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

Friday, October 27, 2006

CA-GOV: Now THAT Was A Rally

Today I joined what had to be at least 3,000 people (I'm terrible at judges these things, but it was a mob) to see most of the Democratic statewide ticket, Antonio Villaraigosa, Sen. Barack Obama and Phil Angelides at a rally on the campus of USC. Here are some impressions, I'll have some really bad pictures (I was pretty far back) as well.

• This is what you imagine a classic political rally to be. A band, a giant podium with red, white and blue balloons, a huge bank of TV cameras, a picture-perfect backdrop under a bright sun, energy and excitement. It felt different, in no small part due to the presence of Sen. Obama. Now, I have my own opinions of him, but without a doubt he engages and energizes young people and instructs them on the importance of the political sphere. That is priceless, particularly in this campaign.

• CDP chair Art Torres emceed the event, and first he introduced a couple USC students, one to sing the national anthem, the other to make remarks.

• Each of the CA Democratic ticket who attended made some remarks. John Garamendi was very fired-up, John Chiang talked about unity and the Democratic wave "from sea to shining sea," and the great Debra Bowen quipped that she was in her Secretary of State race for two reasons, Ohio and Florida.

• Controller Steve Westly managed the double-whammy of getting the date of the election wrong (he said November 9) AND the number of days left until the election (9).

• Fabian Nuñez, who managed to get off the infrastructure bonds trail, talked fairly impressively about Iraq, Katrina, corporate rule and the need for Democrats to come together.

• LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who made it just in time after his two-and-a-half week trip to Asia in the middle of the election ended (I'm not bitter), gave a speech about rejecting the idea that Democrat-lite is the way to win, and how we need to speak our principles and be proud Democrats. He actually offered a lot of substantive reasons to support Phil, particularly regarding education (we were at USC) and expanding the California dream for middle-class families. The most important thing he said: "Rallies are nice, but today is about making sure we do everything we can, knocking on doors, making phone calls, getting our friends out to the polls." Blogs are nice, too, but he's right, GOTV is more important.

• Angelides and Obama came out together to wild applause. Angelides' speech was fairly standard but delivered with passion. He touched on a variety of issues, which I actually think is a good thing, it's a big state and we have a lot of problems and we need a governor who can think about more than one thing per day. I thought his rhetoric on education, that if we can send young men and women to die in Iraq and Afghanistan, we can deliver them a world-class education and help them to achieve that, was effective. This speech was about belief, passion and principle, and all of the themes could be distilled in this simple difference between the candidates: who do you trust?

• Angelides closed with a story I hadn't heard, about visiting inner-cirty high schools in Oakland and having kids ask him "how do I get a break?" That's what he's fighting for.

• As for Obama, he basically gave his Presidential stump speech, but tried to connect it to Phil Angelides. Actually, both of them talk about the same things, expanding opportunity, the belief that we are all connected and have a stake in each other's lives, the idea of hope that is crucial to fighting special interest money which historically keeps people's interests secondary. He also name-checked Prop. 87, which he apparently endorsed at a rally earlier in the day. Obama ended with the famous Martin Luther King quote I've often used in conversation, that the long arc of history bends toward justice. But, he said that doesn't happen automatically. It takes everyone working hard to push that arc downward, to ensure that justice prevails.

Here are some pics.

Debra Bowen:

Antonio Villaraigosa:

Barack Obama and Phil Angelides take the stage:

Phil Angelides:

Barack Obama:


Quick Hits

I'm going out to see Barack Obama speak in a couple of hours. I'll have more after that. For now, another edition of Quick Hits:

• CT-SEN: According to the Dean of Washington journalism, supporting a failed policy in Iraq and enabling the most out-of-touch of the neocon cabal who took us there is A SELLING POINT. Memo to Broder: Connecticut is not the only state in which Congressional seats are contested, and therefore is not a national referendum on the Iraq war. Anyway, Joe is an antiwar Democrat, haven't you heard?

• A difference between Democrats and Republicans: Republicans are often investigated and in numerous cases indicted; Democrats are seldom investigated, and, at least in the case of Jane Harman, exonerated. For the record let me say that Harman's closeness with AIPAC, which I feel doesn't represent the interests of American Jews or even most Israelis, gives me pause. Yet she apparently did not seek a quid pro quo with them regarding the potential House Intelligence Committee chairmanship.

• The Foley scandal isn't over, and now it's retiring Rep. Jim Kolbe on the hot seat. Maybe Dan Savage is right, it's dirty but maybe Harold Ford should say this:

The Republicans have accused me of being a heterosexual man. They're implying that I have an interest in women. It would seem that today's Republican Party is more comfortable with elected officials--male elected officials--who take an interest in teenage boys. Mark Foley is acceptable to Ken Mehlman's GOP. Heterosexual men, it seems, are not.

• "Stay the course" may be no longer operative regarding Iraq, but it sure is in Colombia where we continue to sink billions of taxpayer dollars into fighting another failed war, the war on drugs. There's no accountability for this war, because "drugs are bad, m'kay?" I don't do them but the point is that funding military operations in Colombia is having no discernible effect on the drug war, certainly not to the extent education and treatment would.

• A little late, but a fascinating story from the Wall Street Journal about how liberals and conservatives react to fear:

A growing number of studies offer clues as to how terrorism and other deadly events affect people's voting decisions. The latest research shows that because such violent political acts are brutal reminders of death, they make conservatives, but not liberals, more hostile toward those perceived as different, and more supportive of extreme military policies, according to a study in April in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.

For 20 years, researchers have been exploring how people manage the fear engendered by intimations of mortality. Reminded of the inevitability of their own death (which happens to a lesser degree by merely walking past a funeral parlor), people try to quench or at least manage the resulting "existential terror" in several ways. They become more certain of their worldview or faith. They conform more closely to the norms of their society. They show greater reverence for symbols of their society, such as flags and crucifixes.

All of these make people feel more secure and, crucially, a part of something larger -- something that will outlive them.

Go read this whole thing, it's really interesting stuff. We are in many ways political beings because of who we are as psychological beings. As usual, it's speculative to overgeneralize on these things, but these studies seem pretty solid.

More smears, this time against Italian-Americans in New Jersey. Good thing there are none of them there. And am I wrong in questioning the effectiveness of a Sopranos-style attack ad against someone with the surname "Menendez"? Come on, Junior Kean, hating the Mexicans is a national Republican theme this year! Why not go the more obvious route? "Bob Menendez tunneled into the Senate..."

• Remember that $100 million dollars Karl Rove was supposed to swamp Democrats with in the final stages of the election? Not so much.

The Associated Press reports that the Democrats' campaign committees raised a total of $15.5 million during the first 18 days in October, while Republicans raised $10.1 million. The AP tallies up the totals: the GOP has $27.2 to spend on candidates in the home stretch, while Dems have $26.7 million -- a GOP advantage of less than a million dollars. Though the GOP claims a $14 million edge held by individual Senate campaigns, that's spread across many races and will partly be offset by the massive spending of the committees.

God Hates Shrimp. 'Nuff said.


All You Need To Know

Dick Cheney is stumping for Republican candidates in Idaho and the Colorado home of Focus on the Family.

Make no mistake, that's how dire the situation is for the Republicans. Not even slam-dunk ruby red districts are safe.

UPDATE: Speaking of Colorado, Republican Rep. Marilyn Musgrave thinks it's the job of local police officers to forcibly remove people she doesn't like from public spaces.

That's positively Soviet.

I almost never say this, but to conservatives, real conservatives, real "get the government off my back" libertarian conservatives, WHERE IS THE OUTRAGE???


VA-SEN: Artistic License

There literally isn't enough time in the day to document all the smears and lies coming from Republican campaigns in just the past week (don't even get me started on Rick Santorum's Daisy ad where he faults Bob Casey basically for scheming to blow up the world). Like a cornered, caged animal, Republicans with no record whatsoever have gotten unbelievably personal in their attacks in a desperate attempt to save their jobs. So in Tennessee Bob Corker warns voters about the dangers of voting for a black man who wants to take your women and destroy your way of life. And across the country Rush Limbaugh wants you to know that anyone with a terminal disease with no cure simply ought to be challenged as to whether or not they're faking.

And now, in Virginia, noted racist George Allen, whose own ad man created the racist ad used by Corker in Tennessee, the Jim Webb campaign is being forced to defend fictional passages from his novels. Now, the novels have been out there for a number of years. Unlike a federal investigation or whistleblower coming forward, the timing of this disclosure, which isn't a disclosure at all since they were in public novels, must be questioned.

