Archives for: April 2008
"I Hate Illinois Nazis"
Like G-O-Peanut butter and chocolate......White chocolate.
"U.S. Congressional candidate Tony Zirkle is facing criticism from one of his primary opponents, and a host of people on the Internet, for speaking at an event over the weekend that celebrated Adolf Hitler's birthday.
Zirkle confirmed to The News-Dispatch on Monday he spoke Sunday in Chicago at a meeting of the Nationalist Socialist Workers Party, whose symbol is a swastika.
When asked if he was a Nazi or sympathized with Nazis or white supremacists, Zirkle replied he didn't know enough about the group to either favor it or oppose it."
I think the GOP's farm system might need a little work.
One can only imagine how the rest of the party went once they broke out the cake with Adolph's picture and "Seig Heil!" written on it:
HeadNazi: White Men! White women! The swastika is calling you. The Jew is using the black as muscle against you. And you are left there helpless. Well, what are you going to do about it, whitey? Just sit there? Of course not. You, are going to join with us. The members of the American, Socialist, White peoples party. An organisation of decent, law abiding white folk. Just like you.
[Jake and Elwood are caught in a traffic jam caused by the Nazis.]
Jake:[To a patrolling officer] Hey, what's going on?
Officer: Ah, those bums won their court case so they're marching today.
Jake: What bums?
Officer: The f*****g Nazi party.
Elwood: Illinios Nazis!
Jake: I hate Illinios Nazis.
Mad as Hell at the Airlines
Category: Abuse of Power, RFL Big Story
As travelers, we've been conditioned to accept being treated as cattle, grateful to get a bag of nuts or even a glass of water. We tolerate the interminable delays, rude treatment and lost luggage. But incompetence and bad service are one thing; breach of contract is something else.
This past weekend I was in New Orleans on assignment. Last night, along with two others, we arrived at that airport to head to Charlotte for our connecting flight taking us back to LaGuardia. Even though we had bought our round trip tickets more than a month ago, an indifferent agent told me, "Sorry Rich - you've been bumped."
The good people of U.S. Air decided to oversell my flight and randomly select yours truly to sweat out at check in, hoping one of the other cattle didn't make the flight or could be bought off with a round trip ticket. Long story short, I got on the flight. In Charlotte I was greeted with the same wonderful surprise - bumped again. Seeing as this was the last flight out, and all of Monday's flights to New York were sold out, I was told with a toothy grin from the young lady at the gate that I probably ought to settle into a Carolina state of mind for a while. I'll save you the painful details but I was the last cow - I mean person - permitted on board, leaving fellow travelers behind, stranded in North Carolina.
The flight home I hardly felt grateful. I felt more like the guy from Network who screams, "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take this anymore!" How is it ethical, let alone legal, to sell someone a ticket and only when they show up in some foreign city tell them sorry you have a ticket - not a seat? Consider the facts: If you don't show for your flight you're screwed. U.S. Air in this case keeps your money as well as the revenue from the sap who was bumped or the annoying guy on standby, grateful to have your seat.
And please, when was the last time someone from first class was "bumped?" What happens to a parent and child? Is the airline really comfortable separating family, because the gluttonous pigs oversold their flight? When I brought up this and other realities, the same young lady cheerfully told me not to worry, they'd put me up in a hotel for the night. First off, I want to be in my own bed in New York, not some fleabag dump in Carolina. Secondly, is the airline going to take care of my child care issues, lost wages, car services? At that point she stopped smiling.
The answers are not complicated. Don't oversell flights. If you have to, which I don't accept, why can't you notify each ticket purchaser past capacity they are subject to being bumped - buyer beware? Instead, the schmo who buys well in advance doesn't even receive a courtesy call until they show up at the gate.
I can't think of another industry that treats their customers worse. Until it happened to me, it never registered how obscene a practice this was and how rampant it's become.
Well now I know and I'm going to see if we can do something about it. I'm on a crusade, people. I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore.
The Day After PA: Same as it Ever Was
Category: Election 2008, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama
When is a win not really a win?
When the battle is won even after the war was already lost.
The more things change, the more they stay the same. Now that the Pennsylvania primary is behind us, Democrats are back to square one:
So, what happens? She wins by 9.4% — a number Clinton supporters round up to call it a double-digit win, and Obama supporters round down for the opposite reason. Clinton’s victory was decisive and impressive, but the margin fits nicely into that middle ground. It’s big enough to give Clinton a boost, but not big enough to change the overall dynamics of the race. It’s big enough to keep the campaign going for quite a while, but not big enough to compel uncommitted superdelegates to get off the fence.
In other words, after six weeks of campaigning in the Keystone State, and about $40 million of investment, the Democratic Party is largely where it was a month ago.
And where is that, exactly? With Clinton trailing Obama in pledged delegates, popular vote, contests won and money raised.
But Clinton's supporters have no time for niggling little details like that. They're giddy with their victory and already planning the next steps:
Clinton's campaign is cash-poor right now, and that's going to be a problem...To that end...I'd suggest to the candidate that we focus our attention on Indiana, and cede North Carolina, in fact if not officially...Almost any size loss (there) can be explained away as Obama doing well in the South, while a Clinton win in Indiana will help her build on Pennsylvania. That lets her go on to get inevitable wins in Kentucky, West Virginia, and Puerto Rico, and at the very least allows her to stay in the race, free and clear, all the way to June and beyond.
And beyond? To what end? She'll still trail in every metric you can think of. And here's the thing: None of that is likely to change between now and June 3. The margins she needs overcome either the delegate count or popular vote are simply unrealistic. Yes, Clinton raised an impressive $2.5 mil immediately following her Keystone State win, but that doesn't even cover the cash she owes to former campaign strategist Mark Penn. She's deep in debt, and Obama's flush with cash.
