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Saturday, March 11, 2006

FDL Late Nite: Yes, We Scare the Shit Out of Them

The NYT review of Crashing the Gates is dead on:
The netroots' power comes from the same network effect that made eBay a retailing phenomenon. Far-flung political activists now join together on sites like, and inject themselves into matters that used to be settled behind closed doors. The netroots helped make Mr. Dean head of the Democratic National Committee, over several establishment candidates. Now, they are backing Ned Lamont in a primary challenge to Senator Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut, who is about as popular among liberal bloggers as a computer virus.

Much of the authors' criticism of the party establishment is dead-on. They rail against political consultants who take 15 percent commissions on media buys while giving bad advice. They are especially incensed by what they see as the self-defeating role of special interests, notably Naral Pro-Choice America's decision to endorse Senator Lincoln Chafee, a Rhode Island Republican, over two pro-abortion-rights Democrats. If Mr. Chafee wins, he could ensure that the Republican Party, which has an aggressive anti-abortion agenda, keeps control of the Senate.

To solve the consultant problem, the authors urge more hires from outside the Washington Beltway and lower fees. To rein in special interests, they point to two successful models. In Colorado, a few wealthy donors called in the groups before the 2004 election and prodded them to cooperate. Ken Salazar was elected senator, one of only two Democratic pick-ups. In Montana, Brian Schweitzer threw out the interest groups' questionnaires and spoke directly to Montana voters. The same day that Montanans gave President Bush 59 percent of their votes, they elected Mr. Schweitzer governor.

For all the talk about having to crash gates, the netroots are well on their way to becoming insiders. Mr. Armstrong is an adviser to the political action committee of Mark Warner, a leading candidate for president in 2008. When dailykos holds an offline convention this June in Las Vegas, Harry Reid, the Senate minority leader, will be a speaker.

The Democratic establishment could not hold the netroots back even if it wanted to. Their ability to raise money, recruit volunteers and shape the debate will make them indispensable. (my emphasis)
The GOP understands the power of the blogs and works agressively with them. The Democrats are terrified of us and generally see us as an extremely threatening presence. Witness the completely patronizing way that Jay Rockefeller's office dealt with Glenn Greenwald. If you were really interested in getting some popular support for investigating the illegal NSA wiretaps, wouldn't you want that guy on your side? He doesn't cost you a dime, he knows his shit and everyone's listening to him.

Christ almighty if he wrote that persuasively in favor of banning abortion or staying in Iraq Patrick Ruffini would have his baby.


Explain This One To Me, John

More Republicans with values:
The California Democratic Party is asking for an investigation of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Senator John McCain for alleged violations of campaign finance law.

The allegations center on a scheduled March 20th fund-raiser in Beverly Hills in which donors have been asked to contribute up to 100 thousand dollars for the governor and the state Republican Party. McCain is the featured speaker at the event.

At issue is whether McCain's appearance violates restrictions on federal officeholders taking part in events that solicit political funds.

Ironically, McCain is being accused of violating a law he helped write.
I never really understood how McCain could go home and explain his unapologetic Bush love to his Bangladeshi-born daughter. You know, the one Bush tried to smear in the South by saying she was McCain's own illegitimate African American child (at least according to McCain's campaign manager).

I guess once you get over a hurdle like that, anything's possible.


Judy, Judy, Judy

I was told last year that Vanity Fair was eagerly courting Judy Miller to write an article for them about her Traitorgate odyssey. According to today's Editor and Publisher, it doesn't seem they were able to get her and instead had to settle for her friend and apologist Marie Brenner (who also helped organize Judy's farewell dinner before she was shipped off to eagerly embrace her martyrdom).

Brenner comes off as a lightweight who doesn't really understand what she's writing about and accepts a rather unsophisticated "journalists vs. bloggers" paradigm hook, line and sinker.

According to Greg Mitchell:
One interesting exchange occurred when Bill Keller, New York Times executive editor, allegedly told Miller back in 2003 that she would have to quit reporting from Iraq because she had become "“radioactive". "You can see it on the blogs." Miller claims she replied, "“Why do you give a shit about the blogs? They do not know anything."” (Brenner relates that Keller disputes this, saying he'’s "pretty sure" he never said any such thing.)

Then she quotes Miller complaining about the lack of editing on the blogs and that sometimes "“slanderous"” attacks on her appear there. But, actually, she is more "“appalled"” by her colleagues "“who believed what they read on the blogs."”

But as time passed, Miller could not escape the blogs, principally Huffington, even though her attorney Floyd Abrams says, "“No one takes this stuff seriously, do they?"” At another point he refers to "the defamation that was running on the blogs."

The article recounts a scene where another lawyer visits Miller in jail and hands her a clip from Huffington, saying, "“You are going to be upset with this."” In view of that attorney, Arianna Huffington and other bloggers were "“passing off speculation as fact" or engaging in "“pure character assassination."” This was a problem because, as Brenner writes, Huffington's blog was "“steadily gaining heft"” and had "“become must reading for the media."

This became particularly troubling when "people at the Times appeared to be talking to Huffington."

Brenner then quotes famed investigator Lowell Bergman as claiming that Huffington'’s idea that Miller was a White House collaborator "“was a fantasy fed by the deep animosity of people toward Judy."
"People at the Times appeared to be talking to Huffington?" Yeah and anyone else who would listen. Judy was loathed by the people she trampled on during her tenure at the Times, people who had to suck it up and take the heat for her crap reporting. She castigates the blogs for passing off speculation as fact? She led the fucking country into war with her quote-unquote "reporting" about non-existent WMDs and then breezily gave herself a pass because her sources misled her (so she says). She makes even the most lowly, conspiracy-theory laden blogger look Pulitzer worthy when compared to what she calls journalism. Blog traffic soars expressly because she is the poster girl for everything that's wrong with traditional media right now.

Judy may have been "appalled" by what people were saying on the blogs, but even our earliest and wildest speculations on the role she played in the outing of Valerie Plame couldn't begin to compare to the reality of the cozy, accomodating relationship she had with the Administration. If she doesn't like the allegations being made about her in the blogs she might want consider the fact that we were only repeating the words of Bill Keller and Maureen Dowd, who all but said she was fucking Scooter Libby. Or the fine people at New York Magazine, who did come out and say she did her reporting with her legs in the air. Nary a blogger in the bunch.

Brenner does get one thing right. The people at the Times were glued to the blogs -- specifically Arianna -- and rubbing their hands together with glee, cackling as they watched Judy finally being held to account for the mountain of bullshit she'd been shoveling for years. If Arianna hadn't taken her on, Judy probably would probably still be working at the Times as if nothing had happened.

Everybody who covered Plame made mistakes as we tried to feed new bits of information into the equation, but relatively little of that happened with regard to Miller. If you go back and read emptywheel's Judy Miller series, definitely the Miller bible in the blogosphere, it holds up remarkably well. Judy was, is and continues to be full of shit and if anyone can find an allegation that was worse than anything she actually did I'd sure love to see it.


The Many Faces of John McCain

Jamison Foser has a very good piece up at Media Matters right now about how the press fawns over John McCain, always looking for the favorable angle even as they let him skate on stuff for which they'd throw a Democrat on the barbecue:
Take, for example, the article Reuters ran about a forthcoming Vanity Fair article in which former Republican lobbyist and admitted felon Jack Abramoff disclosed that he "worked closely with many top Republicans, despite their claims to the contrary." The Vanity Fair article includes this passage:
"Mr. Abramoff flatters himself," Mark Salter, McCain's administrative assistant, tells [Vanity Fair contributing editor David] Margolick. "Senator McCain was unaware of his existence until he read initial press accounts of Abramoff's abuses, and had never laid eyes on him until he appeared before the committee."

