Thursday, March 27, 2008

there’s no talking to some people

“We're succeeding. I don't care what anybody says.”
Those are the words of Republican presidential wannabe John McCain (Asshole-AZ) giving what he insisted was a “major” policy speech on Iraq, and he wanted all of us to hear those words over cable news. . . but the facts got in the way.

You see, while John W. McCain was busy talking—and not listening—Iraqis were busy killing each other with such a reenergized ferocity that MSNBC cut into the live feed of McCain’s speech to present breaking news on the rising violence in Basra. (Crooks and Liars has the clip.)

And this morning brings us more news that McCain’s version of success is on the march as Basra’s violence escalates and spreads to Kut and Baghdad. There is even a report that one of Iraq’s two main oil pipelines has been blown up near Basra.

Of course, our man in Baghdad, Iraqi PM Nouri al-Maliki has things under control. He’s even given the Sadrists a 72-hour ultimatum.

How are things going? Well, NPR’s Dina Temple-Raston says, “Things are not going well.” She even tells us that members of Bush/McCain’s much-touted Iraqi security force—a force supposedly under the authority of al-Maliki—are stripping off their uniforms and switching sides, joining the Mahdi militias. (Sorry, link not yet up on NPR site.)

Now that’s what I call success! Well, no, I don’t—that’s what John W. McCain calls success. And he don’t care what I, or anybody, says.

Isn’t it nice to know that after two terms of fact-free, incurious, lie-a-minute leadership, we have a man that promises us the kind of continuity and seamless transition of power that today’s Iraqis can only dream about?

Is it Bush or McCain? It’s McMore of McSame.

(cross-posted on The Seminal)

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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

things fall apart

Much of the “success” that is often attributed to the surge escalation by administration mouthpieces and the rah-rah chorus in the establishment media can actually be traced to a truce called by Moqtada al Sadr, and a “strategy” that has US forces paying protection money to assorted Sunni militias.

But we knew that.

However, now that fighting in Basra is reaching pre-surgescalation levels and violence is heating up around Baghdad, here are a couple of things that we are just learning.

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Tuesday, March 25, 2008

by any other name

When five US combat brigades depart Iraq in July—because their over-long, 15-month rotations are up, and not because of any actual strategic decision—it will represent the end and sum total of what George W. Bush not-too-long-ago called our “return on success.” As reported in today’s New York Times (via Think Progress), it “now appears likely that any decision on major reductions in American troops from Iraq will be left to the next president.”

In other words, what the Bush Administration successfully branded as a “surge” proves to be exactly what I insisted it was over a year ago, an escalation.

Even though most of this escalation in forces will remain in Iraq through the end of Bush’s term, I will bet that most in the establishment media will continue to call it a “surge”—just as the same scribe corps continues to parrot and push the never true and constantly disproved myth that “the surge is working.”

Just to reiterate, because it seems that we all have to, the latest escalation has not worked. It certainly didn’t promote any kind of grand political reconciliation—its purported strategic goal—and even the claim that it decreased overall violence is extremely suspect.

After fourteen months of this tactic, the occasion of reaching 4,000 dead troops serves to underscore the escalation’s abject failure. Not only does that number promise to go ever higher for the rest of Bush’s reign, the last two weeks got us to this tragic milestone much faster than expected. The 25 killed in the last fortnight represents the highest death rate for a two-week period since September 2007 (which came at the end of the bloodiest summer of the war).

Iraqi deaths are also creeping back up, Sunni and Shiite militias appear to be growing restless, and the US still has no set plan for transitioning out of this occupation.

Presidential candidates Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have both proposed more rapid US troop redeployments, but John W. McCain has a different idea. . . or, rather, he has the most un-different idea. To quote the Times: “The Republican candidate, Senator John McCain, has advocated following a policy close to that of President Bush’s.”

Four more years of an over-stretched military, mission drift, and continued escalation—overseen by a guy that doesn’t even seem to understand the conflict? Sounds like the Republicans are offering McMore of McSame.

. . . .

For a different—as in better—way to deescalate the occupation, please check out A Responsible Plan to End the War in Iraq (this is my review, or click below to read about the full plan and who is supporting it).

A Responsible Plan to End the War in Iraq - Click here to add your support

(cross-posted on capitoilette and The Seminal)

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Monday, March 24, 2008

I know what you’re thinking: why isn’t there more stuff about Eliot Spitzer?

