Filtered news 11/14

"One problem with Congress is that 90 percent of it is ceremonial and so little has to do with elucidation. The Honorable meets with representatives of the American Beer Can Association, the Swizzle Stick Foundation, the League of Tutu Manufacturers, and poses for photos and listens to their pitches, and then goes to the floor and proclaims Eugene P. Fenstermaker Day, and then to a subcommittee hearing to read a two-page statement praising the arts as a triumphant manifestation of the human spirit, and then back to the office to welcome 10 fat men in beanies and the 4-Hers from Hooperville, then off to the banquet of the American Ferret Federation, and seldom during the day is the Honorable ever challenged or questioned or asked to listen to anything that wasn't vetted and paid for. The Great Personage is either regarded with servile deference or heartily abused by bloggers. This is not a good life for an inquiring mind....You meet congressmen in private and they're perfectly thoughtful and well-spoken people, nothing like the raging idiots they impersonate in campaign ads, and you think, maybe Congress needs more privacy. Send them off on unchaperoned trips to see the world firsthand. More closed-door caucuses where they can say what they think without worrying that one stray phrase may kill them." -- Garrison Keillor

What a difference a day makes.

Housework pre-November 7: "Would it kill ya to pick your clothes off the floor once in a while, lazy slob?"
Housework post-November 7: "Your clothes are washed, ironed and folded, Dear. And I shingled the roof."

Raking the yard pre-November 7: "Stupid leaves! Damn Republican leaves!"
Raking the yard post-November 7: "How lucky I am to be out here raking leaves during a Nor'easter. Ain't nature a beaut'?"

The office pre-November 7: "You're late. That's going in your file."
The office post-November 7: "You're promoted. That's going in your file."

Spousal relations pre-November 7: "Not tonight, I have a headache."
Spousal relations post-November 7: "Not tonight, we already did it twice this morning and three times this afternoon."

Blogging pre-November 7: Clacka CLACKCLACK "Moron!" Clack CLACKACLACKA "Unconstitutional!" Clackclack!!!
Blogging post-November 7: Clackity clickity [Sip. "Ahhh!"] Clickity Click [Sip. "Ahhh!"] Click A'Clicky Clack...

Crusher's remorse. Thanks partly to the bad publicity generated by the movie Who Killed the Electric Car (out today on DVD), GM now says it's bringing back next year:

The new car...would use an onboard internal-combustion engine as a generator to produce electricity to extend the range of the vehicle's rechargeable batteries. [...] Some environmental activists also seemed intrigued by the idea, noting that though it is not a "pure" electric vehicle like the battery-powered EV1, a generator-driven hybrid electric car would still consume far less fuel than a vehicle that relied on a larger, thirstier gasoline or diesel engine for propulsion.


An added plus: the bumpers are made of hemp.

Memo to Cokie Roberts: Shut the hell up After apparently hiking her pants up to her neck Sunday morning, the ABC News pundit informed the nation that, if you're a musician---like, say, former Orleans lead singer John Hall---you . Further, if a musician actually wins an election, guffawing at the silliness of it all is fair game. Unlike, say, a B-list actor who once shared the screen with a monkey named Bonzo.

This is pretty funny. Remember how Texas Gov. Rick Perry lobbyists connected to then-Rep. Tom Delay to promote the state of Texas in Washington and how those lobbyists later made tens of thousands of dollars in contributions to various Republican committees? The Austin newspaper has an today pointing out that Texas is still paying $15,000 a month to those GOP lobbyists--even though Congress will be controlled by Democrats:

Using taxpayer money to pay private, partisan lobbyists was a dubious strategy to begin with. Now that the worm has turned in Washington, Perry's decision could be disastrous for Texas. These lobby firms ignored Democrats all year — and worse, worked to defeat them — and the Democrats won't forget it.

Even the mistakes are bigger in Texas.

