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Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Year, Everybody

by digby

Here are your Democratic candidates (sans Kucinich, shamefully) giving their New Year resolutions.

Last year I resolved to swear less, and I succeeded fairly well, at least on the blog, and despite being sorely tested...

This year I resolve to proofread. (I can but try.)

What are yours?

*For those of you who are staying in, there's still time to go to the video store. Last year I shared my favorite New Year movies. And many others weighed in, in the comments, if you need some suggestions.

Nuggets Of New Year's Eve Goodness

by digby

If you are tired of all the horse race and angry back and forth, here's a nice way to spend your time on line today: Jon Swift's compilation of the best blog posts of the year, chosen by the writers themselves.

Here's Instaputz's "wankeriffic retrospective"

Here's Monkeyfister's "Golden Monkey Fist Awards"

Finally, the Group News Blog has put together a compendium of Steve Gilliard's best writing, which you can read here. A truly worthwhile read. In these days of slow acting Kumbaaya poisoning, I particularly recommend "I'm a fighting liberal" one of my favorite blogposts ever. (Via)

Update: This list of cliches that must be banned has been duly noted by this wordsmith. Sweet.

Update II: TPM announced the Golden Duke Awards. The man who should be president may have won an Oscar, a Grammy and a Nobel Peace Prize this year, but George W. Bush can feel equally honored with his Duke statuette for Best Scandal! Congratulations to the codpiece!

Sir Yes Sir

by digby

If this doesn't prove that Fox is just a mouthpiece for the GOP establishment, nothing will. They are excluding Ron Paul from the New Hampshire debate but including Fred Thompson, who is polling lower. (And, as we are all aware, Paul has raised a boatload of money from voters.)

Not that we didn't know that Fox was a simple Republican house organ, but it's never been more starkly illustrated than this. The Republicans don't like what Paul is saying and they told their boy Ailes to shut him down. They aren't even trying to hide it.

I'm Disappointed

by digby

...naturally. Still, it was an honor to have been nominated.

Spoiling For A Victory

by digby

Glenn Greenwald has a nice rundown today on the policies of our lastest post partisan saviour, Michael Bloomberg, of the Wet Bloomer party. Let's just say it all sounds familiar --- a thrice married, pro-choice, New York mayor with distinct authoritarian tendencies and a bunch of jackass supporters and advisors. The only thing truly distinct about him is that he is a big money boy instead of a full-on fascist, a distinction that doesn't matter much when it comes to what he would do as president.

In reading Glenn's rundown I realized, however, just what a problem this could be for the Democrats. It's becoming clear now (and to my surprise, actually) that once Republicans got a look at their own mayor of Sodom, they just couldn't stomach him, even though he explicitly promised to mow down as many dark people as he possibly could. He's just too ethnic, too urban, too culturally removed.

Unfortunately, Bloomberg's the man an awful lot of Dem leaning independents have been yearning to vote for (particularly if the rhymes-with-witch wins the nomination.) There aren't enough of them to win an election, of course. Just enough to screw the Dems.

Here's a man who has been in both parties and has now rejected both of them. What could be more wonderful that that! He is richer than God, and there is nothing that makes some American hearts go pitty-pat more than a fabulously wealthy billionaire who might pay a little lip service to poor people, but clearly isn't going to do anything radical about it. Means he's a winner. He doesn't care about religion, and is pro-choice, so there's little danger that he'll make them uncomfortable around their friends. He doesn't have any of the cultural signifiers of Perot, and while he's not a complete neophyte (which really thrills swing voters) he hasn't sullied his hands with too much politics, which means he isn't tainted by that horrible epithet "politician." Praise be.

Let's everyone be clear about what's really happening and go from there. Bloomberg's candidacy, if it happens, is designed to deny the Democrats a victory in a year when the Republicans are so wounded and tired they probably can't win it for themselves, even if they cheat. The big money boys aren't taking any chances.

Update: David Sirota has more at The Big Con today on the hysteria overtaking the villagers at the prospect of some sort of left populist uprising.

This is especially rich:

Klein's silliness is eclipsed only by Stu Rothenberg - who reliably hands us the old adage that any candidates challenging the status quo will destroy America. Here's his take today:

"[John Edwards] is also portraying himself as fighting for the middle class and able to appeal to swing voters and even Republicans in a general election...His approach to problems is likely to frighten many voters, including most middle class Americans and virtually all Republicans...Given the North Carolina Democrat's rhetoric and agenda, an Edwards Presidency would likely rip the nation apart - even further apart than Bush has torn it."

Rothenberg's entire career is predicated on his supposed ability to analyze polling data - which is stunning in juxtaposition to his statements today. After all, polls show Edwards performing the best of any Democrat against any Republican presidential candidate. More importantly, polls also show the vast majority of the country - including Republicans - behind his populist economic positions.

Evidently, impeachments, stolen elections, wars based on lies, torture and now immigrant bashing aren't nearly as "frightening" to the nation as providing universal health care and rejecting the corrupt lobbying culture of Washington are.

And, by the way, where exactly was Rothenberg when Bush was tearing the nation apart?

The last I heard, he felt that everyone was just making too big a deal out of it:

Wednesday, January 24, 2007
Dog Bites Man. Sun Rises Again. Bush's Numbers Still Stink.

By Stuart Rothenberg

A new Newsweek poll says George W. Bush is unpopular. Very unpopular. The new Washington Post and ABC News survey says that George W. Bush is really, really unpopular. An even newer NBC and the Wall Street Journal poll says that the President is, well, truly, really, very unpopular. And not to be outdone, a hot-off-the-presses CNN poll says that the President is -- you guessed it -- quite, very, truly, without a doubt unpopular.

I'm all for polls, and with the President giving his State of the Union address this week, I certainly understand the rash of network polls to mark the occasion and the beginning of the end of the Bush administration.

But, the reality is that a poll isn’t particularly newsworthy just because it exits. Is there somebody out there who doesn’t know that the President is unpopular? And if there is, why would I want to meet that person?

I'm not sure that every media outlet and every college and university needs to conduct a poll. But even if they do, I don’t think we need to treat them as "breaking news." If polls started showing a dramatic change in opinion (in either direction, of course), now that would be news, and therefore worth reporting. But another poll showing the same thing isn’t worth a lot of time, except of course, by the media outlet paying for it.

Why should he have to worry his beautiful mind with the fact that Bush has been tremendously unpopular for years now and yet refuses to compromise, holds his party together against the clear will of the people and basically governs as if he's a dictator? We know that, ok?

Update II: Booman has more on Rothenberg.

Which Blogger Wrote This Nifty Rant?

by tristero

Now, now, don't peek:
Out of panic and ideology, President Bush squandered America’s position of moral and political leadership, swept aside international institutions and treaties, sullied America’s global image, and trampled on the constitutional pillars that have supported our democracy through the most terrifying and challenging times. These policies have fed the world’s anger and alienation and have not made any of us safer.

In the years since 9/11, we have seen American soldiers abuse, sexually humiliate, torment and murder prisoners in Afghanistan and Iraq. A few have been punished, but their leaders have never been called to account. We have seen mercenaries gun down Iraqi civilians with no fear of prosecution. We have seen the president, sworn to defend the Constitution, turn his powers on his own citizens, authorizing the intelligence agencies to spy on Americans, wiretapping phones and intercepting international e-mail messages without a warrant.

We have read accounts of how the government’s top lawyers huddled in secret after the attacks in New York and Washington and plotted ways to circumvent the Geneva Conventions — and both American and international law — to hold anyone the president chose indefinitely without charges or judicial review.

Those same lawyers then twisted other laws beyond recognition to allow Mr. Bush to turn intelligence agents into torturers, to force doctors to abdicate their professional oaths and responsibilities to prepare prisoners for abuse, and then to monitor the torment to make sure it didn’t go just a bit too far and actually kill them.

