Category Archives: Republicans

Another Great Idea From Our Brilliant GOP

Lee Judge, Kansas City Star

Actually, if it meant the Dems were going to turn a corporate-friendly giveaway into a citizen-friendly public health service, I’d be all in favor. But I’m pretty sure that’s not what the Pubs have in mind.

Oh, So That’s Why They Fought Al So Hard

There was always some question about whether there was anything that explained the long, pointless, childish GOP refusal to allow Sen Al Franken to be seated until every last legal option had been worn to a frazzle and the Minnesota electorate with it beyond the inherent stubbornness of bad losers to admit they lost. Well, maybe. Look at the first thing Franken did: submit a bill to embarrass a favorite Republican contributor/contractor and Cheney’s ex-corpo (yeah, right), Halliburton, by refusing to let them walk away scot-free from the Jamie Leigh Jones kidnapping and rape charges. The WaPo’s Katherine Parker is apparently having a problem understanding why they fell so easily into Franken’s trap. It’s a good question but the answer is ludicrously simple. Continue reading

If the Republicans Are Committing Political Suicide and the Democrats Are Copying Everything They Do, That Means….

By any measure, the Pubs are in deep shit. Digby thinks it’s “mystifying”.

There’s a lot about the new Republican Party that’s mystifying. “Disarray” doesn’t even begin to describe it. I suppose it’s a lot like it was back in 1964, although I think even then you could see the outlines of a comeback — which they did, four short years later with the election of Nixon, the sainted Kennedy’s bete noir.

But this time, it’s really hard to see how they can ever build a sustainable majority when they are doing things like [voting overwhelmingly against confirming Sonia Sotomayor].

Um, they can’t, not really. About all they can do is insist as loudly as possible that the Dems are in trouble and pretend the GOP is therefore in the process of making a comeback even if they’re, you know,  so NOT. Earlier this week Roy Edroso caught AEI’s Joel Kotkin making it up as he went along. Continue reading

Against Optimism (Expanded)

"Optimism" by John Slaby

“Optimism” by John Slaby

Rollicking, rampant, blind-as-a-bat optimism, anyway.

Look. Sometime around the Industrial Revolution business discovered the power of optimism and began to exploit it. From the bleariest, drunkest, shotgun-in-the-pickup-truck redneck Southern white trash to the snobbiest, most coked-up, Armani-only Upper East Side corporate-raider/investment banker dildo, Americans one and all believe in being optimistic.

  • We voted for Nixon because he promised “Peace with Honor” even though we knew he was a man who wouldn’t know the sting of honor from the slap of a wet turd. We elected him not once but twice knowing full well – or at least with no excuse for NOT knowing full well – that he was a paranoid, belligerent, lying jackass and always had been.
  • We voted for Ronnie Rayguns because he told us a fantasy about shining cities on hills and how it was “morning in America” because it suggested we had everything to look forward to and no history behind us that we needed to worry about. We elected him not once but twice despite knowing full well that he was incompetent, extremely ill-informed (trees pollute??!), and not so much a president as an actor playing one on tv.
  • We voted for George W Bush because he was charming and upbeat and told us we could be millionaires if only he was in charge, a guy we’d like to have a beer with who was incidentally passing out slices of pie from the sky. We elected him not once but twice knowing full well – or with little excuse for not knowing full well – that he was a liar, a failure, a coward, and an arrogant pissant who thought God had elected him instead of us.

Behind all these incredibly bad decisions lay a miasma of denial and optimism, the first required by the second since optimism in the face of a blatantly negative reality is impossible without a fervent denial of what’s right before your eyes.

But to say all that is only to begin to enumerate the folly of unjustified optimism. For example, there’s the global economic crisis created by a handful of Wall Street manipulators and Main Street frauds. This

The bank’s [Goldman Sachs] unprecedented reach and power have enabled it to turn all of America into a giant pumpanddump scam, manipulating whole economic sectors for years at a time, moving the dice game as this or that market collapses, and all the time gorging itself on the unseen costs that are breaking families everywhere — high gas prices, rising consumercredit rates, halfeaten pension funds, mass layoffs, future taxes to pay off bailouts. All that money that you’re losing, it’s going somewhere, and in both a literal and a figurative sense, Goldman Sachs is where it’s going: The bank is a huge, highly sophisticated engine for converting the useful, deployed wealth of society into the least useful, most wasteful and insoluble substance on Earth — pure profit for rich individuals.

