Saturday, July 28, 2007

Some Saturday Fun

Hat tips to Kagro X at The Daily Kos for this...

...and this; background is here - Lowe's is a much better store than Home Depot anyway.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Friday Videos

To make note of the fact that the charges against the assailant of Ray Davies were dropped today (two hearings had been scheduled for the guy who shot Davies in the leg; the guy was also charged with snatching the purse of Davies' date - next time, let the guy have the dough, OK Ray?), here's "Till The End Of The Day" from the '60s (sorry about the quality, but I think this is one of their best songs).

Kaiser Chiefs ("The Angry Mob")...

...Elvis sings "Viva Las Vegas" of course, from the legendary songwriting team of Mort Shuman and Doc Pomus; the latter would have been 82 today...

...Thompson Twins ("Doctor, Doctor" - actually, based on the way the stock market has been acting sick over the last couple of days, I think it needs a "house call" in whatever form that may take)...

Mitt's "Chain" Stupidity

I have to pick my spots when it comes to saying anything about Willard Mitt Romney, I know; he just provides so much nonsense to refute that I can’t possibly answer all of it.

Instead of refuting his idiotic criticism of the tax proposals of John Edwards in this story, though (a “new bike”?), I want to take issue with what he said about illegal immigration, to wit…

"I ... don't think it makes sense to have an immigration policy that says that if an illegal couple — a couple that comes across the border illegally — has a child here, that child becomes a U.S. citizen, that then the whole family gets to come in, if you will, through 'chain migration'," he said.
I conducted numerous searches using the terms “chain” and “migration” in the context of illegal immigration into this country, and I found nothing, which isn’t surprising (the term actually reminds me of that scene in the Woody Allen movie "Take The Money And Run" where the members of the work gang are all trying to escape while manacled at the ankles).

I think a vastly more common scenario, however, as opposed to illegals conceiving in this country or giving birth soon after they cross the border, is something like what is described in this AP story, where the writer visits children in a Brownsville, Texas school house, all of whom are illegals (with Brownsville the first destination for these kids and other illegals).

I think this excerpt is noteworthy…

Smugglers are telling parents to separate from the children once they cross the Rio Grande, he said. Even if they are caught by the Border Patrol, the children are all but guaranteed to be in a safe, comfortable home within a day or so and placed with a relative or friend within a few weeks or months.

The parents can meanwhile seek “voluntary departure,” which means they can leave without a deportation order on their record — which would prohibit them from entering the United States within the next 10 years and subject them to jail time if they are caught. They can then try to qualify for a visa or attempt to sneak in again.

If they were caught together, the entire family would be detained at one of the federal government’s new family facilities, such as the T. Don Hutto facility in Taylor that has been criticized for prison-like conditions. There would be no chance of avoiding removal proceedings.
And I don’t see how Romney can assume that every illegal couple that has a child in this country can automatically stay along with the child. Short of a congressional law on immigration (which didn’t pass, of course), this matter is up to the discretion of local courts and legislatures, some of whom may be less sympathetic than others to the plight of these people (see 7/28 update, however). And it’s obvious that the climate in this country is against supporting the type of scenario Romney describes (with the kids stuck in the middle, which is so often the case when the adults can’t make up their minds – Romney didn’t specify the particular area of the country he was talking about, of course).

“Chain migration,” huh? The next time Romney says anything this dumb, I wish someone would take that three-legged stool of his and smack him over the head with it, lest he create another “penumbra of angst” for no good reason.

And speaking of immigration, I’m sure Smerky is all bummed about this.

Update 7/28: The Inquirer ran this editorial today concerning the Hazelton decision, noting that U.S. District Judge James Munley ruled that "federally enacted immigration rules can't be superseded by local ordinances." He also said that Hazleton's law was unconstitutional "in that it would violate the civil rights granted to anyone in this country, even those who entered illegally."

Get Something Cheap From Costco

A thought for today, based on this story…

Why is it so apt that this person requires some kind of mechanical device to assist or replicate the function of what otherwise would be performed by a normal human heart?

Where The Rubber Meets The Road (7/27/07)

As reported in last Sunday's Philadelphia Inquirer, here is how Philadelphia-area members of Congress were recorded on major roll-call votes last week.

(Back after a one-week hiatus...)


Police, firefighter unions: Members granted, 314-97, limited union rights to police, firefighters, corrections officers and other public-safety personnel in all states. It authorizes bargaining over wages and benefits but which bars strikes and lockouts.

A yes vote was to pass the bill (HR 980).

Voting yes: Robert E. Andrews (D., N.J.), Robert A. Brady (D., Pa.), Michael N. Castle (R., Del.), Charles W. Dent (R., Pa.) Chaka Fattah (D., Pa.), Jim Gerlach (R., Pa.), Tim Holden (D., Pa.), Frank A. LoBiondo (R., N.J.), Patrick Murphy (D., Pa.), H. James Saxton (R., N.J.), Allyson Y. Schwartz (D., Pa.), and Christopher H. Smith (R., N.J.).

Voting no: Joseph R. Pitts (R., Pa.)

Not voting: Joe Sestak (D., Pa.)
So just remember – in addition to everything else Joe Pitts opposes, he also opposes the right of all public safety personnel to compete for a livable wage, even though they put their lives on the line for us every day.

Abortion dispute: Members refused, 189-231, to block funds for Planned Parenthood in the Health and Human Services budget (HR 3043). The group is one of many that get U.S. family-planning funds but are banned from using them for abortion.

A yes vote backed the funds denial.

Voting yes: LoBiondo, Pitts, (Tim) Murphy, Saxton and Smith.

Voting no: Andrews, Brady, Castle, Dent, Fattah, Gerlach, Holden, Schwartz and Sestak (and Patrick Murphy).
Wait a minute…

Patrick Murphy voted to block federal funding for Planned Parenthood??

This is truly peculiar at the very least for someone who professes to support a woman’s right to choose (actually, it’s pretty shocking). I was reminded of Patrick’s past support of Planned Parenthood from this post during the prior campaign for the U.S. House where he defeated Mikey Fitzpatrick (no word yet on what Saint Mikey will do, but I’m inclined to think he’ll run again).

It’s bad enough that there are Democrats out there who are running away from the gun issue because they believe it is political suicide. I seriously hope that Patrick is not going to do that for women’s issues (which, really, are family issues affecting all of us) because of the same mistaken belief. And I don’t think this is a “Blue Dog Democrat” thing because Tim Holden actually cast a good vote for a change.

Sad to say Patrick has lined up with a zealot like Rosemary Overberger on this issue, but apparently, that is what has happened.


Withdrawal from Iraq: The Senate failed, 52-47, to get 60 votes for advancing a mandate that President Bush start withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq within 120 days and finish the pullout of all but a residual force by April 30, 2008.

A yes vote on the bill (HR 1585) backed the mandate over GOP opposition.

Voting yes: Joseph Biden (D., Del.), Thomas Carper (D., Del.), Bob Casey (D., Pa.), Frank Lautenberg (D., N.J.), and Robert Menendez (D., N.J.).

Voting no: Arlen Specter (R., Pa.)
Now, always and forever, I have only this to say…screw you, Arlen.

