Friday, August 17, 2007

Friday Videos

Happy Birthday to Steve Gorman of The Black Crowes (performing "Twice As Hard," with the Stereophonics)..

...a belated wish for a Happy 82nd Birthday to the one and only (truly) jazz virtuoso pianist Oscar Peterson (his rendition of "Sweet Georgia Brown"; un-freaking-believable)...

...Happy Birthday also to Belinda Carlisle, formerly of The Go-Gos ("Heaven Is A Place On Earth" - hey, it's Friday, so it's time for '80s music; OK, so the dancers are wearing black raincoats and masks and doing some kind of cardio workout with the inflatable globes - act like nothing's wrong)...

...Happy Birthday also to Cream drummer Ginger Baker ("Outside Woman Blues," from the Royal Albert Hall Reunion Concert)...

...Happy belated Birthday to Bill Spooner of The Tubes ("Talk To Ya Later," perfect "attitude" song to begin the weekend for real)...

...and Happy Birthday on Sunday, Bubba, marking No. 61, an occasion worthy of this flashback.

Bye, Snowy

I think the week began with the news of Karl Rove’s exit, and it’s now ending with the news of the departure of White House Propaganda Flak Tony Snow Job (here).

I hope this isn’t due to health reasons, but it seems as if White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten has his own “magical September” plan in mind (whereby, anyone still on board by then has to endure working for this nightmare of an administration until the end, as opposed to the September report due to be issued by Gen. Petraeus Dick Cheney…and by the way, is anyone else out there as baffled as I am by the lack of vocal protest over the MoveOn Cheney video from 1994? Or do we just have “outrage fatigue” at the moment?).

Well, in case anyone missed it, here it is again.

And let's not forget to Impeach Cheney First, by the way.

So, with Snow’s departure (and I neglected to note the dropping out of Tommy Thompson from the Repug presidential field earlier, by the way - guess he expected problems due to his less-than-stellar performance at HHS), let’s take a stroll down memory sewer, as it were, and revisit some moments with the former (and once-more someday?) Fox commentator as noted by Media Matters.

  • Snow equates the pardon of Scooter Libby with the pardons of Bill Clinton (here).

  • Snow informs us that there was no attempt by the White House to link Saddam Hussein with 9/11 (here).

  • Snow is granted a forum for selling a whole bunch of GOP talking points unchallenged on CNN and Fox (here).

  • Snow (and I forgot this from yesterday) tells a White House reporter, in response to an AP story, that troops getting ready to be shipped out due to the "surge" will get their advanced battlefield training for Iraq not at the Army's premier training range in California...but in Iraq.

  • And who will replace him?

    Well, I have an idea. Since this guy is still officially out of work and has just settled a lawsuit ensuring a hefty income for the foreseeable future, let’s give him a shot. I mean, his attitude towards minorities is pretty typical for Bushco (but more than that, anyone who isn’t part of “the base”), so I think he’d present an honest image to the media for a change.

    Bob Casey Responds On FISA

    I received this in my Email yesterday…

    Thank you for taking the time to contact me regarding legislation amending the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) of 1978. I appreciate hearing from you about this important issue.

    After careful thought and deliberation, I voted for two competing versions of temporary legislation to fix the FISA on Friday, August 3rd, and voiced my extreme discontent with the Bush Administration’s irresponsible handling of this issue. Before the Senate adjourned for the August recess, I wanted to ensure that our intelligence community has the tools it needs to target terrorists while a larger review of the FISA law is conducted. The version of the bill introduced by my colleagues, Senators Bond and McConnell, gained the necessary 60 votes for final Senate passage while the language introduced by Senators Rockefeller and Levin, fell short. On Saturday, August 4th, the House of Representatives passed an identical version of the Bond-McConnell bill and President Bush subsequently signed it into law.

    The Bond-McConnell version, supported by the White House, is far from ideal and I deplore the tactics employed by the Bush Administration to push its agenda through the politics of fear. This revision to FISA law will sunset in six months. I look forward to a thorough review when cooler heads can prevail, which is needed for a permanent FISA fix that keeps America safe from terrorists while also safeguarding the rights of our citizens.
    I still think Casey and the other Democrats who supported Bond-McConnell (still unbelievable to me) are guilty of horrific bad judgment and not showing much of a spine either. Despite that, I appreciate the courtesy of a response on Casey’s part.

    R2-D2's Got A Gun

    Isn’t it amazing the things our corporate media doesn’t tell us (found this at Der Spiegel)…

    The US Army's latest recruits are 1 meter (about 3 feet) tall, wear desert camouflage and are armed with black M249 machine guns. They also move on caterpillar tracks and -- thanks to five camera eyes -- can even see in the dark.

    The fearless fighters are three robot soldiers who, unnoticed by the general public, were deployed in Iraq in mid-June, charged with hunting down insurgents. As if guided by an unseen hand, they hone in on their targets and fire at them with their machine guns. It's the future of war -- and it's already here.

    "It's the first weaponized robot in the history of warfare," says Charles Dean, an engineer with Waltham, Massachusetts-based Foster-Miller, the manufacturer of the new devices. Dean and the 70 employees in his department are eager to find out how their three protégés are holding up on the front. Because the three robots, dubbed "Swords," are being used in a secret mission, their creators have no idea whether the devices have already killed enemy fighters in combat.
    The story also notes that Northrop Grumman as well as the South Korean electronics firm Samsung Techwin are among the companies competing in the still-developing-apparently robot defense market.

    Well, as long as our military continues to be sacrificed for utterly pointless reasons in Iraq, at least this gives us an opportunity to see how machines fare in battle, thus giving their makers new insights into how to perfect this technology and make more money (tongue definitely in cheek here).

    We were once spoon-fed the notion that we had to compete with the former Soviet Union because of a “missile gap.” Will we now be told the same nonsense due to a “robot-defense gap” with real or imagined enemies?

    And somewhere, Isaac Asimov is saying, “I told you so.”

    "Giuliani Time" In S.C.

    I just finished reading the Peter Boyer profile of Rudy Giuliani in this week’s New Yorker magazine, and I wanted to share some observations (sorry that I don’t have a link, but I run into some technical issues whenever I try to link to the magazine’s online location, – I hope you have better luck than I do) never mind - this may work.

    (I think it’s particularly apropos to look at Rudy! in light of his latest gaffe, in which he originally stated that he was at ground zero “as often, if not more, than some of the workers,” when in fact it appears, based on the records in his mayoral archive, that he was only at ground zero for 29 hours as opposed to the 962 hours endured by those working at the site.)

    Boyer’s article begins and concludes with Giuliani appearing in South Carolina while running for the Repug presidential nomination and offers choice items such as this…

    “But to many in the heartland Giuliani was heroic for what he did in New York before September 11th; his policy prescriptions and, mostly, his taming of the city’s liberal political culture – his famous crackdown on squeegee-men panhandlers, his workfare program, his attack on controversial museum exhibits (“The idea of…so-called works of art in which people are throwing elephant dung at a picture of the Virgin Mary is sick!”), and the like.”
    Oh yes, Boyer, I’m sure the squeegee-men panhandlers were all registered Democrats (and don't worry, I don't think much of Chris Ofili, Andres Serrano or Robert Mapplethorpe either).

    As film critic Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times recounts here while reviewing the movie “Giuliani Time”…

    What New York's aggressive "We Own the Night" policing policy did do was create fertile ground for several scandals involving overzealous officers. This included pumping 41 bullets into an unarmed man named Amadou Diallo and beating and sodomizing a man in custody, Abner Louima.

    The mayor's other controversial programs including forcing people off welfare, which critics said created no real jobs and merely enlarged the underground economy, and a hostility to 1st Amendment rights that led to courts ruling against the Giuliani administration in 22 of 26 cases.

    More than this, Giuliani consistently fell out of favor with people who had once been closely allied to him. Former New York (and now Los Angeles) Police Chief William J. Bratton says Giuliani "rules by intimidation and fear," and former city schools chancellor Rudy Crew says, "there's something very deeply pathological about Rudy's humanity. He was barren, completely emotionally barren on the issue of race."
    Boyer points out Giuliani’s fallout with Bratton, though they have apparently reconciled somewhat, as well as the Louima incident.

