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Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) "is back at work after some time off due to the congressional recess, and it looks like he will soon have a major announcement," according to in Chicago. One source "who has already committed to work for Obama, said people should look for the senator to make his intentions known very soon. The reason for that is Obama needs to get his infrastructure in place to satisfy federal election guidelines." mMeanwhile, notes Obama is "actively interviewing" potential staffers for a 2008 presidential campaign.

What? We remembered Osama? against “,” NBC News reports.

The forgotten terrorism Garry Wills's fine recent New York Review of Books about the Bush administration's systematic evisceration of the separation of church and state recalls this important story:

After his nomination but before his confirmation, Ashcroft promised to put an end to the task force set up by Attorney General Janet Reno to deal with violence against abortion clinics -- evangelicals oppose the very idea of hate crimes. The outcry of liberals against Ashcroft's promise made him back off from it during his confirmation hearings. In 2001, there was a spike in violence against the clinics -- 790 incidents, as opposed to 209 the year before. That was because the anthrax alarms that year gave abortion opponents the idea of sending threatening powders to the clinics -- 554 packets were sent. Nonetheless, Ashcroft refused for a long time to send marshals to quell the epidemic.

And although this has also been largely forgotten, the fake anthrax attacks were mild compared to the prior to the passage of the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act. (In 1991 alone, there there were were 2 cases of murder or attempted murder of abortion providers, 9 bombings/arsons (or attempted bombings/arsons), 83 cases of invasions, assault and battery, vandalism, death threats burglary or stalking, and 3,885 arrests at blockades.) The importance of federal enforcement in this area couldn't be clearer.

Progressive Income Tax 101. Sigh. Oh . When will you learn?

Today’s New York Times has a classic, class warfare argument from a Congressional Budget Office analysis from 2004 tax data that purports to show “Bush Tax Cuts Offer Most for Very Rich” but actually shows that the top 1 percent of income earners paid about 37 percent of all federal income taxes—a big jump from prior years.

And do you know why that is? Here's a . The top 1% saw their incomes jump by 18 percent in 2004, for a total of 53 percent of the income growth. That means one out of every two dollars in higher wages that year went to a member of the top percentile. And, it turns out, when you make all the money, you pay more of the taxes -- though not proportionately so. In 2004, the rich paid more because they made more. But the Bush tax cuts let them pay far less than they would've otherwise. Contrary to Kudlow's mendacious insinuation, the fact that they paid a high share of the income taxes has nothing to do with the fact that the lion share of the tax cuts went into their bank accounts.

McCain doesn't see the point of paying our bills In an interview with Bloomberg Television, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) was asked by Al Hunt whether he would support raising taxes on the very wealthy to for Iraq that President Bush is set to unveil this week. “I’m not sure what the point would be,” McCain said in response to whether wealthier Americans should be asked to pay more to offset the costs in Iraq. He added, “I’m not sure I would want to raise their taxes just because we’re in a war.” Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne wrote recently, “So here we are: Policymakers and politicians will demand more and more from the volunteers who serve our country, but they can’t find the gumption to ask shareholders to pay a bit more tax on their dividends or high earners to pay slightly larger levies on their incomes. By my back-of-the-envelope calculations, since 2001 we have spent on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. And conservatives wonder why we have deficits.”

What a difference an election makes Today's Washington Post is reporting :

Democratic leaders who had hoped to emphasize their domestic agenda in the opening weeks of Congress have concluded that Iraq will share top billing, and they plan on aggressively confronting administration officials this week in a series of hearings.

In a radical departure from the practices of the current administration, our Democratic leaders have made the choice to listen to what the American people want, and in light of recent that say:

NEW CONGRESS TO CONCENTRATE ON:

  • War in Iraq 45%
  • Economy/jobs 7
  • Health care 7
  • Immigration 6

...the focus this week will shift from domestic issues to Iraq.

On Thursday, Democrats will call Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to appear before the House Foreign Affairs Committee to defend the war-strategy shift Bush will outline in a nationally televised speech.

A House Armed Services Committee hearing with Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Marine Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, planned for Jan. 19 was abruptly moved to this Thursday after consultations with Pelosi. And leadership aides went to work on a response to Bush's speech that they hope will be delivered on national television after the president's appearance.

In the Senate, the Foreign Relations Committee will hold hearings Wednesday on the current situation in Iraq, then grill Rice on the president's plan Thursday. Pace and Gates will go before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Friday.

Bring it on. And not a day too .

What a difference... Part II This may be Pelosi's best move yet, and something I've been arguing for: .

