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Tuesday, January 17, 2006

House Slave

by digby

Tweety is gleefully flogging Hillary's "plantation" comment like he just discovered his little winkie.

There has bever been as great a GOP tool as Tweety Matthews. He gets a little bit uppity once in a while so they force feed him some bullshit which he happily regurgitates with gusto so as not make somebody important in the Republican establishment really, really mad at him. (When that happens, as we know, Monsignor Tim reports him to the Big Boys.)

Atrios has put this link up explaining why the Republican Magnolias having the vapors over this plantation comment is a steaming pile of fetid, GOP talking points.

I don't know if any of you would like to tell Chris Matthews how to use Google, but of you would, here's his e-mail: hardball@msnbc.com

Maybe he or his staff would like to look over those links and then explain why he and his Republican pals thinks she's so out of line.

What's Wrong With This Picture?

by digby

Speaking of CNN, I don't know what to make of this, but it's interesting. I mentioned yesterday that Bill Schneider said this on the Situation Room yesterday. It was quite soon after gore's speech so I figured he would get an earful from the powers that be and we'd hear the last of it. But today he pretty much repeated it verbatim. To my ears, it sounds non-judgmental veering on positive. Schneider isn't usually a very reliable observer, but this strikes me as pretty fair and pretty provocative toward the Bushies. Am I wrong?

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Wolf, Democrats heard a voice from the past today, but it's a voice that may be charting a course for the party's future.


(voice over): Who speaks for Democrats these days? Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid are minority leaders. Howard Dean's job is to represent the broad range of Democratic views. Hillary Clinton, John Kerry and John Edwards may run for president, and they are pretty cautious. So is Bill Clinton who is invested in his wife's political future. Enter Al Gore, giving full throated voice to the outrage that many Democrats feel over the administration's wiretapping of American citizens.

GORE: ... What many believe are serious violations of law by the president.

SCHNEIDER: Violations of law? Exactly.

GORE: ... Into these serious allegations of criminal behavior on the part of the president.

SCHNEIDER: That may be grounds for impeachment. Gore never used the I word, but he did call for ...

GORE: ...The appointment of the special counsel to pursue the criminal issues raised by the warrantless wiretapping of Americans by the president.

SCHNEIDER: A special counsel would have to be appointed by the attorney general, who works for President Bush, and how realistic is it to think about impeachment when Congress is controlled by Republicans? Gore's answer?

GORE: It should be a political issue in any race, regardless of party, section of the country, house of Congress, for anyone who opposes the appointment of a special counsel.

SCHNEIDER: Gore is telling Democrats, let's make this our issue.

Just the fact that Schneider brings up Impeachment, which Gore did not, seems to me like a good thing. I must be missing something.

Down On The Plantation

by digby

I'm glad to see that CNN has booked two African-Americans agreeing that Hillary Clinton was wrong to compare the Republican House to a plantation, so that's good. The poncy Republican is calling for her to resign but the other thinks that probably isn't necessary. We're getting fair and balanced coverage on this issue.

Apparently, this is an outrageous thing to say. I wonder if anybody thought this article by Joseph Farrah of World Net Daily called "Racism on Dem plantation" (available today only on Google cache for some reason)was out of line. Or how about this one on on Townhall by Cal Thomas who refers to "the Democratic Party and its plantation mentality." And then there's Rush Limbaugh who's been know to refer to anybody who's in the leadership position in the Democratic Party" as "pimps" who attempt to deceive black people into remaining on the "Democratic plantation."

Here's the thing. When the Republicans talk about the "plantation" they are specifically talking about race, claiming that the Democrats are using (presumably stupid) Black Americans against their own interests.

Hillary was talking about the fact that the Republican leadership treats their own caucus (not to mention the minority) like they are slaves.

Now which of those views is racist?

Yet, the Republicans are all over this and they will probably end up getting her to apologise because Democratic politicians have never learned how to respond to being called racist. Until they do, the Republicans are going to use this ridiculous epistemic relativism against them.

Update: As a couple of commenters remind me, perhaps the most famous of these plantation comments cane from none other than Newtie:

"...on the eve of his great electoral victory ten years ago, the speaker-to-be told a reporter he was leading a "slave rebellion" against the Democrats who "run the plantation."

The Whole Schmear

by digby

I agree with Kevin that the ineffectiveness of the illegal wiretap program is not the most important issue. The president having unlimited power, even to the extent that he is not bound by the law or the constitution, is the fundamental threat and this wiretap program is just the most recent example of it.

However, this revelation that the illegal wiretapping is a waste of time does refute the most important argument of the other side. That argument is best articulated by today's winner of the Golden Globe for best tease, Trent Lott:

"I don't agree with the libertarians," said Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.). "I want my security first. I'll deal with all the details after that."

If the details show that the FBI is wasting valuable man hours chasing its tail, it's not exactly giving you "your security" is it? Not only is the president breaking the law, he's wasting the valuable time and energy of the FBI which could be spent preventing terrorism and catching criminals. Why on earth would that make a frightened little bedwetter like Trent Lott feel safer? It should scare the lil' guy to death.

Josh Marshall has an insightful post up today about Al Gore's speech yesterday that speaks to how these issues all work together.

The point Gore makes in his speech that I think is most key is the connection between authoritarianism, official secrecy and incompetence.

The president's critics are always accusing him of law-breaking or unconstitutional acts and then also berating the incompetence of his governance. And it's often treated as, well ... he's power-hungry and incompetent to boot! Imagine that! The point though is that they are directly connected. Authoritarianism and secrecy breed incompetence; the two feed on each other. It's a vicious cycle. Governments with authoritarian tendencies point to what is in fact their own incompetence as the rationale for giving them yet more power. Katrina was a good example of this.

The basic structure of our Republic really is in danger from a president who militantly insists that he is above the law.

The illegal wiretap scandal is a perfect example of this --- authoritarianism, official secrecy and incompetence. (No wonder they call it "the president's program.") When you add in endemic corruption, you have a recipe for a constitutional crisis and a political tyranny --- which is exactly what they have been cooking up.

It's awfully hard to respect people who are so frightened they don't know they are helping the terrorists to achieve what the terrorists couldn't achieve on their own.

Trent's Slot Safe

by digby

Incumbent Senator Trent Lott called a press conference to announce whether he's running again. He'd hinted that he might not, so the suspense was palpable. A Democrat, after all, was favored to win if Lott didn't run. Would he or wouldn't he? What was going to happen? Oooh, it's the kind of thing that sends chills down your spine. After about ten minutes of stirring oratory celebrating all the fine people he's worked with over the years, he soulfully looks into the camera, nods his head to his staff and then announces ... he's running again.

And now Ed Henry talking about how this sets the stage for him to make a great comeback and win back the majority leader job! Is Trent awesome or what?

None of the CNN anchors even have the decency to look sheepish about being played for morons. But then, why would they?


Monday, January 16, 2006

Arlen's Spectacle

by digby

Isn't this special?

In an interview on Sunday, Mr. Brownback said he was heartened by the hearings. He argued that in the 2004 elections, Republicans had showed Democrats that "we can run on abortion rights and win the public," adding, "they are trimming their sails some on it."

The apparent outcome of the Alito nomination may call into question a political assessment that Mr. Specter made after those elections. Mr. Specter said at the time that it was highly unlikely that a Supreme Court nominee who would change abortion rights precedents could be confirmed, in part because of the determined opposition of the Democrats. Some leading Democratic senators publicly agreed.

Conservatives, upset at Mr. Specter's comment, almost unseated him from the chairmanship of the Judiciary Committee.

After the hearings ended on Friday, Mr. Specter said he would vote for confirmation and declined to revisit his earlier comments. But he said it was impossible to know how Judge Alito might vote as a Supreme Court justice. He said abortion rights groups had also opposed Justice David Souter, Justice Anthony Kennedy and Justice Sandra Day O'Connor - all Republican nominees who have voted from the bench to uphold the core abortion rights precedents.

"There are weighty considerations involved in changing Roe v. Wade, very weighty considerations in modifying that principle and a woman's right to choose," Mr. Specter said.

This is why everyone should laugh in Arlen Specter's face when he says this:

A top US Republican senator on Sunday for the first time mentioned impeachment in connection with President George W Bush's authorisation of electronic surveillance inside the United States without a court warrant.

Arlen Specter, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, cautioned it was too early to draw any conclusions as his committee gears up for public hearings into the growing controversy early next month.

But in his appearance on ABC's "This Week" program, Specter insisted the Senate was not going to give the president what he called "a blank cheque."

When asked what could happen if lawmakers find Bush in violation of the law, Specter answered: "Impeachment is a remedy. After impeachment, you could have a criminal prosecution, but the principal remedy ... under our society is to pay a political price."