This leaves Clinton with her final card to play: the Superdelegates. And speaking of which, some people are getting a little impatient:
I have to say that I'm getting really tired of this. All the superdelegates should just say who they're voting for and bring this to the end. If they want to back Hillary Clinton despite Obama's majority in elected delegates, they should say so. Or if they want Barack Obama to be the nominee, they should say so. The idea that in two weeks we'll have another inconclusive primary, then another, then another, then another and then the superdelegates make up their mind is inane.
I get it. Superdelegates want to feel important. They want to be power-brokers AND receive the sympathy for those tasked with making a difficult decision. But at some point you have to fish or cut bait.
So is there anything that could swing things Hillary's way at this point? Well, yes, but it hasn't worked out so far:
The bottom line is that Hillary needs an Obama meltdown to have a real path to the nomination. After all the uproar about Jeremiah Wright and bittergate, that didn't come close to happening...What did happen was that all the people who think the extended nomination fight is killing party got a lot more depressed.
The beatings will continue until morale improves.
Hillary's Fair-Weather Friends
Category: Election 2008, Hillary Clinton, RFL Big Story
We will learn soon enough who wins Pennsylvania and possibly who wins this bitterly fought Democratic nomination. But lately a thought has stuck with me amid all the last minute jockeying - what a bunch of disloyal rats choose politics for a career. Hillary will probably lose when it's all said and done, however, i heard the same thing about her chances before New Hampshire and also remember dirt being tossed on John McCain's campaign not that long ago.
But whatever the outcome, she deserved better from her so-called friends who give opportunism a bad name. Governor Bill Richardson stuck his pudgy finger in the air, felt the prevailing political winds blowing Obama's way and abandoned the man who gave him his political break, let alone spent his Super Bowl Sunday with. When it was good to buddy up with the Clintons, the governor was first to mug for the group photo. Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich is just as bad. Bubba gave him his big break as labor Secretary, and when times were toughest he put on his lifts and announced he was jumping ship.
The list goes on, but by now you get the point. Loyalty may have always been in short supply in politics but theses defections have nothing to do with policy and everything to do with gutless desertion. Poetic justice would have Hillary pulling out a shocking upset, but if nothing else she's at least learned who her real friends are.
The Non-Elites Will Be Pleased
Category: Election 2008, Hillary Clinton, John McCain, Barack Obama
It's 11PM in Pennsylvania. Do You Know Where Your Candidates Are?
Category: Election 2008, Hillary Clinton
Public Policy Polling
Less than 24 hours before the polls open in PA and the Clinton camp has to be encouraged by these polls, but not overjoyed. Because while these numbers show movement her way, there are other numbers to suggest Obama’s gaining…Long story short, it’s all about GOTV now.
Get Out the Vote. Making sure the politically active base is pounding the pavement in your name. It's the backbone of any political campaign. Those passionate activists that are the go-to guys and gals for any candidate. You may not agree on every single policy point or petition, but they're a politician's bread and butter.
"Moveon.org endorsed [Sen. Barack Obama] -- which is like a gusher of money that never seems to slow down," Clinton said to a meeting of donors. "We have been less successful in caucuses because it brings out the activist base of the Democratic Party. MoveOn didn't even want us to go into Afghanistan. I mean, that's what we're dealing with. And you know they turn out in great numbers. And they are very driven by their view of our positions, and it's primarily national security and foreign policy that drives them. I don't agree with them. They know I don't agree with them. So they flood into these caucuses and dominate them and really intimidate people who actually show up to support me."
Oh no she di'n't!?!?
Yep. She did.
Howard Wolfson, communications director for the Clinton campaign, verified the authenticity of the audio, and elaborated on Clinton's charge that these same party activists were engaged in acts of intimidation against her supporters: "There have been well documented instances of intimidation in the Nevada and the Texas caucuses, and it is a fact that while we have won 4 of the 5 largest primaries, where participation is greatest, Senator Obama has done better in caucuses than we have." About Clinton's remarks suggesting dismay over high Democratic activist turnout, Wolfson said, "I'll let my statement stand as is."
The last time I can remember a politician seeking the nomination of a party while simultaneously insulting the very people who make up that party's base was Joe Lieberman in 2006. And you know how popular HE is with the Democratic Party.
lying misspeaking about MoveOn's support of the war in Afghanistan (hat tip, Karl Rove), and aisde from the fact that the examples of supposed "intimidation" - the Nevada and Texas caucuses - that Wolfson uses to justify Hillary's comments came after Hillary made them, I just don't see the advantage to angering the people you're going to need - if all goes miraculously well - in the general election:
I'm no strategist, but it seems that if you're aiming for the Democratic nomination, offending MoveOn and the Netroots is a first class disaster.
I mean, if by some chance you beat Obama, you're going to want MoveOn and the Netroots to help you beat McCain, right? Especially after you've already admitted that they're some of the biggest fundraisers the party's got.
And then there's the youth vote. Let's say you beat Obama, and they're a little angry. The Netroots could be great help in winning them back.
The "activist base" might have been willing to come around in time. They might have been willing to support you for the good of the party.
I'm guessing now...not so much.
Not to mention that it re-re-reopens questions of Clinton's credibility:
For a campaign that has morphed into nothing but "Republican talking points", it shouldn't come as any surprise. I'm curious though, what part of our foreign policy approach doesn't she agree with? The ending the war in Iraq part? I'd like more details on that one.
Bloomberg News takes a look at what Hillary needs to do to earn a popular vote win, and finds that she basically needs to do the political equivalent of pitching a no-hitter, hitting for the cycle, and pulling an unassisted triple play -- all in one game.
The problem for Hillary is that without a popular vote win she has no way of muddying the waters or arguing that the Democratic electorate didn't deliver a clear verdict in favor of Obama.
I wouldn't go so far as to call Hillary a divider, not a uniter, but...Live by the negativity, die by the negativity:
You can summarize Clinton’s problem in a nutshell: over the past few months she and her husband have been stuck in negative mode and unable to turn their efforts to making an affirmative case for her candidacy without demonizing people and groups who oppose her or come out for Obama. The result: she is alienating key parts of the Democratic party’s traditional base.
