Saturday, May 31, 2008

Michigan & Florida

Okay, I guessed it was most probable that Michigan and Florida's delegates would be seated at the Democratic convention, simply because the word honor has been meaningless in our public life for quite a while. Clinton and Obama were much more knowledgeable on this probability, so it was very smart of the Obama campaign to remove his name from the Michigan ballot.

I'm going with Georgia10's idea regarding Clinton's strategy:

I suspect that a lot of today's defiance on the Clinton camp's part is directly related to the fact that there are three more contests left, and promising to possibly appeal this decision is likely aimed at galvanizing her supporters in those states rather than taking the issue to the Credentials Committee.

The primaries always irritated me because my vote didn't count. This year my vote counted but it was just as frustrated as ever. For all I know, maybe Michigan and Florida are leading the way toward a solution with regard to the bigger picture -- bust up the rules to urge reform.

I searched back for Donna Brazile's op-ed about this:

Our nominating process is supposed to yield the best possible candidates for the most powerful position in the world. Unfortunately for all of us, it is a deeply flawed system in desperate need of reform. Recent proposals to create a regional rotation system in 2012, or the "Delaware Plan" to allow smaller states to go first, should be on the table for discussion starting this fall.

Friday, May 30, 2008

McCain, Gramm, Enron

"Foreclosure Phil:"

"No one in Washington apologizes for anything, so it’s no surprise that Gramm has failed to issue any mea culpa."
- David Corn

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Warpath 2002

Why did the press ignore Ted Kennedy in 2002?
Eric Boehlert, Media Matters
This year, the press has treated Kennedy as a singularly powerful figure in the Democratic Party and a commanding spokesman for the American left.

Unfortunately, that hasn't always been the case. Just a few years ago, when Republicans were riding high on Iraq war fever and Democrats were seen as on the retreat politically, the press cavalierly snubbed Kennedy.

. . .

I've been thinking about Kennedy's speech a lot lately. Not just because the senator has been in the news, but also because of the Pentagon's still-unfolding propaganda scandal involving retired U.S. generals who, at times, were used as puppets on network and cable television during the war, where they repeated administration talking points while presenting themselves as independent analysts. That outlets eagerly embraced the Pentagon's pro-war generals while mostly dismissing Kennedy's warnings perfectly captured the media's mindset during the run-up to the war.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Follow the Liar

Sherry Slater of the Journal Gazette gets all swoony over Colin Powell in today's front-page splash on his appearance at the motivation show yesterday. She's in line with the apparent consensus among pop-news pumpers that the wonderful general was, and is again -- GREAT!!! -- and he probably just had a bad-hair day, you know, that one day in 2003 when he told a big pile of lies to the United Nations in the name of the USA.

And probably he just had a lot of bad-hair moments on all of those other days:
[Public Integrity]

President Bush, for example, made 232 false statements about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and another 28 false statements about Iraq's links to Al Qaeda. Secretary of State Powell had the second-highest total in the two-year period, with 244 false statements about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and 10 about Iraq's links to Al Qaeda.
What does public integrity have to do with anything? Here's a 4-star dapper man who can command a room and get the ladies tingly all under, like the lady quoted in the article: “I don’t know,” she said. “He makes me feel safe.” That's what matters, image and fee-ee-lings...

Slater did give a sniffing acknowledgment that six people were motivated to be there for something other than stardust & CDs to self-advancement. Somehow, six of them didn't get sucked into the American Memory Hole.

...about half a dozen anti-war protesters to the Coliseum in the morning. Bruce Hall was one of those who marched with protest signs.

“We’re not here to cause a disturbance for the people. We just want to disturb the war,” he said.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Motivation Show in Fort Wayne

The blurb about Peter Lowe's Get Motivated seminar in the Journal Gazette provided some background,
Lowe started his career by offering sales training seminars after studying with top salespeople about how they overcome customers’ objections to closing a deal. He grew the business from there, selling his first non-profit company in the 1990s and starting from scratch as a for-profit business in 2002.
...skipping past the 2001 financial disaster of the Success Companies. (Apparently, he paid off the debts later.)

Lowe's promotional hype about Colin Powell as one of the featured attractions sounded just like one of those traveling promotional-hype-type shows:
[Journal Gazette]:

The seminars are designed to allow people to learn firsthand great people’s secrets of success, Lowe said. Powell, for example, is “an incredible speaker.”
. . .

“He’s just a crowd favorite,” Lowe said. “He’s well-respected across the country. He really exemplifies the American dream.”

