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


Thursday, November 30, 2006

You can swear on the Internet, too. That's a plus.

Dan Froomkin makes a point that a lot of us have been trying to make over and over for several years now (the second anniversary of my blog was in October, and I forgot to commemorate it with a nice photo of a sandwich or something). And he does it well, so I'll just help myself to a few paragraphs.

Mainstream-media political journalism is in danger of becoming increasingly irrelevant, but not because of the Internet, or even Comedy Central. The threat comes from inside. It comes from journalists being afraid to do what journalists were put on this green earth to do.

What is it about Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert that makes them so refreshing and attractive to a wide variety of viewers (including those so-important younger ones)? I would argue that, more than anything else, it is that they enthusiastically call bullshit.

Calling bullshit, of course, used to be central to journalism as well as to comedy. And we happen to be in a period in our history in which the substance in question is running particularly deep. The relentless spinning is enough to make anyone dizzy, and some of our most important political battles are about competing views of reality more than they are about policy choices. Calling bullshit has never been more vital to our democracy.

Should we call it paydom of speech?

Newt Gingrich got some attention on the blogosphere this week after suggesting that, in light of the war on terror, it might be time to rethink "free speech." Hey, it worked with habeas corpus.

Now he's backpedalled a bit in just the way you'd expect from a neo-fascist.

But what he would take away with one hand, he gives back with another. In the interest of, he said, "expanding First Amendment rights," he called for the elimination of all limits on campaign contributions, in exchange for candidates' and parties' reporting all contributions on the Internet.

This proposal is not new: Fred Wertheimer of Democracy 21 informs me that when it was introduced in Congress a few years ago, it was known as "DeLay-Doolittle-Ney." Now that the first of those is under indictment, the third has copped a plea, and the middle one is under serious investigation, one has to wonder: What should you call a piece of legislation when all of its cosponsors are in jail?

National Sacrifice

I've noted more than once Bush's penchant for comparing himself rather favorably with former presidents, including Lincoln and Truman. I prefer to find the ways in which Bush differs from his more highly regarded predecessors, and a fine example appeared today.

This week, it was noted that the Iraq war (not to mention Afghanistan) has now lasted longer than American involvement in World War II. And Mr. "I'm A War President" really seemed to relish the role for a while. That brings me to 1944, and the inaugural lunch of Franklin D. Roosevelt. The war raged on, and as Americans dealt with wartime rationing, they settled on a lunch of chicken salad, rolls (sorry, no butter), and coffee.

After winning the 2004 election, and while the 'war on terror' raged on, George Bush held the most lavish and expensive inaugural celebrations of any president in history.

Now, with the cost of the war at $300 billion, and 3,000 dead American troops, and the situation in Iraq finally being described as a civil war we can't win, the first couple have decided to throw some holiday parties with 23 deserts-- if you have room after the ' Colossal Shrimp Cocktail,' ' Herb Roasted Lollipop Lamb Chops,' and 'Asparagus Tier with Lemon-Garlic Aioli.'

And in case you wanted to make the obvious joke, the White House will be letting them eat five kinds of cake.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Shop as usual, and avoid panic buying.

I'm not a doomsday scenario kinda guy, but the Bush years have meant fiscal policy of the sort that usually gets college freshmen a stern lecture on credit cards not being "free money." They've outspent every previous administration and cut government revenue. Sadly, the voodoo economists are still in control-- and it isn't wealthy Republicans who'll find there's hell to pay when the bill comes due. The Bushies have seen to it that they're well provided for.

Doomsday for the dollar may in fact not have arrived. But arrive it will as time runs out on the pact that the US made with the devil – enjoy yourself as much as you can, have your every wish granted for, the punishment will be in the future. As 16th century playwright Marlowe put it:

“Ah, Faustus, now hast thou but one bare hour to live and then thou must be damned perpetually.

Stand still you ever moving spheres of heaven that time may cease and midnight never come”.

Midnight is at hand for the $800 billion a year US current account deficit which has been financing not just the US consumption binge and the Iraq war but the global asset price bubble which is affecting, to varying degrees, assets around the world and of every variety.

So what does this mean for an Asia which has been the silent partner in the Faustian bargain, acquiring most of those excess US dollars in return for the ability to sell unlimited amounts of sneakers, toys and laptops to Americans?

Read on if you've got the stomach for it, but be warned: it's terrifying stuff. Consider the author's investment advice: "avoid the dollar like the plague."

The Great (Diplomatic) Leap Forward

Just hitting the news is the story that Bush's meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki has been postponed. Everyone was present, but Bush apparently learned en route that he wouldn't be needed. This comes on the heels of two events that will make the White House look pretty bad.

First is the little-reported trip Cheney took to Saudi Arabia, described as a 'summons' by concerned leaders there rather than a friendly visit.

Second is the just-leaked administration memo, dated November 8, in which National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley argues that Maliki is-- although well intended-- "either ignorant of what is going on, misrepresenting his intentions, or that his capabilities are not yet sufficient to turn his good intentions into action."

It would be funny if it wasn't tragic. The last two supposed virtues of the Bush administration have crumbled since the election three weeks ago: its strict internal discipline and message control -- leaks are for Democrats! -- and the president's loyalty to his supporters. Now the White House is leaking like a sinking ship. And Bush's loyalty? It's vanished along with his majority in Congress.

First to take the hit was Donald Rumsfeld -- a man who richly deserved his shove under the bus, but still, someone Bush had promised to keep until the end of his term. This week, it's al-Maliki. The president himself began to set up al-Maliki on Tuesday, when he told reporters he'd be asking the besieged Iraqi prime minister for his plans to stop the violence that the U.S. invasion of his country ignited. (. . .)

The most disturbing aspect of the diplomatic carnage is that this was supposed to be the week the president got religion and began reaching out to world leaders to find a solution to the mess he's made in Iraq. His Jordan summit was part of an effort to preempt the work of the Iraq Study Group, to show that Jim Baker isn't the only one who can globe-trot and glad-hand with world leaders. "They want to create some activity on the eve of the Baker commission report so that they can point to the fact that they haven't just been sitting in the Situation Room waiting for Iraq to improve on its own," an administration "advisor" told Time this week.

And it's not just political posturing that's provoking the belated Bush effort. While some Democrats are already protesting the Baker group's probable failure to call for a timeline for troop withdrawal, Vice President Dick Cheney is said to be dead set against its almost certain recommendation that the administration reach out to Iran and Syria. And so the administration is suddenly looking globally for its own answers. The problem? "There's complete bewilderment as to what to do," the advisor told Time.

So after years of inciting global outrage with unilateral proclamations, decisions to break treaties, and what many have called American imperialism, we're finally getting a taste of diplomacy, Bush style. How do you like it?

The "Blame Iraq First" Crowd

I suspect this is a highly desirable outcome for Republicans, even though the elections are over. Iraq will still be very much on the table in 2008, and if the GOP can blame Iraqis instead of themselves for the chaos, they'll be more than happy to do it.

From troops on the ground to members of Congress, Americans increasingly blame the continuing violence and destruction in Iraq on the people most affected by it: the Iraqis.

Even Democrats who have criticized the Bush administration's conduct of the occupation say the people and government of Iraq are not doing enough to rebuild their society. The White House is putting pressure on the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, and members of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group have debated how much to blame Iraqis for not performing civic duties.

This marks a shift in tone from earlier debate about the responsibility of the United States to restore order after the 2003 invasion, and it seemed to gain currency in October, when sectarian violence surged. Some see the talk of blame as the beginning of the end of U.S. involvement.

It would be very foolish of Democrats to let this become the new frame for the war-- whether the Iraqis are doing their part or not is debatable (it's probably pretty damn hard to build a police force and military from scratch in the midst of a civil war), but they certainly didn't start the war.

Webb. Bush. Mee-ow.

The Hill reported this morning that there was a little incident between Pennsylvania's senator-elect and the president at the White House:

At a private reception held at the White House with newly elected lawmakers shortly after the election, Bush asked Webb how his son, a Marine lance corporal serving in Iraq, was doing.

Webb responded that he really wanted to see his son brought back home, said a person who heard about the exchange from Webb.

“I didn’t ask you that, I asked how he’s doing,” Bush retorted, according to the source.

Webb confessed that he was so angered by this that he was tempted to slug the commander-in-chief, reported the source, but of course didn’t.

