Friday, May 16, 2008

Friday Stuff

Here's why "Senator Honor And Virtue" should fire his chief political adviser Charlie Black...

...and the next time you hear that "straight-talking maverick" criticizing Obama or anyone else for expressing a wish to have a dialogue of sorts with Hamas, remember what he said here to James Rubin (hat tips for these two videos to The Daily Kos)...

...and leave it to The Onion to ask the question on no one's lips (well, maybe one or two people), and that is this: Are politicians failing our lobbyists?...

...and I'll bet you were just wondering what went on while Falafel Boy had his legendary meltdown, didn't you? Well, now you know.

Where The Rubber Meets The Road (5/16/08)

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.


Federal mortgage relief. Voting 266-154, the House authorized a program in which mortgage holders would refinance hundreds of thousands of at-risk home loans in return for Federal Housing Administration backing of those loans and other benefits. Now before the Senate, the bill (HR 3221) is designed to rescue up to 500,000 mortgages, totaling $300 billion, that are now headed for default.
A yes vote backed the legislation.

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

Voting no: Frank A. LoBiondo (R., N.J.), Joseph R. Pitts (R., Pa.), and H. James Saxton (R., N.J.).
This is the work first and foremost of Barney Frank, the chairman of the House Financial Services committee, which he crafted after meeting with Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke (as noted here).

And as I noted earlier, President No More Golf In “Tribute” To Our Dead And Wounded Service People has threatened a veto because it is “a burdensome bailout that would open taxpayers to too much risk.”

Does he mean “burdensome” financially? If so, I have a question; how much is the Iraq war costing us again?

Homeowner tax breaks. Voting 322-94, the House adopted an amendment to HR 3221 that authorizes $7,500 tax credits for first-time home purchases and allows taxpayers who do not itemize deductions to treat up to $700 of their 2008 property taxes as a federal tax deduction. The measure also authorizes housing authorities to issue $10 billion in tax-exempt bonds to refinance subprime loans and provide low-income rental housing.

A yes vote backed the amendment.

Voting yes: Andrews, Brady, Castle, Dent, Fattah, Gerlach, Holden, LoBiondo, Murphy, Schwartz, Sestak and Smith.

Voting no: Pitts and Saxton.
At least Saxton has the decency to be leaving; if Pitts had a speck of integrity, he’d do the same thing (and once more, to help Bruce Slater, click here).

Home foreclosures. Voting 239-188, the House sent the Senate a bill (HR 5818) providing $15 billion in grants and loans through 2013 for a program to help communities and nonprofit organizations buy, rehabilitate and occupy vacant, foreclosed homes. Families with incomes below the regional median income would then be offered the properties for purchase or rental.

A yes vote was to pass the bill.

Voting yes: Andrews, Brady, Fattah, Holden, Murphy, Schwartz and Sestak.

Voting no: Castle, Dent, Gerlach, LoBiondo, Pitts, Saxton and Smith.
This was sponsored by Maxine Waters of California, as noted here; also, here is an extended Center for American Progress article about what the organization proposes for the current downturn, including the Waters bill (the party line vote here indicates some continued Repug reality avoidance, which is not surprising at all).


Wind-damage insurance. Voting 19-74, the Senate defeated an amendment to expand the National Flood Insurance Program to cover wind damage as well as water damage. This occurred during debate on a bill (S 2284) to renew and reform the FEMA-run program, which serves 5.5 million policyholders in 20,000 communities. The bill remained in debate.

A yes vote backed the amendment.

Voting yes: Frank Lautenberg (D., N.J.) and Robert Menendez (D., N.J.).

Voting no: Thomas Carper (D., Del.), Bob Casey Jr. (D., Pa.), and Arlen Specter (R., Pa.).

Not voting: Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D., Del.).
I tend to go along with Chris Dodd and Richard Shelby on this here (amazing I agree with Shelby on anything, I guess) in that it would make the NFIP prohibitively expensive. Of course, the New Jersey senators needed to vote “yes” on this given the state’s ocean exposure, but there was no real need for anyone else to do so.

This week, the House took up an Iraq-Afghanistan war-funding bill (it didn't pass due to a Repug parliamentary gimmick). The Senate debated energy programs and flood insurance, with a possible vote by both chambers on the farm-bill conference report.

More "Bang Up Comedy" From Mike Huckabee

The man who once made a “joke” about taking some razor blades with him to the bathtub (here) and also made similarly stupid remarks about looking emaciated after escaping from a concentration camp run by the “Democrat” Party (here) is now trying to be funny over the attempted murder of the presumptive nominee against John McCain for the presidential election in November (here).

For a guy who is supposed to be a preacher, Mike Huckabee sure is some kind of screwed up mess of a human being.

Now watch Chuck Norris come and try to kick my ass for saying so.

Update: Daily Kos blogger smintheus has more here.

A "Very Tall Order" For John W. McBush

The New York Times wrote this editorial today, including the following (it started out with some nice sound bites from McCain, though the Times rightly notes that they were likely spurred on by the coming electoral Repug disaster)...

Mr. McCain said he would achieve victory in Iraq by 2013, for instance, without a glimmer about how he would do it. The Democratic candidates know that the next president’s task will be to extricate the United States from an unwinnable situation as cleanly as possible, not to hold out for an impossible final victory.

His promise to respect the constitutional balance between Congress and the White House raised questions, too. Is he willing to find and fix all the ways that Mr. Bush has undermined the Constitution and abridged civil liberties? Or is he just promising to do better?

Mr. McCain’s record is not encouraging. His approval was critical to the passage of the Military Commissions Act of 2006, one of the most damaging pieces of legislation in the nation’s history. It created kangaroo courts at Guantánamo and suspended habeas corpus, a prisoner’s fundamental right to a hearing in a real court.

Mr. McCain won some improvements in the bill’s provisions on the treatment of prisoners, but acquiesced to an appallingly cynical deal that exempted the intelligence agencies from a ban on the torture, abuse and humiliation of detainees.

Just talking about change is not enough. Look at the Republican Party’s witless attempt to repackage itself with a new Barack Obama-like sound bite, only to find that “The Change You Deserve” was the ad slogan for an antidepressant.

Mr. McCain’s speech highlighted some of the most egregious failures of the failed Bush presidency. But he needs to do much more to persuade the country that he has the ideas and the will to address them — and that his party, which refused to question Mr. Bush for seven long years, is really the one to change direction.

It is a very tall order.
Indeed (and here's more on that).

Revisiting The Mike Allen Horror Show

Aside from Dubya’s typically disgusting copouts on Iraq and his lie about giving up golf for the war (still almost too unbelievable for words, though K.O. still managed to summon ample language in his spirited evisceration yesterday), there was this choice excerpt that I wanted to note in that wretched interview (I could probably spend the rest of my life refuting Dubya’s propaganda and utter lies, but after awhile you start feeling like all you’re doing is punching a wall made out of Nerf)…

Q: Mr. President, I know you're not going to believe this transition, but the Congress and Democrats now have been in charge for the Capitol for 18 months. I wonder if you care to give them a grade.

