Saturday, December 29, 2007

Edwards Radicalizes Anti-Corporate Pitch
by Marc Cooper

Dubuque, Iowa - Amid a heavy snow storm Friday afternoon, an overflow crowd of several hundred supporters bundled into a meeting hall in this economically battered town to hear candidate John Edwards escalate his closing campaign message of opposing "corporate greed" and denounce what he called a "small group of profiteers" dominating American life.

"Everything about America is threatened today...this is an epic struggle for the future of America," Edwards told the cheering crowd. "Corporate greed and the very powerful use their money to control Washington and this corrupting influence is destroying the middle class."

While all of the presidential campaigns have refocused to some degree on foreign policy in the wake of the murder of Pakistani leader Benazir Bhutto, Edwards is keeping his message of economic fairness front and center during the final week of campaigning here. "We will defeat greed and fear - and strike a blow for working people, for those with no voice, for those Washington has ignored too long." Edwards made no mention of the Pakistani crisis in his newly re-tooled stump speech.

While Edwards has consistently campaigned on an economically populist program, his speech today in Dubuque was marked by a noticeable ratcheting up and radicalization of his critique of corporate wealth and power.

"Why on earth would we expect the corporate powers and their lobbyists, who make billions by selling out the middle-class, to just give up their power because we ask them nicely?" Edwards asked. He made no mention of rivals Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton in today's speech; in the past, he has slammed Clinton for being too indebted to powerful Washington lobbies.

Edwards is in the midst of a final 38-county push to win next Thursday's Iowa caucuses. Even his own supporters will concede that taking Iowa is a do-or-die must for a campaign running third in national polls, but in a virtual dead heat in the Hawkeye State with rivals Clinton and Obama.

Nestled on the gritty Illinois border, Dubuque has been hit hard by the collapse in American manufacturing jobs and offers itself as a perfect venue for Edwards' message of economic fairness. The local Flexsteel plant has lost about two-thirds of its 800 jobs over the past decade. Paper maker Georgia Pacific, another big employer in town, has also been hit hard by job exports.

"Iowa has lost twice as many jobs to unfair trade deals than it's won in the so-called technological revolution," Edwards adviser Dave "Mudcat" Saunders told the HuffPost before today's event started. "What kind of revolution is that?" Saunders said Edwards would stay on his message of opposing "unchecked greed" and that it was a theme that resonated deeply throughout the state.


After Bhutto's death, the press in South Asia and Europe fear for democracy's future in Pakistan, which could go up in "turbulent smoke and bloody dust."

By Edward M. Gomez

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Suspected suicide bomber struck opposition leader's rally.
What's Next For Pakistan?
A Former Intelligence official says that the death of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, while tragic, won't necessarily plunge Pakistan into the depths. —By Laura Rozen

It is a given that, in creating a film narrative, sometimes the truth gets a little bent, but it's against the rules to change facts that change the outcome of history.

By Melissa Roddy

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Ron Paul: American Civil War Was Unnecessary
By Greg Sargent

This has gotten a bit of attention already, but we wanted to flag it for you. It's Ron Paul in an interview with Tim Russert yesterday asserting that the American Civil War was unnecessary. His take: Other countries ended slavery without a civil war -- why not America? Paul theorizes that the north could have simply bought all the slaves and released them...

Ashton Kutcher's Christmas Video: A Horny, Rudolph-Loving, Script-Pitching Santa

Ashton Kutcher and his production company put together a hilarious video Christmas card featuring Ashton as a drunk, unemployed Santa looking for work in Hollywood, production partner Jason Goldberg as plays Mrs. Claus and striking writer elves.

Even real-life wife Demi Moore shows up as Rudolph, and has inappropriate relations with Santa in the copy room.

by Andrew Sullivan

If you don't know what to get President Bush for Christmas, maybe the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) can help. After 37,000 people joined their grassroots campaign to give Bush the ultimate all-American gift this holiday -- a Constitution that "forbids torture and spying on Americans without a warrant" -- activists went to the White House to deliver the goods. Naturally, they had help from a very special guest. The YouTube clip of the festivities, titled simply "G.W. Bush hates Santa," is the third most watched video of the week in the nonprofits category. CCR, which was founded in 1966 as the legal arm of the civil rights movement, has recently taken Bush administration officials to court for domestic spying, torture and rendition. (Full disclosure: I once worked at CCR, but there were no sleigh field trips back then.)

Posted by Ari Melber

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Political Christmas Wishes
Taking a look at some inspiring (political) Christmas wishes.
By Glenn Greenwald
Very Futuramey Xmas

"Y'all have a Merry . . . uhh . . .? ? ?"

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Even as the Wall Streeters are high-fiving and ordering up record shipments of Champagne and caviar, the American dream is on life-support.

FOX ATTACKS! Edwards and Obama

Pardon the holiday interruption, but the bullies at FOX are at it again. This time, they are trying to get Senator Obama and Senator Edwards to buckle to their threats and accusations. The senators are standing tall, tough and strong.

We must encourage them to resist the name-calling and intimidation and refuse to legitimize the propaganda network.

Watch video of the attacks, then sign the open letter supporting their decision. You helped us beat FOX on the Nevada debates, and stopped the Detroit debate. Now it's time to take your email lists, your blogs, your radio and newspapers, and let the world know.

We support strength. We support candidates who don't cave to the bullies

Clinton haters who think the Illinois senator can beat Hillary support him now, but their affection will fade if he gets the nomination.

