Friday, February 29, 2008

fun with Republicans

My campaign advice to the Democrats is just let these guys talk. Really.

And, honestly, this is the funniest one of them all:

What a clown. I’m too tired to once again refute him point by point, but, suffice it to say, he’s full of shit and only gives a damn about this because he’s afraid of what will come out about Dick and him at trial.

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Thursday, February 28, 2008

blank slate

I love this:
I took a screen grab to emphasize the empty space as seen in orange-vision. The link to the Bloomberg “opinion” column is here. Kargo’s takedown of Schoen is here.

As much as I hate to mess with the essential (and essentially true) simplicity of DH’s post, I do have to say that Mayor Mike does make one small point. . . (continued on capitoilette)

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Wednesday, February 27, 2008

big W for the big D in NY (w/ an assist from WF)

A special election in New York’s 48th state senate district on Tuesday saw Democrat Darrell Aubertine take what had long been a seat held by Republicans. As the New York Times points out, this switch puts New York Democrats within one seat of taking control of the State Senate, something they haven’t done in over 40 years.

It’s a big win for the Democrats, and a big win for some of Elliot Spitzer's consultants, who lent muscle to the Aubertine campaign, but (and missing from the Times article) it is also a big win for New York’s Working Families Party, who cross-endorsed Aubertine and ran his GOTV operations.

Under the peculiarities of NYS election law, candidates are allowed multiple listings on the ballot under the banner of separate parties, with all the votes for the same candidate being tallied together. This allows a progressive third party such as Working Families to pick like-minded candidates within the system, and give them the extra help and visibility the party can provide. Candidates that want the WFP endorsement have to speak to the party’s progressive ideals. The candidate then gains their help; the Working Families Party gains the visibility for their issues and the greater media attention that naturally gravitates to a traditional party candidate, But, best of all, the citizens of the Empire State gain another progressive lawmaker to fight for the rights and wellbeing of the less privileged and hard working people of New York.

Congratulation to Senator-elect Aubertine, congratulations to the NYS Democrats, and congratulations to the Working Families Party.

(cross-posted on The Seminal)

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Monday, February 25, 2008

what that Clark Hoyt article said

With something approaching 3,000 e-mails streaming in—most of them apparently critical of the New York Times' publication last week of a story detailing John McCain’s dicey relationships with Washington lobbyists—it was not a surprise that the Times’ Public Editor, Clark Hoyt, would address the issue in his Sunday column. The piece, titled “What that McCain Article Didn’t Say,” chides the paper for leading with charges of a sexual relationship between McCain and telecom lobbyist Vicki Iseman that could not be confirmed by an on-the-record source—but that was only part of the story. While every Republican mouthpiece does cartwheels in the media over what they would like to believe is the total takeaway from Hoyt, now would be a good time to recap one of the most important things that the article did say.

The pity of it is that, without the sex, The Times was on to a good story. McCain, who was reprimanded by the Senate Ethics Committee in 1991 for exercising “poor judgment” by intervening with federal regulators on behalf of a corrupt savings and loan executive, recast himself as a crusader against special interests and the corrupting influence of money in politics. Yet he has continued to maintain complex relationships with lobbyists like Iseman, at whose request he wrote to the Federal Communications Commission to urge a speed-up on a decision affecting one of her clients.

Much of that story has been reported over the years, but it was still worth pulling together to help voters in 2008 better understand the John McCain who might be their next president.

While Hoyt might have been guilty himself of burying the substance—this passage comes toward the end of his column—it is no less substantial. At the end of the day, whether or not Iseman literally crawled into bed with McCain, the Senator maintains many close relationships with corporate lobbyists, and had a noticeably close one with Iseman. At Vicki Iseman’s behest, John McCain intervened on behalf of her clients and sought to influence government policy. Those corporate clients also gave large donations to McCain’s 2000 presidential campaign.

Sex or no sex, the traditional insider politics practiced by Senator McCain insures that we all get screwed.

(cross-posted on The Seminal)

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Friday, February 22, 2008

John McCain’s guiding principle?

Guiding principal. . . straight into his pocket.

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Thursday, February 21, 2008

he works hard for the money

Just hours before the New York Times went live with a story that shines an especially bright light on John McCain’s unseemly, suspicious, overly close ties to Washington lobbyists (especially one Vicki Iseman), McCain took time to send out a very special e-mail to his supporters (in the e-mail, the line that I bolded links to a donation page that includes the same paragraph above.):

While I am confident of the eventual outcome of this primary race - the stakes are too high to take the nomination for granted. There are still more primaries, there are still three of us competing for the nomination and I am still working night and day to make sure that we have the funds necessary to compete and win the remaining state primaries.

Working night and day to make sure you have the funds? Is that how you spend your time, John? Not legislating, or voting, or even campaigning? You work night and day for campaign contributions? Why Johnny, we had no idea. . .

Except, of course, we all did.

John McCain, the self-styled champion of Capitol ethics and campaign finance reform is also the man who is legendary for his ties to K Street. McCain’s 2008 campaign is chockfull of lobbyists—far more so than any of his competitors, Republican or Democratic—including his campaign manager, co-chair, and senior policy advisor.

And now the Times, and, not to be left out, the Washington Post, have front-page stories detailing what a close relationship with the Arizona Republican can do for a lobbyist. . . oh, and her clients, too.

A champion of deregulation, Mr. McCain wrote letters in 1998 and 1999 to the Federal Communications Commission urging it to uphold marketing agreements allowing a television company to control two stations in the same city, a crucial issue for Glencairn Ltd., one of Ms. Iseman’s clients. He introduced a bill to create tax incentives for minority ownership of stations; Ms. Iseman represented several businesses seeking such a program. And he twice tried to advance legislation that would permit a company to control television stations in overlapping markets, an important issue for Paxson.