Student loans: Senators voted, 78-18, to cut subsidies of firms that lend to students by $18 billion over five years and allocate the savings mostly to the direct benefit of students. The measure caps student-loan payments at 15 percent of discretionary income.

All Philadelphia-area senators voted to pass the bill (HR 2669).

Bankers' loan plan: Senators defeated, 35-62, an alternative to HR 2669 (above) that was favored by bankers but opposed by student groups. A yes vote backed a plan to reduce lenders' subsidies by $2.4 billion less than in the underlying bill and provide smaller increases in Pell Grants.

All Philadelphia-area senators voted against the bill.
And above everyone else, we can thank Dems Ted Kennedy and Dick Durbin for these legitimate reforms (re: the last two pieces of legislation).

The Drug Isn't The Only "Pill" Here

I don’t think I’ve ever posted on this topic, but I honestly don’t understand how pharmacists are allowed to get away without selling the Plan B “morning-after pill” that has about an 89-percent success rate in preventing conception when taken within a 72-hour timeframe after intercourse.

Oh, I’m very familiar with the religious and moral beliefs on the part of people who object to Plan B. And that’s a little surprising to me, actually, since the people who feel this way are usually anti-choice zealots who believe that a woman’s uterus is community property. They of all people should be happy to hear about something that reduces the possibility of an abortion.

I was reminded of this by this story of a lawsuit by pharmacists in Washington State who object to filling prescriptions for the pill on moral and religious grounds (I don’t know of anyone in any occupation, by the way, who has ever filed suit for being told to do their job unless some kind of discrimination or harassment was involved). Also, this story from Tony Pugh at McClatchy provides more background, including the fact that compliance on this by pharmacists seems to be very inconsistent across the country.

Also, this story about a study in Jacksonville, FL that tried to determine women’s access to emergency contraception yielded some interesting (I thought) information also, including the following…

“The reasons most commonly cited by pharmacists for not carrying Plan B were lack of demand and short expiration time. Three pharmacists cited personal beliefs as the reason for not carrying or dispensing Plan B. None of the pharmacists cited store policy as the reason for not carrying the medication.
But for those who refuse to dispense the drug because of their beliefs, I though John at Americablog had some interesting thoughts (regarding Target’s decision to allow pharmacists not to fill prescriptions for Plan B - here)…

Target is now claiming - quite incredibly - that its employees' religious fanaticism is covered the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Yes, apparently Target employees are allowed to not sell you things based on THEIR religion. That's an absurd, and rather dangerous, legal statement from Target.

So let's ask Target if they also support the following Target employees:

- Check out clerks who verify how fat you are before selling you that package of potato chips?
- Pharmacists who don't want to fill prescriptions for Jewish customers who killed Christ.
- Pharmacists who don't want to help customers who worship a "Satanic counterfeit" (read: "The Pope," in fundie-speak).
- Pharmacists who only dispense HIV medicine to "innocent victims" of AIDS.
- Pharmacists who want proof that women seeking emergency contraception were really raped, and that they didn't "deserve it."
- Pharmacists (or cashiers) who are Christian Scientists - can they refuse to sell any medicine, even aspirin, to anyone?
- Pharmacists who won't sell birth control pills to unmarried women, condoms to unmarried men, or any birth control at all because God doesn't want people spilling their seed.
- Can fundamentalist Christian employees refuse to interact with gay people in any way, shape or form since gays are sinners, abominations, biological errors, and very likely pedophiles?
This is one issue that, to me, is very simple.

Pharmacists get paid to fill prescriptions. They should do their jobs and leave any other considerations out of the picture.

A Lesson In Right-Wing Bias

The photo above is of a scenic spot in the Cayman Islands, a favored location for corporate cheats who wish to dodge paying U.S. taxes. It definitely pertains to this article from Dan Morgan of the Washington Post that appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer yesterday.

The story has to do with a bill sponsored by the U.S. House that ran into a host of objections from Republicans and ended up facing the inevitable veto threat from President Clouded Vision (who just seems permanently attached to that veto pen any more, by the way...and here's more).

As the Inquirer notes…

In addition to paying for traditional farm programs, the bill provides billions of dollars over the next decade for conservation, research on biofuels, and nutrition programs such as food stamps. There is new money for organic farmers, fruit and vegetable snacks for schoolchildren, and rural development.

At a Capitol Hill rally Tuesday attended by dozens of farm-state lawmakers, lobbyists and representatives of advocacy groups, Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson (D., Minn.) said the bill "strikes the proper balance as it relates to reform."
So what’s the problem? Well, it has to do with how the bill would be funded…

Farm-state Republicans had been lining up with Democrats to defend the bipartisan bill but changed course when notified that a proposed increase in funding for nutrition programs would be paid for partly by tightening rules on U.S.-based foreign companies that use offshore tax havens to avoid U.S. taxes.

Republicans quickly picked up on a White House statement branding the funding plan as an unacceptable tax increase. Rep. Bob Goodlatte of Virginia, the ranking Republican on the House Agriculture Committee, said all GOP members on the panel as well as top GOP leaders would oppose the bill if the funding proposal stayed in.
So the House Dems are trying to make it harder for companies that do business offshore to avoid taxes and also used those taxes they would pay to finance the program. I call that pretty clever legislating.

So how does the Inquirer choose to describe this in a headline? Well (no surprise, I guess), they describe what the Dems are trying to legislate as a “tax hike” (exactly how the Repugs falsely described it, of course).

Anyone who thinks what the Dems are trying to do constitutes a “tax hike” should read the following from Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa (who is a Repug, as we know)…

"Average working Americans can't pull up stakes and move to Bermuda or set up a fancy tax shelter to avoid paying taxes," Grassley said. "Companies that do this make a sucker out of working Americans and companies that stay in the United States and pay their fair share of taxes. Since we're giving tax relief to companies and small businesses, it's only fair that we tighten the law for those avoiding their fair share."
What a pity that the Inky doesn’t recognize something so obvious to Grassley and the majority of people in this country.

The Expert In "Clouded Vision"

Here’s a test…

“Now, I know that the car bombs that take place tend to cloud people's vision.”
I don’t have to communicate to you the name of the person who uttered that brainless quote, do I?

Despite that, I’m actually going to look seriously for a minute or two at one of Dubya’s familiar refrains when he speaks in front of typically sympathetic audiences (or, in the case of some of our military, audiences who have no choice but to listen and go along with the blinkered musings of this intellectual pigmy).

That quote and other typical partisan nonsense (along with his typically lame attempts at humor and endless acknowledgements of his friends) can be found in the transcript of his speech at the Marriott Downtown in Philadelphia yesterday, but he also spoke about the apparent success that has transpired from “the splurge” in Anbar province.

This New York Times article confirms that the preznit has a little something to crow about here (of course, give him an inch and he’ll take a few miles), but it also notes the following…

The Anbar turnaround developed just as Mr. Bush was committing nearly 30,000 additional American troops to Iraq in a bid to regain control of Baghdad and the “belt” areas that surround it. The so-called troop surge reached full strength in mid-June, and the results so far have been mixed. In any case, the Pentagon has told American commanders it can be maintained only until next March, at the latest.

