Saturday, May 31, 2008

McClellan: 'A Sip of Iced Tea in Hell'

The prospect of Scott McClellan testifying before Congress on various Bush administration treacheries is delicious, but it would be like a sip of iced tea in Hell. Momentary relief before returning to the inferno.

Nevertheless, the invitation by Representative Robert Wexler, the Florida Democrat, to stop by and chew the fat – and McClellan's reply that he "would be happy to talk" sets up an interesting scenario.

The White House has been nothing if creative in stonewalling Congress over the testimony of present and former bigs like Carl Rove and Harriet Miers, but what to do in the case of a former press secretary who has provided a blueprint of his testimony in the form of a bestselling book?

My guess is that they'll think of something. Maybe John Yoo could come back and write a legal opinion stating that McLellan's testimony would compromise national security. Or they could just torture him.

Will This Be Hillary's Lost Weekend?

It sure looks that way. But as Publius notes, the big news won't be that the DNC 's rules committee hasn't given Miss Shot & A Beer what she wants, which is more or less a forgone conclusion, but how she reacts.

When I Called Joe Lieberman 'A Sniveling...

. . . Uriah Heep of an obfuscating sack of excrement parading as a John McCain penis extension who dishonors Jews, Democrats and veterans" the other day, I realized that I was a just a little bit over the top. These folks have things a little more in perspective.

Photograph by Getty Images

McCain Daughter Has Terrorist Sympathies


Beautiful Photograph du Jour

By David J. Nightingale

Quotes From Around Yon Blogosphere

I guess I should be pleased that the Republican dogs are still gnawing on the bones of Barak Obama's alleged "gaffe" or misstatement about his uncle having liberated Auschwitz. It means they're scraping the bottom of the cesspool for want of anything substantive; but then the Al Gore bit about inventing the internet still flaps the lips of the fatuous and he didn't actually say it.

Glenn McCoy, the cartoonist who appears in the New York Times, is an example of such nonsense, but then most everything he publishes is. Can we really compare the brilliant and erudite Obama to Dan Quayle? Yes, if we're so desperate and if we have an audience so deranged that any spurious attack will please them. Yes, that's just what McCoy does once again in his latest graphic excretion.


The efforts to make the Clintons feel better about losing the nomination get abstruse after a while.


I'm really getting sick and tired of listening to John McCain try to make out that he is a better man, a smarter man, and most of all, has more foreign policy experience and is better fit to be president, simply because he is a vet and was a prisoner of war. It's bullshit.

Being a pilot in the military and being a prisoner, especially in solitary confinement does not make one more savvy when it comes to foreign policy. Indeed, grunts on the ground working in and around foreign soldiers and civilians have a much better chance of broadening their perspectives than do pilots flying thousands of feet above it all.

On the other side of the coin, while having military experience can certainly add a dimension of understanding that goes beyond the borders of the US, not having that experience does not mean that anyone who does is better equipped to make tough decisions and to lead.

Media feeds on conflict, and the flatter the conflict, the easier it is to write. But one of the great revelations of this election is how diverse America really is. We tend to get hung up on small--but important--factors, like Obama's problem in Appalachia. But I'm just going to level with you--there is no way I thought a black man would ever carry Oregon and Iowa and then also get 90 percent of the black vote. What that says to me is that there is so much out there that I really don't know. And that I also should stop blogging so much, and get out more.


Sen. John McCain has attacked Sen. Barack Obama for not traveling to Iraq to see the "facts on the ground." But a recent statement by McCain about troop levels has his opponents raising questions about his own knowledge.

In comments to reporters on Thursday, McCain asserted that "I can tell you that it is succeeding. I can look you in the eye and tell you it’s succeeding. We have drawn down to pre-surge levels. . . . "

In fact, as the Obama campaign was quick to point out, the troop level in Iraq is at about 155,000 right now, well above the 130,000 that would mark a return to pre-surge levels.


Could Democrats win a Senate race in Mississippi? According to Rasmussen, Roger Wicker, the Senator appointed to serve out Trent Lott's term, trails Donny Musgrove, the Democrat, by a point. Presume heavy black turnout from an Obama run and a Democratic financial edge and . . . sorry. Can't even go there. It's blowing my mind.


You would think that advocating indiscriminate killing of people in some Middle Eastern country - any country will do! - just "because we could" would be the kind of thing which would cause people to respond with disgust and revlusion, and perhaps revoke your NYT columnist card. But, as we've learned so many times over the years, there's really nothing you can say or write about the awesomeness of killing Arabs for random reasons which will stop your cocktail party invitations from coming. Friedman, I suppose, was at least not quite as narcissistic as Richard Cohen, who thought killing people in Iraq was a good idea because it would be "therapeutic" for our country. Dead innocent people so Cohen could save a bit on his shrink bill.

But the problem with Tom Friedman is that he's very serious and taken very seriously. Unlike Maureen Dowd whose gibberish has lost its influence over the years, Tommy "Suck On This" Friedman is still The Most Serious Foreign Affairs Man In America. When Tom Friedman speaks, people listen, even as his metaphors become as bad as his advice.