In late 1999, Ms. Iseman asked Mr. McCain’s staff to send a letter to the commission to help Paxson, now Ion Media Networks, on another matter. Mr. Paxson was impatient for F.C.C. approval of a television deal, and Ms. Iseman acknowledged in an e-mail message to The Times that she had sent to Mr. McCain’s staff information for drafting a letter urging a swift decision.

Mr. McCain complied. He sent two letters to the commission, drawing a rare rebuke for interference from its chairman.

Of course, that was a different FCC back in ’99, but one has to figure that the commission still got all kinds of requests for various kinds of action. Imagine what the tone and quality of McCain’s letters had to be to elicit a rebuke.

Of course, to hear the McCain campaign tell it this morning, they did nothing wrong:

U.S. Senator John McCain's presidential campaign today issued the following statement by Communications Director Jill Hazelbaker:

"It is a shame that the New York Times has lowered its standards to engage in a hit and run smear campaign. John McCain has a 24-year record of serving our country with honor and integrity. He has never violated the public trust, never done favors for special interests or lobbyists, and he will not allow a smear campaign to distract from the issues at stake in this election.

"Americans are sick and tired of this kind of gutter politics, and there is nothing in this story to suggest that John McCain has ever violated the principles that have guided his career."

What’s wrong with this non-denial denial, besides the fact that it is a non-denial denial? Oh, yeah—it’s blatantly untrue! McCain has never violated the public trust? McCain has never done favors for special interests or lobbyists? Never is long, long time—did Ms. Hazelbaker really want to go there?

Never, for instance, would include this (I quote at length from the Times article, but it is almost all confirmed in McCain’s own memoir):

Mr. McCain started his career like many other aspiring politicians, eagerly courting the wealthy and powerful. A Vietnam war hero and Senate liaison for the Navy, he arrived in Arizona in 1980 after his second marriage, to Cindy Hensley, the heiress to a beer fortune there. He quickly started looking for a Congressional district where he could run.

Mr. Keating, a Phoenix financier and real estate developer, became an early sponsor and, soon, a friend. . . . .

During Mr. McCain’s four years in the House, Mr. Keating, his family and his business associates contributed heavily to his political campaigns. The banker gave Mr. McCain free rides on his private jet, a violation of Congressional ethics rules (he later said it was an oversight and paid for the trips). They vacationed together in the Bahamas. And in 1986, the year Mr. McCain was elected to the Senate, his wife joined Mr. Keating in investing in an Arizona shopping mall.

Mr. Keating had taken over the Lincoln Savings and Loan Association and used its federally insured deposits to gamble on risky real estate and other investments. He pressed Mr. McCain and other lawmakers to help hold back federal banking regulators.

For years, Mr. McCain complied. At Mr. Keating’s request, he wrote several letters to regulators, introduced legislation and helped secure the nomination of a Keating associate to a banking regulatory board.

By early 1987, though, the thrift was careering toward disaster. Mr. McCain agreed to join several senators, eventually known as the Keating Five, for two private meetings with regulators to urge them to ease up. “Why didn’t I fully grasp the unusual appearance of such a meeting?” Mr. McCain later lamented in his memoir.

When Lincoln went bankrupt in 1989 — one of the biggest collapses of the savings and loan crisis, costing taxpayers $3.4 billion — the Keating Five became infamous. The scandal sent Mr. Keating to prison and ended the careers of three senators, who were censured in 1991 for intervening. Mr. McCain, who had been a less aggressive advocate for Mr. Keating than the others, was reprimanded only for “poor judgment” and was re-elected the next year.

Some people involved think Mr. McCain got off too lightly. William Black, one of the banking regulators the senator met with, argued that Mrs. McCain’s investment with Mr. Keating created an obvious conflict of interest for her husband. (Mr. McCain had said a prenuptial agreement divided the couple’s assets.) He should not be able to “put this behind him,” Mr. Black said. “It sullied his integrity.”

To me, that sounds like violating the public trust. To me, that sounds like doing a favor for a special interest. It sounded that way to the Senate Ethics Committee, too.

This, of course, is only one well-chronicled example of the kind of “straight talk” we can expect from sometimes Senator and fulltime presidential candidate John McCain—a man whose allegiance to the Bush agenda is trumped only by his fealty to Washington lobbyists.

Work it, Johnny!

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

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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

build a better asshole, and the world will beat a path from your door

Let me serve notice—this will be the first post where I assume that the Democratic presidential nomination is Barack Obama’s to lose. Senator Obama’s wins last night in Wisconsin and Hawaii were impressive all by themselves, for sure, but a shallow dig beneath the aggregate numbers shows a trend that can’t be music to Hillary Clinton’s ears: Clinton barely won (statistically tied, really) among white women, and Obama claimed an advantage among those earning under $50,000, as well. If these trends continue in Texas, and especially in Ohio, Clinton has almost nowhere to turn for dependable votes.

This will likely result in a new round of what, honestly, have been fairly light attacks from the Clinton camp. She’ll continue her war on rhetoric, no doubt, maybe try again to go after the Obama health plan, and, as now seems likely, attack the Illinois Senator for being somehow less tough than she when it comes to being “Commander in Chief.”

(continued on capitoilette. . . . )

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Tuesday, February 19, 2008

John McCain on net neutrality: splunge!

In an effort to keep net neutrality a hot topic through this election cycle, Representatives Ed Markey (D-MA) and Chip Pickering (R-MS) introduced the “Internet Freedom Preservation Act” last week. Though weaker than some of Markey’s initiatives from previous sessions, the 2008 act makes it explicit that an open internet is Federal policy, and requires that the FCC to hold hearings on net neutrality.