And furthermore, this eerily prescient post by thereisnospoon at Bending Left puts the "controversy" into proper context. Webb wrote realistic, best-selling novels based on his actual experiences in Vietnam. When George Allen was busy trying on cowboy boots and calling people the N-word from the safety and security of a dude ranch, Jim Webb served, and he saw some horrible things in war and after the war as a journalist. And he wrote about them in a cogent and gripping way which impressed the likes of others who served there. For the record, I don't think something is automatically righteous just because John McCain says so, but in this case a fellow Vietnam Vet is backing up his comrade, and that means something.

All of this is really based on one excerpt:

“A shirtless man walked toward them along a mud pathway. His muscles were young and hard, but his face was devastated with wrinkles. His eyes were so red that they appeared to be burned by fire. A naked boy ran happily toward him from a little plot of dirt. The man grabbed his young son in his arms, turned him upside down, and put the boy’s penis in his mouth.”

Which according to Webb is based on actual events and not something you would understand if you didn't get out much:

"It's not a sexual act," Webb told Plotkin regarding the "Lost Soldiers" excerpt. "I actually saw this happen in a slum in Bangkok when I was there as a journalist. The duty of a writer is to illuminate his surroundings."

So what we're left with is rather remarkable: Webb, who fought in Vietnam and spent much of his lifetime exposing that experience in his fiction, documented a real and unsettling feature of daily life there. It was non-sexual, but testament to his actual experience in the country. The Allen campaign is warping it, ripping it out of context and pretending that it stems from Webb's own fantasies of pedophilic fellatio.

My guess? This is going to come out. Days one and two of this story will be very bad for Webb. Day three will not be. It's going to come out that these were strange and nightmarish remembrances from when Webb was overseas, fighting for his country. And Allen will look like a fool and a knave for trying to turn evidence of his war record into proof of perversion. This will give Webb the opportunity to speak of all he saw in Vietnam without seeming exploitive or opportunistic about. And Webb's service there, and the lesson it taught him, are not issues Allen wants on the agenda.

It's extremely telling that in the closing days of a tight campaign, George Allen would rather literally rip things out of context of a novel rather than talk about how he's let down the people of Virginia time and again by providing a rubber stamp for the failed policies of the Bush Administration. And this is happening all over the country. Whether it's trying to capitalize on a gay marriage ruling that didn't sanctify or even address the issue of gay marriage, or returning to the divisive issue of race to try and disqualify a candidate in the South... and let me just quote from that one for a second...

Again, let's be honest with ourselves. Racism is one of the key building blocks of Republican politics in the United States. Don't look at me with a straight face and tell me you don't realize that's true. That doesn't mean that all Republicans are racists. Far from it. It doesn't mean that a lot of Republicans don't wish the stain wasn't part of their party's recent political heritage. They do. But racism and race-baiting is the hold card Republicans take into every election. When times are good, guys like Mehlman 'reach out' to blacks and Latinos to try to take the edge off their opposition to the Republican officeholders. But when things get rough the card gets played. And pretty much every time.

This isn't surprising. It's expected.

...out of desperation, the Republicans are returning to their time-honored tactics of playing to fear and bigotry and the basest elements of society. It's disgusting but telling. When you strip everything away, when you get to the chewy conservative core inside the Tootsie Roll lollipop of rhetoric about "personal freedom" and "fiscal conservatism," you're left with the remaining icon of the modern GOP, still now as ever, Strom Thurmond.


Kabuki Interview

I saw The Dixie Chicks being interviewed by Chris Matthews yesterday, and the topic turned to media consolidation and its role in silencing their voices in 2003. Because so many radio stations are owned by one or two conglomerates like Clear Channel and Viacom, it was very easy for a boycott like that to go national.

It amused me to no end that this interview was taking place on MSNBC, owned by GE.

Especially in light of this:

NBC is refusing to air an ad for the new Dixie Chicks documentary, “Shut Up & Sing." Variety reports, “NBC’s commercial clearance department said in writing that it ‘cannot accept these spots as they are disparaging to President Bush.’”

The spot is an ad for a fucking movie, a factual account of what happened to a band who dared to exercise their free speech. It's being censored.

And it's being censored by the very company who brought the band on one of their family of networks yesterday, where the host commiserated with them about the dangers of media consolidation.

Is it possible to get so angry that your head actually explodes?


PA-08: Dishonorable Men

Yesterday Don Rumsfeld in a speech titled "Worst Man To Deliver Your Message Two Weeks Before An Election Ever" (more on that later) stated to war critics to back off and that honorable men were handling the situation.

Here's one of the honorable men of the Republican Party in Pennsylvania:

A new television ad paid for by the campaign of Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick, R-8, claims that Democrat Patrick Murphy has lied about his employment as a federal prosecutor in New York.

Murphy called the ad “a lie” and “shameful” and demanded that his political opponent pull the ad from the airwaves; Mike Conallen, Fitzpatrick’s chief of staff, refused.

“It’s a desperate and false ad from a flailing campaign,” Murphy said Tuesday. “Mike Fitzpatrick is a liar and a coward.”

According to court documents provided by Murphy’s campaign and an interview with one of Murphy’s former superiors, Murphy did prosecute cases in New York involving drugs, theft, assault and sexual molestation.

It's simply a blatant and outright lie. Patrick Murphy was appointed to that position and Fitzpatrick knows it. His entire campaign has been one big smear. There are quite a lot of them these days, but this coming from my hometown district, on top of the Swift-boating about Murphy's military record, is personally disgraceful. And Murphy was right to call him a liar and a coward right to his face during a debate.

I don't think we've ever had decent representation in Washington from Bucks County. There's finally a shot at selecting someone honorable. Unlike these knaves and fools that use personal attacks because they have literally no record on which to run.


Thursday, October 26, 2006

Your Handy Voter Issue Guide For 2006

Greetings! I thought it was important, at this time, to explain the general positions of the Democratic and Republican Parties with regard to the upcoming midterm elections. With people leading such busy lives, they require these issue guides to sort out where the parties stand.

Therefore, without further ado, here we are with your Handy-Dandy Voter Issue Guide for 2006.

Democrats are running on:

setting a clear timetable for redeploying US troops from Iraq, and working with regional partners to get them to help with the security situation in the country
increasing the minimum wage
expanding health insurance to everyone, especially children
allowing Americans to buy prescription drugs from other countries
allowing the government to bargain with pharmaceutical companies for lower drug prices
implementing all of the recommendations of the 9-11 Commission to keep the country safer
expanding Pell grants and cutting the rising costs of student loans
removing our dependence on foreign oil by finding alternative sources of energy
fully funding stem cell research
enacting regulations that would help fight the effects of global warming
returning some manner of stability and normalcy to the devastated Gulf Coast region
working with our allies and negotiating with our enemies in a strong, tough, and smart foreign policy
redoubling our efforts in Afghanistan to defeat the Taliban and capture Osama bin Laden
curtailing the influence of lobbyists and corporate-run government by enacting real ethics reform

Republicans are running on:

questioning whether sufferers from Parkinson's disease are really as sick as they say they are
reminding voters that black men might sleep with white women
reminding voters that black men shouldn't be in Congress
reminding voters that brown men and brown women want to steal their jobs and take all their government services
reminding voters that Arab men want to kill them in their beds at night

This has been the Handy-Dandy Voter Issue Guide for 2006. Thank you for your time.


Wherein Robert Salladay Can't Handle The Truth

Apparently LA Times reporter Robert Salladay posted something on his Political Muscle blog, getting pissy at me for calling reporters "idiots" for asking horse-race questions at Bill Carrick's little dog-and-pony show of a press conference this morning. Then Salladay deleted that part of the post, I guess.

It must be tough medicine for him to take. In the media, this campaign, like pretty much every campaign statewide, has been 100% issue-free and a complete disservice to the electorate. As usual. If reporters don't want to be chided for focusing on the horse race they can very easily work in an issue debate or policy or two. It's not hard.

Salladay's contention is that the press conference today was for a commercial, not exactly a meaty topic. Well, if you're obliged to ignore the entire purpose for the press conference, why automatically ask horse-race process questions? How about something on taxes? Immigration? Health care? None of which have to be softball questions for Angelides, mind you. And, if a press conference for a commercial is such a useless exercise, why cover it?

Let me explain it to you very slowly. Most people are busy leading their lives to tune in to every nuance of a political debate. They actually depend on others to distill it for them and provide the information they need to make capable decisions. That information does not include: a) who seems to be winning, b) who seems to be losing, c) who might win if somebody else wins, etc. The idea that a political reporter is someone completely divorced from the real-world policy outcomes of political elections is absurd and warped. In fact, it's why people are turning to blogs in record numbers, so disgusted are they with the level of information they get from traditional media sources.

