Friday, January 26, 2007

Link of the Day:

Jump The Shark.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Filed Under "Yikes"



I wish my Dell did this.

The sad thing is, the thing will probably be considered Legacy in one to two years.


You Can't Make This Shit Up.

We've Heard This Tune Before

First we have this from Think Progress:

Six months ago, Harper’s Ken Silverstein reported that “in spite of pressure from CIA analysts, intelligence czar John Negroponte was blocking a new National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iraq.” National Intelligence Estimates present the consensus view of the U.S. intelligence apparatus. Despite pressure from Congress, the administration insisted it could not complete the NIE until January 2007.

Last week, however, an administration intelligence official told senators that the report is still not complete. According to Silverstein, Senate hearing attendees “believe that senior intelligence officials are stalling because an NIE will be bleak enough to present a significant political liability.”

Yesterday, NPR host Diane Rehm may have revealed why the NIE remains so politically sensitive. On her national radio show, Rehm said:

It’s my understanding that the National Intelligence Estimate is going to suggest that adding troops is the wrong way to go, that it’s not going to improve the situation. CLICK HERE FOR AUDIO

Yesterday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), and the House and Senate intelligence committee chairmen wrote President Bush “urging prompt completion of a national intelligence estimate (NIE) on Iraq first requested by Congress six months ago.” Read the full letter HERE.

Followed by this catch from Kos:

Sorry. This doesn't make me feel better.

In an interview, Pelosi also said she was puzzled by what she considered the president's minimalist explanation for his confidence in the new surge of 21,500 U.S. troops that he has presented as the crux of a new "way forward" for U.S. forces in Iraq.

"He's tried this two times — it's failed twice," the California Democrat said. "I asked him at the White House, 'Mr. President, why do you think this time it's going to work?' And he said, 'Because I told them it had to.' "

Asked if the president had elaborated, she added that he simply said, " 'I told them that they had to.' That was the end of it. That's the way it is."

Apparently, Iraq is a mess because Bush hadn't gotten around to telling the generals it "had to" work. But now that he has, all's well that ends well.

Now shut up and clap louder

The people with the statistics and a vague understanding of military and colonial history are against the surge, and the politicians and keyboard commandos who have been wrong about everything are for it. It's 2003 all over again. What's the saying about the definition of Insanity again?

White Power!

Shorter White Picket Fence: Jews suck. Niggers suck. Arians rawk!

Spocko vs. KSFO

FDL has the latest.

Budget Spin vs. Budget Reality

The CarpetBagger Report:

I saw a surprising number of headlines yesterday about the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office’s budget estimates, and how the federal government really is on track towards balance by 2012. It’s probably worth taking a moment to remember that it’s completely untrue.

The federal budget deficit will fall to $172 billion this year and $98 billion next year, then disappear completely by 2012, according to a report released yesterday by the Congressional Budget Office. But virtually nobody — not even top CBO officials — believes it.

That is because the CBO, the nonpartisan office that supplies Congress with cost estimates, is required to make some whopping assumptions, including: that all of President Bush’s tax cuts will expire on schedule in 2010; that the alternative minimum tax will be permitted to ensnare millions of additional taxpayers; and that the war in Iraq and other military operations will never cost much more than the $70 billion that has so far been approved for the fiscal year that ends in September.

Back in the real world, even Democrats want to extend at least some of the Bush tax cuts. Even the White House wants to halt the expansion of the alternative minimum tax. And, as for global war efforts, the president is calling for an additional 21,500 troops to be sent to Iraq and is expected to ask Congress to approve an additional $100 billion for this year alone.

In other words, all of the “good” news we heard yesterday is a bit of a sham.

Moreover, as the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities
explained this week, the CBO also considered “alternative scenarios” for the next several years, including a more realistic set of expectations regarding tax cuts and the war. With these numbers, existing budget policies are expected to add as much as $3.4 trillion to the national debt.

The president said in his State of the Union that he can keep all of his tax cuts and balance the budget “
within the next five years.” Frankly, I’d love to see him try. Even the CBO acknowledges that Bush can move towards balancing the budget or he can fight to keep his tax cuts — but he can’t do both.

Read on for some suggestions on how Democrats can handle this politically.

Forget Raising the Minimum Wage about eliminating it?

Senator Wayne Allard (R-CO)... went for broke this week and introduced a bill that would have eliminated the Federal Minimum Wage entirely and left the wage rate for the lowest-paid workers to each state.


In Kansas, this would mean that workers would revert to the state-mandated minimum wage of $2.65 per hour, which is currently superseded by the federal minimum of $5.15.


So, according to Allard, employees in all states should expect that the good-hearted nature of business would compensate them in a way that's fair and just -- yeah, that notion has worked out well for us in the past. He also contends that it's unfair for the federal government to mandate a whopping $7.25 per hour when those people in Kansas know damn good and well that they can support their families on just $2.65.

Fortunately, saner heads prevailed and Allard's disgusting legislation was killed, but with 28 Republican Senators voting in favor of no federal oversight of the lowest wage an American worker can be paid.

Check out the list of those 28 Republican Senators who voted in favor of this bill. Any of those names look familiar? Any of those names running for President in two years?

National Spincurity

Jonah Goldberg stays true to the Twelfth Commandment of the Republican Party ("Thou shalt smear Democrats as undermining the national interest"):

The 11th Commandment for liberals seems to be, "Thou shalt not intervene out of self-interest." Intervening in civil wars for humanitarian reasons is OK, but meddling for national security reasons is not. This would explain why liberals supported interventions in civil wars in Yugoslavia and Somalia but think being in one in Iraq is the height of folly. If only someone had thought of labeling the Korean conflict a humanitarian intervention back then, we might not face the horror and the danger from North Korea today.