He made it a point to clarify, however, that he was speaking theoretically and was "not suggesting remotely that there's any basis" for a presidential impeachment at this moment.


He added that the issue of wartime presidential powers was "a very knotty question" that "ought to be thoroughly examined."

Specter assured he was prepared to listen to the administration's explanations, but warned, "I'm going to wear my skepticism on my sleeve."

Uh huh. This man has run for years as a pro-choice Republican in a swing state. This is probably his last term. And he tossed abortion rights out the window without a second thought. This emerging narrative that Arlen is going to be tough on the administration on these wiretapping charges is total bullshit:

Gonzales said he had agreed with Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter, a Republican from Pennsylvania, to testify in hearings on the controversial program that eavesdrops on U.S. phone calls and e-mails.

Gonzales said he would not discuss any operational details at the hearing and would only explain the legal justification.

The testimony will take place in Senate hearings that are expected to be held early next month.

It was unclear whether the judiciary committee would also hear testimony from senior intelligence officials such as the NSA director, Army Lt. Gen. Keith Alexander, or Air Force Gen. Michael Hayden, the No. 2 U.S. intelligence official who ran the NSA when the eavesdropping program began.

"What we‘re thinking is that this is primarily the attorney general‘s show," said an official who spoke on condition of anonymity because plans for the hearing had not been finalized.

Yeah. Arlen's in charge allright.

Here's what's going to happen. The Republicans will carefully plan and coordinate their strategy. Guys like Jeff Sessions will be in charge of fear-mongering and ad hominem attacks on dissent. Huckleberry Graham will express grave concerns about liberty only to be convinced by the end of the hearing that the gravest threat to the nation is Democratic rudeness. Gonzales will then say this is nothing but a high tech illegal deportation across the Rio Grande. Sam Brownback will offer objections to abuse of presidential power but will concede that it is necessary since godless abortionist terrorists are trying to kill us all in our sleep. His wife will inexplicably start crying and run out of the room. Everyone will agree that Alberto Gonzales has been remarkably forthcoming. Arlen will concede that the constitution does indeed provide for a King.

The Democrats, meanwhile, will take a much needed week long vacation before the hearings. They'll meet up in the mens room just before they begin, to discuss a strategy. (Dianne will watch the door.) Kennedy will suggest that he attack Gonzales on presidential power and Shumer will snap that he's sick of Kennedy getting all the good attacks and insists that Kennedy takes that boring Unitary Executive bullshit this time. Biden will request that he lead the questioning which will make Pat Leahy tell him to go fuck himself. Joe will remind the whole group that he once had a phone call overheard in college so he's been the victim of warrantless wiretapping and can bring the personal touch to the hearings. Feinstein will ask, "what are these hearings about again?" In the end the Democrats will strongly object to Arlen's conclusions that the constitution provides for a King.

Senator Reid: I'm begging you, man. If there is any way you can move these hearings to another venue, please, please do it. I can't go through this again so soon.

Civil Obedience

by digby

I can't tell you how moved I was by Bush's speech commemorating Martin Luther King today. Particularly this:

Bush told the crowd at the annual "Let Freedom Ring" performance that Congress must renew provisions of the landmark 1965 Voting Rights Act that are set to expire next year. The president had previously declined to support the renewal until last month, and the crowd erupted in applause when Bush insisted that it be renewed.

They applauded because he said it as if he had just crawled across the Edmund Pettus Bridge himself. Which was surprising since it was only a year ago that Bush told members of the NAACP that he was "unfamiliar" with the voting Rights Act, which I'm sure was true.

There really is nothing more sickening than seeing the right wing suck up on Martin Luther King Day after all the years they demonized him and how hard they fought to keep this day from beocming a national holiday.

Rick Perlstein writes in to remind me that back in the day some of our most revered conservative icons had a different way of looking at things:

Reagan after the King assassination:

it was just the sort of "great tragedy that began when we began compromising with law and order, and people started choosing which laws they'd break."

Strom Thurmond:

"We are now witnessing the whirlwind sowed years ago when some preachers and teachers began telling people that each man could be his own judge in his own case."

Just in case it isn't clear, by "people choosing which laws they'd break" and "telling people that each man could be his own judge in his own case," they referred to King's doctrine of civil disobedience.

That, in other words, King brought his own assassination upon himself.

I recall as a kid hearing a lot of that kind of talk. Civil disobedience and passive resistence were considered the work of the commies by many on the right. But then I'm sure they considered Henry David Thoreau a commie too, even if he didn't know it. It was his all-American idea of civil disobedience, after all, that went half way around the world and back again inspiring Ghandi and King and resulting in the liberation and conference of civil rights upon millions of people. You can't get any more commie than that. Anybody who espouses that kind of talk is just asking to be killed.

Using Her Power For Good

by digby

Congratulations to Jane Hamsher and her readers for single handedly driving down the sales of Kato Beirne's latest atrocity. I'm pretty sure it qualifies her for sainthood.

Kato's book is just the latest in a long line of tough as nails Republican career women who make money writing books reassuring smug conservative housewives and their impotent husbands that they are better off being second class citizens. It's a racket that goes all the way back to the original beehived Republican icon, Phyllis Schlaffly.

Whenever I see Kato on television lecturing the public about real womanhood, I'm reminded of TBOGG's famous catch some years back featuring Kate and some hot wingnut chicks talkin' bout dick:

ERICA WALTER: Manliness has experienced a renaissance for two reasons: The Bush/Cheney administration has set the tone for the political culture. And 9/11, of course. Why did America fall in love with soldiers and firemen and traditional male occupations? Because we realized we’re at risk. The comeback of manliness is here to stay as long as national security is an issue.


CHARLOTTE HAYS: The modern-day loss of respect for manliness is an aberration. Men and their virtues have always been prized. The great epics aren’t about women and their virtues. The post-9/11 love affair with police, firemen, and soldiers is a return of normal relations between men and women. Most people today never needed to be carried out of a burning building. But once they see 3,000 people that need to be rescued, they know it takes men.

O’BEIRNE: We were reminded on 9/11 and again during the military efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq that we depend on manly characteristics to keep us safe. Every single one of the dead firemen heroes on 9/11 were men. This was one group where liberals didn’t ask why there wasn’t a more pleasing gender balance. Because the Upper West Side is not fireproof. What happens in combat in some distant field is abstract to Upper West Side liberals, but they can understand the need to have strong, brave, reckless men in their fire department.

>WALTER: When it comes to role confusion among men themselves, though, I believe the damage of the ’60s and ’70s has persisted.
During my first pregnancy, I rode the Washington, D.C. subway every day. I was amazed at the number of men who didn’t offer me their seat, didn’t lift a finger for me. A Marine friend of mine, who is a normal, manly man, got so angry that he rode the subway with me, and in full cars pointedly asked men: “Would you please give up your seat for this young lady?” The request meant: “Will you do what you’re supposed to do?”


O’BEIRNE: I don’t think there has to be a trade off. Men will behave however women demand they behave. I don’t spend time with male boors, so I don’t think most American men lack manners. British men are terribly mannerly, but they’re all wimps. I think well-raised American men have the ability to be thoroughly masculine and mannerly at the same time.


O’BEIRNE: Anyone married with children appreciates why children need fathers. The typical mother of a second-grade boy is destroyed if he’s not invited to a certain birthday party. Mothers would wrap sons in cotton. It’s the fathers who instill the sense of risk-taking, of the stiff upper lip.

NAOMI SCHAEFER: But what about daughters? They often need to know how to keep a stiff upper lip, too. Whatever the problems with feminism, I guess I’m sort of glad that it all happened.

CHAREN: It would be wrong not to give feminism some credit for improving women’s place in the world. But I believe many of these changes would have happened organically anyway—with rising prosperity, labor-saving devices in the home, and widespread education. You didn’t need a bunch of bra-burners for that.


...and a conversation among these women wouldn't be complete with mentioning....The Clenis™:

ROLLINS: What is your definition of virility? Does it have a role in political leadership?

WALTER: It’s a nebulous quality for a political leader. Bill Clinton was virile—in a very sleazy way. There’s also the sex appeal of someone like Don Rumsfeld. President Bush possesses this intangible something—you really saw it on the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln. Testosterone and camaraderie—many people responded to it. In George W. Bush, people see a contained, channeled virility. They see a man who does what he says, whose every speech and act is not calculated. Bill Clinton showed a lot of outward empathy and he was very articulate but I don’t think many of us would have trusted him with our daughters.

GAVORA: If virility equates with strength, then there is no question that Bill Clinton lacked it completely. Bush has shown that he has it. His willingness to go after terrorism root and branch despite the widespread opposition among our European allies and even some at home, and to withstand that pressure, is strength. Bill Clinton made surface gestures. He refused to go against the media, popular opinion, the pinstriped boys at the State Department, because he lacked that strength.