I am not, however, a blog triumphalist. I don't have the unlimited budget to travel the state and dissect position papers. I feel the Fourth Estate has a necessary and incredibly valuable role to play in helping to maintain a well-informed citizenry. I just want them to do their job better. I'm sorry if that offends you, Mr. Salladay.

Nationally, this election has been somewhat refreshing in that real issues are being discussed, once you get beyond the sleaze and the negative ads. In California, it's business as usual. A star-struck media mooning at a superstar candidate.


Check Out Tomorrow

Our These Are The Stingrays parody ad should be on their front page.

The public WILL know about the stingray menace!


D-Day Votes 2006

Well, I just filled out my absentee ballot (me like pen and paper when it comes to voting), and I thought I'd deliver the all-important D-Day endorsements. Take them or leave them.

• Governor: Phil Angelides. About six months ago I wrote about how this Governor's race seemed like the 1996 Presidential race: a loyal soldier from the party being made a sacrificial lamb against a high-on-charm opponent. I still feel that's what's going on. I don't think the California Democratic Party put their best foot forward in this race. This race was defined in November 2005, when the CDP and the unions let Arnold Schwarzenegger up off the mat after being destroyed in his own Special Election. The Democrats in the Legislature wanted to get their agenda implemented, and that's fine, but clearly Arnold had a good year because everybody took a break and stopped challenging him.

That said, my opinion of how the race will go, unchanged in six months, has no bearing on who I think would make a better governor. I've gotten to know Phil Angelides through a bunch of appearances and a couple personal discussions, and he'd made a great chief executive for this state. I believe he'd work to strengthen the middle class and make California a leader in alternative energy. He has a true progressive agenda, unlike the Republican in Democrat's clothing that is his opponent. It felt good to vote for him.

• Lieutenant Governor: John Garamendi. His opponent Tom McClintock is a complete lunatic. Bottom line.

• Secretary of State: Debra Bowen. I've been proud to work for a true defender of voting rights on a few occasions. Like I've said, the second most-important elected official in this state (behind President) is the person who controls elections in the most populous state. Nobody's sharper on election issues, e-voting, etc., than Debra Bowen. Her opponent authorized voting machines that didn't pass inspection and let officials take other machines home on sleepovers back in June. No contest.

• Controller: John Chiang. Bright, young guy. Fresh face. His opponent is trying to buy the election through Indian gaming groups.

• Treasurer: Bill Lockyer, though I'm not so into the musical chairs and retreads. California's Democratic Party needs a shakeup. Maybe next time.

• Attorney General: Jerry Brown. See above, though for some insane reason I've always liked Jerry Brown.

• Insurance Commissioner: Larry Cafiero. I draw the line at Cruz Bustamante. He's a political hack whose hand always seems to be in the till. Steve Poizner, the Republican, is trying to buy the election with his wealth. I punted and went with the Green. See, I'm not a straight-ticket guy!

• Board of Equalization: Judy Chu. I've actually met her. Nice lady.

• US Senate: Dianne Feinstein. This was right on the knife's edge. I'm not all that happy with my choice here. Dick Mountjoy wrote Prop. 187 and lied about his military service. Feinstein voted for the war after acknowledging that her constituents didn't want her to do so. Todd Chretien is the Green and he looks like an 8 year-old. In the end, the most important vote in the Senate to me is the one for Majority Leader. I expect a challenge to Dianne in 2012.

• US House: Henry Waxman. He's awesome.

• State Assembly: Julia Brownley. I've met her, and I want her to advocate for getting money out of politics. Candidates for state assembly spent obscene amounts of money in primaries this year.

• Judges: Smart Voter was very helpful on this.

• Propositions: My baseline vote on propositions is NO unless I have a compelling reason.

1A-1E: No on all but 1E. I simply don't believe in borrow and spend economics, leaving our children and grandchildren with a birth tax. 1E is different only because the levees and flood protection walls in Sacramento are in such bad shape that it's nearing disaster.
83: No. This is a violation of civil rights that won't make any child safer.
84: No. See the 1A-1E explanation.
85: No. We beat this parental notification initiative last year, and we'll beat it this year.
86: No. Cigarette users pay like $5 in taxes per pack in this state. It's enough already.
87: Yes. Our oil extraction tax is way too low. Funding alternative energy research ought to be a priority. Anytime I see Chevron's name on ads I vote the other way.
88: No. It's a regressive tax. Big no-no. The supporters of this bill bailed out months ago.
89: YES YES YES we need public financing of political campaigns. Again, Chevron's on the opposition ads, so I go the other way.
90: Absolutely not, it's a power grab by developers.

• Santa Monica issues: I won't bore you. But I will say that, even here in "The People's Republic of Santa Monica," we have a political machine. And it's ugly.

Six years ago, nearly 60% of Santa Monica's voters approved an anti-corruption law that banned a politician from accepting jobs, gifts or campaign donations from contractors or others who had benefited from that politician's vote.

Sounds reasonable, right?

City Hall didn't think so. The bulk of its notoriously liberal council members went on a rampage. Since the law passed, they've tried to subvert the will of the people and wipe the Taxpayer Protection Amendment of 2000 off the books.

This has cost taxpayers more than $400,000 in legal fees. At one point, Santa Monica officials sued their own city clerk over enforcement of the law, hoping a court would rule that it was unconstitutional.

I asked Susanne Griffin, a Santa Monica resident since 1967 and a supporter of the anti-corruption measure, what it's like to watch as your city attorney uses your tax dollars to sue your city clerk so your vote can be invalidated.

"The city is very progressive in many ways," she said. "But when it comes to this, I just don't know what they're doing."

The argument by city officials was that restricting donors would be an infringement of their right of free speech. But the city lost in court, and then lost on appeal, and then the state Supreme Court declined to take up the case.

End of story?

Forget it.

Unable to accept defeat, the City Council ordered up Proposition W for the November ballot and shamelessly called it the Good Government Act, with only Councilman Kevin McKeown voting against it. Essentially, it would rip up the 2000 reform law and replace it with a measure that would limit the size of gifts a politician could accept, but allow him to accept a campaign donation or even a job after voting on matters affecting the donor.

There's virtually nothing of substance in W, says Carmen Balber of Election Watchdog. For the most part, she says dismissively, it simply restates restrictions that are already covered by state law.

Anytime I see an incumbent on the Santa Monica ballot, I vote against them. They are as slimy as could be (Bobby Shriver, Maria's brother, is a bright spot).

You are now free to use these endorsements and vote in good conscience.


Iraq Is THE Issue

It's getting to the point where the Administration's position on Iraq is incoherent. If you listen to their spinning, the key culprit for this month being the deadliest month for US troops in a year is because the Islamic calendar sneakily scheduled Ramadan right before the midterm elections. Or something.

I just watched Donald Rumsfeld yell at a bunch of reporters because they dared to suggest that Iraqi security forces might not have a full hold on the situation. I mean, who are you going to believe, Don Rumsfeld or your lyin' eyes that watch 100 bodies a day get piled up in Iraqi morgues?

Arianna noticed the latest Vietnam-era talking point:

Looking for a bright spot amidst all the gloomy assessments, the president, the vice president, and the top U.S. commander all seized on the military's perfect win-loss record in Iraq.

"The men and women of the armed forces have never lost a battle in over three years in the war," said President Bush during today's news conference on Iraq.

"We've never been defeated in a stand-up fight in Iraq in over three years," Dick Cheney told NPR.

"The men and women of the armed forces here have never lost a battle in over three years of war. That is a fact unprecedented in history," said Gen. Casey at a press conference in Baghdad.

2,804 dead U.S. soldiers -- 93 (now 96 -ed.) in this month alone. 20,687 wounded. Tens -- perhaps hundreds -- of thousands of Iraqi civilians killed.

If this is what being undefeated looks like, god help us if we ever start losing.

Nobody even seems to understand why Bush decided to hold that press conference given the current environment where the war is cutting against GOP candidates so badly that the sitting Senate Majority Leader, in a stunning turnaround, suggests that GOP hopefuls should STOP talking about Iraq, which is only the most important issue in this election:

"The challenge is to get Americans to focus on pocketbook issues, and not on the Iraq and terror issue," Frist said in an interview with the Concord Monitor on Tuesday.

Frist suggested that Republicans remind voters of subjects like tax cuts and lower gas prices, the result, he said, of the energy bill passed by Congress last year.

