The Daily Sandwich

"We have to learn the lesson that intellectual honesty is fundamental for everything we cherish." -Sir Karl Popper

Location: Boston, Massachusetts, United States


Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Checking in with Charlie

Although Charlie Cook wrote as recently as the 28th that Republicans' electoral fortunes seemed to be making a slight uptick, but it looked to him like they would "probably" lose the House, and maybe the Senate as well.

Yesterday, he was revising that estimate down even further.

With the election just eight days away, there are no signs that this wave is abating. Barring a dramatic event, we are looking at the prospect of GOP losses in the House of at least 20 to 35 seats, possibly more, and at least four in the Senate, with five or six most likely.

If independents vote in fairly low numbers, as is customary in midterm elections, losses in the House will be on the lower end of that range. But if they turn out at a higher than normal level, their strong preference for Democrats in most races would likely push the GOP House losses to or above the upper levels.

We'll see. Like many people out there, I'm still pretty gunshy after the last couple of elections. But Halloween doesn't have to be all scares.

Allen supporters get physical with critic

Things got ugly at a Virginia campaign stop when George Allen was making his exit. A University of Virginia law student was reportedly trying to ask Allen some questions about his first wife, but reports disagree on the man's temperament. From the reports that have emerged, it seems safe to say he was getting loud, but not violent. That came later.

And that's where the news cameras come in-- three supporters of Allen accosted the man and actually wrestled him to the floor. Video is at the title link, but you might need Internet Explorer and Media Player to watch it.

"Pay to play" hits the courts-- and the White House

Maybe the GOP doesn't have an ideological litmus test for federal judges. It could just be about the money.

At least two dozen federal judges appointed by President Bush since 2001 made political contributions to key Republicans or to the president himself while under consideration for their judgeships, government records show. A four-month investigation of Bush-appointed judges by the Center for Investigative Reporting reveals that six appellate court judges and 18 district court judges contributed a total of more than $44,000 to politicians who were influential in their appointments. Some gave money directly to Bush after he officially nominated them. Other judges contributed to Republican campaign committees while they were under consideration for a judgeship.

Republicans who received money from judges en route to the bench include Sens. Arlen Specter and Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, Sens. George Voinovich and Mike DeWine of Ohio, and Gov. George Pataki of New York.

Kerry runs afoul of GOP desperation

Poor John Kerry. During the presidential campaign he was constantly dumped on for being too meek, and now that he speaks his mind the Republicans are swarming him with their customary feigned outrage.

The offense:

The Massachusetts senator, who is considering another presidential run in 2008, had opened his speech [Monday] at Pasadena City College with several one-liners, joking at one point that Bush had lived in Texas but now "lives in a state of denial."

Then he said: "You know, education, if you make the most of it, you study hard, you do your homework and you make an effort to be smart, you can do well. If you don't, you get stuck in Iraq."

Quiz time! Was Kerry's remark:

A. A cutting remark on the tendency of wars to consume the poor and minorities?
B. A jab at the current administration for their spotless record of avoiding service?
C. An intentional insult aimed at everyone who's ever served in the military?

It's been going back and forth since the remarks were delivered yesterday, with Tony Snow, John Boehner and even the increasingly shameless JohnMcCain taking shots at Kerry-- and Kerry refusing to apologize, particularly to the "stuffed shirt White House mouthpiece."

Although the most extensive coverage of the dust-up is provided by Fox News, they couldn't resist tacking on a headline that deliberately distorts Kerry's quip-- and tortures the language: "Kerry's Reloads in Dogfight Over Snipe at Troops in Iraq."

I'd love to know if they have some sort of Bureau of Ideological Purity that writes that stuff.

Still getting uglier

And who's there to drag us further into the muck but the man who can't shut up about his Christian faith and charity, Rick "Spreading" Santorum? Watching Republicans pull out all the stops as they grow increasingly nervous about the election would be funny if they weren't actually running the government.

Santorum did not cite specific examples but referred to a report by the Center for Security Policy, a conservative think tank that has pushed for divestment from companies doing business in terror-sponsoring nations.

"Bob Casey has invested Pennsylvania pension funds in companies with ties to terrorist-sponsoring states and states that engage in genocide," Santorum said. "Bob Casey is aiding and abetting terrorism and genocide."

Casey has called on investment managers to assess whether any companies in their holdings have business in terrorist-sponsoring countries, Smar said. The issue is one facing treasurers across the country.

Casey isn't what you'd call an ideal candidate, but I don't think "pro-genocide" is on his list of character flaws.

Could it be pod people?

Something you just don't expect to hear these days is another government's leaders aping the White House. On the other hand, cooperating with BushCo has gone a long way toward ruining Tony Blair's career, so why stop now?

Tony Blair faces the risk of a humiliating Commons defeat today over his refusal to allow a wide-ranging inquiry into the crisis in Iraq. The Tories, Liberal Democrats and as many as 40 Labour rebels are threatening to support a nationalist demand for a parliamentary examination of the war and its aftermath.

The suggestion of any investigation is being fiercely opposed by Downing Street, which argues that it would undermine the British forces and give succour to Iraqi insurgents.

Monday, October 30, 2006

A few more trips to the well... OF FEAR!!!

Ahhhhh, to return to the 1980's. Back in those days, if you questioned right-wing politics you were just labeled a communist. At least, that was the case on my school's playground. These days the default refuge of reactionaries confronted with uncomfortable facts is a little more charged.

Lynne Cheney joined their ranks last Friday by asking Wolf Blitzer if maybe he wasn't harboring some terrorist sympathies. Blitzer, who isn't exactly known for hard-hitting journalism, was shocked and took some time to respond.

Husband Dick? He was so impressed with his wife ("You're so beautiful when you demagogue!") that they came up with a pet name for it. Then he showed her how it's really done:

Today on Fox News’ Your World With Neil Cavuto, Vice President Dick Cheney said it was his belief that insurgents were increasing their violence to try to influence the midterm elections. (. . .)

Media Matters, citing Ron Suskind’s One Percent Doctrine, notes that CIA analysts concluded that bin Laden’s message in the days before the Nov. 2004 contest "was clearly designed to assist the President's reelection."

Family values-- specifically, the gay porn kind

To be honest, I'm pretty sick of doing stories on 'family values' hypocrisy from the right. Even choosing a couple of lowlights is hard because of the sheer variety-- contorted language like 'tax relief''? The orgy of special interest money? War profiteering in Iraq as they've cut veterans' benefits? Aggressive courting of bigoted and militant 'Christians'?

At least you can still divine the truth by remembering a few simple maxims:

* If they say one thing, the opposite is true.
* If they accuse others of it, they're doing it themselves.

Last week, you'll remember, the RNC, headed by Ken Mehlman, was running that race-baiting 'bimbo' ad against Rep. Harold Ford (D) down in Tennessee. One of the barbs in that ad was the claim that Ford had taken political contributions from "porn movie producers."

But it seems there is plenty of porn movie producer money to go around.

It turns out that the Republican National Committee is a regular recipient of political contributions from Nicholas T. Boyias, the owner and CEO of Marina Pacific Distributors, one of the largest producers and distributors of gay porn in the United States. This recent article on Marina Pacific's new marketing campaign form XBiz, a porn industry trade sheet, notes that, in addition to producing its own material, the "company acts as a distribution house to hundreds of lines, mostly gay, 40 of which can be purchased only through MPD."

George Allen, Jim Webb, fact, and fiction

Just a couple of months ago, George Allen was considered a solid contender for the 2008 presidential election and all set to coast to victory as Virginia's next senator. Then there were complications, as Allen's creepy history on racial issues-- already public record but now all over the news-- exploded on the airwaves. Allen seemed to dig himself in deeper every time he opened his mouth, and the word is that his campaign's new tactic is to keep him very, very far away from reporters.

Tactic two has been to accuse his opponent, Jim Webb, of writing smutty books. Yes, that's hypocrisy you're smelling. Most of you are probably familiar with Lynne Cheney's lesbian romance Sisters, and Scooter Libby's novel that features a caged bear trained(!) to do the nasty with pre-adolescent girls.

But someone out there seems to have come up with a new headache for Allen:

I just got off the phone with the clerk at the Albemarle Circuit Court. She has told me that a photo now floating around the internet -- one which shows a court entry for one "George Felix Allen" in 1974 -- represents real court records. (. . .)

