Saturday, May 31, 2008

McClellan: Started writing as a Bush defender; upon investigation agreed with Bush's detractors

Ryan Grim of Politico reviewed a copy of the book proposal that Scott McClellan used to sell his memoir and reports that it started out to be a defense of George Bush, blaming the failures of his administration primarily on overly powerful Neo-Conservatives and Social Conservatives in the administration. He also intended to defend Bush from liberal caricatures.

After researching, thinking about and writing the book he reached very different conclusions.
Rather than take on President Bush, McClellan suggests in the proposal — which was circulating in New York publishing circles in January of last year — that social conservatives and neo-conservatives were responsible for much that went wrong during Bush’s tenure. In his book, the finger instead pointed squarely at the president.

He also offers in his proposal to counter the liberal caricatures of Bush. But as has been widely reported, he wound up only buttressing such portraits.
Sherer also finds that comparison of McClellan's book with the proposal showed that the book took a very different view of the failures of the media than were suggested in the proposal.
instead of whacking the press for not digging deep enough into the Bush administration's rationale for war, as he does in his memoir, the proposal dings the press for a left-wing bias. "Fairness is defined by the establishment media within the left-of-center boundaries they set," he offers. "They defend their reporting as fair because both sides are covered. But, how fair can it be when it is within the context of the liberal slant of the reporting? And, while the reporting of the establishment media may be based on true statements and facts, is it an accurate picture of what is really happening?"
Logically there are two possible rationales for the change in tone the book took from that of the proposal. Either Scotty decided to spice up the book to increase sales while settling scores with some of the White House insiders he felt had misused him, or he found that after research and reflection his earlier opinions of what had happened was overly influenced by his closeness to and liking for George Bush.

Working in the White House at Scotty's level gives very little time for investigation and reflection. I can envision that originally Scotty wrote the proposal based largely on the "common wisdom" that floated around inside the bubble of the White House, and then, while writing, began to become aware that that "common wisdom" is simply wrong. Since he doesn't suggest that Bush was one of those who misused him, but was himself misused by powerful White House insiders, I am inclined to think the second choice is the more significant reason for the way his book turned out.

Scott McClellans book proposal is available here

McCain's national campaign not ready for prime time says Time magazine

Is John McCain capable of organizing and operating at this late moment a full-fledged national campaign to compete with the smoothly functioning well-practiced campaign structure run by Obama? That's the question that Michael Sherer of Time Magazine addresses.
Fall campaigns for President require massive organizations. What's more, McCain is likely to face the biggest, baddest team on the block. Barack Obama has been running the equivalent of a national campaign for almost six months now. He spends more than twice as much every 30 days as McCain has been able to raise in the same period. Obama has a campaign staff that numbers about 700 and already blankets most of the swing states. His organization ticks like a clock, has had an unwavering message and has kept a firmly fixed inner circle.

McCain, meanwhile, is still formulating his general-election pitch and struggling to build his core team. He is also trying, for the second time in as many years, to create a campaign that can win on a big scale. His previous attempt to run as the institutional candidate, with a projected nine-figure budget, failed spectacularly last July and nearly forced him out of the G.O.P. race. Though his campaign is leaner than his rival's, McCain says he is happy with the progress. "I am pleased with the way the campaign is going," he said just before Memorial Day weekend in an airplane hangar in California's Central Valley. "I think we are going pretty well." But even as he spoke, problems were sprouting all around him.

That afternoon, McCain was forced to announce he would "reject" the endorsements of two controversial Evangelical pastors, John Hagee of Texas and Rod Parsley of Ohio, whose support he had previously courted, defended and celebrated as keystones of his effort to woo his party's Christian-conservative base. The next day, his wife Cindy reversed a long-held pledge of her own and released the initial pages of her 2006 tax return to the public. A self-imposed ban on lobbyists has forced the departure of five of McCain's advisers, including former Representative Tom Loeffler, the campaign's national finance co-chairman, and holds the prospect that others will follow them out the door. Behind the scenes, the campaign seems to be searching for stability. In mid-May, McCain sought the counsel of former adviser Mike Murphy, who suggested, among other things, that McCain and his surrogates soften the tone of their attacks on Obama. To reassure fund raisers, the campaign also held a conference call making clear that everything was under control, despite Loeffler's departure.

Back in Washington, the anxiety level of Republicans is rising. "The McCain camp is now acting without much rhyme or reason," says a prominent consultant. "And it all goes to the top." Another Republican campaign strategist, in a thinly veiled reference to McCain, says, "Somebody is behaving impulsively is the point."

In ways large and small, candidates leave their marks on their campaigns, and that seems especially true of the Arizona Senator. In the past two years, McCain has witnessed more turmoil — and enjoyed more joyous rebirths — than most candidates see in a decade. With five months until Election Day and early polls suggesting it could prove to be another nail biter, McCain faces critical questions that could decide the election: Does he have the temperament to lead his party out of the wilderness of George W. Bush's late years? Will he be able to adapt his insurgent style to the pressures of a party establishment's campaign? And more precisely, can McCain win when the game gets big?
McCain has had the last two or three months since Romney dropped out of the running for the nomination to put his house in order, but it still looks like it is being run out of McCain's hip pocket on the fly. As of this week, with the issue of Florida and Michigan behind him, Obama plans to begin his general election campaign.

Can McCain make it in the big time? He never has demonstrated that talent before.

McClellan is awfully late say McClatchy reporters

Scotty McClellan made a big splash this week by saying that Bush/Cheney and company lied us into the mistaken Iraq war; and that the media were complicit in supporting both the lies and the war. As you might expect, the Bush people and the media people are both screaming like scalded cats that it's not true.

But one news organization, Knight-Ridder (purchased by McClatchy) did cover the story, ask the questions, and publish the answers. Now McClatchy correspondents Jonathan S. Landay (national security and intelligence), Warren P. Strobel (foreign affairs and the State Department), and Nancy Youssef (Pentagon) lay out what their news organization wrote piece by piece and ask the real question the media does not want asked; "Hey, guys, we were there! Where were you? Kissing Bush/Cheney ass?"

Go read it; then click through to the links and read those as well. It was all there when the pubic and Congress needed to know it. The questions were asked at the time, the answers published at the time, and the right-wing noise machine and timid or bought-off major press organizations simply ignored it. Just like they are currently doing with John McCain, and just as they are trying to do with Scotty McClellan's accusations. The media has failed.

But they'll come roaring back, angry that their honor has been questioned, and begin investigating even clear lies, just as they did with the Whitewater "investigations" of Bill and Hillary Clinton long after it was clear to everyone that there was no "there" there. Why not? They have Democrats to pillory now, and that's what the media love to do.Roll over fro Republicans and pillory Democrats.

And when they are called on it, they'll ignore the complaints or bluster "We did our job!" just as Charlie Gibson, Tom Brokaw and Tim Russert did the other day when they went on TV to respond to McClellan's attack on their failures.

The news media - especially the fake TV "news" - is badly broken and they really like it that way.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

"A man with a conscience" - words Bush and Cheney hate to hear

Scott McClellan appears to be a Republican with a conscience - the kind of person that I am sure Rove had hoped he, Cheney, and the Republican Congressional leadership (including Gingrich) had driven out of the Republican Party.

Not, mind you, that I don't think the money he will make from his book is negligible to Scotty. It better not be. He has burned his bridges to the conservatives. He'll never get wing-nut welfare like I. "Scooter" Libby has done since he fell on his sword and was convicted to protect Dick Cheney.

Addendum 3:51 PM CDT
The New York Times has a good article on the reaction to Scotty McClellan's revelations. In particular, Karl Rove,political strategist; Frances Fragos Townsend, former domestic security adviser; Ari Fleischer, Mr. Bush’s first press secretary, and Dan Bartlett, a former counselor to the president, are all using similar terms to describe McClellan as a disaffected former employee of the White House who appears to have been influenced by publishers to pump up sales of his book by making outrageous, untrue accusations.

The terminology they are all using - in concert - appears to have been crafted by White House spokeswoman, Dana Perino. It's a highly organized White House push-back against McClellan, something that he clearly knew to expect.

I'll bet those people, Bush, Cheney and Rice are all looking around them wondering who the next "person of conscience" will be. "Conscience" is clearly a word they don't recognize fondly.

Also interesting. Over at Huffington Post Arianna entitles her post "Scotty Come Lately" and asks "What took you so long" about McClellan's revelations. More interesting than McClellan's revelations, which anyone who reads the blogs knew about long ago, is the way the Inside the Beltway based media has come to attention and saluted the story which they have previously ignored.

This action on the part of the inside the beltway media seems to be a reaction to (1) hearing the story publicly from one of the premier inside the beltway individuals (Scotty) and at the same time, (2) represents a reaction to his highly credible accusations that the media didn't do its job in the run-up to the war.

The media still won't listen to anything from outside Washington, but they are clearly going to be a lot more aggressive about the administration from now on - now that it's a Democratic administration, just as they always have been.

So for the political media, this reaction is just more of their continued incompetence and general irrelevance. They are just taking advantage of Bush's long lame duckness to start early.

