Friday, June 29, 2007

A guest editorial from my in-box

My in-box contained this little note from one of the smartest guys I know. He said exactly what was on my mind.

Hey Mitch,

Let's see --

1. Dozens found beheaded in Baghdad -- daily -- with dozens more, including precious American lives, blown to pieces around Iraq in a civil war with no rational or reasonable political or combat end in sight -- but Bush tells us that "the surge" is making progress, really, it just needs more time;

2. Bush's recent Supreme Court appointees help roll back affirmative action, freedom of speech, women's reproductive rights, electoral/voting rights, church-state separation, a century-old rule against price-fixing (gouging) by manufacturers, and they are ready, willing and able to roll back any other social or economic advance made in the last 50 years;

3. Despite the new Democratic majority in Congress, the Republican minority successfully blocks immagration reform, all rational efforts to bring the troops home and end the Iraq madness, and any other "liberal-leaning" legislation -- effectively reducing Congress to a powerless Bush lap-dog. Of course, even when Congress musters the votes, Bush vetoes the bill and his vetoes are bullet-proof;

4. Our beloved Vice President announces that he is above the law -- whether those laws apply to the executive branch, the legislative branch, or the you-name-it branch. He is perched on his own special branch of his own and has no obligation to reveal anything to Congress about anything -- whether it's his secret negotiations with oil company representatives, or his vindictive efforts to reveal the identity of a CIA agent, or his decision to politicize the appointments of U.S. Attorneys around the country, dumping any with the temerity not to do as they're told and prosecute Democractic candidates regardless of the facts, or his involvement in (control over?) unauthorized wiretaps, secret policies on torture, "rendition," or the ongoing violation of the Geneva Convention at Gitmo and elsewhere, etc.

5. Alberto Gonzales -- say no more;

6. Our own Ted Stevens and Don Young -- we are truly blessed;

All in all, the news just can't get any better. And just think, Mitch, virtually all of these lovely developments can be boiled down to one key thing -- the fervent religious beliefs of the majority of Americans residing in all of those pretty "red" states (plus Florida, or Ohio, when needed) -- who would far rather vote Republican in order to ensure that homosexuals never marry or obtain equal rights, that women be forced to bear unwanted children, that African-American children remain in segregated schools, and that creation "science" be taught alongside (or instead of) evolution in our schools, than bring themselves to elect social or political progressives --let alone (dare I say it?) liberals. What a country.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

For those who missed it.

On August 25. 2006, I blogged about Ann Coulter in The very definition of crazy. Here’s an excerpt:
Think back, if you are old enough, to the time when they showed a cartoon before the movies. Sure, Betty Boop had some creative horsepower behind it, but it was not what brought people into the theaters week after week. What the cartoons did was this: they shifted the boundaries of reality. Theater, including cinema, requires that the folks in the audience willingly suspend disbelief. For something like a cartoon, it is an easy sell, because they are comedic. Then, when the main feature comes on, the shift is toward a more real representation, and so, the feature movie is more emotionally engaging.

Ms. Coulter is the Daffy Duck of political discourse. When she speaks, you shake your head and wonder if you really heard what you thought you heard. Then when someone on Faux News comes on and says, “we must fight the terrorists in Iraq, so we don’t fight them here,” it sounds like the voice of sweet reason. Compared to daffy Ann Coulter, it is so much easier to accept the talking head, who in this analogy might be compared to, say, Orson Wells’ War of the Worlds.

Why the War of the Worlds? Because some people believe it and do batshit crazy stuff.
Today, on Chris Matthews’ Hardball we see the proof of what I was saying.

Armstrong Williams was talking about Ann Coulter’s appearance yesterday on the show. For those who missed it, she was confronted by Elizabeth Edwards, who gently rebuked her for hateful speech. Ms. Coulter had alleged that John Edwards has a bumper sticker which says, “Ask me about my dead son.” As the mother of that deceased boy, Mrs. Edwards found it offensive.

Armstrong Williams, for those who missed it, used to be on the White House’s payroll as a propagandist, which is criminal. Chris Matthews asked Williams if thought it was “over the line” to attack the Edwards for having a bumper sticker that says, “Ask me about my dead son.” Armstrong said, “no.” Why? Because he believed the Edwards actually had such a bumper sticker.

