My usual disclaimer: I make no claim to original reporting here. I simply cut and paste items of progressive interest, with a drop of venomous sarcasm added from time to time.


Watch a tribute to our veterans here One of my dreams crushed (at least for now) Russ Feingold decides NOT to seek presidency in 2008. More here. Oversight. Remember that? The New York Times has a Sunday piece ostensibly about Democratic plans to restore the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, but the piece serves as a good overall roadmap for Democratic oversight priorities. Say goodnight, Gracie. Was anyone besides me delighted to note that the last two Republican senators to concede were Burns and Allen?

The new Congress Did Democrats win last week by running a bunch of conservative candidates? I think Michael Tomasky gets things just about right in his LA Times piece today:

In fact, of the 27 Democratic candidates for the House who won outright Tuesday, only five can truly be called social conservatives. Far more are pro-choice, against the Iraq war and quite liberal.....So the experts got it wrong again, which is really not so surprising given that what happened last week was quite nuanced. The Democrats moved to the center and to the left at the same time. In doing so, they became more like the hegemonic Democratic Party of old. And if, in 2008, it turns out that last week did in fact usher in an era of Democratic resurgence, it will be precisely because the party managed to sustain this left-center coalition and render the distinctions between the two groups less important.

There were some socially rightish candidates who won on Tuesday, but their numbers were pretty small and it's unlikely that Democrats are going to focus much on social issues anyway in the upcoming congressional session. Instead, they're going to focus mostly on the Iraq war and on economic issues, where there's a considerable amount of common ground among all Democrats, new and old.

There's a lot of talk about "interest groups" all demanding their due now that the election is over, but I doubt very much that Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid are going to allow them to dominate the agenda. Expect a full plate of technocratic populism and foreign policy oversight instead.

More mining for truth The Los Angeles Times has a must-read piece today on renewed oversight and coming investigations:

Rep. Ike Skelton knows what he will do in one of his first acts as chairman of the Armed Services Committee in the Democratic-led House: resurrect the subcommittee on oversight and investigations. The panel was disbanded by the Republicans after they won control of Congress in 1994. (emph. added)

Disbanded in 1994. Doesn't that go a long way in explaining the billions and billions that the GOP-controlled Congress allowed to disappear, particularly during the Iraq war? Read on…

Compassionate conservatism on display From the department of aggressive spin ...

Although some glitz has come off Mr Rove, Republicans have been more eager to blame botched campaigns and individual ethics scandals. “Bob Sherwood’s seat [in Pennsylvania] would have been overwhelmingly ours, if his mistress hadn’t whined about being throttled,” said Mr Norquist. Any lessons from the campaign? “Yes. The lesson should be, don’t throttle mistresses.”

I guess it would at least be a start.

McCain this is (as always?) a "critical time" Today on NBC’s Meet the Press, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) again claimed this is a “critical time” in Iraq and that “we’re either going to lose this thing or win this thing within the next several months.” Host Tim Russert noted that on December 8, 2005, McCain had said, “Overall, I think a year from now, we will have a fair amount of progress [in Iraq] if we stay the course.” McCain admitted he has “proven not to be correct.”

On March 23, 2003, McCain predicted, “I believe that this conflict is still going to be relatively short.” Today also wasn’t the first time McCain has claimed we’re at a “critical time’ in Iraq:

– “The terrorists know that this is a very critical time.” [6/4/04]

– Q: You agree this is a critical moment in Iraq?

MCCAIN: I agree it’s a critical time, yes. [8/20/06]

– “I think that, first of all, things are very serious there. And to say otherwise I don’t think would be an accurate depiction of events, and this is a very critical time.” [10/19/06]

The Bush Bubble Bursts? Newsweek: W at 31%. "Bush bubble"? Bwhahahahaha (well, there is the one passing behind his eyes).

