Saturday, June 28, 2008

Reunited again

(Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

By Libby Spencer

I didn't watch the live video of the Clinton-Obama Unity event, but it appears from the overview coverage that it was a smashing success. It was a well scripted, veritable lovefest and visually appealing right down to Obama's tie that perfectly matched Hilary's outfit.

If there is any remaining tension between the two, you couldn't see in Unity, NH. Obama proclaimed, "Hillary rocks!" Hillary urged her supporters to join the team and put Obama into the Oval Office. Any remaining bitterness on the part of Obama supporters over Hillary's campaign style should have been put to rest today. She kept her promise. She looked more shining and genuine than she ever has in the last year and a half.

The Caucus offered up a more intimate view of the proceedings both from the plane and on the field where they found a couple of die-hard Hillary holdouts. One supporter, a Denver delegate "came all the way from Colorado for the event, even though she didn’t believe in it, because she wanted to convey her support to Mrs. Clinton."

“As a politician, she’s got to try to bring the party together,” Ms. Lewis said. “But I have a gut feeling that something’s going to happen so that she becomes the nominee.” She said she would not vote for Mr. Obama and that when he spoke, she stuffed her ears with tissue.

Her friend, Freda Smith, 79, a former state representative from Salem, N.H., said Mr. Obama was “not qualified” to be president. “We don’t know anything about him,” she said. “He talks about change, but he never says exactly what he means.”

I guess old dreams die hard but I'm betting in the end, even these recalcitrant Democrats will realize that allowing McCain to win would be a grievous mistake. Certainly, for the many couples interviewed that had split their votes between the two, acceptance has already arrived and most seem to be glad to embrace the message.

I have to admit, although I mostly kept it to myself, I nursed some serious doubts that Hillary would put her heart into uniting behind Obama. It feels really good to have been so wrong and to have my respect for her restored.

(Cross-posted at The Impolitic.)

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An ugly perversion of democracy (in Zimbabwe)

By Michael J.W. Stickings

It isn't often that I have occasion to praise Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and our Conservative government, but they are doing and saying the right things in response to the current situation in Zimbabwe:

OTTAWA — Canada was set to impose diplomatic sanctions against Zimbabwe after Prime Minister Stephen Harper condemned what he called a “corrupted vote” in the African nation.

The prime minister said Canada would add to international pressure on President Robert Mugabe and his regime to hold a free and democratic election.

“Our government has condemned the corrupt vote in the strongest possible terms,” Mr. Harper told a meeting of B'nai Brith International.

“And we are working with the international community to bring in strong measures to pressure the Mugabe regime which has illegitimately stolen the election.”

He called the election process in Zimbabwe “an ugly perversion of democracy.”

Harper is exactly right, but what is needed is not just pressure in support of a free and fair election but pressure to end the undemocratic rule of the authoritarian Mugabe and his brutal thugs.

That pressure likely won't come from Africa, which is soft on Mugabe and weak on democracy, and so it needs to come from the U.S., the U.K., and other mature democracies like Canada -- and preferably from the U.N. as well.

For now, though, it is good to see my country speaking out against the "violent, illegitimate sham," as opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai recently put it, that passes for Mugabe-enabling "democracy" in Zimbabwe.

(For my most recent posts on the situation in Zimbabwe, see here and here.)

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Top Ten Cloves: Things John McCain does on weekends, rather then campaigning

By J. Thomas Duffy

News Item: John McCain doesn't work weekends

10. Working on his own ideas, to build a new car battery, and win that $300-Million

9. Kicks back, playing a little shuffleboard

8. Hits the recycling plant to cash in all the beer bottles

7. Sits and stews, thinking of ways he can get Baby Alex

6. Spends time working on his comedy routine and his jokes

5. Puts away his Flash Cards for the week completed, and prepares his Flash Cards for the week ahead

4. It's not all rest and relaxation - Has to supervise Joe Lieberman, whose shining his shoes, doing the gardening, taking out the trash

3. Karaoke! (Bomb, Bomb, Bomb, Bomb Iran)

2. Actually does a little campaign work - Studies old debate tapes of Bob Dole to sharpen up and prepare

1. Joins his wife in scouring the Internet for recipes

(Cross Posted at The Garlic)

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Friday, June 27, 2008

Unity: "Today our hearts are set on the same destination for America."

By Michael J.W. Stickings

As many of you already know, I'm sure, Obama and Clinton appeared together today at a rally in Unity, New Hampshire. After a long and sometimes bitter campaign, one that drove a wedge into the heart and soul of the Democratic Party, one that was trumped up by the typical media sensationalism that drives the news cycles, it was a welcome display of what I take to be genuine friendship between these two towering figures in the party. The media are calling it "choreographed," but there was never much difference between Obama and Clinton -- and there was never as much disunity in the party as was often suggested.

There are lingering bad feelings, no doubt, notably among some of Clinton's supporters, but today's rally was a positive display of unity that should resonate among those still in doubt. What I took from the primary campaign was evidence of a strong party able to withstand a tough race, a strong party that was united throughout in terms of policy, a strong party that was prepared for the general election campaign and to take back the White House. The media wanted drama, and they got it, but the race ended as it should have, with the candidate with the most votes and the most delegates winning the nomination and with the candidate who came so close putting aside the bitterness of the past, withdrawing graciously, and, today, appearing alongside the nominee and offering nothing but the fullest support.

And it is just the beginning.


The Obama campaign has posted a lengthy clip of the rally that you can watch here. Below is a shorter clip from TPM TV. Make sure to watch it.

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NOW they're worried about environmental impact?

By Libby Spencer

The same administration that is blithely pushing to tear up pristine wilderness in ANWR and urges endangering our beaches with rampant offshore drilling for oil and has studiously ignored and denied the effects of climate disruption caused the overconsumption of same, is suddenly concerned about the ecological harm of developing solar power alternatives?

DENVER — Faced with a surge in the number of proposed solar power plants, the federal government has placed a moratorium on new solar projects on public land until it studies their environmental impact, which is expected to take about two years.

