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Wednesday, November 29, 2006

"Do As I Say (Not as I Do): Profiles in Liberal Hypocrisy"

That's the title of Hoover Institution fellow Peter Schwezer's most recent book (according to his Hoover bio).

Interesting, then, to read this post at ThinkProgress.

Not that there isn't a distinction between hypocricy and indifference to factual accuracy. There is. But it's too bad that Mr. Schweizer lobs charges on the former using the cloak of the latter.

An Ill Wind Blows for the Good Doctor

The announcement likely today that Bill Frist won't run for President is some evidence that Frist may be more aware of reality than was apparent. Frist's slow, grinding, public descent into POTUS-possibility irrelevance was the mirror image of George Allen's shockingly fast fall from possible frontrunner to Senator-un-elect.

Watching Frist, all I could think was, does this guy really think he has a shot at the nomination? Any dumbfool can see he doesn't have a chance -- his woodenness makes you think Al Gore got it from something in the Tennessee water, and why would the religious right support Frist when they'll have so actual true-believers available (even with Allen and frothy Santorum gone, think Brownback, and so on). Yet off he would go to the Senate floor, day-after-other-day, to do their bidding. He did stand up on the bill to provide federal financing of embryonic stem-cell research, but that was the exception that so glaringly proved the rule.

For me, the twin confirmations of Frist's venal 2008-oriented self-sale to the religious right were
  • the spectacle of this highly trained surgeon refusing, in a televised interview with George Stephanopoulos, to debunk the claim that AIDS can be spread via sweat and tears, and, of course

  • his preposterous diagnosis-by-videotape of a neurology patient (imagine a neurologist performing a heart transplant!) in the service of enacting a federal law to force judicial intervention in a family-law dispute.

Dr. Frist, indeed.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

The Shark Jumps Itself

I really can't add anything to the basic statement of facts over at TPM.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Eat This (or: Subjectio Ergo Sum)

Set down the victory champagne. He's still in charge -- as are his ideological minions seeded across the government.

W isn't about to go bipartisan when there's still so much compassionate conservatism to ladle out.

Turns out the best way to fight hunger in Bush 43's administration isn't to get food to the famished but to simply stop calling the foodless ``hungry.''

Every year, the Agriculture Department issues a report that measures Americans' access to food, and it has consistently used the word "hunger" to describe those who can least afford to put food on the table. But not this year.

Mark Nord, the lead author of the report, said "hungry" is "not a scientifically accurate term for the specific phenomenon being measured in the food security survey." Nord, a USDA sociologist, said, "We don't have a measure of that condition."

The USDA said that 12 percent of Americans -- 35 million people -- could not put food on the table at least part of last year. Eleven million of them reported going hungry at times. Beginning this year, the USDA has determined "very low food security" to be a more scientifically palatable description for that group. (Washington Post; 11-16)

Brilliant. (Aside from that whole ``more scientifically palatable" mumbo-jumbo -- which is starkly out of place with the rest of this administration's revelational M.O.)

If we stop acknowledging the problem itself, it will go away. How Zen!

American students falling behind their global peers? No Child Left Behind!

Gay-bashing? Defense of Marriage!

Atmospheric pollution? Shrinking woodlands? Clear Skies! Healthy Forests!

Obviously, there are those who don't get it. There are people, eggheads and nitpickers mostly, who insist on calling things as they grimly are instead of how they might be. This helps explain why we never saw Katrina for the blessing it was. It wasn't a horrible natural calamity -- it was simply an unanticipated water surplus. And who doesn't love water?!?!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Meet the new boss...

Trent Lott returns to power (although, as anyone who watches the Senate closely knows, he never really left). Joe Lieberman says he can't rule out caucusing with the GOP in the future. And, lo and behold, the Democrats in the House have revived the circular firing squad before they even get those new drapes installed.