During a fund-raiser in Denver, Obama . . . was asked what he hoped to accomplish during his first 100 days in office. "I would call my attorney general in and review every single executive order issued by George Bush and overturn those laws or executive decisions that I feel violate the constitution," said Obama.


[I]n an election like this one, the polls aren’t there to tell the real story; they are there to support the various different stories that the commentators want to tell. The market is not for the hard truth, because the hard truth this time round is that most people are voting with the predictability of prodded animals.


Reading tea leaves from the new November polls is as hard as it was a year ago to see what was really going behind the numbers that showed Hillary Clinton running away with the Democratic nomination.

Now, despite post-Bush Republican disarray, the new Pew poll shows "a tightening general election matchup between Obama and McCain" under a headline that says, "McCain's Negatives Mostly Political, Obama's More Personal."

It's tempting to decode that as racism, but the reasons are surely more complicated.


Is it the GOP's horrible reputation (in light of Bush, Katrina, Iraq, etc.) that is making voters not like them, or is it actually just their positions that are making them so unpopular?

Cartoon by (who else?) Glenn McCoy/Universal Press Syndicate

Friday, May 30, 2008

Musings On The U.S. Mass Transit Mess

We're bombarded with statistics all the time, but this one is fairly amazing: Americans cut back on driving in March, compared to the previous March, more than in any single month since such record keeping began in 1942.

As it so happened, I read that factoid while riding on a Susquehanna Trailways bus en route from Philadelphia to the hinterlands of Northeastern Pennsylvania. I had caught that bus after taking another bus and then a train to make what is a two-hour trip by automobile in about six hours.

Mind you, I'm not complaining about the time it took. I had a passel of newspapers and Tennessee Williams' Selected Short Stories to keep me company.

And I'm not complaining about the service itself. The buses and train were on time, the ticket agents, conductors and drivers friendly and my big transfer in Philadelphia a piece of cake with excellent signage and escalators at every level as I traversed the brightly lit and very clean Market East Terminal to the Convention Center Concourse and Reading Terminal Market and finally the nearby bus terminal.

What burned my ass is that even with $4 per gallon gasoline, the drive would have cost about $25 while the bus-train-bus trifecta cost me nearly $65.

* * * * *

Until about 1950, I could have walked to the train station in the university town where I spend most of my time and gone anywhere in North America: New York City. Los Angeles. Montreal. Mexico City. You name it . But that is when three trends conspired to deal a nearly fatal punch to the American mass transit system that is only now beginning to recover over a half century later in the face of wildly escalating gasoline prices:

* The post-World War II growth of the suburbs and travel industry and consequent desire and need for automobiles.

* Aggressive lobbying by the automobile, tire and related industries to get the federal government to underwrite the construction of many thousands of miles of high-speed highways and make other infrastructure improvements to the detriment of mass transit.

* The inability of fat and happy inter urban passenger railroads like the Pennsylvania and New York Central to see the handwriting on the wall and unwillingness of Washington to bail them out when they collapsed into bankruptcy.

Ironically, commuter train service from my university town resumed about 10 years ago because highways had become clogged.

But despite its instant popularity, service is only intermittent and while the station parking lot and trains are full, the service still operates at a loss and has to be subsidized by the state.

* * * * *

To say that nobody could have foreseen $4 per gallon gasoline in 1950 misses the point.

The point is that the U.S. had a pretty damned good intra and inter urban rail system -- one of its most precious assets whether in war and in peace -- that was allowed to literally fall apart because no one had the foresight to understand that its collapse could be calamitous. Even third-world countries have train service superior to Amtrak, which would have charged me a usurious $45 to take one of its trains the few miles from my town to Philadelphia. (The regional rail authority charged me $7, but only after I plunked down $4 to take a bus to the nearest train station that had service before 7 a.m.)

While the situation today is a few degrees short of a calamity and the federal mass transit tap has opened a turn or two in recent years, it speaks poorly of a nation that once prided itself on being modern and forward looking in every sense of those words.

In Honor of A Certain Forthcoming Primary


I might be movin' to Montana soon
Just to raise me up a crop of
Dental Floss

Raisin' it up
Waxen it down
In a little white box
That I can sell uptown

By myself I wouldn't
Have no boss,
But I'd be raisin' my lonely
Dental Floss

Raisin' my lonely
Dental Floss

Well I just might grow me some bees
But I'd leave the sweet stuff
To somebody else . . . but then, on the other hand I would

Keep the wax
'N melt it down

Pluck some Floss
'N swish it aroun'

I'd have me a crop
An' it'd be on top (that's why I'm movin' to Montana)

Movin' to Montana soon
Gonna be a Dental Floss tycoon (yes I am)
Movin' to Montana soon
Gonna be a mennil-toss flykune

I'm pluckin' the ol'
Dennil Floss
That's growin' on the prairie
Pluckin' the floss!
I plucked all day an' all nite an' all
Afternoon . . .

