Saturday, May 24, 2008

She was the one she was waiting for!

By J. Thomas Duffy

It occurred to me, after our post last evening ("Back, and to the Left ... Back, and to the Left") -- the implosion of Hillary Clinton, the incredible irony of it all.

By her own, twisted, dark, logic/strategy, in context to her decision to stay in the primary race (a race she has been losing since Super Tuesday, and, just this past week, it became all-but-officially lost), related to waiting around for "something to happen" to/with Barack Obama, she reached into that rather large Clintonean Bag of Tricks, and brought up the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy.

As it has played out, universal condemnation has followed, and, to borrow from the Obama Campaign:

She Was The One She Was Waiting For!

How incredibly ironic...

Amazing self-destruction, from the person who was, self-admitted, ready on Day One...

The shoddy, lazy, error-filled campaign Hillary conducted will be buried, a number of paragraphs down, when the history of this primary season is written.

We already posted the "Nixon In A Pantsuit" thing, so, if, in time, she does recover, it will be written as a "Nixonian" rise back into the game.

If Hillary was looking to take off the front pages her screaming banshee -- "Give Me Michigan and Florida, or Give Me Death" -- well, she sure achieved that goal.

If Hillary was looking to prime the Rules Committee, before the meeting next week, whipping her supporters into a frenzy... Er, not very likely she achieved that one (though, we can't rule out that she will use this self-inflicted wound to beat the "Everyone's picking on me" drum - again).

No, in a big-bowed basket of irony, Hillary, inserting foot firmly in mouth, ended up to be the "something happening", and "the reason to wait around".

She Was The One She Was Waiting For!


From the territory and borders around Hillaryland

Karen Timulty of Time points out that this has been a pattern of Hillary's going back to March:

TIME: Can you envision a point at which--if the race stays this close--Democratic Party elders would step in and say, "This is now hurting the party and whoever will be the nominee in the fall"?

CLINTON: No, I really can't. I think people have short memories. Primary contests used to last a lot longer. We all remember the great tragedy of Bobby Kennedy being assassinated in June in L.A. My husband didn't wrap up the nomination in 1992 until June. Having a primary contest go through June is nothing particularly unusual.

Trex has an option for you:

Well, we could talk about how Hillary is now openly incorporating the possibility of an assassin’s bullet into her plans for this whole nomination deal until our heads explode.

Or we could watch this adorable video of a hedgehog eating a carrot.

From The Mahablog:

Clinton supporters are whining that people are picking on poor Hillary again, making a Big Deal out of an innocent remark. These are the same people who won’t let go of Obama’s “bitter” remark, which some argue was taken out of context. I say live by the gotcha, die (metaphorically speaking) by the gotcha.

Quoting the Rude One: “To Clinton’s campaign and its supporters, who have been holding out for some gaffe by Obama that would take him down: How’s that working out for ya?”

Andrew Sullivan:

She's been waiting for Obama to implode. Instead, she just has.

The Anonymous Liberal:

Hillary is very smart and has pretty good political instincts. She'd no doubt run a competent general election campaign. But I think Obama has demonstrated during this grueling one and half year primary campaign that he is every bit her equal when it comes to raw political skill, and his campaign has out-smarted and out-maneuvered hers at every step. When you combine that with Obama's far superior rhetorical gifts and fundraising potential, it's hard to see why people still think Clinton would be the more formidable general election candidate.

Oliver Willis:

Seriously, who says this sort of thing? Your average person doesn’t say it, let alone somebody running for president. Hillary Clinton didn’t lose this race because she was a victim of sexism. She lost this race because people are tired of her clawing for power and running over everything to do it.

(Cross-posted at The Garlic.)

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U.S. elections, from a world away

By Carol Gee

The 2008 Presidential Elections are on the minds of many people. So much so, that it is hard to maintain any kind of a rational perspective. As my regular readers know, it is my practice to seek information from abroad as a way to combat that recurring problem of distorted reality.

Yesterday's visit was to Doha, Qatar, the headquarters of the notorious (in some quarters) mideast media giant, Aljazeera. In FOCUS US ELECTIONS 2008, Aljazeera's Special Section, we found some very good stuff. This intro to my post was chosen because I had a blog visitor from Doha, Qatar (World Atlas map; location - 25º 15' N, 51º 36' E ) recently. If that reader looked at Aljazeera's U.S. election coverage, he would notice it has a bit of a different take than the way the press here does. Other elements of the Middle East's premier news site's journalistic slant are entirely familiar.

McCain's about-face -- For example, the lead story reports on McCain's rejection of Pastor Hagee. The section has the entirely predictable (and probably useful) "Timeline: US elections," three standard candidate profiles, and "Q & A: The US electoral system." In an excellent feature article by Rob Reynolds in Washington DC, "US election diary: under par," the author's most "outrageous" passages included these, beginning with a quotation:

If I had my way, no man guilty of golf would be eligible to any office of trust under the United States." - H L Mencken.

The pre-emptive war in Iraq, started with lies and falsehoods, has gone on for more than five years now. It has caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians and fighters, killed either in clashes with US troops or other attacks, and many more driven from their homes. More than 4,000 troops have been killed as a result of the war, tens of thousands have been injured, and the total cost of the war to US taxpayers will run, by one highly respected economist's estimate, up to three trillion dollars.

But George Bush has also sacrificed something for the war effort: Golf. In a rather obsequious and fawning interview with the US newspaper Politico and Yahoo News, Bush disclosed that he was enjoying a game of golf in August 2003 when he got word that the United Nations building in Baghdad had been bombed. Bravely, Bush decided to make what in his mind he no doubt considered a major sacrifice: He put his clubs away for the duration.

. . . Unlike the US media pundits, who tend to focus on the ephemera of gaffes and goofs, many scholars studying deeper patterns of voter behaviour point to three factors as being decisive in a general election.

The state of the economy is first and most important: The party in power almost always suffers defeat if the economy is going sour. Second is the popularity (or lack thereof) of the incumbent president - if the sitting chief executive is unpopular, voters will spurn his party's candidate. And thirdly, there is the element of change: Rarely will the electorate support the party in power if it has already ruled for two four-year terms. By those criteria, McCain's chances of winning the White House do not look good.

Compare and contrast the two "Bs" -- It was worth the trip to Qatar just to read Marwan Bishara's fascinating piece, "Barack and Bill." A side by side comparison gives the perspective you will not find in the mainstream U.S. press. Here's a tasty morsel:

Both Bill Clinton and Barack Obama grew up in broken families in modest homes but retained a dream that some day they would be president. They both had strong free-spirited mothers who left home and remarried, leaving the handsome little devils with their grandparents.

Both struggled on the border between Black and White America, and learned to confront racial tensions with a cool temperament and accommodation.

They attended Catholic schools as pupils and went to prestigious law schools, where they dabbled with drugs and married their college sweethearts, Hillary and Michelle, respectively.