You may remember similar arguments being used against -- among countless others -- Wesley Clark. The most obvious idiocy here is the contention that sacrificing many lives and immense resources to replace an (admittedly awful) secular dictatorship that posed no threat to the United States and had no substantial relationship with anti-American terrorism with an Islamist quasi-state was somehow in the American national interest (an implausible enough claim in 2003, and bordering on the insane at this late date.) And it's particularly rich given that, when their scaremongering about the dire threat posed by Iraq turned out to be wholly unfounded, the war's apologists began pretending that it was really a humanitarian campaign all along.

Admittedly, Goldberg is certainly right that the sectarian near-anarchy predictably created by the policy he advocated so vociferously is contrary to the American national interest. But in terms of defending an open-ended commitment to Iraq, this is neither here nor there unless there's some reason to believe that an ongoing presence in Iraq with a minor increase in troop levels can actually produce a strong, stable state. Goldberg doesn't actually have an argument about why we should believe this, which is not surprising since there is in fact no reason to believe that this is viable. It's true that the situation in Iraq is bad for the Iraqi people and bad for the interests of the United States, but this was a reason not to start the war, not a reason to continue it indefinitely when it shows no signs of producing a good outcome.

--Scott Lemieux at Tapped.

Just because you're paranoid...

...dosen't mean they're not out to get you.

When money is no object

Roger Ailes highlights this blurb from Warren Bass [no link]:

[Dinesh] D'Souza, the author of the bestselling Illiberal Education, has no particular expertise on terrorism, which may explain why he writes twice that there are U.S. troops in Mecca (someone should probably alert Bob Gates) or why he thinks that President Reagan's 1986 airstrikes on Libya "convinced Qadafi to retire from the terrorism trade," despite the bombing of Pan Am 103 by Libyan agents two years later. But D'Souza's inexperience doesn't explain why he so badly misreads bin Ladenist ideology, despite the peppering of jihadist quotes that he uses to lend the book a sense of authority.
To which Roger asks: "Is there any amount of incompetence of dishonesty which will deny a book contract to a right-winger?"

If you want an answer to that question I recommend David Brock's Blinded by the Right: The Conscience of an Ex-Conservative. It's full of informative little anecdotes about how little is needed for a right-winger to secure a book deal. Factual accuracy is not as essential as one might think (or hope). Personally, I can't wait until this one is released.

[Update] I was not recommending you actually purchase either book. You can always grab them at your local library; no need to give either of them one dime if you don't want to.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007


In a display of savage corporatism, Senate Republicans are filibustering the minimum wage increase until Democrats lard the bill with tax cuts for businesses. Over the last six years, of course, businesses have gotten, literally, hundreds of billions in tax breaks. Congress hasn't raised the minimum wage in a decade.

-Ezra, posting at Tapped.

One commenter complains Ezra is being hypocritical, complaining about tactics by Republicans that the Democrats have been using for the previous six years. Whether Ezra is complaining about Tactics or Substance aside, Ezra's point is valid: the Corporate aspect of the Republican party seems hell-bent on ensuring that businesses endure absolutely no risk whatsoever. At point are you simply rewarding businesses for failure and bad business practices? At what point are you removing any motivation for businesses to do business well?

Link of the Day:

Hell's Handmaiden.

"I think you're out of line"

... so sayeth Dick Cheney to Wolf Blitzer's question about his lesbian daughter's pregnancy:

BLITZER: []your daughter, Mary. She's pregnant. All of us are happy she's going to have a baby. You're going to have another grandchild. Some of the — some critics are suggesting — for example, a statement from someone representing Focus on the Family, "Mary Cheney's pregnancy raises the question of what's best for children. Just because it's possible to conceive a child outside of the relationship of a married mother and father doesn't mean that it's best for the child." Do you want to respond to that?

Well, Dick, and I use that word with all possible connotations intended, you are head of a party that in no way considers itself out of line to make decisions about the family make-up and sex lives of the rest of America. In fact, your party specifically targeted those who consider themselves the moral authorities on such subjects, and consider it a priority to reshape America into their vision, a vision which does not include your daughter's lesbian lifestyle, much less her venture into lesbian parenthood. Oddly, traits which are demonized in liberals and democrats are rarely commented on negatively when found in conservatives and republicans (aka - The Base).

Let us also not forget that Mary Cheney is in no way a private citizen. She has been active in GOP politics for quite a while. She made the choice to be a public figure. One might think the GOP heavyweights would have much preferred she keep her lifestyle quiet, but such thoughts imply a notion that republicans consider hypocrisy to be a bad thing. Instead they wear it like a badge of honor; thus we have people like Ted Haggard and Mark Foley, living double lives in order to please their base and hold on to power.

Sorry, Dick. You wanted the fundie vote. You got it, and all that comes with it.

Why do they hate us again?

In the mind of the President (or at least in his words - I don't know which is worse to be honest), the terrorsts hate us for our freedoms. I have to wonder which freedoms specifically the President believes we are hated for. It certainly isn't the freedom to question your leaders or elected officials. That apparently is giving aide and comfort to the enemy. How can the terrorists hate us for our freedoms but be emboldened when we exercise them? I doubt the terrorists are sitting around watching CNN, waiting for Jack Murtha to give them the motivation to strike.