By Joe Conason

Friday, December 21, 2007

Slowed? Maybe … Stopped? No Way.
By Joe Conason —
Sen. Clinton has had some campaign setbacks, but the notion that she’s in a tailspin is baloney.

By Bill Boyarsky
John Edwards’ words at the last Iowa Democratic debate sounded so out of tune with this year’s campaign discourse—and so sensible and important—that the man might as well have been campaigning on another planet.

By Bill Boyarsky
In his first dispatch from the scene of the upcoming caucuses, Boyarsky gets a look at Barack Obama in action as the Democratic presidential hopeful delivers a speech in Des Moines touching on foreign policy and the issue of experience in office.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

'Bad for the Jews'
by Eric Alterman

A paradox of American Jewish political behavior: they think like liberals, but they let belligerent right-wingers who demonizeand distort their values speak for them.

Giuliani sickened by new poll numbers

Rudy's sickly poll numbers force Dr's visit

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Attached at the hip

Giuliani's Kerik Woes Resurface Through Informant
Candidate Distancing Himself From Former Confidant

By John Solomon and Matthew Mosk
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, December 19, 2007; A01

In the heady days of the 1990s when Rudolph W. Giuliani was mayor of New York and Bernard B. Kerik was one of his most trusted lieutenants, Lawrence Ray enjoyed his own wild ride.

Ray was one of Kerik's closest friends and the best man at his 1998 wedding. As Kerik was rising to become New York's police commissioner, Ray was in touch with him regularly -- lending him money, discussing possible business opportunities, and using Ray's contacts in Russia to arrange a meeting for Giuliani with former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.

Much has changed since then. Giuliani is now a leading Republican presidential candidate. Kerik has pleaded guilty to state ethics charges and is under federal indictment. And Ray, a convicted felon now in prison on a parole violation, has turned on his former friend. He has provided to state and federal authorities half a dozen boxes of e-mails, memos, faxes, financial statements, photographs and other materials about Kerik's alleged wrongdoing.

That evidence, reviewed by The Washington Post, shows that Kerik brought Ray into contact with Giuliani on a handful of occasions documented in photos and that he invoked Giuliani's name in connection with a New Jersey construction company with alleged mob ties that is now at the heart of the criminal cases.

While campaigning, Giuliani has sought to distance himself from Kerik, his mounting legal problems and associates such as Ray. Asked about Kerik and Ray during a recent appearance on NBC's "Meet the Press," he said: "I made a mistake in not vetting [Kerik] carefully enough. And it's my responsibility. I should have."

This spring, Ray's friend Sidney Baumgarten, a New York lawyer, told former deputy mayor and longtime Giuliani ally Ninfa Segarra that Ray was embroiled in a bitter divorce and an even worse custody dispute over his two daughters. Baumgarten said he told Segarra that Ray possessed "damaging" information about Giuliani but that he would not go public with his allegations if he could receive help with the mounting legal troubles.

"That was the implied quid pro quo," Baumgarten recalled in an interview with The Post, saying the conversation stemmed solely from his desire to help Ray's children in the custody case.

The following day, Baumgarten received an e-mail from Segarra advising Ray to call an acquaintance of hers, a "political heavyweight" lawyer who could assist Ray in the custody dispute in New Jersey. "For now I would ask not to identify me as the referral," Segarra wrote in the March 5 e-mail obtained by The Post.

In an interview, Segarra said she recommended the lawyer for Ray after talking with Baumgarten but did not consult with the Giuliani campaign or anyone else. She said she was not motivated by Baumgarten's offer that Ray would keep silent.

"Baumgarten described to me a very nasty child custody battle," said Segarra, who spoke with The Post at the request of Giuliani aides. "He may have implied something like that and I emphatically told him I didn't want to get involved. Because the welfare of children was at issue, I recommended a well-respected lawyer that was capable of dealing with the child custody issue in New Jersey."

Ray, who has been in prison since July on a parole violation, never acted on the referral. Instead, he reported it to the FBI, wearing a wire to record his friend recounting the referral.

Giuliani's aides dismissed Ray as not credible.

"Larry Ray's accusations are completely false and without merit," said Daniel Connolly, a partner in Giuliani's security consulting firm. "Let us remember Mr. Ray is a convicted felon with a track record of dishonesty whose statements continue to lack one iota of credibility. As anyone familiar with Mr. Ray's history will attest, his character, credibility and motives are all quite suspect and any statements he makes should be judged accordingly."

Kenneth Breen, an attorney for Kerik, said: "As we have consistently maintained, Bernie Kerik denies the allegations in the indictment and will address them in court. Larry Ray's accusations are not worthy of a response."

Speaking last Wednesday from the federal detention center in Brooklyn, Ray said that his motivation is to get the truth out.

"I could have negotiated a great deal for myself," he said in a telephone interview that was monitored by corrections officials. "If I wanted to forget about this thing, I could. But ultimately, this is about the truth. There's no motivation for me to walk away from the truth."

'Too Many Questions'

Larry Ray's five-year friendship with Kerik spanned the same time period that is now at the heart of the federal case against Kerik.

Ray, 48, met Kerik at a New Jersey bar during Kerik's rise through the ranks of the Giuliani mayoral administration. In the mid-1990s, Ray said, he and Kerik saw each other almost daily and they e-mailed frequently. Kerik often signed his missives to Ray, "I Love You -- B." In fall 1997, Kerik asked Ray to use his contacts in Russia to try to arrange a meeting between Giuliani and Gorbachev, Ray said. Among his many hats, Ray said that he had managed to become a security advance man for some of Gorbachev's trips to the United States.

