Archive

  • A DISAPPOINTING START....

    A DISAPPOINTING START. Joe Conason is right : The race between Murtha and Hoyer present two astonishingly unappealing options. Murtha is hawkish, corrupt, conservative, and a dear friend to the defense industry -- year after year, he's the top congressional recipient of their donations, and he repays them in full. His brave comments on Iraq were aberrational rather than characteristic, and his emergence as the progressive choice is evidence of some very short Democratic memories. Hoyer, however, is fetishistically centrist, corporatist, and at odds with Pelosi . His elevation is likely to make for a profoundly dysfunctional Democratic majority. My personal view is that this is basically an early referendum on Pelosi. Murtha is a loyalist, and a vote for him is a vote for her. That said, for those expecting the Democratic majority to last for a little bit, new wars will emerge, new issues will arise, and new progressives will be required. There's always the hope that Murtha has bought...
  • HEATH SHULER: ACTUALLY A DEMOCRAT.

    HEATH SHULER: ACTUALLY A DEMOCRAT. As the invocations keep coming, I rise to defend Congressman-elect Heath Shuler , who must be getting damned sick and tired of having his marvelous underdog win characterized by the side that got skunked last week as a de facto win for its principles, and even by his own , winning side as a shrewd tactical abandonment of its own. Here's a very good local account of Shuler's win. Shuler didn't win because he was slightly less conservative than Charles Taylor , the Republican he whacked. He won because the party Mr. Taylor represented has so revolted the American public that the "R" next to someone's name was enough. (And God help anyone if the actual Republican president brought his leprous public image by to call.) This was how Taylor lost in Asheville and Lincoln Chaffee lost in Providence, and it's the only thing that those two have in common. Democrats won last week because they were Democrats and also because they were reckoned by most of the...
  • THE POPULIST. ...

    THE POPULIST. Jim Webb 's Wall Street Journal op-ed today is a full-throated blast of up-with-the-people populism. He spends four paragraphs fiercely decrying "our society's steady drift toward a class-based system," attacking out-of-control CEO pay and decrying the middle class squeeze. But the really fascinating bit comes when he settles into the fight and picks his targets. This ever-widening divide is too often ignored or downplayed by its beneficiaries. A sense of entitlement has set in among elites, bordering on hubris. When I raised this issue with corporate leaders during the recent political campaign, I was met repeatedly with denials, and, from some, an overt lack of concern for those who are falling behind. A troubling arrogance is in the air among the nation's most fortunate. Some shrug off large-scale economic and social dislocations as the inevitable byproducts of the "rough road of capitalism." Others claim that it's the fault of the worker or the public education...
  • YOO TWO: IN THE NAME OF LOVE.

    YOO TWO: IN THE NAME OF LOVE. The ACLU is trying to get its hands on something we lowly national-security reporters have tried for years to obtain. That's something known colloquially as Yoo Two -- Yoo as in John Yoo , the torturer from the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel in the first Bush administration. And Two as in a second memo in or around August of 2002 about torture. The first memo -- and here "first" is a statement about when it was released, not necessarily when it was written -- is the infamous August 1, 2002 memorandum on torture, which radically redefined torture as anything approaching severe organ failure or death, meaning anything short of that standard -- and maybe even that itself, Yoo argued -- was permissible under the president's commander-in-chief powers during a time of war. But we've long believed there was a second memo, Yoo Two: a piece of paper that specified in detail what the CIA could do to detainees in its custody. And according to Dan Eggen...
  • SHALL WE DANCE?...

    SHALL WE DANCE? Well, since the Dems waltzed into the House and did an elaborate tango into the Senate, I confess I find myself a bit shamefaced for having doubted their ability to take the lower chamber. But now, a week later, I'm ready to put all that behind me to focus on the the intramural dramas now gripping both political parties. A pal at the blog Blue Jersey who goes by the handle JRB points up a charming irony in the choice of Senator Mel Martinez of Florida to chair the Republican National Committee. Like New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez , Martinez is a Cuban-American who recently voted to table an amendment to the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act that would have prohibited immigrants convicted of document fraud and identity theft from receiving Social Security benefits -- a vote for which Menendez was villified in a television spot run by his Republican opponent, Tom Kean, Jr. . JRB asks if the righties will take Martinez to task for, as the Kean ad states it, "want[...
  • MORE OF THESE PROBLEMS

    MORE OF THESE PROBLEMS : Trent Lott -- your new Republican (in a word I hesitate to use in this context) whip. Red State has to be happy about Jeff Sessions 's chances now! -- Scott Lemieux
  • STALKING.

