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

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Yearly Kos Journalism Panel

This is a particularly good panel, with Jay Rosen from PressThink, Paul Waldman of Media Matters, Atrios, ReddHead from Firedoglake, and Matt Bai of the New York Times. I'm going to run out of battery before it's over, so I won't liveblog. But already, Rosen has made some great points:

-Cheney's invisible. His schedule is not public. He literally cannot be found. How can the press be a watchdog if they can't find the house?

-bloggers collate stories... they're in many ways just another form of an editor. They're using dispersed knowledge.

-The DeLay Rule and Josh Marshall's distributed citizen model of gaining information through constituents. This is when Josh asked his readers to ask their Congressmen how they voted on the DeLay Rule, which would have allowed him to stay the Majority Leader even if he was indicted. Bringing that out into the open essentially killed the Rule.

-Journalism does not belong to professional journalists.

I think there's a symbiosis that needs to be struck. Most bloggers cannot afford to fly around the world for original reporting, but they can contextualize, analyze and push things into the forefront.

Paul Waldman made the point that most people do not pay attention to politics. Which is true. As a comic, frequently following acts that say things like "dogs and cats are different than New York and L.A.," I find myself having to explain who someone like Karl Rove is if I want to tell a joke about him. Local news is still the biggest source of "news" among Americans. The Right built their own media and share the same critique about the "mainstream media" and every time they talk about the media, that critique is involved.

I read Adam Nagourney's front-page article on the event, and I generally thought it was pretty balanced, decent journalism. (Peter Daou doesn't quite agree, thinking Nagourney misreads the event and believes that it's about the netroots going "mainstream." I didn't get that from the article, I thought he was reporting how Democratic insiders look at the netroots. I see his point, however.) I went up to him and told him I liked it, and he said "That's all I'm trying to do, is journalism!" and cowered as if I was about to hit him. Journalists feel beat-up and put-upon nowadays, but the only message they take is "everyone hates me" rather than the content of the constructive criticism.

Atrios just mentioned the horror show that is the political roundtable. They'll pit straight journalists with right-wing commentators. It reinforces the narrative that the straight journalist obviously represents the liberal side. Atrios' problem is also with the format itself. Journalists come on to give their opinions, but they're journalists, so they can't give an opinion. So they end up parroting conventional wisdom, which is a form of disguising opinion, and which lazily goes on forever (McCain is a moderate, for example).

I'm losing juice fast, so gotta go...


Democratic Debate is a Symbolic Gesture

Glenn Greenwald just said the above title in a privacy panel. That's a crucial point. I mentioned yesterday the conference committee that dumped a resolution against funding permanent bases in Iraq, despite it specifically being passed in both party. We can debate and vote on issues, but it's all kabuki theater if the reality is that the Congress can overturn the laws legislated, and the President can ignore the laws that do get through which he doesn't like.

There is no democracy if it exists as nothing more than a movie backdrop with nothing behind it. Congress and the courts thus far won't do anything about it. Just ask Jack Cafferty.

In the end, Senator Specter has turned out to be yet another gutless Republican worm cowering in the face of pressure from the administration and fellow Republicans. There are not going to be any hearings. Americans won't find out if their privacy is being illegally invaded.

You know what the Senate Judiciary Committee settled for instead? Senator Orrin Hatch said he has won assurances from Vice President Dick Cheney that the White House will review proposed changes to the law that would restrict certain aspects of the NSA program.

Dick Cheney is going to decide if it's OK to spy on American citizens without a warrant. And this worthless bunch senators has agreed to let him do it. It's a disgrace.

The war on terror is not enough of a reason to suspend democracy. Because if that's the case, we end up fighting for nothing. This current crop of people in power want to raise the rhetoric of expanding freedom abroad, while obliterating it at home.


Dean's Keynote at Yearly Kos.

What's great is that Dean is talking movement politics. He's talking about the Democratic Party as the lever for the progressive movement, to take back the country. And he praised blogs as the new town hall meeting, but unlike Bush town halls, everybody's welcome in this one. He's encouraging ordinary people to become leaders, to keep blogging, to run for office. He's talking about so many issues on which we're on the right side, for a living wage, for equality of opportunity, for net neutrality.

I've got pics coming. they are:

That's Mike Stark with the sign.


More Images of Yearly Kos

I'm sitting in the main convention hall waiting for Howard Dean's breakfast keynote. It's hard for me to even remember everything, there have been so many cool things that have happened.

-Meeting Sam Seder for the first time in 12 years was a trip. He vaguely remembered me, and we talked about the director of the short film we worked on way back when.

-Shaking the hands of Atrios, John Aravosis of AmericaBlog, Dave Johnson of Seeing the Forest, KidOakland, Booman, to name a few... that's just cool.

-Had a few minutes of discussion with Larry Johnson of TPMCafe (ex-CIA) about my laptop. He said that he flew to Germany recently and they have Internet access on the plane, and he was audio-chatting from 30,000 feet. The United States is so behind on connectivity issues. Chatting from a plane?

-We went from the Drinking Liberally happy hour to the Booman/My Left Wing party at Circus Circus to Senate candidate Jack (son of Jimmy) Carter's reception to the big Mark Warner party at the Stratosphere (which is just a block and a half, I mean two miles, away. We, er, walked.) I'm tired.

-Jack Carter rules. His wife Elizabeth is even better. She asked me to be an extra in her son's movie.

Plenty more, but the speech is about to begin. To be continued...


Murtha Crashes the Gate

This would be a sea change:

Rep. John Murtha, a 16-term Democrat known for his close ties to the military and his outspoken opposition to the war in Iraq, said Friday he will run for House majority leader if Democrats win control in November.

Murtha, 73, wrote in a letter to Democratic colleagues that he would seek the post "if we prevail, as I hope and know we will, and return to the majority this next Congress."

"I would appreciate your consideration and vote and look forward to speaking to you personally about my decision," he wrote.

