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Monday, February 25, 2008

Sorry for the lack of updates

Hey everyone, I would like to say sorry for the lack updates I caught one of these flu bugs and got wiped out last week. I still feel a tad bit sick (coughing, not eating much, the chills) but I hope I can go back blogging sometime this week. I also hope to celebrate my second year in the Michigan lefty blog community this week too, it's been a great experience for me. Thanks Johnny C aka Motorcity Liberal

Friday, February 15, 2008

Olbermann: Bush "panocramic" invasion of privacy is terrorism

Olbermann: Bush 'panoramic invasion of privacy' is terrorism 02/15/2008 @ 6:16 amFiled by David Edwards and John Byrne In a scathing commentary against President George W. Bush, MSNBC commentator Keith Olbermann declared Bush guilty of terrorism for playing what he sees as the fear card in an attempt to get the House to pass retroactive immunity for telecommunication companies that illegally helped the US government in its warrantless wiretapping program Thursday evening. "You are a liar, Mr. Bush, and after showing some skill at it, you have ceased to even be a very good liar," he declared. "The lot of you," he said, speaking of those who sought to pass immunity, "are the symbolic descendants of the despotic middle managers of some banana republic, to whom 'Freedom' is an ironic brand name, a word you reach for, when you want to get away with its opposite." Mocking the president, he said that Bush is predicting "plagues of locusts and stuff" should the House fail to reauthorize his warrantless eavesdropping program. The Senate passed immunity for the telecommunications' companies participation in the program earlier this week by 68-29 -- they are facing myriad lawsuits -- though the House appears less likely to support the provision and has stalled on reauthorizing the bill. The bill had been reauthorized under a temporary basis. Olbermann called Bush a "liar" several times during his broadcast. He also called Bush a 'fascist.' "If you believe in the seamless mutuality of government and big business — come out and say it!" he said. "There is a dictionary definition, one word that describes that toxic blend. You’re a fascist — get them to print you a t-shirt with “fascist” on it! What else is this but fascism?" "It is bad enough, sir, that you were demanding an Ex Post Facto law, which could still clear the AT&Ts and the Verizons from responsibility for their systematic, aggressive, and blatant collaboration with your illegal and unjustified spying on Americans under this flimsy guise of looking for any terrorists who are stupid enough to make a collect call or send a mass e-mail," he added. Speaking of AT&T whistleblower Mark Klein, who alleged secret call centers where the firm funneled data to the National Security Agency, he noted Klein's declaration of Bush as "Big Brother." "And if there’s one thing we know about Big Brother, Mr. Bush, is that he is — you are — a liar," Olbermann averred. Later, he added, "You are a liar, Mr. Bush, and after showing some skill at it, you have ceased to even be a very good liar." Olbermann noted that President Bush has promised to veto any bill that did not include telecom immunity. He asserted that Bush was siding with "terrorists" if he vetoed his own bill. "You would not merely be guilty of siding with the terrorists," he said. "You would not merely be guilty of prioritizing the telecoms over the people… You would not merely be guilty of treason, sir… You would be personally, and eternally, responsible." He concluded by accusing Bush of being a terrorist himself, in his alleged fealty to violating civil liberties under the guise of protecting Americans from terrorist attacks. "We will not fear the recognition of the manipulation of our yearning for safety — we will call it what it is: terrorism," the MSNBC host said. This video is from MSNBC's Countdown, broadcast February 14, 2008. Quotes compiled from a transcript by Crooks and Liars.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Battle-tested