The WaPo followed up with a little more alleged detail:

"That's between me and my boy, Mr. President," Webb said coldly, ending the conversation on the State Floor of the East Wing of the White House.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Dick. Get over here. Now.

I know it was a holiday weekend and all, but I didn't even know that Cheney went to Saudi Arabia. But there might've been a reason for that besides L-tryptophan. The above WaPo article makes a pretty bold assertion that should outrage right-wingers' sense of America #1. But won't.

Saudi Arabia is so concerned about the damage that the conflict in Iraq is doing across the region that it basically summoned Vice President Cheney for talks over the weekend, according to U.S. officials and foreign diplomats. The visit was originally portrayed as U.S. outreach to its oil-rich Arab ally.


Christian Coalition rejects "reducing poverty" as goal

While this election provided some evidence that self-described evangelicals aren't "my party right or wrong" Republicans, aggressive courting by Democrats might be a bit premature. Maybe when they decide to go a little more New Testament we can move in.

The president-elect of the Christian Coalition of America, which has long served as a model for activism for the religious right, has stepped down, saying the group resisted his efforts to broaden its agenda to include reducing poverty and fighting global warming.

The Rev. Joel C. Hunter, pastor of a Florida megachurch, was named the group’s president-elect in July. He was to have taken over the presidency in January from Roberta Combs, who is also the chairwoman of the Christian Coalition’s board. Mrs. Combs will continue in both positions now.

Over the last few years, Dr. Hunter, senior pastor of Northland Church in Longwood, Fla., has gained a reputation as an evangelical leader seeking to expand the agenda of conservative Christian activists from issues like abortion and same-sex marriage.

In a telephone interview, Dr. Hunter said that although Mrs. Combs had indicated that the organization also wanted to expand its priorities to include the issues that concerned him, the board backed away from such a commitment during a conference call last Tuesday. By the end of the call, Dr. Hunter and the coalition had decided to part amicably, according to both sides.

What's next for Net Neutrality?

The Democrats might be taking over, but that's no guarantee of a squeaky-clean Congress (witness Nancy Pelosi's unfortunate campaigns for Jack Murtha and Alcee Hastings)-- corporate money will still be widely available, and there are plenty of Dems who love it, too.

That said, while the outlook is better than it was a few weeks ago, it's still going to be a fight. The telecoms certainly will be changing their tactics, but not their objective.

Remember, the Bells still have a lot of friends and a lot of votes in Congress, whether on Net Neutrality or not. There are many legislators of both parties, on the relevant committees or not, who will vote the Bell line regardless. Net Neutrality isn’t a slam dunk. The key will be how much the Bells will be willing to deal. They didn’t feel the need in the last session of Congress. Now, with the leadership against them, they may have a different calculus, of trying to get the best bill they can.

By now, the Bells have realized how important Net Neutrality is to a great many people and organizations, ranging from large companies like Google and Yahoo, to public interest groups like Public Knowledge (my day-job employer), something they probably didn’t count on this year. If they try in good faith to negotiate a reasonable Net Neutrality provision next year, the Bells could gain some of their goals despite themselves.

It isn't stellar reading, but keeping the issue in mind can't hurt.

How I learned to stop worrying and love being disappeared.

Jeffrey Toobin has an interesting piece in the latest New Yorker that covers a whole lot of ground-- ostensibly, it's a look at the revocation of habeas corpus before the election, long since vanished from the news.

The law, known as the Military Commissions Act of 2006, was a logical culmination of an era of one-party rule in Washington. During the Presidency of George W. Bush, the executive branch, with the eager acquiescence of its Republican allies in Congress, has essentially dared the courts to defend the rights of the suspected Al Qaeda terrorists, who have been held at Guantánamo, some for as long as four years. The Supreme Court has twice taken up that challenge and forced the Administration to change tactics; the new law represented a final attempt to remove the detainees from the purview of the Court. Now, of course, Republicans no longer control Congress, but the change in the law of habeas corpus may be permanent.

But the article also looks at Senator Arlen Specter's role in the process, and by extension the political climate of the Republican state. And it ain't pretty.

Specter’s own beliefs appear to have changed little over the years, but he has been forced to work in an environment in which the Republican Party, especially in Congress, has imposed ever-tighter discipline. “When Lyndon Johnson became Vice-President, he wasn’t welcome at Senate Democratic caucus meetings anymore, because it was for senators only,” Patrick Leahy, the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, told me. “But every Tuesday since Bush has been President it’s been like a Mafia funeral around here. There are, like, fifteen cars with lights and sirens, and Cheney and Karl Rove come to the Republican caucus meetings and tell those guys what to do. It’s all ‘Yes, sir, yes, sir.’ I bet there is not a lot of dissent that goes on in that room. In thirty-two years in the Senate, I have never seen a Congress roll over and play dead like this one.”

The Nyah Nyah Nyah Doctrine

The Bush administration and the influence of the neocons has meant a whole lot more than destabilizing the Middle East. I've written several posts in the last few years on BushCo's massive spending on missile defense, and also PNAC's determination to create orbital weapons systems. But, as I'm sure you know, they've also been pushing hard for "tactical nuclear weapons." A sort of next generation of small, portable nukes. Smart, huh?

I'm all for having a military advantage over dangerous countries, and a strong national defense is a great thing. But this calls to mind the silliest of Cold War brinkmanship-- from back in the days when people said the US and the USSR had enough nuclear warheads to destroy the human race several times over. The other unfortunate aspect of today's politics is that, just like the Cold War, promoting anything less than that is likely to get you branded a traitor.

Check out this interesting report on conventional bunker busting munitions at Defense Tech. It's a bit technical, but the upshot is that conventional munitions can do a remarkably good job of destroying underground bunkers, better, in fact, than extant nuclear bunker busters. Drop enough "Deep Diggers" and the result is an earthquake that will collapse just about any bunker or, at the very least, the access tunnels to extremely deep bunkers. Moreover, there's no reason to think that the limits of conventional bunker busting munitions technology have been reached, suggesting that additional research could produce even more impressive results.

To add to what the author of the post rightly says, there's no practical, logical, or rational reason to push for more nuclear weapons (although there's an clear need to contain their spread)-- it's just a way for reactionaries to poke a stick in the eye of political, not military, opponents.

The vast, Islamofascist conspiracy

I heard an interesting statement last night on Bush's legacy (unfortunately, I didn't catch who said it on the BBC World Service). Something to the effect that it won't be about "avoiding a failure in Iraq, but avoiding a catastrophic failure of American foreign policy in the Middle East." And it's something that receives scant attention. For that matter, the fact that we face failure in Afghanistan as well receives scant attention compared to the Iraq debacle.

Unfortunately for Bush's legacy (not to mention tens of thousands of dead civilians), his only strategy is campaigning on 9/11.

During a press availability in Estonia today, the president acknowledged that the enemies' plans for Iraq have been going pretty well. Asked whether it isn't fair to call what's happening in Iraq a "civil war," Bush said: "You know, the plans of Mr. Zarqawi was to foment sectarian violence. That's what he said he wanted to do. The Samarra bombing that took place last winter was intended to create sectarian violence, and it has. The recent bombings were to perpetuate the sectarian violence. In other words, we've been in this phase for a while."

Of course, Bush's weird response was much more disingenuous than that. I think the most remarkable part was the way he cast Iraq as an American effort to "help" the fledgling government achieve order and stability, as if that's been the idea all along-- although order and stability are all Iraq did have until we invaded.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Your GOP: Still the majority, still evil.

While gerrymandering and the huge cost of running for office meant fewer seats in the Democratic "wave," it still provided a majority. I'm not sure how much can be accomplished in the next two years with such a small advantage in numbers, but there's one thing we can count on: Republicans will be using every dirty trick they can between now and January.

Even though the Do-Nothing 109th Congress has passed just two out of 11 spending bills, it has decided to put off the remaining nine until the new year, “dumping almost a half-trillion dollars of spending bills on the incoming Democratic majority.”

The conservative leadership is already making excuses. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) said he is looking into “what is feasible and achievable.” Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) admitted that political considerations may be behind the inertia, stating, “I know a lot of folks just as soon not to see them done this year and let the Democrats struggle here next year.”

News outlets to start calling Iraq a civil war.

Since at least the beginning of this year, there's been a debate simmering over the use of the term 'civil war' to describe the situation in Iraq. Right-wingers angrily cried "liberal propaganda," and most news outlets acquiesced. 'Sectarian violence' has been popular, along with wishy-washy statements referring to the "threat" of civil war. For some, reactionary outrage has finally been outweighed by reality.