So where does Republican frontrunner John McCain stand on this issue? McCain was interviewed late last year by Brian Lehrer for WNYC, New York Public Radio; the interview was replayed as part of a Presidents’ Day segment about the remaining candidates in the ’08 race. The Senator from Arizona was asked where he stood on net neutrality. In what was less than a concise answer, McCain first says that it’s important that one big money player doesn’t crowd out everyone, and then states that it’s a hard subject and we must take a look at it. He then changes subject to internet taxes (he believes that a tax moratorium should be extended, by the way).

After a few minutes, interviewer Lehrer circles back to net neutrality and says that he had read that McCain was opposed to it, to which the Senator replies: “Look, I go back and forth on the issue, it’s a very hard issue, and I continue to take a look at it.”

The entire interview is a case study in less-than-straight talk—an exercise in pandering that I expect McCain thought would not be heard outside the New York City area—but the answers to questions about net neutrality are especially pathetic. . . and are an especially good example of what the Asshole from Arizona does on most issues.

(It seems that pretending to be all things to all people while toeing the George W. Bush line 99% of the time is all that it takes to be a “maverick” these days. If you break it down, I guess there is a difference—the difference between saying one thing and doing another, and saying nothing and doing the same thing as the dishonest Republican President that came before.)

Save the Internet is looking to get 100 US Representatives to cosponsor the IFPA (HR 5353). The three Senators still seeking the presidency are “spared” this moment of truth (for the record, both Democrats Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have stated that they support giving the FCC the power to enforce net neutrality), but what about your Representative? Save the Internet has a tool to help you ask (h/t mcjoan).

(cross-posted on The Seminal and Daily Kos)

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Monday, February 18, 2008

presidents' day has, like, 44 dicks

It’s an oldie, but a goody. I actually thought Brad Neely’s JFK cartoon might have been more, oh, apropos for this year’s president’s day, but Neely doesn’t allow for embedding, so you’ll have to click to watch. (Warning: people who find cartoon references to assassination in poor taste might not like this quite as much as GW. People that think some presidents. . . or, maybe, candidates. . . are magical panaceas for all of our nation’s ills might also want to avert their eyes.)

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Friday, February 15, 2008

president Bush threatens not to leave if house doesn’t submit to his will

I’m sorry, but I am just so amused this morning as I hear over and over that George Bush is threatening not to leave for Africa unless the House of Representatives rolls over and whitewashes his wrongdoing by passing without amendment the Senate version of the FISA rewrite. Think about it—if you don’t vote, I won’t go.

Putting aside that his fear mongering is nothing but a shameless pack of lies. Putting aside that it’s the President that has set up this showdown. Putting aside that the apparent issue that he has with the House version is that it doesn’t grant telecom immunity, so, as Senator Kennedy says, Bush’s logic says that phone companies are more important than American lives. Putting aside that nothing will happen to any surveillance project if the egregious PAA is allowed to pass from law. Putting aside that Bush’s Africa visit is supposed to do things like promote peace in Kenya and AIDS prevention across the continent, but somehow, this FISA food-fight is more important. Putting aside all of that. . . .

The apparent biggest threat that Mr. 29% approval rating has left in his nasty, self-serving, partisan arsenal is threatening not to leave!

I think I speak for at least 71% of America when I say, “Go, George, Go.”

(OK, I can’t quite let it go yet. . . . Seriously, what is he going to do if he stays? Talk about it? Oh, no—an entire news cycle of George Bush talking! In case no one has noticed, this guy’s poll numbers go down pretty much every time he opens his mouth. Reminding America about Bush and his failed presidency, especially over the long President’s Day weekend, is like the gift that keeps on giving. Nothing could be better for Democrats this election cycle than to have Bush on TV every other freakin’ minute saying, “Hello, remember me, the Republican architect of your misfortune?” So, Georgie, you wanna stay home and blow hot air? I say, “Bring it on!”)

(cross-posted on The Seminal)

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Thursday, February 14, 2008

pitchers and catchers report!

Who could think of a better Valentine’s Day present?!

And, speaking of pitchers reporting, this one doesn’t quite understand that testifying before Congress isn’t the same as arguing with an umpire, or pitching broken bat chunks in a World Series.

Other moments tested Mr. [Roger] Clemens, too, particularly when he was asked about whether he attempted to coach a witness — his former nanny — before she spoke earlier this week to lawyers for the panel, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. The hearing ended with the committee chairman, Henry A. Waxman, Democrat of California, pounding the gavel sharply to keep Mr. Clemens from interrupting him, but with the committee drawing no immediate conclusions as to who was being truthful.

That paragraph doesn’t quite capture just how inappropriate Roger the Rocket’s comportment actually was. Clemens repeatedly interrupted the proceedings, talking over House members, as well as other witnesses. You would think Roger’s lawyers might have coached him a bit, no?

Maybe he didn’t expect to have to defend himself that all much. Clemens apparently got a pretty warm reception from committee members, visiting their offices, shaking hands, signing autographs, and posing for pictures with representatives and staffers in the days leading up to this public hearing.

Mr. Shays and Mr. Issa were among the 25 committee members who met with Clemens individually over the past week. Mark E. Souder, Republican of Indiana, one of the few who refused Mr. Clemens’s request to meet with him, deviated from other Republicans, stating that the depositions were “fairly devastating” against Clemens.

Reps. Chris Shays (R-CT) and Darrell Issa (R-CA)—along with Dan Burton (R-IA)—basically made total asses of themselves, behaving about as badly as Clemens. All three gestured wildly, pointing at Clemens’s accuser and former trainer, Brian McNamee, while calling him a “drug dealer.”