After a difficult beginning, is now doing well. I recommend a visit there every now and then; it can be very refreshing. Use an aggregator such as Bloglines to gather other non-traditional sources such as the Haaretz daily newspaper from Israel, and Asia Times Online -- Middle East Headline News.

(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)

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Race, religion, and Obama

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Race, religion, and Reverand Wright have been prominent "issues" on the campaign trail, and Obama has done a great deal to address racism, his faith, and his former pastor, but a new Newsweek poll "clearly suggests a lurking racial bias in the American electorate" that poses a serious challenge to his candidacy.

Here are a few of the findings, along with my comments:

1) "Even as he closes in on the Democratic nomination for the presidency, Sen. Barack Obama is facing lingering problems winning the support of white voters -- including some in his own party. In a new NEWSWEEK Poll of registered voters, Obama trails presumptive Republican nominee Sen. John McCain 40 percent to 52 percent among whites. Sen. Hillary Clinton, Obama's challenger for the Democratic nomination, also trails McCain among white voters but by a smaller margin, 44 percent to 48 percent."

-- This is something of a concern, to be sure, but "white" is an awfully broad demographic group. I'm not sure these numbers tell us all that much, other than that many whites are Republican and that Obama has done poorly, relatively speaking, with some whites, namely, working-class whites. It is possible that some whites are responding negatively to Obama in reaction to the prolonged and at times bitter race against Hillary. (Perhaps some of them supported Hillary but are temporarily supporting McCain now.) It is also possible that these whites will come to support Obama during the general election campaign against McCain. Simply put, these numbers are not static.


2) "Obama's race may well explain his difficulty in winning over white voters. In the NEWSWEEK Poll, participants were asked to answer questions on a variety of race-related topics including racial preferences, interracial marriage, attitudes toward social welfare and general attitudes toward African-Americans. Respondents were grouped according to their answers on a 'Racial Resentment Index.'"

-- It seems that those with high racial resentment are less likely to support Obama than those with low racial resentment. Surprise, surprise. Those with high racial resentment tend to be poorly educated, elderly, and from the South. Surprise, surprise, surprise. It's called racism. There are some voters who simply will not vote for a black candidate, or at least who have a racial preference for white candidates over black ones.

There isn't all that much Obama can do about this other than to try to reach out to so-called working-class whites on the issues that matter to them, such as the economy -- issues that are universal, not racial. He will have the general election campaign to win over those whites who are currently against him but who are neither bigots nor partisan Republicans (or both). Given how well he has done among independents and Republicans, and given the broad and inspirational appeal of his message of hope and change, and of the substantive policy platform that backs it up, he could eat substantially into McCain's current support.


3) "Confusion over Obama's religious background may also be hindering his ability to attract white support. Asked to name Obama's faith, 58 percent of participants said Christian (the correct answer), compared with 11 percent who answered Muslim, 22 percent who did not know and 9 percent who said something else."

-- Thanks, Newsweek, for enlightening us with "the correct answer." It is simply appalling that so many registered voters -- so many Americans -- do not know it. (Even after the whole Wright saga.) This is ignorance, but there is no doubt a good deal of anti-Muslim bigotry behind it. As Obama continues to present himself to voters, and as more voters begin to tune into politics during the general election campaign, there should be a reduction in the overall level of ignorance. There are some voters who will vote against him because of, or in part because of, his middle name or his family history, but, again, he will have the general election campaign to win over those whites who are ignorant but not bigoted (and, where possible, to get through to some of the bigots).


So, yes, white-on-black racism is still a problem, as is anti-Muslim bigotry, and each problem is an obstacle for Obama. There are some voters, to repeat, who simply will not vote for him in November. However, America has come a long way, and the problem of racism at least is not what it used to be.

There is no reason to believe that Obama will not be able to overcome.

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Friday, May 23, 2008

Hillary Clinton refers to RFK assassination

By Creature

I'm not even touching this one. Nope. No way. Can't. Do. It. I very much need to believe that she's not going there and that Obama's assassination is not what she is waiting for. But I will say, she could have actually apologized to Obama and not only to the Kennedys for her unfortunate choice of words.

UPDATE: OK, I'm going in. I've watched the clip many times now and I have no benefit of doubt to give.

Here's the clip:

She's waiting around in case Obama is assassinated. That's it. I want to parse, but I can't. I'm kind of dumbfounded.

I've now watched the apology too a few times and it's equally baffling. She didn't apologize, if anything she reinforced.

And, if she intentially raised the specter of Obama's death--she had done it before, after all--then did she really think there would be no backlash? Is she trying to be outrageous just to stay in the news? Is she turning into Ann Coulter right before our eyes? Again, I'm dumbfounded.

UPDATE II: The real irony here is that Senator Clinton has been hanging around waiting for something to happen, politically speaking. Something that would signal the collapse of Obama's candidacy and give the superdelegates, or even the pledged delegates, an excuse to bolt. She was waiting for another Wright, another bitter. Well, I think she got her bitter, but not the bitter she had hoped for.

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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For the pipes of the Lord have spoken it

By Capt. Fogg

You know the "reverend" Phelps and you've heard about the Westboro Baptist Church, which consists mostly of his family. They're the creeps who picket military funerals with "God hates fags," "Thank God for 9/11" and "thank God for dead soldiers" banners and tell mourners their lost sons and daughters were killed by God because our country doesn't actively persecute homosexuals.

They appeared in Stuart Florida today to picket a Memorial Day ceremony honoring, as we do on this holiday, the fallen in our many wars: it wasn't a good choice of venue. Local motorcycle clubs, which in this area include many, many veterans, pledged to turn out and they did, the distinctive rumble of V twins rumbling up East Ocean Drive past the county courthouse and to the band shell and park where the array of white crosses was set out in the 92 degree heat.

Interviewed by the local paper, some tattooed and leather-wrapped bikers expressed their support for freedom of speech and for a country that allows such vermin to exercise it. Like Michelle Obama, I felt really proud for once. There was no violence, just words and signs blaring "don't listen to these idiots."

Asked by a reporter whether he liked what the "church" was doing today, a Phelps offspring of perhaps 5 years of age replied "yes" and "because it makes the Lord happy." like most opinions about what makes God smile, there was no evidence for it.

Whether or not God hates homosexuals or kills soldiers of countries that fail to punish them is something no one can know, but oddly today a drought of many months was broken in the city of Stuart by a heavy tropical thunderstorm, and the rain fell hard enough to bring a man to his knees; pouring down on the crosses, on the Phelps family, on the protesters and veterans alike, drowning the hate slogans of the Phelps', while thunder roared like Yahweh in his glory, blipping his throttle into wide open pipes.

(Cross-posted from Human Voices.)

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Clinton as VP rumors intensify

By Creature

I understand and would accept Obama's judgment if he offered Senator Clinton the VP slot.