Cheney: The Business Record Revisited In the "Headlines you don't see often enough" department, a favorite recent entry is "Buying Cheney's Blunder," over a Floyd Norris piece that the New York Times tucked away in the Friday business section. You'll recall how, back in the Bush honeymoon days, we heard about Cheney's successful record as a businessman, cf. his tenure at Halliburton. Now comes news that Halliburton is selling off Kellogg Brown Root, the subsidiary that handles most of its overpriced work in Iraq, at what may quite possibly be a fire-sale price. But the liability of owning KBR is not, in fact, mostly the Iraq stuff: The division is tangled in legal problems that, for Halliburton, "serve as a reminder of a deal gone awry." Now then:

That deal was Halliburton’s $7.7 billion 1998 acquisition of Dresser Industries. Engineered by Dick Cheney, then Halliburton’s chief executive, the merger accomplished a major strategic goal, making Halliburton the world’s largest provider of oil field services.

But Halliburton’s due diligence failed to either uncover or appreciate the importance of some significant issues. There were asbestos liabilities, which ended up forcing some Halliburton units into bankruptcy and cost the parent company billions.

Halliburton also failed to notice what it now says may have been illegal behavior overseas at Kellogg, a Dresser subsidiary that is now part of KBR. It says that there appears to have been bribery of Nigerian officials for years in connection with contracts there and that similar behavior may have occurred elsewhere. The Justice Department is investigating possible violations of the foreign corrupt practices act, and Britain has a similar inquiry.

While looking into those charges itself, Halliburton found evidence that Kellogg “may have engaged in coordinated bidding with one or more competitors on certain foreign construction projects, and that such coordination possibly began as early as the mid-1980’s,” KBR says in its prospectus.

[...]Halliburton began unloading parts of Dresser soon after Mr. Cheney became the vice president of the United States in 2001, and while some Dresser operations have been integrated into Halliburton, the disposal of KBR would remove a major reminder of that deal. That it will have taken more than eight years is a reminder of how long an ordeal can result from a big decision made with poor information.

So to review. Cheney led a major takeover, ignoring evidence that it was going to lead to a quagmire, overlooking possible illegal behavior, and leaving, in the end, to an ignominious bailout. (Oh yeah, and helped create the monster in the first place). Companies, to paraphrase the old saw, sell their mistakes. Countries bury theirs.

Reading the exit poll tea leaves Kevin Drum has set about busting some of the exit poll myths that have already stuck themselves like barnacles to the midterm election results. Here's the CliffsNotes version:

Myth #1: It was the youth vote that pushed Democrats over the top.

Myth #2: Democrats won a third of the white evangelical vote.

Myth #3: Democrats won by running conservative candidates.

Myth #2 is the one that gets me. Kevin says he has no idea where that one came from, which at first struck me as odd because the one-third figure has been widely reported, including here at TPM, based on an AP story the evening of Election Day.

But look at the key paragraph in the AP piece:

Those early exit polls also showed that three in four voters said corruption was very important to their vote, and they tended to vote Democratic. In a sign of a dispirited GOP base, most white evangelicals said corruption was very important to their vote — and almost a third of them turned to the Democrats.

I, too, first read that as saying one-third of evangelicals voted Democratic. But what I think it's actually saying is that one-third of those evangelicals who said corruption was very important to their vote went for the Democrats. Mystery solved? Kevin's entire post is here.

Corruption watch Democratic version Back to business:

Federal investigators have resumed their inquiry into a rental deal between U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and a nonprofit agency, issuing new subpoenas in the days after he was elected to a full six-year term, according to a government source.
The guilty will remain free Time: Just days after his resignation, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is about to face more repercussions for his involvement in the troubled wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. New legal documents, to be filed next week with Germany's top prosecutor, will seek a criminal investigation and prosecution of Rumsfeld, along with Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, former CIA director George Tenet and other senior U.S. civilian and military officers, for their alleged roles in abuses committed at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison and at the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Read on… Let's be clear on this…this will likely go nowhere. I'm not trying to rain on anyone's parade, but participation in International Law is strictly voluntary, and the Bush Administration has already backed away from the International Criminal Court. There is little to no chance that they will surrender Rummy and Gonzo to Germany to stand trial.

What liberal media? Apparently John Tester's a big hunk of conservatism, at least that's what I keep hearing. So, I bring you the conservative agenda

The terrorists who aren't in the news. When superstitious extremists are running things, things blow up. More than trouble with the voting machines? Randy Wooten, candidate for mayor of Waldenburg, Ark., received NO votes in the election, yet he knows he voted for himself, according to AP:


Wooten got the news from his wife, Roxanne, who went to City Hall on Wednesday to see the election results. "She saw my name with zero votes by it. She came home and asked me if I had voted for myself or not. I told her I did," said Wooten, owner of a local bar.