Here's what Matt Lauer announced on NBC's Today Show this morning: "As you know, for months now the White House has rejected claims that the situation in Iraq has deteriorated into civil war. And for the most part, news organizations, like NBC, have hesitated to characterize it as such. But, after careful consideration, NBC News has decided the change in terminology is warranted -- that the situation in Iraq, with armed militarized factions fighting for their own political agendas, can now be characterized as civil war." (. . .)

NBC's First Read reports that the response was swift: "The White House is objecting this morning to descriptions of the Iraq conflict as a civil war. National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe said, 'The violence is primarily centered around Baghdad and Baghdad security and the increased training of Iraqi Security Forces is at the top of the agenda when [Bush and Maliki] meet later this week.'"

A report on NPR this evening notes that others are making the same decision, including the LA Times and the 32 newspapers owned by the McClatchy Company (among them the Kansas City Star, Miami Herald, and Fort Worth Star-Telegram).

Halliburton looks to sell off KBR?

Kellogg, Brown & Root, along with parent company Halliburton, have become synonymous with the corruption of the GOP and especially BushCo. It wasn't exactly a secret that the vice president was still getting hundreds of thousands of dollars annually from the company when he took office, and their profiteering in Iraq (including the delivery of substandard goods to troops, massive price-gouging, and a lavish Super Bowl party for their employees) has been audacious and extremely lucrative.

Now Halliburton might enjoy a last laugh-- and a final round of money-making from their Iraq venture. Assuming someone wants to take over a company likely to come under federal investigation (someday) for screwing over our military.

On Saturday's edition of Forbes on FOX, Forbes Senior Editor Elizabeth MacDonald recommended that FOX viewers buy Halliburton, giving as a reason the fact that they are looking to divest themselves of Kellogg, Brown & Root (KBR), a subsidiary which is under investigation for mishandling vital services to the U.S. military in Iraq. The name KBR has become synonymous with waste, fraud and incompetence. (. . .)

It's been rumored since 2004 that Halliburton was trying to unload KBR. However, it would seem that no less a personage that the Senior Editor of Forbes Magazine now believes it is a certainty.

Outgoing prez seeks shills for legacy-padding-- earn big $$$ today!

Although the very concept of a $500 million George W Bush will launch a thousand jokes, there's something all-too-typical about the contents. And they'll certainly reflect his administration. Maybe they could just call it the Potemkin Library.

The half-billion target is double what Bush raised for his 2004 reelection and dwarfs the funding of other presidential libraries. But Bush partisans are determined to have a massive pile of endowment cash to spread the gospel of a presidency that for now gets poor marks from many scholars and a majority of Americans.

The legacy-polishing centerpiece is an institute, which several Bush insiders called the Institute for Democracy. Patterned after Stanford University's Hoover Institution, Bush's institute will hire conservative scholars and "give them money to write papers and books favorable to the President's policies," one Bush insider said.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

On the playground with the GOP

I've revisited this topic several times now, but I never tire of it. It's the hopelessly juvenile-- yet wildly successful-- right-wing war against "ic."

The Daily Howler takes a look at those (like our president) who insist on saying "Democrat Party." And demonstrates that even when a reporter calls it like it is, something still goes wrong for the donkey.

At any rate, Marcus also noticed this usage by Bush, as she notes in this morning’s Post. “The derisive use of ‘Democrat’ in this way was a Bush staple during the recent campaign,” she writes—after earning her stripes as a sensible centrist with this perplexing locution:

MARCUS (11/22/06): If he wanted to, President Bush could change the tone in Washington with a single syllable: He could just say "ic." That is, he could stop referring to the opposition as the "Democrat Party" and call the other side, as it prefers, the Democratic Party. “As it prefers?”

Ruthie! The Democratic Party doesn’t “prefer” to be called the Democratic Party—that’s the actual name of the party! (. . .)

MARCUS (11/22/06): But Democrat-as-epithet has seen its fullest flowering—on talk radio, among congressional leaders and, more than with any of his predecessors, from the president himself—during the recent Republican heyday. As Hendrik Hertzberg pointed out in the New Yorker in August, the conservative Web site takes pains to scrub Associated Press copy “to de-'ic' references” to the party.

Hey, it's not like he sodomizes his wife in her sleep!

I wrote a few days ago that a recent nomination from Bush-- one that doesn't require Congressional approval-- was right up there with the most insane of the lot. And it just got more ridiculous today.

So it's not just that Bush's new chief of family planning services, Eric Keroack, uses wacky cartoons to teach kids reactionary, anti-scientific nonsense about sexuality. Apparently, he's not even a board-certified ob-gyn. Heckuva job, Bushie! (In fairness, as Bush appointments to crucial family planning posts go, he's still not quite as bad as David Hager.)

The thing is, the administration has made a point of touting Keroack's "cred" as a real, honest-to-gosh doctor. Only he isn't certified to practice medicine any more, having given that up to devote more time to idiocy. Maybe Jerry Falwell could be put in charge of NASA.

Bush to meet Iraqi PM-- in Jordan

On his last trip to Iraq, Fearless Leader was flown in secrecy and stayed for a few hours. The word was that not even the Iraqi government knew he was coming. Obvious conclusion to draw? Iraq is incredibly dangerous, and the White House has no faith in their government.

This time, Bush isn't even daring to set foot in Iraq (although the story takes five paragraphs to get to that), which says even less about the way things are going.

And how are things going? According to the UN, October was the deadliest month for civilians since the invasion.

At least 101 Iraqis died in the country's unending sectarian slaughter Wednesday, and the U.N. reported that 3,709 Iraqi civilians were killed in October, the highest monthly toll of the war and one that is sure to be eclipsed when November's dead are counted.

The United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq also said citizens were fleeing the country at a pace of 100,000 each month, and that at least 1.6 million Iraqis have left since the war began in March 2003.

To give it a little perspective (as Salon did), an equivalent number of American civilians dead in the same month would be about 39,000.

Shays unveils new GOP Iraq strategy: blame Democrats

Connecticut's Chris Shays, a longstanding Iraq booster, decided to make Democrats the majority a few months early-- and he's clearly eager to see them get some responsibility on Capitol Hill.

Appearing last night on MSNBC, Rep. Christopher Shays (R-CT) claimed that “the Democrats may not want to own Iraq but they own it now as much as this President.”

Democrats have not controlled the White House or either branch of Congress since the Iraq war began in 2003. Over that time, numerous leading Democrats have called for laws, resolutions, and hearings to prompt changes in our Iraq policy. Even when Democrats do assume control over Congress in January, the Bush administration will retain the authority to set many of our foreign policy and military priorities.

(Video at the link.)

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Dirty deeds, done like clockwork

Apparently the handover of Congress to Democratic leadership won't mark the end of Republican dirty tricks. Why am I not surprised?

Nancy Pelosi is considering legislation that would provide severance pay to Republican House staffers who will find themselves out of work when their newly unelected bosses leave office at the end of this year. It's something the Republicans didn't do for Democratic staffers when the GOP took the House in 1994, but the Hill says it's a way for the speaker-to-be to show that she's serious about building better working relationships with the new minority party.

What are the Republicans doing in return? Well, it's not quid pro quo exactly, but the Associated Press says the Republican leadership plans to wrap up its lame-duck session earlier than planned next month, leaving "a big spring cleaning job" for the Democrats to handle.

One reason? The AP says that by leaving unfinished business for the Democrats to do in 2007, the GOP can limit the amount of time the new majority has to advance its own legislative agenda. But the gamesmanship isn't just interparty; it's intraparty as well. As the AP says, some conservative Republican senators are stalling action on spending bills until after the new year begins so that their colleagues can't break the budget even more than it has been broken with on-the-way-out-the-door pork.

Also in Salon today, a handy guide to all the dirty tricks the GOP pulled during the election season. It's all there, and you can enjoy all the scumminess you might've missed the first time around: push polls, robo-calls, voter intimidation, disinformation campaigns, phony front groups, and more. Oh, boy!

Uhhh, "cut and run"? "I don't watch polls"? How 'bout "freedom"?

We've seen it way too many times: Bush gives folksy, feel-good speech. Bush is asked pointed question. Bush loses his cool and starts spouting canned phrases.

Only this time it wasn't Junior.

"We do not respect your son. We do not respect what he's doing all over the world," a woman audience member bluntly told Bush after his keynote speech.

