Monday, December 31, 2007

canvassing for Edwards takes moxie

. . . and pizza, apparently.

I spent the weekend in New Hampshire volunteering for John Edwards, and I will tell you all about it just as soon as I catch up on my sleep. . .

. . . and eat some vegetables.

Happy New Year, everybody!

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Sunday, December 30, 2007

‘2k turns 2!

My word! Or, should I say, my 10,000 words (give or take). guy2k was born on this day in 2005, and after two years and nearly 800 posts (between here and my other blog, capitoilette), it is still hard for me to believe that I have a blog. . . and even harder to say to folks that I’m a blogger.

Like last year, I have this feeling that I should be greeting the next year with a selection of links to my favorite posts from the last twelve months, but, like last year, I will have to disappoint myself (and maybe you?). I am just getting back from New Hampshire after a weekend of volunteering for John Edwards (more on that later), so there was just no time for such a self-indulgent trip down memory lane (or such a shameless attempt to generate more hits).

So, before this anniversary day ticks away, let me, as I did last year, wish all of you a healthy, happy, and peaceful new year filled with progressive politics, enjoyable popular culture, and tasty mixed drinks.

Now, without further ado, year three!


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Friday, December 28, 2007

compare and contrast; US presidential candidates on the assassination of Benazir Bhutto

From CNN:

John Edwards:
"Benazir Bhutto was a brave and historic leader for Pakistan. Her assassination is a sad and solemn event, and our hearts go out to her family and to the Pakistani people. But we will not let this contemptible, cowardly act delay the march of progress in Pakistan for a single second.

"I have seen firsthand in Pakistan, and in meetings with Prime Minister Bhutto and President Musharraf, the instability of the country and the complexity of the challenges they face. At this critical moment, America must convey both strength and principle. We should do everything in our power to help bring the perpetrators of this heinous act to justice and to ensure that Bhutto's movement toward democracy continues."

Chris Dodd:
"Today's news from Pakistan is both shocking and saddening. As a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, I have had the opportunity to travel to Pakistan and come to know Former Prime Minister Bhutto very well over the years. I spoke to her personally several weeks ago and have stayed in close contact with her since. She was a respected leader who played an important part in moving Pakistan toward democracy.

"As we recognize the loss of a leader today, we must also recognize the implication of today's tragedy to the security of the region and to that of the United States.

"At this critical time we must do everything in our power to help Pakistan continue the path toward democracy and full elections. Our first priority must be to ensure stability in this critical nuclear state.

"The United States should also stand ready to provide assistance in investigating this heinous act. And as Pakistan perpetrators to justice, it should also demonstrate that it will not allow such violence to derail democracy and proceed with elections in a timely manner."

Mike Huckabee:
"I am deeply troubled by the news accounts this morning of Pakistani opposition leader and former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto's assassination in a suicide attack. This is devastating news for the people of Pakistan, and my prayers go out to them as we follow developments regarding this dire situation.

"The terrible violence surrounding Pakistan's upcoming election stands in stark contrast to the peaceful transition of power that we embrace in our country through our Constitution. On this sad day, we are reminded that while our democracy has flaws, it stands as a shining beacon of hope for nations and people around the world who seek peace and opportunity through self-government."

Joe Biden:
"This is a terrible day. My heart goes out to Benazir Bhutto's family, friends and followers.

"Like her father before her, Benazir Bhutto worked her whole life – and gave her life – to help Pakistan become a democratic, secular and modern Muslim country. She was a woman of extraordinary courage who returned to Pakistan in the face of death threats and even after an assassination attempt the day of her return, she did not flinch. It was a privilege to know her these many years and to call her a friend.

"I am convinced Ms. Bhutto would have won free and fair elections next week. The fact that she was by far Pakistan's most popular leader underscores the fact that there is a vast, moderate majority in Pakistan that must have a clear voice in the system. Her assassination makes it all the more urgent that Pakistan return to a democratic path.

"This fall, I twice urged President Musharraf to provide better security for Ms. Bhutto and other political leaders – I wrote him before her return and after the first assassination attempt in October. The failure to protect Ms. Bhutto raises a lot of hard questions for the government and security services that must be answered.

"I know that Benazir's followers will be tempted to lash out in anger and violence. I urge them to remain calm – and not play into the hands of the forces of destruction. I urge Pakistan's leaders to open a fully accountable and transparent investigation. We must find out who was behind this and bring those responsible to justice. And the United States should offer any assistance necessary, including investigative teams, to get to the bottom of this horror.

"The way to honor Benazir Bhutto is to uphold the values for which she gave her life: democracy, moderation and social justice. I join with the Pakistani people in mourning the loss of a dear friend."

Bill Richardson:
"Benazir Bhutto was a courageous woman. Her death, and the deaths of so many of her supporters, is more than just a tragedy. It is a testament to the will of the Pakistani people to see democracy restored. My thoughts and prayers are with the families of those who died today.

"Ms. Bhutto knew the dangers to her safety. But she would not be intimidated. We also must not be intimidated.

