SOTU Live-blog

10:26 PM – It’s done. It’s okay, but good where it needed to be good – hitting Bush from the right on national security, using religious undertones, not being too mean. Nice.
10:25 PM – Ooh, nice religious rhetoric there.
10:22 PM – This part is actually quite good – he’s slaughtering Bush on national security issues.
10:21 PM – It’s just all so predictable. And so Mr. Rogers-y. But concise, which is good.
10:19 PM – He just sounds so nice. Even when he’s criticizing Bush. It’s so disconcerting.
10:17 PM – Really pushing the technocratic angle.
10:16 PM – Finally, it’s Tim Kaine time. Except that he sounds like Mr. Rogers. A lot like Mr. Rogers. Especially the missionary talk.
10:05 PM – Thank GOD it’s over. Now for Tim Kaine’s response.
10:04 PM – We could have accepted the division of Europe? We did. It’s called Yalta.
10:03 PM – We did nothing to invite ourselves into conflict in the Middle East? Moussadeq would beg to differ.
10:02 PM – Oh, that’s where he was moving – churches can end AIDS. Take that, Constitution!
10:01 PM – Focus on increasing access to AIDS medication. Easy clap fodder.
10:00 PM – He’s actually plugging his work of lobbying reform, and now Katrina? Oh, COME ON. This is too easy.
9:58 PM – He wants to ban human/animal hybrids? But I want a man-koala!
9:57 PM – Plugs Roberts and Alito. Complains that judges enforce the Constitution too much. Has a moment for Sandra Day O’Connor.
9:56 PM – We have proven the pessimists wrong? I think the last year says different.
9:55 PM – Yay, abstinence education! Yay, total ineffectiveness!
9:53 PM – Actually, focusing on increasing international competitiveness is a good idea, for a number of reason. I don’t have high hope for Bush’s proposals, of course.
9:50 PM – Okay, maybe some actual non-demented proposal to eliminate the need for foreign oil.
9:49 PM – Oh, fun, nuclear energy. And coal. Real safe fuels, those. NO! Hydrogen economy! Evil! ETHANOL! WORSE! KILL ME NOW!!!!
9:48 PM – It seems like every improvement he wants in the health care system would have greater benefits, more easily, with single-payer.
9:47 PM – Yes, let’s watch him get destroyed on health care!
9:44 PM – I love Hillary Clinton, and I love every Democrat who applauded when he said we “failed to act on my plan to save Social Security”.
9:43 PM – Yes, line-item veto! An actual good idea.
9:41 PM – I’m going to cut 140 programs to totally destroy the welfare state! Boo-yeah! And only save $14 billion!
9:40 PM – Fair taxes are “economic retreat”? Quoi?
9:37 PM – I’m actually sympathetic to the idea of American hegemony, so I don’t object to what he’s saying here so much.
9:36 PM – Al-Qaeda loves warrants, don’t they?
9:35 PM – NSA surveillance would have prevented 9/11, according to Bush. I’m sure that cameras in the streets would fight crime as well. Not a good idea, though.
9:33 PM – So, withdrawing from Iraq means we can’t fight AIDS or drugs or slavery? That makes a lot of sense, that.
9:31 PM – He’s talking about Iran: calling them terrorist sponsors, radical theocrats, nuclear threat – all true. Not so subtly asks Iranian people to revolt. Like his word will make them.
9:29 PM – Gets plenty of claps, especially from Joe Lieberman, on the Hamas issue.
9:28 PM – It seems this whole military segment is due to either Cindy Sheehan, Paul Hackett, or both.
9:27 PM – Great: his speechwriters can’t write for themselves, so they copy a Marine’s letter home.
9:26 PM – He’s clearly pleased with himself. For using half-baked, year-old talking points.
9:25 PM – “Second-guessing is not a strategy”. Sounds like words from a dictator.
9:24 PM – Oh, so the military decides when we leave? Because that‘s democracy.
9:23 PM – Is he seriously saying that the Iraqi government is making progress? That we’re winning? When the majority block organizes genocidal militias, that’s failure, not victory.
9:21 PM – He’s calling withdrawal isolationism? C’mon, call it common sense.
9:20 PM – Flypaper theory? Geez, this speech is stale.
9:19 PM – Good, he praises Islam. Watch LGF gag.
9:18 PM – This seems like the kind of speech Glenn Reynolds or Charles Johnson would have given a year ago. Isn’t the “Cedar Revolution” a, er, bust?
9:17 PM – Democratic peace theory rhetoric. After Hamas, not so convincing.
9:16 PM – Already a 9/11 reference. I think that’s a record.
9:15 PM – Good, he’s talking about free trade and internationalism. Credit where credit is due.
9:14 PM – Geez, he‘s talking about civility in debate? In front of Dick “Go F**k Yourself” Cheney?
9:13 PM – Oh, c’mon. Suck up some more on the Coretta Scott King thing.
9:12 PM – I. Hate. His. Voice. So. Much.
9:10 PM – GAH! CNN is a complete tool of the president. Dismissed charges of cronyism out of hand.
9:07 PM – Here he comes…
9:02 PM – It’s so disconcerting to see Alito as a justice. At least Roberts looks respectable enough.
8:59 PM – CNN’s doing a quite atrocious hagiography.
8:57 PM – Let’s do this thing.