Murtha wouldn't be facing Nancy Pelosi, who would presumably become the Speaker of the House (first woman ever, I might add). He would probably be up against Steny Hoyer, a "blue dog" Democrat who a Maryland blogger told me "owns the state." He thinks that fight would be ugly. I'd welcome it. Murtha would be a great voice for the party and as Majority Leader he simply could not be ignored. Hoyer's an insider who has virtually no visibility outside of Washington. The Majority Leadership is an important position for the party brand. Ideology doesn't necessarily matter, but a willingness to stand up and speak out does.

Of course, this is premature. But what fun is a world without speculation?

Oh yeah, and Murtha opposes abortion. Which means that if there's a clean sweep of Congress it could shake out that the Majority Leader of the House and Senate oppose abortion. There's your "Party of Death." (However, I think they'd take the 'safe, legal and rare' line in legislation.


Friday, June 09, 2006

Sitting In A Skybox

Watching Sam Seder's live broadcast of The Majority Report. He has Matt Stoller of MyDD and Jane Hamsher of FireDogLake on right now. I did a short film with Sam about 12 years ago and I'm about to spring my story on him. Will update later.

However, it's interesting to note that the NSA is here.

OK, it's the National Society of Accountants, but apparently also the National Society on Aging is here too. That's right, two NSAs. And the National Society on Aging doesn't appear to have a website.

I'm not saying the entire convention is being tapped, but... the entire convention is being tapped.

Somebody put a piece of paper over half the NSA sign that says "Spying Without a Warrant Since 2003."


D-Day in the News

I was interviewed by the Las Vegas Review-Journal and Dan Balz of the Washington Post regarding Yearly Kos and the blogosphere. If I find any links to the final versions I'll link them and excerpt. If you find them first please do the same in the comments. Be my personal clipping service!

UPDATE: Not a single solitary quote in the LV Review-Journal article! Come on now, show me a little love!


Yearly Kos Pics

At my flickr site.


CIA Leak Panel Liveblog at Yearly Kos

I did this at Daily Kos today, finally getting some time to port it over here:

Hi, thought I'd put this up early...

Incidentally I just got out of an amazing Electoral Reform Panel with KRIST MOTHERFUCKING NOVOSELIC OF NIRVANA!!!! I'll be posting a full report of that a little later.

Update [2006-6-9 12:48:0 by dday]: Funny story... I bumped into Ryan Lizza of The New Republic at the coffee stand this morning, and I mentioned how I went to college with Jon Chait and how he used to write a really crappy, Dave Barry rip-off column for the college newspaper. I wish I could hear that conversation on Monday morning.

Update [2006-6-9 12:48:0 by dday]: I'm in the "Progressive Player" panel right now. Wanted to get in early to get a seat. This is a good panel as well, with members of DFA, MoveOn, and Progressive Majority.

Update [2006-6-9 12:48:0 by dday]: OK, the Progressive Players panel just wrapped... I don't usually beg for reco's but please rate this up... Byron York and Ron Brownstein are at the next table over. Mike Stark cornered hair-boy York last night and challenged him to a debate, which he demurred on...

Update [2006-6-9 12:48:0 by dday]: The panel looks like a paparazzi event, there are literally dozens of people snapping pictures of them as they all get settled...

Update [2006-6-9 12:48:0 by dday]: Jane Hamsher of Firedoglake is starting it off. "This subject typifies the very best of what we do in the blogosphere and why it's so important." If the RWCM had being doing their jobs, we wouldn't need to do so... Jane's setting the scene... "sneering gimp of a VP" my favorite line so far.

Update [2006-6-9 12:48:0 by dday]: Hisses for Bob Woodward... "Hi Bob," says Jane.

Update [2006-6-9 12:48:0 by dday]: Standing O's for Murray Waas and Larry Johnson and Christy Hardin Smith...

Update [2006-6-9 12:48:0 by dday]: A good comparison between Plame and Whitewater... I wonder how embarrassed reporters are about their role in that fake story. Emptywheel is now being introduced. I talked to her briefly this morning, she was discussing how she was pumping Joe Wilson for information last night over drinks...

Update [2006-6-9 12:48:0 by dday]: Joe Wilson is beginning his portion of the panel... that's two, count them, two standing ovations for him... "Let's get on with it," he says. I'm Mr. Valerie Plame...

Update [2006-6-9 12:48:0 by dday]: It's insane that Wilson's been talking about this stuff for almost three years. He's working it back to the blogs and the marketplace of ideas. "Competition will emerge" in that marketplace (that means us).

Update [2006-6-9 13:50:38 by dday]: York had no reaction to that rip by Wilson, incidentally.

Update [2006-6-9 13:50:38 by dday]: "Who put a lie in the most important speech the President gives every year, in a year when he was taking the country to war, and why did he do it." Now that's an elevator pitch for this story, isn't it?

Update [2006-6-9 13:50:38 by dday]: This scandal has been all about intimidation, which is what Wilson's talking about right now. "We can stand up to these schoolyard bullies." That's true for much more than Plame, IMO.

Update [2006-6-9 13:50:38 by dday]: "An administration determined to ensure that its narrative was the dominant narrative, and determined to slander those that try to change that narrative." "The simple act of telling the truth is revolutionary." (Orwell quote)

Update [2006-6-9 13:50:38 by dday]: Dan Froomkin is up now, and he's highlighting Murray Waas and the journalistic issues at play. "The sad moment for journalism is that reporters didn't develop sources for this story."

Update [2006-6-9 13:50:38 by dday]: People don't realize that were it not for Waas' reporting, Judy Miller might still be considered a martyr and not a shill. And Libby might not have been indicted...

Update [2006-6-9 13:50:38 by dday]: Froomkin talking about the modus operandi of the White House, to defile the public square. The truth is that the more disgusted people get with government, the more predictable elections become, and the more favorable an environment for Republicans. Froomkin giving a mea culpa now... "I'm not a Washington Post reporter, I work at home..."

Update [2006-6-9 13:50:38 by dday]: "The path of least resistance" for reporters is Froomkin's topic now. This is so true. The corporate media doesn't want to be hassled, and they think they'll be hassled more by the right than the left. Journalists are starting to be a little gun shy about incurring the wrath of the left.

Update [2006-6-9 13:50:38 by dday]: Murray Waas is up now. Or as I call him, Bob Woodward 2.0.

