Saturday, June 21, 2008

A campaign to make you afraid

By Michael J.W. Stickings

This was Obama on Friday, speaking in Jacksonville (via Reuters):

It is going to be very difficult for Republicans to run on their stewardship of the economy or their outstanding foreign policy. We know what kind of campaign they're going to run. They're going to try to make you afraid.

They're going to try to make you afraid of me. He's young and inexperienced and he's got a funny name. And did I mention he's black?


We know the strategy because they've already shown their cards. Ultimately I think the American people recognize that old stuff hasn't moved us forward. That old stuff just divides us.

This is something else I really like about Obama. It's not just that he's willing and prepared to fight back against those who smear him, it's that he also knows his Republican Smear Machine, that against which he needs to fight back, really well.

He gets it. He understands it. He hows how the GOP works.

And is he right here? Yes, absolutely.

McCain and the Republicans won't be able to run on anything positive -- expect for the positivity of more war, more torture, more tax cuts for the wealthy, and so on -- so they'll do what they usually do, which is run on the negative, cultivating the culture of fear and smearing Obama and the Democrats. (It's happening already. Rudy Giuliani, for example, is playing dirty on McCain's behalf, attacking the Democrats for being weak on terrorism.)

And it will only get more personal as the campaign rolls along. (And it will get much worse if an Obama victory looks certain. We saw what happened when Hillary got desperate. That was nothing compared to what we could see from the Republican Smear Machine.)

So, yes, they'll try to make voters afraid -- not just of the Democrats but of Obama personally.

Now, even two of the smarter conservatives in the blogosphere, Ed Morrissey and Sister Toldjah (smarter than the usual rabble) have criticized Obama for playing the race card here. But is suggesting that the Republicans will bring up Obama's race playing the race card or is it speaking the truth about how the Republicans operate, what their "strategy" is (because we have indeed seen it in action before)?

Ed argues that Obama "ignores the tactics his fellow Democrats used in the primary, while also overlooking John McCain's efforts to distance himself from the same tactics." ST argues that Obama played the race card against Hillary and that the Republicans won't engage in an ad campaign "disparaging Obama’s race".

But Obama wasn't talking about "his fellow Democrats" here. (And I, like many others, was highly critical of the "kitchen sink" smear campaign Hillary launched against Obama during the primaries. And it was Hillary and her surrogates who played the race card in earnest, not Obama.) Furthermore, the Republican Smear Machine is a well-oiled machine. There won't be an explicit campaign targeting Obama's race because they know it would be a backfiring non-starter in most parts of the country. (Race just doesn't play among most conservatives anymore, not like same-sex marriage). What there will be is a much quieter (and more insidious) campaign to remind voters of certain things: Obama's middle name, Obama's familial links to Islam, Obama's education at an Islamic school, etc. The religious aspect of the smear campaign will be quite explicit at times, but the racial element -- the sort of whisper campaign that can find all the fuel it needs among the various bigots of the right -- will be there, too, just lingering beneath the surface, implicit.

McCain himself will be removed from all that, of course. He'll take the "high" road, smearing Obama in other and perhaps less insidious ways, but his surrogates will get the message across loud and clear, to those who can hear it, to those at whom it is targeted. (Just have a look at the handiwork of Lee Atwater and Karl Rove.)

With all due respect to the likes of Ed and ST, if you haven't yet figured out how the Republicans and their Smear Machine work, you're either in denial or utterly clueless.

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IAEA chief threatens to resign over Iran

By Michael J.W. Stickings

According to The Jerusalem Post, citing a Reuters report, "International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Mohamad ElBaradei, will quit his position in the event of a military strike on Iran."

"I don't believe that what I see in Iran today is a current, grave and urgent danger. If a military strike is carried out against Iran at this time... it would make me unable to continue my work."

Of course, the fact that Iran doesn't post "a current, grave and urgent danger" won't stop Bush from launching a military strike. It's what the warmongers want, both within his administration and among the neocons, those who continue to promote the delusional dream of global American hegemony for the 21st century. Reality didn't stop them from invading and occupying Iraq and it won't stop them from attacking Iran.

ElBaradei might want to start drafting his letter of resignation sooner rather than later.

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Not all politicians suck

By Creature

Just to follow-up on my Disappointed post below. If there is a politician that has not disappointed me on FISA (or anything else, for that matter), it would be Russ Feingold. That's it, just giving kudos.

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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The walls still have ears

By Capt. Fogg

“It is not all that I would want. But given the legitimate threats we face, providing effective intelligence collection tools with appropriate safeguards is too important to delay. So I support the compromise, but do so with a firm pledge that as President, I will carefully monitor the program, review the report by the Inspectors General, and work with the Congress to take any additional steps I deem necessary to protect the lives – and the liberty – of the American people,” said Barack Obama yesterday.

Obviously he is less of a polemicist than I am. I would have hoped for his utter objection and opposition to the FISA bill that passed the House of Representatives yesterday, but in his calm fashion, he seems to be far less dogmatic and more practical and dare I say more conservative than I am by saying in essence that this is an improvement because it restores oversight and so he will support it with the pledge that further improvements are to be expected.

A good compromise fully satisfies no one and perhaps, although I loathe the actions of the Bush administration and it's swashbuckling lawlessness, it may be necessary to allow domestic surveillance but subject to legal guidelines: perhaps it may be a good compromise.

Perhaps what Obama shows here is leadership. It takes a stronger man to recognize the objections of people he does not agree with and to accept what practically can be achieved at any given moment rather than to play up to hard core supporters by chest pounding and foot stomping obstinacy that divides and does not achieve much. Sometimes a grudging admiration leads to more respect than unrestrained approbation.

(Cross-posted from
Human Voices.)

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A sight so fine: The legalization of same-sex marriage in California

By Michael J.W. Stickings

On Thursday, following last month's wonderful and historic ruling by the state Supreme Court, California Superior Court Judge Richard Kramer declared that from now on the state's marriage law "shall be interpreted as making the designation of marriage available both to opposite-sex and same-sex couples."

Same-sex marriage became legal in California on Monday at 5:01 pm. Licences were available from 8:00 am Tuesday morning.

There has been the usual opposition from the usual suspects, but, as the L.A. Times suggested on Wednesday, "a general lack of hysteria over gay marriages proves a shift in public opinion much more effectively than any poll." (I hope that is indeed the case.)

It wasn't at all like February 2004, when same-sex marriage was briefly legalized in San Francisco amid much political fanfare. Instead, marriages on Monday evening were followed by many more on Tuesday, with happy couples all across the state tying the knot without much in the way of vocal and visible opposition.

Though opposition will undoubtedly rise up again -- no, we have not heard the last of it -- California has moved forward, at long last. Homophobic bigotry remains a major obstacle throughout much of the country, but a new age is dawning.

It has been a long and difficult process. There have been setbacks and disappointments. But there is something amazingly beautiful when love, with a little help from the courts (and, increasingly, public opinion), triumphs.

