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

Saturday, October 14, 2006

The Cell Phone Calling Project

I'll be phonebanking tomorrow at one of MoveOn's Iraq for Sale movie parties. Now, if you're like me, you don't particularly relish making a bunch of phone calls to strangers. And while you understand its importance, nothing will magically turns you into someone who likes doing it. For those people, be they the terminally shy or the generally misanthropic - two core constituencies in the Democratic Party :) - I have come up with the perfect antidote, a way every single person on this site can get involved and make an impact in this election. It's amazingly simple.

Call everyone in your cell phone.

The virtues of this are limitless.

While I've become convinced that there's a great value in reminding voters of the need to vote, I still think they get inundated with robocalls and DNC calls and state party calls and statewide candidate calls and individual district candidate calls and city council candidate calls that there becomes a certain law of diminishing returns.

This is not at all true when you're calling the family and friends who are in your cell phone. You know them, you know how to talk to them, you can cajole and persuade and yell at them to get to the polls. And the message will be received more strongly. Word of mouth is the greatest form of advertising you can deliver. While people will tune out many of the traditional phonebanking calls, when it comes from a friend or family member it has more weight.

So that's it. You go right down the list in your address book, from A to Z, and ask your friends and family to vote, make sure that they're registered, tell them how to get an absentee ballot if needed, tell them how to find out where their polling place is, and if they have a higher level of engagement, tell them how to volunteer, or tell them to do this cell phone calling project themselves. This will end up in a huge amount of registered voters being called. There are 85 numbers in my cell phone. If I don't want to call someone in there for whatever reason, they ought not be in the address book in the first place. I don't know if this is true of you, but I have certain friends of mine that don't really know about my commitment to progressive politics. Well, it's well past time everyone knows, well past time we all start speaking up in our communities. It's up to us to come out of the shadows and make sure everyone in our sphere of influence gets to the polls.

THIS WORKS. I did it in 2004 and was successful in getting friends and family to vote. So much so that a couple, unsolicited, called me during this year's primaries looking for answers on their polling place or how to get an absentee ballot. I started this year's calling early, ensuring my friends and my parent's friends in my birthplace of Pennsylvania were registered and had all the information they needed.

But with three weeks to go, now is the time. The Cell Phone Calling Project, if it reaches just 1/100 of all of those on progressive blogs, can reach A MILLION PEOPLE or more. Those are significant numbers.

And you should be systematic and statistical about this. Type up a spreadsheet and fill it with the names of your cell phone. Check off those reached, and check off those who vote when you verify it. Tangibly seeing the results is key.

Here's a political action that costs 0 dollars (especially if you call on free weekends) that could potentially reach as many targeted voters as the vaunted Republican 72-hour GOTV project. This is open-source, netroots, viral, gate-crashing activism. Let's do it.


Friday, October 13, 2006

Another Friday Afternoon, Another Two House Republicans Under Federal Investigation.


Rep. Jim Kolbe, come on down! You're the next contestant on, the House Republican Is Right(ly) A Criminal!

Federal prosecutors in Arizona have opened a preliminary investigation of a camping trip Congressman Jim Kolbe, R-Ariz., took 10 years ago that included two teenage congressional pages, a Justice Department spokesman told NBC News.
A spokesman for the Justice Department in Washington said that the U.S. attorney in Arizona has started a "preliminary assessment" of the trip, after an unidentified source made allegations about the congressman's behavior on the expedition...

One participant, who requested anonymity, said he was uncomfortable with the attention Kolbe paid to one of the former pages. He was "creeped out by it," he said, adding that there was a lot of "fawning, petting and touching" on the teenager's arms, shoulders and back by Kolbe...

Kolbe's office issued a statement to NBC News denying that anything improper had happened. "The rafting trip back in 1996 consisted of five current staff, two former pages, and his sister," a spokeswoman for Kolbe said. "There is absolutely no basis and no truth to any [allegations of] inappropriate behavior."

Actually, this sounds indefinite to me. It's Kolbe's word against the boy's. Kolbe is the Republican Party's only openly gay Congressman, and he's retiring. Could there be a witch hunt here to send a message, or to purge the gay Republicans from Washington? It's not impossible. But clearly, you can't excuse the potential that behavior like this went on. This would be statutory rape at worst, and sexual harrassment at best.

All this talk of sex leaves me longing for some good old-fashioned Republican graft and corruption. Thank you, Curt Weldon!

The Justice Department is investigating whether Republican Rep. Curt Weldon of Pennsylvania traded his political influence for lucrative lobbying and consulting contracts for his daughter, according to sources with direct knowledge of the inquiry.

The FBI, which opened an investigation in recent months, has formally referred the matter to the department's Public Integrity Section for additional scrutiny. At issue are Weldon's efforts between 2002 and 2004 to aid two Russian companies and two Serbian brothers with ties to strongman Slobodan Milosevic, a federal law enforcement official said.

The Russian companies and a Serbian foundation run by the brothers' family each hired a firm co-owned by Weldon's daughter, Karen, for fees totaling nearly $1 million a year, public records show.

Karen Weldon was 28 and lacked consulting experience when she and Charles Sexton, a Weldon ally and longtime Republican leader in Delaware County, Pa., created the firm of Solutions North America Inc. in 2002. Both are registered with the Justice Department as representatives of foreign clients.

The nepotism among Congress is a pernicious, occasionally bipartisan, but of late a major Republican problem. Both endangered House candidates in California, John Doolittle and Richard Pombo, have their wives on the Congressional payroll. The LA Times ran a story on Weldon's daughter's financial windfall back in February.

You can add to these investigations this report on movement conservative Grover Norquist, who was laundering money through clients of Jack Abramoff:

Five conservative nonprofit organizations, including one run by prominent Republican Grover Norquist, "appear to have perpetrated a fraud" on taxpayers by selling their clout to lobbyist Jack Abramoff, Senate investigators said in a report issued yesterday.

The report includes previously unreleased e-mails between the now-disgraced lobbyist and officers of the nonprofit groups, showing that Abramoff funneled money from his clients to the groups. In exchange, the groups, among other things, produced ostensibly independent newspaper op-ed columns or news releases that favored the clients' positions.

Officers of the groups "were generally available to carry out Mr. Abramoff's requests for help with his clients in exchange for cash payments," said the report, issued by the Senate Finance Committee. The report was written by the Democratic staff after a yearlong investigation and authorized by the Republican chairman, Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) [...]

The Senate report released yesterday states that the nonprofit groups probably violated their tax-exempt status "by laundering payments and then disbursing funds at Mr. Abramoff's direction; taking payments in exchange for writing newspaper columns or press releases that put Mr. Abramoff's clients in a favorable light; introducing Mr. Abramoff's clients to government officials in exchange for payment; and agreeing to act as a front organization for congressional trips paid for by Mr. Abramoff's clients."

Oh yeah, sitting member of Congress Bob Ney pleaded guilty to bribery charges today.

Remember, everything was going to be fine in the midterms before Mark Foley. Yeah, right.


Quick Hits

Here's a collection of some interesting stuff:

• The blogosphere is abuzz about the top British general in Iraq's assessment that the continuing presence of coalition troops in Iraq only "exacerbates the security problems" and contributes to the "moral and spiritual vacuum" that is opening up in Western society, damaging our efforts to fight Islamic extremism.

He lambasts Tony Blair's desire to forge a "liberal democracy" in Iraq as a "naive" failure and he warns that "whatever consent we may have had in the first place" from the Iraqi people "has largely turned to intolerance."

Why does Sir Richard Dannatt hate America? And Britain?

• I thought that this Dana Milbank piece was revealing.

President Bush has always been a disciplined man, but yesterday he set a new standard for self-control: He moderated an hour-long discussion about the rash of school shootings in the past week without once mentioning the word "guns."

Wouldn't want to piss off the NRA, now, would you?

This story is purportedly about Iranian rhetoric toward the US, but it's MUCH darker than all of that, hinting in its final paragraphs at the coming wider civil war within Islam:

In his speech, Ayatollah Khamenei also accused Jordan's leader King Abdullah II of being a "dependent" spokesman for the US.

King Abdullah, a Sunni, accused Iran in 2004 of trying to create a "Shia crescent" of power from Iran to Lebanon.

The Middle East is on the precipice of a chaos that will last a decade. Better get gas for your car TODAY, because it mightn't be there to get tomorrow.

Glenn Greenwald had a good piece on the mission creep of the war on privacy. Did you know that it's now illegal to engage in a leisure activity over the Internet, in your own home, which harms no one? Not masturbation, online poker. It was tucked into a defense bill. Now, gambling is addictive and dangerous and has powerful consequences from those who get caught up in it, but regulating what is an individual activity within the home shows you just how far the war on privacy is going.

• More good polling news. This reflects a definite trend, as all the polls suggest a shift to the Democrats. Plenty of time to go, however, and no time for complacency.