Update [2006-6-9 13:50:38 by dday]: There's no reporter for any major news org. covering this story even one or two days a week, according to Waas.

Update [2006-6-9 13:50:38 by dday]: "They're shouldn't be a writer who writes for a magazine with 13K readers that's the only one doing original reporting on this." Waas calling out York, who smiled. "Two words why I covered this: health insurance. If Dick Cheney's ever had a bad day from what I wrote, it's because he couldn't come up with a good health insurance plan."

Update [2006-6-9 13:50:38 by dday]: "We don't know where this story's going to go..." says Waas. His last point is that even though there's no stomach for pursuing these stories, still what he's writing goes with the conventional wisdom. Whereas in the Lewinsky scandal, the conventional wisdom was the very opposite of what was happening in the country.

Update [2006-6-9 13:50:38 by dday]: "The question we face is 'Are some stories not going to get covered at all?'" Talking about the shots he was taking during impeachment. "Let's not close the public square to discourse and debate rather than making ad hominem attacks. Let's try to reclaim our media." Great quote.

Update [2006-6-9 13:50:38 by dday]: Emptywheel is up now. What the blogosphere offers is expertise (legal issues, etc.) "I'd put any FDL reader up against The Note in understanding this story."

Update [2006-6-9 13:50:38 by dday]: Emptywheel on understanding character of the players involved... something the trad media really can't do. Also, testing hypotheses online, which is what she does really well.

Update [2006-6-9 13:50:38 by dday]: Emptywheel now on the blogs calling out journalism spin. Going a little bit into the weeds about the INR memo and Air Force One and Ari Fleischer and how sources were trying to set him up...

Update [2006-6-9 13:50:38 by dday]: Larry Johnson is up now. "I'm a lifelong conservative, but I'm not sure what conservative means anymore in the light of this Administration."

Update [2006-6-9 13:50:38 by dday]: Johnson is setting the scene, providing all the lies and vindictiveness. "Poor, unwitting George Bush..." "I wish we were making this crap up."

Update [2006-6-9 13:50:38 by dday]: Johnson is defending the CIA, which deserves defending IMO. How the White House ignored CIA warnings. "If that's not the basis to outrage anyone, you have lost your heart and soul." Standing O for that.

Update [2006-6-9 13:50:38 by dday]: About Plame specifically, her covert status... if she wasn't covert, why would the DoJ be investigating? And the nonsense about "there was no damage done."

Update [2006-6-9 13:50:38 by dday]: The word treason is finally brooched. Good for Larry Johnson. ReddHead up now.

Update [2006-6-9 13:50:38 by dday]: ReddHead is discussing the value of legal expertise and real-world courtroom experience. "You never begin a grand jury without thinking you'll be securing some charge." It's not a fishing expedition. It'd be a waste of the grand jury's time. He's using a REGULAR GRAND JURY (that was for The Note, apparently).

Update [2006-6-9 13:50:38 by dday]: Just because Fitz isn't there doesn't mean the grand jury isn't meeting... and just because the grand jury is meeting doesn't mean they're meeting on Plame.

Update [2006-6-9 13:50:38 by dday]: Finally we start talking about Rove. It's ReddHead's understanding that the investigation is ongoing, because, uhh, Fitzgerald said so. And so did the judge. A lot.

Update [2006-6-9 13:50:38 by dday]: ReddHead now on the issue of the journalists who have been caught up in this case, from a legal perspective. She doesn't think the shield laws would protect a journalist from naming sources who are committing a crime. That's a great point.

Update [2006-6-9 13:50:38 by dday]: We're at Q&A now. Wilson says that he has great faith in the institutions of democracy. Agreed that we can't give up on democracy, because obviously when we do, Republicans win.

Update [2006-6-9 14:5:29 by dday]: Murray Waas about the presumption of innocence and not rushing to judgment. Waas is now talking about pardoning... have any news orgs. covered that? Or blogs, for that matter, sez Waas.

Update [2006-6-9 14:5:29 by dday]: ReddHead mentions that Mary Matalin is holding a $500-a-plate dinner for Libby's legal defense fund. Joe Wilson on his wife being a crack shot with an AK47 (funny joke)... ReddHead thanks the White House Iraq Group.

Update [2006-6-9 14:5:29 by dday]: clammyc asks the Jason Leopold question...

Update [2006-6-9 14:5:29 by dday]: emptywheel is good on this answer. Be wary of sources is the takeaway, basically.

Update [2006-6-9 14:5:29 by dday]: My laptop battery's cashed so I'm done. Thanks all.


Wins and Losses

I posted yesterday about a couple of legislative victories, but what I didn't notice were a couple horrendous losses.

First, the House did its best to render the Internet totally impotent. From this Kos diary:

The horrible COPE bill, which serves up our Internet as a nice little garnish on a fat juicey meal of money and power to the Telephone & Cable companies (who have become, not incidentally, another arm of the authoritarian regime now in power), passed the House last night. The Markey amendment, which would have protected Net Neutrality, failed by 117 votes, of which 58 came from Democrats. Eleven Republicans and one independent voted with the good guys on this one.

The Senate is a little more hopeful, but it's definitely time to agitate. It's simply ridiculous and anti-competitive to put up gatekeepers on the Internet.

Number two was this blatantly illegal move. From David Swanson:

When the House and the Senate pass similar but not identical bills, they create a conference committee to work out the differences. When they both passed amendments to the "emergency supplemental" spending bill stipulating that none of the money could be used to build permanent bases in Iraq, the conference committee, behind closed doors this week, resolved that non-difference by deleting it.

This would appear to be a blatant violation of the rules of Congress and an unconstitutional voiding of the will of the people as expressed by their Representatives and Senators. But it can't appear that way to a people that knows nothing about it. And it does not appear that way at all to the journalists who inform the public of its government's doings. Even the minority members of the conference committee and the leaders of the minority party in Congress seem entirely comfortable with this course of events, although Congresswoman Barbara Lee has denounced the Republicans for it.