To be clear, I would not like it. Not one bit. I feel other people could balance out the ticket better. And, beyond Senator Clinton's politics and her hawkish polices, I believe she is far too polarizing a figure. Her inclusion on the ticket would motivate a depressed GOP base like no other Democrat could. However, Obama's team has run a smart campaign and know the electoral math far better than a neophyte like me. After all, in the end, it's about getting a Democrat in the White House and saving the Supreme Court.

That being said, I just can't get past the blackmail-like feeling coming from the Clinton camp about the Senator being offered the VP slot. Just like the presidency itself, the VP slot is not rightfully hers. It's the nominee's choice. I suspect this entire VP whisper campaign is designed to foment more anger and antipathy towards Obama if he chooses not to put Senator Clinton on the ticket. It would be just one more reason for Clinton's surrogates to undermine an Obama run (and his presidency when he wins).

Here's the video with the latest:

UPDATE: Well, that was quick. In a matter of hours we go from subtle blackmail to all out threats. Here's Senator Clinton's fattest of cats:

"But there's a risk that if she isn't invited on the ticket, Hillary's political and financial supporters may not feel compelled to be as integrated and involved in the Obama campaign in order to provide the maximum support that he'll need to prevail in November."

That's just ugly. These people are loyal to Clinton only. If McCain won, it's clear, that would be fine by them. Disgusting.

Mind you, Clinton's people could argue on the merits to get her on the ticket, but threats. Again, disgusting.

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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Irrelevancies, plural

By Carol Gee

George W. Bush, our current president, OCP is taking to his lame duck role extremely well. How do I love thee for it? Let me count the ways, Mr. Bush. Just within the past week, OCP has put on a number of outstanding lame performances that have then turned into mandatory ducks for Bush's minions.

Irrelevance I: Defamatory/target-denied remarks to the Israeli Knesset regarding appeasement. Juan Cole at Informed Comment put it beautifully, (Cole's links):

After all that trouble George W. Bush caused with his foolish speech before the Israeli Knesset condemning negotiation with bad guys, it turns out that no one in the Middle East, including Israel, is paying the slightest attention to him. Even his own secretary of state seems to be disagreeing with him in public. Such are the wages of the lame duck, more especially when his favorability rating is 22%.

It turns out that Israel has been negotiating indirectly through Turkey with Syria, over Bush's strong objections...

Bush has painted himself into the corner of irrelevance. It isn't just that he is a lame duck. It is that his policy prescriptions are completely impractical and end up making his allies cut off their noses to spite their faces.

Irrelevance II: In-your-face defeat (except for $165 billion for funding the war, and defeat of a troop withdrawal deadline, alas) came Thursday for OCP. It was far from what the administration had wanted legislatively from the Senate. Votes are equivalent to snubs to a number of Bush's obstinate demands. reports that the GI bill (by Jim Webb) along with domestic spending measures (13-week unemployment extension, LIHEAP assistance, etc.) passed 75-22. Half the Senate Republicans voted for the GI bill. OCP is threatening to veto the bill. It now goes to the House. Twenty-six Democrats, one Independent, and one Republican voted against this war funding measure.* (See Addendum, below)

Irrelevance III: The recent presidential veto of the Farm bill was overridden Wednesday and Thursday in both the House and the Senate (and except for a glitch), enacting into law 14 of the 15 titles of the bill, says "Title III of the 15 title bill -- which pertains to trade -- was inadvertently left off the physical bill that was sent to the president's desk. Bush vetoed the bill, and the House voted to override his veto Wednesday evening." This was the first time in history that a farm bill veto has been overridden. According to The Washington Post:

Senate Republican leaders shrugged off the concerns. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) and Senate Republican Conference Chairman Lamar Alexander (Tenn.) were among the 35 Republicans who joined in the most significant legislative rebuff of Bush's presidency.

* Addendum -- Senators voting against the war funding bill include:

NAYs -- 26
Bingaman (D-NM)
Boxer (D-CA)
Brown (D-OH)
Byrd (D-WV)
Cantwell (D-WA)
Cardin (D-MD)
Clinton (D-NY)
Dodd (D-CT)
Durbin (D-IL)
Feingold (D-WI)
Feinstein (D-CA)
Harkin (D-IA)
Kerry (D-MA)
Klobuchar (D-MN)
Kohl (D-WI)
Lautenberg (D-NJ)
Leahy (D-VT)
Menendez (D-NJ)
Murray (D-WA)
Reed (D-RI)
Reid (D-NV)
Sanders (I-VT)
Schumer (D-NY)
Smith (R-OR)
Whitehouse (D-RI)
Wyden (D-OR)

(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)

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Obama surging in California

By Michael J.W. Stickings

From U.S. News & World Report:

A new poll released today in California finds political momentum shifting dramatically toward Barack Obama — and away from both Hillary Clinton and John McCain — in the nation's most populous state. According to a survey conducted over the past 10 days by the Public Policy Institute of California, 59 percent of likely voters here now have a "favorable" impression of Democrat Obama, while a majority view both of the other candidates unfavorably. In a state whose Democratic primary Clinton won in February, 51 percent of voters now say they have an unfavorable opinion of her; 53 percent of voters feel the same way about Republican McCain.

Obama, meanwhile, seems to be making strides across nearly every constituency. If the general election were held today, 54 percent of Californians say they would vote for him, compared with 37 percent for McCain. That gap has widened by 8 points since March. Obama enjoys the support of more than 80 percent of Democrats here, along with over half (55 percent) of independents. He leads McCain among men and women and is viewed favorably by nearly 70 percent of Latinos—a powerful political group, experts note, not just in California but in several other western states, including Colorado, New Mexico, and Nevada.

While there has been an epidemic of hand-wringing among Democratic political analysts over Obama's inability to win over low-income white voters in states like Kentucky and West Virginia, where Clinton has dominated recent primaries, California seems to be a different story. Obama leads McCain by a double-digit margin here among likely voters, no matter what their incomes. He enjoys a 55-to-35 percent lead among those who make less than $40,000 a year, including whites; a 55-to-36 percent lead among those who make between $40,000 and $80,000; and a 53-to-37 percent lead among those who make $80,000 or more.

"As the presidential campaign has moved further away from California, what's been taking place is solid support among Democrats and increasing support among independent voters," says Mark Baldassare, president of the Public Policy Institute of California, the nonpartisan group that released the poll, which surveyed more than 2,000 voters. "John McCain is certainly going to have his work cut out for him here."

It's far too early to read too much into this, but, as I have argued before, some of the concerns raised about Obama's electability (that is, his ability to win the general election) have been overblown. It is true that, in general, he has performed poorly in the primaries among certain demographic groups, such as working-class whites (as they are euphemistically called), women, the elderly, and Hispanics. But he has performed poorly not in absolute terms but in relative ones -- that is, relative to Hillary. And Hillary has been a strong candidate with wide appeal. If not for Obama, she would have won the nomination easily.