Wooten also says several people around town say they voted for him, so he's wrestling with whether it's worth going to the trouble of obtaining a court order to open the electronic voting machine to check the totals. But here's my question: When his wife came in and said he hadn't received a vote and had to ask him if he'd at least voted for himself, didn't that tip him off that she hadn't voted for him?

A change in Iraq policy is a top Democratic priority:


WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Democrats, who won majorities in the U.S. Congress in last week's elections, said on Sunday they will push for a phased withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq to begin in four to six months. "The first order of business is to change the direction of Iraq policy," said Sen. Carl Levin, a Michigan Democrat who is expected to be chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee in the new Congress. Levin, on ABC's "This Week," said he hoped some Republicans would emerge to join Democrats and press the administration of President George W. Bush to tell the Iraqi government that U.S. presence was "not open-ended." [...] Speaking on the same program, Sen. Joseph Biden, a Delaware Democrat who is expected to head the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said he supported Levin's proposal for a withdrawal.

Saying what we've all been waiting to say mug.jpg

Bob Cesca at Huffington Post:

Last week, I described a nightmare scenario in which the Republicans won the midterm prompting the president, high on mandate juice, to form the Department of Shut The F*** Up, headed by a sock puppet named Secretary Fiddlesticks.

Now that the Democrats have taken back the Congress and 51+ percent of America finally has a voice in government again, I think it's time to seriously let fly. So at the risk of sounding contentious in this all-too-genuine era (several days) of bipartisanship, here now is a roll call of people who must officially shut the f*** up.

Read Bob's list here.

The GOP still isn't listening You get the sense from the GOP that in its analysis of the election results the congressional seats lost due to Republican ties to public corruption shouldn't really count. Sort of like losing the game not because you got beat but because the refs made a bad call.

I think most people would view bribery, influence peddling, and sexually predatory congressmen as substantive problems, not mere technicalities. Maybe that's just me.

For its part, the White House would like to portray the corruption issue as a congressional problem. In his press conference, the President said, "People want their Congress -- congressmen to be honest and ethical." (That comment came just after the point in the press conference where he acknowledged deliberately misleading reporters the week before when he said he intended to keep Don Rumsfeld on after the election.)

For his part, Karl Rove was surprised by the significance of corruption in the election outcome:

"The profile of corruption in the exit polls was bigger than I'd expected," Rove tells TIME. "Abramoff, lobbying, Foley and Haggard [the disgraced evangelical leader] added to the general distaste that people have for all things Washington, and it just reached critical mass."

One can forgive Rove his surprise. He was too close to the problem to see it for what it was. Funny how he describes it now like a detached observer of the passing scene, with the perspective of a political scientist. Let's take this apart, starting with Rove's old buddy Jack Abramoff.

By one account Rove arranged to meet Abramoff on DC street corners so as to avoid being detected by the White House visitors logs. Rove hired his former personal assistant, Susan Ralston, away from Abramoff, and just a month before the election she was forced to resign her White House position due to her contacts with Abramoff while at the White House. A congressional committee found evidence of 485 contacts between the White House and Abramoff and his lobbying team.

Foley, you may recall, was strong-armed by Rove into running for re-election, with Rove threatening to torpedo Foley's plans to start a lobbying practice after leaving Congress unless he ran again in 2006. (No evidence has emerged that Rove or the White House had any knowledge of Foley's page problem at that time.) Haggard, as is now widely known, was one of Rove's main contacts within the evangelical community, a regular participant in weekly conference calls with the White House political shop headed up by Rove.

And we've just begun to scratch the surface. There's Rove's involvement in the Plame scandal, and the RNC's involvement in the New Hampshire phone-jamming case. I could go on, but I think the point here is clear: Rove was and is the architect of a political machine that was probably corrupt from its inception and is certainly corrupt now.

The corruption manifests itself in everything from bribery (Duke Cunningham and Bob Ney) to influence-peddling (Abramoff) to the broader corruption of traditional conservative principles (budget earmarks and deficit spending).

That's not a lesson Republicans seem to be taking from this election.

Submitted by RKing on