Defaming a founding father (and family member) The U.S. Mint starts churning out the John Adams gold dollar today. Our verdict: he looks like Rush Limbaugh with a mullet. I'll take four quarters instead, thanks. (Johnny is, I'm proud to say, an illustrious branch of my family tree. Way to go cuz. --RK) Fear not "The American people are understandably fearful about another attack like the one we sustained on Sept. 11, 2001. But it is the duty of the commander in chief to lead the country away from the grip of fear, not into its grasp." -- in today's Post, Charles C. Krulak, commandant of the Marine Corps, 1995 to 1999. Joseph P. Hoar, commander in chief of U.S. Central Command, 1991 to 1994. The legacy of this administration is frightening to behold, its philosophy of force and violence, its lawlessness.

Who supports our troops? Bush Threatens Veto Over Troop Pay Raise, Military Widow Benefits The Bush administration today threatened to a veto a House defense spending bill over a 3.5 percent pay raise for U.S. soldiers and a $40/month increase in benefits for military widows, among other provisions. The legislation passed the House today 397-27. ThinkProgress noted last night that the White House opposed the pay raise for troops:

Troops don’t need bigger pay raises, White House budget officials said Wednesday in a statement of administration policy laying out objections to the House version of the 2008 defense authorization bill.... The slightly bigger military raises are intended to reduce the gap between military and civilian pay that stands at about 3.9 percent today. Under the bill, HR 1585, the pay gap would be reduced to 1.4 percent after the Jan. 1, 2012, pay increase. Bush budget officials said the administration “strongly opposes” both the 3.5 percent raise for 2008 and the follow-on increases, calling extra pay increases “unnecessary.”

The White House says it also opposes:

– a $40/month allowance for military survivors, saying the current benefits are “sufficient”

– additional benefits for surviving family members of civilian employees

– price controls for prescription drugs under TRICARE, the military’s health care plan for military personnel and their dependents

House Minority Whip James Clyburn (D-SC) said today he was “shocked and disappointed in the President’s threat,” noting that Bush’s problems with the bill are over measures that benefit “the very people who sacrifice the most in the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and who serve at home and overseas.”

VoteVets chairman and Iraq veteran Jon Soltz adds:

Believe me, even with the current benefits that get paid out by the Department of Defense and insurance that many troops buy into, those who lose spouses in Iraq aren’t sleeping in mounds of cash. The increase proposed by Democrats will mean a hell of a lot. At, we’ve heard absolute horror stories on the type of cutbacks that widows and widowers have had to make because the government doesn’t provide enough to those who lose a loved one in war.

Obama hits Hillary hard Hillary takes her toughest drubbing on Iraq yet from her Dem rivals. Here's some video of Obama's slamming of Hillary's vote for the war. Really worth a watch -- it comes across as tougher than it did in print.

Desperation Army coaching recruits on how to beat drug tests. “As the war in Iraq rages on, the battle to find new fighting men and women is waged everyday in recruiting offices. Before they can carry a gun or fly a fighter jet, new recruits must pass a drug test.”

The potential recruits are given one chance to pass their drug test when they show up to the Military Entrance Processing Station, but a hidden camera investigation carried out by San Antonio NBC affiliate WOAI caught recruiters volunteering to help recruits ace the drug test at home or in their office before ever heading to MEPS for that official test.

"Wolfowitz's record of favoritism, ideological blinders, massive blunders and petty vindictiveness has inflicted profound harm on two of the world's great bureaucracies, the Defense Department and the World Bank. He has left both with thousands of demoralized employees (And 3400 dead soldiers) and imposed on both irrational policies that pandered to the far right of the Republican Party. He has, in addition, played a central role in destabilizing the Middle East and in leaving one of its major countries in ruins. Many of his Himalayan-size errors were enabled by his careful placing of close friends and allies in key and lucrative positions. In the end, his career suffered remarkably little from his substantive policy mistakes. But once he moved beyond the forgiving world of high Republican Party politics, his dependence on cronyism finally caught up with him. That he ran into such trouble at the World Bank for behaving in ways that apparently were business as usual for him at the Department of Defense only underlines how corrupt the Bush administration really is." -- Juan Cole on Paul Wolfowitz, Link

Lying liar continues to lie Gonzales to stick with false statement on warrantless wiretap program

Stephen debates the only person who could possibly keep up with his quick wit…himself. video_wmv Download (3573) | Play (3593) video_mov Download (1430) | Play (2380) "The Pottery Barn Rule. At Pottery Barn, if you knock over a lamp, you have to glue it back together, even if when your done it looks terrible and it doesn't work. Oh, and you have to stay in the store forever. Oh, and it's an exploding lamp."

