Filtered new 8/5

A case of mistaken identity  I suppose it was bound to raise eyebrows when, in the midst of the YearlyKos convention, John Edwards said, "We're about to enter the seventh year of this phony war...and we're losing."

What's more, Fox News is bound to play up remarks from Barack Obama, who noted that a black male in Detroit is more likely to go to prison than graduate from high school -- and the GOP doesn't care. "How can we tolerate systems more likely to send young Americans to prison than college?" Obama asked. "Republicans have this maniacally dumb idea of Red versus Blue. They say, Detroit is a blue place, so we're not going to go there."

Chris Dodd, meanwhile, will no doubt get hammered by the right for arguing that instead of the current counter-terrorism strategy, we should focus on energy independence. "We have to have a national energy strategy, which basically says to the Saudis, 'We're not going to rely on you.'"

And Hillary Clinton, meanwhile, took the opportunity to blast the Republican Party's basic approach to government. "Republican political doctrine has been a failure," she said. "Look at New Orleans. How can you say that was a success? Look at Baghdad... I don't think you can look around and say that was a great success."

Wait, did I say Democrats at YearlyKos? Actually, all of these comments came from former House Speaker , at the Young America's Foundation National Conservative Student Conference in DC.

My mistake.

Mitt still thinks 9/11 = Iraw war  This morning's Republican presidential candidate debate in Iowa was a relatively low-key affair, but was one of the more unusual exchanges of the event. Following a question about ending the war in Iraq:

"Just come home," dissented Texas Rep. Ron Paul, the lone advocate of a quick troop withdrawal on a presidential campaign debate stage. He said there had never been a good reason to go to war in the first place.

"Has he forgotten about 9/11?" interjected former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

Romney didn't make clear why the attacks of Sept. 11 justify the war in Iraq, but he seemed oddly pleased with himself for making the comment.

It helps make clear why poll results are not at all surprising.

...Iowa GOP voters are expressing limited enthusiasm for the field of current and potential aspirants, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll. Their views appear to be a microcosm of GOP sentiment across the country and point to a wide open battle for the nomination.

Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney has emerged as the early leader in the campaign for Iowa. But his support is both soft and shallow, suggesting that the Republican race in the state, as nationally, remains extremely fluid.

Just 19 percent of likely GOP caucus attendees said they were "very satisfied" with the field of candidates -- far below satisfaction levels among Iowa Democrats -- and poll respondents were badly fractured when asked to rate the candidates on political and personal attributes.

Republican voters have plenty of candidates, with various ideologies and temperaments, to choose from, but at least in Iowa, the vast majority looks at the GOP field and says, "Is this it?"

It helps explain why "none of the above" among the GOP faithful.

The goofballs running the show  From Defense Secretary Robert Gates' interview on "Meet the Press" this morning:

Russert: You mentioned that we misunderestimated [sic] some of the divisions between the factions in the [Iraqi] government, the Shiites and the Sunnis. Mr. Secretary, for Americans watching today, many are saying to themselves, "The administration was wrong about weapons of mass destruction, wrong about the size of the force necessary to occupy Iraq, wrong about the costs of the war, wrong about Shiite and Sunni division. Why should we have any confidence in what they say about the future of Iraq?"

Gates: Well, what I think we should have confidence in is the evaluation that Ambassador Crocker and Gen. Petraeus are going to make in early September. These men have been on the ground for quite some time now; they are best of our professionals; they will look at this.

First, that's not exactly a ringing endorsement of the Bush administration.

Second, this notion of putting the onus on Petraeus is misguided. As Wesley Clark explained on Friday, Petraeus is executing the president's Iraq policy, not the other way around. "Mr. President we're not questioning the generals, we're questioning you," Clark said. "Stop hiding behind Dave Petraeus and come out and defend your strategy. It's your strategy. You defend it."

And third, "misunderestimated"? Has the president really had on our discourse?

