"Beautifully Human" is an outstanding weekly series written by our own Rippen Kitten. We hear and read about so many evil-doers, now enjoy a must-read diary about people who are the best of our humanity who have succeeded in their fight to protect all of our human rights. Beautifully Human: Jill Carroll. Responding to GOP charge that Dems are elitists Bill Maher has a Salon post on the Administration's mediocrity/incompetence fetish that provides more belly laughs per column inch than anything you're likely to find on the internet today. A sample (excerpted for brevity) from Maher's riff on Monica Goodling's educational qualifications for her post overseeing the job performance of 95 U.S. attorneys:

I'm not kidding, Pat Robertson, the man who said gay people at DisneyWorld would cause "earthquakes, tornadoes, and possibly a meteor," has a law school. It's called Regent...U.S. News and World Report, which does the definitive ranking of colleges, lists Regent as a tier-four school, which is the lowest score it gives. It's not a hard school to get into. You have to renounce Satan and draw a pirate on a matchbook.

Maher's larger point is that the GOP is forever blasting Democrats for being 'elitists,' while they staff high-level government posts with empty suits. "The problem here in America," notes Maher "isn't that the country is being run by elites. It's that it's being run by a bunch of hayseeds." Not a bad one-liner retort for progressives, when slimed with the GOP's "elitist" critique in political debates, although it might be better to substitute "dimwits" for hayseeds, since these numbskulls come from everywhere. More chuckles await readers at Maher's post. Go there and grin.

Talk about gun control. Geez. While the President was heading to Virginia Tech as mourner-in-chief two Secret Service officers were wounded by accidental gunfire at the White House. One officer suffered a shrapnel wound to the face, and the other was wounded in the leg; neither's injuries are life-threatening. A spokesman said that the shots were fired by "accidental discharge."

Why do Repugs hate Democracy? "A bill giving the District its first full seat in Congress cleared the House yesterday, marking the city's biggest legislative victory in its quest for voting rights in nearly three decades," reports the Washington Post.
However, "the bill faces considerable obstacles. Democrats don't appear to have enough votes in the Senate to avoid a filibuster, and the White House has threatened a veto. If the measure becomes law, it probably will be challenged in court."

American Injustice Just last month, Kuldip Singh Nag—an Indian American who is an Iraq war veteran—was assaulted by the police in Joliet, Ill., for being a "f**king Arab" and a "f**king immigrant."

Edwards has best web site Perhaps it's a no-brainer that Internet campaign pioneer Joe Trippi joined the John Edwards campaign today. The latest edition of PC Magazine reviewed the online presence of the leading presidential candidates and called Edwards' website "the best, most full-featured site so far."

Tommy's is in it for the short run only "For Republican presidential hopeful Tommy Thompson, it's Iowa or bust. The former Wisconsin governor and Health and Human Services secretary said he will most likely drop out if he does not finish in the top two in the straw poll to be held Aug. 11 in Iowa," reports The Politico.
"Thompson said he is staking his claim in the Hawkeye State because Republican activists there are likely to warm to a blunt-speaking conservative from the Upper Midwest. He began visiting Iowa in December and spends several days a week there, trying to win over voters one by one in venues ranging from small forums to large events."

Think about V-Tech and consider: In his latest budget proposal the president has proposed the following:

-a $159 million cut for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).
-a $77 million cut for the Center for Mental Health Services (CMHS)
-a $20.8 million cut for Mental Health Transformation Grants (planning grants for states)
-a $2.64 million cut for Youth Suicide Prevention

And, you knew this was coming: -a $17.3 million cut for School Violence Prevention

Poverty commutes to the burbs Eyal Press has an article in The Nation, "The New Suburban Poverty," noting a demographic milestone that should elicit the attention of Democratic campaign strategists:

For the first time ever, more poor Americans live in the suburbs than in all our cities combined.