HAYS: The most masculine man I ever knew was my grandfather, who supported seven children and never failed to stand when a woman came into the room. Bill Clinton is virile, but he’s not masculine or mature. He never became a grown man.

O’BEIRNE: When I heard that he grew up jumping rope with the girls in his neighborhood, I knew everything I needed to know about Bill Clinton. There’s no contest between Clinton and Bush on masculinity. Bill Clinton couldn’t credibly wear jogging shorts, and look at George Bush in that flight suit.

ROLLINS: But why do so many American women love Bill Clinton?

SCHAEFER: You can learn a lot jumping rope with girls. It won’t make you sexually attractive, but it will make you a more effective, patient listener.

O’BEIRNE: Bill Clinton did understand, from the matriarchy he grew up in, how to appeal to women in that modern way.

HAYS: Clinton could feel your pain like one of your girlfriends. But he could never make a decision like Bush has had to make. He would still be trying to negotiate with the terrorists. The use of force, which until recently was passé, has come back. Clinton couldn’t use force except in a motel room.

Ok. I know that was unfair so soon after lunch, so I'll give you a moment to purge.

Are you ok now? Good.

Thank you Jane. Destroying her book sales on Amazon is a public service. You are a patriot and a credit to women everywhere.

Update: Kudos also to RenaRF for her superb rant that started the whole thing off.

by digby

The number one story on Wolf Blitzer's "The Situation Room"

Blitzer: Unleashing powerful new accusations against the man who defeated him, the Democratic 2000 presidential nominee is today accusing President Bush of criminal behavior by authorizing secret domestic slying. And Al gore is calling for appointment of a special counsel to investigate what he calls a "direct assault on the constitution."

Our correspondents are covering this story, the political motives, the legal fallout of this showdown over spying.

Kenny Boy Mehlman's response to Gore's claims was weak as a newborn kitten. And William Schneider just brought up the "I" word.

Now, everyone is pretending that Arlen Specter is capable of holding serious hearings, but at least we are moving in the right direction. First things first.

Update: Ken Adelman is on now. I sure wish that Wolf would ask him if dealing with a nuclear armed Iran will be a cakewalk.

MyDD Polling Project

by digby

MYDD has commissioned a poll and could use a little financial help to get its fundraising over the top.

Here's what they are doing:

Our groundbreaking poll, which will challenge conventional wisdom on a variety of topics—Iraq, withdrawal, terrorism, Bush approval, domestic spying—is about to be brought to the public. This will be the first comprehensive nationwide public survey where the questions are informed by the collective knowledge of the netroots and the blogosphere. You helped to make these questions, and with your help this poll will serve as a direct challenge to the entire field of public polling as it is run by commercial news organizations. Now, we need your help in order to bring the answers to the public.

Even though the poll is about to go into the field, we have not yet completed our fundraising in order to pay for the entire costs of the poll. We still need roughly $6,500 in order to complete fundraising for the poll. We need you to donate to the polling project today.

This is a useful blogospheric project from which we can all benefit. We know the mainstream pollsters refuse to ask questions outside the narrow interests of the beltway establishment and that prevents us from knowing the real lay of the land. That's what this new polling operation proposes to challenge. And because it is blogosphere based, it is not beholden to either the corporate media or the party, which makes it a valuable tool for grassroots opinion makers --- whether it's for blogging, the local Democratic club or around the office water cooler. Check it out. This could be the first of many opportunities we have to find out what the people will say when they are asked real questions.

For The Sake Of The Constitution

by digby

Al Gore has become the conscience of the Democratic Party. Following the lead of the new media, and the blogosphere in particular, he just laid out the case as to how the invertebrate Republican congress has sold out its constitutional duty to a president who sees himself as above the law and why this poses an unprecedented threat to our constitution.

There are reasons for concern this time around that conditions may be changing and that the cycle [of presidential overreach during wartime] may not repeat itself. For one thing, we have for decades been witnessing the slow and steady accumulation of presidential power. In a global environment of nuclear weapons and cold war tensions, Congress and the American people accepted ever enlarging spheres of presidential initiative to conduct intelligence and counter intelligence activities and to allocate our military forces on the global stage. When military force has been used as an instrument of foreign policy or in response to humanitarian demands, it has almost always been as the result of presidential initiative and leadership. As Justice Frankfurter wrote in the Steel Seizure Case, "The accretion of dangerous power does not come in a day. It does come, however slowly, from the generative force of unchecked disregard of the restrictions that fence in even the most disinterested assertion of authority."

A second reason to believe we may be experiencing something new is that we are told by the Administration that the war footing upon which he has tried to place the country is going to "last for the rest of our lives." So we are told that the conditions of national threat that have been used by other Presidents to justify arrogations of power will persist in near perpetuity.

Third, we need to be aware of the advances in eavesdropping and surveillance technologies with their capacity to sweep up and analyze enormous quantities of information and to mine it for intelligence. This adds significant vulnerability to the privacy and freedom of enormous numbers of innocent people at the same time as the potential power of those technologies. These techologies have the potential for shifting the balance of power between the apparatus of the state and the freedom of the individual in ways both subtle and profound.

Don't misunderstand me: the threat of additional terror strikes is all too real and their concerted efforts to acquire weapons of mass destruction does create a real imperative to exercise the powers of the Executive Branch with swiftness and agility. Moreover, there is in fact an inherent power that is conferred by the Constitution to the President to take unilateral action to protect the nation from a sudden and immediate threat, but it is simply not possible to precisely define in legalistic terms exactly when that power is appropriate and when it is not.

But the existence of that inherent power cannot be used to justify a gross and excessive power grab lasting for years that produces a serious imbalance in the relationship between the executive and the other two branches of government.

There is a final reason to worry that we may be experiencing something more than just another cycle of overreach and regret. This Administration has come to power in the thrall of a legal theory that aims to convince us that this excessive concentration of presidential authority is exactly what our Constitution intended.

This legal theory, which its proponents call the theory of the unitary executive but which is more accurately described as the unilateral executive, threatens to expand the president's powers until the contours of the constitution that the Framers actually gave us become obliterated beyond all recognition. Under this theory, the President's authority when acting as Commander-in-Chief or when making foreign policy cannot be reviewed by the judiciary or checked by Congress. President Bush has pushed the implications of this idea to its maximum by continually stressing his role as Commander-in-Chief, invoking it has frequently as he can, conflating it with his other roles, domestic and foreign. When added to the idea that we have entered a perpetual state of war, the implications of this theory stretch quite literally as far into the future as we can imagine.

This effort to rework America's carefully balanced constitutional design into a lopsided structure dominated by an all powerful Executive Branch with a subservient Congress and judiciary is-ironically-accompanied by an effort by the same administration to rework America's foreign policy from one that is based primarily on U.S. moral authority into one that is based on a misguided and self-defeating effort to establish dominance in the world.

The common denominator seems to be based on an instinct to intimidate and control.

Yes. A president who can so easily toss aside international law, treaties and decades of mutual understanding is now showing that he looks upon the rule of law within our own country much the same way. We should not be surprised. It's clear that this particular political faction has an instinct to dominate and control. It's a facet of human nature and those whose personalities feature it strongly tend to gather together under the banner of authoritarianism.

The Enlightenment was in many ways a study of human nature and those who were educated in its ideas, like the founders of this country, used those observations to understand how power works. Knowing that some leaders will seek ever expanding power is exactly why the constitution was designed with its careful system of checks and balances and why the Bill of Rights was written. It's a flaw in our species which, if recognized, can be held at bay by systemic roadblocks. That's what's being fiddled with here and it's dangerous.

Gore went on to point out the obvious -- that this (oft repeated on the right) aphorism "the constitution isn't a suicide pact" in terms of islamic fundamentalism is absurd considering the threats we've faced in the past:

One of the other ways the Administration has tried to control the flow of information is by consistently resorting to the language and politics of fear in order to short-circuit the debate and drive its agenda forward without regard to the evidence or the public interest. As President Eisenhower said, "Any who act as if freedom's defenses are to be found in suppression and suspicion and fear confess a doctrine that is alien to America."

Fear drives out reason. Fear suppresses the politics of discourse and opens the door to the politics of destruction. Justice Brandeis once wrote: "Men feared witches and burnt women."

The founders of our country faced dire threats. If they failed in their endeavors, they would have been hung as traitors. The very existence of our country was at risk.

Yet, in the teeth of those dangers, they insisted on establishing the Bill of Rights.

Is our Congress today in more danger than were their predecessors when the British army was marching on the Capitol? Is the world more dangerous than when we faced an ideological enemy with tens of thousands of missiles poised to be launched against us and annihilate our country at a moment's notice? Is America in more danger now than when we faced worldwide fascism on the march-when our fathers fought and won two World Wars simultaneously?