Cenk Uygur of the Young Turks had a good piece in the Huffington Post about Lt. Commander Charles Swift, the lawyer who won the Hamdan decision over the White House and was promptly fired by the military.

Where's the uproar? Where was the uproar when General Eric Shinseki and Army Secretary Thomas White were moved out of the Pentagon for having the courage to tell Don Rumsfeld the truth about troop levels? Where was the uproar when Bunnatine Greenhouse was removed from her job as chief procurement officer for the Army Corps of Engineers when she complained that Halliburton was unfairly receiving no-bid contracts and was getting away with overcharging the US government? Where is the uproar now that we have lost the service of yet another American hero?

• George Allen's got a rap sheet. Does it mean anything? Dunno. But I'll tell you, Allen-Webb may be the dirtiest Senate race I've ever seen.


The Company You Keep

This has the potential to be explosive. It's speculative right now, but it certainly makes a lot of sense. There are very few real secrets in the White House and on Capitol Hill. Bill Maher mentioned this on his show last week, likening it to Hollywood, where scandalous stories in the press are met with a yawn, because they're well-known to those in the know.

Well, George Bush's team is in the know when it comes to Washington. And it certainly seems like they knew Mark Foley was radioactive at some point in 2004:

Foley wrote to Gov. Bush on Sept. 29, 2004:

Have I done something to offend the White House … I am always getting the shaft … they came to ft pierce a few weeks ago and said I was not allowed to attend … yet joe negron is there …

Tomorrow Potus is in Martin County and I am told I am not allowed to be there either. I can’t quite figure what I have done but this is a continuing pattern of slights … I have constantly put the President in the best possible light on everything from haiti to hurricanes … sorry to trouble you … and I wouldn’t if this wasn’t so frequent …

More here, including Foley possibly asking for Gov. Jeb!'s advice around the time of the November 2005 email to a House page which set this whole scandal in motion.

So what we have here, if this bears out, is that the President didn't want to be seen with a dirty perv, though he didn't mind being seen last night with the guy who may have covered it up.

Birds of a feather...


Democrats Campaigning like Republicans, Republicans Campaigning Like Maniacs

For years Republicans benefited from an unlevel playing field, where they were free to launch broad personal attacks and whisper campaigns at their opponents without expecting to suffer from any similar attacks in return.

Well, this ain't your daddy's Democratic Party:

In the wake of the Mark Foley page scandal, Democrats are targeting the personal lives of Republicans in numerous key House races as part of a campaign to capitalize on voter disgust with the messy personal lives and alleged character defects among elected officials [...]

In New Jersey, Democratic candidate Linda Stender this week sent voters a two-page brochure accusing Rep. Mike Ferguson (R) of improperly preying on young women in a fashionable D.C. nightclub. Stender, who is shown by polls to be within striking distance of Ferguson, said the Foley affair "opened the door to talk about the ethical challenge of my opponent." Ferguson has denied the allegations, and a spokeswoman last night called the attacks "pathetic and desperate."

Democratic candidate Chris Carney is running an ad accusing Rep. Don Sherwood (R-Pa.) of "repeatedly choking" and "attempting to strangle" a young mistress. Foley and Sherwood share "the arrogance of power," said Carney. "They're willing to cover up these types of things to retain power."

Sherwood has apologized for the affair but said in a television ad that the "allegation of abuse was never true."

Democratic candidate Kirsten Gillibrand is calling on GOP Rep. John E. Sweeney in Upstate New York to explain a drunken driving arrest 30 years ago and a more recent car accident. "Your decision to release any and all records related to your arrests and other incidents with law enforcement will send an important signal about your willingness to come clean with voters," Gillibrand said in a letter to Sweeney this week.

I honestly feel that this speaks to character and leadership, and that Republicans brought this upon themselves by wrapping their brand in the shroud of moral rectitude and Christian values. It has always been clear that this was a pose, even before a top Bush Administration official came out and said "Yeah, it's a pose."

Kuo, who has complained publicly in the past about the funding shortfalls, goes several steps further in his new book.

He says some of the nation’s most prominent evangelical leaders were known in the office of presidential political strategist Karl Rove as “the nuts.”

“National Christian leaders received hugs and smiles in person and then were dismissed behind their backs and described as ‘ridiculous,’ ‘out of control,’ and just plain ‘goofy,’” Kuo writes.

More seriously, Kuo alleges that then-White House political affairs director Ken Mehlman knowingly participated in a scheme to use the office, and taxpayer funds, to mount ostensibly “nonpartisan” events that were, in reality, designed with the intent of mobilizing religious voters in 20 targeted races.

This buttresses Tucker Carlson's biennal moment of truth where he admitted that elites in the Republican Party have nothing but contempt for evangelicals.

You cannot flaunt your standing in the Christian community, still have members of your party embroiled in scandal after scandal after scandal, and expect people not to notice that you don't believe your own hype. Democrats are sticking it right to the Republicans on this, and it's been a long time coming.

Meanwhile, Republicans are losing their minds with fear over losing their precious majorities, and the pressure is starting to get to some of the more threatened incumbents. Like John Doolittle:

In citing his 26-year U.S. Air Force career, Brown, a retired lieutenant colonel, mentioned his service in Saudi Arabia mapping surveillance flights in Iraq's "no-fly zone." He said the experience convinced him there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and that the war was a misguided diversion from the war on terror...

Arguing that Iraq is central to the war on terror, Doolittle responded: "This is a guy who had weapons of mass destruction. President Clinton said he had weapons of mass destruction. Vice President Gore said he had weapons of mass destruction...But Lt. Col. Charlie Brown who flew reconnaissance missions says there were no weapons of mass destruction.

"Why didn't you pick up the phone and call the commander in chief? Do you really expect us to sit here and believe that ridiculous story?"

Like Chris Shays:

"Now I've seen what happened in Abu Ghraib, and Abu Ghraib was not torture. It was outrageous, outrageous involvement of National Guard troops from [Maryland] who were involved in a sex ring and they took pictures of soldiers who were naked."

Now, it was reported today that George Bush has no contingency plan if the GOP loses control of Congress. Of course not, he didn't have a plan for Iraq, Afghanistan, Katrina or North Korea. But I don't think his party has any plan to win, given the above quotes. Like cornered animals, they're lashing out because they know they've been caught. Caught lying to the voters, caught forsaking their vaunted morals - essentially, caught with their pants down.


North Korea: Anatomy of a Failure

While there's been some movement on sanctioning North Korea, with the UN agreeing on punishment language, and Japan going all unilateral and banning all trade and closing their ports to North Korean ships, I still think the history and consequences of this nuclear test are completely muddled here in the US, and it's important to get that right so we don't have hypocritical opportunists like John McCain out there claiming the entire thing was Clinton's fault on the one hand, and saying “I think this is the wrong time for us to be engaging in finger pointing when in this crucial time, we need the world and Americans united” on the other hand. So it's time to lay down some facts and myths about the North Korean situation:

• FACT: The bomb that was tested is made from plutonium fuel rods. These were the rods whose use was suspended by Pyongyang for 8 years under the Agreed Framework set up by the Clinton Administration. After 2002, Kim Jong-Il put them back to work, and the result was what you saw this week.

• FACT: As Fred Kaplan documents, the reason the North Koreans pulled out of the Agreed Framework was because Washington confronted them over uranium enrichment, which they were slowly and gradually undertaking on the sly.

After a few shrill diplomatic exchanges over the uranium, Pyongyang upped the ante. The North Koreans expelled the international inspectors, broke the locks on the fuel rods, loaded them onto a truck, and drove them to a nearby reprocessing facility, to be converted into bomb-grade plutonium. The White House stood by and did nothing. Why did George W. Bush--his foreign policy avowedly devoted to stopping "rogue regimes" from acquiring weapons of mass destruction--allow one of the world's most dangerous regimes to acquire the makings of the deadliest WMDs?

• FACT: Why did the North Koreans start enriching uranium in the first place? Well, it not-so-curiously occurred right after they were labeled part of the Axis of Evil in 2002, and they saw the saber rattling toward the other members of that club. Kim Jong-Il is loony but not dumb and like the Iranians he sought nuclear weapons as a deterrent to regime change. With Kim it's all about survival of the dictatorship.

In Kim's eyes, a nuclear weapon should prevent the United States from attempting to topple him from his post in the manner of Iraq's Saddam Hussein. And the indomitable mystique of nuclear capability could in part substitute for the charisma that Kim, unlike his late father, Kim Il Sung, is lacking.

"In the eyes of the North Korean leaders, this was very calculated and rational behavior," said Paik Hak-soon, a political scientist at South Korea's Sejong Institute. "Nobody invades a nuclear power. People respect nuclear power."