The implications for political strategy in federal, state and local elections are substantial. In terms of policy, it means elected officials and political aspirants will have to rethink the delivery of needed social services to less dense areas. Funding those services adequately will be an increasing concern in the years ahead, especially for the growing number of middle class families who have fled the cities, expecting lower property taxes.

In terms of election strategy, Party leaders and candidates will have to rethink everthing from redistricting to GOTV logistics. It also requires some mental housecleaning regarding existing stereotypes of suburban life, as Press notes:

Stories of downward mobility in America's suburbs have not exactly cluttered the headlines over the past decade. Gated communities of dream homes, mansions ringed by man-made lakes and glass-cube office parks: These are the images typically evoked by the posh, supersized subdivisions built during the 1990s technology boom. Low-wage jobs, houses under foreclosure, families unable to afford food and medical care are not. But venture beyond the city limits of any major metropolitan area today, and you will encounter these things, in forms less concentrated--and therefore less visible--than in the more blighted pockets of our cities perhaps, but with growing frequency all the same.

And it's not just the inner 'burbs, as Press explains:

Last December the Brookings Institution published a report showing that from Las Vegas to Boise to Houston, suburban poverty has been growing over the past seven years, in some places slowly, in others by as much as 33 percent. "The enduring social and fiscal challenges for cities that stem from high poverty are increasingly shared by their suburbs," the report concludes. It's a problem some may assume is confined to the ragged fringes of so-called "inner ring" suburbs that directly border cities, places where the housing stock is older and from which many wealthier residents long ago departed. But this isn't the case. "Overall...first suburbs did not bear the brunt of increasing suburban poverty in the early 2000s," notes the Brookings report, which found that economic distress has spread to "second-tier suburbs and 'exurbs'" as well.

Savvy demographic and polical analysts have seen this trend coming for a while. Still, the milestone should ring a few bells in the war rooms of Democratic political campaigns. We'll resist the temptation to quote more of Press's excelent article -- a must-read for those who want a more realistic vision of America's political geography.

Hypocrisy watch McCain Demanded Kerry Apologize For Botched Joke, Now Tells Critics To ‘Get A Life’

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) responds to criticism of his “bomb, bomb Iran” song by hiding behind veterans and then blowing the matter off:

The Arizona Republican was asked for his reaction to any negative response to the joke when he arrived in Las Vegas for a fundraiser Thursday night. “Please, I was talking to some of my old veterans friends,” he told reporters. “My response is, Lighten up and get a life.” When reporters asked if the joke was insensitive, McCain said: “Insensitive to what? The Iranians?”

McCain’s reaction represents yet another flip-flop. When Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) botched a joke about military service last fall, McCain was among Kerry’s first and most vocal critics. McCain repeatedly said that even if Kerry was joking, he should still apologize.

Here’s McCain on ABC’s Good Morning America on 11/1/06:

McCAIN: Well, I’ve read and watched the statement over and over and I’m not sure how you could construe it that way, but if that’s the case, an apology is in order and we can move on. I have made a number of mistakes in my life, which I’d not like to chronicle all over again. But I’ve found that if you — if it is just a botched joke, then apologize and move on.

And again on Fox News on 10/31/06:

Well, my reaction is it’s hard for me to understand that [it was a joke]. But I’ll be glad to give Senator Kerry the benefit of the doubt. He should apologize.

McCain’s botched joke is actually probably less of a concern than his botched credibility.

Slow, but inevitable: Justice marches on New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch (D) said Thursday “he decided to sign legislation establishing civil unions to prevent and end discrimination against gays in New Hampshire.” The state will become the fourth “to adopt civil unions and the first to do so without first having a court fight over denying gays the right to marry.”

Does this mean Cheney has to give up his gun? Rep. John Dingell (D-MI), a strong proponent of gun-rights who once served on the National Rifle Association’s board of directors, is leading talks with the NRA in hopes of resurrecting a bill to “bolster the national background-check system and potentially block gun purchases by the mentally ill.”

