Wednesday, October 31, 2007


Ron Paul (R-TX) doesn't register in the national polls, but he has a cadre of fervent supporters and $5 million in the bank. He's just release a couple of ads in New Hampshire, and they're pretty good. If he keeps running pieces like this, he's going to get some support--not enough to win (I think his vote will come from people who would otherwise stay home), but maybe enough to cause trouble.

Take a look.

Here's the first of the ads:

and the second:

Painful Irony

TheRiver points out that Spain, home to the inquisition, gave its terror suspects a trial (at which 7 of 28, including one of the accused ringleaders, were acquitted), while we ("the land of the free") keep hundreds locked up at Guantanamo and the government fights as hard as it can to deny them legal rights.

Ideology or professionalism

Yesterday's New York Times reported:

On the eve of an important Senate committee meeting to consider the legislation, Nancy A. Nord, the acting chairwoman of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, has asked lawmakers in two letters not to approve the bulk of legislation that would increase the agency’s authority, double its budget and sharply increase its dwindling staff.

Ms. Nord opposes provisions that would increase the maximum penalties for safety violations and make it easier for the government to make public reports of faulty products, protect industry whistle-blowers and prosecute executives of companies that willfully violate laws.

The Times described the acting chairman's position as "consistent with the broadly deregulatory approach of the Bush administration over the last seven years." It is really consistent with the administration's attempts to undermine federal law and to ignore its mandated responsibilities.

The CPSC is supposed to protect consumers, not businesses that market through fraud or purvey defective products. If Ms. Nord does not believe in that mission, let her get out of the agency. She is free to work as a lobbyist trying to get Congress to gut the laws that now protect consumers; she ought not to be free to sabotage the work of the Commission; as acting chair, she took an oath to follow the law. Undermining the work of the Commission is--at best--dereliction of duty, and if the acting chair will not resign, she should be removed.

Nord's position is not only inconsistent with her sworn duty it is, fortunately for American consumers, politically stupid. As The Times noted in another story reporting that House Speaker Pelosi called on Nord to resign, "In early October alone, recalls [of lead-tainted toys] ranged from Cub Scout badges to play blocks and Halloween candy buckets." So the Democrats have called for Nancy Nord's head on the proverbial platter. Good for them. But how many children were poisoned, and how many other Americans cheated and hurt, over the seven yers that Ms. Nord and her cohorts have been subverting the agencies they were hired to serve?

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Duty, Dishonor Country

Frank Schaeffer, whose son was a Marine who served in Afghanistan, Iraq and other places on how Bush dishonors our military by hiring mercenaries (i.e., contractors).

It's a good piece, but W also dishonors our military by sending our troops on foolish missions that waste American and foreign lives. 60 Minutes did a piece on civilian deaths through American bombing raids in Afghanistan. Most of it focused on the review process that goes on before a raid is carried out; one witness, a former top Bush National Security Council staffer who approved raids in Iraq, said that if there was a chance of killing a "high-value" target like Saddam Hussein or one of his top officials, the raid would go ahead if no more than 30 civilians were likely to die. He had approved more than 50 such strikes; none of them eliminated the target. One of those interviewed for the story did note the essential truth: that we carry out air strikes in Afghanistan because we have too few troops there.

The damage done to the American military by Bush and his cronies will be long-lasting. It will damage not only the services, but the nation. It will be one of the President's great shames. Unfortunately, in that category it has a lot of competition.

Friday, October 26, 2007


Still doing a heck of a job

An interesting story: FEMA deputy administrator Adm. Harvey E. Johnson answers questions at a news conference from FEMA staffers acting as if they are reporters.

If they're not careful, they'll get an unfair-competition complaint from Fox News (a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Republican Party).


A picture is worth $2.4 billion

Crooks and Liars has a graphic that gives an idea--well, part of an idea, actually--of how much money we're really wasting in Iraq. Take a look.


What they REALLY think

Last week, several dozen GOPher House members listed objections that led them, they said, to vote to uphold Bush's veto of the S-Chip bill. So House Democrats worked on those issues to craft a bill that would be veto-proof. And what happened? When the new bill came to the floor, every Repub who had voted against it before and who was present voted against it again! Once more we learn that hypocrite is synonym for Republican.