Convention report  I may not have made it to Chicago this year, but I've learned a few things from the tubes about what the Democratic presidential candidates were up to at YearlyKos:

* Hillary Clinton's defense of accepting contributions from lobbyists was probably the day's . She seemed to get to the right answer, but it took .

* John Edwards was today.

* Barack Obama in his private off-the-record session -- so much so that he probably shouldn't have been speaking off-the-record.

* When Bill Richardson touted his position on the Balanced Budget Amendment and the line-item veto, it may have been "." (YearlyKos attracts a smart crowd.)

* Clinton about healthcare in the early '90s, and the issue will be her highest domestic policy priority if elected.

* Chris Dodd was clever enough to in a single answer.

* Dave Johnson types quickly enough to really well.

* Mike Gravel seems to realize that this wasn't the right crowd to pitch .

You can't pacify a lying bully  Caroline Fredrickson, the Washington legislative director for the ACLU, the other day that Democrats "have a Pavlovian reaction: Whenever the president says the word 'terrorism,' they roll over and play dead."

It's obviously not all Dems. In giving the president sweeping new surveillance powers, 16 Dems broke ranks in the Senate and 41 in the House. The New York Times their motivation.

[W]ith the Senate already in recess, Democrats confronted the choice of allowing the administration's bill to reach the floor and be approved mainly by Republicans or letting it die.   If it had stalled, that would have left Democratic lawmakers, long anxious about appearing weak on national security issues, facing an August spent fending off charges from Republicans that they had left Americans exposed to threats.

I'm curious, these Dems realize that Republicans are going to call them "weak on terror" anyway, right?

Entertainment The Today Show takes a look at the "" and the various punch lines the presidential candidates are delivering in hopes of connecting with voters (MSNBC video).

A no-brainer William Greider at The Nation writes


Now here is a Patriot Act everyone can get behind. It's called the Patriot Corporation of America Act and it rewards the companies that don't screw their employees and weaken the country by moving the jobs to China and elsewhere.

In these troubled times, doesn't that sound like common sense? Government policy presently works in opposite ways. It literally assists and subsidizes the disloyal free riders who boost their profits by dumping their obligations to the home country. It's called globalization. Establishment wisdom says there is nothing politicians can do about it.

Crazy Tom Tancredo hits back (lamely) It seems that when Tom Tancredo about the fact that the State Department called his plan to bomb Mecca and Medina to deter terrorism "reprehensable" and "absolutely crazy" he came up with this reply:  "Yes," Tancredo answered. "The State Department -- boy, when they start complaining about things I say, I feel a lot better about the things I say, I'll tell you right now."  It's striking to recall how recently it was that this sort of "if the knowledgeable professionals at the State Department think it's a bad idea, it must be the right thing to do" mentality was conventional wisdom among conservatives and liberal hawks -- "Arabists" was a term of derision to indicate people without the vision and idealism necessary to give us a horrifying bloodbath in Iraq and call it democracy.

The Company Jane Mayer at The New Yorker writes

A rare look inside the C.I.A.’s secret interrogation program.

Given this level of secrecy, the public and all but a few members of Congress who have been sworn to silence have had to take on faith President Bush’s assurances that the C.I.A.’s internment program has been humane and legal, and has yielded crucial intelligence. Representative Alcee Hastings, a Democratic member of the House Select Committee on Intelligence, said, "We talk to the authorities about these detainees, but, of course, they’re not going to come out and tell us that they beat the living daylights out of someone." He recalled learning in 2003 that Mohammed had been captured. "It was good news," he said. "So I tried to find out: Where is this guy? And how is he being treated?" For more than three years, Hastings said, "I could never pinpoint anything." Finally, he received some classified briefings on the Mohammed interrogation. Hastings said that he "can’t go into details" about what he found out, but, speaking of Mohammed’s treatment, he said that even if it wasn’t torture, as the Administration claims, "it ain’t right, either. Something went wrong."