They achieve this using the same playbook over and over again. The formula is relatively simple: Goldman positions itself in the middle of a speculative bubble, selling investments they know are crap. Then they hoover up vast sums from the middle and lower floors of society with the aid of a crippled and corrupt state that allows it to rewrite the rules in exchange for the relative pennies the bank throws at political patronage. Finally, when it all goes bust, leaving millions of ordinary citizens broke and starving, they begin the entire process over again, riding in to rescue us all by lending us back our own money at interest, selling themselves as men above greed, just a bunch of really smart guys keeping the wheels greased. They’ve been pulling this same stunt over and over since the 1920s — and now they’re preparing to do it again, creating what may be the biggest and most audacious bubble yet.

– would not have been possible were it not for an America drowning in optimism, the belief that better days are right around the corner. Who but a zealot optimist could have possibly believed so fervently in the Reagan Paradox that the less the govt collected in taxes, the more it would collect in taxes?

Optimism is the weapon that Goldman and the other Wall Street manipulators use to make a strapped America overplay its already overstretched finances. “Better days are coming. We can take on all this extra debt because when the economy turns up we’ll be making more money, enough to cover this new house.” They had us convinced.

But the economy did get better and our wages still didn’t rise. We weren’t making more money. In many cases we were actually making less because the fear of inflation that infects the rich like typhoid and the power of a fascist-style govt kowtowing to the rich and incipient corporate panic meant that inflationary fears trumped every other concern. And if we fought for higher wages, the rich moved their companies to low-wage low tax countries, dodged the taxes involved, and our jobs were gone. Forever. The optimism they fed us was gibberish, a lie, a con.

To an extent, the entire economic meltdown could only have taken place in a country so besotted with optimism that it could deny the chasm under its feet even as it was tumbling down the slope to the rocks below. The bubble was built on optimism – not at the top where they knew better – but throughout the rest of the body right down to the very bottom. We would never have tied ourselves into financial knots if we hadn’t persisted in being optimistic about the future, and if we hadn’t tied ourselves into financial knots with debt on top of debt, there would have been no imaginary profits to feed the bubble Goldman and others were blowing up.

And still we learn nothing. Taibbi points out in his Goldman take-down that they’re ginning up to do it all again, and we’re going to let them because we’re…what? You got it. Optimistic. Dig:

[I]nstead of credit derivatives or oil futures or mortgage-backed CDOs, the new game in town, the next bubble, is in carbon credits — a booming trillion dollar market that barely even exists yet, but will if the Democratic Party that [Goldman Sachs] gave $4,452,585 to in the last election manages to push into existence a groundbreaking new commodities bubble, disguised as an “environmental plan,” called cap-and-trade.

The new carboncredit market is a virtual repeat of the commodities-market casino that’s been kind to Goldman, except it has one delicious new wrinkle: If the plan goes forward as expected, the rise in prices will be government-mandated. Goldman won’t even have to rig the game. It will be rigged in advance.

Here’s how it works: If the bill passes, there will be limits for coal plants, utilities, natural-gas distributors and numerous other industries on the amount of carbon emissions (a.k.a. greenhouse gases) they can produce per year. If the companies go over their allotment, they will be able to buy “allocations” or credits from other companies that have managed to produce fewer emissions. President Obama conservatively estimates that about $646 billion worth of carbon credits will be auctioned in the first seven years; one of his top economic aides speculates that the real number might be twice or even three times that amount.

The feature of this plan that has special appeal to speculators is that the “cap” on carbon will be continually lowered by the government, which means that carbon credits will become more and more scarce with each passing year. Which means that this is a brand new commodities market where the main commodity to be traded is guaranteed to rise in price over time. The volume of this new market will be upwards of a trillion dollars annually; for comparison’s sake, the annual combined revenues of all electricity suppliers in the U.S. total $320 billion.

(emphasis added)

Wall Street makes its money on suckers like us by selling us optimistic fairy tales. Got a pollution problem? We can fix it and you can get rich at the same time. This is America. We can do anything!

Optimism is largely responsible for our being so deep in denial that we could consistently vote against our own best interests and even help destroy our own country and yet insist we did no such thing.