Blogs are great because they edit the news in real time, taking something off the radar and putting it front and center. This is completely ridiculous and symptomatic of how this Republican Congress works. It doesn't matter what gets legislated, the committee will nullify and shape a new bill out of the old ones. This is a perversion of the process. Do you all realize that Democrats aren't even allowed, for the most part, on these conference committees? Despite being in the minority, Democrats represent 45%+ of the Congress. All of my representatives are Democrats. My voice is silenced in Washington, and deliberately so. How is that democracy?

So mad about this I could spit. But I'm at Yearly Kos, so that softens the blow. More updates to come.


Sneaking Out the Back Door

Any coincidence that Tom DeLay is leaving Congress the same weekend that practically every progressive blogger in the world is otherwise indisposed? Well, yes.

But the transcript of his farewell speech to Congress is comical.

In preparing for today, I found that it is customary in speeches such as these to reminisce about the good old days of political harmony and across-the-aisle camaraderie, and to lament the bitter, divisive partisan rancor that supposedly now weakens our democracy.

Well, I can't do that because partisanship, Mr. Speaker, properly understood, is not a symptom of democracy's weakness but of its health and its strength, especially from the perspective of a political conservative.

Liberalism, after all, whatever you may think of its merits, is a political philosophy and a proud one with a great tradition in this country, with a voracious appetite for growth.

In any place or any time on any issue, what does liberalism ever seek, Mr. Speaker? More -- more government, more taxation, more control over people's lives and decisions and wallets. If conservatives don't stand up to liberalism, no one will. And for a long time around here, almost no one did.

Indeed, the common lament over the recent rise in political partisanship is often nothing more than a veiled complaint instead about the recent rise of political conservatism.

I should add here that I do not begrudge liberals their nostalgia for the days of a timid, docile and permanent Republican minority.

DELAY: If we Republicans had ever enjoyed that same luxury over the last 12 years, heck, I'd be nostalgic too.



Honestly, does anyone need a parting shot about evil libruls from the guy who's sneaking out the back door of Congress because he and half his staff will be in court and/or jail for the next 10 years?


Yearly Kos: Things I'll Take Away

-At last night's keynote speech, we didn't know there'd be any food there, so we walked out of La Salsa and into a full buffet.

-Tom Tomorrow (my personal blogfather, he's the one that got me interested in political blogging) showed some of his favorite cartoons at the event. Later, I ran into him and thanked him for turning me on to blogs. He said, referring to this phenomenon, "Yeah, I didn't see this coming."

-Kos delivered a great speech, summarizing the rise of the netroots and the importance of people-powered movements.

-Putting faces to names that have been a part of your life for years.

-Wesley Clark threw a party at the Hard Rock after the keynote, everyone pretty much meandered over to that. Gen. Clark jumped on a stool and delivered a stump speech tailored to the netroots that was pretty good. He talked about how he won the Oklahoma primary and then was told to get out of the 2004 race, and he couldn't understand that one. "I'm just starting to win!" Got to shake his hand later.

-Grabbed a photo with Ambassador Joe Wilson (to be posted later).

-Mike Stark "cornered" Byron York of the National Review and challenged him to a debate. York said OK, but after Stark said it would be about abortion, he took a pass. Hilarious. Stark, incidentally, won the blogger's hold-'em tournament at the Mirage later over Chris Bowers of MyDD and others.

-Running into Ryan Lizza of The New Republic this morning at the coffee stand, and absolutely embarrassing his colleague Jonathan Chait by talking all about his Dave Barry-esque columns in college (we went to school together).


Yearly Kos - First Impressions

It's really amazing to walk through a hotel and see Kos and Atrios looking around for something to eat. That's not cool to 99.9% of the globe, but it was cool to me. I got in around 11:00am and registered. There's free wireless access in the convention area, but it's not the greatest. It did get better as the day wore on, however. I saw a few people I've met at meetups in Los Angeles before, so it was nice to see some familiar faces.

The pundit training panel which I liveblogged about earlier was really interesting. Judd and the other lady (forgot her name) from Think Progress know their stuff, and provided a lot of little tips for how to project a good image on radio and television. I'm just happy that there are Democrats that even think about this at all. That shows that some infrastructure is being built. I wish I took that seminar before I wound up on the radio last week, I think it would have been a big help. In today's political climate, the medium is the message, and how you look and how you took can often be important as what you say. I think it comes down to confidence and practice. Comedy is the same way. The more sets you do, the better you get, and the more confident you get in your material.

Tonight there are a few parties, including a keynote address featuring Tom Tomorrow (the cartoonist behind This Modern World, whose site introduced me to political blogging), the Laughing Liberally guys, and Kos himself. The panels and workshops are important, but it's about meeting and connecting with the netroots community. Only through banding together are we going to get anywhere. Already I've met Mike Stark of Calling All Wingnuts and Maryscott from My Left Wing. That's invaluable to me.

I'll check in as things progress.


Thursday, June 08, 2006

Net Neutrality Update

Save The Internet sent a letter to the House Rules Committee demanding they allow the full House to vote on legislation to preserve net neutrality. The coalition they've built on this issue, which includes both and The Christian Coalition, is nothing short of astounding. It's like getting Israel and Palestine to fight on the same side in a war.

The Congress should absolutely act to preserve innovation online and save the freedom of the internet for all of us. It's protects small businesses and new technologies. What politician outside of someone freighted with gifts from the Telco lobby would not
support this?



Today the Senate rejected repealing the Paris Hilton tax, with the cloture vote losing by a mere 3 votes. Also today, the FDA approved the HPV vaccine, the virus that leads to cervical cancer. These are big victories. Should the Democrats take back the House, we would see victory translated as less rejecting stupid proposals and more as providing legislation that leads to progress for the American people. On the HPV virus, which Christian conservatives didn't want approved because they said it would encourage promiscuity (so we'll sacrifice millions of women's death so they won't have sex, which they will already), this is the kind of common sense that the American people surely want.

And today, it was announced that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was killed in Iraq. These are all victories, and I applaud the work of the armed forces on this one. However, I hope it's not hyped into "the end of the insurgency" which is most definitely is not. The Washington Post reported months ago that Zarqawi was essentially a small player in Iraq used by the US military to put a face on the insurgency.