Abramoff says, "As best I can remember, when I met with him, he didn't have his eyes shut. I'm surprised that Senator McCain has joined the chorus of amnesiacs."
The Reuters article about the Vanity Fair piece began: "Disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff said in the latest issue of Vanity Fair magazine that he worked closely with many top Republicans, despite their claims to the contrary."

Yet Reuters didn't mention John McCain at all, focusing instead on comparatively insignificant Republicans like Sen. Conrad Burns (R-MT) and Republican National Committee chairman Ken Mehlman. The Vanity Fair passage about McCain perfectly fit the premise of the Reuters article -- it shows Abramoff contradicting McCain's claim, through a spokesman, that he had never met Abramoff. If Abramoff is telling the truth, we've learned two things: McCain has ties to one of the most corrupt lobbyists ever to walk the earth, and he's lying about it. McCain is among the most famous Republicans in America, and a leading contender for the party's 2008 presidential nomination.

Yet Reuters omitted any mention of him from its article. Does anyone believe, even for a moment, that any other political figure of McCain's stature -- say, Hillary Clinton or John Kerry -- would have been the recipient of this kind of favorable treatment?
McCain would've signed that South Dakota abortion bill too, despite his carefully parsed caveat about taking "appropriate steps under state law -- in whatever state -- to ensure that the exceptions of rape, incest or life of the mother were included." But that's not what people are hearing from the Tweety's of the world who shut their ears to anything that might tie McCain to an extremely unpopular piece of legislation.

If John McCain is going to be beaten in 2008, cracking open the McCain myth has to start now. One of the ways we built up this blog was to take an issue people were really interested in, Traitorgate, and really dig into it such that we became one of the go-to places for Plame info. If I were going to pick an issue today that could virtually guarantee someone all the links they could eat -- and I don't mean just from us, I mean from all over the blogosphere -- it would be following McCain, digging into his history and covering what he does in depth on a day-to-day basis. Every blog can't cover every issue every day so when something arises you just naturally look to the person who makes it their business to be informed on that particular topic. McCain is already running for 2008, and as of yet there is no significant blog presence mobilizing against him.

Anyone who was willing to put the time in and do it well would have themselves a very large audience in a relatively short period of time, IMHO.

Update: As Atrios notes, McCain's stunt at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference was extremely stupid. He regularly gets away with mistakes like this because nobody really holds him to account. There is plenty of fertile ground for McCain posts; he is hardly the boyscout he pretends to be.


More Joke Line

Now that the Dubai Ports World deal is dead, I guess it's time to admit that Joe Klein was right to be concerned about the massive waves of violence that would be triggered upon its demise. The Islamic world has arisen as one to fulfill the prophesies of people like Klein who suddenly developed such sensitivity to the tender feeling of those they couldn't be bothered to defend when people like Ann Coulter call them "ragheads." We should've listened to them.

Oh wait, sorry, Kobe's been chewing the remote again and I was watching Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Klein was wrong about this and everything else he's ever opened his mouth to say about Iraq. Joe just didn't fathom that people who become enraged at desecrations to the Koran really couldn't be bothered to take to the streets and kill each other as the result of a slight to a few robber barron sheikhs.

No the violence occurring in the Middle East right now can, in large part, be placed at the feet of addled thinkers like Klein who continue to parade before the cameras pimping for war and pontificating on this shit despite having proven time and time again that they have no fucking clue what they are talking about.

Thanks, CNN.


Roots Pennsylvania, Day II

We got a great turnout for our Roots action Pennsylvania yesterday. A lot of people are appropriately angry about the Intelligence Committee's illegal NSA wiretap face flop and looking to let someone hear about it, and that someone might as well be Arlen Specter -- who can actually do something about it.

Lots of good posts:
Pennsylvania bloggers Chris at Rowhouse Logic, Lambert at Corrente and palady at The Lady Speaks
eRiposte at The Left Coaster
Smitheus at Daily Kos
John at Crooks & Liars
As the eloquent Pastor Dan says:
What we're trying to do is leverage the social network of blogs to coordinate citizen response to elected officials on important issues.

Whew. That's a mouthful. We're trying to find new ways for you to write to your Senators and Representatives, or to write letters to the editor for their benefit. It works, it really does.

Shorter short version: we're trying to create a "virtuous mob."
The list of Pennsylvania papers can be found here, and as Dan reminds us, it helps to live in the area but sometimes papers will run letters from outside writers.

A list of phone numbers for Specter's offices can be found here.

Memorandum covered the Roots project as well, the Hotline Blogometer has written about it on several occasions and I did an interview about it yesterday for In These Times. I think people intuitively realize how effective this can be and that effectiveness only increases with each person who's willing to pick up a phone or work that keyboard.


Friday, March 10, 2006

Late Nite FDL: We're Baaack!!!

Well at least I am anyway. Reddhedd is on a Red Eye tonight and will be back in West Virginia tomorrow. It was quite the whirlwind trip.

We spent yesterday with Kos, Matt Stoller of MyDD, John Aravosis of AmericaBlog, Ian Welsh of BOP, Maryscott O'Connor of My Left Wing, Adam Green of MoveOn and author Roberto Lovato as guests of Working Assets in a workshop on media training. Gawd if there is anything more painful than standing up in front of people and speaking it can only be having a camera trained on you at the same time but we had fun, ate really good food, swapped war stories and learned much. I also got to have an eventful dinner with Swopa but more on that later.

I had to fly back to Oregon this morning but Redd stuck around to give her credit cards a workout and have a reader/blogger coffee with John Aravosis and Maryscott. John blogged about it here and our good friend Steve Rhodes took photos and posted them on Flickr. Redd's the one in the blue shirt and (surprise) red hair. Isn't she a beauty?

I'm still catching up but in the meantime lots of people are getting their copies of Crashing the Gates so if you're inclined to share your thoughts on the topic go over to Amazon and write a review or simply vote for the ones that are already there (I put mine up but it probably won't be on the site until tomorrow). Kos is going to be on Stephen Colbert on March 22 (I think) so political blogging should be in the news quite shortly in a meaningful way, as opposed to a thoroughly useless Hugh Hewitt wanky way.

Thanks so very much to Watertiger, Steve, Taylor, Greg, Scott and Pach for the superlative guest posting they did, and to everyone who was on troll patrol. We really appreciate the fine care you took of our wonderful readers and commenters and never worried for a minute that the blog was in anything but the best of hands.

Happy to be back on the beach with the dogs. Oh and I flashed Aravosis (not that he cared).

Did I miss anything?


They never know you when you get in trouble

Claude Allen

This is funny.

This was up at the Corner, as Atrios pointed out.

CLAUDE ALLEN [John Podhoretz]

I wrote a book about the Bush White House. I know the names of many people who worked in the Bush White House. I've read every story there is to read about the Bush White House. I've been a political journalist for almost a quarter century, worked in a Republican administration, and gone to many right-wing parties. So let me say this about accused thief and former White House policy bigshot Claude Allen:


Our friend Atrios posted this up as an answer

Grand Old Police Blotter

Was a bit weird when Claude Allen resigned.

Now we know:

When Claude Allen, President Bush's longtime domestic-policy adviser, resigned suddenly on Feb. 9, it baffled administration critics and fans. The White House claimed that Allen was leaving to spend more time with his family, while the Washington Times speculated that the 45-year-old aide, a noted social conservative, might have quit to protest a new Pentagon policy about military chaplains. Allen himself never publicly explained the reason for his departure.

News today may shed light on the mystery of Allen's resignation. According to the Montgomery County Police Department, Allen was arrested yesterday and charged in a felony theft and a felony theft scheme. According to a department press release, Allen conducted approximately 25 fraudulent "refunds" in Target and Hecht's stores in Maryland. On Jan. 2, a Target employee apprehended Allen after observing him receive a refund for merchandise he had not purchased. Target then contacted the Montgomery County Police. According to a source familiar with the case, Target and the police had been observing Allen since October 2005.