• FACT: When Kim saw that he needed nukes to maintain survival, but he knew inspectors were watching over the plutonium fuel rods he needed to create them quickly, he went to the international black market and found a willing collaborator in the form of the top scientist from our putative ally Pakistan:

...Before September 11, in those weeks just after George W. Bush took office, CIA and Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) personnel were told to “back off” certain targets of investigations begun by Bill Clinton. He said there were particular investigations that were effectively killed.

Which particular investigations? The agent was willing to risk his job to get this story out, but we had to press repeatedly for specifics on the directive to “back off.” The order, he said reluctantly, spiked at least one fateful operation. As he talked, I wrote in my notebook, “Killed off Conn. Labs investigation.” Connecticut Laboratories? I was clueless until my producer Meirion Jones, a weapons expert, gave me that “you idiot” look and said, “Khan Labs! Pakistan. The bomb.” Dr. A. Q. Khan is known as the “Father” of Pakistan’s atomic bomb.

He’s not, however, the ideal parent. To raise the cash for Pakistan’s program (and to pocket a tidy sum for himself), Khan sold off copies of his baby, his bomb, to Libya and North Korea—blueprints, material and all the fixings to blow this planet to Kingdom Come [...]

Why would Team Bush pull back our agents from nabbing North Korea’s bomb connection? The answer in two words: Saudi Arabia.

The agent on the line said, “There were always constraints on investigating the Saudis.” Khan is Pakistani, not Saudi, but, nevertheless, the investigation led back to Saudi Arabia. There was no way that the Dr. Strangelove of Pakistan could have found the billions to cook up his nukes within the budget of his poor nation.

We eventually discovered that agents knew the Saudis, who had secretly funded Saddam’s nuclear weapons ambitions in the eighties, apparently moved their bomb-for-Islam money from Iraq to Dr. Khan’s lab in Pakistan after Saddam invaded Kuwait in 1990.

But, said the insider, our agents had to let a hot trail grow cold because he and others “were told to back off the Saudis.” If you can’t follow the money, you can’t investigate. The weapons hunt was spiked [...]

The U.S. government missed discovering Dr. Khan’s radioactive fire sale because our agents were hard at work ignoring the Saudi money trail. If the agencies had not been told to “back off” the Saudis and Dr. Khan, would the U.S. have uncovered the nuclear shipments in time to stop them? We can’t possibly know, but, to paraphrase Yogi Berra, it’s amazing what you don’t see when you’re told not to look.

So, the US doesn't investigate A.Q. Khan's selling off nuclear secrets. The North Koreans have a need for those secrets after being labeled an enemy to the US and having their sovereignty threatened. Kim Jong-Il makes a deal for technology on how to enrich uranium that he would have otherwise not had. He starts the process, maybe wanting to be caught to have a reason to expel the UN inspectors and restart his plutonium program, which would move much quicker. The US finds out about the uranium, gets belligerent and gives Kim exactly the opening he needs. Four years later, they test a nuke. But...

• FACT: The nuke didn't work, a fact that is getting curiously less play nationwide than out in the world.

The United States believes North Korea attempted to detonate a nuclear device but that "something went wrong," and the blast was relatively small, a U.S. government official said Tuesday.

The official confirmed North Korea informed the Chinese government before the test that it would involve a four-kiloton nuclear device, a small explosion compared with the 15-kiloton nuclear tests that India and Pakistan conducted in 1998 [...]

The U.S. intelligence community is sticking by an estimate that the blast was about a half-kiloton, or even less, although it's possible the tunnel in which the test took place could have "muffled" the seismic waves, an official said.

So basically what we have here is a situation where knuckleheads in the Bush Administration practically force North Korea into the nuclear club, and the North Koreans are such knuckleheads that they can't even get it to work. Which doesn't matter, because the mere possibility of the test will likely turn South Korea and Japan nuclear and raise proliferation in Asia, making the world decidedly less safe.

You can add this to the growing sense that we're about to lose Afghanistan, the continued reports of brutality and abuse at Guantanamo, the fact that Gaza's in civil war, Iran's continued bluster and defiance, the loss of Somalia to radical Islamists, and on and on, and you have irrefutable evidence that George W. Bush's foreign policy, supposed to be his strong suit, is an unmitigated failure. And you'll notice I didn't even mention Iraq.

For a final comment, and actually a summing up in two paragraphs what took me fifteen, here's the former National Security Advisor to then-VP Bush 41, Donald Gregg:

First: Don't panic. Kim Jong Il's objective is survival and eventual change in North Korea, not suicide. The diplomatic situation in Northeast Asia will be immensely complicated by the North Korea test, which I think was a huge mistake on their part, but missiles are not about to start flying [...]

Second: Why won't the Bush administration talk bilaterally and substantively with NK, as the Brits (and eventually the US) did with Libya? Because the Bush administration sees diplomacy as something to be engaged in with another country as a reward for that country's good behavior. They seem not to see diplomacy as a tool to be used with antagonistic countries or parties, that might bring about an improvement in the behavior of such entities, and a resolution to the issues that trouble us. Thus we do not talk to Iran, Syria, Hizballah or North Korea. We only talk to our friends -- a huge mistake.



And a happy Friday the 13th to you.

Saw an interesting performance last night at UCLA of The Moth, a storytelling slam featuring Jonathan Ames, Cindy Chupack, Margaret Cho, and Darryl "DMC" McDaniels. Hearing DMC talk about his fan worship of Sarah MacLachlan was pretty damn interesting.

A quick note on 2008, which I hate to talk about before 2006 is even done, but with the Warner situation I think it merits a couple sentences: To me there are only four certain candidates that are even contenders right now: Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, Russ Feingold, and Bill Richardson. All the rest have no shot, IMO. And while Feingold is my preference, even I know that financially it'll be a stretch for him. There are only three candidates not currently committed to running that could in any way impact the race: Al Gore (the 800-pound gorilla), Barack Obama (and I agree with Ezra Klein, it's too soon, he's a leader who's never led and REFUSES to lead), and one more... Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer. I've noticed that he's very quietly raised his profile as of late, endorsing the at-large candidate for the US House in his state, and starting a major fundraising drive for 2006 candidates.

Schweitzer is a popular red-state governor, smart as hell, a populist who's systematically rooted out corruption in his state, and someone who has really big ideas when it comes to alternative energy (particularly liquefied coal). Of the 7 or so real candidates on the Democratic side, he's one that definitely intrigues me. Plus, how great would it be to have someone who wears a bolo tie in the White House?

And AmericaBlog is right, Bob Ney has pleaded guilty and is now a convicted felon, and he STILL hasn't resigned from Congress, and if there's a lame duck session he'll STILL be voting. How is that OK with everyone?


Thursday, October 12, 2006

Leno's Still On The Air?

Apparently so, and he violated FCC laws last night be giving an incumbent governor exclusive airtime 30 days out from an election. And not only that, but NBC flat-out lied about it:

Angelides campaign manager Cathy Calfo said she sent a letter Wednesday to 11 NBC affiliates in California asking them to give equal time to the state treasurer because "The Tonight Show" has not invited him onto the program.

NBC spokeswoman Tracy St. Pierre said "The Tonight Show" never received a letter Angelides' camp said it sent, but the state treasurer's spokesman, Steve Maviglio, provided a copy of the letter he said the campaign faxed on Tuesday, along with a UPS shipping receipt to have the letter sent overnight and delivered by Wednesday morning.

One thing that the appearance did do, it reminded people that Arnold Schwarzenegger is the governor of the state of California. And it showed he couldn't even bother to answer softball questions from his personal friend truthfully.

When asked by Leno about TV campaign ads attempting to link Schwarzenegger to President Bush, the star of the "Terminator" films mocked the notion.

"To link me to George Bush is like linking me to an Oscar," said the governor, who has never won — or even been nominated for — acting's most prestigious award.

Yes, how could anyone ever have gotten the idea that Schwarzenegger was linked to Bush? Oh yeah...

Well, ladies and gentlemen, America is back — back from the attack on our homeland, back from the attack on our economy, and back from the attack on our way of life. We’re back because of the perseverance, character and leadership of the 43rd president of the United States, George W. Bush.


My fellow Americans, I want you to know that I believe with all my heart that America remains the great idea that inspires the world. It’s a privilege to be born here. It’s an honor to become a citizen here. It’s a gift to raise your family here, to vote here, and to live here.

SCHWARZENEGGER: Our president, George W. Bush, has worked hard to protect and preserve the American dream for all of us. And that’s why I say, send him back to Washington for four more years.

SCHWARZENEGGER WITH AUDIENCE: Four more years. Four more years. Four more years. Four more years. Four more years. Four more years.

I actually think the CDP's SECOND ad, which matched Arnold policies into Bush policies (raising tuition and fees, privatizing pensions, doing nothing on health care), was far more effective than just having Arnold mindlessly screaming George W. Bush. The link is not a fiction, it comes out of a shared embrace of corporate conservative ideology.


