Saturday, October 13, 2007

The Truth, At Long Last

Thank you, General Sanchez - I thought I would never see actual leadership from anyone on this war (I disagree with your assessment about staying there, as well as the notion that something like victory can be achieved by transcending partisan politics - way too later for that now - but you placed the blame for this catastrophe exactly where it belongs).

Now, though you have a clear conscience, prepare to be ostracized for the rest of your life.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Friday Videos

Happy belated birthday to Daryl Hall of Hall and Oates (a couple of local guys doing "Possession Obsession")...

...happy ontime birthday to Pat DiNizio of The Smithereens ("Only A Memory")...

...another happy belated birthday to Scott Johnson of The Gin Blossoms ("Til I Hear It From You"; I think that's Liv Tyler, but I'm not sure of the movie)...

...ten years ago today, John Denver was killed in a plane crash ("The Strangest Dream" recorded in 1971 at a peace march in Washington, D.C. protesting the Vietnam War - a wish as far away now as it was then)...

...another belated birthday, this one for Martin Kemp of Spandau Ballet ("True"; an '80s anthem for sure - try not picturing a John Hughes comedy with Molly Ringwald, I dare you)...

...and on a personal note, happy anniversary Mrs. Doomsy ("I Only Have Eyes For You," by The Flamingos).

Friday Wrapup (10/12)

Time to clean out my “in” bin again…

  • Welcome Debbie Stafford (pictured - story appears here)…

    A state representative abruptly left the Republican Party and became a Democrat, the first time in 20 years that a Colorado lawmaker has switched parties.

    (Stafford), 55, who also is a minister, said the Republican Party no longer represents her values.

    “Ideally, I find myself a moderate and I think I would be best suited for a third party. However, the reality is that our political system is not designed for a third party voice to be strong,” Stafford said Thursday.

    She added: “I am not leaving the Republican Party as much as I believe the Republican Party left me,” she said.
    You have a lot of company.

  • Concerning this story about an anticipated surge in home heating costs…

    Surging crude oil prices are the primary, but not the only, culprit for the jump in fuel oil costs. This spring and summer, American refineries experienced an unusual number of unexpected maintenance outages. The net result was that fewer refineries were producing gasoline, heating oil and other petroleum products.
    I would tend to say that some of these maintenance outages have taken place because oil companies delayed refinery maintenance in order to increase production and maximize their post-Katrina profits (noted briefly in a July 22nd post from here).

    I remember how, in the aftermath of Katrina, the hurricane was blamed for all of the downturns in any economic activity whatsoever, as opposed to the staggering Republican deficits, shifting and consolidation of wealth, and Bushco’s advocacy of offshoring our jobs en masse. Katrina was always the reason. Katrina, Katrina, Katrina.

    Funny how it gets scant mention now all of a sudden, isn’t it?

  • Oh, and by the way, if you know someone who is a “NASCAR Repub- lican,” tell them the following from Democrat Bennie Thompson, who chairs the House Homeland Security Committee (re: this story)…

    Responding in a letter Wednesday, Thompson wrote, "Since committee staff members are visiting hospital and other health-care facilities available at or near these venues, including areas where groups of people are detained before being transferred to other off-site facilities, I believe that the recommendation (not requirement) that our congressional staff receive these same immunizations (against hepatitis A, hepatitis B, tetanus, diphtheria, and influenza) was sound."
    The letter Thompson responded to was full of wingnut umbrage over the erroneous notion that Thompson wanted to immunize he and his staffers against anyone attending a NASCAR event, when in fact he wanted to make sure his people didn’t spread anything contagious towards these people, since some of these events draw crowd in excess of 100,000 and a virus could spread quickly.

    It’s a shame that there is no virus Thompson and his people can take to prevent themselves from succumbing to potentially infectious stupidity here, though they seem to be adult enough to survive any attempts at contamination from the life forms that stupidly played this for all of its demagogic worth.

  • Update 10/14: Gentlemen, start your stupidity; sorry, but I can't get too worked up over being chastised by a guy named "Humpy."

  • Finally, this letter appeared in the Bucks County Courier Times on Wednesday…

    In 2003 my father, John Steinbeiser, passed away. He was a WWII vet. I got a form from the local VA office for a grave plaque. When the marker was delivered, it was the wrong size.

    I called the office; they said they couldn’t help me. I then called the VA in Washington and was told that they could do nothing. I was told I could pay for a new marker; I then called Mike Fitzpatrick, our former congressman. I was assured he could take care of everything. A few weeks later I was told the congressman could do nothing, it was a “private matter” between the family and the VA.

    I recently contacted Congressman Patrick Murphy’s office. Within a few weeks I was contacted for additional information and informed that a new plaque would be delivered. I was called by the VA in Washington and they apologized for the mix-up and assured me that the matter had been resolved.

    Because of Murphy’s involvement, my father’s service record is now proudly displayed.

    Patricia Schell
    Morrisville, PA
    To help Patrick, click here.
  • Where The Rubber Meets The Road (10/12/07)

    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.


    Iraq withdrawal reports. The House passed, 377-46, and sent to the Senate a bill requiring the administration to report quarterly to Congress on its military plan for pulling U.S. combat forces out of Iraq.

    A yes vote was to pass HR 3087.

    All Philadelphia-area representatives voted for the measure.
    Putting aside his cries of the dreaded “partisanship” in the House (sure, it’s still going on to a degree and always will, but it’s only a “problem” if the Repugs are the minority) and this notion of training the Iraqi security forces (another shell game at this point as far as I’m concerned), I thought Mike Castle of Delaware had some good things to say about this bill here (happily separating himself from the “Joe-Pitts-head-in-the-sand” crowd for now…Pancake Joe did the right thing here, but he’ll revert to his typical form in a minute).

    Update: Never mind on the Castle link - sorry I can't get it to work.

    And by the way, I’m sure this will get vetoed also.

    Blackwater oversight. The House passed, 389-30, and sent to the Senate a bill extending U.S. criminal jurisdiction to all of the government's private contractors overseas, not just those working for the military.

    A yes vote was to pass HR 2740.

    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.), Tim Holden (D., Pa.), Frank A. LoBiondo (R., N.J.), Patrick Murphy (D., Pa.), H. James Saxton (R., N.J.), Allyson Schwartz (D., Pa.), Joe Sestak (D., Pa.), Christopher H. Smith (R., N.J.).

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

    Not voting: Jim Gerlach (R., Pa.).
    And for the benefit of the life form taking up space as the rep from PA-16, please allow me to present this which explains why he could have phoned in a “yes” vote instead here if he had a clue.

    Foreclosure tax help. The House passed, 386-27, and sent to the Senate a bill providing tax relief for those losing their homes in foreclosures.

    A yes vote was to pass HR 3648.

    All Philadelphia-area representatives voted for the bill.
    Here’s more; from this area, this bill was cosponsored by Allyson Schwartz, Rob Andrews, Chaka Fattah, and the great Rush Holt (and believe it or not, Repug Phil English from PA-03 actually signed on as a sponsor also – shocking!).


    2008 defense budget. The Senate passed, 92-3, and sent to conference with the House a bill to authorize $649 billion for the military in 2008, including $127.5 billion for war in Afghanistan and Iraq and $24.6 billion for soldiers' health care.

    A yes vote was to pass the bill.

    Voting yes: Thomas Carper (D., Del.), Bob Casey (D., Pa.), Frank Lautenberg (D., N.J.), Robert Menendez (D., N.J.), Arlen Specter (R., Pa.).