It got so bad that House Oversight Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA) actually apologized to McNamee for the behavior of his colleagues. He should have apologized for just how cheaply a member of the United States House of Representatives can be bought. Really, why waste tens of thousands on K Street lobbyists, lavish junkets, and big campaign contributions, when you can just have The Rocket visit and scribble his name on a couple of ten dollar baseballs?

Of course, at the end of the day, Rep. Waxman should probably apologize for wasting our time.

Actually, he kind of did:

“The only reason we had this hearing was because Roger Clemens insisted on it,” Mr. Waxman said in a news conference afterward.

But, Waxman should have apologized for wasting America’s time with this whole investigation. Seriously, Henry, you’re a smart guy—you have your staff looking into what seems like hundreds of Bush Administration misdoings—but with a President jumping up and down and demanding that Congress retroactively indemnify him for previous lawbreaking, and your colleagues across the rotunda debating about whether to enforce rules against torture (Note: Senator McAsshole flip-flopped on this one), don’t you think that professional athletes using HGH—before it was even illegal to do so, I should add—don’t you think, Henry, that this is kind of small beer?

George Mitchell, the former Senator from the Great State of Maine, and the author of the report on the use of performance enhancing drugs in Major League Baseball, said that there is plenty of blame to go around—players, trainers, agents, owners, and MLB officials all the way up to and including Commissioner Bud Selig all played a role in helping “juice” the game. When issuing the report, Mitchell essentially said, “The past is the past; let’s not look to place blame—let’s move on.”

So, let’s, shall we?

It’s February 14th, 2008, and spring training has begun. Let the juiced Mr. Clemens go play with his equally juiced wife. Let Brian McNamee peddle his used syringes and bloody gauze on e-Bay. And let us PLAY BALL!

PS Here’s what Rep. Rush Holt (D-NY) was doing while Shays, Issa, and Burton were having a hissy-fit over the Rocket’s oft-needled buttocks:

(cross-posted on The Seminal and Daily Kos)

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Wednesday, February 13, 2008

a tale of two constituencies

As you have no doubt heard by now, the Democratic Caucus in the Senate handed President Bush-Cheney a huge victory on Tuesday, passing the un-amended SSCI version of the FISA bill, 68 – 29.

Let me just remind everyone, because, frankly, it is sometimes hard to remember, that the Democrats are the majority party in the Senate.

This bill contains retroactive immunity for the telecommunications industry, which, as previously explained, is really a “get out of jail free” card for the President and his henchmen. This bill also contains many other egregious planks that do more damage to our Constitution than any bill I could have ever imagined coming out of a supposedly democratic body. As Senator Chris Dodd put it, “We’ve just sanctioned the single largest invasion of privacy in American history."

That what passes for a Republican party voted in lock step to cover up this administration’s wrongdoings is not a surprise, but what can we say about the Democrats? Specifically, these Democrats:

Conrad, Rockefeller, Baucus, Webb, Kohl, Whitehouse, Bayh, Johnson, Bill Nelson, Mikulski, McCaskill, Lincoln, Casey, Salazar, Inouye, Ben Nelson, Pryor, Carper, and Landrieu.

I will also add Feinstein to this list. She voted against the final bill, but that was just a cover, since she voted for cloture—which was as good as signing off on it. Lieberman also voted with the coward caucus, but that’s no surprise.

Many of these same Dems voted for the Military Commissions Act back in 2006, and the last FISA “fix”—the Protect America Act—last year.

I would also like to nominate Majority Leader Harry Reid to this hall of shame, for if Reid had wanted to, he could have stopped this piece-of-crap bill (and the PAA, for that matter) cold. Reid made a big deal about his opposition to the SSCI version, but he ignored Chris Dodd’s hold on it, and allowed this bill to come to the floor ahead of the better Judiciary Committee draft. Shame!

It should also be noted that among the Presidential aspirants, Obama showed up to vote to strip telecom immunity from the bill, and voted against cloture—and I extend due thanks for those votes—but he left before the final roll call. Clinton missed all of the votes on Tuesday. And, John Asshole McCain—ever the maverick—didn’t show up, either.

Now that’s what I call leadership for the future!

I am surprised by the votes of Webb and Whitehouse. They are both over four years away from reelection and have been critics of the Bush Administration on other so-called “war on terror” issues—they should both know better.

As for most of the rest—oh, hell, ALL the rest—what were you thinking?

This is not a rhetorical question.

Polls show that voters are against telecom immunity and warrantless surveillance by solid margins. They despise and distrust George W. Bush even more. So, Senators, you clearly were not acting in the interests of the American people.

We also know that this bill does little (likely nothing) to enhance our nation’s ability to catch “potential terrorists” (whatever the fuck that is), but it gives the administration vast powers to do opposition research, limit a free press, and stifle dissent. So, Senators, you clearly were not acting to protect the nation or the Constitution.

And, as has been established, this version of the legislation lets the Bush bunch off the hook for what is now over six years of illegal behavior when it comes to domestic spying. So, you were clearly not acting to defend the rule of law.

So, what the fuck were you doing? Who the fuck are you working for?

Could it be that you really work for the telecommunications lobby?

Could it be that you harbor some vague future ambition?

Or, could it be that you are just acting out of stupidity or cowardice?

Really, I see no other options.

Of course, this exercise in incompetence/cowardice/greed is not quite over. There is still the superior House version of this bill to be dealt with in conference. There is a petition over at FDL asking House members to stand firm. If you have not yet seen it, please click on over and sign it. Then keep your ear to the ground—or whatever we do these days—and watch for another vote on something before the PAA expires on Friday. (And, I will continue to contend, simply letting the PAA expire would really be the very best option. I can dream, can’t I?)

