Friday, June 20, 2008

Where The Rubber Meets The Road (6/20/08)

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.

(I have to be honest; at this moment, I feel like doing this as much as I feel like sticking my head in the microwave and turning it on, but there you are…I was planning to walk away from this for a few days anyway, but I especially feel that way now after this post.)


Bush impeachment bid. The House voted, 251-166, to send to committee, or shelve, a resolution (H Res 1258) sponsored by Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D., Ohio) presenting 35 articles of impeachment against President Bush. As a privileged resolution, the measure was not debatable.

A yes vote was to shelve the impeachment bid.

Voting yes: Robert E. Andrews (D., N.J.), Robert A. Brady (D., Pa.), Michael N. Castle (R., Del.), Chaka Fattah (D., Pa.), Tim Holden (D., Pa.), Frank A. LoBiondo (R., N.J.), Patrick Murphy (D., Pa.), Allyson Y. Schwartz (D., Pa.), and Joe Sestak (D., Pa.).

Voting no: Charles W. Dent (R., Pa.), Jim Gerlach (R., Pa.), Joseph R. Pitts (R., Pa.), H. James Saxton (R., N.J.), and Christopher H. Smith (R., N.J.).
And as I’ve already said, Kucinich (who voted against the FISA sellout, by the way) is not going to go away on this…

You know, it’s really bad when this Congress does virtually nothing about impeaching the pirates in control of the executive branch (afraid of getting hooted down by the Repugs? That will happen anyway). It’s also terrible when they refuse to remain steadfast on the matter of timelines for troop withdrawal as a condition of funding the Iraq war.

Now, because, apparently, they were absolutely wetting their pants over the matter of the existing surveillance law expiring on August 4th that they believe they must do something by then, this con of a bill engineered by Steny Hoyer has now passed the House.

Do me a favor, ladies and gentlemen of that body who voted for this fraud (including Patrick and Admiral Joe). Please read this post by Glenn Greenwald, in particular the graphic half way down showing a poll by Faux News.

What the poll states is that the 110th Congress, simply put, is more popular with Republicans (23 percent) than Democrats (18 percent).

What does that tell you? Think really hard now, OK?

Extended jobless benefits. Voting 274-137, the House passed a bill (HR 5749) providing 13 additional weeks of jobless checks for those who have used up their initial allotments, or 26 more weeks in states with at least a 6 percent unemployment rate.

A yes vote was to pass the bill.

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

Voting no: Pitts and Saxton.
This then moved on to the Senate, where, of course, it was blocked by Repug Jon Kyl (and by the way, to help Bruce Slater, click here).

Amtrak spending boost. Voting 311-104, the House authorized a $14.9 billion passenger-rail budget for fiscal 2009-2013. Now before the Senate, the bill (HR 6003) would provide nearly $10 billion for Amtrak, about twice the agency's pre-2007 rate of spending, and $5 billion for state intercity projects.

A yes vote was to pass the bill.

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

Voting no: Pitts.
Guess PA 16 doesn’t need mass transit funding or any revenue for “intercity projects.” Lucky them (and again, to vote for Bruce Slater, click here).


Windfall profits. Voting 51-43, the Senate failed to reach 60 votes to end GOP blockage of a bill (S 3044) that would levy a 25 percent tax on profits generated by the five largest oil companies that are judged unreasonable by historical standards and that are not invested in expanding refinery capacity or developing renewable sources of energy.

A yes vote was to advance the bill.

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

Voting no: Arlen Specter (R., Pa.).
Guess a windfall profits tax isn’t “worth considering” any more as far as Arlen is concerned (here).

Energy and business tax breaks. Voting 50-44, the Senate failed to reach 60 votes needed to end GOP blockage of a bill (HR 6049) providing $55.5 billion in business, education, personal and energy tax breaks.

A yes vote was to advance the bill.

Voting yes: Biden, Carper, Casey, Lautenberg and Menendez.

Voting no: Specter.
As stated here…

Originally, additional taxes on oil companies was proposed as a way to pay for the credits. But the Republicans balked at that and defeated the cloture motion to bring the bill to a vote.

The bill was then revised to draw its revenue by closing offshore loopholes that benefits hedge fund managers. And again, the Republicans couldn’t stomach it and blocked the cloture motion. It seems that the idea of “Pay as you go” government isn’t something the Republicans can accept.
And they never will; another good reason to vote for Dems (particularly those who oppose telco immunity, even if it means holding your nose and pressing the button or pulling the switch for those who do).

This week, the House took up the space budget, war funding, and a child-abuse measure, and they sold us down the river on FISA. The Senate debated tax breaks for developing renewable energy, paying college tuition, and other purposes.

A Message For Steny

Het tip to Glenn Greenwald...

Update 1: Never could I have imagined that this would be a message for Patrick Murphy also, but it is.

This is an unconscionable sellout, Patrick. You just handed Tom Manion a whopper of a campaign issue, though I know he'll never use it (then again, maybe he will, but not in the way I think).

Welcome to the club (I guess the "Bush Dogs" finally got you). Now we have to fight you too!

Update 2: Wow, kudos to CNN here for reporting this...

"The telecom companies simply have to produce a piece of paper we already know exists, resulting in immediate dismissal," said Caroline Fredrickson, the head of the ACLU's Washington legislative office. She said the bill "does nothing to keep Americans safe and is a constitutional farce."
Yep (and how does it feel to be on the same side as Roy Blunt, of all people, Dems?).

(Morally) Dead Flowers

The wingnuttia representative from the Philadelphia Daily News told us the following today (from here – re: the Boumediene v. Bush Supreme Court ruling)…

(By the way, I’m going to try and winnow through the layers of freeper agit-prop and get to the heart of her argument, which is ridiculous enough.)

…five justices…held that the Guantanamo detainees are entitled to a full rainbow of constitutional rights, including habeas corpus, (and) have taken it on themselves to strip the executive and Congress of the right to determine foreign policy and, more important, national security.
Well, that was predictable.

The phrase “a rainbow of constitutional rights” is just bad writing; I think Flowers was going for “a cornucopia of constitutional rights” or something like that. Either way, she’s wrong, of course; I didn’t see anything addressed in the Boumediene ruling except the issue of habeas corpus rights for Guantanamo detainees and civilian review.

And she goes on, of course…

In other words, five unelected lawyers have figured out a way to trump both civil and military authorities by treating the separation of powers as a whimsical idea and not the bedrock of our constitutional democracy.
And did I mention that Flowers herself is a lawyer, by the way? I’d like to see what would happen were she ever to make these arguments before a judge as opposed to writing them in a newspaper column.

This post references the majority opinion in Boumediene by Justice Anthony Kennedy; he wrote as follows…

Security depends upon a sophisticated intelligence apparatus and the ability of our armed forces to act and to interdict. There are further considerations, however. Security subsists, too, in fidelity to freedom’s first principles. Chief among these are freedom from arbitrary and unlawful restraint and the personal liberty that is secured by adherence to the separation of powers. It is from these principles that the judicial authority to consider petitions for habeas corpus relief derives.

