Thursday, May 31, 2007

RNC fires its entire phonebanking staff

I have often said that trips to Freeperville and other counties in WingNutLand can be highly informative and often hilarious. Today is no exception. The Wingnutosphere is all over the firing of the RNC's phonebanking staff, reported by the Moonie rag The Washington Times. Why? It would appear that small-donor donations are off by 40% this year, largely due to Bush's stance on the upcoming immigration bill that so many of the xenophobic bigots are calling an "Amnesty Bill". Comically, the RNC spokeswoman says that there are no worries, since overall donations are still keeping the RNC performing at usual levels.

Translation? The GOP has told its small-donor base to go Cheney itself, because the big-donor base that wants the cheap labor is where all the money is.

For more, see hekebolos' excellent diary at dkos on the subject today.

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Tuesday, May 29, 2007

GOP in Trouble: My Personal Iowa Experience

Allow me to begin this personal story by stating the way I earn my daily bread: I'm a focus group moderator by trade, one of those oft-vilified creatures in politics and corporate advertising who talks to regular people, finds out how they feel about specific issues, and relays that information to my clients to help them craft better messaging.

So you can imagine my delight at being invited by my better half to visit her relatives over Memorial Day weekend in rural Iowa, the heart of the "heartland" and home to the famed Iowa caucuses. The entire trip provided me the opportunity to use my moderating skills and probing techniques on the farmers, teachers, service employees and other denizens of this conservative, bellwether state. What I discovered there should strike terror into the heart of any Republican operative--especially one working for a candidate supportive of Bush's policies in Iraq.

The people I spent my time with were by and large, with a few pleasant and notable exceptions, your archetypical rural Midwest Republicans: generous, proudly self-sufficient, kindhearted people who often wear their religion on their sleeve, carry with them deep racial prejudice born of decades of Republican rhetoric and lack of contact with "the other", and deeply distrust government involvement. One of the houses I visited at length even sported a Ronald Reagan calendar facing a George W. Bush calendar, with an outsize W'04 re-election sticker plastered on the inside walls to overshadow them.

Even here, however, the tide has turned against the GOP to a strong degree--and against Bush to an even stronger one. My conversations, when they turned to politics, always eased into the subject gradually--but when they did, there was palpable discontent in the air. These are people who are extremely upset: upset at the incursions of big agriculture companies into the marketplace that used to be dominated by small farmers; upset at the lack of economic and social incentives for their children to remain in their hometowns or even within the state; upset at the amount of out-of-control government spending and huge national and trade deficits; deeply upset at the lack of enforcement of immigration laws; upset at the abandonment of the farming and industrial economies in favor of those that support the passing of money from one person to another without physical goods in trade; and upset, above all, at the pointless and hopeless occupation of Iraq. And while all of these issues may not be enough to drive many of them to vote for Democrats, more than a few are thoroughly disenchanted with the Republican party that they admit has been directly responsible for these negative repercussions.

It is also important to note that the demographic trends I observed strongly favor the progressive side: by a hard and fast rule, the oldest generation (75-100 years old among these resilient Norwegian descendants) was by far the most conservative; the next generation was fairly evenly divided with a slight conservative orientation; the next (somewhere between 25-40) leaned decidedly progressive; and the few young adults present were unanimously liberal.

But there was one conversation that struck me more than any other, truly encapsulating the heart of my Iowa experience and opening a window onto the sordid reality facing the modern Republican Party of Bush:

In the middle of my dinner at a restaurant near Des Moines, I arose from my chair to get a closer look at the television at the bar. Or should I say the televisions plural, as one was situated in an ill-lit and out-of-the-way corner, while the other stood prominently on display at the center of the bar. The television-in-exile was set to Fox News, its anchors yammering mindlessly about Linsay Lohan's recent DUI arrest; the favored location was set to CNN's Situation Room, where the primary subject under discussion was that of Iraq. It was around this latter that three restaurant employees and one patron (all Caucasians) were seated, intently watching the report and murmuring to one another with the soft earnestness of communal resignation and disappointment.

I strolled up to the bar and approached nearer to the television--and to the far more interesting words it was obscuring from its denizens. When one of the employees turned to offer me a drink in the down-to-earth, friendly manner only a down-home Midwestern bartender can, I pointed instead to the television and indicated that I had sidled over for the news, rather than a drink. It was at that moment that another employee, a handsome, weary-looking woman in her late thirties with a heavy golden crucifix around her neck exclaimed, "What a damn waste!"

"The war?" I asked. Everyone at the bar nodded. It turned out that the occupation of Iraq was deeply personal for several of them: one, an attractive young woman in her mid-twenties with the demure earnestness of the reserved regular church-goer, had a cousin currently serving in Iraq as part of the first battalion to ever go there from Iowa under W's regime. He was supposed to be home by now, but his tour of duty had been extended through July. I wished for his speedy and safe return in July; her response was heartbreaking. "IF he gets home then; I don't know if he'll ever make it home, alive or not." Another had a cousin who had died from an IED in a poorly armored humvee. The third employee's son reportedly had a friend whose head was horribly disfigured in another IED blast, and was now struggling to survive through the paltry graces of the post-Walter Reed Veterans' Administration. I asked the woman whose cousin was on his extended tour how he felt. She responded with a sigh, "Just like the rest of his unit. He was totally gung-ho when he first went in, but now he's 180 degrees the other direction. He says there's no reason to be there anymore, and he just wants to come home." It was painfully reminiscent of a New York Times article that came to similar conclusions when interviewing Delta Company of the First Battalion, 325th Airborne Infantry, 82nd Airborne Division.

The original woman bearing the cross continued, "They're only there for oil, you know."

"Really!" I said. I explained that I talked to people for a living and had never been to Iowa before, and that I was deeply interested in what they had to say for my own education. "That's good," said the patron, a gruff man in his fifties. "Nobody else ever listens to us. Certainly not the people in Washington."

I asked the first woman why she thought it was an oil-driven war (I didn't use the Occupation frame--I was then involved in the discovery of opinions, rather than their creation), and when she had begun to feel that way. Her answer was at once surprsing and deeply revealing: "A few years after it started, when everything was clearly going downhill. Bush and those boys never changed anything about what they were doing there, even when it obviously wasn't working. And we're still there when everybody knows we got no business there. What else are we supposed to think? What other reason could there be?"

I asked in turn each of the others when they had soured on the war; they would only answer after I had assured them that I felt the same revulsion to Bush's foreign policy as did they. Each and every one said that their discontent had begun two or three years back. Said the patron, "Like she said, we've got no business there. These people have been fighting one another since the beginning of time..." "Since Adam and Eve, almost," chipped in the third employee, whose vague grasp of even Biblically-inspired history did not diminish her moral judgment of Bush's Iraqi trail of tears. "It's not our job to civilize them and make them stop fighting, even if we could. It's pointless and ridiculous. We just need to bring our boys home." Although these good, God-fearing people could not bring themselves to take responsibility for what the government they helped elect had wrought on the Iraqi people, they still knew a skunk when they saw one.

It turned out, however, that their greatest concern was not even for the soldiers still stationed there, but for those already home and those soon to be home. "How many more billions are we going to have to spend on the medical care for the ones do make it home wounded? It's just never going to stop," said one. The patron told the tale of his son's friend's difficulties (the one currently with half a head) in procuring veteran's benefits or employment after being released from a California hospital. Said another, "We remember how many people suffered after coming home from Vietnam. This is just going to be so much worse."

Then came the Democrats' turn in the spotlight--though it was a far more favorable gaze than I had anticipated. The young woman mentioned that the Democrats had just given Bush more money; I affirmed that they had, and asked how they felt about that. Interestingly, each one responded with a slight variation on the original woman's response: "I don't know. They didn't have a choice, I guess. That's all the bargaining power they have when it comes to dealing with the President." I don't know if this attitude holds true for most of America's heartland, but if it is, it is at once deeply comforting and highly dismaying. On the one hand, it demonstrates that Pelosi's and Reid's gamble has paid off, and the public still considers this to be Bush's occupation opposed by the Democrats; on the other, it shows an alarming lack of understanding of Legislative's ability to act as a coequal branch to that of the Executive.

It was here that our little group was broken up by the arrival of other patrons to occupy two of the restaurant staff, and the call of nature upon the original patron. My last question--and most instructive--was for the young woman who remained.

"What," I asked, "is your most important issue right now when it comes to a candidate?" "The war," she said without a moment's hesitation.

Looking down at the wedding ring on this young woman's finger and the small crucifix she bore on a chain round her neck, I ventured further: "Let's say it's 2008, and you have the choice between a Republican who supports Bush's mission in Iraq, and a Democrat who you disagree with on important moral issues. What do you think you'll do?"