Bush: Well, one thing is for certain, Michael, that I've laid out a very aggressive agenda: a trade agreement with Colombia to help our economy continue to grow; making sure we got the tools necessary to protect our country from attack; supporting our troops in harm's way. And there hasn't been much action. And we got a housing crisis, and I proposed a reasonable set of reforms. And so I would call them stalled. I would call them, so far, good at verbiage and not so good at results.
Well, here is a list of "results" from last June and an update to that (a mixed bag, I’ll admit) from last December (better have someone help you read it, Dubya - it goes beyond the length of a Bazooka Joe Bubble Gum cartoon).

And concerning the housing crisis, this tells us of the rescue plan crafted by Senate Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd along with the committee’s top Repug, Richard Shelby.

Which, of course, faces the inevitable veto threat from President Clueless.

(Oh, and by the way, you morons, this is Chase Utley from the Phillies, not “Ottley” – way to “fact check,” people; a minor point I know, but it still bugged me.)

Snarlin’ Arlen’s Goal-Line Stand For Team Comcast

The Inquirer reported yesterday that our PA Republican senator is after the National Football League once more…

Specter on Wednesday called for an independent investigation of the New England Patriots' taping of opposing coaches' signals, possibly similar to the high-profile Mitchell Report on performance enhancing drugs in baseball.

"What is necessary is an objective investigation," Specter said at a news conference in the Capitol. "And this one has not been objective."

The Pennsylvania Republican was unforgiving of his criticism of NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, saying that Goodell has made "ridiculous" assertions that wouldn't fly "in kindergarten." The Senator said Goodell was caught in an "apparent conflict of interest" because the NFL doesn't want the public to lose confidence in the league's integrity.
And Arlen also rambled on about how football players are such role models…yaddah yaddah yaddah.

And even though Ted Kennedy is hardly an impartial observer in this, he was quoted as follows…

"With the war in Iraq raging on, gasoline prices closing in on $4 a gallon, and Americans losing their homes at record rates to foreclosure, the United States Senate should be focusing on the real problems that Americans are struggling with," the Democrat said. "I'm looking forward to another great Patriots season where they can let their play on the field speak for itself."
I would be inclined to agree with that.

OK, for all of our sakes, I’m going to cut to the chase here and let you know about what’s really going on (and with most stories involving politics and anything that touches on the media, particularly in the Philadelphia area, it involves Comcast – I’ll get to them in a minute).

This tells us that Specter was mad at the NFL in 2006 for the following reason…

Specter said the NFL should not use (its antitrust) exemption to negotiate exclusive programming packages such as DirectTV Inc.'s "Sunday Ticket," which allows viewers to watch teams outside their regional market.

"As I look at what the NFL is doing today with the NFL channel with the DirectTV ... a lot of people, including myself, would like to be able to have that ticket," Specter said.

Among the grievances cited by Specter in what he termed a "fans be damned" mentality demonstrated by the NFL was the relocation of franchises, and decisions like the one that moved Monday Night Football from ABC, an over-the-air network broadcaster, to ESPN, a cable entity.
Both of which are owned by Disney, by the way, which Comcast tried to acquire, though it failed to do so (here, and Specter replayed this a year later here).

How does Comcast fit into this? Well, DirectTV is a competitor of Comcast (here). Also, Comcast wants the right to include the NFL Channel as a premium channel (more $$) instead of part of basic service, but it can’t do that as long as the NFL owns it because of its antitrust exemption (there’s other stuff going on here, but that’s what matters the most).

And by the way (as noted here), Specter’s two biggest campaign contributors are 1) Blank Rome, a PAC set up by a law firm that represents Comcast, and 2) Comcast (not much else to think about, is there?). So it stands to reason that Specter’s marching orders are to do whatever he can to ultimately rid the NFL of its antitrust exemption.

And what does the senator have to say for himself in response?

"They have been a campaign contributor," Specter said, "along with 50,000 other people ... I've been at this line of work for a long time, and no one has ever questioned my integrity."
Yep, they don’t call him “Snarlin’ Arlen” for nothing (and by the way, Senator, I’m still waiting to hear about that book deal).

Raining On Flowers

The Philadelphia Daily News' hacktacular freeper pundit provides the following today (tough choice between posting on her or the weekly Friday commercial for the war by Kevin Ferris in the Inquirer)…

Stereotyping is such fun. Problem is, it's almost never accurate, and usually ends up revealing more about the prejudices of those who use labels to make their arguments than it does about the people being labeled.
And then, a few paragraphs later…

There is that sense among people with college degrees, 401(k)s and wine cellars that those who never made it to their educational or economic level have a stunted existence that makes them much more susceptible to racism and sexism and all the other -isms (except, of course, "multiculturalism") that make them unworthy of the vote.
Yes, “Stereotyping” is fun, isn’t it, Christine? Especially when used to try and enforce talking points about people who support Barack Obama that have no credibility (however, if you’re really writing about people of your ideological ilk but you don’t have the courage to say so, that’s something wholly other).

And by the way, I don’t have a wine cellar either.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Thursday Stuff

K.O.'s "Special Comment" from May 14th, Part 1...

...and Part 2 (h/t profmarcus; and he gives the Knesset speech today AFTER this - we've been saying that Dubya is delusional for awhile now...wouldn't it have been nice if more people had listened to us?).

Fun With Joe And Dave

The whole “Bush and his cowardly sneak attack on Obama at the Knesset” thing just won’t die, as it turns out, though that's a good thing really (third post of the day on this topic based on this Daily Kos post).

And kudos to one of the senators from MBNA (and I’m definitely not referring to Tom Carper) for this…

"This is bullshit, this is malarkey. This is outrageous, for the president of the United States to go to a foreign country, to sit in the Knesset . . . and make this kind of ridiculous statement."

"He is the guy who has weakened us," he said. "He has increased the number of terrorists in the world. It is his policies that have produced this vulnerability that the U.S. has. It’s his [own] intelligence community [that] has pointed this out, not me."
I still have no regrets about not supporting Biden for president – he’s a good man and he’d be an excellent Secretary of Defense for Obama, but there are too many bogus votes for me to ever reach a comfort level with him on any higher office.

And in the House, we had this exchange between Dem David Obey (pictured) and Repug John Culberson of Texas over the alleged “pork” and “tax hikes” in the emergency supplemental for Iraq (with Obey confronting Culberson to identify the “pork,” which Culberson couldn’t, of course).

(Kind of slumming it with the posting today I know because of this ongoing item; I’ve got something in the works that I may or may not get to today.)

Crackpot History From “The Straight Talk Express”

I updated an earlier post on the latest Obama-bashing with this link to today’s Times story by Elisabeth Bumiller, who once more continues to actually practice journalism again by following up when McCain says something stupid (memo to Pinch – give her a raise).

However, I'd like to focus on something else from John W. McBush...

“I believe that it’s not an accident that our hostages came home from Iran when President Reagan was president of the United States. He didn’t sit down in a negotiation with the religious extremists in Iran, he made it very clear that those hostages were coming home.'’
Oh boy…

This links to some rather voluminous information detailing the arms-for-hostages deal negotiated with, among others, incoming Reagan CIA head William Casey in October 1980 before The Sainted Ronnie R took office in 1981 (after he was sworn in, arms shipments flowed through Israel to Iran and our hostages were released). And it is possible that this would never have come to light had not the second attempt to deal arms for hostages to Iran in 1986 blown up in their faces (which was a violation of the Boland Amendment, let’s not forget – tells you what the Repugs thought of Congress then as now).