This has left commanders looking beyond the surge’s end, to a point when the trajectory of the war, increasingly, will be determined by decisions the Iraqis make for themselves. So the question is whether the Anbar experience can be “exported” to other combat zones, as Mr. Bush suggested, by arming tribally based local security forces and recruiting thousands of young Sunnis, including former members of Baathist insurgent groups, into Iraq’s army and police force.

Or is what has happened here possible only because of Anbar’s demographics? Were local sheiks able to rally against the extremist groups because Anbar’s population of 1.3 million is almost entirely Sunni — a population that does not have to guard Sunni unity in the face of the Shiite militias and death squads that have sprung up in Baghdad and other provinces in response to Sunni extremist attacks?

And there are the complexities of Baghdad politics to consider. Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, who leads the Shiite-dominated national government, has backed the tribal outreach in Anbar as a way to strengthen Sunni moderates against Sunni extremists there. But he has warned that replicating the pattern elsewhere could arm Sunni militias for use in a civil war with Shiites.
And this gives us more background into why Anbar has apparently turned into a “success” for Bushco…

The sheiks are not primarily fighting Al Qaeda in Iraq for revenge, but for the material benefits that flow from dominating the province. With US military assistance, they are eliminating their main rival for control over the extensive smuggling rackets that pass through Anbar to Syria and Jordan.

The attitude of the Sunni religious establishment toward the US-tribal alliance was expressed by the leader of the Association of Muslim Scholars, Harith al-Dhari, who has been driven into exile. Last month, he denounced the Anbar Salvation Council as “a band of thieves and bandits”.

More fundamentally, the elevation of petty tribal despots into power over an entire province is another demonstration of the neo-colonial agenda behind the invasion and occupation of Iraq. Thousands of American troops are not in Iraq to assist some type of transition to democracy. They are there to erect a pliable puppet regime that will accept long-term US domination over the country and its resources. In the sheiks of Anbar, the Bush administration has found, at least for now, willing collaborators.
The only individual suffering from “clouded vision” is the person who uttered that phrase if he thinks that anything approximating “success” in the Iraq catastrophe can be built on payoffs, secret deals, and the in-all-likelihood-temporary compliance of some local benefactors in his scheme to plunder that country on behalf of his corporate handlers while he acts as their proxy.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Wednesday Videos

Collective Soul (Ed and Joel from the band, anyway, performing an acoustic version of "Heavy" at a promotion for WMMR here in Philadelphia)...

...Happy belated birthday to Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth ("Dirty Boots" - ah yes, the "club days" live again)...

...Happy belated birthday also to John Hall, former lead singer of Orleans and now a U.S. House rep from New York's 19th district (appearing in the following clip with former president Bill Clinton; click here to learn more)...

...and 42 years ago today, Bob Dylan "went electric" at the Newport Jazz Festival with the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, driving some folkie purists into hysterics, and with that in mind, here's "Idiot Wind" live from 1976 (a tune from "Blood On The Tracks"; hard to find something live from 1965 to put up, but this shows Dylan in good voice - well, for him; many great things about the man, but let's face it, there are better singers out there).

Gimme Some "Factor" Friction!

(By the way, no posting tomorrow, in case I forget to mention it later.)

With this post title, I mean to restate my loathing and disregard for Bill O’Reilly (yes, I know; take a number and sit down).

Not because he is a shameless, abusive propagandist. Not because he is a pompous, intellectual wastrel of a human being. Not because he is a falafel-abusing egomaniac (link here - #4 on list).

No, no, no.

It is because, despite my attempt to goad him (here) into decrying me as some type of liberal vermin in his demented eye, he has steadfastly refused to do so.

Gosh, I almost feel insulted.

Well, would it help if I published a list of his advertisers (here; hat tips to kos and Prof Marcus…what a shame; I thought favorably of Dell computers up to this moment – you can also click to a petition telling these folks what you think of their support for this nematode).

I should probably back up a bit here and note that this latest dustup started when O’Reilly and fellow traveler Michelle Malkin compared The Daily Kos (and, by extension, Markos Moulitsas Zuniga) to Al Capone and Benito Mussolini (takes one to know one, I guess - here).

And in other wingnut news, I should point out that University of Colorado professor Ward Churchill (a person only O’Reilly and his ilk actually care about, I assure you) was fired from his job yesterday (Churchill is the one who called 9/11 victims “little Eichmanns,” in case that slipped your mind because a freeper hadn’t pointed that out within the last five minutes).

This HuffPo column by Greg Lukianoff looks at the legal implications of Churchill’s dismissal, and I thought they were interesting (the only reason I’m bothering to mention Churchill at all, really). It turns out that there were “numerous, longstanding claims of academic misconduct” against Churchill prior to his infamous remark, and the school and the board of regents actually look bad for not acting on them earlier, kind of opening up the possibility that, after much hoopla, Churchill could end up with a settlement from the school just to go away.

And finally (on a separate note, pretty much), I want to say how glad I am that Markos and the great people at his site are all over Abu Gonzales as he disintegrates under the withering eye of Congress and the media. And I’m glad to hear them calling for his impeachment.

Does that mean that Markos will now be less dismissive of those who rightly call for Dubya and Deadeye Dick to endure the same fate?

Update: This post from Kagro X adds fuel to the impeachment fire, as far as I'm concerned.

Update 7/27: Jim Gilliam of HuffPo has a good idea about O'Reilly and his ilk here.

Giving Progressives A Bad Name

This column by Mark Schmitt appeared in the New York Times yesterday; I wasn’t familiar with Schmitt, but the bio with his column states that he is a senior fellow at the New America Foundation.

The group (as noted here) is, “a nonprofit, post-partisan, public policy institute that was established through the collaborative work of a diverse and intergenerational group of public intellectuals, civic leaders and business executives” that seeks to “bring exceptionally promising new voices and new ideas to the fore of our nation’s public discourse” (and the fact that the group is to be headed by the fine New Yorker writer Steve Coll is promising).

Given all of this, it sounded as if Schmitt’s column would be worth my time. Unfortunately, it was not (and here are some dubious excerpts)…

While the absence of policy detail in the Republican presidential campaign is remarkable, Democrats go too far in the other direction. Their campaign has entered the season of plans, the period during which a barrage of 20-page policy proposals frames the debate. The candidates disappear behind a screen of white paper.

And there will be more. The Service Employees International Union, among the most powerful voices in Democratic politics, has asked presidential candidates to issue a detailed health care plan by the end of the month to have a chance at the union’s endorsement. But the union is doing its members no favors by encouraging the candidates to take part in this ritual. By the end of the campaign, whomever the union endorses would have been better off if he or she had never written a health care plan at all.
That, in a word, is utterly preposterous. So the SEIU is supposed to give some blanket endorsement to a presidential candidate without having a clue as to whether or not this person wants to continue to take chances with our expensive, unreliable and shamelessly profit-driven private system or begin what I admit would be the slow, hard, expensive (in the short term) transition to a single-payer operation?

I’m drawing attention to this column by Schmitt chiefly because, if there is one thing I’m sick to death of hearing about, it’s the fact that Democrats lose elections because their campaigns are apparently too “issue-driven” or otherwise intelligent for voters to comprehend, and the Repugs keep winning because (in the past) they’ve effectively spun and propagandized on important issues and reduced their positions on them to “sound bites” in the process.