On GOP congresswoman, Ginny Brown-Wait (R-FL), described the bill this way, "You can take horse manure and roll it in powdered sugar and it doesn't make it a doughnut." Wonder if even the people in Tampa will stand for that.

So that's what the Repubs think of health insurance for children: horse manure.

Meanwhile, the AP reports that the Scrooge-in-Chief "accused Democratic lawmakers on Friday of wasting time by passing legislation to expand children's health coverage, knowing that he would veto it again." Sure, Mr. President, why would Congress waste its time trying to help sick kids when it could be appropriating more billions in deficit spending for the war in Iraq?


The Teflon (tm) candidate

Is Hillary Clinton the Teflon (tm) candidate of 2008? Last night CBS News had an analysis piece by Jeff Greenfield, called "Clinton Seems a Done Deal." He showed her fending off Obama's call for change by painting herself as the candidate of "Change with Experience," and parrying Edwards' charge that she's the tool of lobbyists by calling herself the champion of the middle class. The report made being all things to all people sound like a good thing.

Somewhere along the line, the MSM seems to have decided to give Hillary a pass. The episode of Norman Hsu, Democratic supporter and fugitive fraudster, could have been a serious setback for Clinton's campaign, which reaped the lion's share of his largess, but the story quickly faded. Her prolonged shilly-shallying over the Iraq war is another potential disaster for her, especially among Democrat Primary voters, but that issue hasn't caught on, either.

Clinton--and, indeed, all media-savvy candidates--benefits from the slapdash and slipshod "coverage" of campaigns that has become the norm. Positions on issues are described, if at all, in a sentence or two, and debates and polls are covered as if they were real news. When something does get reported, it is likely to be a meaningless story blown out of all proportion--as with Clinton's support for a local earmark to give a million dollars for a museum of the Woodstock Concert of 1969.

So far, especially given the rage of Repubs against Clinton over the past 15 years, Hillary's free pass is as remarkable as the "new Nixon" of 1968, and even more surprising than the general failure to examine W's credentials--or the lack thereof--in 2000.

The danger for Clinton, and Democrats, is that this could change. The Woodstock story has been picked up by GOPhers who are getting desperate for things to hurl at Hillary. That one, in particular, makes an easy target, and is a simple way for them to portray her as no better than anyone else in Washington--i.e., to blur the distinction between Repubs and Democrats. The press, also eager for easy targets, could shift into attack mode on Clinton and play up attacks on her the way they aired the fake swift boat controversy in 2004; this is all the more likely because of powerful forces, such as Fox, all ready to give vent to the venom of the right.

One of the hazards for both parties this year is that they are likely to have picked their presidential candidates eight or nine months before the election, leaving plenty of time for devastating secrets (or just plain old smears) to emerge when it's too late to find someone new.

Is this anyway to run a democracy?

Thursday, October 25, 2007


Beer makes you stupid

Good beer, dumb people.

The people who make Sam Adams beer have sent a letter threatening legal action if two websites using the eponymous name of their product in a campaign for mayor of Portland, OR are not shut down.*

Only one problem: the sites support the candidacy of Portland city councilman Sam Adams for mayor of the City that Works.

The letter notes that the brewer "has used the trademarks SAM ADAMS and SAMUEL ADAMS since 1984." To which the councilman replied that he has been using it since 1963.

*The governor should commute that sentence, but I'm not going to bother trying to fix it.

UPDATE: The websites mentioned above have been shut down, allegedly by the threat of litigation. If you want to see the letter from Boston Beer Company, threatening legal action, look here.


Can't do nation

Bill Richardson has a post on The Huffington Post (is that a post post? or a Post post?) posing a good, if obvious question: Where's the National Guard when we need it? Specifically, Richardson notes that in his role as governor he sent two fire crews from New Mexico to fight California's wildfires, while on the same day he ordered those firefighters to help out a neighboring state, 300 New Mexico Guardsmen (Guardspeople?) were sent to Iraq. Why isn't the California National Guard available to help fight the fires and their devastating effects? Because George W. Bush and his cronies decided to depose a tin-pot dictator and mired us in Mesopotamia.