Her answer should make Republicans nationwide tremble with the terror that only the swift and inevitable recognition of an approaching boulder of karma can bring.

"You know, it's tough. Usually I vote on moral issues--and so does my family. You can tell someone's character from the stand they take on those things. But at the same time, I think we've seen that no matter what you believe in morally, it doesn't really matter very much to what happens in the country. My family has talked a lot about this. We really need people who are going to make the right decisions, no matter what they believe personally. So I'd still definitely have to say I would vote for the person who says they'll stop the war."

There's trouble brewing in River City, Iowa. Big, big trouble. And that starts with a capital "T" and that rhymes with "B" and that stands for Bush. Mene, Mene, Tekel Upharsin...

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Sunday, May 27, 2007

Democrats: The Party of Pork!

Many pixels have been spilled about the craven cowardice of the Democrats in passing the Capitulation Bill. Much of the critcism from the progressive side has been focused not only on the actual, direct consequences of allowing the Bush Administration to run roughshod over the American People, our soldiers in Iraq and the Iraqis themselves, but also on the subsequent media portrayal of Democrats as weak, ineffectual and kowtowing to Mr. 28% Approval Rating.

Less noticed, however, has been an even more nefarious media meme to come out of this turkey of a bill: that Republicans are the Party of War, while the Democrats are the Party of Pork.

So amazingly spinelss was the the Democratic stance in essentially giving away the store to Bush and his merry band of Neocons that some in the traditional media have been forced to look at this bill not as a dead giveaway, but rather as some sort of compromise. After all, why capitulate so dramatically on an issue where the will of the people is so clear? As best as they can tell, the apparent "compromise" was in ramming through some "domestic spending" priorities--which the vast majority of Americans will read as Pork, regardless of its inherent legitimacy or lack thereof.

Don't believe me? Consider this article by David Espo, Chief Congressional Correspondent for the AP, printed in newspapers all across America, titled Analysis: An Iraq Bill No One Loved (though I should note that the print version of the Des Moines Register where I saw it was titled "Iraq War financing bill leaves both sides hungry: But it has successfully staved off the veto battle that both parties feared")

Analysis: An Iraq Bill No One Loved

The Iraq war funding bill cleared by Congress represents a triumph of divided government, beloved by none, crafted to avoid a protracted veto struggle that neither President Bush nor Democrats wanted.

"We feel like we've moved an iceberg an inch," said Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz of Florida, acknowledging the enormity of the task confronting Democrats who took office in January determined to end the war.

Not that top Republicans were happy with legislation that included about $8 billion in domestic spending, added at Democratic insistence. "We've got a whole host of other issues that don't deserve to be put on the backs of our men and women in the military," said House Republican leader John Boehner of Ohio shortly before the vote. "It's a sneaky way to do business."

In other words, the Dems didn't give the GOP everything they wanted on a silver platter--this was just politics as usual in Washington. A give and take. Compromise. Sausage-making at its finest, leaving both sides relieved but discontent. The Republicans got what they wanted and Democrats didn't (a never-ending occupation) and Democrats got what they wanted and Republicans didn't ($8 billion in spending). Sounds like a fair trade to me!

Epso's article continues with quotes from both sides supposedly signaling the difficult complexity of the issue, but instead demonstrating the incredible capacity for mendacious bullshit on the part of elected officials on both sides of the aisle:

And [Republicans] were no less clear that their commitment to the current war policy isn't open-ended. "I think that the handwriting is on the wall that we are going in a different direction in the fall, and I expect the president to lead it," said Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the GOP leader.

"You know, I think it's a statement of the obvious that the Iraq war is not popular," he added at a news conference on Friday. So much so that 81 percent of self-described political independents in a recent New York Times-CBS poll said things are going badly in Iraq.

If public sentiment on the war worries Republicans, it stirs a different emotion among Democrats.

"Anger that we do not have the power to make the will of the people of America the law of our land," said Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill.

Durbin, Majority Leader Harry Reid and many other anti-war Senate Democrats voted for the bill. "I cannot vote ... to stop funding for our troops who are in harm's way," said Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich, chairman of the Armed Services Committee.

So not only is the bill a "compromise" that hurts both parties, it also enables outright lies in both parties: Republicans get to pretend that something will be different in Iraq rhetoric beyond the specifics of the next Friedman Unit being asked for, and Democrats get to pretend that they have no power of the purse to defund the Occupation. What a convenient twin set of lies!

Most telling, however, were the so-called compromise negotiations that took place between the White House and the Congress over the domestic spending priorities:

Officials in both parties described a series of events leading to the final deal.

Reid conveyed the concessions on Monday in a phone call to White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten.

In exchange, Reid wanted $21 billion in added spending. About $9 billion was for defense-related items, the other $12 billion for domestic programs such as hurricane relief, farmer aid, low-income children's health care and more.

Bolten said the administration would accept the military-related add-ons, these officials said, but came back with a counteroffer that left room for about $8 billion in domestic spending.

The outlines of a $120 billion bill were in place, but the haggling continued until Wednesday night.

Bolten and Budget Director Rob Portman told Reid they could not accept several of the items on a late Democratic wish list. Among them was a provision involving the sale of Christmas ornaments by the Senate's day care center. Bush had ridiculed it at one point, and could not now sign it.

That left a $2 billion item extending pension relief to American, Continental and other airlines. Portman told Reid it would have to go. The majority leader objected, but said he would call back.

When he did, he told the president's aides Bush could veto the bill if he wanted, but the pension provision was staying in the bill.

See? This is how Compromise works: in exchange for giving Bush unbridled and unchecked billions for the continued bloody occupation of Iraq, the Dems get to demand $21 billion in domestic spending projects like Christmas ornament sales in the Senate's day care center and airline bailouts. That fair trade serves as a tit-for-tat basis for bargaining in which the President gets to whittle down the Democrats' real priorities (spending) down to a "more reasonable" $8 billion, while retaining all the money he wants for his Occupation. And voila! We have a bill infused with the true spirit of American bipartisan compromise!

And make no mistake: this isn't just a bullshit meme being put out by an AP looking for some way to to rationalize the Democrats' apparent willingless to bow down before the Decider. There is definitely an element of truth to it. Consider this article in the Business Section of the Des Moines Register on the very same day:

Farm disaster assistance included in war bill
Twenty Iowa counties were damaged by drought or storms in 2005 and 2006.

The end to the battle over funding the Iraq war means that some farmers who lost crops to drought during the past two years may get government checks.

A supplementary spending bill for the war includes $3 billion in agricultural disaster assistance that farm groups had been trying to get through Congress since 2005....

"This has been almost a three-year effort and still the only way to get (disaster aid) was on a must-pass bill that the president was eventually going to have to sign," said Tom Buis, president of the National Farmers Union.

So Iowa Senators Tom Harkin (D) and Charles Grassley (R) get to go back to their (mostly big ag) constituents and say "hey, we couldn't stop Bush's occupation because we just had to get the troops funded--but we got you boys some drought relief! So whaddaya say: why not contribute to my re-election campaign?" It should come as no surprise that the comments attached to the article are filled with revulsion and disgust at the blatant vote-buying going taking place. I myself am disgusted.

So congratulations, Democrats! In one fell swoop with the Capitulation Bill, you've managed to accomplish the following:

1. Completely deflate the progressive base that swept you into power;

2. Annoy and probably lose many of the anti-Occupation independent voters who swept you into power expecting you to put a curb to Bush;

3. Reinforce the meme of your utter ineffectuality as a political party; and

4. Reinforce to the American People the idea that you are more interesting in increasing domestic spending than in standing up for your principles.

Bravo. I know I'm certainly proud to call myself a Democrat today...

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Saturday, May 26, 2007

Memo to DKos: Jim Webb Can Call It An Occupation--Why Can't You?

As Markos pointed out yesterday, Jim Webb's blistering statement against the Capitulation Bill in the Congress was like a breath of fresh air in a Democratic Party apparently too afraid to stand up for public opinion in the face of a President with a 28% approval rating. Even more interesting to me, however, was the fact that Mr. Webb, a military man throughout his career considered too hawkish and too conservative by many progressives to gain their support, consistently referred to the disaster ongoing in Iraq as an occupation (with only one exception when referring to Joe Lieberman's stance). Let's look at his statements again:

On the one hand, I find myself unable to vote against a measure that is necessary to fund our troops who are now in harm's way. On the other, I will not relent from my continuing efforts to bring this occupation to an end.