    And as Ted Rall notes here…

    Giuliani's early "quality of life" initiatives--running off the windshield washers from entrances to bridges and tunnels, cracking down on aggressive subway panhandlers--were popular. But the credit for cleaning up New York really goes to the economic boom of the late '90s. Millions of Wall Street and dot-com dollars poured into city tax collection accounts, reducing poverty and allowing the hiring of more cops and sanitation workers.

    By the end of his term the mayor's relationship with New York had turned sour.

    "Giuliani was a frustrated and not very popular mayor on September 10, 2001," Slate editor Jacob Weisberg wrote. "Today, most New Yorkers do see him as a hero, but also as a self-sabotaging, thin-skinned bully. To put it more bluntly, we know he's a bit of a dictator."
    To be fair to Boyer, he does portray Giuliani as nepotistic, confused at times to the point of incoherent, and only in typical form when provoked (such as during his response to Ron Paul during the May 15th Republican debate when Paul said, “they attack us because we’re over there…we’ve been bombing Iraq for ten years,” which, for me, is an uncommonly intelligent observation for a Republican).

    However, Boyer also recites statistics handed to him by Giuliani’s campaign stating that, when Rudy! was mayor, the murder rate dropped by sixty-seven percent, rape by forty-six percent, and robbery by sixty-seven percent; I can’t challenge those numbers at the moment either, but it would have been nice if Boyer had tried. It also would have been nice if Boyer had bothered to provide some context on Giuliani’s statements attacking the U.N. as “irrelevant to any of the major disputes in the world since – gosh, Korea, maybe…”, as well as Boyer’s unsubstantiated claim that Giuliani “had achieved much of his program of radical reform.”

    Of course, based on this, it appears that Boyer has more political homework to do anyway.

    And in a harbinger of what we would have to look forward to in the event of (God help us) a Rudy! presidency, Rall offers this…

    Most disturbing to Americans looking forward to the end of eight years of illegitimate rule by an unelected coup leader, Giuliani tried to exploit 9/11 to remain in power at least three extra months beyond the scheduled end of his term in January 2002. He even threatened to file a lawsuit to overturn the city's term limits law and run for reelection if the Democratic and Republican primary candidates refused to let him stay in power.

    They called the wannabe dictator's bluff. So should we.
    And here’s more; I hope Boyer reads this Village Voice article at some point, and maybe he could return and ask “America’s Mayor” some more questions, such as why the command and control center for the World Trade Center was put in Building 7 instead of Brooklyn as originally recommended by Port Authority officials and Times journalist Bob Herbert, among others.

    A Bushco "Triumph"?

    Regarding the conviction of Jose Padilla (pictured) yesterday, I give you today’s New York Times editorial on the subject…

    It is hard to disagree with the jury’s guilty verdict against Jose Padilla, the accused, but never formally charged, dirty bomber. But it would be a mistake to see it as a vindication for the Bush administration’s serial abuse of the American legal system in the name of fighting terrorism.

    On the way to this verdict, the government repeatedly trampled on the Constitution, and its prosecution of Mr. Padilla was so cynical and inept that the crime he was convicted of — conspiracy to commit terrorism overseas — bears no relation to the ambitious plot to wreak mass destruction inside the United States, which the Justice Department first loudly proclaimed. Even with the guilty verdict, this conviction remains a shining example of how not to prosecute terrorism cases.

    When Mr. Padilla was arrested in 2002, the government said he was an Al Qaeda operative who had plotted to detonate a radioactive dirty bomb inside the United States. Mr. Padilla, who is an American citizen, should have been charged as a criminal and put on trial in a civilian court. Instead, President Bush declared him an “enemy combatant” and kept him in a Navy brig for more than three years.

    The administration’s insistence that it had the right to hold Mr. Padilla indefinitely — simply on the president’s word — was its first outrageous act in the case, but hardly its last. Mr. Padilla was kept in a small isolation cell, and when he left that cell he was blindfolded and his ears were covered. He was denied access to a lawyer even when he was being questioned.

    The administration also insisted that the courts had no right to second-guess its actions. It was only after the Supreme Court appeared poised last year to use Mr. Padilla’s case to decide whether indefinite detention of an American citizen violates the Constitution, that the White House suddenly decided to give him a civilian trial. It was obvious that the administration was trying to game the legal system and insulate itself from Supreme Court review. J. Michael Luttig, a federal appeals court judge who heard Mr. Padilla’s case, warned about the consequences “for the government’s credibility before the courts in litigation.”

    The administration is already claiming victory, but the result in Mr. Padilla’s case is in many ways a mess. He will likely never be brought to trial on the dirty-bomb plot, a much publicized charge that cries out for resolution. (In another move worthy of Alice in Wonderland, the government is holding another prisoner in Guantánamo, Binyam Mohamed, because he was accused of conspiring with Mr. Padilla in the dirty-bomb plot for which Mr. Padilla was never charged.) There is also the danger that Mr. Padilla’s conviction will be reversed on appeal because of his alleged mistreatment before trial. In hailing the verdict yesterday, a White House spokesman thanked the jury for “upholding a core American principle of impartial justice for all.” It is a remarkable statement, since the administration did everything it could to keep Mr. Padilla away from a jury and deny him impartial justice.

    After all that, there was still some good news yesterday: a would-be terrorist will be going to jail. And the Bush administration was forced, grudgingly and only at the very end, to provide him with the rights guaranteed by the Constitution.
    Here's a prior post on the Padilla case, mentioning the Hamdan v. Rumsfeld ruling against the administration that forced them to try Padilla on lesser charges than those originally alleged.

    Update 8/18: Jamison Foser of Media Matters weighs in.

    BoBo Makes Sense - Film At 11

    David Brooks was positively lucid, insightful, and genuinely interesting in his New York Times column today (not sure where he got the Kerry thing, though - and mentioning Edwards and Ronnie Baby in the same sentence? Is that an insult or flattery?).

    I'm scared - please hold me :-). And since it's "behind the wall"...

    Every presidential candidate tells a certain sort of story. Some talk about being part of a great movement. Some talk about surviving an ordeal with a band of brothers. John Edwards’s stories begin with family, continue with work and solitary struggle and conclude with triumph over privilege.

    He may begin, for example, by describing an incident from his boyhood. He came down from his room one morning before dawn. The house was dark, except for the blue glow of the TV. He found his father in front of the television, watching educational programming on PBS so he could get promoted at the mill.

    Edwards clawed his way to college but felt like a hick and an outsider. Everybody seemed smarter. But gradually he realized they had just grown up with social and cultural advantages, and he could still outwork them.

    The tales culminate with his great underdog victories. He defeated the insurance companies in the courtroom. “I beat them,” he says, “And I beat them again!” He got rich. He now has a chance to turn around and help those who grew up the way he did.

    I came out to Iowa having read that Edwards had swung left this election campaign. He was going to outflank Clinton and Obama among liberals and then sweep his way to the nomination.

    But out here it’s clear that the Edwards campaign is based on the same conviction that organized his last campaign: no one understands regular people the way he does. No one else can get out of a bus in places like Pocahontas, Iowa, and bond with the farmers, nurses and hairstylists the way he can. No one else comes from their ranks the way he does.

    The theory of the Edwards campaign is that Obama will fade because of his inexperience, and Democrats in Iowa will be left with a choice about electability. Which of their candidates is going to be able to connect with working-class white voters in Ohio, Virginia, Nevada and Michigan? Ultimately, Iowans won’t make the same mistake they made in 2004. This time they’ll choose him.

    And so Edwards tirelessly tours this must-win state, delivering presentations that have three major elements, all of them rooted in his working-class roots. First, there is his cultural traditionalism. Edwards will be talking about an issue, and his voice will rise and he’ll punctuate his argument with a ringing declaration of stern common sense. On education: “Parents can’t just drop their kids off at school and forget about it. Parents have to take responsibility for their children!” On immigration: “They have to learn English!”

    Second, Edwards exudes a deep distrust of Washington that can sound almost Reaganesque. “Nothing is going to change if we replace one group of Washington insiders for another group of Washington insiders,” he declares.

    And third, there is his belief, which is in tension with his distrust of Washington, that the federal government should be there for those who work hard. He is brimming with government programs — to create public-sector jobs, to provide health insurance, to shift capital to rural America.

    If you had to put a label on Edwards, you’d say that he is a culturally conservative anti-Washington liberal.

    All this cohered in January 2004, with his “Two Americas” speech, the best stump speech of the last decade. It was a tight, single-themed argument, weaving the story of his personal rise with a call to heal the rifts that divide the nation.