Millionaires can barely get by?   In today's edition of the annals of the new gilded age, Hal Steger that "a few million doesn’t go as far as it used to." As Gary Rivlin reports:

Silicon Valley is thick with those who might be called working-class millionaires — nose-to-the-grindstone people like Mr. Steger who, much to their surprise, are still working as hard as ever even as they find themselves among the fortunate few. Their lives are rich with opportunity; they generally enjoy their jobs. They are amply cushioned against the anxieties and jolts that worry most people living paycheck to paycheck.

But many such accomplished and ambitious members of the digital elite still do not think of themselves as particularly fortunate, in part because they are surrounded by people with more wealth — often a lot more.

This is part of the weirdness of the new era of hyper-inequality, where not only does the top one percent pull away from the other 99 percent, but the top 0.001 percent pulls away from the other 99.999 percent. Even very rich people feel the even richer pulling further and further away and don't feel themselves to be as privileged as, objectively speaking, they really are.  Geeze.

A RFN reader responds:

As much as I hate to, I agree   "The publishing industry is one of the shallowest, dumbest and most archaic in the U.S. No one edits anything. The publishers do not care what is in their books and neither, by and large, do editors."

And Russ, wait until you read Jenna Bush's new book, ANA'S STORY.  I got on my publisher's case for giving a totally untested - and it turns out untalented - author about five times the advance an established writer gets and ten to fifteen times what other first authors get for a book that reads like a bad picture book and doesn't say a thing. And you should see the publicity package.  Shouldn't she at least have to put something in a prologue that says, "My dad's a dickbrain"?   So I'm with Andrew here.

Why support such a stupid idea?  Occasionally, presidential candidates are going to embrace bad, unpopular ideas. That's to be expected, I suppose; no candidate is going to get every issue exactly right. But Bill Richardson's support for a Balanced Budget Amendment is just bizarre. He not only supports a bad policy, but he brags about it, as if he assumes others are going to agree with him. Apparently, the New Mexico governor his BBA policy at YearlyKos this afternoon.

Oh, man. Bill Richardson just repeated his call for a Balanced Budget Amendment to the constitution. The audience, showing what I think is a pretty impressive level of knowledge of budget policy, erupted in boos. And rightly so. This is a terrible idea. Fortunately, Richardson's not going to be president, but imagine if we'd had such a thing in place during, say, the second world war. I dunno what Richardson thinks he's doing.

Richardson didn't slip up and accidentally mention this today; he frequently plugs his support for a constitutional amendment on this on the stump, and emphasizes his position .

It's hard to imagine what Richardson hopes to accomplish by endorsing such a remarkably bad idea. Occasionally, deficit spending is absolutely necessary to the health of the economy. Indeed, during a recession or a war, deficits are practically essential. The BBA is a rather cheap gimmick and an awful policy, which is why the audience was less than receptive today. The sooner Richardson drops the proposal from his repertoire, the better.

Military contractors Lorelei Kelly, channeled by Hendrik Hertzberg, has an interesting comment about the

Ms. Kelly observed that here has been very little public debate or discussion about military privatization. In that connection, she made another point that was new to me. The military-industrial complex produced by the Cold War (which still consumes untold billions even though the weapons systems it builds are perfectly useless for the national-security threats the country now faces) was and is able to prosper in the absence of actual fighting. The purpose of piling up all those missiles targeted on the Soviet Union, after all, was to avoid using them. But the kind of privatization represented by the gun-toting Iraq war contractors has created what she called "a live war military-industrial complex" — that is, an industry that depends for its profits, even its existence, on hot wars, wars that kill people. "Free-market conservatives have given us this," she said. "In conversations with military people, it's an opening to all sorts of other issues."

Well done!  (I-VT) does an incredible job of questioning Bush’s nominee for the White House Budgeting office Jim Nussle. Listen to him and please, if you’re so inclined, let him how much you appreciate him looking out for the average American.  $32 BILLION to the Walton family alone, but we couldn’t come up with federal funds to fix the bridge in MN?

