As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Friday, April 15, 2005

Baseball in DC is not a political story

Even if every pundit and political professional that lives inside the Beltway (and thinks they're in the center of the universe) says so.

Just needed to get that out.


Our Face to the World

I think the writer will not mind if I reprint this in full:

Dear Sir:

I'm writing to urge you to consider blocking in committee the nomination of John Bolton as ambassador to the UN.

In the late summer of 1994, I worked as the subcontracted leader of a US AID project in Kyrgyzstan officially awarded to a HUB primary contractor. My own employer was Black, Manafort, Stone & Kelly, and I reported directly to Republican leader Charlie Black.

After months of incompetence, poor contract performance, inadequate in-country funding, and a general lack of interest or support in our work from the prime contractor, I was forced to make US AID officials aware of the prime contractor's poor performance.

I flew from Kyrgyzstan to Moscow to meet with other Black Manafort employees who were leading or subcontracted to other US AID projects. While there, I met with US AID officials and expressed my concerns about the project -- chief among them, the prime contractor's inability to keep enough cash in country to allow us to pay bills, which directly resulted in armed threats by Kyrgyz contractors to me and my staff.

Within hours of sending a letter to US AID officials outlining my concerns, I met John Bolton, whom the prime contractor hired as legal counsel to represent them to US AID. And, so, within hours of dispatching that letter, my hell began.

Mr. Bolton proceeded to chase me through the halls of a Russian hotel -- throwing things at me, shoving threatening letters under my door and, generally, behaving like a madman. For nearly two weeks, while I awaited fresh direction from my company and from US AID, John Bolton hounded me in such an appalling way that I eventually retreated to my hotel room and stayed there. Mr. Bolton, of course, then routinely visited me there to pound on the door and shout threats.

When US AID asked me to return to Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan in advance of assuming leadership of a project in Kazakstan, I returned to my project to find that John Bolton had proceeded me by two days. Why? To meet with every other AID team leader as well as US foreign-service officials in Bishkek, claiming that I was under investigation for misuse of funds and likely was facing jail time. As US AID can confirm, nothing was further from the truth.

He indicated to key employees of or contractors to State that, based on his discussions with investigatory officials, I was headed for federal prison and, if they refused to cooperate with either him or the prime contractor's replacement team leader, they, too, would find themselves the subjects of federal investigation. As a further aside, he made unconscionable comments about my weight, my wardrobe and, with a couple of team leaders, my sexuality, hinting that I was a lesbian (for the record, I'm not).

When I resurfaced in Kyrgyzstan, I learned that he had done such a convincing job of smearing me that it took me weeks -- with the direct intervention of US AID officials -- to limit the damage. In fact, it was only US AID's appoinment of me as a project leader in Almaty, Kazakstan that largely put paid to the rumors Mr. Bolton maliciously circulated.

As a maligned whistleblower, I've learned firsthand the lengths Mr. Bolton will go to accomplish any goal he sets for himself. Truth flew out the window. Decency flew out the window. In his bid to smear me and promote the interests of his client, he went straight for the low road and stayed there.

John Bolton put me through hell -- and he did everything he could to intimidate, malign and threaten not just me, but anybody unwilling to go along with his version of events. His behavior back in 1994 wasn't just unforgivable, it was pathological.

I cannot believe that this is a man being seriously considered for any diplomatic position, let alone such a critical posting to the UN. Others you may call before your committee will be able to speak better to his stated dislike for and objection to stated UN goals. I write you to speak about the very character of the man.

It took me years to get over Mr. Bolton's actions in that Moscow hotel in 1994, his intensely personal attacks and his shocking attempts to malign my character.

I urge you from the bottom of my heart to use your ability to block Mr. Bolton's nomination in committee.

Respectfully yours,

Melody Townsel
Dallas, TX 75208

Linc Chaffee has to come to his senses and keep this guy stuck in committee. He has a Web form. Send this letter. Speak from your heart. I did. Here's what I wrote:

Senator Chaffee:

While not a constituent, I am an American, who doesn't want to see our face to the world at the UN be an overbearing, boorish lout. I'm sure you've read the text of this letter that was provided to your committee, but I reprint it here. This behavior should not be allowed to go unchecked. You hold the key to opposing the nomination of John Bolton. Please do the right thing. Our reputation in the world has taken enough of a hit the last four years.