In a "time of war" however such questioning of officials is of bad taste, if not traitorous we are told. Of course Congress seems to have given the White House the go ahead to unilaterally define the scope of war, and based on a recent interview of Chuck Hagel (R-NE) by GQ Magazine, they had
very big ambitions. The Domino Theory has been put to rest by reality but the White House still insists that they and they alone know the best direction of the United States foreign policy, Congress be damned. I would argue however that "times of war" are when it is most appropriate to question your elected officials. When someone is out killing in your name, you might find yourself with an opinion or two on the subject.

I can't help but wonder at what point Joe Lieberman truly jumped the shark however. I would not be surprised if he was promised support for a Vice President run in '08 if he eased off pressure on the White House. Thus we have him
declining to hold hearings on the Bush Administration's Katrina fumbles, as well as his chiding of opponents of the Surge (or at least those who voice their opposition publicly - emboldening the terrorists and all). Glenn Greenwald says what I couldn't figure out how to put into words:

Whether Lieberman accused "surge" opponents of giving "comfort" to the enemy or merely "encouraging" them (and it looks increasingly like it was "encouragmenet," though still nothing truly definitive), Chuck Hagel's impassioned response applies just as potently -- not only to Lieberman, but to all of those war supporters who think that what is one of our country's greatest strengths -- the fact that we debate important issues, rather than meekly submit to the Leader's will -- is something we should suppress because the Terrorists are emboldened by our disagreements.

For people who consistently argue the terrorists hate us for our freedoms, they sure do get upset when we exercise those freedoms. Why do President Bush and Joe Lieberman hate our freedoms?

Saturday, January 20, 2007

The Christian Creeps

With all the talk of phantom Liberal Elitists by the millionaire thinktank intellectuals and billionaire oil dynasties in the Republican party I sometimes think the actual Liberal Elitists don't get their fair share of attention. I speak of course of James Wolcott, whose latest post discusses the phenomenon that is the Supposed Christian Conservative:

There's a subset of conservative bloggers that I've come to think of as Christian Creeps. Not the most elegant or endearing epithet, but there it is, the best I can do under the circumstances. These are bloggers who profess their faith in God and the efficacy of prayer and, once they wipe the piety off their upturned faces, turn around and fantasize about environmentalists dangling from nooses, taking up arms against rampaging Muslims, and unleashing nuclear genocide on Arab lands. Dorothy Day they're not. You can probably figure out who I'm talking about.

Yes James, we sure can.

About every hundred posts or so they remember they're supposed to be Christians and wander out of the Old Testament just long enough to forgive the Godless Liberal bloggers and commenters who attack their faith with such tools of the Devil as statistics and facts. That penance apparently frees them up to unleash the standard Fire and Brimstone in the remaining 99 posts. Such are the benefits of being God's chosen bloggers I surmise.

Go read the whole thing.

I suppose Brownie is lying too

The list of "former disgruntled Bush Administration officials" is getting longer. We can now add former FEMA director Michael Brown to the list. Apparently, taking a bullet for the Bush Administration isn't as easy as Scooter Libby makes it look.

Brown told a group of graduate students Friday that some in the White House had suggested the federal government should take charge in Louisiana because Blanco was a Democrat, while leaving Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, a Republican, in control in his state.

Brown, speaking at the Metropolitan College of New York, said he had recommended to President Bush that all 90,000 square miles along the Gulf Coast affected by the devastating hurricane be federalized — a term Brown explained as placing the federal government in charge of all agencies responding to the disaster.

"Unbeknownst to me, certain people in the White House were thinking, 'We had to federalize Louisiana because she's a white, female Democratic governor, and we have a chance to rub her nose in it,'" he said, without naming names. "'We can't do it to Haley (Barbour) because Haley's a white male Republican governor. And we can't do a thing to him. So we're just gonna federalize Louisiana.'"

Say it with me now: Shocked. SHOCKED!

This just in: Hillary.

Links later.

This is a Test

This is a test of the Emergency Blogcasting System. It is only a test.

Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of their country. The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.


You Can't Make This Shit Up.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Twilight of the Right-Wing Blogs

It doesn't take long in bloggerland to come across the reoccuring names: the two David Sirotas, for example, or my favorite, the two John Coles. Juan Cole is an expert in middle east studies, while John Cole is a professor of some sort (I've never found out his subjects). John Cole is also a republican, one of the few on the net who have come to criticize the GOP (and in a fierce way). Naturally, John has received no small amount of criticism from various factions of the right-wing blogs who have yet to put down the kool-aid and go into detox.

John Cole's
latest catch is the Senate Republicans killing the ethics reform offered by Democrats by attaching poison pills (among them the line item veto found unconstitutional in the 90s) to the ethics reform package, which they knew the Democrats would never pass.

Last night in the Senate, and for the second time in a week, Republicans scored a victory for spending restraint when they forced the majority Democrats to object to a vote on an earmark reform amendment. The amendment to S.1, The Ethics and Lobby Reform Bill, was offered by Sen. Judd Gregg (R-NH) and would incorporate the “A Second Look at Wasteful Spending Act of 2007” into the legislation.


The fact is that Democrats object to the Gregg amendment and the DeMint amendment because they aren’t really against earmarks. They only wanted to campaign on the issue, not actually do anything substantive about it. Now that they are in the majority, they want all the perks of office; and that includes easier access to taxpayer dollars for their constituencies and their re-election chances. But feisty Senate Republicans are not letting them have their pork and eat it too. So, Sen. Reid, Sen. Durbin and the rest of the Senate Democrats are obstructing their own bill and explaining. And, as we know in politics, when you’re explaining, you’re losing.

