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Friday, August 31, 2007

They're Doing It Again

by digby

I was at Drinking Liberally not long ago, chattering with my pal D-Day about what long term political reform we would dedicate ourselves to if we had to choose. We both said getting rid of the electoral college, which I thought was quite interesting. It's long been one of my bete noirs, even before the 2000 election atrocity and it was for him too. I think there are probably lots of liberal activists out there who feel the same way. It's an anachronistic relic of an era long past that was the result of one of those undemocratic compromises that was necessary to get the smaller states to sign on to the Union. It's completely unnecessary now and all it does is lead to mischief, dirty tricks and cheating --- the specialty of the modern Republican party.

We know for a fact, it's been demonstrated in living color, that it leads to undemocratic results. In 2000, Bush lost by half a million votes and yet "won" by 537, when the Supreme Court stepped in to stop the Florida vote count, granting all the electors to Bush. It is little wonder that no other country in the world has adopted our vaunted system of government. It's got some serious problems.

There is one political faction in our country that is determined to win by any means necessary. They have had an ongoing voter suppression effort for decades, which has recently been both professionalized and authorized as a legitimate arm of the federal government under the Bush administration. That's what the US Attorney scandal is all about --- vote rigging and suppression.

And if that doesn't work, they will not hesitate to challenge the vote in other ways. You remember this?

In the days before the Nov. 7 election, Republicans feared that Vice President Al Gore might win the Electoral College while Texas Gov. George W. Bush could win the national popular vote.

The expectation then was that Green Party candidate Ralph Nader might siphon off millions of votes from Gore nationwide, but not enough in key states to keep them out of Gore's column.

That could allow Gore to amass the 270 electoral votes needed for winning the presidency while blocking a Gore plurality in the popular vote.

To stop Gore under those circumstances, advisers to the Bush campaign weighed the possibility of challenging the legitimacy of a popular-vote loser gaining the White House.

"The one thing we don't do is roll over -- we fight," said a Bush aide, according to an article by Michael Kramer in the New York Daily News on Nov. 1, a week before the election.

The article reported that "the core of the emerging Bush strategy assumes a popular uprising, stoked by the Bushies themselves, of course. In league with the campaign -- which is preparing talking points about the Electoral College's essential unfairness -- a massive talk-radio operation would be encouraged."

"We'd have ads, too," said a Bush aide, "and I think you can count on the media to fuel the thing big-time. Even papers that supported Gore might turn against him because the will of the people will have been thwarted."

The Bush strategy to challenge the Electoral College went even further. "Local business leaders will be urged to lobby their customers, the clergy will be asked to speak up for the popular will and Team Bush will enlist as many Democrats as possible to scream as loud as they can," the article said.

"You think 'Democrats for Democracy' would be a catchy term for them?" asked a Bush adviser.

The Bush strategy also would target the members of the Electoral College, the 538 electors who are picked by the campaigns and state party organizations to go to Washington for what is normally a ceremonial function. Many of the electors are not legally bound to a specific candidate.

They are always prepared to play it both ways. From partisan impeachments to off-year gerrymandering to the unprecedented California recall to the disputed 2000 election to the longterm efforts at voter suppression and the use of the department of Justice to influence elections with well timed indictments and bogus "vote fraud" investigations, the Republicans have shown that where they don't cheat outright, they are willing to cast aside all convention, tradition and consensus beliefs that serve to honor the spirit of democracy in order to win at all costs. I don't think that can be disputed. We've watched it unfold before our eyes for the past decade.

So, as far as I can tell very few people are surprised that the Republicans are once again trying to game the system to their advantage by putting another one of those big money initiatives on the California ballot to allocate the California electors according to the votes cast for each candidate instead of winner take all, as all but two states do today.

It's very clever. If someone were to ask D-day and me, and most Californians, in the abstract, if we thought that was a more fair way to allocate the electoral college votes, we'd probably say yes. It would be. But, needless to say, it isn't if only one state, particular one as large as ours, does it all by itself. It essentially turns California into two states, diluting its electoral clout, giving the Republicans more than 20 electoral votes they currently don't have and denying the Democrats 20 they currently do. It is nothing more than typical GOP shenanigans to cheat or change the rules after the fact where they can't win legitimately.

Everyone knows that electoral college reform cannot happen piecemeal. All the states must change together because to do otherwise will distort the process even more than it already is. We will have a much higher likelihood of more presidents taking office without winning the popular vote, and that just cannot continue to happen if anyone expects the United States government to maintain legitimacy. (After the partisan impeachment of 1998 and the stolen election of 2000, it's hanging by thread as it is.)

This may just be a ploy to force democrats to spend money in California on an expensive education campaign to tell Democrats they need to vote in a traditionally low turn out election next June (the primary will have already been held months before) and also let them know that it's an attempt to essentially rig the Presidential election in November 2008. They are very good at this. They do it all the time. It's the reason we have a GOP cyborg today instead of a governor.

The Courage Campaign is working with other groups in California to try to beat this initiative. I haveno idea how seriously national Dems are taking this, but I would assume they know very well how devastating this could be and will pull out all the stops to ensure it doesn't pass. but that's not guarantee. These pernicious initiatives often pass in this state because they are cleverly misleading and they are on the ballot in low turnout elections. (It's a huge problem for California generally.) This time it affects the whole country and it would be smart for everyone to get involved.

If you think it can't happen just reflect back seven years to November 2000. Remember how you felt. Remember the intense frustration and anger when they stole that election and then smugly told us to "get over it." They'd do it again in a heartbeat.

Our "post-partisan" Cyborgoverner says he doesn't know what the initiative says. The fact that the people who drafted it are his former lawyers, is purely coincidence. The Courage Campaign has launched an initiative to 'educate Arnold" by asking everyone to send Arnold a copy of the proposed initiative so he can read it and finally tell his constituents whether he supports this undemocratic act. I suspect he will. He got into office on a similar end-run around established tradition and precedent. He'd be quite the hypocrite standing up for Democratic values and following the rules of the game when his benefactors bought him his governorship with a similarly expensive recall initiative during the 9/11 GOP tide.

But still, he should be forced to tell the nation whether he's going to help the dirty tricksters of his party steal another election. We have a right to know.

Go here to find out how to send the initiative to Governor Schwarzenegger.
I'm sure he'd love to hear from you.

Family Value$$

by digby

They love fetuses. Babies, not so much:

In an attempt to raise the nation's historically low rate of breast-feeding, federal health officials commissioned an attention-grabbing advertising campaign a few years ago to convince mothers that their babies faced real health risks if they did not breast-feed. It featured striking photos of insulin syringes and asthma inhalers topped with rubber nipples.

Plans to run these blunt ads infuriated the politically powerful infant formula industry, which hired a former chairman of the Republican National Committee and a former top regulatory official to lobby the Health and Human Services Department. Not long afterward, department political appointees toned down the campaign.

The ads ran instead with more friendly images of dandelions and cherry-topped ice cream scoops, to dramatize how breast-feeding could help avert respiratory problems and obesity.

...current and former HHS officials say the muting of the ads was not the only episode in which HHS missed a chance to try to raise the breast-feeding rate. In April, according to officials and documents, the department chose not to promote a comprehensive analysis by its own Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) of multiple studies on breast-feeding, which generally found it was associated with fewer ear and gastrointestinal infections, as well as lower rates of diabetes, leukemia, obesity, asthma and sudden infant death syndrome.

The report did not assert a direct cause and effect, because doing so would require studies in which some women are told not to breast-feed their infants -- a request considered unethical, given the obvious health benefits of the practice.

A top HHS official said that at the time, Suzanne Haynes, an epidemiologist and senior science adviser for the department's Office on Women's Health, argued strongly in favor of promoting the new conclusions in the media and among medical professionals. But her office, which commissioned the report, was specifically instructed by political appointees not to disseminate a news release.

I'm not surprised. These officials represent the same people who think that breast feeding is "dirty," so it's really a right wing double whammy. What's not to like?

The only thing sacred to these people is a blastocyst in a petrie dish and the right to do violence when they feel dissed. Everything else is for sale to the highest bidder.