A leader has died, but democracy must live. The United States government cannot stand by and allow Pakistan's return to democracy to be derailed or delayed by violence.

We must use our diplomatic leverage and force the enemies of democracy to yield: President Bush should press Musharraf to step aside, and a broad-based coalition government, consisting of all the democratic parties, should be formed immediately. Until this happens, we should suspend military aid to the Pakistani government. Free and fair elections must also be held as soon as possible.

It is in the interests of the US that there be a democratic Pakistan that relentlessly hunts down terrorists. Musharraf has failed, and his attempts to cling to power are destabilizing his country. He must go."

Hillary Clinton:
"I am profoundly saddened and outraged by the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, a leader of tremendous political and personal courage. I came to know Mrs. Bhutto over many years, during her tenures as Prime Minister and during her years in exile. Mrs. Bhutto's concern for her country, and her family, propelled her to risk her life on behalf of the Pakistani people. She returned to Pakistan to fight for democracy despite threats and previous attempts on her life and now she has made the ultimate sacrifice. Her death is a tragedy for her country and a terrible reminder of the work that remains to bring peace, stability, and hope to regions of the globe too often paralyzed by fear, hatred, and violence.

"Let us pray that her legacy will be a brighter, more hopeful future for the people she loved and the country she served. My family and I extend my condolences and deepest sympathies to the victims and their families and to the people of Pakistan."

John McCain:
"I was deeply saddened today to learn about the death of Pakistani opposition leader Benazir Bhutto. My deepest condolences go out to the family and supporters of this remarkable woman, an individual who paid the ultimate price for her embrace of moderation and rejection of extremism.

"The death of Benazir Bhutto underscores yet again the grave dangers we face in the world today and particularly in countries like Pakistan, where the forces of moderation are arrayed in a fierce battle against those who embrace violent Islamic extremism.

"Given Pakistan's strategic location, the international terrorist groups that operate from its soil, and its nuclear arsenal, the future of that country has deep implications for the security of the United States and its allies. America must stand on the right side of this ongoing struggle.

"In my numerous visits to Pakistan - to Islamabad, to Peshawar, even to the tribal areas of Waziristan - I have seen first hand the many challenges that face the political leadership there, challenges so graphically portrayed by today's tragedy. There are, in Pakistan, brave individuals who seek to lead their country away from extremism and instability and into the light of a better day. America, I believe, must do all we can to support them."

Mitt Romney:
"We are still learning the details of today's tragic events in Pakistan, but this is a stark reminder that America must not only stay on high alert, but remain actively engaged across the globe. Pakistan has long been a key part in the war against extremism and radical jihadists. For those who think Iraq is the sole front in the War on Terror, one must look no further than what has happened today. America must show its commitment to stand with all moderate forces across the Islamic world and together face the defining challenge of our generation – the struggle against violent, radical jihadists.

"At this difficult time, our thoughts and prayers go to the family of Benazir Bhutto, and to all the people of Pakistan who are fighting against extremist forces that would commit such heinous acts as the whole world has witnessed today."
Video: Romney blames extremists

Barack Obama:
"I am shocked and saddened by the death of Benazir Bhutto in this terrorist atrocity. She was a respected and resilient advocate for the democratic aspirations of the Pakistani people. We join with them in mourning her loss, and stand with them in their quest for democracy and against the terrorists who threaten the common security of the world," said United States Senator Barack Obama.

Rudy Giuliani:
"The assassination of Benazir Bhutto is a tragic event for Pakistan and for democracy in Pakistan. Her murderers must be brought to justice and Pakistan must continue the path back to democracy and the rule of law. Her death is a reminder that terrorism anywhere — whether in New York, London, Tel Aviv or Rawalpindi — is an enemy of freedom. We must redouble our efforts to win the Terrorists' War on Us."

So, lemme see. . . Giuliani works in an oblique reference to 9/11 (we’d be disappointed if he didn’t), and Clinton is the only one who chose to refer to the late PM as “Mrs. Bhutto” (odd because Bhutto kept her father’s name after her marriage to Asif Ali Zardari).

Anybody else notice anything interesting?

(h/t JW via JR)

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Thursday, December 27, 2007

word of the day: undorsement

Thank you, Paul Krugman for giving a name (or, at least, alerting me to the name) of the very peculiar but somehow heartening brand of anti-endorsement two of New Hampshire’s major dailies have offered up in the fear that their state might hand a victory to one Mitt “Double Git” Romney.

It’s hard to feel sorry for Mitt Romney — and actually, I don’t. Still, he may be the first candidate to receive two “undorsements” that mention, as one of his flaws, that his hair is too good.

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Wednesday, December 26, 2007

america’s most whiniest

Remember the old joke—the food’s lousy and the portions are small? Well, New York Times “reporter” Julie Bosman has done that one better.