Wasn't paying attention? “In more than five hours of often-combative testimony” yesterday, Alberto Gonzales, “grim-faced, clasping his hands and hunched over, struggled to offer a coherent explanation for the dismissals” of eight U.S. Attorneys. He “appeared frustrated, weary and at times combative,” and “angered” committee members “as he invoked a faulty memory more than 50 times.” But, even though he couldn't remember what happened, who did it or when, he assured the Senators that it was all aboveboard. Huh. Slow bleed Remember "As the Iraqis stand up, we will stand down"? Apparently that's no longer operative:

Military planners have abandoned the idea that standing up Iraqi troops will enable American soldiers to start coming home soon and now believe that U.S. troops will have to defeat the insurgents and secure control of troubled provinces. Training Iraqi troops, which had been the cornerstone of the Bush administration's Iraq policy since 2005, has dropped in priority, officials in Baghdad and Washington said.

So we're going to defeat the insurgency without significant help from Iraqi troops? Phil Carter calls this "Plan F": the fifth and latest in a string of strategic realignments forced on us when previous plans failed to gain control of the country. Unfortunately, it won't work:

Gen. Petraeus and his brain trust have devised the best possible Plan F, given the resources available to the Pentagon and declining patience for the war at home. But the Achilles heel of this latest effort is the Maliki government. It is becoming increasingly clear to all in Baghdad that its interests — seeking power and treasure for its Shiite backers — diverge sharply from those of the U.S.-led coalition. Even if Gen. Petraeus' plan succeeds on the streets of the city, it will fail in the gilded palaces of the Green Zone. Maliki and his supporters desire no rapprochement with the Sunnis and no meaningful power-sharing arrangement with the Sunnis and the Kurds. Indeed, Maliki can barely hold his own governing coalition together, as evidenced by the Sadr bloc's resignation from the government this week and the fighting in Basra over oil and power.

Plan F will fail if (or when) the Maliki government fails, even if it improves security. At that point, we will have run out of options, having tried every conceivable strategy for Iraq. It will then be time for Plan G: Get out.

Now this is a "slow bleed." Where are Politico's clever phrasemakers when you really need them?

Depressing Bradrocket: I don’t understand it. I really don’t. You could find more informed and enlightened commentary by interviewing the guy on the 39 Bus in Boston who thinks he’s the Invisible Man. Why isn’t he being paid six figures to write weekly columns for the National Review? Hell, he wouldn’t even require all that money- just give him a cheeseburger, and he’ll gladly pen 3,000 words explaining why people who get shot by angry psychopaths deserved to die because they didn’t pack heat and/or were Muslamoatheists. What the hell.

If Alberto Gonzales were a stock, we'd be at that point when those automatic trading halts kicked in because so many people are trying to sell. But let's not get distracted by Alberto Gonzales. He's just a cog. In almost every case, what we're talking about here is Gonzales's willingness to take orders from the White House -- most importantly from Karl Rove and President Bush -- on firing US Attorneys for corrupt purposes and using the Justice Department to suppress Democratic turnout in swing states. Mr. Gonzales is a secondary issue. The real players are in the White House. The reason to fire Gonzo: The exchange between AG Gonzales and Sen. Schumer (D-NY) in which the senator clearly caught the AG in a ridiculously transparent falsehood -- claiming that the DOJ had told Carol Lam of their concerns with her immigration enforcement policies. That was a telling moment both in terms of the factual record and Gonzales's fitness for any public office. This was a particularly silly fib because we have sworn testimony both from Lam herself and Kyle Sampson that it is simply not true. Indeed, the publicly-released documents also show no evidence that this is true. So even if you come at this hearing from the perspective of wanting Gonzales to brazen it out, to successfully lie his way through the questioning -- even then, you'd have to wonder what he was thinking trying to pull this one off. Remember he's been actively preparing for this testimony for more than a month.