It is simply an insult to those who came before us and sacrificed so much on our behalf to imply that we have more to be fearful of than they. Yet they faithfully protected our freedoms and now it is up to us to do the same.

He goes on to say that we must do four specific things:

1) demand a special counsel to investigate the wiretapping leaks. This is exactly the kind of investigation that should not be left in the hands of an executive branch appointee who approved the measures in question.

2) demand comprehensive hearings and go where the facts lead. I and others in the blogosphere have been calling for a select committee to invetigate the wiretap leaks so that we can have legal counsel rather than elected bloviators lead the questioning. This is absolutely necessary.

3) we must not rubber stamp the Patriot Act

4) demand that telecommunications companies cease and desist in their illegal invasion of Americans' privacy.

The Liberty Coalition
sponsored this speech today and it looks like they are a non-partisan group working on privacy issues. I'm all for that. Here's their mission statement:

The Liberty Coalition works to help organize, support, and coordinate transpartisan public policy activities related to civil liberties and basic human rights. We work in conjunction with groups of partner organizations that are interested in preserving the Bill of Rights, personal autonomy and individual privacy.

The Liberty Coalition is concerned about the threat to Americans' fundamental and inalienable rights. The Coalition is dedicated to upholding and protecting our basic rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. In order to accomplish our task, we seek to protect those freedoms as articulated in the Bill of Rights. We base our concerns on the fundamental values and principles of the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution, particularly the separation of powers and federalism, and Bill of Rights. These are also embodied in the 14th amendment, especially the due process and privileges and immunities clauses.

To accomplish this mission, the Liberty Coalition seeks to restore, maintain, and improve individuals' right through developing a networked forum for information and policy education and advocacy. The Coalition examines and expresses opinions on legislation and other government actions that would, on the one hand, limit the rights of citizens that would, on the other, advance efforts to enhance citizens' rights.

Our primary focus is on restrictions on privacy, autonomy and liberty related issue such as the Patriot Act, National Identification Cards/National Drivers License and government databanks. We are also concerned with medical and financial privacy and confidentiality, and work more broadly as appropriate The Liberty Coalition seeks politically and judicially to retain our liberty while increasing our safety.

When it comes to this issue of presidential overreach and government spying, the most effective action will be bi-partisan. (Townhall is ostensibly part of the coalition which I'll believe it when they pull their noses out of Bush's spidey hole.) But any conservative or libertarian with intellectual integrity should be on board with this. I can guarantee you that if a Democrat tried what Bus has done I would feel exactly the same way about it. These are not transitory partisan issues, they are fundamental American values.

If you didn't get a chance to see Al Gore give his speech, at least read the transcript (via Raw Story.) He's singing our song today. If he's crazy then so am I and I'm proud of it.


Sunday, January 15, 2006

True Believer (kind of)

by digby

Julia has the skinny on Shadegg and the rest of his class of 94 "reformers." What an inspiring group. Shadegg, the self-styled "clean" and principled candidate seeking to replace Tom Delay ran pretty much specifically on the idea of term limits. He strongly believed that politicians shouldn't make a career out of politics. Now, not so much.

Mutual Friends

by digby

So I was loooking over the Abramoff e-mails trying to see if there's any evidence in them that Jack directed his Native American clients to give to Democrats and that Democrats knew it (there isn't) when I came upon this notorious note from Ralphie Reed:

From: ralphreed@
Sent: Thursday, November 12, 1998 12:19 AM
To: Abramoff, jack (DC)
Subject: RE: Hi Rlaph

Hey, now that I'm done with electoral politics, I need to start humping in corporate accounts. I counting on you to help me with some contacts. Have you talked to Grover since the Newt development. I'm afraid he took a hit on the consulting side with that since so much of it was Newt maintenance but I hope I'm wrong. I'm getting ready to do some work with mutual friends that we probably ought to discuss. Let's chat.

Hmmm. Remember this?

WASHINGTON, Jan. 24, 2002 - Karl Rove, President Bush's top political adviser, recommended the Republican strategist Ralph Reed to the Enron Corporation for a lucrative consulting contract as Mr. Bush was weighing whether to run for president, close associates of Mr. Rove say.

The Rove associates say the recommendation, which Enron accepted, was intended to keep Mr. Reed's allegiance to the Bush campaign without putting him on the Bush payroll. Mr. Bush, they say, was then developing his "compassionate conservativism" message and did not want to be linked too closely to Mr. Reed, who had just stepped down as executive director of the Christian Coalition, an organization of committed religious conservatives.

At the same time, they say, the contract discouraged Mr. Reed, a prominent operative who was being courted by several other campaigns, from backing anyone other than Mr. Bush.

Enron paid Mr. Reed $10,000 to $20,000 a month, the amount varying by year and the particular work, people familiar with the arrangement say. He was hired in September 1997 and worked intermittently for Enron until the company collapsed.

In interviews today, both Mr. Rove and Mr. Reed said the contract with Enron had had nothing to do with the Bush campaign. But Mr. Rove said he had praised Mr. Reed's qualifications in a conversation about the job with an Enron lobbyist in Texas.

"I think I talked to someone before Ralph got hired," Mr. Rove said. "But I may have talked to him afterward."

"I'm a big fan of Ralph's," Mr. Rove said, "so I'm constantly saying positive things."


Around the time that Mr. Reed worked out his deal with Enron, he made clear to the Bush team that he was supporting Mr. Bush for president. Mr. Reed once recalled that at a meeting in 1997, he told Mr. Bush, then the governor of Texas: "I hope you go. I hope you run. And if you run, I'll do everything I can to help get you elected."

From then on, Mr. Reed was an unpaid consultant to the Bush organization, though after the race was well under way his firm was paid by the campaign for direct mail and phone banks.


Mr. Rove, who sold roughly $100,000 in Enron stock last year, months before the company's collapse, said Mr. Reed was clearly on Mr. Bush's team prior to taking the Enron job.

"Ralph Reed made it clear right from the beginning," Mr. Rove said, "that he wanted to be for him, and gave sound and solid advice in the years running up to the president's decision to be a candidate."

Now, I would never dream of jumping to any conclusions about the "mutual friends" Ralphie wanted to chat with his good friend Jack about just as the 98 elections were over and the presidential campaign was lurching into gear. But it was certainly nice of Ralph to be so careful about mentioning the name of whoever it was in that e-mail, wasn't it?

Update: Poor Ralphie

The controversy has confronted Reed with a fierce headwind here. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has published 48 articles and editorials on the Reed-Abramoff connection. The paper's main circulation area includes the suburban and exurban areas surrounding Atlanta, which provide more than half the votes cast in statewide Republican primaries.


Random interviews on Main Street in heavily Republican Alpharetta -- a rapidly growing town of 37,850 on the far northern suburbs of Atlanta -- suggested that even many people who follow politics casually are aware of the linkage between Reed and Abramoff.

"Ralph Reed? He's a politician," said David Loudenflager, a Republican who retired after working 32 years for the Arrow Shirt Company. "He was involved with Jack Abramoff and the Indians and all those."

Loudenflager does not like the Democratic Party -- "they give away everything" -- but he puts no stock in the Christian Coalition: "All these people running around telling you how good they are, and how right they are. You better be careful and hold on to your wallet."

Todd Guy, owner of Trader Golf, said succinctly in response to an inquiry: "Ralph Reed of the Christian Coalition? My God! Abramoff."

Buy This Man A Drink

by digby

BLITZER: Should there be a change in attitude after 9/11?

BERGEN: I think the short answer is no. I mean, the nation has faced much more serious crises than 9/11.

We faced an existential crisis in the Cold War and with the Nazis; 9/11, obviously, was a very big deal, but I think we need to have some perspective.

We're not in a situation where our enemies can simply annihilate us as the Soviets could. Certainly, they can do us a lot of damage. But we have to, sort of, weigh that against the fact that we also want to live in a society where constitutional -- the Constitution is paid attention to.

Thank You!

Blitzer looked a little non-plussed because, you know, Bergen was being extremely un-PC. Very few people have been willing to publicly challenge the conventional wisdom that we are facing an evil enemy more threatening than anything ever experienced in human history.

Obviously, he will have to be dealt with. If this keeps up, somebody might just notice that there's no such thing as a war on terrorism either.

Breaking The Machine

by digby

TIME magazine has posted an essential article about the effect of the Abramoff scandal on the house Republicans.

