pennsylvania primary on April 22, and Clinton's double-digit lead in recent state polls.

That of course ignores that her lead has shrunk by half in the last two weeks and sounds remarkably like a disgruntled journalist who resents having to give up the easy horserace narrative if the Democratic candidates decide to focus on their real opponent and -- gasp -- the issues. Meanwhile, it appears Hillary is a little slow on listening to the outcry for exactly this kind of focus in the race.

The campaign's latest tactic is to spread a meme via the local press in the upcoming primary states that Obama and his supporters are opposed to allowing those states' residents to vote. That wouldn't have been so tone deaf if she didn't specifically target Obama with those remarks. It's true many of his supporters are calling for her to drop out gracefully, (and granted many that aren't putting it so nicely), but surely Clinton is aware that Obama specifically called for allowing her to stay in as long as she wants. If Hillary incomprehensibly didn't see the coverage, certainly the voters did, so it's difficult to see what she hoped to accomplish with line of attack. Via Ben Smith, Steve Benen does his usual stellar job of summing up the pitfalls of that strategy.

But that’s not a compelling campaign pitch; in fact, it’s hardly a pitch at all. There’s no reason to keep talking about why the race should continue; the race is continuing by virtue of Clinton’s ongoing efforts.

Reporters and campaign junkies enjoy the inside-pool and horserace analysis, but on the list of voters’ top concerns, the debate over whether the Democrats’ nomination fight should in April, June, or August is of no consequence.

Clinton has a compelling policy message, but if all we hear is a campaign based on the need to continue campaigning, the race might as well end. It will have passed the point of vapidity.

The good news is that Clinton appears to be realizing the error of this messaging and is switching to an issue based pitch. The latest reports have her detailing a plan to create jobs while rebuilding our infrastructure. Without getting into any debate on the plan itself, this is the sort of campaigning that helps the party and makes a much more compelling case for her remaining in the race for the long term.

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April 01, 2008

McCain surprised by Iraq mayhem

By Libby

Hot on the heels of his "fact finding" tour of the Middle East which included a stop in Iraq, but didn't include a visit to the market he fabulously deemed secure and a sign of the surge strategy's success last year, while ignoring the fact he had to be surrounded by 100 armed guards and a helicopter to take the stroll, McCain is simply shocked that Maliki started his Basra offensive this week.

“Maliki decided to take on this operation without consulting the Americans,’’ Mr. McCain said on his campaign bus as it rolled through downtown Meridian, saying that the move showed independence but that he had expected the military to focus on Mosul.

“I just am surprised that he would take it on himself to go down and take charge of a military offensive,’’ he said. “I had not anticipated that he would do that.’’

Is he joking? Considering Cheney's 'surprise' visit to Iraq only a couple of weeks ago, does anybody really believe that Maliki thought this dunderheaded idea up himself or would have undertaken it without the express permission of his White House handlers? The operation had GOP political convenience and its rosy-eyed arrogance written all over it. If McCain is really surprised his grasp of the Iraq debacle is even more dismal than I feared.

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March 25, 2008

It's time to disown Joe

By Libby

I meant to blog earlier about this Connecticut newspaper's apology for endorsing Joe Lieberman during his last reelection campaign. I didn't think on the whole it was that good. They excused a lot of his anti-democratic positions, but the closing grafs were right on target.

Meanwhile, the junior Connecticut senator is not only backing the Republican nominee for the presidency, Sen. John McCain of Arizona, but appears to be making a contest of trying to get into every photo and TV news video with him. Perhaps Sen. Lieberman is taking delight in needling the chairman of the Democratic Party, Howard Dean, his 2004 opponent for the presidency, whose leadership he once dismissed as a “ticket to nowhere.”

Rather than building the bridges The Day expected when it endorsed Sen. Lieberman, he appears busy burning bridges with the party of which he is allegedly still a member. Perhaps the senator is positioning himself for a top cabinet post in a McCain presidency. But if the Democrats prevail, and enlarge their control of the Senate, it is hard to imagine this Connecticut senator being welcomed back with open arms.

This raised a question in my mind that I haven't seen asked and would love to see answered by our Democratic leadership. It's clear that Lieberman is now repaying the GOP for their support that was key in his successful bid. He's long ceased to have any resemblence to a Democrat. So why is he still the chair of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee?