Corporate media disagrees with McClellan - they claim they did their jobs on the Iraq invasion

Glenn Greenwald does a good job of pulling together many of the outpouring of insider statements condemning the way the corporate media acted as cheerleaders for Bush's invasion of Iraq. terms of our establishment press, our media is anything but "free." Corporate executives continuously suppressed critical reporting of the Government and the war and forced their paid reporters to mimic the administration line. The evidence proving that comes not from media critics or shrill left-wing bloggers but from those who work at these news outlets, including some of their best-known and highest-paid journalists who are attesting to such facts from first-hand knowledge despite its being in their interests not to speak out about such things.

* * * * *

Yesterday was actually quite an extraordinary day in our political culture because Scott McClellan's revelations forced the establishment media to defend themselves against long-standing accusations of their corruption and annexation by the government -- criticisms which, until yesterday, they literally just ignored, blacked-out, and suppressed. Bizarrely enough, it took a "tell-all" Washington book from Scott McClellan, of all people, to force these issues out into the open, and he seems -- unwittingly or otherwise -- to have opened a huge flood gate that has long been held tightly shut.
Then he goes on to describe the panicky counter-reaction from the highest-paid media personalities they can muster to claim that "they all did their jobs."
Network executives obviously know that these revelations are quite threatening to their brand. Yesterday, they wheeled out their full stable of multi-millionaire corporate stars who play the role of authoritative journalists on the TV to join with their White House allies in mocking and deriding McClellan's claims. One media star after the next -- Tom Brokaw, David Gregory, Charlie Gibson and Brian Williams, Tim Russert, Wolf Blitzer -- materialized in sync to insist that nothing could be more absurd than the suggestion that they are "deferential, complicit enablers" in government propaganda. [Snip]

Gibson and Gregory both invoked the cliched excuse of the low-level bureaucrat using almost identical language: exposing government lies "is not our job."

Brian Williams, Charlie Gibson and company are paid to play the role of TV reporters but, in reality, are mere television emcees -- far more akin to circus ringleaders than journalists.
So we have
  • Jessica Yellin , who describes the pressures she got from management to report favorably on the assertions from the White House on the need for and likely success of the Invasion of Iraq.
  • Katie Couric described the pressures she got from NBC management to refrain from aggressive questioning of administration officials.
  • Ashleigh Banfield was fired by MSNBC for giving a speech at Kansas University in which she said the media coverage of the Iraq war "'wasn't journalism,' because 'there are horrors that were completely left out of this war.'"
  • Phil Donahue who was fired by MSNBC because he was critical of the Iraq invasion, in spite of the fact that Donahue had MSNBC's highest rating show at the time. As Donahue told Bill Moyer, he was permitted to have administration war supporters on his show by themselves, but for every liberal opposing the war he was required to have two conservatives on.
Glenn continues:
Corporate executives continuously suppressed critical reporting of the Government and the war and forced their paid reporters to mimic the administration line. The evidence proving that comes not from media critics or shrill left-wing bloggers but from those who work at these news outlets, including some of their best-known and highest-paid journalists who are attesting to such facts from first-hand knowledge despite its being in their interests not to speak out about such things. [Snip]

This is the most vital point: this is not a matter of historical interest. This is not about how the media operated five years ago during an aberrational time in our history. This is about how they functioned then and how they function now. The same people who did all of this still run these media organizations and it's the same coddled, made-up personalities still playing the role of "journalist."

That's what makes the NYT "military analyst" story so significant, and it's why it's so revealing that the establishment media black-out of that story continues. Not just in 2003, but through 2008, the networks relied upon Pentagon-controlled propagandists to masquerade as their "independent analysts." Those analysts repeatedly spouted patently false government propaganda without challenge. The numerous financial incentives and ideological ties these analysts had were undisclosed and remain undisclosed. And these networks, now that this is all revealed, refuse to tell their viewers about any of it.
If the media can really claim to have done their jobs, then their jobs are entertainment, making money and placating the administration, but NOT investigating and presenting honest news. They really are nothing but propaganda outfits, shilling for money.

Joseph Goebbels would be proud of his progeny, including but not limited to the public faces of Tim Russert, Brian Williams, Charlie Gibson, Tom Brokaw, David Gregory, and Wolf Blitzer. This does not include the universally disgraceful "faces" on FOX. Their behind-the-scene bosses are paying them big bucks for their malfeasance and the current defenses of their failure in the pretend job of journalists, and for that they give their loyalties to the bosses, not to America.

Obama promises to reverse Unconstitutional executive orders first thing

This sounds like a plan! From Reuters:
If elected president, Democratic White House hopeful Barack Obama said one of the first things he wants to do is ensure the constitutionality of all the laws and executive orders passed while Republican President George W. Bush has been in office.

Those that don’t pass muster will be overturned, he said. [Snip]

“I would call my attorney general in and review every single executive order issued by George Bush and overturn those laws or executive decisions that I feel violate the constitution,” said Obama

Other goals for his first 100 days: work out a plan to withdraw troops from Iraq; make progress on alternative energy plans and launch legislation to reform the health care system.
I would hope he would also direct his Attorney General to act on enforcing Congress's subpoenas, both of Bush appointees and, if necessary, his own. We really need someone who will turn over the rock of the Bush administration and see what crawls out.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Movement conservatism is on its last legs; It always has been

Thers responds to some of the recent conservative wails that what the Bush administration has done is not "pure" ideological conservatism, and in so responding points to a basic truth about movement conservatism.
Movement conservatism started off as a racket. Movement conservatism has always been about exacerbating and then profiting from existing cultural, social, and economic resentments. There was never any fall from an original ideological Eden. The corruption was there from the start. Packer is quite right to emphasize how the political and popular success of movement conservatism owes everything to its legitimization of a politics of resentment that arose in the 1960s. Movement conservatism has nothing without Hatred of the Liberal, a point reinforced not least by the image with which Joyner chooses to adorn his post.

It's quite nice that Joyner deplores Coulter-level books and says their crudity is part of the reason the GOP is in trouble. However, this class of stuff is just a less sophisticated version of commonplace rhetoric you see emanating from everywhere else on the right these days. And if Joyner wants to dump it, fine, but the brute fact is that without accusations like, say, that Barack Obama is an un-American socialist, well, the GOP might as well just concede the election immediately. And everyone knows it. The right just cannot win if it renounces the politics of resentment, and that's all there is to it. You can't scrub ugly. You can't reboot Soviet Communism without perpetrating once more its rottenness, and you can't retool movement conservatism without it eventually fucking up royally.

Which is why I see no reason to believe that invocations of a "pure, timeless" conservatism are anything more than so much self-serving horseshit. If there were any substance or value to it as an intellectual concept, first of all, it would sound a lot less vapid. Sorry, "a belief in free markets, free people, and in the greatness of the American people and the American nation" is sonorous doxa, pure and simple. None of these terms means anything as far as policy goes and in the real world can be used to justify pretty much any absurdity, like, say, an immensely disastrous, ill-conceived invasion and occupation of a foreign nation justified by utterly disingenuous bullcrap.

I lack patience for invocations of ideological purity in the context of serious analysis. As I said at FDL, if "movement conservatism" were truly guided by lofty principles as opposed to nihilistic opportunism, history would have turned out differently. It sure would have been nice to see "movement conservatives" put their "principles" into action in say the fall of 2002.

"Intellectual movements" that end up unable to cope with empirical scientific data (global warming), that end up making excuses for torture, that depend upon self-flattering fantasies such as a belief in a partisan "liberal media," that delight in the sort of race-baiting nonsense we've already seen in this election season, have nowhere to go. It is eminently reasonable to draw the conclusion that there is just nothing to "movement conservatism" except a dead end. "Conservatism" as it is currently embodied just cannot handle the truth. It can't afford to.
Or, as Atrios points out:
Galbraith perhaps said it a bit shorter:

The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness.
As I wrote earlier, 2008 will be the dirtiest Presidential campaign on record. Why?

Because movement conservatism has reached its inevitable end. The suckers are waking up and they are finding as they wake up that the bill has arrived and they are stuck with it. The alleged benefits of movement conservatism are nowhere to be seen, but the suckers will pay anyway.

All the pretty promises of benefits from movement conservatives have now been shown to be less accurate than the promises of the worst kind of lying crooked used car salesman. Instead of the promised wealth and security, they have given America economic crises and an unnecessary, unending war that we will be paying for the rest of our lives. But, the conservatives claim, it will all be alright if everyone just wears a flag lapel pin.

2008 will be the dirtiest Presidential campaign on record because the movement conservatives have failed, but they will still go down defending their tribe at all costs. They have nothing else except dirty politics, PR imagery and lies to run on.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Is oil going up in price partly because the banks have no capital left?

Ian Welsh at FireDogLake offers an interesting and plausible reason why oil prices are going through the roof.

Consider this. The world and especially the U.S. has spent the last three to four decades reorganizing our societies so that the extremely wealthy are able to extract money from the middle class and the poor. So what do the extremely wealthy DO with all that money? It is far beyond what they can spend on consumption, and besides, it is the basis of their exalted social status. They have to keep the wealth intact and even grow it where possible.

