Tuesday, October 31, 2006

In the latest TIME magazine:
When it comes to deploying its Executive power, which is dear to Bush's understanding of the presidency, the President's team has been planning for what one strategist describes as "a cataclysmic fight to the death" over the balance between Congress and the White House if confronted with congressional subpoenas it deems inappropriate. The strategist says the Bush team is "going to assert that power, and they're going to fight it all the way to the Supreme Court on every issue, every time, no compromise, no discussion, no negotiation."
If the Dems do well on November 7th, then over the next two years we will witness King George exercise his absolute authority in all its emperor-like glory, pulling out every stop to protect his power -- the country, the people, the Constitution be damned! It's George first and America a far, far distant second.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Dan Froomkin wrote today:
The one question an unusually dogged White House press corps on Friday demanded that Vice President Cheney address remains unanswered: If he wasn't talking about waterboarding, what did he mean by a "dunk in the water"?

Cheney last week agreed with a radio interviewer's assertion that "a dunk in water is a no-brainer if it can save lives." That sure sounded like an endorsement of waterboarding, a brutal interrogation technique widely viewed as torture.

On Friday, White House press secretary Tony Snow and then Cheney himself insisted that he wasn't talking about waterboarding at all.

But is there any other plausible explanation? We have yet to hear it.
Of course Cheney meant water-boarding. These guys have spent six years telling us it's sunny outside when in fact it's raining buckets. Should we be surprised anymore at the level of brazenness in their bald-faced lies?

Here's an exchange between a reporter and Tony Snow:
"Q: What could 'dunk in the water' refer to if not water boarding?

"MR. SNOW: I'm just telling you -- I'm telling you the vice president's position. I will let you draw your own conclusions, because you clearly have. He says he wasn't talking --

"Q: I haven't drawn any conclusions. I'm asking for an explanation about what 'dunk in the water' could mean.

"MR. SNOW: How about a dunk in the water?

"Q: So, wait a minute, so 'dunk in the water' means what, we have a pool now at Guantanamo, and they go swimming?
Folks, it's absurd. It's like trying to have a rational discussion with a psychopathic liar. It's impossible, so why bother? The more disturbing reality is that people with seemingly such a serious disorder are calling the shots for our country.

November 7th is our chance to reign in this madness.

Hendrik Hertzberg of The New Yorker agrees:
The "“dunk in water"” they were talking about is waterboarding. It has been used by the Gestapo, the North Koreans, and the Khmer Rouge. After the Second World War, a Japanese soldier was sentenced to twenty-five years'’ hard labor for using it on American prisoners. It is torture, and torture is not a no-brainer. It is a no-souler. The no-brainer is the choice on Election Day.
In his Friday column, Paul Krugman cited a Rand Corp. study that I wrote about on May 11, 2004. I wrote then:
The RAND Corp. conducted a study that attempted to derive what ratio of troops to population made for the most successful country occupations. Apparently, the British have set the standard for how best to occupy another country, and the study found that the optimal ratio was 20 troops per thousand citizens. Given that Iraq's population is approximately 25 million, the current total number of troops occupying the country is short by about 70%! The optimal number would come to half a million troops.

More proof that this administration has carried out this operation on the cheap and in doing so has jeopardized the success of the entire effort, has endangered the lives of all soldiers over there (shorting the presence of soldiers increases the likelihood of violent outbreaks and unrest), and does allow for another valid comparison to Vietnam (where similarly deployment of troops was initially hesitant).
Krugman writes, "we need to get out of Iraq, not because we want to cut and run, but because our continuing presence is doing nothing but wasting American lives. And if we do free up our forces (and those of our British allies), we might still be able to save Afghanistan."

Krugman then goes on to cite the study, written in 1995 by Rand Corp. analyst James T. Quinlivan. Krugman agrees with my math stating that "stabilizing Iraq would require a force of at least 20 troops per 1,000 Iraqis — that is, 500,000 soldiers and marines."

However, he asserts that the "combined strength of the U.S. Army and Marine Corps is less than 700,000," meaning we didn't have the manpower to begin with to properly secure Iraq. Worse yet, Rumsfeld & Co. likely knew this fact and yet chose to gamble human lives on the cheap to achieve their ends. To admit to the need for hundreds of thousands of troops would have made any chance for invading Iraq a non-starter.

Thus, instead do what this administration has been doing since their first day in office: lie, distort, withold the truth -- do whatever it takes to hoodwink Congress and the American public to get what you desire. It's what they do.
The Iraq war is also greatly affecting residents of Puerto Rico, who can die for the United States but have not the right to vote for the U.S. president:
Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens, but they lack some of the rights of citizenship, including the right to vote for president. Yet they have served, and died, in the military for generations. Since 2003, dozens of Puerto Ricans have been killed in Iraq.
Puerto Rican soldiers have been fighting in the U.S. armed forces since at least World War I, when the island became a U.S. territory and its residents became citizens.

Altogether, more than 150,000 Puerto Ricans served in World War II, Korea and Vietnam. But as Maria Munoz notes, they're from a territory, not a state, and they can't send a voting member to Congress or vote for commander-in-chief.

"It's ironic," she says. "We can't decide who will be president, but the U.S. offers for us to go to war. They see soldiers as just workers, like when we're shipped off to pick tomatoes. It's the same."
Although the approximately four million citizens in Puerto Rico cannot vote in our upcoming election, the nearly four million Puerto Rican U.S. citizens spread across this country can certainly vote. Here's hoping they read this story and get even more fed up and incensed.

It's one thing to die in Iraq and yet have the right to vote on the president, it's quite another to die over there and have zero say on who is the commander in chief.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

On the environmental front (which gets even less attention these days due to Iraq and the upcoming election), Sir Nicholas Stern has released The Stern Review and guess which corporate entities have become big-time global warming believers? The insurance industry. And make no mistake, while the energy lobby may have deep pockets, don't think the insurance industry is not throwing around some sizeable chunks of change on K-Street.
Sounds like Obama has made enough "gutsy" statements in the past for the GOP to hang him Swift-Boat style. If he runs, look for distortion tactics and deceptive sound-bite ads try mightily to crucify him as his road to 2008 will be all uphill with loads of potholes.
What does it take to get a poor grade?!

That peon of virtue and all things Christian, James Dobson, has apparently seen it in his heart to forgive admitted adulterer Rep. Don Sherwood (R-PA), also an accused physical abuser of his mistress, as Dobson's group Family Research Council and Focus on the Family recently gave Sherwood an "85%" rating (100% is tops).

But wait, these same folks despised Clinton for blowjobs, and yet.... Hmmm, I'm confused.... Guess I'm missing something....
In a recent Wolf Blitzer/Michael Ware exchange:
BLITZER: The president flatly said today the United States is winning. We're winning, he said, in this war in Iraq. From your point of view, does it look like the U.S. is winning right now?

MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The president's remarks are absolutely striking, Wolf.

I mean I would very much like to ask President Bush how he defines winning, because on the ground here, it looks like anything but.

Given the state of chaos, given the near civil war, given the rising tempo of the Sunni insurgency, given the increasing influence, as Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad pointed out, of Iran and, to a lesser degree, Syria, I would like to know how the president defines victory.

So far in this war, what we have seen with the way things have developed is that two of America's greatest enemies are the only beneficiaries of this conflict -- al Qaeda, which 16 U.S. intelligence agencies say has become stronger, not weaker, as a result of this war. So the very thing the president says he came here to prevent, he has fostered.

And the other one is Iran. Iran's sphere of influence once stopped at Saddam's border. Now, they have great sway not only in southern Iraq, but within the central government, arguably, more sway than the United States.

Friday, October 27, 2006

From Balloon Juice:
Very shortly the German periodical Stern will have more on those European secret prisons which don’t exist. In a nutshell, German security personnel visited the American facilities as early as 2001 and were shocked at the abuses that they witnessed there. Several immediately reported their experiences to superiors and prosecutors in Germany.

Until now the German government has denied any knowledge of secret prisons so this counts as one hell of a gotcha piece in Stern’s home market, as well as a timely reminder over here of what it means when a country with America’s resources decides to institutionalize abuse.
But I thought Bush has repeatedly said we don't torture?

Robert Dreyfuss recently wrote about the widespread anti-Americanism in the world:
There’s no denying that the war in Iraq has had a catastrophic effect on American interests. It has opened a festering wound at the heart of the Middle East, a vortex of violence that threatens to fragment the nation of Iraq and spill over Iraq’s borders into all six of its neighbors. The war has inflamed Arab and Muslim public opinion against the United States. It has alienated America’s allies, particularly in Europe and the Middle East. It has cheered or emboldened America’s adversaries and rivals, including China and Russia. And it has fueled the sort of anti-Americanism articulated by Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez.
Given the anti-U.S. climate that Iraq has managed to generate, in addition to the seemingly endless new revelations of U.S. torture, all of it will result in several significant problems we'll have to face and resolve over the next several years. Countries falling under the category of anti-U.S. will be less inclined to work with us on issues involving geopolitical threats confronting us. We'll obtain less truthful, credible intel from potential informants who in a prior time may have been willing to choose to side with the U.S., a country that has stood for good and fairness -- a notion widely accepted not too long ago.