"These are all things the media has not covered," Frist said. "People don't say, 'This Congress passed tax cuts.' But that means something to every American."

Up truly is down when the Republicans are trying to talk about "bread and butter." Because there are probably millionaires out there waiting to be captured by that great GOP economic message!

And the Democrats, who are talking about the concerns and needs of Americans all the time, have added Iraq to that message. This is from Patrick Murphy in that Washington Post article I cited before:

"When we went there in 2003, we had a mission to get rid of Saddam Hussein and weapons of mass destruction. We're still in Iraq 3 1/2 years later and the mission isn't clear," Murphy told an audience here last week. "Together we can change it. We can change what we're doing in Iraq."

Two years ago Democrats were afraid to talk about Iraq, afraid to talk about national security, afraid to talk about the war on terror. The fact that optimism is so high in the mind of this blogger is that they're actually reversing that this year. The candidates that are strong and speak Democratic values and Democratic principles will be rewarded.

Finally, I have to give the last word to Brad at Sadly, No, who took down resident wingnut Ralph Peters, who in an op-ed today made the argument that "Bush is being too nice to terrorists." Sadly No has become one of my favorite blogs lately, mainly because of passages like this:

Ralph, let me explain the Iraq war to you with a story. It’s about this company called America, Inc. that wanted to buy a horse to race in the Kentucky Derby. After months of searching and searching, the CEO of America, let’s call him “George W. Bush,” finally settled on an old horse named Raqi.

“I just like his name,” said Bush. “Kinda sounds like that boxer Sly Stalone played, don’t he?”

However, there was just one small problem: Raqi was an old horse whose best days were behind him. He was certainly in no shape to run any race, let alone the Kentucky Derby. Unfazed by this, Bush came up with a plan to revitalize Raqi’s sagging career: sawing off one of his legs.

“I don’t think this is a good idea,” said America Inc’s accountants. “I don’t think a three-legged horse can win.”

“Nonsense!” shouted Bush. “Children do three-legged races all the time in gym class! If six-year-olds can win three-legged races, I don’t see why Raqi can’t!”

But once Bush started training Raqi for the race, it became clear that something wasn’t right. Raqi didn’t have much motivation to run, and when he did, he often fell over and lay on the ground. Bush decided that the problem was poor diet, and so he bought Raqi a year’s supply of Halliburton Horse Helper Meal for $500 million.

“Eat all this up, Raqi!” said Bush. “It’ll make you healthy as a horse!”

Unfortunately, the “Horse Helper” was really a bunch of rat sphincters thrown into a bucket. This made poor Raqi even sicker, and now he wouldn’t even get up to run his drills. To make matters worse, some local photographer snuck into Raqi’s stable at night and snapped a photo of the feeble horse. The pic appeared in the local tabloid the next day. “IS THIS REALLY BUSH’S HIGH HORSE?” blared the sarcastic headline.

“Aw man, just what I need!” said Bush. “The damn press is makin’ fun of me! Hey, can our PR people get out there and tell everyone how great Raqi’s doing?”

And so Bush’s public relations flunkies went on the Internets to spread the good news of Raqi’s true condition, which the mainstream media was not reporting.

And it just gets better and better. Read the whole thing.


Conservatives "Off Their Meds" Over The Ad Wars

Rush Limbaugh's historic and courageous battle against people with Parkinson's disease continues, as he takes back his own apology:

I stand by what I said. I take back none of what I said. I wouldn’t rephrase it any differently. It is what I believe; it is what I think. It is what I have found to be true.

This is part and parcel with the conservative theory that you can never apologize because it shows weakness. Anyway, Michael J. Fox was dressed provocatively and he was asking for it.

Actually, I'm thrilled that OxyContin Boy won't apologize, because anything that keeps Fox' ad in the news does nothing but increase support for stem cell research:

A new national study revealed that American voters' support for stem cell research increased after they viewed an ad featuring Michael J. Fox in which he expresses his support for candidates who are in favor of stem cell research.
The study was conducted among 955 Americans by HCD Research and Muhlenberg College Institute of Public Opinion (MCIPO) during October 24-25, to obtain Americans' views on the stem cell research before and after they watched the ad.

Among all respondents, support for stem cell research increased from 78% prior to viewing the ad, to 83% after viewing the ad. Support among Democrats increased from 89% to 93%, support among Republicans increased from 66% to 68% and support among Independents increased from 80% to 87% after viewing the ad.

One of those 68% is the most popular politician in the state of Missouri, who won't endorse his party's candidate for Senate:

"There are a lot of Republicans who feel strongly that these cells in a petri dish are the equivalent of a person, and there are other Republicans who feel that these cells in a dish not implanted in a mother are not the equivalent of a person," said former Sen. John Danforth (R-Mo.), the influential senior statesman of Missouri politics and a leader in the fight for stem cell research.

Danforth's brother, Donald, died of ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, in 2001.

"When you see somebody you love suffer and die from one of these diseases, and medical researchers say this could be the key to finding the cure, then you want the researchers to go forward so other people won't go through the same experience," Danforth said.

Danforth said he has met many Republicans who refuse to vote for Talent because of his opposition to the research as well as his opposition to the ballot initiative.

Danforth would not say how he will vote in the Senate race.

"On the one hand, this is an exceptionally important issue for me. I cannot overemphasize how important this issue is," he said after a long pause. "On the other hand, I try to be loyal to my party to maintain my credentials within the party to hopefully change it from within."

Rush and the conservatives are having a snit fit because they're on the wrong side of an issue, so they try to take down someone who's bulletproof, and end up making themselves look like asses in the process.


CA-GOV: New Angelides Ad - "Performance"

You can see it here.

My initial thoughts are that it's pretty good, it sticks to the issues at hand and basically asks the simple question "Who do you trust?" It also hammers the line from the debate that the 2005 Special Election initiatives were "good ideas."

UPDATE: I just got off a conference call with Angelides spokesman Bill Carrick. Here's what came out of it:

• This is a statewide ad buy.
• The key point he wanted to make in the ad is that the Governor's campaign is a fraud - "the elephant in the room" (a somewhat clever play on words)
• The three big points Angelides makes at the end of the ad is that he would fully support and fund CA schools, roll back tuition and fees, and push for a middle-class tax cut.
• Carrick characterized the PPIC poll released today showing an 18-point Schwarzenegger lead as "wrong - an exaggerated, conservative, white look at the electorate." He says the campaign's internal polls show it to be a single-digit race.
• In addition to Howard Dean today and Obama-Pelosi-Villaraigosa tomorrow, Sens. Kerry and Boxer will campaign with Angelides in Pasadena on Monday.
• The only thing any of the idiot reporters asked about was the PPIC poll because horse-race is all they can manage to understand.


The Lying Game

People talk about the vaunted GOP GOTV game. It comes down to stuff like this:

"In Michigan they are looking for snowmobile owners and letting them know that Democrats want to close down their trails," said John Fortier, a political scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.

I like how that's considered a "great strategy" - lying to low-information niche voters. Democrats don't want to close down snowmobile trails. It's item number 26,204 on any list, and not even true once you get that far down it.

I mean, in that case, I think Republicans want to shut down YouTube. Should we all make videos to that effect?

Incidentally, according to this national field report, Democrats are making more voter contacts than Republicans. And based on my phonebanking experiences, Democrats are very excited to go out and vote.


Welcome MyDD Readers!

Big thanks to Matt Stoller for linking to our stingrays video. I wasn't the only contributor, Joe Wilson over at Poopycaca came up with the concept. Give him some love too.

We've also got another one up our sleeve that is rampantly politically incorrect. Should be done by the weekend if we have the cajones to actually go through with it.

Might as well give it another look:


Blah blah blah... waterboarding? Yeah, we do that. Ho-hum.

It's a no-brainer.

Vice President Dick Cheney has confirmed that U.S. interrogators subjected captured senior al Qaida suspects to a controversial interrogation technique called "water-boarding," which creates a sensation of drowning.
Cheney indicated that the Bush administration doesn't regard water-boarding as torture and allows the CIA to use it. "It's a no-brainer for me," Cheney said at one point in an interview.

Cheney's comments, in a White House interview on Tuesday with a conservative radio talk show host, appeared to reflect the Bush administration's view that the president has the constitutional power to do whatever he deems necessary to fight terrorism [...]

The radio interview Tuesday was the first time that a senior Bush administration official has confirmed that U.S. interrogators used water-boarding against important al Qaida suspects, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged chief architect of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Mohammad was captured in Pakistan on March 1, 2003, and turned over to the CIA [...]