Much of the 119 million surface acres of federally administered land in the West is ideal for solar energy, particularly in Arizona, Nevada and Southern California, where sunlight drenches vast, flat desert tracts.

The Bureau of Land Management is wringing its hands over the potential impact on wildlife, water usage and reclamation of the land after the power plants expire. Funny, I don't recall similar concerns about other fuels delivered by the huge corporate conglomerates. Could it be the real concern is about the mega-corps bottom line?

According to the bureau, the applications, which cover more than one million acres, are for projects that have the potential to power more than 20 million homes.

Well, that's really just a drop in the bucket of usage but the solar power industry is still in its infancy and the potential for growth is strong if the White House machinations don't kill it in the cradle.

“The problem is that this is a very young industry, and the majority of us that are involved are young, struggling, hungry companies,” said Lee Wallach of Solel, a solar power company based in California that has filed numerous applications to build on public land and was considering filing more in the next two years. “This is a setback.”

It reminds me of the administration's equally sudden concern about regulating small organic farmers who threaten the bottom line of mega-monolith farms as the consumer demand for localvore products grows. A lot of them getting shut down by zealous enforcement while the mega-corps destructive mono-farms destroy the environment unchallenged by the fed regulators.

Meanwhile, in a related development, scientists are predicting we may, for the first time in recorded history, be seeing an ice free North Pole this year.

Seasoned polar scientists believe the chances of a totally icefreeNorth Pole this summer are greater than 50:50 because the normally thick ice formed over many years at the Pole has been blown away and replaced by hugeswathes of thinner ice formed over a single year.

Coincidentally caused by that global warming, that the White House isn't sure exists and if it does exist, certainly couldn't be the fault of over-consumption of fossil fuels and their resultant emissions. Is it just me who is seeing a pattern here?

(Cross-posted at The Impolitic.)

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Late signs of surge failure

By Libby Spencer

Unless you prefer to call this a sign of success.

BAGHDAD — Two insurgent bomb blasts struck at pro-American Iraqi targets in Anbar province just west of Baghdad and in the northern city of Mosul on Thursday, and the police said at least 30 people were killed and 80 wounded.

Iraqi police officials said three American marines were among the dead in the Anbar attack, which came just as the American military command was preparing to hand control of the province, once considered the hotbed of the insurgency, over to Iraqi forces.

They bought the "Anbar Awakening" with bribes of guns and money. Looks like they didn't stay bought. And this is on top of the other two attacks this week.

The bombing in Mosul, which killed 18 people and wounded 61, occurred in a busy central area of the city, and was the second large bombing in the city in the past two days. One on Tuesday evening killed two people and wounded 73.

The Pentagon claims it's the work of rogue Shia militants backed by Iran. The Iraqis on the scene say it was AQI. You know, the ones who were supposed to be vanquished. But in the end, outside of the fact that the White House is trying to use these attacks to gin up a case for bombing Iran, it doesn't matter who is doing the killing. The point is that the violence is ongoing and will rise and fall forever as long as we remain in occupation of the country. These people are being targeted for collaborating with us.

A year ago St. Pet told us the Iraqis were moments away from political reconciliation. They're still not even close. Baghdad was transformed from a thriving, ethnically mixed city into a restive metropolis of ethnically cleansed enclaves surrounded by concrete bunkers in order to 'keep the peace.' How much blood does it take before the serious pundits admit the surge success is a farce?

(Cross-posted at The Impolitic.)

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Lara's song

By Capt. Fogg

"Five years into the war in Iraq and nearly seven years into the war in Afghanistan, getting news of the conflicts onto television is harder than ever. "

-- Lara Logan

I was never really conscious of Lara Logan's existence until The Daily Show had her as a guest recently. She made a well presented and credible claim that the news from Iraq was being toned down, under reported, redacted and sometimes ignored, and as someone who has been in the thick of it for years as the chief foreign correspondent for CBS, and who frequently has been in the midst of combat, she has a great deal of credibility. That network has been cutting back its staff in Baghdad and some critics say that the public perception of improvement in Iraq has a lot to do with the lack of coverage. Indeed, despite the constant emphasis on danger and terror, it's possible to sit through a very long period of broadcast news without a single story from Iraq.

If I were to watch the news that you hear here in the United States, I would just blow my brains out because it would drive me nuts,

she said to Jon Stewart.

It might be that she pushed the wrong buttons. Headlines and weblogs have begun to bleat about scandals in her private life, led by such liberal media as The National Enquirer and Rupert Murdoch's New York Post. Will Bunch at has a provocative article today and a link to the Daily Show interview.

Backlashes against less than enthusiastic reportage of Bush's war began immediately after the initial enthusiasm. Networks refused to allow a reading of the names of casualties lest it be taken as criticism of George Bush or his invasion. I don't think it's far fetched at all to see this attempt to ruin a brilliant career as a continuation.

(Cross-posted from Human Voices.)

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Thursday, June 26, 2008

If it feels good, kill him

By Capt. Fogg

The concept of punishment is inseparable in people's minds from the concept of justice. I have a hard time understanding either one. In the youth of our species, the notion prevailed that some sort of balance existed in the universe and that balance had to be maintained scrupulously lest the sun not rise and the crops fail. A more modern knowledge of the universe makes it a bit hard to believe in such things, yet we do. We do at least in as far as we talk about debts to society being paid in kind or in body part. Of course with regard to crimes of theft or property, the notion that justice prevails in the return of value to a rightful owner seems obvious, but in other cases where there is no value to be returned, such as in the case of rape or murder, the accounting model for justice runs into trouble. Does taking away a life provide a new one for the victim or the victim's heirs? Does inflicting pain and suffering or death upon the perpetrator satisfy any debt or does it satisfy the urge to kill we have inherited from our hirsute ancestors?