    Not voting: Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D., Del.)
    I’m going to keep trying to find out who the three brave individuals are who tried to put the brakes on this nonsense (and yes, it’s nonsense to continue to fund war without end in Iraq), but for now, here is an excerpt from this story…

    Republicans predict the bill is on track to be vetoed by President Bush because it includes hate-crimes legislation by Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass. The White House has said Kennedy's proposal, which would let federal law enforcement help states prosecute attacks on gays, is unnecessary.
    Oh, and by the way, Matthew Sheppard died nine years ago today, just to let you know.

    Military recruiting. The Senate affirmed, 53-41, the military's lowering of recruitment standards to meet troop demands imposed by war in Iraq.

    A yes vote was to support lower standards.

    Voting yes: Specter.

    Voting no: Casey, Carper, Lautenberg, Menendez.

    Not voting: Biden.
    The bottom line is that we’re now accepting more recruits with criminal records (here). Thanks, Arlen.

    And by the way, Inky, is it too much trouble to find out the roll call numbers here? It would actually make it less tedious for me to find out what’s going on, OK?

    This week, the House took up bills on railroad safety and affordable housing; the Senate was in recess.

    Rudy's "Gift That Keeps On Giving"

    Just when things are going oh so swimmingly for Rudy! in his quest for the Repug presidential nomination, along comes Bernie Kerik once more, floating to the top of the pond like the carcass of a dead fish.

    As noted here, the one-time-protégé of “America’s Mayor” is facing charges of bribery, tax fraud and obstruction of justice…

    The indictment will have direct implications for Giuliani, the sources said.

    For one, another Giuliani commissioner and a top inspector general during Giuliani's years as mayor will be called as witnesses to describe the secret meeting in Tribeca.

    The Giuliani officials are Raymond Casey, former head of the Trade Waste Commission, a city agency set up to keep the mob out of the carting industry, and Michael Caruso, former inspector general with the city Department of Investigation.

    In July 1999, Casey and Caruso met with Kerik, then the city Correction Department commissioner, at Walker's bar on North Moore St., court papers reveal.

    At the time, Casey was investigating Interstate Industrial Corp., a company that employed Kerik's brother Donald and the best man at Kerik's wedding, Larry Ray.

    An Interstate affiliate had applied to operate a waste transfer station in Staten Island, and Casey was looking into allegations that the firm had ties to the Gambino crime family.

    During the meeting, both Interstate and Ray were discussed, according to an affidavit filed in a civil suit by Caruso's lawyer, Mark Freyberg.

    Kerik has admitted that at the time Interstate was secretly paying to renovate his Bronx apartment. Prosecutors are now expected to allege that the free renovations amounted to Kerik accepting bribes, the sources said.

    In return for the renovations, the feds will allege, Kerik used his city position to try to influence the city's probe of Interstate, the sources said.
    Also, as George Packer of The New Yorker notes here, Bernie actually put in an appearance “over there” during Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003…

    "He [Army Lt. Colonel in charge of Kirkuk reconstruction] was afraid that the new Kirkuk police force, which the battalion he commanded had already set up, would have to be scrapped when Bernard Kerik - the colorful former New York police chief - finally got around to announcing his national plan. Instead, Kerik spent his time in Baghdad going on raids with South African mercenaries while his house in New Jersey underwent renovation. He went home after just three months, leaving almost nothing behind, while the Lt. Colonel spent almost a year in Kirkuk."
    Payback through home or apartment renovation seems to be a preferred method of compensation for Bernie Kerik, between this and the prior story.

    And though Rudy! has apologized in the past for his actions related to Kerik, Joe Conason tells us here that…

    Unfortunately for Mr. Giuliani, no apology will satisfy the press appetite for tawdry Kerik tales. Very rarely does a story exposing abuse of police authority include such beguiling details as a jewel-encrusted badge, a mobbed-up crony, a multimillion-dollar stock trade and a flashy mistress. The more we hear about the bodyguard and driver whom Mr. Giuliani promoted to police commissioner, the more we also learn about the man who likes to be called America's Mayor.
    I think we can count on new developments related to Bernie Kerik popping up at regular intervals as the campaign proceeds, especially after a trial date is set. And when it does, we’ll be able to see the walking, talking embodiment of one of the worst mistakes in judgment (among others) that the man who wants to milk “9/11” all the way to the White House (God help us) has ever made.

    Bushco Prepares Another Innocent Victim

    It looks like CIA director Michael V. Hayden want to “arrange a neck tie party” for that agency’s inspector general John Helgerson, as noted on the front page of the New York Times today…

    The review is particularly focused on complaints that Mr. Helgerson’s office has not acted as a fair and impartial judge of agency operations but instead has begun a crusade against those who have participated in controversial detention programs.

    Any move by the agency’s director to examine the work of the inspector general would be unusual, if not unprecedented, and would threaten to undermine the independence of the office, some current and former officials say.

    Frederick P. Hitz, who served as C.I.A. inspector general from 1990 to 1998, said he had no first-hand information about current conflicts inside the agency. But Mr. Hitz said any move by the agency’s director to examine the work of the inspector general would “not be proper.”

    “I think it’s a terrible idea,” said Mr. Hitz, who now teaches at the University of Virginia. “Under the statute, the inspector general has the right to investigate the director. How can you do that and have the director turn around and investigate the I.G.?”
    And of course Hayden’s spokesman says General Mike is looking into Helgerson because he wants the IG to “do its work even better.”

    Sure (and by the way, let’s hope that Hayden is the last military person to serve in a civilian role like this and future presidents will be smart enough to name civilians, and congresses will be smart enough to confirm them – sorry, but I was never comfortable with this arrangement on principle).

    The problem for Hayden, as the story notes, is that the IG is appointed by the president, so this is Dubya’s call (and does anyone seriously think he’s going to go against Hayden here?).

    As you can read here, Helgerson joined the agency in 1971; as you can read here, he began his agency career as an intelligence analyst and later headed units responsible for coverage of Russia, Europe, Africa, and Latin America. He also held a number of senior management posts at CIA, including serving four years as the Agency’s Deputy Director for Intelligence. He also served as CIA’s Director of Congressional Affairs and as Deputy Inspector General.

    Former CIA director George Tenet had this to say about Helgerson…

    “(His) broad experience, outstanding versatility, and absolute commitment to sophisticated intelligence analysis will further enrich the remarkable group of penetrating, unorthodox thinkers who are the heart of the NIC,” Tenet said.
    So what exactly is it that Helgerson supposedly did wrong?

    Well, aside looking into the detention programs as noted above, it seems as if the agency’s clandestine service operators are unhappy at what they see as a string of investigations that have compromised their effectiveness…

    (Hayden) has brought back two veteran agency operatives, Steven R. Kappes and Michael J. Sulick, both of whom angrily left during the tenure of Porter J. Goss, the C.I.A. director, to assume top posts at the spy agency. He also supported the president’s nomination of John A. Rizzo, a career agency lawyer and someone well-respected by covert operatives, to become the C.I.A’s general counsel.

    Mr. Rizzo withdrew his nomination to the post last month in the midst of intense opposition from Senate Democrats.

    “Director Hayden has done a lot of things to convince the operators that he’s looking out for them, and putting the I.G. back in its place is part of this,” said John Radsan, who worked as a C.I.A. lawyer from 2002 to 2004 and is now a professor at William Mitchell College of Law.
    And while looking into this a bit more, I came across this link which provides some rather interesting speculation from the blogger cannonfire as to why Helgerson may be on the way out; namely, a possible connection between the “extraordinary rendition” flights and the drug trade. Cannonfire lists three separate flights that link CIA renditions to the movement of drugs; again, this is speculation, but I think a lot of this stuff fits together.