There's a larger issue here: The willful and flagrant misdirection of the nation's resources. China's economy is growing at an annual rate of over 10 percent; our economy is projected to grow at a 2 percent rate (after accounting for population increase, etc., that's effectively no growth). China is making things; here, Facebook is valued by the market at $16 billion. When I heard Barack Obama the other night, one of the points he made was that we should be creating high-quality jobs by getting out in front in the green revolution. The point is hardly original with Obama, but the current regime is fighting a rearguard action against even admitting that there is such a thing as global warming, much less agreeing that we should do something about it. And that's not just the White House; its world view--if not its specific view of climate change--is echoed by powerful interests that want our status to remain quo.

The conventional wisdom speaks of limits: we don't have the money to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure, we can't afford to take dramatic steps to clean up the atmosphere and slow global warming, we can't find the money for universal health care. (Reader AO notes that Bush vetoed S-Chip, which would have spent $35 billion on children's health care over five years, then sent Congress a request for $46 billion more for the rat-hole in Iraq, and demands that it be appropriated right now. The spineless Democratic leadership will probably go along.)

It didn't used to be that way. One of my favorite moments in The West Wing came when President Bartlet, speaking to his aide, mentions that FDR declared the US would build 50,000 airplanes in four years, and people said he was crazy. "And he was," the President continued. "We built 50,000 airplanes in one year." That was the kind of can-do spirit that used to activate America; it was what won the Second World War, created the Marshal plan to re-build a devastated world, motivated the nation when JFK promised to get to the moon in less than 10 years (we did it in eight) and provided necessary hope for the civil rights movement. Somewhere along the line, however, perhaps in the failure of the War on Poverty, we became a can't do nation.

We need to change the way we look at the world. We need to understand that we can take on great challenges, face seemingly insurmountable obstacles and prevail. And the way we will do that is not to protect the powerful, but to find goals that benefit the vast majority of our people, goals like keeping the world livable for our grandchildren, taking care of the sick and making the globe a better place for all peoples, not just American corporations.

The first step, the most important one, one that is hard but does not require wealth or power, is to change the way we think.


Wednesday, October 24, 2007

He's the guy

A couple of weeks ago, I cited a piece by Josh Marshall about Barack Obama's campaign suggesting that, "Obama isn't so much running for the nomination in the sense of reaching out and taking it. He's trying to show us how marvelous he is (and this isn't snark, he's really pretty marvelous) so that Democratic voters will recognize it and give him the nomination."

I'm here to tell you that I was wrong, and Josh Marshall was wrong.

Last night, I saw Obama in person for the first time. It wasn't the kind of intimate gathering you may have seen in his TV ads, but a huge rally on the Boston Common--a rally organized in just a few days, since Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick announced that he would endorse Obama.

Forget the media story line on Obama--that he hasn't put out clear policy statements, that he hasn't been willing to mix it up, that he hasn't stated a reason for his campaign. I don't know if that was true earlier, but that wasn't the guy that I saw last night.

When he speaks to crowds of ordinary citizens, Obama is all about change. He is, truly, the only serious presidential candidate dedicated to changing the way this nation has been led for the past forty years. It's not a matter of policy, but of attitude--the idea that the nation should lead the world by example (Jimmy Carter tried this, but was ineffective), that this nation is a commonwealth (that we're all in this together), that government should help the least of us, not those who already have wealth and power.

It is fashionable to point out that Americans elected George Bush--the guy you'd rather sit around and chew the fat with--over Al Gore who, you may recall, was roundly criticized for rolling his eyes and sighing at W's fabrications. Leaving aside the fact that more voters chose Gore than Bush, that analysis misses a vital point: the character of the candidates is more important than the specifics of policy. Why? Because we don't know what the real issues will be between now and 2012. True, health care and Iraq may well continue to be the matters that concern Americans, but most presidents face challenges that were but dimly imagined--if they were thought of at all--during the campaign.