Fans of all things Spitzer, fasten your seatbelts. . . .

Three days after the Miami Herald posted a story about a letter sent to the FBI by Republican hit man Roger Stone regarding now former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer’s encounters with “high-priced call-girls” in Florida, the New York Times front pages a piece on Spitzer’s deeper-than-heretofore-revealed involvement with the something-less-than-scintillating scandal known to New Yorkers as “Troopergate.”

This all comes, of course, less than a fortnight after the “revelations” that linked Spitzer to a prostitution ring and forced him to resign the governorship.

Continued on capitoilette. . . .

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Friday, March 21, 2008

heckuva job, Patty

News broke late Thursday that a city buildings inspector had been arrested and charged with lying to New York City authorities about an inspection he was supposed to have performed earlier this month on the crane that collapsed in Turtle Bay on Saturday, killing seven and injuring dozens more. Concerns about the stability of the crane were called in to the city’s 311 complaint line on March 3rd. The inspector, Edward J. Marquette, never visited the construction site, but filed falsified reports claiming that he had.

The head of the NYC Department of Buildings, Patricia J. Lancaster, who, amazingly, still has her job, suspended Mr. Marquette, and sought to have the last six months of his inspection reports reexamined. But, it should be noted, that discovery and investigation of the inspector’s alleged criminal activity was conducted by the City’s Department of Investigations, and not Lancaster’s DoB.

And what about the matter that has shown such a bright light on the 51st Street site? Not an issue here, says Patty:

With regard to the crane accident itself, it is highly unlikely that a March 4 inspection would have prevented the horrific accident that happened on March 15, which we are still looking at the probable cause being mechanical failure or human failure during the ‘jumping’ operations when the crane was raised.

The New York Times City Room reports that Lancaster said the lack of an inspection of the complaint about the stability of the crane, “Was probably not even ‘remotely associated’ with the collapse.”

Oh, well, then, it’s not your problem, is it? Heckuva job, Patty.

While the parts of the crane that are now believed to be the root cause of the collapse (and I will note that is only “believed” to be the cause—the investigation is not complete by a long stretch—and several local news channels have reported that there were numerous serious problems with the way this crane had been set up, beyond the failing straps and collar that may have started the fatal chain reaction on Saturday) might not have been the parts that a March 4th inspection would have targeted, Lancaster misses the bigger—and I would say, quite obvious—point.

If an inspector could so easily mislead the DoB about a routine investigation of a civilian complaint, how can Lancaster be sure that her department is doing the inspections that would be “associated”—remotely or otherwise—with such dangerous situations? In fact, how do we as city residents know that our calls to 311 are even investigated at all?

This inspector’s alleged fraud is a symptom of a bigger problem.

During the 1990s, the city gave up on the function of building inspection, without issuing an official declaration of surrender. Year after year, graft scandals would wipe out dozens of inspectors at a time. By the end of 2001, the number of inspectors had dwindled to 277 from about 800 in the early 1990s. Developers were left to operate on what amounted to an honor system. Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said the department had become “severely understaffed and deeply demoralized” by the time he took office in January 2002 — at the very moment that the city was beginning a surge in new building.

. . . .

In December, a nylon sling on a crane snapped, and seven tons of steel fell onto Murray Street in Lower Manhattan from the 25th floor of a construction site, severely injuring an architect, Robert Woo. A few weeks later, in January, Yuriy Vanchytskyy, a construction worker, fell 42 stories from a hotel on Spring Street being built by Donald Trump.

Awful as these accidents were, they hardly begin to describe the human price of growth in New York. The city’s construction business, particularly outside of Manhattan, is becoming the modern version of the 19th-century coal mine.

Between early 2006 and the middle of 2007, 44 people died on construction sites, 40 of them in nonunion jobs involving immigrants, said Louis Coletti, the president of an association of builders. Most of those deaths took place in Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx, records show. Miczyslaw Piatek, 52, was digging a foundation in Brooklyn when the cinder-block wall next door collapsed on him. The wall had not been shored up, a federal investigation found.

The number of inspectors has increased somewhat under Mayor Bloomberg (there are now 426. . . make that 425), but that growth does not begin to meet the needs of an industry that expects another $45 billion of construction this decade.