Our opinion does not undermine the Executive’s powers as commander in chief. On the contrary, the exercise of those powers is vindicated, not eroded, when confirmed by the judicial branch.
Flowers also states…

The detention center at Guantanamo, which can't be considered sovereign U.S. territory…
Uh, excuse me, but the New York Times notes the following here

…(Bushco) herded prisoners who were seized in Afghanistan, and in other foreign countries, into the United States Navy base at Guantánamo Bay and claimed that since the base is on foreign territory, the detainees’ habeas cases could not be heard in the federal courts. In 2004, the court rejected that argument, ruling that Guantánamo, which is under American control, is effectively part of the United States.
And believe it or not, this column gets even more ripe…

On two occasions, the Bush administration and Congress tried to compromise with the more liberal members of the court by passing legislation that would provide the detainees with some limited procedural rights, just not the whole shebang demanded by the guys in the orange suits. But it refused to extend habeas to the enemy combatants, allowing them to present their cases in a civil court when the more appropriate venue was a military tribunal.

Well, for starters, here’s some information on the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005 that Congress allegedly passed to “compromise with the more liberal members of the court” (sic – should be a capital “C” – this is the first occasion). As the summary states…

The Detainee Treatment Act of 2005 prohibits inhumane treatment of prisoners, including prisoners at Guantanamo Bay; requires military interrogations to be performed according to the U.S. Army Field Manual for Human Intelligence Collector Operations; and strips federal courts of jurisdiction to consider habeas corpus petitions filed by prisoners in Guantanamo, or other claims asserted by Guantanamo detainees against the U.S. government, as well as limiting appellate review of decisions of the Combatant Status Review Tribunals and Military Commissions.[1]
The second occasion was the Military Commissions Act of 2006 which, as the Times tells us, “tried — and failed horribly — to fix the problems with the Detainee Treatment Act.”

Here is the summary…

The United States Military Commissions Act of 2006[1] was an Act of Congress[2] signed by President George W. Bush on October 17, 2006. Drafted in the wake of the Supreme Court's decision on Hamdan v. Rumsfeld,[3] the Act's stated purpose was "To authorize trial by military commission for violations of the law of war, and for other purposes."[4]
The whole point of the MCA was, as noted in the Wikipedia article, to “legalize the Jose Padilla treatment” and deliberately leave unresolved the question of habeas corpus rights for enemy combatants, whether or not they are declared as such even if they’re American citizens.

And the goal of Boumediene was to provide for the civilian court review, including habeas corpus (as stated earlier) that, according to Flowers, was already provided for in the two congressional acts that preceded the ruling. That’s a scandalous misrepresentation.

Going on with her screed…

As law professor Jack Goldsmith was quoted as saying in the most recent issue of Commentary magazine, "[Lincoln] believed that measures, otherwise unconstitutional, might become lawful, by becoming indispensable to the preservation of the Constitution, through the preservation of the nation."
How very interesting that Flowers would quote the man who (to our benefit) helped to invalidate the two flawed legal opinions from John Yoo that served as the feeble pretext for Dubya’s military commissions (as noted here).

Finally (I can’t take much more of this from her, to be honest)…

…those who say the government hasn't proven that the Guantanamo detainees are truly a threat, like our esteemed Sen. Specter, should remember that one of the most recent suicide bombers was a guest at Guantanamo until his release in 2003.
Flowers is referring to Abdullah al-Ajmi (his case is discussed here), and you could argue that he was a threat when he was apprehended and remained that way throughout his confinement at Guantanamo, to the point where blowing himself up in Mosul last April was an inevitability.

You could also argue that he was not predisposed to violence, but became radicalized during his confinement (Ajmi’s lawyer Thomas Wilner said that he was “deeply affected”; take that however you want, though the fact that Ajmi was a lance corporal in the Kuwaiti army – and was married with a child – leads me to believe that he was picked up in a “sweep” without much further consideration; that doesn’t fit the typical terrorist profile for me).

In addition, you could argue that, if he was already predisposed to violence, his case should have been prioritized to the point where he was afforded due process and a hearing before anyone else.

So basically (no surprise), the case of Abdullah al-Ajmi is hardly as black and white as Flowers and others would have you believe.

Speaking only for myself, I am glad that the “five-man oligarchy” (I’m sure Justice Ginsburg would have a comment for that) maintained the habeas rights of Gitmo detainees, as they would ensure all rights for anyone on what is deemed to be American soil (even those of idiot lawyer columnists).

“Big Time” Inky Friday Funnies

Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Jonathan Last tells us today, see, that the fact that this country is an utter mess at this point (economy, environment, government enforcement and policy affecting an infinite number of issues negatively, utter failure of executive leadership, and the war of course) is because Dubya is a “bad manager,” not because he's "evil or stupid."


Oh, and by the way, he says the following about a certain best-friend-accidentally-shooting-in-the-face vice president…

Cheney is in nearly every way an admirable figure.
It is to laugh, utterly.

While the absurdity of that statement is obvious to any life form with the cognitive processing ability greater than that of a cockroach, it nonetheless gives me an opportunity to take a little “stroll down memory sewer” (here and here).

Also, I’d like to know how our “admirable figure” will do in this situation one day (assuming he lives that long), and let’s not forget this either (so much more that could be added to this post given the subject, but this will have to do for now).

Finally, a word for the thin-skinned geniuses at; I posted a comment in response to Dick Polman’s editorial last week stating that Tim Russert died a patriot’s death (fine, though questionable) and in the process, drew a comparison to members of our military dying in Iraq (not fine). My comment was published, but two comments since (one to an Inky editorial and one to this column from Last today) were both disapproved (and I can assure you that I didn't use any bad words, not even with symbols where the letters would be).

Ummm, OK…so how much did’s traffic increase between May 2007 and May 2008 (as noted here)?

(Sorry it's hard to read; I can't really resize it - the number is a whopping 1 percent).

Cause, meet effect.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Thursday Stuff

Yes I'm partial, but I still think this ad is outstanding...

...Bill Moyers asks, "just who is waging this class war?" We know the answer, but this is still solid reporting...

...and in case anyone thought Dennis Kucinich was going to go away...

...and I love the Murdoch riff from K.O. (arrrgghhh!), but I sincerely hope I never encounter Paula Froelich or a life form of her type, assuming such species can be found anywhere except a petri dish or the bottom of a garbage can.

I Disagree, Rep. Clyburn

Regarding this story, there is a term for conservative “Democrats” who withhold their support for the presidential and vice-presidential ticket in this fall’s general election (including Dan Boren of Oklahoma, the character in the photo – I don’t think such a tactic is “justified” in any way).

They’re called Republicans.

The Timmeh and Smerky Show

Philadelphia’s pre-eminent conservative pundit (a label not to be worn with pride as far as I’m concerned) tells us the following (from here)…

Tim Russert didn't become the pre-eminent political journalist in the nation by browbeating, condescension or debate-stifling. He was a facilitator of intelligent, political conversation, not an enabler of the stark left-right, black-white, Democrat-Republican, liberal-conservative cable world in which we now live.
Smerky makes it sound as if he and "Big Tim" were just so honorable at all times, doesn’t it?