Other candidates --most notably John Edwards--talk about change, but it's a veneer. Obama seeks a new way of thinking about politics and the place of our leaders in the nation's life. In that, he stands alone. He's the guy.

Monday, October 22, 2007

I want a framed 8 x 10

of his mugshot. Crooks and Liars--maybe the cleverest title on the 'net--reports that one of those fired US attorneys states that the Justice Department's inspector general is likely to recommend criminal charges for former Attorney-General Alberto Gonzalez. John McKay, who was the US Attorney for the Western District of Washington, says that he was questioned for eight hours by agents from the IG's office. McKay predicts that the charges will be brought.

While Gonzalez certainly deserves to be indicted--and, very likely, convicted--don't hang by your thumbs til it happens. Whoever is sitting in the Attorney-General's chair, the idea of indicting his predecessor will be inconceivable as long as W is in the Oval Office and Deadeye Dick in the bunker. The AG who indicted Gonzalez would disappear into one of those CIA black sites in a nanosecond.

Let's face it, the administration will do anything to keep Alberto from being tempted to tattle. Gonzalez may not be very bright--Harvard Law degree notwithstanding--but he knows where the bodies are buried. And he doesn't seem like the kind of guy who'd let interrogators pull out his fingernails without spilling the beans. (Just a thought, but shouldn't prosecutors be entitled to apply the same "enhanced interrogation" techniques on Gonzalez that he approved for use on others?) Indeed, the prospect of 7-10 in Club Fed would probably get him to start babbling like a brook.

Which would mean pardon. Bad as W's ratings are, they would nosedive if he were to issue a pardon to Gonzalez, and even more so if it came prior to a conviction. So, all strings will be pulled to make sure that no charges are brought.

(Will W. pardon Gonzalez on his way out of the Oval Office, to head off prosecution under a Democratic administration? That's a different story altogether.)


The cost of wiretapping

FISA wiretaps are, apparently, so routine that Comcast, for one, has a standard fee for them. If you think the cost of cable TV is too high, consider what your tax dollars are buying at $1000 to install the tap and $750 per month to maintain it. These fees do not, apparently, include actually listening in on conversations--presumably, that is left to government operatives.

What's especially interesting about this is that the administration is still stonewalling about the number of wiretaps that it has ordered; Comcast's fee schedule is a small window into the information that remains hidden.

Raw Story got Comcast's Handbook for Law Enforcement from Secrecy News.

You heard it here first

Yes, you did!

Friday, October 19, 2007


Cat blogging returns

Kevin Drum, of Washington Monthly, originated Friday catblogging, at least as far as I know.

As some of you may recall, we lost our felines, Natasha and Shay-Shay, about 2 months apart last spring. On Sunday, the lovely Dianne and I adopted two new kitties, Miah (we added the 'h' to her given name be distinctive) and Sassafras (Sassy, of course). They are 6 months old.

A word about the people who provide foster homes for cats and dogs waiting to be adopted--they are quiet heroes. You may count human life more than that of pets; fine, that's a personal judgment and I wouldn't disagree. But these are folks who spend much time and money to save animals that would otherwise meet an untimely and, in all likelihood, unpleasant death. And they don't seek recognition; indeed, it seems that they prefer to remain almost invisible. What a contrast to all the attention-seekers who plague us!

Anyway, here are the kitties:

That's Miah on the left and Sassy on the right, helping Diane with her work. Despite their differing coloration, they are sisters; I guess we know what Mama and Papa looked like.



Torture rarely produces reliable intelligence, experts say
Headline on Yahoo
The story it links to is a bit more informative.


Thumbs down on Mike

[Mukasey] suggested that both the administration’s program of eavesdropping without warrants and its use of “enhanced” interrogation techniques for terrorism suspects, including waterboarding, might be acceptable under the Constitution even if they went beyond what the law technically allowed. Mr. Mukasey said the president’s authority as commander in chief might allow him to supersede laws written by Congress.
The New York Times

Okay, so Mukasey's the best we can hope for out of this lawless administration, the acting attorney-general is one of those people who, as they say, is to the right of Attila the Hun (thereby giving Attila a bad name), and the Democrats haven't got the guts to block his nomination. But, still, the nation's top lawyer ought to stand for something. Like the law and the Constitution. Tell your senators to vote for the Constitution and the rule of law, and against Mukasey.