Investing all that money in potentially productive enterprises is simply too small scale and retail to be bothered with. Only large scale banking, far removed from the real economy and very much subject to government rules and regulations instead of economic success. Keep in mind that neither IBM nor Microsoft bothers with a market that has revenues of less than a billion dollars. They wait for someone else to prove the market and then buy them out. Entrepreneurs do not operate at the level of great fortunes. The uncertainty is too great for the investors with great fortunes to invest. They want only proven markets.

So where do the investors of great wealth invest their money?
See, there's a lot of loose money floating around in the world. Not only are the rich richer than anytime since the Gilded age, but due to the miracle of leverage you can easily take one million and turn it into, no joke, 100 million worth of speculative cash through the joy of leverage. Once you've got all that leveraged cash, however, you need to find something to do with it.

In the nineties that money went mostly into stocks. And so we had the dot-com bubble and the attendant frenzy.

Since then stock prices, if you measure them in Euros, have remained pretty close to flat. There have been some rises and falls, but basically, movement has been minor and soon lost.

Instead, in the 2000's that money split largely between four types of plays.

1. Labor arbitrage plays in which you move production from the 1st world to 3rd;
2. Real Estate plays, largely through the vehicles of mortgage backed Collateralized Debt Obligations (though there are other kinds of CDOs which also got great play) and other chopped up securities packages;
3. Currency speculation; and,
4. Commodity speculation.

Labor arbitrage plays are still ongoing but they're slowing down a great deal as the US economy moves into recession and as costs in China and the core areas of India increase.

Real Estate plays are over. All types of real-estate markets are collapsing.

The other two types of plays - currency speculation and commodity speculation remain available. So you've still got your billions and trillions of money floating around, because rather than allowing deleveraging to occur properly the Fed and other central banks are sweeping the junk into trash bins, and that money is still looking for returns. There are no great new industries or technologies to invest in that can soak all that money up doing useful things. Sure, you can put a few hundred billion into alternate energy, but that's peanuts. The rest of it has no where productive to go.

But it still needs to make returns. And there's nowhere for that money to go but into currency speculation (against the US dollar, not that the US dollar shouldn't be collapsing based on fundamentals) and into commodity speculation. And since there are some fundamental reasons why food and oil supply are down, those are good places to pile that money into.

Oil and food prices, based entirely on fundamentals, would have risen. China and India coming on line is raising the demand for oil significantly. Climate instability and stupid government policies like ethanol price support are amongst the factors decreasing supply relative to demand for food.

But neither of them would have risen as fast or high as they did without speculative excess.
If this is a correct explanation it carries with it proof that extremely unequal incomes carry a major social penalty. The high prices of oil, commodities and food are killing people around the world. No one's personal wealth is worth that social cost.

Rove refuses to deny involvement in Siegelman prosecution

From Talking Points Memo we get this video of Karl Rove ducking and weaving to avoid confirming or denying his own participation in the selective prosecution of Governor Don Siegleman.

He says he has offered Congress several ways to get at the facts of his involvement in the (selective) prosecution of Don Seigleman. What he doesn't point out is that none of those alternatives ways to get information include him speaking under oath in ways that could be criminal if he is caught lying. He'll do or say anything as long as what he says is NOT under oath.

That sure sounds like an admission of guilt to me.

Has Rove abandoned the right to not testify under oath by making the statement above? Mark Kleiman points out that "in general the holder of the privilege can forfeit that privilege by making elements of the otherwise privileged communication public, or allowing them to be made public."

Or is Rove simply depending on being able to tie the issue up in court until after the inauguration of the next President and then moving with Bush to Bush's secure location in Paraguay which includes a Paraguayan-passed law that says individuals on that ranch cannot be extradited for Human Rights Violations.

Emptywheel weighs in on Rove's claim that the President is going to assert Executive Privilege with regard to this new subpoena:
It's answering questions about the other politicized prosecution that several witnesses have recently sworn that Rove was involved in: that of Bob Kjellander.

I also can't help but wonder whether Karl wants to limit testimony to Siegelman because of something he noticed on HJC's website. HJC has put PatFitz's QFRs right there alongside all the material on politicized prosecutions. The only thing PatFitz mentioned regarding politicized prosecutions had to do with the revelations that have since come out in the Rezko trial--revelations that put at least 3 people, some of them solidly corrupt Republicans like Turdblossom, on the record with hearsay evidence about Rove working to fire PatFitz. And since Rove has already sent his BFF Michael Isikoff out to figure out what evidence there is against him, it sure seems like Rove doesn't want to testify about the conversations he had with Bob Kjellander about firing Patrick Fitzgerald.

But this is one area that has the evidentiary justification of the Siegelman case (several people, also including Republicans, with hearsay evidence stating Rove was acting improperly). Like the Siegelman case, it pertains to politicized prosecutions.

But it also pertains to the USA purge, which makes Rove's claim to executive privilege pertinent again.
Emptywheel makes a good case that Rove is scared but just blowing smoke about Executive Privilege.

AG Mucasey won't enforce Congress' subpoena, though. Congress is going to have to do that itself.

McCain's really, really bad day

I don't know how accurate this is, but by the looks of it McCain has really pissed off the religious right. First by rejecting the influential Rev. John Hagee, then by adding to that his rejection of the very influential political operator (besides being an evangelist preacher) Ron Parsley.

Then McCain's appearance on the Ellen DeGeneres Show appears to "support the gay agenda."

Then look at who he is interviewing as VP candidates:
*Charlie Crist, a gay man;

* Bobby Jindal, not just of South Asian origin and 'darker than Obama' but also a conservative Catholic who has expressed support — in his campaign — for the idea that "outside the Church there is no salvation" and many of the other attitudes towards the Reformation I was taught in pre-Vatican II Catholic school; and

* Mitt Romney, a Mormon
I find these to be effective political suicide - if they are true.

But is it a McCain head fake?

There is a possibility that this is all a public pander to the independents, to be countered in the religious right by preachers explaining to their evangelistic flock that McCain doesn't mean any of it. That he's just doing what he needs to do to get elected in the face of a political season that really favors Democrats this year.

Hagee has already made strange sounds that resemble a statement that "I said it, but I didn't mean it to be a bad thing! Vote for McCain anyway."

Parsley is a strong Republican activist, and if the appearance that he is being thrown under the bus will permit the election of a Republican President in these times which are very trying for Republicans, then he would support that appearance, while depending on evangelist preachers to convince their flocks away from the eyes of reporters that McCain doesn't really mean it.

And it is clear that inviting Crist, Jindal, and Romney to the McCain lair in Sedona is not a serious effort to induce them to accept the Vice Presidency nomination. It is an effort by those individuals to signal to their Republican constituencies that they support McCain. McCain's VP is going to be someone else and any current public actions are aimed primarily at titillating the media so that he gets coverage he doesn't have to pay for.

This is a really bad year for Republicans. Political Scientists, studying what (public) factors lead to the election of a President, have concluded that when the economy is bad, the current President has low approval ratings and there is an on-going unpopular war all during election year then the Party in power loses no matter what positions the candidates take or what the media focuses on. But those are all surface public factors.

The Republicans have worked hard to develop under-the-surface methods of influencing the outcome of an election. Opposition Research has been one of those methods. Another is the art of planting underground rumors about the Democratic opposition. Karl Rove famously planted rumors in conservative East Texas that the very popular Texas Governor Ann Richards was appointing as many lesbians to public office as she could. Then there are the many efforts at voter suppression that have been used in the past and which are currently being worked up. McCain is himself positioned as the "maverick" Republican in spite of his extremely strong conservative voting record. This is already an effort to run publicly one way and conceal what he really stands for from independent voters, while depending on under the radar efforts to get the base to turn out for him. The appearance is one thing, but the real campaign by Republicans is going to be under the surface - viral email and rumors that carry the nastiest stories about Obama possible, extensive efforts to get the corporate media to support McCain augmented by the Republican noise machine of FOX, the American Standard and the right-wing think tanks, evangelistic preachers turning out the vote, and extensive efforts at voter suppression.

At least that's how I see this Presidential election shaping up on the Republican side.

The Slave Trade and its effects on African civilization

When reading about the "Triangular Slave Trade" a logical question is what did the slave trade do to the local cultures in Africa where the slaves came from? I have found little written about that, largely because Europeans did not want to admit that Africans had strong cultures of their own before Europeans colonized Africa.

However, I have found this very interesting video on UTube.

This is an interesting companion to the fourth of the TV series "Guns, Germs, and Steel." Jared Diamond makes the point that Africans had a strong culture, one that was well adapted to the tropical conditions of Central Africa. He pointed to the Bantu Civilization and to the South African Zulu Empire. the Bantu Civilization was built around native African crops such as millet, and the villages were small (which prevented rapid transmission of Malaria) and were set on high ground away from the rivers and lakes that teemed with mosquitoes (Malaria carriers.)

Nineteenth Century European industrial society demanded raw materials such as Gold, Copper and Diamonds, so European colonialists moved to the tropics of Africa and destroyed the villages of the native Africans, forcing them to move to urban centers near mines and water transportation.

Since writing is an urban phenomenon and native Africans had been forced by malaria to avoid building large cities (which are normally built next to water transport) the African societies did not have much native written history. The European colonialists were interested first in cheap slave labor to operate plantations in the Caribbean, Brazil and in the American South (to feed international trade) and later in African raw materials to feed the developing European industrial society, they had no interest at all in learning about native African cultures and societies. Labor was all they needed from the African peoples.