I’m definitely seeing the same type of mythologizing concerning Russert as I did when The Sainted Ronnie R rode off into the sunset to That Great Hollywood Back Lot In The Sky (on a lesser scale, I’ll admit; it was sickeningly omnipresent when The Gipper kicked).

As far as “debate-stifling” is concerned, here is an episode of Russert slapping down John Harwood of the New York Times when Harwood got a little too close to Russert’s inflated sense of entitlement over the press serving as McCain’s “base” in 2002, as so stated by “Senator Honor and Virtue.”

Want more of the same? Eric Boehlert tells us here how Arianna Huffington was frozen out of appearances on The Peacock Network to promote her book after she committed the unpardonable effrontery of actually criticizing Russert (though, all the while, NBC ignored the story of the co-opted Pentagon military analysts – and that goes for Russert too).

And while this item by reporter Colman McCarthy doesn’t qualify as “debate-stifling” I realize (maybe “debate-avoiding”), it nonetheless shows how, when granted the opportunity to grill Deadeye Dick Cheney on the Iraq war, Russert took a pass.

Finally, if Russert was such “a facilitator of intelligent political conversation,” why did he suggest here that the Repugs would attack Barack Obama over the supposed issue of not saying the pledge of allegiance even though Russert didn’t state that the charge was false?

And of course, it’s pretty funny to read Smerky anointing Russert given that the former said here that Muslims requesting a designated prayer area at Giants Stadium were “playing a game of, you know, mind blank with the audience. And that they should know better four years removed from September 11."

Our intrepid Inky columnist also trivialized the photos from Abu Ghraib that outraged the world and said that educating women means "they're not going to be around to instill these lessons in their kids" here (and his "sissification of America" comments are equally moronic).

Once again, I respect the fact that Tim Russert’s career should be appraised in its entirety since the man is now dead; though there was plenty of dreck in his body of work, there were also moments of great journalism for which he should be remembered also.

Smerky, however, is still very much with us. Given that, his good moments and bad should be evaluated individually as they occur (with many more of the latter than the former).

Update: Silly me, how could I forget this Smerky "golden moment," calling Arianna "a hooker giving up her john" (all class).

Hope He Doesn't Run Out Of Crayons

Reuters tells us here that President Highest Disapproval Rating In Gallup Poll History is telling everyone who wants to listen that he’s – gasp!thinking about writing a memoir.

I can imagine that it might start off a little like this…

I hearbye announz whut it wuz like tu bee thu leedur uf tha free wurld. I wuz preseedint fur longur thin mah daddy wuz an’ I wint an got Saddam like he didunt doo (heh heh heh). It wuz all mah ideuh (oops, sorry Dick – it wuz really yuu all along). An’ we all got rich frum cuttin’ taxiz an’ getting’ all tha oil cuntries mad at uus tu drive up tha priiiz.

So, so whut abat Katrina, aneeway? Hell, thay all juz’ expect us tu tell Mothur Nature tu make uh hurrikane wi’ no rain? (heh heh heh) An’ evun Rush said it wus there falt. It rainedd wurse in Iowa in thair wuz no lootin’ in drownin’ in stuff. (

Jus’ blame de Democrat Party fur every thin, like Karl said. An’ we gut buy wi’ that in blamin’ tha gays tuu (heh heh heh).
Yeah, I had to stop – I was making myself sick. Besides, he’ll just get Gerson or Fred Barnes or somebody to write it for him anyway..they'll be thrilled.

Little Ricky The Elephant Poops On The “Schvartze”

The Philadelphia Inquirer continues to give column space to this propagandist, with predictable results (here)…

The day after securing the Democratic presidential nomination, Barack Obama addressed the preeminent pro-Israel group, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). This mostly Jewish organization, which is largely liberal and Democratic, would seem to be the perfect pushover crowd to launch his fall campaign.
This is gross hypocrisy even for Santorum; AIPAC is “largely liberal and Democratic,” huh? Then how come, according to SourceWatch here…

"In 2002, the pro-Israel lobby successfully targeted African-American representatives Earl Hilliard (D-AL) and Cynthia McKinney (D-GA) for defeat in Democratic primaries. Hilliard and McKinney were both vulnerable for reasons unrelated to Israel. McKinney, for instance, was defeated in part because the open primary allowed Republicans angered over her comments about the September 11 attacks to cross over and vote against her in the Democratic primary. Nonetheless, their defeat enhanced the impression that the pro-Israel lobby wields great power in electoral politics," Beinin wrote.

In 2004 CBS News reported that an FBI investigation had gained evidence that a senior Pentagon analyst with close ties to Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith had provided a draft presidential directive on Iran to AIPAC that was then passed to the Israeli government.[3][4]

In March 2005 the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz reported that Pentagon analyst on the Iran desk Larry Franklin, who had been suspended from the Defence Department while the FBI investigation proceeded, had returned to work. The report suggested that a plea bargain was being discussed under which Franklin and AIPAC would not be sanctioned but focus on "two AIPAC officials, Steve Rosen and Keith Weissman." Both Rosen and Weissman are on leave from AIPAC. [5] On May 28, 2005, Ha'aretz reported that Rosen will be indicted under the Espionage Act of 1917. [6]
Oh, and speaking of Rosen and Weissman, methinks Our Gal Condi has something to answer for here.

More from Ricky…

By all accounts, (Obama) wowed the crowd with rhetorical flares, saying he "had grown up without a sense of roots" and consequently had always "understood the Zionist idea, that there is always a homeland at the center of our story." But behind the dozen standing ovations is the seldom-told story that Obama throughout the primaries has had a problem with Jewish voters.
Yep, Obama has a problem with Jewish voters – sure he does.

Former Senator Man-On-Dog continues…

In September, the U.S. Senate passed a resolution, by a vote of 76-22, that labeled the Iranian Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization. Obama didn't make the vote, but he trashed the resolution and used Clinton's support of it to drive a wedge between her and the antiwar crowd. At the same time, Obama famously announced that he would meet Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad "without precondition" and declared that Iran was merely a "tiny threat."
This Crooks and Liars link takes you to information on what Obama actually said, and that was that Iran was a “tiny threat compared to Russia” (take that, Dmitry and Vlad! – Obama is right, IMHO).

And if Little Ricky doesn’t want to believe Obama or me, fine. Believe Fareed Zakaria then, who said (in the Crooks and Liars post)…

“Iran has an economy the size of Finland’s and an annual defense budget of around $4.8 billion. It has not invaded a country since the late 18th century…. Israel and every Arab country (except Syria and Iraq) are quietly or actively allied against Iran. And yet we are to believe that Tehran is about to overturn the international system and replace it with an Islamo-fascist order? What planet are we on?
And by the way, do you have any doubt whatsoever that Little Ricky managed to work in references to a certain African-American preacher? (please).