All of that worked back in those supposedly baaad Clinton years when we were all “fat, dub and happy,” but the “house of cards” constructed by the Repugs and their corporate media enablers has effectively collapsed. Only people who refuse to see that or are blinded by partisan bias against Democrats (or are basically too lazy to care one way or the other) still believe that this party represents a viable alternative in a national election.

And by the way, Schmitt’s column gets worse…

We don’t give our presidents total power to enact policy. They have to work with a Congress made up of people with their own views and constituencies. Does anyone really think that a plan cooked up by a bunch of smart 20-somethings after a couple of all-nighters amid the empty pizza boxes and pressures of a campaign is superior to what could be developed with the full resources of the federal government and open Congressional hearings and debate?
If I were a member of the campaign staff of John Edwards, for example, who helped craft the ideas behind his single-payer health care plan and I read that paragraph (you could substitute other Dem candidates also, of course), I would seek out Schmitt at my earliest opportunity so I could call him an idiot to his face.

Yes, I think such a plan from a particular candidate could be superior if it doesn’t get hopelessly watered down by the special interest demands of those who would do their best to cut it to pieces (which, sadly, would almost inevitably take place).

And here’s the topper as far as I’m concerned…

Democratic primary voters are infatuated with the idea of plans, not the plans themselves. We like to think that we vote based on our rational analysis of issues and ideas, not on such tawdry matters as personality. So we insist that candidates produce plans to show that they are as serious as we like to think we are. Voters mistakenly use the level of detail in a plan as a clue to the candidate’s level of commitment to solving a problem. But what we really need are clues to character.
I don’t know how someone affiliated with an organization that tries to provide a forum for “promising new voices” could lend its name to something like this that helps in a big way to do nothing but reinforce Republican party talking points (though now, witnessing Dubya’s “crash and burn” presidency, the Dems could legitimately claim the “character” baton as far as I’m concerned).

Resurrecting this whole “character” argument infuriates me, if you want to know the truth; we don’t really know any of these people we elect to office, and there’s no way we ever could. We can only support or not support them based on the issues.

Remember the corporate media narrative in 2000 that Al Gore was stiff, aloof, evasive and quite probably a liar, but George W. Bush was some kind of a “down-home” guy who wanted to be a uniter instead of a divider? Remember those supposed “character” issues?

At what point did that become a sick, pathetic joke to all of us? At what point did we realize that we had been utterly “played” by everyone who has helped perpetrate the nightmare we’ve had to live through since November 2000?

Is that what Schmitt wants to see again? A campaign that does nothing but reinforce whatever corporate media narrative gets replayed over and over and over?

I will continue to watch for columns written by members of the New America Foundation; I’m sure anything written by Steve Coll will be excellent. In the meantime, I will consider this column by Mark Schmitt (who, no doubt, now has a promising future taking up space at The New Republic) as merely an aberration.

Get God Out Of The Picture

(When it comes to the Iraq war, that is…).

I bring you this excerpt from today's New York Times in an article by Jim Rutenberg and Alissa J. Rubin (try not to gag)…

In sessions usually lasting more than an hour, Mr. Bush, a committed Christian of Texas by way of privileged schooling in New England, and Mr. Maliki, an Iraqi Shiite by way of political exile in Iran and Syria, talk about leadership and democracy, troop deployments and their own domestic challenges.

Sometimes, said an official who has sat in on the meetings, they talk about their faith in God.

“They talk about the challenges they face being leaders,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity in order to discuss private conversations. “They, of course, also share a faith in God.”
I don’t know about you, but I don’t know of anyone who “share(s) a faith in God,” who also initiates a pre-emptive war based on lies that ends up getting over 3,600 of our people killed as well as many more than that injured or maimed, to say nothing of the same fate for other members of our coalition forces (minor numbers by comparison, but all life matters) as well as thousands upon thousands of innocent Iraqis.

I also don’t know of anyone who “share(s) a faith in God,” who also lies when taking his oath of office to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States (witness the warrantless spying, disregard of international treaties and protocols, denial of due process to Guantanamo detainees, awarding of tax breaks to corporations that, in large part, ends up creating the worst fiscal mismanagement this country has ever seen), as well as actually encouraging employers to hire offshore and thus helping to create the worst record of job creation by any president in 70 years.

I also don’t know of anyone who “share(s) a faith in God,” who makes fun of death row inmates about to be executed (and don't get me started on Scooter Libby, as well as someone capable of this).

I could go on and on and on with this, but you get the idea (and I didn’t provide links for the most part because I didn’t believe it was necessary at this point).

George W. Bush is the most amoral individual holding the office of president of the United States that I have ever seen in my lifetime, and God has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with it.

And if our corporate media doesn’t understand that we see through the smokescreen of anything approximating “faith” that they try to create regarding this man, then, to speak in language they profess to understand, they are beyond redemption.

Edwards Marginalized Again

For someone who runs a political/news blog (primarily) like this one and supports the Democratic Party, I’ll admit that I probably should have been watching the YouTube debate on Monday night among the Democratic presidential candidates. However, it is practically impossible for me to watch prime-time TV of any kind for a variety of reasons, so I have to rely on other sources.

So to try and determine what exactly went on, I first read this blog post from Dick Polman of the Philadelphia Inquirer. Aside from noting that John Edwards was asked a question about gay marriage, I could detect no other mention of Edwards in Polman’s summary.

Polman’s post, aside from that, belabored the point that Hillary Clinton didn’t define “liberal” in a way that satisfied him somehow, and also noted again that she is somehow emerging as an anti-war hawk in the eyes of our august corporate media despite the fact that she mistakenly voted to authorize the war (though she had a lot of company, including Edwards, who owed up to it long ago). Polman also praised the YouTube questions for the most part, though he issued this patronizing warning directed at the questioners: “If the Internet is indeed today’s version of the Wild West, then give it a sheriff” (Polman was quite rightly taken to task for that condescending slight by a commenter).

And this also made me laugh…

“…everybody was asked why the quality of the balloting process varies so much from state to state, in an era when a Starbucks latte tastes exactly the same regardless of locale…”
So let’s see…if some freeper out there wants to Google “Democrats” and “latte liberals,” they’ll find Polman’s post, since he used all of those words. Very clever keyword use, Dick.

Like every other corporate media analyst, Polman recites his perceptions and also some demographic statistics to enhance his argument. I could merely accept that if it weren’t for the fact that it was slighting the rest of the field, thus reinforcing the “Dems have to fight 7 against 1” narrative (though he has to take shots at Hillary from time to time, which he does in this post to the expense of covering just about everyone else – as usual, it’s more of writing about a spectator sport than real analysis of anything, leading one to think they’ve decided how they’ll cover this based on who they think will win).

Well, before we form too many notions about this based on reading journos who think they’re handicapping a horserace, I’d like to present the following from the John Edwards campaign (if you want to donate, fine, but more than anything, I ask that you watch the videos)…

Dear Friend,

Something happened in last night's CNN/YouTube debate.

