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Monday: Weiner, Massa and Vitter

Anthony Weiner has offered to seek professional help. This is probably a good idea. democratic congressional leadership has generally been supportive of members seeking therapy. Remember Patrick Kennedy’s addiction to sleeping aids and his bizarre behavior behind the wheel? That was ok, we understood. Take some time off, Patrick, get your act together. We still love you.
With Weiner? Ehhhh, not so much. Maybe it would have been better for him if he had claimed to have strutted his stuff while on ambien. Anthony wasnt thinking ahead.
So, now Steny Hoyer is on the warpath and wants him out, out, out! He’s cranking up the ethics committee. There will be investigations and accusations and crippling legal bills. This is not going to be pretty. Funny how David Vitter didn’t have to run this gauntlet. I guess those good Christian Republicans are just a lot more forgiving,
But more than that, this frenzy of the Democratic leadership reminds me of last year’s piling on of Eric Massa. The details of Massa’s indiscretions always did seem a little sketchy to me. And it was the usual suspects, Nancy and Steny, who seemed desperate to completely ruin the man’s reputation in order to force him to resign. Let’s not forget that Massa was a liberal hold out who wasn’t going to vote for the health care insurance reform bill. He was a real obstacle to the vote counters who wanted to give Obama a win.
Anthony Weiner may be a guy with a masturbation problem but if he hasnt broken any laws, let the guy get some help and show some compassion. The fact that compassion is in short supply on the Democratic side of the aisle and the continuing presence of david Vitter in the Senate suggests that the leadership of both parties protects who it wants to protect and gets rid of the people who stand in the way of the agenda. What makes me think this is more than a sex scandal is that when it happened to Massa, the ethics committee investigation disappeared the minute he resigned.
So, what is it Steny wants that a strong liberal might stand in his way of getting?

As a followup to yesterday, the youtube blogger, Mompetition, shows us what its like to live in Soccer Momville when you have a brain of your own. It’s not pretty but it is damn funny:

and this one is for Atrios:

be afraid, be very afraid

Weiner’s junk more important than 9% unemployment?

Another politician proves to be human.  Film at 11!

No scratch that.  We don’t want to see the film.

Here’s what I want to know:

1.) Did Weiner harass any of the recipients of his sexts?  From what I can see, sexual harassment is pretty much under control in the corporate world, though it seems to be thriving in the political world.  French women are ready to take off some heads over the DSK incident.  They seem to think American women have this issue licked. But sexual harassment is for amateurs.  Working women know that more insidious forms of discrimination fly under the radar.  It’s the stuff that harder to pin down that can ruin a career: emails that are never responded to, phone calls not returned, names left off the meeting list, information not shared, constant criticism of women employees coupled with effusive praise of the men, resulting in whole departments where all of the women are in junior positions compared to all of the men.  Layoff time comes, guess who gets the ax?  (Read the last paragraph of Krugthulu’s latest Conscience of a Liberal post.  It is unintentionally revealing.)  The gratuitous misogynism against Hillary Clinton in 2008 seems to have made the problem worse because no one was held responsible.  We all witnessed it and the guys who did it got away with it.  That was quite an example to set for the rest of society and the world.  Congratulations, Democrats!

2.) If he didn’t harrass anyone, why do we care what he did with his dick?  I mean, seriously, when are we Americans going to stop stopping the news to chase down what people do with their bits and pieces?  All data seem to point to the conclusion that hormones will make us do stupid things that make grown ups look like horny teenagers.  Ok, most people never grow up.  Where’s the news in that?  If Weiner didn’t do anything ethically wrong, he should volunteer to resign right after David Vitter does.

3.) Unemployment is still at 9%.  I see not one but THREE  headlines about Weiner’s dick on the front page of the NYTimes.   Here, here and here. I take that back.  There are two more.  This one and this one.  And this one.  Six.  The way the press is piling on reminds me of the way they piled on Eric Massa.  Oooo, out comes the threats of an ethics committee investigation (see point 1 above).  And apparently, no one liked him.  Stupid Liberal.

Stop the press cycle!  There are millions of people out of work, losing their houses, health insurance and struggling to feed their kids.  Let’s all look at what Anthony Weiner did with his junk!  This is the hot, breaking story that will make Andrew Breitbart!  Will he become the conservative blogosphere’s version of Kim Kardashian?