The Clinton campaign and her supporters like to argue (whether they actually believe it or not is another matter) that his poor performance among such groups proves that he is, overall, a weaker candidate, for the general election, than she is. However, this argument is simply wrong. It suggests that the Obama-Clinton race is an either/or contest. It isn't. A vote for one is not necessarily a vote against the other.

A voter -- say, from one of Hillary's core groups of support -- may vote for Hillary over Obama in a primary contest but then go on to vote for Obama over McCain. After all, most of those who have voted for Hillary are Democrats. Some will simply not vote for Obama -- some will sit out, others will vote for McCain -- but it simply does not follow that Obama's relatively poor performance among certain groups means that he would lose those groups in November. True, Hillary's relatively strong performance among working-class whites in the Rust Belt and Appalachia is cause for (some) concern, but Obama has performed well among independents and Republicans throughout the primaries and would have the entire general election campaign to reach out to those voters, as well as to Hillary's other core support groups. (Remember, he lost California to Hillary. He would not, however, lose California to McCain. Nor would he lose New York, New Jersey, and Massachusetts, and he would likely do well in Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, and probably also Florida.)

California may be rather unlike the rest of the country -- although I suspect the rest of the country is more like California than it would care to admit -- but what seems to be happening there could very well happen everywhere. Once he is the nominee, once he is up against McCain and the Republicans and isn't battling a strong candidate like Hillary, one who has won over voters he would otherwise have won over himself, Obama could (and should) consolidate support among Democrats, continue to appeal to independents and Republicans, reach out in meaningful ways to those demographic groups among which he has performed poorly, and push ahead to November with the candidacy of hope and change that has brought him this far already.

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Totalitarian religion, abusive polygamy, and illiberal Texas

By Michael J.W. Stickings

As you may have heard:

A Texas appeals court ruled Thursday that state authorities and a lower court judge abused their authority by illegally seizing up to 468 children from their homes at a polygamist ranch in West Texas last month.


According to the court, the state did not establish proper grounds to remove the children from their families, who belong to the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or F.L.D.S.


The unanimous ruling by three judges of the Third Court of Appeals in Austin revoked the state’s custody over a large group of the children and by extension almost certainly the rest, for what it called a lack of evidence that they were in immediate danger of sexual or physical abuse.

The appeals court said the record “does not reflect any reasonable effort on the part of the department to ascertain if some measure short of removal and/or separation would have eliminated the risk.” It also said the evidence of danger to the children “was legally and factually insufficient” to justify their removal and it said the lower court “abused its discretion” in failing to return seized children to their families.

It could very well be that the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services could have done better in making its case. And, for all I know, there may not have been any "immediate" risk according to the law. Perhaps the evidence was "legally and factually insufficient" according to the law, and perhaps the department did "[abuse] its discretion" according to the law. But, then, the problem is with the law -- or, at least, the law is part of the problem, and, in this case, it seems that the law is at odds with justice.

On this, I agree with Echidne: "I disagree with the way abuse is defined as only physical one, and with the idea that it's perfectly acceptable to groom young girls to accept abuse until the moment of the abuse comes. I also wonder whether it really is true that the sect appeared to have an unusually small number of teenage boys, and if it is true, what happened to the missing boys. I would think abandoning them somewhere would constitute abuse... In general, I'm worried about any children who are brought up in isolation from the rest of the society. They may 'stay safe' that way or 'stay religious' or whatever, but their isolation also means that they cannot learn alternative ways of living and cannot get help if they indeed are abused."

If "immediate" and "abuse" are defined narrowly, as they were by the court, then, yes, the ruling may be the correct one -- the correct legal one, that is.

But from a liberal perspective, one that recognizes the preeminence of the individual, of his or her sovereign and inalienable rights, how is such a ruling in any way correct? Yes, liberalism is related to the rule of law, and, indeed, is inseparable from it. But when the law is wrong? Or when it defines, say, abuse too narrowly?

And we all know -- do we not? -- that this sort of lifestyle, the polygamy of a totalitarian religious cult, is inherently abusive. Indeed, it would not exist without abuse. Abuse is what keeps it going, what enables and supports it.

The women -- that is, the wives -- may defend it, and may say that they are there freely, that it is a choice, but there is a little something called false consciousness. How are these women in any way free? How are they in a position to choose freely? They have lived lives of totalitarian abuse. Their minds have been shaped by that abuse. Everything they say is a reflection of that abuse. They may think they are free and that what they are saying is a reflection of free will, but there is nothing free about them or their lives.

Similarly, the men -- that is, the husbands, including the totalitarian leaders of the cult -- may defend it along lines of religious freedom, but should one or a community ever be free to abuse? Is that what our "liberalism" has become?

Now, I admit, it is difficult, if not impossible, to establish the line between free will and false consciousness. And, obviously, questions persist: Is is possible to enter freely into an abusive relationship? From a legal perspective, should it be allowed to give up one's freedom? In a liberal society, how much liberty is permissible? What "alternative" lifestyles are permitted? What of "alternative" lifestyles or communities that are, in essence, illiberal?

To me, liberalism has lost much of its ability to stand up for itself. It has decayed into libertarianism, into permissiveness of the sort that leads to the inability to combat the forces of illiberalism both internal and external.

But let me be clear: This is not to say that liberalism requires a narrow moral code, a narrow definition of liberty. Rather, it is to say that liberalism must be able to stand up to and against those forces of illiberalism in the name of liberty itself. If it is unable to do so, it is no longer liberalism.

Just as there is illiberalism abroad, so is there illiberalism at home. And much of the illiberalism at home -- and, in this case, I'm talking about the United States -- is religious in nature. The christian fascists of the evangelical right are illiberal, for example -- the most obvious and pernicious example. And so is the totalitarian cult known as the FLDS, an isolated community of abuse.

Texas's Third Court of Appeals may have issued a ruling based on its interpretation of the law, but the law, in this case, allows for the perpetuation of abuse and for the persistence of noxious illiberalism.

Toleration of difference is one of the key aspects of a liberal society, including the United States, but no liberal society worth its name should tolerate the FLDS or anything like it.

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Thursday, May 22, 2008

Fifty gallons of crap in a ten gallon hat

By Capt. Fogg

Dick Cheney. Is he wearing that idiotic hat to cover up his horns, or is he just reminding us that Nixon may be dead but the cowboys are still in control?

Using a captive
audience of Coast Guard Academy graduates to promote the idea that occupying Iraq is a "war on terror," Cheney persists in insinuating that because it is a war, it can be won and that because it is a war, to desist would be surrender, betrayal and dishonor. Because it is a war, anything we do is justifiable except to to pay for it -- or end it.