Thursday, October 18, 2007


Conflict of interest

The House is set to vote today on overriding Bush's veto of the S-Chip bill for children's health insurance. Although an almost-incredible 81 percent of the public wants to expand S-Chip, and 74 percent are willing to pay higher taxes to do it (could the anti-tax fever be ebbing?), enough GOPhers will side with W to uphold the veto. It must be principle with those people; it couldn't be political calculation or plain good sense.

All of which presents Democrats with a conflict: Bush's veto--and its support by Repubs in Congress and the party's major presidential candidates--promises a Godsend for Democrats in 2008. But the outcome of today's vote means that children will go without health care. Not to put too fine a point on it, children will get sick and die who would not have had the outcome been different.


Grand theft

The race to pillage the nation's public assets is heating up. Just today the NYT reports that the chairman of the FCC wants to weaken limits on ownership of federally-licensed broadcasters to the vanishing point, and that the Bureau of Land Management proposes to further limit the amount of old-growth forest that is off-limits to loggers in the Pacific Northwest.

If you think this is bad, wait until you see what the Bush people try to do as their time grows really short. They will make the give-aways under Reagan and the first Bush look like child's play. All that advocates of probity and sense can do is to fight a holding action, hoping for relief after January 20, 2009.


New medication for Democrats

Friend RA forwarded this link. Take a look. It's just what the doctor ordered as we learn that Senate Democrats are apparently willing to knuckle under, yet again, on domestic spying.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007


Least interesting headline of the week

Plame book criticizes Bush, journalists

Well, duh-uh.


(We've got the Indians right where we want them!)

The wisdom of crowds

When I read the NYT editorial page--which I do just about every day--I usually start with the letters columns. I've learned that the varied voices of the letter-writers are often wiser than any of the columnists, op-ed contributors and the editorial board of the Newspaper of Record.

For instance: from yesterday's letters column:
To the Editor:

Frank Rich focused on the administration’s role in condoning torture, the non-action of Congress in upholding our country’s moral imperatives, and the public’s silence. Well, we the people can now voice our concerns because of the elections.

As we listen to the debates — whether they be Democratic or Republican — we hear nothing about moral leadership, nothing about taking a lead in improving the world’s deteriorating environment, nothing about reinforcing the rule of law here and abroad, nothing about America regaining its role in the world as the embodiment of freedom and goodness.

While the candidates bicker about health care and tax cuts, we need to decide who can best represent American ideals and undo the harm the present administration has created all over the world. We need a leader to right what’s wrong in our country, bring us together and act as a beacon for all other countries that wish to aspire to the American dream.

Hillary, Barack, Mitt, Rudy, Chris, Fred, Joe — can you do it?

Sidney M. Levy
Baltimore, Oct. 14, 2007

I'm not sure I agree that we hear nothing about leadership, restoring the rule of law, et cetera,
but these are certainly not central issues in the campaign, and the MSM gives a lot more space to how much money has been raised, spats between this candidate and that one, and plain old campaign gossip than it does to such vital subjects.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Another one bites the dust, down the road

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) has announced that she will not run again in 2012, and is hinting that she'll leave in 2010, presumably to run for governor of the Ill-Starred State. (From Sam Houston to W to Rick Perry to Kay Bailey Hutchison? What a come-down.)


The curtain descends

Reuters reports that the Burmese junta's controlled courts have been handing down long sentences to people associated with the democratic opposition, including an 85-year old man given 7 1/2 years.

The Bush administration has been firm on Burma; the problem has been the Chinese who sell the Burmese oil and have refused to put any real pressure on the regime.

I fear that the only course for change now would be for thousands of Burmese to be willing to face down the army, hoping that at some point the soldiers will refuse orders to shoot.

Would you stand in the front rank of that crowd? I like to think I would, but I seriously doubt that I have that kind of courage.