It used to be said by her critics that Clinton could polarize the country.
She has now polarized her own party.
Extreme Makeover: Senate Foreclosure Bill Edition
Across the nation, victims of predatory mortgage lenders and homeowners who were barely getting by before job loss or medical emergencies forced them to face foreclosure, are crying out to their leaders in Washington, "Please, won't you do something to help...the automotive, airline and energy industries? Billions in corporate tax breaks for them, if you don't mind?" Well, lucky them, their calls were heard by the august members of the United States Senate:
Congress pretending to rush to the aid of "homeowners" with a bill so stuffed with pork, lobbyist favors, and corporate tax breaks that the homeowner is an after-thought.
Like the ironically-named Clean Air Act or the Helathy Forests Initiative, the Senate's version of the Foreclosure Prevention Act had provisions taken OUT that would've, y'know, prevented foreclosures:
In the spirit of working together, Senate Democrats stripped from the FORECLOSURE PREVENTION ACT a provision that would have allowed bankruptcy judges to intervene to help struggling homeowners. That move was key in getting the support of Senate Republicans to pass the bill.
Because Democrats are still a minority, even when they're a majority:
The U.S. House of Representatives, which features a high level of party discipline and where liberals are basically in the driver's seat, produced a pretty good bill to provide relief to people hard hit by the crisis in the housing markets. But over in the U.S. Senate where you need Republican support to pass a bill, and where Democrats with a questionable commitment to progressive values like Max Baucus hold immense sway, the bill has become party central for corporate lobbyists with all kinds of random giveaways to this industry and that larding the thing up.
At least it was bipartisan. And to partially make up for the help their not giving to homeowners, they offer this latest episode at the feeding trough as an instructive parable on how you should go about wetting your whistle:
Once again, our government continues to think dishing out corporate welfare to failing big businesses is going to help the financial issues of individual families. It is almost like asking those families to bail out the people who employ them...
Perhaps, the only way for me to benefit from my tax dollars is to start a huge company destined to fail so that I can be bailed out as well. Sort of like the scheme from "The Producers".
Springtime for Bear Stearns and equity?
There is still hope with the House version of the bill which sets aside more help for homeowners and cuts out the corporate goodies, but only if people act like they care:
The economic crisis is just another opportunity to raid the treasury on behalf of the big corporations. Like 9/11, Katrina, etc., making the vastly rich vastly richer. What else would you expect?
There is still time to fight this -- but only if we can get the public to start acting like citizens participating in their government instead of consumers watching a TV show.
Because we can't all be featured on Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.
Because Every Cloud Has a Silver Lining?
Report: Netanyahu says 9/11 terror attacks good for Israel
...always look on the bright side of life?
Economic Crisis Isn't as Bad as It Looks - It's Worse
Category: RFL Big Story
Every so often we all hear or see something that just clicks. Like the missing piece to a puzzle, when put together with other images or facts, it all comes together. Last week I went to Washington to attend the Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute’s symposium, "Toward a New New Deal: FDR's Liberalism and the Future of American Democracy." For me, the reality of our economy and what may lie ahead came into focus when discussing, of all things, the Great Depression.
It was eerie hearing people describe what led to the crash of ‘29 and its aftermath. So while much of the night was a celebration of the New Deal, what stuck with me was how we might need a modern day historical rescue.
Prominent lawmakers who sit on key financial committees gave an unguarded and jarring account of America’s financial health today and tomorrow.
But you don't even have to take their word for it. Pick up your paper today and look at the tsunami of bankruptcies; American retailers closing stores by the thousands, earning reports from the major banks show steep profit losses as tens of thousands begin to get pink slips in the financial sector. If you think Bear Stearns will be the last, you need to think again.
Forget Wall Street though, the American consumer knows far better than some of the empty suits in the administration, the reality is a lot scarier than some downturn. Everything - from the gas in your car, to the food on your table, to your kids’ tuition, to your medical bills to your property taxes - all cost more. Now that I think about it, for some - property taxes might seem a blessing if your one of the millions who lost your home to foreclosure.
Simply put, everything costs more, but we don't have any more money. Now here comes the kick in the pants - the people we owe the money to, they need it back. The credit crunch is squeezing everybody and there’s nowhere near enough money to go around.
I don't want to be right, but in the pit of my stomach I believe the worst of this mess is around the corner, and I think nobody is shooting straight as to how pronounced it could get.
Pope's Visit Highlights a Tricky Dance for U.S. Catholics
Category: RFL Big Story
The Catholic Church is my church. I've been baptized, confirmed and married in the church and even send my kids to parochial schools. But as much as I love my parish, I reserve the same devotion to the Vatican. Like many fellow Catholics, I cannot simply turn the page on the abuse scandal; a scandal tolerated, even fostered by the powers that be. That distrust is compounded by a disconnect too many of us prefer to ignore. For much of my adult life I’ve done the same tricky dance many others have - ignoring what we don't want to hear and embracing the rest.
How many people in the pews really adhere to the ban on contraceptives? How many are actually pro-choice or don't demonize gays? After all the scandals many of us don't feel we ought to be lectured on our failings, but at the same time want nothing more than an ailing church to be restored to health.
Declining attendance, vanishing priests and shuttered doors to churches and their schools all scream urgency, but our Pope and those closest to him simply say, "maintain the faith."
I wish it were that easy.
Highlights from the
Dog and Pony Petraeus and Crocker Show
While the Petraeus and Crocker show was largely predictable (Iraq is better than it was seven months ago, but not so much better that we can continue bringing more troops home), there were some entertaining moments. Like John McCain waxing optimistic:
But today it is possible to talk with real hope and optimism about the future of Iraq and the outcome of our efforts there. For while the job of bringing security to Iraq is not finished, as the recent fighting in Basra and elsewhere vividly demonstrated, we're no longer staring into the abyss of defeat and we can now look ahead to the genuine prospect of success.