Little Ricky also throws around all kinds of other allegations about Obama favoring Palestine over Israel (particularly funny when you read this) and Obama’s stated (and praiseworthy, I think) desire “not to weaponize space,” as well as more imagined linkages to Jimmy Carter through Zbigniew Brzezinski and Anthony Lake (Ricky also labels Carter as “pro-Palestine,” which may have some weight in Carter’s post presidency, but the last time I checked, the Camp David Accords between Israel and Egypt took place during the Carter term; the only way Dubya will manage a peace treaty with anybody is if someone does it for him – paging Condi Rice again).

But this is typical for Santorum’s lockstep complicity with anything pertaining to the state of Israel; as noted here, he and Kansas Senator Sam Brownback tried to add an amendment to Title VI of the Higher Education Act arguing that “any action or statement critical of Israel is perforce anti-Semitic.”

And by the way, here is a perspective on Santorum from a Jewish politician that you may find to be enlightening (from the 2006 campaign)…

A couple of my Jewish friends have flirted with supporting Mr. Santorum because he is "good on Israel." I respectfully disagree with them. Mr. Santorum's biblically based view of the world says that Israel must exist for Jesus to return to earth. That is why certain evangelicals are "pro-Israel," but read the end of the story. What must happen to Jews under this belief system in order to have Jesus return? Let's just say it isn't pretty. People who support the existence of Israel for that reason are, in my view, no friends of Israel or the Jewish people.
Way to go, Daylin!

Steny Chickens Out On FISA

Echo chamber time – here are the details from The Daily Kos.

Call (202) 225-4131 and tell Hoyer to “grow a pair” (and to communicate similar sentiments to Nancy, her number is 202-225-3130).


Update: Kudos to Leahy and Feingold here.

Update 6/20/08: Yep, good one from Daily Kos diarist clammyc (h/t profmarcus).

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Wednesday Stuff

"The actions of some soldiers"; God, that man is such an asswipe! What penalty has Rumsfeld paid for authoring our torture policy along with John Yoo and David Addington? Graner and England took the fall, as they should have, but I don't see anybody else in the slam!...

...I see that New Hampshire Repug Senator John Sununu just...can't...let...go of that lie concerning China supposedly drilling for oil off our shores either (what a maroon - and you KNOW it's bad when Mel Martinez is actually the voice of reason)...

...time to boogie on down with the Ted Stevens ("It's A Series Of Tubes") techno remix (and by the way, to help Mark Begich to put ol' Ted out to pasture for good, click here; h/t for these first two - but not the Dubya one - to The Daily Kos)...

...and MSNBC videos have been giving me fits all week, but I'm going to try again (stubborn, I guess); here's K.O.'s "Worst" from yesterday (Issa threatened Henry Waxman once too, remember - what a reptile).

...and here's one more; I forgot to note the passing of legendary political ad man Tony Schwartz a few days ago - here is his most famous creation.

Wednesday Mashup (6/19/08)

Don’t know exactly what to do with this stuff, so here it is (turned out to be a bigger post than I thought)…

  • Editor and Publisher reports here that arrests have finally taken place in the murder of Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya in October 2006 (a prior post is here)…

    Three men were charged with involvement in Politkovskaya's murder while an officer from the Federal Security Service, the FSB, faces charges of extortion and abuse of office, the Investigative Committee said in a statement. The four have been held since their arrests last August.

    Politkovskaya, 48, was shot to death in her central Moscow apartment building in October 2006. Colleagues believe her murder was linked to her work reporting on abuses by Russian troops in Chechnya.
    One of the things I never understood in this case is how Russian investigators think anyone would take seriously the claim that Politkovskaya’s murder was ordered by Boris Berezovsky, since both of them were fierce critics of the Kremlin and our ol’ buddy Vlad Putin.

    By the way, this tells us that the deadliest countries for journalists are Iraq (of course), Algeria (bit of a surprise) and Russia (undesirable company for Medvedev, Putin et al to say the least).

  • Also right behind Russia on that list is Colombia, and they’re also in the news as it turns out, though not in a good way either (here)…

    Colombia's coca crop – the basis for cocaine – grew by 27 percent last year, the United Nations reported Wednesday, calling the increase “a surprise and a shock” given major U.S.-funded eradication efforts.

    Eradication of the crop in Colombia, the world's No. 1 cocaine-producing nation, has been the cornerstone of a multibillion-dollar U.S. aid package.
    Gee, any idea as to why that happened?

    Some Democrats in the U.S. Congress are criticizing the heavy military focus of U.S. aid to Colombia. About 80 percent of the money goes to the military while only 20 percent is dedicated to social projects designed to wean farmers off coca.
    Of course, no one could have predicted this (and this post notes why we should have no parts of a free-trade deal with Colombia; I don’t see the point of such a pact if the farmers can’t grow enough non-cocoa to compete anyway).

  • Returning to this country, I should note that it’s hard for me to work up much indignation over this preferred loan that Sen. Chris Dodd may have received from Countrywide (here)…

    In two news conferences, Dodd said he interpreted his inclusion in this program as a "courtesy" for being a longtime Countrywide customer — not as special treatment because of his Senate position.

    "There was no red flag to me that we were getting any special treatment," he said.

    He also insisted again that even though he was told he was in (the) VIP program, he did not receive a special deal on his family's two home mortgages, as suggested in media reports last week. He said that his loan refinancing was handled through a regular loan officer — not a corporate executive.
    The story also notes the following quote from Dodd on whether he thought he was getting a special break offered to him and whether or not he picked up any such sign…

    “I was born at night, but not last night.”
    Good one.

    I’ve read elsewhere that the amount in question is about $17,000. Well, my standard for Republican corruption was established by former House Speaker Denny Hastert, who took about $70K of Jack Abramoff money and wrote earmarks into legislation that ultimately netter him about $2 million in a land deal, as noted here. Given that, the money Dodd received (assuming it was a special deal, and I don’t see the evidence) doesn’t even qualify as chump change.

    And by the way, Dodd was also criticized on this (indirectly) by Repug Rep. Jeb Hensarling of Texas (can't locate the story at the moment).

    Yep, this Jeb Hensarling.

  • Update 6/23/08: And speaking of Denny...

  • I’ve been meaning to comment on an almost totally pointless column by Adam Nagourney in the New York Times last Sunday about how “age is the new race and gender” in the presidential campaign, including this ripe excerpt…

    Many boomers, as we all know, cherish and chase youth, and many of them, not surprisingly, could be found at Mr. Obama’s rallies this fall, the political equivalent of a 50-year-old man wearing a baseball cap backward. Yet, at a time when many Americans live into their 80s and beyond, those who are beginning to contemplate their first Social Security check can simultaneously embrace the belief that they will remain active members of society for years, even decades, to come. For these voters, Mr. McCain may seem as much a barrier-breaker as either Mr. Obama or Mrs. Clinton.
    The preceding has been brought to you by the Republican National Committee (oy!).

    You know, I can make up all kinds of stuff too and put it up here, but I can think of two immediately developments if that happened: 1) I would lose the readership I have because it would cease to be of interest to anyone whatsoever (and as always, thanks to those who visit), and 2) I’d actually have a hard time looking myself in the mirror (for real).