The relentless cramming of the occupation of Iraq into this battered, stretched and sorely abused metaphor of war, the relentless evocation of cheap comparisons to every conflict since Rameses II rode into
Kadesh, still stirs the souls of war lovers: a couple dozen of whom, calling themselves "a gathering of eagles," showed up "to support the troops" in some fashion far, far beyond my ability to comprehend.

"We're proud of our government," said one of the eagles.

I won't put words in anyone's mouth, but I would love to have asked him what it would take to turn that pride into shame, or indeed if anything could. I would love to ask whether he would feel pride if we sent troops to club baby seals and dishonor if they were forced to leave any alive. I would love to ask how defending a dishonorable act could be honorable; but of course I don't speak their language or follow their thought processes and I'm sure the answer would be less meaningful than the screeching of birds.

(Cross-posted from Human Voices.)

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In the twin killing of an eye

By Carl

Overnight, oil prices jumped more than $5 a barrel.

They had been heading upwards, inexorably, all year, with one or two hitches in the road. This past week, however, has seen it rapidly soar past $130 a barrel.

Conventional wisdom on Monday pointed to such obvious things as the heated rhetoric in the American political campaign, the situation in Africa, a jump in demand from Asia, the summer driving season, all of which together could explain a spike like that. some of us guessed, there was
a bigger story in play:

Oil prices leaped above $135 in overnight trading on Thursday, a new record that underscored the growing pressures that runaway energy prices are placing on some of the biggest names in global industry.

By midday Thursday, oil had fallen back and was trading at $131.95, down $1.22 from Wednesday’s close. But in a week that has seen the oil price rise by $4, the economic consequences of high fuel costs continued to mount.

[...]Thursday’s gains came after a series of unsettling reports that suggested world oil supplies may not be able to keep up with future demand, a situation that could potentially lead to even higher prices.

On Wednesday, weaker-than-expected weekly inventory data in the United States stoked fresh worries over oil supplies in the world’s biggest economy ahead of the busy summer driving season, sending oil prices up $4.19 a barrel on the day.

Some investors reacted to a report on Thursday in The Wall Street Journal that the International Energy Agency, an Paris-based policy advisory group for industrialized countries, was concerned about a reduction in the long-term world supply of crude oil.

The IEA usually uses the reports of the individual nations of OPEC and other oil producers to estimate world oil supplies.

Needless to say, nearly every nation inflates their reserves. The report, therefore, is clearly unreliable.

Indeed, in this month's
National Geographic magazine comes a report about a renegade industry analyst in Saudi Arabia who's estimates indicate that, not only has Saudi Arabia passed peak oil, but that its reserves are draining faster than anticipated.

Many skeptics point to several reserves of oil that are a litle harder to get to, but now that oil prices have climbed, are cost-effective.

However, when we've seen oil prices spike in the past, they have been accompanied by fervent & frenzied attempts to find more oil, discoveries of which have provided smaller and smaller finds. Indeed, the price drop of the 80s and 90s in crude prices was due in large part to the discovery of oil to tap into.

In this current spike, there has been zero, nada, nil, increased effort to find new oil sources. For example,
Exxon Mobil, while increasing the exploration budget over 20% this year, still spends more on maintaining existing oil wells than it does on exploration, and their goal is to increase oil production by 2010 by a measly 725,000 barrels a year, and that 20% increase barely makes up for the past eight years of sitting on a budget line item like they were drowning it in the bathtub, as prices steadily inched, then rocketed, upwards.

I predicted earlier this year that once oil hit $130 a barrel, we could expect to see $5 a gallon gasoline.

I was wrong, but I had not anticipated that it would take weeks rather than months to reach that level, and expected that interim oil prices would be absorbed into the price structure. However, I can report that here in NYC, premium gas is bumping andexceeding $4.50 a gallon already.

OK, so that's the good news.

Here's the scary part:

[In 2005, the IEA] said that if investments didn’t keep pace with the growth in consumption, the world might face a shortfall of as much as 15 million barrels a day by 2030. Instead of growing to reach 116 million barrels a day, global supplies would struggle to increase to 100 million barrels a day by then, up from today’s average of 86 million barrels day.

Contrast that with this (from NatGeo):

Last fall, after the International Energy Agency released a forecast showing global oil demand rising more than a third by 2030, to 116 million barrels a day, several oil-company executives voiced doubts that production could ever keep pace. Speaking to an industry conference in London, Christophe de Margerie, head of the French oil giant Total, flatly declared that the "optimistic case" for maximum daily output was 100 million barrels—meaning global demand could outstrip supply before 2020. And in January, Royal Dutch Shell's CEO, Jeroen van der Veer, estimated that "after 2015 supplies of easy-to-access oil and gas will no longer keep up with demand."

That is, within the next ten years, we will literally and effectively be running out of oil.

Get used to it, folks. This is going to hurt. A lot. And in ways you can't even begin to expect.

(Cross-posted to
Simply Left Behind.)

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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Surveillance news alerts

By Carol Gee

Big political controversies involving civil liberties are often the focus of my posts. I have come to depend on a set of favorite bloggers as reliable news resources. The following are the really good sources of information on national security, domestic surveillance, national intelligence and other such subjects.

The news this week is that certain conservative Democrats will no longer have a free ride with progressives on their domestic surveillance votes. Legislative work on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act needs to be finished before August. There are rumors that House leaders may be too willing to compromise as a result of pressure from these so-called "Blue Dog" Democrats. And a number of progressive bloggers have become active in opposition to these developments. Let's see what they have to offer today on the activism associated with the FISA legislation:

  • Glenn Greenwald @ unveils an civil libertarian activist ad campaign that will negatively target Democrats who are lax in their support for civil liberties protections in legislation amending existing current Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act law. The first to be in the glare of this spotlight supported by the blogosphere is Blue Dog Democrat Chris Carney of Pennsylvania. Donations from readers of several blogs, including his, will fund the campaign:

  • Firedoglake -- emptywheel's "bmaz" does a FISA Update (5/20/08) regarding the status of negotiations about the unresolved House FISA bill. There probably will not be anything happening until after the Memorial Day recess. But activists need to be prepared to do something to prevent a bad compromise after that.

  • Crooks and Liars -- If a Blue Dog Won't Fight for Our Freedom, We Will (5/20/08). Project overview plus a donation link.

  • downwithtyranny -- Warrantless Wiretaps and Retroactive Immunity Are Un-American (5/20/08). This post has a good index/overview of various candidate positions on this issue.

  • digbysblog -- Paper Training, best clever title in the bunch; focus on Greenwald's post.

  • theseminal -- Conservative Democrats Prepared to Cave on FISA, We Won't Let Them (5/20/08), by Jason Rosenbaum, reveals that this blog had a hand in designing the ad campaign.

TPM Muckraker's brilliant investigative journalist, upon whom I had also relied, Paul Kiel, has left for an exciting new job in June. He will be joining the impressive new non-profit organization specializing in investigative journalism, ProPublica, Journalism in the Public Interest.