"During four decades of Democratic rule ending in 1994, committee chairmen amassed almost unchallenged authority, often becoming more feared and influential than the elected leadership. They were nearly impossible to budge from their perches, and the concept of term limits was unimaginable. In a move that caught some new Democratic chairmen by surprise, House rules pushed through by the Democrats this week retained the six-year limit on chairmen imposed by Republicans, but the leadership reassured lawmakers they would revisit the restrictions when there was less attention focused on the dawn of the Democratic era."

There will never be "less attention" on the activities of Democrats in the House. That's what we bloggers will be for. And believe me, this is something that I and many others will be paying attention to. There are far too many talented and exciting young Democrats in the House to relegate them to permanent back-bench status because some unaccountable committee chair "got there first".

This move, more than any other, suggests that Pelosi is serious about reforming the House and avoiding many of the pitfalls that created the corrupt environment that propelled House Republicans to their 1994 majorities. Pelosi may promise to revisit the rules at some future, undetermined date (six years, probably), but she and the rest of the caucus should be on notice that they won't be able to change the rules under cover of darkness.

Now if only Harry Reid would follow suit in the Senate, I could get really excited.

What a difference.... Part III Via , check out the video of Pelosi's appearance on Face the Nation this morning.

SCHIEFFER: So, you’ve told him what you don’t want to do, and that is to expand the size of the force in Iraq even on a short-term basis. But what if he decides to do that? What will be your action then?

PELOSI: If the president chooses to escalate the war, in his budget request we want to see a distinction between what is there to support the troops who are there now. The American people and the Congress support those troops. We will not abandon them.

But if the president wants to add to this mission, he is going to have to justify it. And this is new for him because up until now the Republican Congress has given him a blank check with no oversight, no standards, no conditions. And we’ve gone into this situation, which is a war without end, which the American people have rejected.

We live in interesting times. Will it be Bush vs. the Constitution and the rest of America? Stay tuned.

What a difference..... Part IV Yesterday on Fox News Sunday, Weekly Standard editor Fred Barnes excitedly discussed how new Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) may block the new congressional leadership from pursuing its objectives. “There was really an important thing that Mitch McConnell said,” Barnes explained, which was that “the minority can guarantee not much is done.”

Barnes claimed that he has “talked to [McConnell] many times, and he’s the great master of the filibuster, among other things.” Barnes also said that President Bush “has great tools” like “the veto, executive orders, recess appointments and so on” to block congressional efforts.

What a difference new leadership makes. During the last Congress, when Barnes’ conservative allies were in power, tools like the filibuster were described as legislative “rage,” a sign of “ruthless” politics. Here’s Barnes on :

Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle…was plainly obsessed with obstructing Bush at every turn. … The real lesson, of course, is that blatant obstructionism is a failed strategy. It’s what caused Daschle to lose his seat. … Stronger countermeasures will be needed, including an unequivocal White House response to obstructionism, curbs on filibusters, and a clear delineation of what’s permissible and what’s out of bounds in dissent on Iraq.

Will your next car be a ? Before you answer, how about a Chevy that can travel 40 miles on electric alone, and on longer trips uses a gas engine to keep the batteries charged, giving it a range of 640 miles per tank and an effective GPM above 100? Yup, it looks like GM is preparing to lap the field with the first plug-in hybrid. Now, if they would only take this car from concept to production, I'd be first in line.

Bush hands off to next Prez The new American operational commander in Iraq, Lt. Gen. Raymond Odierno, “said Sunday that even with the additional American troops likely to be deployed in Baghdad under President Bush’s new war strategy it for American and Iraqi forces to gain the upper hand in the war.”

Hey! I've been saying this for years! on the “

In America today, we are encouraged to believe in the myth of scarcity - that there just isn’t enough - of anything. But in the story of the miracle of the loaves and fishes, Jesus, who the Muslims call Isa, found himself preaching to 5000 (not including the women by the way) at dinner time, and there didn’t appear to be enough food. The disciples said that there were only five barley loaves and two fish. We just have to send them away hungry. We simply don’t have enough. But Jesus took the loaves and the fish and started sharing food. There was enough for everyone. There was more than enough. What was perceived as scarcity was illusory as long as there was sharing, and not hoarding. … If scarcity is a myth, then poverty is not necessary. America need not have 37 million Americans living below the poverty line. It is a choice. Hunger is a choice. Exclusion of the stranger, the immigrant, or the darker other is a choice.

NRA members taking control of NRA? Well, not quite yet, but at least there's this: “After years of close association with the Republican Party and hard-nosed opposition to federal land-use regulation, the National Rifle Association is being pressured by its membership to distance itself from President Bush’s energy policies that have ,” the Washington Post reports.