We can? That's great! I'll go tell eve...
Under pointed questioning earlier from Sen. Evan Bayh (D-IN), Gen. Petraeus painted a much more somber picture of Iraq than many of his Republican cheerleaders:
It's why I've repeatedly noted that we haven't turned any corners, we haven't seen any lights at the end of the tunnel. The champagne bottle has been pushed to the back of the refrigerator. And the progress, while real, is fragile and is reversible.
Not that that was the only inevitabvle demise of another wingnut talking point, like this one from Blogs for
Bush Victory's inimitable Mark Noonan:
While the MSM will maintain the fiction for as long as possible that Sadr won in Basra, the facts indicate that the Iraqi government and military passed their first stern test on the road to being fully self-sufficient, and put a huge dent in the pretensions not just of Sadr, but of all wanna-be warlords.
Uh-huh. Basra. The benchmark of the New Success we're to expect more of in Iraq.
"There's no question that it could have been better planned and that the preparations could have been better," Army Gen. David Petraeus told the U.S. Senate's committee on armed services.
"It was not adequately planned or prepared," he said.
Asked by Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain of Arizona whether the operation had been a disappointment, Petraeus agreed that it had been.
Of course, that wasn't McCain's high point of the testimony. This was:
MCCAIN: Do you still view al Qaeda in Iraq as a major threat?
PETRAEUS: It is still a major threat, though it is certainly not as major a threat as it was say 15 months ago.
MCCAIN: Certainly not an obscure sect of the Shi’ites overall?
MCCAIN: Or Sunnis or anybody else.
Head. Brick wall. Apply. Repeat as necessary:
I can’t figure out if he’s doing this because he’s too stupid to learn and educate himself or if he buys into the Rovian theory that if you stubbornly keep repeating something over and over that eventually, it’s accepted as the truth. Either way, is that the kind of Commander-in-Chief we need after Bush?
There were other moments of Republican fun 'n' games, Certainly Sen. Lindsey "Huckleberry" Graham's man-crushes on Petraeus and Crocker were high in entertainment value (if a bit hard on the stomach), but the prize for Most Ridiculous Statement had to go to our old friend "Smokin'" Joe Lieberman. As in, "What the #$%^@! is he smokin'?"
Joe Lieberman is probably beyond shark-jumping at this point, but his statement that Iraqis have made more progress on political reconciliation since September than have Americans is really pretty appalling. To state the obvious, America has a heated political debate, but liberals and conservatives aren't shooting mortars at each other and we don't have pitched battles in the streets. To compare the situation in Iraq to the persistence of strong partisan disagreement in the United States is idiotic.
But not all Republicans present embarrassed themselves the way the Three Amigos did. Sen. Voinovich practically burst an artery, all but calling for a timetable for withdrawal, and Sen. Chuck Hagel wanted to know, along with the American people, "what the end is going to look like." That's when Petraeus got all existetial on him:
We’ve got to continue — for how long? Petraeus won’t say. What conditions in Iraq define success? Petraeus doesn’t know — but when he sees the conditions, then he’ll know what they are.
So....success in Iraq is like porn?
Fortunately, the hearings had a presidential candidate on hand who put on his lawyer hat and walked the Dyanamic Duo through the process of defining what success is, or in this case, is not:
Obama was able to hit Petraeus and Crocker very hard....He got Petraeus to agree with him that the total elimination of Al Qaeda is an impossible standard for withdrawal. Next he goes after Crocker's points about Iranian influence, pointing out that both Iran and Al Qaeda are in Iraq because we invaded and that we can not expect to eliminate Iranian involvement.
Then came the hammer. Obama pointed out that if the definition of success is put so high - no Al Qaeda, no Iranian influence, a prosperous diverse democracy we will be there forever. He then points out that we still, after 8 hours of testimony, have no definition of success....Crocker's weak response its "hard and complicated."
Sort of reminds me of the President's view of governing.
Even Sen. Carl Levin, not normally known for being the most aggressive questioner of Bush's policies on Iraq, got his blood up. Seems that five years after being told that Iraq oil profits would pay for the reconstruction, they haven't, and with oil well over $100 a barrel, Iraq is now sitting on tens of billions of dollars in surpluses:
At a time of economic distress in the United States, including fears of recession, home foreclosures, job losses, infrastructure strains, and health care worries, U.S. lawmakers publicly are asking why the Iraqis themselves can’t pick up the tab for their own reconstruction. Privately, several of them are going one step further — asking whether they Iraqis actually are playing the U.S. taxpayers for suckers.
Why not? The administration is.
But for sheer attitude, no one compared to Smilin' Joe Biden, whose foreign policy acumen and trademark testiness were both on display:
There was once a blog called Joe Biden Is Thugged Out. (I swear this is true.) Biden just proved why. He asked Ryan Crocker, who used to be ambassador to Pakistan, whether it would be better for U.S. interests to go after Al Qaeda on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border or Al Qaeda in Iraq.
Crocker, in an impossible political position -- give the correct answer and humiliate the Bush administration; give the administration's answer and look like a fool -- dodged as much as he could. Then Biden forced him down. Crocker: "I would therefore pick Al Qaeda on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border."
As dday says over at Digby's, "Game Over":
Every single argument that the Administration and their lapdogs like John McCain have made or are making break down after that answer. The Ambassdor to Iraq just admitted that Iraq is not the central front in the war on terror. He just admitted that the potential for Al Qaeda to gain a beachhead in Iraq should the United States withdraw is miniscule compared to the already-established beachhead along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. He admitted that the global fight against terror is currently misdirected.
Of course, this is D.C. we're talking about, and all the sound and fury will eventually signify nothing, as is the way of these things. But at least we got our spanking new catch-phrase for the war, at the expense of those soldiers who won't be coming home after July, thanks to the plan to "pause" troop withdrawals:
Lest Congress get any crazy ideas about honoring the wishes of the majority of Americans and start bringing the rest of our troops home, the administration is going to run out the clock hiding behind the idea of a "pause."