In the fantasyland of Red-State (and the post above is a perfect example), every word they put on their blog will be taken at face value, and no investigating of the world will be undertaken of any kind. No one will ever take 30 seconds to read that rag the Washington Post for example:

Senate Republicans scuttled broad legislation last night to curtail lobbyists’ influence and tighten congressional ethics rules, refusing to let the bill pass without a vote on an unrelated measure that would give President Bush virtual line-item-veto power.

The bill could be brought back up later this year. Indeed, Democrats will try one last time today to break the impasse. But its unexpected collapse last night infuriated Democrats and the government watchdog groups that had been pushing it since the lobbying scandals that rocked the last Congress. Proponents charged that Republicans had used the spending-control measure as a ruse to thwart ethics rules they dared not defeat in a straight vote.

The low level of respect with which the bloggers at Red-State hold their readers is astonishing. The assumption that their readers will never see through such falsehoods, never tire of such blatantly childish political games, and will never read or watch another news outlet that will reveal Red-State's version of events to be the flat-out lie that it is, borders on the delusional.

John Cole has a suggestion for his fellow republicans (and his fellow bloggers):

So rather than be a petulant chilkd (like the Senate Republicans), I would accept I am not in the majority anymore, and vote for the ethics reform they are advancing. While not perfect, it is better than what is out there now. Instead, the GOP has chosen to block it and has delivered us:


They, however, have an issue and rightwing blogs can now babble incessantly (as Red State already as) about how the Republicans are the real reformers. How do they get the title of real reformers? By blocking the reform package.

Up is down. Black is white. You don’t need to worry unless you are doing something wrong.

The inability of the right-wing to address such issues honestly is but one reason the Republicans lost control of congress in November. Sticking to such messages as Stay the Course worked fine when it was only the dirty hippie godless liberals showing concern. It doesn't exactly help on voting day however to be calling your own constituents traitors and questioning their patriotism. When Republicans started showing concern over the Iraq war that strategy fell apart, and thus we have Tony Snow trying to tell the nation "we've never been Stay the Course" with a straight face.

(and if you want to know how the republican tactic of saying anyone who opposes illegal warrantless wiretapping is a traitor worked out, just ask
Alberto Gonzales).

This is where the reality-based blogosphere runs into one of its hurdles: how to tell between the right-wing bloggers who are purposely lying, substituting propoganda for facts, and between the right-wing bloggers who are batshit insane. The former are pathetic and desperate, while the latter are sad and dangerous. While the ones who simply sell their souls for power can be proved wrong with 30 seconds on Google, the ones who are batshit insane operate from a position of considering themselves to be always correct on an issue. Any attempt to disagree with them in any meaningful way is defined by the crazies as pure partisan hackery. What's to discuss, when you're obviously so completely, utterly right on an issue?

Take a look at this reaction from
Blogs for Bush, after a round of commenters winning arguments ended up being banned (right after a post complaining about Democrats and censorship no less):


This is, as I'm sure you're aware, BLOGS FOR BUSH.

There are plenty of places out there where you can post overwrought appeals to emotion and hatred of Chimpy McSmirk Bushitler. We here at Blogs for Bush, however, have a moral obligation to not allow the spreading of lies - so don't bother trying to post lies (as a handy reminder: if what you are about to try and post makes it out that President Bush is the spawn of Satan, then it is a lie...remember, Bush is not can disagree with him, but you shouldn't hate him...if you do hate him, you're probably either a progenitor of lies, or someone gullible enough to fall for them).

We also have a deep and abiding respect for President Bush - Blogs for Bush wasn't started up by people who thought that President Bush was a so/so kinda President. We really do think he's quite good - if we wanted to read an endless stream of insults to the President, we'd go over to Daily Kos or DU.

Finally, you ain't paying for this blog - this blog is provided free of charge to all who wish to participate, but participation is on our terms, not yours - this is not a free speech zone...America is, but this blog ain't. If you want to be absolutely able to say whatever you please, then pony up for your own blog and you will find B4B right in your corner defending your right to speak your piece. On your own dime, not ours.

There is no room for dissent with bloggers of this mentality, and there is no room for progressives in their version of America. They do their best to restrict the reality of those who disagree with Bush into two, and only two, categories: Liars or Fools. The true reality of Blogs for Bush is it is in no way a blog. It is propoganda, and propoganda inevitably fails, as do all political movements based on it. The right-wing will continue to decline until it replaces sound-bites and ideology with reality-based policy.

I'm in no rush to see this decline end however. Though a cornered animal is a dangerous animal, it is still a cornered animal, and it will be ended. Meanwhile, the 2008 outlook is great for Democrats in no small part to the conservative meltdown, so take as long as you need (through 2008 would be great).

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Hey Iraq...

"...I know I said we were coming to Iraq to find WMD, disarm Saddam and return the country back to its people, but we've decided to stay a little longer and use your country as a battlefield. You see, we want your country to endure all the terrorist attacks, the bombings and the killings, and we want your streets to be lined with blood so our streets can remain pure and untouched. I sincerely hope you appreciate this, and will in no way be motivated to start a counter-insurgency. Thanks!"

-George W. Bush, when saying "We're fighting them over there so we don't have to fight them over here."

Monday, January 15, 2007

Maybe Condi LIKES being single? HeLLO.

Oh My God! Barbara Boxer told the world Condi's dirty little secret... she's not married! She doesn't have any children! How could Boxer bring up such shameful aspects of Condi's life? Don't you think Condi's already ashamed enough? To be her age, and still without a good man, a bun in the oven, and a picket fence? I mean, I'm sure if it were Hillary Rodham in that position the fundies would be just as upset about such shameful airings of her personal life.