That was my point when I said, “some people believe it and do batshit crazy stuff.” For those who missed it.

“… and tell ’em Big Mitch sent ya!”

Monday, June 25, 2007


Today, we see why the next presidential election is so important. It will decide who gets to appoint the next Supreme Court Justice.

In Morse v. Fredrick, Chief Justice Roberts delivered the opinion of the court:

Morse [the principal who confiscated the banner and suspended the student] later explained that she told Frederick to take the banner down because she thought it encouraged illegal drug use, in violation of established school policy. Juneau School Board Policy No. 5520 states: “The Board specifically prohibits any assembly or public expression that … advocates the use of substances that are illegal to minors … .” Id., at 53a.


We agree with Morse. At least two interpretations of the words on the banner demonstrate that the sign advocated the use of illegal drugs. First, the phrase could be interpreted as an imperative: “[Take] bong hits …”—a message equivalent, as Morse explained in her declaration, to “smoke marijuana” or “use an illegal drug.” Alternatively, the phrase could be viewed as celebrating drug use—“bong hits [are a good thing],” or “[we take] bong hits”—and we discern no meaningful distinction between celebrating illegal drug use in the midst of fellow students and outright advocacy or promotion. See Guiles v. Marineau, 461 F. 3d 320, 328 (CA2 2006) (discussing the present case and describing the sign as “a clearly pro-drug banner”). Ibid.
I don’t get it. I see nowhere in the sign is there either an implicit or explicit message that the bong-hits must be illegal. How can the court distill the message that illegal drug use is being advocated? Those who follow Jesus, who believe he stood for relieving suffering and healing the sick, could just as easily understood the message to support medicinal marijuana use.

Justice Stevens, with whom Justice Souter and Justice Ginsburg join, dissenting touched upon this theme, but only in a foot-note.
The Court’s opinion ignores the fact that the legalization of marijuana is an issue of considerable public concern in Alaska. The State Supreme Court held in 1975 that Alaska’s constitution protects the right of adults to possess less than four ounces of marijuana for personal use. Ravin v. State, 537 P. 2d 494 (Alaska). In 1990, the voters of Alaska attempted to undo that decision by voting for a ballot initiative recriminalizing marijuana possession. Initiative Proposal No. 2, §§1–2 (effective Mar. 3, 1991), 11 Alaska Stat., p. 872 (Lexis 2006). At the time Frederick unfurled his banner, the constitutionality of that referendum had yet to be tested. It was subsequently struck down as unconstitutional. See Noy v. State, 83 P. 3d 538 (Alaska App. 2003). In the meantime, Alaska voters had approved a ballot measure decriminalizing the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes, 1998 Ballot Measure No. 8 (approved Nov. 3, 1998), 11 Alaska Stat., p. 882 (codified at Alaska Stat. §§11.71.090, 17.37.010–17.37.080), and had rejected a much broader measure that would have decriminalized marijuana possession and granted amnesty to anyone convicted of marijuana-related crimes, see 2000 Ballot Measure No. 5 (failed Nov. 7, 2000), 11 Alaska Stat., p. 886.
Justice Thomas said that schools should be allowed to do just about anything to students that parents can. Yep, no freedom of speech for students.

Today, students have less freedom than they did yesterday.

“… and tell ’em Big Mitch sent ya!”

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Rudy, Rudy, Rudy

We read here that Thomas Ravenel was indicted today on federal cocaine charges. He is the South Carolina state chairman for former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani's presidential campaign.

Here is a video of him endorsing Rudy.

So, it was a bad day for Rudy. After all, Newsday carried an article under the headline:

Rudy missing in action for Iraq panel
Giuliani's campaign fundraising kept him from commitment to panel studying Iraq.
Rudolph Giuliani's membership on an elite Iraq study panel came to an abrupt end last spring after he failed to show up for a single official meeting of the group, causing the panel's top Republican to give him a stark choice: either attend the meetings or quit, several sources said.