    This time, Edwards is not as exciting a campaigner. But he is more substantive. He seems to have concluded that eloquence alone can’t make him presidential. So he talks less about himself and mixes his bromides with wonkery. His answers on everything from China to ethanol are filled with complex, multipart arguments. He passes on opportunities to be demagogic.

    At the moment, he is being overshadowed by the two rock stars in the race. But his connection to voters is real. And so ultimately the question about Edwards will be what it has always been: Is there depth there?

    In a 45-minute conversation, I found him vague about subjects like social mobility and globalization, in a way that Clinton and Obama would not be. Yet beneath the pretty-boy exterior, there is something fierce lurking inside. It comes out in his resentment toward those born to privilege (which helped sour his relationship with John Kerry). And it drives him relentlessly upward, even in the face of illness and tragedy.
    To learn more about the John Edwards campaign, click here.

    No "Shanghai Surprise," I Hope

    There are many reasons why unilaterally attacking Iran is a stupid idea, but one of them is because of the alliance they have formed with other nations in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (here is a prior post with more information – I realize our corporate media thinks it’s more important to tell us about the latest celebrity nonsense than to tell us exactly what is going on with the SCO).

    This Philadelphia Inquirer online story tells us here that Mahmoud AhMADinejad, attending the SCO summit for the second straight year with leaders of Russia and China, criticized Bushco’s plans for missile defense in Europe (the whole thing is a costly Trojan Repug horse that has never amounted to anything except a bigger payday for Repug-simpatico defense contractors), and our buddy Vlad Putin chimed in also, saying that "any attempts to solve global and regional problems unilaterally are hopeless."

    Also, this story tells us that Chinese President Hu Jintao flew from Kyrgyzstan to Chelyabinsk in Russia to “observe a joint anti-terrorism drill” staged by the six member states of the SCO (China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgystan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan).

    And in case you were wondering (I was)…

    "(The drill) does not concern the interest of any third party nor makes threat to any country," (Liang Guanglie, chief of the General Staff of the Chinese People's Liberation Army) said.
    Assuming that’s true, will that continue to be the case if Bushco proceeds with its dunderheaded missile defense scheme in Europe (which would also give Iran an excuse to joining a more militarized SCO, by the way)?

    And in a completely different vein, I should note that the two once-married actors in the wretched movie for which I titled this post recently celebrated birthdays (actually, Penn's is today - have a good one). That's my "celebrity fluff" for today.

    Update: Anyone else out there think Vlad is sending us a message with this?

    Thursday, August 16, 2007

    Thursday Videos

    The Capitol Years ("You Can Stay There" - yep, that's pretty twisted all right)...

    ...Happy Birthdays to both Joey Spampinato and Terry Adams of NRBQ ("It's A Wild Weekend" - well, beginning this time tomorrow, I hope)...

    ...Legendary jazz pianist Bill Evans would have been 78 today ("My Foolish Heart")..

    ...and sadly, we lost drummer extraordinaire Max Roach today (performing the Duke Ellington composition "What Am I Here For?" with pianist Billy Taylor)...

    ...Happy Birthday also to Emily Robison of The Dixie Chicks ("Not Ready To Make Nice" - still aren't, and may never be; remember when all three of them were some of the very few out there saying and doing the right things about Bushco and the war and they were ridiculed of course, but now the majority of the country is now where they were before almost everyone else? I wonder how many apologies they received? Probably best that I don't know the answer.)...

    ...and once more, I give you Elvis ("If I Can Dream," recorded in 1968, an appropriate plea for understanding and better days given the turbulence of that year, echoing today also; he didn't like to be referred to as "the king," by the way).

    Xavier U, Prepare For The Pestilence

    My first question is why this university in Ohio would grant a forum to Mann Coulter (due to speak on September 6th), but as long as they have…

    People For (The American Way) is teaming up with state groups like ProgressOhio and Equality Ohio to raise support for the progressive student groups at Xavier that fight for the American values -- equality, diversity, social justice -- Coulter routinely attacks. Since Coulter's speaking fee of $20,000+ equals about $5 per Xavier student, we are asking progressives to chip in $5 to support groups like Xavier's Gay-Straight Alliance, Amnesty International, Habitat for Humanity and Earthcare.

    Can you spare just $5 to support the same communities Coulter regularly bashes for pay?

    As Ann Coulter is speaking, People For, our Ohio partners, fellows from our affiliate People For the American Way Foundation's Young People For program and other progressive students and activists will participate in a rally on Xavier's campus, where we will counter Coulter's divisive message and present a check to Xavier's progressive student groups for the total amount raised by all the participating groups.

    YOU can be there in spirit. And YOU can help turn this into a model that can be used across the country -- a way for progressives to turn radical right-wingers' vitriol, bigotry and intolerance against them, while at the same time bolstering our movement.

    When you donate, you can write a little note to Ms. Coulter that we'll see gets sent her way. Donate more than $5 and the extra will go toward People For's ongoing efforts to:

    • create this type of response to right-wing demagogues on campuses and in communities across the country;

    • monitor and report on the Radical Right (including via our Right Wing Watch blog);

    • work with our allies and our affiliates (PFAWF, YP4, YP4 Action) to build the tools and resources activists like you can use to fight the Right in your own communities.

    People For was founded over 25 years ago by Norman Lear, Barbara Jordan and other leaders in direct response to the growing influence of Radical Right figures like Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell. Mobilizing Americans to challenge the Right remains a core part of our mission, and with people out there like Ann Coulter, we still have our work cut out for us.

    Please kick in $5 in support of Xavier's progressive student groups and as much as you can to People For's efforts to track, refute and defeat the Radical Right.

    Thank you.

    -- Your Allies (Against the Radical Right) at People For the American Way
    And as I always do when it comes to anything involving Coulter, I'll let that scholarly man of letters Henry Rollins have the last word (he throws in an "F" bomb or two, so be warned).

    Update 8/17: And by the way, here is the latest from Ann Coulter...

    Mr. Bush was supposed to bring peace and prosperity, democracy and freedom to Iraq. Instead, he has destroyed the country, leaving thousands of people homeless with no food or electricity and without their leaders, who went on vacation because of the heat.

    Our troops, who are carrying gear in the heat, don't matter (to him). So far, 3,600 have been killed. Another 27,000 are in hospitals and having their benefits questioned or cut.

    Bush's legacy and his library will be built on coffins and on the backs of disfigured young men and women. Bill Clinton may have lied but no one died.

    The only people who still believe in Bush are those who are too ashamed to admit how wrong they were.
    And as usual, that letter was from Ann Coulter of Bensalem, Pa.; it appeared in the Bucks County Courier Times today.

    The Rarely-Told "Hold"

    This New York Times story today tells us that Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) intends to block Dubya’s nomination of John Rizzo as the CIA’s top lawyer; Rizzo is currently the agency’s interim general council. Wyden said that he was “troubled” that Rizzo “did not object to a 2002 memo authorizing interrogation techniques that stop just short of inflicting pain equal to that accompanying organ failure or even death.”

    Hooray for sanity for a change (and kudos to Wyden).

    Wyden blocked the nomination through a Senatorial procedure known as a “hold,” and as noted here, Wyden has used this effectively before.

    When the EPA proposed rules to ensure cleaner gasoline everywhere but in the Pacific Northwest (because the skies are considered too clean to trigger any government regulation – yes, I’m serious, but remember, this was conceived by a Republican executive branch), Wyden identified the danger from refineries producing gasoline with more pollutants, particularly benzene, because they had the flexibility to do so since there was no regulation.

    In response, Wyden put a “hold” on the nomination of the EPA’s general counsel, and the EPA ended up delaying implementation of the new “cap and trade” recommendations that would have allowed the flexibility to produce more pollutants until 2011, with the new national maximum arriving 18 months later, according to Wyden’s press release.

    To me, this is an example of an effective use of the “hold.” As this New York Times article notes (now behind the wall – aaarrrggghhh!), the hold has a special place in the arcane, “old boy” traditions of the Senate…

    Technically, a hold is simply a notice from any senator that he or she intends to object to a move to advance a bill or nomination by unanimous consent -- the Senate way of clearing the decks and avoiding unnecessary votes on consensus matters.

    The slang names come from the perceived goal of the objector. For instance, the Mae West version of the Senate hold occurs when the senator behind the objection is open to negotiation, inviting the author to ''come up and see me sometime.'' The chokehold is meant to kill the bill. The rotating hold involves a group of like-minded senators who regularly shift the objection among themselves, making the perpetrator harder to identify.