Allen is charged with practicing a form of shoplifting called "refund fraud."
Working in the White House causes stress.

Being a Black Republican wingnut must cause even more stress.

The two together must cause some kind of psychotic break.

Now, everyone is innocent until proven guilty, but you can see the vapor trails as the GOP runs away from this guy. The right blogosphere is pretending that they don't know who President Bush's chief domestic advisor and former federal judgeship nominee is because, well he's lost his mind.

And like all black servants of the GOP, well, he's just become disposable. No think tank job for him.

According to Think Progress, he made $161,000 a year, just like Karl Rove. Anyone know him?


Republicans Trot Troops Out for Photo Op

... "The best info the congresswoman received is there is no violation in honoring Iraqi veterans, and that's what happened," said Guy Short, Musgrave's chief of staff. "It's unfortunate people are trying to make political hay out of an attempt to honor veterans of the Iraq war." Political reporter Joshua Micah Marshall, who writes for the Washington Monthly and is a columnist for The Hill - a weekly newspaper covering Congress - pointed to the incident as an example of the White House trying to use "uniformed military personnel as props at Republican political rallies."
Uniformed soldiers at GOP event raise hackles

It's the case of the missing picture. Is it legal, or is it stretching the limit? I'll present the facts, you decide.

Via Josh Marshall, we have another case of the disappearing art, but this time it concerns our troops.

Marshall's first post on the issue has the picture you see above, which features soldiers appearing at the Republican Lincoln Day dinner. But when Josh questioned the presence of uniformed military at a political event, the picture suddenly disappeared.

I follow military issues closely, but earlier in the week when I saw Josh's post, it was the first time I'd heard about the picture being nuked. I picked the story up here, with more here.

The Coloradoan, did a later follow-up, but as Josh says, the whole story needs more attention.

Republicans say they're only honoring the veterans of the Iraq war. Josh questions their presence, especially after hearing from JAG lawyers and others. I say the Republicans are using the troops as props in direct violation of military regulations, but that's my heart and gut talking, because I'm not a lawyer. Check out the following section of the DoD military regs.


It is DoD policy to encourage members of the Armed Forces (hereafter referred to as "members") to carry out the obligations of citizenship. While on active duty, however, members are prohibited from engaging in certain political activities. The following DoD policy shall apply:

4.1.1. A member on active duty may: Register, vote, and express his or her personal opinion on political candidates and issues, but not as a representative of the Armed Forces. Make monetary contributions to a political organization. Attend partisan and nonpartisan political meetings, rallies, or conventions as a spectator when not in uniform.

4.1.2. A member on active duty shall not: Use his or her official authority or influence for interfering with an election; affecting the course or outcome of an election; soliciting votes for a particular candidate or issue; or requiring or soliciting political contributions from others. Be a candidate for, hold, or exercise the functions of civil office except as authorized in paragraphs 4.2. and 4.3., below. Participate in partisan political management, campaigns, or conventions (unless attending a convention as a spectator when not in uniform).

In her first piece for The Coloradoan, Lindsay Renick Mayer, makes the following point as well.

... The directive also states that in ambiguous cases, active-duty soldiers are to avoid any activities that seemingly associate the Department of Defense or the Department of Homeland Security directly or indirectly with partisan political activity.

The Larimer County Republican organization said that because it merely honored the soldiers instead of requiring their participation, they did not violate the code. ...

There is nothing about the Republican Lincoln Day Dinner that is remotely "ambiguous."

Honoring U.S. troops is a wonderful tradition of both parties. Trotting them out like mascots is wrong for either party to do.

Let's also remember what has happened to our military through Bush and the Republicans who control Congress. Look at the history Republicans have of smearing soldiers who don't stand silently and subserviently. They smeared John McCain, Max Cleland, John Kerry and now Jack Murtha. It's what they do to veterans who dare talk back. Need I also mention the grunts being the scapegoat for Abu Ghraib, while the bosses who invented the torture got off clean? As for policies, it's hard to keep up with how bad Bush is to our veterans and those serving today in Afghanistan and Iraq and around the world.

Honoring the Iraqi war veterans, by trotting them out to stand on stage at the Republican Lincoln Day dinner?

Republicans must mistake today's Dems for the Democratic Party before blogs were born.

The Bushies are busted and we've got the missing art to prove it. Oh, and speaking of art, if there's nothing wrong with what went on, just why did Republicans scrub the shot that showed Musgrave with the soldiers? Hmmmm.

Over the past few days I've had the distinct privilege to guest blog for Jane and ReddHedd, which has given me access to a great readership. I thank the goddesses of FDL, as well as the readers. You've challenged me and taught me things, as well as being so gracious to welcome my visit. I also appreciate the company I've kept these last few days.

And since I do still have your ear --- you knew this was coming -- I would love to hear from FDL readers who know about DoD milregs to ascertain what side of the legal line the Republicans are on asking our troops to pose at a political function. Remember, if our soldiers break the rules there are harsh punishments.

Oh, but I guess the Republicans don't care about that, as long as they get their photo with a hero.

- Taylor Marsh


"You can't spell 'tyrant'

without I-R-A-N."

AP/Charles Dharapak

U.S. President George W. Bush has called Iran an issue of "grave national security concern" but said he wanted a diplomatic solution to the Islamic republic's nuclear ambitions.

Yeah, where have we heard THAT before? At least he's not advocating the Felafel O'Reilly approach . . . yet.

I'd like to take this moment to thank you FDL readers for being so kind to the substitutes over the past three days. It's been a real pleasure sharing these pages with you.

And thanks again to Jane and ReddHedd!


After SD Part III: The Best Defense of Reproductive Freedom Is A Good Offense

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The New State Logo.

Molly Saves the Day has 20 questions for those who allege that abortion is "baby killing." Ask them to most "pro-lifers," of course, and I'm sure you'll re-discover what you should already know: the number of anti-choicers who believe (or, at least, are willing to act in ways logically consistent with) their alleged premises could fit in a walk-in closet. And, of course, even the few who take a coherent position face the problem that criminal bans on abortion are highly unpopular. And, moreover, to Republican elites the optimal policy is not so much "abortion should be illegal" as "abortion should be illegal, but no quite so illegal that my daughter wouldn't be able to get one." (Because of the way abortion bans are actually enforced in practice, though, even an outright ban in most states can produce this outcome.)

For supporters of reproductive freedom, however, the problem is that American anti-choicers are as clever as they are illogical and unprincipled. They've constructed a very careful strategy of piecemeal regulations that have little impact on affluent women (but, cumulatively, seriously restrict abortion access for women who are poor, in rural areas, and/or in unstable familial relationships) and are politically palatable. And, to go along with this, they're currently in the courts trying to make it much more difficult to challenge these regulations. If this strategy succeeds, it would allow states to construct baffling obstacle courses without paying the political price of banning abortion, and would also have the perverse result of making the grossly inequitable effects of these regulations an argument in favor of their constitutionality. But as important as this legal strategy is, it's very difficult to explain why it matters. While it's almost impossible to defend these policy outcomes normatively, as pure politics it's very hard to counter, and in many cases it's hard to make it clear to the public what's at stake.

Which is the one potential silver lining of the appalling South Dakota law. It has the potential to blow their "reasonable regulation" cover, and make clear what will happen in many states if Roe is overturned: bans on abortion (albeit bans that inexplicably exclude women from punishments, don't have sanctions for doctors logically consistent with the idea that abortion is "baby-killing", etc.) Publius explains:

I'd actually go a couple steps further. I would ask every single Republican candidate up for re-election in 2006: "Do you support imprisoning doctors for performing abortions following rapes, as South Dakota’s new law demands?" If they hid behind the rape exception, then you could follow up with Oliver’s question about whether doctors should be thrown in jail for performing abortions more generally.