Bush appeared stunned as the audience of young business leaders whooped and whistled in approval.

The retired president had just finished a folksy address on leadership by telling the audience how deeply hurt he feels when his son the president is criticized.

"This son is not going to back away," Bush said, his voice quivering. "He's not going to change his view because some poll says this or some poll says that, or some heartfelt comments from the lady who feels deeply in her heart about something. You can't be president of the United States and conduct yourself if you're going to cut and run. This is going to work out in Iraq. I understand the anxiety. It's not easy."

More on that "big win" for conservatism

Also in The New Republic, Jon Chait wrote a piece that follows the post-election weirdness of claiming that it was a big win for conservatism-- just like an actual win would've been a win for conservatism. It doesn't cover any new ground, really, but it's still satisfying to read.

It's because conservatives have an apparatus in place to interpret every election. If Republicans win, it's because they were conservative. If they lose, it's because they weren't. No matter what the facts may be, they will always conclude that the answer is to run further to the right.

No sooner had this year's election ended than nearly every conservative emerged to declare that Republicans had been defeated for betraying the One True Faith. Republicans, George Will wrote, "were punished not for pursuing but for forgetting conservatism." John McCain, who a few years ago was castigating his fellow Republicans for veering too far right, was now accusing them of the opposite, saying they "lost their way" by supporting big government.

Chait should probably acknowledge that Republicans did claim conservatives won-- they were just misrepresenting the Democratic victors. But it's always nice to see John McCain do a 180 on yet another "core belief" of his.

Planet Newt

Newt Gingrich. You've got to hand it to the guy for not losing his ,uh, "positive self-image" after his ethics problems while in office and the sleazy stories of his multiple marriages. Maybe he should start his own religion. 'Gingritology,' perhaps.

When asked about a 2008 presidential bid:

"I'm going to tell you something, and whether or not it's plausible given the world you come out of is your problem," he tells Fortune. "I am not 'running' for president. I am seeking to create a movement to win the future by offering a series of solutions so compelling that if the American people say I have to be president, it will happen."

Monday, November 20, 2006

Iraq hawks starting to desert

When the Iraq Study Group started garnering front-page headlines, there was all manner of speculation about what it all meant. The White House had started backpedaling from its "stay the course" mantra, but without saying there would be any actual policy changes.
Henry Kissinger made big headlines over the weekend, of course, when he declared that we couldn't win in Iraq. Colin Powell is reportedly pretty sick about his role in selling the war. But others are starting to jump ship.

Think Progress cites Condoleezza Rice as a staunch supporter of "the Group," while noting that she opposed a similar project in 2002. But she's been the target of grumbling from some prominent right-wingers (like Newt Gingrich) since at least the violence between Israel and Lebanon.

Harper's notes the conversion of Ken Adelman, another outspoken pitchman for the invasion of Iraq, and gives a rundown of the path he's followed from booster to cynic.

Adelman's hypocrisy is stunning. In 2002 it was he who famously predicted that American forces would enjoy “a cakewalk” in Iraq, and during the run-up to the invasion he derided war critics for their stupidity and naiveté. “There's always the chicken littles, running around and saying 'oh my God, it's terrible,'” he said on Hardball, six days before the war began, when asked about the possibility that things might not go as smoothly as he and his fellow-hawks had predicted.

And now?

Embittered Insiders Turn Against Bush,” was the headline of a front-page Washington Post story yesterday that detailed how former Iraq hawks have broken with the Bush Administration over the war. Exhibit A was Ken Adelman, a former Reagan Administration official and “onetime member of the Iraq war brain trust,” who has fallen out with Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney, and who told the Post that “the President is ultimately responsible” for the “debacle” in Iraq.

Time comments on 'Five Election Myths'

One of my very first posts after the elections was sort of a lament-- an anti-ode to the gerrymandering that's taken so much power away from voters, and I suspect prevented a total rout of Republicans. Several other posts were about the irritating slew of stories claiming (wrongly, but in accordance with right-wing talking points) that only conservative Democrats won.

Remarkably, Time has posted a story that mentions both of these issues and a couple more besides. If only it had made the print edition. But it's very well-done (it should be, with three people given writing credit!), full of links, and highly recommended.

MYTH: Joe Lieberman's victory proves the netroots don't matter.
REALITY: The netroots had some key victories.

MYTH: Democrats won because they carefully recruited more conservative candidates.
REALITY: Democrats won because their candidates were conservative about their message.

MYTH: The losses Republicans sufferend [sic] this election were no different than what you usually see in a President's sixth year in office.
REALITY: Redistricting minimized what might have been a truly historic shellacking.

MYTH: The election was all about the war.
REALITY: It's the dishonesty, stupid.

MYTH: Republicans lost their base.
REALITY: The base turned out, they just got beat.

Fox News: With circuses like these, who needs bread?

There was always a creepy dichotomy between Fox broadcasting and Fox News. When the former was rolled out in the late 1980s, they were often criticized for plumbing the depths of lowbrow-- more sex, more violence, and all the attendant worries about the imminent collapse of Western civilization. Things people associate with the evils of Hollywood, which equals "liberal permissiveness." When Fox News came along, it had plenty of sex and violence, too, (described pretty frequently in recent years as the 'missing white woman' channel) but with a reactionary tilt. Of course, Baywatch was notably high-rated in the world's most conservative areas, reminding us once again that titillation and sanctimony are intimate playmates.

Which leads me to this headline: Fox News Covered O.J. Interview As Much As CNN, MSNBC, Headline News Combined.

. . .Bill O’Reilly attacked the “far left loons” who linked Fox News with the O.J. Simpson interview. According to O’Reilly, these people are “kool-aid zombies” who are “doing the bidding of far left fanatics” who want "to tie Fox News in with the O.J. Simpson situation."

But there are close ties between Fox News and the O.J. Simpson situation. According to a database search, Fox News referenced the Simpson affair as many times in the last five days as the other three leading cable news networks combined. According to TVEyes, there have been 417 references to Simpson between Nov. 15 - Nov. 20 (3:30 PM). During the same period, there were 414 references to Simpson on CNN, MSNBC, and Headline News.

But Fox News is also planning some intentional comedy for the network:

Now Fox News Channel, a primary source of material for Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, is teaming with the exec producer of "24" to try its hand at a news satire show for conservatives to love.

Joel Surnow, co-creator of "24," is shooting two half-hour pilots of a skein he described as " 'The Daily Show' for conservatives," due to air in primetime on Saturdays in January.

Comedy will not ensue.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Divine Right

One of the most tiresome things about American conservatism is its justification of social Darwinism-- if you make a fortune, it's because you're inherently superior and deserving, and if you live in poverty it's because you're either lazy, immoral, or non-white (a likely sign of laziness and immorality). Rationalizing selfishness, in short. And if you can add religion, well, home run.

So Charles Murray now preaches the gospel of Leave It To Beaver. The approach is a particularly elegant form of pandering: It denies the need for government action, reifies the Christian obsession with marriage, and insinuates that the poverty of poor blacks can be blamed on their insufficiently virtuous family structures. In other words, it's their fault.

Problem is, the evidence doesn't support the claims. There's plenty of data proving a correlation between marriage rates and better situations for children, but precious little proving that it is an effective bulwark against intergenerational poverty. (. . .)

According to the National Education Longitudinal Study, eighth-graders living apart from their biological fathers have an expected poverty rate of 16.6 percent. Those in an intact family have an expected poverty rate of 9.9 percent. But that latter group is almost three times as large as the former one. As such, a deeply generous estimate -- one that assumes all fathers are, so to speak, equal and equally desirable, and that single-parent families aren't actually that way for a damn good reason -- suggests that eliminating single-parent families would lower poverty by a mere 16 percent. As such, marriage promotion, while a possible part of an eventual war on poverty, is totally insufficient. It's just not enough. The authors conclude that "to reduce poverty among future generations, there may be no substitute for a system of social insurance and income transfers."

Business as usual, as usual.

With Trent Lott, John Boehner and Roy Blunt head up the GOP in Congress. The White House is trying to push through reactionary nominees like John Bolton and federal judges who couldn't pass muster even with a Republican majority. And on it goes. It looks like the best we can hope for during the next two years is inaction. Because it's still all about ideology:

The Bush administration has appointed a new chief of family-planning programs at the Department of Health and Human Services who worked at a Christian pregnancy-counseling organization that regards the distribution of contraceptives as "demeaning to women."