    And Nagourney apparently could not find (or didn’t bother to look for) Democratic political consultants, since he quotes two Republican operatives and a historian to support his argument that McCain is “vulnerable to a double standard” on age, though it appears to have given him “an opportunity in the election”…

    Mr. Obama struggled with older voters in the primaries. Combined exit polls from all the primaries plus the Iowa and Nevada caucuses found that Mrs. Clinton won 59 percent of voters age 65 and older, compared with 34 percent for Mr. Obama.
    We’ll see what older voters do in the general, but I think this post by Sam Stein is worth nothing because he tells us that Obama closed the gap between himself and Hillary Clinton in the six weeks between the Ohio and Pennsylvania primaries last spring among seniors (and whites also).

    The Nagourney piece also recounts a little history about the presidential campaign of BobDole BobDole BobDole in 1996, stating the toughest questions Dole faced came from members of his own age group (Dole was 73 when he ran for president). The column also recounts a time Dole “tumbled off a stage” because a guard rail wasn’t secured, apparently, and the incident reinforced the perception was Dole was too elderly to handle the job.

    I don’t know about that, but I do know this.

    Bob Dole had nothing to run on. Zip. Nada. All he had was tax cuts (sound familiar?) and indignation over Bill Clinton’s actual and alleged extramarital antics. I can distinctly recall a campaign event he attended where the band played “Hail to the Chief” as he was introduced (typical sickening Repug arrogance).

    And as a result, he got wiped out. It had little to do with his age; more precisely, it had just about everything to do with his inability to offer an intelligent alternative as a presidential candidate during a period of prosperity.

    To imply that McCain is somehow breaking ground (following in Dole’s footsteps) on the issue of age as Obama is on race and Clinton did on gender is truly farcical. But what else can I expected from the individual who helped to concoct this?
  • Never Too Old To Learn

    Kudos to the Society of Professional Journalists here for trying to instruct bloggers on the ins and outs of avoiding lawsuits, as well as imparting other journalistic fundamentals.

    The ends for something like this, though, is usually for news organizations to recruit bloggers to report on local meetings and hearings in the municipality in which they live as a cost-saving measure. I respect that, but personally, it’s something I no longer wish to do, so I post about the stuff you see here instead.

    From a meta perspective, I should note that I’m not trying to hurt anyone’s commerce or promote non-factual information that could be detrimental to someone’s livelihood (if I state that I don’t like someone’s work and provide reasons, that can hardly be considered injurious).

    First and foremost, I’m trying to promote the free exchange of ideas. I’m also not trying to defame anyone or injure their reputation; if factual information that I communicate here happens to do that, then that’s not my fault.

    Also, I try to make sure my comments are addressed towards people in the public eye or individuals who have advertised their point of view in a public forum. Again, their personal circumstances aren’t any of my business; I’m only commenting on their opinion.

    With that out of the way, I say thanks once again to the SPJ, but I would have to ask why they stated here that Jeff Gannon (pictured) is a “reporter” (with HuffPo making the same error here; if that’s true, then Amy Winehouse is the reincarnation of Mother Teresa).

    Sorrowful Neglect

    I don’t begrudge the nice sendoff for Tim Russert, with Dubya making an appearance as noted here, though I think it’s utterly tasteless for him to do so while continuing to avoid the funerals of our service people killed in his Iraq war.

    And kudos to CBS correspondent Lara Logan for reminding us about the sacrifice of our military here; this takes a lot of guts on her part. Like you I’m sure, the only “news coverage” I see involving our military in Iraq is “happy talk” fluff about them coming home safely or being honored in some fashion; good news to be sure, but hardly the whole story.

    Another network TV journalist showed Logan’s type of courage once earlier, and Digby tells us here what happened as a result (typical for our corporate media).

    “…safe, environmentally friendly offshore oil drilling…”

    And if you guessed that that quote came from bubble headed White House PR flak Dana Perino, then you’ve earned a spot in the front row for Dubya’s next press conference (assuming he has one), right next to David Gregory and the designated humanoid from Fox Noise (based on this New York Times story today).

    See, the Repugs, desperate as they are to tar the Dems for this fall’s elections, now believe that giving some states the right to open up their coasts for oil drilling is a winner for them, with Perino adding that, “The president believes Congress shouldn’t waste any more time (on the issue).”

    I guess they’re changing their tune now because the ultra-idiotic talking point of “well, we’d better do something, because the Chinese are drilling for oil off our coasts as part of an agreement with Cuba,” has been completely exposed as a lie (here).

    Why our representatives on Capitol Hill still feel that they should give this bunch of outlaws anything at this point is a complete and utter mystery to me (not just on FISA, but everything else as well).

    The Times story states that the congressional moratorium on drilling was first instituted in 1982, supplemented by an executive order from Poppy Bush in 1990 and another by Bill Clinton in 1998 (with Dubya chief of staff Joshua Bolten – still ignoring a Congressional subpoena along with Harriet Miers – telling his boss to lift Clinton’s order).

    Fortunately, McClatchy brings us some reality on this issue here, as follows…

    Even if states let drilling proceed, it would take years before new oil would flow.

    First, drillers would need to clear regulatory hurdles and overcome environmental concerns.

    Even if permission were granted, oil companies would have to find it worthwhile economically to drill; that's probably not a problem if prices stay high, but could be questionable if they fall again, as they did in the 1980s and '90s.

    If companies found significant amounts of oil, some question whether this country has enough refining capacity to handle the new supply. The nation has slightly fewer refineries than it did in the mid-1980s.

    Opponents fear environmental damage, especially to beaches that are essential parts of coastal-state economies and cultures. The key reason for a federal moratorium, Pope said, is that "one state could jeopardize beaches in neighboring states with risky offshore drilling."

    A spill off the Virginia coast, for instance, "would impact beaches, marine life and tourism in New Jersey."

    The Rainforest Action Network notes that even without a spill, a single oil rig can dump more than 99,000 tons of drilling fluid and metal cuttings into the ocean.
    And by the way, Think Progress tells us here that both Dubya and John McBush have supported the ban (and PA Repug House Rep John Peterson has been trying to get the ban overturned for years according to the Times; that’s interesting given that PA is a landlocked state – guess he was too busy in that effort to secure enough federal dollars for PA mass transit, as noted here).

    Tuesday, June 17, 2008

    Tuesday PM Stuff

    Wow, looks like "Senator Honor And Virtue" needs to have his mouth washed out for using a really dirty word here, boys and girls (h/t Atrios - I'll start convening a blogger ethics panel immediately)...

    ...and that war-mongering creep isn't getting the young one either, and I don't give a damn what honorable sacrifice he made forty years ago...

    ...also, here are the latest Obama smears from McCain, courtesy of "The Pap Attack" (with good advice)...

    ...meanwhile, Al definitely has some ground to make up in Minnesota, but this race has a ways to go...

    ...aww, what the hell, I'm "voting Republican" too (fat chance)...

    ...and as a tribute to dancer Cyd Charisse, here is a portion of her number from "The Band Wagon" (1953) with Fred Astaire.