Being a person for whom the abuse of women and children is sufficiently loathsome that I would readily shoot someone to stop certain crimes, I still maintain that taking an eye for an eye repays no one but fictitious gods, and the universe continues to expand at the same rate and our little world goes on in the same trajectory. Yes, I would love to inflict a great deal of suffering on people who rape children. Given the opportunity I probably would, but I do not try to fool myself that I'm talking about justice. I want revenge because revenge feels good and if feels good because like anyone who reads this, I am an animal and the heir to a host of animal instincts and emotions. Instinct is expressed as the urge to do what feels good. Somehow I believe that justice needs more justification than that.

Short of denouncing judicial killings, the Court has ruled that "evolving standards" have made it less acceptable to kill someone for a lesser crime than killing someone else. While I agree, I would apply that same standard to the unnecessary ending of human life entirely. That strapping people to a cross and pumping their veins full of drain cleaner is tolerated in a nation fulsomely bellicose about its Christianity stretches the bounds of the term hypocrisy.

That's my opinion anyway, although I could be wrong. But I don't think so.

(Cross-posted from Human Voices.)

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Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Gee, here's a surprise!

By Carl

Political patronage in the Justice Department? Who'da thunk?

WASHINGTON - Scores of highly credentialed young lawyers and law students were denied interviews for coveted positions at the Justice Department because of an illegal screening process that took political and ideological views and affiliations into account rather than merit, Justice Department investigators concluded in a report released Tuesday.

In 2006, some applicants for sought-after jobs in the department's honors program and summer intern program were rejected because they were members of the American Constitution Society or Planned Parenthood or because they expressed concern about gender discrimination in the military, the report found.

Other students or graduates who were brushed aside included a University of Alabama law graduate, ranked sixth in the class, who had written a paper on the detention of aliens under the USA Patriot Act, a Yale Law School graduate who was fluent in Arabic and a Georgetown law student who had worked for Sen. John Kerry's presidential campaign.

In another case, a Harvard Law student was passed over after criticizing the nomination of Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court.

Believe it or not, this does not overly concern me. In an administration as overtly partisan and hostile to Democrats and moderates (they call them "liberals" to boot!) as the Bush administration, there are bigger fish to fry than whether a few summer interns were passed over for less qualified candidates because Daddy gave to the wrong party.

What we SHOULD be focusing on is that party ideology became so blatant as to create an atmosphere that forced even Republicans already working for the DoJ to deny their own sense of equity and equanimity and
tow a biased and unfair politicized agenda.

It's one thing to seek out an agenda-driven department, Presidents do that all the time, even with "nonpartisan" panels, it is another thing entirely to treat a department of professionals like it was just another commando unit in a far greater army of oppression and injustice.

When your own partisans, in other words, think something is a bad idea, rather than dispose of them, it might make sense to keep even their timid and modest objections in mind when fomenting policies and executing same. Just a thought, altho this administration is long on tales of people forced out, Colin Powell and John O'Neill being the marquee names, for moderation in anything.

You get bad apples in all administration and the truth is, Alberto Gonzalez was an unabashed failure as Attorney General of the United States. This is just another example of his fraudulent oversight of the department.

But keep in mind, as Joe Conason points out, that Gonzalez used the tool made available to him by someone who ought to know better, Arlen Specter:

But that wholesome safeguard was breached in December 2005, when the Senate renewed the Patriot Act. At the behest of the Justice Department, an aide to Sen. Arlen Specter slipped a provision into the bill that permitted the White House to place its own appointees in vacant U.S. attorney positions permanently and without Senate confirmation. So silently was this sleight of hand performed that Specter himself now claims, many months later, to have been completely unaware of the amendment's passage. (Of course, it would be nice if the senators actually read the legislation before they voted, particularly when they claim to be the authors.)

The staffer who reportedly performed this bit of dirty work is Michael O'Neill, a law professor at George Mason University and former clerk for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. As the Washington Times explained when O'Neill was appointed as the Senate Judiciary Committee's chief counsel, many observers believed that Specter had hired him to reassure conservatives of his loyalty to the Bush White House. Right-wing distrust had almost ousted the Pennsylvania moderate from the Judiciary chairmanship, and appointing O'Neill was apparently the price for keeping that post.

Evidently O'Neill rewarded Specter by sneaking through legislation to deprive him and his fellow senators of one of their most important powers, at the behest of an attorney general intent on aggrandizing executive power. The results of this backstage betrayal -- now playing out in a wave of politicized dismissals and hirings -- were perfectly predictable and utterly poisonous.

Specter, by dint of his politically moderate (in Republican perspective, dangerously liberal) positions, was forced to accept a situation whereby he had to genuflect to the more adamantine hearts of his oberfuhren.

(Cross-posted to
Simply Left Behind.)

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Road warrior report

By Carol Gee

Travel in the USA is an interesting challenge in these days of storms and high gasoline prices. Here's the latest from one who's just been there.


Good day to everyone at The Reaction. We are in "the wilds" of Wyoming on our annual trek to visit my family of origin.

We started in Texas, arriving here in Cheyenne via New Mexico and Colorado. Many motorcycles are on the road. A bunch of them, "non-Harleys," were headed for a big rally in Taos, New Mexico. There are also a surprisingly high number of RVs of all sorts on the roadn to as many as last year, but more than I expected. . The trip has been marked by huge road construction projects all along the way. Summer is for dirt work in the West. Winters shut down most construction due to blizzards and frozen ground. Happily for Democrats the freeways that have been under construction for years in Denver are all finished. Gas prices have ranged form a high of $4.04 in Colorado Springs, to a low of $3.81 in west Texas. Tomatoes are safe in Colorado and Wyoming. My traveling companion is living proof; he is alive and kcikin' this morning. We had a hamburger and a salad last night here at Cheyene's Hitching Post Inn. The quantity was generous -- 1/3 pound of juicy Angus at $5.65 each, plus tip. Motel prices ranged from $100 a night to $80.