It's bad enough that incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is allowing a schoolgirl spat with Jane Harman to push her into tapping sleazebag Alcee Hastings (who was impeached as a federal judge in 1989) as chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. Now, she's breaking arms on behalf of John Murtha's bid to be majority leader, and newshounds and partisans are hot on the trail of his ethical foibles, from Ye Olde Abscam to his most recent gaffe just this week, in which he referred to the vaunted ethics reform package Pelosi campaigned on as "total crap." Delightful. Howie Kurtz wants to know why nobody cared about this before, but apparently he missed this terrific article from October, in which the NYT spells out just how loyal Murtha is to his ultimate overlord: power.

Now, nobody's going to mistake Steny Hoyer, Pelosi's current top lieutenant and Murtha's main rival for the leader post, for either a Pelosi loyalist or a squeaky-clean do-gooder. Last year, when Democrats unveiled their ethics reform package, Hoyer was raising money for a House candidate in Florida (a winner, for what it's worth). Like Murtha, Hoyer's a member of the powerful Appropriations Committee, and he has been an equally staunch opponent of doing away with the pork-barrel feeding frenzy known as earmarking. In addition, Hoyer has been the leading proponent of Democrats' efforts to mimic the GOP's "K Street Project," courting lobbyists and ensuring a steady flow of campaign cash. Hoyer has occasionally gone out of his way to undermine Pelosi, and that has caused some bad blood between them, although both constantly deny it.

That said, Hoyer's a smart guy, a steady politician, a voracious fundraiser and a steady shoulder for newbie candidates. He's also the bridge linking the San Francisco Liberal to the Blue Dog Democrats and the more moderate wing of the Democratic caucus (a group that got bigger last week, in many cases thanks at least in part to Hoyer's efforts). As DLC strategist Marshall Wittmann once said, "it takes two wings to fly," and purging Hoyer at this point might leave Pelosi's aircraft struggling just to get off the runway.

And in the end, Hoyer's ethics only give off a vague whiff of corruption. Murtha, however, is a well-known stinkbomb. It's pretty obvious that anyone looking for a scalp from the new Democratic majority won't have to go far to notch the first one if Murtha wins the leader job. If Pelosi wants to be more than a historical footnote, she would do well to re-read the chapter filed under "The Rise and Fall of the Republican Revolution."

Update: Hoyer won, by an embarrassingly large margin. Nicely done, Nancy. But don't be fooled by the analysis that Pelosi now has an adversary instead of an ally at her side. Hoyer has always been something of an adversary. What will be interesting now is how he uses the political capital he just collected.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Allen's Vault

We've spent considerable time in recent days wringing all possible droplets of guilty joy from Sen. George Allen's troubled re-election campaign and comeuppance.

I'd like to indulge for at least one more post. There's still some schadenfreude to squeeze out.

Turns out Allen vaulted everything he ever wrote, for posterity's sake. He so fancied himself a man of history that he thought he'd do all future scholars a favor by preserving every scrap of his writing -- from official correspondence to bar napkins featuring just a chicken scratch. According to a former Allen staffer I spoke to this weekend, Allen's habit annoyed everyone in his office.

``He actually has a real vault, like they have in a bank,'' said the staffer, a Republican. (CHB is a redstate Democrat after all -- giving him an all-access pass to reasonable people on both sides of the aisle.) ``He's ridiculous.''

Where is this vault? When do we get a peek at Allen's greatness, or at least his favorite racist jokes? Sounds like a job for Geraldo Rivera.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Hasta la vista, Felix Macacawitz

Well, that was characteristically unimpressive.

A couple of pieces of advice, Sen. Allen: First, you're never going to come out well in comparison when you stand up next to Sen. John Warner. It's just going to remind people what a real statesman looks like -- and remind them that it's not you. Second, PUT THE DARN FOOTBALL DOWN!!!! It's been a long time since anyone cared that your daddy was a football coach.

As I sit here and wallow in the waves of schadenfreude crashing over me, it's easy to see the major message of this campaign: Northern Virginia rules. Jim Webb walloped Allen in the NoVa districts, places where the state's growth is concentrated. Those counties and cities aren't getting any redder anytime soon -- especially since newly-elected Democrats will be bringing a whole new group of staffers with them, folks who are likely to choose to live in close-in places such as Arlington and Alexandria.