The combination of the Alito and Roberts confirmations along with the South Dakota law is, I think, a watershed moment in the abortion wars. The South Dakota law in particular should serve as a wake-up call to the pro-choice movement that its tactics aren’t working and that it needs to make some changes in its long-term strategy. To develop Oliver’s point, if I were a consultant, I would recommend that the pro-choice movement make two major changes: (1) It should shift its emphasis from a defensive legal strategy to an offensive political strategy; (2) It should shift the debate away from abortion itself – and the abstract questions of when life begins – and focus on crime and punishment. In other words, the movement should aim to make an abstract debate more concrete by focusing on criminal sanctions and the imprisonment of doctors and women.

The importance of this insight would be hard to overstate. The South Dakota law is a political opportunity, presenting the chance to make it clear that they mean it: not about abortion being "baby-killing," of course, but about criminalizing abortion as a way of inscribing the reactionary sexual mores of the GOP base into law. But opportunities are not self-executing: pro-choicers have to make it work. And this, ultimately, is what's so frustrating about the Saletan approach. Even before this pro-choicers already had many opportunities, starting with the fact that the national Republican Platform endorses a constitutional amendment that would make abortion first-degree murder in all 50 states. When was the last time you heard a Democratic politician mention that, even though maximizing the public's knowledge of their opponent's most unpopular positions would seem to be Politics 101? Instead, taking the advice of people like Saletan they accept the debate as it has been arbitrarily carved up by disingenuous pro-lifers, getting in sucked into ludicrous ginned-up non-issues like the "partial-birth" nonsense. The Republicans have been masterful about playing both ends, and keeping the debate focused on tangential side issues. The way to counteract this is not to go along with the existing discourse, but to change the terms of the debate, to make clear what Republicans want to do and put the debate in terms of keeping abortion legal, where public opinion massively favors the Democrats. The draconian (and illegal) actions of the South Dakota legislature provide an excellent frame for making this clear, but the Democrats need to start playing some offense.

[Cross-posted to L, G & M.]


The Rubber Stamp of Arlen Specter

"If as a country we get used to a regime in which the president can basically treat laws that give him power as a basis for expanding his own authority beyond what anyone dreamed and treat laws in which Congress tries to restrict his power in a way that only Lewis Carrol, Franz Kafka and Alice and Wonderland and the trial could take seriously. What that means is that essentially the president is saying I'm a monarch. I can do what I want. I can play with Congress. I don't need their authority. ..." Lawrence Tribe
A belated added note to this post... Is this a preview of coming attractions, or will Specter hold the line? This is what I fear...

He's in the bag.

He's on the team.

He's with the boss.

Senator Arlen Specter, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, has decided to look the other way. He's decided that fitting in is more important than standing out and speaking up. Arlen Specter now just simply wants to be one of Bush's boys.

So when it comes to the President Bush's illegal spying on Americans, going around FISA, ignoring the law so he can have his way, Arlen Specter is part of the president's posse. Rubber stamp Repubicans can't be bothered with the law, but that isn't going to stop us. Glenn Greenwald gave the lay out. Jane said what to do. PastorDan and Corrente give the run down too.

But Senator Specter is determined to keep the truth from seeing the light of day, as he goes the way of rubber stamp Republican Roberts and all the rest. If you're from Pennsylvania, it's time to let Specter hear how you feel, that the president, any president, is not above the law.

The rule of law evidently no longer means anything. Read all about the Republican hypocrisy, straight from the elephants' mouth.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC): “The FISA Act was–created a court set up by the chief justice of the United States to allow a rapid response to requests for surveillance activity in the war on terror. I don’t know of any legal basis to go around that.”

Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA): “”There is no doubt that this is inappropriate.”

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ): “WALLACE: But you do not believe that currently he has the legal authority to engage in these warrant-less wiretaps. MCCAIN: You know, I don’t think so…”

Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS): “I am troubled by what the basis for the grounds that the administration says that they did these on, the legal basis…”
What Specter doesn't understand is that this isn't a partisan issue, or at least it shouldn't be. It's an American issue. Our personal freedoms, individual rights and privacy are what makes this country a democratic republic, separating us from dictatorships and the rules of kings.

But the rubber stamp Republicans, led by Senator Arlen Specter, no longer want to keep the chief executive in check. It's all the power to the presidency, at a real cost to we the people. These are lasting changes Bush and his boys are making to this country, without our approval. Specter and the other rubber stamp Republicans don't get to do that to our democracy.

Senator Arlen Specter is putting party above country, president above nation. It's weak. It's spineless, but it is also just plain wrong.

Why is the rule of law only applicable to Democratic Party presidents?

Why is President Bush getting away with an illegal spying program that is vast, unaccountable and never ending, without being held accountable? Because Senator Specter has now bought in.

Today on NPR, Sandra Day O'Connor spoke out about what the rubber stamp Republicans are doing to our courts. Over at Kos, philinmaine blogged it.

Retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor showed Thursday that she's not absent from judicial issues. During a speech in Washington, she said Republican leaders' attacks on the courts threaten the constitutional freedoms of Americans.
O'Connor Decries Republican Attacks on Courts
Being the chairman of the Judiciary Committee is supposed to mean something. American laws aren't partisan, or at least they're not supposed to be. We all know the sentencing reality of minorities, but that's not what we're talking about today. We're talking about the Republican chairman of the Judiciary committee who has decided that President Bush is above the law because he's one of them.

President Clinton got called on to the Senate floor and impeached for lying about sex, with Republicans railing about the "rule of law."

President Bush is has not been held accountable for one thing on his watch. It has reached such a level of abject hypocrisy on their "rule of law" mantra that Senator Arlen Specter feels George W. Bush shouldn't be questioned about going around the FISA court to illegally tap American citizens. To Specter, Bush is above the law even when he illegally wiretaps American citizens in a domestic warrantless wiretapping program, funneled secretly through the NSA that stretches so far that we actually don't even know how far it stretches, because President Bush doesn't believe he's even accountable to Congress.

Senator Specter is on the team, in the bag, backing Bush all the way. It is a disgrace in terms of congressional independence of the executive. It is a disgrace in terms of Congress again refusing to do the job The Founders intended. In fact, it is down right un-American.

The president of the United States is not above the law. That is unless he's a Republican in the era of George W. Bush, with the likes of Senator Arlen Specter chairing the Judiciary Committee.

- Taylor Marsh

UPDATE: Specter is holding hearings, yes, but when I saw the picture it infuriated me and gave me the impression that he's going to go along. Glenn Greenwald has the shot and raised the question. (I've added this link above.) I took it all the way.

UPDATE II: Here's more on retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor warning of "dictatorship."


Not since Nixon

Like Nixon, huh?

A revolt not seen since Nixon



WASHINGTON - Not since Watergate, when GOP congressional leaders told Richard Nixon they would vote him from office if he didn't resign, have Capitol Hill Republicans challenged their President like this.


# Self-preservation. Bush has run his last race, but the midterm elections are less than eight months away, and Republicans are jittery about their prospects. Distancing themselves from a polarizing President whose job approval rating hits 40% on a good day is shrewd electoral positioning.

# Payback time. Republicans have seethed for years over what they consider insulting and arrogant treatment at the hands of Bush's lieutenants.

"Their idea of consultation is to tell us as little as possible and demand our blind support," a GOP House source complained.

Or as Rep. Tom Davis of Virginia, a House GOP power, told The Washington Post: "This is probably the worst administration ever in getting Congress' opinion on anything."

# Grass-roots groundswell. Even Republicans opposed to the deal on the merits were stunned by the negative fury it generated in the heartland.

"This is the heaviest volume that isn't organized I can ever remember on an issue," a top congressional Republican told the Daily News. "People get it, and they don't like it." In an election year, pols are especially loath to ignore voter sentiment back home.


But having stiffed their President and lived to tell the tale, the mutineers have likely been emboldened to stray again.