We're always rich enough for war “The Bush administration is expected to announce next week a major step forward in the building of ,” the New York Times reports. “It will propose combining elements of competing designs from two weapons laboratories in an approach that some experts argue is untested and risky.” The overall bill is “estimated at more than $100 billion.”

Progressive cartoonist Tom Tomorrow was recently . He’s asked readers to respectfully requesting that the Voice reconsider its decision. Sign the petition . More details (and check out Tom’s latest comic ).

The ugly game they play : "You won't get a McCain aide to say this, but Team McCain wants Republicans who haven't endorsed McCain to fear the consequences of endorsing someone else. If McCain is the nominee, his political team -- John Weaver, Mike Dennehy, Richard Quinn -- will essentially run the Republican Party and be in a position to punish or freeze out apostates."

In his , former Democratic Party chief and Clinton confidant Terry McAuliffe "is lambasting John Kerry's unsuccessful presidential campaign, calling his effort to unseat President Bush 'one of the biggest acts of political malpractice in the history of American politics,'" according to the . "McAuliffe criticizes the 2004 campaign that he was responsible for defending but ultimately lost to what he describes as a more organized Republican machine. McAuliffe calls the Kerry campaign gun-shy, distracted and incompetent.... However, McAuliffe has kind words for other possible candidates, such as Sens. Barack Obama and Chris Dodd and Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack."

What a Party!: My Life Among Democrats: Presidents, Candidates, Donors, Activists, Alligators and Other Wild Animals

 

The mess we're in of Iraq's militiamen are probably OK and could be put into the Iraqi security forces, while the other 20% may have to be "captured or killed."
This comment seems to me a welcome evidence of realism, much better than the conviction that the Sadr Movement can be defeated militarily. But I fear that the "more extreme" militiamen are the cousins of the ones who are OK, and if you kill the cousin of an Iraqi, he has to kill you to restore clan honor. So if you kill the 20%, you turn the "moderate" militiamen into your deadly enemies. Americans are so individualistic, they can't seem to get their minds around clans and clan feuds. This failure of understanding or imagination has underpinned a lot of the failure in Iraq. What you do is to make a deal with the clan leaders and make them responsible for reining in the extremists, setting things up so that they are denied financial rewards if they fail to do so. Of course this plan depends on your ability to guarantee the safety of the clan leaders, which at the moment the US military cannot do.

Dubya's mess stinks in Iraq, with guerrillas cannily spreading around images of attacks on US troops. The chilling suggestion is made that some attacks are staged precisely to generate propaganda footage, i.e. the guerrillas are making snuff films with the GIs as victims.

Another death. In just one more tragic post-script to Saddam Hussein's barbaric execution, a 10-year-old boy mimicing the televised spectacle. We're all supposed to add in the useless disclaimer that Hussein deserved his death, but I would've gladly spared his life and continued his imprisonment if it meant Sergio Pelico would live another day. Will any good, at any point, come from anything we do over there?

Public financing for campaigns Over the past couple of decades, the Republican Party has focused a lot of its attention not merely on getting conservative legislation passed, but on creating a long-term conservative majority by making structural changes to the political system that permanently erode the Democratic Party's ability to win elections. Examples include an increased interest in gerrymandering, union busting, voter ID laws, and the K Street Project, a party-wide program aimed at persuading lobbying firms to hire only Republicans.

Democrats have mostly played catch-up when it comes to structural changes, but in the current issue of the Monthly Zachary Roth argues that it's time for this to change. The biggest structural advantage Republicans have over Democrats is their ability to raise huge amounts of corporate cash for election campaigns,

It's no accident that the rise of conservative power in Washington that began in 1980 and accelerated after 1994 coincided with an exponential increase in the cost of political campaigns. Any system that uses corporate dollars to fund candidates' bids for office will, almost by definition, advantage the party that hews closest to corporate interests. Over the last 12 years, Republicans have figured out how to exploit that dynamic to build a political machine with which they have dominated their opponents. Now that Democrats are back in power, they have a choice: They can try to adapt to that system by going all out to get their share of the spoils. Or they can destroy it altogether by cutting off the money on which it depends.

I'll confess to some weariness about campaign finance reform -- partly because past efforts have achieved so little, and partly because success seems so far away. I was strongly in favor of California's Proposition 89 last year, a public finance initiative that was modeled on Arizona's Clean Money law, but it managed to garner only 25% of the vote. A measure to release all Class 1 sex offenders immediately and buy them each their own suburban tract homes probably would have gotten more votes.