Mark Warner. Tim Kaine. And now, Jim Webb (by far the weakest of the three candidates, I might add). Warner, of course, won re-election in 2002 -- but he's not, and has never been, the kind of superconservative that Allen has always proudly proclaimed himself to be. Repeat after me: Virginia is NOT a ruby-red state.

Neither is Florida, Charlie Crist's resounding victory notwithstanding. Yes, Crist won, but he ran on a platform that's vastly more moderate than the positions espoused by the man he's replacing, Gov. Jeb Bush. Crist beat back a right-wing challenge in the primary despite refusing to dictate to women on the issue of abortion or declare homosexuality the immoral scourge of modern life. I'm not deluded enough to believe that "Chain Gang Charlie" will think terribly hard before signing death warrants, but he has said that he wants to end Florida's shameful practice of forcing ex-convicts to apply for clemency in order to reclaim their right to vote. With the right candidate (preferably one not related to the sitting governor), Florida could easily back a Democratic presidential candidate in 2008.

For now, though, let's say goodbye to Sen. Allen. Maybe now he'll have time to read all of Webb's novels.

Big Tentin'

Jonah is right -- things will be interesting to watch and it all will unfold beneath a new tent pole.

Thanks to their chokehold on the federal government, and their near orthodox commitment to pay-to-play, all kinds of varied and seemingly antithetical forces have been treated to a federal bonanza in the last five-plus-years. Evangelicals, who may have risked turning their churches into IRS audit-eligible, tax-paying political organizations, were allied with the GOP's rollback of science.

The pharmaceutical and energy industries wrote legislation that padded their pockets with taxpayer loot. The xenophobes found themselves alongside multinational corporate interests. Racists, homophobes and anti-Semites marched in lockstep with Jewish former liberals who called themselves neoconservatives.

The Republicans have simply been the big tent -- and what a circus crowd it was beneath that thing. You don't have to take Rush Limbaugh's word for it to see that all kinds of folks carried political water for interests that had nothing to do with their own save for serving the GOP machine.

This coalition of the chilling was smashed on Tuesday. And now the Democratic tent will fill up -- with revenge-seekers and moderate move-along types. Free traders will be in the same ruling caucus as protectionists. Hawks, doves, liberals, conservatives. The netroots and the establishment will go at it. It will be a lot of fun to watch.

Let's just hope the Democrats show a bit of discipline while leading the first branch of American government. CHB isn't disciplined, however, so I'd say: Let's get right to withdrawal plans in Iraq; let's allow the government to negotiate with drug companies over prices instead of having to remain mute, as is currently the law; let's look at ceo pay and the minimum wage. Let's establish national election guidelines to ensure paper trails. And let's fix the alternative minimum tax after a long series of hearings held in congressional districts around the country -- a GOP playbook staple to drum up good press, look convincingly populist, and smother those bastards for their failure to make the tax code fair for those of us who work and play by the rules.

And let's sic the IRS on all them daggum politickin' churches.

This From the Guy Who Fretted Over Serbian Sovereignty

Well, we may have gotten a new Congress without DeLay, but damn, things are going to be interesting to watch.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Yes Santa, There is a Virginia

And now here we are, waiting for Virginia to deliver the Senate to the Democrats.

CHB had little hope that any Democrat besides the Nelsonator would win in Nebraska. It was expected, dreamboat included.

But Oh Virginia.

Even if you don't serve up a dose of karma to us all and elect Webb, it's been a terrific ride. Going in a racist bully with high presidential hopes for 2008, George Felix Allen emerged a Jew. True to form, he's a self-hater, because bullyhood doesn't shake easily (to wit: W's tempestuous presser today).

Sic Semper Tyrannis. That's Virginia's state motto.

Virginia, deliver us.

In the Immortal Words of Tenacious D...


With thanks to Jack Black .

Update: Pardon my French. I got a little excited there.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Mark Halperin Responds. Really.


