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Wednesday, April 30, 2008

This Happens Every Day

by dday

Either John McCain has the worst advance people in the world, or his policies - and Republican policies in general - are so decidedly aristocratic that they can't help tripping all over themselves.

At his health care policy event yesterday at the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute in Florida, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) was introduced by the institute’s chairman, former Republican senator Connie Mack. But, as Hotline reports, Mack is more than just a chairman. He’s also a registered state lobbyist “advocating for health insurance companies“.

(By the way, Mack just married Rep Mary Bono (CA-45). Surely that will come up in her re-election campaign. UPDATE: I got my Mack's wrong. Bono married Mack's son, also Connie Mack. Making her Miss Mary Mack.)

This has happened at virtually every McCain appearance recently. Last week he rode on and praised a ferry which was created with an earmark. He went to Youngstown, Ohio and praised NAFTA at a factory that was closed after NAFTA was enacted. Reality keeps getting in the way of McCain's Presidential hopes.

The funny part here is that the McCain camp tried to deep-six the story:

According to Hotline’s Jennifer Skalka, “the McCain campaign lobbied On Call feverishly to tank” its reporting on Mack’s role as a lobbyist, calling the story “ludicrous, absurd and ridiculous.”

I guess Ms. Skalka didn't get any of that yummy BBQ, or she would have known her place.

Later in the day, McCain blamed the Minnesota bridge collapse on runaway spending and earmarks - not that Republicans have gutted infrastructure spending at all - then was presented with an earmark that, gosh, saved lives.

On the same day, McCain was confronted with an earmark he did consider worthy. During a forum at Lehigh Valley Hospital, he met a woman with ovarian cancer who was treated in a clinical trial funded with $80 million in congressional earmarks.

The hospital was showing off an electronic medical records system that is virtually paper-free.

McCain insisted he was not trying to have it both ways and said that deserving projects can get money through regular channels.

"It's the process I object to," he said. "I'm sure that I can give you a list of projects the Mafia funds, and they would probably be good projects. But I can't give you a justification for the Mafia. I can't give you a justification for the corruption that's been bred which has sent members of Congress to the federal prison," he said.

I'm sure the Republicans who turned the earmark process into their personal favor factory in the 1990s are going to be so eager to campaign for McCain now. You know, after being compared to the Cosa Nostra and all.

On top of that, McCain has gone from a position against spending to a position against the technical process by which spending is achieved. That's going to really bowl them over on the stump. McCain wants to make himself the grand poohbah deciding what spending is OK and what spending isn't. The problem is that when he is put to the wall, he can't come up with more than a scattered few projects that are verboten. And he doesn't dare touch that sacred cow, the military budget, which is responsible for about 100 times the wasteful spending as earmarks.

McCain has put himself in a terrible position. Plenty of earmarks provide tangible benefits for people. Every campaign stop, he's going to be confronted by someone. And he'll have to say "Well, when I say cut spending, I don't mean THAT," and this is why his trillions and trillions of dollars in tax cuts for the wealthy and new spending will never be brought into balance. He is dangerous and fiscally irresponsible.

Also, his health care plan will bankrupt a lot of sick people.

McCain is offering people like (Elizabeth) Edwards what he calls a "Guaranteed Access Plan." But unlike all those awful big-government entitlements the Democrats are promising--you know, the ones that (supposedly) make you wait in long lines and cut off access to high-technology treatments--McCain says his plan will let the states handle the problem by working hand-in-hand with private insurers to offer insurance for people with pre-existing conditions [...]

It all sounds very lovely--unless you know something about health care policy, in which case it sounds absolutely preposterous.

More than 30 states already have programs almost exactly like the one McCain just sketched out. They are called "high risk pools," and the idea is pretty straightforward: Private insurers agree to sell policies directly to individuals, even those with pre-existing medical conditions, as long as the state helps to subsidize the cost.

But the whole reason conservatives like McCain prefer this approach to liberal schemes for universal coverage is that it involves minimal government regulation. As a result, private insurers have enormous leeway in dictating the terms of coverage. And one place they use that leeway is by setting high prices. A few years ago, a Commonwealth Fund study found that, on average, state high-risk pools offered coverage that was two-thirds more expensive than regularly priced coverage. In some states, the high-risk coverage was actually twice as high as regular coverage.

At those prices, you might think the coverage was spectacular. Not so. While private insurers in high-risk pools are willing to accept people with pre-existing conditions, they're not generally willing to cover expenses related to those pre-existing conditions--at least not right away. Nearly all the plans surveyed had waiting periods of between six months and a year, during which the insurers would not cover care for prior medical problems.

Between out-of-pocket expenses, deductibles, cost-sharing, and treatment not covered by high risk pool plans, someone like Elizabeth Edwards, with her breast cancer, would probably have to pay around $100,000 under McCain's plan. She has it; most cancer patients don't.

Someone's going to ask him about that on the trail, too. And it'll be another embarrassment. In fact, the only way McCain's bankrupt domestic policies will not cause one misstep after another is if he confines himself to whistle-stop tours of gated communities and medieval castles.

Here We Go Again

by digby

I have to assume that the telcoms have been secretly monitoring members of congress and the Bush administration's communications and are blackmailing them. There is just no other adequate explanation for this immunity nonsense to keep coming back over and over again.

Here 's Jane Hamsher:

According to the ACLU, there is rumor of a backroom deal being brokered by Jay Rockefeller on FISA that will include retroactive immunity. I've heard from several sources that Steny Hoyer is doing the dirty work on the House side, and some say it will be attached to the new supplemental.

There doesn't seem to be any greater priority for this administration than to get Dick Cheney and the other criminals in the Bush administration retroactive immunity for themselves and their teleco cohorts on their way out the door. Much fear mongering, ads and robocalls in the districts of freshmen House Democrats, and lookie here -- Trent Lott crawls out from under his slimy rock...

They really, really want this to go through. In fact, their insistence is becoming so desperate that there is simply no more reason to doubt they are hiding something. Nobody works this hard if all it would take would be a couple of court cases to publicly clear their names. These corporations must be knee deep in spying on Americans and their corrupt congressional puppets must know it.

A Member In Good Standing

by digby

Even before the Iraq invasion, I used to do a ton of writing about some of the wackier neocon loons like Laurie Mylroie. I had been aware of her even before 9/11. She was a Saddam obsessive who, like Chalabi, had gotten the attention of some very influential neocons and had been welcome in their innermost circles. Right after the attacks she was on PBS peddling the "Saddam masterminded 9/11" stuff. When they started beating the drums for the Iraq invasion, it was obvious that she was at the table.

Here's Laurie Mylroie on a CNN online chat in October of 2001:

CNN: You believe that Saddam Hussein was involved in both attacks the 1993 and September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center. Why?

MYLROIE: You can demonstrate to the high legal standard of beyond a reasonable doubt, which is used for criminal conviction, that Iraq was behind the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, by showing that Ramzi Yousef, the mastermind of that bomb, was an Iraqi intelligence agent. I do that in "Study of Revenge." That bomb, in 1993, aimed to topple the north tower onto the south tower. Eight years later, someone came back and finished the job. Since Iraq was behind the first attack, it is suggestive of the point that Iraq was behind the second attack.

CHAT PARTICIPANT: Is there any proof at all that Hussein is involved in the anthrax scares?

MYLROIE: There is no proof that Saddam is involved in the anthrax scares, but proof is different from evidence. Proof, according to the dictionary, is conclusive demonstration. Evidence is something that indicates, like your smile is evident of your affection for me. There is evidence that Iraq is behind the anthrax scares. First, it takes a highly sophisticated agency to produce anthrax in the lethal form that was in the letter sent to Senator Daschle. Not many parties can do that. Second, there is an additive in that anthrax, bentonite, which is used to cause the anthrax to not stick together, and float in the air. Iraq is the only party known to have produced anthrax with bentonite.

CHAT PARTICIPANT: Should the U.S.take action against Iraq?

MYLROIE: Yes. It is necessary for the United States to take action against Iraq. The 1991 Gulf War never ended. We continue it in the form of an economic siege whose origins lie in the Gulf War. And also, we bomb Iraq on a regular basis, and Saddam continues his part of the war in the form of terrorism. It is unlikely that that anthrax will remain in letters. It is likely that it will be used at some point, for example, in the subway of a city, or in the ventilation system of a U.S. building. Saddam wants revenge against us. He wants to do to the U.S. what we've done to Iraq. One way he can do that is terrorism, particularly biological terrorism.

CHAT PARTICPANT: What is the connection between bin Ladden and Saddam?