Battle-Tested Posted February 13, 2008 12:45 AM (EST) Read More: Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Hillary Clinton 2008, Joe Wilson, Joe Wilson Hillary Clinton, John McCain, Joseph Wilson, Breaking Politics News With the emergence of Sen. John McCain as the presumptive Republican nominee, the choice for the Democrats in the 2008 presidential election now shifts to who is best positioned to beat him, in what promises to be a more hard-fought campaign -- and perhaps a nastier one -- than Democrats anticipated. Sen. Barack Obama's promise of transformation and an end of partisan politics has its seductive appeal. The Bush-Cheney era, after all, has been punctuated by smear campaigns, character assassinations and ideological fervor. Nobody dislikes such poisonous partisanship, especially in foreign policy, more than I do. I am one of very few Foreign Service officers who have served as ambassador in the administrations of both George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, yet I have spent the past four years fighting a concerted character assassination campaign orchestrated by the George W. Bush White House. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton is one of the few who fully understood the stakes in that battle. Time and again, she reached out to my wife -- outed CIA officer Valerie Plame Wilson -- and me to remind us that as painful as the attacks were, we simply could not allow ourselves to be driven from the public square by bullying. To do so would validate the radical right's thesis that the way to win debates is to demonize opponents, taking full advantage of the natural desire to avoid confrontation, even if it means yielding on substantive issues. Hillary knew this from experience, having spent the better part of the past 20 years fighting the Republican attack machine. She is a fighter. But will Mr. Obama fight? His brief time on the national scene gives little comfort. Consider a February 2006 exchange of letters with Mr. McCain on the subject of ethics reform. The wrathful Mr. McCain accused Mr. Obama of being "disingenuous," to which Mr. Obama meekly replied, "The fact that you have now questioned my sincerity and my desire to put aside politics for the public interest is regrettable but does not in any way diminish my deep respect for you." Then one of McCain's aides said of Obama, "Obama wouldn't know the difference between an RPG and a bong." Mr. McCain was insultingly dismissive but successful in intimidating his inexperienced colleague. Thus, in his one face-to-face encounter with Mr. McCain, Mr. Obama failed to stand his ground. What gives us confidence Mr. Obama will be stronger the next time he faces Mr. McCain, a seasoned political fighter with extensive national security credentials? Even more important, what special disadvantages does Mr. Obama carry into this contest on questions of national security? How will Mr. Obama answer Mr. McCain about his careless remark about unilaterally bombing Pakistan -- perhaps blowing up an already difficult relationship with a nuclear state threatened by Islamic extremists? How will Mr. Obama respond to charges made by the Kenyan government that his campaigning activities in Kenya in support of his distant cousin running for president there made him "a stooge" and constituted interference in the politics of an important and besieged ally in the war on terror? How will he answer charges that his desire for unstructured personal summits without preconditions with a host of America's adversaries, from Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to Kim Jong Il, would be little more than premature capitulation? Senator Obama claims superior judgment on the war in Iraq based on one speech given as a state legislator representing the most liberal district in Illinois at an anti-war rally in Chicago, and in so doing impugns the integrity of those who were part of the debate on the national scene. In mischaracterizing the debate on the Authorization for the Use of Military Force as a declaration of war, he implicitly blames Democrats for George Bush's war of choice. Obama's negative attack line does not conform to the facts. Nothing could be farther from the truth. I should know. I was among the most prominent anti-war voices at the time -- and never heard about or from then Illinois State Senator Obama. Email Print Comment HuffIt --> George Bush made it clear publicly when lobbying for the bill that he wanted it not to go to war but to give him the leverage he needed to go to the United Nations and secure intrusive inspections of Saddam's suspected Weapons of Mass Destruction sites. Who could argue with that goal? Colin Powell made the same case individually to Senators in the run up to the vote, including to Senator Clinton. It is not credible that Senator Obama would not have succumbed to Secretary Powell's arguments had he been in Washington at the time. Why not? Obama himself suggested so in 2004. "I'm not privy to Senate intelligence reports,' Obama said. 'What would I have done? I don't know." He also told the Chicago Tribune in 2004: "There's not much of a difference between my position and George Bush's position at this stage." According to press reports, Powell is now an informal adviser to Mr. Obama. In his tendentious attack, Obama never mentions that Hans Blix, the chief United Nations weapons inspectors, declared that without the congressional Authorization for the Use of Military Force the inspectors would never have been allowed into Iraq. Hillary's approach -- and that of the majority of Democrats in the Senate -- was to let the inspectors complete their work while building an international coalition. Hillary's was the road untaken. The betrayal of the American people, and of the Congress, came when President Bush refused to allow the inspections to succeed, and that betrayal is his and his party's, not the Democrats. Contrary to the myth of his campaign, 2008 is not the year for transcendental transformation. The task for the next administration will be to repair the damage done by eight years of radical rule. And the choice for Americans is clear: four more years of corrupt Republican rule, senseless wars, evisceration of the Constitution, emptying of the national treasury -- or rebuilding our government and our national reputation, piece by piece. Obama's overtures to Republicans, or "Obamacans" as the Senator calls them, is a substitute for true national unity based on a substantive program. His marginal appeals have marginally helped him in caucuses in Republican states that Democrats won't win in the general election. But his vapid rhetoric will not withstand the winds of November. His efforts will be correctly seen by the Republican leadership as a sign of weakness to be exploited. While disaffected Democrats may long for comity in our politics after years of being harangued and belittled by the right wing echo chamber, the Rovians currently promoting Obama are looking to destroy him should he become the nominee. Obama's claim to float uniquely above the fray and avoid polarization will be short-lived. He is no less mortal than any other Democrat -- Michael Dukakis, Al Gore, John Kerry -- all untouched at the beginning of their campaigns and all mauled by the end. We should never forget recent history. In order to effect practical change against a determined adversary, we do not need a would-be philosopher-king but a seasoned gladiator who understands the fight Democrats will face in the fall campaign and in governing. Theodore Roosevelt once commented, "It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly." If he were around today, TR might be speaking of the woman in the arena. Hillary Clinton has been in that arena for a generation. She is one of the few to have defeated the attack machine that is today's Republican Party and to have emerged stronger. She is deeply knowledgeable about governing; she made herself into a power in the Senate; she is respected by our military; and she never flinches. She has never been intimidated, not by any Republican -- not even John McCain. Barack Obama claims to represent the future, but it should be increasingly evident that he is not the man for this moment, especially with Mr. McCain's arrival. We've seen a preview of that contest already. It was a TKO. This article is adapted from a piece published in the Baltimore Sun on February 12, 2008