    Could it be that Helgerson started digging into the renditions and uncovered this activity?

    Would it be so surprising if he had?

    And let’s not forget this administration’s predilection for dispensing with people from time to time who do their jobs too well.

    Update 12/12/07: I think we have a bit more than mere speculation here.

    Thursday, October 11, 2007

    Thursday Videos

    Killswitch Engage ("Holy Diver"; time to get really, really loud!)... for a change of pace; jazz piano legend Thelonious Monk would have been 90 yesterday (Duke Ellington's "In My Solitude," recorded in Berlin in 1973)...

    ...legendary composer Giuseppe Verdi was born on October 10, 1813 (here is an animation inspired by "La Traviata"; I thought this was kind of fun)...

    ...and happy belated birthday to John Prine, still hanging in there ("Your Flag Decal Won't Get You Into Heaven Anymore," recorded at the Philadelphia Folk Festival in 2004).

    How Quickly He Forgets

    Robert Zoellick, the new president of the World Bank, said that, in addition to providing help for the world’s poorest countries, assistance should be provided for “middle income” countries such as China “coping with problems resulting from their fast-growing economies” (here).

    Uh, I don’t think so…

    In the first speech outlining his priorities for the bank since he became its president in the summer, Mr. Zoellick sought to rebut critics who say that the bank should stop helping China, India, Brazil and other countries that can tap capital markets and even carry out foreign aid programs on their own.

    Indeed, in response to that criticism, the bank has lent less money to these countries in recent years.

    But Mr. Zoellick said that 70 percent of the world’s poor live in countries that are prospering over all and that aid was needed to help them deal with environmental damage, energy shortages and other internal problems that breed instability. These countries also need more sophisticated capital markets, he said.
    And it seems like Bob has taken that inimitable Bushco CEO method of screwing things up with him to his new role.

    Some bank executives and officials from development ministries say the new president has been less than clear in outlining his priorities. Many are reluctant to contribute to the bank’s efforts for the poorest countries without knowing more of his thinking.

    Mr. Zoellick, however, has told aides that he does not want to focus too much energy on long documents, regarding them as Soviet-style bureaucratic planning.
    God forbid bank officials actually know what it is that they’re doing under their new boss, right?

    I’m not going to comment on India or Brazil here, Mr. World Bank President, but let me point out why neither you nor anyone else outside of China should do a thing to help it with its “problems” due to prosperity, aided in no small part by financing the debt we so stupidly imparted to them.

    Do you remember a place called Darfur?

    While you were still officially tethered to Bushco, you traveled there about two years ago and preached about how glorious the world of capital markets is to some of the poorest people on earth.

    Well, Darfur is still in crisis, and though I’m not sure how many or how much can actually be salvaged at this point due to the mass political palsy demonstrated by every developed nation on earth, one way you could start to help is by following up on the recommendation of new UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown here (he’s calling for China to exert some of its considerable influence in the crisis there and the one in Myanmar).

    You could tell China that any benefit they receive from your good graces at the World Bank would be conditional based on intervening in those conflicts.

    And China would be angry. Very angry, I’m sure. But you’d be sending a message, and in the tidy, often oh-so-posh-and-genteel world of diplomacy that you seem to know well, I’m sure all parties could reach an accommodation of sorts (hell, just about anything would be better than the horrific status quo).

    See, it has to do with something called Human Rights, Mr. World Bank President (as a former Enron crony and Bushco apologist of course, I realize you wouldn’t know anything about that). If you want the bank to truly act as an agent of change on behalf of those in the world who need it the most, you must consider that also.

    But just stay out of any issue that may arise involving counterfeit currency, please; as noted here, you were feeling pretty triumphant about the havoc wreaked on legitimate British bankers when trying to nail Kim Jong Il, who subsequently stepped up his long-range missile testing as a result (tempers have quieted down lately, but please leave well enough alone there also, OK?).

    It Was “Practical” For Them

    It looks like the sour, self-promoting, holier-than-thou apple doesn’t fall far from the foul Bushco tree, does it?

    So Time asked Jenna Bush 10 questions (tied to her hawking a new book, of course), and one is the following…

    If the war in Iraq is so noble, why aren't you and your sister serving our country there? — Donald Pence, San Francisco

    I understand that point, but there are many ways to serve our country, and I think my skills are better suited for teaching and representing the U.S. in Latin America through UNICEF. I respect the men and women of our country who are over there fighting. It is an unbelievably selfless thing to do. But if people really thought about it, they would know it's not even a practical question.
    Oh, I don’t know about that. You seem like a fairly able-bodied young woman, Jenna. I’m sure you could get into fighting shape to be shipped out over to the Mesopotamian sand pit and face all manner of deprivation, sentenced to the same fate as many your age and older by your father.

    And you might even want to read about these brave women who paid the ultimate price so you could continue to bask in the media spotlight and live in the lap of luxury (and so I could continue to work on this blog, I realize).

    But I guess that’s too much to ask, since, after all, you’re just another Republican dodging the brutal, life-threatening work left to be done by others as far as you’re concerned (like these guys; I knew they would screen out my comment – tee hee…).

    (And by the way, this former president from Texas didn’t exempt his family from service, and he sure as hell attended some of the funerals also.)

    (One more thing - I know going after family members like this is borderline, but she chose to give the quote in the interview, so...)

    Immigrants 1, “No-Match” Mike Chertoff 0

    I really wanted to side with Dubya and Mike (“City Of Louisiana”) Chertoff on this one. I really did. But I can’t.

    As reported here, Bushco tried to get this country’s private employers to do the work of government again in policing illegal aliens, but…

    A federal judge in San Francisco on Wednesday blocked the Bush administration's attempt to enlist the nation's employers to banish illegal immigrants from the workplace.
    Apparently, the plan (such as it was) was for DHS to send out “no-match” letters to affected employers (meaning that some employees’ social security numbers from their W-2 tax forms could not be verified against the numbers in the government’s database), and the employer would receive 90 days to resolve the discrepancy and an additional three days for the employee to submit a new number. If the employer failed to act after that, they would be subject to civil fines and/or criminal prosecution (from the story).


    (U.S. District Judge Charles) Breyer said unions that challenged the administration's proposal had raised serious questions about its legality and had shown that legal workers, and their employers, would suffer far greater hardship from immediate enforcement of the plan than the government would incur by a delay.
    In addition to the unions, the Chamber of Commerce fought this also (and when was the last time that they took a side against this regime)?

    Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, whose agency issued the rule requiring employer notification, said the administration is considering an appeal.
    I'm sure they are.

    The premise of the rule, he said in a statement, is that "employer diligence will make it more difficult for illegal aliens to use a Social Security number to get a job."

    But Lucas Guttentag, chief immigration lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union, which helped represent the unions in a lawsuit challenging the rule, said the plan's fatal flaw is its reliance on error-filled Social Security records that could lead to the firings of hundreds of thousands of citizens and legal residents.

    The administration "showed a callous disregard for legal workers and citizens by adopting a rule that punishes innocent workers and employers under the guise of so-called immigration enforcement," Guttentag said.
    As for Bushco’s business benefactors…

    "It's an attempt to enlist employers as immigration cops," Randy Johnson, vice president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said Wednesday. While such an effort is not necessarily improper, Johnson said, the administration's plan would do little to clear up employer confusion about no-match letters and would snare large numbers of legal employees along with the undocumented.

