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State of the Nation

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9 years 46 weeks ago

December 30, 2007

23:52

Ever in search of renewal, we Americans delude ourselves into believing that our progress outstrips our history. But the past is a long time with us.

That's nowhere more apparent than in our strongly felt prejudices. These linger deep in the nation's ranks for generations after the parade begins to leave them behind. In 2008 as the country sizes up Barack Obama's campaign, we'll have to confront that uncomfortable truth yet again – both the continued grip of racism, and the familiar pretense that racism no longer matters. The very fact that we discuss how much it will influence his chances demonstrates that racism still haunts us.

But, we say, "It's history," as if that makes it less rather than more important.

Even the most attenuated bigotry is so disturbing that many of us will hope it fails on its own, and fade, rather than to tackle it directly and vanquish it.

Religious bigotry has perhaps a special place in American culture, going as far back as the founding of Massachusetts Bay Colony. More than other prejudices, it retains considerable respectability in wide swathes of the public. Hence a shocking 53% of Americans say they would not cast a vote for president under any circumstances for an atheist. It's a mark of the resilience of religious prejudice that this standard of bigotry toward atheists, which had dropped in Gallup polls from 74% to 48% between 1959 and 1987, has bounced back up a full 5% since 1999. And this despite the fact that Article VI of the U.S. Constitution prohibits religious tests for office-holding.

Discrimination based upon creed, in general, remains acceptable in America to a shocking extent. It comes as no news to me, who bears this pagan pseudonym, that I cannot aspire to elected public office. And yet some information regarding religious discrimination, forwarded to me recently by Georgia10, came as something of a surprise. It turns out that eight states (AR, MA, MD, NC, PA, SC, TN, and TX) retain clauses in their constitutions that explicitly endorse or require discrimination based upon religious belief.

(Update: A commenter points out that Section 265 of the MS constitution also has a religious test - even though Section 18 states unequivocally "No religious test as a qualification for office shall be required". You couldn't ask for clearer evidence than this of the urge to discriminate against non-believers...)

Why were these clauses not amended and expunged long ago?

A partial answer I suppose is that they are no longer legally enforceable. In 1961, SCOTUS ruled unanimously in Torcaso v. Watkins that the clauses in the Maryland constitution were invalid. There were two articles at issue from the Maryland Declaration of Rights (emphasis mine):

Art. 36. That as it is the duty of every man to worship God in such manner as he thinks most acceptable to Him, all persons are equally entitled to protection in their religious liberty; wherefore, no person ought by any law to be molested in his person or estate, on account of his religious persuasion, or profession, or for his religious practice, unless, under the color of religion, he shall disturb the good order, peace or safety of the State, or shall infringe the laws of morality, or injure others in their natural, civil or religious rights; nor ought any person to be compelled to frequent, or maintain, or contribute, unless on contract, to maintain, any place of worship, or any ministry; nor shall any person, otherwise competent, be deemed incompetent as a witness, or juror, on account of his religious belief; provided, he believes in the existence of God, and that under His dispensation such person will be held morally accountable for his acts, and be rewarded or punished therefor either in this world or in the world to come.

Nothing shall prohibit or require the making reference to belief in, reliance upon, or invoking the aid of God or a Supreme Being in any governmental or public document, proceeding, activity, ceremony, school, institution, or place.

Nothing in this article shall constitute an establishment of religion (amended by Chapter 558, Acts of 1970, ratified Nov. 3, 1970).

Art. 37. That no religious test ought ever to be required as a qualification for any office of profit or trust in this State, other than a declaration of belief in the existence of God; nor shall the Legislature prescribe any other oath of office than the oath prescribed by this Constitution.

Roy Torcaso, whose appointment in MD as a Notary Public was blocked because he refused to declare his belief in God, took his case to the U.S. Supreme Court. Its finding was that the Articles violate the 1st and 14th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. Justice Hugo Black wrote:

"There is, and can be, no dispute about the purpose or effect of the Maryland Declaration of Rights requirement before us - it sets up a religious test which (it) was designed to and, if valid, does bar every person who refuses to declare a belief in God from holding a public 'office of profit or trust' in Maryland. The power and authority of the State of Maryland thus is put on the side of one particular sort of believers - those who are willing to say they believe in 'the existence of God.'...

When our Constitution was adopted, the desire to put the people 'securely beyond the reach' of religious test oaths brought about the inclusion in Article VI of that document of a provision that 'no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States'....."

Hence for nearly 50 years all eight states have been blocked from enforcing their constitutions' religious tests. There is no doubt about the established law in this area. So why are these clauses still in existence? It ought to disturb you to see that Maryland Article 36 was amended in 1970, but without removing the unconstitutional language on religious tests. What in the world is that state waiting for, an engraved tablet from Mt. Sinai inviting them to put religious discrimination in the past?

Or consider Art. VI, Sect. 2 of the 2006 South Carolina Constitution:

No person who denies the existence of the Supreme Being shall hold any office under this Constitution.

Last amended in 2006, and yet this flagrantly unconstitutional provision remains in place. This despite the fact that the South Carolina Supreme Court ruled in 1997 that the clause violates the U.S. Constitution. This was a case brought in 1993 after Herb Silverman's application to become a Notary Public was denied because he had crossed out the word "God" on the form.

The same can be said of the religious tests of Texas, overturned in O'Hair v. Hill (1978-84), and of North Carolina, overturned in Voswinkel v. Hunt (1979). Both constitutions retain their unconstitutional clauses to this day.

So in point of fact, these state religious tests are both vestiges of an earlier era, as well as living tokens of religious bigotry. There is no guarantee that, as long as they survive, the states will never again attempt to enforce them. The failure to eliminate provisions that are both unconstitutional and an affront to civil society reflects, at a minimum, a mindset that holds a significant segment of the public in disregard.

On the whole, these clauses present an ugly picture. Some, like the religious tests of Texas and Pennsylvania, play coy by protecting the rights of believers but not of non-believers:

No person who acknowledges the being of a God and a future state of rewards and punishments shall, on account of his religious sentiments, be disqualified to hold any office or place of trust or profit under this Commonwealth.