And that is what happened this week in California.


Here, by the great Vienna Teng, is "City Hall," a song about same-sex marriage from her 2006 album Dreaming Through the Noise. (This version was recorded live at Memphis's famed Sun Studio -- for Sun Studio Sessions on May 7, 2008.)

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Friday, June 20, 2008


By Creature

I've known since I decided to back Barack Obama that he would disappoint me. It's an expectation that's built into the deal. Afterall, he's a politician and I am citizen. The two really don't mix. So, I am not surprised that I am disappointed by Obama's support of the constitutionally-flawed, immunity-ridden FISA legislation. However, I do wish Obama would've waited until his presidency before he cashed in on his side of our supporter/politician deal.

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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Son of Sam I am

By Creature

Today, the House passed the new FISA bill, complete with immunity for the telecoms. With the Senate sure to follow, I have one question: when I break the law because a voice in my head assured me, with no basis in the law, that what I was about to do was completely legal, I can get off too? Right?

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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Oink, Oink for Oil

By Swampcracker

I am willing to say what no politician or pundit is willing to say: Higher prices force consumers into energy conservation, which is the only immediate remedy on the horizon. Lets look at some facts:

American oil companies have at present 68 million acres under lease. Have the oil companies done any drilling lately? No! Since American oil companies are not producing oil from already leased land, why should we lease them more acreage?

American oil refineries are operating at 100% capacity. If there were a sudden increase in oil supplies, how would more crude be refined into more marketable energy? Have the oil companies built new refining capacity lately? No! Have they announced plans to increase capacity? No!

The U.S. consumes 40% of world energy supplies, yet has only 5% of the world's population and less than 3% of the world's energy reserves. By every definition, we are a nation of energy pigs.

In contrast, European consumers pay triple for gas at the pump ($12 per gallon or more), yet consume less than half of what the average American consumes. Why should we enable an already outrageous addiction?

In contrast, conservation confers immediate benefits. If the average American driver were to increase fuel efficiency by one mile per gallon, it would be equivalent to a major oil field discovery yielding 1 million barrels per day. Saving two miles per gallon... you get the picture. These benefits are immediate, not 5 to 10 years later as with a drilling strategy.

What is the logic of driving a military vehicle (a Hummer that gets 10 mpg) to a shopping mall for the purpose of buying a loaf of bread?

Suburban sprawl: Can there be anything more stupid and wasteful than sitting in traffic, burning gas, and not going anywhere? How about moving commuters into mass transit? How about staggering work hours to reduce gridlock? How about moving office workers into home offices and eliminate commuting altogether?

Last month, sales of motor scooters rose 25%. Europeans have been driving scooters for decades. Riding a bike reduces energy obesity even more!

But let's face it: No politician will tell the truth anymore because lazy, fat, and inconvenienced Americans will bellow in protest.

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A broken system: Obama, the Republican smear machine, and the public financing of elections

By Michael J.W. Stickings

I must admit, I just can't get worked up over Obama's decision:

Senator Barack Obama announced Thursday that he would not participate in the public financing system for presidential campaigns. He argued that the system had collapsed, and would put him at a disadvantage running against Senator John McCain, his likely Republican opponent.

With his decision, Mr. Obama became the first candidate of a major party to decline public financing — and the spending limits that go with it — since the system was created in 1976, after the Watergate scandals.

Mr. McCain, who has been a champion of the public financing system, affirmed Thursday that his campaign would accept public financing.

And the reason I can't get worked up is this: It's not like the U.S. has anywhere near a perfect public financing system. It would be one thing if election campaigns were all funded publicly, with no private donations allowed, and there were strict and sensible spending limits. But it's essentially just a system of loopholes.

Here's how Obama himself put it: "The public financing of presidential elections as it exists today is broken, and we face opponents who've become masters at gaming this broken system. John McCain's campaign and the Republican National Committee are fueled by contributions from Washington lobbyists and special interest PACs. And we've already seen that he's not going to stop the smears and attacks from his allies running so-called 527 groups, who will spend millions and millions of dollars in unlimited donations."

Of course, the Democrats are awfully good at exploiting the system, too, especially through their own 527s, as they showed in 2004.

This year, though, Obama and the Democrats have a decisive advantage over McCain and the Republicans -- and that advantage is Obama's incredible ability to raise money. Ambinder (via Benen): "The potential money gap in the general election is huge -- Obama could raise as much as $300m, and the McCain campaign/RNC budget team doesn't anticipating spending more than $150m."

Some political finance reformers are understandably unhappy with Obama's decision. And some of his critics on the right -- hypocrites, of course -- are predictably smearing him with the flip-flop label. But why should Obama stay in the system if doing so would only disadvantage him, that is, take away one of the main advantages he has over McCain?

Singer (via Benen again): "McCain was hoping to tie Obama's hands behind his back by forcing him to opt into the public financing program — while McCain would still rely heavily on the RNC to finance his efforts. What's more, with the proliferation of 527 organizations willing to say anything and everything to tar Democrats, not the least of which Obama, had Obama opted into the program he would have been hampered in efforts to rightfully defend himself from smears. But Obama didn't fall for McCain's game — he called the bluff, forcing McCain to show that his real priority in trying to force this election into the public financing program was not reform but rather ambition to be elected President."

Exactly. Obama has run an incredibly effective grassroots campaign, raising huge sums of money from small (and new) donors. Meanwhile, being in the public financing system has been a matter of convenience and necessity for McCain, not a matter of principle. Back during the primary season that just ended, he was in the system (when he was losing and unable to raise money on his own) before trying to get out of it (when he was winning and able to raise money on his own).

Again, if there were actually a system in place that worked and that was fair, with firm rules in place well ahead of time and no loopholes, fine. I'm not necessarily against the public financing of elections. But that's just not the way it is.

And so, I think, Obama made the right decision.

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Thursday, June 19, 2008

FISA READER to weep by, alas

By Carol Gee

Read 'em and weep . . . Final FISA deal reached, vote in House may come on Friday, according to Reuters. There is a chance that the FISA bill will be voted on at the same time as the Supplemental Appropriations Bill, which is even sneakier. What follows are the best posts to be found on the subject, along with a few more traditional references.

Blogasm -- Strange Bedfellows: Bloggers from the left and right team up with the ACLU to fight telecom immunity (6/19/08 - 12:37 AM)

ACLU -- Condemns FISA Deal, Declares Surveillance Bill Unconstitutional (6/19/2008)

Emptywheel -- The FISA bill (6/19/08 - 10:15 AM) FYI: Here are the first two comments after the post:

1) Bushie -- June 19th, 2008 at 10:21 am. I called the Obama campaign today and asked Obama to come out publicly against immunity. The person who I talked to said he’d had several calls on this and would pass it along. Call 866-675-2008 option 6 to speak to someone.