Atrios and Josh Marshall both have posts describing the apparent unwillingness of the national political media to cover the deliberately deceptive and harassing phone calls being made by GOP-funded groups. Probably the most ire-attracting target is Mark Halperin, ABC's political news director, who recently went on Hugh Hewitt's radio show and, to be polite about it, treated HH and the right the way a male prostitute treats Ted Haggard.

Curious to see if Josh and Duncan were right, I went to http://abcnews.com and did a quick search of their politics coverage to see what if anything I could find about the harassing and deceptive calls. Couldn't find anything.

So, I thought I'd call Mark Halperin's office to ask him about all this. I went to Google Maps, clicked "Find Businesses", and entered "20009" for the zip and "ABC News" for the business. Here's a shortcut to the resulting page.

So, I called (202) 222-7777 and asked for the office of Mark Halperin. I was transferred to his voicemail.

About 2 minutes later, he returned my call (perhaps because I have a DC-area cell number). It's kind of amusing in this day and age to answer your phone and hear "This is Mark Halperin".

So, I said something like this:
Hi Mr. Halperin, I'm an ABC viewer, and I'm concerned that you're not covering the Republicans' harassing phone-call strategy.
Halperin replied, very pleasantly if rushed, something like this:
No, we're covering it. It's all over ABC radio and TV---the largest political radio network. It's going to be all over the place.
Thinking that perhaps he was talking about they-all-do-it coverage of robocalls in general, rather than the GOP deceive-and-harass variety, I said something like
I'm talking about the ones where they call and deceive the person who picks up into...
He cut me off---though in a polite tone---and said
I know what you're talking about. That's what we're covering.
Puzzled, I said
Well, that's strange, because I didn't see anything about it on abcnews.com.
And he replied something to the effect of
It's not on the website yet, but it will be.
And I said something like
Well, thanks very much. I'm glad to hear you're covering it. I'll be looking for that coverage.
And he said
You're welcome sir, have a nice night.
So how about that.

If it turns out he was telling the truth, I'll be pleased to hear it and to credit him and ABC (if only for doing the job they *should* be doiong).

If not, I'll be posting communications information about how you can really screw up Mark Halperin's election eve and day.

Update: As of 5:16pm, http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/ is running a no-link banner that reads
Let's hope they really cover this issue.

Second Update: abcnews.com now has a story on the Dems' letter.

More on the GOP Dirty Tricks Campaign

At least one commentator is suggesting that "what happened in New Hampshire is perfectly legal." Perhaps. As I wrote, I don't know the law here.

On the substance, though: One thing that drives me nuts about Dem responses to the various GOP outrages is that the Dems wind up sounding like a bunch of whiners -- confirming the weak-Democrats stereotype that the GOP finds so useful.

I wish that on-camera Dems would stop simply being outraged and start hitting back.

For example: why not put up an ad (and if it's too late for that, hold a press conference) in which Dem staffers announce the home and cell numbers of Ken Mehlman and other RNC and NRCC folks. Just as good, announce the home and cell numbers of the GOP candidates the NRCC is trying to help. Actually, don't stop there: announce the home and cell numbers of their families, too. And maybe their friends. That way, people receiving these early-morning, repeat robocalls can call the perps and their beneficiaries to complain. I bet the local and national media would cover that story.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

They're All The Same

Or are they?

Next time someone tells you that Dems and Republicans are comparably bad, don't point out the 2002 New Hampshire phone-jamming scandal.

Nah. That's old news.

Just ask them what the Dems have done in recent memory that compares to this garbage.

These people don't believe in democracy or representative government. The only thing they understand or believe in is power. I hope that people receiving these calls will file an FCC complaint for every harassing, fraudulent call they receive. I don't know the law here, but I wonder whether conspiring to use telephone lines to harass and deceive subscribers is not just a civil but also a criminal offense.

I also hope that local news stations --- the ones that Bush-Cheney like to use to try to duck the national media --- will inform their audiences that those calls they're getting between 5-6am are coming from GOP groups, for the purposes of deceiving them.

Enough already.