What are Obama and Congress going to do about unemployment?  Paul Krugman is following up on Christie Romer’s insider bean spilling in The Fatal Pivot: Why did half of Obama’s economic team decide to pivot its attention away from the plight of the unemployed to the deficit?  Why didn’t they see the destruction of the country’s scientific infrastructure in the unemployment numbers?  That is going to weigh heavily on Obama’s legacy.  Not only did he allow millions of people to slip into poverty, he allowed the careful dismantling of our R&D industry.  In recent months, the dismantling has accelerated.  Companies can’t seem to shed jobs fast enough.  Pretty soon, there will be too few scientists left to do research and the marketing and advertising guys will have to pick up the slack in the labs.  (As if)

I’m not voting for that kind of shortsighted underperformance and no lefty should settle for it this far out from the election.  We should all be asking ourselves why we are putting up with this crap.

Focus, left blogosphere.  There is an opportunity to turn this around if we all stick together.  The media attention to the lascivious and prurient is disgraceful when so many people are suffering.  Shame on the NYTimes.

“Unnamed Sources” Up the Ante on Massa Harrassment Accusations

Eric Massa

Why are the powers that be so afraid of what newly retired New York Representative Eric Massa has to say about the treatment he has gotten from Rahm Emanuel? If Massa’s complaints are really so “ridiculous,” as the President’s press secretary Robert Gibbs said on Good Morning America today, why isn’t the White House simply ignoring him?

Carol D. Leonnig of the Washington Post has a new story up about alleged ethical accusations against newly retired Rep. Eric Massa (D-NY). According to these anonymous sources,

Former Rep. Eric Massa (D-N.Y.) has been under investigation for allegations that he groped multiple male staffers working in his office, according to three sources familiar with the probe.

The allegations surrounding the former lawmaker date back at least a year, and involve “a pattern of behavior and physical harassment,” according to one source. The new claims of alleged groping contradict statements by Massa, who resigned his office on Monday after it became public that he was the subject of a House ethics committee investigation for possible harassment.

Leonnig also writes that two anonymous sources claim that the sexual harrassment complaints against Massa were reported to the House Ethics Committee by a former staffer.

Massa’s former deputy chief of staff Ron Hikel provided the information about the staffers’ allegations to the House ethics committee three weeks ago. Hikel had earlier sought advice from Majority Leader Steny Hoyer’s office about brewing internal complaints, the sources said, and had been urged to report the allegations to the committee.

Hikel, reached at his home Tuesday, declined to comment on the ethics investigation.

According to this local WGRZ story, from March 5, Hikel claims to have been sexually harrassed by Massa.

An alleged harassment scandal involving the Southern Tier Congressman began four weeks ago.

That’s when a young male staffer in Massa’s office went to a senior member of the staff and said that Massa had been harassing him.

According to the Gannett’s Washington Burerau, that senior member was Massa’s former legislative director, Ronald S. Hikel, according to a source familiar with the investigation. Hikel is a military veteran and friend of Massa’s who was hired last year as the congressman’s expert on health care issues, the source said. His last day at work was Feb. 26.

2 On Your Side’s Erika Brason spoke to Hikel on the phone, but he would not confirm or deny any information.

I’ll continue to update this post with any new information I find.

A Sailor’s Daughter Discusses “Salty Language”

Crossing the line

Chris Bowers  headed to the fainting couch yesterday when Eric Massa violated his delicate sensibilities.  Massa recounted his days at sea and talked about the Crossing the Line ceremony for sailors who cross the equator for the first time.

My dad was one of those guys who crossed the line, having spent most of the Vietnam War at sea.  He was no typical squid.   He was a serious, family guy (or so we think).  He never swore.  When his ship was in port, we would sometimes go onboard and check the place out.  Those ships were labyrinthine places with lots of chutes and ladders that sailors would slide down on their elbows.   The food was pretty good, especially when my dad was in charge of the mess.  The sleeping quarters were tidy but cramped with narrow metal bunks  riveted onto the wall and stacked three bunks high.  Forget privacy.  People were coming and going at all times of the day and night as they finished their shifts and climbed into bed.  That’s where my dad lived for 8 months at a time while we lived in relative luxury at home.

Dad filmed a crossing the line ceremony once.  The film had that garish coloring of the home movie and was shot on a brilliantly sunny day somewhere in the Pacific.  What I remember of this hazing ritual was that the fattest sailor on the ship was dressed up like King Triton.  A bucket of something vile and disgusting was brought out and smeared on his belly.  The polliwogs were forced to crawl on their knees to the King and kiss his belly.  There were attendants to the king dressed up in drag with stringy blonde wigs.  My little sister and I were grossed out and fascinated at the same time.  Did our daddy have to do that too?  Ehh, by the time the film was shot, my dad was a veteran of such affairs.