2) wavpeac -- June 19th, 2008 at 10:33 am. No answer and no way to leave a message on the above number. When you ask to transfer to an attendant by pressing zero you go back to the original message. IT’s a circle with no way to leave a message. My guess is that his machine is full?? I am going to the web at Just letting you know.

TPM Muckraker -- Lawmakers reach deal over government surveillance powers (6/19/08 - 11:37 AM)

Firedoglake -- FISA: Screwed, Blued and Tattooed (6/19/08 - 12:00 PM)

Glenn Greenwald @ -- George Bush's latest powers, courtesy of Democratic Congress (6/19/08 - 12:26 PM) (See the Memeorandum listing for this and many related stories.)

ProPublica -- Surveillance bill compromise likely to deliver immunity for telecoms (6/19/08 - 12:55 PM)

Carpetbagger Report -- "Compromise" reached on surveillance powers, retroactive immunity gets green light (6/19/08 - 12:40 PM)

Obsidian Wings -- FISA "Compromise" (6/19/08 - 1:31 P.M)

Threat Level -- Dems agree to expand domestic spying, grant telecoms amnesty (6/19/08 - 3:09 PM)

Think Progress -- New wiretapping bill dubbed "repugnant" and "a capitulation" (6/19/08 - 3:39 PM)

For Reference Only:

  1. Wall Street Journal -- Lawmakers reach deal to expand surveillance (subscription required)
  2. Red State -- The Republican view - Ugh!
  3. Copy of the bill, courtesy of The Politico -- 114 pages, pdf
  4. New York Times -- Deal Reached in Congress to Rewrite Rules on Wiretapping (6/20/08)
I have no words left for this at this point. I am stunned.

(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)

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The smears of Rudy Giuliani, "a man with zero national security and foreign policy experience"

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Rudy Giuliani -- shameless exploiter of 9/11, would-be torturer-in-chief, and neo-fascist thug, not to mention presidential campaign failure -- is back.

As TPM Election Central's Greg Sargent and Eric Kleefeld reported yesterday, "Rudy is now officially John McCain's lead crooner when it comes to singing the GOP's Dems-are-weak-on-terror golden oldie." And he went right (way right) to work during a conference call with reporters, assaulting Obama and the Democrats, much the way he did when he was fearmongering his way through the Republican primaries, with all the usual smears.

And yet:

Rudy's emergence begs a serious question: How much authority will the national press accord Rudy as a voice on terrorism during the general election? Rudy has no foreign policy experience whatsoever. His aura of national security experience comes solely from having been photographed walking through the smoke and dust on 9/11.

When Rudy ran for president it took the press corps many months to realize that Rudy has absolutely no authority to speak on this topic. Now that he's popped up again as McCain's front man it may take the press many more months to awaken to this reality again -- unless perhaps Team Obama makes sure to stress this obvious point as often as possible.

Which I think it will, given Obama's obvious readiness to hit back -- and to hit back hard -- when confronted with such smears.


For more on McCain and Giuliani, make sure to check out these follow-up posts from Sargent:

-- Flashback: Rudy Said The Law Was A "Far Greater Weapon" Against Terror Than Violence

-- Joe Biden Rips Rudy For Having "Zero National Security And Foreign Policy Experience"

-- Flashback: McCain Adviser Said That Rudy Totally Botched City's Defenses

-- Flashback: McCain Said That Rudy, His Chief National Security Surrogate, Had No National Security Experience

So Rudy was "soft" on terrorism before he wasn't. And McCain was against Rudy before he wasn't. And Rudy has no national security and foreign policy experience.

But he's now McCain's "lead crooner" in the smear campaign against Obama?

Here's what McCain said about him last September: "I don't think [Rudy's leadership after 9/11] translates, necessarily, into foreign policy or national security expertise. I know of nothing in his background that indicates that he has any experience in it."

And here's Biden -- who once referred to Rudy as "a noun, a verb, and 9/11" -- telling is like it is: "It's no surprise that it takes a man with zero national security and foreign policy experience to defend the policies of John McCain and President Bush."

Hilarious. And spot on.

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Deal or No Deal?

By Carol Gee

There are many people who would like for our U.S. leaders to be able to come to more agreements and be less partisan. They ask with deep frustration, why can't you people just make a deal and move on to the next thing? Today's post focuses on the latest news, plus some previous background, of three "big deals" -- paying for the war in Iraq, leaving Iraq, and following the rule of law regarding the war in Iraq. I explore what kind of deals are in the offing in Congress, between the governments of Iraq and the U.S. and in the District Courts in Washington, D.C. To begin, the "emergency" with the Supplemental may about be over.

Iraq War Supplemental: Memeorandum reports that the House and President Bush have reached a deal on the war supplemental. The Iraq war never gets a regular appropriation -- It has always been in the form of an "emergency supplemental." David Rogers at has been following the story (see reference* below). Here's his latest on the deal reached in the House on the bill. In addition to the wartime spending (with a cut in the administration's request to handle Democratic priorities, but few policy restrictions regarding Iraq), a compromise was reached on extending unemployment insurance. Lawmakers are still working to iron out an agreement on providing disaster relief to the victims of Midwestern flooding. Regarding a proposed GI Education benefit (originally proposed by Senator Jim Webb), the coverage and cost is being increased and the full cost will be added to the deficit. To quote:

The major breakthrough came when both sides gave ground on the issue of providing an additional 13 weeks of unemployment insurance to millions of workers who have exhausted their state benefits.

. . . Hoyer was scheduled to meet with Reid on Wednesday night, and portions of the deal trimming back aid to disaster aid for the Gulf Coast are sure to upset some senators. But in reality, the deal outlined — having won White House support — will be hard for the Senate to resist.

. . . President Bush’s top priority has been securing what will now be about $163.7 billion for the Pentagon, chiefly for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, and officials said this will come with relatively few restrictions on its war policy.

. . . As part of the package, Democrats effectively cut about $3.5 billion from the president’s defense request to help pay for their priorities, including increased food aid overseas as well as money for the Census, Bureau of Prisons, and Food and Drug Administration.

The deal is changing in Iraq; it will influence whether and how the U.S. remains as an occupier at the end of the year. (Hat tip to Juan Cole for this - 6/19/08). This article is a must read for laying out the issues among all the parties in these very complex negotiations. Trudy Rubin, of, opines in the Fort Worth Star Telegram that a Status of Forces Agreement is far from a done deal. (See reference** to an earlier story below). To quote her opening argument:

A debate is heating up inside Iraq — and inside Washington — that will shape America’s relationship with Iraq under the next president.

The debate is over a status-of-forces agreement (SOFA), a broad strategic framework that will define the long-term role of the U.S. military in Iraq. (The U.N. mandate authorizing the American presence expires at the end of 2008.)

Here’s the big irony about this debate for the Bush administration: The security gains produced by the Petraeus-Crocker strategy in Iraq are leading Iraqis to rethink America’s role.