Eric Keroack, medical director for A Woman's Concern, a nonprofit group based in Dorchester, Mass., will become deputy assistant secretary for population affairs in the next two weeks, department spokeswoman Christina Pearson said yesterday.(. . .)

He will oversee $283 million in annual family-planning grants that, according to HHS, are "designed to provide access to contraceptive supplies and information to all who want and need them with priority given to low-income persons."

The appointment, which does not require Senate confirmation, was the latest provocative personnel move by the White House since Democrats won control of Congress in this month's midterm elections. (. . .)

The Keroack appointment angered many family-planning advocates, who noted that A Woman's Concern supports sexual abstinence until marriage, opposes contraception and does not distribute information promoting birth control at its six centers in eastern Massachusetts.

"Opposes contraception." Yes, it's back to the nineteenth century with BushCo.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Bring on the big push.

One of the possible recommendations of the Iraq Study Group is a big push in Iraq-- send more troops, get things under control. John McCain has been pushing for this, and there are suggestions that Fearless Leader is on board:

President George Bush has told senior advisers that the US and its allies must make "a last big push" to win the war in Iraq and that instead of beginning a troop withdrawal next year, he may increase US forces by up to 20,000 soldiers, according to sources familiar with the administration's internal deliberations.

It won't work. BushCo was screwed out of the gate by sending in too few troops to begin with. Trying an iron fist ploy at this point is just going to increase the size and ferocity of an already pissed-off and entrenched insurgency. So sez me. That was before I ran across a retarded Weekly Standard article which argues that the Bushies know exactly what they're doing because increased troop levels are directly linked to a decrease in US casualties.

As befits the reality-based community, someone decided to look into the Weekly Standard's claims (and thank heaven there are people out there with the patience), only to find that-- when looking at the actual numbers and applying Eldritche & Arkayne Mysteries of Mathematika-- increasing troop levels by 20,000 wouldn't make a damn bit of difference.

See the entire analysis through the title link.

Senate Dems want action on vote suppression

With Steny Hoyer beating out Pelosi's choice, Jack Murtha, for Majority Leader, the Speaker (-Elect) of the House gets to begin her tenure with a little egg on her face-- although perhaps not as much as a Murtha victory would've meant.

In the meantime, some other Democratic senators are starting to fight the sort of battles you want to hear about in the news.

In a breakfast meeting sponsored by the American Prospect, Harry Reid told reporters today that the [GOP-sponsored robocalls] and the phony campaign literature were "absolutely wrong," and that one of the first 10 bills he introduces in the next Senate will deal with such abuses. "We need to make these criminal penalties," Reid said, saying that civil liability was apparently not enough to deter what happened in the run-up to last week's election.

Chuck Schumer's actions are probably best described as quixotic, considering the addressee, but it's still good to see:

Sen. Chuck Schumer, meanwhile, is pushing the Justice Department to explain what, exactly, it's going to do about last week's reports of voter intimidation and trickery. Schumer raised the issue today with Civil Rights Division chief Wan Kim, who was appearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, and he has followed up with a letter to Alberto Gonzales and other department officials in which he describes some of the "egregious attempts to block access to the ballot during this year’s campaign season." Among them: "In Maryland, groups of people were brought in buses from out of state and paid to distribute sample ballots that misleadingly suggested that Republican gubernatorial and Senate candidates were Democratic candidates. In Arizona, three men were observed intimidating Hispanic voters by stopping and questioning them outside a Tucson polling place. Virginia voters suffered through a campaign of phone calls, currently being investigated by the FBI, that wrongly informed voters that they were not registered and would face criminal charges if they appeared at their polling places."

Yeah, yeah, and ketchup is a vegetable.

The elections might have signified a popular rejection of reactionary GOP politics, but it looks like BushCo is going to have to be dragged kicking and screaming from the sort of Soviet-era doublespeak that's characterized their social policies.

The U.S. government has vowed that Americans will never be hungry again. But they may experience "very low food security."

Every year, the Agriculture Department issues a report that measures Americans' access to food, and it has consistently used the word "hunger" to describe those who can least afford to put food on the table. But not this year.

The USDA said that 12 percent of Americans -- 35 million people -- could not put food on the table at least part of last year. Eleven million of them reported going hungry at times. Beginning this year, the USDA has determined "very low food security" to be a more scientifically palatable description for that group.

Feel free to mention this the next time your favorite conservative rails against the forces of politically correct "language police."

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Is that a bomb in your pocket, or are you just on cable news?

Something I've always wondered about Glenn Beck and his CNN show is why the network has been advertising so much on outlets like Air America and Salon. I don't mind seeing them get the sponsorship dollars, but it's an odd strategy given that Beck is just one more member of the will-be-a-bellicose-reactionary-for-cash scene. I would've hoped we'd hit market saturation by this point.

On yesterday's show, he demonstrated his fitness to stand alongside Limbaugh, Savage/Wiener, O'Reilly, et al.

On the November 14 edition of his CNN Headline News program, Glenn Beck interviewed Rep.-elect Keith Ellison (D-MN), who became the first Muslim ever elected to Congress on November 7, and asked Ellison if he could "have five minutes here where we're just politically incorrect and I play the cards up on the table." After Ellison agreed, Beck said: "I have been nervous about this interview with you, because what I feel like saying is, 'Sir, prove to me that you are not working with our enemies.' " Beck added: "I'm not accusing you of being an enemy, but that's the way I feel, and I think a lot of Americans will feel that way."

I suppose it's fair to say that assuming your interlocutor's religion makes him a terrorist sympathizer is "politically incorrect," but I think I'd call it an understatement. It's nice of Beck to act as though bigotry requires great courage.

Pelosi mystifies. Twice.

I haven't commented on the Murtha-Hoyer contest in the House yet in part because it was just such a baffling choice between two pretty unappealing contenders-- who immediately started fighting tooth and nail. If Pelosi's Democratic leadership is going to be about fighting corruption and pork-hungry politicians, Murtha is a terrible choice. Hoyer? Well, he's younger but still quite the fan of corporate dollars. Thankfully, Joe Conason has stepped up to the plate and written all about it:

[The Abscam] incident, which occurred more than two decades ago, never troubled [Murtha's] conservative critics until he spoke out against the war. But more recently, he has participated enthusiastically in the rotten system that funnels hundreds of millions of dollars in defense “earmarks” sought by lobbyists, whose clients then make enormous campaign contributions to the appropriators. . . .

He has also regularly opposed lobbying and ethical reforms, and even helped to kill Democratic efforts to investigate contracting abuses in Iraq.

Then there's Hoyer:

Mr. Hoyer is younger and slicker than Mr. Murtha, but he is equally receptive to the lobbying industry. Indeed, he has boasted of his role in creating a Democratic version of the K Street Project set up by Republican leaders to institutionalize their relationship with corporate lobbyists. The usual description of Mr. Hoyer as “friendly to business” is a polite understatement. But nobody has accused him of unethical conduct, and he has won the support of such rigorous reformers as Representatives Henry Waxman of California and Jerrold Nadler of New York.

But Pelosi has created a second unappealing choice with the Alcee Hastings - Jane Harman contest for the chair of the House Intelligence Committee. If you're hungry for more, have a look at Yglesisas' link-heavy post.

Is Michael Brown available for the SecDef gig?

Trent Lott, best known for his vocal support of Strom Thurmond's segregationist presidential bid in 2002, moved back up the Republican food chain, beating out Lamar Alexander for the position of minority whip. (Keep in mind that he was voted in by his fellow senators.)

Ken Tomlinson, best known for mismanaging the Public Broadcasting Corporation and attempting to turn it into a propaganda arm of the GOP/personal slush fund for friends, is also movin' on up

President Bush on Tuesday renominated the chairman of the agency that directs U.S. overseas broadcasts even though the nomination has been stalled in the Senate amid allegations of misconduct.

Kenneth Y. Tomlinson was nominated again as chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors and for a term on the board expiring Aug. 13, 2007. The board oversees Voice of America, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Radio Free Asia, Radio and TV Marti, broadcasting initiatives in the Middle East and other nonmilitary U.S. broadcasting overseas.

In September, a spokeswoman for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said senators did not plan to act on Bush's nomination of Tomlinson in January 2005 while a government investigation of his activities was under way.