"At first, I told him there was no way," Ray said in an interview. "Gorbachev met world leaders, not city mayors. But Bernie kept insisting, and eventually I made it happen."

Ray provided law enforcement officials with photos of the gathering that showed himself, Gorbachev, Giuliani and Kerik at City Hall as well as a letter from Gorbachev via an interpreter thanking him for arranging the New York visit. In addition, Ray provided copies of memos showing that he coordinated the visit with Kerik.

One December 1997 fax from Kerik to Ray, sent on the eve of Gorbachev's arrival, suggested that the city, not the FBI, should provide security for the visit. "This is not an official government trip. FBI is not indemnified being on duty. Off duty if something happens, there will be too many questions . . . that we don't want to be involved in," Kerik wrote. "There would be no questions of City personnel, not to mention the mayor is aware of the trip."

Connolly, Giuliani's partner, said the former mayor "denies making any request of Bernie Kerik or Larry Ray to arrange a meeting with Mikhail Gorbachev."

In the late 1990s, Ray worked as a security consultant for Interstate Industrial, a New Jersey construction company that had been wrestling with allegations of ties to a New York crime family. Kerik, then commissioner of New York's corrections department, offered to help Interstate contest those allegations so it could win contracts from Giuliani's administration, according to the indictment. At the same time, Kerik accepted $255,000 in illegal gifts from Interstate that included extensive renovations to one of his apartments, prosecutors say in court records. The Giuliani administration never approved Interstate for the contracts.

New York investigators told The Post that Ray provided evidence to them before Kerik pleaded guilty in June 2006 to two state misdemeanor charges involving the gifts. Ray also provided similar evidence to the FBI before the recent federal indictment of Kerik on corruption and tax charges, according to interviews with law enforcement officials and e-mails between Ray and the FBI obtained by The Post.

FBI documents show that while Ray has served as a confidential informant, agents have at times questioned his credibility. He can ramble for hours, weaving conspiratorial theories with folksy tales about his high-flying days as Kerik's buddy and his secretive work for the FBI and U.S. military.

Ray was described as a "calculating, manipulative and hostile man" in a psychological evaluation conducted by an expert his wife hired for the divorce case.

Ray's expert provided a more favorable analysis. Earlier this year, federal officials gathered evidence suggesting that he had, for a second time, violated his probation in connection with his conviction in an earlier organized-crime securities fraud case. They declared him a fugitive, even as Ray continued talking to and e-mailing the FBI.

U.S. marshals spent weeks tracking Ray's cellphone traffic across New York, with agents working 24-hour shifts until they caught his signal in July in an apartment on the city's Upper East Side. Five marshals burst in, pinned him to the floor and handcuffed him, breaking his arm. Inside, they found two computers, six cellphones and photographs of Kerik. As they hauled Ray away, one marshal recalled hearing his 18-year-old daughter scream, "Police corruption! This is because of Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Bernard Kerik!"

His legal problems aside, Ray has supporters in government circles who say that over the years he assisted them with delicate matters. Ray's court files include a letter from NATO thanking him for his "efforts to ensure good communication and understanding between ourselves and the Russian leadership" in reaching a deal to end bombing during the Kosovo crisis in the late 1990s. FBI files reflect his help with organized-crime cases.

"One of the problems with Larry's story is it is so complex," said retired three-star Marine Gen. Charles H. Pitman, a Purple Heart recipient who befriended Ray a decade ago. "It is like reading a novel, you can't put it down but it goes on and on. In fact, he has been straightforward. He was anxious to help the government. He was kind of a wannabe minuteman."

The Evidence

Larry Ray began providing New York authorities with evidence of Bernard Kerik's wrongdoing in December 2004 when the former New York police commissioner was nominated for the post of homeland security secretary. The nomination was pulled within days because of questions about Kerik's background.

Ray turned over voice recordings, e-mails, photographs, city documents and other items outlined in a 33-page roster of evidence. That material offers new details about the Interstate matter.

Records, for instance, show that Interstate first faxed a copy of its application to the Giuliani administration to Kerik in November 1998. A separate affidavit that Ray filed with New Jersey gambling authorities, which rejected Interstate for business, also alleges that Kerik arranged for meetings between company representatives and gambling authorities.

Kerik told Ray repeatedly that Giuliani was aware of Interstate's desire to secure city contracts, Ray alleged in an interview with The Post. Ray added that he once sat in Kerik's office as Kerik discussed the matter in a phone call with Giuliani. After hanging up, Ray said, Kerik went over to City Hall to meet with Giuliani.

Connolly said that Giuliani never had a conversation with Kerik regarding Interstate at the time. "The only conversation he recalls ever having with Bernie regarding Interstate occurred in December 2004 when the press was reporting that relationship in connection with events at the time," Connolly said, adding, "There were never any one-on-one meetings with Larry Ray and Rudy Giuliani ever."

On April 29, 1999, Kerik sent Ray an e-mail titled "Important!!!!!!!!!!!!" that said that the mayor had appointed Raymond Casey, one of his relatives, to a top job at the city's Trade Waste Commission, which Interstate was trying to influence. The e-mail was turned over to authorities and The Post.

"Rudy's nephew in the Tradewaste has been appointed from Inspector General to Deputy Commissioner of Investigations," Kerik wrote. "That's how he's aware of everything going on. He's overseeing all of the investigations. That could be bad for me at the moment but I think overall good for us."