In an interview on Tuesday, Scott Hennen of WDAY Radio in Fargo, N.D., told Cheney that listeners had asked him to "let the vice president know that if it takes dunking a terrorist in water, we're all for it, if it saves American lives."

"Again, this debate seems a little silly given the threat we face, would you agree?" Hennen said.

"I do agree," Cheney replied, according to a transcript of the interview released Wednesday.

We knew this was happening, it's the nonchalance that cuts me to the quick. And then there's this absolutely stunning claim:

"Would you agree that a dunk in water is a no-brainer if it can save lives?" asked Hennen.

"It's a no-brainer for me, but for a while there, I was criticized as being the vice president `for torture.' We don't torture. That's not what we're involved in," Cheney replied. "We live up to our obligations in international treaties that we're party to and so forth."

This isn't torture, then:

By the way, Alan Dershowitz is a morally repugnant jackass. He's in the video, I'm not just throwing that out there.

We have completely lost ourselves when the Vice President of the United States can cavalierly state that we simulate drowning in other human beings as off-handedly as asking to pass the sugar. In this election, you either enable waterboarding or you don't. There is no halfway. And I realize some Democrats actually supported the noxious Military Commissions Act. They were wrong. But if the Democrats were in power it wouldn't have come up for a vote.


Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Quick Hits

A few things that probably deseve wider attention:

• Fair and balanced: ABC decides that both sides are using ugly and personal ads, and although they couldn't name one from the Democratic side, they smugly decided that "as the races tighten in the next couple of weeks, the left will likely unleash its garbage as well." Journalism by assumption: classy job, fellas.

This was a pretty incredible catch by Steve Young on the Huffington Post:

BUSH: And I told you what the scenario, Dick, could look like, 20 or 30 years from now, if we leave before the job is done. It's a serious business. And that's why I say it's the call of this generation. And I understand how tough it is, see, but I also said in my remarks, just because the enemy has been able to make some progress doesn't mean we should leave.

Quite the contrary; we ought to do everything we can to help prevent them from making progress. And that is what our strategy is. Elaine.

Q What if there is a civil war?

BUSH: You're asking me hypotheticals. Our job is to make sure there's not one, see. You been around here five-and-a-half years, you know I won't answer hypotheticals.

There was literally less than a minute between President Bush using a hypothetical and saying he doesn't answer them. So telling us what might take place 20 or 30 years from now, is not a hypothetical. But asking what this president might do if the very real possibility of a civil war with the horrific ramifications it would present for our soldiers, is.

Do I really need to post a comment on that? It's Bushworld, we just live in it.

• Interesting that the NRSC is putting $5 million into ads in New Jersey, where Bob Menendez has been edging back up in his battle with Republican Tom Kean Jr. That money goes into the New York and Philadelphia TV markets, so that money doesn't even go very far. And New Jersey is historically a heartbreaker state for Republicans no matter the polls, where the Democrats are always able to get their base out. Seems like an odd strategy to me, but then again NRSC chair Liddy Dole hasn't been too good on "strategy" this year (like not being able to field a credible candidate in North Dakota, West Virginia or Nebraska. Ha!). If the Republicans are relying on Blue Jersey, I like our chances in the Senate more than I expected.

• I consider myself fairly well-informed, and until a week or so ago I didn't know about this:

'The Department of Defense Appropriation Act 2007' was passed by the U.S. Congress and signed into law by President Bush on September 29, 2006. Jack Carter, the Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate, points with alarm to a provision of the act that gives the President new power to access the National Guard without obtaining permission from the Governor. The specific language was approved by the Senate Armed Services Committee, on which Carter's opponent, Senator John Ensign sits. Ensign is also the chair of the Readiness and Management Support Subcommittee of the Armed Services Committee.

"This White House language, enabled by Senator John Ensign, turns the relationship between the federal government and the states upside down," Carter explains. "It means that President Bush and his supporters have wrestled away control of our Nevada National Guard from Governor Kenny Guinn. This is an unconstitutional and dangerous law."

More fun with the imperial executive and the divine right of kings. So when will they send the Guard out on us all?

• Electronic voting? Problems with hacking? How about problems with getting the names right on the ballot?

U.S. Senate candidate James Webb's last name has been cut off on part of the electronic ballot used by voters in Alexandria, Falls Church and Charlottesville because of a computer glitch that also affects other candidates with long names, city officials said yesterday . . . Election officials attribute the mistake to an increase in the type size on the ballot. Although the larger type is easier to read, it also unintentionally shortens the longer names on the summary page of the ballot.

Thus, Democratic candidate Webb will appear with his first name and nickname only -- or "James H. 'Jim' " -- on summary pages in Alexandria, Falls Church and Charlottesville, the only jurisdictions in Virginia that use balloting machines manufactured by Hart InterCivic of Austin.

Webb needs Northern Virginia, where these cities are, to go heavily for him to have a shot to win. This is despicable and unacceptable. See guys, the problem with voting is all about a bunch of time-honored, time-tested theories of suppression and intimidation. This is the butterfly ballot in another guise.

• Shorter Bill O'Reilly on increased violence in Afghanistan: La la la I can't hear you!!!

• I phonebanked for Debra Bowen tonight, and I have to say that most every Democrat I actually talked to (about 1 in 4 or so were home) was very excited about voting this year. Maybe those polls are under-representing intensity of support.

• And finally, I'm going to sound like a Republican here, but seriously, adults need to lighten up. Banning TAG from schools? Like no kid's ever skinned their knee before? Jeez. Let's just stick kids in a plastic bubble, why don't we? Here's a news flash, any time you hear someone say "it's about the children" it's actually about the parents. Kids can handle a lot more than adults think.


The Evil We've Etched Into Law

In a just nation, the fact that the rubber stamp Republican Congress, at the behest of the White House, just rubbed out an 800 year-old law by suspending the writ of habeas corpus, and just gave the President the sole authority to determine what's torture and who is an unlawful enemy combatant, would be the biggest issue in this election. You actually aren't hearing anything about it, and the fact that the Democrats are focusing on the disaster of Iraq is noble and right, but giving this Administration all they wanted on torture, giving them the ability to indefinitely detain suspects, to allow coercive testimony in their military commissions, should be completely unacceptable. The Constitution has been completely trashed, and Americans - not Democrats, not Republicans, but Americans - should be outraged.

And the effects of this dastardly act are already reverberating within the country and around the world. Because the Administration is already backing the courts off of their Constitutional function of judicial review:

Moving quickly to implement the bill signed by President Bush this week that authorizes military trials of enemy combatants, the administration has formally notified the U.S. District Court here that it no longer has jurisdiction to consider hundreds of habeas corpus petitions filed by inmates at the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba.

In a notice dated Wednesday, the Justice Department listed 196 pending habeas cases, some of which cover groups of detainees. The new Military Commissions Act (MCA), it said, provides that "no court, justice, or judge" can consider those petitions or other actions related to treatment or imprisonment filed by anyone designated as an enemy combatant, now or in the future.

Beyond those already imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay or elsewhere, the law applies to all non-U.S. citizens, including permanent U.S. residents.

AND, Washington Post, and it applies to all "unlawful enemy combatants," including US citizens if the President is so inclined.

Meanwhile, as predicted by myself and plenty of Democratic leaders, other countries are following the Administration's lead:

Several governments around the world have tried to rebut criticism of how they handle detainees by claiming they are only following the U.S. example in the war on terror, the U.N. anti-torture chief said Monday.

Manfred Nowak, the U.N. special investigator on torture, said that when he criticizes governments for their questionable treatment of detainees, they respond by telling him that if the United States does something, it must be all right. He would not name any countries except for Jordan.

"The United States has been the pioneer, if you wish, of human rights and is a country that has a high reputation in the world," Nowak told a news conference. "Today, many other governments are kind of saying, 'But why are you criticizing us, we are not doing something different than what the United States is doing?'"

Oh yeah, and apparently we're still holding people in secret prisons in violation of the Geneva Conventions, even after Bush claimed nobody else was being held. And, the CIA tried to get Germany to shut up about an al-Qaeda suspect being held and tortured in a Moroccan cell. The bargain was that the CIA would give German intelligence access to the suspect, as long as they got the EU to look the other way on Morocco's human rights record.