I'm ridin' a small tiny hoss
(His name is MIGHTY LITTLE)
He's a good hoss
Even though
He's a bit dinky to strap a big saddle or
Blanket on anyway
He's a bit dinky to strap a big saddle or
Blanket on anyway
Any way

I'm pluckin' the ol'
Dennil Floss
Even if you think it is a little silly, folks
I don't care if you think it's silly, folks
I don't care if you think it's silly, folks

I'm gonna find me a horse
Just about this big,
An' ride him all along the border line

With a
Pair of heavy-duty
Zircon-encrusted tweezers in my hand
Every other wrangler would say
I was mighty grand

By myself I wouldn't
Have no boss,
But I'd be raisin' my lonely
Dental Floss

Raisin' my lonely
Dental Floss
Raisin' my lonely
Dental Floss

Well I might
Ride along the border

With my tweezers gleamin'
In the moon-lighty night

And then I'd
Get a cuppa cawfee
'N give my foot a push . . .
Just me 'n the pygmy pony
Over by the Dennil Floss Bush

'N then I might just
Jump back on
An' ride
Like a cowboy
Into the dawn to Montana

Movin' to Montana soon

It's Crawfish Festival Time Again!

I have come to see American roots music -- blues and bluegrass, jazz, funk, Cajun and zydeco -- as branches of one big tree.

And I've been around the planet long enough to appreciate that long before there was MTV, satellite radio and the iPod, there was an aspect of selflessness in music that seems as archaic as the eight-track tape in the detachedness of our high-tech age.

Performers always have been ego driven, of course, but there is an element of sharing in the musicianship of the very best of them -- as in sharing with each other and in turn sharing with their audiences beneath that big tree -- that is on glorious display at two festivals year in and year out. They are Michael Arnone's Crawfish Festival, held around Memorial Day weekend in the wilds of northwestern New Jersey, and the Rhythm & Roots Festival, held over Labor Day weekend on the wild Rhode Island coast.

This year's Crawfish Festival runs tonight through Sunday at the Sussex County Fairgrounds in Augusta, New Jersey, which is about a two-hour drive from New York City and a little longer from Philadelphia. Camping is available.

The line-up is to die for and includes the original Funky Meters, Allen Toussaint, the Radiators, Rosie Ledet & the Zydeco Playboys, Guitar Shorty, Railroad Earth and a personal fave, Donna the Buffalo.

This year's Crawfish Festival will include the famous Dance Tent from the R&R Festival.

The dance partners on this sheltered and sprung wood floor came in all shapes, sizes and ages and at the 2007 R&R and included the Boston brahman and the little old lady in the halter top, the Indian brahmin and the striking woman in dreadlocks, the tall, elderly gent dressed all in black and the tiny teenie bopper in sequined tights, the thirtysomething pony-tailed hippie and the soccer mom in purple cowboy boots and Stetson hat, all fais do-do-ing to a fare the well.

The DF&C and I will be at the festival and dancing our fool heads off when I'm not maintaining my cool journalistic detachment. Drop me an email if you can make it. Some folks already have and we'd love to meet more of you.

Beautiful Photograph du Jour

By Bruce Davidson/Magnum
More photographs here of the birthday bridge.

Quotes From Around Yon Blogosphere

It's somewhat sad to see what is happening to Scottie McClellan. Even when he was spinning like an Iranian uranium-enrichment centrifuge, I always felt a strange kind of sympathy for Scottie. Now I know why. I recognized a sliver of humanity in him that is lacking in all other Bushite sycophants. McClellan has come (oh, I don't know . . . ) 60% clean in his new tell-part book and the White House and their apologists are calling him "Benedict Arnold," "a traitor," "a turncoat," a "Hamas apologist" (???), and "probably the worst White House press secretary in recent memory."

Maybe McClellan and Bill Richardson can start a club. They can call it The Judas Club. It will be for anyone that served in an administration and later lived to regret it. McClellan's got it really bad (except for his anticipated book sales) because even the left is piling on. Why did he go out there day after day after day and spin like a break dancer for an administration that he knew didn't know how to govern or how to tell the truth? Isn't it too late for Scottie to come to Jesus?


Scott McClellan wasn't a very bright or important guy when he served the president, and he isn't very bright or important now. Yet in the same way that we still call Jimmy Carter "President" McClellan is still a Bushie. Thus, now the press has permission to talk about being willingly led around by power-drunk morons.

-- TIM F.

Excuse me if I'm resentful of the attention Scott McClellan, George W. Bush's onetime presidential press secretary, is receiving for finally telling the obvious truth that the Bush White House deceived the public about the Iraq war. Though McClellan's account has punch coming from an insider, he's late to the party. Some of us made the case when it counted--back in 2002 and 2003, before the war was launched, and in the following years--and we also maintained that the deceptive measures of the Bush administration extended beyond its PR campaign for war in Iraq. Yet back then McClellan was doing what he could to thwart such efforts. Now he says the media failed to confront the Bush administration forcefully enough. Which is true. But when reporters did try, McClellan put up a stonewall. So his complaint is like that of a thief who, after pulling off a caper, gripes that the incompetent police did not nab him. This is absurd. After all, before each press briefing, did McClellan go to the men's room and use a bar of soap to write on the mirror, "Stop me before I spin again"?