    The unions made a similar argument, saying the government and employers commonly make mistakes in recording Social Security numbers and that name changes due to marriage and divorce and discrepancies in the spellings of foreign names lead to similar confusion.

    Many legitimate workers would be unable to locate records within sprawling federal agencies and clear up discrepancies within 90 days, the unions said. They said the rule also would prompt employers to fire, or refuse to hire, legal workers with foreign names or appearances.

    (Breyer) found other potential legal problems, including the administration's failure to explain its reversal of a decade-old government policy of not prosecuting employers on the basis of a discrepancy in a worker's Social Security number.

    "Needless to say, this change in position will have massive ramifications for how employers treat the receipt of no-match letters," Breyer said.

    In addition, Breyer said, Homeland Security lacked legal authority for a statement in the letter that assured employers that the government would not sue them for discrimination if they fired workers because of unresolved no-match letters. There has been no such assurance from the Justice Department office that is responsible for such suits, Breyer said.
    How ridiculous is it, by the way, that Chertoff (who is supposedly a lawyer, seeing as how he his name was once actually floated to replace Abu G. at DOJ) didn’t understand the legal parameters of what he was requesting, not knowing that DHS didn’t have the standing to sue employers for non-compliance? And even if they did, can you imagine the tidal wave of litigation that would ensue? And to expect some employers to upgrade their computer systems and records in 90 days with the most accurate information is something out of la-la land.

    Another thing – does anyone seriously believe that the majority of those immigrants, illegal or otherwise, would just automatically say, “OK, I have to leave this country now, so I guess I’ll be going?” If anyone thinks that would happen, they probably also think that we found Saddam Hussein’s WMD in Iraq.

    No, they’ll just move within this country’s underground economy elsewhere. Maybe instead of working at a loading dock for the employer where they were nabbed, they might just move onto working for an overland freight hauler, pumping gas at a station/convenience store, cooking fast food, cleaning a house, or babysitting somebody’s kid.

    Richard Clarke, a man who has forgotten more about the threat of terrorism facing this country than most people will ever know, has said that we need national ID cards. I’m not sure how I can disagree, except to say that I think Diebold, for example, should be disqualified from bidding on a job like that. So the need to control and/or begin to stem the flow of human traffic through our borders is important, I acknowledge.

    And I’ll also admit that I don’t have a solution off the top of my head. However, Mike Chertoff’s half-baked scheme to get business to do Bushco’s job isn’t the answer.

    Happy Birthday To The AUMF

    The Daily Kos blogger smintheus didn’t forget that, on this day five years ago, the Senate approved the Authorization To Use Military Force against Iraq; there are no words I can summon to properly describe the resultant catastrophe that has since taken place. Instead, I will merely note the 23 prescient Senators who did the right thing by opposing it:

    Akaka (D-HI)
    Bingaman (D-NM)
    Boxer (D-CA)
    Byrd (D-WV)
    Chafee (R-RI)
    Conrad (D-ND)
    Corzine (D-NJ)
    Dayton (D-MN)
    Durbin (D-IL)
    Feingold (D-WI)
    Graham (D-FL)
    Inouye (D-HI)
    Jeffords (I-VT)
    Kennedy (D-MA)
    Leahy (D-VT)
    Levin (D-MI)
    Mikulski (D-MD)
    Murray (D-WA)
    Reed (D-RI)
    Sarbanes (D-MD)
    Stabenow (D-MI)
    Wellstone (D-MN)
    Wyden (D-OR)
    And as you can see, there is one notable missing from that list, and I want to comment on her actions related to that fateful vote.

    From here (7/27/2007)…

    (It may be significant that Hillary Clinton, the leading Democratic candidate for president, has called for the revocation of the 2002 Authorization for Use of Military Force against Iraq, but not of the earlier 2001 AUMF which Bush claims makes him commander in chief of a borderless, endless war on terror.)
    From here (10/6/2007)…

    (Former North Carolina senator John Edwards) heaped criticism on Clinton, the front-runner in many polls. He blasted her for recently voting in favor of a Senate resolution to designate Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps a terrorist organization (my note: this actually expands the 2002 AUMF).
    The blogger smintheus astutely noted that there is no recognition of this anniversary on the web sites of any members of Congress, thus making it an orphan.

    I would respectfully disagree, though, noting that the war has at least one mother (if HRC gets the nomination, I’ll support her, but it will be damn difficult).

    Wednesday, October 10, 2007

    LMT And The Deer Hunters

    Local PA stuff coming up here…

    Columnist Kate Fratti of the Bucks County Courier Times weighs in here with more than a bit of an attitude about the proposed deer hunt for Lower Makefield Township to thin the population (no further information available at the moment). And in her column, she also takes the following shot at township residents who have complained about train horns in the dead of night and fire engine sirens at LMT supervisor meetings…

    Listen to them speak, and there's no mistaking these are important people around whom the planet should revolve. Arrogant people.
    In some cases I’m sure, but I would call that just a bit of a generalization.

    We know of people affected by the issues she’s noted, and we have a familiarity ourselves by varying degrees – you’re going to hear the train in most parts of this township as well as areas of Yardley borough, and I’m not sure how much can be done about that (I also know of people who have complained when the trucks arrived early in the morning to haul away recycled items).

    Fratti, however, makes it sound as if the complainers all like in lush, vernal surroundings who bitch about any inconvenience at every opportunity. However, we know people like ourselves who aren’t rich and have told the supervisors that they need help with the deer causing damage to their property and, yes, eating their gardens (particularly in the Yardley Corners development). And we also know of people who have to sleep in the basements of their town homes because the CSX train operators sit on their horns from a quarter of a mile away.

    (The train issue is kind of a long story; as far as I know based on the last time I checked on this, there is a federal standard that must be met concerning the horn decibel level, not for time or distance of using the horn. I’m not sure how that can be regulated; I think all we can do is hope and pray the train operator has a lick of common sense.)

    Yes, I know the deer were here first, and yes, blame the developers for clearing away their habitat if you want. But the LMT supervisors are trying to address the overpopulation issue by thinning the herd as efficiently as possible, which is necessary from time to time.

    I know nobody wants to kill Bambi. But sometimes, you have to, and male-bashing demagoguery isn’t going to solve the problem.

    Welcome To Teh Awesome Romney Bros. Blog!

    Hey kids, you’re not going to believe the news! Why, the five sons of Willard Mitt Romney have, you know, like, started a blog and all that about how they’re going to serve their country by helping their dad get elected president and not by fighting in Iraq! Ripping!

    I mean, it’s got all kinds of cool, blog-like stuff, like photo IDs for each of them who are, like, going to actually post and all that, as well as photos of restaurants where they ate with other white bread Republicans like them who think it’s, like, so awesome that their dad is actually running for President!! And there’s plenty of pictures of happy conservatives everywhere, hangout out, riding in cars, watching movies – you know, stuff that all other Americans can do safely anytime and anywhere they want, you know, as opposed to serving in Iraq.

    And oh yeah, I almost forgot about the best part; photos of The Mitt Mobile! Like, the big van that all the Romneys can ride in all over so they can stop anytime they come across a patch of grass near a cornfield, take out their 9-irons and decide to hit a few golf balls anywhere they want. Ripping again!