A Defining Moment For Progressive Politics

In two specific races, in what would commonly be called red states, the progressive movement is moving forward because of a strong, unabashed message of values. The impact of this is overwhelming.

In Ohio, Sherrod Brown has opened up a 14-point lead on nondescript Republican Sen. Mike DeWine. This is in line with other polls in terms of the trend. And it's incedibly important, because Brown would be unique among the Senate in being a progressive populist crusader. In MyDD, Bob McChesney explains just how groundbreaking this is:

...Sherrod Brown is precisely the sort of aggressive progressive that Democrats have needed to carry the party banner in high-profile contests. He's from the Democratic wing of the Democratic party, a liberal in the very best sense of the term. This is no Bob Casey Jr. we are talking about, nor some former Reagan administration official. He is not triangulating; selling out women or gays or peace activists to win white working-class votes. Rather, he is winning over those white working-class voters with a solid economic message that takes apart the Bush administration's failed free trade policies -- which DeWine has backed with poodle-like consistency -- and promises to fight for workers, the environment and communities.

Brown has the politics of a Wellstone. He has established himself in the U.S. House over the past decade as the smartest progressive on the debilitating labor and environmental consequences of pro-corporate trade deals, not only in the United States but worldwide. He has an innate sense of fairness and a clear commitment to social justice. Sherrod has worked quietly and effectively to earn the trust of Ohioans, especially poor and working-class Ohioans, which is why DeWine's million dollar attack ad mudballs have so far rolled off the Democrat.

If Brown wins, it points the way forward for progressive electoral politics in the country, and gets us off the downward spiral of Republican vs Republican-lite thinking that dominates inside the beltway. If a progressive can defeat an incumbent Republican in Ohio, red state Ohio, with Karl Rove calling the plays, and rich people and corporations lining up to write checks for the incumbent, it hammers the last nail in the Democratic Leadership Council's coffin. A Brown win will prove that the DLC's "move-to-the-right-or-lose" mantra not only calls for repulsive politics, it is a loser at the polls. A Brown victory will also send a message to Hillary Clinton and the other 2008 presidential candidates that they had better take issues of class and economic inequality a whole heckuva lot more seriously than they seem to at present.

My praise for Andy Stern shows that I believe that this message of addressing the concerns of the vast majority of those falling behind in this country is of paramount importance. Arianna Huffington seems to be on a one-woman crusade arguing that the economy doesn't mean anything, and while I agree that Iraq and foreign policy were decisive in 2004, that's because the Democratic standard bearers weren't offering real critiques of the policies that have destroyed the middle class and working families. They were, and are, still mired in a neoliberal fantasy of globalization as a divine good, which has caused the epidemic of stratification between rich and poor you see today. Is foreign policy still important? Of course, and Sherrod Brown is smart and tough on foreign policy as well. But it's his particular economic critique that will return the Democratic Party to being the party of the people, which is their natural home, and one they never should have abandoned in the name of the DLC.

Voter interest is at a high this election season because of the Republican meltdown; that cannot be debated. But all of the failures of the Bush Administration over the last two years were completely predictable, as Chris Bowers notes in an important post which shrugs off the "incompetence dodge" conservative apologists want to use to preserve their way of thinking.

The major events that have led to the downfall of Republicans over the past two years--Iraq, Social Security, Foley, Katrina and Terry Schaivo-were not Republican "mistakes." As long as Republicans and the conservative movement maintain power, we can expect to see more reckless and theoretical uses of the military with horrible long-term results. We can expect to see more cover-ups in order to hold onto a single seat in Congress (or maybe even something smaller). We can expect more attempts to destroy Social Security and other cornerstones of successful governance in favor of private companies and large corporations who only care about making money. We can expect more incompetent and unqualified cronies in positions of real power. We can continue to expect a complete lack of accountability for high-ranking administration officials and private companies (unless they are pro-choice, in which case they better brace themselves). We certainly can expect the federal government to care more about whatever the latest fetish of the conservative base may be more than about being properly prepared and responsive in the event of a major national disaster. This is just how the conservative movement operates. These are not mistakes. All of these campaigns were conducted with the same political skill and using the same political machine that Republicans used in order to build their slim 50% + 1 majority.

Indeed, when you hear things like the fact that Karl Rove forced Mark Foley to stay in the Congress, despite his wanting out (and despite growing rumors of his Internet predilections), it fits into a pattern of conservative "leadership", based only on party, putting it above country, above safety, above children, above everything.

And while conservative ideology created the mess we're in today, progressive ideology was largely muted by the DLC, Republican-lite forces who held control, allowing articles like Sebastian Mallaby's to have a grain of truth (although not completely true). Which is why the progressive movement is so important to provide a competing ideology, a true contrasting alternative, and a ray of hope for those who see none. Bowers:

The difference is that there are now forces much more capable of countering Republican campaigns than in the recent past. While there was tremendous help from across the progressive ecosystem, Social Security would be dead right now if not for the netroots helping to keep Democrats in line. Democrats would also still be much more in favor of continuing the Iraq war if the netroots and the progressive movement had not nurtured and rewarded those Democrats willing to speak out and stand up, and punish those Democrats willing to facilitate. Would Michael Brown's previous job as a horse inspector be known if not for the netroots? Would the narrative on Foley have so quickly metastasized into a broader indictment of the Republican leadership? Republicans used to get away with these sorts of things all the time, but they are not getting away with it as often anymore. The reason is the political and media prowess supplied by the netroots, by the progressive movement and by the Democracy Alliance nexus. Republicans haven't changed or grown less competent at politics. The difference is that they are facing much stiffer competition. Democrats and progressives have earned this lead--it did not fall into our laps.

Bowers, in a separate post, notes that if the Democrats do take Congress, as looks increasingly likely, it would be the first time a party would have a majority in the House without having a majority of members in the South. It's clear to me removing that imbalance would signal a major re-ordering and re-balancing of the political map. The moneyed interests in the Northeast were Republican for decades. The populists were in the Democratic South and the Prairie. That's completely flipped now.

All of this is happening because a growing group of committed people understood that the challenge for progressives was to make themselves heard within the Party, and to use the Party as a tool to get the progressive message out. Nearly everywhere this is happening, Democrats are being rewarded because they are finally returning to the core values that has defined the Party for generations, and because they're offering the voters a real choice. This election cycle has the potential to be a defining moment, but there is no time for complacency and no time for a muddled message. Playing the politics of contrast is paying dividends; it must continue.


War of The Words

Finally, the 101st Fighting Keyboarders get their tribute. The blogs of war were trying, difficult, at times insufferable. But whenever the nation's resolve appears to loosen, we can count on our brave men and women at their laptops to tell everyone to shut up and savor the victory.

Only there won't be a victory:

A commission formed to assess the Iraq war and recommend a new course has ruled out the prospect of victory for America, according to draft policy options shared with The New York Sun by commission officials.

Currently, the 10-member commission — headed by a secretary of state for President George H.W. Bush, James Baker — is considering two option papers, "Stability First" and "Redeploy and Contain," both of which rule out any prospect of making Iraq a stable democracy in the near term.

More telling, however, is the ruling out of two options last month. One advocated minor fixes to the current war plan but kept intact the long-term vision of democracy in Iraq with regular elections. The second proposed that coalition forces focus their attacks only on Al Qaeda and not the wider insurgency.

Instead, the commission is headed toward presenting President Bush with two clear policy choices that contradict his rhetoric of establishing democracy in Iraq. The more palatable of the two choices for the White House, "Stability First," argues that the military should focus on stabilizing Baghdad while the American Embassy should work toward political accommodation with insurgents. The goal of nurturing a democracy in Iraq is dropped.

The option papers, which sources inside the commission have stressed are still being amended and revised as the panel wraps up its work, give a clearer picture of what Mr. Baker meant in recent interviews when he called for a course adjustment.

They also shed light on what is at stake in the coming 2 1/2 months for the Iraqi government. The "Redeploy and Contain" option calls for the phased withdrawal of American soldiers from Iraq, though the working groups have yet to say when and where those troops will go. The document, read over the telephone to the Sun, says America should "make clear to allies and others that U.S. redeployment does not reduce determination to attack terrorists wherever they are." It also says America's top priority should be minimizing American casualties in Iraq.

I guess this development will be covered in Part 6 of "War of the Words," subtitled "Coming to grips with reality." Then again, I'm an optimist.

While I agree with thereisnospoon that you cannot win or lose an occupation, clearly there are favorable and unfavorable outcomes, no matter what you call them. And the fact remains that the favorable outcomes in Iraq were probably impossible as much as 18 months ago. Of course we're committed to staying for four more years now, and we will until there is new leadership in the White House, because they simply cannot admit that their eternal hope could not wish a favorable result.