What is the record for? The clerk, Shelby Marshall, told me that the record is not necessarily of an arrest warrant, though it could have been. She said the record could be reflecting anything from a summons for an unpaid parking ticket all the way up to an arrest warrant for a misdemeanor for something like assault and battery, and that she doesn't have any more information.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Oh, yeah? Well this is you-- Duhhhh, duhhhh...

Using an isolated incident-- like, say, the Michael J. Fox/Rush Limbaugh coverage after the Missouri stem-cell ads-- to illustrate the sheer grotesquerie of right-wing punditry is old hat.

But this particular incident nicely showcases just what it is that so baffles us progressives about the state of political discourse. Fox has been nothing but a class act, while Limbaugh has stuck with childish theatrics and cries of foul play.

As Ann Coulter did with 9/11 widows, Limbaugh is claiming that Democrats face an issue by trotting out a victim, thereby denying others the chance to imitate those afflicted with Parkinson's disease... errr, I mean engage in rational debate.

Fox's response on the Today show was admirable, but shouldn't have been necessary:

His body visibly wracked by tremors, Fox appears in a political ad touting Missouri Democratic Senate candidate Claire McCaskill's stance in favor of embryonic stem cell research. That prompted Limbaugh to speculate that Fox was "either off his medication or acting."

Fox told Couric, "At this point now, if I didn't take medication I wouldn't be able to speak."

He said he appeared in the ad only to advance his cause, and that "disease is a non-partisan problem that requires a bipartisan solution."

"I don't really care about politics," Fox added. "We want to appeal to voters to elect the people that are going to give us a margin, so we can't be vetoed again."

The irony is that I was too medicated. I was dyskenesic," Fox told Couric. "Because the thing about … being symptomatic is that it's not comfortable. No one wants to be symptomatic; it's like being hit with a hammer."
As Fox himself noted, he isn't a "victim." He's a citizen advocating a particular cause of personal significance to him. Unless I'm mistaken, that's how participatory government is supposed to work. On the other hand, there's something fairly appealing about excluding oil companies from the debate on energy. Same difference, right?

Too Many Daves

It must be pretty cool to have the leader of your political party put in a personal appearance and campaign for you on your home turf. The recognition, the infusion of money-- I think that'd be the neatest thing in the world... or my name isn't Paul Sandwich. Sadly, the press accounts give it pretty short shrift-- are Fearless Leader's moments of ineptitude just that commonplace now?

Bush swung through Des Moines, Iowa, at lunchtime to raise $400,000 for the state Republican Party and congressional candidate Jeff Lamberti, whom the president mistakenly called "Dave" throughout his speech.

That isn't much fun without a transcript, and Salon provides a bit of one:

"No doubt in my mind, with your help, Dave Lamberti will be the next United States congressman," Bush said at a Lamberti for Congress event in Des Moines. "Dave and I believe a lot of things. We believe that you ought to keep more of your own money. We believe in family values. We believe values are important. And we believe marriage is a fundamental institution of civilization."

Reader's revenge

From OhioDem1 comes word of this ad out of the state, and "our local Wille Horton ad" is a perfect description. I hope some media outlets are taking note of how many of the racially-themed ads are being funded by national Republican party organizations.

In another story from OD1, Ohio is facing (surprise!) accusations of vote suppression This is something that several Republican-controlled state legislatures have recently adopted or tried to adopt, ostensibly to prevent illegal immigrants from voting. Although there's little evidence of that, there's plenty of evidence that it would mean fewer votes from the elderly, minorities, and the poor.

Here's a link to the video of the ad against Harold Ford, sent to me by curious yellow. I'm seriously behind the curve in posting the link (busy week), but if you've heard about it without seeing it, it's well worth the time. Ham-fisted delivery, stupefyingly lame "comedy," etc.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Boston Globe in trouble. Right-wing investors licking chops

I'm fairly sick of people lamenting the decline of print newspapers as if it was the end of news itself. So I'll cut right to the most intriguing part of Martin Peretz's blog entry over at TNR, which was prompted by the Wednesday Boston Globe headline "Local Group May Bid for Globe."

. . .the leading figure in the group seeking to buy the flailing paper is quite salient. He is Jack Welch, the CEO of General Electric, a right-wing Catholic who I believe tried to have NBC, a subsidiary of GE, throw the 2000 election to George Bush. Closely associated with the potential owners is Mike Barnicle, a former columnist for the newspaper who had been pushed off the staff as a result of charges that he had fabricated a story. Many locals attribute his absence to the editors' repulsion at his populist right politics.

MA Dems with dough decide to share the wealth

There was some serious bickering going on about the wealthy Dems in safe districts who were sitting on their campaign chests rather than contributing to candidates in decidedly unsafe races. I thought some of the more vocal cries for candidates to share the wealth got a little extreme (in the 'do it now or we'll actively try to destroy you' vein), but it was an absolutely valid criticism given the circumstances of this election and the position the country is in.

The candidates in question did their best to deflect said criticism, but at least a couple have given up the ghost. And good for them, especially my own Congressman, Ed Markey. Marty Meehan, on the other hand, should be ashamed of himself.

The action follows criticism by party activists of Democrats who have hoarded campaign cash despite having safe seats, but the Massachusetts members insisted their gifts were unrelated to such pressure. Kerry, who ended the 2004 presidential campaign with about $16 million in the bank, came in for extra criticism.

Kerry and Senator Edward M. Kennedy both said they were giving $500,000 each to national Democratic committees, while Representative Edward Markey of Malden said he was giving $100,000 and Representative Michael Capuano of Somerville said he was giving $50,000.

But Representative Martin Meehan of Lowell, who has more cash on hand than any other member of the US House -- $4.9 million -- is abiding by his decision not to give any more cash directly from his campaign to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, according to spokesman Sandra Salstrom.

Meehan has said he met his obligation to pay $125,000 to the campaign committee in recommended dues, which are assessed according to leadership positions, and said others who have failed to pay in full should do so.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Rolling Stone on the "Worst Congress Ever."

Wow. Rolling Stone fires both barrels with the above article and their own 10 Worst Congressmen list (complete with clever animations). It's a lot of reading, and depressing in more ways than one. Even if there's a great result on election day and the incredibly corrupt Republican party is swept from power, there's so much wrong with the country and the institution of Congress as a whole that it seems like it would only be a shaky first step toward recovery. But I don't mean to be such a downer. Like I said, the animations are funny. Some of the less familiar names:

Hal "Bin Laden's Best Friend" Rogers: Since the 9/11 attacks, Rogers has abused his position to steer production of a system designed to enhance airport security to a factory in Corbin, Kentucky. The trouble is, the factory wasn't equipped to produce the tamperproof biometric ID cards favored by security experts. So Rogers forced the government to spend $4 million to test the factory's technology -- steering some of the work to a tiny company that hired his son. When the factory flunked the test, Rogers delayed the process again, demanding that prototypes for new cards be built in Kentucky.

Rogers also steered a no-bid contract worth hundreds of millions of dollars to a trade group with no relevant experience in airport security -- after the group paid for Rogers to take six trips to Hawaii and one to Ireland.

On Dick "Enemy of the Earth" Pombo: As chairman of the House Resources Committee, Pombo has waged a career-long campaign to abolish the Endangered Species Act, which he accuses of putting "rats and shellfish" before people. Last year he almost succeeded: His comically titled "Threatened and Endangered Species Recovery Act" would have phased out all protection for threatened wildlife by 2015. Pombo has also won passage of bills to eliminate habitat protections on 150 million acres of wilderness and to lift a quarter-century moratorium on offshore oil drilling.

ABC News director promises to comfort the right

Think Progress writes about Mark Halperin's comments to Bill O'Reilly (now there's a trusted name in journalism) that he understands conservative beefs with the media, and realizes that it's up to news outlets to please them.

Halperin came up in a post yesterday regarding his co-authorship of a new book. The Daily Howler has a more in-depth look at the issue today, with Halperin's book tacitly acknowledging that a handful of reporters' bias against Al Gore had a definite impact on the election.

Maybe it's just my own bias, but Halperin's statements seem to boil down to an acknowledgment that the news business is about ratings rather than substance. Not that that's news.

Halperin on O'Reilly: “If I were a conservative, I understand why I would feel suspicious that I was not going to get a fair break at the end of an election. We’ve got to make sure we do better, so conservatives don’t have to be concerned about that.”

From Halperin's book The Way to Win: “Not every election is a fair fight,” they write (page 130). “The media...helped Bush tell his good story about himself, and helped Republicans tell a bad story about Gore.”