Oh, yes, it gets better. Not only is the administration trying to game the system and keep anti-UN hothead John Bolton in his post without Senate confirmation, but Bush is re-nominating four judges so out there that even Republican senators are getting queasy:

As the Wall Street Journal piece points out, it's an unusual move after all that smiley-faced talk of bipartisanship. Looks like reactionary days are here again-- and just a week after the elections.

Fox still aggressively biased

Although I'm way behind the curve getting to this story (which I actually heard at about 7:30 this morning), at least you'll be spared yet another play on 'fair and balanced' or 'we report, you decide.' I'm sure they've all been done over the course of the day. And since this sort of thing has happened before, they were probably all repeats, anyway.

To the best of my knowledge, though, it's the first time a Fox memo requesting biased reporting has come from a vice president-- or maybe it's just been too long since I watched Outfoxed.

There is some subtlety in the memo, which doesn't come right out and say "All right, troopers, let's get out there and skew the news!" But it's interesting that there's an implicit statement that Rumsfeld should be looking chipper in news footage, and this reminder: "Just because Dems won, the war on terror isnt' [sic] over." To me, this demonstrates Fox support for the GOP strategy of frightening voters into supporting them. But I'm biased.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

BushCo contemplates end run on Bolton

This is one of those moments when you have to just shake your head and wonder how it is that the media pretty much ignores the stupefying extremism of the right-wing blogs/punditocracy (not to mention BushCo) in favor of taking potshots at progressives. But here it is-- having lost control of the Senate, they're looking to just write the chamber out of government. Sure it's totally antithetical to our form of government-- but it's just another day for the new American right.

As the New York Times reported last week, "In this situation, the usual next step would be for Mr. Bolton to withdraw from consideration and for Mr. Bush to nominate a less polarizing candidate ... But Mr. Bolton is keen to stay at the helm of the American team at the United Nations, administration officials say, and White House officials, including the legal adviser, Harriet Miers, have been looking into whether Mr. Bush can somehow bypass the Senate and save Mr. Bolton. Administration officials said that Vice President Dick Cheney is backing the exploration of such a move."

Today, Hugh Hewitt jumps on the bandwagon, writing, "If Ambassador Bolton is refused an up-or-down vote by the Senate, I will join [Pajamas Media blogger Claudia Rosett] in the necessary fund-raising drive to collect and donate his salary to him."

The trick here is that, were Bolton given another recess appointment, he couldn't draw a salary. But it's nice to see the return of the "up-or-down vote" strategem. Why, that hasn't turned up since Harriet Miers was.... Oh. Never mind. I have to applaud Hewitt, though, for portraying an attempt to subvert democracy as an attempt to uphold it. This brand of demagoguery is sure going to linger, but it's good to see that the neo-fascist playbook isn't changing in the face of defeat.

Better living through less oversight

When it was reported that the election results had been as favorable for Dems as they could be, Iraq and Congressional corruption were widely cited as the two major factors. Also mentioned, but not nearly as widely, was the popularity of a minimum wage increase. This is a favorite bugbear of the right-- it's government manipulation of the free market (unbridled socialism!), it will lead to massive unemployment, cause economic stagnation, etc. There's no evidence of that, although state-level increases have actually led to higher employment, not to mention a better standard of living for the working poor.

So it's a strange irony to see a conservative group essentially fighting for wage protection-- and turning to the reactionary Bush administration to get it. All right, I take that back. This sort of story has become sickeningly unironic in the last six years. It's just another tale of the already-rich lining up at the trough for more.

Corporate profits are at record levels. The Dow, too, has climbed past its high-water mark from the dot-com era. Executives reap bigger and bigger paydays, even as wages have stagnated. Meanwhile, the widening investigation into stock-option backdating reminds us that the corporate malfeasance era was much more than just a couple of bad apples like Enron and WorldCom.

It seems almost unbelievable, then, that corporate America would pick this moment to beg for relaxed regulation and enforcement, as well as more protection from investors’ lawsuits. But as Stephen Labaton reported recently in The Times, industry groups are seeking broad new protections for corporations and accounting firms, not through legislation but from the Bush administration through agency rule changes.

This is really a must-read. As it points out, the wheeler-dealers are making the same arguments they've always rejected from workers when it comes to international competition-- but they're predictably uninterested in the free market when it comes to executive pay.

The icing on the cake? A classic of "Bushery," which I'm pleased to say I just came up with on the spot-- these champions of the free market wish to protect their industry (and world-leading executive pay levels) from cheaper competition by stripping investors of their protections against corporate malfeasance.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Gone fishin'

Have some important business to attend to. Look for normal posting to resume tomorrow or Wednesday.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Election still not a win for the right

Before the election was over-- but by the time it had become clear that Democrats were the big winners-- some conservative pundits had already hit upon a way to claim that black was white. As I've noted several times over the last few days, it was to claim that the Democrats who won weren't really Democrats at all, but conservatives.

As perhaps the least ridiculous way to claim a loss as a win, it was obviously going to be the rationalization for conservative talking heads. Just as inevitable was that lazy and/or inept reporters dutifully pass it on as the truth. But it's still nonsense.

On Thursday, the New York Times' David Brooks wrote, in a column titled "The Middle Muscles In," that in Tuesday's elections "voters kicked out Republicans but did not swing to the left. For the most part they exchanged moderate Republicans for conservative Democrats." He's not the only one to make a similar argument -- indeed, the meme that by delivering the Democrats the majority in both houses of Congress for the first time in 12 years voters somehow were trying to elect conservatives has been bouncing all over the media, spread mostly by people with an interest in seeing their own views, whether centrist or conservative, confirmed. (. . .)

Media Matters for America, the liberal press watchdog, has already documented the political proclivities of 27 of the new Democrats in Congress; MMA restricted its analysis to those who defeated incumbent Republicans or took over open seats previously held by Republicans. It found: "All 27 candidates support raising the minimum wage. All 27 candidates advocate changing course in Iraq. All 27 candidates oppose efforts to privatize Social Security. Only two of the 27 candidates do not support embryonic stem cell research. Only five of the 27 candidates describe themselves as 'pro-life.'"

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Thursday Funny

Thanks to Vigil Auntie

Meanwhile, in Sarasota...

OD1 reminded me that there are several races out there still being hotly contested. Two are right in his backyard-- thoroughly unpleasant Ohio Republicans "Mean" Jean Schmidt and Deborah Pryce have claimed victory, but the counting of provisional ballots won't be resolved anytime soon. It doesn't sound like there's too great a chance for either race to go to the Democrat.

And in Katherine Harris' neck of the woods, things are looking very 2000.

Florida's secretary of state is sending a team to conduct an audit of Sarasota County's voting system after a stunning 18,382 votes were either not cast or not recorded in a congressional race.

Secretary of State Sue M. Cobb made the announcement today in a letter to Sarasota County elections chief Kathy Dent, who had asked for the audit as well as a team to observe an upcoming recount of the nationally watched election.

The case has cast a national spotlight on the accuracy or usability of touch-screen voting machines, which don't have a paper-trail ballot that many activists say would make recounts more transparent.

The recount for House District 13, in which Republican Vernon Buchanan holds a 368-vote lead over Democrat Christine Jennings, will take place Monday both in Sarasota County and in the four other counties comprising the district formerly led by Katherine Harris.

Is it too soon to be a Gloomy Gus again?

With Burns and Allen-- hey, I didn't even notice that until now!-- conceding their respective races, it's official. The Democrats have gone all bicameral on the GOP and taken control of Congress. To the degree that they could, anyway. And that's the problem. It's an issue that's been on my mind of late, and it just so happens that TNR has an editorial about it. Incumbency. 90% re-election rates. And the redistricting and incredible cost of running for office

In the olden days of politics, electoral wipeouts were great spectacles to behold. When Democrats or Republicans slipped on the political banana peel, they would tumble, arms flailing like Chevy Chase, into congressional defeat. In the 1894 election, Democrats squandered 125 seats; in 1922, Republicans endured a loss of 77 seats. This year, for the first time in over a decade, there's talk of a wipeout. But this wipeout, should it occur, would entail Republicans losing a mere 30 seats. . .

When we wax nostalgic for the bygone era of true electoral catastrophes, it's not just out of a hunger for more enjoyable political theater. We're pining for elections that reflect public will. . . .

All this is the legacy of our least favorite Founding Father, Elbridge Gerry, and the formula for rigging congressional elections that bears his name. Not that it's all Gerry's fault. The redistricting plan he signed in 1812--and the hundreds that have followed--merely exploited a massive flaw in our electoral system. When you have congressional districts, those districts will have boundaries, and those boundaries will inevitably rebound to one party's favor. Unless we remake our system of government in the image of Germany or New Zealand, most American voters are going to be stuck with the annoying fact that their congressional vote doesn't much matter; their incumbent will win, no matter which lever they pull.