This is a baby step in terms of Congress taking its oversight role seriously.

But with Gale Norton resigning today and the ongoing scandal around Karl Rove, this could soon be a lot more like Nixon than anyone imagined just last year.

Has the Bush Administration gotten a break since the begining of the year? No?

But the problem is that no matter how bad things are in Washington, Iraq looms over Bush in a way that he cannot handle. We are facing civil war and disaster. And while the US thinks they can hide and let them fight it out, the first target of an enraged populace will be the foreign invader.


Those shiftless, lazy people

It's their fault

Racially charged e-mail stirs outrage
Rep. Welker cites his 'poor judgment' in forwarding essay

By Lynn Bartels, Rocky Mountain News
March 10, 2006
A Loveland lawmaker has been blasted by his colleagues for e-mailing an essay written by someone else that accused "welfare-pampered blacks" of waiting for the government to save them from Hurricane Katrina.

Rep. Jim Welker, a Republican, said Thursday morning that he forwarded the article because of its message about society victimizing people by making them dependent on government programs.

He said he didn't agree with everything in the essay.

One passage says, "President Bush is not to blame for the rampant immorality of blacks."

House lawmakers - black and white, Republican and Democrat - expressed outrage that Welker would forward such an essay.

Rep. Debbie Stafford, R-Aurora, who worked with Katrina evacuees when they came to Colorado, said she was "appalled and sickened."

"These (were) poor people. Many of them were senior citizens and had no way to escape the hurricane," said Stafford, who is white.

Rep. Terrence Carroll, D-Denver, called it "one one of the most irresponsible e-mails someone in this chamber has sent out."

"It shows (Welker's) complete and utter disregard, at worst, and the misunderstanding, at best, of the lives of people of color," said Carroll, who is black.

After the uproar, Welker issued the following statement late in the afternoon:

"Forwarding this e-mail, particularly without comment, showed poor judgment on my part. I found the opinions expressed by this individual, especially if taken literally, to be offensive and inappropriate. I should not have assumed that this would be clear when received by others."

He earlier said he should have put a disclaimer on the e-mail, and will do so in future e-mails of other writers' material.

Welker said he forwarded the e-mail over the weekend on his own computer.

But Democratic lawmakers have asked the legislature's technical staff to determine why copies of the e-mails forwarded to them by people who were upset with the content bear a time stamp of Monday afternoon, when Welker was in a committee hearing with his laptop computer.

Welker, who is white, said he wasn't implying anything about blacks by forwarding the essay.

"Some of my best friends are of different skin color, like Ed Jones," said Welker, referring to Sen. Jones, a Colorado Springs Republican who is black.

The odious e-mail was written by professional negro Jesse Lee Peterson, who seems not to like being black all that much. He's so crazy, he made Larry Elder shrink back.

On the News Blog we like to write about black Republicans, hell, challenge black Republicans a lot. Because, for the most part, they're pathetic dupes who continually swallow the disrespect of the GOP for reasons which I cannot fathom.

Peterson thinks he's some kind of challenge to the NAACP, when he would have been chased from any large room of black people. The last time I saw this loon on TV, he was in a room full of white people at the Heritage Foundation. I mean, at every turn, you see these people, from the always pathetic LaShawn Barber to people like Peterson, grovelling for the support for people who hold them in utter and complete contempt.

The Republicans never listen to the black professionals in their ranks, not that most black people have any respect for them anyway. I once saw former USA Today columnist Deborah Mathis ask some GOP lackey "why was she a Republican" in the kind of tone people usually reserve for child molesters and cannibals.

What most people don't get is that black Republicans, are in a way, seen as betraying the community. The idea that someone like Lynn Swann can walk into a black church and get votes is well, silly. Because the black church is a repository for professionals, teachers, nurses, the people most likely to be unionized and least likely to be interested in the tired and insulting GOP pitch that black people are on the "democratic plantation".

The RNC went nuts, along with their blogger amen choir, when a study showing racists gravitate to the Republican party.

Gee, between Fancy Ford rollin' in an Escalade and wearin' Armani, and the rantings of Jesse Lee Peterson "self-hating negro", why would anyone think that the GOP appeals to racists?


Closing the barn door...

um, not THAT one.

Pointing to the experiences of developing countries and formerly Communist countries, where interference with an independent judiciary has allowed dictatorship to flourish, O’Connor said we must be ever vigilant against those who would strong-arm the judiciary into adopting their preferred policies. It takes a lot of degeneration before a country falls into dictatorship she said, but we should avoid these ends by avoiding these beginnings.

Hey, Sandra, about that decision you and the majority made back in 2000 -- you know, the one that appointed Bush king? Let me guess. You're not feeling too good about it now, are you?

Atrios has more.


Roots Pennsylvania

Now that the Senate Intelligence Committee has caved like a bad souffle and voted not to investigate the illegal NSA wiretaps it's time to put some serious pressure on Arlen Specter, Chairman of the Judiciary Committee. We need Pennsylvanians to write letters to the editors of every major Pennsylvania paper and call Specter in his DC offices to demand real oversight of the NSA wiretapping program by the Judiciary Committee.

Local blog PSoTD has a great post up about this effort this morning. Glenn Greenwald and Anonymous Liberal have been doing a superb job covering the major points of this matter so if you need a talking points refresher you can find it at Unclaimed Territory. And Pastor Dan and rkrider have put together a terrific newspaper contact list at which they will be continually updating, so if you're from Pennsylvania or have a reasonable tie to the state and feel qualified to write a personal appeal please do so. Therisites2 at VichyDems also has Specter's office contact info.

Local blog PSoTD has a great post

I'll be home tonight, thanks to everyone for taking such good care of the blog while we've been gone. If anyone needs to do their good deed for the day they can certainly chalk one up by giving Arlen Specter something to think about.


The Chickenhawk in Winter

Nearly four out of five Americans, including 70 percent of Republicans, believe civil war will break out in Iraq — the bloody hot spot upon which Bush has staked his presidency. Nearly 70 percent of people say the U.S. is on the wrong track, a 6-point jump since February.

"Brother, can you spare a few percentage points?"


OT - Atrios points out this spot-on quote about the Preznit from Graydon Carter:

He speaks to the audience as if they're idiots. I think the reason he does that is because that's the way these issues were explained to him.


Thursday, March 09, 2006

Getcher Hot Links! Late Nite FDL Edition

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Since I have a new audience, and many of you may not read all of the stuff I do, a few things of interest from around the intarweb (plus a thread for any night owls out there):

  • More evidence for Barney Frank's dictum that for Republicans, life begins at conception and ends at birth. (Although, in fairness, they now seem to think that life begins again when your cerebral cortex is liquefied.)
  • Once you've compared Charles Johnson to Van Gogh, I think you're several trillion light years beyond self-parody.
  • Earlier today, I mentioned my skepticism about Robert Casey Jr. both on the merits and in terms of the politics. I don't know enough about Pennsylvania politics to comment on his challengers, but eRobin of Factesque has lots of great stuff in support of one of his challengers, Chuck Pennachio.
  • The Ezra awards! All 3 blogs he recommends are outstanding. (See Laura here, for example, noting some innumerate pro-war hackwork passed on uncritically by Glenn Reynolds, and here on blogs and elections.
  • After a similar case ended in an acquittal, it's good that there was a just outcome in the horrifying OC rape case. (Via Fantasy Life.) Background on the case (including remarkably misogynist conduct by the defense attorney--who relentlessly slandered a young woman repeatedly assaulted while unconscious) here.
  • And the wingnut drive to invade Iran gains steam, although exactly what we'll attack them with our troops in an endlessly wasteful quagmire in Iraq remains unspecified.
  • And, finally,World O' Crap on fraudulent war profiteering (and--of course--less-than-zealous enforcement at the DOJ.)