Fuck optimism. Give me a little healthy skepticism any day. If you’re staring at pie-in-the-sky instead of the ground under your feet, it’s a lot easier to walk off a cliff.

Yet instead of finally letting go of our childish and dangerous dependency on Happy Endings, we build entire sociological and psychological structures defending Optimism as “necessary for survival“.

We humans tend to be an optimistic bunch. In fact, it’s long been established by psychologists that most people tend to be irrationally positive. The optimism bias, as it’s called, accounts for the fact that we expect to live longer and be more successful than the average and we tend to underestimate the likelihood of getting a serious disease or a divorce. This tendency is adaptive—many researchers have claimed that a positive outlook motivates us to plan for our future and may even have an effect on our long-term physical health.

Optimism may be so necessary to our survival that it’s hardwired in our brains. A new study published in the journal Nature further confirms the idea that having a rosy outlook is a personality trait with deep, neurological roots. Researchers found that the brains of optimistic people actually light up differently on a scan than those who tend to be more pessimistic when they think about future events.

The disparity between positive and pessimistic minds is especially prominent in areas of the brain that have been linked to depression. “The same areas that malfunction in depression are very active when people think about positive events,” says Tali Sharot, a post-doctorate fellow at University College London, who conducted the research at New York University.

And in skeptical France, say, their brains are hardwired to be pessimistic? Crap.

Only in America is optimism made into a religion that supercedes everything but death and where we protect our divine right to remain children with guns. Hope has become an American fetish. America without optimism would be Europe. Ugh. Oscar Wilde said that the basis of all optimism is sheer terror. If that’s true, and it probably is, it makes us the most frightened country on Earth. Not good for an Imperial Superpower. It’s one thing to indulge your urge to defy growing up when all you can fuck up is yourself. It’s another to shove it down the throats of the rest of the world when you have the power to fuck up everything. At some point you need to become a responsible adult who considers reality instead of wetdreams to figure out policy.

What we are fighting now is a century-old training program. We have all been taught to believe and worse, act as if we have every right to ignore uncomfortable facts because, hey, somebody will figure it out and relieve us of the responsibility of fixing any of it. The Best Is Yet to Come! We’re No 1! Don’t Worry, Be Happy! Shop Til You Drop!

Enough already. Unjustified optimism has brought us to the brink of economic destruction. It’s time to put away childish things, y’all, and eat our damn green beans.

Dump the Dems 10: ConservaDems Help Republicans Take Over NY State Senate

OK, so you can’t generalize too much nationally from the fucked up politics of NY state but otoh this is such a shining example of the state of the Democratic party that it’s howling for attention. Two NY Blue Dog Dems just voted with their GOP colleagues to turn the leadership of the Democrat-controlled Senate over to the Pubs. To quote Rosalind Russell, “Ain’t it perfect?”

Republicans regained control of the New York State Senate on Monday afternoon, winning support from two dissident Democrats in a surprise power-sharing deal. The sudden coup effectively ended Democratic control of Albany after five months and allowed Dean G. Skelos of Long Island to reclaim the title of majority leader, replacing Malcolm A. Smith of Queens.

***

The raucous leadership fight erupted on the floor of the Senate around 3 p.m., with two Democrats, Mr. Espada and Hiram Monserrate of Queens, joining the 30 Senate Republicans in a series of parliamentary maneuvers. Democrats tried to stall, storming from the chamber and even turning off the lights, but Republicans continued the session and elected new leadership.

Both Mr. Espada and Mr. Monserrate said they still considered themselves Democrats.

“Why?” is the question. Not “Why did they do it?” That question is easily answered, at least in the case of Mr Espada.

The shakeup also left Pedro Espada Jr., a Bronx Democrat, as president of the Senate….

Tom Golisano, the Rochester billionaire who recently announced he was moving to Florida because of New York’s high taxes, played a major role in brokering the deal.

Nothing like a little bribery to liven up your day. Or some pressure from a pissed off billionaire who thinks his taxes are too high. Never mind that he thinks the fact that he has to pay any taxes at all is a shame and a disgrace because he’s so special.

Continue reading

You Know, There’s Such a Thing as Being Too Skinny…

As for example (Gary Varvel, the Indianapolis Star):

varvel

 

Actually, considering the way their ideas work out maybe it’s better they don’t have any.