The White House used the fear of terrorism and the sense of national unity to ram laws through Congress that gave law-enforcement agencies far more power than they truly needed to respond to the threat — and at the same time fulfilled the imperial fantasies of Vice President Dick Cheney and others determined to use the tragedy of 9/11 to arrogate as much power as they could.
Give up? Then click here.

FWIW, I certainly agree with anyone who says they took up this attitude much too late. Where was this kind of writing in 2002 and 2003 when we really needed it? Still, I honestly don't recall, even during the heyday of Watergate, that any Times editorial came close to this level of denunciation.

PS Even so, it doesn't excuse Kristol. What next, a regular religious column by Fred Phelps? Or, or...haha, it's too funny! How about a science column by John Tierney? Oh, wait.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

One More For The Road

by dday

I want to sincerely thank Digby again for giving me this opportunity over the last few days. I remember her very first post when she compared Atrios publishing some of her early stuff on his site as akin to "having Eddie Van Halen invite you up on stage to join him in a guitar solo." Add in Hendrix, Clapton, Django Reinhardt, Robert Johnson and Yngwie J. Malmsteen to that equation, and that's pretty much how I feel. Thanks to the community of commenters for taking me in and not TOTALLY bearing pitchforks in open revolt. I appreciate it.

I would be remiss in not using the platform to at least mention where else you can find me if you so choose, or at least places to anti-bookmark.

D-Day (my home base)
Calitics (California politics)
The Right's Field (about the GOP nomination, good for almost another month!)

This also may be a bit hyper-local, but if any Southern Californians out there are interested in watching the Iowa caucus returns with a fun group, including yours truly and perhaps even the proprietor of this website... we're doing a special Drinking Liberally event Thursday night in Santa Monica, and the details are here.

OK, thanks a lot, again. We now return you to your regularly scheduled blog.

No Longer Silent

by dday

It's despairing to close a year where Iraq still rages, telecoms are poised to receive immunity for lawbreaking, George Bush explicitly states that Congress doesn't exist, material evidence implicating the CIA in torture is destroyed without batting an eyelash, Democrats act like they're powerless to do anything about it, and official Washington considers the real problem is that politicians disagree with each other.

But I try to remain optimistic about the future of the country, and though it's at times damn near impossible, people like Andrew Williams make it easier. He was a JAG officer in the Naval Reserve who resigned his commission because the America he believes in doesn't torture.

The final straw for me was listening to General Hartmann, the highest-ranking military lawyer in charge of the military commissions, testify that he refused to say that waterboarding captured U.S. soldiers by Iranian operatives would be torture.

His testimony had just sold all the soldiers and sailors at risk of capture and subsequent torture down the river. Indeed, he would not rule out waterboarding as torture when done by the United States and indeed felt evidence obtained by such methods could be used in future trials.

Thank you, General Hartmann, for finally admitting the United States is now part of a long tradition of torturers going back to the Inquisition.

In the middle ages, the Inquisition called waterboarding “toca” and used it with great success. In colonial times, it was used by the Dutch East India Company during the Amboyna Massacre of 1623.

Waterboarding was used by the Nazi Gestapo and the feared Japanese Kempeitai. In World War II, our grandfathers had the wisdom to convict Japanese Officer Yukio Asano of waterboarding and other torture practices in 1947, giving him 15 years hard labor.

Waterboarding was practiced by the Khmer Rouge at the infamous Tuol Sleng prison. Most recently, the U.S. Army court martialed a soldier for the practice in 1968 during the Vietnam conflict.

General Hartmann, following orders was not an excuse for anyone put on trial in Nuremberg, and it will not be an excuse for you or your superiors, either.

Despite the CIA and the administration attempting to cover up the practice by destroying interrogation tapes, in direct violation of a court order, and congressional requests, the truth about torture, illegal spying on Americans and secret renditions is coming out.

The country has largely rejected George Bush and his policies without much help from a media that refuses to intervene on the side of truth and a pundit class that generally contains a range of opinion from David Brooks to Bill Kristol. There are still a lot more fights to wage and a lot more nonsense to refute, but the moral clarity on display from Mr. Williams, the anger, the sense of lost honor, is real and palpable.

Turning away from this moral black hole starts with proud men standing up and refusing to sanction these acts anymore through their silence. I personally think we need our own Truth and Reconciliation Commission so we get it all into the open (some indictments would also be nice).

Guess That Bipartisan

by dday

Who said this yesterday?

"Some of you worry about your ability to afford health care coverage for your families ... Some of you are concerned about meeting your monthly mortgage payments ... Some of you worry about the impact of rising energy costs on fueling your cars and heating your homes. You expect your elected leaders in Washington to address these pressures."

It was that noted bipartisan George Bush, reading from the Bloomity 08 script and emphasizing "progress" while magically taking himself and his goons in Washington out of the equation of obstructing that progress.

Nothing about that in the article, however.

Negotiating With Ourselves

I hate to use up a little space on Digby's own blog to essentially say What Digby Said (tm), but, you know, that. And let me try and apply it to what everyone feels is the most important domestic issue of the election, health care.

The debate so far, as it's been set up by the leading Democratic candidates, is extremely narrow. It asks whether you want to mandate coverage through the government, or to bring costs down to the point that people will want to get coverage. And yet what often goes unsaid is what that coverage actually buys you. Why is this not the most fundamental point in the entire debate?

At 13, David Denney's body functions like that of a baby. Severe brain damage halted his motor development at 4 months.

Unable to walk, sit up, speak or even eat by mouth, David is cared for by a licensed vocational nurse who feeds him formula through a stomach tube, watching closely in case he retches.

Blue Cross of California, the family's health plan, paid for the nurse for most of David's life at a cost of about $1,200 a week.Then about two years ago, the company decided that David didn't need a nurse anymore -- contradicting the opinions of two of David's physicians -- and it stopped paying.

"He's fragile, very fragile," said the boy's mother, Amparo Denney of Torrance. "It's not humanly possible to do this without help."

As a matter of course, insurers scrutinize what physicians order -- watching for unnecessary drugs, questionable treatments, experimental and unproven therapies, unwarranted surgery.

The extent of treatment denials by insurers is unknown. But patients are contesting them more than ever [...]

Many people who are denied treatment never contest it because they are unaware that they can or are too caught up in their medical crises to bother. As a result, some denials go unnoticed; some draw headlines.

A much-publicized pair of decisions this month by insurer Cigna HealthCare to deny and then permit a liver transplant for a 17-year-old girl from Northridge drew much criticism after she died hours later.

In a sane world, the fault line would be: eliminating health care that values profit over treatment versus maintaining the same failed system, and the parties would line up on those two tracks. That's certainly the way the Republicans are playing it. They'd rather smear a seven year-old and his family than give them health care. This so-called "post-partisan" compromise for health care reform in California was passed in the state legislature without one Republican vote, it will continue to pass without one Republican vote, and may become law without one Republican vote. They're not interested in compromise. They're absolutists, and as Digby says, they're better in the opposition obstructing everything.

But the Democrats are so browbeaten by taunts of class warfare and extreme partisanship that they give in halfway before the negotiation even begins. And the Republicans obstruct, so they give in some more, and the Republicans obstruct again, and then the bipartisan zombie goons get all upset at the Democrats for not getting anything done.

So we have these Rube Goldberg plans that try to split the difference between universal health care and placating insurance companies. And we hear all this happy talk about giving a place at the table to all competing interests and forging a workable solution.

I'm sorry, the company that favors the balance sheet over human life isn't really interested in that. The trade-off is supposed to be a forced market through mandates in exchange for having to sign up everybody. What about quality of care? I can tell you that in our California plan, which many have said is supposed to be better than the major Dem candidates' plans, there is no defined minimum baseline coverage. The companies have to spend 85% of premiums on health care (Medicare spends 96%), that's it. Good thing we don't live in a country where there have been phony accounting scandals recently!

The Nataline Sarkysians of the world, the David Denneys of the world are still at risk in that scenario. My man Edwards at least understands that negotiation isn't an option, but his plan doesn't say "Look, the hell with it, they're not going to compromise, sign everybody up for Medicare." It tries to sneak that under the door, but the conservative movement really isn't being sneaky, and they're not likely to get duped. They'll lie and call something that doesn't approach socialized medicine "more from the Commies who wanna control every part of your life."