Thanks to this administration, America is less safe not just due to the creation of more terrorists (see NIE report) but perhaps even more so due to the increase in resentment towards the U.S. Now more than ever we are going it alone, increasingly so because we have to. It's no wonder Bush/Cheney have been adamant about using torture to gain info; it's now the only option we have left.

Cheney has spent a lifetime bullying and "torturing" members of congress to get what he wants, but apparently he's too naive and stubborn to realize such school-yard tactics don't work in the international arena. Worse yet, they're gravely counter-productive.
C'mon Karl, you're slipping. This is Psych 101.

From professor George Lakoff in the NY Times:
The first rule of using negatives is that negating a frame activates the frame. If you tell someone not to think of an elephant, he’ll think of an elephant. When Richard Nixon said, “I am not a crook” during Watergate, the nation thought of him as a crook.

“Listen, we’ve never been stay the course, George,” President Bush told George Stephanopoulos of ABC News a day earlier. Saying that just reminds us of all the times he said “stay the course.”
Also, recall how flexibility was regarded by the administration as wavering and appeasing. Suddenly they hope to get away with using it -- but thankfully it's not working.
“Stay the course” was for years a trap for those who disagreed with the president’s policies in Iraq. To disagree was weak and immoral. It meant abandoning the fight against evil. But now the president himself is caught in that trap. To keep staying the course, given obvious reality, is to get deeper into disaster in Iraq, while not staying the course is to abandon one’s moral authority as a conservative. Either way, the president loses.
And of course he deserves it. Not we the American public, not our military, our soldiers, not the Iraqis, not the rest of the world involved. Just him alone.
Can Bush & Co. manage to get any more off message as they have in the past several days? Is this some kind of new Rovian tactic to confuse the hell out of the voting public in an effort to somehow win them over? Perhaps playing the feel-sorry-for-us card?

First they attempt to claim they've never endorsed "stay the course" as the operative phrase when it came to Iraq, only to justifiably be pummeled by the MSM and internet with numerous examples of the phrase being uttered by Bush, Cheney and other administration officials, repeatedly for years.

And now we have Cheney admitting that "water boarding" is a "no-brainer" -- this despite Bush reassuring us that the U.S. does not permit torture.

Tom Malinowski of Human Rights Watch said, "If Iran or Syria detained an American, Cheney is saying that it would be perfectly fine for them to hold that American's head under water until he nearly drowns, if that's what they think they need to do to save Iranian or Syrian lives."

This possibility is a central danger in the recently passed torture act. Apart from it being unconstitutional, the act puts our soldiers or any American captured abroad at risk. Why should other countries abide by international agreements or accords concerning torture if we do not?
Balloon Juice points out:
  • "Parkinson’s could be one of the first diseases treated by the product of stem cell research. That makes Michael J. Fox incontrovertibly right to let America witness his agonizing physical decline, and it makes Rush Limbaugh even more of an addled gasbag."

  • "Focus groups demonstrate that on a political level the ad was a home run with men on base. Please, Rush, say something stupid tomorrow. Watching this ad pushes Democrats, Republicans and Independents ten percentage points in the Democrats’ favor."
  • Meanwhile, Timothy Noah at Slate writes that Rush is the one faking -- faking stupidity -- and is really just doing what he does best, that is manipulate his listeners, tell them anything they want to hear, and treat them as they want to be treated: as repeated victims to a con.
    Ever since the resignation of Richard Nixon, a very smart man who got caught abusing his executive power, the GOP has deliberately avoided nominating conspicuously intelligent people for president. Gerald Ford was smarter than he looked, but he was unable to dispel his buffoonish image. Ronald Reagan was famously checked out and ill-informed. George H.W. Bush, though clearly smarter than Dubya, is not exactly imposing in the brains department, and he's demonstrated almost as much difficulty as his son in formulating a coherent sentence. And George W. Bush? Let's just say the guy is either mentally lazy, not very bright, or some combination of these two. I've never felt it necessary to refine that diagnosis; the term I favor is "functionally dumb."

    Two things must be said about my assertions in the previous paragraph. One is that they are all unmistakably true. The other is that whenever a liberal repeats any one of them out loud, that liberal—and contemporary liberalism generally—come under attack, along with the Democratic party, the New York Times, Harvard, the AFL-CIO, the Council on Foreign Relations, the three major TV networks, and the Sierra Club. If a liberal is deciding whom to hire to answer phones and return papers neatly to a metal filing cabinet, it's considered legitimate for that liberal to formulate a judgment as to the candidates' intelligence. If a liberal is deciding whom to vote for in a presidential election, it is not. Merely to raise the issue is seen as conclusive evidence that one is snobbish and effete, and that the subject of one's skeptical inquiry is an authentic man of the people.

    Nobody knows this better than Rush Limbaugh, who has said so many idiotic things on his radio show over the years that Al Franken, a famous liberal comedian/talk-radio host, walked right into the trap by penning a book titled Rush Limbaugh Is a Big Fat Idiot. Which of course made Limbaugh an even bigger hero to the dittohead faithful.

    I'm not saying Limbaugh isn't a little bit stupid. I'll give him that. But give me a break. On the subject of Fox's Parkinson's, he's just all over the place making one asinine comment after another! He can barely control himself! But you'll notice Rush can still cut to a commercial when his engineer tells him to. I'm telling you: Limbaugh's moronic blowhard routine is purely an act. Limbaugh is exaggerating his stupidity to advance political ends, and I find that despicable.
    It's just amazing how so many people, i.e. dittoheads, day after day want to be misled and lied to, they demand it of Rush, to create some kind of fantasy world where all their kooky beliefs and bitter emotions can be "real" and "true-to-life". Rush serves as the huge con man behind the curtain, working the dials, throwing his followers made-up gibberish and twisted tales -- anything to enrage and piss off these fools, thus keeping them tuned in for another day.

    They don't mind being used; after all, they apparently didn't mind being used by Bush/Cheney regarding faith in God or tax cuts for the rich.
    If, as I advised, Dems want to conduct a bit of fear-mongering using Bush the way the GOP uses Osama, they should consider this latest revelation regarding Social Security reform. Bush has stated it's not dead and he will keep trying to get it done in his last two remaining years. The issue is still extremely unpopular with the majority of Americans so the Dems message should be urging voters to change the balance of power in Congress in order to save or preserve Social Security.
    Greg Sargent discusses Bush's recent intimate meeting with only-those-who-agree-with-him columnists. Even in this friendly setting, Bush tosses out some real doozies. For one, he states that "25% or so" of the American public want us out of Iraq -- huh? Try closer to or nearly 65%. Of course, as Karl Rove recently asserted on NPR radio, Bush could be referring to his own, "secret" set of polls.

    And then as Atrios points out, Bush insinuates another lie by inferring that Iraq attacked us on September 11th. What's most disturbing if you read the transcript is that Bush says it almost as if in his mind Iraq did in fact attack us! In other words that it's not a purposeful canard used for political purposes but rather that he truly believes it, and if so then folks we're no longer at borderline delusional but rather full-blown pathological. Scary.

    Thursday, October 26, 2006

    On FOX News, Tony Snow falsely claimed that Bush uttered the phrase "stay the course" just eight times. Last night, Keith Olbermann showed video clips of Bush saying it 29 times, and Think Progress documents 30, admitting it could be more.

    The lies just don't stop.

    Wednesday, October 25, 2006

    Kevin Drum (and Matt Yglesias) agrees that it's high time for the Dems to quit whining when it comes to political ads and take off the gloves. My assumption is that both Kevin and Matt are not endorsing that Dems indulge in Swift Boat-type smear ads, and also that when the GOP airs such ads that the Dems go beyond whining and return the attack vigorously, demanding retractions and corrections.

    That said with the latest GOP ad, starring not GW but rather Osama, Kevin states:
    Don't like it? Then fight back instead of complaining. Run an ad showing a mushroom cloud over the Korean peninsula and asking how George Bush let things get to this point. Why not?
    This ad would have tremendous impact and yet remain factual and venture nowhere near the distortions we're accustomed to seeing from the Republicans.

    Another suggestion would be to show foreboding environmental images, and not just the usual stuff like iceberg cliffs suddenly dropping off into the ocean -- an image while yes sad and indicative of global warming, does not have the immediate, pressing urgency that works to crimp the average person's lifestyle. Instead, show the polluted rivers and streams from coal mining (mountain top removal), with the many fish floating dead and the toxic water flowing towards residential communities. Show the billowing smoke coming from smokestacks and link it to quotes regarding Bush's gutting of the EPA and the dramatic rise in asthma (again, bringing it home to how it affects a person's life).