The U.S. military is conducting a propaganda campaign to magnify the role of the leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq, according to internal military documents and officers familiar with the program. The effort has raised his profile in a way that some military intelligence officials believe may have overstated his importance and helped the Bush administration tie the war to the organization responsible for the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

The documents state that the U.S. campaign aims to turn Iraqis against Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a Jordanian, by playing on their perceived dislike of foreigners. U.S. authorities claim some success with that effort, noting that some tribal Iraqi insurgents have attacked Zarqawi loyalists.

For the past two years, U.S. military leaders have been using Iraqi media and other outlets in Baghdad to publicize Zarqawi's role in the insurgency. The documents explicitly list the "U.S. Home Audience" as one of the targets of a broader propaganda campaign.

In a sense you can see the death of Zarqawi as the US slaying their own myth. This occurred on a day when, minutes later, 30 more were killed as violence continued. We should be very circumspect about this. I'm not saying Zarqawi wasn't a terrorist, but he wasn't the leader we made him out to be.


Liveblogging the Yearly Kos

Hello, everyone. I arrived in Vegas around 11:00am, and I'm liveblogging the training session with Think Progress (Judd and Jen) for media training.  Right now they're talking about how to contact the media and get them interested in your events.

I'll continue to update as things move on.  So far it hasn't covered a whole lot.
Right now we're talking about sending pitch e-mails. Short, 3-4 sentences about who you are, what you do, links to your work, headshots/pictures. In the wake of Yearly Kos, now's a good time to do it.

Preparing to go on TV: in general, Democrats are not interested in just talking points, we care about policy and it matters. If you don't believe in government, you're proud to spout talking points. You need ONE impression that people will remember. You can't be frazzled and go off on a million topics. Think of it as a mission statement. I learned this the hard way last week when I went on our local Air America affiliate as a guest and went around and around and didn't focus enough.

I just talked about preparation a bit. The idea is to bounce ideas off of other people maybe before the show, to get a good idea of how you can get focused. Any TV segment you do is not going to be much longer than 3 minutes, and tops is going to be two questions. You're not going to be able to speak longer than 25 seconds on TV, maybe 45 seconds on radio. It's important to practice that.

By the way, I think I'm doing this on the sly...

Update [2006-6-8 17:3:1 by dday]: A question was asked about what happens if you're thrown a question that you don't have a fully formed opinion about. It's maybe OK to give an "I think it's premature" kind of answer. It's certainly better than bullshitting something that doesn't really make a lot of sense.

Update [2006-6-8 17:3:1 by dday]: Mike Stark's in the room, and he made a good point. Listen to the show you're going to be on and try to understand how they approach the issues and their guests. That's invaluable.

Update [2006-6-8 17:3:1 by dday]: "message repetition is very 90s"... the idea is to take one message that you're going to give, and use a lot of different topics to go about delivering it. This keeps the audience interested, but reinforces the message. Prepare with a "center box" and put the supporting information around it. Most importantly, ANSWER THE QUESTION. You can pivot on to a bunch of other points, but you have to answer the question in an honest way. I agree, I can't stand when people talk past the question on talk shows.

Update [2006-6-8 17:3:1 by dday]: We're talking about how to avoid traps. This is particularly significant when you're on shows that set you up to fail. The Think Progress folks think you should go on Fox shows. I agree, you can't run away from debates. When a guy like Hannity tries to bait you, ANSWER THE QUESTION and then pivot back to the main thing you want to say. Being evasive will make you look weak.

Update [2006-6-8 17:3:1 by dday]: They're giving camera tips now. These are good things, basically about looking at the camera, sitting up straight, proper clothing (dark shirts, jackets, modest and boring clothes, etc.), sitting on the edge of the chair, etc.

Update [2006-6-8 17:3:1 by dday]: "You need to have a certain level of disengagement with what's going on." You don't want to lose your authenticity but without coming off as angry. Be aggressive but not angry. This is crucial, IMO.

[UPDATE] We're doing on-camera sessions right now. I'm watching emptywheel do an interview on the Valerie Plame scandal. Judd from ThinkProgress is doing his Tim Russert impression. She knows every angle of this thing, and I think she'd make a very good voice for us in the media.


Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Bloggered All Day

Blogger was down for about 6 hours, and the email posting wasn't working either. Sorry folks.

I actually have quite a few things I wanted to get to, but I'm driving to Vegas in the morning for YearlyKos, so it'll keep until then. I'll have reports from the road tomorrow.


Hate Loses

Not even a majority, and only one more vote than they got in 2004, despite having 4 more Republican Senators. They're on the wrong side of history on this one. Jon Stewart explains it better and more succinctly than anyone has yet while smacking down serial gambler Bill Bennett.

Bennett Look, it's a debate about whether you think marriage is between a man and a women.

Stewart:I disagree, I think it's a debate about whether you think gay people are part of the human condition or just a random fetish.

But I disagree with the AP characterization that this rejection of the Constitutional amendment deals "a defeat to President Bush and Republicans who hope to use the measure to energize conservative voters on Election Day." No, for them it's a great victory. With the issue unsettled, it gives them something on which to campaign to their radical theocon base. That's why House Majority Leader John Boehner is still bringing it up for a vote even though it's already failed in the Senate. It's a fake vote for a failed amendment designed for a political purpose. Shitkicking the gay is what the House and Senate would rather spend their time doing than any issue which actually affects Americans meaningfully.


Post-Election Report

A lot of progressive bloggers are focusing on Francine Busby's loss last night to ex-lobbyist Brian Bilbray as proof that Democrats cannot just expect voters to show up and vote out Republicans by running the campaign of a moderate technocrat. Matt Stoller probably puts this the best:

Busby's loss was a loss no matter how it's spun, but it's also a clear sign that the Democrats must become a progressive party. Busby ran the ultimate DC campaign, downplaying ideology and party, and making the campaign about competence, corruption, and issues. I don't expect this to wake up DC insiders, but you never know.