    Donald A. Ritchie, the associate Senate historian, says the modern use of the hold began in the 1950s under the leadership of Senator Lyndon B. Johnson, who increased the use of unanimous consent agreements to bring more order to the Senate. Holds were initially allowed as a courtesy to senators who needed more time to get to the chamber to object in person, read the bill or try to negotiate changes with the sponsor.

    But their use has proliferated and intensified to the point where lawmakers employ them not only to lodge substantive objections to legislation, but also to stall nominations and bills routinely in retaliation for other actions or to win concessions. Though leaders can break a hold with a 60-vote majority, they have often been reluctant to do so out of respect for the tradition -- and the chance they might want to impose a hold of their own some day.
    I guess the EPA hold by Wyden would be more of the “Mae West” variety, though I’m not sure what category the Rizzo hold falls into.

    The article also notes that Wyden is one of those advocating the end of “secret” holds, which I think is a good idea. To get an idea as to why, here is a Think Progress post noting that the bipartisan Open Government Act was killed last May by this type of hold; the perpetrator was later identified as Sen. Jon Kyl of Arizona (R, of course). Kyl did this because Abu Gonzales objected to the act on the grounds that "it could force (the DOJ) to reveal sensitive information."

    All by itself, that is reason for every Arizonan to do everything in his or her power to send Kyl packing, though we’re going to be stuck with him for a good while yet, unfortunately.

    Here’s more…

    Some senators -- remember Jesse Helms? -- revel in their holds and wield them publicly like a blunt instrument. In 2003, Senator Larry E. Craig, Republican of Idaho, openly put holds on 850 Air Force promotions while he demanded cargo planes for the Air National Guard in his state.

    Others are more surreptitious. Watchdog groups and some Democratic senators are still trying to identify the Republicans who put a hold this year on a proposal to require senators to file campaign contribution reports electronically.

    In reality, even anonymous holds are not completely confidential because cloakroom staff members and party leaders typically either know who placed the holds or they eventually find out. But the names of those who use holds often remain hidden from the public and from many colleagues. Several senators said Wednesday that the new disclosure requirements would improve the culture of the Senate.

    ''I think it has been a bad practice forever,'' said Senator Arlen Specter, Republican of Pennsylvania. ''I think it will improve things around here if people have to stand up when they oppose legislation. Give a reason and let it come up for a vote.''

    But Senator Tom Coburn, the conservative Oklahoma Republican known for his frequent holds, said he would not be deterred. He said that if he had a problem with a bill he would see it as his duty to object.

    ''If I don't agree with it, why am I going to let it go?'' he asked. ''The members think the rule will intimidate people into not holding bills, but it doesn't bother me.''
    Personally, I agree with Wyden, though I think Specter is actually right in theory. But if a “hold” is something favored by the likes of Tom Coburn, Jesse Helms and Jon Kyl, then I’d abolish the practice altogether if it meant getting rid of the secret ones, which are never justifiable.

    AP: Dubya Good, Bubba Bad

    You have to read this news report by the AP’s Deb Riechmann a couple of times to find the misrepre- sentations and gratuitous slams at Bill Clinton and congressional Democrats, but they’re there.

    Here’s one…

    Outgoing presidents often unleash a flurry of executive orders and regulations in a last-minute attempt to leave their mark on U.S. policy. Frustrated by Congress' inability or unwillingness to pass the president's agenda, the administration already is taking steps to do it through executive action.
    How about Congress being frustrated by Dubya’s inability or unwillingness to work with it on crafting a bipartisan agenda? If you want, Ms. Riechmann, you can read this post by Kagro X that contains the sorrowful details of the result of Dubya’s idiotic stubbornness (and this actually is noted by John Podesta, but it’s buried waaay down in Riechmann’s story).


    With his immigration bill dead, the administration rolled out a proposed rule to address some of the major issues in the failed legislation. It will tighten border security, streamline guest-worker programs and pressure employers to fire illegal immigrant workers.

    Bush said it was an example of acting within the boundaries of existing law when Congress failed to act.
    Riechmann also buries in her story near the Podesta quote the fact that the immigration bill was sunk by congressional Republicans. If Bush is unhappy with Congress for failing to act on the immigration bill, he as the leader of the Republican Party has only himself to blame.

    Besides, if Dubya is now going to enact something detrimental to illegal labor, he should first talk to people like California farmer Andy Casado (here).

    This line from Riechmann is also worth a laugh…

    Congress is on its August break, and the president is spending a working vacation at his Texas ranch.
    Riechmann obviously didn’t get the memo; it’s supposed to be called a “recess,” not a vacation. And that assumes that members of Congress are all kicking back right about now, when in fact that’s not true (as noted in this post, Our Man Arlen Specter is touring PA to meet with constituents, which is commendable – his meeting in Mehoopany produced his “I don’t know if there’s any victory there” quote about Iraq).

    And lastly, I give you this portion of Riechmann’s column…

    About six or eight months before Clinton's presidency ended, his advisers began to think about all the mandates they wanted to get done before Bush's inauguration day, recalled Don Arbuckle, who retired last year after working more than 25 years at the Office of Management and Budget. In his final 20 days in office, Clinton issued 12 executive orders, including directives on migratory birds and the importation of diamonds from Sierra Leone.

    Within hours after Bush was sworn in, Arbuckle said Bush advisers were asking him how to reverse Clinton's actions.

    “Right up to the very end, they were trying to get things to the Federal Register and get them published and then immediately when President Bush took office, (former chief of staff) Andy Card issued a memo that said: 'Hang on. Withdraw everything you can until the new political official from the Bush administration has a chance to look at it.”

    Kaplan said Bush could use his bully pulpit and veto threats along with executive orders and regulation to push his agenda, but that the president probably wouldn't follow Clinton's lead.

    “I'm not sure you'll see this president or this administration trying to jam a number of midnight regulations through the door,” Kaplan said.
    Spoken like a Repug (and how perversely funny is it anyway for our corporate media to ignore the fact that Bushco treats both Congress and the judiciary only as appendages of itself?).

    As a member of the OMB, I don’t know if Arbuckle could have known that Clinton had been trying to work with the Republican congress for some time to pass the initiatives that he issued as he was leaving office. And even if he had, I don’t know how Arbuckle could begrudge Clinton the right to do what he saw fit (assuming Arbuckle had an axe to grind – hard to figure from Riechmann’s twisted reporting).

    I would only ask that you take a minute to read the following portion of this CNN interview anchor Judy Woodruff conducted with White House correspondent Kelly Wallace from January 5, 2001…

    WOODRUFF: Kelly, what do the people around the president say to critics who say this president is just trying to create a legacy here in the waning days of his presidency?

    WALLACE: Well, they say a couple of things. First, they say it's not as if Mr. Clinton decided to tackle environmental, labor and worker-safety standards just over the past few weeks. They say these projects have been under way over the past few years. They also say very clearly that Mr. Clinton has always said he hoped Congress would address many of his priorities, but that he has also said he would work up until his final day, using his executive powers to accomplish everything he wanted to do –
    So…it’s all right for Dubya to go it alone due to “Congress’ inability or unwillingness to pass the president’s agenda” or its “failure to act,” but when Clinton did the very same thing toward the end of his presidency, that was somehow bad?


    Update: How can these life forms stand to live with themselves...

    The Peril Of One-Party Rule

    I thought this was an interesting item that popped up in the Philadelphia Inquirer online today (local Bucks County, PA stuff coming up).

    It seems that, out of sheer desperation given the prospects of defeat in the fall, Vincent J. Deon, Northampton Township Republican Supervisor, sent an Email to urge Bucks County Repugs to “lean on courthouse employees and consultants for help in registering new GOP voters. “

    "Many people owe their jobs to GOP leadership," it said. "Professionals, consultants, contractors, and loyal GOP supporters have benefitted handsomely."
    “Lean on,” huh? What is this, a protection racket or a political party?

    And when you read Deon’s Email here, he also states that if every courthouse employee and consultant that has a memory commits to registering 5 new Repug voters, their goal of registering 500 will be met.

    I can just picture it now.

    “Psst, buddy. C’mere. Here’s a registration form. Sign up as a Republican and nobody gets hurt. Ya’ got me?”