So why are we* so interested in being cordial?

* Note responding to the comments; I say "we" because we are the Democratic Party, not these piles of mush who think we can wish our disagreements away.

Bipartisan Zombies

by digby

It was inevitable. I wrote about it right after the 2006 election --- as soon as the Republicans lost power, I knew the gasbags would insist that it's time to let bygones be bygones and meet the Republicans halfway in the spirit of a new beginning. GOP politicians have driven the debt sky-high and altered the government so as to be nearly unrecognizable, so logically the Democrats need to extend the hand of conciliation and move to meet them in the middle --- the middle now being so far right, it isn't even fully visible anymore.

Today we have none other than the centrist drivel king, David Broder, reporting that a group of useless meddlers, most of whom who were last seen repeatedly stabbing Bill Clinton in the back, are rising from their crypts to demand that the candidates all promise to appoint a "unity" government and govern from the the center --- or else they will back an independent Bloomberg bid.

Boren said the meeting is being announced in advance of Thursday's Iowa caucuses "because we don't want anyone to think this was a response to any particular candidate or candidates." He said the nation needs a "government of national unity" to overcome its partisan divisions in a time of national challenge he likened to that faced by Great Britain during World War II.

"Electing a president based solely on the platform or promises of one party is not adequate for this time," Boren said. "Until you end the polarization and have bipartisanship, nothing else matters, because one party simply will block the other from acting."

Except the one party is called the Republican Party. When was the last time the Democrats blocked anything?

Isn't it funny that these people were nowhere to be found when George W. Bush seized office under the most dubious terms in history, having been appointed by a partisan supreme court majority and losing the popular vote? If there was ever a time for a bunch of dried up, irrelevant windbags to demand a bipartisan government you'd think it would have been then, wouldn't you? (How about after 9/11, when Republicans were running ads saying Dems were in cahoots with Saddam and bin Laden?) But it isn't all that surprising. They always assert themselves when the Democrats become a majority; it's their duty to save the country from the DFH's who are far more dangerous than Dick Cheney could ever be.

And here's that bucket of lukewarm water, Evan Thomas, insisting that Real Americans --- as opposed to the hysterics who are actively engaged in politics --- are tuning out, even though there's ample evidence that the opposite is actually true. He even evokes that moth-eaten old trope about Tip O'Neill and Ronald Reagan being best buddies over scotch and waters at night after battling all day over legislation. (If Sam Nunn and David Boren will promise to force the congress to outlaw ever telling that story again, I'll vote for the Bloomity 08 ticket myself.)

The idea among these Village elders is that only through bipartisan cooperation can we "get anything done." Well, if bipartisanship is defined like this, I suppose they are right:

As Congress stumbles toward Christmas, President Bush is scoring victory after victory over his Democratic adversaries. He:

• Beat back domestic spending increases.

• Thwarted an expansion of children's health coverage.

• Defeated tax increases.

• Won Iraq war funding.

• Pushed Democrats toward shattering their pledge not to add to the federal deficit with new tax cuts or rises in mandatory spending.


"The Democrats are learning this isn't the early 1970s, when the Republican Party was Gerald Ford and 140 of his friends," said Oklahoma Rep. Tom Cole, chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee. "There are 201 of us, and we will be heard."

Recall that the president's approval rating hovers at 30% and the rating of the is GOP minority in congress far lower. It appears to me that they know very well how to "get things done" not only on a purely partisan basis but with more than 70% of the country disapproving of their actions. They don't need no stinkin' bipartisanship.

To be sure, that story includes old GOP deficit hawk Chuck Grassley howling in the wilderness, but the point cannot be missed that when the GOP was in power they spent like drunken sailors and now that the Democrats have the congress the elders are suddenly up in arms about spending. That will, of course, become the new mantra if a Democrat becomes president and the political establishment decides that the government must "get something done" on reducing the deficit and enlarging the military and lowering taxes and fixing social security and ensuring that Americans don't lose their excellent health care "choices" and keeping foreigners in their place.

I guess everyone is going to have to pardon us cynics here on the liberal side of the dial for being just a teensy bit skeptical of this demand for bipartisanship. The last time the country elected a centrist conciliator who wanted to leave behind the "braindead politics of the past", he first got kicked in the teeth by fellow centrists Sam Nunn and David Boren over gays in the military and raising taxes on the rich, and then faced an opposition so vicious that it ended with an illegitimate impeachment and a stolen election. A lot more has happened since then, all of it bad.

That is not to say it will play out the same way again. Things rarely do. But it's depressing that so many Democrats still seem to have this deep conceit that the Republicans are really reasonable people in spite of fifteen long years of being shown otherwise over and over again. And it's infuriating that after everything that's happened, the permanent political establishment is still more freaked out at the prospect of the dirty hippies passing universal health care than radical neocons starting World War III. If only the reasonable people could get together over scotch and waters and talk it all through everything would work as it's supposed to.

It's a lovely idea, isn't it? The only problem is that they keep forgetting to tell the Republicans, who view politics as a blood sport. They aren't interested in compromise and haven't been since old Bob Michel shuffled off to shuffleboard-land. They play for keeps, which it seems to me, is perfectly obvious after all we've seen over the past 15 years or so. They don't let little things like electoral defeats keep them down. They always work it, no matter what, and in the process they twist the Democratic Party into pretzels.

The bipartisan busybodies just don't notice (or care) that as a movement which doesn't believe in government, the conservatives are just as successful in the minority, obstructing any progressive advance the Democrats want to make. They feel no need to "get things done." Aside from starting wars, building an ever larger police state apparatus and pillaging the treasury on behalf of themselves and their rich friends when they're in power, they don't believe government should "get things done." So, what do Republicans have to gain by cooperating with Democrats?

I suspect that despite all evidence to the contrary many Democrats believe that the conservative movement is dying, if not dead, and that they will have no choice but to meet Democrats across the table and deal with them reasonably. But if that were true we would not see their many wingnut welfare demagogues ramping up a racist immigration campaign like we haven't seen since the days of George Wallace. They look pretty determined to keep fighting to me. Yes, they are in disarray because they can't find a single presidential candidate who perfectly embodies their philosophy of Wealth, God and Guns. (Or perhaps, more appropriately, they can't find a candidate their base is willing to pretend have all those attributes, even though they don't.) But that has little to do with the conservative movement as a whole, which functions just as well with a minority as majority.

The truth is that they know the Republicans are very, very likely going to lose the presidency anyway. And they are fine with it. It brings them together. Here's old hand Richard Viguerie making his pitch for GOP to lose in 2006:

[Sometimes a loss for the Republican Party is a gain for conservatives. Often, a little taste of liberal Democrats in power is enough to remind the voters what they don’t like about liberal Democrats and to focus the minds of Republicans on the principles that really matter. That’s why the conservative movement has grown fastest during those periods when things seemed darkest, such as during the Carter administration and the first two years of the Clinton White House.

Conservatives are, by nature, insurgents, and it’s hard to maintain an insurgency when your friends, or people you thought were your friends, are in power.

They use their time out of power to grow their movement and one of the main ways they do this is by obstructing anything positive the Democrats want to do. They are organized around the principle of being insurgents --- outsiders --- victims. It is not in their interest to cooperate with Democrats.

Maybe Broder and Evan Thomas and the rest of the bipartisan brigade think that all of that is in the past and we can begin a new era of good feeling with the red and the blue bleeding into a lovely shade of mauve. But from where I sit, even with the best of intentions, the onus is on the Republicans to prove that after more than two decades of non-stop razing of decent political discourse and partisanship so fierce they are willing to take down the government if necessary, they are finally willing to work with Democrats to "get things done."

I don't think they're there yet, do you?