Today tropical Africa is a set of countries with borders drawn by European colonialists and racked with malaria and AIDS. The malaria results from the destruction of purposes of European trade of their earlier societies which had been designed to minimize malaria.

As soon as those two diseases are controlled Africa will become a prosperous continent.

The UTube movie above gives strong indications of how West Africa became what it is today.

One thing the UTube movie points out is that the slave trade was not just a European thing. Muslim invaders from the Middle East also captured and exports slaves from Africa to the Middle East. Here is another UTube video that addresses the Muslim slaver trade.

One difference between the European and the Muslim slave trade was that the Islamic societies did not have the large scale international trade to be fed by factory-style plantations designed to produce cash crops (Sugar, Indigo and Cotton) to feed that trade, so the profit motive to degrade slave labor on a massive scale did not exist as it did in the Americas.

I've never understood the Islamic history of slave armies, but the Muslim use of slave women in harems is no different from the current sexual slave trade in the modern world.

In any case, though, slavery is always a case of the powerful preying on the less powerful, and it is nearly as destructive of the more powerful societies as it is the less powerful ones.

There are other UTube videos on the history of Black Slavery at This UTube location if you are interested. Unfortunately I have been unable to determine what organization is producing them, so I can't at this time vouch for their historical accuracy.

The Andover University Library offers a list of books on the slave trade.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

An MD evaluates McCain's psychiatric stablity - result? Bad.

A fair question about John McCain is how his 5 1/2 years as a POW have affected his mental stability. Kirk James Murphy, M.D, a physician and psychiatrist with a fellowship in trauma psychiatry offers his evaluation based on publicly known events. It ain't good.
...the Washington Post and other media outlets have described Senator McCain displaying behaviors that appear to satisfy two of three criteria for the responses to trauma required to diagnose PTSD [Snip}

through available medical records (or accounts thereof) and the senator's own descriptions.

B. (1): According to the records, McCain has said that immediately after his release from military prison in Hanoi there were "times when very realistic or frightening memories" came back to him. But McCain "can successfully put these memories out of his mind," the medical records said.

B. (5): he admitted in his memoir that "for a long time after coming home, I would tense up whenever I heard keys rattle," a sound made by his prison guards.

many of the symptoms are easily observed.

Sadly, Senator John McCain is an elderly man with a history of irritability and anger so severe that he has had multiple episodes of workplace violence. His symptoms are so extreme that many of his fellow military professionals, among them naval aviators -- men whose job description includes blowing things up and killing -- publicly state McCain is too unstable to be Commander-in-Chief. Friday we learned McCain sometimes requires powerful prescription medication for sleep difficulties. He has also exhibited profound deficits in memory and recall -- hallmarks of impaired concentration -- on numerous occasions.

Sadly, he also has a history of multiple head injuries, chronic and severe alcohol abuse (including numerous "black-outs"), five hours of general anesthesia, and dizzy spells.

Traumatic symptoms can cause impaired memory and concentration -- but the same symptoms may also be caused by multiple head injuries, chronic and severe alcohol abuse (especially abuse severe enough to cause "blackouts", prolonged general anesthesia, and some of the medical conditions that cause recurrent episodes of dizziness.

Whether McCain's frequent memory impairment is or not from traumatic symptoms, the fact of his symptoms of severe irritability and anger, together with his sleep disturbance, appear to satisfy criteria "D" for PTSD.


[Go read the original article for the rest of the diagnostic criteria.]

Senator McCain, from publicly available data, is only known to satisfy five of the six diagnostic criteria for PTSD (and he’d likely have to consent to direct interviewing to assess the sixth).

The Republicans have foisted off on the American public a totally paranoid President (Nixon), one well into the end stages of Alzheimer's Disease (Reagan), and a recovering(?) alcoholic and drug addict in short order. Now they want us to buy one suffering from PTSD who has a reputation from High School as a bully? One who expresses a love for war and who expects the Iraq occupation to last 100 years?

Not a good choice. Not good at all.

Bob Herbert on Ted Kennedy

I haven't known what to say about the news of Ted Kennedy's brain cancer. I know that I feel shocked, and immensely saddened for him and his family, but the words just aren't there.

Ted's older brother John was inaugurated President in January 1961. I was age 18 and I graduated High School that following May. Ted was the little brother who was elected Senator in 1962 while his two older brothers were President and Attorney General. From then on in everything that mattered to America in the 60's and 70's the Kennedy family was always at center stage challenging us to be better.

As the rest of the Kennedy's were assassinated or died off, Ted Kennedy remained to keep that great candle lit. He always reminded the Senate and the nation what the Kennedy's stood for in American national politics - “struggle against the common enemies of man: tyranny, poverty, disease and war itself.”

The Kennedy family has been part of the backdrop of my entire adult life. They have continually challenged America to be better than it was the day before. That's almost five decades.

But that's mostly just about me, not about Ted. What are the right words now?

As is so often the case, Bob Herbert at the New York Times has gotten close to the right words. Go read them.

NY Times: Jewish voters drifting right; Facts: Jewish votes drifting Left'

Here is an article from the New York Times by Jodi Kantor that makes the startling allegation " recent presidential elections, Jews have drifted somewhat to the right." Although this assertion is the key idea on which the entire article is based, the assertion is supported by no facts at all.

Here is a discussion of that assertion based on easily obtainable facts at the Monkey Cage. Those facts clearly show that that obtains real facts that show the exact opposite it true.

What can we learn from this article and the Monkey Cages' fact-based analysis?

First, the New York Times has totally failed in its editorial functions. A writer can easily get so involved in the personalities she writes about that she fails to get the facts that allow the story to be generalized to multiple individuals. (Some writers. Of course, I would never fall into such a trap!) But an editor has the specific job of not letting such stories get published without revision - unless the bias is intended by the news organization as a hit job.

Second, the writer's name, Jody Kantor, is clearly Jewish. From this and Ms. Kantor's failure to check easily checkable facts to support her key assertion, it is very likely that Ms. Kantor considers her personal opinions to be "the facts." There is a well-known viral set of emails - a meme - running among American Jews making Barack Obama out to be a great threat to Israel. Is Ms. Kantor a victim and carrier of that meme? It looks like it.

Third. We can't trust the New York Times. Period. Everything that rag publishes has to be checked and double-checked.

Friday, May 23, 2008

America's road to Iraq and beyond

Want to know how the U.S. got into the current mess in Iraq? Mark Kleiman quotes Andrew Bacevich:
Iraq has not been kind to the reputation of senior U.S. commanders. For a brief moment in the early '90s, for example, H. Norman Schwarzkopf seemed a likely candidate to join the ranks of history's Great Captains. No more: Schwarzkopf's failure to finish off an adversary of remarkable ineptitude left Saddam Hussein in power, his Republican Guard largely intact, and Iraqi Kurds and Shia under Saddam's boot. One result was a large, permanent, and problematic U.S. military presence to keep Saddam in his "box." Once seen as a stupendous victory, Operation Desert Storm deserves to be enshrined as a giant step down the nation's road to Persian Gulf perdition.

In 2003, General Tommy Franks set out to clean up Stormin' Norman's mess. Although Franks has modestly described the ensuing invasion of Iraq as "unequaled in its excellence by anything in the annals of war," future generations are unlikely to sustain that judgment. When it came to leaving a tangle of loose ends, Franks made Schwarzkopf look like a piker. His niche in history will always be alongside Bremer and George Tenet, fellow recipients of the Medal of Freedom--the Three Stooges who labored mightily to convert a small, unnecessary war into an epic debacle.

After Franks came the team of John Abizaid and Ricardo Sanchez (and, later, George Casey). These earnest and no doubt well-meaning men inherited a difficult situation and gave it their all, expending lives and money with abandon. Despite much huffing and puffing about "progress" and "turning points," they achieved negligible results: Iraq slowly descended toward chaos.

Petraeus is now engaged in an effort to slow and reverse that descent. Although the deluded and disingenuous may persist in pretending otherwise, his mission is not to "win" the Iraq war. Coalition forces in Iraq are not fighting to achieve victory. Their purpose is far more modest. According to Petraeus himself, U.S. troops and their allies are "buying time for Iraqis to reconcile." President Bush and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates have explicitly endorsed this new strategy, but history will remember Petraeus as its principal architect. To avoid the fate of his hapless predecessors, Petraeus must show that his strategy of buying-time-to-reconcile can produce tangible results. Yet an exploration of what the buying-time strategy actually means reveals that the prospects of its success are exceedingly slim. The cult of Petraeus exists not because the general has figured out the war but because hiding behind the general allows the Bush administration to postpone the day when it must reckon with the consequences of its abject failure in Iraq.

[Emphasis added]
This is the best thumbnail description of how the U.S. got into Iraq that I have seen.

Also, if you have read any of my posts on "winning in Iraq" you will note that I keep asking what it means for the U.S. to win. As near as I can see, there is no goal in Iraq beyond simply keeping U.S. troops there until it has ceased to be Bush's problem and becomes someone else's.