According to CQ, Senator John McCain has voted with President Bush 100% of the time in 2008 and 95% of the time in 2007.


According to interviews with Republicans in their home states, Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano and Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill differ from Clinton by two important measures: They've managed to win elections without developing polarizing personas, and they've shied away from emphasizing gender in their campaigns.


Barack Obama might be well advised to curb his occasional impulse for telling tall tales, lest the Republicans seize the opportunity to paint him as Pinocchio.


Barr doesn't actually need to spoil Georgia, to use the state. He merely needs to force McCain to fight for the state. That, as much as Florida, was the effect of the 2000 Nader run. In the waning days of the race, Al Gore had to waste time campaigning in states he should have locked up long before, like Minnesota and Oregon, because Nader was polling close to 10 percent in them. (Nader eventually broke 5 percent in both states.) Meanwhile, George W. Bush was able to expand the map and dither with an 11th hour California campaign jaunt.

McCain will have less money to spend than Obama, and Georgia's an expensive state. The last competitive statewide race, the 2002 Senate battle between Saxby Chambliss and Max Cleland, cost a total of $18 million. That's as much as McCain raised in the month of April. Unless Barr really takes off and starts scoring Perot-like numbers, that's the risk for McCain right now: Wasted resources and wasted time, while Obama is free to plunge into Colorado, Nevada, Ohio, etc.


It's about time somebody slammed Howard Kurtz for his multiple conflicts of interest. His interview with CBS correspondent Kimberly Dozier when his wife is the publicist for her book is one thing (he disclosed this at the tail end of the glowing profile). But here's the guy who is supposed to be the nation's foremost media critic, yet he's employed by the Washington Post and CNN/Time-Warner, two of the nation's largest media companies. Not to mention that practically everything he promotes as a major media ethics story has the uncanny knack of bubbling up through some right-wing blog site. He's been a hack for some time and the Dozier interview is the least of the transgressions.


There are days that I really hate politics – days when my cynicism and contempt for the politicians, the process, the whole bloody, unholy mess of spin meisters, pundits, press, bloggers, and commentators from all sides of the ideological spectrum make me want to chuck it all and write about sports, or gardening, or cats.

Cartoon by Signe Wilkinson/Philadelphia Daily News

Thursday, May 29, 2008

John McCain Gets Hung Out To Dry on Iraq As Scales Fall From Conservative Eyes

All things considered, and that is saying an awful lot, things seem to be going pretty well in Iraq some five-plus years and hundreds of thousands of shattered lives later. But just as the faces of many a right-of-center pundit break into Alfred E. Newman-like grins, a growing number of prominent long-time war supporters are having serious second thoughts that will give John McCain chest pains.

Take Byron York of National Review Online, who in a break with his peers finally acknowledges the war for what it is – a tragically misguided mistake:

"For many of us, the war was supposed to be about U.S. national security and only about U.S. national security. It would be nice if we could make Iraq a better place, just as it would be nice if we could make Afghanistan a better place, but that was never a sufficient reason to go to war. The reason to go to war was to find and kill every last son of a bitch who had anything to do with 9/11. And that job was not the main focus in Iraq, and in any event is unfortunately not finished.

"One of the main reasons John McCain is facing such a tough job today is that we are now in the sixth year of a war that the president of his own party started by mistake. That's a major headwind when you're running for president; an error of that magnitude will exact a political price. Would anyone be surprised if voters say that they've had enough?"

Then there is Scott McClellan, who as a whiny White House press secretary lacked York's gravitas, let alone a conscience since he didn't mind being lied to when he was working for George Bush and giving the news media the finger.

Anyhow, McClellan has this to say as he vainly (in both senses of the word) tries to salvage his reputation while cashing in on his new book:

"History appears poised to confirm what most Americans today have decided: that the decision to invade Iraq was a serious strategic blunder. No one, including me, can know with absolute certainty how the war will be viewed decades from now when we can more fully understand its impact. What I do know is that war should only be waged when necessary, and the Iraq war was not necessary."

Expect the trickle of conservative confessionals to turn into a flood as Mr. Twenty-Three Percent's term plays out.

Some of that will be the usual flurry of end-of-administration tomes like McClellan's, but this is not the end of just another administration but rather the death throes of the worst administration in modern American history. And a cowardly one at that as it dumps the enormous smoking turd of a far from finished war and the consequent train wreck of an economy on its successor.

There always will be pundits like Glenn Reynolds, whose widely-read Instapundit is the National Association of Realtors of the blogosphere.

Like the NAR, which sees only sunshine amidst the ruins of a collapsed housing market, Glenn only sees progress in Iraq and when there are setbacks, well . . . you'll just have to go elsewhere to read about the bad stuff.

You can bet your armored Humvee that more commentators like York will see the light, as well as Republican pols who are anxious to continue feeding at the Washington trough but face tough re-election fights if they don't break with Bush and McCain.

This "breakage" is only background noise at the moment but could become as loud as Bush's fighter jet landing on the deck of the "Mission Accomplished" aircraft carrier that will give McCain those chest pains.

McCain's agita is not helped by the baby steps he is taking to distance himself from Bush.