Paul Krugman made a similar argument the other day much more concisely, by simply pointing out that it's not Bushism that's the problem --- it's the conservative movement. From a strategic standpoint it's just not enough to wish and hope that the conservative movement is going to see the errors of their ways. They are true believers and they are very politically adept at everything but actual governance --- assuming you think governance equals serving the people, which they don't. It is necessary for progressives to fight them and win, especially since Bush's massive unpopularity has given us the first opening in years to make a case for progressive politics.

Matt Yglesias writes here about how polarization is actually good for the system. I think he's right. This is a bit country, naturally divided by culture, region and ideology. And that's ok. We all still identify as Americans and pull together when the chips are down. But we have always had substantial disagreements among us. There have been a few periods of calm, but for the most part we've been fighting this out from the beginning. It's only in the last few years that we've seen liberals run away from the battle and pretend that the goal is political comity rather than political progress. Not that I entirely blame them. The well-financed conservative movement has been awesome in its political effectiveness. And, like clockwork, the bipartisan zombies inevitably emerge at any moment of conservative weakness to ensure that the hippies aren't given even a moment's breathing room to accomplish something that might benefit someone other than rich people and corporations. (We wouldn't want them to do anything radical, like allowing a rogue vice president to redefine the constitution or enshrining torture as an American value. Good thing the grown-ups woke up from their naps before something really bad happened.)

I dearly hope the Democrats, both politicians and voters, tune out this crap. If Bloomberg wants to run, let him. They need to run their own game and not let these high priests of irrelevancy influence this race. They don't have to make every last person in the country agree with them --- indeed, it's impossible. You can't be all things to all people. And they certainly don't have to please these villagers who are apparently convinced that the worst thing that could possible happen at a time like this would be Democratic rule. They just need to win and then govern as progressives. It is possible to make improvements, sometimes even real, substantial change. But it doesn't come easy, as Krugman reminds us here:

...any attempt to change America's direction, to implement a real progressive agenda, will necessarily be highly polarizing. Proposals for universal health care, in particular, are sure to face a firestorm of partisan opposition. And fundamental change can't be accomplished by a politician who shuns partisanship.

I like to remind people who long for bipartisanship that FDR's drive to create Social Security was as divisive as Bush's attempt to dismantle it. And we got Social Security because FDR wasn't afraid of division. In his great Madison Square Garden speech, he declared of the forces of "organized money": "Never before in all our history have these forces been so united against one candidate as they stand today. They are unanimous in their hate for me—and I welcome their hatred."

I'm sorry it's unpleasant for some people to contemplate the idea of a progressive government. But if it's comity they want, it's in the hands of the "insurgents" who refuse to behave like decent human beings, whether in power or out. It's not in the country's best interest to continue to enable them.

And anyway, the partisan divide is where the big battles in American politics are waged. It's where they've always been waged. The only time the political establishment even notices it these days is when the Republicans are on the run and they get nervous. Democrats should ignore them and take their case directly to the country.

Lambert at corrente wire has an important and comprehensive post along similar lines.

An excerpt:

The “food fight,” obviously a partisan food fight, is purest Equivalation. The Democrats didn’t break the world record for filibusters when they were in the minority; but the Republicans just did. And when the press covered the (very few) Democratic filibusters, they called them “filibusters.” And when the press covers the (never-ending) Republican filibusters, the word “filibuster” gets magically transmuted into the “60 votes needed to pass.” And last I checked, Democrats were allowing anybody to come to their election rallies, but Bush was screening his to make sure only Republicans attended. This is the Conservative Movement in action. Sure, there’s a “food fight,” but most of the food that’s in the air is coming from one side of the cafeteria!

This all reminds me of the period before the Iraq war when everyone was trying to figure out some way to explain what they were seeing before their very eyes in light of what everyone was telling them. We aren't crazy. This stuff really is happening.

We can wish for conciliation all we want, but unless the Democrats can do it without any cooperation from the Republicans, it will be just another game of Charlie Brown and the football. David Broder is fine with that. He's more afraid of hippies trashing the white house than of fascists* trashing the country, so he's happy to help Lucy hold the ball. Democratic voters must be clear eyed and willing to fight because if we don't, they will win again, even if they lose. I don't think the country can take it.

*Now that Jonah Goldberg has made the word acceptable for use against liberals, it's back in circulation as far as I'm concerned and I'm using it.


Saturday, December 29, 2007

Saturday Night At The Movies

Sometimes, covert ops are just like a box of chocolates

By Dennis Hartley

Aaron Sorkin, you silver-tongued devil, you had me at: “Ladies and gentlemen of the clandestine community…”

That line is from the opening scene of the new film “Charlie Wilson’s War”, in which the title character, a Texas congressman (played in full Gumpian southern-drawl mode by Tom Hanks) is receiving an Honored Colleague award from the, er-ladies and gentlemen of the clandestine community (you know, that same group of merry pranksters who orchestrated such wild and wooly hi-jinx as the Bay of Pigs invasion.)

Sorkin provides the smart, snappy dialog for high-class director Mike Nichols’ latest foray into political satire, a genre he hasn’t dabbled in since his excellent 1998 film “Primary Colors”. In actuality, Nichols and Sorkin may have viewed their screen adaptation of Wilson’s real-life story as a bit of a cakewalk, because it definitely falls into the “you couldn’t make this shit up” category.

Wilson, known to Beltway insiders as “good-time Charlie” during his congressional tenure, is an unlikely American hero. He drank like a fish and loved to party, but could readily charm key movers and shakers into supporting his pet causes and any attractive young lady within range into dropping her skirt. So how did this whiskey quaffing poon hound circumvent the official U.S. government foreign policy of the time (mid to late 1980s) and help the Mujahideen rebels drive the Russians out of Afghanistan, ostensibly paving the way for the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War?

He did it with a little help from his friends- a coterie of strange bedfellows including an Israeli arms dealer, a belly-dancing girlfriend, high-ranking officials in Egypt and Pakistan, a misanthropic but handily resourceful CIA operative, and “the sixth-richest woman in Texas”, who also happened to be a fervent anti-communist. It’s quite the tale.

Phillip Seymour Hoffman continues his nearly perfect track record of stealing just about every film he appears in. He plays the aforementioned CIA operative, Gust Avrakotos with much aplomb. His character is less than diplomatic in the personality department; he becomes a pariah at the Agency after telling his department head to fuck off once or twice (and always within earshot of colleagues). Through serendipitous circumstance, Gust falls in league with Wilson and one of his lady friends, a wealthy socialite named Joanne Herring (Julia Roberts, bearing a spooky resemblance to Joan Rivers).

Once united, the three form a sort of political “X-Men” team; each one has their own unique “special power” to bring to the table. Joanne has influence with highly-placed Middle East officials, and can set up meetings; Charlie can talk just about anybody into anything; and Gust can get just about “anything” done, especially if it involves cutting corners and, uh, bypassing the “middleman” if you will. Once Joanne lures powerful congressman Doc Long (the wonderful Ned Beatty) on board, the deal is sealed.

The film doesn’t deviate too much from the facts laid out in the book by George Crile; despite some inherent elements of political satire, it’s a fairly straightforward rendering. What is most interesting to me is what they left out; especially after viewing “The True Story of Charlie Wilson”, a documentary currently airing on the History Channel (check your listings). One incident in particular, which involved a private arms dealer “accidentally” blowing up a D.C. gas station (oops!) on his way to a meeting with Wilson and Avrakotos, seems like it would have been a no-brainer for the movie (maybe some legal issues involved, perhaps?) The History Channel documentary also recalls Wilson’s involvement with a (non-injury) hit and run accident that occurred on the eve of one of his most crucial Middle-Eastern junkets (the congressman admits that he was plastered). This potential bit of interesting dramatic tension was also curiously bypassed in the film.

I think it’s also worth noting one more little tidbit from Wilson’s past that didn’t make it into the movie-but I think I can understand why. Allegedly, the randy congressman once had a little, er, “congress” with a hot young television journalist named Diane Sawyer. Yes, that Diane Sawyer, of “60 Minutes” fame. The one who is now married to…(wait for it)…director Mike Nichols. It’s all part of life’s rich pageant, you know.