What is the deal now for all the U.S. detainees suspected of terrorism? We know far too little about the status of everyone being held by the U.S. around the world. But a recent Supreme Court ruling (see reference*** below) addressed those held in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The exchange is via ProPublica from the L.A. Times Q&A on what this ruling means, at least for Gauntanamo prisoners:

Question: What does the Supreme Court decision recognizing habeas corpus rights for Guantanamo prisoners mean for them?

Answer: Currently, about 270 men are at Guantanamo -- 19 already charged with war crimes, and 250 or so being held without charges, many for more than six years. These prisoners can now get a day in court before a federal judge who will determine whether the government has sufficient evidence that they committed crimes. Habeas corpus is a constitutionally guaranteed right to challenge detention for anyone in U.S. custody, but the Pentagon has denied it to the terror suspects held at Guantanamo. If the district court judges find the government lacks legal grounds for detaining any of the men, the government must release them.

For reference:

  1. *Evolution of the war spending bill negotiations: (6/18/06) A bill on spending for the war is getting attention in both the House and Senate as well as the White House. Democrats are in disagreement. The main issues revolve around what "emergency measures" will be added to the bill, according to David Rogers at To quote:

    . . . Democrats scrambled to finalize a revised bill. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), one of a handful of lawmakers at the helm, admitted that that the multibillion-dollar package has become a “moving target,”

    . . . The devastating flooding in the Midwest brought the White House to the Capitol on Tuesday, with administration officials seeking $1.8 billion in disaster aid.

    . . . The most ticklish political issue has been a proposed 13-week extension of unemployment benefits for millions of people without jobs nationwide who have exhausted the 26 weeks of aid typically available to them at the state level. Here, too, the White House has shown signs of shifting, and Boehner seems hungry for some deal. But May’s jump in the unemployment rate also sent a jolt through Democratic ranks, making it harder, it seems, to consider a compromise.

  2. ** The U.S./Iraq SOFA negotiations: (6/13/08) From McClatchy Washington Bureau comes the headline, "Maliki raises possibility that Iraq might ask U.S. to leave." To quote:

    Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki raised the possibility that his country won't sign a status of forces agreement with the United States and will ask U.S. troops to go home when their U.N. mandate to be in Iraq expires at the end of the year.

    . . . "Iraq has another option that it may use," Maliki said during a visit to Amman, Jordan. "The Iraqi government, if it wants, has the right to demand that the U.N. terminate the presence of international forces on Iraqi sovereign soil."

    Earlier, Maliki acknowledged that talks with the U.S. on a status of forces agreement "reached an impasse" after the American negotiators presented a draft that would have given the U.S. access to 58 military bases, control of Iraqi airspace and immunity from prosecution for both U.S. soldiers and private contractors.

    The Iraqis rejected those demands, and U.S. diplomats have submitted a second draft, which Deputy Prime Minister Barham Salih told McClatchy included several major concessions. Among those would be allowing Iraq to prosecute private contractors for violations of Iraqi law and requiring U.S. forces to turn over to Iraqi authorities Iraqis that the Americans detain.

  3. *** SCOTUS habeas ruling: from Congressional Quarterly newsletter - "Supreme Court rules that Guantanamo detainees can challenge their cases in Federal Court." To quote:

    The Supreme Court dealt a severe blow to the Bush administration Thursday, ruling that suspected terrorists held at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, have a constitutional right to challenge their detentions in federal court.

    The court ruled 5-4 that limits imposed by Congress in 2005 and 2006 on the ability of detainees held as enemy combatants to challenge their detentions in federal courts are unconstitutional, in part because an alternative procedure established in the 2005 law is inadequate.

    . . . Kennedy, who had been seen as the swing vote in the case, was joined in the majority by Stephen G. Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, David H. Souter and John Paul Stevens.

The times, they are a-changin'. In some ways that can be very good news. Congress and the courts are attempting to exercise stronger leadership in comparison to the Bush administration. In the process the administration may have become more willing to make deals with congress, though partisanship has diminished very little. I am not one of those people who advocate deals at any price, however. Issues that involve civil liberties must not be dealt away. The Supreme Court made that clear to the administration, though we must wait to see how the ruling will be implemented by Congress and the administration. The three "big deals" -- paying for the war in Iraq, leaving Iraq, and following the rule of law regarding the war in Iraq -- are moving forward. Stay tuned for the next deal developments.

(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)

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"The most disastrous set of foreign policy decisions in the recent history of the United States"

By Michael J.W. Stickings

This is one of things I like most about Obama (and why I think he's such a strong presidential candidate): He doesn't take any shit and he fights back, refusing to let the GOP smear machine define him. McCain and that smear machine are trying to portray him as soft on terrorism -- what else is new? that's become their standard smear against Democrats, dating all the way back to the 2002 midterm elections -- but his
response today, in an address on "Detainees and Afghanistan," was masterful, putting his pathetic accusers in their rightful place as the architects and proponents of disastrous policies in response to the terrorist threat:

Now in their attempt to distort my position, Senator McCain's campaign has said I want to pursue a law enforcement approach to terrorism. This is demonstrably false, since I have laid out a comprehensive counter-terrorism strategy that includes military force, intelligence operations, financial sanctions and diplomatic action. But the fact that I want to abide by the United States Constitution, they say, shows that I have a "pre-9/11 mindset."

Well I refuse to be lectured on national security by people who are responsible for the most disastrous set of foreign policy decisions in the recent history of the United States. The other side likes to use 9/11 as a political bludgeon. Well, let’s talk about 9/11.

The people who were responsible for murdering 3,000 Americans on 9/11 have not been brought to justice. They are Osama bin Laden, al Qaeda and their sponsors – the Taliban. They were in Afghanistan. And yet George Bush and John McCain decided in 2002 that we should take our eye off of Afghanistan so that we could invade and occupy a country that had absolutely nothing to do with 9/11. The case for war in Iraq was so thin that George Bush and John McCain had to hype the threat of Saddam Hussein, and make false promises that we'd be greeted as liberators. They misled the American people, and took us into a misguided war.

Here are the results of their policy. Osama bin Laden and his top leadership – the people who murdered 3000 Americans – have a safe-haven in northwest Pakistan, where they operate with such freedom of action that they can still put out hate-filled audiotapes to the outside world. That's the result of the Bush-McCain approach to the war on terrorism.

Yes, by all means, let's talk about 9/11, and the so-called war on terror, and the quagmire that is the Iraq War and Occupation. Let's talk about Bush's and McCain's and the Republicans' record on national security. Have they succeeded in making the country safer or in defeating the terrorist threat? Hardly.

But if they want to have that debate, and if they want the November election to be about that, Obama is more than up to the challenge. And he won't let them get away with their stupid fucking bullshit.

As Greg Sargent
puts it: "Only two years ago, some Dems were still saying, 'please, please, PLEASE, let's NOT talk about 9/11.' Now Obama is inviting an argument about it -- and more important, he's saying it's an argument he will win. That's the key here."

Yes, it is.

And he will.