Republican blogs gird for Obama

For the next month or so, the conservative valentines will arrive every day at the headquarters of Barack Obama’s presidential campaign. The Illinois senator’s image will be illuminated by the bipartisan aura of admiration from prominent Republican commentators and strategists, as they savor the promise of his victory over Hillary Clinton, long the object of their hatred. He may well imagine that they really like him—and surely some of them do, at least for now. Such happy feelings are easily conjured these days, when William Kristol hopes Democratic superdelegates will do “the good deed” of pledging their ballots to him, and when George Will urges Democrats to choose him as “the party’s most potentially potent nominee,” and when Peggy Noonan promises that he will be “bulletproof” against Republican attack. Meanwhile in the bleaker precincts of the blogosphere, lesser figures prepare to welcome the Democratic front-runner should he secure his party’s nomination. Evidently they will celebrate his triumph with poison gas and bombshells rather than confetti and champagne. If you listen closely, you can already hear the test rounds exploding. The target is Mr. Obama’s favorable but hazy persona, which Republican operatives must redefine in negative and even frightening terms. Assuming that the Republican nominee will be Senator John McCain, they will aim to contrast his tough, aggressive stance against Islamist terrorism with his opponent’s alleged weakness and naïveté. But as usual they will do worse, spreading slurs and smears that depict Mr. Obama as a dupe or even a sympathizer of Islamic radicals. False accusations about Mr. Obama’s religious affiliation have surfaced in anonymous we-mail campaigns, with little impact so far. But easily denied charges about his supposed Muslim upbringing are gradually giving way to more concrete allegations. The latest round involves his political intervention in Kenya, the home of his late father, where violence between ethnic and partisan factions has erupted in the wake of a disputed presidential election. As usual, the right-wing narrative melds half-truths and lies with facts to create a seamless indictment. Leading conservative blogs and publications charge that Mr. Obama has recklessly aligned himself with opposition leader Raila Odinga of the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM). Followers of Mr. Odinga, a member of the minority Luo tribe, have perpetrated horrific atrocities against members of the Kikuyu tribe, because incumbent president Mwai Kibaki and the nation’s ruling elite are Kikuyu. One of the worst incidents occurred in the village of Eldoret, where dozens of Kikuyu Christians burned to death when they sought shelter in a church that was then set afire by their rampaging pursuers. These events are set within a broader story line of an alleged Muslim plot to overthrow the Kibaki government, which is friendly to the United States and the West, and replace the secular constitution of Kenya with sharia law, creating a haven for Al Qaeda—which blew up the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi a decade ago and still operates there, according to American diplomats. During the Kenyan election, the Christian evangelical movement in Kenya circulated a “memorandum of understanding” allegedly signed by Mr. Odinga and a group of Muslim clerics that would commit his government to instituting Muslim strictures against pork and alcohol, setting up sharia courts and ending cooperation against terrorism with Western governments. Denounced as a forgery by Mr. Odinga and the Muslim authorities in Kenya, which it almost certainly is, that document nevertheless still circulates via the Internet and is quoted by American publications. The point is to raise questions about Mr. Obama and his connections with Mr. Odinga, who claims to be his cousin—and to infiltrate those doubts into the mainstream media. It is true that Mr. Obama, whose family is Luo, lent support to the opposition leader during a visit to Kenya two years ago—and that they have maintained contact ever since. While that gaffe infuriated the Kibaki regime, it proved only that Mr. Obama lacked diplomatic experience. During the current crisis in his homeland, he has tried to play a constructive role by taping radio announcements for the State Department that urge both sides to stop fighting and resolve their differences without violence. Yet the outlines of the coming assault on his fitness and character are clear enough, just as the Swift Boat campaign against John Kerry opened fire many months before the public noticed. The Kenya tale is a single aspect of a multifaceted strategy to portray Mr. Obama as a callow politician with dubious associations, who cannot be trusted with power. He will be subjected to the same ruthless treatment as the last Democratic nominee. Let’s hope he is better armored to withstand incoming fire.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Hate Springs Eternal