"I will continue to press for a strategy of strong diplomatic engagement, which will enable us to end the occupation of Iraq, to increase regional stability, to fight international terrorism more effectively, and to address our broad strategic interests around the world. emphasis added

Jim Webb knows to use the word "occupation", I must believe, largely because his military experience leads him to understand the difference on a gut level between the sort of fighting he was engaged in in the jungles of Vietnam, and the long slow bleed of our troops in Iraq who are being used as sitting ducks and targets of an angry home-grown resistance.

I have made clear again and again and again the reasons why we should be using the language of "occupation" to describe the conflict in Iraq rather than the language of "war": wars can end only in victory or defeat, while occupations end only in annexation or withdrawal. The business of war is killing enemies and seizing territory; the business of occupation is pacifying areas you already control and exploiting their resources. In all respects, our involvement Iraq is an occupation rather than a war--which doesn't preclude the idea of a civil war going on between indigenous parties in Iraq. Most importantly, if we are truly fighting a "war" in Iraq, then calling for withdrawal does indeed equal a call for "defeat"; but if we are instead engaged in the "occupation" of a hostile country, withdrawal is simply inevitable and must happen sooner rather than later, given the hostility of the populus. In the context of the congressional funding battles, calling our presence an "occupation" makes defunding seem less like denying troops bullets in the middle of a firefight (a lie), and more like packing up our occupational operations and leaving the Iraqi people alone to manage their futures as they see fit (far closer to the truth).

And yet, in spite of the apparent obviousness of these facts, it often seems to me that this simple linguistic framing gets more traction in the halls of Congress than it does even on Daily Kos. With the Capitulation Bill at the forefront of most bloggers' minds, the topic of Iraq has been a central issue. And in most cases, those who speak for Dailykos have been consistently using the "war" frame over the last three days--a frame that has in many ways been one of the key sources of our inability to fight back against the immoral policies of the Bush administration.

First and foremost, we have Markos himself:

I've never been under any illusion that this war would end before the next Democratic president took charge. But when a party wins control of Congress on ending the war, I thought they would at least work to make that happen.

and here:
Thus far, Hillary has somehow managed to deceive voters into thinking that she's against against this war, despite having promised to keep troops in Iraq if elected president

Then there's BarbinMD:
"We're into the fifth year of George Bush's war

And DarkSyde:
The only reason I became involved beyond the casual level is because I don't like being lied to -- about a lot of stuff, but mostly about a pointless, devastating war

Or mcjoan, right in the headline:
Senate votes on ending the War Tomorrow

And Meteor Blades:
Marching Toward an Iraq War Moratorium

And last year's highest-impact diarist bonddad:
We Can't Afford The Iraq War

Of those who are said to speak for the site, only Kagro X has been valiantly and consistently using the "occupation" meme with effective and crystal clarity. It is possible to talk about Iraq only with the frames of "occupation" and "withdrawal", and Kagro has done it beautifully. For example, see here:

But the strangeness doesn't end there. Somewhere along the line, the preferred argument against actually de-funding the Iraq occupation -- that it would amount to an "abandonment" of the troops -- became the argument against timelines.

and here:

From all indications, today is going to be a lousy day. We are going to see another blank check issued on the Iraq occupation, and everybody is going to scratch their heads and wonder how it happened -- and that's only if you're still willing to give Congressional Democrats the benefit of the doubt.

I don't wish to seem to be misdirecting my anger with congressional Democrats against my fellow bloggers and staunch progressives here, nor is my intent to call out any particular individual writers. It just so happens that these particular individuals are among those who own, operate or speak for DailyKos, so their visibility and importance provide worthy exemplars.

All I'm saying is that if Jim Webb can do it, surely we can as well. It is not difficult to change one's language regarding this Occupation, and it can do everyone a world of good. Pretty please, with sugar on top?

UPDATE: I do, of course, agree with the many kossack commenters who have pointed out that Webb's speech means little without a "no" vote to back it up. All too true, and Virginia voters should hold him to account for it. Regardless of bluster or hypocrisy, however, his choice is language is still quite instructive.

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Saturday, May 19, 2007

GOP lawmaker arrested for child rape, molesting of pages

It just seems that no matter where you turn, sexual corruption among those who claim the mantle of moral sexual behavior just keeps rearing its ugly head. From Randall Tobias to Ted Haggard, the ranks of GOP are filled with those who mask their own shame over their sexual behavior with authoritarian moralistic control over the sexual behavior of others. It's a common phenomenon that has been aggressively studied since at least the days of Sigmund Freud.

Then, of course, there are the even more sinister types: the Mark Foleys of the world, who combine this lurid sexual hypocrisy with the apparent need to abuse their power to exploit vulnerable minors. But at least Mark Foley never physically acted on his nefarious impulses. Former South Dakota State Rep. Ted Klaudt did, however. On multiple occasions.

Klaudt had to exit the state legislature in 2006 due to term limits, after having a lost a battle for state senate in that same year--but he sure had a doozie of a time while he was there. I learned of this particular piece of distasteful debauchery from Howie Klein's fantastic post on the subject at his blog Down With Tyranny. As Klein says:

Like so many tightly wound repressed and mentally ill Republicans, Klaudt was preaching the moral superiority of the far right while he was abusing molesting children-- his own foster daughters and 2 state legislative pages! He "faces a long list of charges: eight counts of rape, two counts of sexual exploitation of a minor, two counts of witness tampering, sexual contact with a person under 16, and stalking." emphasis added

Yeah, that's right: eight counts of rape, two counts of sexual exploitation of a minor, two ocunts of witness tampering, sexual contact with a person under 16, and stalking. And just what was this guy doing to rack up all these charges? Well, according to KeloLand in Sioux Falls, he apparently "played doctor" with kids at a foster home he himself was running:

In the most disturbing accusation, the girls say Klaudt had them convinced they could earn up to $20,000 by donating their eggs to a fertility clinic. And even though he has no medical training, the girls say Klaudt did all the supposed "exams" and "procedures" himself....

The victims say Klaudt touched them while they were foster children at his home here in Walker. But the girls say the molestation also happened in Pierre during legislative sessions while some of them also served as pages.

Five different girls now say Klaudt did things ranging from manual "breast exams" to the painful procedure of actually going inside of them with a speculum and collecting body fluids. The girls say when they cried, Klaudt gave them a beer and told them to toughen up.

Yeah--this guy raped teenage foster children and pages in his care with a speculum, and then gave them beer to make them stop crying.

And what wonderful bills did this upstanding man of moral character sponsor during his time in the legislature?

A bill to establish a task force to study abortion and to provide for its composition, scope, and administration.

Two bills (here and here) to "prohibit the performance of abortions, except to save the life of the mother, and to provide a penalty therefor and to provide for a delayed effective date."

A bill to "support free religious expression in public schools": i.e., teach creationism.

A bill to deny gay marriage through an amendment to the state constitution.

A bill to revise certain provisions regarding the performance of abortions on unemancipated minors and those found to be incompetent.

Most ironically, we have this: a bill "Honoring Valerie Melmer for her outstanding commitment and dedication to the state legislative page program." Presumably for her ready provision of speculum-ready victims to Teddy himself.

Sounds like a guy with an unhealthy obsession with vaginas and underage girls to me. But I could be wrong.


Perhaps all these Biblical literalists should read their own texts: the GOP is filled to the brim with lecherous men who punish our modern-day Susannas while taking advantage of them. There is something deeply disgusting about a man who attempts to restrict abortions for minors while pretending to harvest the eggs of 15-year-old girls with a speculum, and gives them beer afterwards. But there are no Daniels within the Republican Party to call out the hypocrisy, end the treachery, and punish the moralistic hypocrites. It will take a flood of Democrats to wash away the stain of sexually repressive ugliness brought on the Republican culture of hypocrisy and corruption.

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Thursday, May 17, 2007

Compromise Immigration Bill released to Senate, GOP Base Freaks

The Kennedy Immigration Bill has just been released to the Senate Floor. The bill comes as part of a compromise between the two parties, and part of Bush's longstanding plan to do something about immigration that attempts to thread the needle between his corporatist masters who want the cheap labor, and his racist base afraid of the browning of America's population.

You can read details on the bill at the WaPo and in the AP and the New York Times.

It contains a crackdown on business that hire illegal immigrants, the addition of over 370 miles of border fences, the hiring of 18,000 or so border patrol officers as well as various other smaller measures. But it also allows for those undocumented immigrants who arrived prior to January 1st to acquire temporary residence permits called "Z" Visas that, as the WaPo states, would be:

renewable indefinitely, as long as the holder passes a criminal background check, remains fully employed and pays a $5,000 fine, plus a paperwork-processing fee.