    OK, enough of that; I almost made myself sick…

    I have a feeling that the Romney brothers won’t mention any of this, so I will here – it turns out that their dad’s “Advisory Committee On The Constitution And The Courts” is full of members of the Federalist Society, a right-wing group that, among other things, orchestrated “a sophisticated, multi-pronged plan” to make sure Hangin’ Judge J.R. ended up succeeding Wild Bill Rehnquist as the next Chief Justice of the Supreme Court (according to The Hill).

    But don’t worry, I’m sure Mitt doesn’t have to worry about letting that information get out and causing “a penumbra of angst” when his non-Iraq-War-serving sons have come up with such a cool web site (and they even have Meghan McCain, Senator Honor And Virtue’s daughter, posting about cool shoes to buy and other “political” stuff like that).

    And as if that isn’t enough, here’s another magical Romney moment...

    Oh, and by the way, did I forget to mention that none of Romney's five sons are serving in Iraq?

    Update 10/11: Oh yeah, I forgot about this...

    More Standup Tragedy With Mike Huckabee

    Gosh, where’s Major Bowes’ hook when you need it, huh boys and girls?

    It seems that pretend Repug presidential candidate Mike Huckabee is trying to tickle our funny bones again and failing miserably, this time over the matter of killing yourself.

    I gotta hand it to you, Mike; I haven’t had this many laughs since my last tooth extraction.

    And here are more uproarious moments. Enjoy.

    Update 10/30/07: I didn't know that Huckabee ordered the destruction of all of those laptop PC hard drives to protect God knows what (as Bonnie Erbe tells us here), and as a result, incoming Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe had to spend about $335,000 from his operating fund to replace them. Ya' think Huckabee had something to hide that, had it gotten out, might have driven him to "sit in a bathtub with warm water and razor blades"?

    Mercy From The Executioner?

    According to this Yahoo News story, it seems that President Brainless has picked an interesting time to decide that this country is, after all, a member of a community of nations that should abide by international agreements and laws.

    There’s a lot going on here, so I’ll try to break it down as much as I can.

    Jose Ernesto Medellin, a Mexican immigrant, was convicted of raping and murdering two adolescent girls and sentenced to death. However, Dubya is trying to stay his execution and review his case as well as the convictions of 50 other Mexican nationals because they were not offered access to Mexican consular officials after their arrests. This is out of deference to the International Court of Justice in The Hague (where, one day God willing, he will stand as a defendant along with Deadeye Dick Cheney and Rummy as accused war criminals). And The Supremes are scheduled to hear the case today.

    And as writer Massimo Calabresi notes trenchantly here…

    The raucous right is in an uproar, stunned that their one-time hero, George W. Bush, is going against them on a case that combines three of the issues closest to their heart: immigration, the death penalty and international sovereignty. But the real lesson the right wing should take from the case is that the Presidential power they so jealously defend when it is used against foreign nationals looks a lot less attractive when it's applied at home.
    Indeed (and as you can read here, the Texas court has already told Bush to kiss off on this, with respect of course).

    Here is more from the Yahoo story…

    "It's a jujitsu move of acceding to the International Court of Justice ruling, but aggressively pursuing presidential powers at the same time," says Thomas Goldstein, who heads the Supreme Court practice of the Washington law firm of Akin Gump Strauss Hauer and Feld LLP. "The idea is that you can essentially write the states a note and tell them what to do. It's a very novel assertion of presidential powers."
    If Bush ends up winning this round, with the Supremes deciding to comply and favoring expanded presidential power over the desired Repug preference of leaving matters of law such as this to the localities of jurisdiction, then I’d like to see all of the Democratic candidates for the party nomination come out and make the case that what could be deemed as international interference ended up tilting our system of checks and balances ever more precariously towards the executive branch.

    And that would be funny in a way despite the deadly serious circumstances, since it would ensconce the Democrats as “the party of states rights” once and for all.

    How Does It Feel To Get Played?

    Here is Hunter over at The Daily Kos on the continuing freeper outcry towards the family of 12-year-old Graeme Frost, the boy who spoke out on behalf of the Democrats about Dubya’s SCHIP veto…

    It's long past time for people to stop treating Fox-style, Malkin-style, Limbaugh-style conservatism as merely a "political" phenomenon. It may once have been, but it isn't now. As of this millennium, it's nothing but a hate movement with neckties. Protofascism with bright, patriotic logos. Stop treating it with anything but revulsion and disdain. Stop pretending for even a bare moment that they are anything more than thugs.
    And as I finished reading what Hunter said, I found myself wondering how these evangelicals and so-called “values voters” are dealing with the reality that Dubya has proven to be the self-serving, incompetent, unconscionable liar for which history will remember him always (with the Malkinites acting typically as the zealots acting in accordance with the dicta that comes directly from An Oval Office).

    And as luck would have it, I found this column from Jim Wallis, the founder of the evangelical group Sojourners. I wanted to highlight this excerpt in particular…

    Just one day after Bush secured his election in December 2000, I received a phone call inviting me to Austin to meet with him and a small group of religious leaders. The President-elect wanted to discuss his oft-stated passion for really tackling the persistent problem of poverty and to tell us about his vision for "faith-based initiatives." I had not voted for George W. Bush, and that fact was no secret to him or his staff. But he reached out to me, and to others in the faith community across the political spectrum, because we shared a common concern. I was impressed by that, and by the topic of gathering down in Austin.

    Those of us who had been summoned to Texas filed into a little Sunday School classroom at First Baptist, Austin, where we would meet with Bush. I had preached at the church before and knew the pastor, who told me how puzzled he was that his quite "progressive" church was chosen for the meeting. Inside the classroom, 25 of us were seated in chairs, chatting and not knowing what to expect, when Bush walked in without any great introduction. He took a seat and told us that he just wanted to listen to our concerns, to hear what we thought the solutions were for dealing with poverty in America.

    And he really did listen, more than Presidents often do. He also asked questions. One sounded lofty, yet it resonated with those of us seated around the room: "How do I speak to the soul of America?" My answer to that was simple: Focus on the children. Their plight is our shame, I told him, and their promise is our future. Reach them and you reach our soul. Bush nodded in agreement. The conversation was rich and deep for more than an hour and a half.

    When the discussion officially ended, Bush moved around the room, talking with us individually or in small groups for another hour. I could see that his staff was anxious to whisk him away (Cabinet appointments were being made that week and there were key departments yet to fill). Yet he lingered and continued to ask questions. At one point, he turned to me and said, with what I could only read as complete sincerity, "Jim, I don't understand poor people. I've never lived with poor people or been around poor people much. I don't understand what they think and feel about a lot of things. I'm just a white Republican guy who doesn't get it. How do I get it?"

    I still recall the intense and earnest look on his face as he stared right into my eyes and asked his question. It was a moment of humility and candor that, frankly, we don't often see with Presidents.
    You know, Jim, I really wish you’d bothered to learn about Dubya before you decided to allow yourself to succumb to this whole “cult of personality” thing that ended up swaying waaay too many voters to give him and the other Repugs the metaphorical “keys to Dad’s roadster,” which they promptly drove off the cliff the first chance they got.

    If you’d really wanted to learn about what you were dealing with, you needed look only to The Eternal Molly Ivins (here)…

    There was a telling episode in 1999 when the Department of Agriculture came out with its annual statistics on hunger, showing that once again Texas was near the top. Texas is a perennial leader in hunger because we have 43 counties in South Texas (and some in East Texas) that are like Third World countries. If our border region were a state, it would be first in poverty, first in the percentage of schoolchildren living in poverty, first in the percentage of adults without a high school diploma, 51st in income per capita, and so on.