Does this remind anyone else of the Mary Cheney incident? Liberals stating facts about conservatives that conservatives are supposed to be ashamed of? Did any of these conservatives bother to ask Condi if she's not happy being a single woman with no children, or if Mary Cheney is happy living her life as a gay woman? Of course not. These are things to be ashamed of, and to be denounced in full when Democrats are guilty of them. Thus we have the Mark Foleys and the Ted Haggards living double-lives to please their base.

I don't think Condi is ashamed of her life or considers Barbara Boxer's factual statement to be anything other than just that. It's the fundies who deal in shame, shaming Americans for not living traditional conservative value lives, while excusing living examples of their contempt in their very own ranks. Hillary Clinton is no different than Condi in terms of ambition, except that Hillary Clinton is a wife and a mother. It's just that she is also a Democrat and therefore must be destoyed, hypocrisy be damned.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Link of the Day:

You Park like an Asshole.

The White House is looking for a fight

One of the key political tactics used by the current makeup of the conservative political machine is the victim card. The latest example of this has been the new Republican congress, now a minority. Before Congress had even been gaveled into session, various Republicans were whining about Democrats acting partisan, going back on promises, and not sharing enough power.

This tactic backfired over the previous two years. You can't play the victim card when you're the only party in power. Republicans were blaming Democrats for their mistakes, even though there weren't any in power anymore. The victim card worked well to usher the Republicans into power but once in power it was seen as juvenile, and as passing the buck. The Republican congress, as well as the White House, refused to take responsibility for their actions. They paid a price for this on November 7th.

The Republican congress has once again slipped into victim mode, but for the moment the public isn't buying it. A small but steadily growing group of Republicans, freed from having a congressional majority to defend, are slowly leaning towards moderation and starting to vote their consciences. The White House however has no intentions of budging an inch. In fact, they are looking for a fight, for several reasons.

The weeks preceeding the November mid-terms had the President of the United States travelling the campaign circuit and basically intimating that a vote for Democrats was a vote for terrorists. No punches were pulled. Karl Rove, Lynne Cheney and Laura Bush were all sent to various media outlets to question the patriotism of those who dared question their elected leaders. President Bush showed no reservations whatsoever in associating American citizens of another party with terrorists who murdered 3,000 Americans some five years ago.

All this was done when the Bush Administration had a lot to lose. Now that the Democrats are the majority in congress, the Bush Administration has absolutely nothing to lose.

What we've seen recently by the White House is a retreat on the social issues and an offensive on the political issues. Conservative judges have withdrawn their nominations. The controversial head of PBS, Ken Tomlinson, has asked that his name not be submitted for renomination, as has U.N. ambassador John Bolton. And then of course there's Donald Rumsfeld. All the controversial personalities who were seemingly put in power for no other reason than to send a big Screw You to the Democrats have systematically been removed from the spotlight. Thus the Democrats have less ammo to use against the White House.

On the core issues of Executive power however, the Bush Administration is surging forward. Domestic spying has been expanded. Powers such as the opening of Americans' private mail have been assumed. The Pentagon is assuming more control over operations traditionally undertaken by the CIA and FBI. And reports have begun leaking that reveal the Bush Administration is craving a constitutional battle with the Democrats. This has Cheney's fingerprints all over it.

Polls consistently show the President scores highest on the issues of terrorism and domestic security. Whenever 9/11 comes up, the President's numbers go up, and this is exactly where the White House is trying to steer the national conversation.

The recent raids on Iranian diplomats, the military excursions in Somalia and President Bush's recent threats towards Iran and Syria are all part of a calculated PR campaign by the White House to steer the conversation towards the issues which are most likely to benefit the White House. This is bait being laid out, with the hopes that the Democrats will bite. It also serves to drown out the thusfar successful execution of the Democrat's 100 hour agenda in Congress. Stealing the spotlight from the Democrats is a favorite tactic of the Bush Administration.

In hindsight, it seems obvious that the Bush Administration was never going to just pull out of Iraq. Doing so would send a message that the White House was giving up control of the country to the Democratic congressional majority and effectively end the Bush Administration right then and there. President Bush has no intention of asking congress for permission to escalate Iraq or to attack Iran. The White House will simply do as it chooses, and would in fact welcome an attempt by the Democrats to discontinue funding or end whatever military excusions it may seek to pursue.

It is the victim card once again. The White House is looking for a fight with the Democrats, but for the victim card to truly work with the public, the Democrats must be seen as starting the fight. The White House can't just sit back and wait, hoping the Democrats will screw up at some point. The 2008 landscape looks too good for Democrats and too bad for Republicans to take that chance. The White House is seeking to beat the Democrats with the power of the Presidency, and there's no better way than with a battle over terrorism, domestic security and Executive power.

It's going to be a rough couple of years. I hope the Democrats are up to it. They're going to have a fight on their hands sooner or later, whether they want one or not. It's the only way the White House can regain its influence, and the only way the republicans can regain control of congress is 2008.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Minimum wage hike passes House

...and on to the Senate.

After a heated e-mail exchange with a longtime friend on the minimum wage, we both came to two conclusions:

1) True, raising the minimum wage does increase costs, but if your business were to buckle under from such a small increase in costs, chances are it was going to buckle under anyway. Such a small profit margin cannot substain a business.

2) Though your employees are now taking home a greater share of your profit, your customers are also taking home a greater share of their employers' profit, resulting in more money available to spend at your business, and thus rising costs are balanced by rising profits.