In the same e-mail, Kerik lamented his problems paying for his new apartment. He also mentioned that his brother Donald was looking for a new job. Within months, Interstate started renovations at Kerik's apartment and hired Donald.

Interstate President Frank DiTommaso wrote to the trade waste agency to announce his new employee. "The day to day operations of Interstate Materials Corp. have been taken over by Mr. Don Kerik," the note said. "Don is a fine individual and will continue to provide your agency with full cooperation."

In July 1999, Bernard Kerik arranged a meeting with Casey and a New York Department of Investigations agent at a Manhattan restaurant to discuss Interstate, according to the recent federal indictment of Kerik. Kerik "questioned" city officials' concerns about the company having alleged mob ties. "I put my reputation and integrity on the line" for the company, he wrote in an e-mail to the company's owners after that meeting.

Kerik arranged a subsequent meeting between city officials and an Interstate representative later that summer in his Department of Corrections office, the indictment states.

As Kerik pressed Interstate's case, he asked Ray for money. "I've got to take care of those things we talked about a few weeks ago," he said. "If possible, I need about 2 to 2,5 to take care of it," Kerik wrote in an e-mail in May 1999 asking for $2,000 to $2,500. A few weeks later, Kerik sought more. "If possible I don't want to spend any of the down payment for the apartment and I've got a few things that I've got to pay off," he wrote to Ray. "Can we spare 2500 to get me by until something else comes up."

The materials Ray provided to law enforcement also suggest that he and Kerik discussed a range of private business proposals. Kerik sent and received numerous faxes from his city office addressed to Ray about several possible deals, including one in 1998 titled "Proposed Acquisition of Sugar From Brazil for Russia." Another in 1997 from a major international bank concerned possible real estate transactions in New York and Russia. The investigative files give no indication whether any of the deals occurred. Ray also alleges that Kerik notified him when Giuliani planned to appoint Kerik in 1997 to New York's gambling regulatory commission. Ray had an application for a license to run a riverboat, according to the documents he turned over to police.

"Kerik was real excited about that. He wanted me to purchase the ship and do the retrofitting," Ray said. "It was supposed to be offshore. He would get 50 percent. We would set up a company to own the ship." That plan never materialized.

Parting Ways

Kerik and Ray began parting ways in 2000 around the time Ray was indicted on charges of securities fraud in connection with the mob stock scheme. The indictment surprised Ray and his lawyers because Ray had worked with the FBI as a confidential informant to make the case, according to FBI documents. The documents show that the FBI eventually came to believe that Ray had not told them everything about his own role in the scheme.

In a November 2001 e-mail exchange, Ray reached out to Kerik for help. "I am sorry I have to burden you with any of this at all. But I need you and my family needs you. I have done my best to keep you out of it all along. . . . As a friend I was mindful of the sensitivity of your position. . . . Now I need you as a friend to do nothing more than be willing to state the truth as to the things that you do know."

Kerik's stinging reply arrived the next morning. "In the event that I am called to testify, I must tell you that my recollection of the events is not consistent with what you remember. And this would have a severely negative impact on your credibility." Ray eventually pleaded guilty to the securities charge in 2003 and was sentenced to house arrest and probation.

When Kerik's nomination to head up the Department of Homeland Security was announced in 2004, Ray went public with his allegations about Kerik and Interstate, giving an interview to the New York Daily News and going to authorities in New York and New Jersey. Kerik's nomination was quickly withdrawn.

The next year, Ray's life continued its downward spiral. His marriage fell apart, and he became embroiled in the custody battle. Ray's New Jersey home was raided by police in connection with the dispute. Eventually, the case led to Ray's probation violation -- he was accused of ignoring a restraining order to stay away from his children -- and he was sent to prison.

Ray became convinced that Kerik was exerting influence behind the scenes to damage his reputation with police and prosecutors in New Jersey. He said that a local prosecutor told him "the party line is to get Larry Ray." That prosecutor, Michele D'Onofrio, concluded that the police search of Ray's home was illegal and recently was interviewed by the FBI about the search, according to court records.

Ray filed a civil rights lawsuit against local authorities about the search. His 18-year-old daughter hired Florida lawyer Mark Gelman, a specialist in child sex abuse cases, to prepare a lawsuit that was filed last Friday alleging that she was abused by her mother and one of her relatives. A lawyer for the wife has said that Ray has repeatedly made such allegations and that they have always been determined to be unfounded. Messages left for Ray's ex-wife were not returned.

The ugliness of the New Jersey custody case is what prompted Baumgarten, whose law license was recently restored after it was revoked over billing issues, to reach out to Segarra, the former Giuliani deputy mayor.

"It just sickened me what was going on against the children," said Baumgarten, a retired brigadier general who was a deputy mayor in New York. He was credited during the 1970s with overseeing a law enforcement effort to clean up vice-infested Midtown Manhattan.

© 2007 The Washington Post

Monday, December 17, 2007

The senator from Connecticut and the senator from Arizona do what comes naturally.

by Walter Shapiro

By not even waiting to see who the Democrats nominate, Lieberman is revealing that the issues aren't important to him.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

And then I woke up.....

We can dream, right?
Revenge of the Magic Dolphins
Sorry, duckies, it's too late to turn back the sundial.
by James Wolcott

Peggy Noonan, Charles Krauthammer, and some of the honkers at NRO's Corner are issuing distress calls about the overegging of religion in the Republican primaries.