I suppose, though, that “Senator Honor And Virtue” should be forgiven for this slipup, seeing as how he was busy during the ‘80s helping to utterly destroy our savings and loan institutions (as noted here) and was perhaps distracted from other news.

Nothing Worth Celebrating

This story from the NBC World Blog tells us that the current anniversary of Israel’s inception being celebrated in that country (with President Highest Disapproval Rating In Gallup Poll History dutifully asking “how high” when the Israelis tell him to jump) is hardly a fond memory for Palestinians, including two sisters, Fatima and Zeinab Jaber, 65 and 71.

As the story tells us…

They are haunted, too, by the memory of their mother, Nuzah, who they recall crying as she rushed members of their family to safety (while their village burned).

And they are their last recollections of their home, the village of Deir Yassin, as it was being overrun and destroyed by armed Jewish militant groups.

The attack on Deir Yassin in April 1948 is one of the most well-documented in a series of expulsions the former British Mandate of Palestine that led up to the foundation of Israel (sic) – an episode that Palestinian recall bitterly as "Nakba" ("the Catastrophe").

So while Israelis are celebrating 60 years of independence on May 14, many Palestinians will be commemorating what they call "Catastrophe Day" on May 15 – an annual day of remembrance for the hundreds of thousands of Arabs who were displaced as Israel was being born.
And this post from January tells us that Dubya actually brought up the issue of Palestinian “right of return” in a news conference upon his arrival at Ben Gurion Airport, but it was systematically expunged by the Israeli and American media (sounds like our preznit was “freelancing” again, but not to worry; our corporate distracters are forever on guard, doing all they can to perpetuate the myth that Dubya is an actual leader).

And this post tells us the following about Incurious George and his supposed plan for Middle East peace (have to scroll almost to the bottom)…

From the Daily Star of Lebanon: "Bush is the delinquent foreign-policy maestro of an otherwise great country. He has failed to deal honestly and rationally with the realities of the region, preferring wishful thinking and simplistic black-and-white threats to the hard work and nuanced sensibilities that are needed to grapple with the problems, challenges and opportunities of the Arab-Asian region. His desperate, last minute, pull-the-rabbit-out-of-the-hat attempt at Annapolis to achieve Palestinian-Israeli peace was clearly insincere - because he did not invest the required political capital to get it done, and did not have the required intellectual clarity and moral gumption to make it happen. He hoped to ride a runaway horse to the finish line, and ended up in a horror house of mirrors. His peace partners have proved illusory, his necessary impartiality nonexistent, and his sense of how Palestine-Israel fits into the wider picture in the Middle East totally absent."
And this quote from the Jerusalem Post is just peachy…

"While Bush may have been wrong on Iraq, he is dead right about Iran - though an ungrateful, sometimes spiteful world appears in denial."
The fact that the Israelis have refused to acknowledge that our war in Iraq has been waged on their behalf first and foremost while our media/political/industrial complex continues to perpetuate the myth that something called “al Qaeda in Iraq” (which didn’t exist before we invaded) is actually a worldwide threat worthy of our sacrifice is perhaps the most damnable, scurrilous and cowardly act of an international “friend” to this country that I can ever remember (and there’s plenty of competition in that category).

Today Is "Blogger Human Rights Day"

Just "click the pic," if you will...

A Quick Note On The Latest Dubya Idiocy

A recent utterance from President Clueless (from here)…

"Some seem to believe we should negotiate with terrorists and radicals, as if some ingenious argument will persuade them they have been wrong all along," the President said to the country's legislative body, "We have heard this foolish delusion before. As Nazi tanks crossed into Poland in 1939, an American senator declared: 'Lord, if only I could have talked to Hitler, all of this might have been avoided.' We have an obligation to call this what it is –- the false comfort of appeasement, which has been repeatedly discredited by history."
The response from Obama (as always, more like this)…

"It is sad that President Bush would use a speech to the Knesset on the 6Oth anniversary of Israel's independence to launch a false political attack. It is time to turn the page on eight years of policies that have strengthened Iran and failed to secure America or our ally Israel. Instead of tough talk and no action, we need to do what Kennedy, Nixon and Reagan did and use all elements of American power -- including tough, principled, and direct diplomacy - to pressure countries like Iran and Syria. George Bush knows that I have never supported engagement with terrorists, and the President's extraordinary politicization of foreign policy and the politics of fear do nothing to secure the American people or our stalwart ally Israel."
And just to let you know, Sen. William Edgar Borah (the author of the "all of this could have been avoided" quote) was a Republican.

Update: I forgot that "Holy Joe" McCain jumped into the Obama-bashing fray here and here (h/t Daily Kos - hope McCain's "bearings" are still OK; must be if "The Last Honest Man" said so).

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Wednesday Stuff

"The Pap Attack" takes on "right-wing foot soldiers" (though I'm a bit dismayed by his swipe at the Dems; some proof of that charge would be nice, Mike)...

...and Stephen Colbert takes down "Papa Bear" O'Reilly (terrific - h/t HuffPo).


Boy, did I get a flurry of anonymous comments in response to the Edwards post below (and from someone called 12 Dragon), which merely linked to the CNN story of the Obama endorsement (really, though, the post dealt with the College for Everyone program for which Edwards was asking for support).

Excerpts? OK - let's see..."old whore Kennedy," "loser Kerry," "only stupid loser men support Obama," "whoever thinks Obama has a vision for America needs better glasses," "Edwards is a dope," "Hillary will win the endorsement with Ferraro as VP" (that was particularly funny)...and that was the stuff that featured proper spelling and syntax WITHOUT profanity.

Well, just to let you know, I rejected them all (and I know I don't get that many comments to begin with, but I don't think it's too much to ask for comments by life forms with an IQ beyond single digits).

If you have an intelligent argument to make, make it. Otherwise, go read Instapundit, Power Line, Free Republic or Little Green Snotballs and don't waste my time.

Dubya Discovers Good Government?

(Completely tongue-in-cheek headline; don’t worry.)

As I’ve noted in the past, one of the advantages (if you can call it that) of reading the Bucks County Courier Times is that you’re alerted to the very latest in wingnuttia, and the paper didn’t disappoint again recently, republishing this column from Cokie and Steve Roberts.

And isn’t it such a shame – boo hoo! – that Dubya is sooo unhappy that “his proposals have died on Capitol Hill”? I’m sure “no one could have predicted” how that would happen with this hanging around the neck of Incurious George like the proverbial millstone.

Well, in response, Dubya said to Cokie darling that he has found a new foe – the gerrymander (cue scary incidental theme music; du-du-duuuh!)…

Too many congressional districts, he said, are drawn to guarantee safe seats for one party or the other. So for many lawmakers, their only real threat comes from their "flank," from a primary challenger who accuses them of ideological impurity. As a result, they respond to the extreme views in their own party, and won't risk making compromises across the aisle.