Giuliani left the Iraq Study Group last May after just two months, walking away from a chance to make up for his lack of foreign policy credentials on the top issue in the 2008 race, the Iraq war.
He tried to explain that one away by saying that once he became a “potential presidential candidate” he didn’t want his presence on the panel to be a distraction. Of course, he was a potential presidential candidate when he accepted the appointment, as documented on Talking Points Memo, so his excuse is total B.S.

Meanwhile, on Tucker, David Shuster interviewed Giuliani spokesman, Rep. David Dreier, (R. Calif.) The questions were about Rudy’s association with Bernie Kerick and Rudy’s estranged children. With respect to the former, Dreier said that he found Giuliani’s willingness to admit to a mistake “refreshing” and with respect to the latter, he thinks that makes Rudy more like Saint Ronald Reagan.

Don’t forget: Rudy is the Republican front-runner.

“… and tell ’em Big Mitch sent ya!”

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

The Puke State

In March of 2006, U.S. Attorney for Arkansas’ Eastern District Bud Cummins was investigating Missouri Governor Matt Blunt’s scheme to award franchises for satellite state licensing fee offices. The scheme was carried out by Mark F. “Thor” Hearne’s law firm, Lathrop & Gage. You may wonder why a U.S. Attorney from Arkansas was handling a Missouri investigation. Good question.

From Hidden we learn:
The U.S. Attorney for Missouri's Western District, who would have otherwise overseen the investigation, was Todd P. Graves, who would also end up being replaced. Graves’s wife, as it turns out, “had been given a no-bid contract to run the second most lucrative motor vehicle fee office in Missouri, [in Gladstone.]” The contract to the wife of the U.S. Attorney was said to be worth some $2.6 million. Further, Graves’s brother-in-law had received a similar no-bid contract from Blunt for $1 million, and two staffers of Graves’s brother, Congressman Sam Graves, had also been given two similar contracts.

“[T]his situation amounts to $3.6 million in corruption insurance for Blunt,” the Missouri Democrats would later write in a petition drive calling for an investigation.
The Talking Points Memo reported that Sen. Kit Bond (R-Missouri) personally went to the White House and requested that Graves, (brother of right wing wacko Congressman Sam Graves) be removed from his position due to “his direct role in the Fee Office Scandal in Missouri.”

And so it was that Bud Cummings of Arkansas came to be investigating Missouri Governor Matt Blunt and Republican operative Thor Hearne.

Who is this Thor Hearne? Again, according to Hidden
Hearne had been both Blunt's right-hand legal man for some time; as well as a GOP point man in Florida in 2000 (but who wasn’t?); as well as the Bush/Cheney ’04 general counsel in Missouri (at the specific, personal request of Dubya’s uncle, Bucky Bush, according to Thor himself in Missouri Lawyer’s Weekly); before he then became the Bush/Cheney ’04 national general counsel; and after the election, he became the founder of the scam “non-partisan” GOP front group calling itself “American Center for Voting Rights” (ACVR); which was, in turn, behind virtually every report, initiative, claim, piece of legislation, Congressional testimony, legal case, “official commission,” or public statement concerning the cooked-up case for the mythical epidemic of Democratic “voter fraud” that has been at the heart of the GOP/White House/DoJ attempts at vote-shaving via politicization and suppression at the ballot box since at least 2004.
Nobody knows who put Bud Cummings on the DoJ hit list, but it is pretty clear that Thor Hearne had the juice to do it if he wanted to. But of course, he would have to take care to keep his fingerprints off of it.

Enter the powerful white-collar criminal defense attorney William B. Mateja of the D.C./Dallas law firm of Fish & Richardson. You can read about his extensive connections to the White House and the Department of Justice, (e.g. Senior Counsel to James Comey) on Hidden For now, the thing that is important is that Mateja, repeatedly called Cummins to inquire if his client, Blunt, was the target of an investigation. And then, in June of 2006, Cummings was informed that his resignation was being requested.

On October 4, 2006, Cummings issued a press release which stated: “The matter has been closed with no indictments sought, or returned. Second, at no time was Governor Blunt a target, subject, or witness in the investigation, nor was he implicated in any allegation being investigated.”