It was 42 degrees in Big Piney, Wyoming last night. Storms are predicted along our route today. The weather ranged from a sand storm in the high desert of New Mexico to a magnificent thunderstorrm a few miles later. The clouds and lightning filled the sky with darks and lights and flashes. There is still a great deal of snow on the peaks of the Rocky Mountains, and the streams and rivers run high and fast for rain and snow melt. Agribusiness and abandoned (and a few working) family farms and ranches stretched all along the countryside. Grains and cotton grows with the aid of irrigation water pumped from below ground. We saw herds of cattle with lots of baby calves. Because of plenty of rain the plains and hills are green and lush in places. The antelope herds transplanted to New Mexico a few years ago have thrived, and often feed near cattle and share the watering holes or tanks beneath windmills. We saw a big herd of buffalo at the Colorado/Wyoming line, also boasting lots of adorable little ones.

Politics along the route has been a little hard to deduce without talking to everyone along the way. But I did pick up a few tidbits, for what they are worth. A School Principal in Greeley was fired because he was caught having an affair. We passed a great big sign announcing the "Focus on the Family" world headquarters in Colorado, within the same period as when Barack Obama was being chastized by them for his incorrect interpretation of the Bible. Denver is observing "Bike to Work Day" today. The city expects 1,000 to participate. The Denver TV station announced that there would be "streamed live video online in Spanish from the Democratic Convention" in August.

(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)

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Fifteen point lead for Obama? Third-party candidates hurting McCain more?


The LA Times/Bloomberg poll out today [PDF] shows Barack Obama leading John McCain by 15 percentage points, 48–33. Ralph Nader (independent) is at 4%, Bob Barr (Libertarian nominee) at 3%, "other candidate" 2%, and "Don't know" 10%.

Kudos to the LA Times/Bloomberg for actually asking about multiple candidates. The question prompt (p. 12 of the linked PDF document) asks about "the Green Party candidate," unnamed, and immediately after mentioning Nader (which could lead some hearing it to assume the phrase was an appositive modifying Ralph Nader). Cynthia McKinney is nearly certain to be the Green Party candidate, but the Green's convention is not till July 10-13. In any event, around 5 to 6% between Nader and McKinney is probably about right (at least for this point in the campaign).

The question--asked prior to the multicandidate one--about just Obama and McCain put Obama up by 12 points (49–37, with 4% other and 10% don't know). This result confirms what I always say about third-party and independent candidates: in a "change" election--and they don't get more "change-y" than this one--the minor candidates tend to draw more from the incumbent party than from the challenger, pretty much independent of ideology. McKinney and Nader really are no greater threats to Obama than Barr is, and, in turn, Barr is not much of a threat to McCain. That is, McCain has far more to worry about than Bob Barr, though the latter might help put Barr's home state of Georgia in play. (McKinney, like Barr, is a former US Representative from Georgia, but I don't see many Georgians going for her over Obama.)

A Newsweek poll a few days ago had Obama up on McCain, 51–36, but it does not appear that any other candidates were asked about in that poll.

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Our planetary emergency

By Michael J.W. Stickings

In Washington on Monday, James Hansen -- director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies and long one of the experts on global warming -- said this:

We have reached a point of planetary emergency.

There are tipping points in the climate system, which we are very close to, and if we pass them, the dynamics of the system take over and carry you to very large changes which are out of your control.

And we are -- according to Hansen and the overwhelming scientific consensus -- almost there.

Hooray for humanity.


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Zimbabwe's illegitimate democracy

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Way to go, Foggy Bottom (seriously):

The US will not recognise the outcome of Friday's presidential election run-off in Zimbabwe, a senior state department official has said.

Jendayi Frazer told the BBC that Robert Mugabe could not claim a legitimate victory amid the current campaign of violence against the opposition.

Which is true, of course. As opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, who recently withdrew his candidacy in the face of Mugabe's brutal thuggery, put it, democracy in Zimbabwe is a "violent, illegitimate sham."

And the sham will only be reinforced by Friday's vote.


More: "Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai was fleeing soldiers when he took refuge at the Dutch Embassy in Harare, Senegal's president said, offering some of the first details on the latest twist in this southern African's country's political crisis."

Let me repeat that: Tsvangirai was fleeing soldiers (i.e., Mugabe's army).

I guess that's how you win an election in Zimbabwe (if you're a worthless piece of shit like Mugabe).

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The Devil loves Obama

By Capt. Fogg

It seems everyone running against a Republican candidate is supported by the bogey man of the day and that's held true throughout my lifetime. Mao Zedong, Ho Chi Min, Nikita Kruschev, the Anti-Christ: they all fully endorsed Democrats, if we're to believe the cannot-tell-a-lie Republicans. So of course it's no surprise to learn that Kim Jong Il would just love to see Barack Obama elected; at least that's what Lyin' Laura Ingraham was jibbering about Monday on Fox News.

Hugo Chavez, Fidel Castro and all the boys over at Hamas are all wearing the Big O T-Shirt these days. Of course one might speculate that any of these evildoing action figures would be smart enough to know that their actual support would harm a candidate and thus would express a fondness for those they would least like to win, but Laura and her limp-brained fans aren't big on logical processes when it's so much fun to hate.

Anyway, now that Kim's axis may no longer be quite as evil, we may suspect that his support will swing over to the Republican side. Will Laura have to decide that he's not so bad after all?

(Cross-posted from Human Voices.)

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North Korea, not so evil anymore

By Creature

Steve Clemons, at The Washington Note, is reporting that on Thursday the Bush administration will ask congress to remove North Korea from the U.S. terror watch-list. If true, this is big news and a boon to the region. If true, there will be some very unhappy neocon-campers here at home. Clemons explains:

While North Korea's behavior continues to be erratic and often troubling, the Bush administration's decision will be considered a major victory for Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Deputy Secretary John Negroponte, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and others -- but the real winner is Department of State Asst. Secretary for East Asia Affairs Christopher Hill -- who has been under almost constant assault from John Bolton and others opposed to deal-making with North Korea.