Fighting hate Court TV's Catherine Crier doesn't think this scandal should end with the firing of Don Imus. During last night's "Crier Wire," she quickly ran through a small handful of the hateful things uttered by the likes of FOX News, Bill O'Reilly, Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter, and makes the obvious point that they should also be held accountable. video_wmv Download (9566) | Play (10195) video_mov Download (3417) | Play (5917) "Let's tell hate spewing radio and TV hosts, and misogynist rappers that this divisiveness is unacceptable." The list doesn't end there, Catherine. But it's a good start. The FOX Attacks video Crier mentions can be seen here.

Dubya's palace revolt Why did the Department of Justice suddenly get antsy about the NSA's domestic spying program in March 2004, more than two years after the program started up? I think Paul Kiel has it about right here. I suspect that the key player, by far, is Jack Goldsmith, as Newsweek told us over a year ago. A couple of days ago I linked to their 2006 piece, "Palace Revolt," about Goldsmith and others, and if you didn't click through to read (or reread) it, you should take a minute to check it out. It's worth your while.

Falwell and abortion -- not what you think Via Brad Plumer, Michelle Goldberg writes in the Guardian that abortion wasn't originally a big issue for the Christian Right:

The religious right's creation myth holds that Roe v Wade so outraged the faithful that they could no longer sit passively on their pews. As the Columbia University historian Randall Balmer has shown, this is nonsense. The Southern Baptist Convention, Falwell's denomination, was officially pro-choice throughout the 1970s; anti-abortion activism was seen as the province of Catholics, a group then widely despised by fundamentalist Protestants. No, what really galvanized the religious right were Supreme Court rulings stripping whites-only Christian academies, like the one Falwell founded in 1966, of their tax-exempt status. Fervent opposition to abortion, which eventually cemented the alliance between conservative Protestant and Catholics, came later.

There's no question that early evangelical leaders were originally drawn to politics by the loss of tax-exempt status for their segregated schools, which happened via a series of court rulings before Roe v. Wade was even a twinkle in Harry Blackmun's eyes. Still, while the SBC may have been "officially" pro-choice during the 70s, it was pro-choice only "reluctantly," and Falwell himself was always virulently anti-abortion and anti-gay. What's more, it was only after abortion and gay bashing were added to the evangelical mix that the Christian Right became a genuine, broad-based "movement."

In 1978, for example, the Washington Post reported that Falwell was "against abortion, poronography and homosexuality, and created a stir in the 1976 presidential campaign in Virginia when he attacked Jimmy Carter for being interviewed by Playboy magazine." In 1979, after Falwell founded the Moral Majority, the Post reported that his goals "include tax breaks for church-run schools, diplomatic recognition of the new government of Zimbabwe-Rhodesia, and the frustration of the abortion and gay rights movement." Later that year U.S. News & World Report reported that "Falwell's aims include sharp restrictions on abortion, an end to pornography, defeat of the proposed SALT treaty and rejection of the equal-rights amendment."

Money and segregation were certainly issues for Falwell and others, but it was abortion and gay bashing that powered them to fame and fortune, and they know it. There's a good reason that the old guard evangelicals feel badly threatened by Richard Cizik.

Don Byrd, who writes the BJC blog, emails to add some historical context:

The mistake in Michelle's piece is in saying the Southern Baptist Convention is "Falwell's denomination." That's a bit misleading in a paragraph about SBC views in the 70s. Falwell was an "independent Baptist," in large part because of the positions the SBC took with which he disagreed: church-state separation, against prayer in schools, and abortion allowance in cases of rape, incest and health of the mother among them. Once the SBC had transformed itself into a GOP, social conservative machine, partly due to being inspired by Falwell's Moral Majority, then sure, he said he could be one with the SBC. But that was much much later — 1996, to be exact. For some 10 years before that the relationship between Falwell and the SBC was limited to that of a "mutual admiration society." And before that you'd have to say he would not have wanted to be affiliated with them in any way.

In a swipe at Rudy, Mitt Romney says the GOP needs to nominate a strong family man. That and lots of other news in our Election Central Happy Hour Roundup.

This article does not exist Since Katha Pollitt is a feminist, and feminists don't care about women in the Muslim world, it stands to reason that her new column on the fate of Iraqi women does not, in fact, exist. This comes via Ann Friedman who must also not exist.

Neocon media Media Matters notes, “ABC and CBS still have not reported — on either their evening news or morning news broadcasts — former deputy attorney general James B. Comey’s account of what NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams May 15 called a rare glimpse of a high-level, late-night power struggle over the National Security Agency’s warrantless domestic wiretapping program.”