As for all the Democrats that have failed us, I recommend that they pick up a paper and read about The Fourth Congressional District of Maryland, for it was there on Tuesday that progressive Donna Edwards beat eight-term Bush-dog Al Wynn in the Democratic primary.

Incumbents should now think long and hard about whom they really represent. Thanks to the increasingly sophisticated organizing skills of the grassroots and netroots, it not enough to simply label yourself a Democrat, grab a seat, and then hold on to it. Corporate money might have gotten you to where you are, but it will not always keep you there. Not any more.

Every one of the Democrats that help the Bush administration abrogate the Constitution, every one of you that votes for the rule of men over the rule of law, every one of you that chases the money instead of leading the way out of the last decade of darkness, you now have a time clock, and it is counting down to your next primary.

So, each of you, ladies and gentlemen of the United States Congress, the clock is ticking. It’s time to decide: which constituency do you represent?

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

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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

bleak senate, bleak house

Tuesday represents the last dance for senators wishing to significantly amend or stop the abysmal SSCI (Senate Select Committee on Intelligence) version of a FISA bill that could radically alter the level and quality of Americans’ rights to privacy for a very long time. Matt Browner Hamlin does an excellent job of teaching us today’s steps—please give it a read—it is no walk in the park.

Senator Pat Leahy has signed on to support Chris Dodd, and likely a few other Senators such as Feingold and Kennedy, to “filibuster” the bill if it is not changed in some very real ways. (“Filibuster” is in quotes here because under the UC—again, read Matt—there is no real filibuster in the talk-till-you-drop sense.) Most notably, these Democrats seek to strip retroactive immunity from the bill, a blanket amnesty that adds an extra-legal level of protection for the telecom industry, but, most importantly, a complete amnesty for Bush and Cheney and other officials that collaborated to break numerous laws in order to assert unitary power and spy on anyone they damn please.

Leahy has a tool to contact your elected officials here.

Though the establishment media can’t seem to understand the importance of this issue beyond repeating White House talking points about “national security,” and maybe throwing in a “some say” regarding the importance of civil rights, the editorial page of the New York Times has made the connection between this horrible FISA “fix” and last week’s tortured torture testimony from the new AG. If you haven’t been reading along with me on FISA and warrantless surveillance, the Sunday editorial will clue you in to some solid reasons to lobby your congressional representatives. As the Times concludes:

This whole nightmare was started by Mr. Bush’s decision to spy without warrants — not because they are hard to get, but because he decided he was above the law. Discouraging that would be a service to the nation.

This debate is not about whether the United States is going to spy on Al Qaeda, it is about whether it is going to destroy its democratic principles in doing so. Senators who care about that should vote against immunity.

As Matt explains, today’s Senate action is not the very last waltz, but Republicans and blue dogs will march to the beat of Cheney’s fearmongering drum, and the telecommunications industry has bought and paid for Senators like Jay Rockefeller—and he who pays the piper calls the tune.

There still exists a better House version of this legislation, which will have to be reconciled with the Senate bill, so not all hope is lost. I continue to contend that the very best outcome for this will be for the legislation to stall in both houses so that we can revert to the original FISA law, but if you follow the steps as laid down by Matt, the chances for that are, alas, bleak.

(cross-posted on The Seminal)

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Monday, February 11, 2008

time for pie!

Over the course of the Democratic primary season, readers of the New York Times have been able to read/watch as a slow-motion, literary pie fight broke out between two of the Times’ columnists. Well, readers, my advice to you today is don’t wear your nice clothes, ‘cause someone broke out the mixed berry.

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Friday, February 08, 2008

enough already

The Senate began its slow dance with the devil yesterday, defeating the first few moderating amendments to the miserable new FISA legislation. More votes are due early next week, but after both the Senate, and now the House, have had a day locked in a room with Attorney General Michael Mukasey, I really think they should just stop work on the FISA bill immediately and declare “no soup for you!” Or, no more authority, anyway. . . to do anything!

I don’t think that’s an unreasonable position, given some of Mukasey’s revelations.

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Thursday, February 07, 2008

hey, McCain asshole, why do you hate seniors and vets?

The “Straight Talk Express” took a little detour through bullshitville yesterday. . . or maybe it was a scheduled stop.

During the last few weeks, Senator John McCain (Asshole-AZ) has been campaigning on the need to quickly pass a stimulus package, and on Wednesday, the Senate tried to oblige.

Problem is, a group of conservative Republicans (I know, redundant), blocked a vote on the Senate version of the stimulus plan because it included such “Christmas tree ornaments” (Mitch McConnell’s words, not mine) as additional money to help the elderly on fixed incomes and disabled vets, home heating assistance, and extended unemployment benefits. A move Wednesday evening to invoke cloture and force a vote failed. . . by one vote.

As recently as this morning, McCain again told reporters that he planned on returning to the Senate for this evening’s vote on the economic stimulus, stating that Congress needed to quickly pass legislation.

The measure, blocked by conservatives, fell just one vote short of the 60 needed to end debate. At the “last minute,” McCain decided to skip the vote, even though his plane landed in DC in time. McCain claimed that he was “too busy“:

“I haven’t had a chance to talk about it at all, have not had the opportunity to, even,” McCain said. “We’ve just been too busy, focused on other stuff. I don’t know if I’m doing that. We’ve got a couple of meetings scheduled.”

The other Senators on the campaign trail, Democrats Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, were able to get back in time to vote for cloture and for helping those hurt by this Iraq War-damaged economy. What was the seemingly confused or disoriented 71-year-old McCain focused on instead of getting to the floor and fulfilling his campaign promise to his fellow vets and seniors? Most likely, it was his Thursday appearance at the hard-line conservative CPAC conference.