Repugnecon funnies I've written before that there's no such thing as Republican humor, and that might be unfair, because we may be seeing faint glimmers of it :

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the next best thing (by a little) to making the new RNC Chair: . Yes, that's right, Bonehead, who with a five-point Bush win in trending-Red Florida at his back, barely managed to beat one of the more anodyne, bland Democrats to run for the Senate outside of Massachusetts; Bonehead, who managed to take a dicey political situation in the Terri Schiavo affair and ; Bonehead, who if asked to eat eggs over easy and shave at the same time, would end up with shiny whites and yolk smeared in fork-tine streaks across his face; Bonehead is going to be the RNC Chair.

OK it's not really funny.

1-800-BITE-ME. President Bush wants his thugs in Congress to officially bless his unconstitutional warrantless wiretap program while they're still in the majority. Two words: . Please hang up and try again. Bzzzzzzzzzzzzz....

The Dem candidate couldn't ask for more Rudy Giuliani creates exploratory committee for 2008 presidential run, CNN reports. AP it.

But he/she gets it: McCain is in, too The Democratic National Committee responded to news reports that John McCain is entering the 2008 presidential race today. “If the reports are correct, we welcome John McCain to the race,” said DNC Communications Director Karen Finney. “The question is, which McCain is running: the McCain who called right wing extremists like Jerry Falwell an evil influence, or the McCain who spoke at Liberty University as he attempted to cater to the far right in advance of a presidential run? Or the McCain who opposed overturning Roe vs. Wade or the McCain who said he would support South Dakota's ban? As an opportunist who supports the Bush Administration’s failed policy in Iraq and changed his mind on tax cuts, a woman's right to make her own decisions about her health care, and campaign finance reform, it's hard to tell which John McCain will enter the race."

What liberal media? Less than a week after the election and two months before the Democrats actually take control of Congress, CNN has the leadership races as "Democrats Divided."

The liberal media machine chugs on. But it still ain't liberal. Meet the Press took heat for booking Joe Lieberman and John McCain as its guests five days after Democrats smoked Republicans out of their holes. Sunday a contrite host Timmah said he "extended invitations to the new Democratic leaders in the House and Senate, incoming Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Majority Leader Harry Reid. Both declined our invitation." Got that, kids? Reid and Pelosi are the .

Saying goodbye. Craig Ferguson offers a fond look back at Rummy and his . I hear Bob Gates does wonders with Play-Doh.

Because we should know "Americans are totally unaware of what transpired in Iran in the 1950's," but luckily we have trifecta's well informed to fill us in.

I'm curious: Am I the only person in America who didn't really like Borat much? Don't get me wrong: it had some funny scenes and delivered some laughs here and there. I've seen lots worse. But the lesson of the movie wasn't some razor-sharp subversive point about how we're all racists and xenophobes an inch under the surface, the lesson was that if you act like a complete whack job you can get ordinary people flustered and flummoxed. This doesn't really strike me as any kind of surprise. Also, check out It seems that the makers of Borat lied to, set up and did great damage to a number of innocent people. That, in my book, makes them asses unworthy of our movie dollars.

Corruption watch GOP fundraiser Tom Noe on 29 of 40 counts in Ohio

Corruption watch Dem version Add Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) to the list of lawmakers who have sponsored for public works projects in the vicinity of real estate they already owned.

What liberal media? Part II Compare from the 1994 GOP rout to the 2006 Democratic route.

"In an ironic turnaround, Iraq brought regime change to the U.S."
-- Amy Poehler, on Saturday Night Live's "Weekend Update."

What liberal media? Part III says former . “(A post) starts as a rumor and within 24 hours it’s repeated as fact.” Miller said blogs “don’t post corrections when they learn that what they have posted is wrong,” but added that she was “glad to welcome them as long as they agree to the standards.” When not helping blogs improve their correction standards, Miller peddled false intelligence from the White House and Iraqi exile Ahmad Chalabi that helped .