Expanding on his point to the Washington Post, the president argued that the result is legislative paralysis. When lawmakers "have no worry about the general election," they have no incentive to take "a rational position" on "polarizing, tough issues," he said. They're much safer playing to their base. And for most Republicans, that means decrying as "amnesty" any "rational" attempt at reforming immigration rules.
This really is just too damn funny (he actually was right about immigration, believe it or not, but that whole issue was a case of the “chickens coming home to roost” big time). And you can rely on the Robertses to produce more quotes from their beloved DLC on this, representative of their sacred “sensible center.”

This is what the new president will face next January - a dysfunctional Congress that seems totally incapable of dealing with "polarizing, tough issues," and the problem goes far beyond immigration. Health insurance, energy independence, budget deficits and strains on the retirement system from aging baby boomers - the list of congressional failures is endless.
It doesn’t matter how many times I try to communicate the fact that the 110th Congress, for all its myriad imperfections, is such a vast improvement over the wretched 109th that you cannot quantify it; the Robertses will just continue to grind the tired narrative of a “do-nothing 110th” through the mill over and over, as they say.

But for Dubya to complain about congressional redistricting is the ultimate in historical revisionism, even for him. In response, I have to ask a simple question.

Remember “The Bug Man,” Dubya? A certain Tom DeLay?

This tells us the following…

The untold story of DeLay's belligerent power grab in Texas redistricting involves partisan political domination, intrigue, alleged corruption and perhaps most significantly -- minority disenfranchisement.

U.S. Congressional redistricting takes place in state legislatures once per decade, following the decennial census to reflect population shifts, as mandated by the U.S. Constitution. Tom DeLay led the effort to violate all historical precedent by drawing the Congressional district lines in Texas -- twice.

In the first redistricting, the Texas state legislature was divided and could not agree on a plan in 2001. So, a three-judge Federal District Court drew the plan, finalizing the redistricting process, which is quite common. But the court-ordered plan did not fully guarantee that Republicans would completely dominate the U.S. Congressional delegations from Texas. So Tom DeLay decided to do it all over again mid-decade, which has never been done before.

After an epic battle, DeLay's efforts paid off and he ultimately succeeded in securing a new plan from the Texas legislature. But first, DeLay and other Texas Republicans walked unflinching, through the scorching flames of public, media and Democratic opposition, in an attempt to eliminate 5-7 more Congressional Democrats than the original court-ordered plan required.

The Republicans disregarded the booming cacophony generated by the Texas body politic which opposed DeLay's plan. With a total of over 200 editorials, every major newspaper in the State of Texas editorialized against redistricting. The TV coverage was more than 2-1 against his plan. The respected Texas Poll showed that only 26 percent of the Texas public thought there was a need to redraw the congressional district lines.

Thousands of people testified in statewide, public hearings about DeLay's unprecedented plan. In Dallas County, where 200 people were expected to testify, 700 people showed-up spontaneously and stayed until 2 or 3:00 in the morning to testify. In emotional appeals, the vast majority of participants asked that time and resources be devoted to real issues that effect people's lives -- not to a second round of redistricting.

In court testimony, Republicans in Texas, guided by DeLay's congressional staff, brazenly admitted that they were rewriting the plan for partisan political purposes. Tom DeLay's intention was to leave no Democratic leaders standing. He went after the most senior, capable Democratic members of the Texas Congressional delegation.

"We must stress that a map that returns (Democratic U.S. Reps. Martin) Frost, (Chet) Edwards and (Lloyd) Doggett is unacceptable and not worth all of the time invested in this project," wrote Delay aide Tom Ellis in a memo circulated among Republicans.

Tom DeLay's efforts paid off big in the 2004 elections where he eventually gained 6 additional Congressional seats for Texas Republicans to replace a 17-15 Democratic majority in the congressional delegation with a 21-11 Republican majority. This partisan victory helped guaranteed Republican control of the U.S. Congress and the policies that go with it, well into the future.
Well, fortunately for us all, that “future” didn’t last as long as DeLay intended; he resigned from the House in June 2006, and the Democrats returned to congressional power in both chambers of Congress that November.

And how did Dubya respond to all of DeLay’s escapades during that time, particularly the Texas redistricting?

(…cue the sound of crickets…)

The ruinous reign of President George W. Milhous Bush has done more to “(violate) the principles of democracy and (cripple) the workings of government” than any alleged congressional redistricting scheme.

But what can we expect from Exhibit A of our compromised punditocracy, who once called workers who opposed “free” trade deals “losers” here?

By the way, this is one of those stories where I particularly miss The Eternal Molly Ivins; we must continue to try and emulate her good work today and every day.

The Endorsement, At Last

Perfectly timed, IMHO (and from the former candidate)...

I want to begin by thanking each of you for all of your support and commitment over the last year. It has meant so much to Elizabeth and me. We have been very busy since January working on the causes that got us into the campaign in the first place -- helping to build the One America we all believe in.

You may have heard me talk about one of those programs called College for Everyone -- a scholarship pilot project that Elizabeth and I started a few years ago in Greene County, North Carolina.

The program is based on a simple promise to students: make good grades, work at least 10 hours a week, and stay out of trouble -- and the program will help pay for your first year of college. Since we launched this effort in 2005, the percentage of Greene County high school graduates attending college has increased from 54 percent to 74 percent.

As I write you, 165 high school seniors in Greene County are set to graduate in May and 94% have been accepted into N.C. colleges and universities. Most of these young people are doing just what many of us did -- sitting around the kitchen table with their parents, wondering how they will pay for tuition.

Every parent wants to give their child the opportunity that comes with a college education. But for too many American families, the dream of a college degree is just that -- a dream. Now, I need your help to make the dream of a college education a reality for some hard-working students in rural Greene County.

That's why I need your help today -- with a tax-deductible donation of $10, $25, $50 or $75, whatever you can afford -- to bring us one step closer to our goal of College for Everyone. By contributing now, you will help fulfill the college dreams of deserving students in Greene County and show the world that if we work together on big and important issues, change is possible.

But change can only come with your help.
Please contribute now and bring us closer to building One America where every child has the opportunity to go as far as his or her talents and hard work will take them.

Thank you,

John Edwards

P.S. Contributions made by Friday go towards scholarships for the students graduating in May.
Please respond today.
To help the Obama campaign, click here.

Today’s NYT Highlight (And Lowlights)

  • Little Tommy Friedman in the New York Times today here…

    That is the real umbrella story in the Middle East today — the struggle for influence across the region, with America and its Sunni Arab allies (and Israel) versus Iran, Syria and their non-state allies, Hamas and Hezbollah. As the May 11 editorial in the Iranian daily Kayhan put it, “In the power struggle in the Middle East, there are only two sides: Iran and the U.S.”

    For now, Team America is losing on just about every front. How come? The short answer is that Iran is smart and ruthless, America is dumb and weak, and the Sunni Arab world is feckless and divided. Any other questions?
    Yes. At what point do warmongering media propagandists lose their right to utterly prostitute themselves on behalf of an amoral, ruthless and utterly incompetent executive branch in search of new conflict in an attempt to disguise its myriad failures?

    Glenn Greenwald has much more here (h/t Eschaton).