A stark difference between the candidates became clear. When John Edwards said what needed to be said, if we want "real change, big change, bold change...we can't trade our insiders for their insiders." And then urged all of us to stand up for what really matters.

Watch the video that everyone is talking about - and help continue last night's momentum by showing your support for John Edwards by contributing today:

Click here.

Take a look at the moment in the debate that everyone needs to see and help spread the word by sending the link on to your friends and family.

Click here.

According to CNN, viewers rated that moment the highest of all the candidates - but more importantly it has sparked thousands to join our cause.

Because if you believe this country needs fundamental change - not compromise, not triangulation, not empty rhetoric - then there is something important that all of us need to understand from John's words last night:

"The people who are powerful in Washington - big insurance companies, big drug companies, big oil companies - they are not going to negotiate. They are not going to give away their power. The only way that they're going to give away their power is if we take it away from them."

Those interests are not going to fund our campaign. Far from it - they are going to do everything they can to stop us. And, that is why if we are really ready to stand up for what matters:

  • Ending the war in Iraq.

  • Taking on the insurance companies and HMOs to fight for universal health care.

  • Taking on the oil industry and fundamentally changing our energy policies to end global warming.

  • Taking on the powerful who care about nothing but profits and greed at the expense of working people, the middle class and the poor.

  • And returning our government of the people to the people.

  • It's up to us.

    Either we fund this campaign and make the difference or it falters because I guarantee you no one else will.

    What really matters?

    What you do now - really matters.

    Contribute and spread the word about the one candidate and the one campaign that will change America.

    Click here.

    Thank you for everything you do,

    Joe Trippi
    John Edwards for President
    Tuesday, July 24, 2007
    I should also note that Polman here spends a good bit of time describing how he thinks Elizabeth Edwards played into the hands of Hillary Clinton with some recent remarks defending John on women’s issues (which, truth be told, affect everyone); it would have been nice if Polman had devoted anywhere near that amount of space analyzing Edwards on issues that matter, as Paul Krugman did here on Edwards’ health care proposal (I’ll make it easier for Polman – here’s a link to the issues page of Edwards’ site so he can find source material).

    I have no illusions about what John Edwards is up against here, by the way. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are fundraising machines for the good reason that they are good candidates, and Edwards has to make a good showing in the early primaries, winning at least one.

    However, Edwards has been tested in a prior presidential campaign, he has a track record of service in government and his legal career that is unmatched by any presidential candidate anywhere, and he is the only candidate in this field (as far as I’m concerned) who really understands the damage Bushco has done to this country and has the determination, compassion, and intelligence to do all he can to reverse that damage, most notably concerning the Iraq war.

    I don’t expect Dick Polman to say that. However, I expect him to give Edwards a bare minimum of coverage (including a comment or two about the videos I linked to above with Edwards speaking with passion about James Lowe, among other topics - the "hair" musical ad was clever too, I thought).

    But of course, our corporate media has decided that they don’t like Edwards because he’s a legitimate threat to the status quo. And that should only strengthen our resolve.

    One final point - in one of the videos, Edwards talks about how he's fought the insurance companies and big pharma, among others, his whole career; this is the evidence.

    (And this post applies to that fool Richard Cohen also..."Euro-trashy indulgence by a self-proclaimed avatar of the poor"? Well done - now go sit up and beg for your milk bone from David Broder, dean of the beltway gasbags, you lap dog!)

    Tuesday, July 24, 2007

    Dumbya Alert

    As noted here, President Brainless is scheduled to appear in Philadelphia this Thursday at the Marriott to speak at the “Thomas Jefferson Freedom Break- fast” (the real Jefferson, no doubt, would have no time for Dubya whatsoever).

    The Marriott Downtown is located at 1201 Market Street (you would be a few blocks south of the Convention Center and the Reading Terminal Market if you want to get there to protest…just a thought).

    Should be a nice day, but hot, so bring lots of fluids so you don’t get dehydrated.

    (And I’ve been falling down on my quota I know, so I’ll try to make up for it here: Impeach Bush/Cheney and Impeach Bush/Cheney.)

    (And of course, if President 25 Percent Mandate somehow finds himself in need of porn – hard to want to imagine that, I know – he should thank Mitt Romney for that, as noted here and here.

    Some People Can’t Afford A Computer

    (Which means "right off the bat" that they could never read this, but it still needs to be pointed out...).

    As noted here, J. Russell George, Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, stated recently that the Internal Revenue Service screwed up in a major way when it eliminated the TeleFile program for filing tax returns in 2005.

    (I realize this probably isn’t a burning hot issue because tax returns are probably the last thing on people’s minds this time of year, but it’s important to note this anyway.)

    See, the IRS decided that maintaining the TeleFile program (by which someone files their returns by phone) was too costly to maintain, and they thought that when the program was eliminated, everyone would then turn automatically to filing returns via the Internet. Well, as a result of this miscalculation, low and middle income taxpayers are paying millions of dollars in fees to file their tax returns, as noted in the story.

    And it’s not as if the illustrious (warning: sarcasm alert) 109th Repug congress wasn’t told previously that this was going on, but did nothing in response (page 6 here).

    And who was the genius in charge of the IRS when this decision was made? Why, that would be Mark W. Everson, former commissioner of the IRS (information on this guy can be accessed from here; easy to see how he could have picked up that smirk from Dubya).

    Will I ever learn of an agency head under Bushco who is actually competent? I’m not holding my breath.

    "Fun" For The Whole Family

    I posted without saying much regarding the Senate “race” between incumbent Repug John Sununu in New Hampshire and former Dem governor Jeanne Shaheen yesterday, but based on this story, maybe I should pay a bit more attention to that state…

    BOSTON – A planned Republican fundraiser in New Hampshire aims to promote gun ownership in America by letting supporters fire powerful military-style weapons – from Uzi submachine guns to M-16 rifles.

    The Manchester Republican Committee is inviting party members and their families to a “Machine Gun Shoot” where, for $25, supporters can spend a day trying out automatic weapons, said organizer Jerry Thibodeau.

    “It's a fun day. It's a family day,” said Thibodeau of the Aug. 5 event. “It's quite exciting.”

    “It is downright offensive,” Chris Pappas, the Manchester Democratic party chairman, told the Union Leader newspaper.
    I agree, of course.

    I know the motto of the state is “Live Free or Die,” and I admire the mentality of rugged individualism that has helped make it such a good place to live. However, as noted here, a permit is required to carry handguns and there is an FBI *NICS check for firearms transactions, but that is absolutely it when it comes to gun regulation.

    I would humbly ask that the residents of this state rethink this matter in favor of tighter gun regulation (as well as putting an end to idiotic promotions like the one described in the news story) to try and avert any future tragedy involving guns (when it comes to crime, the “good” people can turn into “bad” people in a heartbeat).

    It's "Beat Up Patrick Murphy" Tuesday

    The following Guest Opinion appeared in the Courier Times last Friday July 20th, and it is one of the most malicious pieces of garbage I’ve ever read attacking Patrick Murphy (written by Donald Petrille, Jr. of Bedminster; he resides in Perkasie, PA and he is past chairman of Bucks County Federation of Young Republicans).