Obama: better to run sooner than later? Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) "might be well advised to stay in the Senate several more years before running for president, as many strategists have suggested. But there are at least 40 reasons to challenge that advice. That is the number of senators who have tried, and failed, to reach the White House since Sen. John F. Kennedy (D-MA) accomplished the feat in 1960," the reports. "Nearly all of them had more Senate experience than Obama, underscoring the light regard that American voters show for senatorial longevity and expertise in presidential elections. If Obama's aim is to become a more respected and knowledgeable senator -- in the mold of, say, Robert J. Dole (18 years in the Senate before his 1996 presidential race), Henry 'Scoop' Jackson (20 Senate years before his 1972 bid) or Richard G. Lugar (20 Senate years before his 1996 try) -- it may be a laudable goal. But it's a highly questionable presidential strategy."

He's baa-aack. Trent Lott is making a bid for Senate minority whip, according to . I don't know about you, but that makes me nostalgic for those of 1948. Not to quibble, but this sentence from The Hill on Trent Lott's bid for minority whip seems a bit off:

Lott was forced to step down as Senate majority leader in 2002 after comments he made at former Sen. Strom Thurmond’s (R-S.C.) birthday party touched off a racially charged controversy and the White House threw its backing to now-Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.).

That makes it sound like a bunch of folks were just whipping up trouble instead of Lott planting his foot squarely in the doo-doo. Wasn't it the comments that were "racially charged," as opposed to the controversy?

John Edwards begins a nationwide book tour today for , a coffee-table collection of mini-memoirs, the reports. Among his stops: Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina -- "all key states in the presidential nominating process."

"Edwards' wife Elizabeth just completed a book tour promoting . All the trips build on the tireless travels of the former North Carolina senator, who has worked for the past year on various poverty initiatives around the nation as he prepares for another possible run for the White House."

All Hail Keith MSNBC learned once that if you put someone on to the left of everyone else on the teevee you might actually get some viewers. Then they fired him. Dan Abrams' predecessor was wedded to the idea that CNN was for Democrats, Fox was for Conservatives, and therefore MSNBC's target audience was moderate Republicans. All 5 of them.

Suddenly, everyone wants Olbermann. Last week, he and political veteran Chris Matthews teamed up to anchor MSNBC's midterm election coverage.

The result? Abrams called it "a major turning point for this network.'' Ratings were up across the board and the coveted 25-to-54 age demographic increased 111 percent from the 2002 midterm election.

What's next? Expect to see Olbermann in even more mainstream settings. The one thing he is resisting, however, is pressure to produce more "Special Comments.'' He has to feel them, he says. "Otherwise I will turn into a cartoon of myself.''

Certainly it is the passion that carries the day. As Abrams says, "Keith isn't faking this, and the viewers can see that.''

You would think, what with and many similar issues among the fundamentalist clergy, that the more conservative churches would back off on their oppression of people they do not like, but not so in North Carolina. The Baptist State Convention of North Carolina is tomorrow that would expel any church that "endorses" homosexuality.

The North Carolina convention is the second largest association of Baptist churches in the U.S. In 2003, it expelled a church for accepting two gay men as members and baptizing them, and it has expelled other churches, also. As of 2005, members of the , which supports gay rights, have been barred from serving as trustees of Baptist organizations.

Says convention spokesman Norman Jameson, "We will not view favorably churches that allow that practice." "That practice," of course, is sex, which is the only part of gay relationships in which organizations such as the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina take any interest. About twenty churches will be under immediate investigation if the measure passes. If two people complain to the state convention about a church, that church is likely to be expelled.

Not everyone is happy. Stephen Shoemaker, senior minister at Myers Park Baptist Church in Charlotte, said "We regret very much that the state convention is taking this exclusionary action." Richard Kremer, pastor of St. John's Baptist Church in the Elizabeth neighborhood of Charlotte, said the system will "encourage churches to tattle on others."