A separate, temporary-worker program would be established for 400,000 migrants a year. Each temporary work visa would be good for two years and could be renewed up to three times, as long as the worker leaves the country for a year between renewals.

Needless to say, the GOP racist base is freaking out over the new compromise legislation. Hugh Hewitt over at the is so upset that he has posted in their entirety four pages of GOP talking points that were sent to him in semi-apologetic support of the bill, calling them, in his words (and I kid you not here) "Four pages of crap".

But it's Michelle Malkin who really goes after the GOP on this one in a long post today featuring the reactions of various GOP politicos including the following:

Rep. Steve King:
Each one of these Senators should wear a scarlet letter 'A' for amnesty."

Senator Jim DeMint:
"This rewards people who broke the law with permanent legal status, and puts them ahead of millions of law-abiding immigrants waiting to come to America. I don't care how you try to spin it, this is amnesty."

The National Review:
The Bush administration’s price for its modestly beefed-up border security and workplace enforcement is amnesty for millions and a temporary-worker program for a few hundred thousand more each year. And the proposal’s conservative features vanish upon inspection...As bad as the status quo on immigration policy is, it is preferable to this bill.

And as for Malkin herself? She says in this earlier post:

With friends like the Senate Republicans, who needs enemies?

And it gets worse from there. They're going nuts at, with over-the-top posts lamenting their inability to use profanity on their own site to react to the bill, and two big flashy sirens at the top of the page.

The Freepers are also having a meltdown over the legislation. I won't reproduce their despicable comments here; just follow the link for the gut-churning hilarity.

Looks like one more big, bad rift in the GOP coalition. The GOP candidates are going to have to take two stands against Bush to get elected: one on Iraq, and the other on immigration. I frankly don't see how they manage it without either infuriating their base or making themselves unelectable to the general public.

Pass the popcorn.

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Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Get Every Candidate On Record NOW

As we all know by now, President Bush (not to mention his lackey Alberto Gonzales) is incontrovertibly guilty of an obviously impeachable offense in light of Comey's testimony yesterday. Bush can attempt to deny recollection of the damning phone call to Mrs. Ashcroft if he pleases; Mrs. Ashcroft can deny recollection of it if she pleases, though how she could do that without obviously perjuring herself since she had banned all callers and visitors to Ashcroft's room is unknown. Perhaps she could say that the call came directly from Gonzales or Andy Card.

But the mafia-like circumstances of this amazing story cannot be denied: the rush to be first to the ill attorney general's room; the courageous stand of FBI chief Mueller--a story I am certain he would corroborate--in insisting that Comey not be removed from the room; Card and Gonzales blowing past Comey with an executive order for Ashcroft; Ashcroft's improbable and amazing lucidity in remembering his conversation with Comey--another point I am certain that Ashcroft would corroborate--and denying the order; the cloak and dagger 11PM White House meeting in which Comey insisted on having Olsen as a witness--a fact I am certain Olsen would corroborate; the denial of entry to Olsen for the first 15 minutes; the courageous stand of Comey in continuing to refuse; the emergency approval of the illegal program over the head of the Office of Legal Counsel and the DOJ the very next day.

It reads like the plot of a cloak-and-dagger mafia thriller, with the President as the heavy, with Card and Gonzales as his goons.

It is so undeniably, egregiously illegal in a way that even John Q. Public can really get a grip on, that it would truly require that the President be caught eating puppies or raping babies for it to get much worse.

And yet, in the face of such radically dramatic illegality, I cannot seem to find any Presidential candidate from either party with a statement on the issue--despite its being yesterday's news at this point.

Go to Hillary Clinton's site: Nothing. Go to Barack Obama's site: Nothing. John Edwards: Nothing. Bill Richardson: Nothing. And hardly surprisingly, nothing from Rudy Giuliani or Mitt Romney or John McCain or any of the rest of the jokers on the other side of the aisle.

More importantly, even when they do make statements I expect to see the pablum answers showing their "grave concern", the need for "full investigations" and "strong regret" at the actions of the Administration. But while just that much would be nice, such generalities won't go nearly far enough.

No, I want each and every candidate--especially the current and former Senators to answer the following question: "If President Bush authorized the continuance of the warrantless domestic spying program even though his own Justice Department and Office of Legal Counsel said it was illegal and refused to sign off on it, would you vote to impeach him or call for his impeachment?" It is critically important that they do so, because this is about a fundmental respect/disrespect for the rule of law in the United States of America.

Because let us all remember this simple fact: The President obviously did not believe that he could unilaterally allow this program to continue through his power as Commander in Chief--otherwise he would not have been so desperate to get Ashcroft's approval. He KNEW that what he was doing was illegal and not within his rights. He knew it, and he didn't care. This goes beyond the President's belief that he can act like an Emperor with legal cover: this goes straight to whether he can do somethign he KNOWS is illegal and still get away with it, even though the entire world knows as well.

Those Democrats who are trying to walk the "centrist" line in this election should let us know whether their centrism overrules their respect for equality and the rule of law.

Those Democrats who believe that we must all come together in one big, purple hug and focus on the future rather than the past, should let us know if they would disrespect the foundation of our Constitution in the name of forward-thinking optimism.

Those Democrats who would play the role of elders and statesmen should let us all know if their years of experience tell them that sociopathic, Constitution-trampling illegality is OK in this particular case.

Those Democrats who would carry the progressive mantra should let us know if they believe that electability trumps their principles when it comes to blatant law-breaking by the Commander in Chief.

Above all, those Republicans who would seek to follow in Bush's footsteps must let us all know just how closely they intend to follow--and how much respect they intend to give our broken democracy and disdained laws.

Because this issue is beyond politics at this point. The political arguments against impeachment are always there, and they are compelling: I've spouted them myself many a time. But this issue is not subject to gentleman's disagreement: this is a matter of principle so momentous that political considerations simply must be put aside (though I don't believe that they would be as politically damaging at this point as some think.)

Those who would be our future Commanders-in-Chief must make their stands and show us where their principles truly lie. I therefore call on every person who reads this piece to email and call every Presidential Candidate and get an answer to this important question.

I will be doing so myself, of course--and I urge anyone who gets a coherent answer from any one of the declared candidates to email me with it to isnospoon-at-gmail-dot-com, and I will include it in a follow-up to this post.

Let them take their stands, and let the chips fall where they may.

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Monday, May 14, 2007

The Biggest Tax Increase Lie in History

Listen to me and clammyc talk about the big fat lie that is the Republican talking point on the budget. Suffice it to say that the GOP is saying that allowing the Paris Hilton tax cuts to expire as Bush intended now constitutes a "tax increase."

We discuss not only why those claims are bullshit, but more importantly how Democrats can frame the issue in such a way that it turns to our advantage.

Listen here!

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Friday, May 11, 2007

Ditching "Choice": MSOC, clammyc and I Talk Abortion Framing

It's no secret that progressives are slowly but surely losing the abortion wars: from parental notification legislation to Roe v. Wade sunset laws in many states to the recent Supreme Court decision on late-term abortion, abortion-rights advocates have been playing defense and losing ground for years. And we are losing ground in public polling as well, in spite of overall favorability towards freedom to have an abortion in general.

It is a controversial opinion of mine that part of the reason we are falling behind in this battle is our outdated, ineffective and even counterproductive use of the word "choice" as our crumbling rhetorical fortress. It is an opinion, however, that is shared not only by myself but also by clammyc and even MaryScott O'Connor of MyLeftWing as well.

In a 40-minute audio segment on our new blog Political Nexus, MSOC, clammyc and I discuss the intricacies of why "choice" is such a terrible frame, and what alternatives we might want to embrace in its place--as well as the weakenesses of our opponents' "pro-life" framing and the ways in which we can exploit the rhetorical chinks in their armor.

Unfortunately, I am unable to embed a direct link to download the show here on DailyKos, or I would certainly do so. It can be downloaded directly from BlogTalkRadio here, or streamed from our blog here. If a little bit of slef-promotion can be pardoned on behalf of myself and my good friends clammyc and MSOC, it's a great discussion that delves right into the heart of the issues at hand.

To give everyone some idea of what we are talking about and why we are pushing to ditch "choice" as a frame, allow me to present one of the arguments we put forward: polling on the issue of partial-birth abortion is not favorable for us: at least 69% of the American Public want the procedure banned, with exceptions for the life of the mother. One of the biggest reasons for this is because they believe that women are whimsically changing their minds during the third trimester, choosing to abort otherwise viable fetuses not presenting major risks to the mother's life/health. While it is true that this perception is a product of misinformation, it is also a product of our own framing on the issue: as long as our side is saying that it is a woman's person's "right to choose" what she does with her own body up until the fetus/baby exits the womb, people are going to assume that these decisions are being made irresponsibly and casually. Not to mention the fact that most people would indeed consider a third-trimester fetus viable (without extraordinary measures) outside the womb a living, separate person.