MYLROIE: Bin Laden and Hussein work together. The contact between the two was made in the 1990s when bin Laden was based in Sudan. Iraq intelligence also had a major presence in Sudan then. There were other widely reported contacts between bin Laden and Iraq intelligence, such as in December, 1998 when Farook Hajazi traveled to Afghanistan to meet with bin Laden. Hajazi is a senior intelligence officer. Bin Laden provides the ideology, he recruits the foot soldiers, and he provides a smokescreen. Iraqi intelligence provides the direction and training for the terrorism.

CNN: You hold the Clinton administration responsible for Hussein's involvement in all of these attacks. Why?

MYLROIE: Iraq is a difficult problem, and has been since the Gulf War. Many mistakes have been made, because it's inevitable that in human endeavor there are mistakes. Under the Clinton administration, specifically in February 1993 with the first attack on the Trade Center, Clinton dealt with the issue dishonestly. New York FBI believed in 1993 that Iraq was behind the Trade Center bombing. That was accepted by the White House, that New York FBI might well be right. In June, 1993, Clinton attacked Iraqi intelligence headquarters. He said that that was punishment for Saddam's attempt to kill George Bush when Bush visited Kuwait in April, but Clinton also believed that it would deter Saddam from all future attacks of terrorism, and that it would address the WTC bombing, too, so that Saddam would not think to carry out further attacks against the U.S.

And then the Clinton administration put out a false and fraudulent explanation for terrorism, saying that terrorism was no longer state-sponsored, but carried out by individuals. That false and fraudulent explanation was accepted and allowed Saddam to continue to attack the U.S. The reason Clinton dealt with terrorism in that fashion was because he did not understand the kind of threat that Saddam could pose, and by taking care of the terrorism in New York in that fashion, he avoided riling American public opinion, which might have demanded then, back in 1993, that he do a great deal more.

It goes on. She was taken very, very seriously within the highest reaches of the Bush administration:

In the winter of 2001-02, officials who worked with Wolfowitz sent the Defense Intelligence Agency a message: Get hold of Laurie Mylroie's book, which claimed Hussein was behind the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, and see if you can prove it, one former defense official said.

The DIA's Middle East analysts were familiar with the book, "Study of Revenge: The First World Trade Center Attack and Saddam Hussein's War Against America." But they and others in the U.S. intelligence community were convinced that radical Islamic fundamentalists, not Iraq, were involved. "The message was, why can't we prove this is right?" said the official.

There was more. From from 2004:

History is going to show that a nutcase by the name of Laurie Mylroie and a group of equally nutty followers, including the Vice President and the Deputy Secretary of Defense, led the United States into a war on the basis of a daffy conspiracy theory.

The proposal, pressed by Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, called for President George W. Bush to declare Ramzi Yousef, the convicted mastermind of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, as an enemy combatant in the war on terror. This would have allowed Yousef to be transferred from his cell at the U.S. Bureau of Prison’s “supermax” penitentiary in Florence, Colo., to a U.S. military installation.

Wolfowitz contended that U.S. military interrogators—unencumbered by the presence of Yousef’s defense lawyer—might be able to get the inmate to confess what he and the lawyer have steadfastly denied: that he was actually an Iraqi intelligence agent dispatched by Saddam to blow up the World Trade Center in 1993 as revenge for the first Persian Gulf War.

The previously unreported Wolfowitz proposal—and the high-level consideration it got within the Justice Department—sheds new light on the Bush administration’s willingness to expand its use of enemy-combatant declarations inside the United States beyond the three alleged terrorists, two of them American citizens, who have already been designated by the White House.

Actually believing this nonsensical conspiracy theory about Ramsi Youssef, and attempting to change 200 years of legal precedent in order to prove it, would be the equivalent of Bill Clinton using Oliver Stone's JFK as the basis for prosecuting the remaining members of the Johnson administration for the assassination of Kennedy.

There is no greater reason to get rid of Bush than to put this little Mylroie/Wolfowitz freakshow back in its little Lyndon Larouche conspiracy corner.

As you can see, Mylroie was at the center of the ridiculous decision to invade Iraq and her cuckoo conspiracy mongerings were even used as justification to try to torture someone who had already been convicted of a crime and was serving his sentence in an American prison.

How mordantly amusing then, that she's been belatedly been repudiated by none other than Stephen Hayes, the last remaining hold out of the "Saddam was in cahoots with Osama" school. Via MoJo blog:

Mylroie comes up In several of the books written about the Iraq War as a terrorism analyst who led the Bush Administration into making questionable claims about Iraq and al Qaeda. (George Packer, the New Yorker writer and author of the otherwise well-reported book, "The Assassin's Gate," makes this mistake.) This vastly overstates her role. Although her emails may have occasionally made their way to Bush administration officials, no one I know took her arguments very seriously. For good reason. Mylroie has seen an Iraqi hand behind virtually every terrorist attack on American interests. Indeed, in our one brief conversation, she faulted me for failing to understand that al Qaeda is little more than an Iraqi "front group." That's crazy. Iraq was an active state sponsor of terror and, as the recent Pentagon report confirms, a willing sponsor of al Qaeda leaders, their terrorist associates, and a wide variety of jihadist groups.

Yeah, who could have ever believed her? Of course, there was the business of her book:

She laid out her case in Study of Revenge: Saddam Hussein's Unfinished War Against America, a book published by AEI in 2000 which makes it clear that Mylroie and the neocon hawks worked hand in glove to push her theory that Iraq was behind the '93 Trade Center bombing. Its acknowledgements fulsomely thanked John Bolton and the staff of AEI for their assistance, while Richard Perle glowingly blurbed the book as "splendid and wholly convincing." Lewis "Scooter" Libby, now Vice President Cheney's chief of staff, is thanked for his "generous and timely assistance." And it appears that Paul Wolfowitz himself was instrumental in the genesis of Study of Revenge: His then-wife is credited with having "fundamentally shaped the book," while of Wolfowitz, she says: "At critical times, he provided crucial support for a project that is inherently difficult."

Just because Hayes is now embarrassed about his batty aunt in the attic, don't think her influence has really waned in conservative circles however. She has already established herself as one of the keepers of alternative history:

Mylroie published a ... book, Bush v the Beltway: How the CIA and the State Department Tried to Stop the War on Terror. The book charges that the US government suppressed information about Iraq's role in anti-American terrorism, including the investigation of 9/11. It claims that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the now captured mastermind of 9/11, is an Iraqi intelligence agent who, like his nephew Ramzi Yousef, adopted the identity of a Pakistani living in Kuwait.

The US government doesn't seem to have explored this theory. Why not? Mylroie explained to the commission investigating the 9/11 attacks: "A senior administration official told me in specific that the question of the identities of the terrorist masterminds could not be pursued because of bureaucratic obstructionism."

I suspect that little conspiracy will find its way into conservative conspiracy lore. The charge of "bureaucratic obstructionism" on the part of the CIA and the State department has been used as the excuse for conservative failure for half a century. Why stop now? Remember, the neocons have always been wrong about everything.

And Now, For Something Completely Different

by tristero

Now this is cool:
A team of Hewlett-Packard scientists reported Wednesday in the science journal Nature that they have designed a simple circuit element they believe will enable tiny powerful computers that could imitate biological functions.

The device, called a memristor, could make it possible to build extremely dense computer memory chips that use far less power than today’s DRAM memory chips, which are rapidly reaching the limit in how much smaller they can be made.

The memristor, an electrical resistor with memory properties, may also make it possible to fashion advanced logic circuits, like a class of reprogrammable chips known as field programmable gate arrays, that are today widely used for rapid prototyping of new circuits and for custom-made chips that need to be manufactured quickly.

Potentially even more tantalizing is the memristors’ ability to store and retrieve a vast array of intermediate values, not just the binary 1s and 0s as conventional chips do. This makes them function like biological synapses, which would be ideal for many artificial intelligence applications ranging from machine vision to understanding speech...

The most significant limitation that the H.P. researchers said the new technology faces is that the memristors function about 10 times more slowly than today’s DRAM memory cells.
That's still mighty fast. I can think of all sorts of usages for my biz that could use memory that tiny and that power-stingy - can you say really, really, expressive electronic instruments, perhaps? Or extending existing ones like electric guitar?

But having available intermediate states between on and off...won't that require some serious rethinking of programming languages? And won't that increase the complexity of the task of programming (translated: the potential for bugs)?

If you know programming, please feel free to weigh in.


by digby

Good morning, America! It just gets better all the time.

Due to the fact that I was voted favorite female blogger by people who read their site and participated in their PSA encouraging women to vote, I have been inundated with angry emails demanding that I disavow Women's Voices Women's Vote for their "campaign to disenfranchise voters in North Carolina."

First of all, I have no affiliation with Women's Voices Women's Vote. I was asked to do a little Public Service Announcement last fall and there was nothing partisan about it. I did not do it to "pimp Hillary" as one of my concern trolls so pithily put it. Neither did I think there was any need to investigate or "vet" a well known organization that registers women to vote. So no, I didn't look into them to find out if I should agree to "lend my name to voter disenfranchisement." The production company asked and I said yes.