Thursday, April 14, 2005

Cover the Uninsured Week is coming

I don't know how I got signed up to receive messages from the National Council of Churches (probably one of my hate-mail providers that thinks I need saving), but if this email is any indication, this is a Christian Coalition I can get behind:

Dear Friends in Faith:

Thank you for your support of Cover the Uninsured Week (May 1-7) and commitment to Americans living without health care coverage.  At this time, more than 120 organizations, faith communities, partners and friends have signed on to support the campaign. Please visit this link for a complete list of who is involved this year. 

There's an event launch planned for April 27, with event planning resources, Web tools, and a National Day of Prayer all related.

This is the perfect way to honor the legacy of the late Pope and show that Christian values include, at the foreground, healing the sick and lifting up the needy. Even as a Jew I can stand behind that. So-called "values voters" need look no further if they want to see values in action.

Universal health care really should be the "big idea" tent pole that Democrats have found wanting the last few years. The country is ready for it. I don't think the "Harry and Louise" ads and "HillaryCare" namecalling would work this time around. Health care has simply become too big a problem for too many people, and obstructing legislation that would get all Americans covered would have grave consequences for the GOP. SF Bay on Kos has a great post that backs up this sentiment. He's right, every time the Republicans call it "HillaryCare," the logical answer should be "If she had her way, every American would be insured right now." I'd add this sentence to that: "You just want to be the party of no because you're fresh out of ideas." Oh for the day when that cudgel can become a double-edged sword.


Good News from the FCC

I got this from the gang at Stop Fake News:

Today, we can declare a major victory! The FCC has heard your voice and declared that TV broadcasters must disclose the source of video news releases (VNRs) produced by the government.

This is what today's Washington Post article said:

Television broadcasters must disclose to viewers the origin of video news releases produced by the government or corporations when the material runs on the public airwaves, the Federal Communications Commission said yesterday.

The FCC's ruling comes as video news releases produced by the Bush administration and aired as part of local television news reports have come under attack from critics who call them unlabeled Republican propaganda.

This is a positive step, and it gets the ball rolling in the direction of stamping out propaganda. Also, it allows Democrats to properly paint the use of fake news releases as uniformly wrong, backed up by FCC case law. It puts the Bush Administration on the run on this issue.


Local Progressive Radio

I'm under a mountain of work, but I thought I'd bring this to you, cross-posted by yours truly over at the Daily Kos. Air America rules, but it's imperative to act locally.


A logical extension of some of the local Kos sites that have cropped up would be a presence on the growing outlet of progressive radio.  Air America affiliates are now in 53 stations mationwide, covering a good bit of the country.  But most of them offer weekday programming, leaving the weekend largely open to reruns of Franken or Randi Rhodes or the Majority Report. KTLK-AM, the Los angeles affiliate, recently signed a few weekend talkers to discuss issues of local significance (Johnny Wendell, Cary Harrison, and Steve Young).

Why not branch our this far-ranging community into the progressive talk radio movement.
Diaries :: dday's diary :: :: Trackback ::

With Kos' approval, of course, we could approach local progressive radio affiliates with the opportunity to bring the biggest progressive brand (yes, Kos is a brand now) onto their radio station.

Air America is great as a foundation but local talkers that know its particular city's issues are crucial.  We know that under Howard Dean, the DNC is attempting to build local grassroots in every state, making sure that the people advocating for various positions are actually from those states.  Same with talk radio.  dKos Radio on the weekend would be a great base from which to discuss the kinds of issues we get into on here, with an added emphasis on local stuff.  It is not in competition with but complementary to things like Air America.

We all know the importance of the fourth estate in getting out the information that people need to make their electoral decisions.  I think this is a no-brainer.  Podcasting is great, but radio (for now) rules.  We have to be as aggressive at getting our message out as the other side.

I suggest (that is, if you think thyis is worth exploring) that we seek out possible candidates for this venture, come up with a proposal, and present it to some affiliates.  I have a background in broadcasting (TV, not radio), so I have some idea of how a proposal like this would work.  I welcome any other ideas.

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Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Creepiest thing I've ever seen

Via Digby:

That pretty much amounts to child pornography if you ask me.

This is a German ad, by the way. But it all comes from corporate HQ. I used to be really into deconstructing advertising, so here goes: McDonald's is safety, family, and baby fat. Maybe not the last thing.