Another lie exposed

This morning, NPR news carried a clip from an interview with Mike Leavitt, Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, in which he expressed the White House's willingness to compromise on S-Chip, the children's health program. According to Leavitt, the administration is prepared to accept a program that covers the same number of children as have been covered in the past.

W, you may recall, said in vetoing the bill sent up by a truly bi-partisan majority in Congress that he favored more money for S-Chip. What he did not say, although even the White House did not deny it, is that the amount he proposed the program would not even cover the children now insured under it.

Bush lies. Now there's a story!


Monday, October 15, 2007

Opera bouffe

Roger Cohen writes of the "Coalition of the Reluctant" and a trip by a high Defense Department official to get countries most Americans have hardly heard of to send a dribble of troops to Iraq, all in the cause of pretending that there is a coalition arrayed against whoever it is we're fighting there.

As Cohen notes, "The United States is as isolated in Iraq as a great power can be. A first term spent riding roughshod over friends and vaunting 'coalitions of the willing' over alliances has not been righted by a second term of diplomacy rehabilitation. Wounds linger." Not a new thought, but one that can't be repeated too often.

What goes around

The LA Times suggests that Blackwater and other "security contractors" may be unlawful combatants, at least when they shoot without being shot at--something they seem to do a lot of.

"Unlawful combatant" is a creation of the Bush administration, a convenient term to hold people prisoner. Take someone who was fighting for the Taliban in Afghanistan. While the United States and its allies did not recognize the Taliban as the legitimate government of the country, the fact is that it controlled the lion's share of Afghanistan until the US invasion. Yet the administration arrogates to itself the right to determine that a person who served in the Taliban's forces is an enemy combatant, not a POW.

Blackwater's mercenaries are combatants, yet they are not enlisted in any military service. If they engage in offensive operations, logic would suggest that they be considered outside the protections of military law.

The argument might seem academic, because it is clear that the US government will never permit its contractors to be treated the way we treat our enemies. And in the eyes of the part of the world that we most need to win over, Blackwater and its ilk have already been convicted. As yet another example of American hubris and hypocrisy, however, the issue can have important ramifications.

Friday, October 12, 2007


Hand me that handbasket

I'm going to Hell.

Yep, it's true. I've been going to Hell for some time now, and I intend to keep right on.

Did you see what Ann Coulter said about us Jews? She says we need "perfected" into Christians.

The more I see and hear people like Ann Coulter, who are sure they're headed for Heaven, the more certain I become that I don't want to spend eternity with THEM.

So, I guess there's only one other place to go....


One good thing

about our system is that we have former presidents around, and they can continue to contribute to society. (Or, like George HW Bush, they burn huge amounts of fossil fuels to speed over the waves at high speeds while emitting tremendous noise.) True, we'll probably have W around for a few decades, but we can always change the channel if, by some mis-chance, the media should turn a camera and microphone his way.

These thoughts are prompted by an interview Jimmy Carter gave CNN. True, Carter can be pompous, self-righteous and even patronizing, but he speaks his mind honestly and without ambition, which gives him a moral authority that few other public figures can command. For instance, as he told CNN:

"Our country for the first time in my life time has abandoned the basic principle of human rights. We've said that the Geneva Conventions do not apply to those people in Abu Ghraib prison and Guantanamo, and we've said we can torture prisoners and deprive them of an accusation of a crime to which they are accused."

When the interviewer, Wolf Blitzer, pointed out that W had denied that we torture people, Carter observed sagely, "But you can make your own definition of human rights and say we don't violate them, and you can make your own definition of torture and say we don't violate them."

Carter's not the only one saying such things, but his position gets him on outlets like CNN. That's not to be sneezed at.

Thursday, October 11, 2007


And so the "American Century" fades into the mist

"The reason the telecom industry is so bad is because it has bought congress, written anti-competitive, anti-consumer regulations into law, so that its services get worse and worse while it places itself on precisely the business path to destruction the US auto industry has already trod."