This is the United States of America, supposedly the world leader in human rights, doing this. Larisa Alexandrovna calls the Military Commissions Act of 2006 the Reichstag Fire decree. She's overheated, but certainly you cannot have a full democracy when individual rights are at the whim of one man in the executive branch. For those who want to rationalize this by saying "we face a new kind of enemy" (news to those Nazis, the fascists of Italy, and the Soviet Union) and "what if there were a ticking time bomb" (a fictitious scenario right out of "24" that has no antecedent in the real world and neglects the fact that torture routinely provides bad information), I'd advise them to heed the words of Arthur Silber:

Make no mistake: the advocacy of torture, no matter how "limited" or how narrowly drawn, is the advocacy of evil. That torture's advocates must utilize lies to make their case is only one of the numerous ways in which that evil reveals itself. The deliberate and pointless infliction of unbearable pain on another human being -- the infliction of agony for its own sake -- cannot be other than evil. Advocacy of behavior of this kind must always disguise itself; it must always offer rationalizations in presenting its arguments. When evil's masks are removed, most people will shun it. When it covers itself with tendentious arguments that most people cannot untangle, it increases its chances for success. Today, in our country, evil is succeeding to a terrifying degree.

We've lost touch of our leadership so much as citizens that we enable them to etch this kind of evil into our nation's legal structure. On November 7th it's crucial that we reconnect and go to the polls to offer some opposition to this power grab, this dangerous expansion from the rights of an elected President into the rights of a king.


My Own Firewall Strategy

I just gave my last donations of the cycle, based on the sickening ads and smear campaigns of the last couple days, to Claire McCaskill for the US Senate in Missouri, and Harold Ford for the US Senate in Tennessee. I want these two to have all the funds they need to combat this gutter politics practiced by the Republican Party and their allies.

It's late in the game, and candidates across the country need support. See if you can find the funds, even a few dollars, to help them out.


TN-SEN: Tom-Tom Drums

So Bob Corker was so incensed with the "uppity blacks want to have sex with our white women" RNC ad against Harold Ford that he called for it to be taken off the air. And apparently, after two days of free media, the RNC obliged that request today.

I wonder if Corker will then take down his own radio ad which features tom-tom drums every time Ford's name is mentioned.

Listen to it.

I'm sure those drums, which evoke a jungle setting, are merely there for dramatic effect. Sure.

The dog-whistle politics in this race are getting ugly, and I'm afraid they'll probably have the desired effect for Corker, though I'd be pleased to be wrong. Whatever the case, Corker should be completely ashamed of himself for going this low and preying upon the fears of the ugliest, most racist elements of society in order to get elected.

All I have to say is, get ready, Mr. Obama, because there will be 6 months' worth of this if you run for President.

Hunter has more.

(h/t Billmon)


CA-GOV: Arnold Running Away From His Party

The Governor doesn't appear with his party's counterparts on the Republican ticket. The Governor has never been on the same stage as his own running mate Tom McClintock. The Governor won't endorse Republican Dick Mountjoy for the US Senate. And the Governor writes "tart" letters to a Republican President for no real reason other than to prove he's not a Bush Republican.

All of this is happening in the context of an upcoming election, where the Governor thinks he can fool the California electorate into thinking he's part of the "Schwarzenegger for California" Party instead of the GOP.

Yet the governor's actions suggest not a dime's worth of difference between him and his party's standard-bearers. We know that he uses executive orders like Bush uses signing statements to change legislation passed by the Assembly and Senate, in this case designed to water down his "landmark" anti-global warming law. We know that he vetoed bills which would disallow evidence in state courts obtained through coercion, like Bush's Military Commissions Act which allows the same thing with respect to terror suspects. We know that he's sought to privatize state pensions, raise tuition and fees on students, and weaken the ability of unions to advocate on behalf of their members, all tactics long approved by Republicans past and present.

He can run but he can't hide.

And on the other hand, Phil Angelides is proud to be a Democrat and proud to welcome his party's leaders to appear with him. In fact, this Friday at the USC campus, he'll be on stage with Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, House Minority Leader (the next Speaker of the House) Nancy Pelosi and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. I'll be providing a full report. If you're in the area and want to go, the details are here.

You have a Republican in Democrat's clothing who's afraid of his own party at election time but has no problem governing like one, say, a year ago. And you have a true progressive who believes that his principles and policies are right for the state. Who would you rather see in charge?


Protecting Individual Rights in New Jersey

The New Jersey Supreme Court just ruled sensibly that homosexual couple should be allowed all of the same rights granted heterosecual ones.

HELD: Denying committed same-sex couples the financial and social benefits and privileges given to their married heterosexual counterparts bears no substantial relationship to a legitimate governmental purpose. The Court holds
that under the equal protection guarantee of Article I, Paragraph 1 of the New Jersey Constitution, committed same-
sex couples must be afforded on equal terms the same rights and benefits enjoyed by opposite-sex couples under the
civil marriage statutes. The name to be given to the statutory scheme that provides full rights and benefits to same-
sex couples, whether marriage or some other term, is a matter left to the democratic process.

This is a punt on granting gay marriage, as it allows the legislature 180 days to figure out what to call these same-sex relationships. But the key question on discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation has been settled in favor of equality. I should remind you that the only state in the union to currently call it gay marriage, Massachusetts, has the lowest divorce rate in America, so I don't buy that allowing gays to mary would destroy the institution.

AmericaBlog notes that New Jersey's position is essentially the George Bush position on same-sex unions.

"President Bush said in an interview this past weekend that he disagreed with the Republican Party platform opposing civil unions of same-sex couples and that the matter should be left up to the states."

"Mr. Bush has previously said that states should be permitted to allow same-sex unions, even though White House officials have said he would not have endorsed such unions as governor of Texas. But Mr. Bush has never before made a point of so publicly disagreeing with his party's official position on the issue."

"In an interview on Sunday with Charles Gibson, an anchor of "Good Morning America" on ABC, Mr. Bush said, "I don't think we should deny people rights to a civil union, a legal arrangement, if that's what a state chooses to do so." ABC, which broadcast part of the interview on Monday, is to broadcast the part about civil unions on Tuesday."....

"I view the definition of marriage different from legal arrangements that enable people to have rights. And I strongly believe that marriage ought to be defined as between a union between a man and a woman. Now, having said that, states ought to be able to have the right to pass laws that enable people to be able to have rights like others."

This debate is over, by the way. It's a matter of time before future generations understand how shameful and, yes, silly it was to deny individuals their rights on the basis of discriminatory standards. You can talk about political fallout, and certainly there will be those who take this ruling and exploit it by playing to the basest elements of society, but the fact remains that most Americans do not believe in discrimination.

I'm glad the NJ Supreme Court did what it did.


What's The Strategy?

I guess the President had a press conference today where he claimed that he will keep the same strategy going in Iraq, even while jettisoning the "stay the course" slogan. The real question is, what is that strategy? Is the idea to give the Iraqis a timetable for stepping up to handle security, or not?

The defiant al-Maliki also slammed the top U.S. military and diplomatic representatives in Iraq for saying his government needed to set a timetable to curb violence in the country. At a news conference Tuesday, U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad said al-Maliki had agreed.

"I affirm that this government represents the will of the people and no one has the right to impose a timetable on it," al-Maliki said at a news conference.

Is the strategy to disarm the Shiite militias who are responsible for much of the sectarian violence, or not?

U.S. and Iraqi forces raided the stronghold of a Shiite militia led by a radical anti-American cleric in search of a death squad leader in an operation disavowed by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

Al-Maliki, who relies on political support from the cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, said the strike against a figure in al-Sadr's Mahdi militia in Sadr City "will not be repeated."

Is the strategy to draw down troops as the Iraqis stand up and take control over their country, or not?

Two weeks before U.S. midterm elections, American officials unveiled a timeline Tuesday for Iraq's Shiite-led government to take specific steps to calm the world's most dangerous capital and said more U.S. troops might be needed to quell the bloodshed [...]

At a rare joint news conference with the American ambassador, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, Gen. George Casey, said additional U.S. troops could come from inside or outside Iraq to "improve basic services for the population of Baghdad."

"Now, do we need more troops to do that? Maybe. And, as I've said all along, if we do, I will ask for the troops I need, both coalition and Iraqis," Casey said. There are currently 144,000 U.S. forces in Iraq.

Is the strategy to bring countries in the region like Iran and Syria into the country to help quell the violence and give them a stake in Iraq's stability, or not?

America's civilian and military leaders in Iraq linked Iran and Syria with al Qaeda on Tuesday as forces trying to tear the country apart and prevent the United States from establishing a stable democracy.

The comments from ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad and General George Casey were among the strongest U.S. officials have leveled against Iraq's two neighbors over alleged support for armed groups behind much of the bloodshed.

In fact, there is no strategy here at all, just cheerleading and more empty slogans like "we won't leave until the job is done." There's no real idea what "getting the job done" means, and as you can see there are dozens of completely contradictory ways to get that job done. This is an ad hoc strategy made up based on what day it is and what audience is being addressed. Marty Kaplan captures this perfectly:

I'm the decider.