Meet the "reform" candidates who would like to replace Tom DeLay:

Boehner is no babe in the woods. He was one of Newt Gingrich's closest allies in bringing Republicans to power in 1994. When they took control of the House in 1995 after 40 years of Democratic rule, Boehner, as the House conference chairman, the No. 4 leadership position, was put in charge of building coalitions with business groups. He ran a meeting every Thursday of more than a dozen top business lobbyists in Washington. The relationship was mutually beneficial: House Republicans pushed through pro-business legislation, while the business groups provided campaign cash and grass-roots support to get bills passed. Boehner, who was part of the so-called Gang of Seven that had attacked Democrats for overdrafts from the House bank in the early 1990s, quickly became less known for his reform actions than for his closeness to lobbyists. He famously handed out campaign donations in the form of checks from tobacco lobbyists to members on the floor of the House in 1995.


The battle between Boehner and Blunt got ugly quickly. Blunt allies called Boehner a "joy boy" more concerned about partying than about the party. Boehner allies distributed a Rube Goldberg- like diagram, intentionally drawn to resemble opponents' depiction of Hillary Rodham Clinton's failed health-care plan, headlined Rep. Roy Blunt's efforts on behalf of Jack Abramoff and his indian gaming clients.


Shadegg has the strongest reform credentials of the three contenders. He entered Congress in the famous class of 1994, which campaigned on a pledge to reform Washington after years of Democratic rule. He once headed the caucus of the House's most conservative members of Congress

There you have it, two crooks and a fanatical wingnut. Excellent choices all.

The TIME article from which I excerpted the above has a great lede that should be sent around to everyone you know. It encapsulates the whole ugly business:

The spreadsheet, bristling with million-dollar totals, jumped from flat screen to flat screen last winter in the Washington underground of fund-raising consultants and political-action committees. It had been created by allies of Congressman John Boehner, an Ohio Republican known for massive, raucous late-night parties. A window into the science of the shakedown, the spreadsheet calculated the "efficiency" of fund-raising committees headed by various leaders of the House, showing which were most generous to other Republicans. Boehner's backers were thrilled when the widely forwarded spreadsheet produced a front-page headline in The Hill, a newspaper focused on Congress, saying boehner boasts of big bucks. Eight months later, his team smiled again when the paper ran a list of Boehner's "K Street Cabinet," loyal lobbyists and other power brokers who would help run the show if he achieved his longtime ambition of becoming House Speaker or majority leader. With Tom DeLay's machine still in charge of the Capitol, those were the credentials that would get an aspiring lawmaker taken seriously.

They didn't even try to hide it.

Haven't you ever wondered why it is that we are told constantly that it's nearly impossible for the Democrats to take back the house because they've been safely gerrymandered and yet Republicans spend almost all their time fundraising? If their seats are safe, what do they need all this campaign cash for?

It's a money laundering operation. The lobbyists give money to the GOP as campaign cash, the recipients gain power and influence in the party by spreading that campaign cash around. The Republican leadership allows the lobbyists to write their own legislation and the members earmark large sums of money to their own personal special interests. The taxpayers then pay back the lobbyists at a very nice profit.

The taxpayers are thereby funding the Republican party. Nice racket isn't it? And anybody who doesn't understand that this is a distinctly Republican problem (like the inexplicable Deborah Howell who refuses to see the forest for a couple of twigs on the side of the road) is willfully blind.

In 1995, DeLay famously compiled a list of the 400 largest PACs, along with the amounts and percentages of money they had recently given to each party. Lobbyists were invited into DeLay's office and shown their place in "friendly" or "unfriendly" columns. ("If you want to play in our revolution," DeLay told The Washington Post, "you have to live by our rules.") Another was to oust Democrats from trade associations, what DeLay and Norquist dubbed "the K Street Strategy."


It took the 2000 elections, which gave Republicans the White House and Congress, to completely change the climate. In the months after, Santorum became the Senate's point man on K Street and launched his Tuesday meetings. Working on the outside, Norquist accelerated what he calls the "K Street Project," a database intended to track the party affiliation, Hill experience, and political giving of every lobbyist in town. With Democrats out of power, these efforts are bearing fruit. Slowly, the GOP is marginalizing Democratic lobbyists and populating K Street with loyal Republicans. (DeLay alone has placed a dozen of his aides at key lobbying and trade association jobs in the last few years--"graduates of the DeLay school," as they are known.) Already, the GOP and some of its key private-sector allies, such as PhRMA, have become indistinguishable.

The piece in TIME ends with this:

...in the warrens of the Capitol, Republicans debate how they can project change while keeping things much the same. The big totals on future spreadsheets depend on it.

It is hard to overemphasize how important this Abramoff scandal is. It's not just "gotcha" politics. This Republican political machine is one of the most corrosive forces this country has ever seen. They are literally stealing huge sums of money from the taxpayers, sometimes blatantly for personal financial gain, as with the Dukestir. But in a larger sense they are blatently using our money, the people's money, as the primary way to fund their party and keep it in power. The exposure of this scam has shaken the foundation of their long term strategy.

The combination of their proven undemocratic impulses with their propensity for thuggishness and corruption has made the modern GOP one of the most pernicious political factions in our history. Putting an end to their shakedown racket is a necessary first step to breaking up their coalition and restoring some sanity to our two party system.

Nattering Nabobs of Negativism

by digby

My good friend William Henders has written in to help me understand the errors of my leftist ways.

Dear Digby,

Once again it falls to me the thankless task of instructing you and your rabid base of liberal mouth-foamers on a few realities of public life in America.

It is true that in recent times the current administration and the GOP as a whole has proven sporadically incompetent, sleazy and downright mendacious in dealing with a host of matters of grave national importance. The list of such transgressions has been ably chronicled by you and your ilk in the partisan hack brigade. There is little need for me to run through it - WMDs, Katrina, Abramoff, Plame, FISA violations, torture, etc. etc., blah blah blah, yada yada yada.

Yes, you folks have had all these and more little "gotcha" moments, upon the discovery of which the Left has regularly shown itself to be basely thrilled to toot its own horn as "speakers of Truth to Power."

What your side fails to appreciate is that as terrible as any crimes by Republicans in leadership positions might be, it is in fact the whole concept of "speaking Truth to Power" that is the real cancer destroying our country from the inside out. The British of the Raj had a word for it: "Croaking."

The American polity understands this. It's why few on our side fear that the Democrats will regain any semblance of power in 2006, 2008 or beyond. But because you, Digby, and others like you so clearly have a tin ear to the concerns of real Americans, allow me to explain.

We are at war. When President Bush concedes that there exist "responsible ways" to debate our progress in the War on Terror, he is being overly generous (to his credit). But there is simply no "responsible way" to undermine through criticism of any stripe our leadership's actions to protect us, no matter how plainly mistaken, inadequate or served by ulterior motives those actions may be. There may be time for future historians to do so, though the nature of this particular war means that the proper time for such revisionism will be at least decades from now.

An analogy: The "facts on the ground" are that we Americans have, through the democratic process, lined ourselves up behind a lead dog in a sled race against Islamofacism. Even though we may at times think that this lead dog is dragging us towards thin ice, or miring us in soft snow, or hurtling us over a cliff, the only purpose served by "fouling the traces" through criticism of the leader is to lessen our resolve to compete in this Global Iditarod against Terror at all.

Nor is the profound problem of the Left's counterproductive harping limited to the affairs of war. What did incessant criticism of the President's handling of the Katrina disaster do but promote more despair amongst the victims, who clearly needed a reason for hope as much as they needed relief supplies and an evacuation plan? Who amongst the survivors will find the inner spirit to rebuild, when the Digbys of the world are constantly reminding them of promises unkept by their leaders?

In an economy that is increasingly stratified and underserving of a growing underclass mired in debt and with vanishingly few options for entry into positions of financial health, the Left would only add to the problem by putting the brakes on any optimism that may naturally, if fitfully, arise under such conditions. How? By relentlessly picking apart every failed initiative by our leadership, by doggedly bringing to light every omission of relevant data in the administration's projections ... when instead of such micro-criticism of details, a macro-optimism towards Bush economic strategy is called for, nay incumbent upon any who would call himself a

To put it bluntly, the problem is not the efficacy of any particular plan for war, disaster relief or economic growth put forward by our leaders, but rather the real threat that under the assault of liberals like you, we may have no leaders and no plans at all.

Cordially, etc.

William G. Henders

He's right, of course. It's no secret that the left has perversely signed on to the independent feline political style. (Check out that evil look in their eyes.)We will not foolishly expend our energy waging a useless, marathon Iditarod Against Terror. (We like to sleep a lot.)

However, like the lethal lion pride we are, we will encircle the Republican dogs, chained to their lead dog Balto Bush and his driver Karl "over the cliff" Rove as they optimistically yip and bark around their campfire. And then we will go in for the kill. On the veldt of American politics, the predators always win in the long run. (Why do you think the Chairman of the DNC is known for his leonine roar?)