By not voting for bill, as he had promised, McCain caved to the right wing and turned his back on 20 million seniors and 250,000 disabled vets. As the AP notes:

Voting “no” with Republican leaders would have offended millions of Social Security recipients and the disabled veterans not scheduled to receive rebates. Voting “yes,” on the other hand, risked alienating Bush, GOP leaders and conservatives already suspicious of McCain’s political leanings. McCain was speaking Thursday before a meeting of the Conservative Political Action Conference, a group that booed him last year in absentia.

The Senate’s stimulus plan also contained incentives for green energy initiatives designed to jumpstart the economy by advancing technologies that might slow global warming. McCain often gets “straight talk” points for voicing concerns about climate change. But, as is painfully obvious, simply releasing a lot of hot air isn’t going to solve the problem. Senator Asshole might think talking the talk is enough, but without walking the walk—showing up for important votes, for instance—nothing about that talk is straight.

(cross-posted on The Seminal)

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Wednesday, February 06, 2008

tuesday takeaways—a super-ramble through my random observations

I’m jut going to throw these out—my apologies if this seems a little disjointed, but if I wait to edit and shape it, it’ll be not so super Thursday before you get to read it.

The Asshole from Arizona won big. Bigger, in fact, than most think right now. While much is being made about how California’s Republican delegates are not winner-take-all, since they are awarded on a district-by-district basis, it is important to note that each district is itself winner-take-all. As of this writing, McCain leads in almost every California district, so it could look very close to winner-take-all for the state when all the counting is finished. Barring a collapse—and I’m talking about a physical one, not an electoral one—McCain is all but assured the Republican nomination.

California, it should also be noted, was a closed primary for Republicans. Independents—or “decline to state” as they are called there—could only vote in the Democratic primary (where they split, by the way, between Clinton and Obama), so McCain had to win over confirmed Republicans.

McCain’s victory is, in one way, anyway, very good news for all of America. The old guy won over plenty of conservative voters in spite of a full court press from conservative talk radio stars like Rush Limbaugh and Hugh Hewitt. Those radio hosts have been excoriating McCain while supporting Romney. If conservative radio, with its nationwide reach, can’t scare Republicans off McCain, I don’t think we should be too afraid of their affect on the general election population.

Romney came out of Tuesday winning two primaries—in his “home states” of Massachusetts and Utah—and a handful of caucuses, but that’s it. It has cost Romney well over a million dollars per delegate won so far; in order to win the nomination, he’s going to need about a billion more dollars. Even Mitt’s not that rich.

But, with all of that in mind, it should still be noted that the Arizona Senator could not win 50% of the Republican vote in Arizona. No doubt McCain’s purportedly “moderate” position on immigration hurt him with the xenophobe wing. Will those voters swallow their irrational hate long enough to vote for McCain in November, or will they just sit on their hands? Will tacking Huckabee on the ticket as a sop to the haters of science and haters of Mexicans be enough to get them to the polls? Does such a cynical play alienate too many so-called independents to make it worth it for the Republicans?

On the Democratic side, the rush by most of the establishment press to call Tuesday a wash, a tie, a toss-up seems to spring on the one hand from some sort of disappointment that Wednesday’s headlines couldn’t announce a winner, and on the other from some need to prove the meme that we are a country divided.

How bloody stupid—on both counts.

There must be some part of the media’s collective lizard brain at work here: uncertainty equals anxiety (or so marketing consultants will tell you). And with the Democratic nomination still uncertain, the establishment must be anxious for us.

Take today’s editorial in the New York Times. It laments “stark intramural divisions” that threaten both parties. As noted, that might be true for Republicans, but for the Democrats, party enthusiasm is at an all-time high. The Times even grants that most Democrats agree on policy issues. But, instead, as has become infuriatingly predictable, the Times fixates on identity politics.

While Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton have few policy disputes, voter polls showed gulfs between their core supporters: men for Mr. Obama and women for Mrs. Clinton, and so on with black voters and Hispanic voters, more educated voters and less educated voters, richer and poorer, those driven by the idea of change and those looking for a candidate who cares about their problems.

Well, hats off to the Times’ editorial board, they have finally learned that men and women are different.

I can’t believe I have to explain this, but here goes: to say that different demographic groupings voted to some greater or lesser extent for one candidate over another is not the same thing as a split in the party.

I understand how having Limbaugh or Anne Coulter attack McCain for not being a real conservative can cause an ideological rift to open up inside the Republican Party, but that is just not equivalent to what is happening on the Democratic side. I went over this in an earlier post, but I’ll say it in a slightly different way here: that a female voter expresses a preference for Clinton does not mean that she is a member of the pro-woman wing of the party. The battle for the soul of the Democratic Party is not between those that think Democrats are most like African American men versus those that think the Democratic essence is embedded in the skin and pantsuit of a white woman.

Hell, I don’t even think there is a poll that shows a split between “the idea of change” and “those looking for a candidate who cares about their problems.” (It’s usually “change” versus “experience,” right?) If there are numbers on this, please show me—but I believe the Times has invented this dichotomy for the sake of their editorial.

Making it only slightly more fictional than their other “gulfs.”

If Senator Clinton gains the upper hand, should she reach out to many of the new, energized voters that Senator Obama has brought into the process? Of course she should—and I have no doubt that she will try. Should Obama try to understand the issues and undercurrents that ring true with Clinton’s core supporters? Absolutely—and I expect he will try to do that, too. But in either case, I expect that each will talk about issues—yes, issues—that interest those constituencies. You will not hear Barack say, “I think white women are real cool,” any more than you will hear Hillary claim, “There are lots of reasons for men to like me.” It’s not that it just sounds offensive to say those things, it’s that it is offensive because that is not how it works with real voters.