GOP debate goof tape Jon Stewart and Jason Jones have the outtakes. video_wmv Download (4567) | Play (5421) video_mov Download (1706) | Play (3441) Best line: Thank God for Tmmy Thompson. More: Jon Stewart combs through last night's Republican debate and is amazed to learn that (a) Brit Hume's hypothetical terrorist attack sounds very familiar to a plot line from a popular FOX show, and (b) Romney was able to land a "Double Guantanamo" in competition. video_wmv Download (10703) | Play (16672) video_mov Download (4869) | Play (11893)

Hurricane chief: Govt wasting millions on PR campaign. “The federal government is spending millions of dollars on a publicity campaign that could be used to plug budget shortfalls hurricane forecasters are struggling with, the National Hurricane Center’s director said Thursday. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is spending up to $4 million to publicize a 200th anniversary celebration while the agency has cut $700,000 from hurricane research.”

Cheney seeks immunity in Plame lawsuit. Attorneys for Vice President Cheney, Karl Rove, Scooter Libby said “told a federal judge today they cannot be held liable for anything they disclosed to reporters about covert CIA officer Valerie Plame or her husband, former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV.” Cheney’s attorney argued that the vice president is “legally akin to the president because of his unique government role, and has absolute immunity from any lawsuit.”

Back in the USSR Oy. It seems that Bernard Lewis has decided the United States could learn a thing or two about the need for brutal measures against Muslims from the example of the Soviet Union:

During the Cold War, two things came to be known and generally recognized in the Middle East concerning the two rival superpowers. If you did anything to annoy the Russians, punishment would be swift and dire.

Americans, by contrast, were undermined by softie liberals, journalists, etc., etc., etc. Appeasement, blah blah. Lewis' argument, not surprisingly, has some problems in terms of accurately describing Soviet posture in the Middle East. The other thing, though, is Russia has been deploying brutal measures against subjugated Muslim populations for at least two hundred years. The Czars fought Muslim guerillas in the Caucasus, the Soviets fought Muslim guerillas in the Caucasus, and Vladimir Putin has done the same thing. Relations between Russians and the Muslims who live to the south of the Russians is a big, long, giant example of Lewis-favored conservative policy prescriptions not working -- the fighting just keeps going on and on and on and on.

Colbert adds his two cents in as to why the GOP candidates' answers on torture were so warmly received and slams McCain for being soft on torture "enhanced interrogation techniques." video_wmv Download (4383) | Play (5688) video_mov Download (1799) | Play (3903)

The dodge proves the sin President Bush refuses to answer whether he ordered Card and Gonzales to Ashcroft's hospital bedside. The funny thing about this dodge is that the president is saying not only that the nature of the program is highly classified and must be kept secret, which may be true, but that his apparent order for Gonzales and Card to go squeeze the semi-concsious John Ashcroft is also highly classified and must be kept secret. Somehow I just don't get that one. The president's refusal to answer tells the tale. The president gave the order and even placed the call, as James Comey all but told us yesterday. But it should not surprise us because this White House has mainly used 'classification' as a way to keep embarrassing information out of public view.

The usual dodge for anyone in the Bush administration who doesn't want to talk to the press is to decline comment on a matter that's "under investigation." We don't want to throw sand in the wheels of justice, after all. And since practically everything in the Bush administration is under investigation these days, it's a pretty handy excuse.

But when NBC's Kelly O'Donnell asked Bush about the recently reported Ashcroft/Comey/Gonzales debacle (i.e., whether he was the guy who dispatched Gonzales and Andy Card to Ashcroft's hospital bed to twist his arm into re-approving the NSA's domestic spying program), he tried a different tack:

I'm not going to talk about it....I'm not going to move the issue forward by talking about something [that's a] highly classified subject.

Not bad! Talking about it would "move the issue forward," so there'll be no talking about it. That's almost as good as Monica Goodling's refusal to testify before Congress because she felt it would be a "hostile and questionable environment." How long before they stop bothering to construct verbal excuses at all anymore? Note that O'Donnell's question had nothing to do with the nature of the NSA program. It was solely about whether Bush personally ordered Gonzales and Card to visit Ashcroft in the hospital. There's nothing even colorably classified about that. He just didn't want to "move the issue forward."

Biskupic tried to 'squeeze' Georgia Thompson The federal prosecutors who put Georgia Thompson in prison, on charges later overturned by an appeals court as lacking in merit, repeatedly offered to go easy on her if she were to implicate others in the administration of Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle. >More

Another Repug gone AWOL John McCain just keeps on missing vote after vote on Iraq -- including today's on the Feingold amendment. McCain misses 42 Senate floor votes in a row. That and more political news of the day in today's Election Central Happy Hour Roundup.