To Mr Henders' larger point that we endanger our country's physical and economic security when we criticize the president, I can only hang my head in shame. I understand now that if you aren't willing to unquestioningly support your president you don't believe in freedom. QED.


Saturday, January 14, 2006

Grover's Eunuchs

by digby

Wolcott says:

I was traveling the cable dial this afternoon where I came upon a panel on CNBC's Kudlow & Company just as Lanny Davis, his insipid, ingratiating grin firmly in place, was saying that he hoped Democrats wouldn't "politicize" the Jack Abramoff situation but simply let the facts of the case emerge.


Beltway Dems like Davis and the DLC crowd don't want to politicize the Iraq war, or the Alito hearings, or the Katrina clusterfuck, or the NSA spying scandal; they shy away from every prospective fight and prevent any ongoing debate or controversy from gaining traction. Just as Jack Murtha's bombshell was gaining momentum, in droops Joe Lieberman to back up the president with a gift-wrapped testimonial. Yes, I know Lanny Davis is not an elected official but he was representing the Democratic side along with Harold Ford against John Fund of WSJ and Arizona congressman Jeff Flake (R). Given how Davis was fawning over Flake (who was making mild reformist noises about the need to clean house)--saying that he wished he could vote for someone so bright and sensible--and how Ford was prudently urging us to stay the course in Iraq and Afghanistan, it was more of a barbershop quartet than a doubles match. Kudlow, of course, couldn't have been more pleased by the civility and consensus shown by the fab four. Lanny Davis and Harold Ford were his kind of Democrats--reasonable, moderate, mainstream, and completely housebroken. They were good little guests.

Sadly, that brings to mind Grover Norquist's observation after the last election:

"Once the minority of House and Senate are comfortable in their minority status, they will have no problem socializing with Republicans. Any farmer will tell you that certain animals run around and are very unpleasant, but when they've been fixed, then they are happy and sedate. They are contented and cheerful. They don't go around peeing on the furniture and such."

To be fair, this does not apply to all Democrats. The leadership of Reid, Pelosi and Dean have been very aggressive. And the old dogs like Kennedy have been unafraid to raise a challenge. The problem lies with the alleged moderates like Ford and the gasbags like Biden who don't know the difference between partisan rhetoric and action (and fail to publicly play the game with any finesse.) But the biggest problem is the "liberal" pundits like Davis who should all be shunned. They don't speak for me and I don't think they speak for the Democratic party. They seem to speak for the conventional wisdom of the beltway which places a premium on obedient, neutered Democrats.

Again, it's the the old joke:

"Harry and Lanny are facing the firing squad. The executioner comes forward to place the blindfold on them. Harry disdainfully and proudly refuses, tearing the thing from his face. Lanny turns to him and pleads: "Please Harry, don't make trouble!"

"Intelligent Design" Creationism Is So 2005

by tristero

Now, it's "intelligent evolution" creationism. Same lousy ideas. Same lack of peer-reviewed scientific evidence.

As PZ says, let's remember exactly what Dembski wrote when they claim that they've got an entirley new product that's not creationism:
I therefore offer the following proposal if ID gets outlawed from our public schools: retitle it Intelligent Evolution (IE). … [H]ey, it would still be evolution, and evolution can be taught in schools. In fact, I think I'll title my next book Intelligent Evolution: The Mindful Deviation of Evolutionary Pathways. Perhaps this book has already been written.
Note to anyone who wants to argue against science and for "intelligent design" creationism: As always, first please go to Pharyngula and convince PZ Meyers that you're right. When he's satisfied, come on back here and I'll be happy to discuss the subject with you. Until then, any attempt to "engage" will be answered by a boilerplate response to convince PZ first before wasting our time.
Message From Beyond The Fourth Dimension

by tristero

In tomorrow's NY Times Magazine (no link yet), Yale Law professor Kenji Yoshino has a fascinating, provocative and nevertheless profoundly weird article about changes in discriminatory behavior.

The law, Professor Yoshino argues, has effectively eliminated discrimination by group membership; it is illegal to fire someone simply because she is black, for example. However, discrimination continues through the legal suppression ("covering") of any expression of minority group membership. So an African-American flight attendant can be fired simply for wearing cornrows, as a company regulation prohibits all braided hairdos. Professor Yoshino argues that while the law can address a small part of this kind of discrimination, the best way to fight against this obsession with minimizing differences is in other cultural arenas. After all, even two seconds of thought makes it quite clear that an important question to ask about the flight attendant case is why there is a company regulation prohibiting cornrows in the first place. And the more one thinks about it, the more it seems like something that couldn't possibly matter at all in the flight attendant's workplace except to prohibit any hint of diverse cultural expression. And that is discrimination, argues Professor Yoshino.

Now, I got some problems with the details of his argumentation here, but I am on the good Professor's side; he's got a point. A very important point. He's identified quite clearly an important, little noticed pattern of unfair discrimination. So the next step is for those of us who care about discriminatory practices to argue out the problems in Yoshino's thesis and find ways, both little and small, to bring them to bear on American culture.

And it is at this point, it becomes distressingly clear how truly weird Professor Yoshino's article was.

Although he says he teaches at Yale, which is in New Haven, Connecticut in the United States, I honestly don't know what country Professor Yoshino is living in. As it happens, I too live in a country called the United States, where coinicidentally there also is a New Haven and a Yale Law School about 2 hours or so away from where I live. But in the country in which I live, initiatives to broaden and extend the cultural definition of discrimination are unimaginable. In my country right now, we are trying to find a way to rebuild an entire city that was predominantly African American until they were flooded out of their homes and whose awful plight has been met with foot-dragging, racist indifference by the national government. "Extend" civil liberties? How about, you know, simply making sure that one's skin color doesn't determine the speed with which one's home is cleaned of raw sewage?

In my country, we are seeing, as David Neiwert documents so painfully over at Orcinus, a resurgence in the crudest form of elimationism rhetoric, "mainstream" think tanks and "respected" pundits rationalizing the internment of Japanese citizens during World War II as well as the murder, torture, and rape of prisoners today. Non-whites buying cellphones in bulk is deemed reasonable cause for fear of terrorism. To make matters worse, the very same people obsessed with excusing this kind of behavior seem all but indifferent to the crimes and terrorism being planned and committed by all white militia gorups.

In Professor Yoshino's America, the citizens care about eliminating racism and discrimination because, apparently, they believe that by doing so they will develop a stronger America whose diversity will give it the flexibility and mental suppleness needed to confront 21st century problems. But here in my America, we're arguing whether the Ku Klux Klan really was a racist organization or a legitimate expression of an aggrieved ethnic group.

Now the latest, hippest theories in physics tell us that there very well may be parallel universes, identical to ours but with different values for the natural laws. If that is so and Professor Yoshino's paper is a communique from an alternate reality, does anyone know how that paper could have ended up in THIS universe? And more importantly, does anyone know how I can leave this reality and enter his? Like today?

However, if, by some slim chance, the latest theories of multiverses are wrong, and Professor Yoshino and I are in fact citizens of the same country on the same planet and are presumably experiencing the same reality, then one of us (at least) is talking pie-in-the-sky nonsense. Because nothing close to Professor Yoshino's aspirations for increased civil liberties are conceivable in this America until Bushism collapses and the Enlightenment values which informed this country's founders are once more affirmed and practiced. And frankly, I don't see a chance of that happening anytime soon.

{Update: Added the Malkin Terrorist Cellphone Caper.}

Friday, January 13, 2006

Can't Have It Both Ways

by digby

The Editors quote Pat Buchanan on the GOP's hispanic problem:

Today, a Republican can sweep the white vote 55 percent to 45 percent, and still lose. And as President Clinton merrily predicted a few years ago, white folks will be just another minority in 2050, as they are already in California and Texas.

In short, Republicans need minority voters to survive as America’s Party. The Bush-Rove solution to the looming demographic disaster is to go all-out to court the nation’s fastest growing minority, Hispanics, who now number 40 million and 13 percent of the U.S. population. But, in seeking to win the Hispanic vote, the inherent defects of the Bush-Rove strategy have become manifestly clear.

First, Hispanics have never voted Republican in any presidential election. In his 49-state landslide in 1984, Reagan, despite a macho image that appealed to Hispanics, managed to win only 44 percent. In national elections, the Hispanic vote ranges between 56 percent and 75 percent Democratic. Thus, the more Hispanic America becomes, the more Democratic America becomes. […]

The question Bush and Rove face is this: Can the GOP be both the party that secures the border against Hispanic invaders and sanctions employers who hire them, and still be the party Hispanics will vote for? In the old imagery, if Bush reaches for the bird in the bush, the Hispanic vote, by favoring open borders and amnesty, he may lose the bird in the hand, the support of the white working and middle class that is the heart of the Republican coalition.