Op-Ed Columnist Hate Springs Eternal By PAUL KRUGMAN In 1956 Adlai Stevenson, running against Dwight Eisenhower, tried to make the political style of his opponent’s vice president, a man by the name of Richard Nixon, an issue. The nation, he warned, was in danger of becoming “a land of slander and scare; the land of sly innuendo, the poison pen, the anonymous phone call and hustling, pushing, shoving; the land of smash and grab and anything to win. This is Nixonland.” The quote comes from “Nixonland,” a soon-to-be-published political history of the years from 1964 to 1972 written by Rick Perlstein, the author of “Before the Storm.” As Mr. Perlstein shows, Stevenson warned in vain: during those years America did indeed become the land of slander and scare, of the politics of hatred. And it still is. In fact, these days even the Democratic Party seems to be turning into Nixonland. The bitterness of the fight for the Democratic nomination is, on the face of it, bizarre. Both candidates still standing are smart and appealing. Both have progressive agendas (although I believe that Hillary Clinton is more serious about achieving universal health care, and that Barack Obama has staked out positions that will undermine his own efforts). Both have broad support among the party’s grass roots and are favorably viewed by Democratic voters. Supporters of each candidate should have no trouble rallying behind the other if he or she gets the nod. Why, then, is there so much venom out there? I won’t try for fake evenhandedness here: most of the venom I see is coming from supporters of Mr. Obama, who want their hero or nobody. I’m not the first to point out that the Obama campaign seems dangerously close to becoming a cult of personality. We’ve already had that from the Bush administration — remember Operation Flight Suit? We really don’t want to go there again. What’s particularly saddening is the way many Obama supporters seem happy with the application of “Clinton rules” — the term a number of observers use for the way pundits and some news organizations treat any action or statement by the Clintons, no matter how innocuous, as proof of evil intent. The prime example of Clinton rules in the 1990s was the way the press covered Whitewater. A small, failed land deal became the basis of a multiyear, multimillion-dollar investigation, which never found any evidence of wrongdoing on the Clintons’ part, yet the “scandal” became a symbol of the Clinton administration’s alleged corruption. During the current campaign, Mrs. Clinton’s entirely reasonable remark that it took L.B.J.’s political courage and skills to bring Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream to fruition was cast as some kind of outrageous denigration of Dr. King. And the latest prominent example came when David Shuster of MSNBC, after pointing out that Chelsea Clinton was working for her mother’s campaign — as adult children of presidential aspirants often do — asked, “doesn’t it seem like Chelsea’s sort of being pimped out in some weird sort of way?” Mr. Shuster has been suspended, but as the Clinton campaign rightly points out, his remark was part of a broader pattern at the network. I call it Clinton rules, but it’s a pattern that goes well beyond the Clintons. For example, Al Gore was subjected to Clinton rules during the 2000 campaign: anything he said, and some things he didn’t say (no, he never claimed to have invented the Internet), was held up as proof of his alleged character flaws. For now, Clinton rules are working in Mr. Obama’s favor. But his supporters should not take comfort in that fact. For one thing, Mrs. Clinton may yet be the nominee — and if Obama supporters care about anything beyond hero worship, they should want to see her win in November. For another, if history is any guide, if Mr. Obama wins the nomination, he will quickly find himself being subjected to Clinton rules. Democrats always do. But most of all, progressives should realize that Nixonland is not the country we want to be. Racism, misogyny and character assassination are all ways of distracting voters from the issues, and people who care about the issues have a shared interest in making the politics of hatred unacceptable. One of the most hopeful moments of this presidential campaign came last month, when a number of Jewish leaders signed a letter condemning the smear campaign claiming that Mr. Obama was a secret Muslim. It’s a good guess that some of those leaders would prefer that Mr. Obama not become president; nonetheless, they understood that there are principles that matter more than short-term political advantage. I’d like to see more moments like that, perhaps starting with strong assurances from both Democratic candidates that they respect their opponents and would support them in the general election.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

LIEberman's superdelegate status stripped

Lieberman’s superdelegate status stripped. Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT), who endorsed Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) for president, will be disqualified as a superdelegate at the Democratic convention “under what is informally known as the Zell Miller rule.” In 2004, Miller — then a Democratic senator from Georgia — attacked Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) in a speech at the Republican National Convention. The DNC “responded with a rule disqualifying any Democrat who crosses the aisle from being a super delegate.”

CIA looks at blogs, Myspace and youtube for information

In search for foreign intelligence, spies turn to YouTube, MySpace, blogs 02/07/2008 @ 10:15 amFiled by Nick Juliano With rapidly advancing technology spreading across the globe, US spies are shifting their focus from surreptitiously photographing secret Soviet documents to trolling the Internet for what could be the next key nugget of foreign intelligence. Among the most valuable sources, one top spook says, are blogs, MySpace and other Web 2.0 hallmarks. "We're looking now at YouTube, which carries some unique and honest-to-goodness intelligence," Doug Naquin, director of the CIA's Open Source Center said in a recent speech to CIA retirees. The speech was posted this week on SecrecyNews, the blog of the Federation of American Scientists Project on Government Secrecy. "I would not have thought of YouTube as an obvious source of intelligence," Steven Aftergood, the project's director, told InfromationWeek, "but I think it's a good sign that the Open Source Center is looking at it, and at other new media." Open source intelligence collection focuses on compiling and analyzing unclassified data from publicly available sources for use by the CIA, policy makers and other law enforcement agencies. Formerly known as the Foreign Broadcast Information Service, the Open Source Center's mission in recent years has shifted from translating newspaper and television reports from abroad to culling the Web for information on foreign targets. The center trains intelligence agents and others in government. "This training includes everything from media analysis to advanced Internet exploitation, way beyond Googling," Naquin said. The goal of open-source collection is to provide information that goes beyond what appears in the morning newspaper, and analysis of Web 2.0 content has become a key part of that, he said. "A couple years back we identified Iranian blogs as a phenomenon worthy of more attention, about six months ahead of anybody else," he said. Now even Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has his own blog. "We're looking at chat rooms and things that didn't even exist five years ago, and trying to stay ahead," Naquin said. "We have groups looking at what they call 'Citizens Media': people taking pictures with their cell phones and posting them on the Internet. Then there's Social Media, phenomena like MySpace and blogs." With the end of the Cold War, Naquin said open source collection became a low priority in the Intelligence Community, causing the FBIS staff to be cut in half during the 90s. The terror attacks aimed at New York and Washington changed all that. "[Nine-Eleven] was sort of a watershed for us," Naquin said. "The 9/11 Commission and WMD Commission both said, 'You know what? There are a lot of open sources out there. We should be putting a lot more attention toward exploiting those sources." Naquin's full speech is available here (.pdf).