Point of view

"Myanmar's ruling junta lashed out at Western powers and foreign media on Thursday, accusing them of fomenting large protests that were ended by a brutal crackdown."

Wouldn't that be a good thing?

Wednesday, October 10, 2007


Who's in command in the "War on Terrer?"

This story hasn't had enough coverage: SITE, a private group that monitor's Islamic extremist websites told the White House on September 7th that it had a new videotape by Osama bin Laden. The group turned the tape over to US government officials on the condition that it be kept secret until made public by bin Laden's allies. The purpose for the secrecy was to keep al Qaeda from knowing that its communications had been penetrated.

So, what happened? Numerous government agencies downloaded the video and by that afternoon it was on the Internet and transcripts were being circulated--and bin Laden's people were, presumably, finding and fixing the hole in their security.

Apparently, secrecy works only one way with the clowns in the administration, and their passion to gin up fear of bin Laden overpowers even the most rudimentary concern for protecting valuable sources.

Ah well, why are we surprised by further evidence of the administration's massive incompetence?


Josh Marshall "gets" Obama

TPM's Josh Marshall has an analysis of Barack Obama's campaign that may be all too close to the mark. It pains me to say that, because I've suggested that Obama, of all the candidates for President, has the capacity to provide the leadership that this country needs.

(More on the issue of leadership to follow.)

How low will they go

The House Democratic "leadership" is caving in to the administration's demand for broad power to wiretap, and may even agree to give telecommunications companies broad immunity for past actions.

This is in the House remember--where Democrats have a clear, if not very large, majority.

Will they never find the backbone to stand up to Bush's assault on the Constitution? Will they ever stand for the nation that the Founders envisioned--a country that values law and liberty enough to accept the risks that an open society poses?

Up to now, I've been saying that the cure for inaction on Capitol Hill is to elect larger Democratic majorities that will keep the Repubs from hamstringing needed reforms. But the kind of pusillanimity that Democrats have shown on the war and national security leads me to question why we should even bother to work for, or contribute to Democratic candidates.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Department of Clear Thinking

"I believe that the strength of America lies in the strength of her people. I am running for President because I want to help keep America strong."
Mitt Romney

Thanks for clarifying that, Governor. But if the strength of America lies in her people what do we need you for?

Sunday, October 07, 2007

The company we keep

Guess how many nations provide paid maternity leave? 25? 50? 75? Try 170.

How many of those do you think require at least 14 weeks of leave? 98.

Let's look at it from the other end: How many countries do you think have no paid maternity leave? The answer is: Four.

By now, I'll bet that you've realized that the United States is one of those four. Can you identify the others? They are:

Papua New Guinea

Nice neighborhood.

Friday, October 05, 2007

How weak are the Repubs?

A couple of examples:
  • The four leading GOPher candidates for President have sided with Bush's veto of children's health care. Think about this for a moment. Such conservative stalwarts as Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT) voted for the bill, and are trying to get Repubs in the House to override the veto. Do Rudy, Fred, the Mittster and McCain think that the Democrats are too dumb to say--over and over--that they opposed health care for kids? Or that the voters are too dumb to care? (The answer is that Repub primary voters will not vote against anyone for supporting the veto, but some might if a candidate opposes it. That's how disconnected the party is from the rest of the nation.)
  • The administration strongly opposes the bill passed by the House that would place "contractors" (i.e., mercenaries) under US law when they treat other countries like the wild west. What was the margin in the House? 389-30. What are those nuts in the White House thinking? ARE they thinking?
Could Repubs do a better job of rendering themselves irrelevant? Hard to see how.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Rolled again

The New York Times reports that Senate Democrats are retreating from their demand that the Justice Department produce memos and emails about the firings of US Attorneys. Democrats on the Judiciary Committee had threatened to delay hearings on the nomination of Michael Mukasey to be Attorney-General, but now they appear ready to let the nomination move ahead.

According to The Times, "The decision to go forward with the hearings appeared to reflect a calculation by [Sen. Patrick] Leahy and other Democrats that they did not want to be seen as willing to leave the post unfilled after complaining so loudly of turmoil in the department under Mr. Gonzales."