I put it in quotes because what they're proposing isn't actually a pause -- in fact, it's precisely the opposite of a pause. What they really mean is a continuation. But since "stay the course" was 12 slogans ago, they had to come up with a new one.
This is standard operating procedure for the Bush administration: every time they look at the events on the ground in Iraq, instead of responding with a smart policy, they respond with a catchy new slogan. Usually an utterly misleading catchy slogan....
Just take a look back at what we've had so far. First there was "Gathering Threat." Then "Axis of Evil." And then, in order:
"Shock and Awe"
"Adapt to Win"
"Stay the Course"
"New Way Forward"
And then "The "Surge." And now "The "Pause."
Which is just "Stay the Course 2.0".
Read It and Weep
Category: Abuse of Power
From Scott Horton's A Tale of Three Lawyers at Harper's:
The decision to withhold the information had been taken, in defiance of law, by senior political figures in the Bush Administration. Diaz was aware of it, and he knew it was unlawful. He printed out a copy of the names and sent them to a civil rights lawyer who had requested them in federal court proceedings.
Diaz was aware when he did this that he was violating regulations and that he could and would, if caught, be subjected to severe sanction. What he did was a violation of law, even as it was an effort to cure a more severe act of lawlessness by the Government. Diaz violated the law in precisely the same sense as Martin Luther King reminds us, in the Letter from Birmingham Jail, that his arrest was based on a violation of law. That everything the Nazis did in Germany was lawful. And that every act of the Hungarian freedom fighters was a crime. In terms of the moral law, however, Diaz was on the side of right, and the Bush Administration and the Pentagon had, by engaging in the conduct that the Supreme Court condemned, placed themselves on the side of lawlessness, corruption and dishonor.
Diaz was charged, tried and convicted for disclosing “secrets.” For the Bush Administration, any information which would be politically embarrassing or harmful to it is routinely classified “secret.” In this fashion the Administration believes it can use criminal sanctions against those who disclose information it believes will be politically damaging. The list of detainees at Guantánamo, which by law was required to be disclosed, was classified as “secret.”
Diaz spent six months in prison and left it bankrupt and without a job. In addition to his sentence, the Pentagon is working aggressively to have Diaz stripped of his law license so he will not be able to practice his profession. The Bush Administration has sought to criminalize, humiliate and destroy Diaz. Its motivation could not be clearer: Diaz struck a blow for the rule of law. And nothing could be more threatening to the Bush Administration than this.
In the week in which Diaz received the Ridenhour Prize, another Pentagon “secret” was disclosed. This “secret” was a memorandum made to order for William J. Haynes II, Rumsfeld’s General Counsel, and the man at the apex of the Pentagon’s military justice system that tried, convicted and sentenced Diaz. The memo was authored by John Yoo. This memorandum was designed to authorize the introduction of torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading interrogation techniques to be used upon prisoners held at Guantánamo, and ultimately also used in Afghanistan and Iraq. The memorandum authorized waterboarding, long-time standing, hypothermia, the administration of psychotropic drugs and sleep deprivation in excess of two days in addition to a number of other techniques. Each of these techniques is long established as torture as a matter of American and international law. The application and implementation of these techniques was and is a crime.
The exact circumstances surrounding the dealings between Haynes and Yoo that led to the development of this memorandum are unclear. However, it is clear that Haynes had previously authorized the use of the torture techniques, and had secured an order from Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld authorizing them.
Following the implementation of these techniques, more than 108 detainees died in detention. In a large number of these cases, the deaths have been ruled a homicide and connected to torture. These homicides were a forseeable consequence of the advice that Haynes and Yoo gave.
Read the whole thing, if you have the stomach.
The Morning Stupid
Why I hate the teevee in the morning.
Just now on The Morning Show with Mike and Juliet on FOX:
Plus-Sized Beuty Queens:
A bad example for girls?
The stupid. It burns.
But Her Strategy Was Working So Well...?
Category: Election 2008, Hillary Clinton
It's been a bad few days for Mark Penn. First his PR/lobbying firm, Burson-Marsteller Worldwide, got fired by the Colombian government after he called his efforts to push their proposed free trade agreement with the U.S. "an error in judgment." Then he got fired as Hillary Clinton's chief campaign strategist for supporting the agreement in the first place, as it's something the presidential candidate opposes. Philadelphia's AFL-CIO chapter, understandably, got a little peeved at someone so close to Clinton's campaign working at odds with her stated position, and as she can hardlky afford any ill will in Pennsylvania, the rest was academic. What's not so clear is who vetted this guy in the first place?
Did Hillary know about Penn’s conflict of interest and if so, how long has she known? If he wasn’t ‘found out’, would Penn still be in charge? Hillary already has a credibility problem, and this mess only adds fuel to the fire.
Did they pick Penn's PR firm out of a hat? In recent years, Burson-Marsteller has represented disgraced mortgage lender Countrywide financial, the out-of-control Iraq contracting firm Blackwater Worldwide, and Big Tobacco, to name but a few of his unsavory clients. "Conflict of interest," indeed.
But if his conflicts of interest alone weren't enough to fire him, his incompetence was:
This moron is nearly singlehandedly responsible for the mess the Clinton campaign finds itself in. As opposed to having comfortably secured the nomination last month with victories in Texas and Ohio, Penn's idiotic "strategy" of banking it all on SooperDooperTuesday, rather than laying the ground troops in January in states after the big red letter day, Penn's shortsightedness and hubris has put Hillary in the position of really having to bust humps in the last three months of the campaign in order to take the nomination in a subjective and therefore suspect fashion.