Hint to Republicans: Offering oral sex really isn’t a good way to , because kind of the exact opposite thing would happen. Trust me on this.

Punishing he good guy :  This past week, the Bush administration added insult to injury over its illegal program of NSA domestic surveillance. During the very time Congress was debating codifying President Bush’s lawbreaking by many of have been afraid to publicly challenge as unconstitutional, was raiding the home of a former Justice official to identify the person who first brought the illicit program to light. As details in Newsweek, a team of FBI agents raided the home of Thomas M. Tamm, a veteran prosecutor and former official of the Office of Intelligence Policy and Review (OIPR) within DOJ:

The agents seized Tamm’s desktop computer, two of his children’s laptops and a cache of personal files. Tamm and his lawyer, Paul Kemp, declined any comment. So did the FBI. But two legal sources who asked not to be identified talking about an ongoing case told NEWSWEEK the raid was related to a Justice criminal probe into who leaked details of the warrantless eavesdropping program to the news media. The raid appears to be the first significant development in the probe since The New York Times reported in December 2005 that Bush had authorized the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on the international phone calls and e-mails of U.S. residents without court warrants.

Even as Alberto Gonzales’ was feebly deflecting perjury charges by apologizing for “creating confusion” wit his comments about “no serious disagreement” in 2004 within the administration over its NSA homeland spying scheme, the Attorney General was dispatching the FBI to investigate one of those purportedly disagreeable officials.

; More at   Let’s see how much neocon media coverage this gets…I’m betting not a lot.

Corruption unpunished We've known for quite a while that the political affairs office at the White House conducted , despite the Hatch Act's prohibitions on politicking in government buildings with government employees.

In April, we learned there were at least 20 private briefings on GOP electoral prospects before last November's elections, for senior officials in at least 15 government agencies -- all of which are covered by federal restrictions on partisan political activity. In July, the story got when we learned the campaign briefings were also given to the Bush administration's top diplomats, several ambassadors, and officials at the State Department and the Peace Corps.

With all of this in mind, Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) asked Attorney General Alberto Gonzales last week whether "the leadership of the Department of Justice" had participated in any of these political briefings.

"Not that I'm aware of.... I don't believe so, sir," Gonzales said.


Justice Department officials attended at least a dozen political briefings at the White House since 2001, including some meetings led by Karl Rove, President Bush's chief political adviser, and others that were focused on election trends prior to the 2006 midterm contest, according to documents released yesterday.

If political norms still had any meaning, this might be the kind of revelation that would force an Attorney General to resign. After all, a) there's no legitimate reason for Karl Rove to brief DoJ employees on individual congressional races; and b) Gonzales testified that he didn't believe the briefings happened at all.

Of course, political norms lost their meaning a few years ago, so there will probably be no adverse consequences for this whatsoever.

   Front-page stories in today's and detail the latest news from the a Justice Department probe into Chiquita's dealings with Colombian paramilitaries. According to the Post:

On April 24, 2003, a board member of Chiquita International Brands disclosed to a top official at the Justice Department that the king of the banana trade was evidently breaking the nation's anti-terrorism laws.

Roderick M. Hills, who had sought the meeting with former law firm colleague Michael Chertoff, explained that Chiquita was paying "protection money" to a Colombian paramilitary group on the U.S. government's list of terrorist organizations. Hills said he knew that such payments were illegal, according to sources and court records, but said that he needed Chertoff's advice.

Chiquita, Hills said, would have to pull out of the country if it could not continue to pay the violent right-wing group to secure its Colombian banana plantations. Chertoff, then assistant attorney general and now secretary of homeland security, affirmed that the payments were illegal but said to wait for more feedback, according to five sources familiar with the meeting...

Sources close to Chiquita say that Chertoff never did get back to the company or its lawyers. Neither did Larry D. Thompson, the deputy attorney general, whom Chiquita officials sought out after Chertoff left his job for a federal judgeship in June 2003. And Chiquita kept making payments for nearly another year.


August 6, 2007 - 7:31pm