The counter to the Busby loss are the twin victories of Jon Tester and and Phil Angelides, as well as the unexpectedly strong showing of Marcy Winograd. Tester and Angelides won through progressive grassroots oriented campaigns. Angelides's campaign was ugly, but he beat Westly's big money and he was clearly the more progressive candidate and ran a more grassroots-oriented campaign. Winograd took an unexpectedly large 37 percent in a primary against Jane Harman. Winograd was not a credible opponent and had no local blog support, so this is the level of support the conservative Democratic leadership is turning off. And Tester CRUSHED his opponent with 60% of the vote, working with the local Montana netroots to push a progressive message that clearly resonated. I'm more optimistic about Lamont now because progressive messaging worked, and insider Democratic messaging surrounding 'issues' did not.

So let's look closer at the loss in CA-50 for Michael Duka, I mean, Francine Busby. What is there to say about Busby? She lost against a corrupt lobbyist running as a progressive in a district whose last Congressman resigned because of bribery and prostitution. If any district was tailor made for competence and corruption messaging, it was this one. That it didn't work should wake some people up. Busby ran explicitly as a 'moderate' to restore ethical government, with a patina of 'issues' (just look at the incomprehensible 'issues' area of her web site). She hid from progressives and liberals explicitly, running on a technocratic vision of minor benefits for the electorate. Busby argued that goverment is a service delivery vehicle, and she can make the trains run on time. The voters rejected that argument because they didn't trust the messenger. You can say she made up 15 points or something and the Republicans had to spend a lot of resources on this race, and I respect that argument. You can say she made a last-minute gaffe on immigration, and I respect that argument. You can argue that the California Governor's race depressed turnout. All those are valid arguments. Unfortunately, reality isn't fair. The map is gerrymandered. The Republicans have more money, a lot more. They have the ability to create last minute gaffes for every Democrat in the country. They have a proven turnout model, and the ability to dominate the agenda with wedge issues and hatred. And Democratic leaders don't have a history of effective messaging, which means that with some exceptions the top of the ticket ain't going to be particularly inspiring.

I sort of agree. We're talking about an area of San Diego County that is certainly Republican, but Kerry only lost there by 11 points. Busby lost by 5 and didn't move her percentage an inch from the open primary to the runoff. However, her campaign didn't do everything wrong, and I don't know what else you wanted her to talk about in Randy Cunningham's district other than corruption; she certainly couldn't ignore that elephant in the room. And it took $11 million in Republican machine money and a manufactured controversy at the end to hold her at bay. They can do that in special elections, but in a general election there's not enough money to spread around to all the trouble spots.

But I think she ran against Cunningham more than her opponent, and that was a mistake. Bilbray, on the other hand, made immigration the centerpiece, and ran against Bush. You can almost see Bush's insistence on talking up a comprehensive immigration plan as a form of ju-jitsu designed to allow GOP Congressional candidates to distance themselves from him.

The evidence is there to suggest that progressive politics are a winner with the electorate. Jon Tester beating a DLC insider in Montana is stunning. He had less money and lower name ID. However, that evidence so far only applies to primaries. Progressives are clearly winning the fight for the soul of the Democratic Party. That message in an election against Republicans is not yet fully tested. But we know, through Busby, that "together, we can do better" isn't going to work. The politics of contrast are really the only way to go right now. Offer the public a clear choice and they will be more motivated to turn out. All elections are base elections from this day forward. The myth that you can win independents and take an election is just that, a myth. Your side has to be more inspired than their side. Stoller, again:

The lesson from last night should be clear. Hiding from progressives and the left will lead to Democratic losses in 2006. Running as a progressive will lead to victory. Running on 'issues' and 'competence' instead of character will lead to Democratic losses. Talking about how the 'American people' care about gas prices and not gay marriage is insulting and loser politics. Running on bullet points is wrong. Running on character is right.

Busby was no progressive, so she lost. She got the indy votes, but couldn't turn out progressive voters and couldn't keep in conservative voters. That's my reading of the race. We should cut the 'googoo competence and ignore everything else strategy', it doesn't work.

Iraq. Gay marriage. Immigration. Iran. Corruption. Get used to election season, 2006. Grab your progressive principles and hold on tight.

I think that you must recognize regional realities; Stephanie Herseth and Ben Chandler aren't necessarily progressives, and they won special elections in much redder parts of the country in 2004. But you have to offer contrast and a full vision beyond mere competence.

Overall I think Democrats kind find a lot to be excited about from last night, and a lot of food for thought.


Tuesday, June 06, 2006


I've had my registration for this event for about six months. I'll be in Vegas from Thursday to Sunday, and armed with my trusty laptop and digital camera I'll be liveblogging (and maybe even videoblogging) as much as humanly possible. Need to load Final Cut Pro on this laptop, however, iMovie is a piece of garbage, and this professional editor can't figure out how to use it efficiently.

Being that this has become much bigger than Kos, and is really the first-ever people-powered political convention, I think it has the potential to be historic. I also find myself getting a lot of messages about free parties and free booze and free food and free movie screenings while in Vegas, so it could be just your run-of-the-mill schmoozefest, which makes me wary. I hope politicians don't look at this as an opportunity to ply me with liquor and get me on their side. I really don't care to be bought off. It's a two-way conversation now, not a one-way "have a gin and tonic and vote for me" kind of thing that comes right out of the tradition of Tammany Hall.

But my hopes are much, much higher for the event. And whatever it is, I'll bring it to you, unvarnished.


Quick Hits

-William Weld gives up in his attempt to become governor of a second state, this time New York. Instead John Faso will earn the right to be slaughtered by Eliot Spitzer.

Since Clinton panty-sniffer Patrick Healy wrote the article, how come no reports on Weld's marriage in this?

-There must be an election coming up if we're getting booga-booga-terror alert reports like this. The sad thing is that the Republican'ts played so much politics with homeland security in 2004 that we can't trust any of this stuff anymore.

-More pushback from the Senate Judiciary Committee over the attempt to criminalize freedom of the press, but it'd be nice, as Peter Daou says, to see the press actually stand up for themselves. They're cowering in the corner like a wounded puppy, and seem to have no integrity, no willingness to "stand up to the rightwing smear machine and condemn the maligning of their patriotism and of their values." I see no stomach for this with the possible exception of Tim Rutten.