H/T to Todd Gitlin

Thursday, August 30, 2007

The Legacy

by digby

Loosheadprop over at FDL highlights this comment from Paul Kane yesterday in the Wapo, that made me want to hold my head in my hands and moan:

Very interestingly, Chuck Schumer and Dianne Feinstein told myself and Jonathan Weisman in separate interviews Monday that if Bush picks a consensus AG, that the spirit and drive of the Dem investigations into the US attorney firings would likely dissipate.
So, the Dems are throwing in the towel on the US Attorney scandal for nothing in return but the thrilling fact that Fred Fielding and the White House finally listened to them. (They like us they really like us!)

What this means is that the new AG will be some standard GOP clone who will promise never to lie and never to do all those bad things that Gonzales did. I'm sure the Democrats will be very stern about that. They might even demand that this new AG conduct an investigation and report back by a date certain on what he finds, by golly! Heck, they may even ask him nicely not spy on anyone without a warrant unless he really, really has to and promise to only deny habeas corpus to people who really don't deserve it.

I assume that the Dems have decided that there's nothing to be gained politically by pursuing these issues any further so they don't want to bother. And they are right to the extent that the Republicans will howl like she-wolves if a new Democratic administration tries to fire the GOP whores they've installed throughout the department and now that Gonzo is out they've lost their villain of the piece. Plus the Judiciary Committee would love to strut before the cameras bragging about how they approved the new AG. As if that means diddly.

It's only 18 months until a new administration comes in and they figure they'll deal with all these issues when a Democrat gets in the white house. Or not. There's always the possibility that at least some of them believe these extra-constitutional powers really are a good thing and should be preserved to protect us from the boogeyman. (It should go without saying, however, that Republicans would never let Democrats get away with using these powers. They'd fight it just for the pleasure of it.)

Sadly, the Bush administration and the modern Republican movement have exposed a great gaping hole in our system, one which has previously been held together with respect for tradition, consensus on what was acceptable and a healthy belief in what goes around comes around. What we have learned is that an aggressive and power-mad president who has 34 Senators who can be counted upon to stick with him no matter what, can pretty much do anything he wants. If he has a supine, self-serving press that refuses to do its job, so much the better. But that's really all it takes for a president to become a dictator, at least temporarily -- the will to do it and 34 men and women willing to stand behind him.

This is why the Democrats in congress should pursue these scandals even if they are unable to remove the president from office and he is leaving in less than two years. By allowing these precedents to stand, these executive powers to go unchallenged, they will be waiting for the next would-be tyrant to pick them up and run with them. The constitutional system depends upon the truism that if all else fails and crooks and miscreants are the only ones holding office, that they will at least have enough ego to preserve their own power. If they fail to do even that, the system could be irretrievably broken.

Cheney famously said "Reagan proved deficits don't matter." He will very likely be likewise telling his little friends at cocktail parties a couple of years from now, "Bush proved congress doesn't matter."

Kabuki On Skates

by digby

No sooner did Allawi hire Barbour Griffith two weeks ago than congressional staffers said they began to be bombarded with e-mails from Allawi (from an Internet domain registered by the lobbying firm) featuring news stories that depict the Maliki government as hopelessly deadlocked and riddled by sectarian militias. “All the e-mails make the Iraqi government look bad,” said one congressional staffer who asked not to be publicly identified talking about the Iraq issues.

The e-mails included an Allawi-drafted "Six Point Plan for Iraq," which outlines various steps the former Iraqi leader would pursue if he were returned to power in Baghdad. Among the more controversial recommendations in the plan are suggestions that a "State of Emergency" be declared for up to 2-3 years "until security is restored." The plan flatly recommends that the current Iraqi government be removed "through Parliamentary means" because the "sectarian politics of the Maliki Government ... are destroying Iraq."

Adding further intrigue to the lobbying campaign was the disclosure that the Barbour Griffith principal overseeing the firm’s Allawi account was former ambassador Robert D. Blackwill—the former Bush White House deputy national-security adviser in charge of Iraq policy, who later served as U.S. special envoy to that country.

Documents filed by Barbour Griffith with Justice show that Blackwill personally signed the firm’s contract with Allawi on Aug. 20, stating that he will “lead the team” that will assist “Dr. Allawi and his moderate Iraqi colleagues as they undertake this work.”

In light of Blackwill’s close ties to Bush White House policymakers, his role has lead to speculation that the retention of Barbour Griffith was a move at least implicitly endorsed, if not encouraged, by some elements of the administration that are fed up with Maliki. [Yah think? --- ed.] While the White House has been critical of Maliki, they maintain official support for his government and have had no comment on Allawi’s campaign.

But as described by Allawi, the arrangement may also have been part of an aggressive campaign by Barbour Griffith to solicit lucrative foreign business.

Blackwill himself has not returned phone calls since news of the contract surfaced. Allawi, in an interview Wednesday with NEWSWEEK conducted by telephone from Amman, indicated that Blackwill—whom he described as a “dear friend”—was the one who actually raised the idea that the former Iraqi prime minister hire the firm during a recent lunch the two of them had in Europe.

“He contacted me,” Allawi said. “We were having lunch … He spoke to me and he said … there is a vacuum in Washington, and we will be able to help and assist. We know your views. We know the views of your people and we are ready to help in getting your message across to the United States.”


Officials familiar with U.S. and U.K. intelligence activities denied that either British or American agencies had any connection to Allawi's recent hiring of Washington lobbyists or his current campaign to depose the Iraqi government and replace Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. Any suggestion of CIA support for Allawi's current lobbying activities is "ludicrous," a U.S. intelligence official said. A British official said that M.I.6 officials "distanced themselves" from Allawi several years ago.

This is just plain insulting. We are really supposed to believe that all this dump Maliki and install Allawi talk being orchestrated by a top GOP lobbying firm isn't a Bush administration operation? It's just all a big coincidence?

Atrios has been blogging today about the latest by Bush tool David Ignatius, whose collected works during the past seven years make a good case study in toadyism and intellectual bankruptcy. But Matt Yglesias dredged up this Ignatius blast from the past that speaks directly to the very crude kabuki the administration is staging:

The paradox of Bush is that when you examine his actual policies in Iraq over the past six months, they appear to reflect precisely the sort of learning from experience that the president refuses publicly to acknowledge. The key architect of Iraq policy today is probably Robert Blackwill, a thoughtful former diplomat who serves on the staff of the National Security Council -- not the neoconservatives in the Pentagon such as Paul Wolfowitz, who urged the president to war. Wolfowitz's idealism has been replaced by Blackwill's calculating pragmatism, at least for the moment.
Right. The moment passed. That was in 2004. But times have changed. Now that he's working for big bucks at Haley Barbour's high powered lobbying firm, the white house has outsourced Blackwill's "pragmatic"view to the private sector to do their dirty work. After all, Blackwill approached his good friend Iyad, not the other way around.

The pragmatic view, of course, is that we need a "strongman" to fix things in Iraq. Like Saddam, only with bases. It makes you proud to be an American doesn't it?

*And, by the way, can someone please explain to me why Clinton and Levin jumped on the dump Maliki bandwagon? This campaign is clearly being orchestrated by the White House. It strikes me as a either a major error in judgment or something much more nefarious --- a signal that the Dems are backing this coup. Am I missing something?

Back From The Precipice

by digby

I am very glad to see this:

HUNTSVILLE, Texas - Gov. Rick Perry accepted a parole board recommendation Thursday to spare condemned inmate Kenneth Foster, the getaway driver in a 1996 murder who had been scheduled for execution within hours.

The sentence had drawn protests from death penalty opponents because Foster wasn't the actual shooter.

Foster was convicted of murder and sentence to death under Texas' law of parties, which makes non-triggermen equally accountable for a crime. Another condemned man was executed under the same statute earlier this year.

"After carefully considering the facts of this case, along with the recommendation from the Board of Pardons and Paroles, I believe the right and just decision is to commute Foster's sentence from the death penalty to life imprisonment," Perry said in a statement.

"I am concerned about Texas law that allowed capital murder defendants to be tried simultaneously and it is an issue I think the Legislature should examine."

That law is a moral abomination. There is no doubt that someone who was involved in such a crime should pay a price, but to make it a death penalty crime when he wasn't even armed and didn't know it was happening turns the whole death penalty argument of an eye for and eye on its head. (Not that I agree with an eye for an eye either.)

That the Governor of one of the most bloodthirsty states in the nation and the successor to the the execution-happy George W. Bush, did this -- and issued that statement about the law itself --- means that there is a glimmer of hope that this insanity about expanding the death penalty may have finally hit the wall. Fairly recently there were rumblings of making child molestation and rape capital crimes again.