Greenspan and Crow Pie

In this case, I hate to say I told you so but I did and I’m not the only one. Rob at Fact-esque points to an FDL post that harkens back to a GAO report that laid it all out 14 years ago when the derivatives market was invented. Under Clinton. Who also had little interest in regulating the financial sector that provided him mucho campaign dinero. Despite the heavyweights who are denying all knowledge that anything was amiss.

Alan Greenspan was forced to admit he had “put too much faith” in the power of an unrestricted market, which is a bit like a Japanese filmmaker saying he put too much faith in Godzilla. “Too Much” belief in a cartoon of the real world is not exactly a forgivable, legitimate reason for allowing the planetary economy to self-destruct because, after all, your rich friends got a whole lot richer for a while there for as long as they could maintain the myth. “Sorry, I didn’t realize stomping on your head with hobnail boots was going to crunch your skull” a) doesn’t do me much good when I’m dead and b) isn’t credible since everyone who has ever seen a boot or a skull and isn’t a MORON would be able to tell what would be likely to happen when they met.

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Troy Davis Execution Date Set: BOYCOTT COCA COLA

As I noted elsewhere, the Bush/Reagan Supreme Court turned down Troy Davis’ appeal for a new trial and did so without comment, as if they didn’t need to explain why they’re allowing an execution to go forward in a case where the evidence was so insubstantial as to be non-existant and 4/5 of the witnesses recanted, claiming they’d been pressured by police and coached by prosecutors eager for a conviction.

Yesterday afternoon, Judge Penny Haas Freesemann rescheduled Davis’ execution date, setting it for the 27th of this month.

The State of Georgia is owed very little respect for the way this has been handled. Along with its other shameful acts – trying to bar the teaching of evolution in public school science classes, or allowing the GOP to steal both Senate seats as well as the governorship with doctored e-voting machines, slime campaigns, and vote caging, for examples – it is prepared to execute an almost certainly innocent man on skimpier evidence than would be required to make you pay a traffic fine.

The GOP has gone way too far, and killing a man to keep from embarrassing the cops who were played for suckers by Red Coles and the prosecutor who may have intimidated witnesses to get a conviction is a good place to get them to stop. We’ve had enough of this revenge crap, we’ve had enough of innocent people dying so the Pubs can claim they’re fighting crime – a bad, sick joke considering how many of them have been caught breaking the law, right up to the president.

I’ve been saying for a while that it’s time to fight back but it was TMiss who came up with a way to do it. Let Sonny Perdue and Coke know we’ll start a boycott of Coca Cola if Davis dies.

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Troy Davis Appeal Rejected by SCOTUS

It was never much of a chance, not with the robotic law-and-order types conservatives have been able to get assigned to the US Supreme Court filling up the seats, but it was a chance. If there was enough pressure, enough noise, enough people asking uncomfortable questions, maybe even Fat Tony Scalia might have reconsidered for the sake of his almost certainly unpleasant legacy the way he did over some labor law – which he hates – when a woman got screwed. Again.

But it wasn’t much of a chance and now it’s over. The Supreme Court has refused to hear Troy Davis’ appeal for a new trial.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday cleared the way for Troy Anthony Davis’ execution, declining to enter a contentious debate as to whether the condemned inmate was the real killer of a Savannah police officer in 1989.

The court, without explanation, refused to hear his appeal even though seven of nine key prosecution witnesses have recanted their testimony since the 1991 trial. Just three weeks ago, the high court had halted Davis’ execution with less than two hours to spare.

The family of the dead officer, Mark MacPhail, is thrilled. They want Davis dead whether he’s the right guy or not, mainly because they want their part of this ordeal to be over.

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Dominionists Get 2nd Spot on GOP Ticket: Palin and AIP

I trust you know who the Dominionists are – ultraconservative, neofascist, fundamentalist Xtians who want America to become a theocracy run by Biblical laws.

If you are unclear about what this means, read the book of Leviticus in the Bible. Biblical law as interpreted by these folks means the death penalty for homosexuals, adulterers, and recalcitrant children.

