Down With Tyranny!

Blowing up the Myth of the 'Political Center' in America

In an April 2016 piece, in the middle of the Democratic primary, I wrote this about modern independent voters and the upcoming general election:

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Yahoo Plans 'Smart Billboards' That Watch and Listen To You

Those billboards in the movie Minority Report, the ones that watch you, listen as you speak, then address you by name? They're on the drawing board at Yahoo. You can look at this product as another form of "targeted marketing," like when the google sends ads your way based on the latest text in your gmail account. Or you can look at it as a way for a company to profile you as completely as possible when you move around in public — connecting your public behavior with all of your other stored behaviors — then do anything it wants with that information. 

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Mylan Didn't Lower EpiPen Prices After All; They Just Appeared To

Senator Joe Manchin's daughter Heather Bresch, CEO of Mylan, and some of the work she's been doing. Note — the EpiPen price is actually around $640 at most pharmacies.

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Can Pelosi Save American Health Care Reform from the Republican Health Care Horror Show?

We may not always agree with Nancy Pelosi's strategies and tactics. Taking Bush's and Cheney's impeachment off the table drove a lot of people to hate her, no matter how remote a chance there was that that could have succeeded-- or even proceeded without shutting down the basic functioning of Congress and even a chance of getting any progressive legislation passed. And passing progressive legislation is the reason we were all so excited when Pelosi was sworn in as Speaker. Her commitment to real health care reform is almost the only thing standing between the American people's rapidly diminishing chance of getting any genuine reform and the salivating Insurance Industry CEOs who may well have brought off enough Max Baucuses and Blanche Lincolns and Arlen Specters, Joe Liebermen, Paul Ryans, Chuck Grassleys and Ben Nelsons to turn reform into a massive bailout for the Insurance companies. Yes, it's Nancy Pelosi-- not Barack Obama, who could go a long way towards ending this mess by saying "I won't be signing any health care bill unless it includes either single payer or a robust public option"-- who is keeping us out of the clutches of the Insurance Industry predators.

Taking Your Happiness Where You Can Find It

I went to the premier of Oliver Stone's movie, W and when I walked out a camera crew grabbed me and asked me what I thought. I said it was pretty good and that I enjoyed it. The interviewer wasn't happy with that. He wanted to know if I thought it would influence the election. "No," I don't think so," I said. Bush isn't running again and people sharp enough to realize that McCain would simply be another 4 year extension of his agenda have already made up their minds." That wasn't good enough for him either and he wanted to know how I would have changed the movie. Roland was starting to signal me that it was time to go and that he was hungry. "Well, if it was my movie and my world, Bush and Cheney would have been tried and the last scene would be the two of them walking up the steps to the gallows." That ended the interview... to Roland's satisfaction.

I know I'll never be completely happy but tomorrow I plan to revel in the good news as it comes in. Obama, of course, even if that means we get the baggage -- the Bidens and Emanuels and all kinds of horrible crap you can expect to hear Ken and I complaining about in the next few months-- but also the great news we expect to hear about Tim Walberg and Joe Knollenberg being defeated in Michigan, about the end of Ted Stevens' disgraceful career, about bona fide progressive leaders like Darcy Burner, Alan Grayson and Jared Polis being elected to the U.S. House of Representatives where I expect them to do a lot more than take their seats and vote well, and maybe about some close calls coming through, like Jeff Merkley, Tom Perriello, Jim Himes, Joe Garcia, Martin Heinrich... maybe even some genuine miracles like Dennis Shulman, Debbie Cook, Larry Joe Doherty...

But for today, I'm looking for my bits and pieces of celebratory news elsewhere-- and I don't even mean the final poll numbers showing Obama expanding his lead over McCain, ahead in Ohio, Florida and Pennsylvania and even leading with a crushing margin in Fox's own silly biased polls. Sure I'm taking a great deal of pleasure seeing the ignorant assholes who inflicted 8 years of Bush on the rest of us depressed and disheartened and in no mood to even bother cheering on McCain's dying or dead campaign. I hope they don't bother voting tomorrow so all their down-ballot rubber stamp candidates lose as well. And, yeah, I'm delighted to know that when cell phone users are counted properly, Obama's polling numbers shoot up, and I'm delighted to see that McCain's negative and vicious smears-- like the scurrilous Dole attacks on Hagan we discussed this morning-- backfired and helped wreck his miserable, vile campaign.

Desperate Republicans Have No Intention of Going Down to Defeat With Either Dignity Or Honor

It has finally dawned on Republican Party leaders that they are in the middle of Desperationland. Easy enough to sneer and say they earned it-- and more-- but desperation is leading them down some unhealthy paths, unhealthy for all of us.

Republican office holders are aware that McCain's coattails are not just negative, but positively toxic. The three special election House candidates he campaigned for-- all in very Republican districts-- all lost in upset elections. GOP strategists are starting to whisper the word "landslide," and they mean a Democratic one that could leave the Republicans with impotent rump caucuses in both houses of Congress.

Everywhere, Party leaders are starting to finally realize the trouble they're in. Asked if McCain could win Wisconsin, former Republican Governor and McCain friend Tommy Thompson claimed it isn't impossible but when he was asked if he's happy with his friend's campaign, he said "No; I don't know who he is." And that's a feeling that people all over the country are having about McCain, who has tried to do everything he could to make Americans feel that he's someone they know and trust-- no one does-- and that Obama is "not one of us" and scary and different and unknown. It's almost funny when it comes from Sarah Palin who no one but Alaskans and a few religious extremists ever heard of before a month and a half ago.