And that is just one of many arguments that can be made against the use of "choice" as a frame.

For a preview of another argument, allow me to excerpt a quote from MSOC herself, an ardent abortion-rights supporter:

MSOC: It's about pro-privacy...You know, when I hear a politician say, "I support a woman's right to choose", I want to vomit! It's a guaranteed kiss-40-percent-of-your-voting-population-goodbye. If a Republican were even considering your positions, your oh-so-nuanced but brilliant positions on the environment, on the economy, on the war, on everything else, you've got them. You've got them in the palm of your hand: "well, this guy's not so bad, he's reasonable, I think I could go for a guy like this." And then the guy like this says, "I support a woman's right to choose." Oooohhhhh God, he's another one of them, one of those idiots who just can't say what he really thinks.


MSOC: People are dismissing him because he supposedly supports a woman's right to choose, but I'm dismissing him because he's a pussy.

All of this and much, much more (which I may turn into a diary one of these days) is online and available either at Political Nexus or for download at BlogTalkRadio.

Give it a listen, and let us know what you think, either here in this diary or in the comments at Political Nexus. Thanks!

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Thursday, May 10, 2007

Conyers evacuates Code Pink at the AG Hearing

I want to give a great big shout-out of thanks to John Conyers for removing Code Pink from today's Alberto Gonzales hearings just a few minutes ago.

Conyers became visibly annoyed and highly irritated with the continuous grandstanding statements being made by the Code Pink representative in the gallery, and had her forcibly removed from the gallery, as was his right--and the action couldn't have soon enough. He then clarified that the patience of the American public had been tried long enough on this issue that a few hours of individual free speech rights could be directed outside the room until the hearing could be appropriately finished.

Let us be very clear: I admire Code Pink's mission and its commitment to activism. But the kinds of displays they are making at hearings like that of Valerie Plame and that of Gonzales are not only useless--they are counterproductive, making the entire left look like a bunch of freaking loonies. And that's coming from a committed, protest-marching progressive not afraid to step out on a limb in defense of progressive values and denunciation of Republican malfeasance.

More than that, however, Code Pink is doubly counterproductive: Alberto Gonzales is making enough of a fool of himself without their making even BIGGER fools of themselves. By being obnoxious at these hearings, Code Pink actually makes Gonzales look like a sympathetic and harrassed character, when he should be coming off as the uncooperative and criminal boob that he is. Just as Valerie Plame suffered from having attention taken off of her testimony and plight, and focused onto Code Pink instead, so too did the American Public suffer from the distraction from full view of Gonzales' passive-aggressive belligerence.

Memo to Code Pink: please, please, be more intelligent about picking your battles. Passion without focus and strategy is often worse than useless.

And a big, hearty thanks to John Conyers for finally saying that enough is enough.

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Exclusive Interview with Fired Attorney David Iglesias

not here, but on My Left Wing, courtesy of my good friend and talented activist Shockwave. He managed to get a one-on-one exclusive interview with David Iglesias, the New Mexico attorney who was dispatched by our amnesiac attorney general Gonzales.

Jeff Huber also has a teaser diary up on Daily Kos.

Good stuff--head over and read it.

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Wednesday, May 09, 2007

The End of NeoLiberalism: A Crisis of Unimaginable Consequence

It is a common tendency among human beings to believe that the problems and challenges facing their particular generation during their particular lifetimes are more momentous and of greater consequence than almost any that have come before them. Every war, it seems, is crucial to the fate of liberty; every political battle of the essence in determining the fate of the nation, or even the world. It is therefore important to keep some perspective when making grand pronouncements about political struggles in which one is presently engaged.

Nonetheless, I think it not unreasonable to suggest that we are embroiled today in a climactic and deeply consequential struggle that will not only test the mettle of the collective human spirit, but also has the opportunity to discredit for at least one generation or more an entire ideology of evil and selfish greed.

I speak, of course, of the battle over global warming.
Almost anyone reading this piece is aware of the imperative urgency surrounding the problem: the melting of the Antarctic and of the Arctic ice caps at rates faster than anyone had predicted; the threatened loss of millions of species; the Pentagon's own report on food and water shortages causing mass instability and migrations; the list of catastrophic consequences of failure to act on this crisis is nearly endless.

It is also a given that any action taken to mitigate the crisis must be global in nature, with the participatory cooperation of all the major industialized nations for any movement towards a reduction in greenhouse gases and an increase in sustainability to be meaningful over the long run. This will, of course, require the firm hand of governments worldwide in regulating corporate behavior and spurring investment in new technologies. While America consumes the lion's share of the world's oil and produces increasingly enormous amounts of greenhouse gases, failure to engage China, India and other industrialized nations in the collective effort will render much of this activity moot.

It will be a difficult challenge--one that could easily cause waves of pessimism in students of human history. How we as a species react to this unprecedented challenge will say a great deal about who we are and what are capable--or incapable--of.

All of this, however, has been said before at various times and in various ways. What has been less reported on, but is of nearly equal importance to my mind, is the almost Manichean socio-political and ideological consequences of this battle for both the United States and constitutionally democratic (at least in theory) nations across the globe.

The ideology most under threat from worldwide acceptance of the necessity to act in mitigating global warming is that of "Free-Market" Neoliberalism. Just as the disasters in Iraq and Afghanistan have helped to discredit the concept of neoconservatism everywhere but the lame-duck halls of the White House, the free market's failure to stop the devastating creep of global warming will, if brought to internationally recognized popular consensus, obliterate the credibility of the prevailing economic conventional wisdom surrounding the Washington Consensus.

This baleful philosophy of neo-liberalism holds as its guiding principle the idea that--if given enough time--corporations in a free-market system unfettered by governmental (i.e., consumer and labor) regulation will provide the greatest variety of products and services at the lowest prices to the greatest number of people. It also holds that unswerving allegiance to this principle will result in greater worldwide prosperity, increased jobs, and a brighter future for the world's citizens.

When confronted with the abject failures of this ideology (though many would argue that rather than failures, these consequences were the entire goal from the beginning--namely, the redistribution of wealth from the middle-class and the poor to the very rich), such as America's large number of uninsured, the unquestionable disaster that was energy deregulation, the increasing gap between the massively rich and the rest of us, the disastrous consequences of IMF/World Bank-controlled "globalization", etc., the defenders of the status quo usually engage in one of two different responses:

"Give it more time and even less regulation--it will work, I swear!"


"The cure would be worse than the disease."

In the case of uninsured children or the bleak future of many African and South American countries under the weight of IMF loans, the former is the usual response: that the healthcare industry is under the weight of too many lawsuits; that corruption is still too rampant in third-world countries; that the market will eventually provide a solution for healthcare for the American poor; that we just haven't given African economies enough time.

The latter, however, is often cited as well on a host of different issues: single-payer healthcare is supposed to be worse than the present system; reasonable economic protections are supposed to lead to even greater poverty; state-controlled electricity is supposed to lead to even higher prices. Though these arguments are all demonstrably false, they are continually employed by the desperate mandarins eager to continue the fleecing of the hoi polloi.

Time and fear are the greatest assets of the neoliberal--a situation remarkably similar to that of the neoconservative, whose mendicant pleading for yet another Friedman Unit in Iraq and threats of another 9/11 in the wake of Democratic electoral victory manage to hum the same tune--if only on a lower, more ominous octave. The melody in both cases is sharp, disturbing and painful to the ears of Truth.

Global warming, however, is a problem that not only points to an utter failure of the neoliberal system, but also cannot be assuaged by appeals to fear or to a continued stay of patience on the part of the world's increasingly suffering population.

The fact that a problem of such momentous impact has gradually arisen under the watchful eyes of our quarterly-report-obsessed Wall Street bureaucrats with nary the movement of a little finger to stop it is itself proof of the myopic blindness (not to mention selfish greed) that afflicts a purely market-driven system. It is proof of a failure of long-term thinking and visionary planning in pursuit of higher and higher record corporate profits.

But the fact that global warming is an autocatalytic process--i.e., one whose negative impact will increase, feeding off itself--means that there IS NO MORE TIME. We cannot wait for the "free market" to eventually provide the bounties that the Thomas Friedmans of the world insist are at the end of the neoliberal rainbow, if only we march long and hard enough in pursuit of the mirage. The threat is upon us NOW--and if nothing is done to stop it NOW, soon nothing will be able to stop it.