But I don't want to take away from the accomplishment of the Fighting Keyboarders. Without them, who knows if history like this would have ever been written?

Iraqi police found 50 bodies dumped across Baghdad on Tuesday, apparent victims of sectarian death squads, and a bombing at a bakery in the capital killed 10 people in the biggest single attack of the day.

The discovery of the bodies, many tortured and all shot, brought to at least 110 the number found in Baghdad in the past two days, an Interior Ministry official said.

UPDATE: I don't know how anything in Iraq can be described as "a good thing," but I disagree with some who say this latest move allowing for federal regions in the country will cause chaos. First of all, chaos would be different how? Second, at least this can be a brudge to ultimately partitioning the country, protecting people from ethnic cleansing (although you'd have mass migration, which you already have anyway), while keeping a tentative toe in the water of eventual reconciliation, which will take decades anyway. It will do nothing in the short term, but in the long term it's probably the right course.


Moby Reid

The AP's John Solomon has been trying for about 10 months to slay the savage Minority Leader with a series of half-true and distorted articles attempting to show some kind of impropriety or other. When they're linked to by the right they almost always ignore the fact that THE SAME REPORTER is writing all of these stories, which inevitably get shot down. This latest one is no different:

Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) "collected a $1.1 million windfall on a Las Vegas land sale even though he hadn't personally owned the property for three years," the AP reports.

Except that's wrong. Reid made a $700,000 profit on the sale, not $1.1 million. Also, the story, by the AP’s John Solomon, makes it sound as if Reid got money for land he didn't own. But that's not the case [...] Solomon obliquely acknowledges, Reid, who had bought the land along with a friend in 1998, transferred his ownership in the land to a limited liability company in 2001. The company, which was composed solely of this land owned by Reid and his friend, in turn sold the land in 2004. That's when Reid collected his $1.1 million share of the sale. Since Reid had originally put down $400,000 on the sale, his profit was $700,000, not the full $1.1 million, as Solomon states in his lead.

Solomon persists in straightforwardly describing the 2001 land transfer as a sale, even though no money changed hands; Reid's share of the land after the transfer was the same as before. In his financial disclosure forms, Reid did not disclose his transfer of the land to the LLC, although he did continue to disclose his ownership of the land through 2004, when it was sold.

There's something to be said for the "appearance of impropriety," but according to John Solomon Harry Reid must spend his entire day handing out $10 bills to the homeless or else he's a CROOK... CROOK I TELL YOU!

I picture Solomon driving around Reid's house in Washington continuously, searching through his garbage, leaving messages on his answering machine with phrases like "I won't be IGNORED, Harry!"

What's important to note is that this is a mainstream reporter, part of the largest consortium of news reporting in the country, who place articles in hundreds of papers daily, who appears to have a hard-on for trumping up Harry Reid's purported ethical lapses. It's borderline creepy. Is he given any other assignments other than being "Senior Harry Reid Land Deal and Boxing Ticket Analyst"?

The fact is that the media, in its attempt to be "fair and balanced," will always try to tip the scales to ensure that Democrats and Republicans are ensnared in whatever web of corruption is at the forefront, even if they have to stretch the truth to do it.


I Thought It Was Urgent

The Military Commissions Act of 2006, which had to be finished before Congress recessed because people want to kill us in our beds and Democrats don't understand the nature of the threat and all... has yet to be signed. In fact it wasn't presented to the President for signing until Tuesday. He has until October 21st to sign it or it does not become law (called a "pocket veto").

I thought that our professionals needed clarity for the program to go forward. Now, the President isn't deliberately holding up this bill so he could have a grand signing ceremony as closely timed as possible to the election, is he?

Naw, that would be political.

Meanwhile, according to the New York Sun we force-fed Jose Padilla LSD to get him to talk. Like, groovy, man. This technique of psychedelics as "truth serum" has been discredited for 50 years.

There are HIPPIES with LSD in the GOVERNMENT! Freak out, man!


Promoting The General Welfare: On Movement Politics

I was honored to be part of a lunch talk yesterday with Andy Stern, President of the SEIU and a major factor in the Change To Win coalition. He was promoting his new book A Country That Works, which I can't wait to finish (I'm only 20 pages in), because he was eloquent in talking about the fundamental challenges facing our country and our economy. Andy also appeared at a big Drinking Liberally event here in LA last night.

We live in a country that has completely disassociated from one of its fundamental goals enshrined in the preamble to the Constitution: to promote the general welfare. And this conversation - about our future, about the role of labor in a 21st-century global economy, about how to value work over wealth, about how to reverse the disturbing trend where my generation may become the first to do worse than our parents - has been virtually absent from the political debate, and indeed has no place in it whatsoever. We have not a political debate, but political theater that doesn't address where Americans actually live and what they actually need. It's Andy Stern's goal to raise awareness, to have this conversation, and to build a movement of people committed to change OUTSIDE of Washington that will force the government to make the necessary changes within.

This fight is our fight in the progressive movement as well.

The challenges facing working people these days are manifold. Their real wages are falling, their health care costs are rising, the economy is changing under their feet, and they're likely to have 10 different jobs by the time they're 35. But I was struck by Stern's ability to speak to the challenges facing American business as well. Every American car made here has $1,500 dollars worth of employee health care built into the sticker price; other countries take care of that and relieve that burden from companies. Howard Schultz, the CEO of Starbucks, says his company spends more on health care than they do on coffee beans. American corporations simply cannot compete with the rest of the world in this environment, so they send all manufacturing jobs overseas, try to wriggle out of labor protections there, and the more insidious corporations, mainly in the service sector, that pop up in their place with jobs for the middle class have stopped providing pensions, stopped providing health care, frustrated any attempts for their workers to organize, and generally created the depressed wage market you see before you today.

Stern sees the need for courageous political leaders that can go beyond what appears to be possible today and forge a new movement and a plan to get the country where it needs to be. But he also thinks boards of directors must be courageous enough to speak out against the policies impacting them. Labor leaders must be courageous enough not to fall back on what has worked since the New Deal, and instead bring new ideas of reform and partnerships to the table. And progressives must be courageous enough to fight back against the beating that working people in this country are taking, and to make sure that everybody knows the importance of unions.

Unions have been at the forefront of even the most minor shift forward in the lives of people who work for a living, and it should come as no surprise that, at a time when unions are at their lowest ebb in decades, so are the futures of working people. Unions brought us the 40-hour week, child labor laws, overtime, pensions and the weekend. Yet their name has been sullied by economic elites who have very overt agendas to maximize profits. Why anyone who works for a living would listen to what a conglomerate like News Corp. says about unions is absolutely insane. When the country's manufacturing base left (or were allowed to leave), the unions were slow to react, and that combined with the aforementioned demonization brought us to where we are today, when only 8% of the private-sector workforce belongs to a union. The corrupt bargain made between multinationals and both political parties, where corporations now write legislation coming out of Washington, where the stratification between rich and poor is at a record high, where Wal-Mart has a higher economic output than all but 30 countries, has put us in the hle we are today. Despite leading economic indicators showing stable growth and a record-high Dow (of course, 1% of America owns 65% of the stock, so how does that matter), poll after poll shows that the majority of Americans think we're in dire economic straits. That's because they are. Permanently. We're living in a New Gilded Age, and while a tuned-out media doesn't see a problem, an alienated citizenry doesn't see that it's POSSIBLE to fix it.

This is why the progressive movement, in partnership with the labor movement (which has assisted in pretty much every element of social change in the history of the nation), must understand how important it is to reach into the community and restore hope to the hopeless. As much money as the moneyed elites have, as hard as it is to effect institutional change, it is not insurmountable. Social movements start on the street, and the political leaders then try to jump out in front of them and say that's where they were all along. The SEIU is using innovative strategies, sometimes partnering with business, at other times challenging them, to increase membership aggressively and widen their collective impact. Stern said, in a grimly funny moment, that he's OK with corporate consolidation because that's less people you need to go after. Indeed, his Wal-Mart campaign showed how even a little leverage can push a major corporate entity into changing some of their policies.

We all have a stake in promoting the general welfare, which is at the hallmark of who we are as a society. Yet the only welfare we promote right now is corporate welfare, conglomerate welfare, and the welfare of the ultra-rich. We need a government built around shared sacrifice and shared burdens. Lou FREAKING DOBBS said this last night on The Daily Show, proving that a real popular third-party movement would be economically populist and socially conservative, precisely the opposite of what the ossified brains in the DC establishment would have you believe. I personally have a lot of points of disagreement with Lou Dobbs, but clearly we need to get back to promoting the general welfare, whether through universal health care, or investments in education, or weaning ourselves off dependency on foreign oil, or establishing global labor and environmental standards so that American small business and manufacturing can compete worldwide. Without these things, America will turn into a forgotten empire, a country with a first-world brand and a third-world living condition for the bulk of its citizens. I believe America remains better than that, and that we have the talent and creativity to reverse the bad choices made and restore a sense a government that looks out for the common good.

