Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Morning News Roundup (07 November)

It goes without saying, but... VOTE! And make sure that those around you also vote. No excuses for rain, no excuses for being busy (I've got both those in spades here in Seattle, with a slammed freelance work slate). I'm feeling hopeful, but I've been slapped down before. So do what you can to make Democratic majorities happen.

Top Story: Robo Calling
  • This year's heavy volume of automated political phone calls has infuriated countless voters and triggered sharp complaints from Democrats, who say the Republican Party has crossed the line in bombarding households with recorded attacks on candidates in tight House races nationwide.

    Some voters, sick of interrupted dinners and evenings, say they will punish the offending parties by opposing them in today's elections. But critics say Republicans crafted the messages to delude voters -- especially those who hang up quickly -- into thinking that Democrats placed the calls.

    Republicans denied the allegation, noting that their party acknowledges its authorship at the recorded calls' end. [WaPo]

  • But here's the real insidious problem, as explained by Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo:

    Most of the call's script is a fairly standard attack robocall, a series of Republican talking points aimed at the Democratic congressional in a particular district. Nothing particularly noteworthy. The key is the introduction. The lead into the call starts with the speaker saying 'I'm calling with information about' Dem candidate X. Then there's a short pause.

    At this point, you know it's an annoying robocall, so a lot of people just hang up. If you hang up then, you think it's a call from the Democratic candidate.

    Second, the repetition. And this part is the key. If you don't listen through the whole message, the machine keeps calling you back, often well in excess of half a dozen times with the same call. It only stops if you listen all the way through.

    And election law states that the entity responsible for the phone call be identified at the beginning of the call. Thus, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) has sent a cease and desist letter to the Republicans (view it over at TPM).

  • Salon's War Room has more
    When Illinois' Barrington Courier-Review asked an NRCC spokesman about the repeat calls, the spokesman said there must be a problem with the contractor the Republicans hired to do the calls or with the computer that is making them. In New Hampshire, a state law makes it illegal to place political robo-calls to state residents who have signed up for the national Do Not Call registry. The NRCC -- taking the GOP's usual federalism-is-great-except-when-it-isn't stance -- says it's going to keep making robo-calls in the state regardless of what state law says. "We are a federal organization campaigning about a federal race," an NRCC spokesman tells the Boston Globe. "We feel that New Hampshire law does not apply to what we are doing."

    And that really is the gist of it all -- the laws only apply selectively to opponents of the Replublican party. And if, for some reason, the judiciary sides with those opponents after the election, the Republicans will be happy to pay the required fines... as long as they're still in power.

BushCo's Wars
  • US ambassador in Baghdad Zalmay Khalilzad seems set to leave this winter. It is not clear why he is departing. Khalilzad has been the most knowledgeable civilian US official to serve in high office in Iraq, and many of his instincts and projects were promising. He tried to reach out to the Sunni Arabs and involve them in civil politics, e.g. But that he is himself a Sunni from Afghanistan made this move suspicious to the Iraqi Shiites, who bestowed on him the nickname, Abu Omar. (Omar was the second caliph of the Sunnis and not a big favorite of Shiites).

    I think Khalilzad also recognized the dangers of the plans for creating ethnic confederacies in Iraq, but in the end was unable to convince enough Iraqi interlocutors of it. My own view is that the State Department inherited from Rumsfeld a SNAFU, and it is not always possible to unfoul a fouled situation. [Juan Cole's Informed Comment]

  • In the kind of retrospective the White House would have preferred to see after Tuesday rather than before, McClatchy reporters Jay Price and Mohammed al Dulaimy say that insurgents have "filtered back" into Fallujah despite the checkpoints and other controls that were supposed to have kept them out. Violent attacks in the city have doubled since last winter. Insurgents have killed two city council members and nearly three dozen police officers. Police patrols have all but stopped in the city, the reporters say, because "officers fear to walk the streets."

    Fallujah resident Majeed al-Rawi tells the reporters that gunmen hid a bomb in front of his house a few days ago. His only option: Abandon his home. "If I report it to the Americans, I will be killed by the men who put it there, and if I don't, my family will be killed either by the explosion or the Americans," al-Rawi says. "This is not a way to live; this is a way to hate life." [Salon's War Room]

  • Iraq's Interior Ministry has charged 57 employees, including high-ranking officers, with human rights crimes for their roles in the torture of hundreds of detainees once jailed in a notorious eastern Baghdad prison known as Site 4. [WaPo]

  • European politicians on Monday spoke out against the death sentence for Saddam Hussein. Arab officials and commentators derided what they said was a flawed and politicized trial, while for the first time broadly acknowledging Mr. Hussein’s crimes.

    Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain, speaking to reporters on Monday, said he opposed the death penalty for Mr. Hussein, joining several other European leaders and European Union officials who announced their opposition to the sentence. When pressed by reporters, Mr. Blair spoke of his longstanding opposition to capital punishment. He said he did not intend to protest the sentence, and condemned Mr. Hussein’s brutality. [NYTimes]

  • In less than 10 minutes, Saddam Hussein was told he was guilty of crimes against humanity, but never exactly how or why.
    The full verdict, a document of several hundred pages, explaining how and why today’s judgment was reached was not released. U.S. officials said it should be ready by Thursday. So why issue the verdict today? U.S. court advisors told reporters today it was delayed mainly for technical reasons. All insist the verdict was not politically timed and that it was an Iraqi decision; there is no reason to doubt their word. [MSNBC's Blogging Baghdad]

  • From the joint editorial published in the Army Times, Air Force Times, Navy Times and Marine Corps Times newspapers (via Daily Kos):
    Rumsfeld has lost credibility with the uniformed leadership, with the troops, with Congress and with the public at large. His strategy has failed, and his ability to lead is compromised. And although the blame for our failures in Iraq rests with the secretary, it will be the troops who bear its brunt.

    This is not about the midterm elections. Regardless of which party wins Nov. 7, the time has come, Mr. President, to face the hard bruising truth:

    Donald Rumsfeld must go.

  • And here's Jack Cafferty on Rumsfeld, calling him "an obnoxious jerk and a war criminal" (hat tip to Atrios).




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