Ignoring the importance of winning caucuses; the "inevitablitiy argument"; calling smaller states "unimportant". The list of Penn's mistakes is long and impressive. You'd have to work hard to find a reason not to fire him. was disliked by other staffers and his departure is being seen as a morale boost to a campaign that hasn't had much to smile about lately. But it remains to be seen if shedding his baggage comes as too little, too late, or even if his "departure" is nothing more than smoke and mirrors. He's still staying on as Clinton's pollster, and no doubt will attempt to rehabilitate himself in her eyes (behind the scenes, of course). And she may still listen. She seems to think he's been doing a heckuva job so far:
Even if you accept that Penn's strategic advice was bad…Hillary Clinton was the one to actualize it and follow it...He still retains the confidence of the Clintons and will still play a major role in the campaign. What does that tell you about the quality of advice the Clintons believe him to impart?
In fact, I'd be surprised if Hillary's latest tactic of comparing Obama to Bush didn't have Penn's fingerprints all over it. Not only is it right on par with Penn's "kitchen sink" approach, but it's a classic Rove/Penn tell: accuse your opponent of your own flaw. In this case, only listening to people who tell you what you want to hear:
Will any major presidential campaign ever again make the mistake of putting one person in charge of strategy and polling? (The conflict is absurd - Penn crafted a plan, and then provided his own data to show how right he was.)
Between a total lack of professional ethics, an abrasive, dismissive style and an ability to massage statistics like a Swedish accountant on crank, since he now has some spare time on his hands, I'd suggest that he'd make a fantastic rightwing blogger.
Battling Over Bridge Safety on the Tappan Zee
Category: Abuse of Power, RFL Big Story
I am not a psychologist. I don't even try and play one on TV. All I know are the facts; facts that, no matter how you twist them, tell me lives can and have been saved with suicide prevention call boxes on bridges. This is not a news flash. As you've seen even the same authorities who fought our efforts tooth and nail acknowledge now, the lifelines work.
That, of course, brings us to the Tappan Zee Bridge. After seeing the northbound spans respond to our pressures, I gave the TZ credit. They anticipated the command and said they were following suit. I blame myself, however, for trusting and not verifying. In my defense, who comes up with, let alone implements, a plan that has help lines miles…miles!...from the center of the bridge?
As insane as that is, though, I swear the explanation is even worse. Here's the justification from Ramesh Mehta, the New York State Thruway Authority's director for the Hudson Valley: Putting call boxes where people jump will cause traffic tie-ups.
Is that really your tradeoff for a human life? I'm betting it's not.
One of two things has happened: we've appointed people entrusted with safety and security that are incapable or, worse, indifferent.
I don't know which one it is, and frankly I don't care. Some people will jump no matter what. But we don't have to make it so easy. If the thruway authority won't do the right thing, we'll shame them into it. We've done it before and we'll do it again.
So here's what were going to do. I'm going to give the powers that be a chance to defend themselves. On Thursday, Ramesh Mehta, the shot caller from the Thruway Authority - the ones who run the Tappan Zee Bridge - will join me on this set and explain why call boxes, literally 2 miles from the center of the bridge, is the best we can do. He'll explain why, if the past decade is any guide, another 60 to 90 people need to die before another bridge will address this problem. I'll give him a fair shot but frankly I don't know how he, or anyone can defend the indefensible.
It doesn't have to be this way. Lives have been saved and deaths, not all but many, can be prevented on the Tappan Zee. We can do better, and RFL will do our part to see that they do.
Feel the Gravelmen......Whoa
Mike Gravel, for a Crazier America:
I can't understand why he didn't do better in the polls...
Foreclosure Relief (?)
The Senate has reached an agreement on a bipartisan bill to help with the foreclosure crisis. Hooray! Better late than never, right?
Well, not necessarily. The biggest beneficiaries of the bill are not owners facing foreclosure, but the companies that built the homes these people can't pay for:
Let's just review exactly what the homebuilders did during the boom. If you look at their balance sheets and cash flow statements, you will see that the majority of them borrowed heavily to finance purchases of land so they could build spec houses to capitalize on the frenzy in the housing market. They made oodles of money, their executives were paid handsomely, insiders sold their stock and of course, they paid taxes. Management chose to ignore the well-known fact that homebuilding is an extremely cyclical business and they decided to make the most money they could possibly make, leveraged to the hilt without any thought to what would happen in the downturn. My question...: What exactly is wrong with letting some of these jokers go out of business? Honestly, if our government had an extra $6 billion sitting around, maybe I'd be okay with giving them a tax break. But we don't, so our government needs to start prioritizing.
So, $6 billion to help out irresponsible homebuilders, while homeowners facing foreclosures get...$100 million. In counseling services. From companies the IRS stripped of their tax-exempt status for deceptive and fraudulent practices with the very people they're ostensibly counseling. Nice priorities:
I don’t like this at all. $500-$1000 tax break and credit counseling with corrupt companies for homeowners , and a huge break for homebuilders that ignored the housing bubble in the first place, because they were too damn greedy and stupid to look at the signs in the first place...I'm not saying that all of the points in this legislation is bad, but what is being billed as helping the troubled homeowner is not all that much help.
Naturally for conservative blogs, any help for any of these groups is too much. Here's Cap'n Ed at Hot Air today:
Congress has no business bailing out people who took foolish risks in the housing market anyway, and this looks like a bunch of politicians in an election year pandering for their incumbencies. They have taken tax money from people who didn’t take the foolish risks to subsidize the results of bad decision-making. That only produces more folly later, as speculators will come to expect DC to bail them out of the next crisis as well, rather than suffering the consequences of stupidity in the market.
Now, here's Cap'n Ed at Hot Air two weeks ago:
How will the Fed and the Treasury deal with this structural problem in the mortgage markets? Congress and the White House will probably determine a system to identify actual homeowners from speculators and devise some sort of relief package. Politically, it makes more sense, and in a way it addresses the core problem more than simply providing guarantees for the lenders who created the problem by overselling credit. Speculators and flippers heightened the risk and gambled knowing the consequences of failure.