I'm getting so sick of the state killing and torturing it makes me want to vomit. Too much blood is already being spilled in this world without the government of the United States losing all restraint and morality too. The only message all the bloodletting sends is that Americans are as barbaric as the enemies and criminals from whom we are allegedly protecting ourselves. (Hint: it's not working.)

This is a step back from the brink. Sadly, it happens far too infrequently.

Hats off to James Rucker at ColorofChange and to Sean-Paul Kelly who organized calls to the Governor's office. You can make a difference.


Wednesday, August 29, 2007

One Step Beyond

by digby

I've been meaning to bring this up. Yglesias got there first:

One sees this mentioned now and again in the blogosphere, but in these dark days of FISA-ignoring surveillance and so forth, one can always console oneself with the thought that things aren't as bad as they were during the Palmer Raids of the waning days of Woodrow Wilson's administration...

On the other hand, even at what was the peak (especially in terms of the breadth of violations) of civil unlibertarinism in America, I don't think you had top government officials arguing that what the country needed was the systematic application of torture.

For all its alleged reverence for tradition, the right has successfully destroyed one of society's long standing taboos in record time. It's now a legitimate subject of debate: should we or should we not torture suspects?

I knew these guys were capable of a lot of things, and I'm not especially surprised by their disregard for civil liberties and the constitution. But I don't think I ever could have predicted that they would be able to put torture back on the menu and the congress and the press would pretty much turn the other cheek. It's still kind of a shock.


by digby

With a triple rim shot...

Tucker Carlson: He-man

by digby

He's a he-man if you think telling completely unbelievable stories about how you used to beat up gay's for hitting on you to be "he-man" activity, which he apparently does:

Via Media Matters,
From the August 28 edition of MSNBC Live at 9 p.m. ET:

CARLSON: Let me -- let me put it this way. Whether he's gay or not actually is not our business, and I do think it's indefensible that the newspaper in Idaho spent a year interviewing 300 people to answer the question, Is he gay? That's none of your business. Having sex in a public men's room is outrageous. It's also really common. I've been bothered in men's rooms. I think people who do -


CARLSON: Yeah, I have. You know what, Let me just say.

SCARBOROUGH: Wait, hold on a second. Dan, hold on a second. I don't mean to take over, but have you been bothered in public restrooms, Dan? Because I know I haven't.

CARLSON: I have. I've been bothered in Georgetown Park. When I was in high school.

ABRAMS: Really?



CARLSON: And let me just say, I think --

SCARBOROUGH: That's something.

CARLSON: -- people should knock that off. I'm not anti-gay in the slightest, but that's really common, and the gay rights groups ought to disavow that kind of crap because, you know, that actually does bother people who didn't ask for being bothered. So yeah, I think it's outrageous that he did that.



CARLSON: You know what I mean? It's insane!

SCARBOROUGH: Was he the guy in Georgetown, Tucker?

CARLSON: No, actually. I got that -- my point is -- let me just say --

ABRAMS: Tucker, what did you do, by the way? What did you do when he did that? We got to know.

CARLSON: I went back with someone I knew and grabbed the guy by the -- you know, and grabbed him, and -- and --

ABRAMS: And did what?

CARLSON: Hit him against the stall with his head, actually!


CARLSON: And then the cops came and arrested him. But let me say that I'm the least anti-gay right-winger you'll ever meet --


CARLSON: -- but I do think doing this in men's rooms appears to be common. It's totally wrong, and they should knock it off. I mean that. I think it's -- I can't bring my son to the men's room at the park where he plays soccer because of all these creepy guys hanging around in there. I actually think it's a problem. I'm sorry.

That's like some gothic high school tale from the 1940's. And it's just as credible. Really, does anyone think this actually happened? I don't. (And then cops came and arrested the guy? Please.) I think Tucker's odd obsession with gay men's room sex is revealing, actually. He seems to be have had quite a bit of experience with unwanted male attention (even today he won't let his son go into a public bathroom) while other straight guys say they very rarely if ever have this kind of interaction. One can't help but wonder what kind of signals 'lil Tuckie is sending out.

Furthermore, if Carlson and his high school pal, whom he allegedly left the bathroom to find and then came back to assault this gay man, did this as a result of the guy "tapping his feet" on the floor and sliding his foot under the stall divider, as Larry Craig admitted to doing, then Tuckie knows a hell of a lot more about gay cruising signals that the average straight fellow. I asked my husband if he would have had a clue what it meant if someone did that and he didn't know what I was talking about.

When the "signals" are that obscure, only the people who are in on the code know what's going on. Everyone else just thinks it's some guy sliding his foot around weirdly and tapping his toes while he sits on the toilet and they don't respond. The guy moves on to someone who knows the code and responds that they are interested.

In other words, if Tucker is picking up these signals as a gay come on, then he's far more clued in to the gay world than any straight guy, except maybe a cop, would normally be. We don't know, of course, what really happened to Tucker that day when he was "bothered" in the men's room. Perhaps it was really aggressively sexual and traumatizing. But he didn't make any distinctions and made the case that he'd been a victim of someone like Craig, so Craig's behavior is all we really have to go on.

As far as the raucous laughter on the show when he described banging that guy's head against a wall for having the temerity to make a pass at he-man Carlson, well, these are probably the same guys who would call a woman who was offended at a man's crude come-on, a castrating bitch. You can't win.

I confess, I'm a little bit surprised at the reflexive response of hearty male laughter to violent gay bashing on that show, though. Dan Abrams, the general manager of MSNBC and participant in that conversation, is reputedly gay.

On the other hand, he and Scarborough may have just been laughing at the complete absurdity of the poncy Tucker's story from beginning to end. I'm actually leaning that way.

To be perfectly clear here. Aside from the "gay panic defense" that Carlson apparently believs excuses bashing someone's head against a wall for making an unwanted sexual advance, Carlson's logic on the rest of this is equally disturbing and wrong. By bringing this story up in the context of Craig's admission, Carlson was implying that the case against Craig was that he was arrested for making crude, unwanted passes at innocent straight men and boys. That's not the case.

There is evidently a very deliberate and complex signaling that goes on that someone who wasn't clued in would never get, much less be offended by, because it requires that the target respond in a certain way before it goes to the next step (as the cop in the case did.If someone does feel weird about these signals they are easy enough to repel. Obviously, the reason they are so tentative and obscure is in order not to cause a disturbance.

The reason the police were in that bathroom wasn't because Craig and his ilk were preying on innocent straight teenagers but because they were meeting up with mutually interested gay men for a casual sexual encounter --- which may be icky, but it's not the same thing as deliberately "bothering" straight high school boys. Carlson made it sound like lots of gay men make a habit of doing that. It's not true.

There are laws against having sex in public and if someone makes a crude pass in a bathroom you certainly have a right to tell him to fuck off and the cops have a right to arrest him. Nobody has a right to bash his head against a wall. And Tucker doesn't have a right to say that gay men like Larry Craig, ---as reprehensible a hypocritical perv as he might be --- make a habit of preying on little boys which is what he was saying when he said he couldn't let his son go into the bathroom in the park because of all the creepy guys hanging around.

Tucker has now "clarified" his remarks. He says that he didn't actually bash the guy's head against the wall, he and his friend just held him until a security guard showed up. (This presumably means there was no police report either.)

Apparently, his bragging about bashing the gay guy's head against a wall for having the temerity to "bother" him (today he characterizes it as "grabbed" him and "assaulted" him) was just a fish story.