    Fortunately, Steve Santarsiero (nice to misspell Steve’s name, Inky) and Diane Marseglia are running for the Bucks County Board of Commissioners to put things right on behalf of area residents and send Repugs Charles Martin and Jim Cawley packing. As noted in the story...

    "This is what happens when you have one party controlling things for such a long time," said Steve Santasiero, one of the two Democratic candidates for the county board. "It's the arrogance of power."

    Diane Marseglia, his running mate, said Deon's e-mail was an example of a "pay to play" mentality and questioned the GOP's disavowal of the message.

    "I don't know how you distance yourself from someone who's an elected official, whose brother practically runs the Republican Party, and whose family has been involved in Republican politics for years," Marseglia said.

    Deon's brother, Pasquale "Pat" Deon, is chairman of the regional SEPTA board and a member of the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission.
    If you’re as sick of the Repug status quo as I am (symptomatic of the mentality behind Deon’s letter), then click here to help Diane and Steve.

    Update 8/18: Cause, meet effect (registration required - basically, Deon is out, and Dave Mellet, spokesperson for Steve and Diane, is right; if the Repugs were serious, Deon would have been out three weeks ago when he first denied responsibility, and at the very least, he should be voted off the Board of Supervisors).

    Long Live The King

    As many of us know, Elvis Aaron Presley died thirty years ago today. I recall hearing the news from Geraldo Rivera, of all people, who reported on all of the medications Presley consumed near the end of his life from Dr. George C. Nichopoulos (“Dr. Nick”), and I found myself amazed that he lived for as long as he did (though, at 42, Elvis died at way too young of an age).

    There is so much to post about concerning Presley (including the fact that he continues on as a “brand” earning big bucks, as noted here), but I want to comment on a misconception about him that still lingers for some reason, noted by Presley biographer Peter Guralnick in a column he wrote for the New York Times (behind the Times Select wall now, unfortunately).

    The misconception is that Elvis Presley was a racist, a claim that is patently false. As Guralnick tells us, his music stood for…

    …the breakdown of barriers, both musical and racial. This is not, unfortunately, how it is always perceived 30 years after his death, the anniversary of which is on Thursday. When the singer Mary J. Blige expressed her reservations about performing one of his signature songs, she only gave voice to a view common in the African-American community. “I prayed about it,” she said, “because I know Elvis was a racist.”

    And yet, as the legendary Billboard editor Paul Ackerman, a devotee of English Romantic poetry as well as rock ’n’ roll, never tired of pointing out, the music represented not just an amalgam of America’s folk traditions (blues, gospel, country) but a bold restatement of an egalitarian ideal. “In one aspect of America’s cultural life,” Ackerman wrote in 1958, “integration has already taken place.”

    It was due to rock ’n’ roll, he emphasized, that groundbreaking artists like Big Joe Turner, Ray Charles, Chuck Berry and Little Richard, who would only recently have been confined to the “race” market, had acquired a broad-based pop following, while the music itself blossomed neither as a regional nor a racial phenomenon but as a joyful new synthesis “rich with Negro and hillbilly lore.”

    No one could have embraced Paul Ackerman’s formulation more forcefully (or more fully) than Elvis Presley.
    Guralnick also recounts an interview Presley gave where he told the reporter that he used to...

    ...“listen to Arthur Crudup, the blues singer who originated ‘That’s All Right,’ Elvis’s first record. Crudup, he said, used to ‘bang his box the way I do now, and I said if I ever got to the place where I could feel all old Arthur felt, I’d be a music man like nobody ever saw.’”

    It was statements like these that caused Elvis to be seen as something of a hero in the black community in those early years. In Memphis the two African-American newspapers, The Memphis World and The Tri-State Defender, hailed him as a “race man” — not just for his music but also for his indifference to the usual social distinctions. In the summer of 1956, The World reported, “the rock ’n’ roll phenomenon cracked Memphis’s segregation laws” by attending the Memphis Fairgrounds amusement park “during what is designated as ‘colored night.’”

    That same year, Elvis also attended the otherwise segregated WDIA Goodwill Revue, an annual charity show put on by the radio station that called itself the “Mother Station of the Negroes.” In the aftermath of the event, a number of Negro newspapers printed photographs of Elvis with both Rufus Thomas and B.B. King (“Thanks, man, for all the early lessons you gave me,” were the words The Tri-State Defender reported he said to Mr. King).

    When he returned to the revue the following December, a stylish shot of him “talking shop” with Little Junior Parker and Bobby “Blue” Bland appeared in Memphis’s mainstream afternoon paper, The Press-Scimitar, accompanied by a short feature that made Elvis’s feelings abundantly clear. “It was the real thing,” he said, summing up both performance and audience response. “Right from the heart.”
    Despite all of this, as Guralnick tells us, a rumor developed and persisted that Presley, either at an appearance in Boston or on “Person To Person” with Edward R. Murrow, said “The only thing Negroes can do for me is buy my records and shine my shoes.”

    As it turned out, he had never appeared in Boston or on “Person To Person” prior to supposedly stating that; however, the rumor persisted to the point where Presley gave an interview to reporter Louie Robinson of Jet where he said that anyone who knew him also knew that he could never have uttered those words. Presley pointed out that, as a teenager, he attended the church of Rev. W. Herbert Brewster, whose songs had been recorded by Mahalia Jackson and Clara Ward and whose stand on civil rights was well known in the community. (Elvis’s version of “Peace in the Valley,” said Dr. Brewster later, was “one of the best gospel recordings I’ve ever heard.”)

    I would also like to note something else Guralnick did not mention, and that is Presley’s performance in the 1960 film “Flaming Star” directed by Don Siegel, where Presley played Pacer Burton, the half-breed son of a Kiowa Indian mother and a Texas rancher father. The movie, though set in the post-Civil War American west, definitely served as a parable for race relations at that time. Presley’s performance was strong and sympathetic, and though he was acting, it’s hard to imagine how he could have portrayed that character without an innate understanding of how a people can be oppressed and marginalized based on the color of their skin.

    All of that being said, though, let’s take a minute to recognize Presley’s talent as a singer, which lay at the heart of all of the justifiable praise surrounding him as well as the tacky dreck. Or…

    …as Jake Hess, the incomparable lead singer for the Statesmen Quartet and one of Elvis’s lifelong influences, pointed out: “Elvis was one of those artists, when he sang a song, he just seemed to live every word of it. There’s other people that have a voice that’s maybe as great or greater than Presley’s, but he had that certain something that everybody searches for all during their lifetime.”
    So, here’s to “Hound Dog Man,” as referred to in a song about him by friend Roy Orbison. And how fine a tribute it would be to dispel racist rumors about him once and for all.

    Today's Reminder To Impeach Dick Cheney

    I found out about this last night from MoveOn - it is truly shocking to hear Cheney speak these words in 1994 in light of what has transpired under Bushco...let's give MoveOn a hand for circulating this here.

    And let's not forget to Impeach Cheney First.

    Wednesday, August 15, 2007

    No "Sanctuary" For Stupidity

    I guess, partly because I wanted to take a break from reading about Iran and Karl Rove, I came across this post from Adam B at The Daily Kos about Fred Thompson, who apparently doesn’t know whether he’s a candidate for president or not.

    The problem is that, whether he wanted to or not, Thompson already declared himself by virtue of the amount of money he has raised to date (and I have to admit that I was prodded a bit to learn more based on this Susan Saulny article in today’s New York Times, embedded in Adam B’s post, which is practically a commercial for Thompson’s as-yet-still-exploratory campaign).

    Since Saulny obligingly gives you a good look at (?), Thompson’s site, you don’t have to do much to learn how to navigate to The Fred File, which is our officially undeclared candidate’s forum where he holds court on issues of burning import for his blinkered followers, and number one of course for all of these people is immigration.

    Now I’m still learning about this since I usually don’t pay much attention to wingnuttia, but apparently, it looks like the tragic murder of three students in Newark and the wounding of a fourth may have been committed by an illegal immigrant (as noted here).

    And before you can even imagine speaking all of the words of that sentence, leave it to Michelle Malkin and her ilk to come charging forth to tell us that all illegals are murderers and other types of criminals and the scum of the earth generally speaking (takes one to know one I guess). And Thompson tunes into that vibe quite thoroughly in this post from his site, citing immigration and murder statistics from the Center for Immigration Studies which, as noted here, pretends to be nonpartisan, but in fact it advocates a “restrictionist agenda and works closely on Capitol Hill with Republican Party immigration restrictionists,” according to this analysis.