 No, this is not a joke. Not an exaggeration. Sarah Palin and her husband, Todd, are Dominionists with all that that means. Todd is a dues-paying member of the Alaska Independence Party (AIP) and has been for years. Sarah’s relationship is through him. The AIP wants Alaska to secede and become a Xtian nation on its own. Continue reading

“Bush? Bush? Never Heard of Him,” Whispers the GOP

At the nominating convention of the party in power, a party whose leader had 8 years – two full terms – in office that they presumably would be celebrating if they thought they had a reason, they’ve shuttled the Emperor off to one side. He wasn’t even allowed to attend in person – the ultimate insult – instead, making an appearance via satellite on closed circuit tv.  Adding insult to injury, they then gave the major speaking slot to John McCain’s real running mate (and potentially co-president a la Bush/Cheney), Joe Lieberman.  Lieberman. An ex-Democrat so far to the right that even Harry Reid has given him up for lost.

President Bush, relegated to a minor role at the Republican National Convention, praised John McCain Tuesday night as “ready to lead this nation,” a courageous candidate who supported the war in Iraq despite risks to his campaign for the White House.

I’m sorry, what??!! McC is courageous because he followed the pack? Did what he was told? Licked the Emperor’s boots? This is what passes for courage in the Republican party?

You gotta love the way these people are always the gutsy victims of some vicious, over-powering enemy even when they massively out-number that enemy and have every conceivable advantage. It’s sort of like hearing the Roman Senate bragging about how their heavily-armored and highly trained Legions stopped a revolt of slaves armed with rocks and sticks, only the way they tell it the Romans had the rocks and the slaves had 50mm Howitzers and the Empire was in grave danger from those 47 slaves and their sharpened thornbushes – or balsawood planes, if you’d rather.

But while George was lost in his usual fantasy of imagining himself and his GOP cohort as some combination of Winston Churchill & and the ’39 RAF and Leonidas & his 300 at Thermopylae, back in the real world (comparatively) Fred Thompson was going after the people who’ve been going after Li’l Sadie P.

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Bush Lobbyist Caught Selling Access to VP Cheney in Return for Donations to Bush Library/Propaganda Center (Updated)

Well, I’m not surprised.

The Sunday London Times is reporting that big-time Bush lobbyist Stephen Payne is busy these days selling access to Dick Cheney in return for (sizable) donations to the Bush Library and Propaganda Center.

The images on the tiny screen of Stephen Payne’s personal organiser told a clear story: this was a man with connections at the highest level.

One showed Payne uprooting dead trees side by side with George W Bush on the US president’s Texas ranch. Another depicted him skeet shooting next to Dick Cheney, the vice-president, and a third grinning for the camera alongside Condoleezza Rice, the secretary of state.

The man on the other side of the table from Payne at the Lanesborough hotel in central London last week appeared impressed by the contents of the BlackBerry. He was a familiar figure, a Kazakh politician Payne knew as Eric Dos.

 Dos, whose full name is Yerzhan Dosmukhamedov, told Payne that he was representing another foreign political figure who was looking to meet the top people in the US government.

 Dos had good reason for believing that Payne could make it happen. Payne has accompanied Bush and Cheney on foreign trips to the Middle East and Asia, and he sits on the influential advisory council to the Department of Homeland Security. Payne is also president of a lobbying company, Worldwide Strategic Partners (WSP), which specialises in connecting business and political interests with the US government.

Dos told Payne that the politician needing help was Askar Akayev, the former president of the central Asian state of Kyrgyzstan.

Akayev, who is in exile in Moscow after being ousted from power three years ago in a people’s revolt, was seeking an endorsement from senior US figures in order to help rehabilitate himself in the eyes of the world, Dos told Payne.

“Who does he want to meet with in Washington?” asked the American. Dos replied: “Well of course, maybe the president of the United States, vice-president Cheney, to speak maybe directly to explain the situation in central Asia . . . To give his side of the story. These kind of things.”

“I think that some things could be done,” said Payne, adding that seeing Bush himself might be more difficult. With barely a pause, he continued:

“I think that the family, children, whatever [of Akayev], should probably look at making a contribution to the Bush library.

“It would be like, maybe a couple of hundred thousand dollars, or something like that, not a huge amount but enough to show that they’re serious.”