I had nothing to do with the contest other than noting on my site that I had been nominated and that I'd won. If they have some sort of devious political agenda, I'm completely unaware of it. I know absolutely nothing about these robo calls.

Here's the explanation from WVWV
at Huffington Post. That would be all the information I have on the matter.

And yes, I disavow any and all attempts to disenfranchise voters no matter who is doing it. After all, I've been writing on the subject for many years --- as recently as yesterday.

Update: Let me make this clear. I have no personal or professional relationship with WVWV. I have never even spoken with a person who works there.

The only people I ever dealt with were the production company in Los Angeles that handles their ads. I have no unique ability to "get to the bottom of this." I'm sure others will.

Update II: Matt Stoller has posted an email from a person involved in the WVWV voter registration drives.

Also, for those who are unfamiliar with blogging style, I did link to the original charges in the first paragraph of this post.

A Question of Character

by dday

Hey, look at this: John McCain is lying about his role in creating public policy! Doesn't that sound to you like a character issue?

An Arizona Republican, McCain has all but locked up the Republican presidential nomination and is preparing for a fall campaign in which his support of the Iraq war is sure to be a major issue. Yet the former Navy pilot and Vietnam POW makes himself a target by refusing to endorse Webb’s new GI education bill and instead signing on to a Republican alternative that focuses more on career soldiers than on the great majority who leave after their first four years.

Undaunted, Webb, who was a Marine infantry officer in Vietnam, is closing in on the bipartisan support needed to overcome procedural hurdles in the Senate, where the cost of his package — estimated now at about $52 billion over 10 years — is sure to be an issue. But McCain’s support would seal the deal like nothing else, and the new Republican bill, together with a letter of opposition Tuesday from Defense Secretary Robert Gates, threatens to peel off support before the Democrat gets to the crucial threshold of 60 votes.

“There are fundamental differences,” McCain told Politico. “He creates a new bureaucracy and new rules. His bill offers the same benefits whether you stay three years or longer. We want to have a sliding scale to increase retention. I haven’t been in Washington, but my staff there said that his has not been eager to negotiate.”

“He’s so full of it,” Webb said in response. “I have personally talked to John three times. I made a personal call to [McCain aide] Mark Salter months ago asking that they look at this.”

Put aside for a moment the fact that McCain's bill would basically hold soldiers hostage inside the military the same way employees are held hostage at their jobs for health care benefits. Put aside that the goal of the McCain bill is not honoring the service of our veterans but making sure enough people are locked into the military to fight all the extra wars he wants to wage. And put aside that the current benefit levels, which McCain's bill seeks to for the most part freeze, are insufficient to the task of covering the cost of higher education.

This is McCain's shtick. He looks to control the stakes of bipartisanship and define it as "everyone agree with me," and he'll lie about your intentions if you dare to defy him. Webb's GI Bill has 57 co-sponsors, pressure is being applied (good on Alaska Senate candidate Mark Begich to trap Ted Stevens on this), and then McCain barrels in, offers his own competing measure and threatens to blow up the whole deal, all because he didn't come up with it himself in the first place.

Now, aren't those VALUES we could all use as a guide to making our choice in November? The fact that McCain puts his ego above the treatment of veterans is one thing, but the idea that he has no faithfulness to the truth and will take credit and impute bad motives at the drop of a hat, all in the name of receiving glory for himself - aren't those QUALITIES that we should consider when making a choice for President?

Or should we just send him to a bowling alley and see how he does, instead?

...oh yeah, and where is McCain on the horrendous condition of our stateside military barracks like the one at Fort Bragg? If he wants to keep all these soldiers in the military, shouldn't we be providing slightly better conditions than a river of shit? Has anyone bothered to ask him? Or any of the Democratic candidates? This happened in the upcoming primary state of North Carolina, fercryinoutloud! ... UPDATE: Sen. Clinton has called for a Congressional probe into the Fort Bragg barracks, and I'm glad to see she has done so.


by tristero

Glenn's on fire. The self-deception and corruption of the national media is breathtaking, especially when you recall that the military "experts" were just one piece of the misleading - no, make that lying - coverage.

Go read.


by digby

I have frankly been a little bit confused by the reaction to Reverend Wright's recent comments around the sphere and even here on this blog. I thought most people in the Netroots were big Obama supporters and yet they defend Reverend Wright, which I find rather surprising considering what he did.

It's true that after Obama's Philadelphia speech, I too defended Wright's sermons and even got a more positive sense of Barack Obama's worldview as a result of hearing what he'd said and listening to Obama's explanations for them. Other than a vague sense that he was something of a showboater, I was not hostile to to the man.

But Wright's latest round of media appearances have not seemed to me to be any kind of defense of liberalism or the black church or even Black Liberation Theology so much as one man's desire to deny a rival his destiny. This was personal and I find it very creepy.

John Amato shared some of my impressions:

Seeing Wright go on Moyers Friday night—at first, I didn’t understand why he’s doing this. Why did he need to come out now and use such loaded rhetoric that the media would pounce on? In the middle of a ugly primary race, he makes himself the story for another three news cycles. Then after I watched his National Press Club appearance, I wondered if he was actually trying to hurt Obama’s chances of winning even the primary because his ego wouldn’t allow him to hang back until December to have his say. It seems Obama has the same feelings.

And rightly so. Reverend Wright called into question the entire premise of Obama's campaign, a campaign built on changing the very nature of politics, when he said, "he did what politicians do." There was no need for him to speak out now except to gin up the controversy at the worst possible time. Any person of sensitivity would have at least waited until this tough, hard fought primary had ended. It was a self-aggrandizing, personal attack and it says something important about the man.

Obama said yesterday:

What mattered was him commanding center stage...

I don't think that he showed much concern for me...

[T]here wasn't anything constructive out of yesterday. All it was, was a bunch of rants that aren't grounded in truth. And you know, I can construct something positive out of that. I can understand it. I, you know, the -- you know, the people do all sorts of things and, as I said before, I continue to believe that Reverend Wright has been a leader in the South Side. I think that the church he built is outstanding. I think that he has preached in the past some wonderful sermons. He provided, you know, valuable contributions to my family. But at a certain point, if what somebody says contradicts what you believe so fundamentally, and then he questions whether or not you believe it in front of the National Press Club, then that's enough. That's a show of disrespect to me.

Clearly he sees it as a betrayal and a deeply personal one. And so it was. So much so that I felt uncomfortable even watching it. Obama trusted Reverend Wright. As he pointed out, Wright had married him and Michelle, baptized their children, prayed with them over major events in their lives. Obama was very generous with him in his Philadelphia speech, offering a personal endorsement of his good character. And yet, knowing that Obama is fighting this ridiculous rumor about being a Muslim, Wright shows up at the National Press Club with bodyguards from the Nation of Islam and praises Farrakhan? Outrageous.

I watched Obama today and felt very sorry for him on a human level. As Joan Walsh pointed out in a series of sensitive posts on the subject, this is a guy who has written a book about being abandoned by his father and here comes father figure Wright, so self-centered that he apparently couldn't accept that his own star burned less brightly than the younger man who was very possibly on his way to becoming America's first black president. James Carville famously called Bill Richardson "Judas" recently for endorsing Senator Obama over Hillary Clinton. I would say Wright has a much greater claim to the name.

We don't know how much Obama has been politically hurt by this. But we can be sure that the right wing will flog it with everything they have in the fall. They can't run on issues and their candidate is second rate (although he's the best they can hope for, which says something.) They can only win by attempting to destroy the Democratic candidate. And as bad at governing as they are, they are very, very good a character assassination. Wright seems intent upon helping them --- perhaps so that he can drag Obama down into his martyrdom with him, I don't know.

I also think this is a direct result of the image makers in the party deciding that religion needed to be brought front and center into Democratic politics and I want to thank them for that. Walter Shapiro wrote a nice piece on that today:

"The single biggest gap in party affiliation among white Americans is ... between those who attend church regularly and those who don't. Democrats, meanwhile, are scrambling to 'get religion,' even as a core segment of our constituency remains stubbornly secular."
-- Barack Obama, from "The Audacity of Hope"

This is a week when the Illinois senator probably wishes that he could say, "I'm from the stubbornly secular wing of the Democratic Party." Back in the days when religion in presidential politics was mostly limited to greeting Billy Graham when he arrived for an Oval Office photo op, White House candidates did not have to worry about off-the-reservation reverends. But that was before the 2008 Democrats called out the image engineers to bridge the God Gap. In Obama and Hillary Clinton, the Democrats boast the most overtly religious cross-on-their-sleeve presidential candidates since Jimmy Carter prayed alone.