But several of these unrepentant religious tests boldly deny rights to non-believers, such as the constitution of Arkansas:

No person who denies the being of a God shall hold any office in the civil departments of this State, nor be competent to testify as a witness in any Court.

I can testify to one fact, that this clause is repulsive and should have been expunged by the good people of Arkansas long ago.

Categories: Politics
23:16

(Tonight's selections are brought to you courtesy of the Rescue Rangers. SusanG)

This evening's Rescue Rangers are claude, taylormattd, ezdidit, msobel, grog, Patriot Daily and Avila, with watercarrier4diogenes editing.

Tonight's diaries cover some interesting issues with the kind of research, perspective and analysis we love to see at Teh Orange.  Tonight, just for the fun of it, we're also presenting some guidance and examples of what we'd all prefer to see in that ever-present milieu, the candidate diary.

noweasels has Top Comments: Beloved Animal Companions.

Enjoy and please promote your own favorite diaries in this open thread.

Categories: Politics
19:52

In case anyone is wondering how Daily Kos has grown in the past five years, here are the pageview stats for the site (corrected numbers  - DemFromCT).

2002               2003                2004

                   Jan:  255,228      Jan:  5,013,325
                   Feb:  298,559      Feb:  4,720,803
                   Mar:  699,395      Mar:  4,475,912
                   Apr:  772,125      Apr:  5,787,549
                   May:  597,388      May:  5,789,670
                   Jun:  759,504      Jun:  5,400,894
Jul:  5,150        Jul:  881,216      Jul:  7,006,928  
Aug:  16,616       Aug:  1,059,076    Aug:  8,569,913
Sep:  29,515       Sep:  1,558,989    Sep:  11,225,470
Oct:  129,316      Oct:  2,047,717    Oct:  18,333,119
Nov:  223,609      Nov:  2,391,369    Nov:  14,364,191
Dec:  197,892      Dec:  2,920,691    Dec:  10,576,998


2005               2006               2007

Jan:  11,026,017   Jan:  24,032,089   Jan:  17,836,588
Feb:  13,923,999   Feb:  22,455,044   Feb:  15,133,561
Mar:  14,668,729   Mar:  22,222,040   Mar:  17,915,263
Apr:  14,986,111   Apr:  16,925,947   Apr:  18,870,853
May:  16,837,641   May:  19,129,639   May:  18,253,995
Jun:  16,866,569   Jun:  16,622,044   Jun:  15,445,434
Jul:  19,284,848   Jul:  16,967,233   Jul:  18,518,132
Aug:  21,078,378   Aug:  20,685,186   Aug:  19,416,713
Sep:  24,235,204   Sep:  19,869,441   Sep:  16,449,685
Oct:  27,360,982   Oct:  25,907,620   Oct:  16,729,269
Nov:  24,862,095   Nov:  25,117,199   Nov:  15,541,250
Dec:  19,485,048   Dec:  14,920,586   Dec:  16,672,140*


1.) Traffic has definitely matured, and the days of massive traffic growth are behind us. It's a good thing, too, since I could do without the headaches of throwing servers at the site trying to keep up with demand.

2.) 2007 was an off-year in politics, so traffic has ebbed. A good comparison to whether the site has truly peaked will come next year, as we compare the election years of 2006 and 2008. Still, outside of the election-centric months (in the fall), and the first quarter (see below), traffic was stable from last year. I would venture that big gains are in store for 2008, no matter how much Congressional Democrats try to suck the life out of the base with their ineptness.

3.) There's a bit of "apples and oranges" thing going on here -- in March 2006 we made a substantive change to how the site worked, changing Scoop's default comments to a new custom Ajax setup. Those Ajax comments dramatically reduce the number of pageviews generated by the comments pages, so I would guesstimate a "pageview penalty" against the site of at least 10 percent once the new comments were implemented. You can see the effects immediately in the numbers above. (That pageview penalty is shared by any site implementing Ajax functionality.)

The only apples-to-apples comparisons we can truly have here are pre-March 2006, and post-March 2006.

And: 4.) There are a lot of people invested in this site's and this medium's demise, and they're desperate to find evidence of that happening. So let me be the first to declare -- once again -- that yes, this site has jumped the shark, and did so years ago. In fact, Bill O'Reilly put the final nail in the coffin this past August. So move along, there's nothing left to see but rubble.

(*) December 2007 traffic is incomplete, as there's still more than a day left in the month.

Categories: Politics
18:19

OK, so David "Wild Man" Broder suddenly thinks an Internet-based, third party movement is a brilliant and eminently mainstream idea.

Well, duh. Whatever.

So they're having a Big Bipartisan Serious Person's Kumbaya Love-In for America, only this time the people attending aren't Dirty Fucking Hippies or pajama-wearing, mom's-basement-bound shut-ins or Vinnies in the Bronx. No, no! They're Very Serious People. You can tell because you'll only have to look about half of them up on Wikipedia.

Sam Nunn. Chuck Robb. David Boren. Gary Hart. Chuck Hagel. Bill Brock. John Danforth. Christie Todd Whitman. Bill Cohen. Alan Dixon. Bob Graham. Jim Leach. Susan Eisenhower. David Abshire. Edward Perkins.

Yowza! It's like a rave, but it's all grey flannel and smells faintly of BenGay.

But you can tell it's Good for America by the fact that there are not one, but two letters there: D and R! It's automatically jam-packed with U.S.A.-ey goodness!

Now, why it makes just oh-so-much sense to answer the Republican-led cliff dive into corruption and anti-constitutionalism by giving Republicans only half a cookie, I just don't know. It's just the point where Teh Stupid starts. There's plenty more where that came from.

Like, how many times are we supposed to fall for this "Maverick Republican" thing? That there are "Straight Talkers" out there who are gonna steer the GOP ship back on course, if we'll all just sit back and hand over the keys, don't mind that stale whiff of gin.

Eight years ago, John McCain played the role and banked his bid for the presidency on it. Now he's hugging the man who told South Carolinians that he had a "black love child," and showing how "safe" Baghdad is... with 100 troops surrounding him and 5 choppers overhead.