Having a child teething on a sesame-seed bun like it's a security blanket is profoundly disturbing. Especially when documented studies show that the food will kill you. I don't get as much exercise as I should (damn blogging!) but my generally healthy diet at least keeps me from going into obesity territory. I haven't had a fast-food meal in probably a year. That's probably been the average for the last 10. I also don't drink soda. I'm not force-feeding myself tofu and brown rice every two seconds, but I'm not slowly suffocating myself on burgers loaded with fats and chemicals and preservatives.

A while back the California state government sought to enact a junk-food tax as a means to curb childhoos obesity. It's just amazing that we're that fucking gluttonous as a society that we can't say no to clearly horrible food unless it falls out of our price range. I imagine a future where Doritos and Hostess Twinkies are such luxury items that they become the new Courvoisier. We'll start seeing them in rap videos. "Got my Ho-Hos and my bitches and we're riding in our double-wide..."

Government shouldn't have to intervene on this. We should just have National "Shake-A-McDonald's-Customer-And-Have-Them-Read-About-What-They're-Putting-In-Their-Body" Day. But people are funny creatures, easiily abdicating responsibility for their own bodies. Government certainly does have a role to play in setting an example, and recognizing that this is a tangible public health issue (or at the least, a more important issue than whether or not SpongeBob is gay).


Let's Kill All the Judges

I don't think the latest GOP attempts to intimidate and threaten the federal judiciary are anything but that; threats. While they're screaming in favor of murder, it's merely more of the bullying tactics that they feel works so well. You can't help but blanch at the openly sanguinary tone, though. Like this from last week's "Confronting the Judicial War on Faith" conference in Washington:

Ominously, (lawyer/author Edwin) Vieira continued by saying his "bottom line" for dealing with the Supreme Court comes from Joseph Stalin. "He had a slogan, and it worked very well for him, whenever he ran into difficulty: 'no man, no problem,' " Vieira said.

The full Stalin quote, for those who don't recognize it, is "Death solves all problems: no man, no problem."

There's a guy who's probably lost a lot of cases over the years. Maybe it's not the judge's fault, but yours for studying Stalin quotes rather than defending your clients.

Then there's SpongeBob James Dobson of Focus on the Penis, I mean Family:

DOBSON: I heard a minister the other day talking about the great injustice and evil of the men in white robes, the Ku Klux Klan, that roamed the country in the South, and they did great wrong to civil rights and to morality. And now we have black-robed men, and that's what you're talking about.

This just adds to the pile started by Tom DeLay and John Cornyn last week. If anybody made anything resembling these kinds of threats against the Presidency, the Secret Service would be down their throats within minutes. In fact, they've done it:

CHICAGO - The Secret Service sent agents to investigate a college art gallery exhibit of mock postage stamps, one depicting President Bush with a gun pointed at his head.

"We need to ensure, as best we can, that this is nothing more than artwork with a political statement," (spokesman Tom) Mazur said.

Let's exercise some consistency, shall we? If you're investigating postage stamps, investigate rhetoric inciting riots and murdering federal judges.

But we all know that won't happen. Under Republican rule, threatening statements against judges are just seen as part of the debate. That whether or not a branch of the government should be impeached or killed constitutes political debate is an example of "moving the goalposts" so egregious, the goalposts are now sitting outside the stadium.


(Wing)Nuts and Bolton

Riffing off my "bullies" post from yesterday, I think that's what we have before us as the nominee to the UN. Underneath that Mr. McFeeley moustache, John Bolton is all seething rage:

Many eyes and ears in Washington focused in on the testimony of Carl Ford, the former director of intelligence and research at the State Department. In just under 3 hours of testimony, Ford denounced Bolton as a "kiss-up, kick-down sort of guy" who "abuses his authority with little people." Ford charged that in 2002, Bolton directed an abusive tirade at analyst Christian Westermann for questioning whether Cuba was developing biological and chemical weapons. He characterized the incident as shaking the foundation of the intelligence bureau and said it prompted Secretary of State Colin L. Powell to intervene.

It's truly amazing how angry Republicans remain despite holding almost all the levers of power in Washington. The answer to this conundrum is that only perpetual rage keeps the conservative movement awake. Rage is the life raft that allows conservativism to float over a sea of sensibility (to use a really strained metaphor). If you can just blow up and yell and scream, you never have to make sense, and you certainly never have to apologize when you're wrong. You just get angrier that someone found out you were wrong. When politics, pushed along by Crossfire and Hardball, turned into professional wrestling, it played right into the hands of conservatives. Debate got separated from facts. Making a point was scuttled in favor of humiliating people. And Bolton is an expert at all this.