Sure, it looks like Cummings was fired to interfere with an on-going investigation of Governor Matt Blunt, son of House Minority Whip Roy Blunt. But don’t overlook the fact that his investigation was also very uncomfortable for Thor Hearne. And the Rovians had a special fondness for Hearne because, as we have seen, he was the pointman on the phony voter fraud issue.

Remember Todd Graves, the U.S. Attorney from Missouri, who was also dismissed? He was replaced by none other than Bradley Schlozman. In a letter to Schlozman dated May 7, 2007 from Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), and Ranking Member Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), we read:
Recent news accounts have suggested that Todd Graves, the former U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Missouri and the person you succeeded as an interim United States Attorney, may have been on a list for replacement because of his refusal to endorse a lawsuit against the State of Missouri alleging voter fraud before the 2006 election. This is a lawsuit you approved while Acting Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division and then filed soon after you were interim appointed as Mr. Graves’ successor by Attorney General Gonzales. Several weeks ago, a federal judge ruled in favor of Missouri in that case, finding “no evidence” of major voter fraud in the state.
In 2006, Claire McCaskill won the Senatorial election in Missouri with just 49.6% of the vote, compared to 47.3% for incumbent Jim Talent. (The Democratic candidate for State Auditor won by a margin of almost 10%) Just a little more voter suppression in St. Louis, fired up by claims of voter fraud, could have turned the election, and the Senate, towards the Republicans.

“… and tell ’em Big Mitch sent ya!”

Home-spun charm

Fred Thompson was on Jay Leno last night. He’s an actor, but a lot of folk, including him, think that he ought to be President of the United States. These are people who remember Ronald Reagan was an actor, but who forget that Reagan sold arms to our enemies to fund terrorists and cut deals with hostage takers.

Anyway, Reagan left acting to become a politician. Fred Thomson left politics to become an actor. Ole Fred does have a certain home-spun charm, as for example when he explained his career path, thus:
After eight years in Washington, I longed for the realism and sincerity of Hollywood.
By the way, “home-spun charm” is my term for high-gloss bullshit.

Before he was elected to the Senate, Thompson spent nearly two decades in Washington as a lawyer-lobbyist, representing such entities as Westinghouse, the deposed leader of Haiti, the Teamsters Union pension fund and the Tennessee Savings and Loan Association. And when he left office, he continued his lucrative career representing foreign corporations.

Think back to that 2005 State of the Union address when King George the Incompetent said, “Justice is distorted, and our economy is held back by irresponsible class-actions and frivolous asbestos claims -- and I urge Congress to pass legal reforms this year.”

It seemed out of place at the time, but no more so than Fred Thompson in a red pick-up truck. You see, back in 2005, Fred Thompson was using his connections to then-Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) to extract information about goings-on inside Congress and selling it to a British company that had a good reason to worry about liability for asbestos claims. For this he got paid $760,000. Not bad work if you can get it.

It is not surprising therefore that Fred Thompson’s first policy initiative should garner such approval from the National Association of Manufacturers, his natural constituency. They cite with approval this bit of home-spun charming wisdom from Fred's appearance on CNBC:
We have, you know--if you include state taxes--the highest corporate tax rate in the world. That makes us less competitive. All those things have to be looked at. And all those--especially as far as the corporate tax rate is concerned, need to be clearly reduced.
As David Sirota points out:
[T]he Government Accountability Office reported in 2004, 94 percent of corporations pay less than 5 percent of their income in taxes, and corporate tax payments are at their second lowest level in 60 years - lower than in every other industrialized country other than Iceland.
Stay tuned for more of Fred Thompson’s home-spun charm.

“… and tell ’em Big Mitch sent ya!”

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Republican Debate: The highlight reel

Imagine “American Idol” recast as “America’s Biggest Dope.” and you can get an idea of what the Republican Presidential Candidate’s Debate on CNN last night looked like.

The first question was the predictable “Knowing everything you know right now, was it a mistake for us to invade Iraq?

After fumferring around about non sequitors Mitt Romney offered up this whopper:
[I]f you’re saying let’s turn back the clock and Saddam Hussein had opening up his country to IAEA inspectors and they’d come in and they’d found that there were no weapons of mass destruction, had Saddam Hussein therefore not violated United Nations resolutions, we wouldn’t be in the conflict we’re in.