  • And since it’s Wednesday, it’s also MoDo Day (I’ll let the legendary Bob Somerby take it from here)…

    If he becomes the Dem nominee, will Obama try to win West Virginia? For better or worse, we’ll guess that he won’t. No, a Democrat doesn’t have to win the state. In 2000, Gore lost West Virginia to Bush by 6.3 points (Kerry lost it by 12.9). But he would have gone to the White House with New Hampshire, or Ohio—or with Florida. (Or with Colorado, or with Virginia—states Obama will likely contest.) But this morning, Dowd dumbly presents West Virginia as “a state [Obama] will need in the fall.”

  • And finally (and I kid you not, honestly), real, live, actual reporting from Elisabeth Bumiller here concerning John w. McBush…

    Asked at his news conference why voters who are concerned about the environment should support him over Mr. Obama or Mrs. Clinton, Mr. McCain said that his proposal was “doable” and that his rivals “have never to my knowledge been involved in legislation nor hearings nor engagement in this issue.”

    He did not mention that in 2007, Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama were co-sponsors of an emissions-curbing bill that he introduced with Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, independent of Connecticut. In addition, Mrs. Clinton went with Mr. McCain and other senators on a 2004 trip to Svalbard, a Norwegian archipelago, to see the effects of global warming. Mr. McCain mentioned that journey in a speech Monday on climate change, but he did not mention that Mrs. Clinton was one of those who went along.
    Read and learn, o corporate media cousins.
  • Not Feeling "Comcastic" Over This

    This Philadelphia Inquirer story tells us that the Comcast shareholders meeting is taking place today, but in advance of the meeting, shareholders of Chieftain Capital Management, which owns 2 percent of the company’s stock, met with four members of the board of Comcast, including executive vice president David L. Cohen, to “(complain) about stock returns and compensation for Brian L. Roberts and other top executives,” according to the story.

    I’m not sure if any of the following topics will be discussed at the meeting, but I’ll mention them here anyway…

  • This tells us that, though income was up 10 percent across the company from its business units, the company lost a net of 57,000 subscribers in the first quarter (and this Motley Fool post tells us that that is the number that matters the most).

  • This tells us of Comcast’s ongoing efforts to block BitTorrent – a popular Internet protocol – that transfers large files including full-length videos (Comcast has done this in part because BitTorrent competed with the cable company’s video-on-demand and television offerings).

  • This tells us about Stephen B. Burke, the corporate operating officer of Comcast, who just happens to be a “pioneer” for Dubya (not illegal I realize – the company contributes heavily to both parties, but more towards Republicans), and this tells you about Comcast’s cozy relationship with past and formal officials of Maryland’s state government.

  • And how could I possibly ignore the company’s sterling customer service also…

    Tuesday, May 13, 2008

    Tuesday Stuff

    K.O. exposes more smoke and mirrors from the Bushco gang of crooks, particularly having to do with Iran...

    ...and I don't blame anyone for not laughing at this, but I thought I'd put it up anyway because I didn't know what else to do (the only gesture he could perform to honor the sacrifice of our troops was to stop playing golf??!!).

    Update 5/14: And he even lied about the golf (h/t Eschaton)...

    Here's something you may want to know about, Dubya (it has some big words, so someone had better read it to you); it's a Daily Kos post from diarist brownsox telling us that Dem Travis Childers defeated Repug Greg Davis for an open U.S. House seat in Mississippi (it was Roger Wicker's seat that he left to take over for Trent Lott in the U.S. Senate).

    Why does this matter? Well, the NRCC spent $1.3 million to try and keep it (to say nothing of the Freedom's Watch cretins, probably including Ed Snider - awww, bad luck on the Flyers tonight, Ed). And the Repugs still lost.

    Out of Mississippi's U.S. House reps, three of the four are now Dems, Dubya.

    We're talking about Mississippi, not Massachusetts. And the turnout was about 33 percent higher than usual for the election. And it was a runoff.

    The tidal wave is building, and it will hit with full force in November. And you guys

    And do you ever deserve it!

    Update again 5/14: Here's more.

    Tuesday Mashup (5/13/08)

    Three really quick hits here (I want to get out and enjoy the great weather):

  • This is courageous (I don’t know who the “Christian” officer was who made disparaging remarks about Tillman’s family, but he should be dishonorably discharged)…

  • This is miraculous (bravo to Staff Sgt. Luis Falcon)…

  • And this is ridiculous (I guess spring is in bloom even Down Under).
  • Too Easy, Mitchie

    Glad to see my ’07 Dregs Of The Year Winner is still in form (concerning the Democrats, of course)…

    "It's pretty clear to me that the Democratic agenda is to turn us into France," the Kentucky Republican told The Washington Times in an unusually blunt interview at his office in the Capitol. "Americans may want change, but the question is, what kind of change?"
    And you honestly didn’t think Sen. Mr. Elaine Chao was going to spare the presumptive Dem nominee, did you?

    "I can't think of a single occasion upon which [Mr. Obama] has been involved with Republicans on any meaningful legislation," he said. "He's a straight-line, big-government, high-taxing liberal."
    I don’t think so.

    Already A Taxing Campaign

    This Bucks County Courier Times story tells us that Patrick Murphy recently introduced an amendment to a housing bill intended to provide property tax relief “to homeowners throughout the country” (and of course, do you really have to ask yourself whether or not President Highest Disapproval Rating In Gallup Poll History, he of the “extraordinarily stable” approval rating herewaay too damn funny…plans to veto it or not?).

    The story also tells us…

    The amendment, part of legislation the Democrat-controlled House passed in an effort to combat the country's housing crisis, authorizes $7,500 tax credits for first-time homebuyers and allows homeowners who don't itemize deductions to claim as much as $700 of their property taxes as a federal tax deduction.

    “This is a tax cut for families,” Murphy said inside the Falls home of Michael Hug, a Republican who said his school property taxes have risen by $2,000 since he moved into his home nine years ago.
    Courier Times reporter Brian Scheid began the story by telling us of a lady named Betty Ann DiNardi of Bristol Township, who lost her customer service job due to outsourcing and whose husband is due to retire from working for Amtrak; the point is that their property taxes have severely outpaced the couple’s earnings to the point where they may have to move, and Patrick is trying to help them as well as most everyone else in a similar circumstance where property taxes are chewing up whatever disposable income is left.

    (Oh, and by the way, Courier Times editors, I’m not aware of the existence of the “Democrat” Party any more than I am of the existence of the “Republic” Party. I thought the Courier Times was a paper of modest to occasionally very good repute, not some backwater rag catering exclusively to right-wing triumphalism and provincial prejudice; more fool me, I guess.)

    So, this being an election year, you know that Patrick’s effort was hooted down by his opposition. For more on that, as they say, here’s some words from perennially pretending county political candidate Tom Lingenfelter…

    “It's like someone has a heart attack and you put a Band-Aid on his finger,” Lingenfelter said. “Another feel-good political stunt that buys votes with the left hand and picks your pocket with the right hand.”
    Umm…OK; my money says that ol’ Tom doesn’t get out of the low single digits in voting percent in November. Maybe then he and Jay Russell will have time to go play bridge as half a partnership (and no, my math isn’t incorrect).

    And as for Tom Manion…

    In a statement, (the) Doylestown Township Republican running against Murphy, called the property tax deduction “A first step in providing real relief to taxpayers in these uncertain economic times.