The point is not Clinton's and Obama's private religious beliefs, but their political calculation in searching for every possible forum to signal to religious voters that Democrats too are devout. The Republicans have long blurred the line between God and GOTV (Get Out the Vote), with Mike Huckabee, the runner-up for the GOP nomination, becoming probably the first major presidential candidate since William Jennings Bryan who unequivocally does not believe in evolution. Until recently -- with the exception of Jimmy Carter's 1976 born-again boasting -- the Democrats in their role as America's secular party have been far more reticent about reveling in religion.


In a sense, the Democrats have been lucky since they are blessed with two candidates who have been walking the pews of religion for decades -- from Obama's lyrical autobiographical account of joining the Trinity United Church of Christ to Clinton's public flirtation with the religiously based "politics of meaning" during her early White House years. But now the Democrats may be dealing with the dread consequences of answered prayers.

Amy Sullivan, one of the primary proponents of putting religiosity at the center of Democratic politics doesn't seem to know what to make of the problems Wright has caused for Obama. Apparently, she never considered the possible downsides of hewing so closely to religion that people think it's definitional. She and he friends didn't seem to realize that all the blather about secular Democrats was never about religion, but about social conservatism. You get no points for going to the "wrong kind" of church. You'd think they would have figured that out a long time ago.


Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Nobody Likes A Whiner

by dday

You know you're trying to bluff with a really bad hand when the AP opens its story with this lede:

President Bush put politics ahead of the facts Tuesday as he sought to blame Congress for high energy prices, saying foreign suppliers are pumping just about all the oil they can and accusing lawmakers of blocking new refineries.

Even I'm embarrassed for Bush trying to pull this switcheroo. But he didn't stop with gas prices, he blamed Congress for the farm bill, stopping nuclear power plants, foreclosures, the economy, and I think Miley Cyrus' photo spread. If Truman said "The buck stops here," then Bush's mantra must be "Who wants this buck?"

It goes without saying that his remedies for the nation's domestic ills are ill-chosen and ridiculous, but the AP went ahead and nicely summarized some of them.

Bush renewed his call for drilling in an Arctic wildlife refuge, but his own Energy Department says that would have little impact on gasoline prices [...]

Blaming "the lack of refinery capacity" for high energy prices, [Bush] said Congress has rejected his proposal to use shuttered military bases for refinery sites.

FACT: Global oil supplies are tight, in part because OPEC nations including Saudi Arabia are refusing to open their spigots. But Saudi Arabia has considerable additional production capacity. It's pumping a little over 8.5 million barrels a day, compared to about 9.5 million barrels a day two years ago and has acknowledged the ability to produce as much as 11 million barrels a day.

On refineries, Congress has ignored Bush's proposal to use closed military bases. But the oil companies haven't shown much interest in building refineries either and have dismissed suggestions that military bases might be of use [...] When top executives of the country's five largest oil companies earlier this month were asked at a House hearing whether they wanted to build a new refinery, each said no.

And it just got worse from there. I hate to even give these little temper tantrum press conferences even the most minor notice, since they all come down to a series of wild charges with no basis in fact, and the country has tuned this guy out already and can't wait for him to leave, anyway. But the thing is that the Republican Party is desperate to get out from under the impression that they broke the economy, and many in their House leadership (like David Dreier, for example) are starting to raise this whole "Democrats in Congress did it" approach, particularly with respect to gas prices (which sets every politician's pander meter to "stun") so it's important to get out in front of the spin.

* Now on the farm bill, I don't totally disagree with the President in theory about subsidies, and the farm bill is traditionally used by home-state legislators to give out gifts to their constituencies. Congress is responding, though I can't help but think that Bush doesn't really want to stop payments to wealthy farmers so much as to transfer them to agribusiness. So far the information on the actual changes is all secret. In the Age of Bush, as we know, it can always get worse.


by tristero

As mentioned in my previous post, I often disagree with Todd Gitlin. And I disagree with this post of his. Sort of::
Obama has to say full-out where he disagrees with Wright. He has to say so full-throatedly. It's not enough to say he's "wrong and divisive." He has to divide himself--from Wright.
Of course, Obama should continue to explain his positions on the history of race and American history. Of course, Obama should also discuss in further detail his positions on present day issues of race in this country.

So should all the candidates.

But I have no idea what Gitlin means when he says that Obama should "divide himself" from Wright. Been there, done that. The last I checked, they were different people and both had made a very careful point of saying they often disagreed. In fact, in the link to Wright's q&a that Gitlin gives, Wright even makes it clear that if Obama becomes president, he's going to go after him! I didn't think for a moment he was joking; I think he meant it.

Regarding Wright, Obama said what needed to be said in his Philly speech. Obama dissociated himself from Wright's wacky ideas. saying he was like an "old uncle" if I remember correctly. Will Gitlin now call on McCain to pledge never to take Pat Robertson's phone calls if he is elected president? Or James Dobson? All these men have acted at least as, if not far more, clownishly. I recall seeing Robertson blame 9/11 on the gays, and nuking Chavez, fercrisssakes.

Anyway, the real issue is how the candidates differ. And far more importantly, how do they envision a federal role in addressing the complexities of the racial issues in the United States? And not only race: what about gender issues, including abortion, an issue that I, at least, perceive as inseparable from the politics of race and class? What about economics? And perhaps most importantly, what about this godawful, immoral war that has created so much harm, not just death and mutilation, not just property damage, but is also wrapped up in Bush's disgraceful violations of the Constitution?


"We Can't have Acquittals"

by digby

Another day, another example of the Bush administration illegality. Not that anyone's paying attention, what with the pressing need to obsess over the utterances of an obscure Chicago pastor:

The Defense Department's former chief prosecutor for terrorism cases appeared Monday at the controversial U.S. detention facility here to argue on behalf of a terrorism suspect that the military justice system has been corrupted by politics and inappropriate influence from senior Pentagon officials.

Sitting just feet from the courtroom table where he had once planned to make cases against military detainees, Air Force Col. Morris Davis instead took the witness stand to declare under oath that he felt undue pressure to hurry cases along so that the Bush administration could claim before political elections that the system was working.


Davis told Navy Capt. Keith J. Allred, who presided over the hearing, that top Pentagon officials, including Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon R. England, made it clear to him that charging some of the highest-profile detainees before elections this year could have "strategic political value."

Davis said he wants to wait until the cases -- and the military commissions system -- have a more solid legal footing. He also said that Defense Department general counsel William J. Haynes II, who announced his retirement in February, once bristled at the suggestion that some defendants could be acquitted, an outcome that Davis said would give the process added legitimacy.

"He said, 'We can't have acquittals,' " Davis said under questioning from Navy Lt. Cmdr. Brian Mizer, the military counsel who represents Hamdan. " 'We've been holding these guys for years. How can we explain acquittals? We have to have convictions.' "

Davis also decried as unethical a decision by top military officials to allow the use of evidence obtained by coercive interrogation techniques. He said Air Force Brig. Gen. Thomas W. Hartmann, the legal adviser to the top military official overseeing the commissions process, was improperly willing to use evidence derived from waterboarding, a form of simulated drowning. "To allow or direct a prosecutor to come into the courtroom and offer evidence they felt was torture, it puts a prosecutor in an ethical bind," Davis testified. But he said Hartmann replied that "everything was fair game -- let the judge sort it out."

It doesn't get any more sickeningly corrupt than that and because we know that they did this in the Department of Justice in the US Attorney scandal, it's completely believable.

The ACLU has someone observing the hearings who adds some detail to those observations in this Daily Kos post:

Many of Davis’s direct conflicts were not with Haynes but with Brigadier General Thomas Hartmann, the legal advisor to the commissions. Hartmann was particularly intent on prosecuting the "9/11 cases." He told Davis that the election was coming up in 2008, and "if we don’t get these cases started, the commission system will implode. Once we get the victims’ families energized, we’ll be rolling, and when the train is rolling, it will be hard for the next president to stop."

Hartmann wondered why Davis, who had repeatedly made clear that he would never permit the introduction of evidence extracted through waterboarding, believed he had authority to make that decision. Other senior officials believed that waterboarding was acceptable, said Hartmann, and the judge not Davis, should sort it out. Hartmann also demanded a faster pace in bringing and prosecuting charges, even if that meant proceeding with classified evidence in closed proceedings. Davis insisted on transparency as a key to the commissions’ legitimacy.

In August of 2007, Davis wrote a detailed complaint laying out what he believed to be the improper actions of Hartmann, and delivered the complaint to the military commissions’ chief official, convening authority Susan Crawford. Crawford had left early that day for a Johnny Mathis concert but she responded eventually by informing Davis that Hartmann did not report to her, so she had forwarded the complaint — to Jim Haynes. In October, Davis was summoned to Haynes’s office, where he learned that the chain of command had been altered to place Haynes at the top.

Davis resigned immediately. He explained: "The guy said waterboarding was A-OK. I was not going to take orders from."