    When the 1999 hunger stats were announced, Bush (then governor, of course) threw a tantrum. He thought it was some malign Clinton plot to make his state look bad because he was running for president. "I saw the report that children in Texas are going hungry. Where?" he demanded. "No children are going to go hungry in this state. You'd think the governor would have heard if there are pockets of hunger in Texas." You would, wouldn't you? That is the point at which ignorance becomes inexcusable. In five years, Bush had never spent time with people in the colonias, South Texas' shantytowns; he had never been to a session with Valley Interfaith, a consortium of border churches and schools and the best community organization in the state. There is no excuse for a governor to be unaware of this huge reality of Texas.

    Take any area -- environment, labor, education, taxes, health -- and go to the websites of public-interest groups in that field. You will find page after page of minor adjustments, quiet repeals, no-big-deal new policies, all of them cruel, destructive, and harmful. A silent change in regulations, an executive order, a funding cutoff. No headlines. Below the radar. Again and again and again. Head Start, everybody's favorite government program, is being targeted for "improvement" by leaving it to the tender mercies of Mississippi and Alabama. An AIDS program that helps refugees in Africa and Asia gets its funding cut because one of the seven groups involved once worked with the United Nations, which once worked with the Chinese government, which once supported forced abortions.
    Any time any circumstance at all has occurred that affects people in this country not of privilege, and it has unfortunately run smack into Dubya’s blinkered, ideologically-twisted vision of how The United States, Inc. is supposed to operate (including SCHIP, of course), ideology always wins (I know this is hardly news to us, but it bears repeating, for now and for all time, I’m afraid).

    And I would say it’s long past time for those who voted for this clown, particularly in 2004, to come clean and admit the error of their ways.

    As for Wallis – gee, Jim, we’ve been screaming about Dubya for years, and apparently you’re just waking up to his loathsomeness only now?

    Do you still think “the left doesn’t get it?”

    As we ponder this, let me point out that, in my ongoing wish to learn whether or not Philistines such as Wallis have FINALLY waken up to the reality of what they have unleashed over these last few years (talking about many of the 30-percent-or-so “dead enders” who probably still think Saddam Hussein was responsible for 9/11 and always will), I just filled out a membership to these people. File it under the heading of “keeping your friends close, but your enemies closer,” as that noted philosopher Michael Corleone once said.

    If I find anything interesting, I’ll pass it along (and who knows how many other Email groups I may get added to as a result - a lot of the dreck these people manufacture is merely tedious repitition of the typical lies, but every once in a while they slip up and let us know what's really going on, and when they do, I'll be there for it).

    And don’t worry – I’ll never “go over to the dark side.”

    (To be fair, though, it's nice that they wished Michelle Obama well after her auto accident, as do I and all of us I'm sure. It would have been better, though, if they'd proofread their copy.)

    Update 1 10/11/07: I meant to add this earlier, but my technical difficulties have resumed - aaaarrrggghhhh!!!

    Update 2 10/11/07: Our corporate media, clueless as always...

    I Think You're "De 'Ho," Larry

    Yep, I know I'm late again on another story, this one having to do with Larry Craig's induction into the Idaho Hall of Fame (so much snark, so little time).

    Well, here is a tribute to Senator "Wide Stance" for this recognition (and once again, thanks to Our Man Arlen Specter for convincing Craig not to resign).

    And bad luck there on not being able to withdraw your guilty plea, Larry - what a shame...not!

    Tuesday, October 09, 2007

    Tuesday Videos

    Live ("Operation Spirit," going back to 1991)...

    ...three rock icons coming up; Happy Birthday to Jackson Browne ("Late For The Sky," recorded on the program "Soundstage" from Chicago in 1976 - the video and audio is a little beat up, but I won't pass up a chance to link to this song)...

    ...John Entwistle of The Who would have been 63 today ("Substitute," from the Monterrey Pop Festival in 1967 - you barely saw him, but they wouldn't have been The Who without him)...

    ...and John Lennon would have been 67 ("Working Class Hero").

    Tuesday PA Dem Wrapup

    This letter appeared today in the Bucks County Courier Times…

    Commendations to Congressman Patrick Murphy for being one of the first co-sponsors of House Resolution 282, which prevented the Postal Service from contracting out letter carrier work. In some cities, USPS was hiring private contractors, for low wages and no benefits, to deliver mail.

    The National Association of Letter Carriers could not reach a new contract with the USPS. Thanks to two pieces of legislation, including HR 282, USPS came back to the bargaining table. In our new agreement, there is a five-year moratorium on contracting out all city delivery routes, which includes communities like Bensalem and Levittown.

    Letter carriers are the eyes and ears of the communities they serve. Thanks to this legislation, your letter carrier will remain someone who you know and trust.

    Bill Lucini
    Bristol Township, PA
    And this editorial appeared also…

    It's easy to criticize; it's a lot harder to offer positive solutions. And so we asked the Democrats running for county commissioner to put or shut up on the issue of pay-to-play politics, which they've made the centerpiece of their campaign.

    To their credit, Democrats Diane Marseglia and Steve Santarsiero put up meaty responses to our challenge.

    First, a review: The Democrats launched their attack by noting that county boards and commissions are heavily populated with Republicans. From a proportional standpoint, Republican numbers far exceed the GOP's registration edge.

    Next, and more damning, the Democrats documented that professional consultants hired by the GOP-led county board of commissioners often are contributors to the Republican Party. In fact, several contracts were awarded to firms on the very days that party contributions rolled in from employees of those firms.

    Hiring practices of this sort raise reasonable questions about what taxpayers are getting for their money. And the cozy appearance damages public confidence.

    But what would the Democrats do? How would they handle appointments if not picking from a list of contributors and political hacks? We asked that question. We also asked if the Democrats would swear off giving legal work to Democratic Party Chairman John Cordisco, who heads his own law firm.

    The Democrats came back strong. “I can tell you right now we're not going to hire Cordisco,” Santarsiero said when he and Marseglia met with out editorial board last week. Cordisco agreed, saying “it would be wrong” to take county work.

    It's fair to mention, as the Republicans did, that Marseglia voted to hire Cordisco's firm during her first term as a Middletown supervisor — something she said she won't do if elected commissioner.

    On the issue of professional consultants and other advisors, the Democrats said they'd appoint a non-partisan county ethics commission that, in addition to policing the conduct of county employees and appointees, would vet applicants for professional contracts.

    We think that's a good idea. Even better is their promise to use the panel to also review applicants for county boards and commissions, with recommendations focusing solely on experience and background — and what an applicant would bring to county government.

    We like the Democrats' proposal so much that we challenge the Republicans to match it. And we don't mean with the current review process that involves the county chief operating officer, solicitor and two department heads. Problem is, all four are Republicans and tied to county government.

    We think the board of commissioners would benefit from independent perspective on these issues. Indeed, “pay to play” might not be an issue in this campaign were the commissioners less aware of who gave what to the party and more focused on who can give what to taxpayers.
    To help Diane and Steve, click here.

    Perino Punts On The Kurd “Turkey Shoot”

    More Bushco distortions and evasions coming up (from here)…

    MS. PERINO: Hello. I have nothing to start with, so --

    Q Is the United States concerned about Turkey's plans to conduct military operations in Iraq in pursuit of Kurdish rebels?

    MS. PERINO: You're talking about the action they're discussing in their parliament today?

    Q Yes.