    (This is a long one...).

    Last November, millions of Americans voted for change. Unfortunately, Bucks County voters did not know that Patrick Murphy would help usher in a new budget unlike anything our nation has seen since the 1970s.

    The Democrats’ 2008 budget sets off a vicious cycle of higher taxes fueling higher spending and greater spending demands – which in turn will trigger even more tax hikes, followed by more spending. As a member of Democratic leadership, Murphy is responsible for finding the votes to ensure these massive tax increases become law.
    OK, this is one of the first pieces of utter misinformation from Petrille. Patrick Murphy is NOT a member of the U.S. House Democratic leadership. He is a freshman Democratic representative from the 8th district of Pennsylvania (responsible for only his own vote - ???). He has a higher profile than most, I’ll admit, but that is all he is.

    Also, this takes you to information on the House and Senate FY 2008 budget. As the article notes, it is customary for the president to submit a request before Congress and then let Congress hammer out the details. Bush requested a $2.9 trillion budget in February of this year, and the House and Senate delivered a budget in that amount that provides more in discretionary spending, including children’s and veterans’ health care and education.

    The budget will raise taxes by at least $219 billion – the second largest tax increase in American history, according to a report issued by the Republican Caucus’ The Committee On The Budget. It also contains a “trigger” tax hike, which automatically raises taxes even higher, if surpluses do not materialize, the committee reported.
    I found nothing online to substantiate that $219 billion in new taxes number (not surprising, I guess, considering that it came from a Republican Party source). I also found nothing online about tax hikes that trigger new tax hikes, or something (as you’ll see, that language is all over the place here).

    Ironically, surpluses will be wholly dependent on Democratic spending plans.
    What is ironic about that? It sounds like it makes basic financial sense.

    The budget promises immense new spending, and delays any entitlement reform for at least five years, while failing to protect the Social Security surplus.
    Concerning Social Security, this tells you that both parties have been raiding the trust fund to justify the fallacy that tax cuts provide economic growth to the point where we don’t need that baaaad “big government” to do anything. Al Gore, however, proposed putting the Social Security fund in a “lockbox” in 2000 and was promptly ridiculed (looking back on that election, I wonder if there was anything Al Gore didn’t do or say…or not say about the Internet…that was ridiculed by Bushco and its corporate media stooges?).

    It does nothing to address unsustainable levels of entitlement spending and abandons the “emergency reserve” fund for situations such as Katrina. It also abandons any definition limiting what constitutes an emergency.
    By the way, a Google search for “emergency reserve” within the context of the U.S. budget yields nothing, and I have no idea what Petrille’s statement about “abandon(ing) any definition limiting what constitutes an emergency” means.

    No income tax will stay at current levels. Marginal rates, capital gains rates, dividend taxes and other rates will increase. Tax increases will affect every American who pays income taxes, and even those who currently do not. The combined tax increases would create the largest tax hike in American history. In addition, Democrats may raise taxes further to pay for their more than $190 billion in additional, unfunded, (sic) spending promises, including a massive increase in domestic spending.
    A lot of this sounds like it’s coming straight from the Heritage Foundation, so I think we should just consider the source.

    Also, at this point, I two questions for Guy Petroziello, the editorial page editor of the Courier Times:

    First, I noticed that a lot of Petrille’s copy includes italics for emphasis. I was always told that any style deviations like that weren’t allowed in Guest Opinions (bold, underscore, etc.).

    Second, I tried for three days to find a link to this from and was unable to retrieve one, despite the fact that your paper (commendably) publishes Guest Opinions online. I find this one to be a curious omission. Given how erroneous it is, did you have second thoughts about actually publishing it in print form?

    While Democratic leadership claims to maintain certain politically popular tax cuts, their trigger automatically reinstates the marriage penalty and cuts the child tax credit in half. Families will suffer. Mr. Murphy and I have daughters born about a month apart, yet I do not have the benefit of a $165,000 salary, along with a $100,000 advance on a book deal, with which to pay these onerous taxes, as he does.
    What a cheap shot, you bastard! And by the way, freeper, Patrick’s book deal is perfectly legal.

    And at least now I know where Petrille got some of this (from a Repug source, of course).

    The problem for Petrille, though, is that the non-partisan Washington Budget Report tells a different story of the '08 budget (here), including extension of “middle class tax relief” including marriage penalty relief, as well as maintaining the child credit, adoption tax credit, and 10% bracket; also estate tax relief (setting estate taxes at 2009 level, i.e. 45% rate and $3.5 million exemption), contingent on the following: (1) identifying PAYGO offsets; and (2) including statutory “trigger” language in the tax legislation allowing it to take effect only if OMB/Treasury certify that sufficient surpluses materialize.

    So it sounds like all new tax cuts and entitlement increases be paid for by offsetting taxes, spending cuts elsewhere in the budget (which is what PAYGO is all about; Petrille will attack that shortly), as well as the fact that Petrille’s dreaded “triggers” would only kick in in the event of budget surpluses.

    I’m no economist, but all of this somehow makes sense to me.

    Having preened about their pay-as-you-go (PAYGO) spending “discipline” they adopted in January, the Democrats’ budget fails to comply with the PAYGO rule. Contrary to their rule, any tax cuts will be financed out of budget surpluses, and not with new savings.
    Can someone please explain the difference between “budget surpluses” and “new savings”?

    Given the massive amounts of proposed new spending, along with an economic contraction resulting from the tax increases…
    Economic contraction”? Oh, so Petrille has a crystal ball now? He can look into the future and predict economic downturns? Amazing!

    …there is almost no likelihood Americans will receive any tax relief whatsoever, as long as Murphy and the Democrats are in power.

    By contrast, the proposed Republican budget provided a surplus large enough to protect Social Security’s cash surpluses by controlling spending and not raising taxes. In 2001, under Republican leadership, every American who paid income taxes received a tax break. Small business owners, the elderly, married couples, college students and middle class families benefited from the Republican economic plan of the last decade.
    Oh yeah, I remember that “benefit.” We saw a check for about $400 from the first round of tax cuts and nothing after that. Meanwhile, the investor class made off like thieves (which, in fact, many of them are).

    And I’m tired of hearing Republicans preach about how they are supposedly “the party of fiscal responsibility,” by the way. As this Think Progress link notes, these clowns simply walked away from 9 of 11 spending bills that had to be passed by the 109th Congress last November when they found out that they’d been booted out of power in favor of the Democrats (and this indicates some of the difficult decisions the 110th Dem Congress was faced with partly as a result of that).

    Now, Murphy wants to reverse that trend, even at the expense of our economic expansion.
    Economic expansion, huh? Read this, Petrille.

    As a member of Democratic leadership, Murphy is failing his constituents. He is attacking the very tax cuts that have kept unemployment at historic lows.
    Oh, and regarding those tax cuts...

    And here’s some information on that; as you can see, the trend in unemployment during the Clinton years was downward from 7.3 to 4.2 percent, while Bush’s trend reflects upward from 4.2 to 4.7 percent (and I actually think that’s kind based on massaged numbers from Elaine Chao’s Department of Labor).