I’m Going Ballistic

Top Five Reasons the Oscar Voters Should Be Destroyed By A Flaming Torrent of Doom:
5. Haven’t seen Crash, but Matt Dillon annoys the crap out of me.
4. I haven’t seen it, but considering Werner Herzog’s reputation I trust that Grizzly Man deserved a place above, say, The March of the Penguins.
3. Caché, by far the most interesting thriller I’ve seen, and Fateless, the best Holocaust movie I’ve seen, are nowhere to be found on the foreign language list.
2. Cillian Murphy in Breakfast on Pluto was marginally better than Philip Seymour Hoffman in Capote and infinitely better than David Straithairn in Good Night and Good Luck. He was completely and utterly robbed.
And the number one reason the Oscar voters should be destroyed by a flaming torrent of doom is…
1. Syriana is a much better movie than Capote or, certainly, Good Night and Good Luck. All three are exercises in deadpan, but at the very least Syriana has something more meaningful to say than “hey, McCarthy was a jerk”.
Though, I should say that this is the first year I’ve had strong feelings about the animated short category. “9” should win, in a walk.


72-25; boy, that sucks. Which leads Kevin Drum to wonder: what exactly is the purpose of the liberal blogosphere?
My answer? There isn’t really one. I’m not talking about Drum, or Brad Plumer, or Ezra Klein, or Matt Yglesias, or any of the other sorts of liberals on by blogroll. There’s all invaluable to the Democratic party, and to the public at large. They don’t just regurgitate news for partisan ends like Kos or John Aravosis do. They analyze it. They’re insightful, and do serious policy analysis. They’re wonks, basically; they care more about implementing policies that will benefit the world as a whole than about partisan gain.
I get the sense, on the other hand, that Kos and his ilk are hacks. They care about little more than regaining the White House and Congress. They have some ideology; they want the Democratic party to march in lock-step on divisive cultural issues like abortion and gay rights, which would inevitably damage the party politically. Basically, they want to turn the Democrats into liberal versions of Republicans: corrupt, politically driven, and not much caring about how badly they screw over the American people.
The Alito hearing basically confirmed this. Here, their conflicting notions of ideological purity and electoral fixation came into bloody conflict, with the former winning. And liberal hacks aren’t a delicate type; when it’s time for battle, total war is all that will do. So war it was, uncompromising, and non-endearing war. This is how effective they were at it. Their sole purpose was ensuring political success, and they couldn’t even do that. If the Republicans are a party of the hacks, we should be one of the wonks – we’ll be better, and more popular, for it.

To The Victors, Go the Spoils?