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Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Offshore oil: drilling into denial

By Vivek Krishnamurthy

President Bush, John McCain, and the Congressional Republicans must be high on gas fumes if they think that lifting the moratorium on offshore drilling will do anything to reduce gas prices, let alone improve America’s national security. Leaving aside the fact that it will take seven to ten years to see any new offshore oil come to market, the Energy Information Administration estimates that America’s total offshore oil reserves amount to 16 billion barrels. To put this in context, Americans burn through 20.7 million barrels of oil per day, meaning that the coastal reserves would satisfy the country’s thirst for oil for just 16 months. Indeed, the country’s total proven oil reserves of 75 billion barrels would last us a shade over six years – though at the cost of turning our coastlines and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge into industrial wastelands.

Increasing domestic oil production is not a real solution to high gas prices or to America’s energy insecurity. The real problem is America’s addiction to oil, and the first step in breaking it is to throw the GOP petro-junkies who set our energy policy out of D.C. on November 4.


Update (8:05 pm): For more on Bush's Rose Garden speech today, see TNR's Josh Patashnik: "Ultimately, a more notable proposal in Bush's speech is the one to allow oil shale leasing on federal lands in the Green River basin in Utah, Colorado, and Wyoming."

A terrible, terrible, terrible idea -- both for the natural environment and in terms of greenhouse-gas emissions.


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"Danger Signs" for Obama? (No.)

By Michael J.W. Stickings

ABC News's Jake Tapper suggests that Obama's 6-point lead over McCain (48-42) in a recent poll is actually "a surprisingly small lead considering that the incumbent Republican president George Bush is at record lows and public opinion overwhelmingly feels the country is on the 'wrong track'." He argues that Obama has not received much of a "bounce" from his victory over Hillary and that there is still "resistance from Clinton supporters."

I don't buy it.

First, I think Obama is right that McCain has essentially gotten "a pass" from the media -- a free pass, that is. He hasn't yet been subjected to rigorous media scrutiny and he's still benefitting from his mythical maverick image.

Second, I don't think Obama could have expected all that much of a bounce from his victory over Hillary. It was a long and sometimes bitter race. Obama was tested by it but also weakened -- Hillary's desperate "kitchen sink" smear campaign didn't exactly help Obama (although he may actually benefit in the long run from having so much negativity exposed early on). And some of Hillary's more ardent supporters remain bitter. (Yes, many of them will come around, but it'll take some time.)

Third, Obama is actually doing very well in the polls. Given McCain's free pass, the negative campaign to which Obama was subjected, and the lingering bitterness of many of Hillary's supporters, a 6-point lead nationally is a lot. (It's more of a lead than Bush ever had over Kerry.) Plus, a new poll in Ohio has Obama up by 11 points -- see Kos's analysis -- while a new poll in North Carolina, a traditionally Republican state, has him down by just 4 points (again, see Kos's analysis).

And, as Kos puts it, "Obama still has room to grow as he continues rallying the Democratic Party behind him" -- both in Ohio and throughout the rest of the country.

To quote Nate Silver at The Plank, Obama is "still bouncing" -- and, going forward, once the general election campaign gets underway in earnest, his continuing bounce could become far more pronounced.


More from Silver (whose analysis is consistently excellent):

[A] series of new polls from Quinnipiac. In Pennsylvania, Obama leads by 12 points -- up from 6 last month. His Ohio lead is 6 points -- he had trailed McCain by 4 points before. And then there is Florida, where Quinnipiac has Obama ahead by 4 points. Barack Obama has never before led a Florida poll -- not against John McCain, nor against Hillary Clinton -- so this is something of a watershed moment.

If Florida is in play, then John McCain's defense is completely broken; it was the one traditional swing state that always had looked off-limits to Obama. More frustratingly for McCain, he had spent the better part of three days in Florida earlier this month, hoping to raise doubts about Obama among Jewish voters. Although Quinnipiac does not break out the Jewish vote, Obama holds a 61-31 lead in Southeast Florida, where most of the state's Jewish population is concentrated.

Obama's surprisingly strong lead in Ohio isn't any better news for McCain. As recently as a week ago, McCain's strategy seemed pretty simple: target Ohio and Michigan, and hope to win one if not both. But now, Ohio looks tough for him, and even if McCain can steal Michigan, Obama has so many other places he can pick up electoral votes -- Virginia, the Mountain West, Iowa, Missouri and now possibly Florida -- that McCain would still have trouble winning a close election.

Obama's lead nationally is still relatively small -- we have it at somewhere between 4 and 5 points -- but looks to be an unusually robust one in terms of the Electoral College.

So, it seems, based on the polls, Obama is doing extremely well. (And, what's more, he seems to be doing well among likely voters (not just registered ones), which suggests, as Noam Scheiber points out, that he could win the turnout battle in November.)

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American brutality

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Yet more damage to America's standing in the world, and to its moral standing generally (whatever is left of it):

The U.S. military hid the locations of suspected terrorist detainees and concealed harsh treatment to avoid the scrutiny of the International Committee of the Red Cross, according to documents that a Senate committee released [yesterday].

Last best hope indeed.

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Malign legacy: Bush's destruction of the "special relationship" between the U.S. and the U.K.

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Our must-read of the day comes from yesterday's Independent (U.K.), which commented on President Bush's meeting with Prime Minister Brown on Monday. They talked up the "special relationship" between the U.S. and the U.K., but:

[P]erhaps Mr Bush's most significant legacy, as far as Britain is concerned, will be the destruction of the instinctive trust of America and its leaders that once prevailed here. It is no exaggeration to say that Mr Bush has done more damage to relations between our two nations than any president in living memory. This rupture is not an accident of circumstance; there are no impersonal forces of history to blame. This sorry state of affairs is the consequence of the actions of a single leader and his small coterie of advisers.

America's invasion of Iraq must, of course, be recorded at the top of the charge sheet. In 2002, Tony Blair announced that he was prepared to pay "the blood price" for the sake of the special relationship. But it was not the then prime minister who paid it. That fate has, instead, fallen to 176 British troops who have lost their lives in Iraq.

Yet President's Bush's malign legacy is about much more than Iraq. Relations have been soured by the prolonged jailing of innocent Britons in Guantanamo Bay, the suspected use of Britain as a stopover point for CIA torture flights and a hopelessly one-sided extradition treaty. President Bush has even helped to undermine the peace dividend from the end of the Cold War. He has antagonised Russia by pushing America's missile defence shield project, an outpost of which is to be situated on British territory.

And that -- as bad as it is -- just skims the surface of what has been a truly malignant presidency.

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The incredibility of Curveball

By Michael J.W. Stickings

"Curveball" -- the Iraqi exile who, through German's Federal Intelligence Service (BND), provided disinformation (i.e., lies) that served as one of the key planks in Bush's pre-Iraq War case against Saddam on alleged WMDs -- has finally spoken publicly (via TPM)..

Largely discredited and living in Germany, where he hardly lives like a king, Rafid Ahmed Alwan now claims that he is "not guilty," that "[e]verything that's been written about [him] isn't true."