While folks like York and McClellan and neocon architect and recent Barack Obama convert Francis Fukuyama see the war as a grievous mistake, all the presumptive Republican nominee can do is tut-tut about how the occupation was mishandled and other deck chairs were not properly arranged.

McCain will not -- and cannot -- break completely with the president. That would be like depriving he and his campaign of oxygen. This helps explains a closed-door fundraiser the other day where the POTUS was slipped in a back door like a police suspect avoiding a perp walk and later made a public appearance with the candidate that lasted less than a minute.

Let's be clear that McCain's Iraq war problems do not translate into votes for Obama. But every time McCain opens his yap hole about what a grand and glorious thing that the war is and no matter how many decades he tries to shave off of his 100 Years In Mesopotamia boner, there will be some conservative fresh out of the closet to upstage him.

Could Fox News ask for anything worse? Or Obama ask for anything better?

Cartoon du Jour

Jeff Danziger/New York Times News Syndicate

Beautiful Photograph du Jour

By Luis Gonzalez Palma

Quotes From Around Yon Blogosphere

In the end, Hillary will do what's best for her, and taking a credentials fight to the convention floor, especially if it's a losing one, is not going to be best for her. And Obama will do what's best for him, and if it's not picking Hillary to run with him, there’s nothing she or anyone else can do to force him to change his mind. That's just the way it is, and should be.

If you do an analysis of the election, if we had played by the rules of the Democrats, I would have won, and if the Democrats have played by the rules of the Republicans, Hillary would have won this long ago.

Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain's national campaign general co-chair was being paid by a Swiss bank to lobby Congress about the U.S. mortgage crisis at the same time he was advising McCain about his economic policy, federal records show.

By the time the Bush White House finishes with Scott McClellan, the former press secretary - and author of a new book that harshly disses the Decider - will be painted as a raving nut job who deserves to be carted off by the guys in white coats. But such has long been the fate of any former Bush aide who (belatedly) dares to declare in public that the emperor has no clothes.

If [Republican identity politics] works, it will be in part because we--by which I mean the media and many Democrats--believe it will. We are easily spooked by the confident swagger of the Republicans, who not so long ago were plotting permanent world domination. But then, so was Bear Stearns.

A Democratic Party rules committee has the authority to seat some delegates from Michigan and Florida but not fully restore the two states as Hillary Rodham Clinton wants, according to party lawyers. Democratic National Committee rules require that the two states lose at least half of their convention delegates for holding elections too early, the party’s legal experts wrote in a 38-page memo.
There is a reason why society expects people to spend their golden years playing golf or touring the country in giant recreational vehicles. Some people age better than others, of course: the 65-year-old Harrison Ford looks sprightly enough in the new Indiana Jones film. But eventually the mind slows, the arteries clog, the ability to deal with new challenges dulls. The announcement this week that Edward Kennedy (76) is suffering from brain cancer is a reminder of life's most basic truth. Is America really confident enough in Mr McCain's vitality to give him the most demanding job in the world? Not too many companies would even consider a man of his age for the CEO slot.

As you get yourself informed about politics, a beautiful model of your choosing will coach you through the process. Get questions right and the model will reward you with removed pieces of clothing. Make an Impact.

Hat tip to Donklephant for the image

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Mukasey’s Disingenuously Dangerous Defense of the Bush Torture Regime

It seemed like Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez barely had two brain cells to rub together on the best of days, so his defense of the Bush torture regime was simple: Na-na-na-na-na! The president can do whatever he wants.

Michael Mukasey, who prepped for the job in the federal judiciary while Gonzalez was the president's lapdog, is a rocket scientist by comparison. After hoodwinking the Senate into confirming him because he promised that he'd have to look into this torture stuff, Mukasey has gone to great lengths to defend its use while approving an independent investigation into the darkest of all the dark aspects of the Bush administration that is anything but.

The crux of Mukasey's defense is that timid lawyering as a consequence of congressional investigations and reforms that grew out of the Iran-Contra affair and other intelligence scandals in the 1970s and 80s lulled the U.S. intelligence community into a state of somnambulence that contributed to the 9/11 terror attacks. And that criticizing John Yoo, David Addington and, yes, that Gonzo for throwing down the gauntlet is to ignore that the U.S. is more secure as a result.

Speaking at the Boston University Law School commencement, Mukasey declared that:

"Today, many of the senior government lawyers who provided legal advice supporting the nation’s most important counterterrorism policies have been subjected to relentless public criticism. In some corners, one even hears suggestions—suggestions that are made in a manner that is almost breathtakingly casual—that some of these lawyers should be subject to civil or criminal liability for the advice they gave. The rhetoric of these discussions is hostile and unforgiving."
Mukasey's defense of Yoo and Company is underminded for two primary reasons:

* It grossly misrepresents the historic record, especially as it applies to the legal means that FDR used during World War II to deal with external threats, those congressional pushbacks that led to FISA and subsequently all of that so-called timid lawyering, and the extralegal means that Bush has used to rationalize and approve the use of Nazi-like interrogation techniques.