Barack Obama, the most honest man in Washington today, has this to say about the prospect of a filibuster:

Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., predicted on Sunday that an effort to try to block a final vote on Alito would fail on Monday. That would clear the way for Senate approval Tuesday of the federal appeals court judge picked to succeed the retiring Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.

Obama cast Alito as a judge “who is contrary to core American values, not just liberal values.”
But Obama joined some Democrats, including Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada and Charles Schumer of New York, in expressing his unhappiness with the filibuster bid.
“There’s one way to guarantee that the judges who are appointed to the Supreme Court are judges that reflect our values. And that’s to win elections,” Obama said.

I disagree, in that I think a Supreme Court appointment is too important to be treated as a right of a thinly (and possibly fraudulently) elected president. Alito will have a power over social policy that only eight other people will have; that someone so eager to give dictatorial powers to police and the federal government, and so eager to force women into back alley abortions, could set policies on those issues, is truly frightening.
But Obama hints at a larger point – we don’t want to be Hamas. We don’t want to be the party that waits until the incumbents get so corrupt, so autocratic, and so downright horrible that we’re the only option left for voters to turn to. Not to feed into Republican talking points, but we have to open up a positive front in the upcoming campaign, and not just a negative one. So what to propose? Well…

  • Free college. It’s cheap, it’s great policy (just think about what the G.I. Bill did to the American economy), and it’s great politics. It would make it possible for anyone who wanted to go to college to do so, as community colleges generally don’t have a real admissions process, which is the goal of any parent – so we have almost the entire adult population behind us on it. It would also make Americans much more competitive in the global marketplace, ensuring a secure economic future for the country.
  • Wealth tax. Get rid of all federal taxes, including the Social Security and Medicare taxes, and replace them with a progressive tax on net worth, with the first $100,000 of net worth excluded. This would be amazing politics, for a number of reasons. For one thing, the vast majority of people would not have to pay any taxes under this system – period. Not only that, but their paychecks would instantly increase, as FICA taxes would go away. Additionally, corporations would love it – they wouldn’t have to pay up either. Enormous economic growth would ensue, as corporations could grow more rapidly, and Americans would have more disposable income, which they would most likely spend, stimulating the economy. But progressive ends would be achieved as well – the gap between the rich and the poor would fall, and the working poor and middle class would have more money, instantly.
  • Guaranteed minimum income. Get rid of Social Security, welfare, etc. – just pay every family their poverty line wage. This would create more disposable income, obviously, which would stimulate the economy for the reasons outlined above. Also, it would effectively eliminate poverty, as everyone would be receiving at least the poverty line. However, to solve the so-called “Malibu surfer” problem, require that people over 18 who are not enrolled in school to make the minimum-wage for 40 hours a week (if without kids) or 30 hours a week (if with kids). That way, we won’t reward people who stay at home and do nothing, or, worse, join gangs, terrorist groups, etc.
  • Universal health care. This is an obvious one. For one thing, most Democrats, myself included, see health care as something of a human right, so this is a no-brainer. Moreover, corporations like it, as they would no longer be required to pay for health care for their workers. Average folks will eat it up, especially following the debacle that’s ensuing following the partial privatization of Medicare. And, of course, it will greatly improve health care.
    That’s my 2 cents. I think that these four work together well, as they all expand the federal safety net for average folks. Someone more clever than I could probably think of a witty slogan to encompass them all, but I think Reid & Pelosi would do well to adopt this.

  • Not Nixon-esque At All, Why Do You Ask?

    It just gets more and more reminiscent of the Plumbers, doesn’t it?