John Bolton, Dick Cheney, Bill Kristol, and their ilk will not take this lightly. Which pleases me very much. My only fear is that maybe the remaining neocon holdouts in the administration have agreed to this de-listing move in exchange for a little shock-and-awe against their true enemy, the one with the oil, Iran.

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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Dodd and Feingold to filibuster FISA capitulation

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Senators Chris Doss and Russ Feingold announced yesterday that they will filibuster the FISA bill (and Harry Reid will support them). This is from their statement:

This is a deeply flawed bill, which does nothing more than offer retroactive immunity by another name. We strongly urge our colleagues to reject this so-called 'compromise' legislation and oppose any efforts to consider this bill in its current form. We will oppose efforts to end debate on this bill as long as it provides retroactive immunity for the telecommunications companies that may have participated in the President's warrantless wiretapping program, and as long as it fails to protect the privacy of law-abiding Americans.

Here are two Democrats who are not willing to capitulate -- unlike some Democrats and almost all Republicans (who of course don't see it as capitulation) -- and who are prepared to stand up for the basic constitutional right of Americans to be free of unwarranted government surveillance and against the corporate enablers of Bush's culture-of-fear-based police state.

Dodd and Feingold are absolutely right -- and they deserve our appreciation, admiration, and support.

(For more from us on the disgusting FISA capitulation, see the very fine posts of Carol, Creature, Fogg, and Libby.)

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Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Hmm. This sounds familiar...

By Carl

I'm guessing the McCain campaign is eavesdropping on my blog.

Compare and contrast:

“I further propose we inspire the ingenuity and resolve of the American people,” Mr. McCain said, “by offering a $300 million prize for the development of a battery package that has the size, capacity, cost and power to leapfrog the commercially available plug-in hybrids or electric cars.”

He said the winner should deliver power at 30 percent of current costs. “That’s one dollar, one dollar, for every man, woman and child in the U.S. — a small price to pay for helping to break the back of our oil dependency,” he said.

Now, this:

I would propose the following budgetary item be included in my first non-administration: a $1 billion dollar bounty payable to anyone, and I do mean anyone, who can demonstrate a truly renewable energy source-- solar, geothermal, wind, and so on-- that will create the same rate of BTUs as crude oil, in a form that is commercially viable.

This bounty would not be payable just once. It would be paid for each new energy resource that can be so demonstrated to the country's satisfaction. If you can develop a brand new way of harnessing wind on a commercially viable scale that is new and innovative, or takes a windmill one step farther, then you get your bounty. I figure there ought to be about ten of these that will have to be paid out.

As usual, Republicans are behind the curve in thinking, and ready to trim anything so they can preserve their precious tax cuts, but it seems pretty eerie to read your thoughts in the national press and not think "Hmmm, I wish the other guy would listen as closely."

Speaking of the "other guy", clearly the Obama campaign was caught flat-footed by this proposal:

The Obama campaign countered by noting that Mr. McCain had voted against improving fuel efficiency standards in the Senate. Jason Furman, the Obama campaign’s economic policy director, said in a conference call that Mr. McCain had been focused on “meaningful relief for oil companies that are struggling with record profits.”

Citing "fuel efficiency standards" is like offering lollipops when compared to someone who is buying you dinner, so to speak.

If McCain is going to be the guy who comes up with solid, practical and ingenious solutions to America's problems, solutions that at least look forward as opposed to being mired in the past, this is going to be a very long fall campaign...

(Cross-posted to
Simply Left Behind.)

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Terrorist fist jabs, baby mamas, and other Republican efforts to scare you into submission

By Michael J.W. Stickings

A fews day ago I posted on the Republican Smear Machine's campaign to make you afraid of Obama. Obama, if you remember, remarked on Friday that the Republicans are going to wage just such a campaign: "They're going to try to make you afraid of me. He's young and inexperienced and he's got a funny name. And did I mention he's black?"

This aroused much indignation on the right, both from the usual mob of partisan shriekers and from the few -- the very few -- thoughtful beings who still inhabit that wretched space on the political spectrum: How dare Obama play the race card by accusing Republicans of something of which they are innocent (that is, of playing the race card)? He's a hypocrite! And Republicans would never, ever -- ever! -- attack Obama on racial grounds. Look at McCain, who's doing his utmost to play nice.


For additional commentary on the smearing of Obama, a campagn already well underway, I want to direct you to our must-read of the day, an article at TNR by Drew Westen, a professor at Emory University. Here's some of it (make sure to read it in full):

[T]he only road that could take McCain to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is the low road, one of the few pieces of infrastructure left in good repair by President Bush. His father paved it against Michael Dukakis, George W. Bush repaved it running against John Kerry, and the GOP repainted the dotted line in now-Senator Bob Corker's 2006 contest with Harold Ford. The path to success for McCain is to make the election a referendum on his opponent, by working in silent concert with 527 groups and media outlets such as Fox News to pursue character assassination, guilt by association, and, most of all, the effort to paint Obama as different, foreign, unlike "us," and dangerous (and did I mention that he's black?).


Barack Obama has been the target of a concerted smear campaign that tells a consistent story: that he is a Muslim, that he attended an anti-American madrassa as a child, that he refuses to put his hand over his heart during the Pledge of Allegiance, that he took his oath of office to the Senate with his hand on the Koran, and that he hates Israel. Beginning in late 2006, conservative talk show hosts and commentators like Ann Coulter were calling him "B. Hussein Obama," images on the Internet were morphing Obama into Osama, and commentators were raising questions about his patriotism.

These subterranean messages took a substantial toll. When I was doing focus groups with swing voters in the early winter, nearly half of every group we met with would either assert confidently or wonder aloud whether Obama was a Muslim or didn't believe in the Pledge of Allegiance.

But this was just the beginning. With his patriotism and "us-ness" in question, the theme moved from "different" directly to "black" (with the unfortunate complicity of Hillary Clinton's campaign). Already this month, a Fox News host asked if Barack and Michelle Obama shared a "terrorist fist jab"; and the same network also referred to Michelle as Barack's "baby mama." The National Review, among others, made the unprecedented call for Obama to release his birth certificate (which he did). The false story of his wife using the term "whitey" spread, as did a photo album displaying the future "first family," putting together all of Obama's African relatives in an attempt to make him look as foreign as possible while also suggesting that some of his relatives were terrorists.