"Incredible speaker" is about right, anyway. Colin Powell, 2003:
Everything we have seen and heard indicates that, instead of cooperating actively with the inspectors to ensure the success of their mission, Saddam Hussein and his regime are busy doing all they possibly can to ensure that inspectors succeed in finding absolutely nothing.

My colleagues, every statement I make today is backed up by sources, solid sources. These are not assertions. What we're giving you are facts and conclusions based on solid intelligence.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Pat Tillman

Boots on the Ground by Dusk
Mary Tillman's tribute to her son.

From Alternet interview:

One of the reasons we didn't go through the legal system was because we didn't want any monetary compensation, and also we wanted to make the system work. There are checks and balances to take care of these abuses of power. These soldiers are going and fighting for our system, and they hope the system works, and we hoped it would work for Pat. We had really high hopes last April, because they deemed there was a cover-up and we were really thinking the system is working, and then it just sort of fizzled out.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Karl Rove Oinks

25 May 2008:
"I read about -- I'm going to simply say what I've said before, which is I found out about Don Siegelman's investigation and indictment by reading it in the newspaper."

"But that's not a denial," said the host George Stephanopoulos.

"I've -- you know, I read - I heard about it, read about it, learned about it for the first time by reading about it in the newspaper," Rove replied.

- - - - - - - - - -

31 August 2004:

Rove to CNN:
"I'll repeat what I said to ABC News when this whole thing broke some number of months ago. I didn't know her name. I didn't leak her name."

10 July 2005:

Karl Rove confirms he spoke with Time's Matt Cooper about "Wilson's wife."

Saturday, May 24, 2008

John Yoo's a Doozy

Author of the famous "torture memo," John Yoo talks in an Esquire Magazine interview about the good work he did to effect actions that he thought were wrong [via TPM Muckraker].

For instance, he says he thought it was wrong to impeach President Clinton, but it was his job to help fellow Republicans succeed in the attack:

I wanted to try to make sure the Republicans in the Senate were trying to press for investigations of Whitewater and the associated scandals and not act in a way that was inconsistent with Republican views of presidential power from the Reagan years. One example is executive privilege. I think the courts have recognized and agree that the executive branch can withhold some kinds of information from Congress that have to do with national security, military secrets, and foreign affairs. There’s a general right to keep confidential discussions over policy, but that can be overridden if there’s a criminal investigation. So when I was working on the demands by the Senate on the Clinton Administration, I wanted to be very careful that this had to do with the things Clinton had done before he was president. This wasn’t about what his decisions as a president were. “We want to know why you bombed that factory in Sudan”: To me that was covered by presidential privilege. But to cover up sexual things that happened 20 years ago, that’s not presidential action. To me, there were plenty of Republicans who didn’t care: “We want to get Clinton and we’ll use the maximum powers of Congress.” To a lot of people that distinction doesn’t matter, but to me it was important.
Likewise, about work on laws to ban flag-burning and abortions:
When I worked for Hatch, I worked on the flag-burning amendment. Personally, I think flag-burning is acceptable political speech and Congress ought not to prohibit it, but I was his lawyer and his agent, so I did my best to drive that through. I thought that was my job.
. . .

Another thing I worked on was partial-birth abortion. I was the general counsel of the committee when the PBA bill first tried to get through Congress. I think it failed and only went through years later. My view is, I’m pro abortion rights. But I worked on the hearings and the committee reports and the constitutional analysis on the part of the judiciary committee on why Congress could ban partial birth abortions. I thought constitutionally it could. I didn’t think it should.

He gives a pretty good picture of his commitment as a loyal Reaganite conservative to assist wrong-headed people in doing wrong things, only because they're Republicans.

Thus, his dutiful work to serve compassionate conservative President George W. Bush, laying out a rationale whereby torture is not torture. (It resonates very well with Bush's frat-boy rationalization for branding his bros with a hot coat hanger -- "It's only a cigarette burn.")

Now that a bit of his memo on FISA law has been declassified, we find the same thing, loyally and dutifully providing Bush with a rationale for negating the law. In this one, he needed to show that the word "exclusive" does not mean exclusive [Washington Post]:

The passage states that "[u]nless Congress made a clear statement in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act that it sought to restrict presidential authority to conduct warrantless searches in the national security area -- which it has not -- then the statute must be construed to avoid [such] a reading."

In short, in this context exclusive does not mean exclusive because Congress did not specifically rule out the alternative approach sought by the administration.