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Department of Labor Blames Unemployment Rise on Teenagers

You've probably heard the news by now: 49,000 jobs lost in May, unemployment up a whopping .5% (from 5.0% to 5.5%), the largest jump since 1986. Into the fray jumps our esteemed secretary of labor, Elaine Chao -- who, it is pointed out on the ShameonElaine website, is not only the wife of our beloved Senate minority leader (and DWT-fave heartthrob) Miss Mitch McConnell but the longest-serving member of the Bush regime cabinet.

Here is ShameonElaine's take on Secretary Chao's contribution to the discussion:

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Republicans Obstructing Relief in Housing Crisis

Republican governors tend to be less ideological and more practical than the extremists and fanatics their party routinely sends to Congress. They have to actually govern, something that is anathema to the Inside the Beltway GOP-- from Bush and Cheney all the way down to the very bottom of the barrel: naysayers Mean Jean Schmidt and James Inhofe. This morning the two heads of the National Governors Association-- Republican Tim Pawlenty (MN) and Democrat Ed Rendell (PA)-- urged, strongly urged, Congress and the White House to get their collective asses in gear and enact housing-stimulus legislation "so that states can rebound from decreasing tax revenue and increasing crime and neighborhood blight due to a record foreclosure rate."

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There Is No Such Thing As Clean Coal

"Most people know coal isn’t clean, but that hasn’t stopped the coal industry from trying to convince us otherwise."
-- Kevin Grandia of DeSmogBlog, introducing the website Coal is dirty!, a "Clean Coal Body Slam" created in collaboration with Greenpeace USA and the Rainforest Action Network to combat a massive P.R. onslaught from the coal industry

The magic words, it appears, are "carbon capture and sequestration." I don't think you want to know any more about them than I do, but I'm afraid we may be hearing them a lot, unfortunately from people who are trying to sell us bogus or at least wildly exaggerated science indicating that with these new technologies coal can be made clean and safe. It appears that they're prepared to spend tens if not hundreds of millions of dollars to sell their message.

This drives the folks we trust on environmental and energy issues bonkers -- naturally including our go-to webguy A Siegel, who's waxing rapturous today on his Energy Smart blog about the Coal is dirty! site and its star-studded roster of environmental researchers, activists, and journalists. As Siegel says, "Kevin might not have a $35 million budget but he has a team worth millions in terms of quality."

Kevin Grandia explains:
In essence, this site exists to sell the idea that coal is dirty. Pretty easy to do when you consider the facts and clear out the rhetoric. Like the fact that mercury emissions from coal fired-power plants continues to rise and that carbon capture and storage remains an elusive pipe dream that will take another 40 years to deploy on a commercial scale.

Siegel notes that the new site is already going gangbusters, with:

Will Bob Barr and Ron Paul Out-Flank McCain on the Right?

With GOP toe-sucker Dick Morris publicly urging McCain to shed his far right extremism and move to the center if he's going to have any chance at all to win a few states outside of the Old Confederacy plus Utah, Wyoming and Idaho, a very different kind of reality is closing in on McCain who, says toe-sucker, "has been dealt a terrible hand: a tanking economy, an unpopular war, a Republican incumbent whose approval ratings are at their all-time low and a gloomy national mood, with 82 percent of Americans saying in a Washington Post-ABC News poll last week that the country is on the wrong track." He offers the hapless Republican nominee a roadmap, a roadmap dependent of Jeremiah Wright-- "the honorary chairman of McCain's get-out-the-vote efforts"-- even though every voter in red, red, red Mississippi first congressional district was inundated with Jeremiah Wright and still voted against Bush and the GOP.

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Modern Day GI Bill Passes in the House

Although the fight that matters will be in the Senate, the House passed the bill to modernize the GI Bill today, HR 2642, 256-166. Those numbers are pretty overwhelming and the reflect the fact that 32 Republicans crossed the aisle to vote against Bush and their own reactionary leadership and for our military vets. At the same time, the Blue Dog caucus was unable to muster it's own members to bolster their Republican allies. Only 7 of the sleaziest and most Bush-oriented Democrats voted against vets today:

Melissa Bean (IL)
Dan Boren (OK)
Joe Donnelly (IN)
Brad Ellsworth (IN)
Nick Lampson (TX)
Tim Mahoney (FL)
Jim Matheson (UT)

Our newest conservative Democrats, Don Cazayoux (LA) and Bill Foster (IL) both voted with the Democrats on this crucial bill, Foster even stepping away from Bean's apron strings. This bill will allow vets who fought in Afghanistan and Iraq to go to college-- just what it was intended to do. McCain and McConnell have vowed to kill the bill in the Senate.

I took a look at the Blue America House races to see how the Republican opponents of our candidates-- all of whom support the bill-- voted Most of them voted against vets, as they usually do. Joining the dead-end minority today were Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL), Tim Walberg (R-MI), Scott Garrett (R-NJ), David Dreier (R-CA), Ric Keller (R-FL), Randy Kuhl (R-NY), Michael McCaul (R-TX), Gary Miller (R-CA), Mike Pence (R-IN), Dave Reichert (R-WA), Dana Rohrabacher (R-OH), and Mean Jean Schmidt (R-OH). Heather Wilson (R-NM) is running for Senate and she stuck with Bush, as she usually does. John Doolittle (R-CA) is retiring under a cloud of corruption charges and he also stuck with Bush.