What Me Worry?

by digby

August 29, 2005:

Two years ago today:


7:30 AM CDT — BUSH ADMINISTRATION NOTIFIED OF THE LEVEE BREACH: The administration finds out that a levee in New Orleans was breached. On this day, 28 “government agencies, from local Louisiana parishes to the White House, [reported that] that New Orleans levees” were breached. [AP]

8AM CDT — MAYOR NAGIN REPORTS THAT WATER IS FLOWING OVER LEVEE: “I’ve gotten reports this morning that there is already water coming over some of the levee systems. In the lower ninth ward, we’ve had one of our pumping stations to stop operating, so we will have significant flooding, it is just a matter of how much.” [NBC’s “Today Show”]

11:13 AM CDT - WHITE HOUSE CIRCULATES INTERNAL MEMO ABOUT LEVEE BREACH: “Flooding is significant throughout the region and a levee in New Orleans has reportedly been breached sending 6-8 feet of water throughout the 9th ward area of the city.” [AP]

MORNING — BROWN WARNS BUSH ABOUT THE POTENTIAL DEVASTATION OF KATRINA: In a briefing, Brown warned Bush, “This is, to put it mildly, the big one, I think.” He also voiced concerns that the government may not have the capacity to “respond to a catastrophe within a catastrophe” and that the Superdome was ill-equipped to be a refuge of last resort. [AP]

MORNING — MAYFIELD WARNS BUSH ABOUT THE TOPPING OF THE LEVEES: In the same briefing, Max Mayfield, National Hurricane Center Director, warns, “This is a category 5 hurricane, very similar to Hurricane Andrew in the maximum intensity, but there’s a big big difference. This hurricane is much larger than Andrew ever was. I also want to make absolutely clear to everyone that the greatest potential for large loss of lives is still in the coastal areas from the storm surge. … I don’t think anyone can tell you with any confidence right now whether the levees will be topped or not, but there’s obviously a very very grave concern.” [AP]

MORNING — BUSH CALLS SECRETARY CHERTOFF TO DISCUSS IMMIGRATION: “I spoke to Mike Chertoff today — he’s the head of the Department of Homeland Security. I knew people would want me to discuss this issue [immigration], so we got us an airplane on — a telephone on Air Force One, so I called him. I said, are you working with the governor? He said, you bet we are.” [White House]


11AM CDT — MICHAEL BROWN FINALLY REQUESTS THAT DHS DISPATCH 1,000 EMPLOYEES TO REGION, GIVES THEM TWO DAYS TO ARRIVE: “Brown’s memo to Chertoff described Katrina as ‘this near catastrophic event’ but otherwise lacked any urgent language. The memo politely ended, ‘Thank you for your consideration in helping us to meet our responsibilities.’” [AP]

LATE MORNING — LEVEE BREACHED: “A large section of the vital 17th Street Canal levee, where it connects to the brand new ‘hurricane proof’ Old Hammond Highway bridge, gave way late Monday morning in Bucktown after Katrina’s fiercest winds were well north.” [Times-Picayune]

11AM CDT — BUSH VISITS ARIZONA RESORT TO PROMOTE MEDICARE DRUG BENEFIT: “This new bill I signed says, if you’re a senior and you like the way things are today, you’re in good shape, don’t change. But, by the way, there’s a lot of different options for you. And we’re here to talk about what that means to our seniors.” [White House]

4:30PM CDT — BUSH TRAVELS TO CALIFORNIA SENIOR CENTER TO DISCUSS MEDICARE DRUG BENEFIT: “We’ve got some folks up here who are concerned about their Social Security or Medicare. Joan Geist is with us. … I could tell — she was looking at me when I first walked in the room to meet her, she was wondering whether or not old George W. is going to take away her Social Security check.” [White House]

8PM CDT — RUMSFELD ATTENDS SAN DIEGO PADRES BASEBALL GAME: Rumsfeld “joined Padres President John Moores in the owner’s box…at Petco Park.” [Editor & Publisher]

8PM CDT — GOV. BLANCO AGAIN REQUESTS ASSISTANCE FROM BUSH: “Mr. President, we need your help. We need everything you’ve got.” [Newsweek]


In A Nutshell

by digby

Avedon Carol:

Conservatives have always supported intrusive government, they have always endangered Americans by aggravating other countries, and they have always been very happy to collect taxes from ordinary working people and use that tax money to fatten the Malefactors of Great Wealth while depriving the rest of us of our freedoms. Those same people conned a number of libertarian-minded young people in the '70s and '80s into believing that conservatism was liberalism and vice-versa because a few intolerant lefties went overboard in their objections to morally reprehensible expressions of racism and sexism. I would have thought these kids would have grown up by now and realized that they're still paying taxes but under the Republicans they're getting less for them - and that's before the bill for all that "strong defense" comes due. How dumb they have to be to think it makes sense to be both Republican and gay after all this just doesn't bear thinking about.

Sounds right to me.

Click through for the whole thing.


Tuesday, August 28, 2007


by digby

A reader sent this in as a reminder of the work-a-day right wing commentary of recent years that's so enchanted Americans that they have succeeded in alienating virtually everyone in the nation except ditto-heads and sadists (a group with a lot of crossover.)

Here you see a typical arrogant Republican jackass, smug in the notion that he and his grubby little friends were masters of the universe who could never fail. Certainly not at the hands of the DFH's:

Why am I smiling? It's those Dems!

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 07/30/2004

Thinking Right on the week gone by:

* This is too much fun. During Democratic convention week, my employer is entitled to shortchange the pay. Material overflows. It's there for the plucking. Dear AJC, lunch is on me.

* Could've been a dead body on the stage and no delegate or speaker would have called attention, so desperate are they to appear mainstream. These are folks who think hiding their beliefs is necessary, because you wouldn't like them if you found out. And yet . . .

* Democratic convention delegates are to the left of rank-and-file Democrats and far to the left of the electorate. When asked to describe themselves, they label themselves -- and nominee John Kerry -- as "moderates." If these are moderates, there's no left in America.

* Only 7 percent of convention delegates think "the U.S. did the right thing in taking military action against Iraq," compared to 46 percent of all voters. If Kerry wins, it's cut-and-run. Count on it. This is the George McGovern anti-war party. Omega Lamont of Peachtree City calls it the "Botox convention." Any cosmetic to dress up Kerry and his band of '60s peaceniks as a party that can be trusted to lead in a world in which fanatics are determined to destroy us.

* Michael Moore, more visible this week than Kerry, agrees to appear on the Bill O'Reilly show on the condition that his remarks not be edited. This from the moviemaker whose selective editing for propaganda purposes is his stock in trade.

* Columnist Ann Coulter's USA Today-spiked column is funny. To conservatives anyway. She posits that pretty girls and cops are conservative. "As for the pretty girls, I can only guess that's because liberal boys never try to make a move on you without the U.N. Security Council's approval. Plus, it's no fun riding around in those dinky little hybrid cars. My pretty-girl allies stick out like a sore thumb amongst the corn-fed, no makeup, natural fiber, no-bra needing, sandal-wearing, hirsute, somewhat fragrant hippie chick pie wagons they call 'women' at the Democratic National Convention."

Thinking Right is, of course, appalled at her crass generalizations (though the eye did strain in search of contrary evidence).

* Coulter is just one of those "opinionated" women who would be thought "smart or well-informed" if she were a man. My only hope is that one day soon Teresa and husband John Kerry will recognize opinionated conservative women, too. And that Senate Democrats will allow them to serve as federal judges. Texas Supreme Court Justice Priscilla Owen. Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Carolyn Kuhl. California Supreme Court Justice Janice Rogers Brown. All are targets of Democratic filibuster.

* Al Sharpton didn't get the message. We're not into hate this week. And yet, according to the Rev, had Bush been president in 1954, "Clarence Thomas would have never got to law school." This Democratic prime-timer is best remembered as the chief proponent of the Tawana Brawley hoax: Kidnapped, raped, smeared with feces by a gang of whites, including a county prosecutor. All lies. Sharpton paid the prosecutor $65,000 for defamation.

This from a proud member of the diaper wearing, bathroom trolling, teen predator, Republican family values party.


Hubris or hybris (Greek ὕβρις), according to its modern usage, is exaggerated self pride or self-confidence (overbearing pride), often resulting in fatal retribution. In Ancient Greece, "hubris" referred to actions taken in order to shame the victim, thereby making oneself seem superior.

It's their fatal flaw. Their downfall. Someday, perhaps, people will write epic poems featuring them as the puny fools who overreached and (almost?) destroyed a powerful nation. Right now, they are just a bunch of shrieking failures, scrambling madly to remain relevant in a world grown tired of their bad judgment and unwarranted superior attitude.

Three Wars

by digby

Christopher Hitchens' reason for backing this war has always been that he loathes fascism and loves western liberal values over all else and they are worth killing for. He has been consistent in that, always holding out against the Islamo-fascists for being religious fundamentalists and well ... fascists. He's blind with arrogance and bloodlust --- and almost comically naive about the likelihood of the Bush administration actually delivering on its promises of a "non-sectarian" Iraq government.