Wisconsin's attorney general race Ed Garvey writes in hiw blog: Who won? Who lost? What will happen next? It is tempting to simply declare Republican J.B. Van Hollen the winner and wish him well. After all, isn't that the way things are done? But the real question is who is the real winner? J.B.Van Hollen didn't win this race because of his grasp of the job, his intellect or his record. No, Jim Haney of Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce (WMC) won or bought (your choice) this race. Jim Haney couldn't restrain himself. WMC spent $2.5 million on Van Hollen. I'm not making this up.

Here is Haney's limp explanation: "There's no question that we spent a lot of money--I would say, not purchasing the election, but educating the electorate." (to view the WMC direct mail piece. There you will see the Rongstad-like over-sized postcard that helped WMC "educate" the electorate.)

Why was WMC in a lather about the AG race? Some would say they knew Doyle would defeat a lackluster Mark Green so, with pockets bulging with cash, Haney decided to create a GOP gubernatorial candidate for 2010. Haney's absurd explanation? "Falk outlined an agenda that greatly alarmed the business community." Falk, says Haney, emphasized "a whole bunch of agenda items that she feels passionately about."

Wanna know the agenda items scaring WMC's members? ENFORCING ENVIROMENTAL AND CONSUMER LAWS. Whoa Nelly! Do you think the People's lawyer should worry about consumer fraud and the environment? Heaven forbid.

So, who won? Short-run the Van Hollen-Haney team. But long-run, the new AG has his hands full. He cannot initiate litigation unless Govenor Doyle approves, and the nonsense about his desire to join 72 district attorneys in prosecuting violent crimes will soon be obvious to the people. He will follow WMC's agenda at his peril. The people of Wisconsin are environmently friendly and they will not be pleased if J.B. ignores this critical issue.

But something else. We must do something about campaign spending. No one knows Jim Haney. He doesn't hold news conferences or put himself out for scrutiny, but he has the cash to elect an AG, a governor or a senator. That is frightening.

Character counts When President Bush declared the third week in October "" the irony was too thick to cut with a chainsaw. Americans were supposed to remember our commitments to "values such as integrity, courage, honesty, and patriotism" that "sustain our democracy, make self-government possible, and help build a more hopeful future." But the nation's lawmakers are the ones most in need of the reminder. Rolling Stone's Matt Taibbi writes, "These past six years were more than just the in the history of the American legislative branch. These were the years when the U.S. parliament became a historical punch line...a stable of thieves and perverts who committed crimes rolling out of bed in the morning and did their very best to turn the mighty American empire into a debt-laden, despotic backwater, a Burkina Faso with cable." The current congressional leadership has put its self-interest above the common good and has refused to clean house or pass meaningful ethics reform legislation. "The 109th Congress is so bad that it makes you wonder if democracy is a failed experiment," notes constitutional scholar Jonathan Turley. The American people are getting fed up. . According to recent polls, say that corruption in government will be an important consideration when they vote in November's elections and want the government to commit "to the common good and put the public's interest above the privileges of the few."

STAIN ON THE WHITE HOUSE: Many members of the Bush administration are far from role models during this Character Counts Week. On Oct. 6, key White House aide Susan Ralston "in the wake of congressional report that listed ." Ralston received her job with Karl Rove on a recommendation from Abramoff. -- more than any other White House official -- and . But former White House political director Ken Mehlman may have been the real "go-to" guy for Abramoff. "Everyone would appreciate it if you would ," read one message to Abramoff from Ralston, "because they just forward it to him anyway." In 2002, Abramoff asked the White House to remove Allen Stayman, a State Department official who had opposed the interests of an Abramoff client in the Northern Mariana Islands. The e-mails reveal that Mehlman agreed to "."