While the alleged behavior of Mr. Marquette is inexcusable, the inspector, who it is reported made an annual salary of $48,000, and, more importantly, his colleagues are no doubt over-extended. Perhaps it is shocking that an inspector just skipped doing his job and falsified records, but if Marquette had visited the site and done a hurried or insufficient inspection, would he have even been caught? Indeed, would he have even been guilty of a specific crime?

Jim Dwyer, who wrote the column that I quote above, reports that “colleagues say“ Lancaster is “capable and dedicated,” and that the DoB is just outgunned by the wealthy real estate and construction industries. That may be so, but some of the 45 billion bucks have to stop somewhere.

Patricia Lancaster has had six years to repair the damage to her department. If Mayor Michael Bloomberg has not given her the resources to do that job properly, then it is well past the time that she should have protested—publicly and loudly.

A system in which a building inspector can skip inspections and still cross them off his list is a system that is, like that Harlem building, past repair. It is broken. As Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer said in a statement:

What more evidence do we need? It is clear we cannot trust the Buildings Department to keep construction sites safe. We need now a complete top-to-bottom independent review of this department, its procedures and its personnel.

And we need much bigger fines for violations and criminal penalties for serial violators. We also need a system that stops work more quickly on buildings with multiple violations—even if no single violation is considered serious enough in itself to merit a stoppage.

Because a series of small violations should be seen as I see the inspections scandal, as a symptom that something bigger is amiss. It could be viewed as the regulatory equivalent of “broken windows” policing.

But ultimately, we need someone to take responsibility for what is happening. The rampant development that has outstripped our ability to regulate it has been encouraged at the highest levels of city and state government. If the elected officials who depend so heavily on donations from real estate developers lack the political will to protect the citizens of New York, then it is up to the appointed bureaucrats—the supposed experts—to live up to their sworn duties. It might take perseverance and courage, but the office and the people—your friends, neighbors, and family—deserve no less.

Patricia J. Lancaster, it’s time to step up, or step down.

(h/t Gowanus Lounge and Lost City)

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

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Thursday, March 20, 2008

spring break

Looking around the blogosphere, it seems that I can’t add much to the day’s discussions of McCain’s "ignorance," Bush’s delusions, or the sheer idiocy of the establishment media that hasn’t already been said. So, in honor of the equinox, let’s all just kick back and enjoy the first day of March Madness and look forward to opening day of the baseball season (but ten days away).

And, as if I needed to add:

Go Bruins!

Go Dodgers!

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he writes comments

In a discussion about five years of war, permanent bases, and impeachment appended to my cross-post over at The Seminal, I wound up adding a rather lengthy addendum. Since I don’t think that I have a lot of crossover readers, I am going to take the liberty of posting the comment here.

I was at a talk about impeachment that included, among others, Liz Holtzman and Bruce Fein, and Fein, a veteran of the Reagan administration, is, as you might know, apoplectic about this issue. He has a list of impeachable offenses a mile long, but chose at this event to cite the Bush/Cheney pursuit of permanent bases in Iraq, as outlined in a signing statement, in direct defiance of the law passed by Congress and signed by the president.

What’s amazing is that Congress passed this law, but it is a retired Reaganite that’s doing the screaming.

The Democratic leadership still doesn’t seem to understand that impeachment hearings—and it starts with hearings, not a vote—are a great teaching opportunity. America needs to hear about all the ways the Bush/Cheney Administration subverted the Constitution and broke US Criminal Code, or the very next president will feel free to do some of the same things (and we will have to hear for the rest of our lives about what a saint and hero GWB was as we name every airport after him and carve his face into Mount Rushmore).

Further, Congress needs to reassert its role in our tripartite system. No president is going to willingly give up power—not even a Democratic one; it is up to Congress to take back the authority granted it under the Constitution and affirmed in the courts from the earliest days of our history.

As Holtzman, an HJC member in 1974, noted, the Nixon impeachment hearings were completed in three months. This summer would be a perfect time for our Congress to start the process. Former presidents and vice presidents receive all kinds of perks and big federal pension that would go away with impeachment (one of the reasons that Nixon resigned before a Senate impeachment vote was to save his pension), so even after November/January, impeachment hearings would still be a practical exercise of Congressional power.

Congress must publicly dispel and destroy the myth of the “unitary executive.” If we are to form a more perfect union, to borrow a phrase, then we have no choice. If this administration is allowed to go gently, then we have likely cemented our transition from republic to empire.