Davis then submitted another detailed complaint to the Department of Defense’s Inspector General. In response, he received a one-page, typed letter. It informed him that his complaint had been referred to the department’s "legal expert" — Jim Haynes.

Joseph Heller couldn't have come up with that scenario.

I don't know what will become of all this. All the presidential candidates, including McCain, say they will close Guantanamo so I guess that's something. But the process in this was so deeply corrupt and immoral that the next government simply has to do something about this to expose the wrongdoing and take steps to ensure that it doesn't happen again. Without presidential leadership, I don't see how it will happen.

I'm sure McCain would do nothing. He's part of the culture that did this and has shown a total willingness to provide cover for the military on these issues during the Bush administration. I would really like to hear something more from the other two about what they will do about this if they become president.

Media Declares War

by dday

Just to follow up on Tristero's piece on Rev. Wright, I completely agree that this is an attempt to silence liberal voices and make them an automatic political problem. That's certainly what we saw yesterday. Forgetting the fact that the revelation in Wright's weekend remarks was actually that the media misinterpreted practically everything he said, and taking the position that any appearance of the former Trinity Church pastor is simply incedniary regardless of content, the cable news was pretty much an uninterrupted parade of concern trolls warning that this independent individual's public appearances would be like death to Obama's presidential campaign. Because the speech was at the National Press Club in Washington it became real for the Village. He came to the center of THEIR universe, and dared to assail the media for their actions. In short, he trashed the place.

Hardball was of particular note. Tweety was breathing fire, jumping on these appearances, talking about how damaging they were without even really referring to them, asserting bluntly that Wright is now "the lead surrogate for the Obama campaign." His main point of contention was that - get this - Wright has a "raging ego." And he even brought on black minister Rev. Eugene Rivers, without of course mentioning that Rivers has been working with George Bush for the past two terms and wants to be the new voice of the African-American community of faith (he got particularly incensed when Wright deemed the attack on him as "an attack on the black church" - that's of course his role to speak for all black people of faith).

After about 45 minutes of this, Ryan Lizza finally spoke up with a point that I've seen Ezra Klein make (can't find the link right now):

LIZZA: There should be a principle in these cases in this campaign. There is no guilt by association. This guy has one set of views, Obama has another set of views. If the views match up, then it's fair game. But the guy's been in politics since the mid-90s. He has a record in the State Senate in Illinois. He has a record in the US Senate. He's laid out an agenda as a presidential candidate. Where do his views match up with Jeremiah Wright's? And why as journalists are we confusing the two? It seems to me totally unfair that this guy is getting smeared with the views of someone just because he's his former pastor.

This whole time there's this shit-eating grin on Tweety's face, as if to say, "Oh, you dear boy." Tweety of course thinks Lizza is being naive, but he's making the very simple point that journalists shouldn't keep pretending Obama and Wright are somehow the same person given that they've charted vastly different visions and worldviews.

Then Tweety goes on to do just that, opening with one of his typically unintentionally hilarious moments:

MATTHEWS: Let me give you the proper way of putting it in literary terms. It's Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde... who was the bad guy, Dr. Jekyll was the good guy, Mr. Hyde was the bad guy, right?

LIZZA: I'll trust you on that...

MATTHEWS: I think so.

Mr. Literary Allusion, Tweety is. Not that he knows anything ABOUT Jekyll and Hyde other than some snippet he saw on late-night cable after coming in from yet another cocktail party, but he's so urbane, no?

MATTHEWS: So every time you have a problem with Barack, because you don't really know him and he seems a little foreign to you, you think of him as both these guys. They're different faces of the same guy. Jeremiah Wright to a lot of people is Barack Obama. They've become the same Chicago character running for President. One is the good doctor, the other is the monster that shows up at night.

LIZZA: Look, I think there's a danger of that happening. But as journalists I think there's a responsibility to make it clear...

MATTHEWS: OK, carve it apart, separate the two. Try.

LIZZA: This guy went to a church. This guy is the pastor of that church. Now one of those guys is running for President and has laid out a vision that is radically different than anything his left-wing pastor had to say. Yes, it tells you something about who he is, it tells you something about the community where he came from. But it doesn't tell you anything, and nobody should confuse one with--

MATTHEWS: Do you think it might be hurting a good man like Mitt Romney and his family, and good members of the LDS Church, that they're being embarrassed by this breakaway group down in Texas in the last couple weeks? You don't think that story hurts Mitt Romney's chances of being on the ticket? Yes it does. So I'm saying, these associations, fair or unfair, birds of a feather, it's the way people think.

My favorite passage. "Fair or unfair." In other words, I know I'm talking bullshit, but this is my impression of what the unwashed masses think, so, you know, I'm going with it.

Jill Zuckman chimed in, calling Lizza "a little high-minded," Tweety went on to call "GOD DAMN AMERICA" one of the greatest quotes in history, and it went on from there. Lizza, of course, kept his Village standing by calling Wright a "doctrinaire left-winger." And then Matthews launched into his defense of his profession for continuing to harp on meaningless trivialities - it's apparently the Democrats' fault.

MATTHEWS: For years the Democratic politicians have been lambasting Republicans for hanging around with Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson. And now they're going after Pastor Hagee. This is the way politics is played, you get the guy's associates.

The difference, of course, is right inside Lizza's original comment - Falwell and Robertson's policy prescriptions did indeed "match up" with the conservative Republicans who associated with them, whereas in the case of Obama, he's charted his own policy course. There's also the fact that Falwell/Robertson associations never got more than a half-hour's worth of coverage on something like Hardball at all, and never without a spokesman rebutting anything negative (remember, Falwell GUEST-HOSTED Crossfire back in the day). Wright is some "character from Chicago" but Falwell and Robertson were media members in good standing.

This is about the media Heathers using their limited view of politics to make sure that Obama is slapped on the wrist every time Jeremiah Wright speaks. The learned response is that any "doctrinaire left-winger" is radioactive. That's certainly the effort being made here. Usually how a John McCain reacts to something like this on his end is to completely ignore it. Liberals are of course not afforded that luxury.

They Hate Him

by tristero

Wow, do they ever:
The Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr. has wriggled out...
Let's stop right there, people. On its front page, The New York Times has just compared Jeremiah Wright to a snake (and it's downhill from there). I sincerely doubt anyone can find over the past 7 years, say, a similar characterization of a white religious leader of Wright's stature in the news sections of the Times, the Washington Post, the Boston Globe, or any other mainstream daily newspaper, including the Wall Street Journal.

Did even a phony like Randall Terry "wriggle" into the spotlight recently when he exploited the hapless Schiavo family? When was the last time anyone can recall the late, unlamented Jerry Falwell described this way by the New York Times? Or Pat Robertson? Or James Dobson? Was John Hagee, McCains bff who loathes Catholics so described?

Now, why do you think that is? It's not because they're conservative. The mainstream media is respectful to all religious leaders. Except when they're black.

Put another way, the mainstream press just proved one of Wright's seemingly most preposterous and narcissistic points. These really aren't attacks on him, but rather on the black church. What Wright calls the "corporate media" wouldn't dare characterize a white preacher like this. Ever.

Dismayingly, you can feel the panic amongst we liberals. Bob Herbert devotes an entire column heaping contempt on Wright for attempting to "bury" Barack Obama. Salon's editor "regrets" that she didn't realize just how narcissistic Wright really is and hastily convened a panel of "experts" to address the urgent question: What should Obama do about Rev. Jeremiah Wright? And guess what most of them suggest? Get some "distance!" What?!!??! They seriously think Obama can "minimize" the issue of race if only Jeremiah Wright will shut the hell up! Todd Gitlin, someone who I often disagree with, is one of the rare exceptions::
Obama should say that he no more associates himself with Wright's remarks than John McCain (by his own say-so) agrees with John Hagee about Satanic Catholics or righteous Armageddon. He should remind his interlocutors that McCain went looking for Hagee's endorsement while he, Obama, did not do the same with Wright. He should also repeat that he's running for president, and that therefore he wants to talk about the awful Iraq war, the awful economy, the awful Bush years and the danger of extending them with McCain. He should say all this with a smile and his customary grace.
Damn straight, especially the ironicaly-mentioned "customary grace."

Assuming that Obama is the nominee, Republicans will make this a one issue campaign: the color of the next president's skin. Oh, they'll do it mostly with dog whistles, but they'll do it. More overtly, McCain's ad in NC (which, wink wink, he had nothing to do with and actually deplored) was just a trial balloon, a proof of concept. The issue is race, stupid, Wright or not.

Democrats and liberals have two choices. They can do as they've done for years with hot button issues, seek to minimize the conversation and change the subject. Well, maybe, just maybe Wright'll go away. But the issue won't. And Obama might very well lose. Not because of Wright's "monomania" (to use another canard from Stanley's article), but because liberals and Democrats are too ashamed of their own slightly crazed grandpas-in-the-attic to understand how important it is to defend them (needless to say, GOPers understand very well). This summer and fall, America will indeed have a conversation about race and the Republicans will make it a nasty, vicious one.