Today he wrote a rather disjointed piece in Slate claiming that the war is actually three wars. The first is the glorious success of the "Kurd war" where everything is going along swimmingly. (Those truck bombs that killed more that 500 Yazidis, who are Kurds, are apparently what he means by "pin-prick events." )

The second war is the one where the surge is surging --- Anbar --- which he floridly describes as "the venomous rabble of foreign murderers and local psychopaths that goes to make up AQM has insanely overplayed its hand, lost all hope of local support, and is becoming even more vicious as its cadres are defeated." Huzzah!

And there there is the third war, which encompasses, well, the Iraq civil war:

The third area of combat is the most depressing. The Maliki government, in my opinion, showed its irredeemably sectarian character a long time ago by the dirty manner in which it carried out the execution of Saddam Hussein. Maliki himself has recently attacked the coalition forces for carrying out raids in Shiite districts of Baghdad. Perhaps he ought to be told that he is not being lent our armed forces for the purpose of installing Shiite power. The secular parties have walked out of his shaky Cabinet, and it is on these forces that our moral support should be concentrated. Let's put it like this: An American family that lost a son or a daughter in the defense of free Kurdistan or in the struggle against AQM could console itself that the death was in a worthwhile cause. The same could not be said for a soldier who fell in some murky street engagement, shot in the back by a uniformed policeman who was doing double duty as a member of a theocratic Shiite militia.

In Basra and elsewhere, these Shiite militias replicate the division among the Sunnis by fighting among themselves and by the degree to which they do or do not reflect the interference of Iran in Iraqi affairs. This subconflict—or these subconflicts—makes it hard to accept the proposal made by some U.S. politicians and pundits to the effect that the country should be partitioned along ethnic and religious lines. In that event, we would quite probably not end up with three neatly demarcated mini-states, one each in a three-way split among Sunni Arab, Shiite, and Kurd. Instead, there could be partitions within the partition, with Iran and Saudi Arabia becoming patrons of their favorite proxies and, in the meantime, a huge impetus given to the "cleansing" of hitherto-mixed cities and provinces. (This, by the way, as I never tire of saying, is what would have happened to Iraq when Saddam's regime collapsed and the country became prey to neighboring states and to the consequences of 30 years of "divide and rule" politics.)

Like it isn't happening now, I guess.

(And Americans are supposed to be thrilled to have their children die in "defense of a free Kurdistan?" Jesus, I think they may have thought they were stopping a genocidal maniac from unleashing chemical weapons on innocent people or liberating Iraq and spreading freedom and winning the Global War on Terror. I doubt any of them are quite as happy as Hitchens is that their loved one died "defending a free Kurdistan," which isn't even its own country.)

But as depressing as the "bad war" is --- the one that is actually tearing the country apart --- Hitchens hasn't given up hope that someday it will be as successful as the first two "good wars." He calls on all politicians to acknowledge the two good ones even as they condemn the bad:

The ability to distinguish among these different definitions of the "war" is what ought to define the difference between a serious politician and a political opportunist, both in Iraq and in America. The obliteration of political life and civil society by Saddam Hussein's fascism has meant that most of the successor political figures are paltry (and the Kurdish exception to this exactly proves the point: Kurdistan escaped from Baathist control a full decade before the rest of Iraq did). It will take a good while before any plausible nonsectarian figures can emerge from the wasteland and also brave the climate of murder and intimidation that the forces of the last dictatorship, and the would-be enforcers of an even worse future one, have created.

How long is a good long while? Funny, he doesn't mention the new Iraqi It-Boy, the resolutely non-sectarian Ayad Allawi, at all. You know, former Mukhabarat agent and Baathist who personally executes prisoners? The new product the entire GOP establishment is rolling out and marketing like the second coming of Thomas Jefferson?

If things go according to Hitchens' new best friends, the neocons', plans, it is very likely that the United States will quite soon install a tyrannical psychopath fascist to run Iraq now that the entirely predictable sectarian, sub-sectarian civil war is already roaring. But he's secular. Very non-sectarian.

Maybe once Allawi is installed and brings the hammer down, Hitchens will face the fact that trusting a bunch of neoconservative oil men to give a damn about secular western values and democracy might not have been the wisest course. It's so amusing that this jaded, cosmopolitan intellectual was so easily taken in by a bunch of Straussians.

Update: I'm reliably informed by Chris Hayes that while the Yazidi speak Kurdish,(and Wikipedia says they are centered in Mosul, Kurdistan and are considered ethnic Kurds) they are definitely not considered Kurds by other non-Yazidi Kurds. They are a very distinct and unusual religion --- kind of like the Mormons of Iraq.

It's an important distinction when considering if the Non-Yazidi Kurds have gotten things more or less in order as Hitchens implies. To the extent that they have quelled the worst kind of sectarian violence between themselves and the various arab Muslims in their region, it's quite true.

I would only add that if Yazidi are now being blown up in large numbers it doesn't exactly support the idea that all is hearts and flowers in Kurdistan, however. They are a despised minority who are being killed, which I would think tends to put those horrific bombings into the category of the sub-sectarian conflict Hitchens claims we prevented by invading.


by digby

Susie Madrak points me to this horrible story from the Katrina doctor who was accused of murder but the grand jury refused to indict. It's a nightmare, a horror story and it makes me want to scream every time I think of George W. Bush strutting around the gulf one short day after this had happened, yukking it up with Brownie and saying:

"We've got a lot of rebuilding to do ... The good news is — and it's hard for some to see it now — that out of this chaos is going to come a fantastic Gulf Coast, like it was before. Out of the rubbles of Trent Lott's house — he's lost his entire house — there's going to be a fantastic house. And I'm looking forward to sitting on the porch."

and this:

"I believe the town where I used to come – from Houston, Texas, to enjoy myself, occasionally too much – will be that very same town, that it will be a better place to come to."


In normal triage situations, the sickest people are treated first. But my understanding is that conditions were so bad, you and the other medical staff switched to a reverse triage or battlefield approach. Tell me about this.

The conditions were unbearable. Inside the hospital it was pitch black, with odors, smell, human waste everywhere. It was very rancid. You would take a breath in and it would burn the back of your throat. The patients were very sick. That’s when we had to go from triage to reverse triage because we came to realize if patients aren’t being evacuated, [we had to deal with what we had]. Basically it was a general consensus that we’re not going to be able to save everybody. We hope that we can, but we realize everybody may not make it out.

What were the categories?

We divided patients into groups one, two and three. Patients in category one are able to sit up and walk and are not very sick. Patients in three are critically ill, “Do Not Resuscitate.” The ones in category two were sick, but doing much [better than those in category three]. The triage system was very crude—we’d write the number 1, 2 or 3 on a sheet of paper and tape it across the patient’s chest with their hospital records. There was limited use of flashlights. There were limited batteries. [Parts of the hospital] were pitch black. I’m talking jet black. Very dangerous. It was pitch dark in inner rooms.

What is the reverse triage process like?

Let me tell you, for a patient to be triaged—typical triage isn’t that difficult. Reverse triage is heart wrenching. Absolutely heart wrenching. You place patients into categories. With boats coming and going we could evacuate patients who could sit. There were elderly couples—how do you make that decision who can go when one was sick and the spouse wasn't? Do you let elderly couples go together as husband and wife? Some of these couples had been married 50 years.

As Susie said:

That these BushCo hacks allowed all those Americans to suffer and die in New Orleans - and then rezoned the entire area to push out the survivors in favor of high-end developers - well, that tells you everything you need to know about their character.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Dolphin Fighting

by digby

Didn't we just get another lecture from a journalism professor about how lazy, dumb and unprofessional bloggers are? Lookie, lookie here, from Gawker:

"The case against Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick has exposed a split within both the NAACP and the larger African-American community, as some activists condemn Vick's role in the deaths of fighting dogs and others cast him as a victim of a racist justice system," an MSNBC article revealed yesterday. Who are some of the dog-murdering quarterback's defenders? Well, you'd expect Al Sharpton to step up, right?

Here's the blurb from the MSNBC story:

Most recently, the Rev. Al Sharpton, a two-time Democratic presidential candidate, charged that a star white athlete never would have been prosecuted for the same crime.

Like Hayes, Sharpton has denounced images of dogfighting in popular black culture, and he signed a letter with Russell Simmons condemning the activity as ignorant and cruel.

But at the same time, Sharpton argued that the prosecution of Vick was overkill.