    Another idea is to link any economic progress that has occurred in the last few years to that faction which it has most greatly benefited: the rich. Show images of huge mansions, gated communities, limos, etc., with voiceovers explaining the many income-related statistics available. Also feature GW's latest quote, where he was shocked, "astounded," to hear about how much CEO's make these days. It's similar to his father's admission when he didn't know how much milk cost and it further illustrates how out-of-touch GW is when it comes to reality-based living, including his many delusions regarding Iraq.

    In fact, if the Dems undertake the use of any kind of fear-mongering, they should use Bush in the way the GOP uses Osama. In linking all GOP candidates to Bush, the Dems should assert that we can no longer afford to have a congress that blindly follows such a Walter Mitty president, and they should show montages from the Danny Kaye film, correctly likening the fantasy world of Mitty to the same such fantasy land that Bush and Cheney are dwelling in, and most importantly driving home how much more vulnerable we are to serious harm due to such crazed, irresponsible leadership.

    At this point in time, the last thing this country needs is a president who is off-the-charts in denial, but since we can't do much about him for another two years, the Dems need to stress that removing his party's lackeys and minions is the next best solution.

    Tuesday, October 24, 2006

    With regards to this revelation, let me understand. With Iraq, there never was definitive proof of WMD and yet the administration didn't instead wait and "root for" some sign of evidence of such to bolster their position. However, with North Korea, which has an existing record of known WMD, the administration in this case chooses to wait and "root for" a sign of evidence (the nuclear test).

    The lack of policy -- much less a cohesive, consistent one -- continues to astound.
    You want to see the subject below get the widespread attention it deserves? If Republicans lose big in a few weeks, you'll definitely (and finally) hear them clamor for investigations -- all for the good. This serious problem is not so much about partisanship but rather about accuracy and fairness. All sides should want an electoral outcome to be as true-to-form as possible, right?!
    ABC News has obtained an independent report commissioned by the state of Maryland and conducted by Science Applications International Corporation revealing that the original Diebold factory passwords are still being used on many voting machines.

    The SAIC study also shows myriad other security flaws, including administrative over-ride passwords that cannot be changed by local officials but can be used by hackers or those who have seen the discs.

    The report further states that one of the high risks to the system comes if operating code discs are lost, stolen or seen by unauthorized parties — precisely what seems to have occurred with the discs sent to Kagan, who worries that the incident indicates the secret source code is not that difficult to obtain.

    "Certainly, just tweaking a few votes in a couple of states could radically change the outcome of our policies for the coming year," she said.
    Princeton University researchers using an Accuvote TS — a touch screen version of the Diebold machine — showed how easy it would be to deploy a virus that would, in seconds, flip the vote of any election.

    "We're taking the vote-counting process and we're handing it over to these companies — and we don't know what happens inside these machines," said Edward Felten, a professor and a researcher at Princeton's Center for Information Technology Policy, which ran the study.
    If you missed this week's episode of Bill Maher's show on HBO, do yourself a favor and check it out (repeats run this week). It's a classic. His guests include Barney Frank, Jason Alexander, and the esteemed "brainiac" Stephen Moore, who is on the Wall Street Journal's editorial board. In addition, Maher interviews David Kuo, author of "Tempting Faith".

    I always wondered who or what was behind the WSJ editorials, assuming whatever entity crafted such consistent bullsh*t had both quite a bit of energy as well as imagination. Seeing Moore, and assuming he has some role in the matter, it all made complete sense. He had boundless energy, seemingly hyper, and was extremely nerdish though not possessing any of the startling brilliance that often comes with the package. Instead, in Moore you have a clown-ish figure who pathetically seemed to just want to get some laughs and be liked, as the few points he made were hackneyed cliches we've heard many times before and Barney Frank contested and knocked down with ease.

    As for Barney Frank, he was terrific. He offered several excellent replies to various questions but more so, he made sure to be heard and have time to complete his thoughts. At times, Maher's show can become a bit like the McLaughlin Group (sadly), with guests competing for air time, but Frank made sure to not allow himself to be interrupted or abruptly cut-off and it made a huge difference. He came off as assured and truly knowing the issues, and better yet Moore served as Frank's perfect foil, ultimately making Frank look that much better and Moore look like a babbling dope.

    The show is also worth checking out for the Kuo interview. Kuo admits that if Jesus were alive today he'd most likely be a liberal. Click here for video.

    Monday, October 23, 2006

    Bush has suggested he'll simply ignore the advice of James Baker regarding Iraq:
    The White House also suggested that it would not necessarily accept the recommendations of an independent commission reviewing Iraq policy. "We’re not going to outsource the business of handling the war in Iraq,"said Mr. Bush’s press secretary, Tony Snow.
    So as per usual, if GW doesn't like what he's hearing he'll just kick it to the curb -- even if coming from the man who played a huge role in getting Bush into power in the first place, in 2000.

    But this follows a pattern:
    Indeed, one of the worst-kept secrets in Bush World is the dismay, in some cases disdain, harbored by many senior aides of the former president toward the administration of his son - 41 and 43, as many call them, political shorthand that refers to their numerical places in American presidential history.

    For five years, the 41s have bit their collective tongues as, they complain, the 43s ignored their counsel. But as the war in Iraq has worsened and public support for the current administration has tanked, loyalists of the elder Bush have found it impossible to suppress their disillusionment - particularly their belief that many of 43's policies are a stick in the eye of his father.

    "Forty-three has now repudiated everything 41 stands for, and still he won't say a word," a key member of the elder Bush alumni said. "Personally, I think he's dying inside."

    To 41 loyalists, the bill of indictment is voluminous. Some alleged 43 has betrayed his father's middle-of-the-road philosophy by governing as a divider, not the uniter he promised in the 2000 campaign. Others, like former 41 speechwriter Curt Smith, argue 43 isn't conservative enough.

    "Conservatives want limited government, a balanced Middle East approach, a foreign policy that builds, not destroys, and general, not special, interest," Smith said. "Bush 41 endorsed all of the above. Bush 43 supports none."

    A common refrain of the 41s is that 43's muscular approach to foreign affairs - what one derided as "cowboy diplomacy" - has estranged the U.S. from its allies and diminished its authority around the globe.

    The ultimate sticking point for the old guard is Iraq. They cite the appointment of 41's close friend and former secretary of state, James Baker, to chart a new Iraq policy as belated vindication.

    The 41s remain incensed, however, that Brent Scowcroft, 41's national security adviser and once a top outside adviser to this administration, has been demonized since he wrote a 2002 article opposing an Iraq invasion.

    "What Brent said is now the accepted wisdom," a senior 41 hand said, "and everyone believes 41 agrees with him, though he'll never say it."
    Oh how lovely. Thanks to a daddy-son rift, where junior is looking to prove daddy wrong, our country suffers, terribly. As Mike Malloy has always said, the Bush family is a cancer.
    Last night "60 Minutes" reported on the disappearance of more than $500 million to help equip the Iraqi army. Yeah, that's bad, and who knows where those funds went and to what purpose, but this isn't the first time some of our taxpayer money has gone missing in Iraq. Recall that nearly $9 billion is still unaccounted for -- and this GOP congress continues to look the other way and do nothing about trying to track down where it went. That kind of money can purchase lots when it comes to weapons that may eventually be used against us, possibly here on our soil.

    Friday, October 20, 2006

    Many conservatives are proclaiming that they hope the Republicans lose big this November. The reasoning goes that GW has veered way off from the sacred conservative path so it's time for the liberals to show their true colors and in no time the American public will be begging for a real conservative antidote.

    Yawn. They might want to rethink this one. For one, the reasons liberals would attain positions of power is by definition due to the complete and utter failings of the alternative (Republican, right-wing) and the public will not likely forget that fact any time soon. The Dems will effectively be given a long rope from which to act thanks to the ruinous Republican legacy.

    Secondly, because the GOP has shifted so far to the right in the last six years, the Dems can shift congress a good deal to the left and still just be getting back to the middle. Besides, gone are the days of extreme far left positions. The world has changed, as have Democrats, and as we saw with Bill Clinton the typical modern-day Democrat is more or less centrist -- especially when compared to the typical Republican who more often than not makes Ronald Reagan look like Jerry Brown.
    From Yale law professor Jack Balkin's blog:
    The President has created a new regime in which he is a law unto himself on issues of prisoner interrogations. He decides whether he has violated the laws, and he decides whether to prosecute the people he in turn urges to break the law. And all the while he insists that everything he does is perfectly legal, because, the way the law is designed, there is no one with authority to disagree.

    It is a travesty of law under the forms of law. It is the accumulation of executive, judicial, and legislative powers in a single branch and under a single individual.

    It is the very essence of tyranny.
    Oh the irony. We remove an evil tyrant in Iraq and we threaten two others in Iran and North Korea, but in the meantime our country moves ever so much closer to that which we're threatening and removing.
    Got to love those independents:
    By 52% to 37%, voters say they want Democrats rather than Republicans to control Congress. That 15-point advantage is the widest ever registered by either party in the Journal/NBC surveys. Also, the result marks the first time voter preference for one party has exceeded 50%.