The Bolton-as-bully connection was also noticed by Laura Rozen, who recognizes that he's not even being a bully for any kind of noble purpose. It's just because he doesn't ALWAYS get his way, and when he doesn't, he turns into a 6 year-old.

From Bolton's testimony yesterday about not having any particular interest in the UN intervening to stop genocide in Rwanda, even with the benefit of all that we know now that close to a million innocent people were slaughtered, it's clear Bolton's bullying is in no service to the good of making the UN save lives, or preventing North Korea from getting nuclear weapons, or Iran. His grandstanding has done nothing to prevent North Korea from becoming a nuclear power. It's just asshole for the sake of being an asshole.

Because there's this weird strategy of the conservative movement that believes that ord'nary Murcans LIKE assholes. I don't know if this is so far off base, but I do think it's necessary to turn the tables on that. Liberals allow themselves to be painted as the kind of niggling self-righteous people to whom it's OK to be an asshole. If that turns, and conservatives become painted as less like "rebels" and more like "dicky bosses" we'd be on to something.


Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Divorce American-Style

Political observers are claiming that news of Russ Feingold's divorce disqualifies him for a run at the Presidency in 2008. If that's true we've just excluded 50% of the population from competing in politics.

I'm divorced. I don't regret getting married, having that experience, and moving on from it. What that has to do with my political views is beyond me. Perception and politics frequently intersect, but the President isn't a robot that must conform to a rigid specified standard. Presidents should be allowed to be divorced, have beards, be under six feet tall, be female, be black, be whatever the hell they'd like to be. The only prerequisites in my mind are their policies and their competency.

I think after the Schiavo fiasco, Americans are far more likely to be receptive to an argument to keep private business private. Digby agrees that appeals to individual liberty and a "mind your own business" stance on social issues is ready for prime time. It has us in the state house in Montana, and can get us there in every other red state before long. If Feingold wants to run for President he would be an excellent test of the "mind your own business" strategy.


Monday, April 11, 2005

Kerry bashing continues

Conservatives, like all good playground bullies, continue to take sport in belittling John Kerry. Even if they have to make shit up to do it. James Taranto does it today:

John Kerry, the haughty, French-looking Massachusetts Democrat, who by the way served in Vietnam*, showed up yesterday at a Boston event, where he was "using crutches as he recovers from knee surgery," reports the Associated Press. He was also using emotional crutches as he recovers from last year's election:

"Last year too many people were denied their right to vote, too many who tried to vote were intimidated," the Massachusetts senator said at an event sponsored by the state League of Women Voters. . . .

Kerry also cited examples Sunday of how people were duped into not voting.

"Leaflets are handed out saying Democrats vote on Wednesday, Republicans vote on Tuesday. People are told in telephone calls that if you've ever had a parking ticket, you're not allowed to vote," he said.

Where did Kerry come up with that idea about leaflets saying "Democrats on Wednesday"? Probably from this story, which appeared a week before the election:

With the knowledge that the minority vote will be crucial in the upcoming presidential election, Republican Party officials are urging blacks, Hispanics, and other minorities to make their presence felt at the polls on Wednesday, Nov. 3. . . .

"You can't walk through a black neighborhood here in Miami without seeing our 'Don't Forget Big Wednesday!' message up on a billboard, tacked to a phone booth, or taped to a bus shelter," Monreal added. "The Republican Party has spared no expense in this endeavor."

Before Kerry embarrasses himself further, someone ought to take him aside and explain to him that the Onion is a satirical publication...

The Onion is funny, unlike Taranto. But they'll also far closer to the truth on this one. And who is surprised by that in today's America, where truth is stranger than fiction, where the ability to satirize is almost lost?

The following are several incidents from the Election Incident Reporting System that show exactly the kind of scenarios Mr. Kerry describes:

031926 11/02/04, 6:59 AM PST Other Phildadelphia, Phildalphia County, Pennsylvania Mother received a phone call with recorded message (President Clinton's voice) telling her that democracts vote tomorrow, not today.

031968 11/02/04, 6:52 AM PST Other Philadelphia, Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania Voter received auto-call reminding him to vote "tomorrow" (i.e., 11/3) Caller id phone number was blocked.

032198 11/02/04, 7:10 AM PST Other strofront on 12th street, Philadelphia, philadelphia county County, Pennsylvania AFter she voted and came home at 915 she found a message on her answering machine. It was a prerecorded message by Bill Clinton telling democrats to vote tomorrow (November 3!!!) At the end of the tape it said the organization is America Coming Together. 215-922-0112 is the number on the tape.