Stem Cell research hits Missouri

Michael J Fox's campaign ad for Claire McCaskill, in which he cites her support for stem-cell research, was a little difficult to watch (you've probably heard that Rush Limbaugh accused Fox of either faking or being off his medication-- then apologized). But it was guaranteed to elicit howls of protest from the right, for politicizing politics and I suspect being in 'bad taste.' What that really means, of course, is that the GOP was scared shitless. And that meant putting together a hasty response ad filled with nightmarish sci-fi scenarios that had little to do with the actual legislation, but did feature an actor who played Jesus (and speaking Aramaic! Just like the movie!).

As The American Prospect notes, one of the celebrity(?) talking heads featured in the ad is Patricia Heaton. And the groups with which she allies herself have a fairly dubious record when it comes to protecting human life.

The ad, which falsely claims the amendment to be a veiled attempt to constitutionally protect human cloning, is sponsored by a group called Missourians Against Human Cloning, whose spokesperson is Cathy Cleaver Ruse. Ms. Ruse, currently a fellow at the Family Research Council, served until 2004 as the director of planning and information for the Pro-Life Secretariat of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). That post is now held by Deirdre McQuade, who came to the bishops from her position as spokesperson for Feminists for Life.

Working in coalition with Missourians Against Human Cloning is the Missouri Catholic Conference, a group that so cherishes the uniqueness of human life that it drafted the 1999 Missouri bill, later struck down in court, that would have categorized the killing of a doctor who performs abortion a justifiable homicide.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

How the press sank Gore in 2000-- now with free Clinton jokes!

I'm glad to see the Daily Howler has continue to chronicle the press' role in the disastrous 2000 election. It's pretty much vanished down the memory hole for most people, but it was astounding to watch-- and the consequences have been dire.

The piece starts off with an article about Barack Obama by NYT reporter Katherine Seelye, who-- like so many talentless comedians and hardcore Republicans out there-- can't seem to update her material.

And what does the addled scribe choose to emphasize? Of course! The fact that Bill Clinton once said—fourteen years ago—that he “didn’t inhale!” Yes, Obama apparently gave her the opening. (. . .)

''When I was a kid, I inhaled,'' Obama apparently said in his interview, before an audience of magazine editors. (We say “apparently” because Seelye has a history of “accidentally” “quoting” folk wrong.) The obsessive script-reader typed it from there:
SEELYE: The direct admission was in contrast to Mr. Clinton's denial in his 1992 campaign for president that he had smoked marijuana.

''I didn't inhale,'' Mr. Clinton said, cementing the idea that he liked to have things both ways.
“Cement,” of course, is the perfect word for discussing Seelye’s range of “ideas.” Fourteen years and one large war later, it’s still stuck in cement in her head. She still can’t get over the troubling thing the troubling Bill Clinton once said:
SEELYE: Since Mr. Clinton's statement, the question of drug use has become a standard one for politicians, sometimes as a test of their ability to be straightforward. If the politician has used drugs, conventional wisdom says it is best to try to get the question out of the way early.
Of course, as everyone (including Seelye) knows, the question of drug use was quite standard for White House candidates in 1988 as well. But as with obsessives of every stripe, Seelye “remembers” what she wants to remember—and forgets almost everything else. For example, gone are the memories of Candidate Bush’s evasive responses to this question, eight years after Clinton’s answer supposedly made this a measure of “straightforward” politics. Bush’s evasions have flown from her head. But she can’t stop obsessing on Bill.

Next in the post, a further look at the role wisecrackin' reporters (notably the very same Seelye) played in the 2000 election-- the mood they created so infectious that even Dan Rather, scourge of the right, was making smart remarks about Gore on national television.

Deep inside their important but deeply flawed book, John Harris and Mark Halperin tell an astonishing story about the most important political event of the past twenty years. How did George W. Bush reach the White House? In the following passage, Harris and Halperin refer to the “Gang of 500"—roughly speaking, to “the group of columnists, consultants, reporters and staff hands” (page 24) who constitute Insider Washington:
HARRIS/HALPERIN (page 129): A number of members of the Gang of 500 are convinced that the main reason George W. Bush won the White House and Al Gore lost was that Gore’s regular press pack included the trio of Katherine “Kit” Seelye (of the New York Times), Ceci Connolly (of the Washington Post), and Sandra Sobieraj (of the Associated Press).
Simply put, that’s an astonishing statement—but it appears as a minor aside, buried deep inside a very long book. In this passage, Harris and Halperin—major press corps insiders themselves—say that some of their well-placed colleagues believe that George Bush reached the White House because of the work of just three Gore reporters!

Highly recommended reading.

Staying the course? Yes. I mean no. Uhhh, hang on a sec...

Think Progress has a doublespeak double whammy from Bush, Rumsfeld, and Tony Snow.

Bush, on Meet the Press, Oct. 22: "We've never been stay the course, George [Stephanopolous]!"

Rumsfeld, speaking with Sean Hannity, Oct. 24: "[Bush is] not backing away from ’stay the course.’”

Tony Snow apparently decided to tell Fox News that Bush is stay the course, he's just not that stay the course:
". . .we went back and looked today and could only find eight times where he [Bush] ever used the phrase stay the course.”

Wouldn't you know that some enterprising staffer at Think Progress spent about half a minute on the Internets and came up with a slightly large figure-- like 30.

Rep. Weldon briefed on firm's corruption before asking for their dough

With evidence like this against the sleazy Pennsylvania Republican, it shouldn't be long before he starts pleading alcoholism.

Four months later, ITERA signed a $500,000 contract with Solutions North America, a firm led by Karen Weldon, the congressman's twenty-nine-year-old daughter. Karen's job, according to lobbyist disclosure filings, was to create “good public relations so in the future ITERA may sell goods and services to U.S. entities.” Representative Weldon—who is now the target of an unfolding federal investigation—helped create that good P.R. by continuing to make favorable pronouncements about the controversial Russian firm.

This is all very interesting when you consider that Weldon was aggressively flacking for ITERA even after he received a detailed briefing that outlined how ITERA reaped the benefits of Gazprom's corruption. I was able to obtain a copy of this briefing, which was prepared by a Russian businessman who worked closely with Weldon. In the letter the businessman stated that ITERA had quickly emerged as a multibillion dollar energy firm for one reason: “the cover of Gazprom higher management and its personal interest in [ITERA's] prosperity.”

Had Weldon been interested, a simple Google search would have turned up plenty of dirt on ITERA. Between late 2000 and early 2001, a number of prominent publications, including the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, had written about shady dealings at Gazprom. Beginning in the late 1990s, the conglomerate sold off companies and assets reportedly worth nearly $6 billion, for which it received little more than $300 million.

How ugly is it?

Two weeks out from the election, a lot of campaigns are living down to my long-standing expectations of extreme nastiness. A couple of recent standouts:

*From the Associated Press:

Thomas Rankin, the Libertarian running for Wyoming's lone U.S. House seat, said Rep. Barbara Cubin, R-Wyo., threatened to slap him after a televised debate.

During a debate Sunday that also included Democrat Gary Trauner, Cubin and Rankin had a testy exchange over campaign contributions Cubin received from former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas.

Rankin, who has multiple sclerosis and uses an electric wheelchair, said Monday night in a telephone interview with The Associated Press that the confrontation occurred immediately after the debate.

"My aide and I were packing up to leave the debate, and Barbara walked over to me and said, 'If you weren't sitting in that chair, I'd slap you across the face.' That's quote-unquote," Rankin said.

*From the LA Times:

A new Republican Party television ad featuring a scantily clad white woman winking and inviting a black candidate to "call me" is drawing charges of race-baiting, with critics saying it contradicts a landmark GOP statement last year that the party was wrong in past decades to use racial appeals to win support from white voters.

Critics said the ad, which is funded by the Republican National Committee and has aired since Friday, plays on fears of interracial relationships to scare some white voters in rural Tennessee to oppose Democratic Rep. Harold E. Ford Jr. Ford is locked in a tight race, hoping to become the first African American senator since Reconstruction to represent a state in the former Confederacy.

Talking Points Memo has an update:

RNC chair Ken Mehlman: ""I don't have the authority to take it down or put it up. It's called an independent expenditure."

Ad copy: The Republican National Committee is responsible for the content of this advertisement. Paid for by the Republican National Committee. . ."