* His claim that there is peril in debating the balance between civil liberties and national security is ridiculous. By his calculus, such debates can only lead to another cycle of timidity and potentially another 9/11. In other words, if Yoo is held responsible for using junk law to rationalize torture then his successors will be less inclined to give the president the legal tools he needs. And by the way, Congress should just butt out.

This bass ackwards logic has led law school prof Jonathan Turley to coin the term Mukasey's Paradox, which says that:
Lawyers cannot commit crimes when they act under the orders of a president and a president cannot commit a crime when he acts under advice of lawyers.
Mukasey's defense also is intellectually lazy because any controversial policy, including one that has the consequence of undercutting the U.S. as a signatory to the Geneva Conventions and lowers its moral standing in the world community, should be able to withstand the harshest scrutiny. Mukasey simply argues that any scrutiny is out of bounds.

Emptywheel, who has picked apart Mukasey's defense of the torture regime in his Boston College speech, concludes:

"Now, I'm not sure whether Muaksey's inclusion of Iran-Contra in his description of the causes of risk aversion implies all of these things, up to and including a disinclination to prosecute officials for lying to Congress. But it certainly makes the John Durham investigation--in which Mukasey directly oversees Durham's investigation into events that may well include lying to the 9/11 Commission and Courts--all the more dubious.

"Mukasey's public (though implicit) defense of Yoo to be unfortunate. But I find the logic on which he based that defense to be downright dangerous."

Utah Phillips (1935-2008)


Join Us At Michael Arnone's Crawfish Fest

I have come to see American roots music -- blues and bluegrass, jazz, funk, Cajun and zydeco -- as branches of one big tree.

And I've been around the planet long enough to appreciate that long before there was MTV, satellite radio and the iPod, there was an aspect of selflessness in music that seems as archaic as the eight-track tape in the detachedness of our high-tech age.

Performers always have been ego driven, of course, but there is an element of sharing in the musicianship of the very best of them -- as in sharing with each other and in turn sharing with their audiences beneath that big tree -- that is on glorious display at two festivals year in and year out. They are Michael Arnone's Crawfish Festival, held around Memorial Day weekend in the wilds of northwestern New Jersey, and the Rhythm & Roots Festival, held over Labor Day weekend on the wild Rhode Island coast.

This year's Crawfish Festival runs May 30-June 1 at the Sussex County Fairgrounds in Augusta, New Jersey, which is about a two-hour drive from New York City and a little longer from Philadelphia. Camping is available.

The line-up is to die for and includes the original Funky Meters, Allen Toussaint, the Radiators, Rosie Ledet & the Zydeco Playboys, Guitar Shorty, Railroad Earth and a personal fave, Donna the Buffalo.

This year's Crawfish Festival will include the famous Dance Tent from the R&R Festival.

The dance partners on this sheltered and sprung wood floor came in all shapes, sizes and ages and at the 2007 R&R and included the Boston brahman and the little old lady in the halter top, the Indian brahmin and the striking woman in dreadlocks, the tall, elderly gent dressed all in black and the tiny teenie bopper in sequined tights, the thirtysomething pony-tailed hippie and the soccer mom in purple cowboy boots and Stetson hat, all fais do-do-ing to a fare the well.

The DF&C and I will be at the festival and dancing our fool heads off when I'm not maintaining my cool journalistic detachment. Drop me an email if you can make it and we'll meet up.

Beautiful Photograph du Jour

By Larry Fink

Quotes From Around Yon Blogosphere

Was not the century of institutionalized racism and segregation that followed the end of slavery a perpetuation of "flawed values" that the nation should feel an enduring guilt over? For those conservatives who are forever speaking of the way they value history and memory more than liberals: Should we abolish the history and memory of slavery and racism just because they're no longer legally institutionalized?

. . . What I don't understand is why there doesn't seem to be any conservative guilt over racism. Contemporary conservatives could learn from their revered godfather William F. Buckley Jr., who, early in his career at the National Review, wrote a pro-Jim Crow lead editorial—little remembered in liberal and other encomia to the man—titled "Why the South Must Prevail," in which he argued that segregation should persist even by illegal means because "the White community . . . for the time being . . . is the advanced race."

If this campaign goes on much longer, what will be left of Hillary Clinton? A woman uniformly described by her close friends as genuine, principled and sane has been reduced to citing the timing of Robert F. Kennedy's assassination as a reason to stay in the race -- an argument that is ungenuine, unprincipled and insane.

The signature defect of modern political journalism is that it has shredded the ideal of proportionality.

Important stories, sometimes the product of months of serious reporting, that in an earlier era would have captured the attention of the entire political-media community and even redirected the course of a presidential campaign, these days can disappear with barely a whisper.

Trivial stories -- the kind that are tailor-made for forwarding to your brother-in-law or college roommate with a wisecracking note at the top -- can dominate the campaign narrative for days. . . .


There's one less Democrat listening to Sen. Joe Lieberman. Rabbi Ethan Tucker, the senator's step son, offered up his opinion on the difficulties facing Obama in reaching out to the Jewish community:

. . . So where does Rabbi Tucker fall on Obama, whose foreign policy bona fides were bashed by his stepfather in a recent editorial? Actually, he's backing Obama.