And the corporations in the free market certainly won't be able to stop it themselves.

Meanwhile, there is almost no cure that could be worse than the disease of apocalyptic climate change resulting in the elimination of polar ice caps, the loss of millions of species, world wars, famines, droughts, diseases, natural disasters, mass migrations, energy depletion, and the very real possibility of global economic and even civilization collapse. One is reminded of Al Gore's joke in his potent documentary An Inconvenient Truth in which the Earth is balanced on a scale, counterweighted with gold bars. In comparison with losing one's civilization, one's freedom, one's stability, even the planetary patterns of life we have come to know and depend on, almost any economic cost is preferable.

And it is instructive to note that most of the corporatist effort has at this point been to attempt to discredit the very premises behind global warming, rather than to mitigate the perceived need to act. Because they know that if the public comes to accept the basic premises, there will be no way for them to defend the ideology that has been their prevailing basis of power for decades.

These are truly momentous times, and the stakes could not be higher: not only for the world and for our environmental futures, but for our political and ideological futures as well.

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Monday, May 07, 2007

More Proof of Media Bias: The Terrible Scourge of "Leftism"

It has been nearly impossible to surf the web in the wake of Sarkozy's recent victory in the French elections without coming across one of the most overlooked framing atrocities in all of politics: the use of the inherently negative word "leftist" to describe progressives and liberals here around the world and here in the United States.

This condescendingly destructive word is used with reckless abandon in the U.S. and international press with nary a peep from our side nor usage of its equivalent to describe the other side. Moreover, the word is used to conflate violent anarchists and protesters like those who rioted in the wake of the French election, with more mainstream progressives like those at Daily Kos.

Now, before you turn away and say "no big deal", consider the following: while framing is certainly not enough to win a debate on its own merits, consistent and pervasive use of negative words and constructs can take a draining toll on one's ability to fight one's ideoligical opponents. Indeed, when one is confronted with a framing issue that is transparently one-sided, it behooves the activist to take steps to correct those usages and constructs in one's own discourse, and hopefully from there in that of the traditional media.

And this issue is very one-sided. If we examine the comparative instances of the words "leftist" vs. "rightist" in a Google search we come across the following:

Leftist: 7,340,000
Rightist: 991,000

That's a ratio of 7.5:1. Now, why does this matter? It matters because almost ANY word ending in -ism or -ist connotes doctrinaire, ideologically driven extremism lacking in the virtues of pragmatism, open-mindedness or tolerance. If you doubt it, consider a handy list of -isms at Wikipedia: they include such niceties as communism, socialism, imperalism, zionism, authoritarianism, fascism, darwinism, creationism, neoliberalism, neoconservatism, and many more. Regardless of your agreement with and openness to the idea in question, the mere attachment of the suffix "ism" or "ist" to the word makes it inherently uncomfortable. Indeed, anyone with serious background in framing, social linguistics and/or rhetoric understands this as a matter of course.

Let's take a few examples:
1. All it takes is a simple "ism/ist" to turn a religion like Islam into a violent extremist (get that word "extremist"?) movement like "Islamism".

2. Say the word "capitalist" out loud. Now say the words "free market". Which one gave you a happier, sunnier feeling? Now say the words "socialist" and "common good". See what I mean?

3. Try the words "progressivism" or "liberalism". Those being honest with themselves will admit that these words sound negative--even if they are progressives and liberals.

In fact, all you need do is read Dan McLaughlin at whine about the use of the word "rightist" to describe Nicolas Sarkozy to see that the other side certainly understands the importance of these kinds of usages.

Let us return now to that 7.5:1 ratio of "leftism" to "rightism". But first, it is important to note that dictionary entries for leftism and for rightism reflect the fact that "leftism" is no more extreme a reference than is "rightism", nor is "leftism" more relevant on the world stage than "rightism" in today's corporate-centric world. Nevertheless, if we examine some simple searches on traditional media news sites, we see the following astounding numbers:

Associated Press search:
Leftist: 8,720
Rightist: 2

That's right. Just TWO uses of the word "rightist", while word "leftist" is used to denote everyone from anti-nuclear activists in India to violent Colombian drug-trafficking rebels to Canadian environmentalists to Venezuelan populist dictators to mainstream French Socialists to Cuban communists to mainstream Progressives in Mexico to immigration activists in Turkey.

And that's not all. Other "traditional" media also egregiously oversample the word "leftist". Consider these:

Reuters search:
Leftist: 926
Rightist: 121

RATIO: 7.6:1

CNN search:
Leftist: 1,358
Rightist: 267

RATIO: 5.1:1

ABC News search:
Leftist: 153 pages
Rightist: 7 pages

RATIO: 21.9:1

CNN search:
Leftist: 1,358
Rightist: 267

Then, of course, there's the Fox, the gold standard of right wing propaganda:

Fox News search:
Leftist: 1,090
Rightist: 29

RATIO: 37.6:1

The most even usage of the two words comes from the New York Times, a search of whose pages still reflects a hefty slant:

New York Times:
Leftist: 9,886
Rightist: 2983

RATIO: 3.3:1

What this means is that in a huge number of news articles, we are forced to believe that there is a debate in any given area between "leftists" and "conservatives"--with the conservatives getting a head start on semantics alone. Imagine if that debate were instead between "Progressives" and "Rightists"--how many more minds might be change just on the basis of altering two words alone?

It is time to bring balance back to the traditional media in this area as well with a few simple steps:

1. Eschew the use of the word "leftist" in your vocabulary, if you haven't already.

2. Use the word "Rightist" as often as you can to refer to conservative doctrinaire positions.

3. Write emails and letters to your newspapers, cable channels, and internet news outlets in protest whenever you see the word "leftist" without equivalent use of the word "rightist" to denote their opponents.

It's about time we Progressives fought back against the Rightist Press on semantics as well as their actual biased coverage of events.

By the way, clammyc and I will be spending about 25 minutes discussing this and other issues related to leftism and rightism on our radio show at our Political Nexus radio blog 3pm PST today, Monday May 7th. The recorded show won't be on the site for a few hours, but you can listen live here.

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Thursday, May 03, 2007

Lautenberg outfoxes Gonzales on guns; Freeper meltdown ensues

I have to say that Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) is a genius.  He has created an extraordinary wedge to use against the Administration and its gun-crazy Republican allies with S. 1237, introduced on May 1st, officially (and brilliantly) titled the "Denying Firearms and Explosives to Dangerous Terrorists Act of 2007"

The bill essentially gives the Attorney General the direct authority (above and beyond the Brady Bill) to prevent those on terrorist watch lists from purchasing firearms.  Gonzales and the Administration, in their quest for ever-increasing power, have offered no objection to the bill's contents.

This leads to a triple-bind for the GOP--if they support the bill, they do the following:

1) betray their rabidly pro-gun base in favor of federal power to prevent gun ownership, and

2) give the Democrats a legislative anti-gun victory in the wake of the shootings at Virginia Tech;

If they oppose the bill, they:

1) Deny the Executive authority in an issue of national security; and

2) Put themselves on record as saying that dangerous firearms should be in the hands of known terrorists.

And firearms in the hands of known terrorists is what is at issue here.  From Frank Lautenberg's website:

Under the federal Brady Act, a licensed firearms dealer must request a background check through the Federal Bureau of Investigation's (FBI) National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) before an unlicensed individual may purchase a weapon.  However, even if a NICS check reveals that the prospective purchaser is a known or suspected terrorist, nothing in current law prevents that person from purchasing a gun unless he or she meets one of the other disqualifying factors, including felony or domestic abuse convictions. 

In January 2005, the GAO produced a report to Sens. Lautenberg and Biden (D-DE) that found that from February 3 to June 30, 2004, a total of 44 firearm purchase attempts were made by individuals designated as known or suspected terrorists by the federal government.  In 35 cases, the FBI authorized the transactions to proceed because FBI field agents were unable to find any disqualifying information (such as felony convictions or illegal immigrant status) within the federally prescribed three business days.  (emphasis added)

Now, while you might think that such a bill would be a no-brainer for the sort of Republicans like CA Republican Dana Rohrbacher who think that torturing innocent people is okay if it hurts people on the federal terrorist watchlists, it's actually not so simple.

The influential Second Amendment Foundation has issued a major press release eviscerating Alberto Gonzales for his support of this bill:


For Immediate Release:  5/1/2007

BELLEVUE, WA - Attorney General Alberto Gonzales' troubling support of legislation that would allow him and future attorneys general the arbitrary power to block firearms purchases without due process is cause for him to step down as the nation's highest ranking law enforcement officer, the Second Amendment Foundation said today.