*And last but not least, the phone sex ad:

The negative campaigning in the 24th District congressional race took a new turn Friday when at least four area television stations declined to run a commercial by the National Republican Congressional Committee against Democratic candidate Michael Arcuri.

State Sen. Raymond Meier, R-Western, who's running against Arcuri, criticized the ad and requested it be pulled.

The ad, which WUTR, WKTV and Syracuse stations WSTM and WSTQ refused to run Friday, asserts that Arcuri, the Oneida County district attorney, called a telephone sex hot line while staying in a hotel at county expense.

No one is disputing that a telephone call was placed from Arcuri's hotel room two years ago to 800-457-8462, a number that today is a sex line. But the significance of that call — which documents show lasted one minute or less — was hotly contested Friday.

•Arcuri provided records showing that a number with the same last seven digits, but a 518 area code, was made one minute after the 800 number was called. That 518-457-8462 number goes to the state Department of Criminal Justice Services.

Sean Byrne, executive director of the New York Prosecutor Training Institute, said Friday he had misdialed the 800 number from Arcuri's hotel room.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Best Buy Scouts

I was a Boy Scout. I didn't really rake in the merit badges, but some of mine were even for useful things like first aid. I'll never forget my pride at earning the Leveraged Buyout badge, sponsored by ConHugeCo.

Boy Scouts can earn badges for woodcarving, raising rabbits and firing shotguns.

But in the Los Angeles area, Scouts will now be able to earn their stripes by proselytizing about the evils of copyright piracy.

Officials with the local Boy Scouts and the Motion Picture Assn. of America on Friday unveiled the Respect Copyrights Activity Patch — emblazoned with a large circle "C" copyright sign along with a film reel and musical notes.

The 52,000 Scouts who are eligible may earn the patch by participating in a curriculum produced by the MPAA. To earn the badge, Scouts must participate in several activities including creating a video public-service announcement and visiting a video-sharing website to identify which materials are copyrighted. They may also watch a movie and discuss how people behind the scenes would be harmed if the film were pirated.

What would Porthos say about this?

Last week I wrote about Democratic presidential hopefuls sitting on massive piles of campaign cash even as they encourage the rest of us to contribute to candidates around the nation. Today Salon's blog picks up two more stories that drive home the point.

First, an analysis from Barron's that predicts the Republicans retaining control of both houses. Why? More money to spend in the final weeks of the campaign, which the author credits with a better than 90% success rate as a predictor.

Second, MyDD posted a story that finds other 'safe' Democrats with plenty of money to go around:

By Bowers' count, Democrats in 70 safe districts are sitting on more than $50 million in campaign contributions. If each were to give 30 percent of his or her holdings to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee or to individual candidates, the Democrats would enjoy a $15 million boost in the final two weeks of the campaign.

It will now be referred to as the Freedom Soup Belt

Here's another "never thought I'd see the day" gem brought to you by BushCo: German Chancellor Gerhard Shroder sees Vladimir Putin as more committed to democracy than the president of the United States. If Bush himself hadn't looked into Putin's soul and seen what a great guy he was, I might have trouble believing it.

But when it came to the planning for the Iraq war, Schröder, referring to Bush, told Der Spiegel that "if a person adopts a policy based on what he gleans from his prayers, in other words, a personal talk with God, it can lead to difficulties in democracy."
Schröder went on to criticize the growing role of religion in U.S. politics.
"We rightly criticize that in most Islamic states, the role of religion for society and the character of the role of law are not clearly separated," he said. "But we fail to recognize that in the U.S.A., the Christian fundamentalists and their interpretation of the Bible have similar tendencies."
When asked by Der Spiegel if he still believed Putin was an "impeccable democrat," as Schröder himself called him during one of his several meetings with the Russian president in 2005, he replied: "I have nothing to correct."

Have my cake or eat it? Those are false choices.

I was puzzled when a recent spate of articles claimed that Bush's tax cuts had increased federal revenue. But I moved on to other issues without checking into that supply-side paradox. Similar, more recent reports that the deficit is "being cut" were clearly the product of lazy reporters or spin merchants-- and unsurprisingly, so were the tax revenue stories.

Alan D. Viard, a former Bush White House economist currently at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, recently told The Washington Post: "Federal revenue is lower today than it would have been without the tax cuts. There's really no dispute among economists about that."

He's right. There's no dispute among economists. Conservative, moderate, or liberal, every credentialed economist agrees that the Bush tax cuts caused revenues to drop. There is, however, a dispute between economists and pseudo-economists. Supply-siders may be laughed at by real economists, but they still enjoy a strong following among politicians, including, alas, the president of the United States. Here is what President Bush said a week and a half ago:

They said that we had to choose between cutting the deficit and keeping taxes low--or another way to put it, that in order to solve the deficit we had to raise taxes. I strongly disagree with those choices. Those are false choices. Tax relief fuels economic growth, and growth--when the economy grows, more tax revenues come to Washington. And that's what's happened. It makes sense, doesn't it?"
Well, no, it doesn't make any sense at all.

Recommended reading for its look at tax revenue and the economy under Bush and Clinton-- and the way "voodoo economics" keeps rising from the grave, it needs to be put down once and for all.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Neocons.... In.... Spaaaaaace!

I suppose there's no avoiding the term imperialism when discussing the White House's bellicose foreign policy and the lofty goals of PNAC. But couldn't they at least limit it to this planet?

Officially, the United States opposes militarizing space in the future, including with its own weapons. Yet last year, when the United Nations voted on whether to open negotiations to formally ban space weaponry, 160 nations voted "yes," one nation voted "no" -- the United States.

On Aug. 31, the president authorized a new National Space Policy that leaves little room for doubt that this administration considers space one more extension of its sphere of influence -- up to, and including, weapons. "Freedom of action in space," the policy states, "is as important to the United States as air power and sea power." Putting it in those terms, "freedom of action in space" is indistinguishable from "space power." The Washington Post uncovered the policy on Wednesday. It quotes an unnamed administration official denying that a change is afoot: "This policy is not about developing or deploying weapons in space, period."

The policy contradicts the official's certainty: "The United States," the policy states, "will: preserve its rights, capabilities, and freedom of action in space; dissuade or deter others from either impeding those rights or developing capabilities intended to do so; take those actions necessary to protect its space capabilities; respond to interference; and deny, if necessary, adversaries the use of space capabilities hostile to U.S. national interests." The policy's rejections of arms control agreements limiting use of space is just as clear.

UPDATE: A great catch from OD1. This link to a Project for the New American Century report highlights their determination that space become an American miltary base. From page 54...

No system of missile defenses can be fully effective without placing sensors and weapons in space. Although this would appear to be creating a potential new theater of warfare, in fact space has been militarized for the better part of four decades. Weather, communications, navigation and reconnaissance satellites are increasingly essential elements in American military power.

Ahhh, PNAC. Proven wrong across the board, but still crafting White House policy. I suspect I'm not the only one who sees the comparison of weather satellites and missile platforms to be a tad disingenuous.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Nothing another round of no-bid contracts wouldn't fix

Nothing like a stark contrast to make a point. Think Halliburton as you read...

The women and children who formed a line at Camp Pendleton last week could have been waiting for a child-care center to open or Disney on Ice tickets to go on sale.

Instead, they were waiting for day-old bread and frozen dinners packaged in slightly damaged boxes. These families are among a growing number of military households in San Diego County that regularly rely on donated food.

As the Iraq war marches toward its fourth anniversary, food lines operated by churches and other nonprofit groups are an increasingly valuable presence on military bases countywide. Leaders of the charitable groups say they're scrambling to fill a need not seen since World War II.

Too often, the supplies run out before the lines do, said Regina Hunter, who coordinates food distribution at one Camp Pendleton site.

Anti-alternative energy campaign bankrolled by big oil

PR efforts for estate tax repeal was funded by a handful of America's richest families. The Prescription drug plan was written by pharmaceutical corporations, and the bankruptcy bill was the product of credit card companies. On to alternative energy research. Big oil has been sending out the flaks and funding right-wing think tanks to encourage global warming deniers, but now they're getting a little more "proactive" in their efforts. And spending tens of millions more dollars.