Bob Barr captured the nomination of the Libertarian Party this weekend in Denver. Most people remember Barr as the very non-libertarian conservative who served Georgia’s 7th District starting in 1994. . . .

Barr’s conversion to his current political outlook is pretty drastic. He has gone from being a staunch supporter of both the Patriot Act and the drug war to working with both the ACLU and the Marijuana Policy Project in opposition. He has renounced his former support for the Defense of Marriage Act and wants us out of Iraq. It’s hard to tell what kind of support he will actually be able to get this year, but if there’s anyone who understands how the Libertarian Party can exercise some influence, it’s Bob Barr.

-- LEE

He is one of America's most famous neo-conservatives and his ideas on the spread of democracy have informed the Bush administration's foreign policy.

But Francis Fukuyama, the author of The End of History and Professor of International Political Economy at Johns Hopkins University, is now a sharp critic of US President George W Bush and has even come out as a supporter of Democrat frontrunner Barack Obama for president.


Cartoon by Tony Auth/The Philadelphia Inquirer

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Why Is John McCain Selling Out Our Vets?

John McCain has showed himself to be a welter of contradictions, but nowhere is this more apparent – and troubling – in how he repeatedly invokes his prisoner of war past to validate his righteousness while at the same time selling out today's veterans.

This sell-out has taken several forms: Voting against increased funding for health care and education benefits, being absent for key votes on veterans' issues, and working to undercut the progress the Veterans Administration has made in meeting veterans' needs by pushing to privatizing its services.

McCain's rationalizations are very much like the Bush administration's own: Giving soldiers their due by enhancing educational and other benefits under a bipartisan bill that passed the Senate last week will encourage them to leave a military it has done so much to break, so lets force them to remain enlisted as long as possible if they can't afford to attend an expensive four-year college until they have "earned" the right to do so on the government's dime. (Ten Republican senators broke with Bush and McCain to give the bill a veto-proof margin.)

As if that isn't coldly calculating enough, let's treat the men and women who return home from Iraq and Afghanistan with problems not as humans who have sacrificed but like so many cost centers whose care should be downsized and outsourced to the lowest bidder, very often politically-connected administration cronies.

McCain's contradiction is rather delicious insofar that it is another test of his fealty to Mr. Twenty Three Percent, who is both his albatross and link to the withered right-wing Republican base. In this instance he's going with the prez and ruined an otherwise perfectly good Memorial Day (Observed) speech to rationalize why he is again selling out veterans who must fight anew to get decent physical and mental health care and educational and job opportunities.

There is an epidemic of suicides among these veterans and the shocking possibility that more will die by their own hands than did on the battlefield.

As it is, about 1,000 veterans try to take their lives each month by the VA's own admission and upwards of 300,000 suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder and other major forms of depression, but McCain doesn't seem to notice.

I will not try to plumb McCain's emotional depths. There is no question that he suffered greatly during five-plus years in a North Vietnamese POW camp.

But there must be some explanation for the disconnect between his own experience and the experiences of today's vets. Why else would he not only not take the lead in advocating for them but instead put obstacles in their way?

McCain supporters expressed outrage when it was suggested earlier this month in a New York Times Magazine article that he did not experience the disillusionment of soldiers like John Kerry, Chuck Hagel and Jim Webb because he was locked away in the Hanoi Hilton for most of the war. The catharsis that these senators experienced on the battlefield and afterwards over the fundamental wrongness of the Vietnam War rather logically led them to oppose a war that McCain so slavishly embraces.

When McCain returned home he got a White House reception (small photo) and received the best care money could buy because he had been a POW and was the son and grandson of celebrated Navy admirals. (In fact, his father was my commanding officer during the war.)

There were specialists to help McCain heal his physical wounds and confront his mental demons. There were no long waits for care, no inadequate and shabbily maintained facilities or bureaucrats who saw his disabilities as detrimental to their bottom line. And there was never any question that he would be get a great job and otherwise make a soft landing in the civilian world.

Could it be that for all his experience John McCain has only the most tangential ties to today's veterans and that selling them out is less a conscious choice than yet another example of where the presumptive Republican nominee is out of touch?

A Posthumous Medal of Honor Winner

A 19-year-old private first class who jumped on a grenade in Iraq and saved the lives of his comrades will posthumously receive the Medal of Honor.

The nation's highest military honor will be given to Ross McGinnis of Knox, Pennsylvania on June 2.

McGinnis was perched in the gunner's hatch of a Humvee on December 4, 2006, when a grenade sailed past him and into the truck where four other soldiers sat. He shouted a warning to the others, then jumped on the grenade. The grenade, which was lodged near the vehicle's radio, blew up and killed him.

More here.

Joe Lieberman Jumps the Shark. Again.

Richard Nixon was the last politician whom I hated, but I got over that not long after he slunk out of Washington when I figured out that hating someone -- especially a public figure -- was drag energy, to use the term of the day.

But Joe Lieberman is causing me to reconsider.

Where to begin? That this sniveling Uriah Heep of an obfuscating sack of excrement parading as a John McCain penis extension dishonors Jews, Democrats, veterans . . . I could go on and on.