To quote Kagro X at Daily Kos, "FISA Fight: Are you f@#&ing stupid or something?
Once again, just as the Nervous Nellies among Congressional Dems begin scurrying around, hoping somehow to escape with a "compromise" (read: surrender) on FISA, yet another completely insane shoe (from something obviously related to some kind of millipede) drops that temporarily wakens them up to the reality that the Bush "administration" is so outrageously unworthy and incapable of efforts at compromise that it would be just plain nuts to even bother trying.
Is it stupidity or something else, like fearfulness? Maybe Bush's buddies threatened to brand Democrats with red-hot coat hangers. In real life, when you know someone has lied to you, you know what you need to know in dealing with that person. In Congress, the Republicans' proposed "compromise" on the FISA bill is to authorize a liar to certify that the telecoms' domestic wiretapping was legal. And apparently there are Democrats who are considering it.

Warrantless wiretap compromise pitched:

The companies allegedly allowed the government to eavesdrop in the United States on phone and computer lines for nearly six years after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks without the permission of the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court created 30 years ago precisely for that purpose. Those lawsuits are pending before a single federal court.
. . .

The new Republican proposal – which Sen. Kit Bond of Missouri said is backed by the White House and intelligence agencies – would allow the FISA court to decide.

It would require the attorney general to certify that the companies acted lawfully and at the request of the president.

As usual, the news report specifies "after Sept. 11" even though the law-breaking started before that date. At any rate, there has to be some reason why Congress would even entertain such obvious baloney.

ACLU:

"Senator Bond’s proposal sounds like an unconstitutional wolf in sheep’s clothing," said Caroline Fredrickson, director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. "The administration has been running roughshod over the Constitution since it took office and any so-called compromise that has its stamp of approval simply cannot be trusted. The proposed immunity fix would be no better than a kangaroo court given the attorney general’s ability to dismiss cases simply because the administration had issued a sham certification. It’s ludicrous that the telecoms would be able to dismiss legitimate cases brought by their customers because they have a note from the president. Court review should look at whether the telecoms broke the law – and not clear them just because the president asked for the illegal actions. This proposal is not about compromise – it’s about giving the White House the green light to conduct domestic spying."
A key in the effectiveness of John Yoo's work was secrecy. Like the torture memo, so with the FISA memo. Once it's out in the open, you have to be willfully stupid, or something, to buy it.

Stimulus

How the World Works:
The Wall Street Journal quotes UBS economist James O'Sullivan as estimating that the $100 billion or so in rebate checks add up to "an extra 1 percent of annual disposable income for consumers." But the oil price increase already registered this year equals a 1.5 percent tax on income.

Items from The Guardian, UK:

Food Fights

The cost of food and fuel has already been cited as a factor leading to violence in Haiti, protests by Argentinian farmers and riots in sub-Saharan Africa, including attacks on immigrants in South African townships.

Knobkerries

Thousands of immigrants are fleeing home. About 15,000 Mozambicans crossed the border back to their country on Thursday alone. Others packed Johannesburg's bus and train stations looking for a way out. Many thousands are crammed into police compounds and community halls.
. . .

The mob that drove Mhanda from his home consisted of hundreds of young men armed with machetes, spears, knobkerries [clubs] and metal pipes fashioned to look like guns. They danced their way through Tembisa in scenes evocative of the bloody township wars when rival black political groups competed for power with the twilight of apartheid in the early 1990s.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Lieberman Rant

Lieberman Goes the Full Zell
by Hunter at DailyKos

The concluding paragraph is clear and sharp.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Robert Byrd

"Obama wrote of meeting Byrd as new senator in one of his book's most compelling passages..."

Ben Smith's Blog
Politico

Blackwater Cool

Blackwater Business School
Mark Fiore

"If Blackwater can rake in over one billion taxpayer bucks, you can, too!"

War, Inc.:

Turaqistan is wholly-managed by the Halliburton-esque Tamerlane corporation, and the tanks that patrol the country's burned-out streets are covered with NASCAR-style logos for everything from Popeye's Chicken to Golden Palace online gambling.
John Cusack interview:
And that's the version of democracy ... the version of a free market that we're not only supposed to worship, but into which we're also supposed to keep feeding bodies. We have to kill to feed this kind of twisted version of their free market. And [American political leaders] seem entirely unconcerned that Halliburton and Bechtel -- and Parsons and KPMG and Blackwater and the rest -- are kind of madly gorging off of this protectionist racket.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Conservative Democrats

From Digby:
...if the Democratic "moderates," the Blue Dogs, become the deciding factor in legislation, the change we will see will be incremental at best. Having the majority means that the most heinous right wing legislation never sees the light of day, so that's worth it, no matter what. But it's going to be very difficult to enact sweeping changes in policy unless these new Representatives are running explicitly on that agenda. Otherwise, they may very well vote with the Republicans, even if their president can raise lots of money for them. Money can't guarantee that Democrats in conservative districts can win.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Naomi Klein: All-Seeing Eye

Reading Naomi Klein is quite an experience.