    STALKING. Last month , a Chinese Song class diesel electric submarine approached , apparently undetected, to within 5 nautical miles of the USS Kitty Hawk, well within both missile and torpedo range. The submarine then surfaced, and was reported by a recon aircraft. What's going on here? Diesel electric submarines are remarkably difficult to detect, but I'm nonetheless kind of surprised that one was able to get so close to a USN supercarrier. Kitty Hawk has an escort group and multiple recon aircraft whose job it is to detect approaching submarines. Indeed, a carrier battle group normally includes a nuclear attack submarine specifically to deal with undersea threats. Even if, as PACOM chief Admiral Fallon has suggested, the group was not conducting anti-submarine exercises, they have to be embarassed by the failure to pickup the Chinese sub. I'm also a bit surprised that the Chinese sub was of the indigenously built Song class rather than of the newer and quieter Russian Kilos. It's...
  • MORE MURTHA.

    MORE MURTHA. Clearly my voice doesn't matter one iota to the final outcome, but I would like to reiterate my concerns about Jack Murtha's bid to be Majority Leader. There is a lot of netroots support for Murtha based on his call to end the Iraq War sooner, and the optics of having a Vietnam vet and staunch defense hawk make that case. Fair enough. I can understand that. But what about this ? In the last year, Democratic and Republican floor watchers say, Mr. Murtha has helped Republicans round up enough Democratic votes to narrowly block a host of Democratic proposals: to investigate federal contracting fraud in Iraq, to reform lobbying laws, to increase financing for flood control, to add $150 million for veterans' health care and job training, and to exempt middle-class families from the alternative minimum tax. Then there's the ethics committee : Former congressman Chris Bell (D-Tex.) said yesterday that Murtha helped elevate Rep. Alan B. Mollohan (W.Va.) to the top Democratic spot...
  • BAD PLEDGE. Forgive...

    BAD PLEDGE. Forgive me for getting all Massachusetts on you for a moment, but the worst thing done by Nancy Pelosi , both during the campaing and continuing since Tuesday, was her declaration that she was going to run the squeakiest-clean Congress there absolutely ever was. In the first place, it's a promise she is wholly unable to keep. She can no more keep every member of her caucus personally honest than I can. Sooner or later, every caucus has someone overcome by the greedyfingers and, now, there's a perfect frame built in which Pelosi gets a huge portion of the blame when rookie Congressman Grabitall gives his drunk brother-in-law a superhighway for Christmas. (Progressive groups are already starting to fungo Jack Murtha 's head all over the Beltway, using Pelosi's vow for the bat.) Lobbying reform? OK. Gift bans? Count me in. But the cleanest Congress ever? A sucker's bet. If men were angels, as my man Jimmy Madison once mused... Moreover, the goo-goos unnerve me. The greatest...
  • DEMS PROVE DOBBS WRONG:

    DEMS PROVE DOBBS WRONG: A while back I accused Lou Dobbs of misleading readers of his November 1 CNN.com column by asserting that "whether the Democrats or Republicans take control of the House and Senate, corporate America has just bought a license to outsource more middle-class jobs to cheap foreign labor markets, to continue unabated so-called free trade." I argued that, overall, the Democrats are clearly more critical of corporate-friendly free trade arrangements. Well, as The Washington Post reported Tuesday: As Democrats prepare to take control of Congress, incoming leaders are planning to insert labor and environmental protections into pending trade treaties and to demand that the Bush administration adopt similar measures in future pacts it negotiates, congressional aides and government officials said yesterday. Also see Harold 's latest column discussing the fair-trade leanings of the incoming crop of Democratic freshmen. Here's hoping Dobbs might refrain in the future from...

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