-Another milestone for the media: they're now giving out cash rewards to reporters that write the most "talked-about" stories, even if what everybody's talking about is how completely wrong the story is. I guess there's no such thing as bad publicity for the AP. Greg Sargent has much more at his excellent blog, The Horse's Mouth.

- Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is pressing ahead with a referendum that would tacitly acknowledge Israel's right to exist. I'll believe it when I see it, but this would be a giant leap forward. Of course the problem is determining whether or not Abbas has any real power now that Hamas in in charge of the Parliament.

-This just came to my attention:

It's the notes of a DoD staffer on 9/11, made during a conversation with Donald Rumsfeld, obtained through an FOIA request by this guy.


Best info fast
judge whether good enough
Hit S.H@ same time -
Not just UBL

Tasks Jim Haynes to talk w/ PW
for additional support v/v Usis &
connection w/ UBL

[REDACTED (N.R. stands for Not Relevant)]

- Hard to get a good case

- Need to move swiftly -

Near term target needs -
- go massive - sweep it all up
- Things related & not

Need to do so
to get anything

Presented without comment. Do you really need to comment on something like this? By the way, that guy being quoted there, Mr. "Sweep it all up," is Still. In. Charge.


Iran, The Walk-Back

This report suggests that the US is prepared to give Iran nuclear technology for civilian purposes if it pledges to stop enriching uranium. While I've been wary to see other supposed "concessions" by the US regarding Iran as legitimate, this one is seismic: it essentially allows Iran to be as good as their word, which is nothing short of surprising. There may be some other things in the full list of demands that would preclude Iran's acceptance, but from where I'm standing this so far looks like an actual concession, which for this White House is about as rare as an ivory-billed woodpecker.

Tom Ball at Political Cortex has a rundown of all the belligerent statements this Administration has made regarding Iran, and you can't finish reading that post and think anything but that this is the mother of all flip-flops. And his final analysis is this:

Whether it's Iran's capacity to distribute nuclear technology around the globe, (one of the few leveraging tools in its box), or the knowledge that Iran is perhaps already loaded with nukes, or the frightening prospect of a biblically-proportioned ass-whooping the Republicans are facing in the 2006 and 2008 elections, one thing is for sure...

... this administration has flinched because they are afraid of something... ...very afraid.

I don't know if I'd be that conspiratorial. Of course, I don't think this group decided to put "give Iran nuclear technology" on that list willingly. The truth is that the US desperately needs Iran's help to extricate itself from Iraq. The leverage has shifted drastically from before the war onto the Iranians' side. Stateside political concerns are probably a factor as well. That's probably the most likely reason for stopping the saber-rattling, in fact, as everything in this White House is political. Attacking Iran would be incredibly shortsighted and foolish, and an invitation to disaster - but that hasn't stopped these guys before. I see no learning from mistakes in any other policy. It must be that another war right now would be politically dangerous. And these are supposed to be the guys who don't govern by polls.


In Brief

Yes, it's the D-Day anniversary, so in honor of my namesake, let's remember some heroic Americans.

And if I hear another 6-6-06 joke I'm going to throttle someone.



The dead. Just in Baghdad. Just the ones that actually got to the morgue. Just this year.

It's horrific to extrapolate that out and understand what it means. And Iraq has ten times less people than America, if you'd like to make comparisons.

In this environment, with death in the air and US forces struggling to maintain any kind of authority, moral or otherwise, we've decided to render the Geneva Conventions "quaint" again:

The Pentagon has decided to omit from new detainee policies a key tenet of the Geneva Convention that explicitly bans "humiliating and degrading treatment," according to knowledgeable military officials, a step that would mark a further, potentially permanent, shift away from strict adherence to international human rights standards.

Now, there was a torture ban signed here, but of course that set out the law of the land regarding detainees as the laws contained in the Army Field Manual. It didn't take long for the DoD to figure out that all they had to do was change the Field Manual.

This is occurring in the wake of Haditha, in the wake of Abu Ghraib, when the need for the United States to specifically renounce torture is at its highest ebb:

But the exclusion of the Geneva provisions may make it more difficult for the administration to portray such incidents as aberrations. And it undercuts contentions that U.S. forces follow the strictest, most broadly accepted standards when fighting wars.

"The rest of the world is completely convinced that we are busy torturing people," said Oona A. Hathaway, an expert in international law at Yale Law School. "Whether that is true or not, the fact we keep refusing to provide these protections in our formal directives puts a lot of fuel on the fire."

So 6,000 men and women die in Baghdad this year (much of which is locked down, like the Green Zone), and their relatives are sick with rage. They need to believe that something better will come to rescue them from this artificially created hell. And the so-called "guys in the white hats," the good guys, refuse to renounce torture, indeed take an end run around international law to make sure it remains an option.

Are we even trying to win hearts and minds anymore?


We're Going to Let Paris Hilton Get Out Of Paying Taxes?

I wanted to highlight Sebastian Mallaby's excellent op-ed in yesterday's Washington Post about the ridiculous estate tax repeal that may be close to passage. Republicans have been most adept at getting their corporate conservative agenda through Congress, like the heinous bankruptcy bill last year. Repealing the estate tax, already in a temporary suspension, has already passed the House, and there are rumors of a compromise in the Senate among Democratic ranking member of the Finance Committee Max Baucus and others. Mallaby comes out with very direct language and explains why this whole thing is a sham:

It doesn't matter if you are liberal or conservative, Democrat or Republican. There is no possible excuse for doing what Congress is poised to do this week: Abolish the estate tax.

The federal government faces a future of expanding deficits. Thanks to the baby bust and medical inflation, spending is projected to rise by nearly 3 percent of gross domestic product by 2030, a growth equivalent to the doubling of today's Medicare program. What is the dumbest possible response to this? Take a source of revenue and abolish it outright.

The nation faces rising inequality. Since 1980 the gap between the earnings of the top fifth and the bottom fifth has jumped by almost 50 percent. The United States is by some measures the most unequal society in the rich world and the most unequal that it's been since the 1920s. What is the dumbest possible response to this? Identify the most progressive federal tax and repeal it.