    Here’s are more telling numbers for me, though; as you can also see under “non-farm employment,” Clinton added 22 million jobs while Bush only added 3 million which, as the article notes, is the worst record of job creation by a president in 70 years.

    His budget does nothing to control entitlement spending and continues the raid on Social Security. His cohorts in Democratic leadership brag about ending tax cuts for the rich, but artfully hide the fact that all taxpayers will pay for their spending plans.
    How dare Petrille even imagine that he can charge Murphy and the Democrats with leaving a legacy of debt when Dubya and the Repugs, thanks to their catastrophic fiscal irresponsibility, have left a debt of about $30K for every man, woman and child in this country!

    This is not the type of change Bucks County wanted, and Murphy must be accountable for it. During the campaign, Murphy was asked whether there were any areas he disagreed with (sic) Democratic leadership. His answer was, “Nothing comes to mind.” “Nothing” is exactly what Murphy has given Bucks County regarding true spending reform. He has done nothing to ensure his constituents’ taxes remain at current levels. In addition, he did nothing to help Tullytown Councilman Joe Shellenberger retain his right to vote on council issues while serving our country in Afghanistan…
    That’s a lie (check the top of column three here – sorry it’s oversized)…

    …and he has done little to ensure Bucks County veterans get a national veterans cemetery at Dolington.
    Another lie…

    How much longer can we handle Murphy doing little for Bucks County and a lot for Washington Democrats?
    This is sickening freeper crap even by the standards of what appears in the Bucks County Courier Times. And I just checked again to see if it was available online from phillyburbs, and it was not (dated 7/20).

    The fact that this even saw the light of day in print form is tantamount to scurrilous journalistic irresponsibility (I’m using flowery language a bit as opposed to guttural profanity, which, truth be told, better reflects the way I really feel about this).

    And by the way, here is more economic information from the reality-based community, in reponse to propaganda from David Brooks (surprised?) in today's New York Times.

    Good News For A Change

    Libya decided to act like a country that respects legal precedent and procedure and freed the five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor accused of infecting children with the AIDS virus (noted here).

    The charges were trumped up and ridiculous from the start, but fortunately, sanity prevailed (the whole situation reeked of a shakedown scheme for the children’s families; the losses of the families were terrible, of course, but to allege that medical professionals would do this was monstrous – as the kos post notes, scientific data clearing the workers was disallowed at their sham of a trial).

    I’ve had a little bit to say about this (nothing special, I know), so I just thought I’d note that this was resolved fairly for the six medical professionals who had suffered way too much over this already.

    Monday, July 23, 2007

    Monday Videos

    Spoon ("The Underdog")...

    ...Happy Birthday to Chad Gracey of Live, from York, Pa. ("The Beauty Of Gray" - "Mental Jewelry" rocks, by the way)...

    ...Happy 64th to Tony Joe White ("Polk Salad Annie," his hit from back in the day)...

    ...and a happy belated birthday to Yusef Islam, formerly known as Cat Stevens of course ("Miles From Nowhere" and "Father and Son," recorded live in 1976 - anyone who thinks that this man is a terrorist should familiarize themselves with his story and his music before thinking of something so dumb.)

    No “Climate Crisis” For Shaheen

    I’ve said nothing about the upcoming (2008) Senate election in New Hampshire between incumbent Repug John Sununu and former governor Dem Jeanne Shaheen in “the granite state,” but I have to admit that I got a laugh out of the following quote from Sununu in this Bloomberg News story…

    New Hampshire Senator John Sununu said he wouldn't campaign with George W. Bush next year ``in this climate'' because of the president's low job-approval ratings.
    Sununu is doing little better than the head of his party based on these numbers, and they are as follows (noted here, from CNN dated last week)…

    Sununu 38%
    Shaheen 54%
    Undecided 7%
    And based on the laundry list of Repug boilerplate that Sununu is clinging to based on the Bloomberg story (including Iraq, of course), I think he’d better keep his umbrella handy because he’s going to see a lot of rainy days.

    (Actually, I was kinder to Sununu than I’d planned to be; as the story notes, Shaheen leads by 56% to 34% for Sununu – and how funny is it that she leads by that wide a margin and hasn’t even declared her candidacy yet?).

    Can't Leave Soon Enough, Jim

    In the past, I afforded outgoing Veterans Administration head Jim Nicholson a measure of respect because he served our country for eight years as a paratrooper and Ranger-qualified U.S. Army officer before serving 22 years in the Army reserve (based on his White House bio here, assuming it is to be believed).

    No more; this story tells us that, while overseeing the VA, he acted in a manner typical for any Bushco flunky while running that agency, and as a result…

    …a coalition of injured Iraq war veterans is accusing VA Secretary Jim Nicholson of breaking the law by denying them disability pay and mental health treatment.

    Suing on behalf of hundreds of thousands of veterans, it charges that the VA has failed warriors on several fronts — from providing prompt disability benefits, to adding staff to reduce wait times for medical care to boosting services for post-traumatic stress disorder.

    The lawsuit also accuses the VA of deliberately cheating some veterans by allegedly working with the Pentagon to misclassify PTSD claims as pre-existing personality disorders to avoid paying out benefits. The VA and Pentagon have generally denied such charges.

    …In the lawsuit, they note that government investigators warned as early as 2002 that the VA needed to fix its backlogged claims system and make other changes.

    The lawsuit cites violations of the Constitution and federal law, which mandates at least two years of health care to injured veterans.
    Here’s more on our dear friend and departing secretary.

    Short of my words of utter disgust, I’ll merely add this; looking into what happened here could end up as yet more work for Henry Waxman (hope he doesn’t plan to take vacations for awhile – should probably get a round-the-clock bodyguard also, knowing this bunch).

    Also (speaking of our service people), it seems that preferred Bushco contractor (and former Wolfowitz-one-time-squeeze-employer) SAIC had more recent trouble with veterans’ data (and this interesting post gives us more background – I just showed some disrespect to kos in another forum, but he said that a party that doesn’t like government won’t govern well; he’s right, and this is part of that).

    Sorry, Russ

    I really want to support Russ Feingold on his proposal to censure Bush and Cheney for the warrantless spying program and their conduct of the illegal Iraq war (yes, it is now, has been and always will be illegal – haven’t stated it in so many words lately I know). I really want to do it if for no other reason than as an act of loyalty to someone who was one of the few Dems to show a spine for a long time against this bunch (the numbers have grown since Feingold first stood up, but not nearly to the required level).

    But I really can’t.

    It’s impeach or nothing, Russ. There’s no sense messing around any more with this bunch. Besides, you brought this up in March of 2006, and even though it was and still is an honorable and statesman like thing to do, it still falls short then as now.

    If you can make the case, then a slap on the wrist isn’t nearly sufficient. They merit nothing less than removal from office.

    (And just so there are officially three mentions, Impeach Bush/Cheney…Avedon is right…and Impeach Bush/Cheney - and this fine Op-Ed by Adam Cohen tells us why).

    Update: On the other hand, kudos to Feingold for this (h/t Atrios).

    Blame The Dems Now And Forever

    (I mean, why should the Inky deviate from its script at this point?)