And about as long ago, Rudy Giuliani was the "moderate" Republican mayor of True Blue New York City. Law and order? Well yeah, sure. But socially liberal! Acceptable! The "good kind!" Now, he's not only gone proto-fascist on us, but it turns out his candidacy is every bit the seedy embarrassment the Bernie Kerik Homeland Security nomination was.

Eight (or so) short years from Go-It-Alone "moderates" to neocon caricatures who'd squeeze themselves right into Bush's skivvies if he'd let them.

No, no! But these Republicans are to-o-o-o-o-o-tally different! Cuz they're for "unity" and whatnot!

You know, "unity." Which we only just discovered we really needed, as digby points out:

Isn't it funny that these people were nowhere to be found when George W. Bush seized office under the most dubious terms in history, having been appointed by a partisan supreme court majority and losing the popular vote? If there was ever a time for a bunch of dried up, irrelevant windbags to demand a bipartisan government you'd think it would have been then, wouldn't you? (How about after 9/11, when Republicans were running ads saying Dems were in cahoots with Saddam and bin Laden?)

I can still hear the stinging rebukes from Danforth, Whitman, Cohen, et al. I remember it like I was making it up yesterday.

Yes, these "stalwarts" of the GOP are here to save America, having lost their fight to save (the Republican) half of it, and finding themselves kicked to the curb or turned out to pasture along the way. But don't worry! Everyone knows that jobs get easier the bigger the get! You'll feel more united in 90 days, or your money back!

And after all, it is your money, they'll helpfully remind you. That's something digby knows, too:

[T]he point cannot be missed that when the GOP was in power they spent like drunken sailors and now that the Democrats have the congress the elders are suddenly up in arms about spending. That will, of course, become the new mantra if a Democrat becomes president and the political establishment decides that the government must "get something done"

Whoops! Government spending! Just noticed! Well, never too early to get started "getting things done," right? Let's jump right in!

Can't decide between redeploying from Iraq or staying? How about we stay, then?

Can't decide between cutting taxes or getting the top 1% of earners to chip in a little more? How about we cut taxes then?

Can't decide between ending corporate welfare and lobbying culture or "investing in American industry?" Say, what if we just invested in American industry, then? Wouldn't that be nice?

You see, we've got to compromise. Come together in the middle. Wasn't that satisfying? Don't you feel unified? You're so reasonable! Not like those other people! Thanks for working with us. It was really civil, wasn't it?

I can hardly wait. Backwards, to the future!

Categories: Politics
16:40

You may have seen the news that AOL is pulling the development plug on the browser that helped kick-start the Internet revolution, good old Netscape Navigator. If you've been around the web for a while, you probably have fond memories of Netscape. And indeed, you can still keep using it - AOL just won't be providing updates any longer.

But well before this announcement, the sun had long since set on Netscape. Now its legacy is continued by the excellent Firefox browser, and a number of others have risen to challenge the hegemony of Microsoft's Internet Explorer.

So please take the poll to let us know which software package you are using. And for Firefox users, we are especially interesting in knowing which version (whether 1.x or 2.x) you're running.

Categories: Politics
15:00

Having zoomed to the top of the Republican presidential field, Mike Huckabee is apparently finding the view from the top isn’t so much fun, because once you get there, people actually start paying attention when you screw up.

And since the assassination of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, the Huckster has been absolutely on fire, and not in a good way:

Mike Huckabee strode out to the strains of "Right Now" by Van Halen and immediately addressed the Bhutto situation, expressing "our sincere concern and apologies for what has happened in Pakistan."

Uh, "apologies"? Governor, I am sure you’d like to blame this on Bill Clinton or somebody, but this is a bit extreme.

Anyway, Huckabee has a fascinating take on this whole Pakistan business: apparently, it underscores the need for a border fence. Because it's all about illegal immigration:

"In light of what happened in Pakistan yesterday, it's interesting that there were more Pakistanis who illegally crossed the border than of any other nationality except for those immediately south of our border, 660 last year form Pakistan who came into our country illegally because we don't have secure borders," Huckabee told reporters at the Pizza Ranch in a town that has probably supplied one of the windows in your home or office.

Six hundred and sixty! Good God, man! That’s almost two whole Pakistani immigrants per Congressional district, stealing our jobs!

Even for Huckabee, this is an unbelievably idiotic statement, especially considering the very serious foreign-policy concerns associated with Pakistan (like, say, the fact that it's an increasingly unstable nation with a sizable nuclear arsenal).

To try to twist Bhutto’s assassination into an argument against illegal immigration would be a hilarious political contortion...if it weren’t actually coming from the Republican frontrunner for the Presidency of the United States.  

Let’s not forget, either, that Huckabee is just plain wrong about the immigration numbers:

In fact, far more illegal immigrants come from the Philippines, Korea, China and Vietnam, according to recent estimates from the Department of Homeland Security.

Frankly, I completely understand if you’re not inclined to trust Bush’s DHS, Governor, but I think they might be right on this one.

He used the Denver Post for the "660" figure, in fact...ignoring, of course, that that was not their estimate for last year, but for fiscal years 2002-2005.

Well played, Mikey. Well played.

Don’t worry, though: the Huckster isn’t really concerned about the masses of Pakistani immigrants flowing into the country and stealing jobs:

"The fact is that the immigration issue is not so much about people coming to pick lettuce or make beds, it's about someone coming with a shoulder-fired missile," he said.

Yes, I completely agree. We ought to be terrified of the idea that Pakistani illegals are massing at the Mexican border with shoulder-fired missiles. Terrified, I say. It’s a fantastic argument for a border fence.

This might be the most preposterously bizarre and utterly inappropriate use of deceptive political hyperbole I’ve heard since Condi’s finest: "We don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud".

Seriously, the fact that Huckabee is actually dismissing the economic implications of illegal immigration shows that he doesn’t even get it on domestic policy. His party has finally succeeded in manufacturing an issue out of whole cloth to instill fear in the populace (the only way they can win elections), to try to save them from the dire electoral straits they’re in...and their frontrunner can’t even use the scare tactics properly.