Interestingly, some of the tightest and most competitive races we're following saw die-hard reactionaries abandoning Bush, not because they wanted to or because they suddenly want to help vets, but because they are scared to death that they're about to lose their cushy jobs. John Barrow, a Georgia Blue Dog who almost always supports Bush on these matters is so frightened of the surging state Senator from Savannah, Regina Thomas, that he actually abandoned his usual stance and voted, reluctantly, with the Democrats. Same story in Iowa, where Leonard Boswell's fear of Ed Fallon voters caused him to vote like a Democrat for a change. Republicans Robin Hayes, Chris Shays and Charlie Dent are so worried about the likelihood that they will be defeated by, respectively, Larry Kissell, Jim Himes and Sam Bennett that each switched positions and voted with the Democrats today.

The Profitable Dismantling of Civil Society

Yesterday Scholars & Rogues featured a pretty ominous look at the serious deterioration of basic American infrastructure. The author, Dr. Denny, points out that our otherwise preoccupied government is normally only moved to action by catastrophes-- like the deadly bridge collapse in Minneapolis last year. So that bridge is nearly fixed. They're waiting for a spate of disasters before they do anything preventive. They may not have to wait long and we have far more than "failing bridges to find, fund and fix." Dr. Denny is left cold by the leadership abilities of the current presidential candidates to lead us successfully through a real crisis. Just to keep up, the U.S. would need to spend $225 billion per year for 50 years-- $11 trillion. McCain definitely has a couple wars he'd rather wage. But the country's infrastructure-- not just roads and bridges but also dams, sewage systems, drinking water systems, air traffic control, nuclear plants, electricity transmission lines, levees...-- gets a grade of D. Unfortunately, national politicians don't usually find infrastructure sexy.

Wall Street does, I found out on the radio yesterday. Tens of billions of dollars are coming out of the firms that brought us the real estate and mortgage collapse and going into buying up infrastructure. Alarm bells went off when I heard that the sleazy GOP vulture capital firm Carlisle Group-- whose real estate arm went belly up recently-- is buying up sewer systems and roadways. And they're only one of many.

Republicans want to reduce taxes and let the infrastructure go to hell so that the public supports selling it all off to for-profit companies. Democrats are too cowed to stand up for government functions that have been delegitimized by greed obsessed Republicans (and Blue Dogs and DLC Democrats). So... on to the predators. Today Morgan Stanley-- and I assure you a more unscrupulous and cut throat firm you will never find-- announced that it has raised $4 billion to target investments "that provide public goods or essential services in sectors such as transportation, energy and utilities, social infrastructure and communications." Global Infrastructure Partners (General Electric and Credit Suisse) have capped their infrastructure fund yesterday at $6.5 billion. A new Carlyle subsidiary, Carlyle Infrastructure Partners, formed specifically-- and under heavy political protection-- to rip off American taxpayers and ratepayers is investing $1.5 billion in transportation and water and wastewater facilities, including roads, bridges, tunnels, airport facilities, maritime ports, transit projects and other public benefit infrastructure in the US and Canada. Henderson Investors, CVC Capital Partners, Macquarie (Australia), Rreef, Citigroup, Ferrovial (Spain), Goldman Sachs, J.P. Morgan and Alinda are all up to the same thing.

Bipartisan Majority Defies Bush Over Mortgage Crisis

While Republican House leaders wring their hands and rend their clothes fretting over why voters are massively rejecting their candidates and worrying that the GOP minority could easily lose another 2 or 3 dozen House members in November, all they need to do is look in the mirror to figure it out. And blaming hapless schnooks like Vito, Vitter or Larry Craig isn't going to do the trick. They are the party of obstructionism and the party that is standing in the way of progress, preventing an end to the occupation of Iraq, preventing universal health care, preventing sound environmental and energy policies, preventing, in fact, everything that the American people want!

Yesterday their despised leader, George Bush, threatened to veto a foreclosure bill that would attempt to help families and neighborhoods that have been victimized by predatory lenders who have been enabled by out-of-control Republican deregulation mania. Today the House passed the first of two of the bills Bush was railing against, Maxine Waters' Neighborhood Stabilization Act of 2008. Only one Blue Dog, Kirsten Gillibrand (NY) voted with the Republicans. Eleven Republicans-- all of whom are either retiring or in grave danger of losing their re-election bids in November-- abandoned their party's reactionary leadership and voted with the Democrats (even including such inveterate rubber stamps as the Diaz-Balart brothers in Florida and Steven LaTourette of Ohio).

While Bush was eager to shovel hundreds of billions of dollars towards the predatory lenders to shore up their businesses and even to provide irresponsible and possible criminal executive with multimillion dollar bonuses for causing the collapse of the real estate market, he dug in his heels on Water's attempt to "make federal money available in loans and grants for the rehabilitation and eventual sale or rental of blighted properties."