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Wednesday, March 19, 2008

a post five years in the making

It was March 19th, 2003, when George W. Bush let slip the dogs of war on Iraq. I seem to remember something about “Shock and Awe,” something about WMDs, something about being “welcomed as liberators” with candy and flowers, and something about the war paying for itself.

Ohhhhh Kayyyyyyyyyy. . . .

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Tuesday, March 18, 2008

a responsible plan—for America

A Responsible Plan to End the War in Iraq - Click here to add your support

A groups Democratic Challengers for the House of Representatives unveiled a comprehensive proposal for getting the US out of Iraq, and as importantly, making sure we don’t do something this ill-fated again any time soon.

A Responsible Plan to End the War in Iraq—as it is called—revolves around seven broad points:

1. End U.S. Military Action in Iraq
2. Use U.S. diplomatic power
3. Address humanitarian concerns
4. Restore our Constitution
5. Restore our military
6. Restore independence to the media
7. Create a new, U.S.-centered energy policy

Some of those seem obvious, some maybe less so, but, all in all, it is a very intriguing proposal.

I go into greater depth on capitoilette. . . .

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Monday, March 17, 2008

n.y.c. f.u.b.a.r.

(Updated below - updated again)

The giant crane that fell Saturday in the Turtle Bay neighborhood of Manhattan killed at least four, with three still missing. One of the missing is an employee of the bar called Fubar, which occupied the ground floor of the townhouse on 50th street that was reduced to rubble by the toppled crane.

Fubar, of course, comes from what is most commonly believed to be the WWII-era acronym for Fucked Up Beyond All Recognition—and FUBAR is what New York is becoming under the building boom ushered in by the administration of Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

These four (and possibly seven) deaths come on top of five other construction-related deaths this year (which, I remind you, is only 11 weeks old). Assuming that those lost are not found alive—as NYC Fire Commish Nick Scoppetta has pretty much already signaled—that would mean 2008 has already equaled last year’s construction death total. And we are well on our way toward surpassing the higher total of 18 from 2006. (Though if you measure from 9/30/05 to 9/30/06, as a city study did, the total is 29 dead—an increase of 61% over the previous 12 months.) And as I noted after another of these recent deaths—at the Trump SoHo—the number of construction injuries has skyrocketed under Mayor Mike.

And Bloomberg’s reaction to this most recent tragedy?

Sadly, construction is a dangerous thing. We don't know why this happened. We will do an investigation.

Will there be fines? Will anyone go to jail? Will licenses be revoked? Or building permits? Will development be slowed or stopped citywide until we get a handle on why construction sites have turned so deadly?

There might be a fine or two (though hikes in fines were proposed last year, I believe the maximum is still $2,500—a figure that must really scare an industry that expects to build $45 billion worth of properties in the next ten years), but as for the rest of the above list, don’t hold your breath.

But, more important than any of the above, perhaps: Will anyone in Mayor Bloomberg’s administration take responsibility for what they have wrought?

Again, my suggestion is to breathe.

Over the past six years, as Bloomberg and his cadre of developer-friendly deputies have rushed headlong to remake the city in Mayor Mike’s corporatist image, luxury high-rises and soul-crushing office towers have shot up like deadly amanitas after a summer rain, landmark-quality buildings (as well as a couple of designated NYC landmarks) have been razed, and neighborhoods have been damaged or destroyed. The under-funded infrastructure bridles under the strain.

And during this building boom, the number of homeless families has skyrocketed.

And, of course, there are the construction injuries and deaths. As Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer complained soon after the crane collapse, “This is becoming standard in my borough; I think we have a real issue here.”

We certainly do.

There are clearly not enough building inspectors, and the ones we have are sadly in need of re-training. The Department of Buildings is underfunded, and the sanctions for construction violations are pathetically light. People must be held responsible in real and certain ways—and I would start at the top.

Presiding over this building boom, the destruction, the injuries, the deaths, has been Patricia Lancaster, Commissioner of the New York City Department of Buildings. Her lack of accountability to date is a citywide running joke (local blog Gowanus Lounge has named an award after her in recognition of construction sites that show callous disregard for the rules); her coziness with high-powered developers is well documented. Her Department of Buildings issues the permits for construction, manages the inspection process, and theoretically responds to buildings violations. In an accountability-based society, Lancaster would resign. If there is to be any message of accountability sent, Patricia Lancaster should be fired—and fired posthaste.