(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)

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Scorched Earth

By Creature

The people on the TV keep telling me Hillary Clinton is playing nice, that she would never harm the party, that kumbaya is right around the corner. I'm not quite sure they are watching the same campaign as I am.

Update: Kvatch in the comments at State of the Day asks: "I admit that I'm not paying as much attention this issue as I should, but I have to ask: What about enfranchising voters--whose only sin was having voted in a state that decided to run afoul of DNC regs--equates to some kind of "scorched earth" policy?"

To which I reply: Because through no fault of Obama's, who played by the rules, he's being made to look like the bad guy and the electoral-well is being poisoned for him come November.

If she was so upset, if she was so concerned about disenfranchising the voters, she should have spoken up when the pledge was being signed before Iowa. No, now, now when she needs it, she pretends to care. She pretends it's some kind of epic, moral battle.

Also, the Hillary Campaign is equating Florida and Michigan with Al Gore in 2000 and, in turn, claiming that if Obama wins it's somehow illegitimate (and this is all based on her popular vote lead lie).

This doesn't even get to the fact that her surrogates are out there saying McCain is not a Bush third term (Blumenthal), and others say that they won't vote for Obama because of his sexism (Ferraro).

It's all bunk and it's all sour grapes. If she can't win, she's going to ensure Obama can't either. To me that's scorching the earth Obama runs on.

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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Life after Ted

By Carl

It seems weird to think of
Ted Kennedy as mortal, and yet, he is:

BOSTON, Massachusetts (CNN) -- U.S. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, who was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor, was released from the hospital Wednesday morning, earlier than expected.

When doctors at Massachusetts General Hospital announced Tuesday that the 76-year-old Democrat was suffering from a brain tumor, the news was met with expressions of sadness and support from his Senate colleagues.

Kennedy's physicians said they would consult with him to determine the best course of treatment.

Kennedy is one of only six senators in U.S. history to serve more than 40 years. He is an iconic liberal champion of social issues such as health care, family leave and the minimum wage.

Ironically, he's probably done more for the poor and disenfranchised in this country than any other Kennedy, certainly more in his forty year Senate career than he would have had he won an election for President.

Fate, as Al Gore can tell you, sometimes forces your hand.

The subtext to today's story, that EMK has been released from Mass General Hospital earlier than expected, along with little clues dropped in the news coverage from other sources (Nancy Snyderman, the medical consultant to The Today Show, this morning all but declared Kennedy as dying), leads me to suspect the tumor is a lot further along than we'd be led to believe. Malignant gliomae are cells that reproduce quickly and are very aggressive.

And brain cancer doesn't necessarily have to be the origination of the cancer infestation. One can develop, say, prostate cancer and have it spread along the spinal cord to the brain, triggering this kind of tumor.

It is always fatal. They speak in terms of two to five years horizons. Arlen Specter, who also had this form of cancer, has managed to survive past the five period, but that might be the exception to the rule.

The last liberal in Congress, unless you want to talk about Bernie Sanders, who will replace this lion as the face of progressive politics?

It seems a damned shame now that Barack Obama is running for President, since clearly he could have the kind of impact Kennedy has had, over a far longer term, rather than hit-and-run some policies that will have zero effect once the next President after him is seated. He coulda been a contendah.

There's a pitifully short list of liberals in Congress. Even the people we believed could hold that lamp high, the Barbara Boxers, the Dianne Feinsteins, the Hillary Clintons, the Barack Obamas, have all demonstrated that power means more to them than principle.

Too, it says a lot about the make up of the American electorate that there is no real progressive liberal movement, especially when you contemplate what the liberal movement has meant to the average American (read the top of
my blog: "Liberals got women the right to vote. Liberals got African-Americans the right to vote. Liberals created Social Security and lifted millions of elderly people out of poverty. Liberals ended segregation. Liberals passed the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act. Liberals created Medicare. Liberals passed the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act."

Something to keep in mind for this year's election, one that *should* be a slam dunk for Democrats, but one that we simply cannot take for granted.

I think about the names of the Senators in Congress now...obviously my bias is for the Schumer and Menendez, Dodd and Lautenberg, Clinton and Collins...and I'm not seeing anyone who can replace Ted, at least not in the precious short time it appears we have him around.

This might be the death of liberalism for the foreseeable future. We should mourn.

(Cross-posted to
Simply Left Behind.)

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Hey, superdelegates, check this out

By Creature

While it's still way too early to look at general election polls, today's Reuters/Zogby poll is good news for the Obama campaign.

First the big picture:

Obama, who was tied with McCain in a hypothetical head-to-head match-up last month, moved to a 48 percent to 40 percent lead over the Arizona senator in May as he took command of his grueling Democratic presidential duel with rival Hillary Clinton.

Now to specifically dispel Senator Clinton's electability argument:

Obama led McCain among independents, 47 percent to 35 percent, and led among some groups of voters who have backed Clinton during their Democratic primary battle, including Catholics, Jews, union households and voters making less than $35,000 a year.

There is no "Jewish problem." There is no "white working-class problem." And, if there was, some of these folks are natural Bush-McCain supporters anyway. Once this general election campaign gets rolling, and Senator Clinton is no longer trying to degrade the Democratic nominee with her fuzzy math, Obama's numbers will soar even higher.

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Bluegrass Beaver Bedlam

By Michael J.W. Stickings


My apologies. Something came up and I'm just now sitting down at the computer. I'll have some belated live-blogging of the Kentucky and Oregon results shortly.


9:00 pm - No surprise (of course). Hillary wins big in Kentucky. The final RCP Average was Clinton +29.0, and she's up by 36 points, 66-30, with over 90 percent of precincts reporting. (The results for both states are here.)

9:04 pm - Hillary communications flack Howard Wolfson was on with Wolf Blitzer a few minutes ago, talking up all the money the Clinton campaign has raised -- for what purpose? one ought to ask -- and how Hillary keeps beating Obama in state after state even though he outspends her. Really? In state after state? Last time I checked, Obama has won many more states than Hillary has. I realize she's won Ohio, Pennsylvania, Indiana, West Virginia, and now Kentucky, but what about all the states he's won? Oh, right. The states he's won don't count (too small, too many blacks, etc.). Isn't it amusing how the Clinton mouthpieces (and Hillary herself) are basing so much of their enthusiasm on West Virginia and Kentucky, two relatively small states deep in the heart of Appalachia?

9:08 pm - Hillary has spoken. What are the "pretty tough odds" of which she speaks? She was expected to win Kentucky easily. It's like she's morphed into a 16-seed in the NCAA basketball tournament or something, the underdog going up against Duke or North Carolina. I would call this phenomenon, now so characteristic of her campaign, self-condescension. It's like she thinks so poorly of herself and her chances that every victory is like the U.S. hockey gold medal win over the Soviets at Lake Placid. (Sorry, too many sports metaphors? There will be more.)