The other alternative is not to run for cover but take a stand. If Republicans want to put race front and center - and trust me, they do so want and they will - then be prepared to confront them on it. I'd suggest starting with Katrina, reminding the country that McCain was doling out cake while his fellow Americans were drowning in shit-filled waters, imploring their government to help them.

In truth the rightwing doesn't have a gouty leg to stand on when it comes to race, unless Democrats are prepared to provide them with the crutch of refusing to address the issue forthrightly. What the Republicans (and their media enablers) are really saying is that Jeremiah Wright is evidence that blacks aren't "ready to govern." Rest assured that if it wasn't Wright, they would just find someone else's words to distort, someone just as unsettling to "the American people" to hang around Obama's neck.

And yes, that is exactly what is going on right now: Republicans are seeking to lynch Obama by using Wright as the rope. And with or without this particular rope, they're still going to find a way to lynch Obama (if we continue to let them). The more that Democrats and liberals seek to "distance" themselves from the issue of race - which is what Wright is all about, not that some of his ideas or batty, or he's a raging egomaniac - the tauter the noose.


Note: Since the msm has decided that Jeremiah Wright is the new Scott Ritter - ie,, that Wright's an uncouth jerk that no one needs to listen to - you can expect a full court character assassination, as if Wright were the issue rather than race. So let's not forget that while Ritter may not be someone you'd like to spend your leisure time getting to know, he was quite right about Iraq and WMD's when all the classy folks were perfectly happy to be bamboozled by Bush's carny barkers.

Of course, there is much I don't like about Wright - you can start with his defense of Farrakhan and go from there - but that is hardly the point. He was made into a campaign issue - and thereby given a national voice - by Republicans and a media who deliberately distorted his words. These are the very same people who had no trouble excusing Huckabee's enthusiastic effort to release a serial rapist and his anti-science initiatives as governor. And who, right now, are burying McCain's actively sought support of a Catholic-hating pastor. Some of Wright's ideas are rotten, but hardly more so than those preached at Bob Jones. What's different is the way those ideas are portrayed and that portrayal - which seeks to link Wright to Obama - stinks of bigotry. This is an unavoidable issue and shame on those who think it shouldn't be raised in this context or can be finessed in general. It will be raised again and again and Obama will lose ground until liberals fight back tooth and nail rather than try to distance themselves.

Monday, April 28, 2008

The Wave

by digby

I've written a lot lately (to some derision from readers) about the fact that I see seismic forces at work in the coming election which I believe are due to conservative movement fatigue and the failure of the Bush administration combined with a perfect storm of issues favoring Democratic solutions. It's hard for me to see how the Democrats lose it, although I don't think they should take anything for granted.

But as D-Day has been writing, there's something else going on too, and that is a rather dramatic shift to the Democratic party among the electorate. Pew has released a study today which shows some demographic shifts that bode very well for the Democratic party.

It is particularly marked among the young:

In surveys conducted between October 2007 and March 2008, 58% of voters under age 30 identified or leaned toward the Democratic Party, compared with 33% who identified or leaned toward the GOP. The Democratic Party's current lead in party identification among young voters has more than doubled since the 2004 campaign, from 11 points to 25 points.

And the gender gap is widening to truly amazing proportions:

Fully 56% of women identify with or lean toward the Democratic Party, compared with 33% who identify or lean toward the GOP. Since 2004, the Democrats' lead in party affiliation among women has doubled (from 11 points to 22 points)...currently, the Democrats hold a slight 46%-43% edge among men voters; in 2004, somewhat more male voters were affiliated with or leaned toward the Republican Party than the Democratic Party (by 48% to 43%).

It's excellent news for the Democratic party and it's partly why I remain optimistic in spite of the tedious day to day of the primary campaign. As I said, I don't think you can take anything for granted, but with the issue agenda being what it is and the combination of the Democratic campaigns' greater use of the modern technology to get the younger voters to the polls and the tremendous appeal to women across all age groups, I just don't see how this isn't a win for Democrats.

Read the whole report
for a fun discussion of some of the things I brought up the other day in my baby boomer post.

Validating Voter Suppression

by digby

Following up on D-Day's post below about the Supreme Court's decision on voter ID in Indiana, and particularly his point that Obama is greatly expanding the pool of first time voters who might be affected by this ruling, I would just remind everyone of a couple of things.

First of all, let's not forget that this may be the biggest political land mine the Bush administration has set for Democrats. "Voter fraud" was, you'll remember, at the bottom of the US Attorney scandals and one of their main tools for suppressing the Democratic vote. This is the realization of a very long term plan to chip away at the Voting Rights Act. Republicans, like all aristocrats, know that if enough average people vote, they will lose. Period.

I have been writing about this since before I started this blog. It's at the heart of the Florida debacle in 2000, where they illegitimately purged voter rolls and relied on arcane interpretations of the rules to deny people the fundamental right to have their votes counted. It goes all the way back to the reconstruction period and has continued right up to Ohio in 2004.

The Supreme Court has just legitimized the notion that "voter fraud" is a problem when, in fact, every study shows that it simply does not exist in any systematic way and that the voter disenfranchisement that results from such laws is a far more serious problem.

Here's Rick Perlstein on the vote suppression effort in 1964, called "Operation Eagle Eye" in which Chief justice John Roberts' predecessor, William Rehnquist, participated as a young man:

The "vote fraud" fantasies are tinged by deeply right-wing racial and anti-urban panics. I've talked to many conservative who seem to consider the idea of mass non-white participation in the duties of citizenship is inherently suspicious. It's an idea all decent Americans should consider abhorrent. It is also, however, a very old conservative obsession--one that goes back to the beginnings of the right-wing takeover of the Republican Party itself.

Let me show you. Read this report from 1964, running down all the ways how Barry Goldwater's Republican Party was working overtime to keep minorities from voting. The document can be found in the LBJ Library, where I researched my book Before the Storm: Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American Consensus

John M Baley, Chairman of the Democratic National Committee, charged today that "under the guise of setting up an apparatus to protect the sanctity of the ballot, the Republicans are actually creating the machinery for a carefully organized campaign to intimidate voters and to frighten members of minority groups from casing their ballots on November 3rd.

"'Let's get this straight,' Bailey added, 'the Democratic Party is just as much opposed to vote frauds as is the Republican party. We will settle for giving all legally registered voters an opportunity to make their choice on November 3rd. We have enough faith in our Party to be confident that the outcome will be a vote of confience in President Johnson and a mandate for the President and his running mate, Hubert Humphrey, to continue the programs of the Johnson-Kennedy Administration.

"'But we have evidence that the Republican program is not really what it purports to be. it is an organized effort to prevent the foreign born, to prevent Negroes, to prevent members of ethnic minorities from casting their votes by frightening and intimidating them at the polling place.

"'We intend to see to it that the rights of these people are protected. We will have our people at the polling places--not to frighten or threaten anyone--but to protect the right of any eligible voter to cast a secret ballot without threats or intimidation.'

It didn't stop there. As a result of the massive voter registration efforts of Jesse Jackson during the 1984 and 1988 campaigns, the republicans institutionalized their vote suppression efforts and created the Voting Integrity Project and the Republican National Lawyers Association to create bogus claims of voter fraud. I've written reams about this, but this post from last year highlights an important study that directly pertains to the voter registration drives that D-Day mentions:

With the news from Steve Benen coming out of Wisconsin and from Christy about Minnesota, regarding a couple more of those "Good Bushies" in the Justice Department, I thought it might be a good time to bring up a little something I found the other day on the blog Wot Is It Good 4. A commenter there pointed to this very interesting paper (pdf) presented to the Center For Voting Rights just before the 2004 election on the issue of voter suppression.

I was surprised to see that the Republican National Lawyers Association (where Rove delivered his speech last spring in which, among other things, he mentioned as "problems" those states from which the targeted US Attorneys hail) was pretty much formed for the express and exclusive purpose of training and deploying lawyers on matters of purported voter fraud (aka minority vote suppression.) Neither did I know before that they played a pivotal role in the Florida Recount.

The report gives the history of minority voter suppression in America (a very ugly story) and brings it right up to the 1980's, particularly the huge voter registration effort in the black community by the Jesse Jackson campaign which apparently scared the bejeezuz out of the Republicans:

Democratic activist Donna Brazile, a Jackson worker and Albert Gore’s campaign manager in 2000, said “There were all sorts of groups out there doing voter registration. Some time after the ’86 election, massive purging started taking place. It was a wicked practice that took place all over the country, especially in the deep South. Democrats retook the Senate in 1986, and [Republican] groups went on a rampage on the premise they were cleaning up the rolls. The campaign then was targeted toward African-Americans.” As in the past, Republicans justified the purges in the name of preventing the unregistered from voting. But Democrats charged vote suppression.