If Andy Stern reaches your town, I strongly suggest you go see him. He's an inspiring speaker who is able to converse about topics that have literally been shut off from the political debate in recent years. This crisis - yes, it's a crisis - of the shrinking middle class is something we must face up to and fix.


Top Ten Republicans

A brilliant post by Jonathan Swift, a young reasonable conservative whose writing shows quite a bit of élan. I think this guy's got a real future on the Weekly Standard/National Review/American Spectator/WorldNetDaily/Town Hall/Wall Street Journal editorial page "Roundelay of Right-Wing Punditry"! Here's just one of the Republican candidates he's promoting for 2006:

Randy Graf - Arizona-08

The Republican National Committee has already given up on Randy Graf, a former golf pro, just because he is 20 points behind his opponent Gabrielle Giffords. His golfing experience has given him unique insight into the Constitution, which he views as a "rule book" just like the one for golf, only shorter. As a state legislator Graf fought hard for a much needed bill to allow people to carry concealed guns into bars, which would have reduced the epidemic of bar brawls in the state, or at least made them end more quickly. But Graf is running for Congress mainly to do something about the issue he most cares about: illegal immigration. A member of the patriotic Minutemen, his efforts to curtail illegal immigration of non-Europeans by militarizing the border won him the admiration of David Duke. Unfortunately, he won't be able to rely on the expertise of his former campaign manager, who was jailed for having sex with two underaged girls, a crime that Graf said was "no more serious than providing a teenager with a beer." As any grateful teenager can tell you, that's really not so bad at all.

And there are 9 others that are just as forceful. Good to see that ONE conservative is still touting Mark Foley for Congress. And Tom DeLay. Both of whom are still on their respective ballots. Go read the whole thing.



I think it's a little sad that we've gotten to a point in this country where candidates running for President feel constrained to drop out fifteen months before the first nominating contest. We've compressed the primary calendar so much that it's not the people who choose the nominee (at least not the people outside of Iowa and New Hampshire), but the fundraisers, the consultants, the party brass. By late January 2008 the field will be largely set. We've gone from the smoke-filled rooms of the 19th century to a real primary process where the rank and file had a say, and now I fear we're going back in the other direction.

I didn't have much of an opinion about Mark Warner either way, and I'm honestly more focused on 2006 than 2008 right now. But after reading his letter, it occurs to me that the first requirement for running for President is that you have to be insane enough to want to run for President. And it's been made, in the era of 24-hour news, into such a difficult and soul-battering exercise, that the people most suited for the job are the people sensible enough not to ever want to do it.


Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Asalaam Aleichem, Inshallah

I officially know more Arabic than 99% of all FBI agents.

Five years after Arab terrorists attacked the United States, only 33 FBI agents have even a limited proficiency in Arabic, and none of them work in the sections of the bureau that coordinate investigations of international terrorism, according to new FBI statistics.

Counting agents who know only a handful of Arabic words -- including those who scored zero on a standard proficiency test -- just 1 percent of the FBI's 12,000 agents have any familiarity with the language, the statistics show.

By the way the military continues to fire Arabic translators because they admitted to being gay. I agree with that, I mean, if a gay man deciphered some chatter and thwarted a terrorist attack, would it really even count?

Is it me, or is the entire intelligence budget going to surveilling vegans and animal acitivists?

UPDATE: Holy crap, I just remembered that I know Al Qaeda and Hizb'allah. That puts me in the advanced class!


Plane Into Building In NYC

Small plane, according to the FAA. Very foggy day there. Hit a residentia building on the Upper East Side. Apparently there's a landing strip very close to that spot on an island in the East River. NORAD saying it's not something "they were concerned about."

Hopefully nobody's hurt. Let the overhyping by the media and the conservosphere begin.

UPDATE: Cory Lidle said to be the pilot. Major tragedy. Incidentally, my sister lives six blocks from the site of the accident. She's fine, she was at work at the time. There will probably be a smoky smell around their for the next couple of days.

It also concerns me because I live about 2 miles from the Santa Monica Airport. These small planes are seen as new toys by rich people, and they're quite dangerous. Apparently Lidle was only a pilot for less than a year. The margin for error is so low.

In addition, the airspace in New York City seemed to be awfully open. I'd say that should be a concern for Homeland Security instead of petting zoos in Indiana.


Political News

Let me just get through a few of these stories and then get off the computer.

• All partisans are sometimes guilty of jumping on polls that support their views. I try to be balanced about this and warn that the only poll that matters is the one on Election Day. But clearly you should not go out there with polls that seem completely at odds with the facts. A case in point in CT-SEN: that Zogby poll showing Joe Lieberman with a 20-point lead on Ned Lamontis rejected by this poll showing it down to 7. There was no way that 20-point lead was credible. And with 3 debates coming up featuring the Republican candidate, Alan Schlesinger, his numbers can only come up, which spells doom for Holy Joe. I agree with this post that Lamont should focus on Schlesinger as the real opponent to drive up his name ID and return Republicans back to the fold.

• CT-04: Chris Shays has a novel answer to the Mark Foley scandal - At least he didn't kill someone like Ted Kennedy. Or, like Laura Bush, you recall. And at least Diane Farrell didn't vote to kill 600,000 Iraqis. I mean we can just keep going back in time and blame everyone for every death that's ever happened. Or we can talk about the issue at hand.

• Speaking of the issue as hand, another Republican talking point goes down in flames as the idea that Democrats timed the release of the Foley emails is shown to be ridiculous. Of course it is, many news outlets, including Fox News, had the emails for months.

• CA-11: Boy, Richard Pombo must be scared to death, he's now lying about well-documented ties to Jack Abramoff. That he has to refute
these questions at all shows he's in big trouble.

AP reports:

On more than two dozen other occasions from 1996 through 2001, Abramoff associates called or met with members of Pombo's staff, including his chief of staff, the records indicate. As the contacts picked up, Pombo voted Abramoff's way on a bill important to Abramoff's clients.


The records, covering 1996 to 2001, indicate contacts beginning in March 1996 between officials at Abramoff's then-law firm, Preston Gates, and Pombo's staff.

One focus was legislation in the Resources Committee, of which Pombo was then a junior member, to give the Marianas a nonvoting delegate to Congress. Then-Marianas Gov. Froilan Tenorio was opposed. Abramoff and his associates lobbied the Hill, including a July 29, 1996, contact with Pombo's office.

Three days later the bill was narrowly defeated in committee. Pombo voted no.

"I have great news!" Abramoff wrote to Tenorio on Aug. 1, 1996. The delegate bill "was DEFEATED at the markup which finished about an hour ago. … We were able to add four conservative Republicans to the block of Democrat opponents and defeat the bill by a vote of 13-12."

• CA-04: Holy fucking crap:

Doolittle said he would vote for war in Iraq again "if the same facts were before me" because it has meant protection for the United States.

Doolittle rolled religious beliefs into Iraq, noting that the Bible tells him Armageddon will take place the Middle East.

"I don't know how long it's going to go," Doolittle said. "It's a kill or be killed world unfortunately. I don't know how to solve the problem but it's better to be on the offensive than sitting here and letting people be killed."

We have an admitted end-timer basically saying "kill 'em all and let God sort 'em out" and "everybody's going to die when the Rapture comes anyway, so who cares?"

You can't leave someone like this in Congress.


CA-GOV: Random Notes

Robert Salladay pens an interesting piece about political mythology as it relates to the Schwarzenegger-Angelides campaign. I noticed this during the debate, with both candidates stressing their immigrant roots and their stories of their rise to prominence (as if everyone can follow Arnold's path by winning 11 Mr. Olympia titles). This is such a false equivalence. Arnold Schwarzenegger was a Weider athlete, financed by Joe Weider much like any other government subsidy.

During his early years in America, friends say, Schwarzenegger was a defiantly hard worker. He talks frequently about being a bricklayer in Santa Monica and working to repair fireplaces after the 1971 Sylmar quake rolled through the San Fernando Valley.

But he was hardly independent. As his bodybuilding career flourished, he received financial assistance not from the government but from Joe Weider, the bodybuilding promoter and pioneer, who provided him with an apartment, a car and a weekly salary.

It's that peculiar sense of "individual self-reliance" like the conservative columnists who are bankrolled by big-money patrons to write for money-losing publications. To his credit, I think Arnold has recognized that not everyone is blessed with a financial patron. But ideologically, that selfish, "I got mine" view of the world still drives the Republican mindset, and it's both dangerous and insensitive.