    “But,” Manion added, “Washington must do more to curb runaway spending and begin to cut taxes. If American families paid less in taxes they could use that money to put gas in their cars, pay their mortgages, and put food on their tables.”
    Yeah, well, I know that’s about what you can expect to hear from a Repug (“Begin” to cut taxes? Where have you been?), but please allow me to point out the obvious.

    If you pay no taxes, you get no benefit from government. That means your infrastructure crumbles, your water isn’t safe to drink, your air isn’t fit to breathe, and your planes aren’t safe to fly, among many other circumstances (and I’m sorry, but I’m not going to go to the trouble to find yet another link showing how economic growth under Clinton with taxes raised early in his presidency outpaced that of Dubya with taxes cut throughout his misbegotten term in office).

    And health care? Surely you jest (I know Manion didn’t really bring this up, but I’m doing so anyway). Let me point out that Manion is a former pharmaceutical executive; he hardly has the same issues of coverages and expenses that we do.

    But at least Manion has the sense to try and distance himself from President Stupid Head…

    The Democrats' housing rescue plan faces a veto threat from President Bush, who has said that a provision in the package would force the housing administration to back as much as $300 billion in refinanced loans for homeowners facing foreclosure. Bush has said the plan would expose taxpayers to excessive risk.
    He’s all bent out of shape over $300 billion for homeowners…and how much is that Iraq war costing us again, Dubya?

    Fortunately in this case, though, there are a lot more Betty Ann DiNardis out there who will recognize Patrick’s efforts in November, and a lot fewer Tom Manions and others of that political affiliation, trying as hard as they can to distance themselves from the destruction of their “brand” at the hands of Incurious George.

    And by the way, as long as I'm on the subject of Bucks County politics, I wanted to note the following Letter to the Editor in the Courier Times today, related to this prior post...

    On Primary Election Day, Joe Pizzo, Bensalem Township solicitor, spent at least part of his day driving a van back and forth to Creekside Apartments picking up voters to take them to Polanka Hall to vote.

    Pizzo provided the only non-hearsay testimony to the Bucks Board of Elections and county commissioners, initiating the change of polling place from Creekside to Polanka.

    He testified with aerial photos that the voters at Creekside had cars and could drive themselves to the new polling place. Could he have been trying to increase voter turnout to anticipate future evidence that the change suppressed voter turnout? This is not even his own polling place, what was he doing there? Is it usual for him to drive a van for transportation on Election Day? Did he pick others up for transportation to other polling places?

    I understand that Jim Cawley, county commissioner and head of the Board of Elections, walked the route from Creekside to Polanka and indicated that it was no problem for him. Of course it wasn't. It was a beautiful, sunny day. He's also not 70 years old, and I don't think he has arthritis or some other physical infirmity requiring the use of a cane or walker. I'll bet crossing Street Road was not too difficult either since he probably doesn't have cataracts or diminished hearing, and was able to quicken his pace when cars were speeding at him as the light changed. And he probably didn't have a couple kids in tow that couldn't be left at home.

    I have to tip my hat to Pizzo and Cawley for the extreme bravery they exhibited by going to Creekside in the face of possible death by shooting or physical assault, which they said voters shouldn't have to endure!

    The polling place should be moved back to Creekside, even if only for the Creekside residents. It's the right thing to do.

    Joseph M. Kraher
    Bensalem, PA
    The paper notes that Pizzo, a former Republican committeeman, said he was asked by the local party to transport about a half-dozen voters; all but one resided at Creekside.

    Mike Chertoff's DHS Plummets To New Depths

    (Obligatory apology once more for that truly disturbing pic...)

    The New York Times tells us here that a German graduate student studying at M.I.T. recently applied for an ID card allowing him to work around ships and docks (the student is studying oceanography, hence the post title).

    You would think this would be the proverbial “slam-dunk,” but since we’re talking about Mike Chertoff’s DHS…

    What the student, Wilken-Jon von Appen, received in return was a letter that not only turned him down but added an ominous warning from John M. Busch, a security administration official: “I have determined that you pose a security threat.”

    Similar letters have gone to 5,000 applicants across the country who have at least initially been turned down for a Transportation Worker Identification Credential, an ID card meant to guard against acts of terrorism, agency officials said Monday.

    The officials also said they were sorry about the language, which they may change in the future, but had no intention of withdrawing letters already sent.

    “It’s an unfortunate choice of words in a bureaucratic letter,” said Ellen Howe, a security agency spokeswoman.
    Gee, Ms. Howe, ya’ think (and maybe, based on this story, it might be a good idea to train our airport security screeners better than to try and frighten overseas students).

    And how exactly did the student react to this bureaucratic harassment?

    Mr. von Appen, 23, one of at least four oceanography students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who received identical letters, said he was stunned by its language.

    “I was pretty much speechless and quite intimidated,” said Mr. von Appen, whose research is supported by a $65,000-a-year grant from the National Science Foundation.

    A British student at M.I.T. who was rejected, Sophie Clayton, 28, said that at first she was amused at what appeared to be a bureaucratic absurdity. But as she pondered the designation, Ms. Clayton said she grew worried. “The two words ‘security threat’ are now in the files next to my name, my photograph and my fingerprints,” she said.

    Institute officials were also disturbed. The agency controls airport security, and “our students travel in and out of the country a lot,” said Danielle Guichard-Ashbrook, associate dean and director of the international student office at M.I.T.
    By the way, as noted in the Times story, I love the casual attitude of TSA spokesperson Ellen Howe who says in essence, “Well, if someone is denied a TWIC card, that doesn’t mean they can’t enter a port with someone who does have one” (as if overseas graduate students will be bothered with that nonsense when they have the option to study somewhere else).

    And this Daily Kos post by another individual who apparently is studying oceanography through M.I.T. echoed my sentiments pretty well…

    I have no intention of taking a cruise to the Arctic or the Southern Ocean or whatever remote and cold locations have data that needs collecting; I'd prefer to not take trips to the stratosphere to collect ozone samples or to the mesopause to measure temperature gradients, either. But to deny graduate students their research, or worse, to deny this country its research, is simply unacceptable. John M. Busch, you are an idiot.
    This story notes the results of a survey that found that while overseas students are still coming to the U.S. to study, primarily from China and India, they are not doing as much over the last few years as before (and you’ll never guess why, which "no one could have predicted" of course)…

    "There's a growing perception among international students that the United States is not as welcoming to international students as it has been in the past," (survey author Ken) Redd said.

    After the terrorist attacks of 2001, obtaining a visa to study in the U.S. became more difficult. Students have to submit to extensive record checks and monitoring.

    Applications from abroad took a severe hit in 2004 and 2005, something analysts attributed to the same factors they say are at play today -- including aggressive recruiting from other countries. About 65 percent of the schools surveyed in the study have not recovered from that decline.

    Redd said stalled application rates from India could account for some of the lackluster rates nationwide. Applications from China increased 12 percent from 2007 to 2008.

    The weak dollar means that studying in the U.S. is a bargain compared with other universities, but Redd said that doesn't seem to be enough to bring droves of international students.

    "Regardless of currency factors, students still have to get a visa to come here," he said. "Financing and money is just one factor that students take into account before coming to the U.S. -- lots of other factors are at play."
    On the one hand, I want to see jobs in this country protected first, but this isn’t about that I’ll admit. It’s about allowing individuals who want to come here and study to do so in the hope that they will be tomorrow’s entrepreneurs or researchers blazing a trail in scientific exploration or medical research.