Except for deciding how many troops we have in Iraq, in which case, General Casey is the decider.

Except for deciding what benchmarks the Iraqis have to meet, in which case, Prime Minister al-Maliki is the decider.

Except for deciding what "getting the job done" in Iraq means, in which case, Muqtada al-Sadr and Osama Bin Laden are the deciders.

Except for deciding if it's "stay the course," or "strategy for victory," in which case Karl is the decider.

I'm looking forward to the Baker-Hamilton report. If it agrees with my strategy for victory and getting the job done, I will read it. I call this attitude "flexibility."

There's a big difference between timetables and "timetables." When I talk about them, they're good. When Democrats talk about them, what they're saying is, the terrorists should have a caliphate from Spain to Indonesia.

This is the kind of strategy you get when you know that all the good options are unavailable to you but you don't want to admit it. And it's the kind of strategy you get when you want to demonize and fearmonger to hide the fact that you don't want to leave the country and the vast majority of the public does.

The choice in this election is totally clear. Any vote for a politician that supports this war, that supports this kabuki strategy, is a vote to enable Bush, to enable the continued slaughter of Iraqis and death of our troops. Bill Maher is absolutely right, it's good to obstruct when somebody is pushing an incoherent and reckless strategy. It's good to change course when the path your country is going down is a road to ruin. And yes, it's good to withdraw troops and to follow the advice of George McGovern, who was right on Vietnam and is right again.

Co-written with William R. Polk, a former professor and State Department Middle East expert, the 142-page volume calls for a phased withdrawal of 140,000 U.S. troops beginning by year's end and finishing by June 30. The authors say the Iraqi government should request the presence of an international force, including Arab and Muslim troops, to help keep order after the departure of the Americans.

McGovern and Polk call for an aggressive program of U.S. reconstruction aid to rebuild the Iraqi infrastructure destroyed in the war. Among other steps, the two say the United States should "express its condolences" to the Iraqi people for the large number of Iraqis killed, incapacitated, incarcerated or tortured. "A simple gesture of conciliation would go far to shift our relationship from occupation to friendship," they write.

There are only two weeks left. Do what you can to stop this insanity and get our country back on track.


CA-GOV: Flunk Arnold

Never underestimate the power of a few creative people to make a difference.

CSU students understand keenly how the policies of Governor Schwarzenegger have affected them. They've had to pay more in tuition and fees, they've seen minumum school funding guarantees suspended, they've been forced to fight attempts to privatize public services like education, and they've had the quality of their education go down while the cost goes up. And now they're doing something about it.

Flunk Arnold asks CSU students to create their own 30-second anti-Arnold videos and vote on the best. The winner will get a year's tuition, and have their video broadcast during an episode of The Daily Show before the election. You can look at the finalists for the contest at their site, and vote on them yourself.

Considering that just the other day, Arnold appeared with a charter school principal who believes that schools needing more money "is the biggest lie in America", and that multiculturalism "has wiped out more people than the Klan has," this Flunk Arnold contest is timely. Clearly, CSU students understand the difference between Arnold Schwarzenegger and Phil Angelides on public education. And they're putting their talents and skills to work to advocate for a change in directiion.

Go over to the site and support them.


Thanks Rush


Looks like Rush Limbaugh's claim that Michael J. Fox was "faking" in his ads promoting Democratic candidates who support funding embryonic stem cell research isn't going over too well, forcing him to actually apologize before he stuck the knife in again.

"Now people are telling me they have seen Michael J. Fox in interviews and he does appear the same way in the interviews as he does in this commercial," Limbaugh said, according to a transcript on his Web site. "All right then, I stand corrected. . . . So I will bigly, hugely admit that I was wrong, and I will apologize to Michael J. Fox, if I am wrong in characterizing his behavior on this commercial as an act."

Then Limbaugh pivoted to a different critique: "Michael J. Fox is allowing his illness to be exploited and in the process is shilling for a Democratic politician."

He can spin all he wants; in fact, I'm surprised that he's not attacking Fox for being Canadian, and thus an illegal immigrant. But the point is that Fox has credibility that he's lending to the stem cell effort, no different than Aramaic-speaking Jim Caviezel and others are lending their credibility to the effort against it. And attacking a guy with Parkinson's disease does nothing but attract attention to the ad, which is undeniably powerful. In fact, it may just tip the Senate. This is a major point of contrast in Missouri's Senate race, which has a stem cell funding referendum on the ballot, and voter preferences clearly show Democrat Claire McCaskill's position ahead. As Billmon puts it:

If you're Claire McCaskill (Missouri) or Ben Cardin (Maryland) this is the best thing since the invention of the teleprompter. Both are running against anti-abortion, anti-stem cell Republicans; both badly need a big turnout among pro-choice, pro-stem cell voters to win. But both are also running in Border South states with large Catholic voting blocks -- i.e. states where the anti-abortion movement is strong and a pro-choice stand can alienate a lot of voters who might otherwise be willing to pull the Democratic lever.

But Rush, in his infinite wisdom, has now ensured that the issue isn't abortion. It isn't even stem cells. Now it's all about Michael J. Fox and his battle with Parkinson's Disease -- which is exactly how you don't want it framed if you're the GOP candidates in those races (or a supporter of Missouri's proposed constitutional ban on stem cell research.)

I don't know where Limbaugh got the idea that telling scurrilous lies about one of America's favorite celebrities -- and someone who enjoys a huge amount of public sympathy to boot -- was a shrewd political move. But the Dems should be damned glad he did. Considering how razor-close the Missouri race appears to be, Rush may have just single-handedly booted away a Republican Senate seat.

Go Rush! Go!

Can we get OxyContin boy to claim black people wanted to call George Allen the N-word too?


George Bush must want to raise taxes least, that's the only conclusion I can reach. Because if the President is claiming that Democrats will raise everyone's taxes if they take power, if the GOP is running ads claiming the same thing, then obviously the President is ready to sign tax increases into law. Because that's the only way taxes could actually be raised.

For some reason, every time this is brought up, Democrats strike a defensive pose, saying "we don't want to raise taxes, that's nonsense," essentially reinforcing the frame that Democrats could raise taxes if they wanted to. They have no ability to make laws absent the President's signature, or secure enough numbers to override a Presidential veto. The Democrats need to go on the OFFENSIVE when confronted with this question.

It's real simple, too simple for the media apparently because they've refused to challenge the basic assumption. If a Democratic talking head is asked about the Republican strategy to make taxes an issue in this election, they simply have to answer, "Well, as you know, only George Bush could authorize tax increases by signing them into law. Are the Republicans saying he would do that?" And watch the opponent's head spin. We should demand that they answer the question. "Will George Bush raise taxes? He's the only one who can do so. If you're claiming that tax increases are predicated on the outcome of the election, will Bush decide to raise them if the Democrats win, or will he just raise them anyway. If the Democrats only win one house, will he raise taxes just a little bit?"

Make the question ridiculous. Because the assumption that Congress has the sole power to make laws is just as ridiculous. Heck, in this government, Congress actually has no power. "Will Bush need a law to raise those taxes, or will he just add a signing statement to that effect?"

Now, since any rollback of tax cuts are considered increases to conservatives, maybe the GOP is simply talking about not making the tax cuts permanent. Of course, the 2001 tax cuts are in place until 2010, so they can't be talking about those. In fact, the great majority of the tax cuts already enacted do not sunset in the 110th Congress. So these must be new tax increases George Bush is looking to sign into law.

Maybe the President is banking on the ignorance of the American public with how the legislative process works. OK, more than maybe. But I don't think Americans are that ignorant. At least most of us have seen I'm Just A Bill.

But the people need a little help from the Democrats. This talking point is so absurd that it needs to be challenged and, yes, mocked, thoroughly, so that everyone knows that, yes, checks and balances do still exist in government, and nobody can just institute policy by fiat. In this day and age, that would be an important lesson.


Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Republicans need to buy more wheels, 'cause all of the ones they've got have come off

Can't get away from the blog tonight. I think this is a record number of posts for one day.

Maybe that's because there's so much going on. As if Wyoming Republican Rep. Barbara Cubin threatening to hit a man in a wheelchair wasn't enough, look what else is going on in the continuing story of investigation, impudence and insanity that is the Republican Party:

• Rick Renzi in AZ-01 is now under federal investigation regarding shady land deals designed to benefit contributors and business associates. And a SECOND federal investigation is underway over Renzi pushing legislation that benefited a defense contractor where his father worked as an executive vice president. A double whammy!