By contrast, Phil Angelides understands that expanding opportunity and giving the middle class a chance to survive and stabilize will inevitably help lift the society into prosperity. You cannot leave the vast majority of your citizens behind, ensure massive corporate profits and call the economy strong. The economy only works when it works for everyone, and that's where we become a stronger state and a stronger nation. Phil Angelides is not constrained by the conservative feeling of selfishness, and the dogma that government is a problem to be stopped rather than a tool to be used. Why would you turn over the reins of government to people who have nothing but contempt for governing? Phil Angelides understands that by providing affordable health care, by restoring tax fairness so that the middle class' burden is relieved, by lowering tuition and fees to ensure that students can pay for college, by stopping the constant borrowing that has given every family in the state a birth tax, by allowing the midle class to succeed, the consequences would be a state whose talent is harnessed into creativity and innovation rather than the daily struggle to survive. This is the choice in this election.

• Arnold continues to run a celebrity campaign by going on a celebrity talk show in violation of FCC equal time rules. Rep. Xavier Becerra has lodged a formal complaint. The Fairness Doctrine doesn't exist anymore with regard to news programming, but so-called "entertainment" shows are prohibited from favoring candidates. The Leno show is claiming it will be a straight news interview. Jay Leno is the guy who emcee'd the Governor's victory party after the recall election in 2003. Forgive me if I don't believe it.


Bizarre Press Conference

I'm watching George Bush screaming at the top of his lungs like the old man telling kids to get off of his lawn, spouting a list of willfully blind statements about Iraq, North Korea, the election. Nobody believes him anymore. His credibility is shot. Nobody's even listening anymore. That's why he has to yell.

The Lancet has published a study that 600,000 people have died in Iraq. To that the President says "it's not credible" and we're making good progress. The President is confronted with electoral realities in the midterms and dismisses them. He claims "we care about how people live" in North Korea and lets people die in Darfur. He claims "I should try all aspects of diplomacy" with regard to North Korea and somehow claims that all aspects of diplomacy were exhausted in Iraq. He claims that when the Iraqis stand up we'll stand down and at the same time the Army readies to maintain troop levels in Iraq through 2010. He claims that the Democrats will "raise your taxes" when as President he could veto any tax bill. He claims that we support and respect our troops and he sandbags the best lawyer in the military by forcing him to retire.

The President is invisible until he accepts any measure of reality.

UPDATE: Here's the President on the Lancet study, which incidentally measures how many Iraqis have died, no matter the cause, due to circumstances of the war as opposed to circumstances if the war didn't exist (so it's not measuring casualties, but deaths approximately caused by invasion and civil war. See this for more.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN: Thank you, Mr. President. Back on Iraq, a group of American and Iraqi health officials today released a report saying that 655,000 Iraqis have died since the Iraq war. That figure is 20 times the figure that you cited in December at 30,000. Do you care to amend or update your figure and do you consider this a credible report?

PRESIDENT BUSH: No, I don’t consider it a credible report, neither does General Casey and neither do Iraqi officials. I do know that a lot of innocent people have died and it troubles me and grieves me. And I applaud the Iraqis for their courage in the face of violence. I am, you know, amazed that this is a society which so wants to be free that they’re willing to — you know, that there’s a level of violence that they tolerate.

Yeah, they TOLERATE violence. They aren't running for their lives or locking themselves in their homes or leaving the country. They're just tolerating it. THEY HAVE NO CHOICE! And you have no strategy to stop it.


Who Lost North Korea

It seems like there's a blame game going on over "Who Lost North Korea," much like the "Who Lost China" arguments of 60 years ago. While Democrats are looking at six years' worth of policy mistakes and making the assessment based on that, Bush defenders on the right like St. McCain decided to ignore six years of history and blame the Clinton Administration for their successful agreed framework of 1994 that disabled North Korea's nuclear program from moving forward for six years. The current weapon is the result of plutonium fuel rods, which were restarted in 2002. The Bush Administration claims that they pulled out of the framework after confronting them about uranium enrichment. There is no nuclear weapon in North Kora made with enriched uranium.

Josh Marshall lays it out:

But let's review the salient facts one more time.

"Failure" =1994-2002 -- Era of Clinton 'Agreed Framework': No plutonium production. All existing plutonium under international inspection. No bomb.

"Success" = 2002-2006 -- Bush Policy Era: Active plutonium production. No international inspections of plutonium stocks. Nuclear warhead detonated.

Face it. They ditched an imperfect but working policy. They replaced it with nothing. Now North Korea is a nuclear state.

Facts hurt. So do nukes.

And what's insane about this whole thing is how quickly the coddling of McCain blew up in the Democrats' faces. Why you would heap praise on your most likely opponent in 2008 is beyond me. All McCain is doing now is making Bush's deceptions on North Korea sound credible, as he's borrowing his political capital.

Digby is goddamn right:

What were they thinking? Now you have McCain out there talking total nonsense about North Korea and since he's been portrayed not only as an expert, but as a highly moral and decent man whom everyone including the president should trust, the media and everyone else are raptly listening to his crazy utterances like a bunch of fangirls.

The problem is that he's going to be an even worse problem than Bush in many ways as he emerges as a presidential contender. He's just as much of a warmonger, and just as wrong about everything, but he's got this phony bipartisan "credibility" that's going to make the slam dunk run-up to the Iraq war look like a a serious foreign policy debate. Which Democrats are going to be able to summon the nerve to oppose the great McCain when he tells tells the country that in his "expert judgement," we need to launch WWIII?

The Democrats have created a monster and the media has been willing participants by patting them on the head every time they make a bold show of bipartisanship. John McCain is more conservative and more warlike than this President when it comes to foreign policy. His rhetoric NEVER matches his reality though everyone thinks he's a principled maverick. Sonehow he escaped the Military Commissions flap intact even though he completely capitulated everything. He's incredibly dangerous.


Tuesday, October 10, 2006

CA-GOV: Bully

For me, the most salient moment for Arnold Schwarzenegger in the Governor's debate, other than when he said that union busting and denying choice and shortchanging teachers were good ideas, was when he said about Phil Angelides "I feel like I'm having Thanksgiving dinner with my Uncle Teddy." Under the guise of a cute joke, it's extremely revelatory. First of all, it came out, not after discussion of taxes, which might make some perverse sense, but after Angelides talked about homeland security and first responder issues. Are we then to believe that protecting citizens and honoring firefighters and police is a big-spending liberal position? The point is that Arnold just wanted to get in that line, even though it was not appropriate to the discussion.

Takeaway: he's scripted.

He also wanted to make a mockery out of Angelides' positions, by using A MEMBER OF HIS FAMILY as a demonizing point of context. Arnold's been doing this for years. Here's a report from October 2004:

At a campaign appearance for a Republican candidate to the California Assembly, Schwarzenegger apologized for being a few minutes late, explaining that he had been pumpkin hunting with his children. Schwarzenegger is married to Maria Shriver, who is Kennedy's niece.

"My kids just brought home a beautiful pumpkin, but you know what? I'm going to return it because it's a Democratic pumpkin. It has the orange color of John Kerry's tan, and the roundness of Teddy Kennedy," said the Republican governor.

Later, Schwarzenegger made a few more jokes about Kennedy's weight when discussing California's $103 billion budget.

"That's a lot of money," he said. "Another way to think about it is if you take $100 bills and put them next to each other, they will go half way, truly half way around Teddy Kennedy's stomach."

As the audience guffawed, Schwarzenegger said, "I always like to make jokes about Teddy Kennedy. I think it's always fun to do that. He's one of my favorite relatives. He comes to my house and he eats away all the cake and all the desserts that we have."

Not only are Borscht Belt comedians everywhere committing sepukku out of guilt over what comedy hell they've wrought, this is an enlightening moment. Arnold thinks it's fun to ridicule his uncle in order to score political points.

Takeaway: he's a classic bully.

There were other bullying moments in the debate, but none combined the fake jocularity with the meanness and telegraphed bad acting to make it seem spontaneous.

What a wanker.


Making Google Money

In honor of the $1.6 billion dollar purchase of YouTube by Google, here are a bunch of videos that have caught my eye.

Here's pretty-boy Tom Kean Jr., skating on his father's name in the New Jersey Senate race, running away from the mother of a dead soldier. Classy.

Sherrod Brown in Ohio with a powerful ad, one of the best of the cycle, hammering Sen. Mike DeWine for missing Intelligence Committee meetings and generally being clueless on national security:

Ned Lamont comes up with a similar theme in his latest ad, letting Joe Lieberman use his own words from 1988 against him. Lieberman reached the Senate by savaging Lowell Weicker for missing Senate votes; he's guilty of doing exactly the same thing in recent years.

Phil Angelides steps up with what I believe is his first ad of the cycle (others were put up by ABC and the CDP). It's a bio spot, but a good one, and with all the ads in California being so negative, this one might cut through the clutter.