The bill, S. 1237, was introduced last week at the Justice Department's request by Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), one of the most extreme anti-gunners in Congress. Called the "Denying Firearms and Explosives to Dangerous Terrorists Act of 2007," this legislation would give the Attorney General discretionary authority to deny the purchase of a firearm or the issuance of a firearm license or permit because of some vague suspicion that an American citizen may be up to no good.

"This bill," said SAF founder Alan Gottlieb, "raises serious concerns about how someone becomes a `suspected terrorist.' Nobody has explained how one gets their name on such a list, and worse, nobody knows how to get one's name off such a list.

"The process by which someone may appeal the Attorney General's arbitrary denial seems weak at best," Gottlieb suggested, "and there is a greater concern. When did we decide as a nation that it is a good idea to give a cabinet member the power to deny someone's constitutional right simply on suspicion, without a trial or anything approaching due process?

"We're not surprised that General Gonzales has found an agreeable sponsor in Frank Lautenberg," Gottlieb observed. "The senator from New Jersey has never seen a restrictive gun control scheme he did not immediately embrace, and S. 1237 is loaded with red flags. It would allow an appointed bureaucrat the authority to suspend or cancel someone's Second Amendment right without even being charged with a crime.  (emphasis added)

I can't find an NRA statement on this; so far they have remained silent.  But I do find the newfound concern for the rights of "non-criminal" listed terrorists on the part of the wingers deeply touching and most charming.

And where are the Freepers on this issue?  Amusingly, with the terrorists and against the Administration, calling for Alberto's head, with comments like this:

Hemingway's Ghost: Holy smokes . . . this is truly difficult to believe, if true.

stockpirate: "Attorney General Alberto Gonzales' troubling support of legislation that would allow him and future attorneys general the arbitrary power to block firearms purchases without due process is cause for him to step down as the nation's highest ranking law enforcement officer"

Well now I must agree, He must step down, and he would not support this bill without the okay of Bush.

So I guess Bush is now going to sell us the rest of the way down the road.

sourcery: If Conservatives were to call for impeachment over this issue, imagine the consternation that would cause among the Libs...

gcruse: Get this bunch out of government.

Vision: Get him out of the office!

I knew he was a disaster from the beginning. Great move Bush.

SamAdams2000: I wont say that the bush administration is ruining this country..I just wont say that. That's the history books job.

The meltdown accelerates and the pressure grows from the right now, as well as the left.  Kudos to Senator Lautenberg for this brilliant tactical move and no-brainer legislation.

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New Graphic on the Overton Window on CorrenteWire

If there are only two issues that would define, in my opinion, the most significant things for the larger blogosphere to drum into the heads of the folks in the traditional democratic party, they would be the following:

1) referring the "war" in Iraq as the Occupation that it is; and

2) aggressively pursuing the implementation of the pushing the Overton Window, rather than triangulation, as official political strategy.

Well, Victor Shystee over at CorrenteWire has a fantastic new post up with a graphical illustration of the Overton Window and some interesting discussion of its applications and possible weaknesses. Head over for an interesting and thought-provoking read.

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Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Listen to Don't Hijack My Thread!

Today's Don't Hijack My Thread is now live at Political Nexus. This week features a conversation between myself, thekk, and clammyc with callers cskendrick and Major Danby.

Check it out!

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if you read nothing else today...

read today's piece by Kagro X on the front page of Daily Kos today, The veto: why not a signing statement?

No better reason, to my mind, to send Bush the same damn bill again. I want this constitutional showdown--and the sooner the better.

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Murdoch's Terrifying Gambit--Not Just Propaganda Anymore

By now one would have to be a hermit living in a cave not to be at least vaguely aware of Rupert Murdoch's recent bid to buy ownership of Dow Jones, and with it the Wall Street Journal at far higher than its actual market value before the bid was announced. Fortunately, that bid has been rejected by the majority owners, but to date the Bancroft family (owners of over 50% stake in Dow Jones) have not rejected the possibility of accepting a higher bid.

Murdoch has also announced detailed plans for a Fox Business Channel to compete with CNBC:

Presently, FOX Business Channel has 30 million subscribers under contract after securing distribution agreements with multiple cable operators, including: Time Warner; Comcast; Charter, and Direct TV. The network, which will be housed at News Corporation headquarters in midtown Manhattan, is expected to launch in major markets across the country, including the world’s financial capital — New York — where it will be seen on expanded basic cable.

In making the announcement, Murdoch said, “We have long considered the business television market to be underserved. Having built FOX News into a cable news leader and a cultural phenomenon against all expectations, I’m confident that Roger Ailes and his team can do the same in business news. I look forward to introducing new competition and a new voice to the business news arena.”

Most secondary reporting on this dual gambit has focused primarily on three issues in the abstract:
1) The anti-democratic nature of media consolidation in general;
2) Uneasiness at a foreigner's (Murdoch is an Australian by birth) owning much of the American media establishment; and
3) Democratic and progressive concern at yet another attempt to control even greater and more expansive propaganda efforts.

While all these are valid and legitimate concerns, they miss to my mind the greatest danger posed by Murdoch's takeover bid of America's premier financial newspaper and its cable business news information source: the possibility of direct market manipulation by Murdoch through these avenues.

It is true that I have no direct evidence for this claim, but direct evidence would be fairly difficult to come by. All I have is logic and circumstantial evidence--and that alone should be causing some raised eyebrows and at least some pointed questions to be asked.

Exhibit A: Murdoch would be paying a large premium for a newspaper outlet with declining sales, particularly among young readers. While Murdoch's history of moving to web-based content may render some of these concerns moot, the fact that online advertising revenues are not matching print revenues and are not likely to in the near future suggests that the only marginally profitable WSJ is likely to become less profitable at least in the near term, regardless of any movement online. In other words, this move is a clear money-loser for Murdoch on its face.

Exhibit B: Fox's stated intention in creating Fox Business Channel is supposedly to create a more business-friendly Business channel than its future competitor CNBC. The idea that Murdoch would be attempting to use an alternative business channel as a propaganda tool to place a right-wing (or more youthful) slant on business news coverage has long been seen as somewhat ludicrous--and it is. Attempting to propagandize the shareholder class at great startup expense beyond the somewhat less inflamatory pro-business propaganda of CNBC is a ludicrous idea, even for Murdoch. Furthermore, there is only a limited number of ostensible viewers for two cable business-news channels in the same marketplace--especially as viewers of business news are likely to dwindle in the face of what seems to be an evitable market downturn coming as housing prices continue to decline. It is difficult to see how Murdoch believes that this gambit will be politically or financially successful for him.

Exhibit C: The op-ed section of the Wall Street Journal is already rabidly right-wing; Murdoch's propaganda influence in the opinion section would do little to augment the overt bias already in existence there. If Murdoch were inclined to alter the paper's content, it would need to be in the actual news reporting sections--sections which have remained fairly accurate because actual business decisions have to be made based upon it. In fact, when asked about the conflict between owning the WSJ and starting Fox Business Channel, Murdoch said:
There are a lot of other things in The Journal, and their editors appear on Fox every Sunday," Murdoch said Tuesday when asked about that deal.

And as ABC News says directly below that quote:

The Wall Street Journal's influence goes well beyond its readers.The news on the front page of the nation's major newspapers often drives coverage at other papers and TV stations across the country.

Indeed. Perhaps it is time to consider alternative methods and reasons for Murdoch's interest in the journal beyond just the propaganda of the editorials...

Exhibit D: There is more to the Dow Jones Corporation than just the Wall Street Journal. As ABC News says in the same article:

In addition to The Wall Street Journal, Dow Jones also publishes Dow Jones Newswires, Barron's, several leading market indicators including the Dow Jones industrial average and a group of community newspapers.

In other words, Murdoch would control not only the journal, but also the newswires, Barron's magazine, and the market indicators themselves--whose composition he would be able to alter as he saw fit.


Now you can call me a tin-foil hatter if you will, but I see a man who
a) is willing to pay top-dollar for a declining newspaper outlet with little forseeable profitability;
b) is willing to pay top-dollar for a declining newsppaer outlet whose propaganda arm is already at full tilt for the Right;
c) is overtly stating a propaganda motive for starting a business channel in a difficult market already saturated with right-wing propaganda;
d) is attempting a takeover of a corporation whose influence is not limited to media coverage of the market, but directly influences and controls important aspects of the market itself.