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Friday, December 21, 2007

the robust go bust

Just before Thanksgiving, New York Times public editor Clark Hoyt wrote that a) yes, the Times had covered Senators Clinton and Obama on the front page to the near total exclusion of all the other candidates, and had done an especially poor job of covering the Edwards campaign, b) we should just wait, because there’s stuff on the other candidates coming up, and c) what you don’t see on the front page of the paper is made up for on the Times’s website, like on their “robust” blog, The Caucus. Since that column, the front page of the paper has seen (on the Democratic side) one mostly irrelevant hit piece about the relationship between John Edwards and John Kerry in 2004, then, a month later, a photo of Edwards with a jump to a back page featuring a sloppy, snarky, assertion-laden profile from that manufacturer of conventional wisdom, Adam Nagourney, and, of course, many, many more stories about Barack and Hillary.

More on capitoilette. . . .

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Thursday, December 20, 2007

tweety has a man-crush

But, in this case, I'm OK with that (though we might have to change the name of the show to Softball).

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guest blogger: Buckles the cat

Can you tell that I'm having a busy week?

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Wednesday, December 19, 2007

distribution requirements

No time for a big write-up today, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t news. . . plus, I get to fulfill header-mandated distribution requirements!


It’s only one poll, but hey!

Who needs Oprah when you’ve got Ralph. . . sort of.

It’s always nice to say thank you. (Watch the video—I think it’s nice that the Senator says “thank you”; how you want to say “thank you, too,” is up to you.)

Speaking of saying thanks, guess which presidential contenders will be saying thank you to the telecommunications industry this season (gosh, I guess by missing the debate on Monday, they kind of already did, no?).

Shocked! Shocked to discover that the White House was directly involved in discussions about whether to destroy those CIA torture tapes.

And about those tapes—it’s not just that they showed torture, they showed that the torture didn’t work.

NYT makes fun of Greenspan’s favorite book. . . or maybe they’re just makin’ fun of Greenspan. (h/t Gem Spa)

Popular Culture:

Wow! If only our sex scandals could be this cool.

And, finally, Mixed Drinks!

For the love of grog—someone please have a holiday party, invite me, and make this!

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Monday, December 17, 2007

are you ready for some filibuster?

Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT) will take the floor of the US Senate today and engage in the first old-fashioned, “talk until you’re blue in the face,” “hold the floor and refuse to yield” filibuster in fifteen years. Why? Let’s just say the Sen. Dodd is rising to protect a little something I like to call The United States Constitution.

The Senate takes up debate of the latest revision to the FISA law today, and though what lead us to this point could take the better part of filibuster to understand, let me summarize by saying that the issue at hand that has motivated Dodd to rise in objection is the issue of granting retroactive immunity to telecommunications companies that broke federal law in order to help the Bush Administration illegally spy on American citizens inside the United States.

That it has come to this is tragic for so many reasons, not the least of which is the perplexing readiness of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) to ignore a hold placed by Dodd on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence version of the bill which contains immunity. That the SSCI, chaired by alleged Democrat Jay Rockefeller (WV), reported out a FISA bill that included retroactive immunity represents another titanic failure of the Democrats to show leadership and provide the constitutionally mandated check against Bush executive branch abuses of power.

Yet, in the face of so very many of those abuses over the past seven years, why is this time, this issue, the one that requires Dodd’s filibuster—and our support?

The battle over retroactive immunity contains numerous storylines that embody Bush Administration efforts to usurp power, consolidate it, and preserve it at the expense of the liberties that go to the very definition of what we are as a nation. It also exemplifies the over-close relationship that has developed between our government and corporate interests.

Writing in Sunday’s New York Times, James Risen, Eric Lichtblau, and Scott Shane—the reporters that originally broke the illegal domestic surveillance story two years ago—bring to light several new facts about the warrantless surveillance, as well as the relationship between the NSA and the Bush Administration on one side and several telecommunications providers, such as AT&T, Verizon, and Qwest Communications, on the other.

First up: if there were any doubt before, the article now makes clear that long before the attacks of 9/11/01, the Bush Administration sought to rapidly and massively expand the surveillance of communications between US citizens within the United States, and did so without using the legally prescribed processes laid out either in the FISA law, the criminal code, or the US Constitution.

In a separate N.S.A. project, executives at a Denver phone carrier, Qwest, refused in early 2001 to give the agency access to their most localized communications switches, which primarily carry domestic calls, according to people aware of the request, which has not been previously reported. They say the arrangement could have permitted neighborhood-by-neighborhood surveillance of phone traffic without a court order, which alarmed them.

This adds detail to existing knowledge (documented—with multiple links—in two posts that I wrote in November) that within two weeks of taking office in 2001, the Bush Administration sought the cooperation of the nation’s largest telcos in order to collect a broad array of communications data generated and received by American citizens residing in the United States.

It has been noted that a program to collect phone records from citizens inside the US who called Latin America began in the mid Nineties as part of the “war on drugs,” but a) this program was ramped up significantly as soon as Bush came into office, b) such surveillance still requires some legal certification (so-called “basket warrants” or something similar), and there is no report that the Bush Administration is producing these warrants to defend the increased surveillance, and c) as noted in the above paragraph (if you look at it in the context of the NYT article) the warrantless access which was sought from Qwest was for a separate project.