 040589 11/02/04, 12:38 PM PST Other Lakewood, , cuyahoga County, Ohio Received recorded call saying "This is Working America. Don't forget to Vote for Kerry tomorrow " (11/3). (Caller did a *67 to determine origin of call) Sister in Columbus OH saw a flyer "Republicans vote on Tues, Democrats vote on Wed." [P]

047143 11/02/04, 4:22 PM PST Other Cuyahoga County, Ohio this person was at the grocery store and heard people telling folks that republicans voted today and democrats voted to tomorrow (11/3). also people were told they could vote after 7:30 tonight (polls close at 7:30)

050956 11/03/04, 7:44 AM PST Other Maple Heights, Cuyahoga County, Ohio Election worker got reports from 2 elderly voters that they got phone calls early today saying that Republicans vote today and Democrats vote tomorrow. Worker thinks the calls targeted Democratic voters.

052287      11/04/04, 8:27 AM PST      Other      Maple Heights, Cuyahoga County, Ohio      Calling voters at home stating: - if you have parking tickets - child support outstanding.

032940      11/02/04, 7:47 AM PST      Other      philadelphia County, Pennsylvania      Rumor that Scout's law prevents you from voting. Person afraid that if shows up to vote will be arrested bc has lots of outstanding tickets against him. That's the rumor floating around. I clarified the rumor is false.

There were rumors of this in 2000 as well.

Kerry also did not say that any of this cost him the election, just that this kind of garbage has no place in the electoral process. Just as slashing the tires on Republican vans in Wisconsin has no place either. If one person is denied their right to vote in this way then it's one person too many.

Of course, the point of this hit piece by Taranto is not to discuss an issue. It's to get in a dig and heap ridicule and scorn on an opponent. That's how the right thinks they win, by turning their opponents into caricatures. Disagreement and debate are really beside the point. The point is to say "Ha ha funny French stupid crutches windsurfing botox tanning cream ha ha!!!" And these are the people who whine and cry about how libruls "hate Bush."

You know what you do with bullies, don't you? You punch them in the face. Once. Hard. They'll run away. We'll see in 2006 whether or not Democrats pull the punch.


Viva Democracia!

(note: why isn't that upside-down exclamation point on my keyboard?)

While we hear this bluster about spreading democracy and freedom around the globe, our closest neighbor directly to the south is having some trouble with it and we're not about to throw a lifeline. After 71 years of one-party rule in Mexico, Vicente Fox ran a "populist" campaign to get his PRI party into the Presidency. Now he's fending off a possible challenge by a real populist, Mexico City mayor Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, by basically conspiring with his Congress to make him ineligible to run for office. On Friday the legislature waived Lopez Obrador's immunity protection stemming from a minor offense (he allegedly ignored a court order in 2001 to stop building an access road to a private hospital). By the country's bylaws, anyone who is under criminal charges cannot run for the Presidency.

It's not like Mexico has a sterling record of democracy to begin with. Now the party in power is trying to rewrite laws to eliminate challengers. This has wide-ranging effects. Not only would a Lopez Obrador government have a chance to lift Mexico out of poverty, helping to stem illegal immigration by giving the working class a chance to thrive in their own country. But the symbolism of a creeping totalitarianism directly to our south has a debilitating effect to our rhetoric of leading the world in spreading democracy. Of course, we only want democracy on our terms, and paranoia over a leftist winning the vote in Mexico will cause a certain inertia by the Bush Administration to speak out against Fox and the Mexican Congress.

Meanwhile 150,000 Mexicans turned out to support Lopez Obrador:

Why are we the only country on the planet that doesn't give a crap about their own government? It's hilarious to hear conservatives so laudatory of street protests they presumably support, in Ukraine and Lebanon for example, and then turn around and call protests they reject "traitorous". The cognitive dissonance would be funny if it weren't so sad.


Shut Out

Jeez, I was knocked off of Blogger all day. It's like having all these things you want to write but not having any paper. Or worse, the paper is incompatible with your pen.

Now that I'm up and going, I'll have a few things in a jiffy.

I thought the article in today's LA Times on wage stagnation was interesting, considering I learned today my wage is going to stagnate to 0 dollars by the end of June if I don't get on the stick. Are we headed to a return of the malaise days of the late 70s? I don't know, rising gas prices, inflation outpacing wages... if it looks like a duck and sounds like a duck...