Before the war, he was one of the U.S. intelligence community's top sources, or so it thought, on alleged Iraqi WMDs. He claimed that Iraq had mobile germ labs for biological warfare, and that falsehood ended up at the very center of the effort to sell the war. Most notably, it ended up in Colin Powell's infamous presentation to the U.N. in February 2003.

Michael Isikoff and David Corn delve into the Curveball scandal in great detail in their book Hubris. Basically, Curveball was fully discredited long before the war began. The BND never allowed the CIA or any other U.S. intelligence agency access to him. He was known to be a drunk. And it was widely suspected, both by German and (some) U.S. officials, both in the CIA and elsewhere, that his information was not credible.

Even now, he seems to be a liar:

"I never said Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, never in my whole life," he said. "I challenge anyone in the world to get a piece of paper from me, anything with my signature, that proves I said there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq."

How did the Bush administration get it so wrong?

"I'm not the source of these problems," he said.

Well, he said enough to the Germans and, through them, to the Americans to persuade them early on that Iraq had WMD capabilities. And he likely did so in order to secure a comfortable living in Germany: "For what I've done, I should be treated like a king."

But this does not excuse the BND, which knew he wasn't a reliable source, and it certainly doesn't excuse the CIA, or those at the CIA who were pushing false intelligence, or who didn't seem to know what was going on and/or neglected to look into it, or who were feeding the warmongers at the White House and the Pentagon what they most wanted, which was anything on alleged Iraqi WMDs, true or not, to feed both to the American people and to the rest of the world.

The Bush Administration didn't get it so wrong because of Curveball, however much of a liar he may have been, but because it didn't seem to matter to the warmongers from Bush on down whether they got it right or wrong at all. There were ample warnings questioning Curveball's credibility, as well as the credibility of other such sources, but the warmongers believed what they wanted to believe, so rooted were they in their own fanaticism, and didn't let anything like the truth get in the way.

Lies were used to sell the war. And it's been a war of lies ever since.

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Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Republican racism on display in Texas

By Michael J.W. Stickings

From The Dallas Morning News (via John Aravosis), we learn that this pin was being sold at the Republican state convention in Texas: "If Obama is president... will we still call it The White House?"

As was this one: "Press 1 for English. Press 2 for Deportation."

And this one: "I will hold my nose when I vote for McCain."

Alright, that third one is funny. The other two are pretty despicable -- "remarkable but not surprising," as Matt Stoller puts it. (See also Brad Friedman, who has more on the vendor of these pins.)

John asks: "At what point do we hold John McCain responsible for fraternizing with racists?"

Well, he's a Republican, this was the Texas Republican convention, and, in general, Republicans seem to put up with this sort of thing all the time.

So how about now?

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Paradigms for sale!

By Carl

The Constitution does not speak of freedom of contract. It speaks of liberty and prohibits the deprivation of liberty without due process of law. In prohibiting that deprivation, the Constitution does not recognize an absolute and uncontrollable liberty. Liberty in each of its phases has its history and connotation. But the liberty safeguarded is liberty in a social organization which requires the protection of law against the evils which menace the health, safety, morals, and welfare of the people. Liberty under the Constitution is thus necessarily subject to the restraints of due process, and regulation which is reasonable in relation to its subject and is adopted in the interests of the community is due process. -- Chief Justice of the Unitedt States Supreme Court Charles Evans Hughes, WEST COAST HOTEL CO. V. PARRISH , 300 U.S. 379 (1937)

There, in a nutshell, is what a liberal, progressive platform should be.

"We will protect your freedoms." Ok, the wording needs to be cleaned up, but the image we need to leave in voters' minds is one of a knight or a hired gun, taking on the bad guys and beating them back.

True freedom, true liberty, can come only when the individual in a nation is free from worry, from inequality (not talking about prejudice, altho that is part of it) and from power of any kind.

The best society is one where people have banded together to watch out for each other without interfering in each other's lives. That is freedom.

Government, by extension, works best when it provides opportunity and protection from the inequities of power as represented by influence and wealth. When wealth can avail itself of the advantages of power and the advantages of governmental protection, an inequitable system has been created where working people, whose income is wholly dependent on the monied classes, can and likely will bear the brunt of protecting society as a whole.

Meanwhile, the working classes will receive the least benefit from this society. After all, freedom is just a word for nothing left to lose, and the less you have, the less you need physical protection. You can be free, because who would want to take anything from someone who has nothing?

Conversely, the more you have, the more you need physical protection.

This is in large part the rationale behind a progressive tax system: those who have and continue to benefit the most from the bounty of this nation are required to fund a larger proportion of its needs.

The nifty trick the right wing has accomplished is in equating the rich and powerful, and in particular, corporations, with "the people", thus populising that which by definition is elitist. When conservatives talk about "the people," or "compassion," or "economic freedom," you can bet this involves giving more booty to the richest among us.

Leaving the check for the rest of us to pick up.

The revolution starts by taking the weakest link in the chain back out: government. Government is the only entity with both the resources and the force of law behind it to protect people like you, and me, and him, and her, from the predations of rampant abuse by those who should know better and moreover, should be more grateful to us.

We, the people, deserve universal health care.

We, the people, deserve universal public education through college.

We, the people, deserve universal child care for working parents.

We, the people, deserve a voice to speak up for us, collectively, against those who collect against us.

We, the people, deserve guarantees that no longer will government and corporations conspire against us to deprive us of our God-given freedom.

We, the people, deserve the opportunity this nation has promised us from the cradle onward.

We, the people, deserve our nation back!

(Cross-posted to
Simply Left Behind.)

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Iron Man review

By LindaBeth

I just saw Iron Man and I wanted to write a mini-review while it was still fresh. Semi-spoilers below.

The Tony Stark character is reprehensible. My stomach was on fire after the 1st 15 minutes; I asked my partner "I sure hope his superhero actions redeem him." By that, I meant does he see the jerk of a human being that he was? The answer is yes and no.

The beginning sets up the kind of person that Stark is. He a sexist womanizer. He sees every woman as a sexual conquest. He doesn't know their names and doesn't care. He treats professional women as nothing serious--only as sex objects.

His views on military weapons comes out when an attractive female reporter questions him about his company's support of the war industry. His responses were unapologetically pro-weapons and throughout he propositions her to have sex. She continues to stand her ground, ignoring his sexism and asking the tough questions. She's well spoken and savvy. We find out she's Brown educated. Then we find her going to bed with him.

The movie is about his change of heart regarding the effect that weapons have on international relations. His creation -- Iron Man -- is to rectify his participation in the war machine. Which was great: I love the weapons critique aspect of the story. (See this review for good commentary on the "good vs. bad" weapons users and the "us vs. them" dichotomy that I felt in the film but didn't know quite what I made of it.) I thought the movie as a whole is pretty good, with some predictability and far-fetched aspects (i.e. why would the Afghan militia men put Stark, a weapons designer, in a room with tons of weaponry supplies unattended?)