If the police caught Brett Favre (a white quarterback for the Green Bay Packers) running a dolphin-fighting unit out of his pool, where dolphins with spears attached to their foreheads fought each other, would they bust him? Of course not," Sharpton wrote Tuesday on his personal blog.

They would get his autograph, commend him on his tightly spiraled forward passes, then bet on one of his dolphins.

Turns out that Sharpton quote, allegedly from his "personal blog", actually came from the parody site News/Groper. Who would have ever guessed?

The editor of the site, terribly impressed with MSNBC's investigative skills as you might imagine, wonders which one of these clues finally tipped them off:

1. The words "fake parody blogs" in the titlebar of every page of our site
2. Our logo
3. Al Sharpton blogging on the same site as Lindsay Lohan, George Bush
and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
4. Our about page www.newsgroper.com/about/
5. Al Sharpton referring to himself in his bio as an "Emancipation
Proclamation enthusiast"

Maybe MSNBC's crack reporters are fans of former NBC election analyst Rush Limbaugh who tells his listeners that the Democrats want to invade Darfur so that they can appease their African American constituency (like they always do/) It's hard to imagine anyone sentient would believe Sharpton would come up with with the "dolphins with spears on their heads" thing. He's colorful but he isn't retarded.

What's the explanation for this stuff? Is everyone eating lead paint chips and salsa all of a sudden?

Full screen shots here.

Another One Bites The Dust

by digby

Republican Fred Thompson sidestepped questions Monday about the departure of yet another presidential campaign-in-waiting.

Linda Rozett, a longtime U.S. Chamber of Commerce official, is gone from the former Tennessee senator's committee to "test the waters" of a presidential bid after spending the last several weeks as communications director.

"I don't know what the story is," said Thompson, who was asked about the departure while campaigning at the Minnesota state fair. "I don't know what to say about it except that she's a wonderful lady."

Rozett's departure was disclosed in an e-mail to staffers from campaign manager Bill Lacy.

"It is my duty to let you know that Linda Rozett is no longer with our committee," Lacy wrote. "I will have to make a lot of tough decisions to make our venture successful and this was one of them. Linda is a talented, professional and gracious lady who will be missed. But in the limited amount of time we have I feel it critical to have a communications point person with significant campaign experience."

The all-but-declared candidate collected about $1.5 million less than the $5 million backers had hoped to bring in during June, his first fundraising month. In July, Thompson sidelined his campaign-manager-in-waiting, Tom Collamore, and watched a few other aides follow him out the door amid consternation inside the operation about the active role of Thompson's wife, Jeri."

I'd love to hear from some of the media sages who say that how a campaign is run is indicative of how the candidate is going to run the country. If that's true, Frederick of Hollywood's better half is evidently going to run it like Martha Stewart on her short-lived version of the "The Apprentice," while Fred wanders around like a blind salmon, completely out of the loop. Good to know.

He Was A Very Nasty, Bad, Naughty Boy

by digby

I'm sure you've all heard what Chris Matthews called "the very sad news," by now. Yes it's reported that Senator Larry Craig was arrested in Minnesota a couple of months ago for lewd conduct in the airport men's room:

From Roll Call:

According to the incident report, Sgt. Dave Karsnia was working as a plainclothes officer on June 11 investigating civilian complaints regarding sexual activity in the men's public restroom in which Craig was arrested.

Airport police previously had made numerous arrests in the men's restroom of the Northstar Crossing in the Lindbergh Terminal in connection with sexual activity.

Karsnia entered the bathroom at noon that day and about 13 minutes after taking a seat in a stall, he stated he could see "an older white male with grey hair standing outside my stall."

The man, who lingered in front of the stall for two minutes, was later identified as Craig.

"I could see Craig look through the crack in the door from his position. Craig would look down at his hands, 'fidget' with his fingers, and then look through the crack into my stall again. Craig would repeat this cycle for about two minutes," the report states.

Craig then entered the stall next to Karsnia's and placed his roller bag against the front of the stall door.

"My experience has shown that individuals engaging in lewd conduct use their bags to block the view from the front of their stall," Karsnia stated in his report. "From my seated position, I could observe the shoes and ankles of Craig seated to the left of me."

Craig was wearing dress pants with black dress shoes.

"At 1216 hours, Craig tapped his right foot. I recognized this as a signal used by persons wishing to engage in lewd conduct. Craig tapped his toes several times and moves his foot closer to my foot. I moved my foot up and down slowly. While this was occurring, the male in the stall to my right was still present. I could hear several unknown persons in the restroom that appeared to use the restroom for its intended use. The presence of others did not seem to deter Craig as he moved his right foot so that it touched the side of my left foot which was within my stall area," the report states.

Craig then proceeded to swipe his hand under the stall divider several times, and Karsnia noted in his report that "I could ... see Craig had a gold ring on his ring finger as his hand was on my side of the stall divider."

Karsnia then held his police identification down by the floor so that Craig could see it.

"With my left hand near the floor, I pointed towards the exit. Craig responded, 'No!' I again pointed towards the exit. Craig exited the stall with his roller bags without flushing the toilet. ... Craig said he would not go. I told Craig that he was under arrest, he had to go, and that I didn't want to make a scene. Craig then left the restroom." In a recorded interview after his arrest, Craig "either disagreed with me or 'didn't recall' the events as they happened," the report states.

Craig stated "that he has a wide stance when going to the bathroom and that his foot may have touched mine," the report states. Craig also told the arresting officer that he reached down with his right hand to pick up a piece of paper that was on the floor.

"It should be noted that there was not a piece of paper on the bathroom floor, nor did Craig pick up a piece of paper," the arresting officer said in the report.

Here's another memorable Craig moment that should have clued everyone in that he was a little kinky:

Meet the Press January 24, 1999, Sunday 9:00 AM

MR. RUSSERT: Larry Craig, would you want the last word from the Senate be an acquittal of the president and no censure?

SEN. CRAIG: Well, I don't know where the Senate's going to be on that issue of an up or down vote on impeachment, but I will tell you that the Senate certainly can bring about a censure reslution and it's a slap on the wrist. It's a, "Bad boy, Bill Clinton. You're a naughty boy." The American people already know that Bill Clinton is a bad boy, a naughty boy.

I'm going to speak out for the citizens of my state, who in the majority think that Bill Clinton is probably even a nasty, bad, naughty boy. The question issue now is simply this: Did he lie under oath? Did he perjure himself and did he obstruct justice? And that's where we're trying to go now in this truth-seeking process.

And I hope we can get there. And then I'm going to have the chance to decide and vote up or down on those articles. After we're through with this impeachment trial, it's collapsed, it's gone, then the Senate will make a decision on if it's a censure or not.

Not that we haven't known that Craig was closeted for some time. BlogActive outed him last October during the Foley scandal. And the rumors go back to 1982:

But the Minneapolis airport men's room? Classy. At least George Michael had the good taste to do his trolling in a Beverly Hills park restroom.

H/T to Archpundit for the MTP transcript.

Update: Yglesias has a point. What exactly was "disorderly" or "lewd" about Craig's actions? I accept that his rather obscure actions must be known to be typical cruising signals, but I don't see how they could be against the law just standing on their own without being able to prove the intent, which doesn't seem that easy.

Presumably, Craig thought he could keep this hushed up,(which is truly stupid) by pleading guilty. But I'm not actually sure what he was guilty of.


by digby

Darcy Burner is this close to raising a hundred thousand dollars in her campaign to send a message to George W. bush and his Go-Along congress. If you're inclined to throw some coin her way, do it today.

As Jane Hamsher writes:

Groups like Emily’s List come in with a check for a hundred thousand dollars and can pretty much demand to control messaging on a Congressional campaign. Much of the blogosphere’s ability to get the attention of politicians when they go off the reservation is due not only to the fact that we raised quite a bit during the last election cycle for candidates we support, but also because we made Joe Lieberman raise $17 million to keep his seat.

Yes, a hundred thousand dollars — particularly at this point in the election cycle — does get people’s attention.

You can watch the candidate make the pitch herself, right here.

Burner's campaign is holding a virtual town hall meeting this afternoon at 3pm pacific time. You can find it on her website where they are still collecting questions.