And just moments ago, the House also passed the companion bill, Barney Franks' American Housing Rescue & Foreclosure Prevention Act, a responsible and comprehensive response to the nightmare of the Bush Economic Miracle. It seeks to assist families facing foreclosure keep their homes, help other families avoid foreclosures in the future, and, with Maxine Waters' bill, help the recovery of communities harmed by empty homes caught in the foreclosure process. The bill, which Bush swears he will veto and McConnell vows to obstruct in the Senate, provide mortgage refinancing assistance, which will help keep families from losing their homes and protect neighboring home values. Barney's bill was voted on in 3 parts and dozens of Republicans were too frightened of the constituents to oppose the bill. On Roll Call 302, in fact, 95 Republicans gave Bush and their extremist leaders the finger and joined all the Democrats to pass it overwhelmingly and with a veto-proof majority. In fact only 94 Republicans voted with Bush. It passed 322-94, one of Bush's biggest defeats since he stole the presidency in 2000. Only the most insane kooks and loons-- The Dana Rohrabachers, John Shadeggs, Michael McCauls, Mean Jean Schmidts, and Scott Garretts hung in there with Boehner, Blunt, Cole and Howdy Doody.

The Mortgage Industry Fights for Its Right to Party

I went to a lovely party this weekend. And there were so many smart people there. Two who I was talking with-- both health care experts-- were absolutely positive than no matter who was elected president, there was absolutely no chance that there would be any transformational change in the way the people of this country receive health care. Gee, I thought that was part of the reason we were electing Democrats in a big way this year. But what do I know?

Today's NY Times has a story in the Business Section that probably belongs on page one. It explains why some things get done and why some things don't. It's only trying to talk about the mortgage industry. But the health care industry is much, much worse. Stephen Labaton, who has decided-- or was assigned-- to tackle the issue begins by mentioning that the mortgage industry is fighting back-- intensively-- against threats of regulation. Societies regulate industry when industry's greed gets out of control and threatens the well being of society. Despite Republicans, meat packing plants had to be regulated because... well, people were dying. The "free market" wasn't quite righting the wrongs fast enough. How many more families need to lose their homes before people start dragging mortgage bank executives out and hanging them from lamp posts? Do you think a jury would find anyone guilty? Not around here.

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Would John McCain Institute a Draft in January? Or Would We Wait Until February?

Maybe I've just missed it-- perhaps because of all the breathless distractions about Obama's pastor and bowling score-- but I could swear the corporate media isn't informing their audience that a vote for John McCain is a vote for the re-instatement of a military draft. Now, call me naive, but I have to believe that even his barbeque buddies would agree that most voters would be more interested in a discussion of the prospects of a draft-- something McCain's plans absolutely guarantee-- than in Obama's lack of skill on the bowling alley. (John Stewart actually showed a clip of some Fox talking head suggesting he should have "stuck to the hoops.")

Last week I was reminiscing about my very first arrest, which was for protesting against the draft in 1967. If the media is able to mislead voters drastically enough so that McCain actually gets into the White House, there will be many more arrests at many more protests all over America.

McCain's policies-- whatever the meaning about his constant rhetorical stumblings about Iraq and Iran, Sunni and Shi'a, and 100 years in Iraq-- can't be put in place without a military draft. (By the way, when I was protesting in 1967 Nixon was coming up with a strategy about how to make the American people vote for him-- by claiming to have "a plan." McCain also claims to have "a plan"-- to capture Osama bin-Laden-- so one wonders why he doesn't share this with his pals George W. and Cheney.)

Republicans are forever hectoring about how we should just do whatever the generals tell us to. That's typical right wing cynicism since generals don't make policy in the U.S.-- elected officials do-- and since every single general who has spoken out professionally in a way that didn't hew completely to Bush-Cheney dogma has been sacked. So listen to the generals? Which ones? The Bush toadies or the ones who helped Darcy Burner come up with the Responsible Plan to End the War in Iraq?

Today's Washington Post mentions a hearing yesterday at the Senate Armed Services Committee in which Army Vice Chief of Staff, General Richard Cody, put his career in jeopardy, like so many before him have done, by implicitly criticizing the incompetence of the Bush Regime.
"I've never seen our lack of strategic depth be where it is today," said Cody, who has been the senior Army official in charge of operations and readiness for the past six years and plans to retire this summer.

This morning Brandon Friedman at VetVoice analyzed the session in light of McCain's aggressive military agenda.

Cody laments the "lack of balance" in today's Army, and says the "current demand for our forces in Iraq and Afghanistan exceeds the sustainable supply and limits our ability to provide ready forces for other contingencies... Current operational requirements for forces and insufficient time between deployments require a focus on counterinsurgency training and equipping to the detriment of preparedness for the full range of military missions." The stress on the fighting men and women, their families and the equipment is at dangerous levels.

Could the Bush Recession Turn Into the Bush Depression?

I don't know anyone who thinks we're not in a recession and I don't know anyone who says we're on the brink of a Depression. Most people have no reason to think we won't have a Depression; they just think "it can't happen here" or "now" or "to me." It shouldn't either. Nor should have George Bush. The most unlikely of morons to assume the presidency he's done everything that anyone could do to bring on a financial calamity. This morning's Paul Krugman column, Partying Like It's 1929, gets right to the point: right wing ideology is toxic. The "banking crisis of the 1930s showed that unregulated, unsupervised financial markets can all too easily suffer catastrophic failure." Krugman claims the hard-learned lessons were "forgotten" as the decades passed. I'm less generous.

To the laissez fairies of the extreme right Krugman's carefully regulated and supervised financial markets are communism. Anything that impedes absolute greed and selfishness in pursuit of the general good is treason. And along came Bush and his merry band of agenda-driven Mayberry Machiavellis.