General Petraeus strikes me as the most obviously political General in the American Army since Douglas MacArthur. He appears to be building his reputation towards a run for President on the Republican ticket, much as MacArthur intended to do after Korea. If that's the case, then Petreaus is going to have to kick the Iraq can down the road to someone else who will have to take the blame for the American failure there. Has his elevation to Centcom Commander achieved that? That's an open question.

But Petreaus's fate is a minor issue compared to what will happen in Iraq. That's the big open question.

So who is Andrew Bacevich? Here is a biography found at the bottom of the document from which the above quote was taken.
Bacevich graduated from West Point in 1969 and served in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War, serving in Vietnam from the summer of 1970 to the summer of 1971. Afterwards he held posts in Germany, the United States, and the Persian Gulf up to his retirement from the service with the rank of Colonel in the early 1990s. He holds a Ph.D. in American Diplomatic History from Princeton University, and taught at West Point and Johns Hopkins University prior to joining the faculty at Boston University in 1998.

On May 13, 2007, Bacevich's son, also named Andrew J. Bacevich, was killed in action in Iraq, when he was killed by a suicide bomber south of Samarra in Salah Ad Din Province. The younger Bacevich, 27, was a First Lieutenant.[3] He was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 8th U.S. Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division.

Bacevich also has three daughters.[3]

He has described himself as a "Catholic conservative" and initially published writings in a number of traditionally conservative American political magazines, but recent writings have professed a dissatisfaction with the Bush administration and many of its intellectual supporters on matters of American foreign policy.

Both his recent books are critical of American foreign policy in the post Cold War era, maintaining the United States has developed an overreliance on military power, in contrast to diplomacy, to achieve its foreign policy aims. He also asserts that policymakers in particular, and the American people in general, overestimate the usefulness of military force in foreign affairs. Bacevich believes romanticized images of war in popular culture (especially movies) interact with the lack of actual military service among most of the population to produce in the American people a highly unrealistic, even dangerous notion of what combat and military service is really like. Finally, he attempts to place current policies in historical context, as part of an American tradition going back to the Presidency of Woodrow Wilson, a tradition (of an interventionist, militarized foreign policy) which has strong bi-partisan roots. To lay an intellectual foundation for this argument, he cites two influential historians from the 20th century: Charles Beard and William Appleman Williams.

Ultimately, Bacevich eschews the partisanship of current debate about American foreign policy as short-sighted and ahistorical. Instead of blaming only one President (or his advisors) for contemporary policies, Bacevich sees both Republicans and Democrats as sharing responsibility for policies which may not be in the nation's best interest.

In March 2003, at the time of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, Bacevich wrote in the Los Angeles Times that "if, as seems probable, the effort encounters greater resistance than its architects imagine, our way of life may find itself tested in ways that will make the Vietnam War look like a mere blip in American history."[1]

Thursday, May 22, 2008

We Americans no longer have the right to protest actions of our Republican/conservative government

If your government gets out of line, as an American we each have the privilege of protesting what they do, right? Free speech and all that rot. Right?

Not anymore. Not if the government is Republican.

You can plan a non-violent protest, but the FBI or the local police have spies paid to report on your plans. But there is a problem - they don't get paid unless someone is arrested. So if you plan and operate a controlled, non-violent protest, those spies will instigate violence against the police to cause arrests. The police will arrest you, not their moles. They'll convict you, not the instigators who committed the crimes. Because you are a terrorist. You are the protester.

Then the police or Republican will announce to the press that they were aware of a plot to commit terrorism.

See, you are no longer a protester with free speech rights. Now you have become a "Terrorist!"

Your crime? You think the government is going the wrong direction and you want to protest in a non-violent manner as did both Mahatma Ghandi and Martin Luther King. Today they'd be "Terrorists," would be arrested for something a paid police instigator did and would be tried in the press based on "leaks" from the police, FBI and Republican politicians.

Go read "Moles Wanted" from the "City Pages" of Minneapolis St. Paul.

Why Minneapolis-St. Paul? Because that is where the Republican National Convention is planned this Summer, and the Republicans Really, Really don't like protests!

2008 will be the dirtiest Presidential campaign on record

The Atlantic describes the new world of Opposition Research as practiced by the Republicans.
Political campaigns always attempt to diminish their opponents, of course. What was remarkable about the 2000 effort was the degree to which the process advanced beyond what Barbara Comstock, who headed the RNC research team, calls "votes and quotes"—the standard campaign practice of leaving the job of scouting the target to very junior staff members, who tend to dig up little more than a rival's legislative record and public statements. Comstock's taking over the research team marked a significant change. She was a lawyer and a ten-year veteran of Capitol Hill who had been one of Representative Dan Burton's top congressional investigators during the Clinton scandals that dominated the 1990s: Filegate, Travelgate, assorted campaign-finance imbroglios, and Whitewater. Rather than amass the usual bunch of college kids, Comstock put together a group of seasoned attorneys and former colleagues from the Burton Committee, including her deputy, Tim Griffin. "The team we had from 2000," she told me recently, to show the degree of ratcheted-up professionalism, "were veteran investigators from the Clinton years. We had a core group of people, and that core was attorneys."

Comstock combined a prosecutor's mentality with an investigator's ability to hunt through public records and other potentially incriminating documents. More important, she and her team understood how to use opposition research in the service of a larger goal: not simply to embarrass Gore with hard-to-explain votes or awkward statements but to craft over the course of the campaign a negative "storyline" about him that would eventually take hold in the public mind. "A campaign is a lot like a trial," Comstock explained. "You want people aggressively arguing their case."

Maligning an opponent, even with his own words and deeds, is a tricky business; voters take a dim view of "negative" politics, and are liable to punish the campaign carrying out the attacks rather than the intended target. Digging the Dirt provides a rare glimpse of how political operatives have learned to use the media to get around this problem, by creating a journalistic black market for damaging stories. During the first debate between Gore and Bush, in October of 2000, the BBC crew stationed itself inside the RNC's war room, filming researchers as they operated with the manic intensity of day traders, combing through every one of Gore's statements for possible misstatements or exaggerations. The researchers discovered two (Gore erroneously claimed never to have questioned Bush's experience, and to have accompanied a federal official to the site of a Texas disaster), and immediately Tim Griffin tipped off the Associated Press. Soon the filmmakers would catch the team exulting as the AP took the story.

Similar scenarios occurred countless times, on both sides, during the campaign. The operatives' sophisticated understanding of the media and their ability to manipulate the reporting of political news helps explain how Gore's public image shifted from that of stiff but competent technocrat at the outset of the campaign to that of serial exaggerator who would say anything to get elected. The steady stream of stories reinforcing this notion took its toll—a fact neatly documented by the filmmakers' shot of the New York Post after the debate: Gore beneath the headline "LIAR! LIAR!"
Of course the corporate media is complicit in this. They take the opposition research that's handed them and report it as news, as though they dug it up themselves.

Bias? Laziness? Ignorance? All of the above?

Count on it. This is going to be a real mud-fest this year. The Republicans are desperate and have nothing else going for them.

Is this why Hillary thinks she will be the better candidate? I'll bet it's a big part of it. She knows it's coming.

The Automobile world is going to become a plaything of the very wealthy

Kevin Drum reports on a new study by the International Energy Agency (IEA) that suggest a much higher price of oil in the very near future.


In the past the IEA has studied and predicted demand for oil and simply assumed that supply will keep up with demand. Now they have also looked carefully at supply and realized that it is no longer keeping up with demand and that currently planned explorations can't change that. The result? They suggest that a shortage of supply "by 2015 of as much as 12.5 million barrels a day, unless there was a sharp drop in expected demand."

If that's the case, then $4 a gallon for gas and $135 per barrel for oil is literally nothing. Goldman Sachs is predicting $200 per barrel next year. At the anticipated prices a shortage of 12.5 million barrels a day will cause, gasoline will become a luxury good available only the the very wealthy, the military and some government agencies. No more selling 15,000,000 cars a year in the U.S. as is expected this year.

Kevin based his report on this article from the Wall Street Journal.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Remember we are in a Recession caused by inadequate consumption

This is from Reuters reporting Zogby poll results.
  1. The Reuters/Zogby Index, which measures the mood of the country, fell dramatically to 87.9, down from 95.5 in April, as nine of the 10 measures of public opinion used in the Index dropped.
  2. Concerns about the direction of the country and personal finances rose sharply, and dissatisfaction with Bush, Congress and the administration's economic and foreign policy all climbed.
  3. Bush's approval rating fell 4 percentage points to 23 percent, a record low for pollster John Zogby, and positive marks for the U.S. Congress fell 5 points to tie an all-time low at 11 percent.
  4. The number of Americans who believe the country is on the right track fell from 23 percent to an abysmal 16 percent, another record for pessimism, as uncertainty about the economy and rising gas prices fuelled growing doubts about the future.
  5. Consumer confidence fell to a 28-year low this month as rising prices strained household finances, the economy shed jobs, the housing market struggled and the cost of gasoline rose to $4 a gallon.
  6. The poll found the percentage of Americans who feel good about their personal financial situation this month fell from 53 percent to 46 percent. Zogby said a majority of Americans expect gas prices to eventually hit $5 a gallon.
  7. Positive marks for the Bush administration's foreign policy also tumbled, from 24 percent to 19 percent, and approval ratings for economic policy fell from 16 percent to 12 percent.
  8. Slightly fewer Americans feel safe from foreign threats and are proud of the United States, and the number of Americans confident their children will have a better life dropped from 65 percent to 59 percent.
  9. The number of Americans who feel secure in their job essentially remained the same this month, declining slightly from 66 percent to 65 percent, well within the poll's margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

The index combines responses to 10 questions on Americans' views about their leaders, the direction of the country and their future. Index polling began in July, and that month's results provide the benchmark score of 100.