    Thompson also decries what conservatives call “sanctuary cities” (hence his post title) which, in his view, provide locations for recruitment of illegal immigrants into some kind of a criminal underclass. And to follow up, Thompson sternly intones the following…

    Now I am a strong federalist, but immigration is a responsibility of the federal government, and the failures of local officials to enforce our national laws have a direct impact on communities around the country. So federal law must be enforced, or our neighborhoods will continue to be the scene of chilling and lurid crimes committed by those who broke the law in the first place to come to America.
    Yeah, Fred, that’s great. There’s only one problem though, and it’s that THERE IS NO FEDERAL LAW!

    And do you know why? It’s because of all the frothing methane dispensers out there who vote for Republicans without bothering to exercise the brain matter that they have who also think we can actually round up and deport every illegal immigrant in this country! And THEY are the ones who ruined any possibility of common sense prevailing in our immigration policy (and if you don’t want to believe me, believe that titan of intellectual virtue – snark – Trent Lott here).

    Another thing…let’s actually try and interject some common sense here and take a look at exactly why immigrants risk breaking the law by trying to sneak into this country. And that would be because of the miracle of our global economy (as noted here). People are going to go where the jobs are better to provide the best lives that they can for their families. Period.

    And as noted here…

    With federal authorities enlisting local law enforcement agencies to act as their "eyes and ears" on the ground, a number of towns have responded with highly publicized zero-tolerance policies on illegal immigrants. In Hazelton, Pa., the Illegal Immigration Relief Act -- passed last year but being challenged in federal court (it lost) -- denies licenses to businesses that employ illegal immigrants, fines landlords $1,000 for each illegal immigrant discovered renting their properties and requires that city documents be in English only. Other towns have deputized police officers to act as local immigration cops.

    But equally fervent are a less well-known but fast-growing number of "sanctuary" cities and towns -- from Seattle to Cambridge, Mass. -- where local authorities are effectively rejecting the federal government's call for tougher enforcement and instead bestowing a measure of local acceptance.

    In New Haven, Conn., for example, officials have prohibited police from asking about an immigrant's legal status, and in July the city will introduce municipal identification cards, providing undocumented immigrants with a "locally legal" form of ID that will make it easier for them to apply for bank accounts and sign rental leases. Overall, at least 20 cities and towns have approved pro-immigration measures over the past three years, according to the D.C.-based Fair Immigration Reform Movement. Analysts and advocates say almost as many -- including at least five in New Jersey, where about one in 17 residents is an illegal immigrant -- are considering similar resolutions.

    "What we're seeing is a surge in immigration policy at the local level," said Michael Wishnie, a Yale University law professor who has worked with New York City on pro-immigration measures. "What they have in common is that mayors are basically saying, 'Look, this is a major issue for us, and if Congress can't fix it, we will.' "

    Initially coined by immigrant groups in the 1980s, when a number of cities approved local laws granting a haven to the victims of civil wars in Central and South America, the term "sanctuary city" has been adopted in recent years by opponents of pro-immigrant ordinances. They argue that the new crop of towns approving such measures is effectively sanctioning illegal immigration.
    True to the M.O. of Frank Luntz, leave it to the Repugs to take words denoting a well-intentioned cause or course of action and utterly twist them for their foul ends.

    I haven’t logged onto Thompson’s site to post or read a comment (probably should because I may end up on another Email list and find out interesting stuff), so I don’t know how his “pearls of wisdom” are being received.

    But since this stuff is not far removed from his incisive commentary where he tells Michael Moore that he belongs in a mental institution while Thompson chomps on a Cuban cigar, or Thompson’s conjuring of a scenario where missiles are launched from Mexico towards San Diego (here), I expect that it will meet with the usual brand of hero worship from those zealots who see the “Flaw and Ardor” candidate as the only one worthy of inheriting the mantle of The Sainted Ronnie R (but if not, the ever-accommodating Hollywood back lot will always give him a welcome, I’m sure).

    Update: God Newt, please run - it will be so much fun...

    Update 8/24: A great Paul Krugman column on the Repugs and immigration (I'll try to update this to a non-Times Select link at some point).

    No Wonder He Feels Good About It

    You know the report from Gen. David Petraeus that’s due next month on Iraq, don’t you? (here’s the “executive summary”; Surge 4Evah, Fight Them There So We Don’t Have To Fight Them Here, Freedom Is On The March, Clap Louder You Chicken Libtard Members Of The Democrat Party, Terra, Terra, Terra, 9/11. 9/11, 9/11 – got all that?).

    Well, as it turns out based on this story, Billion Dollar Cheney is going to write it himself.

    And the nightmare continues…

    (By the way, I just found out about this from MoveOn - it is truly shocking to hear Cheney speak these words in 1994 in light of what has transpired under Bushco...let's give MoveOn a hand for circulating this here.)

    Update 8/16: Getting back to the report, BarbinMD has a good question for Senate Republicans.

    Their Darkest Hour

    This is a tough topic to discuss, but I think I should say something.

    Greg Mitchell at Editor and Publisher Online has written a few posts on the subject of the suicide of Iraq war veterans, including one post yesterday in which he notes that 118 U.S. military personnel have killed themselves since April 2003, representing about 3 percent of the overall Iraq death toll.

    Mitchell mentions in particular Col. Ted Westhusing (angry about contractor abuses), Alyssa Peterson (appalled by interrogation techniques) and Linda Michel (denied medication after returning home). But Mitchell focuses specifically here on Pfc. Andrew T. Engstrom, 22, of Slaton, TX, with the Army describing his death as due to a “non combat-related incident.”

    The post also tells us the following…

    This past January, Lisa Chedekel and Matthew Kauffman noted in The Hartford Courant that veterans advocates found the increase of suicides in 2006 "troubling." Steve Robinson, director of government relations for Veterans for America, told them he was particularly disturbed by suicides in the war zone because combat troops are supposed to be screened for mental health issues before they join the military, and throughout their careers. "These people aren't the kind of people that you would think would take this step," he said.

    Chekedel told me in an email recently," we haven't looked at 2007 suicides -- and it's a tough subject to get timely statistics on. The Defense Manpower Data Center reports, which come out periodically and are broken down by 'casualty category,' do keep a running count of self-inflicted deaths -- but because some cases are listed as 'pending,' and can be moved into the 'confirmed' category months later, it's tricky to get an accurate tally by calendar year."

    Not even included in these tallies are cases like the following: "Two weeks ago Iraq vet Noah Pierce shot and killed himself in a remote section of northern Minnesota. The sheriff's office revealed that he had been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and that Pierce had said, before he fled home with a few firearms, that he may be a danger to others as well as himself."

    In the Deseret (Utah) Morning News last Monday, Stephen Speckman noted that the suicide rate among all veterans is now about twice the national average among nonveterans. On top of that, he added, "Among Army members, suicide rates between 2003 and 2006 for soldiers in Operation Iraqi Freedom were higher than the average Army rate, 16.1 versus 11.6 soldier suicides per year per 100,000, according to U.S. Army Medical Command spokesman Jerry Harben."
    This is more current information, but this story from CBS News dated January of 2004 tells us of Army Specialist Joseph Suell, in which the Army originally attributed his death to a self-inflicted overdose of ibuprofen and amphetamine. Reporter Bob McNamara notes the following…

    The Army has not released the findings of a mental-health team that went to Iraq last fall. And some charge the Pentagon is not telling the whole story.

    The Pentagon counts at least 22 GI suicides in the Iraq conflict -- 19 of those Army troops -- most after major combat was declared over last May.

    "It's statistically too high and it could be as many as 30 -- it could be as many as 30 in Iraq," said Steve Robinson, a retired Army Ranger who is lobbying Congress to pressure the Pentagon to come clean with the true extent of the war's psychiatric toll.

    "This has the potential to be a bad news story," he said.

    "A bombshell?" asked McNamara.

    "I think so," Robinson replied.
    There is actually good news, though. The Veterans Administration, under now-departing Secretary Jim Nicholson, states here that they are about to institute a 24-hour, national suicide prevention hot line that will go into effect on August 31st. No word yet on the actual hot line number or how this information is going to be announced (and would a web presence of some kind for the purposes of helping our service people here be too much to ask?).