The option of letting the market even things out does not take into account local economies. It does not take into account businesses who have no intention of letting the market resolve their finances if they can do it for less. Wal-Mart is famous for playing cities against each other to see who can give them the sweetest deals in terms of tax breaks and anti-union laws.

Maybe in 10, 20, 30 years the market will usher in a competing company to a town with better wages and benefits, but the voters did not elect representatives for help in 30 years. They want help, often need help, yesterday. Free-market economics is not a high priority.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

America -- still here!

As I look past the rubble of my belongings to the devastation that engulfs my neighborhood... oh, wait, America survived a Congressman swearing in the Koran! Usually the end-timers describe such apocalyptic occurences with more fire and brimstone, but in the perpetual victimhood of being a Christian in America today, perhaps voluntarily swearing in on the Koran is the equivalent. If you were wondering what happens when hypocrisy meets irony...

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Jamail Hussien, John Kerry and god-knows-who-else

Jay Rosen explains.

Stuck in time

David Niewart on the right's inability to let go of Vietnam and the 60s:

Actually, if liberals had in fact "desperately wanted to lose" the Iraq war [as they apparently did the Vietnam war], they'd have proceeded precisely as G.W. Bush has: half-assedly, with no exit strategy, and then incompetently at every turn thereafter.

But for some reason, wingnuts keep pretending that it's the left that wants to lose, when it's quite clear that the problem is that the right has no idea how to win.

England has religious fundamentalists too

LONDON (Reuters) - Sweeping gay rights laws were upheld on Tuesday despite protests by faith groups.

A bid to block the rules in Northern Ireland, where they are already in place, failed in the House of Lords, by a majority of three to one, the BBC reported.

Faith groups, which say the legislation will force them to act against their religious beliefs, earlier delivered a petition to the Queen, while about 1,000 demonstrators staged a torch-lit protest outside parliament.

"Most of the people here are standing for freedom of conscience in the sense of 'if you believe something is wrong the law shouldn't make you do it,'" one protester, who asked to not to be named, told Reuters.

[We should go back to the good old days when an authority decided for us what was right or wrong and passed laws accordingly. This whole "not agreeing with what you say but defending your right to say it" crap is just so taxing.]

The legislation, a cornerstone of efforts to promote equal rights, would ban discrimination in the provision of goods and services on the basis of sexuality in a similar way to laws banning sex and race discrimination.

Christian opponents argue the laws are a major threat to their freedom of conscience and that they should not be penalised for acting according to their beliefs.

Gay rights campaigners say the proposals would simply extend existing anti-discrimination laws to homosexuals.

"It would not be acceptable in the areas of race, disability, age or religion or belief, and is not acceptable here. Either we hold human rights to be universal or we do not," said Andrew Copson, of the British Humanist Association.

Thomas Cordrey of the Lawyers' Christian Fellowship, which organised the rally, said the regulations did not strike the right balance and denied the group was homophobic.

"Christians have no desire to discriminate unjustly on the grounds of sexual orientation, but they cannot and must not be forced to actively condone and promote sexual practices which the Bible teaches are wrong."

[Psst. People have a right to sin. It's not illegal to be immoral. I know, the good old days of burning heretics at the stake was good times and all, but selectively choosing which portions of Leviticus isn't really en vogue anymore. Or should we petition against the abominations of eating shellfish or wearing clothing of two different threads? I'm sure those demonstrations are just around the corner.]

The Sexual Orientation Regulations came into force in Northern Ireland on January 1 but the government postponed their introduction in England and Wales until April because there was so much opposition.

Under the new laws, hotels could be prosecuted for refusing rooms to gay couples and parishes obliged to rent out halls for gay wedding receptions. Equally, gay bars would not be able to ban straight couples.

Human rights experts say the legislation would bring British law closer to that of other nations.

"It would be a major setback for the government if it failed to bring in these regulations," Robert Wintemute, professor of human rights at King's College, London told Reuters.

Civil partnerships for gay couples were introduced in December 2005, giving them the same rights as heterosexuals.

Memo to fundies: your rights end where my rights begin.

Santorum slips into irrelevancy

There once was a time when being elected to Congress and being sent to Washington was an end goal. Now it seems to be a means to an end, that end being employment as a lobbyist or at a thinktank. Former Senator Rick Santorum has chosen the latter, marking his decent into complete irrelevancy:

Former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum has joined a conservative Washington think tank, where he will found and direct a program called "America's Enemies."

The program will study "threats posed to America and the West from a growing array of anti-Western forces that are increasingly casting a shadow over our future and violating religious liberty around the world," according to a statement from the Ethics and Public Policy Center, where he will be a senior fellow.

The center was established 30 years ago to apply moral principles derived from Christianity and Judaism to public policy issues. It is strongly, but not exclusively, associated with conservative Catholic intellectuals. Another of its senior fellows, George Weigel, is best known as the author of the most comprehensive biography of the late Pope John Paul II. Mr. Santorum, who served as a Pennsylvania senator from 1995 until this year, is an outspoken Catholic.

"In these perilous and uncertain times, I believe it is critical that we define the threats that confront America," Mr. Santorum said in a prepared statement.

"Without a clear definition and precise understanding of our enemies we cannot fight effectively and our own citizens become divided. It is my hope that the America's Enemies program at EPPC will help the American people -- including our leaders -- understand and communicate with clarity, honesty and consistency the enemies we face and the complex and enormous threat that they post to our lives and the freedoms we all enjoy."

Mr. Santorum has spoken previously on what he called "Islamic fascism" as the primary threat to the United States. In an article for Crisis magazine he defined it as "a radical, perverted form of Islam" that seeks world domination.