The pattern is clear...

It is indeed.

It's the Republican pattern. It's what the GOP does best. It's how it wins elections.

And there's already a ton of evidence out there.

Those in denial will remain there, while those without a clue aren't about to get one anytime soon, but we'll get to see a lot more like this from the RSM in the coming weeks and months.

And, with McCain trailing and with Republican fortunes on the Hill looking bleak, it could get a whole lot uglier.

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Headline of the Day (James Dobson edition)

By Michael J.W. Stickings

From ABC News:

Dobson's 18-minute radio segment has already been taped. It will air today. And, in it, he will say this: "I think he's deliberately distorting the traditional understanding of the Bible to fit his own worldview, his own confused theology."

Of course, that "traditional understanding of the Bible" underpins the fascist authoritarianism that is the core of Dobson's christianism, both in the home and in society in general.

In that christianist society, women ought to stay home, gays ought to be reformed, and children ought to obey: "By learning to yield to the loving authority... of his parents, a child learns to submit to other forms of authority which will confront him later in his life -- his teachers, school principal, police, neighbors and employers." And to be physically punished: "It is not necessary to beat the child into submission; a little bit of pain goes a long way for a young child. However, the spanking should be of sufficient magnitude to cause the child to cry genuinely."

Nothing tells you you're a good and decent human being quite like being attacked by the likes of James Dobson.

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A big advantage

By Creature

You know what would be a "big advantage" for John McCain's candidacy? No, not a terrorist strike on U.S. soil. A big advantage for the campaign would be if the Democrats pulled out and conceded victory to our lord and terror-savior, John McCain, today. It's the only way he could win and no one would have to die (and no one would be cheering the dead) in the process. I think for the good of the country, the presidential election should be handed to John McCain. It's the only sane thing to do.

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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The seal that is no more

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Thankfully, as CNN is reporting, that ridiculously stupid quasi-presidential seal from behind which Obama spoke with Democratic governors last week is dead.

Let's never mention it again.

(Vero Possumus.)

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Monday, June 23, 2008

Chertoff's Iron Curtain

By Capt. Fogg

Something there is that doesn't love a wall, said the poet. I think it's called freedom.

Say you have a nice ranch down near the Rio Grande. The view is fabulous, you use the water for your cattle, you have a little boat to fish with. The deer and the antelope play.

Say you enjoy the San Pedro river, the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area on the Arizona border. You can forget it; it's soon to be blocked by a huge corrugated iron curtain right out of the cold war era because we're all so desperately afraid of Mexicans who don't come in to the country on tourist visas, like most illegal immigrants do.

This isn't a diatribe on any racialist or economic basis for xenophobia or the grave danger of people with expired visas cutting your lawn, it's about big government getting away with unquestionable authority by declaring emergencies. It's about Michael Chertoff's Bush-given ability to overturn court rulings and ignore laws passed by Congress because - well just because the commander guy has commanded it. Our Republican Congress gave him the power to waive any laws he needed to to get this fence built and our Republican courts in all their activist glory have now backed him up today by upholding a lower court's ruling that giving Michael Chertoff authority to write and unwrite laws passed by congress does not violate the separation of powers set forth in the constitution. Michael Cherthoff can be the law and neither we nor our elected representatives can stop him sayeth the Bush Court.

Somehow the people who give us the Fatherland and the Motherland seem awfully similar to the people who changed National Security into Homeland Security.

Many people sincerely doubt that this wall will actually secure our border and protect us from undocumented dishwashers. The history of walls lends them some support, but of course when things get bad enough here, perhaps it will help keep us from fleeing to Mexico.

(Cross-posted from The Impolitic.)

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Violence and illegitimacy: All you really need to know about "democracy" in Zimbabwe

By Michael J.W. Stickings

All you really need to know is that it's a "violent, illegitimate sham." So says Morgan Tsvangirai, the opposition leader who has dared to challenge Robert Mugabe's brutal thuggery:

The leader of Zimbabwe’s opposition party withdrew Sunday from a presidential runoff, just five days before it was to be held, saying he could neither participate “in this violent, illegitimate sham of an election process,” nor ask his voters to risk their lives in the face of threats from forces backing President Robert Mugabe.

The opposition candidate, Morgan Tsvangirai, the standard-bearer of the Movement for Democratic Change, said at a news conference in Zimbabwe’s capital, Harare, that his party was facing a war rather than an election, “and we will not be part of that war.”

A governing party militia blocked his supporters from attending a major rally in Harare on Sunday, the head of an election observer team said. The opposition said rowdy youths, armed with iron bars and sticks, beat up people who had come to cheer for Mr. Tsvangirai.

It was the latest incident in a tumultuous campaign season in which Mr. Tsvangirai has been repeatedly detained, his party’s chief strategist jailed on treason charges that many people consider bogus, and rampant state-sponsored violence has left at least 85 opposition supporters dead and thousands injured, according to tallies by doctors treating the victims.

Mr. Tsvangirai’s decision to quit the race seems intended to force Zimbabwe’s neighbors to take a stand. There are growing cracks in the solidarity that African heads of state have shown for Mr. Mugabe, an 84-year-old liberation hero whose defiant anti-Western rhetoric has long struck a resonant chord in a region with a bitter colonial history.

What else is Tsvangirai to do? He has waged a courageous battle against Mugabe, but Mugabe and his thugs aren't about to let him win. The popular will in Zimbabwe is not what the people want but what Mugabe wants.