"May Jerry Falwell never meet a god so cruel as that which he had envisioned."

-- theunapologeticmexican, Link

Boys and their torture toys I'd tuned in to Tuesday's Republican debate and heard the crowd hooting and hollering as the candidates played "can you top this" over who was most willing to take up the mantle of Hitler, Stalin, and Pol Pot, I probably would have lost it. It's not just that it's depraved, it's demagogic, and it's depressing, but also that it's dimwitted. Macho talk about torture may be a great applause line on the right-wing rubber chicken circuit, but it does nothing to make us safer.

Today in the Washington Post, a former commandant of the Marine Corps and a former commander of CENTCOM explain why:

It is the duty of the commander in chief to lead the country away from the grip of fear, not into its grasp. Regrettably, at Tuesday night's presidential debate in South Carolina, several Republican candidates revealed a stunning failure to understand this most basic obligation. Indeed, among the candidates, only John McCain demonstrated that he understands the close connection between our security and our values as a nation.....As has happened with every other nation that has tried to engage in a little bit of torture — only for the toughest cases, only when nothing else works — the abuse spread like wildfire, and every captured prisoner became the key to defusing a potential ticking time bomb. Our soldiers in Iraq confront real "ticking time bomb" situations every day, in the form of improvised explosive devices, and any degree of "flexibility" about torture at the top drops down the chain of command like a stone — the rare exception fast becoming the rule.....This war will be won or lost not on the battlefield but in the minds of potential supporters who have not yet thrown in their lot with the enemy. If we forfeit our values by signaling that they are negotiable in situations of grave or imminent danger, we drive those undecideds into the arms of the enemy. This way lies defeat, and we are well down the road to it.

Even if basic considerations of morality don't sway you, the fact that torture and abuse contribute to eventual defeat on the battlefield should. That's more important than winning a few more votes from the troglodyte crowd.

Them's fightin' words Rudy Giuliani: I "usually" hear Democrats blaming America for 9/11.

As well he should Edwards campaign slams Rudy Giuliani for his claim that he "usually" hears Democrats blaming America for 9/11.

Sigh ... McClatchy Newspapers has learned that the top prosecutors in Macon, Ga., and Roanoke, Va., landed on a proposed firing list weeks after the White House and Justice Department traded notes about the potential for voter-fraud cases in central Georgia and Appalachia. They were added to a list just days before last November's midterm election, but ultimately not fired.

Best practices (from Wapo) ...

The Commerce Department's inspector general, who is supposed to look into complaints of wrongdoing by government officials, committed "egregious violations" of the federal law that protects whistle-blowers by retaliating against two subordinates, a government investigation has concluded.

The U.S. Office of Special Counsel found that Inspector General Johnnie E. Frazier wrongly demoted the two employees during an investigation of his spending, according to a copy of the report obtained by The Washington Post. It concluded that Frazier's actions violated the Whistleblower Protection Act.

Prudes....Jonah Goldberg:

The liberal media loves — loves! — casting evangelicals as sexually hung up prudes. It should not detract from the basic unfairness of this bias to also concede that some evangelical leaders have supplied their enemies with ample ammo in this regard.

Actually, I don't think the media makes this point very consistently or very strongly at all. Not strongly enough for my taste, anyway. But if they did, why exactly would it be unfair? Especially if evangelical leader have supplied "ample ammo" to make the case?

Manners matter PBS’ NewsHour dumps right-wing talking head. Responding to an onslaught of reader complaints about right-wing talk-radio host Melanie Morgan’s shrill appearance on the May 8 edition of PBS’ NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, NewsHour executive producer Linda Winslow said today that Morgan would not be asked back to the show. “We can’t do much to eliminate rude guests from your television screen once the segment has begun,” said Winslow. “What we can do is guarantee you will never see that person on our program again.”

More economics There is a simple figure that has roughly the same relationship to "social welfare" as GDP does to "economic growth": median hourly income. It misses a lot of stuff, as any simple measure will, but it tells you as much as a simple GDP figure does. If the mainstream press paid as much attention to quarterly reports of median wage growth as they do to quarterly reports of GDP growth, they might even start to understand why "popular" views of the health of the economy so often seem to be at odds with the "official" view.

Added note: one of the reasons I like MHI as a primary economic statistic is my belief that sustained MHI growth is actually the single best measure of the strength of an economy. It's almost impossible for an overall economy to be in bad shape as long as real MHI is growing strongly. It's one of the reasons that Democratic administrations tend to produce better economic results than Republican administrations: though it's usually cloaked in more sophisticated language, Democrats tend to focus on MHI. Republicans don't.