Is that the right thing to do? As William Polley told us on Monday on our podcast, extreme crises sometimes require intervention. However, it does make it more difficult for free-market advocates to argue against statism in economics. In an election year, however, people win re-election by taking action, not by standing around watching events unfold.
This demonstrates a few things: 1) Since George W. Bush isn't up for re-election, he couldn't care less about "taking action," and has been "standing around watching events unfold" like nobody's business; and 2) Ed Morrissey has all the intellectual consistency of a used car salesman, and apparently doesn't read his own posts.
But then, blaming the victims has been a staple of conservative argument since time out of mind:
Republican senators apparently have decided they should help out average people because it's hard to justify not doing so after the Bush administration bailed out Bear Stearns.
Besides the sheer hypocrisy of helping rich corporations and not little people, there are other good reasons.
...a lot of people got into this mess through no fault of their own. Mortgage companies did not always fully disclose what would happen to adjustable rate mortgages in the future, for example.
Or people may have thought they could refinance their adjustable rate mortgages to something lower...only to find out that the mortgage crisis has made refinancing more difficult.
Or they may have lost their jobs, had unexpected medical bills not covered by insurance, or gotten a divorce. In such cases, hanging onto a house that is worth much less than what is owed on the mortgage is difficult when the payments become unmanageable.
Perhaps the homeowners should have foreseen that prices would drop. But when the real estate agent and lender are telling the buyer the deal is a good one, a less sophisticated buyer is likely to trust their judgment. After all, they're the experts, aren't they?
No more so than, say, Cap'n Ed and the Wizards of Wall Street.
And if a bailout is good enough for those clowns, it's good enough for everyone.
"I Got Mine...$#&%@ You"
It's no secret, things are tough all over. Well, tough for most people. Oil executives from the 5 largest companies (ExxonMobil, BP, Shell, ChevronTexaco and ConocoPhillips) faced some grumpy congressmen on both sides of the aisle yesterday, and although it was April Fool's day, Democratic Rep. Ed Markey was in no mood for jokes, saying he hoped Big Oil's record profits while Americans were getting bled at the pumps was some kind of hoax:
Rather than a hoax the oil companies shifted blame for high prices to issues outside their control, including growth in global demand, geopolitical events, material and labor costs, the fall in the dollar's value and government restrictions on U.S. oil and natural gas resources. Anything, in fact apart from them.
Even committing 10% of their record profits towards finding renewable energy sources was too much for Big Oil. After all, when you’re a pusher, the last thing you want is for your addiction-addled customers to kick their habit:
Oil exceeding $100 a barrel should provide the industry with all the incentive necessary to re-invest in energy infrastructure. But since 2005, the largest five oil companies have had cumulative profits of $345 billion and spent $252 billion buying back stock and paying dividends to shareholders...If the oil industry is unwilling to use $100 a barrel oil to make necessary investments here at home, then Congress is justified in revoking recently awarded tax breaks worth billions of dollars.
Tax incentives for exploration that, just 2 1/2 years ago the same oil executives admitted to Congress they didn't need because they were enjoying record profits then too – when oil was a mere $59 a barrel (“Those were the dayyyys...”)
As you would expect, rightwing blogs sprang to the defense of the oil companies, eagerly pointing out the
jack-booted feds government extorts collects even more profits in gas taxes:
Angelic Big Government makes twice off of gas what evil Big Oil makes–and what makes one angelic and the other evil? The fact that one forcibly took that wealth and the other had the unmitigated audacity to earn it.
Tax collectors visiting an Exxon executive, as imagined by conservative blogs
I would suggest that difference is the government collects those taxes to do things like run the country, maintaining a civil society where enterprising companies can sell gas at $3.50 a gallon and not have to worry about pitchfork-and-torch-bearing mobs to worry about, while Big Oil execs use their profits to make themselves filthy, stinking rich.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that, in and of itself. Don't get me wrong. Capitalism is a great thing, when it's practiced responsibly, a point that Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO) wrote about on the The Hill's Congress blog (Reps! Blogging!):
I firmly believe the success of business, especially that of American companies, is important to our economy, particularly at this difficult time. However, the disparity between the profits of companies producing oil and gas and the increasing prices at the pump are inexplicable. The oil company representatives that visited the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming yesterday will need to do more to reassure me they are taking steps toward solving these problems.
Sorry, congressman, but without regulation, I don't see them voluntarily shutting off the spigot. The Bush years have been embarrassingly kind to them, and they want to keep that gavy train a-rollin':
These executives will face some tough questions - hopefully - on Capitol Hill, namely why they should continue to receive $18 billion in tax breaks over a 10-year period. It's kind of like your child winning a $1 million lottery but still asking for a weekly allowance.
Well it's not like you can light your cigars with $10 bills. Hundreds work much better. But millions of Americans wouldn't know that. It's not something that gets talked about in line for food stamps, something the blog Fallenmonk knows a little about:
I know from experience what having to rely on government assistance does to one's morale and self respect. While we were in the lower middle class growing up we still, at times, had to turn to USDA food to make it. I talked with my late father about it once and it really hurt his self image and was something he never forgave himself for. He worked hard and had a pretty good job and those times where we were hurting to make ends meet still weighed on him 25 years later. It saddens me to think that there are now 28 million people out there that are going to have some of the same experience. People that should be able to feed their families and can't.
Rising fuel costs lead to rising food costs. Rising costs of basic needs leads to economic instability, shrinkage and an inability to invest. Not that the Wizards of Wall Street are exactly a safe investment right now. But don't worry, America! Even though John McCain says he don't know much about the economy (or foreign policy, or science books, or the French he took), he's got former Sen. Phil Gramm as an economic advisor:
Let’s take a good look at former Sen. Phil Gramm, someone McCain has hinted might be his Treasury Secretary if elected...Most reasonable people seem to realize that we're in serious need of financial reform and expanded regulation. That is, except, Gramm, who's championed financial deregulation for years...Confronted with a fire, John McCain is taking advice from an arsonist. If elected, he intends to put the arsonist in charge of fire safety.