Up until now, as New York Times columnist Tom Friedman points out, “oil companies in California have paid a very low extraction fee compared with those in other states — a rip-off they want to keep.” Chevron lobbyist Jack Coffey even admitted that Prop. 87 is “worth a lot of money” to the oil companies. These companies have launched the massive, deceptive “No On 87″ campaign to defeat Prop. 87. Some lowlights:

Oil companies have concealed their funding of No On 87. According to No. on 87 campaign ads, “a coalition of taxpayers, educators, public safety officials, businesses, energy producers, Chevron Corporation and Aera Energy LLP” are funding the effort to defeat Prop. 87. But in reality, oil companies are bankrolling more than 99 percent of the $35 million campaign against initiative. Chevron and Aera have contributed more than $25 million.

Oil companies claim that Prop. 87 will force them to raise gas prices. The No On 87 campaign’s website claims that the burden of higher production taxes will force oil companies to raise gas prices for consumers. This claim is false. The head of the American Petroleum Institute recently told Congress “big oil is powerless to control prices at the pump.” Additionally, the California Attorney General has confirmed that Prop. 87 makes it illegal for oil companies to raise gas prices to pass along the cost to consumers.

Crisis for compassionate conservatism

More on David Kuo and the attendant paradox between the GOP's ruthless corporatism and their courting of poor, angry southerners.

First, a catch from a right-wing fundamentalist publication called The Church Report (sounds pretty official, doesn't it?). The headline: David Kuo: An Addition to the Axis of Evil.

And that's the rub. The entrenched fundamentalists see the GOP as their meal ticket, so they have to discredit Kuo's obvious statements that the Republicans at the top see fundamentalists as a meal ticket. But as has been noted everywhere from What's the Matter With Kansas? to this blog entry from Ezra Klein, the voters wooed by talk of compassionate conservatism and faith-based initiatives are to be among the first people steamrolled by Republican socioeconomic policy. They've just been sorta lucky so far.

The compassion agenda, however, isn't over: It's on hold. The economic trends in this country simply cannot support a party that seeks to counter excess personal risk and economic loss with more risk and upward redistribution. It's an electoral impossibility. Further, the right's absorption of downwardly mobile, Southern whites has ushered in a massive base that appreciates and relies on the entitlement state, and that will be first and worst affected by the middle class squeeze in the coming years. Bush's original appeal was to these people, who were comforted by his promise of conservatism without cruelty, which he conveyed by calling for a prescription drug benefit, promising he'd protect Social Security, and generally acting sort of like a liberal who went to church a lot (and, of course, also loved tax cuts). (. . .)

However it shakes out and whoever ends up taking the party's mantle, I expect the GOP to enter a wrenching period of soul-searching and transformation, as they try to marry their current corporatism with the needs of their base.

Facing investigation, Rep. Lewis axes investigators

While many of us are hoping for a change in leadership after the November elections, it's important to note that the GOP is taking advantage of every day they have to keep things running the way they have since the "Republican Revolution" of the nineties. And it's as ugly as ever. Today that task fell to House Appropriations chair Jerry Lewis-- currently under investigation for enriching his family with lobbyist dollars.

This evening, Congressional Quarterly reports (sub. req.) that in a round of calls Monday evening, Lewis fired 60 investigators who had worked for his committee rooting out fraud, waste and abuse, effective immediately. As in, don't bother coming in on Tuesday.

The investigators were contract workers, brought on to handle the extraordinary level of fraud investigations facing the panel. Sixteen permanent investigative staff are staying on, according to CQ. More:

Lewis’ decision “has in fact stalled all of the investigations on the staff,” said one of the contractors, a former FBI agent, who asked not to be identified. “This eviscerates the investigatory function. There is little if any ability to do any oversight now.” (. . .).

“In effect, no investigative function is going to be done,” said the contractor, who called the decision “misguided.”

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Calling all non-presidential hopefuls! Donate now!

There'll be plenty of recriminations flying around if the Democrats don't make some noticeable gains in the election. So why not start right bellyaching right now?

Although people are taking very seriously the possibility that we could regain control of one or both houses of Congress, you could argue that there are people who aren't really doing their part to make it happen. Namely, 2008 presidential hopefuls and their campaign funds.

Evan Bayh and John Kerry are right around the $10 million mark (give or take a couple hundred grand, but that's chump change).

Hillary Clinton has a cool $16 million on hand according to Atrios.

All of them are encouraging people to donate to Democrats. Frequently.

Run, Congressman, run.

Wow. Although the promised scene of a Republican New York representative actually running from reporters was slightly overblown, it could serve as a sweet moment for the scrapbook if the election is a blowout.

In the middle of a story about Sue Kelly ignoring a League of Women Voters invitation to a televised debate, the reporter adds that she fled reporters trying to ask her a couple of questions-- with footage.

"Sue Kelly, under fire in recent weeks for her connection with the ever-growing page scandal, did not [reply to the invitation]. Kelly failed to even respond to the League of Voters or RNN-TV. Today she [fled] from our cameras when we attempted to ask her about a number of issues, including the page scandal."

Romney uses tax-exempt church to organize presidential bid

Even though I've been a student in Massachusetts for the last few years, I still pay more attention to the politics in my home state of Missouri, which make me sick enough. But Mitt Romney has always been a source of bewilderment to me. He's remarkably transparent, and was having fantasies about the presidency before he'd even won office here. Since winning, he's done what you'd expect a Bush-era right-wing Christian to do: toured the country trashing Massachusetts for its loony lefties and burnishing his fundamentalist street cred with an eye to 2008. It's the strategy that's been working so well for the right-- speak liberally, but carry a big book on supply-side economics.

Predictably, Romney wasn't going to become a prominent figure in politics here. And since he got his red-state "I'm a uniter" wish in a blue state, he really doesn't care anymore. It's all about the presidency, so bring on the fundamentalists.

Governor Mitt Romney's political team has quietly consulted with leaders of the Mormon Church to map out plans for a nationwide network of Mormon supporters to help Romney capture the presidency in 2008, according to interviews and written materials reflecting plans for the initiative.

Over the past two months, Romney's political operatives and church leaders have discussed building a grass-roots political organization using alumni chapters of Brigham Young University's business school around the country. More recently, representatives of BYU, which is run by the church, and Romney's political action committee have begun soliciting help from prominent Mormons, including a well-known author suggested by the governor, to build the program, which Romney advisers dubbed Mutual Values and Priorities, or MVP.

The president and prophet of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Gordon B. Hinckley, has been made aware of the effort and expressed no opposition, the documents show, and at least one other top church official has played a more active role.

Church officials and Romney advisers downplayed the discussions. Church officials say they have a position of strict neutrality on political matters and are not supporting Romney's candidacy.

But documents indicate that Jeffrey R. Holland, one of 12 apostles who help lead the church worldwide, has handled the initiative for the Mormons and that he hosted a Sept. 19 meeting about it in his church office in Salt Lake City with Josh Romney, one of the governor's sons; Don Stirling, a paid consultant for the Commonwealth PAC, Romney's political action committee; and Kem Gardner, a prominent Salt Lake City developer who is one of Romney's biggest donors. Globe reporters observed Romney's representatives enter and leave chuch headquarters for the meeting.

Armageddon ready to cancel my subscription

I really want to dig The New Republic like I did six years ago or so, but they insist on making it harder and harder. It's that icky combination of "I told you so" any time a right-wing policy isn't a complete disaster and gratuitous attacks at not just blogs, but liberals as a whole. This pointless article on David Kuo's fall from grace with the fundamentalist power players is a case in point:

Early Monday morning, a tell-all book from a former Bush White House official hit Washington like a small explosion, generating at least a color orange political threat level. Here was a conservative Republican, someone who had been on the inside of the president's signature domestic policy agenda of the first term, leveling damaging accusations of hypocrisy, wide-scale manipulation, and deceit. Conservatives reacted accordingly. They charged the traitor, former Deputy Director of the Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives David Kuo, with timing the book to do maximum damage in the midterm elections, and they compared him to Judas Iscariot, the disciple who betrayed Jesus. (. . .)

The reaction from the left has been, to put it mildly, slightly less vigorous. (. . .) This time, the responses have ranged from total silence to yawns to fears that the book could backfire on the Democratic Party. In general, most liberals have chosen to distance themselves from Kuo and his case. (. . .)

But something else is at play, too. Despite the evidence Kuo presents in Tempting Faith, liberals simply don't believe him. They've spent so much time fear-mongering about American theocracy that a book illustrating the opposite simply makes no sense to them. In fact, the real revelation of Kuo's book is not that the Bushies don't care about evangelicals; it's that liberals are too wedded to their views to capitalize on it.