Why is this timeline so important? As I wrote in early November:

It is not simply a matter of scheduling; it goes to the root of all arguments both for and against the surveillance programs. Since the telecommunications companies were approached by the administration in February of 2001, then none of this is a response to the attacks of 9/11. And, since the spying is not a response to those events, then what were the NSA and the White House looking for?

I added at the time that if they were trying to be proactive on terrorism, the tragedies that befell America seven months later prove the program an abject failure, but as we know (and know more assuredly with every revelation, biography, or ex-White House-staffer tell-all) Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Rice came into power with less than a passing interest in terrorism, and multiple attempts by outgoing Clinton officials to grab their attention did nothing to motivate the Bush bunch to ramp up their concern or actions.

So, with the drug war and terrorism ruled out as possibilities, what else could the Bush White House want to learn? Though anything I write at this point would by the rules of journalism be classified as speculation, I don’t think it’s too wild a stretch to say “everything.”

What I mean by “everything,” is that this group waltzed into the White House with dreams of a permanent Republican majority, and quickly sought to put in place an infrastructure that they thought would help them build and maintain it.

The consolidation and maintenance of power is a theme that runs through many of the outrages that now hound (or should hound) the administration. It encompasses the replacement of experts with ideologues, illegal detentions, rendition, and torture, the politicization of the Justice Department and federal bench, the accelerated consolidation of the media, the influence peddling and K Street scandals, the diminution of voting rights, and the sophistry involved in perpetuating what, for lack of a better term, I will call the permanent fear economy—and this is to name only a few.

A bulked-up surveillance network operating outside the law and the knowledge of oversight bodies gave the Bush Administration the tools to accumulate whatever information they might deem necessary for any number of projects. It is likely journalists have been the subject of some of this surveillance, and it is not beyond the bounds of logic to assume that others who have sought to dissent or challenge Republican power might also find themselves under the warrantless watchful eye of Bush Administration spooks.

It is this final point that seems to escape so many now engaged in the debate over new FISA legislation—not the least of them being members of the Democratic leadership. Does a Senator Reid or a Senator Rockefeller, who have both often railed against the lies and bad faith efforts of the White House, not believe that if given the opportunity, this administration would use all the tools in its possession to destroy Democrats or disrupt their agenda? If they can’t quite muster the strength to stand for the rule of law and the rights guaranteed by the US Constitution, you think that they could at least get it up to act in their own self-interest.

Self-interest of a different kind has shown itself to be important to the current debate. As I, and others, have noted, too many of the parties involved have a financial stake in acting in the interests of the telecommunications lobby. Jay Rockefeller has done particularly well (in terms of donations from the telecom lobby) since immunity became an issue.

The problem is, of course, that immunity stands in direct opposition to the interests of the nation and its people. As the Sunday Times article notes, there are several pending cases against the telcos that would shed necessary light on the cooperation between the industry and the administration in the building and operation of Bush’s illegal surveillance regime. Because the administration has been so secretive, and because the oversight has been so lax, the pending law suits against the likes of AT&T and Verizon are some of the few options left to those of us that want to restore protections guaranteed under the Constitution.

That members of both the intelligence community and the telecommunications industry tell the Times that a lack of retroactive immunity will make the relationship between the two more difficult—that telcos might not give their “full-hearted help” to the administration—is the very reason why liability should be preserved. After all, if the programs implemented by the Bush Administration were legal—if the White House had sought proper authority through the FISA court or other more open avenues—then the telecom industry would have nothing to worry about. If the legal documentation were in place, then the telcos would be in the clear.

Somebody (or some body) has to hold law-breakers accountable. If the administration won’t police itself, if the Justice Department has been turned into a White House rubberstamp, and the Congress won’t intervene with the power with which it has been endowed, then it is up to the people to protect their rights, themselves. It would show the utmost disrespect (for the people and for our laws) if the Senate were to take away these rights. One might even call the behavior criminal.

* * *

And, if Senators are gong to behave like criminals, where does that leave the rest of us? I would posit it leaves us as victims—or, as the surveillance regime might put it, as “targets.”

Christy Hardin Smith brings to our attention a post from early in 2006 about a provision of the Patriot Act that has been interpreted to apply to what used to be called “pen registers” and “trap and trace” devices that would make it easy and remarkably likely that pretty much anyone’s e-mail could be the target of secret surveillance without any specific warrant.

As I understand it, it is now permissible for the intel community to search the e-mails of anyone that has been connected to a target of an investigation. What constitutes a connection? An e-mail from the alleged “terrorist” or “drug kingpin” to the new party would do, but so would the appearance of the e-mail addresses of the original suspect and the new party in the header of an e-mail sent by a third party.

In other words, if I were to e-mail you, then you are connected to me. If I were to e-mail you and some guy you don’t know, let’s call him Ignatz, you are connected to me, Ignatz is connected to me, AND, in the eyes of the government, you are also connected to Ignatz—and that makes you fair game for a more intrusive level of surveillance, without additional court order.