Well, I’m relieved. The Phil Gramms and Big Oil executives of the world always seem to do just fine. They (and their investor-class friends and shareholders) got theirs, and that’s the only part of any economic equation they care about:
Larry Bartels' forthcoming book (“Unequal Democracy: The Political Economy of the New Gilded Age”)...shows that under Republican administrations, incomes grow strongly for rich people, but barely at all for those of more modest means. Under Democratic presidents, by contrast, lower income groups see stronger income growth but everyone's income grows faster than it does under the GOP.
They don’t understand the frustration consumers feel at the gas pump or grocery store because it doesn’t effect them. They don’t see things like the housing bubble because it doesn’t effect them:
I was thinking about the housing bubble and why most of the "experts" failed to see that there was a problem, and I realized it's because they're all rich. There was one unavoidable and obvious fact that was apparent to anyone who isn't especially rich, and that's that there was no possible way that many households in this country had large enough incomes to be able to afford the monthly mortgage payments they were supposed to be paying, even without ridiculous interest rate resets. There just aren't enough people who make enough money to support that many $800,000 homes.
It’s an epic short-sightedness that won’t allow people to see past the fulfillment of their own desires and contemplate the consequences of their actions on others. Especially if those “others” don’t reside in the same economic strata:
It is up to all of us to bring poverty back to the national discussion table. Because the folks who are scrambling just to get by, working two and three jobs and trying to make ends meet that are way too far apart as it is, barely have time to work on survival, let alone lobbying the powerful to hear their rapidly diminishing voice.
Far too many people in America are one paycheck or catastrophic illness away from homelessness, and no one is immune. And that includes far too many of the nation's elderly whose fixed incomes are stretched beyond the breaking point between increased drug prices and increased housing, utilities and grocery costs.
As one person sinks, we all do...and we would do well to remember that we are in this together. Because "oh, that's a shame" doesn't exactly solve any problems, now does it? And that next person to have a problem? It could be you...
And that's no joke.
Feel the Gravelmentum!
I am SO disappointed in you, Karen.
Even suggesting that Mike Gravel doesn't have a legitimate shot at the presidency of the United States? "If" his campaign doesn't work out?
Yeah, sure. As if!
Of course you know that the delegates - pledged delegates and Superdelegates - aren't bound to their endorsements, no matter what the primaries and caucuses say. Come the convention, they could ALL abandon Obama and Clinton en masse and switch over to Gravel (there might be some crazy democro-facist rules against Dem delegates endorsing another party's candidates, but I'm sure Mike's keen political mind can find a way around that).
But you have to go and parrot the MAINSTREAM MEDIA TALKING POINTS that say Gravel can't win! Way to make friends with those all-powerful libertarian bloggers, like The Largest Minority:
RNN's Karen DePodwin…tries to belittle (Gravel's) candidacy. Like every other so-called journalist on television, DePodwin thinks she has the authority to shape reality rather than simply report it.
Because, admit it Karen, Gravel's sub-atomic poll numbers and nonexistant delegate count is all your fault! And asking him who he would endorse? Why not just demand he drop out of the race, like other political bigwigs have done:
Just days after former Alaska senator Mike Gravel announced his independent candidacy for president, the newly minted candidate received his first demand that he get out of the race.
"Mike Gravel should get out of the race, and get out now," said independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader. "The longer he stays in, the greater risk he runs of making a fool of himself."
Mr. Nader said that Mr. Gravel accomplished great things as a senator from Alaska, but added, "If you run a foolish, meaningless campaign for president, pretty soon people will forget all the good you achieved way back when."
"The last thing you want to be thought of is as some tiresome old gas-bag who likes seeing himself on TV," he added.
The former consumer activist said he does not believe that many Americans will waste their votes on Mr. Gravel, but warned that "even a few votes in a few states could have a catastrophic effect."
"If Mike Gravel's presence in the race winds up leading to the election of a Republican who then leads us into a disastrous war, I don't know how he'll live with himself," Mr. Nader said.
And let him hog all the glory that will be the first third party presidency in American history? Karen, it's clear that you and Ralph just don't have respect for Gravel's political cunning:
Mike Gravel, the cranky guy who ran for president in the Democratic Primary, was sort of laughed out of contention. So on March 11, he endorsed the Green candidate for president...
Yeay for Jesse Johnson. What a boost! But oh no!...Gravel is apparently not a political monogamist, but a total political slut.
Former U.S. Senator Mike Gravel joins Libertarian Party ranks...
Next up are the Constitution, Communist, Independence, Natural Law, Reform, and Workers World Parties. They all want a piece of Gravelmentum, and apparently there's plenty to go around!
Unfortunately, there's only one thing that can stop Gravelmentum:
The elephant in the room, so to speak, is whether Ron Paul, the Texas congressman who has run for president on the Libertarian ticket in the past, will drop his bid for the Republican nomination and take his legions of loyal supporters back into the Libertarian fold for a third-party run in November. Paul this week reiterated that he has no intention of doing that.
But still, one can dream. A Paul-Gravel ticket?
EUREKA!!!! THAT'S IT!!!!
I am hereby officially endorsing a Mike Gravel / Ron Paul ticket.
Ha! Take that, Karen!
FEEL THE GRAVELMENTUM!
Black Box Report
|<< <||Current||> >>|
- Abuse of Power (82)
- Alberto Gonzalez (11)
- Announcements [A] (2)
- Background (2)
- Congress (14)
- Culture Wars (16)
- Democrats (26)
- Dick Cheney (6)
- Economy (17)
- Election 2008 (131)
- George W. Bush (28)
- Health Care (6)
- Immigration (17)
- Iraq (47)
- Media (16)
- NY Politics (7)
- Republicans (23)
- RFL Big Story (54)
- SCOTUS (2)
- Slow News Day (5)
- Terrorism (11)
- Wingnuttery (32)
- Guest Users: 20