Bush and Rove think they can have both. They can’t. But if George Bush’s father, 15 years ago, had only sealed and secured the border and begun to deport illegals, his son and Rove would not be facing the seemingly insoluble problem the GOP is presented with today.

Either Bush and Rove secure the border now, or we can kiss the GOP goodbye.

The Editors, wise as always, add:

Pat’s got personal reasons for wanting to paint a bleak picture, of course, and there’s no fundamental reason why “God, gays and guns” wouldn’t work on socially conservative Latinos as well as it worked on socially conservative whites. Of course, there’s no fundamental reason why it wouldn’t work on socially conservative blacks, either, but it sure as shit doesn’t. That’s because - as Pat is at pains to avoid discussing - the reason the Nixon/Reagan strategy worked was not because conservative whites suddenly developed an interest in religion, marksmanship, and heterosexuality. The reason was race. The reason, as Pat more or less admits, is still race. It wouldn’t be impossible for the Republicans to appeal to Latinos, but it’s impossible to do that and hold on to the conservatarian whites who voted for Reagan, Nixon, and Bush. If the Republicans are still in trouble in November, a little media-driven race war could really help turn out that vote.

It might not be enough. Get this:

The Latino Coalition, a conservative group close to the GOP, has now provided just that: a new nationwide poll of Hispanics which, as it happens, confirms the trend away from the GOP shown in the June poll. Indeed, this poll shows the GOP in even worse shape among Hispanic voters than was suggested by that earlier poll. And, given who conducted it, you certainly couldn’t accuse this new poll of Democratic bias. Indeed, Latino Coalition Hispanic polls in the past have typically produced results substantially more favorable to the GOP than contemporaneous results of DCorps and other national polls of Hispanics. So it’s a real eye-opener to get these very, very unfavorable results from this particular organization at this point in time.

Let’s start with the generic Congressional contest. This poll finds Democrats with a stunning 61-21 lead over the GOP among Hispanic registered voters, which translates into a 50 point lead (75-25) among those who express a preference. The analogous figure among those who expressed a preference in the June DCorps poll was “only” 36 points. By way of comparison to the last two off-year elections, 2002 and 1998, Democrats carried the Congressional vote by 24 and 26 points, respectively.

The new poll also finds Democrats with a 35 point lead (58-23) in party identification among voters.

This issue buried the GOP in California for the last decade. So, let Pat (and Tom Tancredo) rant. The last time he got on this bandwagon he helped usher in a Democratic president.

Honest Graft

by digby

Matt Yglesias, guest hosting TPM for the day, makes an important observation:

Abuse of the government contracting process is bad, and perpetrators of wrongdoing should in no way get off the hook. Nevertheless, the entire concept of farming government out work to private firms is a more-or-less open invitation to corruption. There are instances when contracting is the only reasonable solution. But for some years now -- predating Bush, predating the DeLay era -- all the pressure has always been to privatize more and more government functions. The theory is that the private sector is more efficient than the public sector, so contracting functions out to private firms should save money. The reality has had a lot more to do with union-busting, machine-building, and "honest graft" than money saved or improved efficiency.

I know it's ridiculous to even ponder the idea that we might look to some of the endemic graft that's grown into our new "free market" guvmint, but it's there, nonetheless. The chances of reforming it are almost nil, of course. It's the union buster, machine builders gift that just keeps on giving.

A Matter Of Trust

by digby

Kevin Drum, Marshall Wittman and John Dickerson all issue dire warnings to the Democrats not to:

a) challenge the Republicans on the illegal NSA wiretapping scandal (and by extension the administration's belief that the president has the power as both a unitary executive and commander in chief to ignore the laws) because the Republicans will wipe the floor with us just as they did over the Homeland Security issue in 2002.


b) get too excited about Abramoff because with Iran out there threatening, Bush will be able to use national security as effectively as he did in the past.

To all of that I say balderdash. Times have changed. There is no longer a single "boogeymahn" narrative. Not after Iraq.

The politics are very different now than they were in 2002. This country is no longer in thrall to a president with an 80% approval rating. Iraq is a huge drag, the Republicans' credibility is in shreds because of it --- and the Abramoff scandal just reinforces the whole ugly mess. The man with the bullhorn is now seen as the man with the bullshit to around 60% of voters.

Here are some numbers on the NSA scandal:

"As you may know, the Bush Administration has been wiretapping telephone conversations between U.S. citizens living in the United States and suspected terrorists living in other countries without getting a court order allowing it to do so...Do you think the Bush Administration was right or wrong in wiretapping these conversations without obtaining a court order?"

Right Wrong Unsure
50 46 4

Even when its worded in the most administration friendly way possible("between US citizens and suspected terrorists") half the country is against it. What do you think will happen when most people understand that the conversations were not just with "suspected terrorists?" After all, all these thousands of Americans who have allegedly been chatting to suspected terrorists overseas are still walking free; the only thwarted plot they've mentioned was some bozo from Cleveland who wanted to dismantle the Brooklyn bridge with a blowtorch.

Here's another polling question to ponder:

"Do you think the Republican Party or the Democratic Party can do a better job of writing laws which help the government find terrorists without violating the average person's rights?"

1/5-8/06 33 42 5 7 13
12/7-10/01 33 26 14 7 20

As long as we are being crassly political, this is an important question:

"After 9/11, President Bush authorized government wiretaps on some phone calls in the U.S. without getting court warrants, saying this was necessary in order to reduce the threat of terrorism. Do you approve or disapprove of the President doing this?"


ALL adults 49 48 3
Republicans 82 17 1
Democrats 31 67 2
Independents 41 54 5

From an electoral standpoint, (unless you think that the 31% of Democrats who support this will vote for Republicans because of it) the number to look at there is the independent voter. That's the swing vote and they don't like it.

Finally, there's this:

"During wartime, some presidents have either received or assumed special war powers, which give the president more authority to act independently when he feels it is necessary. In the current campaign against terrorism, is it a good idea or a bad idea for the president to have the authority to make changes in the rights usually guaranteed by the Constitution?"

Good Idea/Bad Idea/Unsure
1/5-8/06 36 57 7
12/7-10/01 64 29 7

To be fair there are a bunch of questions in this poll that indicate that people don't care much about this or support the president. They are all over the map. Which means that this is one of those issues about which people are still open to persuasion.

I do not think this is the same country that it was in 2002 and we are finally able to look at these issues with a bit of reason and dispassion. It's time to make the case for rational assessment of the risks. I do not bleieve that the public is nearly as willing to jump on any national security whim as they were four years ago. At least I think it's time to find out. If we don't, there may be no going back.

And while some are apparently willing to take Bush at his word that he has only used the illegal wiretapping for purely national security reasons, nobody can be sure of that because there is no oversight. Which is the problem. Nobody says that the president shouldn't be able to monitor Americans who are talking to suspected terrorists. But at least half the country doesn't see why he couldn't find a way to do that legally. Certainly, the more than a dozen whisteleblowers who came forward to the NY Times think he could have and that is what raises suspicions about his motives.

I think a good part of his motive is a desire to institutionalize Presidential Infallibility Doctrine and that is bad. People are not aware of this yet, but hearings, if done properly, could serve to educate them a bit.

But there is also ample reason to doubt the president's word that this has not been used as he says it's been used. And that's because it has recently been revealed that the Pentagon has been monitoring protestors and political groups. The president's most trusted advisor (who is possibly going to be indicted for perjury, I might add) along with a legion of his supporters, say publicly that "liberals" are unpatriotic. The president himself is going all over the country as we speak saying that anyone who questions his motives is giving aid and comfort to the enemy.

One can certainly see a scenario in which a president who thinks this way could also think that it is necessary to monitor American dissenters on national security grounds. And under his reading of the constitution, we have no right to inquire or demand that anyone review a decision like that. I continue to believe that most Americans would find that repugnant.

And that leads us to the Abramoff scandal. This issue of corruption and graft in the Republican party is hugely important and it is going to have a life of its own even if we do nothing. It plays directly into the idea that Republican leadership believes that they are above the law. Just like the president.

As for Iran, I have no idea what will happen politically. But I'm willing to bet big money that the president will not get the same benefit of the doubt he got on Iraq. And that is just sad because he blew his credibility on bullshit to the detriment of our country's national security. Had he maintained the mystique of American power instead of proving to the world how incredibly fucked up we really are, we might have some clout to deal with Iran today. Iran with nukes is not good.

However, the consensus is that they cannot get one for another five years. So, I think we can afford to hold back any patriotic impulse to support this lying sack of shit until we can elect a new congress that can provide some oversight. This administration has damaged American credibility so badly that we are going to be lucky if we can persuade the world to believe us when we say the sun is coming up tomorrow. For the sake of national security I think it's vitally important that we neuter him as much as possible. Every word he utters now makes this world a more dangerous place to live.