But he didn’t do those things, and we knew what we knew at the point we made the decision to get in.

I supported the president’s decision based on what we knew at
that time.
To review: On March 16, 2003, the U.S. advised the UN to pull its inspectors out of Iraq. Three days later, President George W. Bush addressed the American people at 10:15 p.m. to announce the beginning of a “broad and concerted campaign” to disarm Iraq, called Operation Iraqi Freedom.

But it is hard to stand out as the biggest knucklehead on a dais full or Republicans. Consider Senator Sam Brownback from Kansas:
On Iraq, I think we need to talk with them. I think we have to confront them aggressively for what they are, which is the lead sponsor of terrorism in the world.
It’s like I always say, “Iran, Iraq. What’s the big difference?”

As usual, Biggest Shmuck honors go to Rudy. On the question of whether or not he would pardon Scooter Libby:
GIULIANI: I think the sentence was way out of line. I mean, the sentence was grossly excessive in a situation in which, at the beginning, the prosecutor knew who the leak was...

BLITZER: So, yes or no, would you pardon him?

GIULIANI: ... and he knew a crime wasn't committed. … I think the sentence was way out of line. I mean, the sentence was grossly excessive in a situation in which, at the beginning, the prosecutor knew who the leak was...

BLITZER: So, yes or no, would you pardon him?

GIULIANI: ... and he knew a crime wasn't committed.
Put aside the fact that an undercover CIA agent was outed, bringing to an end her career in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Division and endangering the lives of everyone who worked with her. Since when are Obstruction of Justice and Perjury not crimes?

Giuliani also wants to reduce everyone’s taxes by $15,000 so that people can buy their own health insurance. In 2004, the middle fifth of American’s paid 18.6% of their income in taxes. In other words, if your taxable income was $80,640, you paid about 15,000 in taxes, which is the amount Giuliani wants to reduce your taxes so that you can afford health insurance. Don’t worry: the government doesn’t really need to collect taxes from anyone who makes less than 80 grand.

From a member of the audience came this intelligent queston:
My question is whether you believe that a conservative platform can also include a conservationist agenda. And, if so, how?
This question produced this thoroughly moronic answer from Virginia Governor Jim Gilmore:
The question was whether or not a conservative agenda can also have a conservation agenda. And I think that it can.

Certainly, when I was governor of the state of Virginia, we worked very hard in order to make Virginia a beautiful place and a place where we could in fact be welcoming to people, and that it would be a nice community for people to visit.

But at the end of the day, this is going to come down to the question of whether or not conservatism can match up with energy independence, which is a national security issue and it is a fundamental part of conservatism.

Conservatism means empowering people. It means cutting taxes and controlling government spending. It also means national security. And national security means a lot of different elements right at this time. And we're discussing some of them tonight.

And I can assure the people who are families here tonight, their young people, young men and women who are on the battle lines, and people who are committing their lives, they are in fact serving the national interests of this country in a time of major crisis.
I presume he was talking about people serving in the Civilian Conservation Corps.

“… and tell ’em Big Mitch sent ya!”

Friday, June 01, 2007

Dan Bartlett quits. Oh, that’s just great!

Dan Bartlett quit the White House today. The news media are describing him as “the one person who could give George Bush bad news.” The example given is that it was he that broke through the bubble surrounding King George the Incompetent to let him know that things weren’t going well in New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina hit.

Michael Wolf of Vanity Fair says that he smells a rat. Specifically, a rat jumping a sinking ship.

If it is Bartlett’s job to break bad news to Dumb Dubya, I can imagine that his job is going to get a lot tougher The Democrats control congress, and there are 11 candidates running for the Republican nomination, all or almost all of whom are trying to distance themselves from Bush. The scandals just keep coming, and Big Mitch predicts that we are going to hear a lot more about “caging” in the weeks to come. His base is turning on Dubya, and immigration is merely the most conspicuous issue.

But the really scary part is that there will be nobody around the president who can say anything other than, “Oh, that’s just great, Mr. President.”

“… and tell ’em Big Mitch sent ya!”