    Half of independents say they want Democrats to take charge, while only a quarter of them back Republicans. "It's very unusual to see a majority of independents pick one political party," notes Bill McInturff, the Republican pollster who conducts the surveys with Mr. Hart, his Democratic counterpart.
    Recall how heinous Clinton's relationship with Monica was to the GOP ("what will the children think?!"). They were red-faced livid. And yet here we have GW meeting with an admitted adulterer:
    During National Character Counts Week, Bush Stumps for Philanderer

    So it has come to this: Nineteen days before the midterm elections, President Bush flew here to champion the reelection of a congressman who last year settled a $5.5 million lawsuit alleging that he beat his mistress during a five-year affair.

    "I'm pleased to be here with Don Sherwood," a smiling president told the congressman's loyal but dispirited supporters at a luncheon fundraiser Thursday. "He has got a record of accomplishment."
    Uh, calling on the Christian right, hello, anyone out there? No harsh words for this incredible act of hypocrisy??
    Today's Dan Froomkin:
    The Bush White House (and its press corps) often confuse tactics, strategy and goals. Tactics are what you use in the service of the strategy you choose to achieve your goal. Even the best tactics, in pursuit of an ill-chosen strategy, will not achieve the desired goal.

    Bush's goal is a stable, secure, democratic Iraq. His strategy is for American troops to stay there until that happens. The tactics are getting those troops killed.
    But perhaps GW is ready to blink. As always, he'll talk about convictions and taking tough stands, but in the end it's all about politics, period. His party is pissed off at him and is quickly fracturing under the weight of plummeting poll numbers.

    Ironically, the November surprise may be that Bush agrees to cut and run -- only the exact phrase used will be some Rovian twist ala Madison Avenue.
    Will electronic voting shenanigans be the November surprise?
    So even the close Bush family ally, James Baker, describes Iraq as "a helluva mess." Also, Baker will reportedly advise against GW's "stay the course" mantra as a solution and the former Secretary of State further sticks a finger in Junior's eye by stating, "I believe in talking to your enemies....in my view, it's not appeasement to talk to your enemies."

    And then there's this item of news regarding "progress" in Iraq:
    A member of a high-powered government advisory body that is developing options to prevent Iraq's chaotic collapse warns that the United States could have just weeks, not months, to avoid an all-out civil war.

    "There's a sense among many people now that things in Iraq are slipping fast and there isn't a lot of time to reverse them," said Larry Diamond, one of a panel of experts advising the Iraq Study Group, which is preparing a range of policy alternatives for President Bush.

    "The civil war is already well along. We have no way of knowing if it's too late until we try a radically different course," said Diamond, an expert on building democracies who is at Stanford University's Hoover Institution and is a former adviser to the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq.
    Will a massively erupting civil war in Iraq be the November surprise?

    As it is this month is on pace to be the third deadliest since the war began. The other two months (April and November 2004) were both associated with full-scale military offensives -- not this current month, making it that much more alarming.

    Yesterday, the Washington Post wrote about the dramatic rise in sectarian fighting with the two main militias breaking up into smaller groups, "In the void forged by the sectarian tensions gripping Baghdad, militias are further splintering into smaller, more radicalized cells, signifying a new and potentially more volatile phase in the struggle for the capital."

    But not to worry, Dick Cheney recently said on Rush Limbaugh's show that Iraq is "doing remarkably well." Hey, if King George's #2 man says it, it must be true, right?
    Regarding this just-signed torture law, reporter David Savage writes, "Many legal scholars predict the law's partial repeal of habeas corpus will be struck down as unconstitutional."

    I presume the Supreme Court will be the entity to strike it down...? If so, Bush's cabal of friendly Justices will be in quite a pickle: how to rule in favor of their buddy while not embarrassing themselves by upholding this law.

    In fact, on this subject of the torture law, Jonathan Turley, professor of constitutional law at George Washington University, had a few things to say about it on Keith Olbermann's show:
    It‘s a huge sea change for our democracy. The framers created a system where we did not have to rely on the good graces or good mood of the president. In fact, Madison said that he created a system essentially to be run by devils, where they could not do harm, because we didn‘t rely on their good motivations.

    Now we must. And people have no idea how significant this is. What, really, a time of shame this is for the American system. What the Congress did and what the president signed today essentially revokes over 200 years of American principles and values.

    It couldn‘t be more significant. And the strange thing is, we‘ve become sort of constitutional couch potatoes. I mean, the Congress just gave the president despotic powers, and you could hear the yawn across the country as people turned to, you know, “Dancing with the Stars.” I mean, it‘s otherworldly.
    I think people are fooling themselves if they believe that the courts will once again stop this president from taking over—taking almost absolute power. It basically comes down to a single vote on the Supreme Court, Justice Kennedy. And he indicated that if Congress gave the president these types of powers, that he might go along.

    And so we may have, in this country, some type of ueber-president, some absolute ruler, and it‘ll be up to him who gets put away as an enemy combatant, held without trial.

    It‘s something that no one thought—certainly I didn‘t think—was possible in the United States. And I am not too sure how we got to this point. But people clearly don‘t realize what a fundamental change it is about who we are as a country. What happened today changed us. And I‘m not too sure we‘re going to change back anytime soon.
    You know, the United States has engaged in torture. And the whole world community has denounced the views of this administration, its early views that the president could order torture, could cause injury up to organ failure or death.

    The administration has already established that it has engaged in things like waterboarding, which is not just torture. We prosecuted people after World War II for waterboarding prisoners. We treated it as a war crime. And my God, what a change of fate, where we are now embracing the very thing that we once prosecuted people for.

    Who are we now? I know who we were then.
    I think you can feel the judgment of history. It won‘t be kind to President Bush.

    But frankly, I don‘t think that it will be kind to the rest of us. I think that history will ask, Where were you? What did you do when this thing was signed into law? There were people that protested the Japanese concentration camps, there were people that protested these other acts. But we are strangely silent in this national yawn as our rights evaporate.
    This could be very interesting, stay tuned:
    A federal judge has ordered the Bush administration to release information about who visited Vice President Dick Cheney's office and personal residence, which could spark a late election-season debate over lobbyists' access to the White House.
    U.S. District Judge Ricardo M. Urbina said Wednesday that, by the end of next week, the Secret Service must produce the records or at least identity them and justify why they are being withheld.

    Wednesday, October 18, 2006

    Dan Froomkin is as much a must-read as Keith Olbermann is a must-watch.
    President Bush this morning proudly signed into law a bill that critics consider one of the most un-American in the nation's long history.

    The new law vaguely bans torture -- but makes the administration the arbiter of what is torture and what isn't. It allows the president to imprison indefinitely anyone he decides falls under a wide-ranging new definition of unlawful combatant. It suspends the Great Writ of habeas corpus for detainees. It allows coerced testimony at trial. It immunizes retroactively interrogators who may have engaged in torture.
    Here's the clear message the law sends to the world: America makes its own rules. The law would apparently subject terror suspects to some of the same sorts of brutal interrogation tactics that have historically been prosecuted as war crimes when committed against Americans.

    Here's the clear message to the voters: This Congress is willing to rubberstamp pretty much any White House initiative it sees as being in its short-term political interests. (And I don't just mean the Republicans; 12 Senate Democrats and 32 House Democrats voted for the bill as well.)

    Here's the clear message to the Supreme Court: Review me.
    But history's questions may in fact be quite different: How far did we allow fear to drive us from our core values? How did a terror attack lead our country to abandon its commitment to fairness and the rule of law? How mercilessly were we willing to treat those we suspected to be our enemies? How much raw, unchecked power were we willing to hand over to the executive?
    My bolding above points out the key aspect of the law that GW desperately wanted and needed, thus protecting himself from any future legal prosecution and potential jail time.

    To be able to torture at will and toss aside habeas corpus -- that was all just gravy.
    More "good" news on Iraq:
    A militant group that includes al Qaeda in Iraq announced yesterday it had established an Islamic state in Iraq.
    The claim, released in a videotape, was immediately discounted by Iraq's parliament speaker.
    The Mujahedeen Shura Council – an umbrella organisation of insurgent groups in Iraq – said in the video that the new state was made up of six provinces including Baghdad that have large Sunni populations and parts of two other provinces south of the capital that are predominantly Shi'ite.
    The savage Sunni Arab and al Qaeda insurgency that first shoved Iraq toward chaos three years ago clearly had taken a back seat yesterday to the growing sectarian bloodletting that is now ravaging the country in its spiral toward – if not deeper into – civil war.
    American analysts such as Anthony H Cordesman, of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, and Dennis Ross, a Mid-East peace negotiator, say major policy changes are necessary.
    "Iraq is already in a state of serious civil war. The current efforts at political compromise and improved security at best are buying time. There is a critical risk that Iraq will drift into a major civil conflict over the coming months, see its present government fail, and/or divide and separate in some form," Mr Cordesman wrote last week.
    After much blood is shed, the future Iraq may very well go the way of the former Soviet Union, breaking up into federal states of sorts. Whether such separate countries adopt democracy as their form of government is a huge question mark, as is whether or not they coexist in the region peacefully, and also resist any efforts to tolerate terrorist activity within their borders.