UP TO THE EARS IN EARMARKS: Lawmakers have masterfully figured out how to insert spending proposals known as "earmarks" into federal legislation without public scrutiny. These earmarks often benefit few people except the lawmaker and his or her wealthy donors. Sen. Conrad Burns (R-MT) has earmarked more than $8 million for a project supposed to make Montana a center for space-related research and industry. But in reality, it has ". It has also earned lobbyists and companies connected to Burns hundreds of thousands of dollars in contracts and lobbying fees as well as more than $80,000 in campaign contributions for Burns and Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-MT)." Perhaps no lawmaker has come to represent earmark corruption more than former Rep. Duke Cunningham (R-CA), who pled guilty in Nov. 2005, to from government contractors. On Wednesday, Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA), the ranking member on the House Intelligence Committee, , concluding that unfortunately, Cunningham wasn't the only crooked government official; there "was , or otherwise influence to do what they wanted." Another new report this week by the Wall Street Journal found that Rep. Charles Taylor (R-NC) has for nonprofits which he either created or are run by his supporters. A $4.8 million earmark in last year's transportation bill went to "widen parts of U.S. Highway 64, a winding mountain road that runs near tracts of timberland" that one of Taylor's companies owns. To date, there have been , at a cost to taxpayers of $71.77 billion.

ALL IN THE FAMILY: Lawmakers aren't the only ones to benefit from earmarks -- their families do, as well. Lobbying firms have picked up on this nepotism, and according to a new USA Today investigation, these firms " that their relatives with ties to the House and Senate appropriations committees oversaw or helped write." In 2005 alone, "appropriations bills contained about $750 million for projects championed by lobbyists whose relatives were involved in writing the spending bills." The latest into family corruption revolves around Rep. Curt Weldon (R-PA), who may have traded his political influence to win lucrative -- -- lobbying contracts for his daughter's firm. Weldon repeatedly lobbied federal officials -- including Karl Rove -- on behalf of Itera, a controversial Russian natural gas company. , six days after her father arranged a dinner at the Library of Congress to honor Itera. "It's getting to the point where ," noted Ronald Utt of the conservative Heritage Foundation.

THE BLAME GAME: An Oct. 11 Associated Press report found that Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) even though he hadn't personally owned the property for three years. Reid had failed to disclose to Congress an earlier transaction "in which he transferred his land to a company created by a friend and in that company." Reid countered that, although the title to the land had passed to a joint venture, he maintained continual ownership over the property. Nevertheless, Reid immediately apologized for the oversight lapse and and . Other lawmakers took a different approach. Weldon, for example, has blamed Citizens for Responsible Ethics in Washington Executive Director Melanie Sloan, former National Security Advisor Samuel Berger, and former CIA officer Mary McCarthy . He believes the FBI's investigation is "." Rep. Bob Ney (R-OH), who last week pled guilty in the Abramoff investigation, has .

MEDIA NEGLIGENCE: Because of a single earmark in a 2005 federal highway bill, House Speaker Dennis Hastert's (R-IL) . After acquiring land in 2002, Hastert inserted $207 million into the 2005 highway bill for construction of the Prairie Parkway Corridor, a highway that "had neither the support of the public nor the Illinois Department of Transportation," but was just over a mile from the property owned by Hastert's trust. Once the bill passed, Hastert sold his property at "a profit equal to 500 percent of his original investment," notes Center for American Progress Senior Fellow Scott Lilly and American Enterprise Institute Resident Scholar Norman Ornstein. The Speaker used his official position to profit at the expense of American taxpayers. Media Matters reports that . Time magazine has yet to mention the Hastert land scandal, but to the assertion that Reid has "."

TIME TO TAKE OUT THE TRASH: The right-wing Congress refuses to clean house. Despite pleading guilty, Ney is not resigning from Congress immediately, but rather "." (update, he's gone now) Instead of cooperating with Harman to release the report on Cunningham, House Intelligence Committee chairman Peter Hoekstra (R-MI) condemned the release of the report before the November elections, stating that Harman's actions were "." Conservative lawmakers to Rep. Don Sherwood (R-PA), who is now facing a lawsuit by a woman with whom he had a five-year affair (update, he lost his seat). She alleges that he repeatedly beat her and "." Weak lobbying bills passed by the and the earlier in the year have stalled and lawmakers have yet to set up a committee to .


November 14, 2006 - 10:02am