One final thought. After the film’s high-fiving, feel-good, flag waving coda subsided and the credits started rolling, something was nagging. And then it dawned on me. There is one glaring omission in the postscript of this “true story”; I can only pose it as an open question to Mssrs. Nichols, Sorkin and Hanks:

So tell me-exactly how did we get from all those colorful, rapturously happy, missile launcher-waving Afghani tribesmen, dancing in praise to America while chanting Charlie Wilson’s name back in the late 80s to nightly news footage of collapsing towers and U.S. troops spilling their blood into the very same rocky desert tableau, a scant decade later?

Let’s see you turn THAT story into a wacky political satire starring Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts.

Then again, what do I know? I’m just a guy who reviews movies.

Rogue Warriors: “Lawrence of Arabia ", “The Man Who Would Be King”, “Walker ”, “Dr. Strangelove or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb”, “Patton”, “Apocalypse Now”, “Three Kings”, “Murphy's War”, “Kelly's Heroes”, “Catch-22”, “Hell in the Pacific”, “Black and White in Color”.

Like In Brewster's Millions

by dday

As for the Republican side, I am more and more convinced every day that None Of The Above is poised for a landslide victory. I've been following the GOP race fairly closely at one of my other haunts, The Right's Field, and the sense you get when you pay attention is that Republican voters are sick to their stomachs from each and every one of them. That's why they simply can't decide which maroon to keep for the next year.

Dig beneath the surface of the raucous Republican presidential race and you will find even deeper turmoil: Four in 10 GOP voters have switched candidates in the past month alone, and nearly two-thirds say they may change their minds again.

This explains the meteoric rise of Mike Huckabee, and may just as much explain his fall once Republicans got a look at him (I've seen polls today showing Romney back in front). Every candidate in this GOP race has been at a high when voters didn't know crap about them, followed by a gradual decline. Therefore, the ultimate Republican candidate this cycle would be a jar of air. "Looks good from here; is it pro-life?"

I mean, as much as Drop Dead Fred Thompson revealed his own sexism in reacting to the situation in Pakistan, Huckabee made 1999-era George Bush look like Juan Cole.

This morning on MSNBC, Huckabee said that Musharraf was unable to control Pakistan’s “eastern borders” with Afghanistan:

What we’ve seen happen is that in the Musharraf government, he has told us that he really does not have enough control of those eastern borders near Afghanistan to be able go after the terrorists. But on the other hand, he doesn’t want us going in because it violates his sovereignty.

Note to Huckabee: Pakistan shares its “eastern border” with India, not Afghanistan [...]

Also yesterday, Huckabee addressed Bhutto’s death after “[striding] out to the strains of ‘Right Now’ by Van Halen.” He said the U.S. should weigh the impact Bhutto’s death would have on Pakistan’s “continued” martial law. But President Pervez Musharraf formally lifted the emergency rule in Pakistan on December 15th, nearly two weeks ago.

And when they asked a senior Huckabee aide about this (translation: some guy in Arkansas who had a clean enough suit), he admitted that his candidate had "no foreign policy credentials".

Mike Huckabee: No Foreign Policy Credentials. For America.

And I am not buying the Rudy Giuliani "don't win anything and become the nominee" strategy, or the John "I Am Legend" McCain comeback, or Mitt "My father guest-rapped on Planet Rock with Afrika Baambaataa" Romney, or the lot of them. In fact, they'd all better watch out or the guy diametrically opposed to their foreign policy beliefs might sneak in an grab a bunch of delegates.

Ron Paul -- Rival campaigns are beginning to nervously speculate that Paul will finish in the top three on January 3. Paul broke double digits in at least two polls for the first time this week and he seems particularly strong in areas of the state where the media has less of an impact on political deliberations -- especially in rural northwest and southern Iowa. Check out a Ron Paul supporters' websites and you'll see detailed discussions about caucus rules and strategy. The Paulites are more ready for caucus night than most observers realize.

Really, if you just quietly put the name "N.Oftheabove" onto the primary ballot all over the place, threw up a couple posts at Redstate saying how "This guy's a true conservative. And he hates Muslims," I'm thinking he could pull off the victory.

UPDATE: This is why all the GOP candidates are bringing the negative attacks, and I'm sure the whisper campaigns we haven't heard about are even worse. By the way, can we stop with the CW talking point that "Iowans don't like negative attacks"? Wasn't this one of only three states to switch parties in 2004, going for George W. Bush and one of the nastiest campaigns in recent memory, Swift Boaters and all?

Theories of Iowa - And Progressive Change

by dday

Well, I suppose that with the Iowa caucuses just 5 days away, it's time to pay some attention to it. First of all, I totally agree that, while it's exciting to have a race on the Democratic side that's a three-way dead heat, I hope this is the end of the Iowa primacy, once and for all. On its best day (and I think Thursday will be record turnout, actually), you have 10% of the electorate participating. With the three-way split, that means something like 35,000 people will be practically choosing the nominee for a country of 300 million. That's out of balance. And I think the taking of an entrance poll, which the media won't be able to help themselves from reporting on, but which could diverge wildly from the final results, could put a fork in it.

Imagine if the networks spend the night reporting that a plurality of Iowans decided to vote for Barack Obama. They report the win, there's much talk of what it means, everyone gets all excited. Then, Bill Richardson fails to make the 15% threshhold for viability and releases his caucusgoers to Clinton. Meanwhile, John Edwards, who's been amassing support in the disproportionately influential rural counties -- 25 caucusgoers in a small precinct have the same influence as 2,500 in a big one -- sees his strategy achieve terrific results. So Clinton comes in first, Edwards second, and Obama ends up in third -- even though a plurality meant to vote for him.

If there ever was an election that reveal the inequities and the arbitrary nature of Iowa's system, it would be this one. And traditionally, the Democrats have forced changes in the primary system (if it were up to the Republicans there probably would still be smoke-filled rooms). So I do think this is the end of small rural ethnically homogeneous states having all this undue impact. Not that Iowa and New Hampshire won't fight tooth and nail to keep the millions and millions of dollars flowing into their state.

But of course, you go to the polls with the election you have. I do think Obama will be hurt by what David Axelrod said about the Bhutto assassination, not a lot, but enough in such a close race to make an impact. Of course, Clinton's surrogate Evan Bayh said something just as stupid, saying that Bhutto's death shows we have to elect Clinton because OTHERWISE REPUBLICANS WOULD SAY WE'RE WEAK, once again showing the "don't make trouble" approach to politics. But Axelrod's quote was amplified far wider, and skillfully used by the Clinton camp to make it look like he said Hillary was somehow responsible for Bhutto's death. I think Edwards actually talking to Musharraf was notable, but didn't get a whole lot of attention.

Since you didn't ask, I'm pulling for Edwards, and I've explained why at my site. But I think the real reason I've been pulled in that direction is best explained by this post from Chris Bowers. Years after blogs and progressive movement media made their splash on the political scene, Democratic leaders are still not leveraging them for mass action. We still exist basically in the wilderness, typing away and giving voice to the frustrations I feel a majority of Americans have, yet it isn't being represented at all:

As Peter Daou predicted, when progressive media and prominent Democrats are on the same page, victories seem to happen pretty often. As Peter Daou lamented, when progressive media and prominent Democrats are not on the same page, victory seems to pretty much never happen. Without prominent Democratic validaters, we in the progressive grassroots and progressive media can't win these fights on our own. Without progressive media, prominent Democrats have virtually no hope of winning any conventional wisdom formation fights against Republicans.

...unless a new Democratic President is willing to bring new progressive media into the strategizing for the fights they will face, I doubt they will get much done. A Democratic administration that maintains a stand-offish, managed, one-way decision making approach to communication strategy will, in the end, find itself taking pretty much the same beatings the first Clinton administration faced from 1993-1994. Even with a solid electoral victory and large congressional majorities, the new President will lose almost every single fight for progressive legislation s/he will face, because the triangle of single narrative of convention wisdom will be closed against him or her. In other words, the new Democratic President will succeed in passing conservative favorites like NAFTA, but fail to pass progressive favorites like Health Care reform.