If he wants to run with the GOP, surely he doesn't deserve to be rewarded for his betrayal with such a plum assignment.

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The Fallujah success story

By Libby

The Pentagon often points to Fallujah as a sign of the success of a long term occupation and a justification to remain there for the foreseeable future. We're told we can't jeopardize these sort of gains after we spent all that blood and treasure -- twice -- with major assaults to 'secure' the city. So just what does a secure Fallujah look like?

Fallujah today is sealed off with blast walls and checkpoints. Residents are given permits to enter the city. All visitors and their weapons are registered. Police check every car. The U.S. military has divided the city into nine gated communities.

Sounds charming doesn't it? Maybe we could use this model of success to bring security to some of our own troubled inner cities. Heck, we even have a head start. The administration's new national ID scheme, which is about to go into effect, is tailor made for entry by permit only. But let's not forget, we're doing this to nuture the young democracy in Iraq. Just ask Fallujah's police chief, Col. Faisal Ismail al-Zobaie, a former member of Hussein's elite Republican Guard, who is our strongman in the city.

What al-Zobaie wants is for the U.S. military to hand over full control of Fallujah. He believes Iraq's current leaders aren't strong enough. Asked whether democracy could ever bloom here, he replied: "No democracy in Iraq. Ever."

Well, that's certainly worth 4,000 reported dead, tens of thousand permanently injured troops and $3 trillion tax dollars, isn't it? [via BuzzFlash]

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March 24, 2008

Why defeating McCain matters

By Libby

I can sum it up in the six words represented by the acronym SCOTUS. The impact of these appointments span generations, not just terms of office. Does anyone really want to take a chance on tilting the court any further to the right than this?

When the U.S. Supreme Court two years ago limited the First Amendment protections available to public employees, faculty groups thought that they had dodged a bullet. While the decision didn’t go the way professors hoped, it specifically indicated that additional issues might limit its application in cases involving public college professors.[...]

The Supreme Court case that has set off this concern has nothing to do with higher education. Rather, in Garcetti v. Ceballos, the court ruled 5 to 4 that normal First Amendment protections did not protect Richard Ceballos, a Los Angeles deputy district attorney who was demoted and transferred after criticizing a local sheriff’s conduct to his supervisors. In his decision, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote: “We hold that when public employees make statements pursuant to their official duties, the employees are not speaking as citizens for First Amendment purposes, and the Constitution does not insulate their communications from employer discipline.”

Employer discipline? For whistleblowing? I can't imagine a greater need for First Amendment protection than in exposing wrongdoing. Especially in our justice system. But now this ill-advised precedent is being applied more broadly.

In the current case, Juan Hong, a professor of chemical engineering at the University of California at Irvine, maintains that he was unfairly denied a merit raise because comments he made in faculty meetings offended superiors. Some of those comments concerned personnel decisions. More generally, Hong said that his department was relying too much on part-time instructors to teach lower-division courses, and that students were entitled to full-time professors.

The district court dismissed the suit, saying that these discussions were part of the “official duties” of professors, and thus under the Garcetti decision were not entitled to First Amendment protection. The court did not determine whether the lost merit raise was related to the comments, and the faculty groups’ brief focuses on the legal principles, not the specific cases.

I don't get the logic of that decision either. How is criticizing the administration part of the 'official duties?' Is it in the job description? The plaintiff's brief argues that "[t]he speech of university professors merits a special degree of protection...". I'd argue that every citizen deserves an unfettered degree of protection for dissent. But as the article notes, this isn't entirely unexpected.

While the brief expresses shock that the Garcetti decision would apply in higher education, the dissent in the 2006 ruling suggested just that possibility. Justice David Souter wrote that the majority decision “is spacious enough to include even the teaching of a public university professor, and I have to hope that today’s majority does not mean to imperil the First Amendment protection of academic freedom in public colleges and universities, whose teachers necessarily speak and write ‘pursuant to official duties.’ ”

I don't think it's all that much of a stretch to imagine a day when this decision is ultimately used to squelch all criticism of the government by any citizen. If we allow a Republican nominee to fill the next vacancy, and there will almost surely be one in the next term, I'd say it's more than just a little possible.

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