    Earlier this month, we were alerted to the existence of a series Abramoff photos at the website of Reflections Photography, a studio that does photo shoots for many Republican political events and sells copies to the individuals who attended the events and other members of the public through an online photo database. Reflections was an official photographer for Bush-Cheney 2004 campaign events and for the 2005 inauguration.
    One of those photos was of Abramoff and Ralph Reed at a party for the launch of Reed’s Century Strategies DC office in 2003. We contacted Reflections Photography and purchased the rights to publish that photograph and did so on January 11th.
    Things weren’t so simple with the late 2003 photograph of Jack Abramoff and President Bush.
    When we went to the page for the photograph of President Bush and Abramoff, the page in question had disappeared from the site. Indeed, in the sequence of photographs from the event in question, each had a unique identification number in perfect consecutive order. All were there on the site, in sequence, with the exception of the one that was apparently that of President Bush and Abramoff.
    I called back Reflections Photography and spoke to the woman who had earlier sold us the licensing rights to the other image. I told her there was another photograph we wanted to purchase the rights to publish but that it appeared no longer to be on their website.
    She told me that sometimes pictures going back as far as 2003 had not been transferred over to the online catalog.
    I told her that as far as we knew the photograph had been available on the site until quite recently. Then I asked if the photograph in question were available in their offline archives and whether I could purchase it that way.
    She said that it was and that the CD in question was available for purchase.
    I asked her if it would be possible for her to pull the CD. Then I could describe the photograph with the identification number in question to her to verify that it was the same picture.
    The woman, who was helpful and friendly throughout, said she could and asked me to wait a few minutes while she retrieved the CD in question.
    After a few minutes, she returned and proceeded to pull up the photo in question on the CD. Then, to her audible surprise, she told me the “photo was deleted” from the CD.
    That, as you’d imagine, caught my attention. So I asked what that meant. The woman from Reflections told me that that this sometimes happened when the White House wanted to prevent the public from accessing certain photographs of the president.
    When I asked her when this had happened she told she didn’t know and wouldn’t be at liberty to tell me even if she did.
    This was back on January 11th. From what we could tell, the photograph had been removed from the site roughly a week earlier.
    Now, we contacted Abramoff’s spokesman Andrew Blum. And he declined to comment. We contacted the White House press office but they wouldn’t return our calls. Since we can’t get the photo in question directly from Reflections or get any of the relevant parties to speak with us, there was really no way for us to proceed.
    But early this afternoon, I decided to take one more go at Reflections. I talked to company president Joanne Amos. We went back and forth over various questions about whether photographs at the site were available to the public and why some had been removed. When she, at length, asked me who it was in the picture with the president. I told her we believed it was Jack Abramoff.
    Amos very straightforwardly told me that the photographs had been removed and that they had been removed because they showed Abramoff and the president in the same picture. The photos were, she told me, “not relevant.”
    When I asked her who had instructed her to remove the photos, she told me she was the president of the company. She did it. It was “her business decision” to remove the photographs. She told me she had done so within the last month.
    So, here we have it that the president of Reflections admits that she removed photos of Abramoff and the president from their online database. If what her employee told me on the 11th is accurate the photos were also deleted from the CDs they keep on file in their own archives. So the scrub seems to have been pretty thorough.
    Did the White House send out the word to deep-six those Bush-Abramoff pics?

    This is one of those scoops that only Josh Marshall could do. You have to admire someone so diligent and willing to wade knee-deep in the waters of government secrecy and corruption.

    Kerry to Filibuster

    This is big:

    Sen. John Kerry will attempt a filibuster to block the nomination of Judge Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court, CNN has learned.
    Kerry, in Davos, Switzerland, to attend the World Economic Forum, was marshaling support in phone calls during the day, Democratic sources told CNN.
    Sources say Kerry talked to a group of Democratic senators Wednesday, and urged that they join him. He also has the support of fellow Massachusetts Sen. Edward Kennedy.
    Some senior Democrats told CNN they are worried that the move could backfire.
    Republicans would need 60 votes to overturn a filibuster — a procedural move that extends Senate debate indefinitely, effectively blocking a vote. Senior White House officials said the move would make the Democrats look bad, and that Republicans believe they have enough votes to overcome any filibuster attempt.
    Majority Leader Bill Frist, a Tennessee Republican, scheduled a vote to end debate on the nomination — called a cloture vote — Monday at 4:30 p.m. If that vote is successful, the final vote would be Tuesday morning.
    Nearly all 55 Republican senators have said they will vote for Alito. Only three Democrats — Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska, Sen. Robert Byrd of West Virginia and Sen. Tim Johnson of South Dakota — have said they will vote for the nominee.
    Earlier Thursday, Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana said she would oppose a filibuster.