    MS. PERINO: Let me go back a couple steps. We have long been supportive of Turkey, to make sure they have what they need in order to stop terrorist activity in northern Iraq. And the Iraqi government is in agreement with that, as well. And on September 28th, the Turks and the Iraqis came together on an agreement to work together, cooperatively, against terrorism. We're supportive of those efforts. And I think it's hypothetically charged to talk about an incursion or an invasion, so I think I'll decline to comment on that.
    Leave it to Bushco to typically avoid the question in a preamble of sorts to its actual answer, and then huffily decline to give the answer anyway.

    Well, here is the issue pertaining to the question (in particular)…

    Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has given the green light for possible military action against Kurdish rebels based in northern Iraq, drawing a warning from the United States, which fears wider regional instability.

    The ruling AK Party said it would request, as soon as possible, Parliament's authorisation for a major incursion into the mainly Kurdish region, Turkish private broadcasters CNN Turk and NTV reported.

    The US has urged the hold off on unilateral action, fearing it could destabilise Iraq's most peaceful area and potentially the wider region.

    Mr Erdogan is under pressure from Turkey's powerful armed forces and the Opposition to take action against rebels of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) after they shot dead 13 soldiers on Sunday near the Iraqi border.
    And as noted here…

    If Turkey did invade northern Iraq, the incursion would not lack precedent. In 1995 and 1997, Turkey used 35,000 soldiers to conduct raids against the PKK (Kurdistan Worker's Party). In both cases they remained in Iraq for fewer than 60 days and did not completely eradicate the Kurdish elements that they claimed were responsible for conducting attacks. A future invasion would be similar: a short incursion with limited success. Indeed, an incursion by Turkish forces against PKK elements would violate the new perception of territorial sovereignty that has grown in Kurdistan since the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

    While most Kurds in northern Iraq are not members of the PKK, a perceived violation of territorial sovereignty of Kurdistan would unify the Kurdish population to either support the PKK to a greater extent or develop an increased Kurdish independence movement. Without the support of the Kurdish population, especially their military, the unity and stabilization of Iraq will be severely inhibited, requiring either more U.S. military forces to fill in the gaps left by the Kurdish troops or instigating a civil war that could spread throughout the region. The Kurdish population is one of the only stable influences in Iraq and the loss of their support would reverberate throughout Iraq, Iran and Syria.

    Turkey's invasion of Iraq would have limited benefits for Turkey and disastrous implications for Iraq. The violation of state sovereignty that a Turkish incursion represents would present the Iraqi government as ineffectual and unable to protect its own borders. Jalal Talabani, the president of Iraq, would be forced into a difficult position, having to choose between his ethnic group and his country. Turkey would gain little more than a minor disruption of PKK activity and would ultimately foster increased hostility from the Kurdish community, including the possibility of establishing an open policy of support for Kurdish separatists in other countries.
    And how much do you want to bet that, when the Turkish army invades Kurdistan, Perino will be one of the first to claim that “no one could have foreseen this”? It will suddenly be a hell of a lot more than "hypothetically charged" when bombs start blowing up Kurdish homes and people are getting killed.

    Alphonso Jackson's House Of Cards

    At least I’ll say this much about Bushco; when it comes to cronyism, hubris and incompe- tence, they’re definitely “equal opportunity offenders.”

    With that in mind, here’s a story that appeared in the New York Times last Thursday (a little late on this, I know)…

    WASHINGTON, Oct. 4 — The Justice Department is investigating ties between Housing and Urban Development Secretary Alphonso R. Jackson and a friend of Mr. Jackson’s who was paid hundreds of thousands of dollars by him for rebuilding work in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, federal officials said Thursday.

    The investigation, they said, centers in part on whether Mr. Jackson was fully truthful in Congressional testimony and in interviews with federal investigators when he said he had not steered housing contracts to friends and administration supporters.
    I really don’t know what to say about Jackson as I read this story (as well as rereading this prior post, and georgia10 has more here).

    I mean, we know Bushco is a bunch of crooks, but is it asking too much to at least keep quiet about it? Don’t they have some kind of a playbook written by Karl Rove telling the people in this administration to shut their respective pie holes when they’re doling out work to their buddies (in this case, about $485,000 from Jackson to his friend William Hairston, whose only apparent qualification is that he’s a golfing partner with Jackson in Hilton Head, S.C. where Hairston lives, as noted in the story)?

    The good news for Jackson is that this is supposedly going to be investigated by the Justice Department, assuming the DOJ can get its own act together under Michael Mukasey; somehow, with the endless stream of Bushco malfeasance, I have a feeling this will be determined as something less than a priority (which, of course, is a tragedy in particular for the people depicted in this video).

    "Clap" Hanson And Ramadi In Chaos

    I hadn’t heard from that noted classicist and war pornographer Victor Davis Hanson for a little while in the Bucks County Courier Times, and being a curious sort, I decided to find out what he was up to.

    Well, lo and behold, he’s still preaching “the gospel of the surge,” which “of course” is working as far as he’s concerned (in this NRO link – sorry to inflict this on you)…

    …we might well be witnessing an historic change in Iraq that would have profound effects throughout the region. The Iraqis are just beginning to step up effectively to their own defense, and are reaching out to the Americans-rather than solely vice versa as was mostly true between 2003-6. The result is that in a once frightening place like Ramadi — declared “beyond repair” in 9/06 in a sober and carefully written Marine intelligence report — Marine casualties have plummeted, reconstruction is underway, and everyone seems to be a bit dazed about the sudden calm after the horrific past storm — and whether it will continue.
    I don’t know exactly what it says about Hanson that he still hangs onto these tortured dreams of something approximating success in Iraq while other war apologists such as Tom Friedman (who told a different tale here - video may be n/a by now, though) and Christopher Hitchens have long since issued mea culpas of a sort for their behavior.

    Well, for the reality-based perspective on what has transpired in Ramadi under the late Sheikh Abu Risha, I give you this, particularly this excerpt…

    Correspondent Katie Halper: You were the last Western journalists to videotape an interview with Abu Risha. What was he like? What was his significance?

    Rick Rowley, journalist and independent filmmaker and one of the last people to see Sheikh Abu Risha alive: He seemed stiff and scripted. He told us some incredible lies during the interview. Three times he said he was the leader of all the Arab tribes of Iraq -- both Shia and Sunni. And like a bad poker player's tell, every time he told a lie he sniffed loudly.

    He was a figurehead for a movement, the face they put on this story. Operationally, militarily, he wasn't particularly important. In his interview with us he said there was 100 percent security in Ramadi, that he was head of all of the tribes in Iraq. That has proven, in a horrifying way, to not be true. His assassination has blown a hole in the American story about security in Anbar. It's going to have a chilling effect on other tribes in other parts of the country who were thinking it might be safe to work with the Americans.
    This is not surprising, unfortunately. As James Wolcott points out so astutely here, Hanson has been writing variations of the same war apologist garbage for years (such as here and here).

    And speaking of war apologists, I must mention the latest in true freeper idiocy from Fred Barnes, another of Hanson’s fellow travelers, who called Barack Obama weak on national security for being completely and utterly correct about the Iraq war (h/t Atrios).

    Fall Labor Pains

    I’ve been reading about the decision by the Service Employees International Union not to endorse a particular Democratic candidate for the party’s nomination, and I keep trying to figure out how this is a positive development (for someone besides Hillary Clinton, I mean).