No wonder the GOP powers that be can't stand Huckabee.

But it’s probably best that Huckabee stick with the immigration line, after all, since clearly, he doesn’t know a damn thing about Pakistan and its borders.

Erm...Pakistan shares a border on the west with Afghanistan, Governor. Not the east. The eastern border is a minor democracy called the Republic of India. You may have heard of it. Over one billion people live there.

No wonder that even his own aides have to acknowledge his ignorance on foreign policy:

A senior aide to Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee admitted Friday that the former Arkansas governor had "no foreign policy credentials" after his comments reacting to the assassination of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto raised questions.

We know, of course, that Mike Huckabee doesn’t know a damn thing about foreign policy. We know that he is woefully ill equipped to deal with the critical foreign policy challenges facing the next president. And we know that he is using the tragedy in Pakistan to make political hay on the immigration issue.

But hell, look on the bright side: if he wins the nomination, he’ll be able to pick from a wide pool of experienced conservatives to run his foreign policy, no? Folks like everyone’s favorite mustachioed neocon, maybe?

At a Thursday evening press conference, Huckabee said, "I've corresponded with John Bolton, who's agreed to work with us on developing foreign policy."

Oh, indeed?

Bolton, however, has a different view. "I’d be happy to speak with Huckabee, but I haven’t spoken with him yet," said Bolton, now a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank in Washington.

So, erm, he’s going to compensate from his complete lack of insight on foreign policy by consulting with crazy persons such as John Bolton...except he hasn’t actually asked said crazy persons to work with him yet?

Fabulous.

Categories: Politics
12:05

Perversely, under George Bush Republican loyalists fail upward at astonishing rates. That's no less true of their pundit class, none of whom are ever held accountable for manifest failures. In neocon circles especially, rank incompetence is held to be a mark of great distinction. Piling error upon error, the right-wing bloviator plunges hard up the ladder of failure. With the correct combination of ignorance and imperviousness to fact, an ambitious numbskull will ascend from weakness to weakness with dizzying speed.

Nobody has endured a more blessed string of failures than William Kristol, a man whose first, nay whose every instinct is to cheer for war. You would be hard pressed to find another private citizen who has had a more pernicious influence on American foreign policy than William Kristol. And it would be the work of many hands to catalogue all the ridiculous pronouncements made by this man since 2001. His long train of predictions about the Middle East has been gaudily, disastrously, stupefyingly misinformed.

Just the buffoon, it seems, for the New York Times to award with a guest column for 2008.

If you object to the NYT rewarding failure in quite this way then you're intolerant, according to the Times' editorial page editor, Andrew Rosenthal.

Rosenthal told Politico.com shortly after the official announcement Saturday that he fails to understand "this weird fear of opposing views....We have views on our op-ed page that are as hawkish or more so than Bill....

"The idea that The New York Times is giving voice to a guy who is a serious, respected conservative intellectual — and somehow that’s a bad thing," Rosenthal added. "How intolerant is that?"

Rosenthal doesn't seem to recognize that his choice of adjectives to describe Kristol – "serious", "respected" – are in fact precisely what is at issue for those whom he dismisses as having a "fear of opposing views".

Andy, why don't we just swap "serious" and "respected" with the other adjectives you toss around – "weird" and "hawkish"? There, now, that's a little closer to the truth, isn't it?

How weird and hawkish is Kristol? Here's one example from among many, chosen almost at random to illustrate the kind of nut the New York Times' Andrew Rosenthal favors.

It concerns US relations with a country now much in the news, Pakistan. On July 12, 2007, when asked by a Fox News host about reports of Taliban hiding out in Pakistan, Kristol argued that Bush should order a secret invasion of the country.

"I think the president's going to have to take military action there over the next few weeks or months. ... Bush has to disrupt that sanctuary."

"I think, frankly, we won't even tell Musharraf," Kristol continued. "We'll do what we have to do in Western Pakistan and Musharraf can say, 'Hey, they didn't tell me.'"

Now that would have been a dandy way to destabilize a nuclear-armed Pakistan, wouldn't it? Notice how, characteristically, Kristol believes that ignorance is an acceptable defense for incompetence or failure ('Hey, they didn't tell me.').

These are the kind of serious, respected, intellectual blatherings that Andrew Rosenthal is so eager to embrace.

Mr. Kristol, 55, has been a fierce critic of The Times. In 2006, he said that the government should consider prosecuting The Times for disclosing a secret government program to track international banking transactions.

In a 2003 column on the turmoil within The Times that led to the downfall of the top two editors, he wrote that it was not "a first-rate newspaper of record," adding, "The Times is irredeemable."

Looks like the Times has found redemption by making itself an object of ridicule.

Categories: Politics
10:19

As the days wind down toward the presidential primaries, the candidates are pulling out all the stops in an effort to capture all those uninspired Iowa and New Hampshire Republican voters.  Huckabee pulled out the not-so-sublimal cross that appeared to ordain him as the candidate.  Then he set out with his gun (and a press gaggle) to show how tough he is by gratuitously shooting a bird for the cameras.  Romney is frantically trying to re-position himself to be the candidate that is all things to all conservatives - something he never has been and never will be.  McCain is rightfully pointing out all of Romney's flaws and helping to solidify Romney's well-deserved image as a man who will say anything to win.  Yes, the same McCain who sold his own soul to the devil in 2000.

And last, but certainly not least, we have Rudy.  The NYT notes a sad trend for Rudy.....his crowds are shrinking.

The small crowd was enthusiastic, but the phone bank sign-up sheets on the walls did not list many volunteers for the lead up to the voting here.

With the news of the millions of dollars that he has accepted from shady clients at his equally shady law investment security firm, and the news that his mistress may have cost NYC taxpayers millions of dollars,  things haven't been looking all that great for Rudy lately.  And that can only mean one thing.  It's time for Rudy to go back to what Rudy does best ---- the tragedy of 9/11.  He is hammering the theme home with a new campaign spot.