To my mind, it’s a horrifying scenario. It would be possible—and easy—for the government to decide it wanted to target you, and then simply contract a third party to spam you and a “known” “terrorist” or “drug kingpin” with the same e-mail. With that connection made, your e-mail is now an open book. It precludes counter-arguments of “fishing expeditions” by providing a legal (or, really, “legalistic”) way to “narrow” the search. They don’t just bait the hook; they reach into the tank and wrap the fish in the line.

* * *

But in order to carryout any of this, the Bush Administration needs (needed?) the initial access to the digital systems maintained by telecom companies like Verizon, AT&T, and Qwest for their paying customers. How they wanted to gain access and what they then wanted to do was dodgy enough to give pause not only to former Qwest CEO Joseph Nacchio, but, as the Times now tells us, at least one other telecom company, as well.

Nacchio contends that his reticence cost Qwest valuable government contracts—that is up for debate. But the companies that did not pause likely did benefit from the increased level of cooperation between them and the NSA. In fact, Mike McConnell, who was in charge of the NSA, then went to the consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton and worked on behalf of private intel-sector industries, and is now the Director of National Intelligence, has made it a crusade of his to privatize much of the government’s signal intelligence infrastructure. And, having done that, he now argues that we must grant immunity to these private concerns for fear that if they don’t have it, they will not allow the government access to their equipment.

In starker terms, McConnell is now insisting immunity be granted retroactively to the parties that he worked for during the time that the alleged crimes were committed.

All of this—the lies about when and why the surveillance began, the likely misuse of the surveillance infrastructure, the legal gymnastics used by the Bush Administration to cast the broadest of dragnets, and the cozy relationship between the government and the telco industry that it should regulate—all of this merits, indeed, requires the greatest degree of scrutiny from the Congress and the courts. That so many in Congress would choose not only to abdicate their rights to oversight, but now seek to strip that power from the people is either the height of ignorance or insolence. Either way, it should not be tolerated.

And, at least one Senator has said that he will not. Christopher Dodd, who is also a candidate for President, has taken time away from his campaign to stand up to a corrupt White House and its corporate cronies. He will spend this Monday (and perhaps many more days) filibustering a bill that his own Majority leader has forced to the floor in defiance of his party’s rank and file, and the vast majority of Americans at large. Where the former boxer Harry Reid would not fight, Chris Dodd has entered the ring. Let’s all let Senator Dodd know we are in his corner.

There are several ways to help:

Go to where you will find suggestions on many ways to help and links to much more information.

Call your senators and ask that they support Sen. Dodd’s filibuster. Ask them to refuse to support any FISA reform that grants immunity to the telecommunications industry.

Give the Senator something to read. Chris Dodd has some time to kill, but he’d like to do it with meaningful statements that show just how much we all care about this issue, about our laws, and about our Constitution as a whole. Crooks and Liars and Firedoglake are collecting statements, and Dodd’s office will look for comments that can be used by the Senator on the floor.

You can also e-mail Chris Dodd with your support.

And, if you want to watch your government at work, Dodd’s filibuster will be carried on C-SPAN2 today (starting at 11am, I believe).

(cross-posted on capitoilette, The Seminal, and Daily Kos)

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Friday, December 14, 2007

I have a nickname for the new yankee stadium

Given the large number of Yankees from the last championship now accused in the Mitchell report of using performance-enhancing substances, I christen the new Yankee Stadium (due to open in 2009):

The House that Juice Built

(Thank you, I'll be here all week.)

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obviously, I don’t read the Post enough

I’m talking about the Washington Post, and after reading the sample below, I gotta ask: Why would I?

While responding to a comment (by Alex) on yesterday’s cross-post to The Seminal—a comment asserting that Edwards would be dogged in the general election by the two-minute video of him fixing his hair—I said the following:

The hair thing? Gosh, have we not had our fill of that, yet? I bet that you are right, and some 527 or nutosphere parrot will try to get that going again, but I actually think that the hair got so much play early—complete with late night talk show jokes—that we might have hit saturation on that one. I expect that we can counter that with “what’s worse, pretty hair or an ugly war?” or some such. I also think that if it’s down to Edwards and a Republican, those that would be swayed by the hair probably weren’t going to vote for JE anyway.

Unless there’s a metrosexual equivalent to the Bradley effect.

Silly me.

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Thursday, December 13, 2007

action alert: only a few hours left to comment on grassroots matching funds

I want to get this up, so I am just going to quote Tracy Russo:

The Edwards campaign recently asked the Federal Election Commission if those who contributed to the campaign through Act Blue could have their grassroots contributions matched through public funding.

It makes sense to us. Act Blue is at the cutting-edge of grassroots fundraising -- and these individual contributions through Act Blue are exactly the type of contributions the matching funds system is designed to encourage.