    Whatever happened to Colin Powell's "you break it, you bought it" truism?
    In his latest column entitled, "One-Letter Politics," Paul Krugman revisits a topic he wrote about just a few weeks ago. The added emphasis is for good reasons. Krugman makes perhaps the overriding point heading into this election: the strident and intolerant nature of this modern-day GOP has made voting for a moderate Republican in actuality voting for the extreme sect of the party. To vote for a moderate "R" is to simply keep the numerical count of Rs vs. Ds in the Republicans favor, thus insuring the non-moderates in positions of power (committee heads, etc.) continue to rule while of course ignoring the moderates.

    Lincoln Chafee can babble on all he wants about how he does not rubber stamp Bush's agenda, about how he's an independent voice, about how he cares about the environment and the non-super-rich -- that's all fine and good but thanks to his own party, it's not good enough. Chafee becomes the crazy aunt locked in the basement, tragically ignored.

    For real change, it comes down to one thing: vote "D".

    Monday, October 16, 2006

    Wall Street is often correct when it comes to allocating money. Let's hope in this case they're very much right.
    Wall Street has shifted its allegiance in the 2006 election cycle by donating more to Democrats than Republicans who have been the investment banks' usual benefactors, U.S. Federal Election Commission data show.

    Five leading firms Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Bear Stearns Companies Inc.,Morgan Stanley, Merrill Lynch & Co. and Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. have contributed $6.2 million so far to candidates before the November elections, with about 52 percent going to Democrats.

    "People give ideological money and they give money to people they think are going to win," said Maurice Carroll, director of Quinnipiac University's Polling Institute in Hamden, Connecticut. "It looks like it's going to be a good year for Democrats."
    Last month, Jacob Weisberg wrote at Slate.com, "Right-wingers also hope Democrats will initiate impeachment proceedings against George W. Bush, repeating the very mistake Republicans made with Bill Clinton in 1998."

    Wrong. It was a mistake in that the act to impeach Clinton was ludicrous and lacked merit (as opposed to grounds for impeaching GW, which is chock full of merit). However, what the impeachment proceedings did succeed in doing was to elevate the Monica fiasco to the point of national and global attention, keeping it there for many months. As a result, the embarrassing ensuing events stayed in the public's collective memory bank long enough to haunt Al Gore in 2000, ultimately insuring that the race stayed closer than it otherwise should've been. Thus, the GOP impeachment witch-hunt ended up being an effective election tool -- despite the fact it was unjustified and 100% politically driven.

    The Dems can do something similar by initiating such proceedings against Bush, except in this case -- as many legal experts have weighed in on the affirmative -- GW absolutely deserves to be impeached on multiple counts. But the Dems must make sure to tag or link all associated wrong-doings with the ruling party of the past six years, therefore effectively tarring any Republican candidate in 2008. And unlike Gore, these candidates deserve it.

    Dems, don't be scared off the impeachment trail. Embrace it and use it -- as they did.
    This news is a month old but still relevant. The administration's war against the environment and related gutting of the EPA continues. Why don't the Dems point out this alarming trend to voters?
    The Environmental Protection Agency intends to close labs, cut its cadre of upper-level scientists and reduce regulatory oversight, according to an internal agency document.
    On August 28th, I wrote, "The primary schedule appears to favor him [Edwards] over her [Hillary]. Did the Dems reshuffle the order on purpose to screw her and stack the deck in Edwards' favor? And I wonder how this new schedule would favor Gore....?"

    In the September 11th/18th issue of The New Republic, Peter Beinart wrote:
    A week ago, the DNC approved what the Los Angeles Times called "the most significant change in the presidential nominating process in years."
    Under the new system, the Iowa caucuses still go first. But, rather than keeping New Hampshire second, the party has squeezed Nevada in between -- which actually enhances Iowa's power. In 2004, John Kerry came out of Iowa with so much momentum that he sewed up the nomination before voters in subsequent states had time to catch their breath. But Kerry's rivals at least had the eight days between Iowa and New Hampshire to slow him down. In 2008, by contrast, Nevada will vote a mere five days after the Hawkeye State -- which makes it even more likely to prove rubber stamp.
    Yes, I reiterate that it appears as if the DNC has rigged the primary schedule in favor of Edwards -- or a candidate very much like Edwards -- over Hillary. I imagine Ms. Clinton cannot publicly cry foul over this fairly overt modification because she doesn't want to come off as weak and she doesn't want to bite the party that feeds her. But that still doesn't make it right or fair with regards to historical consistency.

    Hillary will have many obstacles to overcome in her race to the White House -- perhaps the biggest being Howard Dean.
    Katherine Harris is trailing Bill Nelson by a 61%-33% count. Yeah, an absolute blowout. But what's amazing is not that Nelson leads by a mile, but that 33% side with Harris! Who are these people? Harris has conducted about as bad a campaign as one could ever manage, filled with key staffing departures, money problems, outrageous statements from Harris, etc. etc.

    Notice her polling figure is about equal to GW's lowest figure. Somewhere in this country are about 1/3 of the voting population that will side with the likes of GW and Harris no matter what happens in the world, no matter what they say or do, no matter how off the deep end they may appear to have gone. There exists a zombie faction that will always vote for the "R" -- a truly sad fact. But hey, there's one other option that doesn't involve the unthinkable to them (voting "D"): just stay at home on Election Day.

    Sunday, October 15, 2006

    Today from Congressional Quarterly:

    Recent Rating Changes Point to a November ‘Nightmare’ for GOP

    Saturday, October 14, 2006

    From Thomas Friedman's latest column:
    James Carville, the legendary Clinton campaign adviser who coined the slogan, “It’s the economy, stupid,” knows a gut issue when he sees one. So when Mr. Carville contacted me the other day to tell me about the newest gut issue his polling was turning up for candidates in the 2006 elections, I was all ears.

    “Energy independence,” he said. “It’s now the No. 1 national security issue. ... It’s become kind of a joke with us, because no matter how we ask the question, that’s what comes up.”

    So, for instance, the Democracy Corps, a Democratic strategy group spearheaded by Mr. Carville and the former Clinton pollster Stan Greenberg, asked the following question in an Aug. 27 survey of likely voters: “Which of the following would you say should be the two most important national security priorities for the administration and Congress over the next few years?”

    Coming in No. 1, with 42 percent, was “reducing dependence on foreign oil.” Coming in a distant second at 26 percent was “combating terrorism.” Coming in third at 25 percent was “the war in Iraq,” and tied at 21 percent were “securing our ports, nuclear plants and chemical factories” and “addressing dangerous countries like Iran and North Korea.” “Strengthening America’s military” drew 12 percent. Mr. Carville also noted that because their polls are of “likely voters,” they have a slight Republican bias — i.e., they aren’t just polling a bunch of liberal greens.
    And since GW's declaration that the U.S. should become less dependent on foreign oil, what exactly has Bush/Cheney done to break this addiction? (Also, notice Bush only uttered this statement when gas at the pump went over $3, thus pissing off potential voters.) John Kerry recently said:
    “Today President Bush again talked about our oil addiction. His preferred policy has been to feed the addiction; his attitude on greenhouse gases is to let them increase; his energy alternatives are token; and again and again his approach to crisis is to denigrate the environment. Mr. President, the people know the truth: America is not addicted to oil because it wants to be. Washington is addicted to oil because that’s the way powerful interests want it to be and Republican Washington has helped them every step of the way.”
    Anything Bush/Cheney has done has been in small, hardly significant amounts. It's all token stuff so that they can claim they're doing something, but make no mistake they're not going to the mat to break this dependence like they went to the mat to secure tax cuts.

    As Carville advises, Dems should run hard on this issue. They should show film footage of Bush hugging Saudis and pictures of him holding hands. They should make these images the equivalent of Lieberman's "The Kiss," and they should link it to the environment (alternative, cleaner energy), which always polls very high (70+%) with voters.
    The wingnuts tried to describe Bill Clinton's appearance on FOX a few weeks ago as him having a tirade; watch it, you'll see it was not.

    In fact, if you want to see a politician losing his sh*t, take a look at this video of Rick Santorum, who recently just lost it on TV vs. his opponent Casey. Santorum has been desperate, attacking with tons of negative ads, but this video shows him to be beyond panic-mode. It's as if he can't tolerate at all the thought that he might lose and not wield power in DC. When he loses, tune in to watch his concession speech, it should be quite colorful.
    Will the coalition soon be a nation of one?
    Britain's top army commander said the presence of British troops in Iraq was exacerbating security problems on the ground and they should be withdrawn soon, according to a British newspaper.