I'd call this required reading.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Associated Press: The Senate is 51-49

Just minutes ago, the AP called the Virginia Senate race for Jim Webb (word was already out that the GOP was going to lean on Allen to get it over with quickly). I wouldn't call it the last word, but go ahead and savor it for a few moments. Take a deep breath and say it with me: the Democrats have taken control of the House and the Senate.

Democrats wrested control of the Senate from Republicans Wednesday with an upset victory in Virginia, giving the party complete domination of Capitol Hill for the first time since 1994.

Jim Webb's squeaker win over incumbent Sen. George Allen gave Democrats their 51st seat in the Senate, an astonishing turnabout at the hands of voters unhappy with Republican scandal and unabated violence in Iraq. Allen was the sixth Republican incumbent senator defeated in Tuesday's elections.

The Senate had teetered at 50 Democrats, 49 Republicans for most of Wednesday, with Virginia hanging in the balance. Webb's victory ended Republican hopes of eking out a 50-50 split, with Vice President Dick Cheney wielding tie-breaking authority.

The B-List of GOP Losers

Now that I'm able to spend some time with the day's news, it's nice to see just how many names from the "defeated" column I recognize from across the nation-- and how happy I am to see them there. Not least is Missouri's Jim Talent, whose race was in the "too close to call" category until the very end-- although the state has been pretty evenly divided for the last six years, it's wound up being overrun by small-scale versions of the feckless idiots who've come to define the Bush administration.

If you're looking to gloat a bit and say farewell to some legislators who won't be missed, you could do a lot worse than this article. There are some bittersweet moments, especially since the endangered species known as republicanus moderatus was hunted even closer to extinction, but you really should take a moment to savor the post mortem on Santorum's fellow losers-- less famous, but just as richly deserving of defeat-- like Chris Chocola, Richard Pombo, and JD Hayworth.

At long last, (Netroots) love.

I'll say one thing about the elections-- it's nice for the usual navel-gazing to be about ascribing the credit instead of the blame. It's doubly nice to find that some people are coming right out and saying that the strategy of fielding conservative Democrats wasn't the answer. Earlier I linked to a couple of pieces from the American Prospect (here and here) making the case, and now there's a piece up on TNR with a similar angle.

Unfortunately, the list of talking heads pushing the inaccurate 'only conservatives can win' line are the ones making the rounds of cable news.

The Democrats have won back the House. Rahm Emanuel, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), nearly tripped over himself on the way to the microphone to claim the credit. In fact, while the tidal wave in the House looks like a bit of strategic genius by Emanuel--and pundits are starting to call it that way (Howard Fineman on MSNBC noted that the Democrats even picked up a seat in Kentucky, where the 3rd District candidate was John Yarmuth--"Emanuel's fourth choice!" Fineman exclaimed, as if in awe of the power possessed by Emanuel's mere table scraps)--in race after race, it actually represents the apotheosis of forces Emanuel has doubted all long: the netroots.

In two competitive House races in the Bluegrass State, Emanuel's first choices lost by eleven and nine points. (. . .) It was a pattern repeated across the country.

All three stories make for very interesting reading.

UPDATE: Salon's Andrew Leonard joins the chorus with this piece. Also worth reading.

If anything, the Northeast, with the possible exception of new Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey, is sending a more solid block of liberal Democrats to Congress than has been seen in generations, if ever. New Hampshire's utter transformation into the bluest of blue states has nothing to do with any purported rise of social conservatism. And even in Pennsylvania, it's hard not to look at the humiliating annihilation of the Senate's third most powerful leader, Rick Santorum, as anything other than a triumph over the most backward, homophobic, caveman-style conservativism this country has to offer.

But what isn't getting mentioned is the rank absurdity of even suggesting that the emergence of a handful of Southern conservative Democrats represents anything new or surprising under the sun. White Southern Democrats, by and large, have always been conservative.

Donations from America's wealthiest down 60%

One of the justifications repeatedly used for BushCo economic policies has been the curious proposal that tycoons would be much more charitable and benevolent if the government weren't forcing them to do crazy things like pay the same taxes that everyone else does. Consequently, from the inital "Whoopee! Two hundred dollars" tax cuts to faith-based initiatives, and on through the tireless war against the estate tax, the refrain has been the same. "Let the rich keep their money and the hoi polloi will be rewarded-- through job creation and massive increases in charitable giving." And it worked-- in classic voodoo economics fashion.

America's most-generous donors contributed a total of $4.3-billion to charity last year, a sharp drop from 2004, when the top donors gave more than $10-billion, a new Chronicle survey has found. For the first time since 1998, no gifts of $1-billion or more were donated to charitable causes.

The median amount the donors on the list gave in 2005, including pledges, was $32.5-million, meaning that half gave more and half gave less. In 2004, the median was $40.8-million. On this year's list of big donors, higher education received by far the largest share of gifts — 44 — than any other category, followed by 18 gifts to hospitals and medical centers.

It's official: Bye-bye, Rummy

Let the spilling of virtual ink begin! There's going to be a ton of wonky reading to do tonight. I'm looking forward to it. Almost as much as I'm enjoying mental pictures of a bitter old man shuffling about in his slippers and muttering to himself about being underappreciated.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld stepped down as defense secretary on Wednesday, one day after midterm elections in which opposition to the war in Iraq contributed to heavy Republican losses.

President Bush said he would nominate Robert Gates, a former CIA director, to replace Rumsfeld at the Pentagon.

Asked whether his announcement signaled a new direction in the war that has claimed the lives of more than 2,800 U.S. troops, Bush said, "Well, there's certainly going to be new leadership at the Pentagon."

Bush lavished praise on Rumsfeld, who has spent six stormy years at his post. The president disclosed he met with Gates last Sunday, two days before the elections in which Democrats swept to control of the House and possibly the Senate.

UPDATE: I thought I'd mentioned this when I wrote the post, but apparently not. I'm sure the nomination of Gates for the role will fuel a ton of speculation on James Baker and the 'Iraq study group.' Gates, with his ties to Scowcroft, is clearly linked to their camp. And although the prevailing sentiment seems to be that Baker and Company were called in to let George know that it was time for the grown-ups to take over, there hasn't been any clear indication of what their recommendation for the least bad option of ending the war there will be. Bush, on the other hand, has been showing signs of being ready to make some changes for a couple of weeks now, and this pretty much seals the deal.

TNR is quick out of the gate with a look at how Gates might change the picture: Alarmist intelligence has always been the hallmark of Rumsfeld--and Cheney's--foreign policy, and at the very least, it's comforting to see that Gates is somewhat less interested in playing that game.

Breaking: Rumsfeld to step down?

When I saw the headline, I couldn't believe it. A quick Google search had Rummy's spokespeople saying just one hour ago that he had no intention of stepping down in the wake of the elections. But that was Fox News. And spokespeople.

An AP story out right this very minute says that not only will he be slinging his hook, but a replacement's already been tapped. And it ain't Joe Lieberman. Given that Fearless Leader is scheduled for a press conference right about now, we should know soon. And the blogs will be going from election fever to wonky theorizing. Fun stuff.

The story:

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, architect of an unpopular war in Iraq, intends to resign after six stormy years at the Pentagon, Republican officials said Wednesday.

Officials said Robert Gates, former head of the CIA, would replace Rumsfeld.

he development occurred one day after midterm elections that cost Republicans control of the House, and possibly the Senate, as well. Surveys of voters at polling places said opposition to the war was a significant contributor to the Democratic victory.

President Bush was expected to announce Rumsfeld's departure and Gates' nomination at an afternoon news conference. Administration officials notified congressional officials in advance.

The "win for conservatism" meme spreads

Over at the Prospect, Tom Schaller follows up his original post with a more extensive analysis of why we shouldn't be hearing pundits claiming that this election proves that America is all about conservatives. I think he's got it exactly right. But we're going to be hearing it constantly anyway.

"Pull back the lens and what appears to be happening this year is a regional-ideological partisan correction in which Rockefeller-Ford Republicans are purged from the NE/NW Rust Belt, and prairie progressives pick off selected seats in the Far West. The regional realignment over the past 40 years, which slowly converted Dixiecrats into Republicans, has now entered its final stage, as voters north of the Mason-Dixon line and west of the Mississippi provide a countervailing response to the southern-led Republican majority.