"With the help of U.S. defense contractors, China is building the prototype for a high-tech police state. It is ready for export."

Remember how we’ve always been told that free markets and free people go hand in hand? That was a lie. It turns out that the most efficient delivery system for capitalism is actually a communist-style police state, fortressed with American “homeland security” technologies, pumped up with “war on terror” rhetoric. And the global corporations currently earning superprofits from this social experiment are unlikely to be content if the lucrative new market remains confined to cities such as Shenzhen. Like everything else assembled in China with American parts, Police State 2.0 is ready for export to a neighborhood near you.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Kickin' Blossom

A recent appeal for citizens to sign a petition backing up John Conyers' letter to President Bush was irritating because,
...it is our view that if you do not obtain the constitutionally required congressional authorization before launching preemptive military strikes against Iran or any other nation, impeachment proceedings should be pursued.
Come on. Let's don't should on ourselves.

Now it's reported he said about Karl Rove, "Someone's got to kick his ass." I didn't overhear this myself, and I haven't found a petition to sign. However, got to sounds a bit more substantial than should.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Student Loans

Considering bills in Congress, Ted Rall suggests, "I have a better idea. Do Nothing.
Since 1981, when President Reagan got rid of a financial aid system mostly based on grants (which don’t have to be repaid), easy credit on student loans has made it possible for any student to borrow as much as he or she needs — or, to put it another way, however much a college decides to charge. It’s simple supply and demand; with no downward pressure on tuition, the warlords of college have an overwhelming temptation to gouge.

Cato Institute makes a similar suggestion (rather, that the federal government should phase out the student loan business). It looks so simple if you don't picture the casualties.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Unity

Comments by a couple of active citizens and bloggers, following the Indiana primary.

Taking Down Words:

We're all Democrats, and in case it's escaped your notice, there's no shortage of Democrats running for office this year. Just because, for example, your presidential candidate didn't get the nod doesn't mean you can't harness that energy for some other political purpose.

Oh, and remember, they call them election cycles for a reason: There's always another one just around the bend.

Berry Street Beacon

Long after the next president is gone, his appointments will be sitting on the bench, making decisions that impact our rights and liberties. Those justices will reflect the views of the next president, and that person cannot be John McCain.

So while I work through my disappointment, I will not lose sight of the fact that I am a Democrat first. And my obligation is to work as hard as possible to ensure that our next president is a Democrat who will appoint justices holding our Democratic values and beliefs.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Secret Laws

Russ Feingold:
(via BuzzFlash)

Torture memo just one example of Bush's hidden laws

Another body of secret law involves the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. In 1978, Congress created the special FISA court to review the government's requests for wiretaps in intelligence investigations, which is -- and should be -- done behind closed doors. But with changes in technology and with this administration's efforts to expand its surveillance powers, the court today is doing more than just reviewing warrant applications. It is issuing important interpretations of FISA that have effectively made new law.

These interpretations deeply affect Americans' privacy rights, and yet Americans don't know about them because they are not allowed to see them. Very few members of Congress have been allowed to see them either. When the Senate recently approved some broad and controversial changes to FISA, almost none of the senators voting on the bill could know what the law currently is.

The You've Got Nothing To Hide Act of 2008:
Hunter, DailyKos

Fear not: I have a bargain to strike. I would like to announce that we, the slovenly and ignorant public, would be willing to drop our unreasonable outrage over corporations in this nation being given blanket retroactive immunity for violating both federal law and our own personal privacy... for a price of our own. A quid pro quo, if you will -- and certainly, I expect you are well familiar with such arrangements. We simply want a little payback, in order to make sure that you in Congress are asked to live according to the same rules as the rest of us.

Here is my proposal. We, the public, should be allowed to spy on you, and all those you come in contact with, with similar promisees of amnesty.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Check Your Oil?

There's a generation now, probably unaware that service station attendants once pumped gas, washed your windows, and checked your oil. There were big, familiar signs out along the highways, of green dinosaurs and winged white horses; mythical times, peaking in 1970.