But we should not let the impact of the exposure of the AG's falsehoods and attempted coverups to deflect our attention from what these facts mean. A wealth of circumstantial evidence points to the conclusion that Carol Lam was fired because her corruption investigation endangered Republican members of Congress and key administration officials. The DOJ and White House has sought to refute these claims with the suggestion that she was dismissed because of weak immigration enforcement. The fact that no one at the Department ever raised the issue with Lam points strongly to the conclusion that the 'immigration enforcement' line was developed as a cover to fire Lam for other reasons -- namely to disrupt her investigation.

Indeed, the fact that Gonzales felt the need to fib on this point testifies to how central such a fact would be to making his story credible. This is the central issue in the Lam firing. It's central to the corruption Alberto Gonzales has brought to the Department of Justice.

Some Repugs agree Sen. Coburn (R-OK) to Gonzales: You should resign.

Pentagon Confirms: Bush Hyped False Iraq Deadline The Associated Press has a major story out confirming that President Bush has been hyping a false Iraq spending deadline. For weeks, the Bush administration has been trying to force Congress to abandon its support for an Iraq withdrawal timeline by claiming that a “clean” Iraq spending bill must be signed by mid-April or U.S. troops will suffer. In one speech, President Bush warned Congress that “the clock is ticking for our troops in the field“:

BUSH: Congress continues to pursue these [withdrawal] bills, and as they do, the clock is ticking for our troops in the field. Funding for our forces in Iraq will begin to run out in mid-April. Members of Congress need to stop making political statements, and start providing vital funds for our troops.

Days later, the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service (CRS) released a report showing that the Army actually has enough money in its existing budget to operate through June. But Bush and his Iraq allies wouldn’t accept it. Here’s Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) on Fox on 4/1/07:

FOX: So, Senator McConnell, is this talk about an April deadline for getting the funding bill to the president, is that something of a scare tactic?

MCCONNELL: Well, the problem is CRS is wrong.

But now, the AP reports, the CRS numbers have been confirmed by the Pentagon:

The Pentagon says it has enough money to pay for the Iraq war through June, despite warnings from the White House that troops are being harmed by Congress’ failure to quickly deliver more funds.

The Army is taking a series of “prudent measures” aimed at making sure delays in the bill financing the war do not harm troop readiness, according to instructions sent to Army commanders and budget officials April 14.

President Bush can’t even fear-monger right these days.

Paternalism I'm a bit puzzled by all the conversation about whether NBC and other news outlets shoud've broadcast Cho's videos. While there can always be debates about what should be front and center, the idea that this kind of thing should be withheld by a Media That Knows Best is rather disturbing. Emphasis and placement is always an issue, which is why if nothing else this stuff can be put on the internets where people can make the effort to take a peek if they wish.
And, no, I didn't have much desire to see any of it, I just reject the idea that our Elite Filters really know what's best for us.

Department of good timing. President Bush gives speech on the War on Terror during Gonzales testimony. In other words, run for cover!

A Question For Rudy Giuliani

From Eric Alterman's book What Liberal Media:

On [the December 23, 2001, edition of] "Meet the Press," Tim Russert inquired of first lady Laura Bush whether she thought her husband had become president due to divine intervention. To her everlasting credit, Laura Bush declined to credit the Almighty with inspiring the likes of Katherine Harris's and Antonin Scalia's anti-democratic escapades. But Russert persisted, and his other guests, Rudy Giuliani and Theodore Cardinal McCarrick of the Archdiocese of Washington, took the bait. The former mayor responded, "I do think, Mrs. Bush, that there was some divine guidance in the president being elected."

I hope at some point during the 2008 campaign, someone will ask Guiliani: "Given that you believe George Bush became president due to divine intervention, can we also assume you believe God hates America?" Beyond that, I've always enjoyed the idea that while God did have the power to make Bush president in 2000, He didn't have the power to get Bush the most votes." Here.