But he never rectifies his sexist approach to women. One line would have done. My partner even thought of the perfect spot in the script for it as well--when his assistant talks about "who" Tony Stark is--he could have said something about that not being him anymore, with a nod to his dehumanizing treatment of women. There was a space for it. But alas.

I also was annoyed that the script called for the reporter "caving into" his charm like every other woman we see in the film. It was completely unnecessary. The way he was speaking to her in the interview demonstrated quite well his (lack of) character; her going to bed with him only damages hers. In questioning him, she was smart and articulate. She persisted drilling him despite his attempts to seduce her. And later, she is instrumental in instigating Iron Man's humanitarian works. Her giving in served more to diminish her as a strong female character than to add to the audience's understanding of his sexist character.

Now as my partner rightly points out, she chooses to sleep with him. Which, of course is true. But that she 'chooses' to give into his manipulative, conniving, seductive ways doesn't speak very highly for her. There, she--an educated, professional woman--becomes "just like" every other women. Which makes women look like easily duped swooners. The problem here is that it didn't need to be written that way. The writer didn't need to "choose" to write that in. It does not serve the story; it only serves to weaken the smart savvy female reporter.

Their sleeping together also made space for the also-irritating catty girl-on-girl convo between Stark's assistant Pepper and the female reporter "the morning after" (when he, of course, vanishes). It poses the conventionally "hot" (long hair, lots of makeup, pretty) sexual-conquest (slut?) reporter vs. the pretty-but-conventionally dressed and made up (and thus, non-sexual) professional, assistant. They have a short convo where Pepper dryly states that the reporter's clothes have been washed, a cab is ready etc. like a laundry list, possibly rubbing it into the reporter that this is standard procedure. The reporter takes a jab at Pepper, criticizing that after all these years, she still just does Stark's dirty work. Not quite the virgin/whore dichotomy, but clearly along those lines. It's the sexpot vs. the subservient neutral/neuter female. And it's equally annoying.

(An aside: Even though the women (meaning Pepper and the reporter) were somewhat "accessories," they were absolutely necessary to Iron Man's success. Stark also directly says that he is nothing without Pepper. So I don't think the film necessarily positions the 2 female characters as incidental.)

Punk ass blog had this great article about what makes a movie misogynist. I wouldn't say that this movie is any more sexist than society is, and makes all the same generalizations about women that sexist society does too. But what disappoints me, and prompts me to write this "review," is that there was the potential to be good vis a vis women: easy! just add one line and cut one scene and I'd be pretty happy.

But what is unfortunate is that the writer/director didn't seem to think that Stark's misogyny needed to be accounted for. And that this is generally the attitude of Hollywood (hell, culture) as a whole.

(Cross-posted to Smart Like Me.)

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The horror, the horror...

By Michael J.W. Stickings

It's our Headline of the Day:

Yes, that's right, it's George talking up Jeb.

Apparently two failed presidencies, the second much worse than the first, aren't enough to dissuade the Bushies from considering more havoc-wreaking on the American people, not to mention on all the rest of us.

Maybe it's just the stupid one saying a stupid thing, but a Jeb presidential bid does seem likely, doesn't it? It's bound to happen... eventually.

The question is, would the "smart" one be better or worse than the "stupid" one?

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Monday, June 16, 2008

Gore for Obama

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Following up on Creature's post right below this one, make sure to check out the text of Gore's endorsement of Obama: "From now through Election Day, I intend to do whatever I can to make sure he is elected President of the United States... On the issues that matter most, Barack Obama is clearly the right choice to lead our nation."

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Al Gore on my TV

By Creature

He is officially putting his weight behind the Democratic nominee, yet, and I say this as an Obama supporter, when I see them together I yearn for the former VP to be on the top of the ticket and Obama slotted in as the VP. That was my dream ticket.

"If you bought poisoned, lead-filled toys from China or adulterated medicine made in China, if you bought tainted pet food made in China, you know that elections matter. After the last eight years, even our dogs and cats have learned that elections matter."
-- Al Gore

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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Developing Story -- MSNBC making pitches to become Eulogy Channel

By J. Thomas Duffy

Sources tell The Garlic that executives at NBC and MSNBC, buoyed by, surprisingly, extremely strong overnight ratings, have quickly put together a crack team of producers and advertising salespeople and are, quietly, pitching to Fortune 500 companies, as well as other large public and private institutions, the opportunity to have their leaders eulogized and remembered in the same manner that NBC/MSNBC has done for, the now-departed Tim Russert.

To drive the sense of urgency to the prospective purchasers of what NBC/MSNBC is calling "Eulogy Packages", the sales brochure is being sent with a complimentary Buffalo Bills cap, and miniature erasable whiteboard.

As we continue to review the voluminous sales package provided by our source, NBC/MSNBC are offering a vast array of options, from special, highlighted news item mentions, to by-the-hour tributes, to multiple day, 24/7 broadcasting, complete with NBC/MSNBC, and CNBC on-air talent.

"This is extremely ambitious," offered Bruno Anthony, editor of "The Final Close-Up", an on-line newsletter that tracks the amount of time television news programs allot to the death of prominent persons. "This has never been done before ... Proactively selling airtime for this purpose ... For death ..."

"It's one thing if the deceased is already in the news, a prominent politician, businessman, or, celebrity," continued Anthony. "But this can open up serious ethical and standards questions ... Like, if you don't pay, will NBC not report your death?"

Pricing is steep, ranging from high-five-and-six-figures, and significantly higher.

One package, the top, or Gold Plan, is the most expensive.

The Gold Plan is available only to those person who have been interviewed, on-air, by the late Tim Russert.

This is a multiple-day tribute package, with the Russert interview of the deceased customer being broadcast in prime time.

And to protect the exclusivity of this Gold Plan, NBC/MSNBC, as they continue, into the 4th day now, their "Remembering Tim Russert", will only broadcast B-Roll of Russert interviewing colleagues, or making appearances on the various NBC or MSNBC programs.

All NBC/MSNBC on-air talent under contract are available for these Eulogy Packages, with three -- Chris Matthews, Keith Olbermann and Andrea Mitchell -- positioned at the higher pricing.

Additionally, throughout the sales package, upselling of combo-talent, having multiple NBC/MSNBC persons waxing on about the deceased, is encouraged.

Only two CNBC on-air talent -- Erin Burnett and Margaret Brennan -- are referenced as being available in these Eulogy Packages.

As to non-NBC/MSNBC on-air talent, the talking heads, those are priced ala carte, and subject to availability.

Of those mentioned in the sales package, included Mike Barnicle, Lawrence O'Donnell, Bob Shrum, Al Hunt, Hillary Rosen, Eugene Robinson, Rachel Maddow, and a host of others, with the deceased having to provide scripts of what they want discussed, or how the pundits should describe the dead customer.