Media gets it wrong again

Media Gets It Wrong Again Posted February 6, 2008 01:14 AM (EST) Read More: Barack Obama Super Tuesday, Chris Matthews, Clinton Super Tuesday, Media Coverage Of 2008 Election, Super Tuesday, Super Tuesday Primary, Super Tuesday Results, Tom Brokaw, Breaking Politics News If I were Barack Obama I would tell my flaks in the news media to shut up in the final days before elections. The chattering crowd's frenzy for this man only raises expectations that he cannot meet. As a result, what was otherwise not too shabby a night for Obama on Super Tuesday came across like a public relations defeat because so much more had been expected. Still, those who predicted a bigger night for Obama are invested in downplaying what actually happened, and will surely gin him up for the next contests. This content requires the most recent version of the Adobe Flash Player. Get this version below: Get Flash Before Super Tuesday, gushing pundits predicted that the Kennedy family endorsements would, at a minimum, deliver Massachusetts. Didn't happen. Feverish news reports of rising momentum for Obama led to hints that he was winning New Jersey. Didn't happen. And, oh yeah, California's returns were supposed to keep us up all night because the "force of nature" that is Obama had erased Clinton's lead in the state. Oops, it turned out that Hillary Rodham Clinton's lead was so substantial that the networks could call the state for her just after midnight. The California surprise promoted a bit of mea culpa from former NBC anchor Tom Brokaw, who has actually been a voice of reason as so many of his colleagues have lost their minds for Obama. "Once again," Brokaw said on MSNBC as Clinton's early California win was announced, "in all of our conventional and collective wisdom, we were wrong." More on Craig Crawford's Trail Mix Watch Tom Brokaw's mea culpa from last night's Super Tuesday coverage on MSNBC

Right wingers and Liberals support Obama?