For someone writing a book about religion and the left, the author sure seems determined to show off her ignorance. (Then again, considering Peter Beinart's pending book at a time when he was arguing the need for Democrats to go along with Bush's military agenda, maybe this is just an unfortunate new trend among TNR's writers-- choose hot button issue, take a calculatedly provocative stance, and hope for big sales.)

While there are plenty of people who acknowledge Bush's bone-chilling messianic streak, I can say pretty confidently that I've never heard anyone actually suggest that Bush, Cheney, Rove, et al., are making ready for Armageddon. No, pretty much the worst-kept secret of the current Republican party is their eagerness to exploit fringe groups to stay in power-- it's just taken the dupes a hell of a long time to catch on, if they've even managed that.

What the article completely fails to acknowledge is that even though the fundamentalists are being taken for a ride by plutocratic crooks, the GOP is more than happy to toss them some bones here and there that have very tangible, and very costly, consequences for the nation. To name just one, consider abstinence-only sex education. Considered the gold standard by fundamentalists, it's been a dismal failure that means more venereal disease and more teen pregnancy-- which means more abortions.

I could go on and on about the article's flawed logic and that obnoxious TNR strategy of attacking "the left" for the wrongdoing of the people actually in charge of this country. But I suspect you're as sick of reading this as I am of writing it.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Bill Moyers on Net Neutrality

Here's some welcome reading from Bill Moyers, who is one gifted writer and speaker. NOW was one of the best (but most depressing) shows on the air during his tenure, which naturally made it a target of the far right's campaign to destroy public broadcasting. But it's always nice to see Moyers in action. Recommended reading.

The Internet has become the foremost testing ground where the forces of innovation, corporate power, the public interest and government regulation converge. Already, the notion of a level playing field—what’s called network neutrality—is under siege by powerful forces trying to tilt the field to their advantage. The Bush majority on the FCC has bowed to the interests of the big cable and telephone companies to strip away, or undo, the Internet’s basic DNA of openness and non-discrimination. When some members of Congress set out to restore network neutrality, they were thwarted by the industry’s high spending lobbyists. This happened according to the standard practices of a rented Congress—with little public awareness and scarce attention from the press. There had been a similar blackout 10 years ago, when, in the Telecommunications Act of 1996, Congress carved up our media landscape. They drove a dagger in the heart of radio, triggered a wave of consolidation that let the big media companies get bigger, and gave away to rich corporations—for free—public airwaves worth billions.

This time, they couldn’t keep secret what they were doing. Word got around that without public participation these changes could lead to unsettling phenomenon—the rise of digital empires that limit, or even destroy, the capabilities of small Internet users. Organizations across the political spectrum—from the Christian Coalition to —rallied in protest, flooding Congress with more than a million letters and petitions to restore network neutrality. Enough politicians have responded to keep the outcome in play.

PS- Moyers' documentary The Net At Risk is airing tonight on PBS at 9 EST, which is right now. At 10:30 you can log in to this site for a live online debate between Free Press Policy Director Ben Scott and Mike McCurry, the lobbyist-in-chief for the telecoms.

The 'blue wave'

In an article that's pretty uncharacteristic for Charlie Cook, he seems to have abandoned most of his usual qualifiers. As a professional poll-watcher, making bold predictions would be suicidal, sure, but this is about as close as I've seen him get in quite some time-- even considering his final caveat that "all this could change." It could, of course, but it feels pretty good in the meantime.

Election Day is three weeks from now, and unless something happens fast, this will be one of those once- or twice-in-a-generation elections when a party enjoys unbelievable gains or endures horrendous losses that prove to be the exceptions to Tip O'Neill's adage that "all politics is local." In midterm elections, Democrats last suffered such a defeat in 1994; for Republicans, it was 20 years before that in the Watergate election of 1974.

The direction, barring some unforeseen event, is clear. What is less clear is which specific seats will fall and how far inland this wave will go. (. . .)

While many attribute the Republican freefall to the scandal involving former Rep. Mark Foley and his e-mails to congressional pages, it really was no more than the straw that broke the camel's back. The seeds of Republicans' problems were planted long before publication of the congressman's e-mails to pages. The war in Iraq, Hurricane Katrina, other congressional scandals, federal budget spending and deficits, stem-cell research, Terri Schiavo and a multitude of other factors had been feeding the creation of an undertow for the GOP that goes back over a year. The "time for a change" dynamic that worked against Democrats in 1994 gradually came into place, fueled by all those factors mentioned above, and now it would probably take some huge event to alter its course.

I'm the discrediter

One thing that's regularly observed about this administration is that they never stop running for office. Whether it's a policy address, the State of the Union, whatever-- it's always delivered like a sales pitch, focus-group tested, fact-free, and always in the service of ideology. It's like seeing the White House run by the team that gives us Fox News hosts, which is depressing. Or maybe the depressing part is that-- like the 'fair and balanced' set-- they can put forth arguments so easily demolished but keep getting away with it.

In his press conference a week ago, President Bush dismissed the results of a Johns Hopkins/MIT study on Iraqi casualties since the invasion as "not credible" and indicated that the methodology had been "pretty much discredited." This response apparently was an attempt to quash a report that estimated approximately 601,027 Iraqi casualties, more than 20 times that reported by the administration.

It was clear from the press conference, however, that Bush had not read the mortality study, does not understand basic statistical concepts and is counting on the general public's misperception of those concepts to influence the response to the study.

Far from being "not credible," the methodology used in the Johns Hopkins/MIT study meets all professional standards. It is widely accepted among researchers; by such top-tier journals as The Lancet, which published it; and by politicians of any party -- when they choose to use the same methods to influence the public. (. . .)

The Gallup, Zogby and comparable professional opinion polls routinely carried out in the United States use a small sample -- about 1,000 people on average -- to estimate the various opinions held by people in the United States, about 300 million in total. The Iraq study used over 12,000 people (more than 1,800 families) to estimate a mortality rate across Iraq, which has a significantly smaller population relative to the United States.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Happy Torture Day!

I couldn't let the day pass without acknowledging a historic event: the day that disappearing people and subjecting them to state-sanctioned torture became official US policy.

Civil libertarians and leading Democrats decried the law as a violation of American values. The American Civil Liberties Union said it was "one of the worst civil liberties measures ever enacted in American history." Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold of Wisconsin said, "We will look back on this day as a stain on our nation's history."

"It allows the government to seize individuals on American soil and detain them indefinitely with no opportunity to challenge their detention in court," Feingold said. "And the new law would permit an individual to be convicted on the basis of coerced testimony and even allow someone convicted under these rules to be put to death."

The AP writer does her level best to put a smiley face on the new law of the land, but it is what it is-- one more step toward a police state. I think Tony Snow delivered the best quote on the issue:

Snow rejected the idea that Americans should be able to see and judge the standards for themselves, particularly in the aftermath of illegal abuses at the Abu Ghraib prison.

"The only way accountability doesn't exist is if you believe that the military is not committed to it," Snow said.

That's his response to an Abu Ghraib question? There's so much dishonesty and doublespeak in that little statement the guy deserves some sort of prize-- especially for the explicit invitation to invent your own happy reality. Maybe we could call them the "Winnies," in honor of Winston Smith. A gold rat would make a nice statue, right?

September seem a bit nippy? That's cuz global warming is a hoax.

Although I don't check in with Matt Drudge's screaming headlines too much myself, it's always fun to stumble across his special brand of hard news elsewhere on the Net. The headline from the site read as follows (subtle italics his):

September 2006 U.S. temperature 0.7 degrees below 20th century average...

Armed with logic and facts, Think Progress steps into the breach:

Global warming does not mean there is never going to be a cold day or a cold month somewhere on the globe. Globally, September 2006 was the 4th warmest on record.

Second, Drudge leaves out this crucial fact from the NOAA report he links to:

The January-September 2006 combined temperature is warmest on record. The previous record warm January-September happened in 2000.

In other words, according to the NOAA report Drudge cites, there has never been a warmer year in the United States so far than 2006.

What continues to amaze me about right-wing media is how much the purveyors depend upon the ignorance of their audience. But here's Drudge floating a nutty right-wing talking point that's refuted in the very article he links to-- and I don't think he's struggling to make ends meet.

"What is the evidence that Curt Weldon is a moron?"

The Harper's story at the link starts off with its own link to a Radar story on "American's Dumbest Congressmen," which has plenty of cringe-inducing stories about Democrats as well as Republicans.