A score above 100 indicates the public mood has improved since July. A score below 100, like the one this month, shows the mood has soured since July.
With these reports, consumers are not going to increase purchases.

Demand (GDP) = Consumption + Investment + Government purchases.

Net Consumption makes up about 70% of total demand. The other 30% consists of net Investment and Government spending. So total demand is almost entirely dependent on current Consumption and the anticipated consumption that Investors base their Investment plans on. Look at item 5 above. Investors see nothing hopeful to expand net Investment for. Any additional funds given to Investors will be invested outside the U.S. where economies are growing.

Until there is a reason for total demand to increase, the economy is not going to turn around.

The rest of the poll results are largely caused by most people recognizing that economically we are in for difficult times. Oil at $132 per barrel is not a source of consumer confidence.

Addendum May 22, 2006 7:06 CDT
The NPR Morning Edition just reported that credit card companies say a lot of people have started using credit cards to pay for food and gasoline. This means that consumers are not going to increase general consumption. They are stretched just buying essentials. That is not a good sign for an economy already in trouble because of inadequate consumption.

This is in addition to the report several weeks ago that late credit card payments are increasing.

This economy will not come out of the recession until consumption begins to increase. Instead, as long as nothing is done to get more money to consumers, we are going to see an increase in unemployment (which itself will decrease consumption) and a decrease in total GDP.

Here is the Organized system of torture, carefully documented, that the bush adminisration designed.

Think that too much has been made of torture techniques being occasionally used by people directed by the Bush leaders? Take a look at this systematic set of torture techniques which the Bush administration has designed. This system is the one the FBI agents at Guantanamo refused to participate with. Tell me if this looks like a few aberrant individuals or it looks like what it is - a well-thought-out torture system designed and implemented by the very top leaders of the Bush administration.

Go look here.

This is a clear violation of the international laws of human rights. Bush has said he knew and approved of this stuff, and it was clearly being coordinated out of the White House. That makes Bush no better than the worst of the Communists, the Nazis, or such obvious other right wing war criminals as Pinochet or the Argentine Generals.

Senate Races Summary to May 21, 2008

I've had a hard time visualizing whether it is likely that the Democrats will be able to get a 60 vote dominating position in the Senate, so I sat down and put this summary together. This is intended to provide a national view of the active Senate races for Dummies. I had thought there were 33 races this year until I started this table and learned that in Wyoming and Mississippi there are two Senate races each.

Here is the Wikipedia discussion of the U.S. Senate elections in 2008. It provides links to each incumbent's wikipedia report. The Wikipedia Summary lists by state Wikipedia lists the opponents for each seat, saving me the time and trouble. These tables are tedious, time-consuming and easy to make a mistake in.

Races are listed by party (D or R) if there is an incumbent. O indicates an open race with no incumbent running. For those races that are contentious, Rasmussen polls and keeps reasonabley up to date. I have linked to those state polls. Where the Poll column indicates N/A Rasmussen does not list any poll, and I haven't found another pollster who lists polls and regularly updates them.

01Baucus, Max- (D - MT)
02Biden, Joseph R., Jr.- (D - DE)
03Durbin, Richard- (D - IL)
04Harkin, Tom- (D - IA)
05Johnson, Tim- (D - SD)
DRasmussen Polls
06Kerry, John F.- (D - MA)
DRasmussen Polls
07Landrieu, Mary L.- (D - LA)
08Lautenberg, Frank R.- (D - NJ)
DRasmussen Polls
09Levin, Carl- (D - MI)
DRasumssen Polls
10Pryor, Mark L.- (D - AR)
11Reed, Jack- (D - RI)
12Rockefeller, John D., IV- (D - WV)
13Alexander, Lamar- (R - TN)
RRasmussen Polls
14Barrasso, John - (R -WY) *
15Chambliss, Saxby- (R - GA)
RRasmussen Polls
16Cochran, Thad - (R - MS) **
17Coleman, Norm- (R - MN
RRasmussen Polls
18Collins, Susan M.- (R - ME)
RRasmussen Polls
19Cornyn, John- (R - TX)
RRasmussen Polls
20Dole, Elizabeth- (R - NC)
RRasmussen Polls
21Enzi, Michael B.- (R - WY)*
22Graham, Lindsey- (R - SC)
23Inhofe, James M.- (R - OK)
24McConnell, Mitch- (R - KY)
RRasmussen Polls
25Roberts, Pat- (R - KS)
RRasmussen Polls
26Sessions, Jeff- (R - AL)
RRasmussen Polls
27Smith, Gordon H.- (R - OR)
RRasmussen Polls
28Stevens, Ted- (R - AK)
RRasmussen Polls
29Sununu, John E.- (R - NH)
RRasmussen Polls
30Wicker, Roger (R - MS) *
31Allard, Wayne- (R - CO)
ORasmussen Polls
32Craig, Larry E.- (R - ID)
33Domenici, Pete V.- (R - NM)
ORasmussen Polls
34Hagel, Chuck- (R - NE)
ORasmussen Polls
35Warner, John- (R - VA)
ORasmussen Polls

* Wyoming - Because of the death of Senator Craig L. Thomas, the governor of Wyoming appointed John Barrasso to fill the seat until a special election in November 2008. Sen. Michael Enzi is up for normal reelection.

** Mississippi - Senator Trent Lott resigned at the end of 2007 to become a lobbyist, and Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour (R) appointed Roger Wicker to fill his seat until the special election in November 2008. Sen. Wicker left his Congressional seat, which was won in a surprise upset by Democrat Travers Childers. Sen. Thad Cochran, the senior Senator from Mississippi is up for normal reelection.

Of the 12 Democrats running for reelection, only Mary Landrieu of Louisiana seems in jeopardy. Her last election was a squeaker, and the loss of Democrats in New Orleans may make it even more difficult for her.

Among the open seats, Mark Warner (D) is expected to take Virginia. Mark Udall has opened a strong lead over Republican Bob Schaffer. Mark's cousin, Tom Udall in New Mexico is strongly in the lead there. But in Nebraska, Mike Johanns (R) leads Scott Kleeb (D) by fifteen percentage points and Idaho will elect a Republican. So of those five open seats, Democrats are favored for three. Which leaves the Republican incumbents running for reelection.

Of the 18 Republican incumbents up for reelection, 6 appear strongly in the lead, 6 are in danger, and 6 more I simply don't know at this time. The ones in the lead are (13) Alexander, (15) Chamblis, (17) Coleman, (22) Graham, (25) Roberts, and (26) Sessions. The ones in danger are (18) Collins, (19) Cornyn, (20 )Dole, (24) McConnell, (28)Stevens, and (29) Sununu. Only Sununu seems at this time on the ropes. I don't have any information at all on the other 6 at this time.

Since the Democrats currently have 49 seats plus Bernie Sanders and Joe Lieberman voting for control of the Senate, that's 51. I expect three of the open seats and Sunnu's to go Democrat which adds four more for 55. So the Democrats need to keep Landrieu and gain five more seats out of the 17 the Republicans are defending besides Sununu's. Those are the seats, listed 13 through 30 above, that will determine the ability to control the Senate.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

All about McCain in one easy location

For anyone who wants to know more about John McCain, now there is the McCainpedia. Curious about his involvement in the Keating Five scandal? Here is a brief overview.

What about the many, many lobbyists who hold key positions on his campaign team? Go read this for an overview. Then Tristero at Digby's Hullabaloo explains in more detail.

Go read the McCainpedia. It'll tell you a lot about what the McCain campaign and the corporate media don't want you to know about John McCain. It puts the wikipedia entry on John McCain into perspective.

Monday, May 19, 2008

McCain: home of the conservative lobbyists.

Want to know who will run the government in a McCain administration? Here, from Kevin Drum, is your answer:
That brings to five the number of campaign workers McCain has had to fire recently. Here's the complete list:
  • Thomas Loeffler, lobbyist for Saudi Arabia and various defense contractors. CEO of The Loeffler Group.
  • Doug Goodyear, lobbyist for the military junta in Burma. CEO of DCI Group.
  • Doug Davenport, also works for DCI Group.
  • Eric Burgeson, energy lobbyist, works for Barbour Griffith & Rogers
  • Craig Shirley, works for anti-Hillary 527 group that's not allowed to coordinate with presidential campaigns.
This is ridiculous. Except for Shirley, whose sins are a little different, all of the other four headed up or worked for big lobbying outfits. The press is reporting this as if it's just one embarrassment for McCain after another that he keeps finding out he's got lobbyists working for him, but that's not the story here. The real story is that McCain obviously knew these guys were lobbyists long before anyone pointed it out to him. You don't hire the CEO of the DCI group without knowing that the guy is a lobbyist.
There is your McCain government. All lobbyists, working for special Republican interests. These people are not working for American interests, just for their own.