Of the major candidates, I believe that John Edwards offers the best opportunity to "close Daou's triangle" and at least give progressive media a chance to be part of the lever for change. I think Edwards' "theory of change" most closely mirrors the theory most accepted by the netroots, to forget the middle ground and take the fight to both the Republicans and the special interest. Edwards has said that his idea of change involves using the bully pulpit of the Presidency and mass popular support. That is a tailor-made strategy to involve progressive media, and Edwards has at least adopted the language of a politics of contrast and confrontation (as far as working with progressive media, I hope frequent blog reader Elizabeth Edwards will move a potential Administration in this direction).

Partisanship has, contrary to Beltway opinion, been a good thing for democracy, has engaged and energized people like little else in the past three decades. I also can't help but favor Edwards because traditional media and the Beltway establishment seems to hate him so much, and for precisely this reason. This is from Chip Reid at CBS News:

I’m a bit unhappy with John Edwards. I’ve been covering his campaign for 10 days and he hasn't made a lot of news. Let’s face it – a lot of what political reporters report on is mistakes. The campaign trail is one long minefield, covered with Iowa cow pies, and when they step in one – we leap.

I’ve done very little leaping – and I blame Edwards. While other candidates misspeak, over-speak, and double-speak, Edwards (at least in these 10 days) has made so few mistakes that I end up being transported -- newsless -- from town to town like a sack of Iowa corn.

He has a remarkable ability to stay on message. Not just in “the speech,” but even in Q and A. Nothing throws him off. He turns nearly every question into another opportunity to repeat his central theme. Global warming? We need to fight big oil. Health care? Fight the big drug and insurance companies. Iowa farmers’ problems? Blame those monster farm conglomerates. And the Iowa populists eat it up. We'll see how well it works in other states.

Note how the "Iowa populists" aren't real people, just rubes falling for the Music Man. And notice how depressed Reid is for not catching a "gotcha" moment, which he appears to think what political reporting is about. The truth is that Edwards' rhetoric, about rewarding work over wealth, about improving social mobility, about a common purpose and equal opportunity, is directly opposite to the way the world works for political journalists.

That's my $.02, anyway. Feel freer than free to disagree.

Don't Cry For Me Iowa Caucus

by digby

I wrote earlier about the Saturday FoxNews Greedheads who had a fit over the radical socialist message Clinton was ramming down the unwilling throats of America with her chilling Christmas ad, but they aren't the only rabid right wingers in a lather. Guess who this is: Rush? Hannity? Michael Savage?

I always thought the problem with Hillary was, her notion of government was, "I am Evita, I am the one who gives gifts to the little people and then they come and bring me flowers and they worship at me because I am the great Evita."

And I give things to people. I give them universal health care; I give them an energy program. I give gifts to the little people. The little people come to me and I give them gifts, like universal pre-K. I am the gift-giver to the little people. Oh, I am the grand, grand woman, the grand Evita. And I give gifts to the little people and they're going to come to me in multitudes and worship at me!"

Give me a break! That's not the transaction. It's our country, it's our government. Public officials get to serve us! They serve us, they are our servants. They are not Evitas; they are not goddesses. We don't look up to them that way. We don't get gifts from them. By the way: we pay for every damn program we get. In fact we pay more for it than we're going to get. What are you kidding: you're going to give us stuff? From where? From your treasury? Where are you going to go? The palace? [unintelligble] The palace? We're going to give them to you?

It's the Hillary, it's the Clinton notion of the political transaction: we are the well-educated, sophisticated, smarter-than-you, better-than-you people and we're going to give you little things for your little needs. We've got little things for you; here's a gift for you. Universal pre-K. It's an absurdity. And some ad writer around her, Mandy [Grunwald] or Mark [Penn] should say "Mrs. Clinton, this is the problem you have. You think you're better and bigger than the little people, and you're giving them these things."

If you guessed delusional gasbag Chris Matthews of the new "liberal MSNBC," talking with his "liberal MSNBC" colleague Joe Scarborough, you'd be right.

Thank goodness we have salt-o-the-earth, regular-Joe multimillionaire TV celebrities speaking out on behalf of us "little people" who resent elites thinking they're better than us.

H/T Donna --- via Newsbusters (w/video)

The Wisdom We Can Expect

by dday

from the Grey Lady:

"I think there's been a certain amount of, frankly, Terry, a kind of pop sociology in America, that, you know, somehow the Shia can't get along with the Sunni, or the Shia in Iraq just want to establish some kind of fundamentalist regime. There's almost no evidence of that at all. Iraq has always been very secular."

Heckuva job, Pinch.


Friday, December 28, 2007


by digby

I have been wondering about this weird pocket veto of the Defense Authorization bill all day. It just doesn't make a lot of sense.

An informed reader writes in to offer a possible explanation:

Re: your post "Where Will It End?" I suspect that the key to the pocket veto has nothing to do with Iraqi assets. Rather, it is contained a little line buried in the last paragraph of the Memorandum of Disapproval: "... I continue to have serious objections to other provisions of this bill, including section 1079 relating to intelligence matters . . ."

What is in 1079 you ask? A provision requiring the Director of National Intelligence to make available to the Congressional intelligence committees, upon the request of the chair or ranking minority member, "any existing intelligence assessment, report, estimate, or legal opinion," within certain conditions. See here.(I don't know if that link will continue to work...but you can requery
HR 1585 yourself if it is broken by the time you write this.)

What specifically does Bush fear must be turned over? It's hard to say. Waterboarding legal opinions? Opinions or other documents related to the torture tapes? Something related to the recent Iran 180? Who knows. It's also not clear to me what this language adds, since Congress already should have the inherent and statutory power to subpeona these materials. I'd have to look further into it.

And of course, there's always the possibility they are being on the level as to their reasons here. Where better to hide the truth than in plan sight--I know their official pronouncements are the last place I'd look for it.

PS: FWIW, I believe that Bush is probably in the right legally here with the pocket veto. Webb is keeping the *Senate* open, but HR 1585, like all spending bills, began in the House. As far as I know, no one is doing the same for the House, since the House doesn't matter for the purposes of recess appointments. I don't think the Dems foresaw this, and so just kept the Senate open. The Constitution is clear, however, that vetos are returned to "that House in which it shall have originated."

Where Will It End?

by digby

Earlier today we learned that Bush was planning to veto the Defense Authorization Bill because of an obscure provision that he never mentioned to the congress as a problem before. That was odd enough.

It's actually even worse than that. He's not going to actually stand up and veto it. He's calling it a pocket veto, which Kagro X explains here.

Kagro also writes:

Because the bill has so much in it for veterans and active members of the Armed Forces, Bush apparently doesn't dare sign an affirmative veto. Instead, he'll pretend it... just went away on its own.

But this bill was presented to the president for his signature on December 19th. It's been eight days since then, not counting Sundays as the Constitution outlines. Seven if you give an extra day for Christmas. Hasn't been ten days yet.

Not only that, but you may recall that the Senate has remained in session all this time explicitly to prevent trickery like this. The most oft-cited reason was to prevent recess appointments, but the pro forma sessions -- the most recent of which was held today, yes, the very day Bush claimed there was no session -- also serve to avoid adjournment, and therefore the pocket veto.

But not in Bushworld. In Bushworld, these sessions don't count. Because he says so.

And if Bush thinks the Senate's sessions don't count, what's stopping him from making recess appointments?

How much more abuse can this Congress stand?

I don't know, but I would guess the administration is making the assumption that with the media's predictable disinterest in anything more complicated than polls and campaign gossip in the primary season and the Democratic leadership's unwillingness to take any risks at all, they'll get away with it. And they're probably right.

I'd say Jim Webb can probably take a trip to the Bahamas if he wants one. The administration doesn't observe the rules at all anymore. Bring on the recess appointments. Is Addington looking for a judgeship?