But cynicism is for suckers, and Zack is right: lobbying reform is a fine idea, but how much real-world impact will it have if the corporate cash funnel that currently feeds American politics remains in place? Democrats may feel like they've made considerable strides in tapping that corporate cash machine in recent years, but they still haven't caught up to Republicans and probably never will. What's more, there's also this:

In recent years, the party has at times failed to stay united on major economic votes like the bankruptcy bill of 2005, in part because some members have caved to their corporate backers. If Democrats hope to fix the Medicare drug plan or repeal some of the Bush tax cuts, they'll need to reduce these defections. Ending the link between corporate money and elections will make it easier for Democrats to side with their constituents, not their contributors. And creating a record of legislative accomplishment is perhaps the most effective way for Democrats to boost their political prospects.

Read the whole thing. Zack traces out a plausible strategy that sets the stage for public finance reform following the 2008 election, and also outlines the lay of the land right now: who's for it, who's against it, and what the obstacles are. It's worth reading.

POSTSCRIPT: "The key thing for progressives is not to give up, for even a moment, on public campaign financing as a goal. It may take a while to get there, but leadership requires, well, leadership, and succumbing to the current crazy and corruption-feeding system is not acceptable. This is something on which progressives who disagree on many other topics ought to be able to unite."

Tell me again: What liberal media? The Associated Press is often accused of showing blatant bias in their news writing, but rarely is one able to prove the point by comparing an AP article with the updated version of that very same article.

So let's look at two versions of a story by AP writer, Anne Flaherty, about the opposition George Bush is facing on Capitol Hill over his plans to increase troop levels in Iraq. The piece begins:

President Bush's plan to send more troops to Iraq is running into trouble on Capitol Hill, with Republicans joining Democrats in raising eyebrows before the president even has a chance to make his case.

Yes, nearly four years and more than US deaths later, and Congress isn't even giving Bush a chance to explain his latest sure-fire strategy for victory. In the :

...with Republicans joining Democrats in raising eyebrows before the president even makes his case.

The word "chance" is omitted, which takes away some of the whine value, but still suggests that Bush's "new way forward" isn't being given a fair shake. Nothing major to be sure, but what follows from the original version could have been written by the White House:

Next week Bush will unveil a new Iraq strategy that entails political, military and economic steps to win the war. The military solution, which has attracted the most attention and skepticism from Congress, is expected to include an increase in U.S. troops, possibly 9,000 additional troops deployed to Baghdad alone.

As the AP tells it, Bush has a complete plan "to win the war," but Congress is skeptical about one aspect of that strategy. Victory is only a 9,000 person surge away and Congress is fighting him! But perhaps recognizing that this near affirmation that victory is near is a stretch for everyone but , the AP tones it down in the updated version:

Bush, who met on Saturday with his national security team, has tapped new military commanders to lead the war effort and will disclose a new war strategy as early as Wednesday that is expected to include political, military and economic components.

Gone is the "steps to win the war," as is the mention of 9,000 additional troops, which is dropped down and given its own paragraph. But notice that the for the escalation being reported elsewhere aren't mentioned in either article. And then the original version says:

Bush also reshuffled his military commanders, tapping fresh faces to lead the war effort.

But what Flaherty left out was that the "reshuffle" was to bring in Lt. Gen. Petraeus, who :

...a rapid five-brigade expansion, in sharp contrast to his predecessor, Gen. George W. Casey Jr., who has been openly skeptical that additional troops would help stabilize the country.

But the AP presents it as simply "tapping fresh faces." In the updated version, the line was dropped to the bottom of the article, but left as a search for fresh faces.

Next up in the original version is the Democratic reaction:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., shot down the suggestion of more troops within a day of gaining control of Congress.

"We are well past the point of more troops for Iraq," the two wrote in a letter to Bush. Instead, Pelosi and Reid urged Bush to begin pulling troops out in four to six months.

And that was it. Two Democrats, apparently drunk with their new-found power, want to cut and run. But in the updated version a modicum of honest reporting is introduced and Reid and Pelosi's reasoning is included:

"Based on the advice of current and former military leaders, we believe this tactic would be a serious mistake," Reid said in the Democratic radio address Saturday. Instead, Reid and Pelosi want Bush to begin pulling troops out in four to six months.

"Our troops and their families have already sacrificed a great deal for Iraq," Reid said. "They have done their part. It's time for the Iraqis to do their part."

That's a little different than simply saying it's past the time for more troops, isn't it? And so it goes.