And when I see those things, I do not believe it is unreasonable to ask whether this man may not be interested in something far more sinister than direct profit or propaganda influence. This is instead an attempt to take over the very institution of financial reporting itself.

To me, it stinks of an attempt to directly control every aspect of direct, legitimate financial reporting in order to deliberately sway the market itself if need be. It is the stuff of comic-book and action-movie supervillains. And I think it's high time somebody started asking some serious questions about it.

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Tuesday, May 01, 2007

GOP Foreign Policy: A Study in Weakness and Cowardice

As our President prepares yet another address to the nation filled with talking points urging "determination" and "strength" in Iraq lest we lose faith in the Iraqi people, and Rudy Giuliani tours the country claiming that electing Democrats will lead to a new 9/11, it is appropriate to remind the nation of the fact that the Republican history of foreign policy at least since Ronald Reagan has been characterized by weakness, cowardice, and a lack of faith in the American values we all hold dear.

This idea really crystalized for me during a fantastic discussion between myself and clammyc on our Framework show at Political Nexus this week, dealing with framing on national security: the GOP is not just criminally belligerent and unbelievably inept in its foreign policy, but also incredibly weak and surprisingly lacking in faith for a party so filled with supposedly faith-based operatives.

clammyc's diary of yesterday, Destroying the "national security" meme, did a fantastic job of laying out the ways in which George Bush's GOP has failed to protect our ports and national security infrastructure, to respond adequately to terrorist threats, looked the other way or actively helped as hostile nations arm themselves to become our next enemies, voted against armor and benefits for our troops, dodged drafts, and otherwise behaved like sniveling cowards in the face of the tough national security challenges of the new millennium.

But really, it goes a great deal beyond even that. The reason Republicans are so weak on national security is that their entire outlook on national security is born of inherent weakness, fear and distrust in the righteousness of the democratic rule, self-determination and innovation so key to the American spirit--and it has been thus for decades.

This inherent weakness makes it all the more astonishing, frankly, that Democrats have been unable all this time to counter our single most significant political disadvantage vis-a-vis Republicans: that Republicans are somehow "strong" on national security, while Democrats are not. The GOP has been attempting to leverage this idea with the American public for well over half a century with figures as odious or extreme as Joe McCarthy and Barry Goldwater, but the hawkish stances of these figures backfired on Republicans as often as it succeeded until the era of Reagan and Jimmy Carter; meanwhile, the strength of figures such as FDR and JFK was enough to counter any notions of Democratic weakness in foreign policy.

It was only with the ascension of Ronald Reagan that the meme of Republican superiority in matters of national security truly took hold in a way that Democrats have been unable to counter; ironically, however, it is precisely with Reagan that the Republicans started a campaign of systematically demonstrating its own weakness in this area--weakness that Democrats have been unwilling or unable to exploit politically. Which is all the more pathetic, as the history of Republican foreign policy resembles that of a bully who lashes out randomly in terror of his own shadow. Consider some history:

--It was Republicans, led by the same convicted felon Ollie North who is currently a contributor to Fox News in a segment called "War Stories" (!), who were responsible for the Iran Contra debacle, wherein your and my government sold weapons to Iran in order to secretly fund murderous military insurgents in South America. These insurgents were led by the same villian currently responsible for suppressing insurgents in our ongoing occupation of Iraq. And let's really be clear about what this scandal was about: a Republican party so terrified of scary tin-pot socialists in banana republics that they were willing to sell high-level ballistic weapons to one of our greatest and most unstable international enemies--and so terrified of the opproprium of the American public that they found it necessary to do it in secret.

--It was Republicans who were in all probability involved in a deal with Iran to free the hostages only after their own election. If they were indeed guilty of doing this as common sense dictates and many respected experts continue to insist despite an utterly inadequate House investigation denying it, then they did so out of fear that they would not and could not carry the 1980 election on the merits of their own ideas--in spite of the major challenges facing Jimmy Carter's presidency.

--It was Donald Rumsfeld who shook Saddam Hussein's hand as the United States funded and aided him even after we were made well-aware of the man's brutality. We did this so that Saddam Hussein could weaken our declared enemy Iran--our enemy because they had taken our hostages (freed days after Reagan's inauguration), and because we were apparently terrified they would use against us the weapons we were selling them under the table--through an ugly war in which children were used to clear fields of land mines. Republicans were so terrified of Iran that they were willing to support a brutal dictator and allow children to clear land mines for them rather than face up to an enemy they were selling weapons to out of paralyzing dread of the banana republic socialists.

--It was Republicans in the United States who were so terrified of a teetering Soviet Union that had just made a desperate tactical mistake, that our CIA aggressively funded the Afghan mujahideen who would later become the Taliban--and quite possibly directly funded Osama bin Laden as well. Long after John F. Kennedy had done the real work of facing down the Soviets in the Cuban Missile Crisis (resolved through diplomacy rather than war, by the way), Reagan allowed Gorbachev to do the heavy lifting of glasnost while having so little faith in the superiority of the American way of life and economic system that he found it necessary fund those who would later cause more American deaths in one day than the Soviet Union had in decades.

--It was Republicans who, when faced with a rising drug problem, were so petrified of the possible consequences of having faith and trust the same system of regulation and taxation that had worked well for alcohol and cigarettes, decided to declare a "war on drugs" (the second stupidest phrase of GOP creation behind "war on terror") that has led to record incarceration rates and the easy availability of a black market living that is the greatest single factor in the ability of those living in ghettoes to find honest work. This strange preoccupation with a return to the days of Prohibition lest modern day Al Capones get high on marijuana instead of money has also helped contribute to the funding of Colombian death squads to the tune of $1.3 billion per year.

--It was Republicans who found it so necessary to maintain the American public's goodwill in a Gulf War necessitated by their own support of Saddam Hussein that they overstated the efficacy of Patriot Missiles, possibly resulting in the deaths of 28 American servicemen.

--It was Republicans who, from Reagan until today, have been so terrified of the prospect of change and so faithless in the American ability to create technological innovation that they have found it necessary to engage our nation in increasing disastrous oil wars in the Middle East over the last several decades.

--It was Republicans who claimed that Clinton was wagging the dog when he twice struck at Osama Bin Laden.

--It was Republicans who wanted to pack up with their tails between their legs and come home in the wake of Clinton's eminently successful, overwhelmingly internationally approved and relatively bloodless war in Kosovo.

--It was Republicans who were so petrified of phantom ICBMs coming from North Korea that they allowed 9/11 to happen on their watch, sending Condi Rice to give a speech on Missile Defense on 9/11 when it had been barely a month since the infamous August 6th Presidential Daily Briefing stating that Osama Bin Laden was determined to strike inside the United States.

--It was Republicans who were so terrified of military losses in Afghanistan that they sent corrupt Afghan warlords to do the fighting for them in Tora Bora, allowing the most wanted criminal in America's history to escape and remain unaccountable for his murderous deeds to this day.

--It was Republicans who were so terrified of the consequences of peak oil that they allowed energy companies and neoconservative kooks to ignore Afghanistan and instead engage in an immoral, unconscionable invasion and occupation of Iraq.

--It is Republicans who are so afraid of losing the oil contracts in Iraq that they are desperate to keep American troops as fodder in the area as long as possible, rather than trust that the Iraqi people can manage their own affairs. Indeed, as long as extremists like Al-Sadr can point to an outside enemy, the Iraqi people can see them as latter-day Robin Hoods, rather than as power-hungry villains; it is only when men like Al-Sadr are forced to govern that progress will be made in Iraq. Yet Republcians are so afraid of Al-Sadr and so desperate to keep their grubby hands on the oil out of fear that American technological innovation will be inadequate to solve our energy crisis, that they are willing to allow Bush to veto funding for their own troops in the field.

And there is so much more where that came from.


It is a truly onerous list. And yet the Republican theme of "strength on national security" continues to earn dividends for them. It does so because Democrats are, by and large, afraid of going out on a limb and literally calling Republicans the petrified, terrified, corrupt liars that they are. Iran-Contra wasn't a "scandal"--it was treason predicated on cowardice. Arming Saddam wasn't a "mistake"--it was short-sighted stupidity borne of fear. Arming Bin Laden wasn't a "necessary evil"--it was myopic ineptitude created from panic. And the list goes on and on. Republicans have been unafraid to use the harshest possible language to slander Democrats on the issue of national security, and it is time we fought fire with fire.

This day, as President Bush prepares to deny funding to his own troops that he and his party have placed into harm's way due to fear and trepidation, it is time we brought their history of cowardice to mind--and to open the rhetorical floodgates against these sniveling bullies. No time like the present.

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