Well, not to outdo himself, Lieberman will be the headliner at the Christians United For Israel Washington-Israel Summit this summer sponsored by the Reverend John Hagee, despite the fact that the presumptive Republican nominee has stopped making kissy face with Christ's 13th disciple.

This begs a question: What has happened to Lieberman? Medication error? Head injury? Silent stroke? Whuddya think?

Sidney Pollack (1934-2008)

Photograph by The Associated Press

Michelle Malkin's Caffeinated Jihad

Try to bear with me on this one (and excuse the fuzzy foto), but right wingnut Michelle Malkin is now extending her boycott of Starbucks to Dunkin' Donuts because teevee spokesgal Rachel Ray briefly appeared in what looks like a scarf that a Palestinian might wear.

As Edroso explains it at Alicublog:
"When Sadly, No! first tauntingly proferred the keffiyah thing to Malkin, I thought not even she is insane enough to actually take the bait. Now that she has, I'm beginning to get an unaccustomed feeling of Christian sympathy for her. What a small, strange world she lives in -- one in which even simple breakfast choices are fraught with peril. What are her lunch and dinner choices like? When she goes to a restaurant, does she peer into the waiters' station and wonder which dishwashers are illegal aliens and wonder which servers are gays who wish to be married? When she makes her own meals, does she claw through the fridge and pantry like Harry Caul at the end of The Conservation, frantically searching the labels for signs of politically incorrect associations?"
Hat tip to Back Alley Media

Is eBay Broken?

Hat tip to The Big Picture

Beautiful Photograph du Jour

Photograph by Sara Krulwich/The New York Times

Quotes From Around Yon Blogosphere

The stench from the smoking wreckage of the Hillary Clinton candidacy continues to sting our nostrils.

It's clear, from the full context of her Friday remarks to a South Dakota newspaper, that Clinton really did not intend to suggest that she's staying in the race just in case Barack Obama shares the fate of Bobby Kennedy. Such is the unfair shorthand that has ricocheted around the blogosphere over the past 36 hours.

What's clear is that she was trying to make the (specious) case for extending the '08 primary season into June. Her argument was that past Democratic campaigns have often lasted that long. It was in that context that she cited the RFK assassination, which occurred shortly after the results were announced in the June 4, 1968 California primary. (Indeed, she first cited Kennedy's June shooting during an interview two months ago.)

Here's the main problem with what she did: She offered a thoroughly tasteless example in support of a worthless argument. She was basically trying to say - and this is what her candidacy has been reduced to - that it's fine for her to extend her campaign into June, just because some past campaigns have gone into June.


Can someone please tell me? Is there something in their water? In the air? Is it what they’re drinking — or smoking?

There seems to be an epidemic now of foot-in-mouth comments involving the once-taboo "a-word" (not the "a-word" people use to describe some politicians, but the "a-word" that describes what tragedy can befall politicians).


People are writing about [Clinton] as though she were a bomb that needed to be expertly defused, as opposed to a person who can govern her own life, and is responsible for her own choices.

I am aware that it must be hard to face the fact that you've lost. But it became clear that she was not going to win the nomination months ago -- I would say after Wisconsin, but certainly after Texas. Moreover, this is not unprecedented. People lose the nomination every four years. Most of the time, they do not stay on until it is mathematically impossible for them to win; they leave when it has become clear that they will not win. They do not complain about disenfranchising all the states with later primaries, they do not threaten to keep their supporters home, and they certainly do not threaten "open civil war" if they don't get nominated for Vice President. On those rare occasions when some candidate does this in the absence of some truly monumental issue, we normally think that that candidate is a narcissistic and unprincipled person who has just shown why s/he should never, ever be President.

There is absolutely no reason not to apply these same standards to Hillary Clinton.


No disrespect to the other candidates, but if anyone else had been nominated we’d be toast.

-- Republican pollster GLEN BOLGER

Ohio is once again a swing state--perhaps the most important swing state. It's hard to envision either McCain or the Democratic nominee (presumably Barack Obama) winning in November without pocketing Ohio. And it's hard to envision McCain winning the state without the assistance of social conservative voters (often miscalled "values voters"). The Ohio Republican Party has been decimated in recent years by various scandals, and the state is now governed by a popular Democrat (Ted Strickland). It has become much tougher ground for GOPers. Which means that McCain truly needs those social conservatives to turn out for him.

[Reverend Rod] Parsley could have helped greatly in this regard. But now McCain has lost a shepherd who could lead tens of thousands of voters to the polls for the Arizona senator. Will these voters find the way on their own? Will they be angered that McCain betrayed a man they consider to be a conveyor belt for the word of God? (McCain as Judas?) With Parsley out of play for McCain in Ohio, McCain will have a tougher time winning this critical state.


There is more than one way for a university to receive national recognition. One is to employ a faculty member who receives a Nobel Prize for his discovery. The other is to be governed by a Chancellor who proposes a folly. The University of Colorado, has done both. It makes a citizen proud.


Cartoon by Pat Oliphant/Universal Press Syndicate