    More Oil And Slick Characters

    So, according to this Swampland post (in the update), John W. McBush “has criticized oil company profits as excessive, and called for investigations of possible price manipulation, (but) he is coming out strongly against an oil company profits tax.”

    Yeah, that will accomplish a lot (and of course, he then used this as an excuse to attack Barack Obama and compare him to Jimmy Carter again, which I find to be an odd strategy since only older voters would remember him anyway; does this mean, then, that McCain has written off anyone who is about half his age or younger?).

    What I’ve always wondered about is why the oil companies haven’t expanded their domestic refineries for years (since the time of Carter’s windfall profits tax I believe, but that is hardly an excuse for these robber barons).

    With that in mind, I happened to come across this item about Conoco-Phillips and its attempt to expand one of its refineries in Illinois (right in Obama’s backyard, as it turns out), but the expansion was blocked by the EPA because the agency ruled that Conoco-Phillips “did not plan to use the best technology for cutting emissions.”

    While I am utterly shocked that some long-dormant enforcement reflex on the part of a government agency under this regime somehow sprung to life, I would also like to point out (as shown in this story) that the reason Big Oil hasn’t expanded its refineries really doesn’t have anything to do with what either political party does, truth be told; it is pure supply and demand, and they really don’t feel much like obeying the law either.

    Another consideration is feeding their U.S. and overseas markets (notably China and India); they don’t want to take any of their operations offline for expansion or maintenance because it would mean slowing down the output, and this was true after Katrina also (a time when price due to supply impact promised to remain high for some time).

    I don’t know if it will be possible for Barack Obama to tax the profits of these corporate criminals in order to assist poorer Americans with their energy costs. But at least he’s willing to try, which is a lot more than can be said for his opponent, as big a lackey for Big Oil as anyone could ever imagine (here).

    "Absolutely Al" Returns From The Past

    (Note: The “South Park” guys, Trey Parker and Matt Stone, had prepared sitcom spoofs based on either Bush or Gore for the end of 2000 depending on who won the election. Well, given the result, Comedy Central ran their show “Love That Bush” for a few episodes, which actually had some crudely funny moments, and the post title tells you what they would have called the show had Gore gotten in. Now, aren’t you glad you know that?).

    I don’t have a lot to say about the former veep endorsing Obama (which is a good thing...some truly hideous troll bottom-feeders in the comments to the MSNBC story, by the way, most of which easily should have been disapproved), but I just wanted to take the opportunity (as long as we’re discussing Gore) to note that I recently viewed the HBO film “Recount” starring Kevin Spacey as Gore attorney Ron Klain.

    I read that three authors who wrote books about the 2000 election watched the film to see how authentic it was, and I believe they all approved (including Jake Tapper, who wrote the account “Down And Dirty” read by yours truly). And I learned a thing or two watching it, which I didn’t think I would; I always understood that Gore attorney David Boies made a mistake by agreeing to the December 12th certification deadline, but it turns out that, had he not done that, the Florida legislature would have taken matters into its own hands and (quite probably) certified the electors for Bush anyway.

    Actually, “authentic” is probably an understatement when describing the film; even the supporting characters (actors who briefly portrayed Bush and Gore in key moments, as well as Jeb Bush) are all authentic; actually, given the vast array of major and minor players in the film (such as the Supreme Court justices), it’s amazing that the actors recreated these people as faithfully as they did.

    As the story begins, Klain is actually upset with the Gore campaign because he had been edged out as chairman by former congressman Tony Coelho, and it’s hard to tell if Klain ends up so diligently overseeing the recount effort mainly to prove Gore wrong or because he gradually realizes the horrific electoral fraud that is unfolding (Gore warmly acknowledges his debt to Klain in a phone call shortly before Gore gives up for good).

    The movies does a first-class job of putting together all of the pieces of the puzzle as far as I was concerned. And there are many other terrific performances aside from Spacey: Denis Leary is hilarious at times as head non-lawyer Gore operative Michael Whouley, Ed Begley, Jr. makes the very most of his brief stint as Boies, and Tom Wilkinson did something that I didn’t think was possible, and that was generate a bit of sympathy for James Baker (John Hurt hit just the right note as Warren Christopher, a man who, sadly, didn’t quite seem to “get” everything that was going on until it was just about too late - also, the "Brooks Brothers Riot" in this movie looks like a documentary).

    And Laura Dern is absolutely spooky as Katherine Harris. If she doesn’t get an Emmy (or a Cable Ace award or something), then it will be a shock.

    (And by the way, here’s a moment from “Recount” recalling some epic wankery by Joe Lieberman.)

    The last shot of the film before the credits roll is that of all the ballots un-recounted because the process was stopped by the Supreme Court. It’s just about too painful to contemplate.

    Tommy Thompson’s “Wellness” Parade

    The former Repug presidential candidate spoke recently in Philadelphia, as reported by the Inquirer here…

    Because health costs are hurting businesses and because Medicare is approaching bankruptcy, (Thompson) said the new president and Congress will have do something next year. It will help to promote electronic medical records and prescriptions, he said, as well as to create tax incentives and buying pools to make insurance more affordable for low income people.
    To be fair, I should note that Thompson instituted something called “BadgerCare” (not for the little woodland animals, but people; I’ve never lived in Wisconsin, so I have to admit that I’m not into the whole “badger” thing).

    Wikipedia tells us here that…

    (BadgerCare was) designed to provide health coverage to those families whose employers don't provide health insurance but make too much money to qualify for Medicaid. Through the federal waiver program, Thompson helped replicate this program in several states when he became Secretary of Health and Human Services.
    It actually has been a good program. So good in fact that, as noted here, Thompson’s DHS successor Mike Leavitt cut its funding (typical).

    And if I were Thompson, I wouldn’t say much about Medicare; as noted here…

    Thompson, who served during President Bush's first term, is on the board of Centene Corp., a St. Louis-based company that operates Medicaid-funded health maintenance organizations in Indiana, Kansas, Missouri, New Jersey, Ohio, Texas and Wisconsin. His proposals to move more Medicaid beneficiaries and uninsured people onto such plans could improve the company's bottom line.

    Thompson also is chairman of the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions, part of Deloitte & Touche USA LLP, a consulting firm that has contracted with states to help improve their Medicaid programs. If Thompson becomes a driving force behind revamping Medicaid, states who hire Deloitte may feel they are contracting with a player. Ditto for clients' perceptions of the law firm Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP, in which Thompson is a partner and which has health-care and insurance industry clients.

    Thompson also is a part-owner and board member of VeriChip Corp., which makes microchips that store data and can be implanted in humans. The company might benefit if Medicaid were to embrace electronic medical records.
    Yep, sounds like Tommy could end up turning a buck or two through privatization of Medicare/Medicaid. Also, the Inquirer tells us…

    Thompson, who said he has snatched cigarettes away from employees, said companies should ban smoking and encourage better eating. He suggested subsidizing healthy foods in the company cafeteria and charging "five bucks for a hamburger, 10 bucks for a cheeseburger and 20 cents for a French fry."
    And if all else fails, Thompson could try to persuade al Qaeda to poison our food supply; he wondered why they have not done so already here.