Both articles are quite obviously biased, but the first is so egregiously pro-Bush that the comparison of these articles makes that bias crystal clear.

Making every vote count, even those for Dems Significant update on Florida's 13th District, where a Republican has been seated in the House despite that voters would have elected the Democrat if not for voting problems. It's been an open question how involved Democrats in Congress would get in the dispute. That question has been answered: .

Biden weak; Murtha strong Rep. John Murtha (D-PA) on the question of limiting funding for Bush's troop increase in Iraq.

More on how the ugly game is played Yes, the first shot in the Subpoena Wars of the 110th Congress has been fired. Only, guess who's been hit? That's right. The target of the first subpoena exchanged between the Democratic legislative branch and the GOP executive branch is... House Democrats. Via :

At the House Appropriations Committee, the new chairman, Rep. David Obey (D-WI), had no sooner sat down and given his gavel a couple of test whacks before he was handed from the U.S. Attorney's Office in San Diego demanding thousands of documents by January 11th. Even though prosecutors nailed Duke Cunningham, they continue to pursue the hanging threads of the investigation -- namely whether the defense contractors who bribed him had their hooks into other lawmakers and/or staffers.

All well and good, of course. Got to get to the bottom of things, after all. But note that (according to subscription-only Roll Call), they're asking the wrong guys:

"To ask us to produce that stuff by [Jan. 11] is ridiculous given the fact that we haven’t taken over yet and every record that we’re talking about is a Republican record so I have no idea what the documents are and it’s a Republican problem.... We will try to cooperate, but it’s a Republican problem."

Now that Democrats are in the majority, of course, requests for access to committee records have to go through Democrats. And since Duke Cunningham did most of his dirty work on behalf of defense contractors, that'll mean that the Defense appropriations subcommittee will be busiest complying with the request. Wonder if that has anything to do with

Rep. John Murtha (D-PA), the chairman of the House Defense Appropriations Committee, said he intends to .

Or

[Pelosi] said the House defense appropriations subcommittee, led by her close ally Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., will conduct vigorous oversight when the Bush administration soon proposes its next special spending program for the war, expected to total about $100 billion.

In subpoena wars, there are a few basic tricks available to frustrate the purpose of the other side. If you're issuing the subpoenas, you can flood your opponents' offices with demand after demand, burying their staff in an endless stream of pointless work. If you're the target of the subpoenas, you can flood your opponents' offices with document after document, and make them sort the wheat from the chaff.

Of course, it may very well be that Democratic Appropriations staff would normally want to do everything possible to help investigators pry into the remaining nooks and crannies of the Cunningham case. But they'll also want to be able to keep their eye on the Iraq ball, which is what their boss will be demanding.

Keep this first shot in mind when the White House and their apologists among the ranks of Republican legislators start crying about the complexities and distractions created by Congressional subpoenas issued by Democrats.

By that time, Republicans will claim to have forgotten all about this first strike. Or more likely, simply claim there's no relationship between the two, this first subpoena having come from the U.S. Attorney's office.

Which I guess will be a signal that it's time for us to celebrate the death of the "unitary executive." Huzzah!

Arresting three guys and bringing in the Feds and then dismissing everything a day later. I know the ports have to be on alert but this sounded like quite a hot story yesterday, with the usual fear, fear, fear reports, only to be much ado about nothing. What kind of clowns are in charge in Miami and why is the media calling it a "brief terrorism scare" when it was only three guys who were Arabic in a truck? Is that really such a scare or is that fear mongering?

Here we go again How many bloody times do we have to review this issue? If the president and his team are , why should Congress give them the opportunity to make Iraq an even bigger mess, with more death and more cost? They don't get it and they won't get it.

White House press secretary Tony Snow said Monday that Bush "understands there is a lot of public anxiety" about the war. On the other hand, he said that Americans "don't want another Sept. 11" type of terrorist attack and that it is wiser to confront terrorists overseas in Iraq and other battlegrounds rather than in the United States.

No thanks. Suddenly I'm not thirsty Brought to you by the Bush Administration. .

DuPont Co. said Friday that it will not participate in the U.S. Army's plan to dispose of wastewater from the destruction of the deadly nerve agent VX.

The company had been working with the Army since 2003 on a plan to ship wastewater from neutralized VX nerve agent from a chemical weapons depot in Indiana to Deepwater, N.J., to be treated at DuPont's Chamber Works facility and then dumped in the Delaware River.

Oh, I'm sure it's all safe. When have Bush and the Army ever lied to the American people?

Published

January 9, 2007 - 10:14pm

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