(emphasis added) 

Whew! That’s a relief. For a minute there I thought we were talking about real money. $200K for a visit with L’il Dick so a deposed dictator could have a sympathetic audience listen to “his side of the story”? Cheap at twice the price. And who knows? L’il Dick can understand the pain of autocrats slung out of their country for torture, theft (isn’t Akayev the one who boiled his political opponents in oil?). He might be looking at something similar himself one of these days. Maybe he’ll invade Kyrgyzstan and give the guy back his country if he promises to join the worldwide WOT and turn Kyrgyzstan’s oil fields over to Halliburton and Chevron for management/sale.

Hey, it’s doable. Disgusting but doable.

I wish I could say this means the Bushies have struck rock bottom but selling access for $$$ is what they do. what they’ve been doing for years. 

The scandal isn’t that a BushBaby is breaking the law. This is minor for these guys. The scandal is that I have to read about it in the foreign press. The reporter was undercover – a concept the US press abandoned after the Food Lion fiasco because it wasn’t fair to corporate pirates and their willingness to poison us for a buck or two – and he recorded the conversation (legal, despite conservative howling to the contrary). Who these days in the US could imagine such a thing happening? Not me.

Dos said that in the autumn of 2005 he had been asked by the Kazakh government, via Kulibayev, to arrange a visit by Cheney. The intention was to improve the country’s international standing.

Dos had spent several days negotiating with Payne. A deal was eventually agreed, he said, and he understood that a payment of $2m was passed, via a Kazakh oil and gas company, to Payne’s firm.

The following May, Cheney made a brief trip to Kazakhstan. His visit was remarked upon in the media at the time, both for the lavish praise which he publicly heaped on Nazarbayev and for the stark contrast between this and a speech he had made just a day earlier at a conference in Lithuania in which he had lambasted Russia for being insufficiently democratic. Now he was lauding Nazarbayev, who has effectively made himself president for life and in whose country it is an offence to criticise him.

“Why did Cheney castigate Russia’s imperfect democracy while saying not a word about Kazakhstan’s shameless travesty of the democratic system?” said one newspaper following the visit. “Cheney’s flattery of the Kazakh regime was sickening,” said another.

Hey! Cheney is an honorable man. If he takes money to fluff a country, bigod, he fluffs that country! No matter what kind of hellish conditions he has to ignore. He lives up to his contracts.

Some of them…

I don’t imagine this is serious enough to get much attention as a scandal. It’s pretty small potatoes for the Bushies. So maybe SMU doesn’t really have to worry very much about the soiling of its reputation that bribery on behalf of the school will inevitably bring about. Maybe they don’t think it’s any big deal considering they’re willing to look past torture. Maybe they think John Wesley would take a laissez-faire approach to White House corruption, spying, theft, and contempt for the law. Maybe that’s all OK with Methodists now.

Apparently it must be, because the Bishops have been perfectly willing to bow to Bush pressure and overlook all of it. What’s one more crime more or less? Bribery? Fagh. Who cares?

Clearly the Methodist bishops don’t.

UPDATE: (7/15/08) Lindsay Beyerstein has dug up a lot more at Majikthese.

Dump the Dems 7: Are You Ready to Do It Yet?

There is no reason whatever to back the Democrats.

That’s the lesson we learned the past couple of weeks as Barack Obama forever soiled his undies when ordered to by the DLC, and the 4th Amendment was sent packing in a secret midnight meeting the Dem Leaders (Steny Hoyer, Jay Rockefeller, and Sylvestre Reyes) had with the Pubs and didn’t even bother to tell the membership about. The DLC/BD contingent is a minority with a very Pub-like disgust for democracy because it’s so hard to get anything done when you have to convince people to go against their best interests and the best interests of the country. They keep crabbing about the Constitution and stuff (as if that meant anything any more – “9/11 changed everything! 9/11 changed everything!!“), and how can you talk sense to people like that?

Here’s what the Democrats just did:

The new statute permits the NSA to intercept phone calls and e-mails between the U.S. and a foreign location, without making any showing to a court and without judicial oversight, whether or not the communication has anything to do with al Qaeda — indeed, even if there is no evidence that the communication has anything to do with terrorism, or any threat to national security.

As I’ve previously explained, the NSA’s objective here is not simply to surveil foreigners who it already suspects as being part of al Qaeda — it can easily obtain a FISA order as to those folks. Nor is the purpose of the new law to allow warrantless surveillance of international-to-international calls — that’s already legal, too. As is the warrantless overseas interception of calls between foreigners and U.S. persons.