We’re pretty sure that a shipful of males in the prime of their lives in the middle of nowhere on an endless sea communicate in a lot of salty language.  They must have gone nuts.  People are social animals.  They need family and friends and physical touch.  I can’t  imagine spending eight months at sea and never deliberately touching another human being.  I’m betting that my dad had some stories to tell, although I’ve heard that the really kinky sailors are on subs.  Even sailors like my dad were wary of them.   It’s different these days because life shipboard is not exclusively male.  Back when my dad was a sailor, it was the path for lower middle class guys to learn something and get ahead.  That’s probably why stories like Massa’s seem so foreign to the Chris Bowers and Josh Marshall’s of the world.  They can’t fathom what it’s like to be a poor working class guy stuck on s flat gray hunk of metal in the middle of the ocean months away from their wife and kids.

Eric Massa is an extrovert.  He looks like he’s a bit of a loose cannon as well.  I kinda like that about him.  And his stories of life aboard ship are going to resonate well with a lot of working class guys who took a similar route in life.  Maybe Massa can shake things up a bit while he has some face time with the public.  What does he have to lose at this point in time?  His leadership has apparently made an international incident out of something that took place at a wedding reception when he behaved like a drunken sailor and got carried away.  He regrets his behavior as unbecoming of a congressman, as well he should.  But if Massa were the standard for politicians, then Cheney should have been thrown out of office for telling a Senator to go fuck himself, Newt Gingrich would never be taken seriously again for getting blowjobs in his car from a staffer, and Jim Bunning would be publicly reprimanded for giving reporters the finger last week.  Let’s not pretend that Washington is a place where every day is a cotillion.  There are a lot worse sins than Massa’s and harrassment cases a lot more straightforward and unambiguous.

Bowers and Marshall reveal their revulsion of working class people when they get all fluttery over Massa’s life as a sailor.  But more than that, they reflexively smear a Democrat who challenges authority.  They get all nervous when a Democrat doesn’t conform.  They repeat the smears of Democratic leadership without reflection.  Does what Massa did rise to the level of impeachment?  Was it really harrassment?  Or is this a case of a guy who won’t stay in the lines and therefore must be punished? I really wish the A listers would stop and think about what they’re doing for a change.  Their initial reason for being was to stand outside the status quo.  Now, they are the status quo and carrying the water of the type of people they once railed against.

So, Eric Massa is going up to 11.  While I don’t particularly care for Glenn Beck, no publicity at this point is bad publicity.  Eric has nothing to lose.  Go for it, Eric.  Give’em hell.

And Chris Bowers can go frak himself.

Eric Massa

I met Eric Massa in Las Vegas in 2006 at the first YearlyKos convention.  He was milling around the lobby of the Riviera, trying to round up people to walk down the street to the tackiest bar you’ve ever seen for a drink.  I thought he was buying.  As we sat in the faux fur covered lounge pit groups around a blazing fire, in a scene that was more like apres ski cross pollinated with Hooters, Eric Massa delivered a riveting stump speech.  He was an energetic, charismatic, full monty, unapologetic politician with principles.  At the end of it, he asked for twenty bucks from all of the rag tag followers hoping to get a free beer from him.  I ponied up my share, bought my own drink and thought it was money well spent.

I wasn’t at all surprised when he won his district in 2008.  But I was very surprised that there are allegations of harrassment against him.  Call me a cockeyed, pollyannaish type but I’m not buying it.  In fact, I am not the kind of person who thinks everyone has a heart of incorruptible gold.  Most people have something they would prefer to hide from the world.  There’s  a Stranger lurking in the dark recesses of every human soul. But this ethics charge doesn’t quite ring true.  All of the breathless reports from  Politico and WaPo sound more like tabloid journalism.  It’s all extremely vague.  Someone said something about something else and they were brought to the ethics committee in chains and forced under duress to suggest that there was something going on.  Well, what can you expect from Politico?  You know where they stand.  They’re the Fox news of what appears to be legitimate political journalism.  They specialize in rumor, innuendo and wild speculation.

I can do wild speculation too.  So, here’s my best guess as to why Eric Massa is retiring.  He bucked his leadership on the health care reform bill.  He held out for single payer.  Being a Navy vet, he probably sees the benefits to a single payer system. (We should at least explore the idea)  And now he is being made a poster child for what happens to you if you cross Steny Hoyer.  Maybe they told him he wouldn’t get any help from the home team in his re-election bid this fall.  Massa comes from a swing district.  Just to put the cherry on the sundae, Hoyer follows up on Massa’s announcement by idly speculating on the ethics charges.  It *almost* sounds like he’s instigating whoever is making them to go to the ethics committee and report Massa.  Now, why would you knife one of your own like that?  Presumably, you still need Massa’s votes for upcoming bills, at least until he actually goes back to NY.  Maybe it’s because Massa isn’t expected to cooperate on much of anything Hoyer wants, to which I say, good for Massa.