This reminded the estimable Brian Morton of the time that, "after Gary Carter hit a seeing-eye dribbler to drive in the winning run in a playoff game against Houston in '86, he gave Jesus the credit in a postgame interview, and I remember thinking, 'Your savior couldn't have given you a line drive?' "

Corruption watch (from Roll Call ...)

In a second blow to House Republicans this week, the FBI raided a business tied to the family of Rep. Rick Renzi (R-Ariz.) Thursday afternoon as part of an ongoing investigation into the three-term lawmaker.

Details of the raid on Patriot Insurance Agency in Sonoita, Ariz., were not immediately available. Renzi’s most recent financial disclosure form lists the business as an asset belonging to his wife, Roberta, and valued at $1 million to $5 million.

Oh my sides! Make him stop! Don't miss Alberto Gonzales' heartfelt ode to the importance of protecting minority's right to vote. This from a man who has gutted the department's Civil Rights Division. There was a lot that's simply laughable in his performance today, but I think this takes the cake.

Banana Republicans Greg Gordon of McClatchy on the politicization of the Justice Department:

For six years, the Bush administration, aided by Justice Department political appointees, has pursued an aggressive legal effort to restrict voter turnout in key battleground states in ways that favor Republican political candidates. The administration intensified its efforts last year as President Bush's popularity and Republican support eroded heading into a midterm battle for control of Congress, which the Democrats won. ....On virtually every significant decision affecting election balloting since 2001, the [Civil Rights] division's Voting Rights Section has come down on the side of Republicans, notably in Florida, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, Washington and other states where recent elections have been decided by narrow margins.

Much more at the link. Read it all. And over at the LA Times, Jon Chait gets shrill on the subject:

It would be very easy to overreact to all these things and conclude that our democracy is imperiled or that Republicans are wannabe Putins. But almost nobody seems to be overreacting. Most people are under-reacting. Allowing the security apparatus of the state to help tilt elections is an extremely grave precedent. When the line of acceptable behavior can be moved without much protest, it often can be moved further the next time. No, we're not becoming Russia. But becoming just a little bit like Russia still ought to be considered a major scandal.

Well, you'd think so. But let's not overreact.

Court Rules Against Bush Administration: DoJ Failed To Show ‘That Any Voter Fraud Occurred’ For the past six years, the Bush administration and the Justice Department’s political appointees have “pursued an aggressive legal effort to restrict voter turnout in key battleground states in ways that favor Republican political candidates. … On virtually every significant decision affecting election balloting since 2001, the division’s Voting Rights Section has come down on the side of Republicans.”

In 2005, the Justice Department sued Missouri Secretary of State Robin Carnahan (D) for not keeping the state’s voting records up-to-date. On Friday, U.S. District Judge Nanette Laughrey sharply criticized the Justice Department’s weak case and ruled in favor of Carnahan:

Laughrey said it was difficult to gauge the scope of the problem “because the United States has not presented the actual voter registration lists and shown who should have been included or excluded and why.”

“It is also telling that the United States has not shown that any Missouri resident was denied his or her right to vote as a result of deficiencies alleged by the United States,” Laughrey wrote. “Nor has the United States shown that any voter fraud has occurred.”

The case was led by the U.S. attorney for the Western District of Missouri, Bradley Schlozman, who earlier served in the Justice Department’s civil rights division. In 2005, he reversed the career staff’s recommendations to challenge a Georgia photo-ID law that a federal judge later likened to a “modern-day poll tax.”

Courts are increasingly dismantling the Bush administration’s attempts to go after political adversaries at the state and local levels. Earlier this month, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that an aide to Wisconsin’s Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle “was wrongly convicted” of public corruption. The federal judges, acting with “unusual speed,” “assailed the government’s case” and said that U.S. attorney Steven Biskupic’s evidence was “beyond thin.”

Rove is right: Bush has fallen into bin Laden's trap Think Progress has these statements from Rove regarding the war in Iraq:

"I wish the war were over," Rove said. "I wish the war never existed... History has given us a challenge." ... In a question-and-answer period after his speech, Rove was asked whose idea it was to start a pre-emptive war in Iraq. "I think it was Osama bin Laden’s," Rove replied.