    For an issue that was categorized as “a bombshell” by a person as knowledgeable as Steve Robinson in 2004, this is a pitiably slow response on the part of both the VA and the U.S. Congress to a horrific plight faced by those who have bravely defended our nation.

    Update 1 8/17: Paul Rieckhoff of HuffPo has more here.

    Update 2 8/17: No words for this - no words...

    Maybe they can get some copies from the 2004 Repug National Hatefest and use those instead, such as the one this idiot is wearing on her chin.

    You Have No Urgency Either, Bob

    I think I’m beginning to smell the real reason why Turd Blossom bailed out (though I have to admit that it occurred to Will Bunch first here – h/t Atrios – and I’ll elaborate in a minute…probably “echo chamber posting” lots of people here, but so be it).

    First, I’ll let you know that Sideshow Bob Casey returned from a fact-finding mission in Iraq with Sen. Dick Durbin (as noted here) and proclaimed the following…

    U.S. Sen. Bob Casey (D., Pa.) said yesterday that his first trip to Iraq last week convinced him that the nation's new government has "no sense of urgency" to establish internal political peace or handle its own security.

    The visit reinforced his view that it is time to begin a phased withdrawal of U.S. combat troops, Casey told reporters during a Center City news conference. "The American people are running out of patience. This has lasted longer than World War II," he said. Casey could not give a timeline for withdrawal.

    Though the recent "surge" of 20,000 additional U.S. troops has helped calm some parts of the country, Casey said there has not been enough progress toward a political pact to ease the sectarian and ethnic violence among Kurds, Shiites and Sunnis. In addition, only 9,000 Iraqi troops are fully trained to take over U.S. patrols, he said.

    Casey suggested that the fledgling Iraqi government has become dependent on the American military presence. But "[U.S.] troops can't force a government to be stable, troops can't force an Iraqi police force to put aside sectarian predispositions and enforce the rule of law," he said.
    I’m not sure why Casey and Durbin believed that they needed to travel to Iraq to discover something that was already painfully obvious to most of this country, but I know I should commend them for their effort, and I do.

    The problem is that, as is so often the case, Bushco is a step ahead of the Democrats in their political strategy. As Kagro X notes here along with a whole bunch of other people, including Robin Wright of the Washington Post…

    The United States has decided to designate Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps, the country's 125,000-strong elite military branch, as a "specially designated global terrorist," according to U.S. officials, a move that allows Washington to target the group's business operations and finances.


    The designation of the Revolutionary Guard will be made under Executive Order 13224, which President Bush signed two weeks after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks to obstruct terrorist funding. It authorizes the United States to identify individuals, businesses, charities and extremist groups engaged in terrorist activities. The Revolutionary Guard would be the first national military branch included on the list, U.S. officials said -- a highly unusual move because it is part of a government, rather than a typical non-state terrorist organization.
    This, of course, is a legal trick to include Iran as part of the Authorization to Use Military Force passed in 2002 prior to the Iraq war, giving Bushco thin cover for an attack, as Bunch and others note.

    There was a way to try and forestall this though, again noted by Bunch, and that would have been for the Senate to at least debate S.759, the measure introduced by Jim Webb of Virginia, to prohibit the use of congressional funds for a military operation against Iran. However, the Senate Dems, in their eternal stupidity, refused to do so (as noted here – heckuva job, Harry).

    Since they have let Webb’s measure lie for now, all we can do now is hope and pray that Bushco doesn’t launch an attack while Congress is in recess (what a sorry state).

    It’s nice that Casey now realizes the urgency of drawing down our presence in Iraq, though he arrived at that judgment a bit late (as noted here). But if he really wants to do right by our military, he and every other Senate Dem should do all they can to move along Webb’s bill immediately after their recess ends.

    And to me, it’s now crystal clear why Rove departed at this moment: 1) He’s trying to stay at least a step ahead of one or more Congressional subpoenas; 2) The news of his departure deflects attention a bit from the neocon insanity of beating the war drums concerning Iran, and 3) He can claim to be out of the loop in the event that something goes horribly wrong when an attack is launched (and given these idiots running our government, how could that not happen?), thus not impacting his work of organizing and fundraising for Republican candidates in ’08 in any way.

    And The Rest Of The Valuables, Too

    I don’t know what they’re feeding Karen Heller over at The Inquirer as of late, but she has been positively lucid recently, and she was again today on the resignation the 2006 Republican political genius who lost both houses of Congress on his watch…

    The louder he talked of his honor, the faster we counted our spoons.
    - Ralph Waldo Emerson

    Whenever a person wholly devoted to work says he's leaving his post to spend more time with the family, it's time to count the spoons.

    And possibly, the subpoenas.

    Consider Karl Rove, White House deputy chief of staff, President Bush's political adviser, his brain, his architect, his boy genius, his - as the president puts it so endearingly - turd blossom.

    "There's always something that can keep you here, and as much as I'd like to be here," Rove told the Wall Street Journal Monday, "I've got to do this for the sake of my family."

    This came as a shock after 61/2 years in Washington, D.C., even during the dog days of August.

    First, that Rove had a Mrs. Rove.

    Second, that Rove and Mrs. Rove found time to have a little Rove.

    Little Rove, as it turns out, is 18 years old and attends college.

    Why is it that when a candidate loses, a powerful person stumbles, or congressional judiciary committees issue subpoenas, this is precisely the moment a workaholic slaps his head and announces, generally to an open mike or a running tape recorder, "Gee, I forgot to spend quality time with the family!"

    Imagine the equal shock of the long-neglected loved ones.

    Spouse: "Now that everything's lousy, you want to spend 'quality' time with us?"

    Kid: "Who is this guy? And why is he hogging the remote?"

    Recovering workaholic: "Uhmm, where's the kitchen?"

    Why does his family get to see him only when he's mopey and depressed? Rove resigned to go home to Ingram, Tex., which is close to precisely nothing.

    This from a man who was so busy running the College Republicans that he never found time to graduate from college?

    Note that a potentate always "resigns." He's never fired, even days before an indictment or two. Firing is for little people, the ones who spend quantity time with the family and don't need to announce a return to parenting as a career move, an act of redemption and a public sound bite.

    The powerful resign with benefits, preferably a golden parachute commensurate with their incompetence or malfeasance, and a possible book contract.

    One of the rare instances where this wasn't true was two years ago when Sandra Day O'Connor, whom I miss more with each passing Rovian Supreme Court decision, retired to care for her husband, felled by Alzheimer's.

    Rove is leaving with more drama if for less obvious reasons. "I realize that some of the Democrats are Captain Ahab and I'm the great white whale," Rove said Monday. "I noticed the other day some Democratic staffers were quoted calling me 'the big fish.' Well, I'm Moby Dick and they're after me."

    A fitting analogy. As you may recall in Melville's classic, the work-obsessed Captain Ahab drowns. The entire crew of the Pequod drowns, felled by the great white whale. Everyone dies in the end except the whale and Ishmael, possibly so someone's left to narrate the epic tale, the literary equivalent of a ghost writer.

    Often, these "spend more time with the family" decisions last a matter of weeks, until another job presents itself, one with better pay and fewer hours, a board of directors position, a lecture tour, an undemanding teaching post, and the big shot can take flight from the Barcalounger.

    In the meantime, it's best to count those spoons.
    And I didn’t really get into anything Rove did in Texas in these posts since he resigned, partly because there is so much material, but here is a sampling from the eternal Molly Ivins in which Rove tap dances around the question of who supposedly planted a listening device in his office while he ran the gubernatorial campaign of Bill Clements in an effort to make Clements’ opponent look bad, of course, as well as other matters; it’s a shame she’s not with us to see this, but somehow, I think she knows.

    Tuesday, August 14, 2007

    Tuesday Videos

    Mark Ronson with Daniel Merriweather ("Stop Me" - the "concept" video for this song, I guess)...

    ...Happy Birthday to Dash Crofts of Seals and Crofts; they perform "Summer Breeze" at the Oregon State Fair in 1991 with the original tune dubbed in ("Year of Sunday" was my favorite among their recordings)...

    ...Happy Birthday also to David Crosby; "Almost Cut My Hair," live solo acoustic from 1991 also (must have been a good year for live performances - with all of Crosby's health issues and other travails, it's easy to forget just how good a performer he is)...

    ...Happy Birthday also to Steve Martin (and never forget, he's a ramblin' guy)...