Krugman is so logical and generous in his understanding of how markets work. I don't think he used the words "greed" or "selfishness" once in his column-- or even implied the base instincts behind them. But that is what has driven us to the brink of disaster-- and he knows it. He explains what made a garden variety recession of 1929 into the Great Depression of the 1930s and how society-- or at least the New Deal (imagine only 17 Republicans in the 1937 Senate)-- dealt with it. "And we all lived happily for a while-- but not for ever after."
Wall Street chafed at regulations that limited risk, but also limited potential profits. And little by little it wriggled free-- partly by persuading politicians to relax the rules, but mainly by creating a "shadow banking system" that relied on complex financial arrangements to bypass regulations designed to ensure that banking was safe.

Is John Edwards Really a Fighter? He Needs to Prove It on Telecom Immunity

Why do Senate Democrats keep electing fatally conflicted colleagues as their leaders? They didn't learn their lesson from red state compromiser Tom Daschle, who the Republicans could twist into a babbling pretzel anytime they wanted to by pitting the progressive national party against his... more conservative South Dakota constituents. So when the Republicans humiliated them by defeating their leader with a third rate hack, they promptly selected another vulnerable centrist would could be easily pulled in a dozen different directions by a dozen conflicting needs. To most Democrats-- the real ones in America, not the compromised careerists and bribe-besotted swine Inside the Beltway-- granting law breaking corporate executives (who helped Bush and Cheney shred the Constitution by spying on Americans) retroactive immunity is just plain wrong. (You can see how we got here here and here.) I think there are even a considerable number of Republican voters who would agree. I mean this crap is just plain unpatriotic and criminal-coddling.

This afternoon Jane put up a plea at FDL to the more progressive of the Democrats seeking the presidential nomination, John Edwards, to do what the compromised Insiders, Hillary and Obama, have refused to do: LEAD.

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Huckabee Equates Homosexuality With Bestiality

UPDATE: Huckabee Channels Man-on-Dog Santorum

In an interview with, a religion Web site, Huck has just clarified his view that the Constitution should be amended to be brought in line with God's will -- and he directly equated homosexuality with bestiality.

Huck, in elaborating on his views that the Constitution should be subjected to Biblical standards, had just wrapped up a discussion of the fact that marriage has meant "a man and a woman in a relationship for life." With this context firmly established, this exchange followed:
QUESTIONER: Is it your goal to bring the Constitution into strict conformity with the Bible? Some people would consider that a kind of dangerous undertaking, particularly given the variety of biblical interpretations.
HUCKABEE: Well, I don't think that's a radical view to say we're going to affirm marriage. I think the radical view is to say that we're going to change the definition of marriage so that it can mean two men, two women, a man and three women, a man and a child, a man and animal. Again, once we change the definition, the door is open to change it again. I think the radical position is to make a change in what's been historic.

There are a lot of reasons why Mike Huckabee has been getting miserable notices on the campaign trail-- not just from Democrats, but from Republicans as well. Many Republicans dislike him because of his quasi-populist policies. "Is this a Republican or some kind of John Edwards wanna be?" one GOP Insider fumed a few days ago. John Edwards he's not. But he does try to address concerns of some Americans who are not making 6 figure annual incomes. That's odd for a Republican. Unfortunately, he doesn't address them from an informed or even a helpful perspective.

A few days ago he blurted out what everyone has been waiting for him to say-- that we should make the Constitution conform to God's will. That's like Sharia law and it is certainly not what a consensus of Americans want, not even Republican Americans (at least not Republicans outside of the most backward of Deep South precincts). The Huckster tried laughing it off when he got called on it and said he just meant he was anti-gay, not like he really wanted everyone to have to pay tithes. Oh... whew; let me change my party registration.

Today the Moonie Times reports that Huckabee, whose nomination chances has been badly hurt because of his moderately pro-immigrant policies while he was governor of Arkansas, did the gigantic flip flop and jumped on the moribund and rotted-out, largely discredited Tancredo bandwagon: SEND ALL ILLEGAL ALIENS HOME.

What if Karl Rove Wrote the New York Times?

I hope to write a more extensive analysis of the situation I've been experiencing here in Myanmar once I leave the country. But this morning at breakfast I came across the local English language newspaper, The New Light of Myanmar. It mostly extols the beauty, virtue and joys of all things Burmese and contains page after page of grief from everywhere else in the world-- from multi-car pile-ups in America, earthquakes in Russia and Indonesia, floods in Sri Lanka, trade deficits in South Korea, to a bus accident in Bolivia and a shooting in a Birmingham pub.

When the government of Myanmar hired some Bush-connected lobbyists to spruce up their image in Washington, DC, they apparently decided against having them help out with the New Light. The back page of the paper this morning is a little heavy-handed, even for the Bushies. It features some interesting points it asks all Burmese to keep in mind:

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Should Democrats Root for Huckabee to Win the GOP Presidential Nomination?

This post, written by Howie Klein, originally appeared on Down With Tyranny!

Yesterday Buzz Flash reported that the chief shaman at the Falwell Corporation, Jerry's son Jonathan, sent out memos about his version of a god intervening in the Republican caucus race in Iowa-- on behalf of Mike Huckabee.
According to Jonathan Falwell, presidential aspirant Mike Huckabee believes that it is God, not himself, who is behind his rise in the polls: "Mr. Huckabee also said that Divine providence was responsible for his recent surge in the polls in Iowa, as he noted that he is the candidate with much less capital firepower than his rivals."
Former Arkansas Governor Huckabee made his comments during a recent visit to the "hallowed" grounds of the Liberty University campus.
Huckabee mightily impressed "Falwell the Second" when he also "identified the 'fanatic religious zealotry' of Islamo-fascism as a 'real threat' that must be confronted to protect the American way of life."
Whether you believe in the religionist mumbo-jumbo from the world of fundamentalist hucksterism and the modern day Elmer Gantrys, one thing is undeniable: Mike Huckabee is climbing steadily in the Iowa polls. And though Falwell II may interpret this any way he likes, others can make an even better case that the gods are doing this as a favor to Hillary and the Democrats.