Back To Square One

by digby

I'd forgotten about this. It's a reminder of why the bloodthirsty neocons, especially little Cowboy George and his sidekick Quickdraw Dick, loves them some Allawi:

Iyad Allawi, the new Prime Minister of Iraq, pulled a pistol and executed as many as six suspected insurgents at a Baghdad police station, just days before Washington handed control of the country to his interim government, according to two people who allege they witnessed the killings.

They say the prisoners - handcuffed and blindfolded - were lined up against a wall in a courtyard adjacent to the maximum-security cell block in which they were held at the Al-Amariyah security centre, in the city's south-western suburbs.

They say Dr Allawi told onlookers the victims had each killed as many as 50 Iraqis and they "deserved worse than death".

The Prime Minister's office has denied the entirety of the witness accounts in a written statement to the Herald, saying Dr Allawi had never visited the centre and he did not carry a gun.

But the informants told the Herald that Dr Allawi shot each young man in the head as about a dozen Iraqi policemen and four Americans from the Prime Minister's personal security team watched in stunned silence.

Iraq's Interior Minister, Falah al-Naqib, is said to have looked on and congratulated him when the job was done. Mr al-Naqib's office has issued a verbal denial.

The names of three of the alleged victims have been obtained by the Herald.

One of the witnesses claimed that before killing the prisoners Dr Allawi had told those around him that he wanted to send a clear message to the police on how to deal with insurgents.

"The prisoners were against the wall and we were standing in the courtyard when the Interior Minister said that he would like to kill them all on the spot. Allawi said that they deserved worse than death - but then he pulled the pistol from his belt and started shooting them."

Re-enacting the killings, one witness stood three to four metres in front of a wall and swung his outstretched arm in an even arc, left to right, jerking his wrist to mimic the recoil as each bullet was fired. Then he raised a hand to his brow, saying: "He was very close. Each was shot in the head."

The witnesses said seven prisoners had been brought out to the courtyard, but the last man in the line was only wounded - in the neck, said one witness; in the chest, said the other.

Given Dr Allawi's role as the leader of the US experiment in planting a model democracy in the Middle East, allegations of a return to the cold-blooded tactics of his predecessor are likely to stir a simmering debate on how well Washington knows its man in Baghdad, and precisely what he envisages for the new Iraq.

There is much debate and rumour in Baghdad about the Prime Minister's capacity for brutality, but this is the first time eyewitness accounts have been obtained.

A former CIA officer, Vincent Cannisatraro, recently told The New Yorker: "If you're asking me if Allawi has blood on his hands from his days in London, the answer is yes, he does. He was a paid Mukhabarat [intelligence] agent for the Iraqis, and he was involved in dirty stuff."

In Baghdad, varying accounts of the shootings are interpreted by observers as useful to a little-known politician who, after 33 years in exile, needs to prove his leadership credentials as a "strongman" in a war-ravaged country that has no experience of democracy.


The Herald has established that as many as 30 people, including the victims, may have been in the courtyard. One of the witnesses said there were five or six civilian-clad American security men in a convoy of five or six late model four-wheel-drive vehicles that was shepherding Dr Allawi's entourage on the day. The US military and Dr Allawi's office refused to respond to questions about the composition of his security team. It is understood that the core of his protection unit is drawn from the US Special Forces units.

The security establishment where the killings are said to have happened is on open ground on the border of the Al-Amariyah and Al-Kudra neighbourhoods in Baghdad.

About 90 policemen are stationed at the complex, which processes insurgents and more hardened offenders among those captured in the struggle against a wave of murder, robbery and kidnapping in post-invasion Iraq.

The Interior Ministry denied permission for the Herald to enter the heavily fortified police complex.

The two witnesses were independently and separately found by the Herald. Neither approached the newspaper. They were interviewed on different days in a private home in Baghdad, without being told the other had spoken. A condition of the co-operation of each man was that no personal information would be published.

Both interviews lasted more than 90 minutes and were conducted through an interpreter, with another journalist present for one of the meetings. The witnesses were not paid for the interviews.

Dr Allawi's office has dismissed the allegations as rumours instigated by enemies of his interim government.


Mr Khadum added: "Do you think a man who is Prime Minister is going to disqualify himself for life like this? This is not a government of gangsters."

Asked if Dr Allawi had visited the Al-Amariyah complex - one of the most important counter-insurgency centres in Baghdad - Mr Khadum said he could not reveal the Prime Minister's movements. But he added: "Dr Allawi has made many visits to police stations ... he is heading the offensive."

US officials in Iraq have not made an outright denial of the allegations. An emailed response to questions from the Herald to the US ambassador, John Negroponte, said: "If we attempted to refute each [rumour], we would have no time for other business. As far as this embassy's press office is concerned, this case is closed."

Junior has only been able to execute people by proxy. Allawi gets to do it personally. He's definitely a Bush/Nuge dream come true.

I think what's most startling is that this happened three years ago yet everything you read about the occupation shows it's gotten much worse. And now the US is trying to install this psychopath to bail them out. There is a special place in hell for the people who made this happen.

Gonzo A-Go-Go

by digby

So Gonzales and Rove ride off into the sunset together. How convenient. They can run out the clock from the comfort of their Texas mansions, at which point they will expect that the Democrats, if they win, will opt to "move forward" and "heal the nation's wounds."

There is a lot of chatter on the cable shows about who is going to replace Gonzales and whether there will be a confirmation fight. The gossip is that it will be Clement continuing to stonewall as acting AG for as long as they can get away with it and then Chertoff. Or maybe a member of the Senate club, Cornyn or Hatch. Jane even thinks they might put up Lieberman! (Personally, I think that might be the best thing that could happen. He'd be out of government entirely in 18 months.)

Either way, it won't be surprising if the Dems opt to quickly pass through anyone Bush puts up because Bush is such a lame duck. That would be a terrible mistake. They should fight tooth and nail and use the opportunity to highlight the fact that the entire upper echelon of the Department of Justice has resigned under a cloud of scandal. Part of being held accountable is being held accountable by the voters and the congress must make that case using every tool at their disposal. If we want to drive the stake through the GOP zombie, the modern Republican party must be thoroughly discredited in the eyes of the public. Any chance they get to keep this on the public stage, with hearings and press conferences and constitutional challenges is another chance to pound it into the electorate that these people are authoritarian crooks.

Gonzo and Rove going now is another delaying tactic. The Democrats should ratchet up the pressure instead of ratcheting it down, which is clearly what the white house is going to be attempting to do.

And, naturally, the press is eating it up. The Politico's Mike Allen on C-Span this morning:

"Someone else that I think you'll be hearing a lot about this week is the White House counsel, Fred Fielding, who as you know goes back to the Reagan administration, and is known for being able to, willing to cut a deal. He's not from that mindset or mold that Senator Chuck Schumer was talking about, of constant confrontation.

So I think what you see here from the White House is an effort to ratchet down the confrontation, partly because these were fights that, many of them, they were going to lose. And that's why I think that you're unlikely -- it's clear that you're unlikely -- to see a real confrontational replacement choice."

Fred Fielding is a Village elder. I'm sure that the likes of David Broder and Tim Russert all think he is an honest broker, kind of like Howard Baker, who came in to save the Reagan administration after Iran Contra. The truth is that Howard Baker was conspiring with the Nixon white house during the Watergate hearings and Fred Fielding has been a professional GOP scandal fixer for more than two decades. Hacks R Us.

But he's a very calm a reassuring fellow to the Village because he isn't shrill and partisan like the DFH's. I have little doubt that the elders all believe that he must be given a chance to rescue Junior's reputation for the good of the country.

Those of us scruffy know-nothings from outside the Village beg to differ and we should make sure that the Democrats understand that we will be very, very, very unhappy if they take a pass on this. Harry Reid must be held to his word:

“Alberto Gonzales was never the right man for this job. He lacked independence, he lacked judgment, and he lacked the spine to say no to Karl Rove. This resignation is not the end of the story. Congress must get to the bottom of this mess and follow the facts where they lead, into the White House.



by digby

ALLAWI: Wolf, I want to save Iraq. I want to save the mission of the United States. I am building a plan. I am trying to stop the deterioration and violence in Iraq. I am trying to reverse the course in Iraq into a less sectarian, non-sectarian course. And for that reason, we have developed a plan, a six-point plan. Because of the crucial role of the United States, we are asking this firm to help us to advocate our views, the views of the nationalistic Iraqis, the non-sectarian Iraqis.