(Commissioner Lancaster did, just two weeks ago, propose a series of reforms and laws designed to improve workplace safety and oversight, but after six years of decreasing safety and poor oversight, it seems too little, too late.)

Of course, her ultimate boss, Michael Bloomberg, is ultimately responsible. It is his technocratic “to make an omelet, you have to break some eggs” management style and his “the business of New York is business” vision that have created this wild west of the east coast. But he won’t fire himself, and the city has no recall process.

For now, Mike Bloomberg should attend the funerals of each and every construction worker that he has helped kill—starting with the four (that we know of) from Saturday—and he should get down on his knees and beg their families’ forgiveness. Then he should declare a citywide moratorium on new private construction permits that are not required to provide sub-market rate housing or repair unsafe structures until he can figure out just why he has failed so miserably to protect the workers and the neighborhoods. The city needs to better fund the DoB, retrain the existing inspectors, and likely hire more. Then the Mayor and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn need to make buildings violations criminal infractions punishable by much larger fines and jail time.

Alas, all of that might only slow the bleeding. There is simply too much developer money in New York City’s electoral process to expect a responsible approach to growth, development, and construction safety. Developers’ relationships with the Mayor and many who want to succeed him are far too close to expect any of the electeds to actively and truthfully represent the needs of the longtime residents of New York’s neighborhoods.

Without some sort of comprehensive campaign finance reform, I can’t see how that changes. For, while the city might still be in transition to something unrecognizable, the electoral system is already FUBAR.

Update: The three missing in the crane disaster have now been confirmed dead. Lost City has a partial list of this year’s NYC construction disasters, and also calls for the end of the Patricia Lancaster era at the Department of Buildings—as does NY City Council Member Tony Avella. Gowanus Lounge proposes a smart list of reforms for DoB.

Update 2: The Fubar employee, Juan Perez, was rescued from the rubble of the collapsed 50th Street building. He was taken to Bellevue Hospital Center, where, as of Sunday, he was listed in serious condition.

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

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Sunday, March 16, 2008

still waiting for my candy and flowers

Friday, March 14, 2008

in case you were still wondering what this whole thing was about

From the near the end of the story in Friday’s New York Times:

A person close to Mr. Spitzer said that prosecutors told [Spitzer’s attorney Michele] Hirshman this week that they would be more inclined to pursue a criminal case against Mr. Spitzer if he remained governor because of the violation of public trust.

“The message was, ‘We’d be less inclined to press a case if he’s just a private citizen,’ ” a friend of Mr. Spitzer’s said in a telephone interview Wednesday night.

But, just to make sure he’s really dead:

Two people briefed on the investigation said that one of the money laundering laws that prosecutors are trying to determine whether Mr. Spitzer broke prohibits “the intent to promote the carrying on of the specified unlawful activity.”

Charles H. Grice, a banking expert, said that statute was hardly ever used. “This is extremely arcane stuff,” he said.

A friend of Mr. Spitzer’s, who spoke on condition of anonymity, reacted with fury at the news that prosecutors appeared to be widening their inquiry to include money spent on campaign trips that may have involved trysts with prostitutes.

“At some point, this becomes piling on,” the friend said. The friend said that he would be stunned if “a judge or jury would convict a man for something like this. It’s very low grade,” adding, “Why would prosecutors pursue this?”

Why indeed.

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Thursday, March 13, 2008

let’s talk about sex. . .

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

is this a scandal I see before me. . .

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

I get my kicks above the waistline, sunshine

Sex, sex, sex—everybody’s IQ goes down like 90 points when they hear about sex. Can’t we all just think about this “Eliot Mess” for a minute and ask some more interesting questions?

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Friday, March 07, 2008

up the down ticket

There was much ado ‘round the ‘sphere yesterday about a pair of electoral maps published by SUSA, each of which show the potential Democratic nominee beating the prospective Republican one—though Senators Obama and Clinton would likely take different paths to electoral college victory over John W. McCain.

That both Democrats are now projected to win is great news, but the difference in the way that they win—the states that each would take to gain the requisite number of votes in the Electoral College—is not inconsequential. As one of Ezra Klein’s commenters points out:

The Democratic Party is more than the Presidential nominee. . . . The difference between Clinton's path and Obama's path is there are 10 Senate seates [sic] in the Obama states I gave versus 4 Senate seats in the Clinton states. Obama's path is a much better path for the party and to win Congressional seats you actually need to govern.