    True, the Edwards campaign will receive the support of “hundreds of thousands of SEIU members,” as spokesman Eric Schultz pointed out, which is bound to provide a shot in the arm, as it were, in terms of money, backers, and workers doing the nuts-and-bolts leg work for the campaign (and of course Barack Obama and Clinton herself will be helped out, as well as other Democratic candidates reaping benefits of varying degrees).

    But to dilute the clout of a single national endorsement for anyone dilutes the power of organized labor in general in the campaign, as far as I’m concerned.

    And for a bit of a history lesson on this, I went back to this article by Ryan Lizza of The New Republic from 2003 in which the SEIU threw its support solidly behind Howard Dean (and, of course, we know how that turned out; John Kerry spent a ton of dough in Iowa, the media replayed the “Dean Scream” about a million times, Diebold and Kenneth Blackwell in Ohio did what they did best – with the help of a whole bunch of homophobic voters – and George W. Bush and Dick Cheney lived happily ever after).

    And as I read this excerpt, it made me realize how much of our current debate is similar to what we were talking about four years ago, and probably a lot longer also…

    Because many of its members are employed in low-wage jobs without health benefits, SEIU made it clear to every candidate seeking its endorsement that he or she had to have a comprehensive, written health care plan. An SEIU advertisement at the airport in Des Moines, Iowa, greets passengers with this message: "Running for president? Health care better be your priority." (Former Democratic presidential hopeful and U.S. House Rep Dick) Gephardt based his whole campaign strategy on this warning. Gephardt knew he could already count on the support of the industrial unions because of his long record fighting NAFTA and other trade deals. But those unions -- think Rust Belt, blue-collar workers who actually make stuff -- weren't enough to get him the AFL-CIO's endorsement. To get to the magic two-thirds majority, he needed SEIU, whose members -- think urban black and Hispanic janitors, security guards, and nurses -- aren't as affected by globalization. "They care about trade, but at the same time they don't see this dogged loyalty to Dick Gephardt because he was with us on NAFTA," says the Democratic labor consultant.
    I’m not sure I agree with Lizza’s generalizations about globalization, but my point is that Dean presented a health care plan and came out against the war when the latter move was still highly unpopular. Edwards presented his health care plan first in the campaign and came out against the war before anyone else also, but I think Andy Stern’s decision to withhold an endorsement represents a “lesson learned” from Dean’s failed candidacy.

    All the same…

    The implications of an SEIU endorsement are huge. SEIU is home to many recent Hispanic immigrants and other minorities. Its membership is 28 percent black and Latino, and it represents more immigrant workers than any other union. Coming on top of high-profile African American endorsements from the likes of Jesse Jackson Jr., SEIU's stamp of approval would immediately change the Dean campaign's image as a narrow movement of high-tech, latte-town liberals. And SEIU, which is influential in New Hampshire, the first primary state, as well as in delegate-rich California and New York, will give Dean a large ground force of experienced organizers to complement his own.
    I guess the “latte-town” liberals remark is just a reminder that, after all, we’re reading from Joe Lieberman Weekly here.

    And Stern doesn't just bring SEIU with him. His endorsement could be similar to Gerald McEntee's 1992 nod to Bill Clinton. McEntee, president of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), spoke glowingly of Clinton at a critical moment before the primaries started in January 1992; and he also freed local AFSCME to back the Arkansas governor. The move was a severe blow to Tom Harkin, who, like Gephardt today, was a longtime labor ally with deep industrial union support. McEntee opened doors for Clinton's campaign and was seen as a kingmaker.
    I’m not sure there is a direct parallel between today and some of what Lizza mentions here, but it does give an idea of how a single national endorsement could change the picture on behalf of Edwards (or Barack Obama or any other candidate in the field).

    I understand that not naming a single candidate is a move by Stern not to get burned as he was four years ago, but I don’t understand how splintering the SEIU’s impact in this race can obviate anything but the Democratic coronation of HRC next year (please let me be wrong, though).

    Monday, October 08, 2007

    Monday Videos

    October Project ("Bury My Lovely," something gothic and appropriate for a turn in the weather for these parts that should arrive shortly)...

    ...and happy belated birthday to singer/songwriter Don McLean, which I couldn't note last week because of the technical issues ("If We Try," from the "American Pie" heyday; this was always a sentimental favorite - I have no clue as to what is going on with this slide show, but it's still nice just to hear the song).

    Our Corporate Media Tips Its Hand

    From the AP’s Nedra Pickler (here)…

    NEW HAMPTON, Iowa - Hillary Rodham Clinton has taken the lead among Democratic presidential candidates in an Iowa poll, an encouraging sign of progress toward overcoming a big hurdle in the race.
    (Oh, and by the way, here is Pickler in action taking a partisan shot at Barack Obama, and here is Pickler allowing Bill Donahue a soapbox from which he can slime Amanda Marcotte and Melissa McEwen to the point where they decided to leave the John Edwards campaign, though Pickler didn’t bother to look into some of Donahue’s infamous remarks.)

    “An encouraging sign of progress,” huh? Well, at least Pickler didn’t write about Clinton’s “laugh,” which many other corporate media stooges are doing (I’m not going to say more about it; it truly isn’t worth it).

    Gee, I don’t know who edits copy over at the AP, but I can tell you that some of my journalism profs would have “ripped me a new one” if I’d handed in stuff like this, to say nothing of former employers.

    I don’t think it’s any big revelation to say that Hillary Clinton is the candidate of the status quo. And that is why our dear corporate media cousins love her so.

    I respect her intellect and her tenacity, and she’s better than over half of the men taking up space in the Capitol building, but if she ends up getting the big chair (and I’ll support her if she gets the nomination, but we’re nowhere near that point yet, despite what Pickler and her ilk say), it will be progress for sure, but for the “Liebercrats” more than anyone else.

    And I thought this exchange noted by kos earlier spoke volumes…

    At a campaign stop (in New Hampshire), Hillary Clinton sparred verbally for several minutes with a man who pressed her on her recent vote to call Iran's army a terrorist organization.

    Randall Rolph, from nearby Nashua, asked why he should support Clinton's candidacy when she did not appear to have learned any lessons from having voted to authorize force in Iraq.

    Clinton thanked him for the question and explained her Iran vote would lay the groundwork for using diplomacy and sanctions to pressure that government.
    Clinton accused the man of being a plant who had been sent to ask the question, to which he took exception, saying the question was a result of his own research.

    "I apologize," Clinton said, explaining that she had been asked the very same question in three other places.
    As kos noted, Hillary is being asked that question because her vote on the Kyl-Lieberman amendment was so unconscionable (and the person who should get the Dem nomination noted that here). And she’s going to get asked about that a lot more from here on in (and I realize that Lt. Gen. Kennedy could have been a Repug "plant," by the way).

    And speaking of Dems dead wrong on Iraq, that brings us to none other than Sideshow Bob Casey, who offered this typical pabulum concerning Iran (here)…

    "We've got to get Iran right—for the country's sake and our own," says Democratic Sen. Robert Casey Jr., a moderate from Pennsylvania.
    Bob Casey, Master Of The Obvious™…

    Well Bob, the first thing you could have done to “get it right” is avoid falling into the same trap Senator Clinton fell into, but of course you ended up voting for Lieberman-Kyl also, just as you voted for the FISA scam before your summer recess and voted against the Feingold amendment to cut off funding for the war by next March (and oh yes, there was that untidy little business about a certain New York Times full page ad, as I recall here - you actually did vote the right way on the Webb Amendment, though, miraculously enough).

    Basically, Bob, as far as I’m concerned with your track record, if you “get Iran right,” it will be a fracking miracle.