This transformation is occurring at the Senate, House, and gubernatorial levels. Indeed, because Rust Belt Republicans will be replaced by progressive Democrats, regardless of the final 2006 results, both chambers of the 110th Congress will become more progressive among the growing shares of Democrats and more conservative among the shrinking ranks of Republicans."

There's more. Check it out. And keep telling DLCers to shut their gobs.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Spinning the results-- whatever they are

A lot of people seemed loath to make predictions on the outcome of this election-- and as of yesterday, most were calling it within a narrow margin of 2o (or so) House and 4 (or so) Senate seats moving to the Dems.

But there are plenty of people eager to spin the results that haven't come in yet.

Adam Nagourney has declared pretty much any result a loss for the Dems. Yes, expectations for the Dems are high, but moving the goalposts never hurts, either.

MSNBC talking heads Tucker Carlson and Noral O'Donnell have another theory-- a win for Democrats means that the Republicans win. That's because only conservative Democrats could hope to win in Red America. It's not true, needless to say.

I'm sure we'll be hearing both of these over and over in the coming days-- whatever the results are.

So what happened today?

Our Man in Ohio , OD1, pretty much summed up my feelings about election day when he wrote over the weekend-- even though the latest polls showed Democrats leading there across the board-- "All I can say is that I am cautiously optimistic. The poll numbers are astonishing, and we cannot celebrate until the votes are counted." We're all used to that terrible dichotomy.

In an excellent piece for Salon today, Gary Kamiya wrote something else that I'm sure will resonate with a lot of folks out there as much as it did with me:

Bush's reelection was the most depressing political event in the postwar era. It was close, but that only made it more painful. Most of the people I know still haven't gotten over it. We felt like some perverse deity had switched countries on us when we weren't looking. And we were filled with deep anger not just at Bush but also at those Americans who reelected him.

We knew there would be problems on election day, too. Dirty tricks from the GOP, electronic voting machines that weren't working-- more of what we've come to expect in the last six years. And Salon's War Room has been doing a bang-up job of reporting them, with a gaggle of contributors. (Think Progress has also been on the ball today-- covering stories like Laura Ingraham encouraging listeners to jam a Democratically-run voter protection line (now that's great comedy!) and fraudulent signs in Georgia.)

There's some good news. Turnout is reportedly high in a lot of hotly-contested areas. That might not always break in the Dems' favor, but it's a good sign-- especially given the frequent observation that likely Democratic voters were much more fired up about today.

And in a very unpleasant example of the shoe being on the other foot, right-wingers are already firing up the media echo chamber with allegations of voter fraud and suppression. There was never any doubt in my mind that if Bush and Gore's respective positions had been reversed, committed Republicans would've had a similarly reversed view of what the 'just' and 'principled' course of action would've been in 2000. Get ready for some proof of that. And even more proof of it.

Where have there been reports of voting problems? Pittsburgh. Florida's notorious Broward County. The FBI was said to be investigating reports of GOP dirty tricks in Viriginia-- which you might recall as the place where George Allen's supporters wrestled a critic of the candidate to the ground.

Then there was the funny. Creepy, but funny. Ohio's "Mean" Jean Schmidt went to vote for herself, only to have the optical scanning machine vomit up her ballot-- two of the three scanners weren't working. (Video here.)

In my home state, the Missouri Supreme Court had struck down a rule requiring photo IDs at the polls. Nevertheless, the Secretary of State was told by a poll worker that she had to have one. The poll worker was finally straightened out. But what about all the others?

Things didn't go so well for South Carolina's Republican governor, Mark Sanford. The law there requires a voter ID or a state-issued photo ID. Sanford had none of them and was denied the right to vote.

There have been other reports of faulty electronic votings machines, and in some of the usual states-- Ohio and Florida-- as well as Indiana, New Jersey, Mississippi, and (earlier in the day) Pennsylvania. How bad was it? Time will tell. Or maybe it won't. That's been the problem with the unreliable and easily-hacked machines all along.

I didn't encounter any problems, and the poll workers were very nice. Just like 2004.

Monday, November 06, 2006

...and a dash of racism

While the robocalling story has the Republican National Congressional Committee (keywords: Republican and National) spending a few million bucks to trick voters into thinking they're being harassed by Democrats, there's still plenty of low-tech GOP chicanery to go around.

Peter Beinart has a piece on TNR's website chronicling the warm, inclusionary rhetoric of Fearless Leader-- and the immigrant-bashing, race-baiting and anti-gay hysteria behind the facade.

And for the more visually-oriented, you can feast your eyes on a graphic reminding you of an ugly truth: voting for Democrats is just another way for The [Black] Man to keep oppressing Whitey. Really. Take a look.


You'd think that a probably-illegal GOP campaign tactic being used across the country the day before a national election would make the news. Actually, I take that back. You're probably not at all surprised that it's being ignored.

The story: In each case, the calls begin with "Hi, I'm calling with information about [insert local Democratic candidate here]," and then continues to provide negative information about the candidate. Counter to FCC rules, which require that the caller identify themselves early on in the call, the calls only reveal that they are paid for by the NRCC at the end of the call. (. . .) There are more than a few reports of voters getting frustrated by repeated calls they believe to be from the Dem candidate.

The response:
Since we posted this morning on Conquest Communications, the company that's been conducting hundreds of thousands of often harrassing calls on behalf of the National Republican Congressional Committee, they've taken down their "Contact Us" and "About" pages.

The pages included the company's phone number and bios of the company's executives.

The media: CNN, MSNBC, ABC, CBS and Fox are each ignoring the GOP's nationwide campaign of false-flag robocalls meant to harass voters and fool them into thinking the calls come from Democrats. If it were Dem on GOP, if it were on Drudge, the cable nets would be on it wall-to-wall. As it is, they're content to ignore it.

"What'll it take to get you in this uniform today?"

It's kind of nice to take a break from stories of ugly election campaigns and, of course, the infuriating blanket coverage of John Kerry's non-story. On the other hand, it'd be nice if the "break" from those stories was less unpleasant.

ABC News and New York affiliate WABC equipped students with hidden video cameras before they visited 10 Army recruitment offices in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.

"Nobody is going over to Iraq anymore?" one student asks a recruiter.

"No, we're bringing people back," he replies.

"We're not at war. War ended a long time ago," another recruiter says. (. . .)

During the ABC News sessions, some recruiters told our students if they enlisted, there would be little chance they'd to go Iraq.

But Col. Robert Manning, who is in charge of U.S. Army recruiting for the entire Northeast, said that new recruits were likely to go to Iraq.

Funny-yet-sad low point:

"It's hard to believe some of things they are telling prospective applicants," Manning said. "I still believe that this is the exception more than the norm. … I've visited many stations myself, and I know that we have many wonderful Americans serving in uniform as recruiters."

Saturday, November 04, 2006

The year in morality, abridged

From Friday:

Americans United for Separation of Church and State issued the following statement regarding today's revelations about the conduct of the Rev. Ted Haggard, the president of the National Association of Evangelicals.

"It's been a really tough year for the Religious Right," said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, Americans United executive director. "Their great moral champion Tom DeLay left Congress in disgrace. Their 'family values' allies in the House were caught covering up the Mark Foley scandal. Then they learned that Karl Rove's office thinks they're nuts. And, now, one of their most influential leaders is mired in scandal.

"It's interesting to see that Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell are abandoning the sinking ship of their erstwhile colleague by trying to minimize his stature. In fact, Haggard represented far more people than both of those two combined.

"It looks as though Religious Right leaders ought to focus on their own family before they try to fix everybody else's."

Friday, November 03, 2006

A friendly reminder: the neocons want another war

OD1 reminds me that the election isn't just about the illicit gay sex, lobbying scandals, massive spending, bungled operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, erosion of our civil rights, and the evisceration of the middle class.

In the latest issue of Foreign Policy, Joshua Muravchik -- a neoconservative fellow traveler -- has published a remarkable article, "Operation Comeback" that combines an offering of a mea culpa for much of the neocon-generated foreign policy mess America is in and then stunning bravado with encouragement that the President initiate a third war against a Muslim nation.

Muravchik's article is written as a memo to his "fellow neoconservatives."

There are a lot of disturbing zingers in the piece, but here is the part that every voter should be made aware of:

Prepare to Bomb Iran. . . .