But it must be putting a chill on anyone else who doesn’t want to play the establishment political game.  Step out of line and not only will we make your re-election difficult, we’ll ruin your reputation and your family life.  Nice.

Well, I’ll just leave it at that.  What more is there to say?  I hope that Massa hasn’t suffered a relapse of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and I really hope that the ethics charges are a whole lot of sound an fury signifying nothing.  But I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see  Congresscritters with a lot less determination than Massa cave to the demands of the House leadership on health care reform.  Let’s face it, most of them are craven, don’t-rock-the-boat, let’s-all-get-along, student council types anyway.  Even the bravest among them still want to be loved by their friends.  They’ll cave.

Good luck, Eric.  We’ll miss you.

Saturday: Getting down to business

The direction is clear.  We are voting for Downticket Democrats (double D’s?) this year.  Our goal is clear: no matter who ends up president, we need representatives with strong progressive values who will stand up to the Blue Dog Democrats, the financial interests, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid.   In my humble opinion, that’s the best way for us to honor Hillary Clinton’s request without us violating our consciences. It is up to us to save the Democratic party from itself (BTW, whose job was it to remove sharp objects from the room whenever the DNC meets?)  It’s a thankless job.  Just ask Hillary about it.  No good deed goes unpunished.  Nevertheless, it is the right thing to do.   So, to that end, I am putting together an ActBlue page for The Confluence that will allow those of us who feel so inclined to make contributions to these new leaders.

But I’m only one person and I can’t analyze every race so I’d like you to give me some direction.  You know your local races better and can tell who will move the ball forward and who won’t.  For the moment, I think we ought to cut a break for the candidates who caved to pressure and endorsed Obama.  There are exceptions of course.  For example, no one should feel obligated to donate money to John Kerry, Robert Wexler, Frank Lautenberg (Hmmm, how hard is it to run for Senate in NJ?  I wonder…) etc.

I have a few people in the page already who I think would be very nice additions.  Linda Stender, my personal fave, is joined by Dennis Schulman, probably the only blind candidate running for Congress this year.  Eric Massa in NY, used to be an aide to General Wesley Clark, has a wonderful charismatic presence and is a good progressive.

When making your selections, you might want to use FrenchDoc’s criteria in mind (updated and edited).  Use your best judgment.  We aren’t looking for ideological purity.  We are looking for candidates who are committed to the Common Good, sharing risk, social justice, fiscal responsibility, a healthy planet, privacy and wise use of diplomacy.  The candidate should be committed to:

  • take privatization of SS off the table
  • prosecution of the Bush crime clan
  • promotion of women’s and LGBT’s rights
  • progressive economic policies
  • committment to energy independence and Green Collar jobs
  • Universal health care
  • repeal of no child left behind; committment to world class education
  • out of Iraq / no bombing of Pakistan
  • reinstate habeas corpus
  • commitment to appointing progressive judges on SCOTUS, no waffling
  • commitment to reproductive rights, pro-choice (safe, legal, rare will do)
  • no telco immunity (substitute Net Neutrality since FISA is off the table.  Thanks for nada, BO)

Ok, get busy, Conflucians.  Find me your candidates.  You can either pitch your candidate in the comments or send them to me via email.  Here’s the address: theconfluence08 at yahoo dot com.  I will add your picks to our ActBlue page and together, we can send reinforcements to Congress this fall.  And don’t forget that your monetary contributions are only a small part of the effort require to get these people elected.  We will also need to canvass and phone bank for these new leaders.  We’ll be organizing those efforts in the weeks ahead.  Time’s a-wastin’!

And now an update to the Drawing the Line post the other night: According to the NYT, it seems that our heroine may be indisposed to carry Obama’s water.  She’s busy, busy, busy, working for downticket Dems, probably for the same reasons we are.  Obama might lose.  Says so right in the article.  Anyway, the Obama campaign may be waking up to the stupid corner they have painted themselves into and are realizing they are f%*&ed where Sarah Palin is concerned.  Couldn’t happen to a better Chicago politician.

McCain shouldn’t get too cocky.  We may be easy but we ain’t cheap.  Getting our support is going to come dearly.  We want to see a committment to equal pay, for example.  Put your money where your mouth is.  We do not subscribe to the theory “Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?”  R-E-S-P-E-C-T.  Sock it to me, Sock it to me, Sock it to me, Sock it to me!