But since Pennsylvania Rep. Curt Weldon is in the news for what looks an awful lot like abusing his office, I thought I'd stick with the Harper's story.

When I was at the Los Angeles Times in 2004, I co-wrote the article that led to the current FBI investigation of Weldon. I'd like to claim that the article was an astonishing feat of investigative reporting, but it would be more accurate to describe it as picking low hanging fruit.

Consider the Weldon family's involvement with the Russian firm ITERA International (motto: “We bring warmth to people!”). In May 2002, Weldon led a congressional delegation to Moscow and toured ITERA’s offices; Weldon also recommended the company as a “great source” for U.S. energy firms seeking partners for joint ventures. In early September of that year, ITERA paid for Weldon's lodging in New York so he could do an interview with Russian radio. Within a week, ITERA had made a lobbying deal with Karen Weldon, the congressman's then-twenty-nine-year-old daughter. On September 24, Congressman Weldon co-hosted a dinner in Washington to honor ITERA’s chairman. And six days later, ITERA signed a $500,000-a-year contract with Karen Weldon's firm in exchange for “good public relations so in the future ITERA may sell goods and services to U.S. entities.”

Another one of Karen's clients is Saratov, a Russian aviation firm which sought to sell a drone it described as a “flying saucer.” A Saratov official recalled hearing from Rep. Weldon “quite unexpectedly” in early January 2003. Weldon, said the official, expressed “an acute interest” in the flying saucer. The congressman visited Saratov's plant later that month, accompanied by his daughter, and in short order the firm retained Karen Weldon's services.

Since I brought up the Radar article, though, you should at least take a minute to enjoy the snappy opener:

Despite a notoriously compliant president and Republican majorities in both houses, they've spent over 600 days in session without conducting a shred of productive business, which is not to say they've just sat around. As the war in Iraq raged out of control, they futilely postured over an unconstitutional flag-burning amendment that was clearly destined to go up in flames. They rallied around the brain-dead Terry Schiavo after the Senate majority leader, watching her on television, claimed to detect signs of life. And their hijinks culminated this month with l'affaire Mark Foley, which raised the question of just who a guy needs to blow on the Hill to get the attention of the brain-dead House leadership.

But in a notably dumb year, perhaps the dumbest move came from Senate Majority Whip Mitch McConnell, who sponsored a bill seeking $20 million in taxpayer money for a party to celebrate America's victory in Iraq. Not long ago such flagrant obtuseness might have ensured the senator a place on our annual list of America's Dumbest Congressmen. Alas, given this year's stiff competition, he didn't even make runner-up.

Second Rep. eyed in House Page scandal

Yes, it's a Republican. And although it's a decade-old incident that probably doesn't amount to much, it certainly isn't going to help the GOP in November if it crosses over from gossip to primetime news.

Overseers of the House page program this week discussed a camping trip that Rep. Jim Kolbe, R-Ariz. took with two former pages and others in 1996 — an outing now under review by the Justice Department, a congressional source said Tuesday.

The House Page Board, consisting of three lawmakers and two senior House officials, did not have any new information beyond recent news stories on the Kolbe trip. The source is familiar with the discussions but is not authorized to speak publicly on the matter. (. . .)

Kolbe took the former pages as well as staff members and National Park Service officials on a Fourth of July rafting trip in the Grand Canyon in 1996, his spokeswoman Korenna Cline said last week.

A federal law enforcement official said last week an allegation related to the trip was given to the U.S. attorney's office in Phoenix. It was not immediately clear whether it concerned any contention of improper activity by the retiring Kolbe — the only openly gay Republican in Congress.

The official described the inquiry as preliminary and as far narrower in scope than the federal investigation into Foley, R-Fla., who resigned Sept. 29 after he was confronted with sexually explicit instant messages sent to former pages.

It's probably too much to hope for, but it sure would be nice to see the Republican party hoist by their own petard after the endless gay-bashing and pandering to fundamentalists.

From the Dept. of Ironic Statistics

By now everyone's seen the information on the actual difference between very blue states and very red states. Blue states contribute the most money to federal coffers, red states take the most. Blue states have better educated citizens, red states have the lowest-ranked schools. That sort of thing. Then there were the observations that give the lie to the whole "godless, immoral liberal" thing that's so popular with the right these days. Except that things like teen pregnancy, abortion, and divorce rates are also much lower in godless, immoral liberal states.

Now the Times has come along with another log for the bonfire of red state vanities: marriage, as in 'sanctity of,' is going gangbusters in California and New York, but not doing so well in Bush country.

U.S. counties with most increase
Madera, Calif. +3.7%
Tompkins, NY +3.6
Androscoggin, Me +3.6

U.S. counties with most decrease
Boone, Ky -11.16%
Nash, NC -9.7%
Webb, TX -9.6%

Not exactly earth-shaking news, but an interesting addition to the whole "blue state as Sodom" front of the culture wars.

Monday, October 16, 2006

What's right with Kansas. Hopefully.

After all the attention paid to the book What's the Matter With Kansas? and beyond that the nationwide attemtps to figure out if the country is going 'red' or 'blue,' it's nice to see a story like this: actual Kansans saying that although there might not be something wrong with their state, there's something very, very wrong with the party that runs it.

As we prepare ourselves to make political endorsements in subsequent issues, I can tell you unequivocally that this newspaper has never endorsed so many Democrats. Not even close. (. . .)

But I could not help but put in perspective a more global phenomenon that has led us to re-evaluate our traditional support for Republicans.

This change may come as no surprise to our most cynical conservative readers who would dismiss me (and others on the editorial board) as being a moderate Republican and, therefore, the same as a Democrat. To them, there is no difference. (. . .)

The Republican Party has changed, and it has changed monumentally.

You almost cannot be a victorious traditional Republican candidate with mainstream values in Johnson County or in Kansas anymore, because these candidates never get on the ballot in the general election. They lose in low turnout primaries, where the far right shows up to vote in disproportionate numbers.

To win a Republican primary, the candidate must move to the right.

What does to-the-right mean?

It means anti-public education, though claiming to support it.

It means weak support of our universities, while praising them.

It means anti-stem cell research.

It means ridiculing global warming.

It means gay bashing. Not so much gay marriage, but just bashing gays.

It means immigrant bashing. I'm talking about the viciousness.

It means putting religion in public schools. Not just prayer.

It means mocking evolution and claiming it is not science.

It means denigrating even abstinence-based sex education.

"Path to 9/11" writer gets a second deal

In spite of all the attention paid to the TV movie Path to 9/11-- at least on the progressive blogs-- the airing was something of an anti-climax, garnering so-so ratings and not really causing much of a stir. But only after the word 'documentary' was removed from the official description of the film, and a couple of blatantly ahistorical moments were refilmed. It still left intact several choice bits of the "It's Clinton's fault" variety, but you can't have it all.

Apparently the film was good enough for the liberal pinkos in Hollywood, though, because they've handed conservative activist/screenwriter another contract.

The movie is to be based on a book, also called “Jawbreaker,” that blames the Clinton administration for failing to capture Bin Laden and praises President Bush:

In a memoir heavily vetted by the CIA (there are pages of blacked-out lines), Bernsten details feeling stymied by bureaucrats in President Bill Clinton’s administration who prevented operatives from engaging a growingly malicious Al Qaeda and Bin Laden presence. While Bernsten describes how he and his cohorts were stunningly told to stand down when they had Bin Laden cornered in Tora Bora, he writes approvingly of President George W. Bush’s handling of the invasion.

Too bad I already know how it ends.

The week in Republican lawbreaking

Wow. Two stories today that appeared in Salon's War Room blog. Frist-- oops, I mean first-- is the former FDA chief Lester Crawford, who left after two months and could be in hot water for owning stocks in companies he regulated.

But now we're getting a little insight into why Crawford may have come and gone so quickly. In the U.S. District Court in Washington today, federal prosecutors charged Crawford with lying to federal officials about his ownership of stock in companies the FDA was supposed to be regulating. As the Associated Press reports, prosecutors say that Crawford failed to disclose income he received from Embrex, Inc., an FDA-regulated agriculture biotechnology company, and that he chaired the FDA's Obesity Working Group while he owned a substantial amount of stock in both Pepsico Inc. and Sysco Corp.

Second is Pennsylvania GOP Rep. Curt Weldon, who has put in appearances on my blog for his incredibly sleazy campaigning against challenger Joe Sestak. But Weldon (and even his daughter) might be in trouble with the law for-- you'd better sit down for this shocker-- enriching themselves through influence peddling.