Vote for McCain and you get a Republican government bought and paid for by special interests who don't give a damned about most Americans. They are with McCain to feather their own nests, nothing more. And McCain allows them into his inner circles until he and they are caught.

McCain on Saturday Night Live; He accuentated the old age issue rather than diffused it.

Kevin Drum points to the appearance of John McCain on Saturday Night Live. McCain was obviously trying hard to diffuse the age issue, but instead he accentuated it. He made it very clear that he is too old to become President.

Not only do I appreciate McCain's effort to demonstrate that he is clearly too old to become President, his sadly failed effort to diffuse the issue is a major reason why he is not competent to become President. He has no clue how he comes across to people. Such cluelessness is a disqualification for any national public office. Perhaps he is even too out of touch with reality to even remain Senator.

Great move, Senator (for now) McCain!

Happiness and religion

Here is the key statement from Kevin Drum
If you live in Western Europe, there's a pretty good chance that you associate strong religiosity with death, destruction, and massive societal grief, not with church bake sales. So whatever you think of religion itself, seeing the end of religious wars, religious terrorism, and massive state-sponsored religious bigotry is almost bound to make you happy. You'd have to be almost literally crazy not to be happier in today's secular Europe than in yesterday's religious Europe.

Religion in America is just a whole different story. Sure, it's caused its share of problems, but nothing even remotely on the scale of what happened in Europe. We still have a pretty innocent view of religious belief here, and this probably accounts for part of the reason that religion is associated with happiness here but not in Europe. Whether that makes us exceptional or just naive I'll leave for others to debate.
Since I am an anglophile and history buff, I agree with the Europeans. I "associate strong religiosity with death, destruction, and massive societal grief." I have read histories of the Thirties year War, and of the religious wars in England and in Europe. Kings Charles II and Phillip of Spain are particularly interesting when viewing the religious wars of Europe. So are Kings James I, Charles I, Charles II and James II of England. All fought wars more for religiosity than for politics.

That's not an argument for or against belief in God or Christianity. It's an argument against strong religiosity and against religious control of the police, the courts and of the military capabilities of government. It is also a recognition of the social reasons for general happiness.

America came from the British tradition after the Glorious Revolution of 1688, and that tradition was built into the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights. We took the solutions of the European religious wars as a given, and do not realize how many people died to create that social understanding.

Kevin Drum discusses the social effects of aggressive religiosity and the European welfare state, the latter being something the Europeans learned after the American Revolution. While the English separation of church and state as the solution to the religious wars is a part of our tradition, the Industrial Revolution and the Welfare State are not. In those instances, we have only our own history on the American Industrial Revolution, so the Welfare State and the other answers the Europeans have developed are not part of our American tradition. We have to work our own, American, way to solutions to the problems of the Industrial Revolution, within their Welfare State solutions, and that appears to be bringing up the problems caused by government inspired religiosity.

America has things to learn from Europe, but we ultimately will find our own solutions. My own opinion is that the separation of church and state will ultimately remain a key part of the solution, and that to remain an middle class industrial nation America will also have to adopt a version of the welfare state.

Kevin Drum presents a very interesting set of ideas, none of which go as far as I just did. Go read it.

The politics of the Bush-McCain link

This, from Talking Points Memo, is the video of the argument between Bush and Obama with McCain jumping in as "I support Bush!" This video displays it all in 7 minutes, 36 seconds.

High-res version at

How close do McCain and Bush have to get for everyone to recognize that McCain is running to be Bush's third term? McCain has clearly demonstrated his support for the policies that have brought the Bush administration to point where ARG reports that 72% of Americans disapprove of the way that Bush his handling his job as President.

Texas (Republican) Attorney General practices voter suppression

Gregg Abbot, Republican Attorney General of Texas, is prosecuting (only) Democrats for the "crime" of assisting elderly voters by dropping ballots into a mailbox for them. At the same time he refuses to act on a documented case of a Republican Precinct judge in Dallas County who handed out a hundred ballots without checking ID and counted the votes (ballot stuffing) in a highly Republican precinct.

This is documented in the Texas Observer and again in the Dallas Morning News. The Dallas Morning News points out that Abbot ran a two year investigation using $1.5 million grant and netted only 26 cases, all against Democrats and all against Blacks or Hispanics.
The cases his office pursued largely have involved mail-in ballots. In 18 of the 26 cases, the voters were eligible, votes were properly cast and no vote was changed – but the people who collected the ballots for mailing were prosecuted.

State law makes it a crime to carry someone else's filled-out ballot to the mailbox, unless the carrier puts his or her own name and address on the envelope.

Matt Angle of the Lone Star Project, a group that supports electing Democrats in Texas, said Mr. Abbott mostly has pursued "technical violations" against people who have assisted neighbors, often the elderly or disabled. He said the few ballots involved undercuts Mr. Abbott's claim that vote fraud is epidemic.

"Nobody is disputing that from time to time people in both parties, based on a desire to win, might cheat," Mr. Angle said. "But for these people to be prosecuted so aggressively is really just an exercise in intimidation. They are trying to send a message to a much larger community that voting is a risky business."
In short, Abbot's allegations of widespread voter fraud have been proven to be a lie and a fraud itself - a lie and fraud that is much larger than any identifiable problem of fraudulent voting. Yet Abbot is pushing hard for a voter picture ID to combat this "widespread (imaginary) voter fraud."

Yep. Because several individuals assisted elderly voters who were housebound by carrying their mail-in ballots to a nearby mail box, Gregg Abbot wants to also prevent elderly retired non-driving nuns from voting also.

One ignorant idiot left a comment on the Think Progress report stating that the nuns refused to vote provisionally in the incident. He stated "These nuns were NOT TURNED AWAY, they REFUSED TO VOTE with a provisional ballot! To imply anything else is just a patent lie!" (comment #41)

This comment is listed very high on Google. It implies that the nuns who were refused the right to vote could actually have voted a provisional ballot and had it count. That's wrong.

The provisional vote would not have counted. Had they voted provisionally, they had 10 days to acquire the required picture ID and present it or the provisional vote would be canceled. Assuming that they could somehow have physically reached a driver's license bureau and met the documentary requirements for an ID card (expensive and acquiring the documents can be very slow), it could not have been provided within the 10 day required period.

Here in Texas the provisional ballot has a series of blocks on it that explain why a regular ballot could not be offered. One of those blocks must be checked for the provisional ballot to be valid. But if the block that states "Did not present valid ID" is checked, then the form specifically states that their "provisional" vote will not be counted. There is no further investigation and the vote is trash-canned by the committee that evaluates provisional ballots. The system is designed to prevent the ill or elderly from voting.

This is nothing more than a way of preventing the elderly and the poor from voting. It is the ignorant idiot who is wrong.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

John Yoo, responsibility for torture, and the Bush legacy

Recently the media took notice again of the torture that most Americans first became aware of from the Abu Ghraib pictures. We then learned that the “interrogation” techniques that were used there had migrated from Guantanamo with the approval of the entire U.S. military command structure right up to at least Secretary of Defense, Don Rumsfeld. Most recently we have actually seen the memo that rogue conservative attorney John Yoo wrote justifying the use of “harsh interrogation techniques” that the rest of the world consider to be violations of human rights.

There are several things to consider, of which I want to address two today. One is whether the attorney who wrote legal opinions justifying the use of torture, John Yoo, is as much of a war criminal as are Donald Rumsfeld, George Bush and others. Another is why the Bush administration has been so insistent about using torture in the first place.

Philippe Sands, who wrote the excellent Vanity Fair article The Green Light which described how the Bush administration directly authorized the torture of one particular prisoner at Guantanamo, recently also wrote the following:

In our system of government, lawyers play a crucial role, as gatekeepers of legality and constitutionality. When the lawyers bend, when they fail to exercise independent and professional judgment, and when they become handmaidens to policymakers, they cross a line that raises the possibility of ethics violations and possibly even criminal violations. In “Torture Team,” I describe a conversation I had with a European judge and a European prosecutor. I was told that, under their rules of criminal law, “the lawyer has the same responsibility as the interrogator,” and that, when it comes to torture authorized by a lawyer, “the lawyer who gives such legal advice is not [treated] as an accomplice, it is as though he is the author the act.” Whatever the moralities of the situation, and however much one might agree that the principal responsibility lies with the politicians who ultimately made the decisions—the secretary of defense, the vice president, and the president—the responsibility of the senior lawyers is also there. Dean Edley’s point sits uncomfortably with the underlying rationale of the 1947 judgment in United States v Altstoetter and others.

A few days later, ABC ran a story confirming the direct involvement of the most senior members of the Bush Administration in approving certain decisions on individual interrogation techniques. This was an issue I discussed with Major General Mike Dunlavey. “The Green Light” contains the following exchange:

How high up did [the decision on new tactics] go?, I asked Dunlavey.
‘It must have been all the way to the White House,’ he replied.

On April 9, ABC News reported, in relation to C.I.A. interrogations, that “the most senior Bush administration officials discussed and approved specific details of how high-value al-Qaeda suspects would be interrogated by the Central Intelligence Agency.” The dates are not specified.