Former MSNBC on-air talent Rita Cosby is not offered in any of the Eulogy Packages, however, MSNBC will provide contact information for the deceased purchasing a plan to negotiate with Cosby directly.

Special Doc Blocks are also available, with pricing noted as TBD.

The NBC/MSNBC sales package also notes that all costs reflect in-studio work only.

The deceased purchasing any of the Eulogy Package plans will incur additional costs if they wish to have on-site events included, such as funerals, memorial services, hospital watches, and candlelight vigils.

Protesters can also be included for an additional fee.

One whimsical offering comes with the 'Today' Program.

As with most of the Eulogy Packages, for an additional fee, the deceased's burial location can be included as a stop, in the Today program's feature, "Where In The World Is Matt Lauer," with the Today program of that day being build around the deceased package purchaser.

Anthony sees this as a heavy push for NBC/MSNBC, with a "striking while the iron is hot" mentality.

"It could be big, they can see the dollar signs adding up," says Anthony.

"And, you're likely to see them continuing to roll out "Remembering Tim Russert" programming ... That's their biggest sales tool ... This will go on for days ... Probably, weeks ... "


Bonus Remember Tim Russert Riffs

Barry Crimmins: Overkill

Dennis Perrin: No Moment Of Silence

We've Gone Well Past The 15-Minutes Thing ...

Little Russ Gone ...

(Cross-posted at The Garlic.)

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Between a rock and a hard place

By Carol Gee

-- an old Texas saying describes a current political reality. One might also say that U.S. President George W. Bush is truly "up against it;" "damned if he does and damned if he doesn't;" or looking at "an irresistible force meeting an immovable object." Today's post looks at the situation in the Middle East in which our current president (OCP) finds himself. Iraq is not being entirely cooperative, Iran is "in his face," Germany disagrees about what to do about it, and more and more mental health medications are required to keep all the troops functional as they fight the wars in the region.

Damned if he does and damned if he doesn't -- The poor guy is lame duck. His approval ratings are at record lows, fellow Texan Scotty McClellan has turned on him, he has diminished status as a world leader, and all he could think of to do was travel outside the country for a while. Looking for sympathy abroad he gave an interview (6/11/08) to UK's The Times saying that he has regrets about his legacy as a man who wanted war. To quote,

President Bush has admitted to The Times that his gun-slinging rhetoric made the world believe that he was a “guy really anxious for war” in Iraq. He said that his aim now was to leave his successor a legacy of international diplomacy for tackling Iran.

In an exclusive interview, he expressed regret at the bitter divisions over the war and said that he was troubled about how his country had been misunderstood. “I think that in retrospect I could have used a different tone, a different rhetoric.”

Phrases such as “bring them on” or “dead or alive”, he said, “indicated to people that I was, you know, not a man of peace”. He said that he found it very painful “to put youngsters in harm’s way”. He added: “I try to meet with as many of the families as I can. And I have an obligation to comfort and console as best as I possibly can. I also have an obligation to make sure that those lives were not lost in vain.”

Up against it with Iran? The risk is that OCP, pressured by Israel, Cheney and the neocons would feel like another war was necessary. During his current trip, our current president called for, along with Germany, increased sanctions to put pressure on Iran. However, the Iranian president "remains defiant over the country's nuclear plans," according to the Financial Times. McClatchy headlines that a "Strike on Iran's nuclear facilities is under discussion again," presumably with Israel.

Iraq is between a rock and a hard place in triangulating between the U.S. and Iran about the future in the Middle East. Meanwhile, what does Iraq really want? The BBC News has an excellent summary of the current situation between Iran and Iraq.

Up against it with the occupation of Iraq -- Despite administration claims that an agreement will be signed with Iraq by the July 31st deadline, it seems that "U.S. security talks with Iraq [are] in trouble in Baghdad and D.C." To quote:

A proposed U.S.-Iraqi security agreement that would set the conditions for a defense alliance and long-term U.S. troop presence appears increasingly in trouble, facing growing resistance from the Iraqi government, bipartisan opposition in Congress and strong questioning from Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama.

President Bush is trying to finish the agreement before he leaves office, and senior U.S. officials insist publicly that the negotiations can be completed by a July 31 target date. The U.S. is apparently scaling back some of its demands, including backing off one that particularly incenses Iraqis, blanket immunity for private security contractors.

But meeting the July 31 deadline seems increasing doubtful, and in Baghdad and Washington there is growing speculation that a United Nations mandate for U.S.-led military operations in Iraq may have to be renewed after it expires at the end of 2008.

There is no need for OCP to feel the press of time. He needs to just serve out his term. OCP is used to America's disapproval. His risk of impeachment is nil. The United Nations can extend its authority regarding Iraq, so that the new president can make a rational transition. And Iran and Iraq will develop whatever relationship is in both their best interests. Attaturk at Firedoglake (6/10/08) discussed the concern that the Bush administration might not be able to get a status of forces agreement with Iraq before leaving office. That means that the current U.N. mandate would have to be extended past December. It would also mean, the blogger reminds us, that Iran is the only real winner here. The writer titles his piece, "Everything is proceeding awesomely -- please go shopping." To quote:

...or dumpster diving as the case may be thanks to the also awesome domestic economy we in the Bush Administration have given you.

. . . Not many leaders or enablers can spill so much blood and so much treasure to win a war for another country they dislike even more than the place they invaded.

An irresistible force is meeting an immovable object. The Iraqi government would have to go against Iran to make such an agreement, according to (6/9/08) an article from Aljazeera. Titled, "Khamenei criticises US role in Iraq," the story begins,

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's supreme leader, has advised Iraq's visiting prime minister against signing an agreement with the US keeping foreign troops in the country beyond 2008.

The continued presence of US troops was Iraq's "fundamental problem", Khamenei told Nuri al-Maliki during a meeting on Monday."We are certain that the Iraqi people will pass the difficult circumstances and reach the status they deserve. For sure, the American dreams will not materialise," Khamenei said.

The U.S. military is between a rock and a hard place when it comes to stretching its forces far enough to cover all of our involvement in the Middle East. We see now one of the ways they are managing from Think Progress (6/5/06) - "U.S. Troops are increasingly medicated," written by Amanda. To quote the quote: Time reports on the rising use of prescription drugs amongst U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan."

The current political reality is really sad. George W. Bush should be held accountable for all of his misdeeds, but he will suffer few consequences. I am unable to muster any compassion that he feels misunderstood. OCP not truly "up against it" with Iran. He always has a choice of action. That his reputation means that he is "damned if he does and damned if he doesn't" --too bad. The situation in the Middle East in which our current president (OCP) finds himself, was of the current administration's making. Iraq, occupied, is not being entirely cooperative. Iran is "in his face," but probably only rhetorically at this point in time. As a retired mental practitioner, however, it will be hard for me to let go of my heartbreak about all of the loss of life in the wars, and all of the loss of internal peace for those who so bravely fought this man's war. They did everything he asked of them and more. All of his regrets ring hollow with me now.

(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)

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