The Republican race looks--at the moment--to be determined primarily by one thing, the question of religious faith. In my lifetime faith has been a significant issue in presidential politics, but not the sole determinative one. Is that changing? If it is, it is not progress.

This campaign is knee-deep in religion, and it's only going to get worse. I'd thought that the limits of professed public piety had already been achieved during the Republican CNN/YouTube debate when some squirrelly looking guy held up a Bible and asked, "Do you believe every word of this book?"--and not one candidate dared reply: None of your damn business.

Back in 2000, when Noonan endorsed George Bush for president, his muscular Christianity reduced her to rhetorical mush:

George Bush is a compassionate conservative. He sees the needs other, older conservatives did not always see, or did not always think they must or could address. But he applies conservative solutions to these needs: more freedom, more choice, the inclusion in the public sphere of faith-based approaches. All the money in the world, he knows, cannot and will not turn around a troubled child’s heart. But God can, and his workers are eager. Bush does not fear faith as an opposing power center to the state. He likes it as an opposing power center to the state. After all, faith freed Poland; perhaps it can free a tough 16-year-old in inner-city Detroit too.

This doesn't sound so very different to me than the compassionate conservativism Mike Huckabee is espousing, as when he rebuked Mitt Romney over wanting to deny college aid to children of illegal immigrants. But now that Mike Huckabee has flapped his arms and scattered the pigeons, jeopardizing the candidacies of expensive empty suits such as Romney and Fred Thompson, not to mention Giuliani's big-state gameplan, the media's collective bobblehead brain trust has rediscovered the virtues of secular firewalls and tucking faith in the vest pocket rather than draping yourself in velvet yards of it. For the last seven years we've been subjected to hero-worshipping prose about Bush's faith and fortitude and his appealing to a "higher father" for guidance and succor, and saintly photographs of the presidential seal forming a golden halo around Bush's warrior profile ( loved running such jawline porn). And for longer than seven years, Democrats have been caricatured and reviled as the party that harbors hostility and sneery condescension towards people of faith and established religion, a godless sect barely indisguishable from a postmodern pagan cult. As liberal Democrats were being pounded from the right, concern trolls in the squishy center knitted their brows about the widening "faith gap" between Repubs and Dems and called for a restoration of religion in the fabled "public square" that doesn't really exist anywhere but inside the minds of journalistic deacons such as Jon Meacham and similar platitude mongers. Recall this serving of unsolicited advice from that bubblegum dispenser and aluminum-sided Beltway Boy, Mort Kondracke:

Democrats Need To 'Get Religion.' It's Not Scary

My post-election advice to Democrats is: Go to church. Don't go to "get religion," although it might be good for your soul. Just go, in the first instance, to "get" religion, i.e. understand what goes on in the heads and hearts of those who devoutly believe in God and how it affects their views of the world. It will help you politically.

I have the distinct impression that many secular Democrats believe that hidden away in most Evangelical Protestant churches is a secret room filled with white Klan sheets or maybe even Swastika armbands.

I have the distinct impression that he probably received that "distinct impression" from his Beltway Boy sidekick Fred Barnes, who in turn probably dug it out of his ass or plucked it out of thin air or whatever it is he does when not scribbling notes to himself on the set of Fox News as the other pundits are speaking.

Now, instead of urging Democrats to find a spot amid the bare ruined choirs, conservatives such as Krauthammer are finding a certain silent eloquence in the abandoned cathedrals that Mitt Romney verbally gestured to as a cautionary tale:

He spoke of the empty cathedrals in Europe. He’s right about that: Postwar Europe has experienced the most precipitous decline in religious belief in the history of the West. Yet Europe is one of the freest precincts on the planet. It is an open, vibrant, tolerant community of more than two dozen disparate nations living in a pan-continental harmony and freedom unseen in all previous European history.

When Bush was at his perihelion of power and popularity, such sentiments were less in circulation from our syndicated columnists.

There was a certain smugness in being able to count on the evangelical wing voting Republican and being sewn up as part of the permanent Rovian majority. But now the permanent Republican majority is a leaking sandbag and the front runner status of a Mormon or thrice-married Catholic threatens to incur the resentment of evangelicals, who don't enjoy feeling they're just allowed to be along for the ride as long as they don't dictate the parade route. Historian Richard Brookhiser, the shrewdest and most dryly acerbic observer at NRO's Corner, recognizes that the internecine strife underway as a self-inflicted folly. This is what happens when purity tests and theological thumb-wrestling take hold in the political process.

Conservatives wanted to cram religion down everyone's throats when they thought it was to their advantage and now they're the ones gagging. For Peggy Noonan, the Magic Dolphin lady herself, who rhapsodized after 9/11 that God was back, for her to lament "that faith has been heightened as a determining factor in how to vote, that such things as executive ability, professional history, temperament, character, political philosophy and professed stands are secondary, tertiary" is a jewel of irony worthy of a giftbox. Let Balloon Juice's John Cole break out the bubbly glee:

I simply can not tell you how much I am enjoying this. The GOP has been pandering to these stupid bastards for years, and every time I pointed it out I was called "anti-Christian" or something or other. Those of us who saw what the party was becoming were told to shut up, that it was good politics.