The U.S. and the U.K. are "pressing to put Zimbabwe’s political crisis on the United Nations Security Council agenda [today]," but Zimbabwe's neighbours -- in particular, South Africa -- have thus far done nothing. Their post-colonialist support for Mugabe, which dates back decades, and current opposition to addressing the crisis at the U.N. are appalling reflections of just what sort of moral-political vacuum exists in some parts of the world. For these African states, it is all about supporting one of their own, or someone they consider one of their own, against the ex-colonialist West. And that means supporting the sort of brutal thuggery and sham democracy that has enabled Mugabe's authoritarianism. And that has forced his main rival out of an otherwise winnable race.

Like many others -- perhaps most notably the lead singer of a prominent Irish rock band that used to be really good -- I have been critical of the West's use and abuse of Africa, the combination of neglect, degradation, and rapacity that has kept much of the continent in a position of helpless submission from which it has been unable to escape (because not empowered to do so). But some of the responsibility for Africa's fortunes must rest with the leaders of countries like South Africa. They and their enablers deserve much of the blame for the continuing state of brutality and submission that keeps Mugabe in power and the people of Zimbabwe suppressed.

Democracy in Zimbabwe is a "violent, illegitimate sham" -- and, it seems, nothing is about to change anytime soon.

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Krazy Kristol and Batty Bolton talk up Iran attack

By Michael J.W. Stickings

These two headlines from Think Progress sum it all up:

-- Kristol: Bush Might Bomb Iran If He 'Thinks Senator Obama's Going To Win'

-- Bolton: Israel Will Attack Iran After U.S. Election But Before Inauguration, Arab States Will Be 'Delighted'

So they both said on Fox News yesterday morning. (Of course.)

They and the warmongering neocons of their ilk have said much the same thing before, of course: There will be military action undertaken against Iran. What is new is the immediacy, in terms of the specific timing of an attack on Iran, of their warmongering rhetoric.

I don't know if either one is right, that is, that either the U.S. or Israel will bomb Iran -- the U.S. if Obama wins (and, presumably, if McCain wins, too), Israel after the election (supposedly with the approval of the monolith known as "the Arab states") -- but what is clear is that they are both pushing for war and talking about it as if it were a foregone conclusion.

What is also clear, according to Krazy Kristol's own admission, is that a McCain presidency would be Bush III (and worse). Here's Steve Benen's response: "As Bill Kristol sees it, if John McCain wins in November (or the White House believes McCain will win in November), Still-President Bush is content leaving a confrontation with Iran to the future. If Barack Obama wins, or appears poised to win, Bush may go ahead and force the issue... All of this is, of course, a friendly reminder that when it comes to sticking to the status quo, and offering more of the same on international relations, Bush is counting on John McCain delivering four more years just like the last eight."

And here's Andrew Sullivan's response to the possibility of a pre-election attack: "[C]ould it happen? Could Bush bomb Iran before the next election and create a sense of international crisis that could cause voters to swing back to McCain? From everything we know and Bush and Cheney, the answer, surely, is yes. His failed policies have left only one option to prevent Iran's going nuclear: war. And Bush must be chafing to see how his legacy could be dramatically changed if Obama wins. We could be facing the mother of all October surprises."

True enough.


As if to prove just how krazy he is, Kristol also "raise[d] the prospect of Saudi Arabia and Egypt going nuclear in response to an Obama presidency," to quote Andrew again.

Remember, the Republicans campaign on fear (and the neocons live on it).

Nothing should surprise us.

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Sunday, June 22, 2008

Strategic commands

By Carl

Thank God for The New York Times' The Caucus blog, which sums up about three articles I was going to cite today:

Though his fund-raising lagged somewhat in May according to the most recent financial disclosures, Senator Barack Obama is planning an extensive advertising effort for the general election, including television spots in states that are known to be Republican strongholds.

The Times's Jim Rutenberg and Christopher Drew report today on the Obama team's "multifaceted television campaign":

Future commercials could run on big national showcases like the Olympics in August and smaller cable networks like MTV and Black Entertainment Television that appeal to specific demographic and interest groups.

He is also dispatching paid staff members to all states, an unusual move by the standards of modern presidential campaigns where the fight is often contained to contested territories.

The Associated Press reports on how Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton's donors could fatten Mr. Obama's campaign war chest while he helps pay off some of her campaign's sizable debt.

I stated during the week my support of Obama's repudiation of his former position regarding campaign finance reform, which was clearly a pandering gesture while he was running in seventh place and desperate for attention. Among the reasons I mentioned was John Kerry's "Swiftboating" in the 2004 election by an "independent" 527 group.

Kerry was in between the primary season and the general election, which could not officially kick off until George W. Bush was officially renominated. The 527 ads were run in this period when, because the campaign had not officially kicked off, Kerry could not use the public funding he had agreed to abide by, and had run out of primary funds.

He was forced to rely on ad hoc fund raising efforts by groups like to combat the ads. Well, guess what? Progressives, it seems, are notoriously bad about funding things like this.

Obama appears to be positioning himself to battle in all 50 states against McCain, forcing McCain to spend money and effort in traditionally Republican states like Kansas and Virginia. Menwhile, there's a very good possibility that McCain could upset Obama's bid for big-ticket states like California, Florida, Ohio, Texas and even New York and Pennsylvania. The ability of one or the other strategy to work will determine the outcome of the November election, despite early indications that Obama is winning walking away now (51%-39%, according to recent polls).

The key demographic is the group that Hillary Clinton re-energized during the primary season, the working class vote, the so-called
Hillary Democrats (nee Reagan)
. If McCain can hold his base and attract anywhere north of 1/3 of Hillary Democrats and Obama runs into trouble with his base because of whatever moves to the middle he is forced to make to shore up his support with HillDems, McCain could steal the election (allusion intended).

On the flip side, McCain will have troubling shoring up his base if he, too, has to repudiate the policies of the past seven years too fervently, which is why he's changed positions on drilling in ANWR among other things. Lose the conservatives and McCain can phone in the votes he'll receive after that.

Even if Obama loses the race this time, he would likely shore up Democratic votes in states that are usually dominated by Republicans, and perhaps swipe a few more Congressional seats. In 2012, he would be positioned to run again against a President McCain.