    Here’s a thought for Mikey and his TSA geniuses; how about allowing for consideration of the grade-point average of these individuals in whether or not they’re denied a TWIC card (or a VISA altogether)? If someone works hard to establish a career here, wouldn’t it make them less inclined to want to attack this country later?

    And by the way, what a neat scam by Lockheed Martin to charge $132 for the TWIC card. Any chance that I could get “a piece of that action” somehow without owning shares of the company?

    More Joke Line Hilarity

    The august Time correspondent wrote this post titled, “How Actual Journalism Works” and asked, in response to commenter Terrapinion's efforts to find out if Klein used any of the burned TV military analysts, “tell me where I’ve been misled by my sources.”

    Gee, that's a tough one, Joe.

    Update: And speaking of the scandal involving the military analysts, Media Matters has followed up here (h/t Atrios). and this guy has a good idea also.

    Update 5/20/08: Wow...kudos to Klein for this (and as HuffPo and Klein note, a linkage between Obama and Khameni isn't nearly as toxic to Jewish voters in this country as one between Obama and Ahmadinejad - and by the way, I thought this was a good column in that vein that appeared in the New York Times on Sunday).

    Monday, May 12, 2008

    Monday Stuff

    Yep, those Repugs sure know who their friends are...

    ...and Rick Jacobs has another important message on behalf of The Golden State...

    ...and oh, will I be happy to see the day when this is realized (long story; maybe I'll get into it another time)...

    Historic 2018Blockbuster2019 Store Offers Glimpse Of How Movies Were Rented In The Past

    ...and it's a good thing Der Fuehrer knows as much about hockey as he did about winning a war; I shouldn't be offering encouragement because of a certain Freedom's-Watch-supporting-owner of theirs, but just do the best you can against Pittsburgh for Games 3 and 4, guys - we have a good idea of how tough it is.

    Update 5/22/08: And by the way, Inky, his name is "Sidney".

    And kudos to the orange-and-black for all the playoff success this year; considering the fact that they were the worst team in the NHL last year thanks to their blundering former G.M. #16, their successs is truly remarkable, as were the performances of defensemen Jason Smith and Derian Hatcher in particular, battling through injuries that probably should have kept them off the ice, though they fought on valiantly until the end (I'm sure most of the team fought through physical issues also).

    Silvio Says Ciao!, BoBo

    I thought this New York Times column last Friday by David Brooks was somewhat interesting (he’s telling us that conservatism is “on the way back” abroad, people, particularly in the U.K., even though Prime Minister Gordon Brown is a member of the Labor Party…???).

    Our intrepid Times mouthpiece tells us…

    (British Conservative Party Leader David) Cameron describes a new global movement, with rising center-right parties in Sweden, Canada, Australia, France, Germany, the Czech Republic, California and New York (he admires Schwarzenegger and Bloomberg). American conservatives won’t simply import this model. But there’s a lot to learn from it. The only question is whether Republicans will learn those lessons sooner, or whether they will learn them later, after a decade or so in the wilderness.
    Well, we can only wish, can’t we?

    And I thought it was strange that, on this list of those supposedly conservative-ascendant locations, Cameron and BoBo didn’t mention Italy, currently being run by Prime Minister Jesus, taking his third shot at doing it right.

    Do you think it’s because of that little problem with exposing confidential tax information in an effort to nab those skirting the law (so, let’s punish the people doing the right thing in such a way that it won’t matter to those breaking the law…nice job).

    Also, it seems that Italy is having a problem with picking up the trash (here).

    Yep, just keep taking a crack at getting that “conservative governance” thing right, you guys, even if it takes “a decade or so in the wilderness.”

    Monday Obama-Rama Wankery

    I have to admit that Edward N. Luttwak came up with an interesting reason today in the New York Times as to how Barack Obama could be denied the presidency (from here).

    In so many words, Luttwak argues that, because Obama’s father was a Muslim, he is a Muslim by default, and by accepting Christianity, he is an apostate…

    His conversion, however, was a crime in Muslim eyes; it is “irtidad” or “ridda,” usually translated from the Arabic as “apostasy,” but with connotations of rebellion and treason. Indeed, it is the worst of all crimes that a Muslim can commit, worse than murder (which the victim’s family may choose to forgive).

    With few exceptions, the jurists of all Sunni and Shiite schools prescribe execution for all adults who leave the faith not under duress; the recommended punishment is beheading at the hands of a cleric, although in recent years there have been both stonings and hangings. (Some may point to cases in which lesser punishments were ordered — as with some Egyptian intellectuals who have been punished for writings that were construed as apostasy — but those were really instances of supposed heresy, not explicitly declared apostasy as in Senator Obama’s case.)

    It is true that the criminal codes in most Muslim countries do not mandate execution for apostasy (although a law doing exactly that is pending before Iran’s Parliament and in two Malaysian states). But as a practical matter, in very few Islamic countries do the governments have sufficient authority to resist demands for the punishment of apostates at the hands of religious authorities.
    So I guess that rules out Obama meeting with AhMADinejad after all, doesn’t it, since the Iranian figurehead might try to get "ridda" him (sorry).

    I think it’s important to note here that the United Nations has something to say on this subject, specifically, the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Crimes against Internationally Protected Persons, Including Diplomatic Agents (New York Convention) here.

    As noted here…

    (The) Convention, which was ratified by nearly half the world’s nations and most major powers, criminalizes “the international commission of . . . murder, kidnapping, or other attack upon the person or liberty of an internationally protected person.”76 However, it only accords protection to figures traveling abroad, and not in their home states.77

    In a more general sense, Article 4 of the U.N. Charter establishes a right to be free from aggression and the use of international armed force, and has been interpreted to provide that citizens of a nation have a right to be immune from international acts of violence by citizens or military forces of other nations.78 “Article 2(4): All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.”79 This statement of high moral principle has been accepted as customary international law, as suggested by the International Court of Justice in Nicaragua v. United States. The court found, quoting from the work of the International Law Commission, that Article 2(4) is a “conspicuous example of a rule in international law having the character of jus cogens.”80 The assassination of a foreign leader in peacetime with no provocation would therefore be a prima facie violation of basic international law, as well as murder under the applicable domestic criminal statute.
    Am I the only one noting the irony that a law aimed against U.S. intervention in its own hemisphere could be used to protect its own president?

    There are, however, two established scenarios in which the Article 2(4) protections against the use of force would be suspended. The first is a military action sanctioned by the U.N. Security Council under Chapter VII of the U.N. Charter, and the second is an attack made by a victim state in self-defense.81 The right to self-defense is provided to all states in Article 51 of the Charter:”Nothing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defence if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations, [*PG14]until the Security Council has taken the measures necessary to maintain international peace and security.”82

    When a nation employs Article 51 to justify a use of force in its own defense, or the defense of another state, the laws of war control as they would in any formally declared conflict. Therefore, under an Article 51 action, any state-sanctioned killing by a victim state would not be an assassination so long as it is not accomplished by treachery or outlawry, as described earlier.
    And here is a list of U.N. states subject to the Convention.