Bizarre Bedfellows for Barack Conservatives and liberals rally behind an unqualified candidate. 4 February 2008 On the eve of Super Tuesday, the Hillary Clinton–Barack Obama race resembles the closing minutes of a football game: Team Clinton has a small lead, but Team Obama has the ball—and the momentum. Some of that momentum derives from an extraordinary, if unspoken, mésalliance that has emerged in recent months between conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats. Their hostility to the Clintons brings them together. In the words of liberal columnist Jonathan Chait, “The Right was right about the Clintons.” This comes as music to the ears of the old-time liberal warhorses who never forgave Bill Clinton for his strategy of triangulation. They despised his defiance of liberal orthodoxy on welfare reform, trade, and crime, and during the Monica Lewinsky scandal defended him only on the grounds of partisan allegiance. For their part, grateful Republicans have been happy to have their hostilities confirmed across the aisle since, if only in retrospect, it justifies the way they overplayed their hand in impeaching President Clinton. Both Left and Right seem to agree that the centrism of the 1990s produced a debauched decade. Through the alchemy of politics, these two versions of partisanship have ignited the “post-partisan” campaign of Barack Obama. Obama has drawn praise from the New York Post and from numerous conservative heavyweights, including former Reagan speechwriter Jeffrey Hart, National Review editor Rich Lowry, former education secretary and radio host Bill Bennett, and former George W. Bush aide Peter Wehner. They have praised Obama’s graceful manner, stunning speaking abilities, and transracial appeal. Like John McCain, Obama seems to transcend partisan squabbling. Conservatives may also have a covert motive for admiring Obama, namely, their sense that a candidate who has neither been thoroughly vetted by an adoring press nor ever tested in a partisan election fight may be the weaker Democrat come November. But if nothing else, the appeal of Obama and McCain—one too young, the other too old, to have been Baby Boomers—speaks to twentysomethings’ almost palpable disdain for the rancor of Sixties-era partisans in both parties. This appeal would seem to settle the debate over whether political polarization represents the broad view of the electorate, or is rather a product of the two parties’ increasingly ideological positions. Karl Rove and MoveOn.org notwithstanding, it turns out that the “mythical middle,” as Marcos Moulitsas once dismissed it, wasn’t just a transient phenomenon of the 2006 election. Swing voters will choose the next president. Obama’s achievements in reaching out to moderate voters are largely proleptic: words aren’t deeds. And while he has few concrete achievements to his name, he does have a voting record that hardly suggests an ability to rise above Left and Right. In 2005, his first year in the Senate, the man who made a specialty of voting “present” in the Illinois State Senate refused—despite repeated entreaties—to join a bipartisan agreement among 14 senators not to filibuster President Bush’s judicial nominees. After his first two years in the Senate, National Journal’s analysis of roll call votes found that he was more liberal than 86 percent of his colleagues, and his voting record has only grown more liberal since then. The liberal Americans for Democratic Action now gives him a 97.5 percent rating, while National Journal ranks him the most liberal member of the Senate. By comparison, Hillary Clinton, who occasionally votes with the GOP, ranks 16th. Obama is such a down-the-line partisan that, according to Congressional Quarterly, he voted more often with the Democrats than did the party’s majority leader, Harry Reid. This is the record that appeals to Ted and Caroline Kennedy and the aging MoveOn.org boomers who have long nursed hopes for a renewal of Camelot. But now as then, a charismatic political personality carries more dangers than benefits. The “politics of meaning,” which emerged from the Kennedy years and has now resurfaced with Obama as its empty vessel of hope, is doomed to disappoint because it asks more from politics than politics can deliver. In symbolic confirmation that Obama’s candidacy is as much about the liberal past as about the country’s future, the Grateful Dead, which disbanded years ago, has announced that it will reunite to perform a concert for him. The banality of Obama’s campaign is exceeded only by his unwillingness to challenge liberal orthodoxy. In the recent Hollywood debate, he insisted, contrary to the evidence, that the problem with American education was that it was underfunded. But education funding has increased dramatically over the last 20 years to no good effect, as student performance on content-based tests continues to decline. In the same debate, Obama at first waffled in response to an African-American woman’s question about the effect of illegal immigration on working-class wages. But finally, in an echo of those who once saw fear of crime as simply an expression of racism, he insisted that complaining about the effects of illegal immigrants on working-class wages and neighborhoods was a form of “scapegoating.” Republicans, swing voters, and moderate Democrats are entitled to know why a man who has never been to Iraq* and who, aside from a brief trip to London, has barely been abroad as an adult, is ready to guide us internationally. Obama’s foreign-policy pronouncements might well be treated with derision if they came from a man with less poise and grace. As befits someone whose stock-in-trade is speeches that appear to dissolve deep-seated differences in a bath of good-think, he has deep faith in the UN and proposes a summit between the U.S. and the leaders of Islamic nations to discuss ways to “bridge the gap between us.” Obama, who never refers to anything so clear-cut as radical Islam or jihadism, says that he “wants to ask them to join our fight against terrorism.” He insists that Sunni tribal chieftains turned against al-Qaida in the Anbar province of Iraq because Democrats won the 2006 election, even though the chieftains’ shift took place months before the election. When violence broke out in Kenya after its recently contested election, he referred to his Kenyan grandmother as proof of his foreign-policy credentials, but failed to mention the tribalism—endemic to much of the African and Islamic world—that had produced a string of massacres. It’s when Obama tries to show that he can also be tough that he most fully reveals his limitations. He both insists that Pakistan be governed more democratically and proposes to insert Special Forces into tribal Waziristan, if necessary without the cooperation of Islamabad. Such a move would destabilize a Pakistan rent by ethnic hostilities and already in danger of disintegration. As with Kennedy and the Cuban missile crisis, Obama’s unstable mix of high-blown rhetoric and would-be bellicosity invites our enemies to misjudge us. In the wake of Bush’s naivety about Iraq and about the Islamic world’s supposed yearning for liberty, Obama, who is more at home with grand pronouncements than with facts on the ground, represents a gigantic gamble. It will be ironic if in the name of post-partisanship we manage, with the contrivance of both Left and Right, to elect Oprah’s candidate, a man with a narrowly partisan record who has never demonstrated a capacity (rhetoric aside) either to lead or to govern. Only Clinton derangement syndrome can explain the alliance of so many otherwise thoughtful people of both parties who speak well of the candidacy of a man with scant knowledge of the world who has never been tested and has never run anything larger than a senatorial office. The question that we need to ask is whether this man—who candidly admits, “I’m not a manager”—can manage the vast apparatus of the federal government. Will packaging be enough to deal with our problems? In 1965, appalled by the unearned adulation for mayoral candidate John Lindsay (who was also considered a future president), Robert Moses warned: “If you elect a matinee idol mayor, you’re going to have a musical comedy administration.” And that’s just what New York got. Substitute “president” for “mayor,” and you can anticipate what might be coming. MCL comment: Isn't only me and few other liberal bloggers find it strange that the right wing media is ralling behind a Democrat?