Some of the center's other programs include Evangelicals in Civic Life, Economics and Ethics, Jewish Studies and Islam and American Democracy. The latter studies the views and impact of American Muslims and seeks to give a platform to pro-democracy reformers within Islam.

While in the Senate Rick Santorum was a big fish, with political and cultural groupies hanging off his every word. No longer; his voice will be lost in the murmers of A13 editorials and presentations on C-SPAN2 presented in the wee hours in the morning.

Santorum will inevitably hasten his own decline when he begins to truly explore his mission statement. Defining the threat to America has been something Santorum has proven to be woefully ineffectual at, especially when it was beneficial to the White House. Mark my word; it will not be long before Islamic Fascism is put aside and replaced with a new enemy to America: far-left Americans. Pressure from the conservative base and Rick Santorum's own personal beliefs and desire for the spotlight will replace far-left Americans with liberal Americans in general. And on and on Santorum's slip will go, until he's sharing a hotel room with David Horowitz.

Who wants to bet some dough on this?

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Dying for their Egos

Digby catches McCain admitting what we already feared to be true:

Finally, a questioner lays it all on the line: "The war's the big issue," he says, adding, "Some kind of disengagement—it's going to have to happen. It's a big issue for you, for our party, in 24 months. It's not that long a time." McCain replies, "I do believe this issue isn't going to be around in 2008. I think it's going to either tip into civil war … " He breaks off, as if not wanting to rehearse the handful of other unattractive possibilities. "Listen," he says, "I believe in prayer. I pray every night." And that's where he leaves his discussion of the war this morning: at the kneeling rail.

On the way to our next stop, McCain tells me, "It's just so hard for me to contemplate failure that I can't make the next step."

There you have it. So because St John and Junior and the rest of these macho Republican heroes can't "face" failure, with or without an escalation, more Americans will have to die in the Iraq meatgrinder for their vanity. Jesus H. Christ.

Presented without comment.

Quote of the Day

Steve Gilliard on troop rotations and multiple tours:

"How many times can you send a man out to die and expect him to come back alive?"

Friday, January 05, 2007

Democrats lost the war for America

Just heard Jonathan Alter say on Olbermann's Countdown that if the Democrats don't support the President's troop surge, the republicans will adopt the line that Democrats lost the Iraq war for America.

Let's be clear: the Bush Administration will have lost the Iraq war for America. The Democrats will simply have ended it.

On the rise: MSNBC

The past 12 months have been good to MSNBC, and so has Dan Abrams apparently. Many were left scratching their head when he went from legal show (think Greta or Nancy) to running the network. Rita Crosby's show disappeared, and Hardball and Countdown were capitalized upon. Tucker Carlson is a lightweight, but he is watchable while waiting for Hardball to come on. Similarly, viewers watching Countdown are led directly into Scarborough country, which has gone from forgettble to moderately respectable.

Of the three cable news outlets MSNBC is the only one that's gaining viewers. Fox News is becoming a conservative niche network and is not gaining new viewers as its old viewers, well, get older. CNN is still quite respectable but is also quite steril, for lack of a better word. I wish MSNBC would follow a Fox New's pattern of repeating it's three big 8pm to 11pm shows throughout the night so the nightowls and late-shifters wouldn't be shutout, but those "To Catch a Predator" episodes do bring in the numbers.

I have a sneaking suspicion that MSNBC will become a model for the next evolution of cable news networks.

Guilty pleasures, Star Trek style

I like science fiction, especially space-based sci-fi. I like Farscape, Babylon 5 (both sci-fi channel originals) and I like Star Trek (except for Enterprise). And, I dare to admit, I was a huge fan of Star Trek Voyager.

One of the criticisms of Voyager was that Captian Janeway (Kate Mulgrew) was all over the map in terms of how she acted and what her beliefs were. This bothered Kate Mulgrew herself, and she (good-naturedly) blamed the writers.

It was inevitable however that the Voyager characters would be all over the map because of the very nature of Voyager's predicament. There is no infastructure around them. There is no Federation. There is no variable that the Voyager crew can react to.

In the other ST series, you could have a rogue Admiral out breaking the law and Janeway could be sent to stop him and let him know "this isn't how we do things in the Federation." Can't do that in Voyager however; the only constants in Voyager was the Voyager crew.

So all you Janeway haters, cut her some slack, will ya?

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Obey me or else

President Bush's definition of Bipartisanship seems to be "do what I say or else."

One would have thought his newfound concern for fiscal responsibility would have been addressed before year seven of his presidency; specifically when he had a republican congress that was White House friendly. Instead, President Bush eagerly signed into law every bill put in front of him, pork and all. Not once did he ask of the republican congress to exercise any measure of fiscal responsibility. The republicans needed that pork to get re-elected. Instead we get Cheney, saying "Reagan proved deficits don't matter. We won the midterm. This is our due."

The only thing that has changed between now and the previous six years is that the President's party is no longer controlling congress. The only conclusion that can be made is that the President is playing partisan politics while instructing the Democrats to do no such thing. It's not unlike Cheney's statement; fiscal responsibility is a campaign slogan, nothing more. Once you win elections you're free to be as fiscally irresponsible as you'd like. The politics of the issue are all that matter.

The true purpose of the recent republican PR blitz is to control the definition of what bipartisanship should be. After all, there are varying degrees of bipartisanship, and the republicans are using this pre-emptive strike to set the level of bipartisanship so high that anything less from Democrats than a 50/50 power split will be labelled as partisan hackery, all the way through 2008.