Enjoy your new GOP, folks. And here is something else to think about--are the evangelicals going to support Romney or Giuliani if you do manage to trash Huckabee enough to secure the nomination for them? Will the eye for an eye crowd learn to forgive and forget? Have fun!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

By Will Durst —

The list of folks who turn out not to have the ability to destroy the world is growing at a dangerous rate.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Observer Cartoon Mocking Cheney Tops Time's Editorial Cartoons Of The Year List

The Last Empire: China's Pollution Problem Goes Global

Al Gore tells the U.S. and China to end the stalemate spurring global warming. But is the environment the inevitable casualty of China's headlong rush to emulate the American way of life?

By Jacques Leslie

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Francis Albert Sinatra (December 12, 1915 – May 14, 1998)
Performing here with the great Antonio Carlos Jobim

Waterboarding Our Democracy
By Robert Scheer —

When the CIA destroyed those prisoner interrogation videotapes, was it also destroying the truth about 9/11? After all, according to the 9/11 Commission Report, the basic narrative of what happened on that day comes from the CIA’s account of what those prisoners told their torturers. And what about those congressional leaders, including Democrats such as Nancy Pelosi, who were briefed on the torture program as early as 2002?

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Rudy Giuliani was counting on Iran as a weapon of mass distraction in the '08 race. But the flailing Republican right has just been disarmed.

By Juan Cole
Follow the bouncing tapes
First it was a CIA decision. Then Harriet Miers knew. Now more lawyers were involved, and a source says the White House didn't say, "Hell, no."

by Tim Grieve

Dec. 11, 2007 In the Bush administration's first attempt to explain the destruction of videotapes showing the interrogations of suspected al-Qaida members, CIA Director Gen. Michael Hayden said the decision to destroy the tapes was made "within the CIA."

That version of the story quickly gave way when as-yet unidentified administration officials revealed that former White House Counsel Harriet Miers knew about the tapes but had told the CIA that she didn't think they should be destroyed.

Now, as Hayden prepares for a closed-door session today with the Senate Intelligence Committee, there's a third version of the story to consider. An unidentified former intelligence official says that lawyers -- plural -- within the White House and the Justice Department advised the CIA not to destroy the tapes in 2003, but that the CIA continued to push for permission to do so, and the White House never quite got around to saying no.

"They never told us, 'Hell, no,'" the former intelligence official tells the New York Times. "If somebody had said, 'You cannot destroy them,' we would not have destroyed them."

The CIA declined to respond to questions from the Times, and the White House, citing ongoing investigations and the advice of counsel, won't say anything further about the matter at all. In uncharacteristic bit of understatement Monday, White House Press Secretary Dana Perino said that she could "see where" the "cynicism that usually drifts" up from the White House press briefing room might "come up in this regard."

Monday, December 10, 2007

Another feather in Isiah's cap

December 10, 2007

Thomas Settles Harassment Case

Filed at 6:26 p.m. ET

NEW YORK (AP) -- Madison Square Garden and New York Knicks coach Isiah Thomas have settled the sexual harassment case brought by a former team executive who was awarded $11.6 million in punitive damages.

Terms of the settlement were not immediately disclosed.

''I am extremely pleased that we have reached a settlement,'' Anucha Browne Sanders said in a statement.

The deal came as compensatory damages were about to be added and as Browne Sanders was preparing to return to U.S. District Court in Manhattan, where her description of her ordeal with the Knicks exposed the club's tawdry side, from its dysfunctional clubhouse to its star player's sexual exploits with a Knicks intern.

''As I have said before, I am completely innocent,'' Thomas said. ''This decision doesn't change that. However, this is the best course for Madison Square Garden, and I fully support it.''

MSG added: ''We don't feel any less strongly than we did throughout the entire episode. The outcome was a travesty of justice, and we vehemently disagree with the jury's decision, however, at the strong request of (the NBA commissioner) and in the interest of focusing on basketball, we can all agree that it is time for us to move on and put this issue behind us.''

Apropos of nothing in particular, this video explains quite a good deal about many things. For those who need to do so, separate the messenger (and the specific beliefs that are referenced) from the principal point being made:
-Glen Greenwald

Sunday, December 09, 2007

A Tale of Two Giulianis

On the back of 9/11, Rudy Giuliani refashioned himself as a national hero, a top presidential candidate—and, through his consulting firm, Giuliani Partners, became a very wealthy man. But the questionable backgrounds of some of the firm’s clients make one wonder what Rudy wouldn’t do to make a buck. As Giuliani’s former crony Bernard Kerik faces trial, the author uncovers troubling signs of greed, poor judgment, and conflict of interest.

by Michael Shnayerson

Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Connecticut, said that was "stretching credulity."
"There's something going on here," Dodd, a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, said on CNN's "The Situation Room. "We're not getting the full story, hence the reason why there should be an investigation. It goes to the heart of our national security, our protection, our safety, our isolation in the world. That's why this is so important."

Glenn Greenwald:“Missing” Evidence Is Familiar Bush Pattern
Senator Sheldon Whitehouse-Part 1

Part 2

It was a distressing moment to witness Mitt Romney cowed into defending his faith by a powerful minority determined to impose its religious tenets.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

The Tools of ignorance.

December 8, 2007
Op-Ed Contributor

Union-Busting at the Hall of Fame

Vero Beach, Fla.

THE National Baseball Hall of Fame, itself based on the historical error that baseball was invented in Cooperstown, N.Y., has just let one go right through its legs. On Monday, a committee of 12 baseball executives, newspaper reporters and former executives and players posthumously elected Bowie Kuhn, the earnest but unsuccessful former commissioner, to the Hall while overlooking Marvin Miller, the former union leader who dragged baseball, against strenuous resistance, into the modern age of labor relations. There is simply no way to comprehend this absurd decision by the Veterans Committee.