Update: Emptywheel ponders the weirdness of this veto as well. What's really going on here?
Forgetting To Hide It, Pt. II

by dday

John Deady, the "Veterans For Rudy" co-chair in New Hampshire sez:

"He's got I believe the knowledge and the judgement to attack one of the most difficult problems in current history and that is the rise of the Muslims, and make no mistake about it, this hasn't happened for a thousand years. These people are very dedicated and they're also very very smart in their own way. We need to keep the feet to the fire and keep pressing these people until we defeat or chase them back to their caves or in other words get rid of them."

I think Rudy's locked up the pro-genocide vote. I think the Atlas Shrugged lady's heart jsut exploded.

By the way, he had a chance to clean this up later in the day, and declined:

In an interview with me, Deady confirmed that when he made the comments, he was referring to all Muslims.

"I don't subscribe to the principle that there are good Muslims and bad Muslims," Deady told me by phone from his home in New Hampshire. "They're all Muslims."

I feel like the other guys in the room during "Twelve Angry Men" when the one racist goes on his tirade. Just walk away slowly...

Because Jonah Goldberg Was Taken

by digby

Oh jesus...

The Huffington Post has learned that, in a move bound to create controversy, the New York Times is set to announce that Bill Kristol will become a weekly columnist in 2008. Kristol, a prominent neo-conservative who recently departed Time magazine in what was reported as a "mutual" decision, has close ties to the White House and is a well-known proponent of the war in Iraq.

Hollywood Working Class

by dday

I work in TV, normally in the "obscure show on the digital cable channel you probably don't get" genre. So I've been following the Writer's Guild strike with interest. The WGA went out at least in part over allowing me and other storytellers who work in "unscripted" TV the ability to join their union. Everything I've ever worked on has had a script, so I don't get the "unscripted" moniker. And whether you wrote the script before or after the taping, whoever generated it ought to get the same kind of benefits.

That's why I'm excited that David Letterman's show struck a deal with their writers, outside the cartel of studios, to bring them back to work.

David Letterman has secured a deal with the striking Writers Guild of America that will allow him to resume his late-night show on CBS next Wednesday with his team of writers on board, executives of several late-night shows said today.

Most of television’s late-night shows are scheduled to return to the air that night after being off for two months due to the strike, but it is likely that only Mr. Letterman, and the show that follows him on CBS hosted by Craig Ferguson, will be supported by material from writers.

The reason is that Mr. Letterman’s company World Wide Pants, owns both those shows. The company announced two weeks ago that it was seeking a separate deal with the guild that would permit the two World Wide Pants show to return to the air. The talks seemed to be at an impasse until today when the deal was completed.

There's a solidarity in Hollywood that I've rarely seen since I've been here, which is to say, there's solidarity in Hollywood. Other unions like the DGA and SAG are talking about putting up a united front. The writers are on the verge of chasing the Golden Globes off the air, and their new media strategy is paying off in public opinion. Now they're creating cracks in the cartel that wants to take this as far as they can go and bust the union.

I have learned: that the CEOs are deeply entrenched in their desire to punish the WGA for daring to defy them by striking and to bully the writers into submission on every issue, and that the moguls consider the writers are sadly misguided to believe they have any leverage left. I'm told the CEOs are determined to write off not just the rest of this TV season (including the Back 9 of scripted series), but also pilot season and the 2008/2009 schedule as well. Indeed, network orders for reality TV shows are pouring into the agencies right now. The studios and networks also are intent on changing the way they do TV development so they can stop spending hundreds of millions of dollars in order to see just a few new shows succeed. As for advertising, the CEOs seem determined to do away with the upfront business and instead make their money from the scatter market.

They want to make it impossible to work your way up as a writer. They'd rather use these nonunion shows, shit like American Gladiators (it's back!), and tell the writers to piss off, thinking that they'll crack. They should hear from the fans. FDL has a great tool you can use to write the studio heads and tell them to stop being so damn greedy. They can make it on $119 billion in profit a year instead of $120, while the people they owe those billions to are fairly compensated. If a small company like Letterman's can reach a deal, the AMPTP cartel can. Tell them to get back to the negotiating table so your favorite shows can get back on the air.


by dday

Big hat tip to Turkana at The Left Coaster for higlighting this story.

Mortgage lenders aren't the only ones showing more interest in your credit score these days – the health industry is creating its own score to judge your ability to pay.

The new medFICO score, being designed with the help of credit industry giant Fair Isaac Corp., could debut as early as this summer in some hospitals.

Healthcare Analytics, a Waltham, Mass., health technology firm, is developing the score. It is backed by funding from Fair Isaac, of Minneapolis; Dallas-based Tenet Healthcare Corp.; and venture capital firm North Bridge Venture Partners, also based in Waltham. Each kicked in $10 million for the project.

The score is already raising questions from consumer advocacy groups that fear it will be checked before patients are treated. People with low medical credit scores could receive lower-quality care than those with a healthy medFICO, they argue.

First of all, if you're looking for fiscal stability, I can't think of a better industry to imitate than the mortgage lending industry. But why stop at medFICO scores? How about we add in some subprime diagnosis and treatment, and interest-only leg surgeries, and I know, how about a whole new class of medical debt-backed securities, which banks can sell to investors, and try to get bailed out of when they turn to crap? They could call it "Big Medical Shitpile" and park it on a beach in New Jersey! (hey, I've lived in Jersey, so I can say that...)

Seriously, this is hideous. It used to be that the medical care industry, particularly the insurance companies had to use some prior injury as a basis to deny coverage. Now it's some years-old debt that hospitals can use to hang over your head and deny care. Enough. Health care is a human right. It's not a privilege of the wealthy. Willingness to pay is a metric that can be abused to the nth degree to deny treatment to the sick. It will create another tier to the medical system; you have the uninsured, the wealthy who can afford the best, and now the discount class who can't afford access to the good stuff.

I guess this is what Rudy Giuliani meant by private solutions.

Hurry Up And Veto

by digby

Hey, remember this?

President Bush on Thursday called on Congress to approve billions of dollars in additional funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan before lawmakers leave for their Christmas break.

He said the Army will have to shut down bases and start furloughing between 100,000 and 200,000 civilian workers by mid-February if Congress does not clear the funds. "Pentagon officials have warned Congress that the continued delay in funding our troops will soon begin to have a damaging impact on the operations of this department," Bush said Thursday. "The warning has been laid out for the United States Congress to hear."

Naturally, the congress got all askeered and scurried to pass the Bush approved legislation so that they wouldn't be accused of not supporting the troops.

Today, the Bush administration says it's going to veto it. Why? Because the Iraqi government says one section could expose Iraqi assets in U.S. banks to requests for compensation for American victims of Saddam Hussein.(Oh no!)

The problem is that Bush never objected to the provision before he ordered the congress to pass this vital and necessary emergency legislation that couldn't even wait until after Christmas or all hell would break loose (which they dutifully did.) Now, without even blinking an eye, he's going to veto it.

It sure is a good thing that Bush is held to absolutely no standards because otherwise he and his fellow fearmongering Republicans might just start to look like idiots over things like this. But they have nothing to worry about. Only the Democratic leaders in congress are still foolish enough to believe anything they say.

Update: This is bizarre. Steve Benen flags this AP report which says that Iraqi funds are already exempted from such lawsuits. What's going on?

Forgetting To Hide It

by digby

Joan Walsh does a nice rundown of the reactions of the candidates to the Bhutto assassination yesterday. I hadn't heard this one, though:

Fred Thompson doesn't have a problem with a female heading a government. But he's not ready for it in this country, at least not yet.

Speaking today to a small group of supporters in the last campaign rush before the Iowa caucuses next week, Thompson railed against those who opposed -- and ultimately assassinated -- former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.

"They're driven to distraction by the notion that a secular woman would be head of government,'' the Republican presidential hopeful said of the woman who was slain as she campaigned for her country's presidency after years in exile.

But in America, Thompson said, repeating remarks earlier in the week, no woman is up to the job just yet.