But now we've heard there is a possibility the FEC will turn its back on grassroots donors. It looks as though they are going to take the position that it's okay to raise millions of dollars from special interests and lobbyists, but the money raised in small amounts from thousands of hard working Americans who care about their country--that doesn't count. (This is due to a decades old regulation that was put in place prior to the internet being invented and credit cards being used for donations.)

The FEC will meet this coming Friday to decide whether campaigns can have individual contributions through Act Blue matched through public financing.

The FEC needs to hear your voice to understand that any decision to deny matching funds for individual contributions made through Act Blue would be a body blow to the whole concept of public funding which is intended to allow every American, regardless of how much money they have, to have a voice in our democracy.

You can help us send a clear message to the FEC by sending a message to the FEC Commissioners in advance of this week's vote.

The FEC will vote Friday on this crucial issue and must receive comments by noon on December 13th (Thursday).

Comments can be sent to FEC secretary Mary Dove (, or, if you are pressed for time this morning, you can sign on to a letter that can be accessed through this page over at the Public Campaign Action Fund.

Thank you for your time and help.

. . .

Now, after you’ve done your commenting, if you still want to read a little more about elections, why not check out my latest post over on capitoilette.

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Wednesday, December 12, 2007

I like scaring republicans

This is not the first time I’ve heard something like this:

Beyond the politics of demographics—to give it a nice name—I think that the Edwards message on domestic issues is one that is going to be harder to run against for most of the Republican hopefuls. I also think that it is more inspirational to a large group of voters that have felt left out of many recent electoral battles—inspirational as in it will inspire them to go the polls.

By the way, there’s another candidate that scares Republicans—but not in a good way.

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Tuesday, December 11, 2007

what cold did you come in from, anyway?

Well, I have something of a cold, but that didn’t stop me from going on a bit about ABC’s "exclusive" with John Kiriakou, the spy they say is now “coming in from the cold.”

Check it out on capitoilette.

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Monday, December 10, 2007

close the doors and open some eyes

Matthew Yglesias says the likes of Rockefeller or Harman should call a press conference and start snitchin’. Michael Froomkin suggests that our congressional leaders just take to the floor of the House or Senate—since they are constitutionally protected there—and tell us what they know. Alas, either of these strategies requires a degree of out-loud-and-proud courage that seems to be in short supply in such circles these days, so allow me to suggest a slightly less courageous third way to the truth.

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Friday, December 07, 2007

the banality of evil: like father, like son?

The Bush Administration has once again set out to show us just how banal evil can be.

While the latest revelation of the CIA destruction of at least two tapes documenting their interrogation of alleged al Qaeda suspects is yet another cut-and-dried case of obstruction of justice by this administration, I want to take just a moment to reflect on the reason given for why these tapes were made in the first place:

General Hayden said the tapes were originally made to ensure that agency employees acted in accordance with “established legal and policy guidelines.” General Hayden said the agency stopped videotaping interrogations in 2002.

“The tapes were meant chiefly as an additional, internal check on the program in its early stages,” his statement read.

. . . .

A former intelligence official who was briefed on the issue said the videotaping was ordered as a way of assuring “quality control” at remote sites following reports of unauthorized interrogation techniques.

Because, as we all know, there is nothing more embarrassing to a government than torture of inferior quality. Especially at those franchise outlets “remote sites.”

Now back to the obstruction destruction. . . .

Daniel Marcus, a law professor at American University who served as general counsel for the Sept. 11 commission and was involved in the discussions about interviews with Al Qaeda leaders, said he had heard nothing about any tapes being destroyed.

If tapes were destroyed, he said, “it’s a big deal, it’s a very big deal,” because it could amount to obstruction of justice to withhold evidence being sought in criminal or fact-finding investigations.

. . . .

John Radsan, who worked as a C.I.A. lawyer from 2002 to 2004 and is now a professor at William Mitchell College of Law, said the destruction of the tapes could carry serious legal penalties.

“If anybody at the C.I.A. hid anything important from the Justice Department, he or she should be prosecuted under the false statement statute,” he said.

It seems to me beyond any doubt that the Bush Administration withheld important information about the existence of the tapes, their contents, and their destruction from Congress, the 9/11 Commission, and the judge and defense team in the Zacarias Moussaoui case, but I am beyond holding my breath until we get any movement toward arrests and prosecution in any of those instances.

I am not, however, beyond now speculating about the timing of the release of the new NIE on Iran’s nuclear capabilities, in light of our fresh understanding that the New York Times had planned to go public with the tape story today, Friday, and had officially notified the CIA on Wednesday. I can pretty much guarantee that Michael Hayden knew that this story was on its way some time before that.

In fact, I can’t even fathom the “dumb luck” of having the NIE and the tape destruction revelations come out in the same week—and in the same week as Mitt Romney’s “JFK moment” (not), and a (another) mass shooting, to boot

It’s really too much to fathom. Best we go back to our holiday shopping.

But, before we do, let me add that I draw this post to a close without anything in the way of a new revelation or much of a new angle—and for that, I feel a tad bad.