Two days later, on April 11, President Bush confirmed the account. “Well, we started to connect the dots in order to protect the American people”, he told ABC News White House correspondent Martha Raddatz. “And yes, I’m aware our national security team met on this issue. And I approved.”

These important developments provide important confirmation of the thrust of my piece: that the law was circumvented, that key decisions were made at the top, that the bottom-up theory is false, and that individuals like Lieutenant Colonel Diane Beaver, the staff judge advocate at Guantánamo, were scapegoated. The disappearance of a plausible bottom-up narrative also adds ballast to the evidence showing that the Guantánamo techniques migrated to Iraq and informed events at Abu Ghraib.

Back in early 2006 I wrote about how obvious it was that the responsibility for Abu Ghraib went very high in the military chain of command. The regular military officers carefully courts-martialed low-level individuals, preferably Reservists, as scapegoats to protect those who either directed or intentionally ignored the torture that was occurring in Abu Ghraib. Although the possibility that the White House (Bush and staff) was directly involved wasn’t as obvious then it is now clear that they were not only involved but were actively directing the very techniques used on specific prisoners in many instances.

It has also recently become clear is that just as Bush and Cheney were damned and determined to invade Iraq from day one of the Bush administration, similarly they intended to use torture to interrogate enemies from early on. Did they feel that information they needed was being hidden from them behind the (in their view unreasonable) international human rights laws? Did they feel that they had a unique and justifiable right to violate those international human rights laws? If so, then they were clearly not the first. Most iconically in the twentieth century the interrogators and their bosses in the German Gestapo felt that way, but so did others. As I wrote in May 2007 there is a long history of this kind of thinking. there is a long history of this kind of thinking by military occupiers in foreign lands.

There is an excellent history book called A Savage War of Peace: Algeria 1954 - 1962 by Alistair Horne which presents the history of the war of national liberation by the Algerian FLN to defeat the French Imperial occupiers. He has several Prefaces, each written for a later edition as he got further information about the Algerian war of national liberation. Just reading them is a real education.

The FLN learned a lot from Ho Chi Minh in Viet Nam, and applied it to their war against the French, since both nations had the same intent - remove the Imperialist occupier. The French kept fighting and kept wondering why the Algerians were fighting them because the French were just there to bring democracy and improve the education and economy of Algeria. The FLN realized early on that they could not defeat the French militarily in a head-to-head battle, so they developed terrorist techniques and went after the Algerian police who were attempting to stabilize Algeria.

The French recognized that they were fighting a war that required effective Intelligence to win, so they made special efforts to gather that Intelligence, using some of the nastiest torture techniques that they had developed. The Algerians responded by increased terrorism that went after civilians, men women and children with no regard for humanity.

Any of this sound familiar? Because after the French left Algeria the Palestinians used techniques developed by the Algerians to go after the Israeli occupiers during the Intifada, and the Israelis used increasingly tough interrogation techniques on the Palestinians to get effective Intelligence in a timely manner. All of this has blended into the current war in Iraq, with the two sides, American and insurgent, each patterning on the appropriate techniques for occupier and occupied developed earlier in Algeria.

Horne presents evidence that shows there is no difference between the rationale and rhetoric of the earlier Imperialist occupiers and the Israelis in the West Bank and Gaza as well as the U.S. in Iraq. The reason our military is fighting terrorists in Iraq is exactly that same as why the French were fighting the Viet Cong in Viet Nam and then later were fighting the terrorists in Algeria. The French were occupiers who did not want to leave and the Occupied wanted them out at any cost. That is similar to Bush's recent statement about there being an American presence in Iraq for the next half century, on a time scale similar to that of our troops in South Korea. That will not happen. We will leave Iraq relatively soon. The cost of staying is way too high.

America is an unwanted occupier in Iraq, and now we even have polls showing that the majority of Iraqis want us out of there immediately if not sooner.

But there is one more really significant similarity. Torture. The U.S. under George W. Bush demands good and timely Intelligence, and they will go to whatever extremes they need to get it. That is the reason for the similarities in the language describing Intelligence gathering techniques that this article started with.
[The Nazis also called torture ‘Enhanced Interrogation techniques’, just as the Bush administration does.] But here is Alastair Horne's warning on the use of "Enhanced Interrogation Techniques:"

[ from page 18.]

The vile hand of torture; of abuse, and counter-abuse. In the Algerian War what led -- probably more than any other single factor -- to the ultimate defeat of France was the realization, in France and the world at large, that methods of interrogation sere being used that had been condemned under the Nazi Occupation. At the dawn of the new century, the ugly ghosts of torture returned to plague France. In 2001, and eighty-three-year-old former general, Paul Aussaresses, published a book in which he unashamedly, indeed proudly, admitted to having tortured -- in a good cause, he claimed. After a trial which gripped France, the aging General got away with a fine of one hundred thousand franc, on a uniquely worded charge "in the name of respect for the victims."

Because of the slowness of communications in the 1950's and 1960's it took a year or more for the message of abuses perpetuated in Algeria to sink in. Now, with the Internet and al-Jazeera, one set of photos from Abu Ghraib is enough to inflame hatred across the Islamic world against the West, providing an excuse for all the beheadings and atrocities carried out by al-Qaeda. From the Inquisition to the Gestapo and the "Battle of Algiers," history teaches us that, in the production of reliable intelligence, regardless of the moral issue, torture is counter-productive. As a further footnote to my tenet, learned in Algeria, ... torture should never, never, never be resorted to by any Western society.

The testimony of Prefect Tietgen of Algiers - Tietgen had been informed by the Algiers police that they had intelligence of a bomb which could have caused appalling casualties. Could they put a suspect to "the question"? Himself a deportee in World War II, Teitgen ... refused.
...I trembled the whole afternoon. Finally the bomb did not go off. Thank God I was right. Because once you get into the torture business, your lost.... All our so-called civilization is covered with varnish. Scratch it, and underneath you find fear....When you wee the throats of your coplains slit, the varnish disappears."
In America under the heel of Bush, Cheney and the Congressional Conservative Republicans, the varnish is similarly gone.

If Imperialism is defined as “The policy of extending a nation's authority by territorial acquisition or by the establishment of economic and political hegemony over other nations” it is hard to avoid recognizing that America is acting imperially as an occupying nation in Iraq. America is the occupier in Iraq just as France was also the occupier acting imperially in both Vietnam and in Algeria. The Palestinians clearly identified the Israelis as imperialist occupiers in the West Bank and adopted the same guerrilla techniques of resistance in the Intifada.

Whether the occupying nations in each case recognized their behavior as imperialism is unimportant. The occupied nations (and Palestine) recognized it, and all have used similar methods to force the occupiers out. As one reaction, the occupying nations each, in their fury at being resisted, have applied extreme “enhanced interrogation techniques” just as the Nazis did in WW II.

The public evidence from abu Ghraib is clear now. Abu Ghraib was not the actions of a few, low-level rogue individuals. Abu Ghraib was directed and controlled by the military chain of command all the way up to and including the White House and was approved by George Bush. The torture, or “enhanced interrogation techniques,” were an application of force in common with other occupying armies in the twentieth, including the Germans in France, the French in Vietnam and Algeria, and the Israelis in the West Bank, and in each instance were a direct result of an attempt to use the military to quell resistance to the occupation of a foreign land. It should also be noted that in each case when the occupiers finally did leave the occupied territory, the battle ceased. The "terrorists" DID NOT follow the occupiers home. Which brings us to the question of personal responsibility for the criminal behavior in Iraq.

John Yoo’s memo approving the torture techniques went over the line of merely legally unethical to the point that Yoo himself has become criminally responsible for the violations of international human rights laws that he wrote to justify. Yoo is directly complicit in the crimes committed by the Bush administration, not as an attorney who merely provided legal advice but as a direct participant who did his best to bend the law to the point of breaking to justify that which is clearly criminal. Yoo’s legacy will be joined with that of George Bush, Dick Chaney, Don Rumsfeld and a cast of thousands of other willing criminals.

As for Bush’s legacy, George Bush has famously said that in spite of his deep unpopularity at present, history will revise the evaluation and he will be seen in a much better light by future historians. Perhaps his God has told him so. If so, Bush's God lied.

Since Bush is directly responsible for the invasion of a foreign nation even less justified than the Mexican-American War and for criminally unleashing and directing the same interrogation techniques universally condemned when practiced by the Gestapo and the French, it seems highly unlikely that Bush’s approval by future historians will even reach the extremely low levels of the American President previously considered to be the worst America has ever had, Andrew Johnson. There are similarities between the two presidencies.

Both Andrew Johnson and George Bush have attempted to rule in opposition to the Congress after Congress became cognizant of the disaster that the President was directing. I find it interesting that in Andrew Johnson’s battles with Congress he is described as “Obstinate rather than firm it undoubtedly seemed to him that following counsel and making concessions were a display of weakness.” Sounds a lot like Bush 43.

It is unfortunate that the Democratic leadership of Congress did not see fit to impeach Bush and Cheney. Perhaps the Democratic leadership of Congress felt that they themselves were too complicit in Bush's crimes to pass judgment on him?