And I assure you, Wolf, that this payment is made by an Iraqi person who was a supporter of us, of the INA, of myself, of our program, and he has supported this wholeheartedly, without any strings attached.

But our objective is to develop a plan to save Iraq and to save American lives, as well as, of course, Iraqi lives, and to save the American mission in Iraq, and this is what we are looking at.

BLITZER: And the numbers that have been reported, $300,000 over six months, those numbers are accurate?

ALLAWI: I think these numbers are accurate. I am not party to the exact amount, Wolf. But these figures are really much less than the figures that are being paid by others, our adversaries, who are advocating sectarianism and having satellite stations, TV stations, daily newspapers, Web sites, and what have you, broadcast.

We don't have this. We don't have such support. And the support we got is from an Iraqi person. I cannot unfortunately divulge his name. He is a supporter of our program, and I don't know the exact figure, but it is in the region that you mentioned. But the exact figure, I don't know.

BLITZER: If you had your way, Dr. Allawi, how much longer would U.S. troops need to stay in Iraq?

ALLAWI: I think this is one of the points we made, Wolf. We need a full partnership between us and the United States -- Iraq and the United States -- to work around a schedule of draw down which is matched by building the institutions of Iraq, institutions loyal to the country, not loyal to the sects, which are capable of shouldering and facing the threats which are being posed on Iraq.

I think if we talk around the region of two to two-and-a-half years, if we work in a full partnership with the United States, to have a draw-down. I think we are in the right direction.

H/T to BB

Sunday, August 26, 2007


by digby

I'm sure most of you have heard the latest words of wisdom from Ted Nugent by now. You know, where he calls Barack Obama a piece of shit and says Obama and Hillary Clinton should suck on his machine gun? Where he calls Diane Feinstein a worthless whore? Right.

Anyway, on the heels of last week's opus by a writer for a prestigious neocon and conservative think tank calling for Bush to declare himself emperor and then the mass enslavement, or execution, of the invaders [Mexicans], which must be followed by an American invasion of Mexico to enforce American language and values upon the Mexicans, and Rush Limbaugh saying that the Democrats are going to buy the black vote by invading Darfur, it's been quite a week for racist and eliminationist talk from mainstream right wing sources.

It's good to see that Bill O'Reilly is drawing a line in the sand at least:

"These are people who are wishing people with whom they disagree, ill. That's who they are. That's what they do. That's all they do."

Oh, wait. He wasn't talking about the prestigious neocon think tanks which pay their writers or George W. Bush's favorite talk show host or even the frequent FOX guest, Ted Nugent. He was talking about Daily Kos.

Ok. Maybe Bill doesn't know that Ted Nugent is waving machine guns around on stage screaming for Democratic politicians to "suck on this" to loud cheers from the audience. But Sean Hannity does. You have to see this to believe it. He simply can't bring himself to admit that his pal Nuge is strutting around on stage raving like a psychopath:

It's quite a performance. By Sean, I mean.

I wonder when Neil Cavuto will next have the expert Nugent on for an entire segment outlining his "plan" for what should be done about illegal immigration. Soon I hope. Maybe he'll bring his automatic weapons and accidentally wing himself on the air.


The Best

by digby

Patriotic Americans who insist that the United States is the highest pinnacle to which any nation can aspire, really should be shocked and embarrassed by things like this:

An estimated 2 million babies die within their first 24 hours each year worldwide and the United States has the second worst newborn mortality rate in the developed world, according to a new report.

American babies are three times more likely to die in their first month as children born in Japan, and newborn mortality is 2.5 times higher in the United States than in Finland, Iceland or Norway, Save the Children researchers found.

Only Latvia, with six deaths per 1,000 live births, has a higher death rate for newborns than the United States, which is tied near the bottom of industrialized nations with Hungary, Malta, Poland and Slovakia with five deaths per 1,000 births.

"The United States has more neonatologists and neonatal intensive care beds per person than Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom, but its newborn rate is higher than any of those countries," said the annual State of the World's Mothers report.


Tinker said some nations ranked high in part because they offer free health services for pregnant women and babies, while the United States suffers from disparities in access to health care.

I don't know why these Republicans aren't embarrassed that their great country ranks lower than every developed country in the world except Latvia, but they aren't. But then, they just lie, don't they? Here's your possible next president Rudy:

America has the best medical care in the world. People come here from around the world to take advantage of our path-breaking medicine and state-of-the-art treatments.

Well, rich people do anyway, and those are the only people who count.

I guess this argument works on Republicans who don't give a damn about anyone but themselves (most of them) and are employed. Let's hope they don't lose their jobs.

I've said this before but I really think this is something the Democrats should get into the health care debate. They need to inject a little righteous indignation that we are so lame in this --- appeal to the national pride. They should say "I'm embarrassed that this great country ranks below every developed country but Latvia," --- launch a sort of JFK "man on the moon" competitive thing that challenges the country to have the kind of health care we can be proud of, where we don't have babies dying needlessly because we don't provide their mothers adequate access to health care.

John Edwards brought up some passion on this in one of the debates and it was very effective. He mentioned it again in his speech last week:

A few weeks, ago I met a man named James Lowe in Wise, Virginia. James spent the first fifty years of his life without a voice -- literally without a voice -- because he didn't have health care. All he needed was a simple operation to fix a cleft palate. That a man in the richest country in the world could go unable to speak for 50 years because he couldn't pay for a $3,000 operation is something that should outrage every American. We are better than that. America is better that that.

I think that is the correct way to talk about this. It's outrageous. We should all be embarrassed and ashamed that this happens in our country and we should insist that something be done. But I'd go even further and put this in explicitly patriotic and competitive terms.

If you love your country and believe it is the greatest in the world, you will not let it continue to be anything less than the number one nation in every metric of good health. It's the American way to be the best.

Most of us don't need this kind of argument and plenty of others can be persuaded by a good plan or by the sense of their own precariousness. But there are those, I believe, who are temperamentally unable to make the leap to compassion or even, "there but for the grace of god go I" self-interest, at least not openly. They just can't do it. But this might be a way to give them a path to fundamentally changing the health care system. It's worth a try. We really need to get this done.

Front Burner

by digby

I'm sure that all of you have heard by now about the fundraiser for Darcy Burner this week-end. As Jane explained:

While George Bush may be a political albatross for just about any Republican to bear these days, he sure can wring cash out of the corporatist arm of the party. He’s going to Washington State on Monday to play rainmaker for Dave Reichert, who is running against Blue America candidate Darcy Burner in WA-08.

Darcy is holding an online town hall on Iraq this Monday. Reichert, on the other hand, is proving sort of town-hall adverse and has taken to ambushing constituents with robo-conference calls instead.

It's a fun idea all on its own, of course, making pate out of the lamest of lame ducks. But it's actually more than that.

Some blogger wondered recently (can't remember where, sorry) why Burner has become such a Netroots "darling." It's an interesting question and worth trying to answer, I think. I had the pleasure of meeting her at both Take Back America and at Yearly Kos --- in fact, at the last event I had a delightful conversation with her and Matt Stoller, Rick Perlstein and Kathy G. in my room, which was joined at the end by Mike Stark! (How's that for some name dropping?)

Anyway, it was delightful because Darcy Burner is not only an extremely impressive person -- very smart, dedicated, charming. She's a real listener. You can tell that she's paying attention with all cylinders firing, taking in what people are saying, whether it's a bunch of windy smartass bloggers or an average person who's telling her how they feel about an issue. She's engaged, all there.

She's also, quite obviously, incredibly sincere about her politics and motivated to put her considerable energies into doing something positive and meaningful with her life, for the good of the country. She's not naive (nobody who's worked in the softwear business for years could be.) She is, however, earnest --- which I know is unfashionable among the kewl kidz and the cynics. (It always is.) But the fact is that it's a truly wonderful trait in a progressive politician. It makes you believe that things could really change. Without that, you've got 10 point plans and a lot of technocratic mumbo jumbo.

I believe this is why she's a favorite of the Netroots. She's smart, she's progressive, she listens and she really believes she can make a difference. I can't speak for anyone but myself, but she is the kind of person I'd like to see leading this country. It's that simple.

If you're of the same mind and would like to contribute some coin to the effort, you can do so here.


by digby

I just saw Sam Brownback say it straight out: the military surge is going so well that now we need to give the "political surge" a chance to work.

Cokie says everyone is getting more realistic.

Update: Oddly, George Will is making sense.