What the agency is seeking, instead, is to be able to intercept foreign communications (i) coming across domestic wires where (ii) NSA does not have probable cause to believe that any of the parties is a terrorist or agent of a foreign power; and (iii) there is a chance that some of the intercepted communications will be with persons in the U.S.

The new law allows the NSA to do this, by permitting what David Kris has called a form of “vacuum-cleaner” surveillance that (in the words of the new law) “target[s] . . . persons reasonably believed to be located outside the United States to acquire foreign intelligence information.”

Under this new standard, there’s no need that the surveillance have any connection to al Qaeda, or terrorism, or even to national security. The only substantial requirements are that someone overseas be a “target” and that one “significant purpose” of the surveillance be to acquire “foreign intelligence information” — which is very broadly defined to include most anything that occurs overseas and in which the federal government might have an interest (including information necessary to protect against the full range of foreign threats to national security, and information with respect to a foreign power that is necessary to the national defense or foreign affairs).

That’s what Democrats have done. Not Republicans, not Stalinist Commies. Democrats. Specifically, the DLC-run leadership. The message is clear: as far as the DLC/Blue Dogs are concerned, FDR Democrats – liberals –  are a thing of the past and from this point on the New Democrats – conservative DLC Democrats – are running things to suit themselves and if you don’t like it, wha’d’ya plan to do about it? Vote for a Republican? By gawd, they’re even worse! Hah! You’re stuck.

No, we’re not. We have options. The best one is to defeat the damn GOP conservatives who have infiltrated the party and grabbed hold of all the leadership positions. The Blue Dogs MUST go down to defeat if we are to replace the New Democrat party of autocrats and corporate stooges with Old Democrats who believe in stuff like universal health care, worker and consumer protections, the Constitution, community, and generosity to those less fortunate. (The Blue Dogs would run the less fortunate over in a truck if they were lying dying on the road because, after all, the BD’s are really Republicans and to a Pub anybody lying in the road deserves to be run over with a truck as a lesson not to lie in roads.) “Compassionate conservatives” my heiny. As we know know, that’s an oxymoron. Conservatives are never compassionate, and anyone who is compassionate isn’t a conservative.

The second possibility – don’t laugh – is to build a Third Party. And yes, it’s possible. Difficult – very difficult – but possible. And you know what? To be effective, it doesn’t even have to win, only scare the New Democrats into thinking they might lose.

The important thing is that we must be ready to Dump the Dems. If we’re not, neither of these options will work because they’ll have no reason to pay any attention to us.

Are you ready yet? What’s it going to take before you’ll be ready to risk a Pub win in order to get your party back? I really want to know. It’s fish or cut bait time.

Invisible Scandals 2: Alphonso in the Hot Seat

In a surprise move, the Democratically-controlled Senate decided this week not to ignore HUD Sec Alphonso Jackson’s unethical (if not criminal) behavior in punishing Philly’s housing director because he wouldn’t turn a piece of property over to one of Alphonso’s buds. In a move that was anything but a surprise coming from a Bush appointee, Jackson ducked the Senators’ questions.

Housing Secretary Alphonso Jackson twice last week declined to directly answer senators’ questions about allegations that he and his agency sought to punish a housing authority for refusing to help one of Jackson’s friends.

Senators were focused on a January 2007 e-mail exchange, first reported by The Washington Post on Wednesday, in which two of Jackson’s assistant secretaries discussed how they could make the Philadelphia Housing Authority director’s life “less happy” by taking away the authority’s federal funds.In a recent lawsuit against the Department of Housing and Urban Development, authority director Carl R. Greene accused the agency of moving to strip his office of about $50 million based on exaggerated claims that the authority was not providing enough accessible housing. He asserts that it was retaliation for rebuffing Jackson’s earlier demands that Greene give a $2 million vacant authority property to developer Kenny Gamble, a friend of Jackson’s.Jackson, when asked about retaliation accusations by Senate banking committee members Wednesday, said he could not discuss the matter because it is the subject of a lawsuit against his agency. He said a gag order prevented him from commenting.