The majority of republicans left over from the Gingrich revolution are only interested in power, and that's exactly what they don't have as a minority party. They're not going sit idly by and accept Democratic scraps, and being labelled Hypocrites does not at all effect them. They wear it as a badge of honor. Now that they are the in the minority again the victim card is out in full force, yet again, even before the 110th Congress has come to session. Playing victim is what they're best at; it's the actual governing they need to work on.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Russell's Paradox

If a barber shaves only and all the men in his village who don't shave themselves, does he shave himself?

The Republicans don't really want Bipartisanship

With the republicans and the president running around squawking about the need for bipartisanship in Washington after the election, one would be tempted to label this as another demonstration of Projection. The republicans know very well how they treated the democrats the past six years and have no desire to be treated the same way. They are only in D.C. for the power, something they've demonstrated the past six en mass, and as a minority party they have none.

It's not really bipartisanship the republicans are after though. It's the level of bipartisanship the republicans are after. What they really want is Equality, to not be a minority party. This whole media blitz is a pre-emptive strike to give republicans sole custody of the definition of bipartisanship, and they are trying to set that level so impossibly high that if Democrats do anything other than share power 50/50 they will be labeled partisan hacks all the way through 2008.

Democrats should not continually be caught off-guard by such media antics. It was on demonstration as recently as a few months ago, when Nancy Pelosi was led to take impeachment off the table. The merits or faults of that decision notwithstanding, it is still republicans controlling the debate. If the republicans are the only ones talking about bipartisanship then they are the only ones defining bipartisanship, and they will not define it as anything Democrats could live with.

Dems need to get with the program.

Where the Democrats go from here

At this point there aren't many people left who are undecided on George Bush or his presidency. If, after all the revelations and the cronyism and the incompetence and the fabrications, a person still supports Bush, then there is nothing more that will change their mind, save for the president performing an abortion in a church before marrying a gay man and moving to France. It's just not going to happen.

The administration has shaved off as many 2nd-tier employees as it could, and hoisted as much blame and guilt on their often willing shoulders as possible. You don't get much higher than removing Donald Rumsfeld from power without instigating a constitutional crisis, and Bush does not have near the small amount of integrity that allowed Nixon to resign, even if Nixon's sole goal was self-preservation.

Bush does not second-guess himself or his decisions, and Rove, Cheney and Rice have no modivation to persuade him to do otherwise. That leaves the fate of the country in the hands of the Legislative branch, which just happens to now be controlled by the Democratic party after what can only be called a historic election, despite often vehement objections of such from supporters of the party recently voted out of power.

Let's face it: conservatism only works as a campaign slogan. Once conservatives get into power their constituents expect them to use the resources of the federal government to help them and their communities. In other words, pork and welfare. While I personally don't mind that some of my tax dollars go to help Americans in other states, I do wish they wouldn't criticize me to my face while taking my money, but hypocrisy has been part of the heart of man as long as any other trait. It's certainly not going to disappear during my lifetime.

The Democrats have two years to sell the current generation of voters on liberalism. Many conservatives disagree with liberalism in principle while greedily utilizing the benefits that liberalism provides in practice. What we must do is get past the spin and create our own; to unite Principle and Practice. Democrats need not change all the minds of the predominately conservative voters. Just enough to continue their status as a congressional majority will do.

Much of the conservatives' pre-election campaigning seemed to consist of the "but the democrats are worse" mantra, especially as the realities of the Bush administration and their congressional republican lackeys permeated the mentality of average voters more and more. It would have been great if it had worked, but in failing to continue the republican majority in congress this "democrats are worse" mantra has actually backfired. It has set the bar for the Democrats so low that all they have to do is go the next two years without setting the building on fire for 2008 to be a successful year for them.

The Democratic party has a chance to act like Democrats. The Bush presidency is basically over, and his stubborness and lack of inflection will make the tough choices Democrats will face all the easier. Democrats can act like Democrats, or the can become Republican-lite. Pandering to the religious vote will yield only modest vote gains. The power of the religious right will fade as the realities of the impossibility of their turning America into God's Kingdom gets buried ever deeper under the weight of Supreme Court rulings. They will never, ever vote for the godless hippies and the time and money spent trying to court them is time and money that could be spent courting moderates.

Democrats might as well go for broke in the 110th Congress. It wasn't just Iraq that gave them the majority. It was cronyism, imcompetence and the sheer narcisism of an administration that told half of America they were traitors for the sin of questioning authority. Any number of items are available for Democrats to focus on that would be both good for America and good for Democrats, not the least of which is New Orleans. Nancy Pelosi's 100 hour plan is great, but she, Reid and the like had better have some ideas for hour 101 or their status as majority leaders will be short-lived.

This nonsense about it not being good for the country or the Democrats if they choose to investigate how we got into Iraq in the first place is just that: nonsense. The William Kristols and Bill Bennetts may not want to focus on those pesky constitutional restrictions that keep America from becoming an Empire and keep Bush from snatching Caesar's crown, but it is vital that this country set out clear guidelines for how it goes to war and how the greatest military in the history of Man is unleashed. If Democrats don't go for the jugular of every republican mis-step and legal ambiguity put forth the past six years the republican machine will pick up right where it left off in 2008, no doubt with St. McCain at the helm.

Democrats might as well spend the next two years being Democrats. They may win in 2008, but they may also lose, and they will be better for having lost pushing legislation and policies they believed in than for having lost tiptoeing over the Beltway norm and trying not to hurt the White House's feelings. No such niceties would granted them if the political roles were reversed. The past six years have proven as much.

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