    General Sir Richard Dannatt also told the Daily Mail in an interview published on Friday that Britain's Iraq venture was aggravating the security threat elsewhere in the world.

    In unusually blunt comments for a serving senior officer, Dannatt said the troops should "get … out sometime soon because our presence exacerbates the security problems."
    Hmm, seems Dannatt agrees with the NIE report....

    Friday, October 13, 2006

    It really should not be shocking to learn that GW/Rove/Cheney were playing the religious right for suckers all along. The script: Do as little as possible to get their vote, throw them red meat every now and then, lots of red-faced rhetoric, promise and promise again, always make them stare at the alternative (the "evil" Dems) -- but in the end, use them abuse them, don't respect them, don't take them seriously, call them "nuts."

    This entire reality was crystallized with that endorsement I cite above on my blog, when GW willfully chose the pro-choice candidate (Specter) over the pro-life candidate (Toomey), thus siding with politics over religious convictions. Again, this should not surprise anyone -- with half a brain, residing in the reality/fact-based community.
    "This time I'm really, really, really angry!! I mean it!!!"

    From Dan Froomkin:
    Yesterday, Bush was asked directly: "What is the red line for North Korea, given what has happened over the past few months?" He ducked the question entirely.

    This is particularly troubling in the context of Bush having made a slew of what now sound an awful lot like empty threats against North Korea in the past (while, of course, attacking and occupying a country that didn't actually have WMDs at all.)

    Has Bush lost his ability to be taken seriously on the world stage? How much is an American ultimatum worth these days?
    Other countries like North Korea have probably figured out by now that Iraq was a unique situation, a war of choice by GW/Cheney that required little if any provocation. By many accounts, it was a done deal before 9/11, it's just that the tragedy on that day made for the going to Iraq that much easier (at least in terms of the selling).

    But again, as for countries that actually do have WMD and dare to provoke, nothing happens. Lots of threats and kicking of dirt, but like school yard bullies (and GW/Cheney are school yard bullies), they eventually back down, reluctantly but they do. Heaven forbid if they actually used their brain and instead had a well thought out plan ahead of time, as opposed to relying on empty bravado and intimidation.

    GW/Cheney thrust their chests and posture, while Rome burns....
    John McCain attempts a Rove-like slime-slap at the Clintons regarding North Korea, but Fred Kaplan pretty much shows the entire premise of his attack to be ass-backwards wrong.

    Is this how McCain plans to confront Hillary come 2008, linking her with Bill's policies and decisions, and then distorting it? Oh boy.

    Wednesday, October 11, 2006

    A jaw-dropping story in today's Washington Post:
    A team of American and Iraqi epidemiologists estimates that 655,000 more people have died in Iraq since coalition forces arrived in March 2003 than would have died if the invasion had not occurred.
    Given the population of Iraq is nearly 27 million, the 655,000 figure is equivalent to approximately 7,300,000 dead in U.S. population terms!
    Regarding Foleygate, Andrew Sullivan makes a good point:
    There is something deeply sick about a Republican elite that is comfortable around gay people, dependent on gay people, staffed by gay people -- and yet also rests on brutal exploitation of homophobia to win elections at the base.
    Yep Andy, that's your chosen party. Go figure.
    From the Washington Post, "Since George W. Bush became president, North Korea has restarted its nuclear reactor and increased its stock of weapons-grade plutonium, so it may now have enough for 10 or 11 weapons, compared with one or two when Bush took office."

    And yet Steve Benen notes that John McCain decides to play politics and criticizes Bill Clinton's North Korean policy. In response, Benen writes,
    Right, Clinton's policy was a 'failure.' That would be the policy that led to no new North Korean nuclear weapons, on-site U.N. weapons inspectors, IAEA cameras, and an easing of tensions? Maybe John McCain can explain something to us — if Clinton's policy was a "failure," how exactly should we describe Bush's policy?
    Let's see, under Bush's watch, and following a foreign policy embraced enthusiastically by Republicans in Congress, North Korea has dramatically increased its weapons material stockpiles, withdrew from the Non Proliferation Treaty, threw out U.N. weapons inspectors, tested numerous missiles, and detonated a bomb. All of things the president said he would not allow to happen, have happened.
    Atrios cites the following:
    "Two leading Republican Senators have come to me," [Sen. Joe] Biden recalled, and said that after the election "the need to protect the president will be nonexistent" and Republicans will be freer to break with the White House.
    Regardless of this election outcome, get ready for Republicans to finally start pushing back hard against GW/Cheney, with some even jumping ship completely.

    We might be able to save the country yet....
    The news just keeps getting better on the polling front -- not just the USA Today poll reported yesterday, but for all polls:
    A Capitol Hill sex scandal has reinforced public doubts about Republican leadership and pushed Democrats to a huge lead in the race for control of Congress four weeks before Election Day, the latest USA TODAY/Gallup Poll shows.

    Democrats had a 23-point lead over Republicans in every group of people questioned — likely voters, registered voters and adults — on which party's House candidate would get their vote. That's double the lead Republicans had a month before they seized control of Congress in 1994 and the Democrats' largest advantage among registered voters since 1978.

    Nearly three in 10 registered voters said their representative doesn't deserve re-election — the highest level since 1994. President Bush's approval rating was 37% in the new poll, down from 44% in a Sept. 15-17 poll. And for the first time since the question was asked in 2002, Democrats did better than Republicans on who would best handle terrorism, 46%-41%.

    "It's hard to see how the climate is going to shift dramatically between now and Election Day," said John Pitney, a former GOP aide on Capitol Hill who now teaches at Claremont-McKenna College in California.
    I recently wrote about some very encouraging trends regarding independents, and two days ago Paul Glastris mentioned similar such observations reported by Ruy Teixiera. Ruy states that Dems have a 14-15 point lead among independent voters and that:
    As far back as I can get data (1982), the Democrats have never had a lead among independents larger than 4 points in an actual election, a level they managed to achieve in both 1986 and 1990. Indeed, since 1990, they’ve lost independents in every congressional election: by 14 points in 1994; by 4 points in 1998; and by 2 points in 2002. So, even leaving questions of relative partisan turnout aside (and I suspect the Democrats will do better, not worse, in this respect in 2006), the implications of a strong Democratic lead among independents in this year’s election, if it holds, are huge.
    From ISI Group, a firm widely respected on Wall Street: "We're raising from 35% to 40% our odds that Democrats take the Senate and keeping our odds at 60% that Democrats take the House."

    Monday, October 09, 2006

    In today's column, Paul Krugman writes about the paranoia of the GOP:
    According to the right, things didn’t go wrong because the invasion was a mistake, or because Donald Rumsfeld didn’t send enough troops, or because the occupation was riddled with cronyism and corruption. No, it’s all because the good guys were stabbed in the back. Democrats, who undermined morale with their negative talk, and the liberal media, which refused to report the good news from Iraq, are responsible for the quagmire.

    You might think it would be harder to claim that traitors are aiding our foreign enemies today than it was during the McCarthy era, when domestic liberals and Communist regimes could be portrayed as part of a vast left-wing conspiracy. What does the domestic enemy, which Bill O’Reilly identifies as the “secular-progressive movement,” have to do with the religious fanatics who attacked America five years ago?

    But that’s easy: according to Mr. O’Reilly, “Osama bin Laden and his cohorts have got to be cheering on the S-P movement,” because “both outfits believe that the United States of America is fundamentally a bad place.”

    Which brings us back to the Foley affair. The immediate response by nearly everyone in the Republican establishment — wild claims, without a shred of evidence behind them, that the whole thing is a Democratic conspiracy — may sound crazy. But that response is completely in character for a movement that from the beginning has been dominated by the paranoid style. And here’s the scary part: that movement runs our government.
    Indeed, many on the right are paranoid megalomaniacs, but perhaps most Americans are not paranoid enough. Instead of believing these guys are capable of anything to retain power, the public just sensibly assumes, "Oh no, they couldn't have done that!" or "No, I don't believe it, what person would ever do that?!" Believe it people.

    On TNR's "The Plank," Chris Orr writes:
    Can Republicans really have dug so deep into their spider hole of paranoia and entitlement that they can't even imagine having done anything wrong without it somehow being the fault of Democrats? Or has their own experience in hyping fabricated scandals (see Swift Boats, etc.) led them to believe there's no other kind?
    One could argue the Republicans are simply practicing the lie-and-deceive tactics they've used to stay in power for years. To a point, who can blame them since the uninformed public (thanks to the lax media and wet-noodle Dems) allowed the Swift Boat crap to work so well? Go ahead and accuse Bill Clinton of having a fit on FOX (not!), but he's always known how to effectively fight back against their slime attempts.

