Wyoming Moves Primary to January 5, Drives Me Crazy

I've been blogging a lot about the changes to the primary schedule, and maybe I'm the only one who cares. But I think it's fascinating that what we have on our hands is a complete failure of the prisoner's dilemma. Every state knows that maintaining some degree of sanity in our primary system is good for American democracy, but every state also knows it can get some cheap recognition if its primary is super-duper early. And instead of being mature about it and taking the communal route, everyone's basically grabbing for the brass ring.

The latest such sinner: Wyoming. The least populous state in the nation, Wyoming (and its three electoral votes) deserves no special attention. Regardless, Wyoming has leapfrogged Iowa and New Hampshire and has placed its primary at January 5. "We're first in the nation," State party County Convention Coordinator Tom Sansonetti told the AP. "At least for the next couple, three weeks until New Hampshire and Iowa move, which I expect they will."

Exactly, you jerk. Now we're going to have Iowa on Christmas Eve, and then Florida will move its primary to the day after Thanksgiving and old geriatrics will have a choice between shopping and voting. And then New Hampshire will choose Halloween and then South Carolina will choose Labor Day, ruining your travel plans. As Wonkette noted, "Idaho is having a primary right now, in the men's room!"

The only good that can come of this is if these idiot state parties, state legislatures, and secretaries of state just drive the whole primary system off a cliff and it becomes so hopelessly f-ed up that the DNC and RNC have to reconstruct it from scratch. That's the only chance for sanity here.

Previous angry coverage of the primary calendar's shifts: regional primaries, insufficient candidate responses, South Carolina gets in on the act, someone finally pays a price.

White House Settles First Amendment Suit

Some of you may recall the recent discovery of a 103-page White House manual on how to "handle" protesters. The "Presidential Advance Manual" goes into great detail about how to prevent protesters from showing up at a presidential rally, and how to curtail their activities if they are pesky enough to show up, anyway.

Jeff and Nicole Rank, you will also recall, were two protesters who showed up at a presidential rally in Charleston, West Virginia, in 2004, and they were arrested for wearing T-shirts that had a line through the ersatz president's name on the front, and on the back of one were the words "Love America, Hate Bush." The Ranks were arrested for trespassing when they were asked to leave and refused to do so.

The city of Charleston, suddenly remembering the U.S. Constitution, later apologized to the Ranks. Jeff and Nicole Rank, however, did not believe that the Charleston police were the masterminds of their arrest, so, with the ACLU, they sued the director of the Office of White House Advance for violating their First Amendment rights. The ACLU recently announced that the case has been settled and the U.S. government will pay the Ranks $80,000. Sometimes, it's a pleasure to see your tax dollars at work.

Acknowledging a mistake, U.S. forces have released eight Iranians, including two diplomats, seized at the Baghdad Sheraton Ishtar hotel yesterday. The Iranians from the Ministry of Electricity had been working at the invitation of the Iraqi authorities.

"Iraqi Foreign Minister Hosyhar Zebari told the British Broadcasting Corp. the Iranians were released after Iraqi officials intervened and told the Americans they were part of an official delegation on a legal visit to discuss electricity cooperation," the AP reports.

The seizure came hours after President Bush delivered a speech to the American Legion convention in Reno, Nevada in which he had threatened to confront Iranian operatives in Iraq.

"I have authorized our military commanders in Iraq to confront Tehran's murderous activities," Bush was cited. "The Iranian regime must halt these actions."

An Iraqi advisor to U.S. Iraq commander General David Petraeus, Saadi Othman, insisted there was no connection between the two events. "Othman ... told British Broadcasting Corp. television that the detentions were 'regrettable' and had 'nothing to do' with President Bush's remarks on Tuesday," the AP reports.

Ugh.

President Bush plans to ask Congress next month for up to $50 billion in additional funding for the war in Iraq, a White House official said yesterday, a move that appears to reflect increasing administration confidence that it can fend off congressional calls for a rapid drawdown of U.S. forces.
The request -- which would come on top of about $460 billion in the fiscal 2008 defense budget and $147 billion in a pending supplemental bill to fund the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq -- is expected to be announced after congressional hearings scheduled for mid-September featuring the two top U.S. officials in Iraq. Army Gen. David H. Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker will assess the state of the war and the effect of the new strategy the U.S. military has pursued this year.