Mr. Giuliani’s retooled stump speech compares the Sept. 11 generation to the generation that won World War II. He is running a new television advertisement that shows firefighters atop the smoldering ruins of the World Trade Center site. And this week, Mr. Giuliani, who is seeking the Republican presidential nomination, seized on the assassination of Benazir Bhutto and the suicide bombing in Pakistan to warn audiences that it "reminds us of the kind of world that we live in."

I have to say, that is some impressive multi-generational pandering.  The resolve of all Americans during that tragic time was impressive, but I can hardly say that we have sacrificed the way our parents and grandparents did during WWII.  The last time I checked, we were all leading very normal lives.  Unless you believe that having to take your shoes off at the airport is the same as watching your husband/father/brother/son and every other able-bodied male go off to war while you make bullets in a washing machine factory and grow all of your own food just to survive.....I don't see how those things are comparable.  I'm not saying that there aren't plenty of people out there saying their goodbyes to the brave soldiers going off to Iraq and Afghanistan, or that people aren't making important sacrifices.  But, as as whole, we aren't making anything close to the sacrifices that our parents or grandparents did during WWII.

Not content to only remind voters of how awesome he was on 9/11, Rudy also wanted to explain why the Bhutto assasination is so personal to him:

 "For me this is a particularly personal experience," Mr. Giuliani said in Florida as he discussed the assassination of Ms. Bhutto on Thursday, "because I lived through Sept. 11, 2001, and then I lived through the attacks in London a few years later."

London?  Did I miss something here?  Did Rudy fly over to London after the subway bombing and run that city as well?  Of course not.  But somehow in his world, it's all about Rudy.  Except for the victims of those horrific attacks, didn't we all live through those events?  Weren't we all deeply impacted by those events?  

And that image in the campaign ad of those firefighters atop the smoldering rubble of the WTC?  How dare Rudy include them.  I can't think of a group more opposed to a Rudy Giuliani presidency than the Firefighters and their union.  The video below, which was created by the IAFF, is a stunning indictment of Rudy Giuliani's leadership - or lack thereof.  I will caution that watching the real 9/11 heroes and their families describe Giuliani's piss poor management is upsetting and is liable to make you angry.

There you have it.  Straight from the mouths of our brave firefighters.  Rudy Giuliani is the last person they want to see as President.  Let's help their voices be heard in Iowa, New Hampshire, and beyond.  Not just for this election, but to permanently set the record straight on Rudy's "leadership" before and after 9/11.  Their courage and the memories of those lost deserve nothing less.

Categories: Politics
08:30

Yesterday, we featured some pollster.com material about Iowa polling (polling near the holidays and the "house effect" that makes some pollsters look a bit like outliers).

Well, the elves at pollster.com have been busy, so to finish up the series, here's  more on the "Poll of Pollsters" aka Who Do You Trust? As always, read the story in full to get the big picture.

Also, Meteor Blades wanted to know how the polls did in 2004? Well, they have that, too.

And finally, if you want the Sensitive Trends Update: IA, NH, SC and US check the red line to see Huck drop a bit and Romney creep up in Iowa. [The D red line is here.]

PS sardonyx reminds me my first FP post in April 2004 was about polls as well. Then as now, just keep scrolling if you're tired of poll stories. ;-)

Update [2007-12-30 9:27:22 by DemFromCT]: Iowa will have an entrance poll (not an exit poll). More about that here from Joe Lenski.

Categories: Politics
03:16

As noted in last night's Open Thread, someone purporting to be Osama bin Laden has issued a new unauthenticated tape just in time for the new year, and he's not singing auld lang syne. From Al Jazeera:

Bin Laden urges against US 'plots'

Several hours before the tape was issued, General David Petraeus, the most senior US commander in Iraq, said al-Qaeda was becoming increasingly fearful over losing the support of Sunnis and had begun targeting the leaders of the tribal councils who have switched allegiances to the US.

Bin Laden also criticised the Saudi government for supporting US policies in Iraq.

"The government of Riyadh is still playing its wicked roles," he said. ...

A US counter-terrorism official said Washington was aware of the recording and was looking into it.

"There has never been a fake bin Laden tape, so there really wouldn't be any reason going in to believe it would be anything other than authentic," the official said. ...

...bin Laden promised to widen al-Qaeda's fight to include Israel, stepping up the organisation's attempts to use the Israeli-Arab conflict to rally supporters.

"I would like to assure our people in Palestine that we will expand our jihad there," bin Laden said. ...

"We will not recognise even one inch for Jews in the land of Palestine as other Muslim leaders have," bin Laden said.

Not surprisingly, there was no word on the tape about the assassination of Benazir Bhutto. As DHinMI in First Question That Needs an Answer: How Did Bhutto Die? and clammyc in al Qaeda...with the sunroof...in the grassy knoll have pointed out, there is some strange reporting about the particulars of that assassination. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says Washington should address troubling questions about Pakistan's investigation into the murder  before more U.S. aid is sent to that country.

No offense, Madame Speaker, but if by "Washington" you mean the Cheney-Bush administration, let me just say, puhleeeeeez.

Don't forget to check out the Overnight News Digest.

Categories: Politics

December 29, 2007

23:55

The Lineup

  • MTP: in IA; Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL); Mike Huckabee (R-AR)
  • FTN: John Edwards (D-NC)
  • This Week: Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY); Sen. John McCain (R-AZ); roundtable of David Brooks, Donna Brazile and George Will; reflection of lives lost in 2007
  • FNS: Fred Thompson (R-TN); DMR's David Yepsen on the caucuses
  • Late Edition: Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT); Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE); ex-Sen Sam Nunn (D-GA); ex Def. Sec. William Cohen; Time's Mark Halperin

Updated to add specific FTN and Late Edition listings

Categories: Politics
23:16

(Tonight's selections are brought to you courtesy of the Rescue Rangers. SusanG)

This evening's Rescue Rangers are Patriot Daily, watercarrier4diogenes, jennyjem, srkp23, grog, Avila, Joyful and nyc in exile as editor.

va dare has Top Comments - 12.29.07 - Leave the rancor at the door, please!.