Huckabee is now ahead of Flip Flop Mitt, who Iowans have taken a good look at and rejected as a man with neither a moral compass nor a moral anchor and no believable values of any kind other than an insatiable lust for wealth and power. According to yesterday's Des Moines Register, "Huckabee wins the support of 29 percent of Iowans who say they definitely or probably will attend the Republican Party's caucuses on Jan. 3. That's a gain of 17 percentage points since the last Iowa Poll was taken in early October, when Huckabee trailed both Romney and Fred Thompson. Romney, who has invested more time and money campaigning in the state than any other GOP candidate, remains in the thick of the Iowa race with the backing of 24 percent of likely caucusgoers. But that's a drop of 5 points since October for the former Massachusetts governor." Giuliani has 13%, Frederick of Hollywood 9% and McCain managed to tie Ron Paul at 7%.

23 Republican Retirements So Far and More to Come

This post, written by Howie Klien, originally appeared on Down With Tyranny!

Yesterday Trent Lott's unexpected resignation from the Senate and Denny Hastert's long overdue one from the House, brought the number of Republicans leaving electoral politics to 17 in the House and 6 in the Senate. The Chairman of the NRCC, right-wing extremist Tom Cole (R-OK) tried to put on a brave face. "I don't hear a drumbeat that 'We're not effective and I don't like it here anymore.'" Maybe he needs to listen more carefully.
But with so many lawmakers -- including a large number from competitive states and districts -- heading for the exits, it's hard not to point to the GOP's newfound minority status in Washington, the turnover in party leadership and the perilous political environment heading into 2008 to explain the exodus.
Chris Cillizza in this morning's Washington Post thinks it's no exaggeration to say Republicans find themselves in serious danger of falling deeper into the minority in both houses. He points out how retirements seem to be throwing Republican held seats in New Mexico, Virginia and Colorado to Democrats Tom Udall, Mark Warner and Mark Udall, respectively.

"It's in the House, however," according to Cillizza., "where surprise retirements in swing districts have badly crippled Republican attempts to bounce back from 2006. And it's in the House where there are likely to be even more retirements. Currently on Republican retirement watch are John Doolittle (CA), Bill Young (FL), Tom Davis (VA), and Roscoe Bartlett (MD). And although increasingly unstable Chris Shays (CT) says he's not retiring (as of this week), he's become so bizarre that you never know what to expect from him.

Huckabee Is No Better Than the Rest of the Pathetic GOP Pygmies

This post, written by Howie Klien, originally appeared on Down With Tyranny!

I woke up a little late this morning and flicked on CNN while I was getting myself together. Mike Huckabee had just joined Wolf Blintzer for a chat. Until last week, when a poll of likely Republican caucus goers in Iowa-- a subset of bigots, rubes and superstitious kooks who don't deserve to influence the outcome of a vote for anything past Miss Sioux City-- showed Huckabee catching up with Mitt Romney in the pointless race for the GOP nomination (at least in Iowa), no one was taking Huckabee seriously. Well wrestlers and professional clowns were.

Last week respected Arkansas Times journalist Max Brantley did an excellent Huckabee expose at Salon, The Dark Side of Mike Huckabee. The subtitle gives it away: "The national media seems to have a crush on our ex-governor, but here in Arkansas, we know better." Huckabee's main goal on CNN this morning was to come across as a friendly, common sense outsider with an easy sense of humor who wants to go to Washington to clean it up. Sounds familiar.

But in Arkansas people know him as an untrustworthy, vicious and distinctly unfriendly purveyor of hard partisan politics. And an incompetent. Even allies call him "petty," "vindictive," and "thin-skinned," and the many who do not admire him, like Brantley, go much further. In his very first campaign (1992), a failed run for the U.S. Senate, "Huckabee revealed an enduring weakness as glaring as that other Arkansas governor's fondness for women. Huckabee seems to love loot and has a dismissive attitude toward ethics, campaign finance rules and propriety in general. Since that first, failed campaign, the ethical questions have multiplied."
After he became governor in 1996, he raked in tens of thousands of dollars in gifts, including gifts from people he later appointed to prestigious state commissions.
In the governor's office, his grasp never exceeded his reach. Furniture he'd received to doll up his office was carted out with him when he left, after he'd crushed computer hard drives so nobody could ever get a peek behind the curtain of the Huckabee administration.
Until my paper, the Arkansas Times, blew the whistle, he converted a governor's mansion operating account into a personal expense account, claiming public money for a doghouse, dry-cleaning bills, panty hose and meals at Taco Bell. He tried to claim $70,000 in furnishings provided by a wealthy cotton grower for the private part of the residence as his own, until he learned ethics rules prevented it. When a disgruntled former employee disclosed memos revealing all this, the Huckabee camp shut her up by repeatedly suggesting she might be vulnerable to prosecution for theft because she'd shared documents generated by the state's highest official.
And liberals aren't the only ones who distrust and dislike Huckabee. He bristled, if only momentarily, when Blintzer asked him about his humane stance on the children of undocumented workers. Humane stances are not what the Republican Iowa caucus goers have been told they are looking for. Huckabee desperately wants to come across as a conservatove with conservatove positions. The Club For Growth views him warily as a big-spending, government-expanding phony. While governor of Arkansas, he raised taxes for schools, highways and children's health, expanding the role of government-- all no-no's for the hard line conservatives. And he's been a model of right-wing hypocrisy when it comes to the social agenda espoused by the non-millionaire end of the far right coalition, 100% homophobic but willing to be bought off by the purveyors of other "vices."