    The Philadelphia Inquirer ran this hit piece on its front page yesterday from Noam S. Levey of the L.A. Times…

    WASHINGTON — Sen. Harry Reid offered his cooperation in December when the Iraq Study Group unveiled its recommendations with a plaintive call for a bipartisan effort to change the course of the war.

    "Democrats will work with our Republican colleagues," promised the Nevada Democrat and soon-to-be majority leader, just weeks after an election that swept Democrats into the congressional majority on a wave of public frustration over Iraq.

    Eight bitter months and nine major Iraq-related votes later, the meaning of Reid's pledge has come into sharp focus: Democrats will work with any GOP lawmaker willing to vote for a mandatory troop withdrawal; other Republicans need not apply.

    This bellicose, uncompromising legislative strategy — on display again this week as Reid refused to allow votes on nonbinding GOP-backed Iraq proposals — has been an obstacle to any real bipartisan compromise on the war all year. And it effectively ended any chance that a significant number of Republican lawmakers critical of the war would join with Democrats this summer on any Iraq-related legislation.
    Define “a significant number” (and there were never going to be mass Repug defections regardless of whatever amendments were written or proposed).

    The Democratic strategy has yet to yield many tangible results. Just eight of the 250 Republicans in the House and Senate have joined with Democrats calling for a withdrawal.

    And President Bush has shown no sign of retreating from his troop buildup, which has boosted the U.S. force in Iraq to 158,000.

    But Reid's approach reflects a simple calculation by senior Democrats about how to force a president they see as stubborn to begin winding down U.S. military involvement in Iraq.
    A president they, and the rest of the country, also see as hugely unpopular, by the way.

    Reid and his allies, enraged by years of being brushed off and belittled by the White House, do not believe the president will respond to legislation that merely urges, rather than orders, a new course, even if it is backed by substantial numbers of congressional Republicans.
    “Enraged”? Any evidence of this? Anywhere?

    (Feel free to go look…I’ll just wait here.)

    "The president doesn't take advice," said Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), chairman of the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee and an architect of the current strategy.

    Instead, in the face of continued defiance from the White House, Democrats in the House and Senate are focusing their efforts on making their Republican colleagues as uncomfortable as possible in the belief that that is the only way to get through to the president.
    No, they’re focusing their efforts on trying to end the war, which is why this country voted them into power (if anything, the unpopularity of Congress is owed to the fact that they haven’t been able to accomplish this by now).

    All year, Democrats have forced GOP lawmakers to vote on withdrawal proposals, betting that with each vote Republicans who back the president will feel the renewed rage of voters at home.

    Democrats hope that, in turn, will drive Republicans to pressure the president to abandon his Iraq strategy or risk ruining the party's election prospects in 2008.

    Since January, Senate Democrats have orchestrated nine major votes on measures designed to change course in Iraq; House Democrats have arranged for four.

    Every proposal but one has died in the Senate, where Republicans have used that chamber's rules to block the measures.
    So that isn’t “uncompromising” also (and here's more)? And how nice that this observation is buried in this “analysis,” by the way.

    (An emergency war spending bill with a withdrawal timeline passed but was vetoed by the president in May.)

    This week, the latest proposal, which would have required that most troops be out of Iraq by April 30, died as Democrats failed to reach the 60-vote supermajority needed to cut off debate.

    At the same time, Reid stunned Republicans when he shut down votes on alternatives that would have given them opportunities to back less forceful measures. The move locked a political escape hatch for GOP lawmakers, denying them opportunities to tell their constituents that they voted for legislation calling on the president to change course.

    One measure — backed by Republican Sens. John W. Warner of Virginia and Richard G. Lugar of Indiana, both widely respected experts on national security — would have required the president to plan for a withdrawal, but would not have required the Bush administration to implement the plan.
    So what is the point of Warner-Lugar anyway if it didn’t require Bushco to do anything? And why should the Dems go along with that?

    A second proposal, which had collected six Republican and eight Democratic co-sponsors, would have called on the president to implement the 79 recommendations of the Iraq Study Group, including a new diplomatic initiative in the Middle East. However, it too would not have required a change in course.

    Reid's maneuver outraged many GOP lawmakers.

    Lugar, a former chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee who publicly called on the president last month to change course in Iraq, bemoaned what he said was a missed opportunity.

    "Any influence the Senate would have on the process was set back," he said. "What has occurred, due to the intransigence of the leadership, is that we will not have any more discussion about it."

    Lugar is among a group of GOP lawmakers who argue that developing a bipartisan congressional consensus for changing Iraq strategy is the best way to influence the White House.
    To quote Atrios: Na. Ga. Ha. Pen.

    "We don't need a Democrat or a Republican plan in Iraq, we need an American plan in Iraq," said Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), one of the leading co-sponsors of the Iraq Study Group legislation. "Now is the time to look for seeds of consensus."
    A “Democrat” plan, huh Lamar? Yeah, you’ll be president one day. Sure you will.

    But Reid continued to deride the nonbinding measures. "Just because you pass something on a bipartisan basis that has no teeth in it and you can circle and sing 'Kumbaya,' " doesn't mean progress, he said. "We need to do something to change the course of the war in Iraq."

    Thus far, that tough line has moved a few Republican lawmakers. Four GOP senators this week backed the Democratic withdrawal plan, two more than those who voted for it in April. GOP support for a similar House measure also doubled, from two to four votes last week.
    Again, Levey buries this in the column, but to me, that sounds like Reid’s strategy is beginning to pay off.

    With Congress headed into its August recess in two weeks, sanguine Democratic leaders promised there would be more votes in September when the Bush administration delivers another progress report on Iraq.

    "This will come back," Assistant Majority Leader Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) said. "Our colleagues in the Senate are going to have a chance to go home, explain their votes and vote again. And eventually, I am confident they'll join us."

    Meanwhile, the antiwar movement is waging a nationwide campaign to target Republican lawmakers in their home states with ads, rallies and other events designed to persuade them to side with Democrats.

    They have a long way to go.

    Democrats still need 14 more Republicans in the Senate and close to 70 more Republicans in the House before they could overcome a nearly certain presidential veto of any withdrawal measure.
    Here is fairly recent polling information on the Iraq war. Given this figure, I don’t think we have as far to go as Levey states here.

    And of course, not to be outdone, Dick Polman weighed in and chided the Dems for not “going for the gut” in the manner Levey decried above, which is actually funny because Polman would be one of the first people blaming the Dems for overplaying their hand or being intransigent or confrontational or something if they did what he suggested.

    Trudy Rubin also compared Dubya to Nixon and mentioned that Republican senators persuaded Tricky Dick that it was time to step down during Watergate (particularly Hugh Scott of Pennsylvania), thus trying to draw a comparison between the two presidents and their situations (it astounds me actually that so many people in our corporate media, including pros like Rubin, STILL after seven years fail to see that this cabal intends only to yield and hold onto power and has never compromised with anyone over anything and has no intention of starting now).

    However, I believe that some of our journos are actually starting to “get it”; this analysis from David Espo of the AP (h/t Atrios) paints a vastly different picture from Levey’s misinformation; Espo’s column shows a “Republic” party divided all over the place and in disarray and the Democrats unified on the war.

    But of course, we’ll never see that on the Inky’s front page, will we?