The Republicans’ perceived problems arising from too heavy a reliance on volunteers began to be addressed with a different strategy in the mid-1980s. From Operation Eagle Eye onward, the major Republican ballot security programs had borne the imprimatur of the party high command, overseen by the RNC and implemented at the grassroots by local organizations and commercial political operatives. In the mid-1980s, the situation began to change. GOP ballot-security skulduggery in the city of Newark and environs had led to a consent decree in 1982 presided over by a federal judge in New Jersey, according to which the RNC promised to forego minority vote suppression.19 In 1985, several months before the RNC was hauled back before the same judge as a result of illegal purging efforts in a 1986 Louisiana senatorial campaign and agreed to submit all future ballot security programs it oversaw to the court for its inspection, a new organization was created—the Republican National Lawyers Association (RNLA).

A group of lawyers who had worked on the Reagan-Bush campaign in 1984 were behind its founding, and it was designed “to be a sort of Rotary Club for GOP stalwarts,” according to a contemporary article in Legal Times magazine. The RNC helped the association get off the ground with a $5,000 loan, although today the RNC claims no official connection with it. By 1987 the RNLA had active chapters in several states and the District of Columbia, and planned to hold its first annual convention early the following year. A lure for attendees, the planners hoped, would be continuing legal education credits and a possible appearance by Attorney General Edwin Meese III and President Reagan.20

The RNLA turned out to be much more than a Rotary Club for GOP lawyers, however; it became the predominant Republican organization coordinating ballot security. By its own account, in early 2004 it had grown to “a 1,900-member organization of lawyers and law students in all 50 states.”21 Its officers were experienced lawyers who knew their way around Washington as a result of having served in Republican administrations at the national and state levels and in major K Street firms. Michael Thielen, its current executive director, who earlier worked for the RNC, describes the organization as follows: Since 1985 the RNLA has nurtured and advanced lawyer involvement in public affairs generally and the Republican Party in particular. It is accurately described as a combination of a professional bar association, politically involved law firm and educational institute. . . . With members now in government, party general counsel positions, law firm management and on law school faculties, the RNLA has for many years been the principal national organization through which lawyers serve the Republican Party and its candidates.22

Its prestige in Republican party circles undoubtedly got a boost from its involvement in the Florida ballot recount battles of November-December 2000, when, according to one of its members, Eric Buermann, the RNLA was “extremely helpful . . . by sending lawyers to Florida to work on the recount, providing expertise as needed, and coordinating volunteer lawyer response.” It was this helpfulness which apparently led Buermann, the state’s Republican Party general counsel, to coordinate a collaboration between the RNLA and Florida legal response teams in 2002, so that, in the words of anRNLA newsletter that year, “there will be a permanent structure in place to keep the lawyers active and organized during off-election years.”23

Actually, the collaboration was even broader, involving the National Republican Campaign Committee and the RNC as well.24 The Democrats, on the other hand, also were developing a large network of lawyers that year—10,000, by one estimate—to counter vote suppression efforts. The nationwide deployment of thousands of lawyers in both parties led one journalist to predict “a new era in US politics after the Florida debacle two years ago—the age of the lawyers.”25

Executive Director Thielen gives this account of the organization’s involvement in the 2000 recount: “After election day, RNLA members were dispatched by party organizations and campaigns to multiple locations within several states. When it became clear that the final result in Florida would determine the outcome of the presidential election, members were concentrated there.” Thielen adds, “had it not been for the preeminent litigators retained by the campaign entities and the volunteer attorneys who spent weeks defending the intent of voters before canvassing boards, the will of thenation’s voters would surely have been thwarted.”

What an odd thing to say. The "nation's" voters clearly preferred Al Gore. It was only through that regrettable anachronism of the electoral college (and cheating in Florida) that had Bush within stealing distance.

Underlining the organization’s enhanced status among Republicans, White House counsel Albert Gonzales told the group, “You know, I must confess I groaned when I was first asked whether I would be willing to address another group of lawyers. However, when I found out this group included many lawyers that helped secure the election for George W. Bush, I quickly reconsidered.”27

The RNLA’s pride in its Florida efforts is expressed by trophies it presents to honorees at special receptions, consisting of lucite blocks that, as described on the organization’s Web site, “contain a commemorative message in honor of the Florida recount team, and contain actual ‘Chads’ from Florida dispersed throughout the Lucite. They [sic] were only a few hundred created and are not for sale but rather only presented to distinguished members and guests of the RNLA.” Not surprisingly, an RNLA lawyer, Hayden Dempsey, formerly a lawyer for Governor Jeb Bush, is heading Lawyers for Bush, the president’s legal defense team in Florida in 2004.


With the rise to prominence of the RNLA, the Republican Party’s nationally directed ballot security programs appear to have been transformed. While Operation Eagle Eye was directed from the command posts of the RNC by professionals, the people on the ground—poll-watchers and challengers—were often amateurs, which is to say Election Day volunteers who may have had only cursory training. The RNLA, born in the Reagan era, has gradually assumed the role of the party’s overarching anti-fraud enforcement agency. In the process, the organization has professionalized ballot security (its spokespersons seem to prefer the term “ballot integrity”) with a cadre of highly trained, aggressive, and mobile lawyers who can go anywhere in the nation on short notice. Indeed, they don’t even need to be mobile, in many cases. As one of the organization’s newsletters put it: “Ironically, when the Democratic National Committee bragged of sending in a thousand lawyers each to Missouri, Florida, and Texas for election day operations, the [RNLA] Field Operations Committee already had chapters organized in those states and did not need to send out of state lawyers to assist with the elections.”
Now, I realize that Obama is concentrating mostly on registering college students who are first time voters, so it's a little bit different. But there are plenty of hurdles there too, with arcane residency requirements and the very serious possibility that some college students won't have local "government issued" ID. I assume there will be tons of outreach using the new social networking tools to educate these voters about what's required, but there's always the danger that at least a few will just not bother --- and say they did. That's certainly happened in the past.

This is a terribly pernicious ruling that legitimizes the view that "voter fraud" is a bigger threat than disenfranchisement. That is the opposite of what this country needs right now, with rampant cynicism about the franchise already infecting the body politic. This ruling gives fodder to every wingnut lawyer in the country to say that if there were no voter fraud in this country, there wouldn't be any need for a Supreme Court ruling that allows states to protect against it.

It's important to remember that the thrust of many of these latest laws are to suppress the Latino vote, many of whom are reluctant to show up at polling places only to be treated like second class citizens and viewed with suspicion. Life is short. The same, of course, holds true for African Americans, even today. Simply slowing the lines with demands for proof of ID is enough to suppress the votes in urban precincts with too few voting machines. And then there are the handicapped and elderly who often just don't have the same type of ID as the rest of us. But then that's the point. These people must be made to jump through hoops in order to exercise their right to vote.

Oh wait. That's not quite right, is it? After all it was none other than the majority in Bush vs Gore who made it a point to reaffirm that "the individual citizen has no federal constitutional right to vote for electors for the President of the United States."

Perhaps we ought to change that.

Other posts on this topic here.

Update: I'm informed in the comments that the concentration of Obama's voter registration efforts goes far beyond college aged voters. I didn't mean to suggest otherwise. IMO, it's fair to assume that his excellent use of the new technology may work very well to entice young voters to register, but I shouldn't have made the apparently incorrect assumption that this is where he's concentrating his efforts.

The Pentagon: More Responsive Than The Broadcast Media

by dday

Apparently the Defense Department felt the pressure - I have no idea from whom - sufficient to stop feeding information to retired generals who play pundits on TV.

(Robert Hastings, principal deputy assistant secretary of Defense for public affairs) said he is concerned about allegations that the Defense Department's relationship with the retired military analysts was improper.

"Following the allegations, the story that is printed in the New York Times, I directed my staff to halt, to suspend the activities that may be ongoing with retired military analysts to give me time to review the situation," Hastings said in an interview with Stripes on Friday.

Hastings said he did not discuss the matter with Defense Secretary Robert Gates prior to making his decision. He could not say Friday how long this review might take.

"We'll take the time to do it right," he said.

Funny, because there has not been one stitch of coverage of this important issue in virtually any broadcast news outlet, while the retired generals remain on their payrolls. You'd think that for the Pentagon to shut down a program that gave them obvious benefits, they would have to feel some public outcry, which would arise from, you know, wide reporting on the matter. True, Democrats are finally coming around to speaking out about this issue, including Rep. Ike Skelton (chair of the House Armed Services Committee), Rep. Rosa DeLauro and even the Presidential candidates. Certainly, Skelton could haul Pentagon brass into hearings and make things very uncomfortable, and their suspension of the program could be a pre-emptive strike. But the fact that DeLauro sent letters to the heads of the television networks asking for details about the Pentagon pundits, and while the Defense Department shut down the program, the broadcast media did ZIPPO, shows you how deeply corrupt and desirous of avoiding responsibility they are.