Actually, Petraeus and Crocker won't be assessing anything. As the White House plans make clear, it is a foregone conclusion that Petraeus and Crocker will present only good news. So the White House will write (or has already written) the September report, then the White House will send Petraeus and Crocker out to publicize the report, then the White House will use the report it wrote to justify increased war spending. Fantastic. Escalation forever!

Keep this in mind when you argue with your Republican friends:

[T]he cost of the war in Iraq now exceeds $3 billion a week.

Shame on Larry Craig? Or on the Cops?

If, as an open-minded liberal, you are somewhat uncomfortable with the idea that an individual, gay or otherwise, can be arrested for repeatedly tapping his foot in a public bathroom, I would suggest the Slate article up today that contains an email dialogue between the magazine's editors.

Among other excellent points raised, there is this question: since when is propositioning someone illegal, even if done in a public place? Doesn't there need to be more "conduct" involved for a lewd conduct charge?

Update: As you may have seen on today's internets, Larry Craig held a press conference saying that he pleaded guilty — even though he is not really guilty — in order to make the situation go away. (That plan does not seem to have worked out for the senator.) Craig also said, "I am not gay."

No, senator, you are not gay. You just like sex with men. And that's fine. We just wish you would own up to it so young, gay Idahoans don't think being homosexual is the worst thing in the world.

All Quiet in Ankara?

Turkey has a new president. The military appears to have accepted him, at least for now... See my previous post on this issue here.

Here's a sidebar to the Cobell v. Kempthorne case—the long-running lawsuit over the government's admitted mismanagement of the Individual Indian Trust (MoJo Sept/Oct 2005). An Interior Department attorney who revealed his agency's bungling of Indian properties faces the federal boot for disclosing these problems to a newspaper. According to documents released by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), the government is invoking an obscure criminal statute known as the Trade Secrets Act (TSA).

Robert McCarthy, responsible for overseeing management of properties of individual members of Indian tribes held in trust by Interior, has documented massive losses due to agency missteps. Yet the problems persist, costing Native Americans millions of dollars a month in lost revenues. His concerns were validated by an Inspector General report that has yet to be finally released.

So, McCarthy provided a reporter for the Palm Springs Desert Sun a copy of his Inspector General disclosure with individual names blacked out. The reporter wrote a story in April, and four months later, Regional Solicitor Daniel Shillito proposed that McCarthy be fired for violating the TSA, which prohibits the release of "confidential" financial or commercial information. PEER suggests the TSA doesn't apply since McCarthy revealed no names or any information that could be considered confidential, and since the TSA only prohibits releases which damage the economic interests of the submitter. McCarthy's disclosures were designed to benefit property holders by identifying and ending unjustified losses.

Significantly, Shillito was supposed to clean up large-scale asset mismanagement and losses identified back in 1992. McCarthy found these had never been addressed. JULIA WHITTY

Dueling Accents: Dems Visit the South

Hillary Clinton gets a lot of guff for her now-you-see-it now-you-don't Southern accent...

...so it's worth pointing out that Barack Obama has one, too.

Sen. Tim Johnson to Seek Reelection

Later today, ABC News will have an exclusive on-air interview with the South Dakota senator, who is recovering from a brain hemorrhage that nearly killed him. But here's the big news hook:

Johnson, a Democrat whose seat is key to his party's tenuous hold on the Senate, does not intend to retire next year.
"Throughout, Senator Johnson talks candidly with Mr. Woodruff about his daily struggles and his determination not only to return to the Senate next week, but to seek re-election in 2008," the network said in a release.

People wonder why the Democratic leadership in the Senate has trouble getting anything done. Well, a 51-member majority isn't really a majority with one senator from the party in the hospital, one senator a quasi-Republican, and four senators on the presidential campaign trail. Welcoming Tim Johnson back into the fold, as a healthy member of the party, is a step in the right direction.

(H/T Political Wire)

Fredo's Last Supper

bush_gonzo_dinner300x210.jpg

After this photo was taken, Alberto Gonzales stepped onto a small fishing boat with one of President Bush's children. At the last moment, the child was called away and an ominous looking man in a fishing hat took the child's place. Drifting in the middle of the lake with the man in the hat sitting behind him, the man nicknamed "Fredo" began to say the Hail Mary. And this is how Alberto Gonzales met his end.

Update: Alas, I am not the first to think along these lines.