Late last week, a lawyer for Rep. Curt Weldon said that his client didn't know anything about any investigation into allegations that the Pennsylvania Republican traded political influence for high-paying lobbying contracts for his daughter. The daughter's lawyer went so far as to send McClatchy Newspapers a letter saying "there is no investigation" and ordering a reporter to stop "harassing" and "baiting" his client with phone messages seeking comment.

Today's news? The FBI has just raided the home of Weldon's daughter as well as five other locations in Pennsylvania and Florida as part of its investigation into whether Weldon helped his daughter and one of his closest friends get $1 million in lobbying contracts from two Russian companies and a Serbian foundation between 2002 and 2004.

Why this election matters... in a big, big way

Oh, for the days when Paul Krugman's column was free to the public. Although the points he makes in today's column are pretty self-evident, he's just a really good writer. As a bonus, this American Prospect blog entry provides a link to a recent story of theirs on the Republican Congress'machine's complete unwillingness to enforce checks and balances-- or uphold the rule of law, for that matter.

There are two reasons why party control is everything in this election.

The first, lesser reason is the demonstrated ability of Republican Congressional leaders to keep their members in line, even those members who cultivate a reputation as moderates or mavericks. G.O.P. politicians sometimes make a show of independence, as Senator John McCain did in seeming to stand up to President Bush on torture. But in the end, they always give the White House what it wants: after getting a lot of good press for his principled stand, Mr. McCain signed on to a torture bill that in effect gave Mr. Bush a completely free hand.

And if the Republicans retain control of Congress, even if it’s by just one seat in each house, Mr. Bush will retain that free hand. If they lose control of either house, the G.O.P. juggernaut will come to a shuddering halt.

Yet that’s the less important reason this election is all about party control. The really important reason may be summed up in two words: subpoena power.

Dropping out of the electoral college

There was some discussion of the electoral college after the last two elections, and I can't say that I'm a big fan of the spurious blue-sate/red-state culture it's fostered in politics and in the media. It's also interesting to note who the proponents are, and judging from this article-- which isn't very intellectually honest of me-- they seem to be reliable conservatives. But that stands to reason when your policies are only popular with a third of the nation.

Recently, George Will wrote a pro-electoral college column featuring some of the strangest rationales I have ever heard. He argued, for instance, that the electoral college "encourages candidates to form coalitions of states with various political cultures." That's an old electoral college rationale: It discourages presidential campaigns based on narrow geographic support and encourages those with a national base. I don't think that's a strong enough reason to let the second-place vote-getter win, but it is a reason, or it would be if it were true.

But it's not. As nearly everybody knows, our politics has grown regionally polarized under the current system. Bush is loathed in the Northeast, West Coast, and upper Midwest and wildly popular in the South, border states, and Mountain West. (Or, at least, he was a couple of years ago. Now he's pretty much loathed everywhere.) The electoral college exacerbates this tension. The Republican candidate has no incentive to try to coax more support in New England, which he can't win anyway, while the Democrat has no reason to shop for votes in Texas. (. . .)

I've noticed that electoral college defenders don't really weigh the pros and cons of each system. They just conjure up some hypothetical drawback that could occur under a popular-vote system. That sort of "reasoning" is bad enough. What makes it worse is that the drawbacks are usually things that happen anyway.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Terror threat averted in CA jr. high school

There are all sorts of interesting statistics to be compiled when the Bush era comes to its long anticipated and long, long overdue end. One for the "fun facts" page will be the number of kids under the age of sixteen who were questioned by the secret service for speaking out against the administration.

The latest Sacramento resident to be questioned by federal agents in possible threats against President Bush is a 14-year-old girl with a heart on her backpack and braces on her teeth, a freckle-nosed adolescent who is passionate about liberal politics and cute movie stars.

Her name is Julia Wilson, and she learned a vivid civics lesson Wednesday when two Secret Service agents pulled her out of biology class at McClatchy High School to ask about comments and images she posted on MySpace.

Beneath the words "Kill Bush," Julia posted a cartoonish photo-collage of a knife stabbing the hand of the president. It was one of a few images Julia said she used to decorate an anti-Bush Web page she moderated on MySpace, the social networking Web site that is hugely popular among teenagers.

The Secret Service refused to answer questions about the case or even confirm an investigation. Eric Zahren, a Secret Service spokesman, said the agency does not discuss its work "due to the sensitivity of our mission."

That's one sensitive mission, all right. Thanks to the Mysterious Cypher for the latest story of how we're fighting the terrorists-- you know, those shadowy figures out to deprive us of our civil rights.

Friday, October 13, 2006

The War of the Words

This mockumentary on conservative bloggers should be funnier than it is, but it's still funny. There are two 'episodes' up so far, with more to come between now and the election. It's a sort of greatest misses from the last four years, full of the God, guns, and guts you'd expect from people who saw their duty during a time of war as sitting around back home writing about it in hopes of becoming highly-paid pundits.

The term "101st Fighting Keyboardists" has been around for a while, but it was only after a year or so of blogging that I found out it wasn't a disparaging term for reactionary chickenhawks with blogs, but actually coined in the right-wing blogosphere as a self-congratulatory moniker for their, uh... brave service.

Bob Ney pleads guilty-- will leave Congress someday

As expected, Bob Ney entered a guilty plea. It just took a couple of weeks after it was widely reported that he'd be entering a guilty plea. And now that it's official, you can expect the Republican House leadership to swing into action. In a month or so.

House Republican leaders are now saying that it's time to throw Bob Ney out of Congress -- or at least that it will be, just as soon as the November elections are over. "Bob Ney must be punished for the criminal actions he has acknowledged," Dennis Hastert, John Boehner, Roy Blunt and Deborah Pryce said in a statement issued today. If Ney doesn't take it upon himself to resign before then, they said, "we will move to expel him immediately as our first order of business when Congress resumes its legislative work in November."

Ney says he'll be sticking around for a while to handle constituent matters and staff issues. At an annual salary of $162,500 a year, he stands to make about $10,000 if he can hold on until the House returns to work on Nov. 9.

"The Krug" calls it for Dems. Sort of.

The election is still weeks away, but poll-watchers are starting to make their predictions. Charlie Cook last week started using terms like "grim" and "real bad" to describe the situation for Republicans, although he mentioned the incredible mix of issues suddenly being thrown into the electoral cauldron, such as North Korea, that could still affect the outcome.

But Paul Krugman, whose wonderful column went behind that dreaded NYT subscription wall way back when, has chimed in. Like Cook, he still hedges his bets and acknowledges that Democrats might not take back the House, but what he does say is heartening:

Here's what's happening: a huge Democratic storm surge is heading toward a high Republican levee. It's still possible that the surge won't overtop the levee – that is, the Democrats could fail by a small margin to take control of Congress. But if the surge does go over the top, the flooding will almost surely reach well inland – that is, if the Democrats win, they'll probably win big. (. . .)

Bear in mind that the GOP isn't in trouble because of a string of bad luck. The problems that have caused Americans to turn on the party, from the disaster in Iraq to the botched response to Katrina, from the failed attempt to privatize Social Security to the sudden realization by many voters that the self-proclaimed champions of moral values are hypocrites, are deeply rooted in the whole nature of Republican governance. So even if this surge doesn't overtop the levee, there will be another surge soon.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Republican Senator wants Jesus out of politics

I don't want to see the Republican party go down in flames under the weight of their own corruption, double-dealing, fascistic policies and plutocratic machinations. I mean I do want to see it, but I wish I weren't seeing a Republican party that constantly exhibits all of those traits. Which is why I'm always keen to give a great big hand to a Republican like my fellow Missourian John Danforth. It's just a shame that men like him are an endangered species these days.

MARVEL at his honesty! "I am a Republican," he said. "I am a well-established Republican. I am not going to give up on my party. I just want it to get back to its moorings ... I just want them to disengage themselves from the Christian right."

THRILL at his candor! I think right now the problem is with my party, the Republican Party, and its willingness to identify itself with the Christian right. I think this has been a very conscious decision.

GASP at his daring!
For decades, I've been thinking about these two subjects [politics and religion], but not with the urgency of the past year and a half. This was triggered by the Terri Schiavo case; that was the specific tipping point in my own thinking. That was when I thought, "Something has gone very wrong here."

Yes, it's 100% true, folks! Step right up and see the shocking, wonderful Republican freak!