    Dubya And The "How Long" Blues

    I actually learned something interesting from “The Page,” Mark Halperin’s blog, today, and it is that President Highest Disapproval Rating In Gallup Poll History has designated June as “Black Music Month” and apparently will say something about that today at 3:00 from the White House (yet another diversion from this bunch; and yes, Repugs, it will still be called that if God willing Obama wins in November – sick).

    So in honor of the occasion, I came up with the following (based on “Eisenhower Blues” by J.B. Lenoir and covered by Elvis Costello, among others)…

    Hey everybody, I was talking to you
    The economy’s tanking, we’re all getting screwed
    Mm mm mm, I got them Dubya Bush blues
    Thinkin' about me and you, what on earth are we gonna do?

    The planet is melting, we’re stuck in Iraq
    Our jobs go to Asia and they ain’t coming back
    Mm mm mm, I got them Dubya Bush blues
    Thinkin' about me and you, what on earth are we gonna do?

    Our government spies on our phones and our mail
    While the telcos plead so they keep out of jail
    And those Repugs who were always so “phat”
    This year will mostly vote Democrat(ic)
    Mm mm mm, I got them Dubya Bush blues
    Thinkin' about me and you, what on earth are we gonna do?

    Real news scares us, the media fears
    So they tell us the latest from Britney Spears
    Our country is crumbling – that’s the real threat
    And all we give to our children is debt
    Mm mm mm, I got them Dubya Bush blues
    Thinkin' about me and you, what on earth are we gonna do?
    216 days to go with George W. (“Ball And Chain”) Bush, people.

    Supreme Spin Untrue From “Torture Yoo”

    In typical form for the Bushco attack dog that he is, John Yoo sounds off today on the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal (where else, I wonder) about the Boumediene v. Bush ruling granting habeas corpus rights to the prisoners currently held at Guantanamo.

    I’ll try to parse some opinionating that is truly worthy of a response as opposed to Yoo’s typical right-wing hectoring. Also, only the Wall Street Journal (well, maybe the Philadelphia Inquirer also, and possibly the Chicago Tribune) would publish the commentary of a lawyer whose two “torture memos” were both contested by the one-time head of Dubya’s Office of Legal Counsel (and peer to Yoo) Jack Goldsmith here.

    The Boumediene five also ignored the Constitution's structure, which grants all war decisions to the president and Congress. In 2004 and 2006, the Court tried to extend its reach to al Qaeda terrorists held at Guantanamo Bay. It was overruled twice by Congress, which has the power to define the jurisdiction of the federal courts. Congress established its own procedures for the appeal of detentions.

    Incredibly, these five Justices have now defied the considered judgment of the president and Congress for a third time, all to grant captured al Qaeda terrorists the exact same rights as American citizens to a day in civilian court.
    The phrase “overruled twice by Congress” is incomprehensible for anyone, but particularly so for a lawyer, which Yoo purports to be. But if by that he means that Congress has tried to legislate on this matter twice, then he is correct.

    And Yoo is also right to the extent that Boumediene is the third legal setback administered to Bushco by the Supreme Court in successive, even-numbered years. However, for the sake of context, this should be noted from the New York Times (excerpted from a recent editorial)…

    …the Bush administration repeatedly tried to strip away habeas rights. First, it herded prisoners who were seized in Afghanistan, and in other foreign countries, into the United States Navy base at Guantánamo Bay and claimed that since the base is on foreign territory, the detainees’ habeas cases could not be heard in the federal courts. In 2004, the court rejected that argument, ruling that Guantánamo, which is under American control, is effectively part of the United States.

    In 2006, the court handed the administration another defeat, ruling that it had relied improperly on the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005 to hold the detainees on Guantánamo without giving them habeas rights. Since then, Congress passed another law, the Military Commissions Act of 2006 that tried — and failed horribly — to fix the problems with the Detainee Treatment Act.

    Now, by a 5-to-4 vote, the court has affirmed the detainees’ habeas rights. The majority, in an opinion by Justice Anthony Kennedy, ruled that the Military Commissions Act violates the Suspension Clause, by eliminating habeas corpus although the requirements of the Constitution — invasion or rebellion — do not exist.
    And Yoo also tells us…

    In World War II, no civilian court reviewed the thousands of German prisoners housed in the U.S. Federal judges never heard cases from the Confederate prisoners of war held during the Civil War. In a trilogy of cases decided at the end of World War II, the Supreme Court agreed that the writ did not benefit enemy aliens held outside the U.S.
    Concerning “the great war” (which turned out to be shorter than the Iraq debacle), this is a FindLaw review of the book "Romantics At War," which notes the steps FDR took when confronted with German saboteurs, giving rise to the Ex Parte Quirin Supreme Court ruling upon which Dubya’s military commissions are based…

    The invaders of 1942 were apparently not the steeliest folk the Third Reich had to offer, as within days of landing one of them had confessed all and given up his compatriots to the F.B.I. Franklin D. Roosevelt directed his attorney general to court-martial the captured Germans - rather than trying them criminally in a federal district court. He did so even despite the fact that, at the time, the Geneva Conventions placed limits on the treatment of captured combatants, as they continue to do today. The Germans were court-martialled; their appeals were denied; and they were duly executed.

    Even at the time, Roosevelt's decision was on shaky legal ground. During the Civil War era, the case of Ex Parte Milligan famously expounded that the courts of the United States were the exclusive organs of justice within our borders.

    Yet in considering what to do with the German saboteurs, Roosevelt seized on a different case entirely: a Revolutionary War precedent in which a Brit in cahoots with Benedict Arnold was captured, tried by a military court, and executed in three days time. Of course, there was then no Constitution - and certainly no Geneva Conventions - with which to contend.

    In any event, the Roosevelt Administration should not have worried. Ultimately, the Supreme Court - speaking through no less than Chief Justice Harlan Fiske Stone - retroactively approved the executions, in (Quirin), even though they had occurred outside the normal justice processes of the courts of the United States, and outside the strictures of the Geneva Conventions as well.

    How was this possible? The Court had a simple answer: haberdashery. Writing an unseemly eight months after the saboteurs had been executed, the Court held that the Germans, having shed the uniform of their nation, had likewise shed the protections of the laws of war. Thus they were, in the phrase Chief Justice Stone coined, "unlawful combatants."
    They shed their uniforms, so they thus shed their legal protections, huh? What a sterling moment in American jurisprudence.

    This is a strangely appropriate recollection, though, when you realize that Yoo is trying to weave a fiction here of “whole cloth” on behalf of an “emperor” who truly has “no clothes.”

    Update: Yep, I'd call this a big-time takedown on Yoo from Greenwald (h/t Atrios).

    Monday, June 16, 2008

    (Former) Repug Livingston, I Presume

    Boy, did this jump out at yours truly from the Philadelphia Daily News last Friday…

    Mike Livingston is a law professor at Rutgers-Camden. Graduated from Yale Law just like famous Democrats Bill and Hillary. Except he's a Republican who's running against Chaka Fattah for Congress.