The Eternal Search for a Message


To call Slate's lazy hatchet-job of Republican conventional wisdom "bullshit" would be a compliment to the fecal matter of male bovines. Nevertheless, if you look beyond the Pelosi, Reid, and Dean bashing, there's a tiny bit that's worthwhile :
But more important than what the three stooges do wrong is what they can't seem to do at all, namely articulate a positive agenda for reform and change. Voters have grown disenchanted with Bush's mishandling of the war in Iraq and the country's finances, and with the evangelical tilt of many of his policies. But there remains a baseline mistrust of Democrats on security, the economy, and values issues. For a sweep big enough to recover both houses of Congress, the party will almost certainly need an affirmative message as well as a negative one.
Granted this is a summary of the same hackneyed "What's the Democratic message?" question that journalists have been writing in a tag-team fashion for a few years now, but it does hint at an important point.

If the Republicans lose in November, that doesn't necessarily mean the Democrats won.

I've been hard on the Democrats for being spineless cowards who aren't even willing to defend themselves, but this whole obsession with coming up with the "message" is way overblown. Yeah, you guys need to get your shit together, be on the same page, and offer a compelling alternative to the GOP culture of corruption, but there's no rush. The "Contract with America" came out only six weeks before the 1994 midterms. If you guys are still entertaining fantasies of having a similar victory, you should keep your cards extremely close to your chest until it's close enough to election day for the country to remember your ideas.

As far as what those ideas should be, I'd suggest taking a cue from FDR. Something like this from his final State of the Union address would make a good foundation for the future of the Democratic party :
This Republic had its beginning, and grew to its present strength, under the protection of certain inalienable political rights—among them the right of free speech, free press, free worship, trial by jury, freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures. They were our rights to life and liberty.

As our Nation has grown in size and stature, however—as our industrial economy expanded—these political rights proved inadequate to assure us equality in the pursuit of happiness.

We have come to a clear realization of the fact that true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence. "Necessitous men are not free men." People who are hungry and out of a job are the stuff of which dictatorships are made.

In our day these economic truths have become accepted as self-evident. We have accepted, so to speak, a second Bill of Rights under which a new basis of security and prosperity can be established for all regardless of station, race, or creed.

Among these are:

The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the Nation;

The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation;

The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living;

The right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad;

The right of every family to a decent home;

The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health;

The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment;

The right to a good education.

All of these rights spell security. And after this war is won we must be prepared to move forward, in the implementation of these rights, to new goals of human happiness and well-being.

America's own rightful place in the world depends in large part upon how fully these and similar rights have been carried into practice for our citizens. For unless there is security here at home there cannot be lasting peace in the world.
Maybe you could borrow some of the wording from FDR's "Four Freedoms" speech as well. If the Democrats came out with their "Freedom Agenda" that focused on pursuing a freedom from want, freedom from fear, etc., it could go a long way towards ending the myth that the Republican party is the only one that has any ideas.


Late Nite FDL: What You Can Do. . . NOW

Last night I wrote about social movements and how they develop. That's all well and good, but social movements don't develop on their own. The part left out of last night's discussion was how you can make our progressive movement successful over the long haul.

Social movements unfold through the power of social networks. My training is in psychology. I know all human change happens in the context of relationships. As a student of social change and personal influence, I know the most powerful, influential people are those who have diverse social networks.

What does that mean?

Let me put it to you this way: You regulary interact with a pretty stable number of the same people every week. That's your core social network. Some people have networks of people who mostly don't even know each other. Some people occupy worlds of closed networks, where most of the people in their core group all also know each other.

It turns out the people who have the most influence - the most ability to "infect" others with new ways of thinking - are those with diverse networks. And furthermore, the more "loose" contacts you have with people, the more influential you can be as well. I can see that in my life: I can more easily persuade people who know me as an acquaintance than I can my partner, who certainly has his own way of thinking, thank you very much!

The big job we in the netroots have from here on out is to move beyond our closed networks in real life to meet new people. We need to get involved in something that is different, where we can talk to, work with and get to know others we do not know today. The beliefs and biases of most voters form long before election season starts.

What are your interests? Join a baking club. Better yet, get involved in local politics or political parties. That's what the fundamentalists did. They literally stopped preaching to the choir and got involved in local councils and school boards. That's how they built their movement, bit by bit, until they became the voting engine of the Republican Crime Syndicate and got the two Supreme Court judges they wanted.

We are often accused of speaking to each other in an echo chamber, and sometimes it's true. But more and more, netroots activists are pushing to have an impact in the real world. The joint effort arising partly from this site to coordinate local letters to the editor targeting specific senators is a case in point. Those efforts, and others like them, are just the baby steps, just the beginnings of the work we have ahead of us. They are great, but we need more.

Writing letters, sending faxes, calling representatives, contributing money. . . these are all good and necessary things. But we become exponentially more powerful when we can build relationships with those who eventually might jump in with us when we ask them to. We can still congregate online to get fresh information and up-to-date news. But that's not enough: we need to make new friends offline.

Some of you may be scared to venture out that way. But we can coordinate here and share stories and tips with each other, encouraging each other, helping each other maximize our impact. Heck, I'll be glad to pitch in. I coach executives, and I'll be glad to coach activists. You won't be in this alone.

I get frustrated when I hear people make comments about how hopeless the Dems are or how hopeless political trends are, in their view. I take a back seat to no one in pressuring the Dems, as I think my writings demonstrate. But matters are not hopeless if we (you!) act.

I'm more loyal to a progressive movement and its ideals than I am to the Democratic Party, but I know there's no way to have an effective progressive movement without pushing and infiltrating the Democratic Party, bit by bit, year after year. That means making tough choices.

I don't expect newly announced Dem senatorial candidate Webb will be very strong on gay issues, and here in Virginia, my family lives under a particularly nasty apartheid-like system of family law. Gay issues are very personal and important to me, believe me. But those issues will fare better with a Majority Leader Reid and Dems chairing all the senate committees than they will with George Allen and the GOP Crime Syndicate in charge. What's more, a damaged Georga Allen from a tough campaign is a weakened presidential candidate.

As tempting as it will be to sit the Virginia senate race out, I'm going to pitch in. If he's elected, I'll hold Webb's feet to the fire later. Gay issues can't even come to a vote in a Republican held senate. And with Webb, we can probably do better on health care, Iraq and a host of other issues that may not affect me as directly, but which affect us all a lot. Being part of a progressive movement means banding together with your allies to be successful, rather than be picked off and steamrolled separately due to the purity of our devotion to our most personal causes.

I sympathise with those who have little stomach for these kinds of compromises. These compromises are peronal, and for many, they are painful. But I also think it's fair to say this: if you're not willing to take action, then don't complain. If you don't act, don't waste anyone else's time with your negativity.

The rest of us have work to do.

We hope you'll join us.

Graphic by Pachacutec


Wow, the race card so soon?

When you see Harold Ford, the NRSC wants you to see him

NRSC website assails ‘Fancy Ford’

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Rep. Harold Ford (D-Tenn. ) is taking flak for attending a Playboy Super Bowl party and spending thousands of campaign dollars on flowers and “lavish hotel stays. ”

A website being launched by the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) repeatedly refers to the fifth-term congressman, running for the seat being vacated by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn. ), as “Fancy Ford” and includes pictures of expensive restaurants, hotel facilities, cigars, tulips and Playboy bunnies.

“It makes you wonder … what would the folks back in Tennessee think? ” the site asks

NRSC spokesman Brian Nick said: “The overall theme of the site points out how Fancy Ford has become a Washington insider who is very out of touch with Tennessee values. ”

Nick added that the site is linked to the NRSC website and will target activists across the country on the Internet. The NRSC will also buy Web ads to drive traffic to the site, he said.

The Ford campaign declined to comment.

So why use the word fancy?