But when Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) said he had learned that the judge’s gag order did not prohibit Jackson from answering senators’ questions, Jackson acknowledged Thursday at a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing that he had learned he could discuss the matter. Reading from a written statement, however, Jackson said he did not have any firsthand information about the e-mails and learned of them the day before they were published. He later sidestepped several questions about any personal role he played in the dispute with the Philadelphia agency.

Does this guy fit right in, or what?

Invisible Scandals: Spitzer Replaces Gibbons and Cabrera

In the wake of a sex scandal that, for once, features a Democrat (we thought the GOP had a trademark on those for awhile), the bruhaha over what Eliot Spitzer does in his off-hours and the predictable outrage over his hypocrisy (a facility Pubs lack when it comes to condemning their own) has acted as an effective blockade to keeping out of the public’s awareness two other GOP scandals that would otherwise be grabbing headlines and blogs everywhere – scandals that are far more important to the safety and welfare of the country than what the NY Gov does with his dick.

The first is brought to us courtesy of Thomas Nephew at newsrack:

There’s a storm brewing out in Nevada that ought to be much bigger than the one surrounding Eliot Spitzer: people’s health and lives are at risk because of shoddy medical practices — and neglectful oversight.

As the Wall Street Journal’s Scott Hensley explains, a Las Vegas endoscopy clinic has been reusing syringes; everyone subsequently tested with reused syringes is potentially exposed to infected equipment (see here for a graphic). Six cases of acute hepatitis C have been traced to the clinic, and as many as 40,000 people are at risk for hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and HIV according to the Las Vegas Sun.

What does this have to do with Nevada’s GOP Gov Jim Gibbons? Well, he cut 10 inspectors from his budget and threatened to veto any bill that funded them. Plus:

[T]he doctor involved is close enough with Governor Gibbons to have been on his health care working group transition team — and was the head of the state board of medical examiners until 2003.

It’s all too familiar: a conservative ideologue hires one of his buddies to protect corporate interests rather than ours. It’s an old familiar story.

We’ve seen this before, of course: a pattern of deliberate neglect of safety, levees, infrastructure, or anything else that might be worthwhile government functions by ideologues more interested in cutting government than in protecting the public welfare. Rick Perlstein has been writing about what he calls “E. coli conservatism” ever since the incidents of tainted spinach and other produce of last year.

The other comes via a WaPo report detailing how upper level management at Alphonso Jackson’s HUD deliberately targeted Philadelphia Housing Director Carl Greene after he refused to do a very suspicious and most likely unethical (if not outright illegal) favor for one of Jackson’s buds.

After Philadelphia‘s housing director refused a demand by President Bush‘s housing secretary to transfer a piece of city property to a business friend, two top political appointees at the department exchanged e-mails discussing the pain they could cause the Philadelphia director.

“Would you like me to make his life less happy? If so, how?” Orlando J. Cabrera, then-assistant secretary at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, wrote about Philadelphia housing director Carl R. Greene.”Take away all of his Federal dollars?” responded Kim Kendrick, an assistant secretary who oversaw accessible housing. She typed symbols for a smiley-face, “:-D,” at the end of her January 2007 note.

Cabrera wrote back a few minutes later: “Let me look into that possibility.”

The e-mails, obtained by The Washington Post, came to light as a result of a lawsuit provoked by HUD’s decision last September to strip the Philadelphia Housing Authority of as much as $50 million in federal funds. In December, it declared the agency in violation of rules that underpin its ability to decide precisely how it will spend federal housing funds. Kendrick was the official who formally notified the authority that she had found it in violation.

Alphonso is the guy who has held up Katrina Relief funds for 3 years on Bush’s orders and refused to allow former New Orleans residents to return to their homes even though those homes were not damaged by the storm and are perfectly livable. A real sweetheart, that boy. Apparently his closest aides share his questionable values – and tactics.

But don’t expect either Gibbons or Cabrera to pop up on your favorite news show. After all, NY’s Democratic Gov fucked a woman he wasn’t married to, and in the GOP-controlled conservative media, that’s a BIG story. Gibbons’ exposing Nevadans to potential death to save a few bucks? Ho hum. The Asst Sec of HUD taking housing away from thousands in Philly because the director wouldn’t play ball with the Bush Admin’s rampant corruption regimen? *YAWN*

It’s life as usual in the GOP Monkey House, and neither Roger Ailes nor Matt Drudge is interested. Ergo, no scandal, no reports, no story.