Meanwhile this piece, not an ad but a grassroots video put together by PowerPac, perfectly uses Arnold's one slip-up in the debate, his claim that the Special Election of 2005 had "good ideas." Arnold's actually been saying this for quite a while now, and this is the first time someone's called him on it. The ABC, a collection of firefighters, teachers, cops and nurses, have seized on this line as well. The larger a story this gets, the better a chance Angelides has to tighten up the race.


Don't Get Ahead Of Yourself

Democrats are giddy as schoolchildren upon seeing the latest polls, which show ridiculously large leads across the board:

Democrats had a 23-point lead over Republicans in every group of people questioned — likely voters, registered voters and adults — on which party's House candidate would get their vote. That's double the lead Republicans had a month before they seized control of Congress in 1994 and the Democrats' largest advantage among registered voters since 1978.

Nearly three in 10 registered voters said their representative doesn't deserve re-election — the highest level since 1994. President Bush's approval rating was 37% in the new poll, down from 44% in a Sept. 15-17 poll. And for the first time since the question was asked in 2002, Democrats did better than Republicans on who would best handle terrorism, 46%-41%.

And 37 is high for Bush, I've seen 34 and 33 in New York Times and Newsweek polls. More important than that, the GOP is already conceding half the seats Democrats would need to take back the House.

Republican campaign officials said yesterday that they expect to lose at least seven House seats and as many as 30 in the Nov. 7 midterm elections, as a result of sustained violence in Iraq and the page scandal involving former GOP representative Mark Foley.

Democrats need to pick up 15 seats in the election to take back control of the House after more than a decade of GOP leadership. Two weeks of virtually nonstop controversy over President Bush's war policy and House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert's handling of the page scandal have forced party leaders to recalculate their vulnerability and placed a growing number of Republican incumbents and open seats at much greater risk.

When Republicans are hopeful that a rogue nation testing nuclear weapons on their watch will bring the conversation around to a place where they're on surer footing, you know that spells trouble.

But I think to think you could coast four weeks from Election Day would be silly. The NRCC, for example, has only begun to fight, dumping $7.8 million dollars into House races across the country in ONE DAY alone last week, 98% of it on negative advertising and phone banking. Despite some great fundraising, the Republicans still have the money advantage. And that still matters.

Here at D-Day I'm going to do whatever I can over the next 28 days to ensure that this great opportunity is not squandered. And there's a lot you can do. I've donated. I've made calls through MoveOn's Call for Change program. I've been to local campaign headquarters. And I feel like I haven't done enough! This election will be all about GOTV, and I know that a great number of people online are uncomfortable about reaching voters that directly. It's much easier to hide behind the Internets. But it's simply not an option anymore.

One super-easy thing you can do, which I did in 2004, is call your cell phone address book before the election and make sure they're all voting. It's less uncomfortable because these are people you know, and I believe people are more responsive to a friend than to a faceless volunteer.

This is no time for complacency. It's time to understand the stakes of this election, ensure real checks and balances in government, and do whatever is humanly possible to pitch in.


Daddy To The Rescue

Well, surrogate daddy anyway. It appears the consigliere of the Bush family, James Baker, is going to fix the boo-boo and make it all better:

James A. Baker III, the Republican co-chairman of a bipartisan panel reassessing Iraq strategy for President Bush, said Sunday that he expected the panel would depart from Mr. Bush’s repeated calls to “stay the course,” and he strongly suggested that the White House enter direct talks with countries it had so far kept at arm’s length, including Iran and Syria.

“I believe in talking to your enemies,” he said in an interview on the ABC News program “This Week,” noting that he made 15 trips to Damascus, the Syrian capital, while serving Mr. Bush’s father as secretary of state.

“It’s got to be hard-nosed, it’s got to be determined,” Mr. Baker said. “You don’t give away anything, but in my view, it’s not appeasement to talk to your enemies.”

Do you believe that you actually have to tell the Administration to do this? All you have to do is look at the consequences of not talking to your enemies for proof that belligerence and treating countries like children is a poor strategy. One pulled out of a nonproliferation treaty and is now testing nuclear weapons; one has improved their leverage in the Muslim world and benefited from a Shiite Crescent stretching across Asia Minor. Of course you talk to your enemies, especially if they can be of service in Iraq, which is completely out of control.

But don't worry, daddy Baker to the rescue!

His comments Sunday offered the first glimmer of what other members of his study group, in interviews over the past two weeks, have described as an effort to find a politically face-saving way for Mr. Bush slowly to extract the United States from the war. “I think it’s fair to say our commission believes that there are alternatives between the stated alternatives, the ones that are out there in the political debate, of ‘stay the course’ and ‘cut and run,’ ” Mr. Baker said.

That's of course a false choice, since nobody on the Democratic side is advocatiing "cut and run." Those stated alternatives, as Baker puts it, are the ones set out by the President is his "War on Straw" tour across America. Baker is being treated like an honest broker in much the same way the American press treats the US government as an honest broker when it comes to Israel and Palestine. Baker is a Bush loyalist of the highest order, and any plans he'll dribble out, as it says EXPLICITLY in the article, will be Bush policies that Bush doesn't want to say himself because he'd look like a rank hypocrite.

According to White House officials and commission members, Mr. Baker has been talking to President Bush and his national security adviser, Stephen J. Hadley, on a regular basis. Those colleagues say he is unlikely to issue suggestions that the president has not tacitly approved in advance.

“He’s a very loyal Republican, and you won’t see him go against Bush,” said a colleague of Mr. Baker, who asked not to be identified because the study group is keeping a low profile before it formally issues recommendations. “But he feels that the yearning for some responsible way out which would not damage American interests is palpable, and the frustration level is exceedingly high."

There is so much politics wrapped up in this story. For one, having Jim Baker hint at a new direction, but state that his report will not be released until after the elections, does feel like "a secret plan to end the war." Second, it comes down to a matter of trust. Do you trust the Adminstration that went to war based on deception and overhyped intelligence, that dismissed any evidence that an insurgency existed for two years, that won't admit the country is in civil war, indeed an Administration that seems incapable of understanding the actual situation on the ground in Iraq, to come with a plan to fix it?

This so-called "Study Group" is a sham. It's a way to kick the ball down the road and not face the reality that Iraq is over, lost, done. It's a calculated attempt to put it out there to moderates that the Bush Administration is ready to come home to the middle and take decisive action on Iraq and bring the boys home. It's kabuki theater, no doubt about it.


Monday, October 09, 2006

Quick Hits

Didn't have a lot of time to post today, so let's go through the Internets and see what's hap'nin':

• Because George Allen needed another scandal: he's also something of a greedy cheat:

For the past five years, Sen. George Allen, has failed to tell Congress about stock options he got for his work as a director of a high-tech company. The Virginia Republican also asked the Army to help another business that gave him similar options.

This race was actually stabilizing a bit for Allen before this. I thought his "Checkers speech" actually stopped the bleeding. But this won't help, giving him the stain of corporate corruption along with, you know, the racism and the self-loathing Jew stuff.

More tragedy in Darfur, as previously acknowledged janjaweed attacks thought to have killed a handful actually killed hundreds. As the world continues to look away unless George Clooney says something, the genocide continues.

• Speaking of Africa, John Edwards provides a report from Uganda. The question of why Africa has seen no development has many answers, some of them demographic (poor medical infrastructure means more infant mortality means less workers means less growth), some of them the result of kleptocracy and corruption, some of them from perpetual war. But the world's indifference plays a role as well.

• I agree that it's too soon for Barack Obama, mainly because he has no singular accomplishments other than hiring a good speechwriter for his 2004 keynote, and he's never had a real campaign against a Republican (Alan Keyes doesn't count). In fact, in campaigns for federal office Obama is 1-1, losing to Bobby Rush badly for Congress before winning the Illinois Senate primary.

This actually deserves a full post, because it tells you so much about this Administration:

The Navy lawyer who led a successful Supreme Court challenge of the Bush administration’s military tribunals for detainees at Guantanamo Bay has been passed over for promotion and will have to leave the military, The Miami Herald reported Sunday.

Lt. Cmdr. Charles Swift, 44, will retire in March or April under the military’s “up or out” promotion system. Swift said last week he was notified he would not be promoted to commander.

He said the notification came about two weeks after the Supreme Court sided with him and against the White House in the case involving Salim Ahmed Hamdan, a Yemeni who was Osama bin Laden’s driver.

If you show a lack of sufficient loyalty, you will be taken down. Your career will end. You will be ruined. We deserve better for our patriots who fight for American values against all odds.

• Very cool project by the Sunlight Foundation to use "citizen muckrakers" to investigate members of Congress and see who had their spouses on their Congressional payroll. Turns out 19 have been confirmed, to the tune of almost $600,000.

• If you can't beat 'em, join 'em: Google's buying YouTube. Could be worse, it could be Disney or Viacom or a content provider who would turn YouTube into their own personal cable channel.