In fact, I would go so far as to say that the Pentagon, George Bush's Pentagon, is showing themselves to be MORE accountable to the public than the traditional broadcast media. That's a pretty low bar, and the media couldn't get over it. On the other hand, they must be really proud of the Miley Cyrus topless story.

Glenn Greenwald has more.

Flaccid Flyboy

by digby

The North Carolina GOP is saying that their ads against Obama are North Carolina business and that their presidential nominee has no power to make them do anything. Fine. Firedoglake has set up a petition, which local North Carolina bloggers will present to Elizabeth Dole, asking her to take charge of the situation since John McCain is apparently so disrespected and impotent that he has no influence in his own party. (That bodes well for his presidency, don't you think?)

Jane Hamsher writes:

Who's the most senior member of the NC GOP? Well that would be Liddy Dole. NC Democratic Party Chair Jerry Meek has sent a letter to Dole saying "without a doubt, you could halt this ad with a simple telephone call."

Dole is up for re-election this year (and will be running against either Kay Hagen or Blue America candidate Jim Neal). But where is she? She's never in the state, she lives at the Watergate in DC, she rarely makes public appearances in NC. It seems she's gone Washington -- because once again, she's nowhere to be found when it comes to a North Carolina issue.

She can stop the racist attack ads against Obama, and we're asking her to send this letter:

Dear Chairwoman Linda Daves,

I disapprove of the content of the North Carolina Republican Party's recent advertisement "Extreme". I feel that it resorts to a type of negative politicking that betrays the best interest of North Carolinians.

I call on you, as Chairwoman of the North Carolina Republican Party, to immediately stop airing this advertisement. Failure to do so will reflect negatively on all North Carolina Republicans, and would necessitate that I return the Party's contributions to my campaign to disassociate myself from the vitriol which you appear to embrace.

We'll be working with NC bloggers (including Pam Spaulding) to deliver the petition to Dole's office. You can cosign here.

Go to it. This is actually more than just a fun little action. McCain is going to continue to benefit from his bogus "honorable man" reputation while allowing surrogates to destroy the Democratic candidate unless we make the media judge him for being unable to "control" his people. He's supposed to be the tough guy, right, with the bad temper? And he can't make the North Carolina party take those ads down? Please.

We need to embarrass him every time this happens with a continuing campaign of ritual humiliation. This is just the beginning.

Jeremiah Wright

by tristero

If you haven't seen Bill Moyers' interview with Jeremiah Wright, go now and see both parts. You will encounter a very remarkable man, highly intelligent, articulate, charismatic - it's easy to see how someone as smart as Obama would find him so compelling.

You will also encounter someone entirely bereft of false modesty - or any other kind. To his credit, however, Wright appeared to have at least some genuine insight into his flaws (or lapses of character, or whatever you want to call them) and that adds to his considerable attractiveness. Most striking, and frankly refreshing if you have ever seen the likes of Pat Robertson speak, is Wright's refusal to play holier than thou. He comes across as human, if somewhat larger than life. In other words, he's not some cheesy plastic replicant out of a fifties fantasy of what America should be.

If the man who spoke to Moyers - and who's shown in long excerpts (for tv, that is) of his sermons - is who Jeremiah Wright really is, the rightwing likely has committed a spectacular blunder in trying to demonize him - and by extension, Obama. The more opportunities given Wright to reach a national audience, the harder it will be to counteract him, let alone brand him as some America-hating black power radical. So, as far as I'm concerned, the more the right wants to make an issue out of him, the better. He really is that powerful, and positive, a presence (and for a variety of reasons, I was predisposed to think exactly the opposite).

I really shouldn't need to say so, but I will anyway, that all is this is prefaced on the Jeremiah Wright persona which he showed to Moyers being who Wright is - smart, intellectual, socially active, religious, with a quick temper and a sense of grandiosity. I hardly know anything more about him. But what I saw was very impressive and made me want to learn more.

Anyone who has some substantive information on Wright - not mere reactions to the soundbites, which are utterly misleading - please drop in for some comments. Good, bad, or indifferent - who is he?

UPDATE: Some folks in comments are of the opinion that Wright should take a vacation, that he's harming Obama with more soundbites. Oh? Well, maybe he will say something stupid and I'll regret this but... It around time the press got used to liberals speaking out, too. You have to start somewhere and at sometime and with someone. When, when, and who would be better?

About That Voter Registration Drive

by dday

It had better come with a trip to the DMV:

The Supreme Court ruled Monday that states can require voters to produce photo identification without violating their constitutional rights, validating Republican-inspired voter ID laws.

In a splintered 6-3 ruling, the court upheld Indiana's strict photo ID requirement, which Democrats and civil rights groups said would deter poor, older and minority voters from casting ballots. Its backers said it was needed to deter fraud.

It was the most important voting rights case since the Bush v. Gore dispute that sealed the 2000 election for George W. Bush.

Stevens actually wrote one of the majority opinions in this one, in addition to the conservative bloc and Kennedy joining the ruling.

This is, as we know, a solution in search of a problem. Voter fraud is a made-up conservative issue, backed by no evidence. While Stevens suggested that there are no "excessively burdensome requirements" imposed on voters who must show ID at the polls, he's answering an unknowable question. We simply have no idea how photo ID centers (if there will be any outside the DMV) in Indiana or anywhere else would be managed, whether the same groups that truck elderly and poor voters to the polls on Election Day will be able to do the same to get people their IDs, and so on. If they require the same documentation that the DMV does, many poor and elderly people simply don't have them. If it requires an application fee, how is that not a poll tax?

Justice Scalia's broader ruling shows exactly what Republicans want out of this:

Scalia, favoring a broader ruling in defense of voter ID laws, said, "The universally applicable requirements of Indiana's voter-identification law are eminently reasonable. The burden of acquiring, possessing and showing a free photo identification is simply not severe, because it does not 'even represent a significant increase over the usual burdens of voting.'"

But during the arguments, Scalia conceded that such laws would "inconvenience... a small number of people," and the Solicitor General for the state of Indiana actually said that "an infinitesimal portion of the electorate could even be, conceivably be, burdened by" the ID law.

You know, that's how the 14th Amendment WORKS, with equal protection for all, even that "infinitesimal portion of the electorate". And, as Amanda Terkel notes, that's a major soft-pedal of the impact:

Voter ID laws, however, affect more than an "infinitesimal" number of Americans and are more than a "minor inconvenience." According to the federal government, there are as many as 21 million voting-age Americans without driver's licenses. In Indiana, 13 percent of registered voters lack the documents needed to obtain a license, and therefore, cast a ballot. These restrictions disproportionately hit low-income, minority, handicapped, and elderly voters the hardest, leading to lower levels of voter participation.

Those affected also tend to vote Democratic, which may explain why Karl Rove and his colleagues have pursued so-called voter fraud with such zeal. Several U.S. attorneys ousted in the Bush administration's infamous prosecutor purge even alleged that they were fired because they refused to aggressively prosecute baseless voter fraud claims.

Considering that we have at least one Democratic campaign predicated on bringing new voters to the process, this is an incredibly calamitous outcome that could upset the entire effort. Somebody in the Obama campaign had better get out in front of this; the courts are already stacked against them.

UPDATE: I found the part of the majority opinion referring to whether or not there's an application fee for a driver's license. Some of this is unbelievable (emphasis mine):

(c) The relevant burdens here are those imposed on eligible voters who lack photo identification cards that comply with SEA 483. Because Indiana’s cards are free, the inconvenience of going to the Bureau of Motor Vehicles, gathering required documents, and posing for a photograph does not qualify as a substantial burden on most voters’ right to vote, or represent a significant increase over the usual burdens of voting. The severity of the somewhat heavier burden that may be placed on a limited number of persons—e.g., elderly persons born out-of-state, who may have difficulty obtaining a birth certificate—is mitigated by the fact that eligible voters without photo identification may cast provisional ballots that will be counted if they execute the required affidavit at the circuit court clerk’s office. Even assuming that the burden may not be justified as to a few voters, that conclusion is by no means sufficient to establish petitioners’ right to the relief they seek.

See, they can just cast provisional ballots! And we all know that every single one of those are counted.

UPDATE II: Let me promote this comment, which is all too typical of depressed areas, I suspect:

Being a Hoosier, I have another piece of news, many of our BMV locations have been closed, especially up around Gary (a horribly depressed industrial area, neighboring Chicago).

OOh...I guess all those poor working class minority types will have to drive three counties away. QUICK, LOOK, Obama scored 37 bowling!