It’s not as if I didn’t try. Since I read of the tape scandal Thursday afternoon, I have been searching almost non-stop for a very specific angle, and I just can’t find the quotable, linkable piece of evidence I seek.

So, I am going to throw this out to you for help:

I will date myself here, but I have a very clear memory of a certain DCI named George H.W. Bush ignoring congressional requests for files and, indeed, destroying files in a direct rebuke of investigators. I even think I remember him justifying the destruction by saying that the CIA just didn’t have the room to store the files anymore.

The thing is, I can’t remember what the files were, and I can’t find a primary source that refers to this incident.

I believe this happened in the spring or summer of 1976—but the revelation might have come later. It is possible that the files concerned investigations into CIA programs known as CHAOS and CONDOR. The former having to do with Agency spying on domestic activist groups in the 1960’s and ‘70’s, the latter concerning CIA ties to South American shenanigans like the overthrow of Chilean President Salvador Allende, the instillation of Augusto Pinochet, the torture of dissidents, and the murder three years later of Pinochet opponent Orlando Letellier and American Ronni Moffitt by car bomb on the streets on Washington DC. There is also the possibility that the files in question concerned CIA operations in Cuba.

Or maybe they were about something else—the details of this are hazy to me.

But, I feel relatively certain GHW Bush did destroy CIA records, and that he did so in defiance of Congress. If anyone else has this recollection, can shed some light on it, or can point to a newspaper article or a Congressional report, please let me know via comment or e-mail.

Thank you.

(cross-posted on capitoilette, The Seminal, and Daily Kos)

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Thursday, December 06, 2007

Krugman does my job so that I don’t have to

Something really has to be done about the state of campaign reporting at the New York Times. On the whole, they have spent far too much column space on handicapping “the horserace” or doing these “Long Run” pieces which are, in most cases, the intellectual equivalent of those “Up Close and Personal” soft-focus biographies they used to run during the Olympics. But when the Times does try to report on an issue, they just seem to make things even worse.

When I read this lazy-ass bit of “journalism” short piece about the Clinton and Obama health insurance proposals by Katherine Seelye in yesterday’s paper, I quickly dismissed it because it lacked even a cursory reference to the context—the current healthcare crisis, with 47 million uninsured, and so many millions more under-insured—and because it made no mention at all of Sen. John Edwards, whose plan is more detailed and more aggressive than either of the other “frontrunner’s” proposals. The story also completely neglects to note that this only seems to be an issue in the Democratic primaries, since none of the Republicans has a plan that even attempts to guarantee coverage to the uninsured.

But, in my haste to be done with this vapid article, I missed perhaps the biggest hint that Seelye is barely even up to a level we might call “phoning it in.” Fortunately, Paul Krugman’s blog has the money quote:

I have a lot of problems with this Kit Seelye piece. It’s kind of weird that the usual “both sides may have a point” reporting gave way to a clear declaration that one side is right — precisely on an issue where many, many health experts believe that Obama is wrong, and that mandates are both feasible and essential. Much better coverage of the issue, I’m sorry to say, in the Murdoch news.

But this takes the cake:

Joseph Antos, a health policy expert at the American Enterprise Institute, a nonpartisan group.

Is it really possible for a veteran reporter to believe that AEI is nonpartisan? Not even a qualifier, like “right-leaning” or “free-market-oriented”?

Krugman also goes on to point out the Seelye’s numbers don’t compute.

It is important to note that Krugman is no blanket Clinton booster, either. In fact, though he thinks all three of the candidate’s plans are a step in the right direction, he agrees that the Edwards plan is superior—and has previously discussed why with some of the details and the context that Seelye left out.

I can imagine that Seelye might argue that she was on deadline and had a word limit, but none of that explains the bad attribution on AEI. And, if this is all the space that the paper of record has for coverage of the issues, then the editors have some explaining to do, too

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Wednesday, December 05, 2007

west wing candids: you’re the tops! edition

Laura and George relax over a game of dreidel.

Who knew?!?

Happy Chanukah!

(h/t peach pit)

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Tuesday, December 04, 2007

God (hearts) Huckabee, and the media follows

This post is temporarily embargoed—please check back this afternoon. Thanks.

Poor, poor Huck.

Republican Presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee is finally getting to talk about his fundamentalist Christian beliefs with the establishment media, and, apparently, it’s hell.

Appearing Monday on ABC’s Nightline, the former Arkansas governor told John Donvan that his recent “surge” in popularity (as I’m afraid everyone is calling it) could only be attributed to “divine providence,” comparing his increased poll numbers to one of Christ’s favorite parlor tricks miracles:

[Huckabee] believe[s] that faith has had a lot to do with his recent success. In a speech at Jerry Falwell's Liberty University, Huckabee said his recent surge in the polls was partly attributed to "divine providence."

Elaborating, he said, "I felt like that because of these prayers, our little had become much. It was like the two fish and the five loaves. And I don't have an explanation for that, other than what we have had people have prayed for it to be effective, and it has been."