Here are some facts that even this historically challenged committee would have to acknowledge as accurate. Free agency came to baseball during Kuhn’s tenure. He fought it with the owners’ total support. The concept of baseball players having the same legal rights as the rest of us to bargain with their employers on even terms caused Kuhn to warn that baseball might not survive such a cosmic alteration in the relative power of the two sides.

Kuhn’s devotion to baseball was genuine, but his judgment was not sound. He was unwilling to seek middle ground with the baseball players’ union, despite protracted legal battles that the union repeatedly won, because to have done so might have cost him owner support and even his job. And he loved the job and title.

When Andy Messersmith, a pitcher for the Los Angeles Dodgers, sought free agency in 1975, the arbitrator in the case encouraged Kuhn and the owners to settle on the best available terms. Kuhn arrogantly dismissed the suggestion. He took the ridiculous legal position that he and his side would have the arbitrator’s decision overturned in federal court. Of course, he was wrong, and free agency has now become an accepted part of baseball.

During the era of free agency, baseball has profited beyond all possible expectations, with owners and players making enormous amounts of money. It is not possible to study that history without wondering how much baseball would have prospered in the 1970s and early 1980s had Kuhn provided better leadership at a much earlier stage.

The decision by the Hall to overlook Miller is grounded in a bad reading of history. Miller had a bigger impact on baseball than any commissioner, owner or player in the past 40 years. Part of his legacy is a powerful, well-run union. The more important part is the present legal and financial structure of the sport, including free agency, arbitration and the enormous pension and benefit programs for the players, all due largely to his efforts.

Miller was much smarter and more talented than Kuhn. Though not a lawyer, he was a public relations genius. He had been an economist with the United Steelworkers when he became the executive director of the players’ union. Miller presented the economic issues in baseball largely in moral terms. Kuhn was the lawyer who argued against change. Miller argued against evil. Guess which was more appealing?

Kuhn permitted Miller to portray the owners as unenlightened and mean-spirited rich men while casting the players as downtrodden and benighted workers who wanted only to be treated fairly. The owners never had a chance.

When Kuhn was pushed out of baseball — as I was years later — he went back to his law firm. In 1988, he and another lawyer started a new firm that was expected to be a grandly successful practice. At the end of 1989, Myerson & Kuhn filed for bankruptcy. At this point, Kuhn moved to Florida — a move that his creditors’ lawyers said was made to claim the protection of that state’s homestead exemption.

Under that law, the home of a debtor may not be used to satisfy debts, and so Kuhn, with a large, valuable and recently purchased Florida residence, was literally home free. In effect, he thumbed his nose at the banks and court in New York, and he left his partners, some of whom he had vigorously recruited, holding a huge empty bag. One such former partner, a tax expert, complained bitterly to me when I was in baseball. He has since died but I wonder how he would have felt about this latest honor by an institution that claims to value character when it considers candidates.

The members of the committee that elected Bowie Kuhn and passed on Marvin Miller should feel ashamed. But they do not. They almost surely believe that Miller and the union won the war, but they refuse him the honor of his victory. This is a set of actions by little men making small-minded decisions. Electing Kuhn and Miller together might have been a tolerable result. But electing Kuhn alone is intolerable.

These are old men trying to turn back time, to reverse what has happened. Theirs is an act of ignorance and bias. I am ashamed for them. I am ashamed that they represent our game.

Fay Vincent was the commissioner of Major League Baseball from 1989 to 1992.

John Lennon: Oct. 9, 1940-Dec. 8, 1980

What Does Bush Do When He Gets Intelligence Info?

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Friday, December 07, 2007

You can't say you weren't told....

Secret Torture Memos Disclosed on Floor of Senate

From remarks just delivered by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse:

We will shortly consider making right the things that are wrong with the so-called Protect America Act, a second-rate piece of legislation passed in a stampede in August at the behest of the Bush Administration. It is worth for a moment considering why making this right is so important.

President Bush pressed this legislation not only to establish how our government can spy on foreign agents, but how his administration can spy on Americans. Make no mistake, the legislation we passed in August is significantly about spying on Americans—a business this administration should not be allowed to get into except under the closest supervision. We have a plain and tested device for keeping tabs on the government when it’s keeping tabs on Americans. It is our Constitution.

Our Constitution has as its most elemental provision the separation of governmental powers into three separate branches. When the government feels it necessary to spy on its own citizens, each branch has a role. The executive branch executes the laws, and conducts surveillance. The legislative branch sets the boundaries that protect Americans from improper government surveillance. The judicial branch oversees whether the government has followed the Constitution and the laws that protect U.S. citizens from violations of their privacy and their civil rights.

It sounds basic, but even an elementary understanding of this balance of powers eludes the Bush Administration. So now we have to repair this flawed and shoddy “Protect America Act.”

Why are we in Congress so concerned about this? Why is it so vital that we energetically assert the role of Congress and the Courts when the Bush Administration seeks to spy on Americans?

Because look what the Bush Administration does behind our backs when they think no one is looking. For years under the Bush Administration, the Office of Legal Counsel within the Department of Justice has issued highly classified secret legal opinions related to surveillance. This is an administration that hates answering to an American court, that wants to grade its own papers, and OLC is the inside place the administration goes to get legal support for its spying program.