We cannot continue to worry about whether the Republicans are going to call us chickenshits on national security. They are. But I'm betting that the time is ripe to turn that back on them. There is an undercurrent of discontent with this administration and the Republican party in general, particularly on Iraq and public corruption. It's all a matter of trust and they are losing it. We won't benefit from that by playing it safe on matters of fundamental principle.

Right now the Democrats have a distinct advantage when it comes to the question of who "will write laws that will help the government find terrorists without violating the rights of the average American." That is what we build upon. And if we lose in November, then we lose having at least begun to make a real case for progressive principles instead of losing because we tried to convince people that we weren't quite as bad as they say we are.

Going Chris Matthews One Better

by tristero

Should the president have the right to break the law and gather information after 9/11? Chris Matthews tells us what he thinks:
MATTHEWS: We're under attack on 9-11. A couple of days after that, if I were president of the United States and somebody said we had the ability to check on all the conversations going on between here and Hamburg, Germany, where all the Al Qaeda people are, or somewhere in Saudi [Arabia], where they came from and their parents are, and we could mine some of that information by just looking for some key words like "World Trade Center" or "Pentagon," I'd do it.

TICE [a former NSA official]: Well, you'd be breaking the law.

MATTHEWS: Yeah. Well, maybe that's part of the job.
Well, I'll see Matthews and raise him. I think the president of the United States should have detained for questioning the relatives of anyone suspected of involvement in 9/11. I don't care what anyone says about guilt by association, if you're related to bin Laden, for example, then by God, nothing in the weeks after 9/11 should stop the US Government from keeping you around for some extended questioning.

The thing is... nothing did stop the the Bush administration from detaining bin Laden's relatives and other Saudi nationals here in the US after 9/11 for as long as they wanted. Except, of course, the Bush administration itself.* Oh, and it would have been perfectly legal to detain them, but they didn't bother. That's right: no laws had to be broken. Bush just had to exercise some common sense and summon the patriotic will to disobey his Saudi masters... oops, I mean good friends.

A corollary question: Would an illegal wiretap have prevented 9/11? Well, if it takes breaking the law to gather that kind of information, then yeah, let's Dirty Harry Cleans Up Frisco, fellas! Screw the law.

But y'know what's kinda funny? It really wasn't necessary to break any laws to gather information that would have prevented 9/11. But it really is pretty important to have someone around who understands the language when they first come in::
Before Sept. 11, U.S. agencies collected about 30 communications from suspected al Qaeda operatives or other militants referring to an imminent event, but many were false alarms, a U.S. intelligence official said on Monday.

"You can't dismiss any of them, but it doesn't tell you tomorrow is the day," the official told Reuters on condition of anonymity. [Oh?? Shades of Austin Powers: "That's not my Swedish Penis Pump." Read on.]

Messages from members of Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network included the phrases "Tomorrow is zero hour" and "The match begins tomorrow," which government sources have said were picked up on Sept. 10 by National Security Agency eavesdropping on global communications.

Those two messages were not translated from Arabic until Sept. 12.
But let's cut the crap. Matthews' little conversation was about quite a serious topic, but the topic wasn't the security of the United States which is adequately served by its security laws (the competence of its agencies under Bush is a different story). You don't gotta be a cowboy to be president. Or a torturer, or a murderer of prisoners. And Matthews knows this. And he also knows what his real topic is:

Is it ok for George W. Bush to continue to violate the laws of the people and the government of the US? Is it ok for Bush to insist he is answerable only to the Voice of God in his head but not to any court of law?

Chris Matthews thinks that's just fine. And y'know something? I don't think Bush even has to pay him to say so. Kinda gives you the creeps, doesn't it?

*Now, you may have noticed, if you clicked the link to Snopes, that they make a point of debunking the claims that the flights of bin Laden relatives and Saudi nationals occurred immediately after 9/11 and before the FBI questioned them. No argument with that: I'm not claiming Jim Garrison-style conspiracy, just incredible incompetence mixed with political pressure from on high (and no one believes permission for those flights didn't come straight from Crawford's Answer To Churchill himself).

Now the flights to evacuate the Saudis started a mere five hours after airspace opened up on 9/13. Most of the fugitives... I mean passengers, were not interviewed. Then, on Sept. 20, only nine days after the attacks, a flight with 26 passengers, mostly related to the terrorist mastermind left the US. Now twenty two of these people were interviewed and swore they knew nothing. Wouldn't you? And they scrammed out of the country.

That's what I call a thorough investigation.
Too Important For Bloviators

by digby

I would like second Glenn Greenwald's call for a special Select Committee to investigate the illegal NSA wiretapping scandal. This issue is obviously too complex and difficult to be handled by Arlen Specter's Judiciary Committee. I realize that the nation can't get enough of Blowhard Biden and Huckleberry Graham after their riveting Kabuki star turns over the past week but I would hate to see them get over exposed. Trying to stay awake while boring senators get turned inside out by much more nimble witnesses is thrilling TV, I know, but we don't want to overdo it.

Glenn points out that the House has a select bi-partisan committee up and running right now to investigate the federal response to hurricane Katrina so it's not as if this is unusual. It is commonly used for hearings of national importance like the Katrina response, the Clinton impeachment hearings, Iran Contra, Watergate and others. This is that important and it should be treated that way. If it's left up to Huckleberry's cornpone lectures and Tom Coburn's insane ramblings the hearings will be quickly made irrelevant by the incompetent questioning and bored media reaction alone.

These hearings are going to be about a fundamental constitutional understanding of how our system of government works. The stakes are very high. We could be setting a precedent for a unitary executive that completely abrogates the system of checks and balances. The committee will interview legal experts who are going to make arguments that the president has a right under the constitution to ignore the laws and I don't want Dianne Feinstein being the one to challenge them.

The other side is going to question opposing views with a simple bullshit rationale about saving the babies from the boogeyman. We cannot leave the much more complicated opposing argument to gasbag senators questioning much more agile legal minds than theirs. We need real, practising lawyers who know the issues and know how to question a witness.

After watching the soporific Alito sideshow this week, it's quite clear to me that the judiciary committee is not a venue in which to get to the bottom of this.

"Who's Being Naive, Kay?

by digby

Today, I'm calling a moratorium on calling Democrats spineless losers. This op-ed column by Harry Reid is one of the most in-your-face challenges I've seen in quite some time and it gets right to the heart of the matter:

In 1977, I was appointed chairman of the Nevada Gaming Commission. It was a difficult time for the gaming industry and Las Vegas, which were being overrun by organized crime. To that point in my life, I had served in the Nevada Assembly and even as lieutenant governor, but nothing prepared me for my fight with the mob.

Over the next few years, there would be threats on my life, bribes, FBI stings and even a car bomb placed in my family's station wagon. It was a terrifying experience, but at the end of the day, we cleaned up Las Vegas and ushered in a new era of responsibility.

My term on the gaming commission came to an end in 1981, and when it did, I thought I had seen such corruption for the last time. Unfortunately, that has not been the case. It is not quite the mafia of Las Vegas in the 1970s, but what is happening today in Washington is every bit as corrupt and the consequences for our country have been severe.

Our nation's capital has been overrun by organized crime — Tom DeLay-style.

The gangsters are the lobbyists, cronies and lawmakers who have banded together and abused their power to serve their own self-interest. The casinos are the Capitol, which has had its doors thrown open for special interests to waltz in and help themselves, and the victims, of course, are the American people.

There is a price to pay for the culture of corruption, and we can see it in the state of our union.

Consider the state of our economy. On one side is Big Oil, which reaped $100 billion in profits in 2005. On the other side are middle-class families. Their wages are declining at the same time they are paying more for gas, heat, education and other needs.

Take the state of health care. On one side are the HMOs that benefited greatly from a $10 billion slush fund in the Medicare bill. On the other side are seniors who face gaps in their coverage and the high cost of prescription drugs.

And then there is our national debt. On one side are the special interests and the multimillionaires who have received tremendous tax breaks over the last five years. On the other side are our children and grandchildren who will pay for these tax cuts when they inherit billions in debt.

In our country today, we are seeing what happens when lawmakers and lobbyists conspire to put the needs of special interests before the needs of the American people. We have a country that grows more dependent on foreign oil each day. We have cronyism like that exposed by Hurricane Katrina, and we have a national security policy that does a good job of protecting Halliburton's bottom-line but not a good enough job protecting the American people.


This is exactly how this should be framed. They are a criminal mob. Democrats should not shy away from using that exact language because it's absolutely true.

"I AM the federal government."

- Comment uttered by Tom DeLay to the owner of Ruth's
Chris Steak House, after being told to put out his cigar because of federal government regulations banning smoking in the building, May 14, 200