"This year, it's a man, and next year, it's going to be a man,'' said the actor and former US senator from Tennessee. "I can see no one else who's qualified to be president of the United States.''

Gosh, I sure hope that if a woman does accidentally get elected here, Thompson and his neanderthal followers aren't "driven to distraction" by it and do something unfortunate.

It would seem that Pakistan is far more sophisticated and evolved than the US, at least by Thompson's standard. After all, Bhutto first became Prime Minister in 1988 at the age of 35. Too bad we don't have any women who are similarly qualified here in America. Maybe someday.

The Aqua Velva scented Thompson, by the way, is on Peggy Noonan's list of "reasonable" candidates she can see as president --- along with Romney, McCain, Giuliani, Duncan Hunter, Biden, Dodd, Richardson and Obama. (Greenwald has more on the kook, fag and bitch Peggy says aren't reasonable at all...)


by dday

This one's personal for me. I have a relative who has suffered under an addiction to OxyContin since he was 14, and is only now putting his life back together. Purdue Frederick, maker of the drug, knew that they were peddling an addictive product that could be easily abused, but intentionally hid the warnings from the general public for a decade. They got off with a slap on the wrist a few months back, after the Justice Department attempted to slow down the investigation and the prosecution produced such a poor case that even the judge yelled at them for failing to jail the executives for their crimes. Today in the New York Times, Barry Meier, who wrote a great book on this subject called Painkiller, has a long piece detailing Rudy Giuliani's business involvement with Purdue Frederick.

In 2002, the drug maker, Purdue Pharma of Stamford, Conn., hired Mr. Giuliani and his consulting firm, Giuliani Partners, to help stem the controversy about OxyContin. Among Mr. Giuliani’s missions was the job of convincing public officials that they could trust Purdue because they could trust him [...]

A former top federal prosecutor, Mr. Giuliani participated in two meetings between Purdue officials and the head of the Drug Enforcement Administration, the agency investigating the company. Giuliani Partners took on the job of monitoring security improvements at company facilities making OxyContin, an issue of concern to the D.E.A.

As a celebrity, Mr. Giuliani helped the company win several public relations battles, playing a role in an effort by Purdue to persuade an influential Pennsylvania congressman, Curt Weldon, not to blame it for OxyContin abuse.

Yes, I'm sure it was difficult to get Curt "Working For the Russians" Weldon to play ball.

Purdue Frederick is still a client of Giuliani Partners, and Giuliani still draws a salary from the business, so he continues to profit on the suffering of millions of addicted teens.

Read this shill-of-the-year quote:

“I understand the pain and distress that accompanies illness,” Mr. Giuliani said at the time. “I know that proper medications are necessary for people to treat their sickness and improve their quality of life.”

By the way, at one point Rudy assured the DEA that everything was fine, he's put his top man on the job.

The D.E.A. was not only critical of how OxyContin had been marketed, its inspectors had found widespread security and record-keeping problems at the company’s manufacturing plants [...]

At two meetings, the first at Giuliani Partners in early 2002, Mr. Giuliani and Purdue’s executives argued that they were already taking steps to eliminate any problems.

(Bernard) Kerik had been sent to Purdue’s manufacturing plants to revamp internal security, they assured Mr. Hutchinson. The federal investigators, they argued, should back down and give them a chance to prove they could handle the problem on their own.

Don't worry, Bernie's on it! The plant will have a numbers racket and a love nest suitable for affairs in no time.

Rudy's dead in the water for this election, as evidenced by his resorting to more 9/11 ads to energize his campaign. But the moral blackness of defending this indefensible pharmaceutical company is perhaps the most telling example of how this guy would run the country. It also informs this quote from the other day.

"I suspect that our Democratic colleagues would get that question more often in a Democratic audience than we get in a Republican audience," he said. "Maybe more Democrats are concerned about their health care than Republicans, maybe because Republicans have health care or maybe Republicans generally like the idea of private solutions."

Private solutions like a company who poisons the country and lies about it.

Caged Heat

by digby

I've got a new post up over at CAF, riffing on d-day's from yesterday about the voting rights issues we are going to be facing in this upcoming election. Let's just say that the Republicans obviously believe they can't legitimately win elections.


Let's See 'Em

by dday

We'll have to hold the EPA to their word:

The Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday signaled it is prepared to comply with a congressional request for all documents — including communications with the White House — concerning its decision to block California from imposing limits on greenhouse gases.

The EPA's general counsel directed agency employees in a memo to preserve and produce all documents related to the decision including any opposing views and communications between senior EPA officials and the White House, including Vice President Dick Cheney's office.

The documents should include "any records presenting options, recommendations, pros and cons, legal issues or risks, (or) political implications," said the all-hands memo from EPA General Counsel Roger Martella Jr.

They're saying that now, of course, but David Addington hasn't gotten his hands on the memo to use his red pen.

The presiding committee in the Congress on this one is Henry Waxman's House Oversight Committee.

Happy New Year, Fourthbranch. We got you Henry Waxman.

UPDATE: And I should mention that this is how a functioning Congressional oversight committee works, unlike the one over in the Senate, where Joe Lieberman spends his days playing cribbage with Susan Collins instead of doing his job. What a waste of jowls.

Still Playing The Great Game

by dday

The major news accounts of Benazir Bhutto's death are numerous, but I really like this account of how US policy was so staked on Bhutto's return to Pakistan.

For Benazir Bhutto, the decision to return to Pakistan was sealed during a telephone call from Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice just a week before Bhutto flew home in October. The call culminated more than a year of secret diplomacy -- and came only when it became clear that the heir to Pakistan's most powerful political dynasty was the only one who could bail out Washington's key ally in the battle against terrorism [...]

"The U.S. came to understand that Bhutto was not a threat to stability, but was instead the only possible way that we could guarantee stability and keep the presidency of Musharraf intact," said Mark Siegel, who lobbied for Bhutto in Washington and witnessed much of the behind-the-scenes diplomacy.

But the diplomacy that ended abruptly with Bhutto's assassination yesterday was always an enormous gamble, according to current and former U.S. policymakers, intelligence officials and outside analysts. By entering into the legendary "Great Game" of South Asia, the United States also made its goals and allies more vulnerable -- in a country in which more than 70 percent of the population already looked unfavorably upon Washington.

Don't worry, though, we've got a plan B: that other former Prime Minister who was almost killed yesterday:

On Thursday, officials at the American Embassy in Islamabad reached out to members of the political party of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, according to a senior administration official. The very fact that officials are even talking to backers of Mr. Sharif, who they believe has too many ties to Islamists, suggests how hard it will be to find a partner the United States fully trusts [...]

The administration official said American Embassy officials were trying to reach out to Pakistani political players across the board in the aftermath of the Bhutto assassination.

“Look, most of the people in Musharraf’s party came out of Nawaz’s party,” the official said, referring to Mr. Sharif and speaking on condition of anonymity because of diplomatic sensitivities. While he acknowledged that an alliance between Mr. Sharif and Mr. Musharraf was unlikely given the long enmity between the men, he added, “I wouldn’t predict anything in politics.”

Of course, the big question is who is that senior Administration official? Does he perhaps believe he exists in a fourth branch of government?

The idea that we can find someone, anyone, acceptable to Musharraf to put an imprimatur on democracy there is, in the words of this Pakistan analyst:

“...insane,” said Teresita Schaffer, a Pakistan expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, of the proposed alliance. “I don’t think Musharraf ever wanted to share power.”

Elections weren't likely to be all that fair anyway, given that the entire judiciary was installed by the dictator. I think a military coup is likelier than just sliding over to some other national politician and expecting democracy to flourish.

The answer to that depends in part on his successor as army chief, Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, who, although a protege of the president, must consider whether his mentor has become an impediment to stability.

"He will listen carefully to what Musharraf has to say, but his decision will be geared to security interests of the army, and the country," (analyst Faranza) Shaikh said.

We're not going to be able to snap our fingers and come up with a magic solution in a country of 164 million where our presence is increasingly reviled.