Obama is not Jesus

Barack Obama Is Not Jesus By - February 5, 2008, 4:05PM Though my first choice for president was John Edwards, today I voted for Barack Obama. He's not perfect, but he's a good progressive and unlike Hillary Clinton, he opposed the Iraq war from the beginning. As a constituent of his while he was a state senator, I remember very clearly that he was an outspoken opponent of the war at a time when most others in public life were running scared. And, unlike Hillary Clinton, he didn't stand and applaud when Bush said the surge was working. That said, I'm getting increasingly weirded out by some of Obama's supporters. On listservs I'm on, some people who should know better – hard-bitten, not-so-young cynics, even – are gushing about Barack, raving about his "game-changing" politics, about his "power to inspire," about how they wept while viewing the now-famous Dipdive video, and on and on. Then there's this unsettling article from a few weeks back about Obama's volunteer operation. One volunteer speaks of her encounter with the man himself: But the clincher came on March 17, when she met the Democratic contender face to face. She describes how he lit up the room with his wide smile, shook her hand and thanked her for volunteering. " He looked at me, and the look in his eyes was worth 1,000 words," said Mack, now a regional field organizer. Obama hugged her and whispered something in her ear – she was so thrilled she doesn't remember what it was. Here's more: Mack wanted to drill home one of the campaign's key strategies: telling potential voters personal stories of political conversion. She urged volunteers to hone their own stories of how they came to Obama – something they could compress into 30 seconds on the phone. "Work on that, refine that, say it in the mirror," she said. "Get it down." She told the volunteers that potential voters would no doubt confront them with policy questions. Mack's direction: Don't go there. Refer them to Obama's Web site, which includes enough material to sate any wonk. Excuse me, but this sounds more like a cult than a political campaign. The language used here is the language of evangelical Christianity – the Obama volunteers speak of "coming to Obama" in the same way born-again Christians talk about "coming to Jesus." But he's not Jesus! He's not going to magically enable us to transcend the bitter partisanship that is tearing this country apart. And even if he is elected, in no way will that show that somehow we have "gotten beyond" race. The Obama campaign's instruction to their volunteers to steer clear of policy questions. How can we truly bring about real political change if the movement the Obama people are building is devoid of ideological content, content merely to mouth gauzy generalities about "coming together" and "yes we can"? Such a movement becomes a cult or personality rather than engine for social justice and political transformation. And personality cults can be a huge turnoff to those who are not already drinking the Kool-Aid. Don't get me wrong -- inspiration is fine, necessary even, and the impressive grassroots organizing the Obama campaign is doing holds real promise. Ultimately though, neither Barack Obama nor any other leader is going to save us. What progressives achieve or do not achieve during the next presidency is almost completely dependent on how strong progressives are as a political movement. Just look at our current president. He's miserably incompetent and widely despised by at least half the country. And yet, he's gotten much of his agenda passed through Congress. This has little to do with any special talents or abilities George W. Bush possesses has everything to do with the incredible power and discipline of the conservative movement in this country. That's why, although I support Barack, I don't think Clinton would govern in ways that would be much different from him (except perhaps in foreign policy – and even there, there's some doubt, since their senate votes about Iraq have tended to be similar). Like Obama, Clinton is a savvy pragmatist. If the center of gravity moves to the left, that's where she'll be. I worry, however, that some Obama supporters have become so emotionally invested in him that they would not support Clinton if she eventually prevails. And that would be tragic. Voters are fed up with Republicans, have moved significantly to the left on many political issues, and are more open to voting Democratic than at any time in years. Democrats are well-positioned to finally to enact a progressive agenda and maybe even achieve long-deferred progressive goals like universal health care and labor law reform. To do any of this, a Democratic president is essential. And the small differences between Clinton and Obama are infinitesimal indeed when compared to the differences between either of them and any of the Republicans. There's a famous story about FDR meeting with a group of reformers trying to persuade him to support one of their goals. After they finished speaking, FDR said to them, "You've convinced me. I want to do it. Now make me do it." We need to remember that -- that the next president will do the right thing only if there are incentives (in the form of massive political pressure) for him or her to do so. So I say, we should all get a grip, stop all this unseemly mooning over Barack, see him and the political landscape he is a part of in a cooler, clearer, and more realistic light, and get to work.
MCL comment: For the record if Obama gets the nod I will fully support him, but my main concern is he really ready? All I'm saying if he can't stand up against Bill Clinton comments about his stances and his record what you think he's going to stand up to months of right wingers sliming him?

Friday, February 01, 2008

Olbermann: Bush push for telco immunity 'textbook example of fascism'