As a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, I was given access to those opinions, and spent hours poring over them. Sitting in that secure room, as a lawyer, as a former U.S. Attorney, legal counsel to Rhode Island’s Governor, and State Attorney General, I was increasingly dismayed and amazed as I read on. To give you an example of what I read, I have gotten three legal propositions from these OLC opinions declassified. Here they are, as accurately as my note taking could reproduce them from the classified documents. Listen for yourself. I will read all three, and then discuss each one.

  1. An executive order cannot limit a President. There is no constitutional requirement for a President to issue a new executive order whenever he wishes to depart from the terms of a previous executive order. Rather than violate an executive order, the President has instead modified or waived it.

  2. The President, exercising his constitutional authority under Article II, can determine whether an action is a lawful exercise of the President’s authority under Article II.

  3. The Department of Justice is bound by the President’s legal determinations. Let’s start with number one. Bear in mind that the so-called Protect America Act that was stampeded through this great body in August provides no—zero—statutory protections for Americans traveling abroad from government wiretapping. None if you’re a businesswoman traveling on business overseas, none if you’re a father taking the kids to the Caribbean, none if you’re visiting uncles or aunts in Italy or Ireland, none even if you’re a soldier in the uniform of the United States posted overseas. The Bush Administration provided in that hastily-passed law no statutory restrictions on their ability to wiretap you at will, to tap your cell phone, your e-mail, whatever.

The only restriction is an executive order called 12333, which limits executive branch surveillance to Americans who the Attorney General determines to be agents of a foreign power. That’s what the executive order says. But what does this administration say about executive orders?

An executive order cannot limit a President. There is no constitutional requirement for a President to issue a new executive order whenever he wishes to depart from the terms of a previous executive order. Rather than violate an executive order, the President has instead modified or waived it.

“Whenever (the President) wishes to depart from the terms of a previous executive order,” he may do so because “an executive order cannot limit a President.” And he doesn’t have to change the executive order, or give notice that he’s violating it, because by “depart(ing) from the executive order,” the President “has instead modified or waived it.”

So unless Congress acts, here is what legally prevents this President from wiretapping Americans traveling abroad at will: nothing. Nothing.

That was among the most egregious flaws in the bill passed during the August stampede they orchestrated by the Bush Administration—and this OLC opinion shows why we need to correct it.

Here’s number two.

The President, exercising his constitutional authority under Article II, can determine whether an action is a lawful exercise of the President’s authority under Article II.

Yes, that’s right. The President, according to the George W. Bush OLC, has Article II power to determine what the scope of his Article II powers are.

Never mind a little decision called Marbury v. Madison, written by Chief Justice John Marshall in 1803, establishing the proposition that it is “emphatically the province and duty of the judicial department to say what the law is.” Does this administration agree that it is emphatically the province and the duty of the judicial department to say what the President’s authority is under Article II? No, it is the President, according to this OLC, who decides the legal limits of his own Article II power.

The question “whether an action is a lawful exercise of the President’s authority under Article II,” is to be determined by the President’s minions, “exercising his constitutional authority under Article II.” It really makes you wonder, who are these people? They have got to be smart people to get there. How can people who are so smart be so misguided?

And then, it gets worse. Remember point three.

The Department of Justice is bound by the President’s legal determinations.

Let that sink in a minute.

The Department of Justice is bound by the President’s legal determinations.

We are a nation of laws, not of men. This nation was founded in rejection of the royalist principles that “l’etat c’est moi” and “The King can do no wrong.” Our Attorney General swears an oath to defend the Constitution and the laws of the United States; we are not some banana republic in which the officials all have to kowtow to the “supreme leader.” Imagine a general counsel to a major U.S. corporation telling his board of directors, “in this company the counsel’s office is bound by the CEO’s legal determinations.” The board ought to throw that lawyer out—it’s malpractice, probably even unethical.

Wherever you are, if you are watching this, do me a favor. The next time you are in Washington, D.C., take a taxi some evening to the Department of Justice. Stand outside, and look up at that building shining against the starry night. Look at the sign outside- “The United States Department of Justice.” Think of the heroes who have served there, and the battles fought. Think of the late nights, the brave decisions, the hard work of advancing and protecting our democracy that has been done in those halls. Think about how that all makes you feel.

Then think about this statement:

The Department of Justice is bound by the President’s legal determinations.

If you don’t feel a difference from what you were feeling a moment ago, well, congratulations—there is probably a job for you in the Bush Administration. Consider the sad irony that this theory was crafted in that very building, by the George W. Bush Office of Legal Counsel.

In a nutshell, these three Bush Administration legal propositions boil down to this:

  1. “I don’t have to follow my own rules, and I don’t have to tell you when I’m breaking them.”

  2. “I get to determine what my own powers are.”

  3. “The Department of Justice doesn’t tell me what the law is, I tell the Department of Justice what the law is.”

When the Congress of the United States is willing to roll over for an unprincipled President, this is where you end up. We should not even be having this discussion. But here we are. I implore my colleagues: reject these feverish legal theories. I understand political loyalty, trust me, I do. But let us also be loyal to this great institution we serve in the legislative branch of our government. Let us also be loyal to the Constitution we took an oath to defend, from enemies foreign and domestic. And let us be loyal to the American people who live each day under our Constitution’s principles and protections.

We simply cannot put the authority to wiretap Americans, whenever they step outside America’s boundaries, under the exclusive control and supervision of the executive branch. We do not allow it when Americans are here at home; we should not allow it when they travel abroad. The principles of congressional legislation and oversight, and of judicial approval and review, are simple and longstanding. Americans deserve this protection wherever on God’s green earth they may travel.

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