Well, according to Encarta:

fancy man

1. woman's lover: the lover or boyfriend of a woman, especially a married woman (dated informal)
2. Same as pimp

There's no reason to make an issue of his spending in this way. You can bet that the picture of the Playboy bunnies, all white, is about more than his high living.

It's about station, class and race. How can this high toned negro live so well and chase white women. The more you click the links, the worse it gets.

The fact is that Ford is doing the exact same things all the other Congressman do. What? Is he supposed to have a senatorial fundraiser at McDonalds?

There is a clear racial subtext here, because of the use of the word Fancy. There's more than alliteration here. Because there's a tone that Ford doesn't deserve this kind of lifestyle, that's getting above himself. And in the South, that has a racial connotation. Because no one gave a damn about Bill Frist and his hightoned living habits. Anyone sneer at him going to Harvard and being rich?

I doubt it.


Attention: Senate Democrats

Don't Be So Fucking Polite!

The Senate is a funny place.

And I don't mean "funny" as in boogers flying, laugh-your-ass-off funny.

Collegiality and all that. People who hate each other - and I mean HATE each other - refer each other as "My good friend. . ." or as "The Gentlelady from (fill in the state)." On the inside, they're all roller derby eye scratchers, but on the outside, they satisfy Church Lady Brady's Rules for Pleasant Cocktail Chatter®.

Now, I understand and appreciate Senate tradition, and the importance of respectful dialogue in the halls where political opponents come together to govern a diverse nation.

But, dear Senate Dems, have you noticed that your "friends" across the aisle don't give a flying fuck about working with you? Have you noticed they don't give a flying fuck about governing? Or about the public good? Have you noticed they are fucking currupt as shit? Is my swearing fucking bothering you?

Excuse me while I douche my mouth.

Enough already with being polite when it means the president asserts the right to ignore the fucking law and the Constitution.

From Glenn Greenwald:

No matter how strong of an immunity one thinks one has constructed against being shocked and disgusted by the acts of national Democrats, it always turns out that it's never actually strong enough. On Tuesday, after the Intelligence Committee vote not to investigate the President's illegal eavesdropping on Americans, Sen. Rockefeller angrily said that the Committee was "under the control" of the White House.

What a difference a day makes. Here is the description from The New York Times of what Sen. Rockefeller did yesterday:

But on Wednesday, the Democratic vice chairman of the committee, Senator John D. Rockefeller IV of West Virginia, issued a conciliatory statement, saying that while he favored a full investigation, a committee decision on Tuesday to appoint a seven-member subcommittee to oversee the N.S.A. eavesdropping was "a step in the right direction."
This is not the only example of senatorial sqeamishness we've seen. Even former boxer Harry Reid has succumbed, after he wrote this (emphasis added):

I have been in public service for over 40 years and never been as disillusioned as I am today. In 1977, I was appointed chairman of the Nevada Gaming Commission. It was a difficult time for the gaming industry and Las Vegas, which were being overrun by organized crime.

During the next few years, there would be threats on my life, FBI stings and even a car bomb placed in my family's station wagon. What is happening today in Washington is every bit as corrupt as when Las Vegas was run by the mob, but the consequences for our country are worse.

These Republicans have created the most corrupt government in our history. Their "K Street Project" is a shakedown machine that would make the mafia blush. We cleaned up Las Vegas, and we will clean up Washington DC.

Enough with the Queensberry Rules, people. If you stand together, speak the truth and risk insult (gasp!) to your fucking criminal brethren, the voters will respect you.

And then we can fucking win.

Update: I'm not saying Senators should swear at each other. I'm swearing like a sailor here for rhetorical, dramatic effect. I just want them to speak the truth plainly, bluntly, even when it stings and "poisons" the air in the Senate.

This is one of those periods in history when being blunt will work for you politically. But you have to agree to do this together. When you leave one of your own stuck out there ahead of the crowd, you let the other side brand him or her as an angry lunatic.

Howard Dean's candor does not hurt you. But when you leave him out there to draw fire without backing him up and defending him, you hurt the party. When the establishment Dem consultants tell you not to look weak, well, in spite of their timid counsel, this is how you do it.

Graphic by Pachacutec


BushCo., Inc. - Where Every Day is Groundhog Day.

Despite Hoelscher’s apparent total lack of professional management or security experience, the press release announcing his appointment praises his qualifications and claims he will now be providing “strategic counsel” to Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff...

"Well, he knows how to use email."

REUTERS/Linda Spiller


After South Dakota Pt. II: Stand Up For Roe

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Drink to his health.

As most of you know, pro-life rhetoric in the U.S. is, more than anything, focused on diversion, using the language of states' rights or "reasonable regulations" to advance their agenda of banning abortion entirely. Perhaps the most common strategy is to argue that "everyone knows" that Roe is wrong, and therefore everyone should agree that it's illegitimate (although, mysteriously, this rhetoric temporarily vanishes when a Supreme Court confirmation hearing is in progress.) It's important for pro-choicers to understand that most of these claims about Roe are false. In the course of his celebration of South Dakota's legislature using illegal means to compel young women to give birth to their own sisters, Captain Ed offers a typical example, arguing that "[n]o one these days defends the basic legal framework of Roe, with even Justice Ruth Ginsburg noting its legal flaws." First of all, is it true that "nobody" defends the "basic legal framework of Roe? Sadly, no! (TM) As Justice Stevens pointed out while explaining the egregious unconstitutionality of the cutting-edge anti-choice diversionary technique of passing irrational bans of what they call (using a scientifically meaningless term) "partial birth abortions":

Justice Ginsburg and Judge Posner have, I believe, correctly diagnosed the underlying reason for the enactment of this legislation–a reason that also explains much of the Court’s rhetoric directed at an objective that extends well beyond the narrow issue that this case presents. The rhetoric is almost, but not quite, loud enough to obscure the quiet fact that during the past 27 years, the central holding of Roe v. Wade has been endorsed by all but 4 of the 17 Justices who have addressed the issue. That holding--that the word "liberty" in the Fourteenth Amendment includes a woman’s right to make this difficult and extremely personal decision–-makes it impossible for me to understand how a State has any legitimate interest in requiring a doctor to follow any procedure other than the one that he or she reasonably believes will best protect the woman in her exercise of this constitutional liberty.

And who are the judges who joined or voted to affirm a holding that every reactionary call center manager in the country knows to be indisputably wrong? These radical Trotskyites include 3 of Nixon's 4 appointments, Ford's only appointment, 2 of St. Reagan's 3 appointments, and 1 out of the first Bush's 2 appointments. That's one far-reaching conspiracy to subvert the law! Morrissey also is highly misleading about Ginsburg's argument. Ginsburg never disputed the correctness of the holding in Roe; she just argued it would have been preferable to decade the case on equal protection grounds. It's true that most people have serious criticisms about the quality of Blackmun's opinion in the case--I certainly wish that the opinion had been more along the lines of Douglas' opinion in Doe or Stevens' devastating rebuttal of White in Thornburgh--but the fact that an opinion doesn't exhibit perfect craftsmanship (which is hardly unusual, even among landmark opinions) is not to say that the outcome of the case is wrong. So why does Morrissey think that the opinion is indefensible? In an earlier post, he says:

And in all honesty, Roe was bad jurisprudence, no matter what one thinks of the outcome. The reasoning behind Roe allows any Supreme Court at any time to declare anything unconstitutional, as long as five jurists can find an emanation from a penumbra of a out-of-context piece of text that may or may not have anything to do with the issue at hand. It certified a procedure that should have a fancy name in Latin, but it would nonetheless mean "making it up as we go along". Without a doubt, the South Dakota legislature would not have attempted to do this ten years ago with the composition of the Supreme Court at that time, but now they feel they have as receptive a panel as they are likely to ever have.