    Via Shakes. I hope he’s got the votes, I really do. The White House is probably bluffing, and even with the Republicans as a monolithic front with the support of four Democrats, we might be able to peel off Olympia Snowe, Lincoln Chafee, and other pro-choice Republicans. I’d say it’s up in the air whether or not it’ll succeed, but Alito is just unacceptable, so I hope for the sake of the Republic that it does.

    Go Hamas!

    Let me be the first person out of Palestine to say that it’s a very, very good thing for Palestine, and for the peace process that Hamas won the Palestinian parliamentary elections. Let’s start with the obvious flaws with Fatah. It’s a corrupt, incompetent, lazy political machine that has driven Palestine into the ground for years. So much so, in fact, that Hamas has been functioning as a de facto alternative government for a number of years now. Fatah is so hopeless at dispensing welfare that Hamas has taken on the responsibility for many an unemployed Palestinian (and yes, due to the “security wall” there are indeed many). And it does it much more efficiently, cleanly, and fairly than Fatah ever did. Not that that’s hard.
    But there are positives to Hamas as well. It has adhered more strictly to the ceasefire of the past half year much more strictly than Fatah has, and so violence will likely decrease in coming months, especially with Hamas’ militant street cred aiding the cause of peace, a “Nixon goes to China” or “Sharon leaves Gaza” position, if you will. Additionally, in the past months, when it’s taken control of local city councils, it’s not focused on fundamentalist goals, but on clean, efficient governance. And, as mentioned before, they’re quite good at welfare, important in an area as impoverished as Palestine.
    Hamas isn’t a panacea of course. The best-case scenario for Palestine is its transformation into a cheap labor source for Israel, with it as Mexico to Israel’s U.S. That isn’t going to happen as long as there are Israeli roadblocks and the “security wall” preventing Palestinians from traveling into Israel and around Palestine itself. So Palestine’s economic prosperity is entirely at the mercy of Israel, and Olmert, Bibi, and even Peretz will probably not dismantle the wall and roadblocks if elected come March (and this election is a very good thing indeed for Bibi, who is least likely to help Palestinians in any way, shape or form). But Hamas allows the best prospects for Palestine and for peace of any party in the country, and, while by no means perfect, obviously, should be helped by the U.S., not shunned as Bush is planning.
    P.S. Let me just say that I can’t think of anything more appalling than this post. When it’s socially acceptable to openly advocate the genocide of one of the world’s most oppressed groups, what’s society coming to?

    One Down, Another Soon?

    It’s commonly accepted that both Tom DeLay’s Texas indictment and his (hopefully) forthcoming Abramoff indictment were his reason for stepping aside as majority leader; that’s one victory to arise from corruption investigation. But could DeLay’s former boss be next up?

    Jack Abramoff’s partner Mike Scanlon admitted to digging up former Congressman Robert Livingston’s private life. Set to become speaker, Livingston then got sidelined for Tom DeLay’s man Dennis Hastert. Prosecutors now checking if Abramoff and Scanlon took Livingston down at DeLay’s behest.

    Jack Abramoff was so powerful, and so in bed with DeLay that he decided who the senior-most member of Congress, and the third person in line to the presidency, would be. And it’s hard to see how Abramoff’s action didn’t help DeLay, and considering their well-established ties, I think there’s a great case to be made against DeLay on this, especially considering that Scanlon, Abramoff’s former press man, was part of the scheme. Still, I can’t get over the fact that a congressman had to pay a lobbyist, not the other way around, to influence Congress. That‘s how corrupt our government is.