    Will the public and media allow Foleygate to be Swift Boated? Stay tuned.
    Still not sure if Foleygate has traction and is having an impact on electoral races?
    James Baker, a longtime Bush family ally and advisor, will reportedly recommend a best-case option for Iraq that is quite different from GW's bankrupt "stay the course" line:
    U.S. troops engaged in ferocious clashes with militiamen loyal to anti-American cleric Moqtada al-Sadr in southern Iraq on Sunday, ratcheting up tensions between two of the most powerful forces in the country.

    The pre-dawn battles in the city of Diwaniyah, where the U.S. military said American and Iraqi forces killed 30 fighters, come amid growing concern by senior U.S. officials that the Iraqi government lacks the political will to tackle the militias and death squads threatening to plunge the country into civil war.
    In Washington, James A. Baker III, the Republican co-chairman of a bipartisan commission tasked by Congress with assessing U.S. options in Iraq, suggested that the panel would recommend a departure from President Bush's calls to "stay the course."
    Along with Brent Scowcroft, who said Iraq is a "failing venture," we can now include another close Bush family associate as one who has decided to part ways with GW's strident, doomed position. But of course, Baker's announcement is expected not to come until after the November elections.
    The Army's four-star retired General Barry McCaffrey strongly urges a new direction be taken with Iraq (however, note that even the good general appears to admit that nothing will change or get done prior to the November election; politics trumps all):
    As the Bush administration warns Americans we must stay the course in Iraq, a retired four-star Army general believes a course correction is vital and must come soon after the election.

    "That strategy has started to unravel," Gen. Barry McCaffrey said. "We've seen 23,000 Americans killed or wounded. Our allies are abandoning us with that strategy. And the U.S. Army cannot sustain the current level of deployment."

    The war is gobbling up at least $7 billion a month, while the U.S. is denuding its armed forces elsewhere.

    "We are putting ourselves at enormous strategic risk," McCaffrey, a part-time Seattle resident, added in an interview.
    The cost of the war is soaring at a time when additional threats loom, from the Korean Peninsula to Iran. In McCaffrey's view, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld is "in complete denial of what is before our eyes."
    At this point, I don't believe even Rumsfeld's mother would have a nice thing to say about him.
    You've all heard by now that GW's brief bout with above-40% poll numbers (mainly due to fifth anniversary 9/11 sentiment) is over.

    Time just came out with 36%, but for those who repeatedly blabber about cherry-picking the worst poll numbers, oh let's see, Pew Research latest is 37%, AP-Ipsos has 38%, and Newsweek has 33%(!). So let's call it 33%-38%, or below that already pathetic "key" level of 40%. Even worse, in the Time poll, 65% disapprove of GW's handling of the war and 54% believe he deliberately misled the country in making the case for war (Newsweek has it at 58%).

    Bush has made it his mantra to try with all his might to link Iraq to the war on terror. Well if 65% disapprove of his handling of Iraq, then I imagine nearly two-thirds of the country disapprove of his handling of the war on terror. That should be huge come November. And the 54%-58% that believe Bush lied, again lied, to get us into this mess, the trend of that number has been in the right direction (up) but still should be much higher.

    In addition to all this encouraging news, apparently the "God gap" is shrinking (thank heavens!):
    In 2004, white evangelical or born-again Christians made up a quarter of the electorate, and 78 percent of them voted Republican, according to exit polls. But some pollsters believe that evangelical support for the GOP peaked two years ago and that what has been called the "God gap" in politics is shrinking.

    A nationwide poll of 1,500 registered voters released yesterday by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center found that 57 percent of white evangelicals are inclined to vote for Republican congressional candidates in the midterm elections, a 21-point drop in support among this critical part of the GOP base.

    Even before the Foley scandal, the portion of white evangelicals with a "favorable" impression of the Republican Party had fallen sharply this year, from 63 percent to 54 percent, according to Pew polls.

    In the latest survey, taken in the last 10 days of September and the first four days of October, the percentage of evangelicals who think that Republicans govern "in a more honest and ethical way" than Democrats has plunged to 42 percent, from 55 percent at the start of the year.

    Saturday, October 07, 2006

    From a story in yesterday's Washington Post:
    The White House and top House Republicans remain deeply nervous that the scandal will hurt them politically, and that additional information will come out contradicting statements by Hastert and others that they were unaware of Foley's sexual messages to underage boys, the lawmakers and officials said.
    Does not fearing "additional information will come out contradicting statements by Hastert" imply that such additional information likely exists? After all, if you're innocent and telling the truth, you should have nothing to fear, right? Hmm....
    Several federal judges across the country have recently ruled against the administration regarding environmental laws:
    Using language that suggests they are fed up with the Bush administration, federal judges across the West have issued a flurry of rulings in recent weeks, chastising the government for repeated and sometimes willful failure to enforce laws protecting fish, forests, wildlife and clean air.

    In decisions in Oregon, California, Montana and Wyoming, judges have criticized the judgment, expertise and, in some cases, integrity of the federal agencies that manage natural resources on public lands.

    The rulings come at a time when an emerging bipartisan coalition of western politicians, hunters, anglers and homeowners has joined conservation groups in objecting to the rapid pace and environmental consequences of President Bush's policies for energy extraction on federal land.

    Specialists in environmental law cite a noticeable increase in the number of recent court rulings in which federal judges in the West have ruled against the administration, using blunt language that shows impatience and annoyance.

    "You are seeing frustration in the federal judiciary," said Dan Rohlf, a law professor at Lewis & Clark Law School, in Portland, Ore. The law school has the nation's oldest environmental law program. "When judges express that frustration on paper, which is not all that often, they are often reflecting what they see as a systematic effort to get around the law."
    Let's hope this trend continues and picks up steam. If congress is not going to do anything to curtail the unbridled power of the executive branch, perhaps the many sitting judges across this land can one by one do something to preserve our Constitution -- as well as the environment!
    Charles Gabriel, head of Washington research for the Wall Street firm Prudential, wrote this yesterday:
    In the wake of the House page scandal, we are raising our odds of a Democratic House takeover to two in three (from 55 percent), while also predicting near-even (45 percent) chances for the Dems to retake the Senate. We also see the correspondingly higher odds of a control shift in BOTH chambers -- now 40 percent (from 30 percent).
    After a pretty good month of September for the GOP, the scandal has visibly thrown the party off message, and threatens to: 1) dominate precious remaining daily news cycles leading up to Election Day; 2) further demoralize the Republicans' religious/conservative base; 3) essentially cede to the Democrats Foley's previously invulnerable seat, if not others; and 4) finally put an edge on Dems' "culture of corruption" campaign themes that the alleged transgressions of Abramoff, DeLay, Ney, Cunningham, and others had failed to do.
    And mind you, Wall Street strategists typically err or lean to the side of the Republicans, i.e. they're usually understating any negative GOP news or odds....

    Friday, October 06, 2006

  • Need any more proof that FOX is a dishonest, partisan organization? Caught repeatedly labeling Foley as "(D-FL)" instead of the correct "(R-FL)". If for every Republican gone bad they'd like to simply re-label a Dem, congress would've been bursting at the seams with "D"'s a long time ago....

  • Another must-see Olbermann commentary. Watch it, excellent stuff. My favorite line, "Why have you chosen to go down in history as the president who made things up?" And based on the seething roll Keith is on of late, you may not get the chance to see/hear him much longer (word is his bosses lean hard right....).

  • This Washington Post article summarizes most of the circulating conspiracy theories about the administration pulling out all the stops to drive down gas prices at the pump. Unlike most conspiracies which are based on quotes from anonymous sources and typically require a few leaps of faith, these theories do not. I'm particularly intrigued by the Goldman Sachs (new Treasury Secretary Paulson is from Goldman)"mysterious" change in their commodity index, setting off billions of dollars in selling of gas futures, causing a domino effect in other commodities. Hmm, what a coincidence, luring Goldman's top-dog to take a HUGE pay cut by becoming Treasury's top-dog and then shortly thereafter Goldman Sachs makes this unexpected decision, serving to dramatically drive down gas prices (and note, the 25-year seasonal tendency for crude has been to dramatically rise in August & September)....

  • But I thought Bush and his people barely knew Jack Abramoff?
    WASHINGTON (AP) - A key aide to presidential political strategist Karl Rove resigned Friday in the wake of congressional report that listed hundreds of contacts between disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff and the White House.
  • White House deputy press secretary Dana Perino said, "The president thanked him [Hastert] for going out and making a clear public statement that said the House leadership takes responsibility and is accountable." Yeah, that's what Denny did. His statement was oh-so-clear, stating the buck stops with him but then saying he did nothing wrong, "obviously." But I ask Perino, with regards to Iraq, when will Bush make "a clear public statement that...takes responsibility and is accountable"?