Categories: Politics
22:12

That last thread was a little full, and also, Markos made some minor errors in the title and text.

Things not looking great for the Pats, but I have faith.

Categories: Politics
20:28

So who wants the unsportsmanlike cheaters to win, and who wants the NY Giants to win?

Categories: Politics
19:28

While riots continue across Pakistan, people are afraid to drive, and reports surface of food shortages, one of the basic questions of the last few days has not been clearly answered.  How did Benazir Bhutto die?

Look how the details coming from the government have changed in the last two days.  This was from an AP report Friday afternoon:

Bhutto was killed after a suicide attacker shot at her and then blew himself up as she left a rally, police and witnesses said. Authorities initially said she died from bullet wounds, but Dr. Mussadiq Khan, a surgeon who treated her, said Friday that she died from shrapnel that hit her on the right side of the skull.

Bhutto had no heart beat or pulse when she arrived at the hospital and doctors failed to resuscitate her, he said.

Interior Ministry spokesman Javed Iqbal Cheema said he saw the medical report, and it, too, said she died from a shrapnel wound and was not shot. "No bullet was found in her body," he said.

Soomro, the prime minister, told the Cabinet on Friday that Bhutto's husband did not allow an autopsy, according to a government statement.

Note that police on the scene said she died of bullet wounds.  The government spokesman claimed that "no bullet was found in her body," as if a bullet could never go through the body, especially in the neck area.  Also note that the Interior Ministry said she died of a shrapnel wound, presumably from the flying shrapnel caused by the suicide bomber.  Finally, the accusation that Bhutto's husband didn't allow an autopsy.  

Now, here's what the Guardian reported:

Meanwhile, confusion persisted about the exact circumstances of the opposition leader's death.

The surgeon who pronounced her dead surprised many by stating that the cause of death had not been the bullets from shots heard by eyewitnesses but shrapnel from the subsequent bomb blast.

Dr Mussadiq Khan said the shrapnel hit the right side of Bhutto's skull.

Javed Iqbal Cheema, an interior ministry spokesman, appeared to immediately contradict the surgeon, saying Bhutto's death had been caused by neither shrapnel nor bullet but by Bhutto hitting the sunroof as she fell back into her jeep on hearing the gunshots.

Bhutto had no heartbeat or pulse when she arrived at the hospital where doctor's attempted to resuscitate her.

The acting Pakistani prime minister, Mohammed Mian Soomro, told the cabinet today that Bhutto's husband had asked that no autopsy be carried out, but said the authorities had proceeded with one.

The speed with which Bhutto was buried has also been questioned by lawyers calling for an international and neutral investigation.

According to this report, the surgeon said it was shrapnel—which would pierce the body—but the Interior Ministry spokesman says there were no wounds.  And the Prime Minister says that an autopsy was conducted.

This was the Times of London:

"There is no evidence of any foreign element in her body," Brigadier Cheema said. "No bullet hit her, nor any splinters hit her. Unfortunately, it was to be that way.

"I wish she had not come out of the roof top of her vehicle."

But Ms Bhutto's lawyer and a senior official in the PPP, Farooq Naik, rejected the Government's claim as "baseless".

"It is a pack of lies," he said.

"Two bullets hit her, one in the abdomen and one in the head.

"It was a serious security lapse."

At the press conference, Brigadier Cheema insisted the Government had done everything in its power to protect Ms Bhutto. He said everybody at the rally in Rawalpindi had been searched, Ms Bhutto's rostrum had been bulletproof, and "all possible security arrangements were made within the resources of the Government of Pakistan".

He added: "It pains me, I say with a lot of anguish, that we wish she had not come out of that vehicle to wave to the people."

If the reporting is accurate—and I can't vouch for it—what we have here is the Interior Ministry contradicting itself; earlier the spokesman had said it was a shrapnel wound, but later on Friday, that there were no wounds, just a blunt force trauma to her head.  And again, there's a move to deflect blame on to Bhutto for standing up in her vehicle.  

Earlier the Times had apparently reported that in her casket Bhutto's face was visible but her head and neck body were swathed to cover bullet wounds.  And today, we have this report, quoting a spokeswoman for Bhutto's PPP party:

"She was bleeding profusely, as she had received a bullet wound in her neck. My car was full of blood. Three doctors at the hospital told us that she had received bullet wounds. I was among the people who gave her a final bath. We saw a bullet wound in the back of her neck," she said. "What the government is saying is actually dangerous and nonsensical. They are pouring salt on our wounds. There are no findings, they are just lying."

The reaction from the Interior Ministry?

Although the case is "solved," Cheema said, the government has ordered judicial and police inquiries into the assassination to put a stop to "conspiracy theories and speculative reporting." Cheema also accused Bhutto's husband, Asif Ali Zardari, who arrived in Islamabad early Friday morning with his three children, of attempting to prevent Bhutto's official autopsy.

Obviously, someone is lying.  If the reporting is correct—and the odds are that there are some errors in some of these dispatches—what we have on one hand are police, Bhutto loyalists in her car, and doctors who treated her in the hospital saying she was shot, and reporting her body had wounds and that she bled profusely.  On the other hand, we have a government spokesman who contradicts all these details, contradicted the physician who he appears to have put forth as the official medical spokesman, and whose story has changed over the last few days.  And we have him saying there was no autopsy, but the nation's Prime Minister saying there was.

Categories: Politics
18:27

Jerome has compiled some pretty interesting data about Iowa:

Paid Staff:

Kerry '04: 120
Edwards '08: 175
Obama: 300
Clinton: 400

This is an incredible number of paid staff of Clinton. It's said that she's going to spend over $10M in Iowa, and this is a big chunk of it. The notion that a win by Clinton would be a "miracle" is pure spin. The extra 100-225 staffers spread out over the state gives Clinton an advantage over Edwards & Obama.