Maybe, but once again Democrats are backing away from a principled confrontation with the White House because of fear--in this case, fear of public reaction. That's not showing leadership, and leadership is what the public seeks.

The last refuge

"Worse than traitors in arms are the men who pretend loyalty to the flag, feast and fatten on the misfortunes of the nation while patriotic blood is crimsoning the plains of the south and their countrymen are moldering in the dust."
-- Abraham Lincoln

Sound like anyone you know?

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Another one bites the dust

Sen. Pete Domenici (R-NM) has announced that he will not seek re-election next year. New Mexico has become a competitive state in recent years; if Gov. Bill Richardson doesn't win the Democratic nomination for President, he would seem to be a strong candidate. And with the nomination being so front-loaded, Richardson is likely to have time to shift gears if he decides to go for the Senate.

Domenici is the fifth Repub senator to announce that he is retiring, making it even more likely that Democrats will maintain, and even expand their majority.

(Update: TPM's Election Central has a rundown of potential candidates for the seat.)

The conventional wisdom is always wrong

According to a Gallup poll, Hillary Clinton leads Barack Obama among black voters.

Right. Do you believe that Clinton will outpoll Obama among black voters in any Democratic primary, even New York's? If you do, you just might want to buy some waterfront property in Florida.

I don't doubt the Gallup poll. I do doubt that it accurately represents what will happen when the people actually vote.

As the politicians say (whether they believe it or not), the only poll that counts is the one on election day.

And this is why the conventional wisdom that Sen. Clinton has the nomination all but wrapped up is wrong. She may win it, she may even be the single most likely candidate among the Democrats to win it, but the race isn't over by a long shot.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

The strange case of Clarence Thomas

Perhaps you saw Justice Clarence Thomas' interview with Steve Croft on Sunday's "60 Minutes." The appearance was part of the Justice's media-blitz, coordinated with the release of his new book, My Grandfather's Son.

Though no friend of Justice Thomas' judicial philosophy, I did feel that the interview served to humanize him. That is a valuable contribution given the ridicule and parody to which he has been subject, mainly by those of us who disagree with his judicial philosophy. Jokes at the expense of a powerful person with whom one disagrees may be fun, but they risk turning him into a caricature.

I was especially struck by the Justice's reaction to the difficulty he had at getting a job upon graduating from Yale Law School. I fee safe in suggesting that most black graduates in the '70's would have seen such an experience as evidence that law firms were racist. To Justice Thomas, however, the cause was entirely different cause: the school's affirmative action programs, which devalued his degree. He told Croft that he still has a "15 cent" sticker on his diploma.

Croft also asked Thomas about his confirmation hearing. The Justice seemed genuinely regretful and, when Croft said, "But you won," Thomas responded with something like, "What did I win?" He went on to suggest that it was not a contest. I, for one, found his reaction heartfelt, if perhaps more bitter than the experience justified; he was, after all, before the Senate to demonstrate his competence for a lifetime appointment to the highest court in the land.

Thomas also used the occasion to take a couple of swipes at Anita Hill, who struck back with a powerful op-ed piece in The NYT. Even if you did not see the Thomas interview, I strongly suggest that you read Hill's piece; it tells the story that those of us who represent employees who are victims of discrimination hear over and over: how, having been demeaned because of their sex or the color of their skin or their national origin, they are humiliated again by the employer's false description of their ability and work. (Hill backs up her description with facts and references to others' findings, so it is not just her opinion.)

Crooks and Liars has a link to the '"60 Minutes" interview, and some interesting comments on Thomas, including this from his colleague, Justice Antonin Scalia. When asked the difference between the two men, Scalia said, "Look, I’m a conservative. I’m a texturalist. I’m an originalist. But I’m not a nut." (Some of us would quarrel with the last assertion.)

Thomas described himself to Croft as having been a radical in his younger days. My sense is that he has the radical personality that seeks certainty in rigidity and simplification. Having been a radical on the left in college and law school, he veered all the way over to the right later. He seems to have retained all of the anger that he must have had as a young man. Unfortunately, he gives no evidence that he has much capacity for growth.