  • Just comedy. Condi Rice returns from a "surprise" trip to Iraq and proclaims we're "making progress," and yet Republican Sen. John Warner returns from a similar trip at about the same time and proclaims key parts of the country have taken "steps backward." Uh, well which is it? Progress or regress? A sad, pathetic joke.
  • This guy could be the next Speaker of the House?! Gads, who's worse, Denny or Boehner? That's a tough one.
    Needless to say, with respect to the upcoming election, the Foley scandal has less to do with Foley's abhorrent, inexcusable behavior and more to do with how Republicans did not deal with the situation when they had months, years, of prior knowledge about the serious problem.

    Foleygate effectively highlights many of the more macro in size qualities we've come to realize about the modern-day version of the GOP: incompetence, denial, cover-up, blame others, dodge accountability, rampant hypocrisy, selfish preservation, politics come first, maintain power at all costs, blatantly lie, attempt to confuse the public -- the list goes on and on. And it's why they all must go.
    Woodward revealed on "60 Minutes" that Henry Kissinger is a regular presence around the White House, meeting with Cheney/Bush on a monthly basis. Sadly, Kissinger has the ear of Cheney in particular and as Woodward described, Kissinger is using Iraq as a deja vu experiment, trying to finally get the wrongs of Vietnam right through a war occurring decades later.

    Then as Maureen Dowd wrote in her recent column, "It’s been clear for years that Dick Cheney and Rummy have been using the Bush presidency like an elaborate vanity production to replay Watergate and Vietnam, and to try to reverse things that bothered them during prior stints in the Nixon and Ford administrations." So Kissinger's looking to get a re-do on Vietnam and meanwhile the Manchurian duo, Cheney/Rummy, are looking to take out their aggressions from the last ruined administration they were associated with and to this time around make the White House more like a king's palace. Madness.

    Dowd also writes:
    As Mr. Woodward notes, part of Rummy’s allure for W. was the fact that Poppy Bush considered him an arrogant, Machiavellian sort who could get you in deep doo-doo. “It was a chance,” Mr. Woodward says, “to prove his father wrong.” Or right.
    It's interesting how GW's reign continues to portray the father's presidency in an increasingly better light. The father apparently had the right instincts about Mach-daddy Rummy, and the father also knew enough to get the hell out of Iraq when he/we had the chance. I guess GW was looking to once again prove daddy wrong, believing Iraq could be made into America II. But the father also believed supply-side economics to be "voodoo science" and he responsibly raised taxes when he was forced with a situation that required fiscal prudence. Oh, and these days, it appears as if the father gets along with Bill Clinton better than sonny boy GW, with that charity thing they run together and much buzzed about rumors that GW and Papa hardly ever speak.

    So the father can at least thank his son for making his less-than-stellar stint at President look better in a relative sense (at the expense of we Americans). But then again, in due time GW will make Harding look like FDR.

    Thursday, October 05, 2006


    From Dan Froomkin:
    President Bush is careening around the country, feverishly campaigning for Republican congressional candidates and unleashing highly provocative accusations against his Democratic critics.

    But nobody really cares.

    The only thing anyone wants to hear from the president right now is his reaction to the Congressional page-sex scandal revolving around former representative Mark Foley and rapidly enveloping the GOP House leadership.

    On top of that, the public doesn't trust him. A fresh round of polls shows that most Americans think Bush has been intentionally misleading about the progress in Iraq, they oppose his war there, and they don't think it's making them safer. His approval rating is back down to a dismal 39 percent.

    And establishment Washington has finally and conclusively written him off as being in a state of denial.

    Wednesday, October 04, 2006

    I trust everyone is doing their best to keep current on Foleygate. Admittedly, the amount of news flow on this matter is daunting and it doesn't help that the GOP can't seem to decide on one bogus story to run with, so instead we have name calling, finger pointing, lots of "I can't seem to recall" bullsh*t, etc. Looks like Rove needs to get the boys in a back room and as per usual hand out the scripts / talking points. With Hastert saying one thing about the emails, only to flip moments later, and Reynolds' potential knowledge of the emails (via his chief of staff) only to then cover it up (??), and Boehner has changed his story more times than a traffic light in Times Square -- you see what happens when these guys don't have Papa Rove to guide them?

    Even the rampant rightwing Washington Times has demanded Hastert resign. What next, the NY Post demanding the same?? As much as Hastert's job is in jeopardy, the GOP powers-that-be will have him weather the storm up to the election and then soon after -- assuming they maintain control of power (an increasing longshot) -- they'll likely dump him.

    But this Tony Snow.... Who would've thought we'd miss McClellan? Can a press secretary get any more smug and condescending, while at the same time utter "clever" statements that only have to be clarified and retooled later? He described Foley's emails as "simply naughty." So Clinton's consensual indiscretion is nation-shattering, five-alarm-fire depravity that threatened the very moral core of our existence; yet repugnant, sex-filled emails sent to minors from an apparent sexual predator in the House, well that's "simply naughty."

    Does the hypocrisy of the Republican Party need to be spelled out any clearer for the American public?! Wake up Kansas.
    Incredible. That whirlwind of brilliant, consistent thought, Sen. Bill Frist, now believes that the Taliban should be brought into the formal government of Afghanistan, thus effectively legitimizing them.
    The Tennessee Republican said he learned from briefings that Taliban fighters were too numerous and had too much popular support to be defeated on the battlefield.
    So because they are too numerous and too popular, Frist is giving up, appeasing -- where is Bush/Cheney and the GOP machine to scold him and label him traitor?

    Invade and bomb non-9/11-associated Iraq, but empower the 9/11-responsible Taliban? Just too much.
    "Congress has never been faced with so many criminal corruption scandals at once." -- NY Daily News, 10/3/06

    Truer words have never been said. (But I thought six years ago GW was supposed to come in and clean up Washington....?)

    Monday, October 02, 2006

    Josh Marshall writes:
    Foleygate has made it very hard for the leaders of the House GOP to go on the offensive on anything relevant to the election. For political purposes they're basically out of commission. And they've given Democratic challengers in every district around the country a slew of questions with which to pummel GOP incumbents or any Republican, for that matter, who puts his head up on television. This is in the context of an election that was already going very badly for House Republicans. Foleygate has now made them all but politically defenseless in the final stretch of the campaign. And that is a very big deal.
    First, we recently witnessed three GOP senators stand up to (for a while anyway) GW regarding torture. Now we see GOP House members pointing the finger at each other regarding Foley's emails. We've seen at least a few Republicans recently call for Rumsfeld's resignation. In his column today, Paul Krugman lists examples of Republican politicians bad-mouthing religious right leaders -- something unthinkable not too long ago.

    Folks, by all accounts the Republican Party is imploding, fast and furious. Built like a house of cards, it was just a matter of time.
    "Where'’s The Religious Right on Rep. Foley?"

    Excellent question.

    UPDATE: Josh Marshall writes, "Dobson on Foleygate: The fault of an 'oversexualized' society, not House leadership."

    How righteous, blame society, not the person.
    Just when you think they've sunk as low as possible, they sink even lower:
    On MSNBC we learn from Mike Viqueria that it's all just the Democrats trying to use this as an election stunt and kids were routinely warned about LOTS of Congressmen, Tony Snow says on behalf of the President it's nothing more than a few off-color emails, Dennis Hastert thinks the important thing to investigate is who leaked the IMs in the first place (probably a danger to national security), and now Matt Drudge says — yes, wait for it — it's the kid's fault for (I kid you not) "Egging the Congressman On" (says the Eggman).
    Please please listen to these Matt Drudge radio clips at Crooks & Liars, because this is where the GOP Protection Racket that Hastert has run for years is going with this. Drudge is, after all, their flagship:
    Clip #1: And if anything, these kids are less innocent — these 16 and 17 year-old beasts…and I've seen what they're doing on YouTube and I've seen what they're doing all over the internet — oh yeah — you just have to tune into any part of their pop culture. You're not going to tell me these are innocent babies. Have you read the transcripts that ABC posted going into the weekend of these instant messages, back and forth? The kids are egging the Congressman on! The kids are trying to get this out of him. We haven't got the whole story on this.
    I'm sorry but this really does take the cake for just about the worst thing I've ever seen the right wing try to apologize for. Isn't that what pedophiles always say? It's the kid's fault for seducing them? Right. And it gets better. Back to you Matt:
    Clip #2: You could say "well Drudge, it's abuse of power, a congressman abusing these impressionable, young 17 year-old beasts, talking about their sex lives with a grown man, on the internet." Because you have to remember, those of us who have seen some of the transcripts of these nasty instant messages. This was two ways, ladies and gentlemen. These kids were playing Foley for everything he was worth. Oh yeah. Oh, I haven't…they were talking about how many times they'd masturbated, how many times they'd done it with their girlfriends this weekend…all these things and these "innocent children." And this "poor" congressman sitting there typing, "oh am I going to get any," you know?
    I swear I am not making this up. Listen to it. Drudge is so fucking sick it's really, really disturbing, but to know he's doing it on behalf of the official Bush-Hastert-Boehner-Reynolds GOP coverup is the truly demented part.

    No limits to how low they will go. Absolutely no limits.

    (from Firedoglake.com)