As I have noted before, Democrats—indeed, most of America—is quite united. Overwhelming majorities disapprove of Bush, his war, his economy, his love of torture, his assault on the Constitution. Likewise, majorities are solidly in favor of universal healthcare, a rapid withdrawal from Iraq, tax fairness, aggressive policies to end global warming. And on every major issue, Americans trust Democrats to have better solutions than Republicans.

It is bad enough that newspapers and news networks don’t understand that a continuation of the contest is good for their business, but it is especially unfortunate that their concern trolling overshadows the fact that this primary battle is good for the Democrats, too. As DNC Chair Howard Dean and others have noted, contested primaries keep voters interested. It gives the candidates lots of free press. Exposes more voters to their messages. Builds familiarity. Builds excitement.

Maybe the exposure is bad for Republicans, who generally hate their choices, but every indication so far is that Democrats are excited by their candidates and their chances. Voters are not turned off by the contest, they are turned on, and, so, turn out has been through the roof. This trend continued for Democrats in every Super Tuesday state for which I could find statistics.

So, taking the establishment media’s predilections into account, was it really a tie last night?

Dare I say, “Yes and no?”

You can find the exact numbers in various places, but, in short (or semi-short), Obama won more states; Clinton won bigger states. The sum total of all Democratic votes cast yesterday broke for Clinton by a very small margin (not that this matters for anything but bragging rights).

More interesting to me: Obama won all the caucus states. Caucuses should go to the candidate with the better organization. That was supposed to be Clinton, but, toss in Iowa, and I’m not sure we can say that anymore.

Obama did better in Illinois than Clinton did in New York. Though, delegate-wise, Clinton looks like she’ll get 60% of New York’s.

Obama won Yvette Clarke’s district (NY-11) which includes parts of Park Slope, Brownsville, Kensington, Flatbush, and Midwood. He also won Edolphus Town’s district (NY-10), which includes parts of Clinton Hill, Fort Greene, Bedford Stuyvesant, Canarsie, and East New York. But Clinton won Charlie Rangel’s district (NY-15), which is predominantly in Harlem, Inwood, and Washington Heights, but also includes parts of Astoria and the Upper West Side.

Obama didn’t win New Jersey, and he didn’t win Massachusetts, but he wasn’t supposed to. He wasn’t supposed to win Connecticut, either, but he did. He got close in NJ, too. Look at this how you want, but to me either you say “Clinton hung on” or “Obama almost caught up”—now which candidate would want that as a talking point?

Obama narrowly won Missouri—after several news organizations had called it for Clinton. While the delegate count will be close to evenly divided, the big O’s victory just might give him some big MO. As Al Giordano—who correctly predicted every one of last night’s Democratic races—puts it ever so cutely:

Game over. This is the big psychological win that Obama needed tonight. Nobody (present company excepted) expected this upset.

. . . .

And somewhere in a country called Tennessee, a grey eminence is watching, pulling hidden weapons out of the trophy case, eyeing them, remembering the thrill of the fight, gearing up for battle.

I have no idea where Giordano gets his grey eminence intel, but, if true, it would be a fine feather in Obama’s cap. No, Al Gore is not a white woman, Mr. New York Times guy, but he is as much a household name as the Clintons, and with lower negatives.

Another interesting development from Tuesday: The Clinton camp has called for more debates—roughly one a week through early March—and has moved to break with the party and agree to appear on FOX News for at least one of those debates. You have to wonder why the so-called frontrunner would call for more debates (that breaks with traditional strategy), and why Clinton would risk alienating part of the Democratic base before she wraps up the nomination.

Well, here’s a possible reason why: Hillary Clinton is out of money. I know, I can’t quite believe it, either, but both Al Giordano and Bob Cesca are more or less reporting this. Take into account that, through Tuesday, 90% of all money raised by all campaigns has already been spent, and it seems more plausible. Also, note that Obama out-raised Clinton in January by better than three to one.

Suddenly, a weekly burst of free media—risks and all—looks very attractive to the Clinton camp.

The rest of February also looks good for Obama. Louisiana this weekend, then the Chesapeake primaries, all have the chance of breaking for Barack. With proportional allotment of delegates, it won’t move him that much closer to the nomination, but, again, some big momentum could be in the offing.

And it is in that race for the delegates required to garner the nomination that I see the only problems with an extended and contested Democratic race.

Should Clinton fall short of the nomination by a margin smaller than what she would get from Michigan and Florida, then I expect her camp will fight to seat those delegates. Such a fight would be divisive, I fear. It lends to the perception that the Clintons play by their own rules, and lends a degree of credence to those in the Obama camp that have already accused the Clinton camp of electoral shenanigans.

Should, instead, the 20% of delegates known as “super delegates” be the deciding factor, and should there be no obvious side for the bulk of them to take going into the convention, the Democrats again risk alienating voters (especially new voters, I think). Forget the presidential race, it won’t be good for the party or any of its other candidates if a group of primary voters feel like their earlier exercise in democratic expression was a relatively meaningless work out.

And that is possibly my only really negative takeaway from SuperFat Tuesday—and it’s not even really a result of yesterday’s news, instead, it is a fear of tomorrow’s. What has been so exciting, so unequivocally wonderful this primary season, no matter which candidate you started out supporting, is the incredible rise in Democratic democratic participation. People feel like their votes really matter, and so they have gone out of their way to vote in record numbers. Wouldn’t it just disappoint those voters, and reward the cynics and the cynical Republicans, to demonstrate through machinations only a party hack or a beltway bloviator could love that the votes didn’t matter so very much after all. . . .