First of all, as many of you know the "penumbras and emanations" language appears nowhere in Roe v. Wade. While the decision cites Griswold (the case where the language actually appears), Blackmun's analysis (such as it is) relies not on Douglas' majority opinion but on the due process reasoning of the concurrence written by Warren Court house conservative John Marshall Harlan. This helps to clarify what Morrissey and so many armchair critics of Roe are up to. He is not making the perfectly reasonable "pull the thread" argument against Roe, which accepts that court's decades-long recognition of a fundamental right to privacy but simply argues that it does not apply in the particular case of abortion. Rather, he's saying that any structurally inferred right to privacy is nonsensical. In other words, to Captain Ed, forced abortions, forced sterilization, bans on the use of contraception--all perfectly legitimate exercises of state power because the Constitution does not prohibit them in exactly those words. He's welcome to this view, but to claim that virtually nobody disagrees with him is ridiculous.

And so, of course, as I explained in excessive detail last year (1, 2, 3) Morrissey's claim that "The reasoning behind Roe allows any Supreme Court at any time to declare anything unconstitutional" is just ahistorical nonsense. Reasonable people can disagree, but to argue that applying long-established rights involving educating children, forced sterilization and contraception to the directly related area of abortion provides unlimited judicial power is silly. The holding in Roe is a perfectly logical application of precedents that are well-established, and there's no reason for pro-choicers to be defensive about it.

And, of course, under the second Bush administration the accusations of "judicial activism" (i.e. "judgifying I don't like") ring especially hollow. It's not just that the conservatives on the Rehnquist strike down more acts of Congress than any Court since the New Deal, or have no problem playing in the penumbras and emanations of the 11th Amendment in order to assert that the state universities have legal immunities similar to those of 17th century British monarchs. There's the decision that put George Bush in the White House. The completely indefensible Bush v. Gore 1)was entirely unprecedented, 2)involved a majority putting narrow partisan interests ahead of long-held legal principles (including two justices who read the equal protection clause so narrowly that they don't believe it applies to gender discrimination but invented a new right to have ballots cast under different systems counted under uniform standards), and 3)was so unprincipled that not only did they decline to apply the newly-minted right to future cases but weren't even willing to provide a logical remedy in the case itself. None of these things are true of Roe v. Wade: it applied an extensive body of relevant precedent, was an expression of sincerely held (though contestable) legal principles, and the justices in the majority logically applied the principle in both that case and future cases. So if Roe v. Wade is illegitimate "judicial activism" that state governments are right to nullify, Bush's presidency itself is something well beyond illegitimate. Somehow I don't think we'll be hearing this from many of Roe's amateur critics.

Pro-choicers have no reason, in other words, not to fight for Roe. The decision was right, and many of its critics have no idea what they're talking about. Don't back down.

(Cross-posted to L, G & M.)


O'Reilly Referees Christian Right Fight

... Meanwhile, the controversy surrounding Mr. Reed continues to create tension for other evangelical leaders. E-mails released by the Senate Indian Affairs Committee indicate Mr. Reed told Mr. Abramoff that he would solicit anti-gambling help from big-name evangelicals including James Dobson and Tom Minnery of Focus on the Family. Days later, each wrote letters to U.S. Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton, protesting the opening of a casino in Louisiana.

In a Feb. 6, 2001, e-mail, Mr. Abramoff asked whether Mr. Reed "can get Dobson on the radio" to criticize Republican Haley Barbour for supporting the new casino's opening. Mr. Reed replied: "yes. there's a history there." Mr. Abramoff replied: "Let me know when Dobson hits him. I want to savor it." On Feb. 19, Mr. Reed assured Mr. Abramoff: "we're negotiating that now. don't have a green light yet, but they are very interested." ...
Focus on Finances

Via Max Blumenthal on Huffington Post comes a walk through the Christian right, with Ralph Reed all tied together with Jack Abramoff, which has brought some fresh hell to Dr. Dobson of Focus on the Family. But it's really all about Ralph Reed right now. Get ready for a ride, especially since the "big giant head," to quote Keith Olbermann, has decided to play referee.

Last night on "The Factor," the first guest up was none other than Dr. Dobson. You might remember the good doctor from Samuel Alito's recent thank you note, or maybe it's his non-stop jihad on all things post 18th century. Well, last night Bill O'Reilly offered Dobson an opportunity to answer charges from a group called DefCon, whose cause is "Campaign to Defend the Constitution Because the Religious Right is Wrong." Amen.

Dobson was in a near tizzy over the implication that he had anything whatsoever to do with Ralph Reed's current troubles that extend across the south, compliments of his religious right hypocrisy. As a renegade member of the "frozen chosen" I'm all ears when hypocrisy hits the news.

Tonight, O'Reilly is supposed to have people on from DefCon, in an effort to be "fair and balanced," so we'll see what evolves. One thing is clear is that the quiet problems of Ralph Reed and his connection with Jack Abramoff, as well as Dobson's involvement, have put a spotlight on a growing rift in the Republican religious right. That's the story Blumenthal lays out for us all.

Enter Marvin Olasky, the guy who coined "compassionate conservatism" back when Bush was governor. Olasky's the one who also created Bush's Faith Based Initiative program, once he hit the White House. Well, now Olasky is miffed and coming after the people in the Christian right who are tangled up with Abramoff. Olasky's World Magazine, one of the largest evangelical mags around, recently took out straight for Ralph Reed, with some blowback hitting the estimable James Dobson and his Focus on the Family. From one evangelical to another, can you feel the love, baby?

So what does this all mean?

Olasky's World is saying that corrupt evangelicals have to stand up, admit their wrongs, then do penance. It doesn't matter if you're Republicans or not, because if you're involved in illegal actions you're simply not doing God's work, which is the bottom line. But now Olasky, The World and his reporter are getting heat from Dobson and the Christian right, with O'Reilly now aiding their cause on Fox.

As every regular reader of my blog knows, the thing that truly bothers me about the right is their stranglehold on terrestrial radio, which I've been involved in for a long time. It starts with Rush and Sean, but gets really serious as it spreads into Christian broadcasting, all of which have a line to Armed Forces Radio. Progressives just got on AFR in late 2005! That's why Jane and Glenn's Roots Project, along with Mike Stark's work, are so important. Though obviously they're working in a parallel frame to mine, it's all connected to getting the grass roots active.

Well, Dobson ran right to radio when The World and Olasky's reporter came after him. Nice to have that built in network, isn't it?

"They [World] have a reporter who wanted me to dump on ralph reed because of Jack Abramoff. I wouldn't do it. So in the story they wrote, the made it seem like I was covering up for Ralph. they terribly misused the interview I gave them, and in the letter I wrote them, I tried to set the record straight. They refused to print it. So maybe I'm overreacting. But it is tough when your friends criticize you for something that shouldn't be."
via Max Blumenthal

But now not only does Olasky have to fight Dobson and his radio roots, but O'Reilly has given him another boost through Fox. Talk about media mafia.

But Olasky and The World aren't backing down.

If Reed had been transparent, he would have faced disagreement but would not now be facing disgrace. He has shamed the evangelical community by providing evidence for the generally-untrue stereotype that evangelicals are easily-manipulated and that evangelical leaders are using moral issues to line their own pockets.

The Ralph Reed Scandal

The issue comes down to hypocrisy. You don't get to play Christian, preening about your piety publicly, while gaming the odds and stiffing the notion of integrity privately, or at least you shouldn't. You don't get to have a "golden boy" image like Ralph Reed's, when you're actually doing the work of the devil by double crossing the people who put their faith in you.

Reed needs to pay for his hypocrisy through exposure, then pay for his crimes if there are any. That another branch of the evangelical movement is holding him to account, while simultaneously driving a stake through his image is not only ironic, it's political justice of a holy order.

Just imagine the Republican Party with a Christian right out of favor and out of power, because their pulpit politicians have been made to do a moral, if not actual, perp walk. Now hold that picture as a visualization.

cross-posted at Taylor Marsh
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