9:12 pm - "Tonight we have achieved an important victory," she said. Right -- in Kentucky. How is it any more important than any of Obama's many victories? If anything, Obama's expected victory in Oregon will be far more important: It will give him a majority of the pledged delegates. (Of course, Hillary probably doesn't think that's all that important. She plays by all sorts of different metrics, or rather by whichever metric, however distorted, gives her the edge.)

9:41 pm - Sure, Hillary continues to raise a lot of money, just not as much as Obama, who raised $31.9 million in April. Hillary raised about $22 million, McCain (who, admittedly, isn't really running against anyone yet) about $18 million. As Jake Tapper notes: "Obama has an mighty $37.3 million on hand with $9.2 million tucked away for the general election." That's impressive. As is this: "1.475 million total donors overall making 2.93 million contributions. The average contribution is $91. The clicks come in small waves: 94% of the contributions to Obama's effort were under $200, 93% of contributions were $100 or less, 77% were $50 or less, and 52% were $25 or less." There's a word for this: democracy.

9:47 pm - Working-class whites go for Hillary! Working-class whites go for Hillary! (In other words, and to be more precise, Hillary has the support of poorly educated whites in backwards Appalachia, some (many?) of whom may be racist (that is to say, Hillary or any other white candidate over Obama).)

9:51 pm - OBAMA HAS PASSED THE THRESHOLD. HE NOW HAS A MAJORITY OF PLEDGED DELEGATES. (Based on CNN estimates.) The state that put him over the top? KENTUCKY!

10:40 pm - Sorry, just watching a bit of the Celtics-Pistons game after Obama's speech. I missed American Idol earlier, but, you know, I just don't care. It's been such a lousy season. (Okay, it's a lousy show, but I've been watching it anyway.)

10:42 pm - Speaking of Obama's speech in Iowa... well, it was another brilliant one, wasn't it? No, not his best, not like the ones back in February and March, but it was strong and focused. He noted that he now has a majority of pledged delegates, but he didn't go so far as to declare victory (which, as I argued yesterday, would have been presumptuous and risky). He said some very nice things -- some true and genuine things -- about Hillary. She has been a strong and historic candidate. (Although, I would add, what she has done -- that is, what she has said and how she has campaigned -- since well before Pennsylvania has made her look really bad and turned many of us against her, including many of us who once liked her and defended her.) It has been a long and sometimes bitter campaign, but hopefully her supporters will embrace Obama when it matters. He went through the highlights of his positions on key issues like Iraq, health care, education, and energy. And he went after McCain and the Republicans, setting an aggressive yet uplifting tone for the general election campaign.

10:52 pm - And I agree with Obama on this: The fact that two candidates have each done so well, each receiving millions and millions of votes, and that the race has been so close and at times quite contentious, is not a sign of weakness and division in the party but rather of strength and unity. Yes, yes, I know, there is anger and resentment on both sides, especially on Hillary's side, and there is a need for much healing once the race is over, but, in the end, what matters is electing the Democrat (Obama) and defeating McCain and the Republicans. Democrats will come together, will remain engaged, and will continue what has been a historic campaign for hope and change.

10:56 pm - 65-30 for Hillary in Kentucky, with all precincts reporting. On the other side, McCain only -- yes, only (shouldn't he have won more?) -- won 72 percent of the vote. Huckabee seems to have won the battle for second 8-7 over Paul. Awesome.

10:58 pm - Oregon's up in a couple of minutes. The final RCP Average is Obama +12.0. I'll say Obama by 11. (I underestimated Hillary's win in Kentucky, by the way. I thought it would have been Hillary by 28.)

11:00 pm - Obama is ahead in Oregon, says Wolf. No results yet, though, so no prediction.

11:13 pm - And, yes, Obama wins Oregon. He's currently up 61-39, with 17 percent of precints reporting. (The gap will narrow. Much of the vote so far is coming in from populous Multnomah County (i.e., Portland's country), where Obama, according to expectations, is doing extremely well. He's also doing very well in Lane County (i.e., Eugene's county).

11:17 pm - Oh, great, Idol on time-shifting, one of our western channels. Archuleta is so awkwardly annoying. Cook at least shows he has some marketable talent. And, of course, the judges love David A. So ridiculous.

11:56 pm - Not much new to report. Obama's lead in Oregon is now 58-42, with over half of precincts reporting. So let's turn to the latest Gallup daily tracking poll for something interesting: "The only major demographic group still supporting Clinton to the tune of 51% or more is women aged 50 and older... Having previously captured nearly the maximum level of support from black voters, Obama's latest gains have come from a broad spectrum of rank-and-file Democrats. At least for now, he has expanded his position as the preferred candidate of men, young adults, and highly educated Democrats, and has erased Clinton's advantages with most of her prior core constituency groups, including women, the less well-educated, and whites." In other words, Obama is winning over Hillary's core constituencies to the point where she no longer has much of a lead anywhere. For all the talk about how divisive the race has been and how divided the Democratic Party is, this is all hugely significant. As I put it above, the party will unite behind Obama. It is true that he has had some difficulties with some demographic groups, but that has had a lot to do with Hillary's strengths (not just his own weaknesses). As the race is coming to an end, as Obama's victory is virtually inevitable, the shift in his direction is clear.

12:05 am - The Hillarylanders like the insufferable Terry McAuliffe are still at it, though, arguing, as McAuliffe did on MSNBC, that the superdelegates will put Hillary over the top. Honestly, will this shameless nonsense ever stop? They continue to attack Obama while utterly denying reality. I mean, what superdelegates? It is Obama, not Hillary, who has picked up the vast majority of them since Super Tuesday, including John Edwards. And would the superdelegates actually overturn the will of the voters -- that is, put Hillary over the top even though Obama won a majority of the pledged delegates? No. That would tear the party apart.

12:24 am - John Dickerson sums it up well: "The race for the Democratic nomination -- "race" is hardly the right word, is it? -- now feels like a quantum physics problem: How long can a body exist in a state approximating motionlessness without actually stopping? Tuesday night, Barack Obama took the majority of delegates selected through primaries and caucuses, meaning that a race that was already all but over is now a little more so. Superdelegates are not likely to deny him the nomination by reversing the pledged delegates. They have been moving steadily in his direction despite recent losses. Obama needs to win fewer than 30 percent of the remaining delegates to reach the finish line." And she'll continue to try to destroy Obama, making the (false) case that "he wants to win the nomination by disenfranchising the [Florida]'s Democratic primary voters" -- and Michigan's. He was gracious towards her in his speech in Iowa tonight. In response, she slams him. Nice. Maybe she'll get out if there's another surge of superdelegates to Obama this week and next. Or maybe she's in in to the end, or at least through the final primaries on June 3. Either way, it's time for this to come to an end. And that means it's time for Hillary to stop denying reality, helping the Republicans with their smear campaign against Obama, and dragging this on to the detriment of the party and its presumptive presidential nominee.