Is the GOP Ready to Nominate a Mob-Connected Man for the Presidency?

This post, written by Howie Klein, originally appeared on Down With Tyranny!

Giuliani's problems go well beyond his immediate associates-- criminals and ne'er-do-wells like best buddy/Mafia bagman Bernie Kerik, South Carolina cocaine dealer Tom Ravenel, or an assortment of monstrosities in his inner circle from child molesting priest Alan Placa to countless unscrupulous money men and paid off shills working to rig the election for Giuliani, like Paul Singer, the guy who has been bankrolling the attempt to steal California's electoral votes and the one fireman willing-- for cash-- to dispute Rudy's shameful real 9/11 record.

Today's Chicago Tribune has been digging where Republicans feared someone was bound to go eventually: Giuliani's multimillion dollar, very shady business connections. And "each revelation raises new questions for the first major presidential candidate in memory to build a multimillion-dollar business on the foundation of his time in elected office, and not the other way around."

Giuliani has managed to hide most of his mobster connections-- but not all. He hides behind "confidentiality agreements" and, basically, says that the crooks he's dealing with are entitled to their privacy. "Questioned during a campaign appearance Tuesday in Chicago, Giuliani said that, 'all of Giuliani Partners' clients, maybe with one or two exceptions, I'm not even sure that's right, are public. ... At least the ones that I was familiar with.'"

Senate Confirms Pro-Torture Mukasey As Attorney General

This post, written by Howie Klein, originally appeared on Down With Tyranny!

Late last night, when respectable people were fast asleep, the Senate confirmed Michael Mukasey, a pro-torture/anti-Constitution, ultra-partisan reactionary as Bush's Attorney General. This was engineered by two people, Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA). Whatever Mukasey does wrong should be lain on their doorsteps:
The 53-to-40 vote made Mr. Mukasey, a former federal judge, the third person to head the Justice Department during the tenure of President Bush, placing him in charge of an agency that members of both parties say suffered under the leadership of Alberto R. Gonzales.
Six Democrats joined 46 Republicans and one independent in approving the judge, with his backers praising him as a strong choice to restore morale at the Justice Department and independently oversee federal prosecutions in the final months of the Bush administration.
Thirty-nine Democrats and one independent opposed him.
"The Department of Justice needs Judge Mukasey at work tomorrow morning," said Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, the senior Republican on the Judiciary Committee. "The Department of Justice has been categorized as dysfunctional and in disarray. It is in urgent need of an attorney general."
But Democrats said Mr. Mukasey's refusal to characterize waterboarding, an interrogation technique that simulates drowning, as illegal torture disqualified him from taking over as the nation's top law enforcement official.
"I am not going to aid and abet the confirmation contortions of this administration," said Senator Patrick J. Leahy, Democrat of Vermont and chairman of the Judiciary Committee. "I do not vote to allow torture."
All five senators who are running for president -- Joseph R. Biden Jr., Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Christopher J. Dodd, all Democrats, and John McCain -- did not cast votes. The four Democrats had said they would not support Mr. Mukasey because of his equivocation during the confirmation hearings over whether waterboarding is torture. Mr. McCain has also denounced the interrogation method but he issued a statement last week saying he would vote to approve the nomination.

Why Do GOP Closet Cases Suck?

This post, written by Howie Klein, originally appeared on Down With Tyranny!

You may have noticed that there haven't been any moderate Republicans dragged kicking and screaming out of the closet lately and that all the Republican closet queens who have been outed are far right extremists. Everyone has a clear homophobic, bigoted voting record. Not one was sympathetic or even politically empathetic towards other gay people. Today's Seattle Times looks into what makes these men tick. The topic is a hot one in Washington because of the statewide, and even national, lurid headlines involving a local right-wing representative, Richard Curtis (R), a cross-dresser who reneged on a deal to pay a male prostitute $1,000 for unprotected anal sex.

Curtis was high on drugs all night, having sex with multiple partners in a sleazy porno establishment, and then capping it off with a liaison in his hotel with young Cody Castagna. He didn't have the full thousand to pay Castagna and was too out of it from all the drugs he had consumed to go to an ATM so he gave him a few hundred and said he could hold his wallet as collateral 'til the following day. Then, still too doped up to understand the consequences of his actions, he called a GOP political crony involved with law enforcement and told him he didn't want to press charges but wanted him to get the wallet back without involving the Spokane cops. The GOP crony wasn't on drugs and within hours Curtis' life was forever changed. The Times wants to understand how this could happen, how could politicians take such risks?

When Larry Craig (R) was arrested in a public toilet in Minneapolis-- and then pled guilty-- for soliciting sex from another male he was painfully aware he was under investigation for... having sex with a male in a public toilet in Washington's Union Station. Did he think that changing his hunting ground from railroad station restrooms to airport restrooms he was being cautious?