Assuming he got past the fact that Hillary Clinton would probably have much more support should Obama fail.

(Cross-posted to Simply Left Behind.)

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Lindsey Graham: Obama concern troll

By Creature

Lindsey Graham, McCain wing-man, was on Meet the Press this morning and he was oh so sad for Barack Obama. Poor Barack, Graham lamented, he's fallen so far because he's broken his so-called promise on public financing. Poor Barack, Graham said while fighting back tears, someone with so much talent, has flipped and flopped on NAFTA. I wanted to cry with him, but then I remembered how sad his boss, John McCain, actually is. How far his boss, John McCain, has fallen from his maverick image and Barack Obama suddenly didn't seem like the tragic figure Lindsey Graham made him out to be. Go figure.

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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Proactively efforting to impact the thought showers

By Capt. Fogg

Modern English, especially written English, is full of bad habits which spread by imitation and which can be avoided if one is willing to take the necessary trouble. If one gets rid of these habits one can think more clearly, and to think clearly is a necessary first step toward political regeneration: so that the fight against bad English is not frivolous and is not the exclusive concern of professional writers.

-- George Orwell


Ladies and Gentlemen, I would like to take this opportunity to award the Human Voices Doctor Syntax Award to Simon Milton:

Why do we have to have "coterminous, stakeholder engagement" when we could just "talk to people" instead?

asked the Chairman of The Local Government Association, an organization that represents local government officials in England and Wales. I love this guy.

Pretentious and impenetrable babble has metastasized into every English speaking part of the world like verbal melanoma; from business schools, PR firms, popular science TV shows and journalistic covens, and it's a rare writer or speaker who doesn't effort try to include as many copies of "empowerment, " "proactive" and "Impactful" in every sentence he excretes.

Why does anyone need a clumsy, worn out metaphor like "negatively impacted on" when hurt or harmed will do so much better? Of course, our institutionalized horror of appearing illiberal by using direct language is responsible for much of it. Careers have been made by those who marshal groups to speak for non-existent "communities" so as to ban words that aren't really offensive to anyone other than graduate students eager to cooperate with professors who need to publish.

Brainstorming, itself a crapulous and unfunny metaphor for talking amongst a group, seemed, or so we were given input told, to be offensive to epileptics even though there is no evidence of it negatively impacting on annoying anyone. Let's call it "thought showering" said one British City Council. Let's not. Let's just call it pretentious babble posing as enlightened vocabulary.

Let us please have a round of applause for Mr. Milton!

(Cross-posted from Human Voices.)

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Ode To the Fourth Amendment

By Carol Gee

"A Sad Day for the Fourth Amendment" was the title of my (8/5/07) S/SW post about the passage of the Protect America Act. This week was an even sadder day for Amendment IV. I have been unable to write much this week about the sorry state of affairs of civil liberties in this nation. Therefore, I turn to poetry as I often do when struck with such paralyzing writer's block. This post is --

A writing on right's might. . .

The Might of Right
-- The Rule of Law as opposed to Injustice.
Right as opposed to Wrong.
Wronged as opposed to Righteous.
Righteous as opposed to Immoral.
Moral as opposed to Political.
Political as opposed to Right.
Right as opposed to Left.
Left wing as opposed to Right wing.
Rights upheld as opposed to Injustice.

The Might of Write -- Freedom of Speech as opposed to No Rule of Law.
Write as opposed to Speak.
Speak as opposed to Right.
Write as opposed to Phone.
Phone as opposed to Letter.
Write as opposed to Print.
Print as opposed to Digital.
Write as opposed to Talk.
Talk as opposed to Shout.

The Might of Rite -- The Rule of Law as opposed to Lawlessness.
Rite as opposed to Consent.
Consent as opposed to Rebellious.
Rite as opposed to Chaos.
Chaos as opposed to Organized.
Rite as opposed to Informal.
Informal as opposed to Formal.
Rite as opposed to Secular.
Secular as opposed to Righteous.

Reference: The Late Fourth Amendment
  • Amendment 4 - Search and Seizure. Ratified 12/15/1791.

    The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)

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FISA fallout

By Libby Spencer

I've been wrestling with my response to the FISA debacle, particularly as it relates to Obama's statement for over a day and posted my initial thoughts at Newshoggers so I won't repeat them here but I will expand on them a bit. I'm somewhere between our own beloved Capt Fogg and Glenn Greenwald.

I was going to flag the same quote as Fogg, and taken in context with Obama's larger statement it pissed me off. Obama fell down on reclaiming the narrative on terror from the GOP and effectively reinforced the false meme that we must allow the expansion of presidential power and sacrifice our civil rights for safety. His assurances that he will review it all when he's president is not comforting. It's unsurprising that this led to a fair amount of speculation that he wants these powers for himself.

The appropriate response came from Mo Udall.

The FISA bill we considered today would compromise the constitutionally guaranteed rights that make America a beacon of hope around the world.

But although that's a brave statement and deserves commendation, Udall doesn't have the same political cost to consider in taking that stance. As a presidential candidate Obama walks a fine line where every word is parsed by the media and one can see where they would make great hay with a "caving into the far left demands" narrative. It leaves him with a damned if you do, damned if you don't choice that I'm glad I don't have to make.

As I said at Newshoggers, I think the most practical approach to the pushback for progressives is to frame the critcism as a Democratic party failure and not overly focus on holding Obama personally responsible for it. I don't think he has the power, even as the presumptive nominee, to move this issue on his own. If he manages to lead a push to remove the telecom immunity, and succeeds, that will be a small victory and a sign of good faith. If he fails to do so, I think he will find that he will have lost, if not votes, a large chunk of enthusiam of the kind he needs to get into office with a mandate for change.

Meanwhile, Dan has the complete list of yes votes for the sellout disguised as a compromise in the House. If your Representative isn't on it, send them a thank you note. If your rep is Steny Hoyer, hate mail is encouraged but no threats of violence please.

(Cross-posted at The Impolitic.)

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