In other words, Clinton might currently appear to fare better in a few large “swing” states, but the number of smaller states that Obama seems able to win have more potential pickups in Senate contests, while still giving him an Electoral College victory. That doesn’t mean that Democratic candidates for Senate can’t win in states that might favor the AZ Asshole for president, but it is undeniably a much bigger lift without the Dem nominee’s coattails.

While I have argued in the past that a candidate’s “electability” shouldn’t be the primary motivation for choosing a presidential standard-bearer—it sets up a ridiculous equation where you try to game your vote by guessing how others would vote if they were thinking about the field the way you were—I have also argued in favor of looking at what a nominee for president would do for other races on the ballot. I have given this criterion extra emphasis because the mess we are in after two terms of Bush-Cheney is too big for just one man or woman to clean up. A Democratic president will need solid Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress if anything is to be accomplished—from passing universal health coverage to confirming judges that will favor the Constitution over rightwing Republican ideology.

Right now (and the maps are only a snapshot of right now), it appears a ballot headed by Barack Obama will have a positive affect on more important down ticket races than a ballot topped with Hillary Clinton. Or, as EK puts it:

[T]here's little doubt, at this point, that [Obama] provides a bigger boost to downticket Democrats running in moderate and even conservative states. And that matters. You want a real theory of change? Have the votes to pass your legislation.

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

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Thursday, March 06, 2008

. . . and everybody hates Mark Penn

Even after electoral victories in Ohio, Texas, and Rhode Island, it ain’t national brotherhood week over at Clinton HQ. . . .

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Wednesday, March 05, 2008

get your cameras ready

President George W. Bush, who has until now refrained from making a public choice in the race for his successor, will be forced by circumstances to endorse John McCain today.

And John McCain will be forced to accept.

(CNN) – President Bush will officially endorse John McCain's presidential run Wednesday at the White House. The two men will have a private lunch followed by a joint public statement.

According to The Swamp, there will be a formal welcome for McCain at noon at the North Portico, then a private lunch (more barbeque?), followed by a public statement in the Rose Garden.

Will the Asshole from Arizona welcome the backing of Mr. 19% with a handshake, another hug, or maybe a big, wet ki—naw! My guess is that Johnny forces a smile on his face and stands as far away as decorum will permit in order to make for a bad photo—but I expect there will be many talented shutterbugs there to show McCain that you can run as a “maverick,” but you can’t hide.

I hear Bush is even going to offer the presumptive nominee his middle initial for good luck.

John W. McCain. Has a nice ring to it, don’t you think?

(cross-posted to Daily Kos)

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Tuesday, March 04, 2008

the worst of times

As the House leadership stumbles toward tumbling on FISA—giving the Bush Administration pretty much everything it has sought in this fight—I would like to urge those who are not regular readers of Glenn Greenwald to take a look at a few recent posts—first, because they say things that I have consistently found central to this debate as I have thought and written about it over the past couple of years, and second, because they say it so damn well.

Let me give you a taste of just a few of the central points.

On Friday, after President Bush held a presser to once again dissemble and fear-monger about warrantless surveillance (I posted some video of it here), Greenwald caught the president in a rare instance of frankness:

. . . Bush is finally being candid about the real reason the administration is so desperate to have these surveillance lawsuits dismissed. It's because those lawsuits are the absolute last hope for ever learning what the administration did when they spied on Americans for years in violation of the law. Dismissal via amnesty would ensure that their spying behavior stays permanently concealed, buried forever, and as importantly, that no court ever rules on the legality of what they did. Isn't it striking how that implication of telecom amnesty is never discussed, and how little interest it generates among journalists -- whose role, theoretically, is to uncover secret government actions?

It is, I suppose, comforting to know that the president has finally cottoned to what we all knew last fall.

(continued on capitoilette)

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Monday, March 03, 2008


A BBC report on Sunday’s Russian elections reminded me of the famous George Kennan quip that “we will get nearer to the truth if we abandon for a time the hackneyed question of how far Bolshevism has changed Russia and turn our attention to the question of how far Russia has changed Bolshevism.” The reporter then substitutes the word “Democracy” for “Bolshevism” to make for a nice turn of phrase and pose what seems like a provocative question. . . but is it?

(continued on capitoilette. . . .)

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