Here's a graph I stole from Ezra:


The U.S., it seems, isn't that little bar on the right hand side showing ten days of paid leave and zero paid holidays. That bar's Japan. The U.S. is to the right of Japan -- i.e., blank -- a country with no legislatively mandated vacation time whatsoever. Unlike most other rightwing economic policies it at least is clear that this does boost GDP (people work more, more stuff gets made) but seemingly at the cost of making it increasingly hard for many people to find time to spend with their families. On the other hand, I will agree that Finland may have taken things too far in the other direction.

Drug-addled gasbag loves him some diversity This has to be among the most entertaining things Rush Limbaugh has ever said.

Referring to the May 15 Republican presidential debate, Rush Limbaugh asserted, on the May 16 broadcast of his nationally syndicated radio show, that "there's a template developing for the Republican debate last night. 'How come there are no women and minorities on stage?' I guess you forgot about 2004." He then said: "And I guess — you know, the Democrats never get those kinds of questions because it's always assumed that they're fair and just, and not discriminatory and all that."

Um, Rush? At the Dems’ debate, viewers saw a woman, an African American, and a Latino. That’s why the Democrats don’t get those kinds of questions.

Al Gore writes a book. Excerpt here. Gore tells Time that he began questioning why “our democracy hasn’t responded” to both the climate crisis and the Iraq war. “So I started thinking, What’s going on here? … Our democracy was pushed around by false impressions and wasn’t able to hold its focus,” he says. “That’s the common denominator. Once I’d thought through all of that, I couldn’t not write this book.”

Now that's entertainment! Filmmaker Michael Moore is “launching his own probe into the U.S. government’s investigation of him for making an unauthorized trip to Cuba to film scenes for his latest movie ‘SiCKO,’” beginning with a Freedom of Information Act request seeking all documents regarding the investigation.

Richardson kills his own Mo I suspect this was how:

Two recent stories illustrate the bumbling reality of Richardson's campaign, and how it contrasts with his glowing resumé. The first concerns the Guv's dumbass decision during last week's debate to name Byron "Whizzer" White -- one of the two dissenters in Roe v. Wade, and a dissenter from the majority in Miranda -- as his model Supreme Court justice. Yet that's not the worst part. When pressed to square his professed admiration for White with his alleged support for reproductive freedom and civil rights, Richardson made two more boners. Which one bothers you more?

A) He cited the fact that White "was an All-American football player besides being a legal scholar" as a justification for describing the often retrograde White as his model High Court member;

B) He apparently doesn't really know or care about Roe, given that he excused his White pick by saying, "White was in the 60s. Wasn't Roe v. Wade in the 80s?"

And if that wasn't bad enough, there's the whole Lieberman "let's use GOP attack frames to smear my own party" lines.

"Democrats, whenever we have a solution, we want to tax," Richardson said. "I'm different. I'm a tax cutter.

American Injustice I can't go there

Conservative pundit Ann Coulter has been cleared of allegations that she falsified her Palm Beach County voter's registration and voted illegally — this, after a high-level FBI agent made unsolicited phone calls to the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office to vouch for Coulter. The caller wasn't just any G-man. According to PBSO documents, he was Supervisory Special Agent Jim Fitzgerald, of the FBI Academy's Behavioral Analysis Unit in Quantico, Va. — the closest reality gets to the serial-killer catchers on CBS' Criminal Minds…read on

Very fishy indeed.

Stephen and Howard Dean square off on torture, Republicans, Al Gore and Iraq. video_wmv Download (3122) | Play (3380) video_mov Download (1189) | Play (2184)

Dr, Larry, Dr. Curly and Dr. Moe. More hijinx in the saga of the senior Veterans Administration honchos who last year were given bonuses up to $33,000 each. Now we learn that many of those fortunate officials were the same ones who voted for their windfalls. In exchange, America's veterans got an agency "that came up $1.3 billion short and jeopardized veterans' health care." We have a suggestion for this year's bonuses: that warm-all-over patriotic feeling they'll get deep in their soul from giving last year's bonuses back.

The heart of darkness. Scientists on Tuesday pointed to conclusive proof that there exists something in the universe known as dark matter. Shortly after the presentation they told Dick Cheney he could get off the exhibit table and go back to his undisclosed location.

Fun bedtime stories. Once upon a time there were two Speakers of the House. One Speaker was a Republican. The other Speaker was a Democrat. In June of 2006, the Republican's approval rating was twenty four percent. In May of 2007, the Democrat's approval rating was forty five percent. So the Democrat got to eat all the cookies while the Republican ate crow. The End.

Submitted by RKing on