When Republican Congressman Mark Foley's life came tumbling down around his ears last year, he had led a half in/half out of the closet existence that was fraught with more and more risk every year as he felt surer and surer of his ability to transcend social (and right wing) mores. He was often seen being escorted around South Florida and DC in the company of handsome young men. He had been warned several times to stop paying so much attention to the underage male congressional pages. And then, drunk, he was caught trying to break into their dorm after midnight. But nothing happened. The risky behavior apparently had no risk. He was protected by other powerful closeted Republicans (Speaker Denny Hastert) and by powermad GOP leaders who didn't care if he raped a page a day as long as they could keep the seat red. Tom Reynolds (R-NY), John Shimkus (R-IL) and John Boehner (R-OH) were the culprits in that category.

Other Republicans are flirting with the same kinds of risks, especially David Dreier (CA), Patrick McHenry (NC) and Lindsey Graham (SC). "Why would any politician take such risks?" ask the Times
For the answer to that, start with the notion that people who go into politics are more likely than others to be risk-takers, say experts in the field. To a large extent, they're people who are comfortable inviting scrutiny because that's what politicians do to get elected.

Top Fred Thompson Donor Is a Drug Dealer

This post, written by Howie Klein, originally appeared on Down With Tyranny!

So Rudy Giuliani isn't the only Republican presidential hopeful who chose a big-time drug dealer for his campaign. According to tomorrow's Washington Post, Frederick of Hollywood "has been crisscrossing the country since early this summer on a private jet lent to him by a businessman and close adviser who has a criminal record for drug dealing." Philip Martin, the alleged "businessman" was in the same "business" as the head of Giuliani's South Carolina campaign, selling cocaine.
Martin entered a plea of guilty to the sale of 11 pounds of marijuana in 1979; the court withheld judgment pending completion of his probation. He was charged in 1983 with violating his probation and with multiple counts of felony bookmaking, cocaine trafficking and conspiracy. He pleaded no contest to the cocaine-trafficking and conspiracy charges, which stemmed from a plan to sell $30,000 worth of the drug, and was continued on probation.
This story is starting to sound very familiar-- and not just because of the cocaine. When Giuliani was confronted with Bernie Kerik's criminal past-- which court documents show he was clearly made aware of before he appointed Kerik to a string of jobs that proved very lucrative for both of them (and long before he tried getting Bush to appoint Kerik, despite his strong ties to the Mafia, to run the Dept. of Homeland Security-- he denied knowing anything (a blatant lie). Guess what Thompson says? Yep, he's reading right from the Giuliani playbook. Thompson claims he "was not aware of the multiple criminal cases" against the close friend who is known as "the head of 'Thompson's Airforce.'" The campaign says they didn't vet Martin because he was such a close personal friend of Sir Frederick's. Watch, in 2 weeks, they'll be claiming they never really knew each other.
Thompson's frequent flights aboard Martin's twin-engine Cessna 560 Citation have saved him more than $100,000, because until the law changed in September, campaign-finance rules allowed presidential candidates to reimburse private jet owners for just a fraction of the true cost.
I'll bet this doesn't get the kind of prolonged media attention the relatively innocuous Norman Hsu did for his Clinton donations even though "Martin has been more than just a key fundraiser to Thompson." Apparently there were tens of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, of dollars in flights that have not been properly accounted for.

There have been rumors around Hollywood for years that aside from being a notorious woman-chaser, Thompson is also a big-time coke hound. That would certainly explain the closeness with Martin, who has also been in cahoots with a shady right-wing extremist Zach Wamp, now a Tennessee congressman. "Archived Florida court records provide details of the various cases against Martin, including alleged sports-betting activity, a cocaine deal he arranged with an undercover sheriff's deputy and carried out through a middleman, and the sale of 11 pounds of marijuana to an undercover detective for $3,400. Martin produced the marijuana from the trunk of his 1973 Cadillac as the two were parked behind a Tampa-area department store, according to the arrest report.

GOP State Rep Caught Cross-Dressing With Male Hookers

This post, written by Howie Klein, originally appeared on Down With Tyranny!

UPDATE: GOP Rep. Curtis resigns, more details on this story here

According to today's Times-Picayune David Diapers Vitter (R-LA) "has agreed to pay a $25,000 fine for violating federal election laws during his campaign for the Senate in 2004." Kind of completes the image of what he is and always has been. He cheats on his wife and cheats the voters as well.

Meanwhile, way on the otherside of the country, up in Washington another I'm-Not-Gay-Republican-- yawn-- Washington Rep. Richard Curtis is all caught up in some extortion business with a gay prostitute. KREM, a Spokane TV station, reported that Curtis and the male hooker had "a sexual encounter and were seen together at various spots around the city." Spokane is just up the road apiece from Idaho and Curtis said, "I am not gay. I have not had sex with a guy." A.P. is reporting that Curtis and the hooker met at one of those porno video shops (the Hollywood Erotic Boutique) at 12:45am and then went back to Curtis' hotel room at 3:30am for sex. They don't say who did what to whom but the trick, Cody Castagna, demanded a grand to not blab that Curtis, who is married, is also enjoying the company of young men, and Curtis called the cops.

Before you start feeling too sorry for this chump, keep this in mind: he's a self-righteous right-wing turd who he voted against domestic partnerships for gay and lesbian couples. Last year, he opposed a gay rights bill that banned discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Flush another Republican hypocrite down the toilet. I've lost count.
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