1:29 am - Well, that's it for me. With about two-thirds of precincts reporting in Oregon, Obama is up 58-42. More on this, and all of this, later today and in the days ahead.

Good night, everyone.

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Congressional Oversight Ever Needed -- revised

By Carol Gee

After the Democrats took over both houses of Congress in the 2006 mid-term elections, they began to use committee oversight as a tool to put things right. Today's post is an update on some of the most interesting things going on up at The Hill this week.

Some Senators tied up -- Senators Clinton, Obama and McCain, who will have to rely on Republican party money, are busy today trying to get elected to the U.S. presidency. Senator Kennedy will be finishing up the last of his tests today at Massachusetts General Hospital, before going home for a few days of rest. Doctors have yet to announce the cause of his seizures.

Updated with the heart-breaking news that Senator Ted Kennedy has been diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor, as the cause of his seizures. Our hearts go out to him and to his family. This is tough to hear -- on both sides of the political aisle.

High Energy -- Senator Barbara Boxer D-California is working hard to get an energy bill passed that would be an improvement over the one proposed by Senators Joe Lieberman and John Warner that may come up on the Senate floor tomorrow. Boxer's substitute bill would include tax cuts for energy efficiencies from corporations, as part of an overall cap and trade program. In another energy development, the House Committee on Government Reform has learned that the White House is responsible for an EPA ruling denying California's petition to make emission standards tougher. The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee is looking into whether EPA head Stephen Johnson was under political pressure in making his ruling against California.

Congressional Intelligence -- Both the Senate and House Intelligence Committees will meet today in closed hearings. The House committee will get a follow-up briefing on the National Intelligence Estimate, that some say was the Intel Community's effort to return some sanity to the Iranian nukes issue. The Senate Armed Services Committee has just issued a report on The Cyber-Security Initiative, posts emptywheel at Firedoglake. This post effectively explores the Committee's mixed conclusions.

Funding Bills -- The Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee will mark up NASA's 2008 authorization legislation. The Senate/House Conference Committee will be working this morning on the congressional budget for FY 2009. How to fund help through FHA to avoid foreclosure is a contentious issue right now. Senators Dodd and Shelby have agreed to get the money from a related affordable housing trust fund. Representative Barney Frank, key lawmaker in the House says he will look for ways to compromise in order to get a bill for the President to sign into law.

Airport Security -- At a time when airline customer satisfaction is at its lowest since 2001, the House Homeland Security Committee will be starting mark-up work on several bills today. Those include a measure improving the appeal process for individuals wrongly denied or delayed boarding flights, a measure to prohibit advance notice of security testing at airports, legislation to direct Homeland Security to do a study of how to make baggage handling more secure through screening of those with access to airports that do not undergo it at this point. This is follow-up to a congressional mandate to implement recommendations of the 9/11 Commission.

Voting Rights and Human Rights -- The Senate Judiciary Committee this afternoon will look at "Protecting the Constitutional Right to Vote for all Americans." The panel that testifies consists of leading voting rights advocates. The House Foreign Affairs Committee meets this afternoon for Part Two of a study to look at ". . . The Mistakes of Guantanamo and the Decline of America's Image." Part One was held on May 6. This, from the Congressional Quarterly Homeland Security Newsletter, is a related piece of news.

" A planned 40-acre Afghan detention complex is “a stark acknowledgment that the United States is likely to continue to hold prisoners overseas for years to come,” The New York Times tells — while an L.A. Times op-ed argues that “you need to put captured [terror war] combatants someplace — someplace other than a conventional U.S. prison, where they’re treated like any other criminal.”

Congressional oversight is, indeed, ever needed. Much of the effectiveness of committee oversight depends on the skill of the committee chairmen, the ability of the Ranking Member and the Chairman to achieve bipartisan consensus, the charter of the committee, and what issues have achieved momentum with the folks back home. The Democrats' record of success is spotty at best. But, at least, it is something.

(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)

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Well, this is just silly!

By Carl

I can't say I really support either of them in
this dust-up, but I'd lean towards Obama's position:

CHICAGO — Senator John McCain put Senator Barack Obama on the foreign policy defensive once again Monday, criticizing him here in his hometown for saying Iran did not pose the serious threat to the United States that the Soviet Union once did.

Mr. Obama’s willingness to engage with adversaries like Iran was a source of disagreement between himself and his Democratic opponent, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, early in the presidential primary campaign. Now it is quickly emerging as a central issue in his likely general election showdown with Mr. McCain

It is true that Obama compared the Soviet threat to the Iranian threat and found it woefully small, and he is correct about that: Iran does not have the ability to wipe America off the face of the world, where as the Soviet Union did. Point to Obama.


The attack by Mr. McCain was prompted by comments Mr. Obama made on Sunday in Pendleton, Ore., where he urged engagement of the nation’s foes and said that “strong countries and strong presidents talk to their adversaries.”

“That’s what Reagan did with Gorbachev,” he said, adding: “I mean, think about it. Iran, Cuba, Venezuela — these countries are tiny compared to the Soviet Union. They don’t pose a serious threat to us the way the Soviet Union posed a threat to us. And yet we were willing to talk to the Soviet Union at the time when they were saying, ‘We’re going to wipe you off the planet.’ ”

And Obama went onto say how Kennedy and Reagan both spoke to the Soviet Union despite the adversarial relationship.

True. To a point. Those high-level talks were preceded by months if not years of lower level talks aimed at setting the terms and conditions of any discussions at the summits.

Obama has, emphatically and repeatedly, said he would hold no preconditions over any discussions with any nation.

In this regard, McCain's charge of "betray[ing] the depth of Senator Obama’s inexperience and reckless judgment" holds some truth to it.

After all, wasn't it just a few years ago that our esteemed President, Dumbya, looked into Vladimir "Pootie Poot" Putin's eyes and declared "I was able to get a sense of his soul". A few years later, it turns out, not so much.

While I doubt Senator Obama is as bad a judge of character as Dumbya, I have to say that neither is he as GOOD a judge of character as John Kennedy, or even Ronald Reagan. After all, the Wright incident speaks volumes to this loony's inability to even stop listening to a crackpot.

But that brings us back to McCain, who is just flat out wrong when he inflated the threat Iran poses to Americans. Iran poses about the same credible threat to America as North Korea, a country we might be reminded is in talks with the Bush administration as this idiotic scene unfolds.

Yes, it's true, Iran is a state-sponsor of terrorism, and is one of the main forces attacking Americans in Iraq. But Iraq is a place no American should even BE in, in the first place, so it's silly to call Iran a "grave threat". That's like calling the tiger in the cage you've just fallen into, "dangerous", when you had no business being in there in the first place: you make an idiotic mistake, you ought to understand there are consequences to those errors.

(crossposted to
Simply Left Behind)

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