And wouldn’t it reward the gulf-loving media to have Democrats begin that internecine fight before the standard primary battles had run their course?

I think it would. And so, on this super Wednesday, when there is so much to cheer, I will sound this note of caution to the Democrats. Focus on the issues, not the process. Make George Bush your target, not your Democratic opponent. Contrast your proposals with John McCain’s—such as they are. Reference all the ways that we are alike—and like so many Americans—not those few ways that lazy pundits use to tell us apart.

(cross-posted on capitoilette and The Seminal)

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Monday, February 04, 2008

Dr. Asshole

(courtesy of Brave New Films)

Though this blog never goes a week without dozens stopping by thanks to a google of some combination of the words “McCain” and “asshole,” the last couple of weeks have been especially good for business (or would be, if I actually sold ad space). The funny thing is, or, at least, I assume the funny thing is, that this “surge” (cough) in hits is likely due to large numbers of people that reside somewhere in that bizarre-o world known as the right wing of the Republican party. Just look at this comment most recently tacked on to an old Asshole post:

He is a liberal asshole. I am sorry I became a Republican!!!

While I am happy to have yet one more American regret having signed up for the party of recession and war, ya' gotta wonder about where this sort of reasoning is going to lead this voter.

Liberal? McCain? Please.

Take a listen to this On The Media piece from the weekend—note just how many different times the Asshole from Arizona has voted to deny a woman’s right to chose.

Or, how about, despite his spinning, how aggressively McCain has supported George W. Bush’s Iraqi debacle. From the get go. And I’m not talking about just the concept, I’m talking about the practice.

Or, perhaps you’d find it interesting to “learn” that in spite of some occasional long ago utterances critical of illegal handguns, McCain voted against the Brady Bill and against the extension of the Assault Weapons Ban.

Or, maybe my anonymous new friend should look at John McCain’s voting record. Though Senator Asshole hasn’t been around much for the 110th Congress (he’s got ambitions to see to, after all), when he has been on the Hill to vote, he has voted with President Bush more than any other member of the Senate. (Oh, crap—I’ve lost this link! Sorry. Feel free to trust or disregard until I can dig it up.)

Pro school choice/vouchers. Pro abstinence only education. Pro NAFTA, pro CAFTA. Anti DC representation in Congress. Anti universal health coverage. Anti habeas corpus preservation/restoration. Anti restricting military deployments to 12 months. . . .

Oh, god! I could go on and on and on. . . .

And, if John “Asshole” McCain is his party’s nominee for president, trust me, I will.

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Friday, February 01, 2008

and now for questions from our audience:

OK, I’m watching the last Democratic debate before Super-duper Tuesday, and whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa………..

Huh, what? Sorry—I fell asleep there. Man, it almost makes you miss the—naw, I ain’t gonna go there.

Well, here’s a question I can pretty much promise you wasn’t asked tonight (OK, I’ll admit it, I really caught the whole debate, and this wasn’t asked), so I will ask it here:

With Howard Dean heading the DNC, Democrats retook control of both houses of Congress in 2006. If you are elected president, you will have great influence in whether Dean remains in his current position. Will you pledge, right now, to keep Howard Dean as chairman of the Democratic National Committee? If not, why not, and who do you plan on recommending as Dean’s replacement, and why?

Think about your answer. . . I’ll wait. . .

. . .

. . .

. . . still here. . .

. . . zzzzzzzzzzzz. . . .

(cross-posted on The Seminal)

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the day after the day after

From the New York Times’ Matt Bai’s post to The Caucus:

Yesterday, on a day when two languishing campaigns finally succumbed, I called Tracy Russo in Chapel Hill to find out what was happening. The 26-year-old Russo was in charge of John Edwards's blog strategy; you might say she fulfilled the traditional role of a press secretary, only for the netroots. I'd gotten to know her earlier this year through some other bloggers, and I knew she was a passionate believer in her candidate and his liberal cause. . . .

Ms. Russo had been keeping it together since the campaign's chairman, David Bonior, had finally informed the staff of Mr. Edwards's impending withdrawal a few hours before his speech yesterday. "I'm a basket of emotions," she said. "Campaigns are like families. It hit everybody at different moments this morning." Russo still had a job to do; she was still talking to bloggers on the phone and trying to get them the video of Mr. Edwards's exit speech in New Orleans. She had no idea where she'd be going next, or when. "At least now we have time to sleep in and go see the doctors we haven't gone to in six months," she said, trying, unsuccessfully, to sound upbeat.

. . . . When a campaign ends, the candidate goes on to campaign for someone else or to the lucrative life he had before, but the staff is left to figure out the numbing logistics of leases and U-hauls and W-2 forms. Those of us who cover campaigns never write about that part of the process; we check out of hotels and turn our attention elsewhere. For the people who work on losing campaigns, moving on takes longer. For them, today is all about the grief.

Over the course of the last couple of months, I had the good fortune to correspond (and even once actually have a phone conversation!) with Tracy, and I can corroborate Bai’s assessment of her passion and dedication. I will also add that she was just damn nice. I was amazed at how, even in the midst of the busy pre-Iowa crunch, Tracy would take a chunk of time to talk with a little ol’ C-list blogger such as myself. And not just about logistics, either. Tracy talked about politics at large, and talked about the Edwards campaign with enthusiasm, yes, but also with an unexpected degree of candor.

In fact, I found all the people that I met on this campaign to be open, honest, and, to a person, nice. If, as folks say, a campaign is a reflection of its candidate, then it speaks very well of John Edwards. I am sad that I will not get to work longer with Tracy and the others on this campaign. I am sad that I will not get to work longer to make Edwards our president.

(cross-posted on capitoilette)

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