TV Advertising (in millions)

Kerry '04: $2.73
Edwards '08: $2.7
Obama: $8.3
Clinton: $6.5

Does Obama really get anything more from buying an extra $5 million plus in television ads in Iowa than Edwards? Dean sure didn't gain anything against Kerry. It puffed up his lead till the closing week, just like Obama's lead got puffed up, but then it went poof, just like what seems to be happening to Obama. You'll never hear the media complain about the amount of television ads though, it's their revenue.

And remember that unlike Edwards and Clinton, Obama is still working on a commission-based system that is  seeing your campaign contributions to Obama dumped heavily into David Axelrod's pockets. That's $1 million to Obama's campaign manager and chief strategist from the Iowa media buys alone. Edwards and Clinton, by contrast, are paying their media consultants a flat fee.

So is it any shock that Obama's campaign is dramatically outspending the competition in airtime, rather than in beefing up their ground game to Clintonian levels? There's no profit in that for Obama's media team, which also happens to be its campaign strategists. Funny how that works, huh?

Days spent in Iowa

Kerry '04: 76
Edwards '08: 80
Obama: 78
Clinton: 66

Imagine this-- the myth that Edwards has lived in Iowa longer than the others this campaign just doesn't appear to be factually based. In fact, by historical standards, all the numbers are a bit low. During the 1988 campaign, Bruce Babbitt spent 118 days in Iowa, second to Dick Gephardt who spent 148 days there.

Given the polls that show the race tied, it's clear that Edwards is outperforming the field -- he has less paid staff, has spent significantly less in advertising, and yet is well within striking range of victory. What's that say about the other two campaigns?

Jerome also defends Edwards for taking public financing:

I don't really buy the notion, as some bloggers do, that Edwards is damaged goods because he's under a limited budget for television ads through the primary. If that were really anyone's litmus test, then Obama would also be ruled out-- his having pledged to accept matching funds in the GE if the Republican candidate accepts too. Plus, unlike 2004, this isn't against Bush the incumbent that we are running for the next 9 months, it's likely a fractured GOP that is having trouble raising money.

Actually, Obama hasn't put himself at a disadvantage by saying he'd take public financing in the general only if Republicans do. At worst, he'd be playing on an even field. Hillary appears to be the only candidate playing to win by saying she'll do what she needs to do to kick Republican ass (and that means not taking public financing for the entire campaign). Why has that been so hard for Edwards and Obama, I wonder?

What Edwards has done is put himself at a disadvantage vis a vis a Republican candidate without public financing restrictions. What's funny now, however, is that two of the three candidates most likely to win -- McCain and Huckabee -- have taken public financing. So unless, Romney pulls it off, there would be far less of a disadvantage (though Huckabee has raised like $173, so he'd be able to raise and spend a lot more money through the summer than Edwards).

Still, I wouldn't mind seeing the tables turned, and a cash-flush Democrat beating the shit out of Huckabee or McCain the entire summer. It's one thing for Huckabee to fly under the radar while raising a church-based religious army to win low-turnout partisan primaries. It's another to win enough crossover support (inside his own party as well) to effectively compete in the general. Played right, Huckabee could arrive at his convention dead man walking.

So bottom line? The way things are going for the GOP, Edwards may not be at a disadvantage with the Republicans. But I still wish he hadn't taken the public financing. He had enough money to compete without it.

One more thing -- remember how I said a few days ago that I'd end up voting for Obama by process of elimination? Well, I'm firmly back in the undecided camp. Obama has been extra annoying of late (stuff like this and this).  Right now, all the candidates are effectively "eliminated" from my list. So I'll wait for things to shake out before making any final decisions.

Update: I misspoke that Huckabee was taking public financing. He's not. McCain is the only one of the top-tier GOP candidates to take matching funds. (The others are Tancredo, who is now out, and Duncan Hunter.)

Categories: Politics
16:55

The imminent primaries can produce ugly dissension among people who at other times would be allies. As AnnArborBlue recently wrote,

For a few months now, bloggers like Matt Yglesias and Ezra Klein have been pointing out how the primary process tends to turn molehills into mountains. It takes minor policy disagreements within the parties and turn them into blood feuds, while downplaying the truly immense differences that exist between the two parties. Thus, the Democratic debate on health care is "should we have mandates or not?", rather than "is Universal Health Care a good idea". The debate on Iraq is "how quickly can we safely withdraw troops" rather than "how many more troops do we need to send to win?" The debate on Social Security is "what is the best way to shore up the program" rather than "what is the best way to destroy it?"

But despite that ugliness, if you read primary discussions at Daily Kos, you'll see something really cool. People aren't just running their mouths and their typing fingers, they're spending their time volunteering for their candidates, in many cases going to Iowa and New Hampshire to do so.

So I want to tip my hat to those members of our community who are acting on their commitment, and especially to those who have taken their vacation time to go to another state, maybe for days on end. I'm going to start with an incomplete list (including those with firm plans) and add names to it as I hear them. I'm not segregating by candidate because, in the end, we're all on the same team.
IowaNew HampshirepoligirlDemocraticLuntzEliseolivertsarahlanemistersitewade norrisbeltaneemmabrodyPsiFighter37icebergslimRed WindlapiscasperrKnowVoxJeremiahFPWisconsinJessicaaaraujoa synthetic cubistVermontermtulliushowardparkmary hfladem (also in IA!)TomPRuby KZhenRenbe inspiredworldtrippersWritebrainclarkentLawyer to CapitalistscountrycatState Rep Mark Cohen Dem PAdebcoopPluto 101NCDem AmyNew HampsterKarita HummercloneconeGeekesqueMontanaMavenSun DogRIP Russ (and NH!)Kids for EdwardsRunawayRoselilnubberSam Spencer for County Commissionerphilgoblue

People who noted their volunteer work in other states include murphy, royce, smartdemmg, and Ellinorianne.

Please help me fill in this list.

Update: I just added a bunch of names. It's really inspiring to see so many people so committed to taking the White House.