However, like Jesus, Huckabee, to hear him tell it, must suffer for his faith. Though one of Huck’s opponents, Mitt Romney, has been dogged by questions about his Mormonism (so much so that he will give a speech later in the week to “explain” his religion), Huckabee thinks his own road is harder:

“I don't think Mitt's been called upon to talk about his faith nearly as much as I have about mine," the former minister said. "I keep hearing about you know, 'Mitt's faith, Mitt's faith.' I'm the one that they always ask the religious questions to on the debates. I'm the one that in every interview someone says, 'OK let's talk about your belief.' My faith has been put through a great deal more scrutiny than anybody else, including Mitt Romney's.”

It seems that Huckabee, who is running as a Christian conservative, who makes constant references to his beliefs and his background as Baptist minister, and who once interrupted a speech to take a phone call from God, is upset that reporters ask him about his religion.

And with that, Huckabee went on to speak more about his religion. . . .

Strangely (or, perhaps, not the least bit strangely, given his current status as media darling) Huckabee is then given an opportunity to issue a qualifier.

Despite his strong religious views, he doesn't believe the government should force them on citizens.

"It's so very important that we never would use the forces of government to impose anybody's faith on another person. That really would be a most inappropriate use of government and the greatest way in which we water down or completely adulterize true faith," he said.

Nice words, but when it comes to deeds, the Arkansas Governor proved the opposite to be true:

This God stuff isn't just talk with Huck. One of his first acts as governor was to block Medicaid from funding an abortion for a mentally retarded teen-ager who had been raped by her stepfather — an act in direct violation of federal law, which requires states to pay for abortions in cases of rape. "The state didn't fund a single such abortion while Huckabee was governor," says Dr. William Harrison of the Fayetteville Women's Clinic. "Zero."

As president, Huck would support a constitutional amendment banning abortion and would give science a back seat to religion. "Science changes with every generation and with new discoveries, and God doesn't," he says. "So I'll stick with God if the two are in conflict." Huckabee's well-documented disdain for science was reflected in the performance of the Arkansas school system when he was governor; one independent survey gave the state an F for its science standards in schools, a grade that among other things reflected Huckabee's hostility toward the teaching of evolution.

Donvan and Nightline, however, apparently didn’t find that information had a place in the current narrative. For now, it is enough to know that Mike Huckabee, the bored campaign reporters’ new savior, has suffered the tortures of the damned. . . .

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Monday, December 03, 2007

is diesel smarter than the new york times?

That would be denim-inspired apparel manufacturer Diesel, and the answer is “yes.”

The scientific debate over global warming may not be entirely settled, but in the American clothing business, at least, it is over. The apparel maker Diesel ran magazine advertisements this year proclaiming that its cold-weather clothes — in one ad, a woman’s puffy coat and shorts — were “global warming ready.”

I suppose you could also ask the question this way: Is the American clothing business smarter than Times reporter Michael Barbaro? It’s hard to say who’s responsible for the obviously hedged construction “may not be entirely settled.” But, anyway, one of the two—or both—should be ashamed of themselves. You’d think, in a year where the Nobel Prize for Peace went both to a group of scientists that have demonstrated that global warming exists and is influenced by human activity (a group that is cited later in the same Times article without reference to the Nobel), and to the man that convinced popular culture to pay attention to the science, that the New York Times would get with the program. You’d think that because the facts clearly show that the scientific debate is entirely “settled,” that the paper of record would report the facts.

Now, if the Times had reported that the political debate—the one between people who believe in science and the people who believe in taking hydrocarbon industry baksheesh—was “not entirely settled,” well, that would be something. . .

. . . something called journalism.

In fact, if Barbaro had done just the tiniest bit of digging, he might have noticed this:

WASHINGTON [11/30/07] Some of the world's top business leaders are demanding that international diplomats meeting next week come up with drastic and urgent measures to cut greenhouse gas pollution at least in half by 2050.

Officials from more than 150 global companies - worth nearly $4 trillion in market capitalization - have signed a petition urging "strong, early action on climate change" when political leaders meet in Indonesia.

Maybe Friday was too near to Barbaro’s deadline. Well, uh, there was this (from the same article):

In January [of 2007], the CEO's of 10 major U.S. companies urged President Bush to support mandatory industrial greenhouse gas emission cuts. The White House is against that policy. Since their January plea, the industry group, the United States Climate Action Partnership, has grown to include 27 of the world's largest firms.

Other companies [in addition to Shell UK, GE International, Coca-Cola Co., Dupont Co., United Technologies Corp., Rolls Royce, Nestle SA, Unilever, British Airways and Volkswagen AG] signing the British-based petition include Nike Inc., Johnson & Johnson, Virgin Group, Barclays PLC, Gap, Nokia, Pacific Gas and Electric, and the Rupert Murdoch-owned News Corp., which runs the conservative Fox News Channel.

Hmmm, Nike—why, that sounds like an apparel company! Maybe someone from the Times should have called them for a quote.

(h/t gem spa for sending Barbaro’s article my way)

(cross-posted to The Seminal and Daily Kos)

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