    Make that "was running."

    Last week, Livingston quit the race.

    He says GOP elected officials and the party apparatus had little interest in helping a guy fight uphill in a Democratic district.

    And that the national Republicans are so scared of a Democratic landslide in November, they are focusing on all their resources on protecting incumbents.

    "There's not much charity in lifeboats," Livingston, from Cheltenham Township, told us.

    "I can't think of a single Republican elected official who returned my phone call," he said. "Not [U.S. Sen. Arlen] Specter, not [U.S. Rep. Jim] Gerlach not the [Montgomery] county commissioners.

    "I felt like the guy who couldn't get a date in high school," he said.

    He reached out to the Republican Congressional Campaign Committee and other groups to ask about fund-raising help and candidate training, and "they always seemed to direct me to the youngest person in the office."

    When he asked the RCCC to put him in touch with donors, "they would sort of change the topic or say, 'That's not gonna work for you,' " Livingston said.

    The last straw came on May 28, when Specter and U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell held a rally to show support for local candidates. Livingston wasn't invited.

    Vito Canuso, chairman of Republican City Committee, said that once Livingston filed a formal withdrawal with the secretary of state, the party would take steps to find a replacement.
    Our party is always on the lookout for talented, dedicated and determined people, Mike. Why don't you check this out?

    And in a related story, as they say, I think there are acres of wisdom in Frank Rich’s New York Times column yesterday, but this item commanded my attention in particular…

    Last week The Hill reported that at least 14 Republican members of Congress have refused to endorse or publicly support Mr. McCain. Congressional Quarterly found that of the 62,800 donors who maxed out to Mr. Bush’s campaign in 2004, only about 5,000 (some 8 percent) have contributed to his putative successor.
    I should tell you, though, that I am not of a mind to celebrate at this moment, what with the political party that is the beneficiary of this good news instead tabling Congressman Dennis Kucinich’s articles of impeachment against Dubya (I thought this column by Marie Cocco was good), and now threatening yet another FISA cave-in (here).

    Sometimes I seriously wonder which national Democrats, aside from Patrick Murphy and Barack Obama (and probably Russ Feingold and Chris Dodd), are worthy of one speck of my time and effort (if you can help inject some spine, Mike, be our guest).

    A Dumb Question For Monday

    CNN’s Jack Cafferty asks the following here…

    President Bush wants Osama bin Laden captured before leaving office. How important is it at this point?
    Why don’t you ask the families and friends of these heroic Americans instead?


    Ruminating On Russert

    I suppose it is as it should be that Tim Russert has received such a fond sendoff from his colleagues over the last few days, as well as other notables in politics and entertainment. I can only imagine what type of work ethic it takes to acquire degrees in both law and journalism, with one being a logical extension of the other (I once held a job where part of my duties was to screen resumes of freelance writers to be hired for what purported to be a publishing company, and anyone who had a legal background of one type or another automatically received first preference; if you know how to write a brief, then as far as I was concerned, you pretty much knew how to write in the “inverted pyramid” structure anyway).

    Even though I cannot recall a singular moment of extraordinary journalistic accomplishment, his career in aggregate is such that it was emblematic of a formidable talent.

    However, I think it is important that we not gloss over Russert’s words and actions too much. I know we should show respect because the man is dead and his family, friends and loved ones deserve no less, but I have some observations (spurred on, I have to admit, by this column in the Philadelphia Inquirer yesterday by Dick Polman, which absurdly characterizes Russert as “a patriot…dying in battle,” particularly tasteless given the sacrifices of our service people in Iraq and elsewhere).

    Let’s start by point out that there was a reason why Arianna Huffington began what she called the “Russert Watch” regarding the inaccuracies generated by the utterly fawning treatment the “Meet The Press” host gave to Republicans (to the point where, during the “Scooter” Libby trial, former communications director to Dick Cheney Cathie Martin suggested arranging an interview with Deadeye Dick on the show because MTP was “our best format”).

    And as Michelle Pilecki notes here, Russert certainly had no reservations about blaming we filthy, unkempt types online for the “incivility in our public discourse”…

    "Bloggers," said Russert, "all force candidates to accept a position, to play a[n adversarial] role," and "puts pressure on those of us in the mainstream media [if we're not] sufficiently adversarial. It doesn't work that way." Actually, it seems to me that Russert sees journalism as being, by definition, adversarial. He asserts that the news media must "represent both sides of the issue," apparently (this is just me talking) even when there isn't another realistic side, e.g. scientific issues. Of course, back in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq and the question of WMDs, how much MSM coverage was there of "both sides of the issue"? Did the American public get to hear the arguments of former Marine and weapons inspector Scott Ritter, who said that Iraq didn't have WMDs and warned against the invasion?
    I also once found it particularly uproarious to find out that Russert was going to chair “a panel discussion in media ethics” (here).

    Also, this Media Matters post catalogues Russert’s journalistic misadventures during the Democratic debate last October 30th; we have a question from Russert described as “breathtakingly misleading” by to Hillary Clinton concerning her husband (the Big Dog described it as “transparently hostile”). The Media Matters post also picks apart a question Russert posed to HRC about Social Security that tried to question her credibility but, in the process, sabotaged his own worse than anyone else.

    And if you have any question as to the degree that Russert, through talent and ingratiation, had risen to the top of the Beltway bloviators, all you need to do is read once more the New York Times story by Mark Leibovich linked to this post about how Chris Matthews, as big a corporate media loon as you can imagine, obsessed about trying to match Russert in as adolescent a way as possible.

    However, I think history will be kind to Russert and his performance last October for two reasons: 1) The man is now dead, and 2) At least Russert managed to lead off with debate questions that, while misleading, were at least pertinent to important topics; would that Charlie Gibson and George Stephanopoulos had learned that lesson later.

    (Indeed the timing of Russert’s passing is a bit spooky, given the fact that it happened so close to Father’s Day and he purported to be a spokesman for all fathers here, which I thought was typical overreach on his part. However, this Wikipedia article tells us that Russert correctly claimed that the 2000 presidential election would be decided by Florida and 2004 by Ohio, and he also claimed that the 2008 election would be decided by New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona and Nevada; we'll see if he's right.)

    All of that being said, though, it’s good that Russert is being remembered for his other legitimately good work. But I would like to see everyone who has felt his passing in one way or another extend a fraction of that sympathy towards our military that continues to fight, suffer, struggle and die as a result of Dubya’s Iraq war.

    Sunday, June 15, 2008

    Sunday Stuff

    I hope everyone had a good Father's Day - mine was fine...

    ...and golly gosh, Newton Leroy Gingrich said earlier today that the recent Supreme Court ruling on habeas corpus "will cost us a city" (he's obviously read Scalia's opinion; h/t Think Progress - how's that floating space station to replace our air traffic controllers going, Newt?)...'s more on "How To Exorcise At Home" (ba-dump) with Bobby (Don't Call Me Piyush) Jindal...

    ...and here's K.O.'s "Special Comment" on the latest from Senator John W. ("Not Too Important") McBush.