Categories: Politics
14:40

In an excellent endorsement of Chris Dodd - one of the best I've seen this season, for any candidate - Blue Hampshire's Mike Caulfield takes us on a walking tour of Dodd's career highlights. One moment in particular jumped out at me. From the Detroit Free Press, November 29, 1987:

[Senator Dodd] is pushing hard for a proposal to guarantee up to 18 weeks of job leave for parents who give birth or adopt or whose children are seriously ill. He's currently working to defuse corporate opposition to that bill, led by the national Chamber of Commerce, and working on committee compromises that he hopes will permit its passage this Senate session.

When he first proposed the bill last year, critics labeled it a bill for yuppies, because it only guarantees leave without pay, which some might not be able to afford.

You can picture those "critics" all too well. Undoubtedly they were castigating Dodd for pandering to his base of brie-and-granola-eating East Coast yuppies, telling him he was hopelessly out-of-touch with the needs of real Americans. The Democrats were surely driving their party off a left cliff, and so on, and so forth.

So how did Chris Dodd respond? Did he let himself get cowed by Republican concern trolls? Did he give into demands by the mighty Chamber of Commerce? Did he pull his bill or tweak it into oblivion?

Hell, no:

Observers considered Dodd's reply a brilliant stroke. He brought the Boggs family from rural Myrtle Beach, S.C., to testify at a hearing on the bill. The mother testified about losing a job because of time spent waiting in hospitals with their baby boy, born with a defective windpipe. The father, a traveling salesman with a thick Carolina accent and a down-home manner, talked of a parent's constant worry.

"Mr. Boggs, are you a yuppie?" Dodd asked.

"No, sir," the man replied, leaving no one unconvinced.

This is how you respond to concern trolls - not with apologetic hand-wringing, but with direct force, aimed right at the heart of their phony "concern." With one simple hearing, Chris Dodd put the lie to the absurd myths the GOP was busy spinning about this legislation. But to me, the most important thing was that he didn't buy into their garbage in the first place.

Of course, it took years of perseverance to see this bill  - which you probably know as the Family and Medical Leave Act - passed into law. But the obstacle was not Congress. In fact, many Republicans voted for the FMLA, no doubt persuaded in part by Mr. Boggs' compelling testimony.

Rather, an obstinate President Bush (sound familiar?) vetoed it twice. But Dodd's persistence paid off: Bush père's opposition to the FMLA damaged his campaign and helped usher Bill Clinton into office, whereupon the Big Dog quickly signed the legislation.

So I see two lessons here. The first is that Democrats need to trust their instincts when it comes to passing progressive legislation. The GOP will always and forever have our worst interests at heart - why would you ever listen to them? Chris Dodd didn't, and his pushback rallied Democrats and sundered the Republicans.

The second is that progressive change takes time. Dodd waited over five years to see the FMLA become the law of the land. It was undoubtedly a long, frustrating wait, a sort we've grown bitterly accustomed to under the current Bush regime. But changing this country for the better has never been easy. We need to take the long view, but remain ever vigilant in keeping up the pressure - just like Chris Dodd.

Categories: Politics
13:17
  •  The NYT provides a fascinating graphic showing how often certain words are used by all of the Presidential candidates.
  •  From the "how could somebody do that" department, a six year old and her mother submitted an essay in a contest to win an all expense paid trip to see Hannah Montana in concert, courtesy of Club Libby Lu, a clothing store for girls.  The sad essay about her soldier father who was killed in Iraq tugged at the heart strings of the executives and they selected her as the winner.  The problem is, they made it up.  Can you get any lower than that?
  • Hey wingnuts, you tried to spin Gore's energy consumption (and failed).  So don't try again, or you'll look even lamer.  Gore has gone even greener:

    The former vice president has installed solar panels, a rainwater-collection system and geothermal heating. He also replaced all incandescent lights with compact fluorescent or light-emitting diode bulbs - even on his Christmas tree.

    "Short of tearing it down and starting anew, I don't know how it could have been rated any higher," said Kim Shinn of the U.S. Green Building Council, which gave the house its second-highest rating for sustainable design.

    -Plutonium Page

  • The rate of suicide bombings is rising in Iraq.
  • -Plutonium Page

  • Comfortable, warm, and well-fed, Dubya does his best to relate to us commoners:  

    President Bush tried Saturday to assure many families that he knows they are struggling to pay bills, even as he again defended the economy's strength.

    "Some of you worry about your ability to afford health care coverage for your families," Bush said in his weekly radio address, recorded at his Texas ranch.

    -Plutonium Page

  • Local Iowa blogs are getting a lot of attention as the caucuses draw near, and Wired takes a look, profiling the Iowa Independent in particular. - MissLaura
  • John Quiggin at Crooked Timber finds a victory of science over creationism. - MissLaura
  • This Clarion Ledger column reviews the history of special elections in Mississippi and considers whether Haley Barbour is setting himself up for a 'US Senate seat for life'. - smintheus
  • Is the Musharraf government being candid about how Benazir Bhutto was killed? Cernig assembles radically conflicting testimony. - smintheus

Categories: Politics
12:02

With IA coming up Thursday and NH not far behind, we poll junkies wanna know who's up and who's down (and who is just plain even...).

But is it helpful to poll during the holidays? Mark Blumenthal asked that question of scores of pollsters, while Charles Franklin looks at pollster variation in Iowa, including a very nice discussion of who the ARG poll favors, as an illustrative example of what's called 'house effect'. Both stories should be read in full for greatest appreciation.

The last two ARG polls show shifts of - 3 and +4 points for McCain and Romney respectively, and a single point difference for Giuliani. (And a - 5 and +6 for Huckabee and Paul.) For the Dems the shifts were +5, - 6 and +2 for Clinton, Obama and Edwards respecively.

As Mark Blumenthal notes, the reasons for these discrepancies are largely matters of speculation. But the consistency of the ARG house effects are pretty clear in these data. The ARG results currently stand on the same side as their long term house effects: above trend for Clinton, Giuliani and McCain, and below trend for Obama, Edwards and Romney. Compared to other pollsters, these house effects for ARG appear to be the largest of any polling firm in Iowa.

So, take your Iowa polls with a grain of salt, but enjoy them nonetheless. It's what we political junkies live for.

Categories: Politics