Here's something from TomDispatch:

Portrait of an Oil-Addicted Former Superpower
Michael T. Klare

Every day, the average G.I. in Iraq uses approximately 27 gallons of petroleum-based fuels. With some 160,000 American troops in Iraq, that amounts to 4.37 million gallons in daily oil usage, including gasoline for vans and light vehicles, diesel for trucks and armored vehicles, and aviation fuel for helicopters, drones, and fixed-wing aircraft. With U.S. forces paying, as of late April, an average of $3.23 per gallon for these fuels, the Pentagon is already spending approximately $14 million per day on oil ($98 million per week, $5.1 billion per year) to stay in Iraq. Meanwhile, our Iraqi allies, who are expected to receive a windfall of $70 billion this year from the rising price of their oil exports, charge their citizens $1.36 per gallon for gasoline.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Tropical Shells

US defense contractor ducking out of taxes:
Richard Lardner, AP
WASHINGTON – When the Pentagon announced an obscure California company had won a lucrative military contract, no one mentioned any plans for a Caribbean outpost – a tropical shell the company quickly created that allowed it to duck millions in taxes and deflect U.S. lawsuits.
Think Progress:
But Congress has taken notice of these contractors’ unethical practices. The House passed a bill last month — despite Republican opposition — to “stop federal contractors from using foreign subsidiaries to evade Social Security and other employment taxes.”

In the meantime, companies such as KBR, MPRI and CSA Ltd. continue to avoid paying millions in taxes...

(See previous post on Bermuda shells.)

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Myanmar

Myanmar gives permission for UN flights:
The first flight will not be able to overfly the country until Friday, when it is due to leave Italy.
That's a six-day wait, or longer.

Cyclone death toll may top 100,000:

Aid began trickling into Myanmar on Wednesday.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Indiana Primary

"As the Democratic primary campaign has drawn on, public views about the effectiveness of the primary process have only worsened. In the current survey 39% say this year's presidential primaries have been a good way of determining who the best qualified nominees are, while 57% say they have not. In February, following the Super Tuesday primaries, opinions were more evenly divided: 43% said the primaries were a good way to determine the best nominees, 52% said they were not."
Pew Research

It turns out voting in a presidential primary was more satifying when the vote didn't count at all. So, a vote for Barack Obama.

--------------------

Update May 7

From Kausfiles at Slate:

Monday, May 5, 2008

"Obama by double digits" in N.C.: Predicted by a blogger using a sophisticated model that ignores ... what's been happening in the campaign. Like Rev. Wright. I predict this person is wrong! ... Update: He was right. ... [via Insta] 9:27 P.M.
He got the numbers right on Indiana as well: FiveThirtyEight.com

Friday, May 02, 2008

She went out to buy bread

Inside Iraq:

Maybe she was late "...because of the long queue which happened sometimes due to the lack of fuel and power supply."

Two weeks later, there was a phone call which was a little longer asking for 50 thousands dollars (5 copybooks as they call). The uncle who talked with the kidnaper asked for the woman and to hear her voice, but the evil voice said that she is fainted. The uncle was firm and he couldn't bear the tough game the kidnapers playing. He told them "let me hear voice, otherwise, kill her."

In Afghanistan:

Soldier on his seventh tour dies in Afghanistan
Sgt. 1st Class David L. McDowell, 30, of Ramona, California died Tuesday in Afghanistan...

He is survived by his wife, Joleen; son, Joshua, 11; daughter, Erin, 3; his parents; and two sisters.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

FISA & Immunity

Digby:
I have to assume that the telcoms have been secretly monitoring members of congress and the Bush administration's communications and are blackmailing them. There is just no other adequate explanation for this immunity nonsense to keep coming back over and over again.

You can follow the links from Digby's post, but I've included them here.

Firedoglake:

...there is rumor of a backroom deal being brokered by Jay Rockefeller on FISA that will include retroactive immunity. I've heard from several sources that Steny Hoyer is doing the dirty work on the House side, and some say it will be attached to the new supplemental.

Seattle P-I -- Babak Pasdar:

In October 2003, I led a rapid deployment team for a major wireless carrier responsible for overhauling its security system. For the past year and a half, I have anonymously briefed Congress and nongovernment organizations about my observations, going public last month with crucial public interest information: An unknown third party using a mysterious "Quantico Circuit" has provided the federal government with unfettered access to everything on the carrier's network.


. . .


Who was at the other end of the Quantico Circuit? What information did they obtain? Does this comply with longstanding federal law? Are telecoms and other corporations paid to betray our privacy? We need answers to those questions and more.

What I witnessed is just one strand in a technological web that all but eliminates any expectation of privacy. Aside from the capabilities described above, credit, ATM and even grocery discount cards can and are being used to identify, locate, track and behaviorally categorize people.

Hey, Blue Dogs! The American people have no good reason to swallow retroactive immunity for the telecoms! You are there to represent the people.