    So in the event of an attack on a hypothetical President Obama in accordance with “irtidad” or “ridda” as noted above, this country would be completely within its rights under the Convention to utterly obliterate the offending party or that individual’s country in self defense.

    And it’s a good thing we don’t have to worry about anyone in this country doing anything as loopy as calling for the execution of the head of another country, right (yes, I know he apologized later).

    Update 5/14/08: Good stuff on this by Bob Somerby here.

    HRC's Blue Ridge Bombast

    This story tells us that Sen. Clinton is marching on in the Democratic presidential primary to West Virginia, where she tells us…

    “It was West Virginia that made it possible for John Kennedy to become president. Now John Kennedy didn’t have the number of delegates he needed when he went to the convention in 1960, he had something equally as important. He had West Virginia behind him.”
    That’s a somewhat artful history lesson there by the former first lady.

    As you can see from this .pdf link (not sure if it can be accessed - "select" content) to an archived New York Times story, John F. Kennedy may not have had all of the delegates he needed prior to the West Virginia primary, but unlike Sen. Clinton, he was leading his main opponent, Sen. Hubert Humphrey of Minnesota (I would also be interested to know if HRC met with coal miners and their families as JFK did or intends to do so; I can’t really determine that from the ABC News story).

    The .pdf copy of the 1960 Times story tells us that, if anything, the Democratic primary was more chaotic then than now, with Kennedy in the lead followed by Humphrey, with former president Harry Truman ready to endorse Stuart Symington and LBJ also poised for a run (with Sen. Robert Byrd encouraging the anti-Kennedy vote in favor of Johnson based on Kennedy’s Catholicism…there was even talk of two-time Dem presidential loser Adlai Stevenson re-entering the contest).

    As far as the Republicans were concerned, Richard Nixon was pretty much a lock, though New York Senator Nelson Rockefeller was poised to play a bit of a “spoiler” role somewhat like Ron Paul and his people are trying to do now.

    Hillary would do well to be careful making comparisons between this and past Democratic presidential contests. If she were to somehow emerge as the nominee at this point, it would top any imagined precedent anyway, but not in a good way I believe (definitely not something to be encouraged as far as I’m concerned).

    Bushco's Secrecy Shame

    This post by profmarcus based on a Washington Post story by Amy Goldstein and Dana Priest tells us about Yong Sun Harvill, one of 33,000 immigration detainees in the custody of the Department of Homeland Security's Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, otherwise known as ICE.

    As the story tells us…

    Yong Sun Harvill's immigration troubles began in March 2007, as she was finishing 13 months in prison on a drug-possession charge. One day, a prison official summoned her to his office and handed her a phone. On the line was a man who worked in Orlando for Immigration and Customs Enforcement. She would not be going home, he told her. She would be handed over to ICE agents, who planned to send her back to South Korea, a place she had not seen for 32 years.
    As the story also tells us, though, Harvill ended up on a Florence, AZ detention facility, where she remains to this day.

    In her confinement, Harvill has developed what could be liver tumors and swelling in her left ankle so severe that it is about three times the size of her right one. Also, a doctor has indicated that she may be suffering from bipolar disorder, among other ailments.

    However, thanks primarily to the Division of Immigration Health Services, she is apparently no closer to receiving care at this moment from when her confinement began (and the DIHS web site here does not tell us who is in charge, and the agency’s “Rapid Pulse” newsletter has not been published since September 2007).

    The subject of immigration detainees was also brought up here by New York Times public editor Clark Hoyt yesterday, noting that Times reporter Nina Bernstein obtained information about detainee Boubacar Bah, a 52-year-old tailor from Guinea, who fell while in detention, received no medical care for 15 hours and died of severe head injuries (she wrote about Bah last Wednesday).

    As Hoyt tells us…

    Civil rights attorneys believed that, since the start of 2004, about 20 people had died while in custody facing possible deportation, but a spokeswoman for the federal immigration agency told Bernstein a surprising fact: the number was 62. Bernstein asked for details, like who they were and how they died. The spokeswoman refused, so Bernstein did what reporters often do — she filed a request under the federal Freedom of Information Act, known as FOIA, for what she believed should be public records. Although the law required the agency to answer such a simple request within 20 business days, Immigration and Customs Enforcement initially responded the way many agencies do — with silence.
    As noted, however, Berstein eventually received some information, including details on Bah. And as Hoyt notes, at least Bernstein didn’t have to do what her colleague David Barstow did to write his excellent story on the compromised TV military analysts.

    Hoyt continues…

    Barstow first asked more than two years ago, on April 28, 2006, for records describing the Defense Department’s involvement with the analysts, most of them retired officers, many with business dealings with the Pentagon. He said he wanted transcripts of briefings and conference calls, records of trips and any documents describing the Pentagon’s strategy and objectives in what turned out to be a carefully planned program to try to, as Barstow’s article said, “transform the analysts into a kind of media Trojan horse.”

    As the law provides, he asked for expedited handling of his request. He was turned down, though he said the Pentagon did not tell him for a month after the decision. It said the information he wanted did not deal with “a breaking news story of public interest.”

    Barstow appealed, arguing that the war on terror was by definition a breaking news story and certainly of public interest. The appeal was denied on Aug. 20, 2006, with bizarre reasoning familiar to anyone who has tried to wrest public information from a federal agency that does not want it released. “Your request is not for information on the war on terror,” the denial said. “It is for Department of Defense interactions with military and security analysts who discuss the war on terror. Therefore, you did not establish a compelling need for the information you requested.”
    After information virtually trickled out of the Pentagon to Barstow, he and the Times eventually had to sue the Pentagon to release all of the promised information (the Times deserves credit for that in an era of declining newspaper revenues, as Hoyt also notes). Barstow eventually did receive much of what he asked for and then wrote his excellent story.

    And though the fact that Bushco has a penchant for secrecy, to say the least, is “water wet, sky blue” stuff I realize, the following must be noted from this SPJ link…

    "There's been an explosion in the classification of information," he said, "to the point where even those in the business of secrecy say it's gone too far and become counterproductive. And it is damaging to our security."

    Thousands of people in government have the rank to classify information, but audits show one-third of these experts are not doing their job properly. Also, (Pete) Weitzel (a former managing editor of The Miami Herald who helped launch the National Freedom of Information Coalition and served as its second president) said, the three million other government officials who make secondary decisions take the information from the already classified documents and incorporate it into a new document.

    "Imagine how many times they get it wrong," he said.

    "We are going to have to remain vigilant and proactive. The alternative is greater government secrecy. That would be disastrous for us as journalists and for our country," Weitzel said.
    And for a particularly repugnant episode of Bushco secrecy in action, I present the following from Greg Mitchell about the fact that Dr. Ira Katz of the VA tried to hush up the number of Iraq war veterans who have committed suicide by circulation an inter-agency Email with “Shh!” on the subject line (nice – please see the first item here with the photo of U.S. Dem Senator Patty Murray).

    And by the way, don’t think that John W. McBush would be any less inclined to behave this way, given the fact that he won’t answer questions on the EADS tanker deal that ended up costing about 44,000 jobs in this country (here), as well as the fact that he won’t talk about the non-disclosure of an Email concerning a possible connection between convicted fundraiser Jack Abramoff and Alabama Gov. Bob Riley (here).