Note: If you want to watch Keith Olbermann's comment you have to go to the link Olbermann: Bush push for telco immunity 'textbook example of fascism' David Edwards and Nick JulianoPublished: Friday February 1, 2008 del.icio.us In a blistering condemnation of President Bush's willingness to go to the wall for corporations he relies on to spy on Americans, MSNBC host Keith Olbermann says the president's message in his State of the Union address calling for immunity of telecommunications companies is a "textbook example of fascism." Bush and Congressional Democrats are in a pitched fight over whether to free telecoms from legal liability as part of an overhaul of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. The president says the companies should be rewarded for their cooperation in the war on terror; critics say legal immunity would preclude any oversight of Bush's warrantless wiretapping program that ensnared US citizens. Olbermann accused Bush's threat to veto any bill without immunity of aiding the terrorists, when coupled with his threat that failing to act on a permanent FISA expansion would weaken US national security. "You told Congress, if you do not act by Friday, our ability to track terrorist threats would be weakened, and our citizens would be in greater danger," Olbermann said. "Yet you you are willing to weaken that ability. You will subject us, your citizens, to that greater danger. This is simple enough for you to understand. If Congress approves a new FISA act without telecom immunity, and sends it to your desk, and you veto it, you, by your own terms and your own definitions, you will have just sided with the terrorists." The host further excoriated Bush for refusing to even acknowledge corporate assistance, always couching his calls for immunity by describing companies "believed" or "alleged" to have assisted his still-classified program. "If you, sir, are asking Congress and us to join you in this shameless, breathless, literal textbook example of fascism, the merged efforts of government and corporations who answer to no government, you still don't have the guts to say the telecom companies did assist you in your efforts?" Olbermann asked. "Will you and the equivocators who surround you like a cocoon never go on the record about anything? Even the stuff you claim to believe in?" Ironically, Olbermann notes, that Vice President Dick Cheney did go on the record about telecom involvement, when he spoke to conservative talker Rush Limbaugh Wednesday. "The Vice President probably shouldn’t have phoned in to the Rush Limbaugh Propaganda-Festival yesterday. Sixth sentence out of Mr. Cheney’s mouth: The FISA bill is about, quote, 'retroactive liability protection for the companies that have worked with us and helped us prevent further attacks against the United States,'" Olbermann said. "Oops. Mr. Cheney is something of a loose cannon, of course. But he kind of let the wrong cat out of the bag there." Some critics dismissed Olbermann as a hyberbolic ranter who relies on over-the-top rhetoric. "The MSNBC host, who once scolded public figures who use Nazi references, made his own latest invocation of Nazi Germany, as he compared the telecoms to the Krupp family who were convicted of war crimes at Nuremberg," wrote conservative media critic Brad Wilmouth. "Olbermann: 'It begins to look like the bureaucrats of the Third Reich trying to protect the Krupp family industrial giants by literally rewriting the laws of Germany for their benefit. And we know how that turned out. Alfred Krupp and 11 of his directors were convicted of war crimes at Nuremburg.'" Unable to reach a final agreement on how to update FISA and whether to give immunity to the telecoms, Congress this week passed a 15-day extension to the Protect America Act, a temporary FISA extension forced through Congress just before its August recess. On Monday, the Senate will resume debate on the FISA expansion, after Republicans backed off their demands that all proposed amendments be subjected to a 60-vote majority, according to Congressional Quarterly. The subscription-only Capitol Hill journal reports: Three amendments to be voted on next week will address retroactive immunity for companies being sued for allegedly assisting the National Security Agency in its warrantless surveillance program.One, by Democrats Russ Feingold of Wisconsin and Christopher J. Dodd of Connecticut, would simply remove the immunity provisions, which are a priority for the Bush administration.Another, by Arlen Specter, R-Pa., and Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., would substitute the federal government as the defendant in the lawsuits. Both would only need a simple majority for adoption.A third, by Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., would require the companies to justify their actions before the secret FISA court, which would then decide whether immunity was warranted. It would require 60 votes to be adopted. Some critics see the move as just another GOP gambit to block immunity from passing. "It seems rather clear what happened here. There are certain amendments that are not going to get even 50 votes -- including the Dodd/Feingold amendment to strip telecom immunity out of the bill -- and, for that reason, Republicans were more than willing to agree to a 50-vote threshold, since they know those amendments won't pass even in a simple up-or-down vote," writes Glenn Greenwald, a prominent blogger covering the FISA fight. "But then, there are other amendments which might be able to get 50 votes, but cannot get 60 votes -- such as Feinstein's amendment to transfer the telecom cases to the FISA court and her other amendment providing that FISA is the "exclusive means" for eavesdropping -- and, thus, those are the amendments for which the GOP insisted upon a 60-vote requirement." During his comment, Olbermann reiterated the revelation from former AT&T technician Mark Klein, who blew the whistle on his former company's collusion with the National Security Agency, that he connected a "Big Brother machine" to funnel every piece of communication crossing AT&T's wires into an NSA database. "This isn't about finding that kind of needle in a haystack, this isn't even about finding that haystack" Olbermann said. "This is about scooping up every piece of hay there ever was."This video is from MSNBC's Countdown, broadcast January 31, 2008.

Who would Jesus beat up?

Catholic League president challenges Bill Maher to fight David Edwards and Nick JulianoPublished: Thursday January 31, 2008 del.icio.us In what could be seen as an effort to resurrect its sister network's Celebrity Boxing franchise to boost lagging ratings, Fox News aired an interview Thursday with the controversial Catholic League president, William Donahue, who took offense to comments questioning religion from comedian, and prominent athiest, Bill Maher. That Maher deigned to question the divinity of Jesus Christ -- saying he was more skeptical of Christian mythology than that UFOs regularly visit earth -- sent Donahue into an apoplectic rage. The 60-year-old Donahue challenged his longtime nemesis Maher to a fist-fight. Fox News host Megyn Kelly offered to televise the fight right there on Americas' Newsroom. "Bill Maher ... constantly is going after not just religion in general, he really has it out against Christians," Donahue charged. "I'm at the point right now where I'd love to challenge this guy in a ring ... preferably Madison Square Garden. I'm a lot older than he is, but let me tell you something, I'd floor him." On Real Time with Bill Maher, which airs Friday nights on HBO, the host and his guests were discussing recent UFO sightings in Texas when Maher made the following observation. "I think it is much more likely that there could be space ships from outer space, than what a lot of things people believe. People still believe, you know, excuse me I know I may inject religion into every show but UFO’s are a lot more likely than a space god flew down bodily and you know who was the Son of God and you know had sex with a Palestinian woman." Maher's program airs at 11 p.m. Friday, his viewers pay a premium fee to receive HBO, and the comedian has never been shy about his view that religion is essentially a farce, so it's unlikely any regular viewers were all that offended. That didn't stop Donahue from attempting to stir up some outrage by issuing a press release which slammed Maher as "America's number one bigot." Donahue has made Maher one of his favorite targets for verbal vitriol, and Thursday's challenge apparently marked his blood boiling over. Indeed, the Catholic League president alluded to his deep yearning to battle the HBO host just three weeks ago. “Unlike most non-believers, who are generally content to respect the right of most Americans to believe in God, guys like Maher want a brawl," Donahue said Jan. 7. "He should be careful what he wishes for because there are those who pine to deliver.” Whether the fight will happen -- and the possibility of Paula Jones and Tonya Harding returning to the ring as an undercard -- remains to be seen.This video is from Fox's America's Newsroom, broadcast January 31, 2008