While this is obviously part of the crazy Cheney/Rove effort to continue to tie September 11th to Iraq, a connection that Bush himself has denied, there's an element of truth in the idea that war in the mideast was bin Laden's idea. And the surge is playing right into it.

Or if not his idea, a goal. Consider this analysis gleaned from the writings of bin Laden expert Abdel Bar Atwan, editor in chief of Al-Quds Al Arabi, a London-based daily newspaper:

According to Atwan's analysis of al-Qaida's "20-year plan," the organization aimed to bring about the fall of the American empire by first provoking -- with the September 11 attacks -- Washington into irrationally invading Muslim lands in pursuit of revenge. Al-Qaida's grand strategists calculated that the invasion would propel the umma, the Muslim community, into joining the jihad. Following the fall of the secular socialist Hussein regime, Iraq has indeed become a training ground for limitless waves of foreign jihadis.

In this context, George W. Bush was a great boon to their efforts. Not only did he invade Iraq, which did not have a thing to do with 9/11, but he did almost everything possible to isolate America from its allies. This policy gave bin Laden ample room to target unpopular pro-American regimes from Madrid to Riyadh. Compared to the Southwest Asian battleground of Afghanistan, Iraq is a more congenial base for al-Qaida, since the language, culture, and terrain are more familiar to most Arabs. The jihadis' strategy is to get America to throw all of its resources into fighting a losing battle against Iraq's lethal patchwork of warring factions.

Bush's "surge" only throws more meat to the jackals, who gain strength and popularity with each web-broadcasted beheading or roadside bomb explosion. Like Afghanistan, Iraq gives would-be jihadis watching the conflict from their computer screens the hope of destroying the military might of the West. The jihadis also hope to expand the conflict to create what Atwan calls a "Triangle of Horror" connecting Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Turkey, Lebanon, and Syria.

Juan Cole concurs:

...al-Qaeda hoped to draw the U.S. into a debilitating guerrilla war in Afghanistan and do to the U.S. military what they had earlier done to the Soviets. Al-Zawahiri's recent message shows that he still has faith in that strategy.

The U.S. cleverly outfoxed al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, using air power and local Afghan allies (the Northern Alliance) to destroy the Taliban without many American boots on the ground.

Ironically, however, the Bush administration then went on to invade Iraq for no good reason, where Americans faced the kind of wearing guerrilla war they had avoided in Afghanistan.

Al-Qaeda has succeeded in several of its main goals. It had been trying to convince Muslims that the United States wanted to invade Muslim lands, humiliate Muslim men, and rape Muslim women. Most Muslims found this charge hard to accept. The Bush administration's Iraq invasion, along with the Abu Ghraib prison torture scandal, was perceived by many Muslims to validate bin Laden's wisdom and foresight.

After the Iraq War, bin Laden is more popular than George W. Bush even in a significantly secular Muslim country such as Turkey. This is a bizarre finding, a weird turn of events. Turks didn't start out with such an attitude. It grew up in reaction against U.S. policies.

The point is, bin Laden has succeeded in provoking the United States into working against its own interests, in goading us into becoming mired in a war in the mideast much like the one that ultimately helped destroy the Soviet Union. Bringing bin Laden's goal of a single mideast Muslim state. But you don't have to believe me, or Cole, or Atwan. Here's bin Laden himself:

All that we have mentioned has made it easy for us to provoke and bait this administration. All that we have to do is to send two mujahidin to the furthest point east to raise a piece of cloth on which is written al-Qaida, in order to make the generals race there to cause America to suffer human, economic, and political losses without their achieving for it anything of note other than some benefits for their private companies.

So, yeah, Karl this war was bin Laden's idea. You and the rest of the Bush administration were just dumb enough to fall for it.

Submitted by RKing on