• PA-SEN: Rick Santorum claims that control of his particular Senate seat is all that stands between peace on earth and a fate worse than Nazism:

"If we are not successful here and things don't go right in the election, there's a good chance that the course of our country could change," he said. "We are in the equivalent of the late 1930s, and this election will decide whether we are going to continue to appease or whether we will stand and fight while we have a chance to win without devastating consequences.

"And you here in Pennsylvania — you here in this room — will have a huge role to play as to what happens."

Meanwhile he's apparently off the air in Pennsylvania, which is puzzling because he has a major cash advantage. Maybe he's trying that "run and hide" strategy all the cool incumbents are practicing these days.

• NV-GOV: Speaking of double whammies, Republican gubernatorial candidate Jim Gibbons not only allegedly assaulted a cocktail waitress during an all-night drinking session over the weekend, but then made his illegal immigrant nanny hide in the basement when people came to his house.

The Las Vegas Gleaner, a great local blog, has more.

• TN-SEN: So the RNC runs a racist ad playing on white male fears of black men coming to take the womenfolk, and Bob Corker says he can't stop it because it's an RNC ad, and Ken Mehlman at the RNC says he can't stop it because even though it's an RNC ad, it's an independent expenditure, except Mehlman is not telling the truth because he could call for the ad to come down, and Corker hasn't even called the RNC to ask about that possibility.

This is just what's happened TODAY. Either Republicans are cracking under the pressure, or this is just another week in the culture of corruption, or news outlets are doing their typical pre-election digging, but this is an astonishing amount of breaking news. Seems to me that the wave is growing ever larger.

UPDATE: Jim Pederson within six in Arizona's Senate race. I was hoping for another Senate seat to pop up. I'm not comfortable relying on two Southern seats in elections that are shaping up to be about race, in many respects.


Political Ad of the Day

For the record, stem cell research is the right thing for our country to pursue. And it's also a hell of a Democratic wedge issue.

(h/t AmericaBlog)


CA-46: Run Away!

Earlier today, I noted that Curt Weldon has gone completely into hiding, ducking the media and even his own constituents while he runs for re-election. This is fast becoming a trend among House incumbent Republicans. I mentioned that Brian Bilbray appears to be hiding out in CA-50, and Richard Pombo has similarly denied all media requests in CA-11.

And here's another one. Before last night's debate in Huntington Beach with Democrat Jim Brandt, the Courage Campaign in California organized a protest along with Military Families Speak Out to confront Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (CA-46) on the continual rude behavior he has shown the families of those in uniform. They asked me to help out by creating this video. Around 4 minutes in, the protestors confront Rohrabacher. He doesn't even bother to stop. Notice what he says to Tim Kahlor, whose son is in Iraq:

"You’re calling your son a war criminal."

Rohrabacher was running away so fast he didn't even manage to get the context of what Kahlor was saying.

There are enough examples of this to call it a full-fledged tactic. I guess the idea is to lay so low that voters will just re-elect them on the basis of incumbency and party ID, I guess. I'm not sure this ostrich strategy will work; but it shows you just how endangered incumbents feel.


Joe Klein: skin as thin as crepe paper

I heard Joe Klein just compare Dick Cheney going on Rush Limbaugh's radio show and legitimizing him to top Democrats "going out to Vegas to kiss the ring of Daily Kos bloggers."

Joe Klein's probably upset that he wasn't invited.

Apparently, claiming that Abu Ghraib was just kids blowing off steam, and claiming a man with Parkinson's disease is just acting is the same as writing a blog.

Well, it is, when you're Joe Klein, and you're a little baby who doesn't think he should ever have to hear criticism through his virgin ears. I expect that Klein's been on Daily Kos exactly 0 times, and that he'd even admit that. Nevertheless, absent any experience, he equates it with Rush Limbaugh.

... UPDATE: I think what's behind this is the tendency to judge everything along these narrow, polarizing lines, with a false equivalence that ends up comparing two entities that are completely different, thereby allowing tools like Joe Klein to fancy himself above the fray, like a bipartisan deity walking the Earth like a colossus.


Know The Stakes

Mike Barnicle is making sense (Lord help us), saying that these wedge issues about race and sleaze and negative attacks, when there are so many important issues facing the country, simply shouldn't be a part of the debate.

I agree. And I thought I'd share this video, which shows that the Republican Party, should they hold Congress in the midterm elections, plan to once again make an effort to destroy Social Security. This is from the Chairman of the Board, the Big Kahuna himself:

I heard that idiot Dick Armey today claim that one of the reasons conservatives are mad at the President is that he didn't ram Social Security through the Congress when he had the chance. He didn't do that because he wasn't able to do it. Because the country does not want it. These issues from way back in 2005, the ones that really impacted Bush's slide into oblivion, Social Security, the Schiavo case, should not be forgotten. If you care about your own retirement security and the security of your parents and grandparents, there's a clear choice in this election.


PA-07: Weldon goes into hiding

I didn't think it was possible to get worse than the Mike Tyson endorsement for Michael Steele. But Curt Weldon may have come close when he decided to bring in Jim Bunning, the guy who said his 2004 Senate opponent "looked like one of Saddam's sons," the guy who used a teleprompter during one of his debates, the guy who used private security during the campaign because he claimed that people were out to get him, the guy who suggested that his opponent Daniel Mongiardo "beat my wife black and blue," the guy who according to Time Magazine "shows little interest in policy unless it involves baseball."

And maybe Weldon knew that his appearance with Bunning had the potential to backfire. So he closed it to the media:

It could have been a classic campaign media event. Jim Bunning, the famed Phillies pitcher turned senator from Kentucky, had arrived to lend his star power to embattled U.S. Rep. Curt Weldon.

Except there were no television crews, no radio reporters, and few fans.

Bunning told his baseball stories to 200 Republicans on an isolated rural estate Sunday. "I've been to lots of these, but this is the first one I've attended that isn't on a paved road," he told the Republican rally in Chadds Ford.

Maybe the question you have to ask is, who's the one hiding? Jim Bunning or Curt Weldon? Sure, Bunning can go nuts at any moment, but Weldon's the one under FBI investigation, along with his family and close friends. After putting his foot in his mouth by claiming that everyone is out to get him in a vast left-wing conspiracy, and claiming his opponent Joe Sestak's campaign has been coordinating with the FBI based on a tip he got from "an FBI informant" who was one of his own campaign staffers, Curt has gone off the radar screen and into hiding.

Weldon canceled a live appearance Sunday at NBC10. His campaign says he has one public event scheduled so far this week.

"We are in a battle, and its vortex is here," Weldon said in Chadds Ford of the fight for the Seventh House District seat. It includes most of Delaware County and parts of Chester and Montgomery Counties.

"We will win," he added to cheers.

"We will win," he said to a handful of supporters on a private estate!

By the way, as befitting this new breed of Fighting Democrats, Joe Sestak is not letting go of this advantage given to him by his opponent:

But Sestak showed yesterday that he wasn't going to let the probe sink out of sight.

The FBI is investigating whether Weldon helped his daughter's public relations firm win contracts from a Russian energy firm, the Itera Group, and from a Serbian family. Federal investigators are also reviewing Weldon's role in trying to help lawyer John J. Gallagher collect a debt in Moldova.

Sestak called a news conference to say voters should ask Weldon: "Why are you focused on that and not on the interests of the people in our district?"

By the way, Weldon hasn't stopped blaming the entire world for his own ethical failings:

It claimed the Sestak campaign on Friday orchestrated a second complaint to the Justice Department from the watchdog group (CREW). That letter, citing e-mails written to Sestak by people in the defense industry, alleged that Weldon had threatened retaliation against Sestak contributors. Weldon is vice chairman of the House Armed Services Committee.

Puppio called the charges "outrageous." Weldon intends to complain to the Federal Election Commission about the nonprofit watchdog group's partisan role. "We are tired of this stuff," Puppio said.

Sestak and Melanie Sloan, director of the watchdog group, denied the campaign was the source of e-mails she forwarded to Justice.

Ryan Rudominer, Sestak's spokesman, said Weldon "is blaming every single person except himself."

But after falling down in the initial management of this scandal, Curt Weldon is simply trying to hole up and let terror 'n' taxes save his butt. This is not an unfamiliar tactic in this cycle. Brian Bilbray's doing the same thing, trying to remove the target from his head by simply going into exile. Who decided this was a good idea? How is removing yourself from the campaign two weeks from an election considered a pathway to victory?

The answer: it isn't. When you're more toxic showing your face than not, that means it's all over. See ya later, Curt.