    ...and I happened to come across this pretty amazing video called "Women In Film" by eggman913 at YouTube, and I hope you like it (click here for a list of the actresses appearing in it).

    This Is An Unnecessary Post

    (But I’m going ahead with it anyway…)

    I know that, in Markos Moulitsas Zuniga’s appearance on Bleat The Press this Sunday with pretend Democrat Harold Ford, the latter threw out this scurrilous charge that The Daily Kos is some kind of an anti-Semetic hate site (a charge that seems to be in vogue now for Repugs and their acolytes, including Maine senator Susan Collins here, and the charges against firedoglake and MoveOn are equally laughable).

    You and I know all of this is patently ridiculous. I’ve seen enough of my share of actual hate speech against liberals in the Inquirer to recognize it, and if it actually were at the Daily Kos site, I wouldn’t have anything to do with it (I’ve also seen a ton of it in the Courier Times, but I have other reasons for reading the paper, so even though I refute it to rattle cages from time to time, I know I can’t defeat it).

    And I thought this was a nice wrapup of the whole “Meet The Press” thing and an aftermath on Hannity and Colmes, with Ford trying to sound more inclusive, possibly as a result of his exchange with Markos (and boy, is Bob Beckel a dick!).

    Where's The Outrage Now, Inky?

    (The Orwell quote is, "The quickest way of ending a war is to lose it," in case that's not visible.)

    I would like to offer this quote also…

    “The war is lost.”
    Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV), as noted here from April of this year.

    I would now like to offer this quote as well…

    "I don't know that there is any victory there. We're not going to be able to defeat all the crazies in Iraq."
    Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA), as noted here, speaking at a town hall meeting in Mehoopany, Pa. last Sunday (registration required for this Inquirer story).

    Now tell me the difference between what Reid said and what Specter said.

    Need a minute? No problem, I’ll wait…

    Can’t think of one? OK.

    Then I’ll expect to see the chastising propaganda from Kevin Ferris in Friday’s editorial section attacking Specter with a sympathetic quote from one of our service people.

    I’ll also expect Michael Smerconish, Flush Limbore and the other right-wing radio propagandists to verbally assault Our Man Arlen to a sufficient degree where he knows he’d better refrain from such utterances in the future that do not “support our troops.”

    I’ll also expect Stu Bykofsky of the Daily News to write another “sick bastard” screed about how this country should suffer another terrorist attack to “wake us up” in response to comments like those of Specter’s that don’t show total, unequivocal support for The Now And Forever You Godless Bedwetting Liberal Ingrate Questioning Our Leader George W. Bush Global War On Terra, Terra, Terra Now And Forever!!

    I’ll also expect the Inquirer to publish another ridiculously propagandistic Glenn McCoy cartoon again, possibly with Arlen Specter dressed up in a monkey suit and cowering in the shadow of fundamentalist Muslim terrorists (of course, if it does appear, I’ll never see, it – thankfully, we no longer receive the hardcopy version of the Inquirer, which will allow me to make good on my promise never to endure another Glenn McCoy cartoon again for as long as I live).

    Better keep up your guard, Arlen. Your “independent, moderate” tendencies are showing again.

    "Pulling A Gerson," Indeed

    As noted here, Bushco adviser and speechwriter Michael Gerson (center in photo) has come under fire from colleague Matthew Scully for claiming speechwriting credit where it wasn’t deserved; Scully’s article in the September issue of The Atlantic claims as follows…

    The narrative that Mike Gerson presented to the world is a story of extravagant falsehood. He has been held up for us in six years’ worth of coddling profiles as the great, inspiring, and idealistic exception of the Bush White House. In reality, Mike’s conduct is just the most familiar and depressing of Washington stories—a history of self- seeking and media manipulation that is only more distasteful for being cast in such lofty terms.
    This Washington Post article, the headline piece from last Sunday, of course claims that Scully is flat wrong (after providing background on Scully’s charge - registration required, I think), noting the following…

    The Scully article prompted a counteroffensive by Gerson allies. Peter Wehner, a former White House director of strategic initiatives who worked closely with Gerson, posted a defense of his friend on National Review Online and cited several instances when Gerson publicly credited (John) McConnell and Scully. He also quoted several citations from Gerson's upcoming book that praise the two writers. "The idea of Mike as a press-hungry, glory-claiming monster just doesn't square with reality," Wehner said by telephone.

    White House Chief of Staff Joshua B. Bolten and Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove both called unsolicited yesterday to offer testimonials to Gerson's character. "In all my dealings with the speechwriting team," Rove said, "I saw a close-knit group of close friends do a fantastic job together, and Mike Gerson was one of the first always to . . . call attention to the contributions and skills of his colleagues."

    Bolten said everyone in the White House understood that the speeches were joint products. But he noted: "Mike's role was a little bit different than the other two guys'. For one thing, he was the head of the team, and so the head of the team tends to get more of the credit. . . . Mike's role was unique and particularly strong because he served as a kind of counselor to the president as well."
    I have to admit that, if I were seeking a testimonial defending myself, Karl Rove is the last person I would contact.

    I realize that, when all is said and done, this is nothing but a Beltway hissy fit, but I think it is instructive in that it reveals Gerson as yet another opportunist masquerading as some holier-than-thou keeper of Bush’s alleged conscience (“alleged” being the operative word here).

    One thing I absolutely have to agree with Scully on, though, is the fact that Gerson is portrayed by Bob Woodward as the one and only person calling the shots in the speechwriting department. This comes through loud and clear when you read “State of Denial” and witness the almost maddeningly deferential treatment Woodward gives to Gerson, as well as the supposed agonies by Bush’s counselor as he struggled to capture the most perfect possible prose, particularly for Dubya’s second inaugural speech (I sincerely wish I still had my copy of “State of Denial” so I could present Woodward’s account of the speech’s origination and its aftermath, with Henry Kissinger, among others, claiming at first to hate it, though he later embraced it).

    This highly detailed post by the blogger Corrente utterly dissects the speech and notes the following, among many revealing points…

    When I referred to the president's writers cooking up this inaugural address, I meant to suggest something more than flippant disrespect for their concotions; many of the points given to the President were carefully derived to answer specific persistent criticisms of George W's foreign policy, without having to mention any of them. So, in answer to the many critiques of the Bush neo/con policy of waging preventive wars, the president noted on Thursday that the task of spreading freedom around the world will not be primarily the "task of arms," and to preempt the likely and often made charge that the neocon/Bush vision is an imperial one that embraces a Pax Americana to be imposed on the world, ready or not, Mr. Bush asserted, "America will not impose our own style of government on the unwilling. Our goal instead is to help others find their own voice, attain their own freedom, and make their own way." And how will this be accomplished?

    We will persistently clarify the choice before every ruler and every nation: The moral choice between oppression, which is always wrong, and freedom, which is eternally right. America will not pretend that jailed dissidents prefer their chains, or that women welcome humiliation and servitude, or that any human being aspires to live at the mercy of bullies.

    Well, that's mighty white of you, Mr. Bush, but really now, when has any American post-WW 2 administration ever made such a pretence. Yes, America has often looked the other way when faced with the depredations of human rights carried on by allies deemed necessary at the time, often wrongly, but pretend the oppressed welcome their oppression? Who does this president think he is? Noam Chomsky? Howard Zinn? The closest I can come to such an attitude actually being expressed was that part of the human rights policy of the Reagan administration defined by Jeanne Kirkpatrick, which posited that traditional authoritarian rulers, like Somoza in Nicaragua, or the Argentine junta, were tolerable in the context of the cold war because such leaders, while not democratic and sometimes despotic, were a bulwark against Marxist insurgents, who would bring a far worse kind of anti-democratic regime than these ancient ones. But now I'm making an observation historical in nature, like the copious warnings about Bin Laden's desire to strike on American soil were historical in nature, according to our new Secretary of State to be (Rice), and we know what this administration does when faced with anything "historical." (The correct answer, "nothing." )
    It’s important to point all this out, though, because the lofty words concocted by Gerson (or, more likely, the team of Gerson, Scully and McConnell) put lipstick on the proverbial pig in the sense that it masqueraded the intentions of our ruling criminal cabal behind lofty phrasing invoking patriotism, freedom, religion, self-reliance and justice.

    And for that, not only Gerson, but Scully and O’Connell have much to answer for as traitors to their craft (though they are hardly alone on that score).

    Update 8/17: Wank on Gerson, wank on (h/t Atrios).