The nation faces the prospect that inequality will damage meritocracy. When the distance between top and bottom widens, it becomes harder to traverse the gap; people of low birth are stuck at the bottom, and human talent is wasted. What is the dumbest possible response to this? Take the tax that limits what the super-rich pass on to their children and get rid of it. Send a message to hereditary elites: Go ahead, entrench yourselves!

The idea that this is "double-taxation" is ludicrous. This is income to inheritors. Why should they expect income from a job to be taxed but not income gained in an inheritance? For anyone affected by the Estate Tax, this income is likely to be their sole source of income, too (or at least the only one they need). Trust fund babies contribute nothing to the economy, live off the wealth and ingenuity of their forbears, and we don't want them to pay their fair share to keep America strong?

The estate tax exists to buffet permanently retrenched wealth in this country. It doesn't wipe it out, it doesn't bankrupt anybody. There is not a single circumstance of a family farm being wiped out by the estate tax. Not one. During Hurricane Katrina, Senators actually casted around for dead people whose families might be hurt by the tax. That's disgusting. The entire campaign to repeal this tax has been bankrolled by 18 families. 18 families in the whole country. I guess that's a step up from the legislation last year that only affected one family, the Schiavo family. Congress is widening their focus!

For two seconds, I'd like every committed anti-tax conservative to think about whether or not any of those 18 families have ever thought about their taxes. Do you think they sit around in their mansions worrying about the Earned Income Tax Credit? Do you think they even know you exist? Then why are we so concerned with saving them tens of millions of dollars?

I'll be calling my Senators over and over about this affront. Do the same.


I Voted

And I've got the sticker and everything to prove it.

It's Primary Day here in California, and in several other states across the country. I always think that I'll end up filling out an absentee ballot and getting it over with in a more secure way, but I never do so. I like going to the polls and spending 10 minutes for democracy every Election Day. I like getting the sticker. I haven't much liked the results lately, but as an expression of civic pride I always get a jolt in those 10 minutes. Would that the rest of the country took the whole thing as seriously.

The big races today are in the 50th District of California, where there's a special election showdown between Republican Brian Bilbray and Democrat Francine Busby to replace the Dukestir, Randy Cunningham, in Congress; the California Democratic gubenatorial primary between Phil Angelides and Steve Westly, which has been a textbook example of how NOT to run a primary race (relentlessly attack each other dishonestly while neglecting the real opponent in November); and the Montana Democratic Senate primary between John Morrison and Jon Tester, which has been a textbook example of HOW to run a primary (relentlessly attack the incumbent while explaining how they would do things differently for Montana).

But the race I'm REALLY interested in concerns Frodo for Congress.

My name is Dan "Frodo" Litwin, and I am running for Congress in California's 51st Congressional district as the first of many in the spirit of Frodo who must band together to destroy the ring.

As in the story, the ring wishes to go back to Mordor. Central power is a natural tendency, and has been gaining in the United States for over a century. We, in the spirit of the Hobbits, must now destroy the corrupting power that others try to, but cannot, control. We must pass laws to end the unconstitutional programs of Washington, and set the states free.

This guy has the comic book store vote all wrapped up.


Profiles in Logic

According to the President:

Today, 45 of the 50 states have either a state constitutional amendment or statute defining marriage as a union of a man and a woman.

So, why do we need a Constitutional amendment if 90% of the states have already remedied the situation?

Unfortunately, this consensus is being undermined by activist judges and local officials who have struck down state laws protecting marriage and made an aggressive attempt to redefine marriage.

Except only one state, Nebraska, had their marriage amendment overturned, because it would have prohibited every type of same-sex relationship and essentially banned homosexuality in the state, such was its breadth. And that case is not through the courts, it's under appeal. Only one other state, Massachusetts, has adopted same-sex marriage through judicial decision-making.

This, mind you, was his PROOF that we need to write discrimination into the Constitution.

What a load of crap.


Monday, June 05, 2006

Real Men Fighting Terror

By now we know about the Royal Canadian Mounted Police capture of 17 Canadian jihadists, charged with plotting to carry out terrorist attacks on targets in southern Ontario. This is a relief, and also an interesting turn of events for several reasons. First of all this appears to be the result of a dedicated, years-long law enforcement action of the stripe that John Kerry was derided for in the 2004 election. This involved a coordinated joint effort between Canadian intelligence (the CSIS) and the Mounties.

Last night's dramatic police raid and arrest of as many as a dozen men — with more to come — marks the culmination of Canada's largest ever terrorism investigation into an alleged homegrown cell.

The chain of events began two years ago, sparked by local teenagers roving through Internet sites, reading and espousing anti-Western sentiments and vowing to attack at home, in the name of oppressed Muslims here and abroad.

Their words were sometimes encrypted, the Internet sites where they communicated allegedly restricted by passwords, but Canadian spies back in 2004 were reading them. And as the youths' words turned into actions, they began watching them.
According to sources close to the investigation, the suspects are teenagers and men in their 20s who had a relatively typical Canadian upbringing, but — allegedly spurred on by images of conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan and angered by what they saw as the mistreatment of Muslims at home — became increasingly violent.

There is simply no substitute for the kind of solid police work which is central to homeland security. I trust the NYPD in this country about a thousand times more than I do the federal government in this arena. (Heck, the NYPD probably gets better overseas intelligence.) The Canadian investigation, further detailed in the Washington Post, seems to be devoid of the kind of federal bureaucratic mishaps that are all too routine here:

The investigators' interest was heightened after the visit to Toronto in March 2005 of two men from Georgia, Syed Ahmed, 21, and Ehsanul Sadequee, 19, who were later charged under anti-terrorism laws. The men allegedly met with at least three Canadians to discuss potential bombing targets, the FBI has said. The charges revealed Monday said the terrorism activity in Canada began on March 1, 2005.

According to those charges, 10 of the men gathered in a vacant wooded area north of Toronto for what authorities call "terrorism-related training." Residents of the rural area say they heard the sounds of automatic weapons and saw men in camouflage uniforms in the woods near Washago, about 90 miles north of Toronto, several times last year.

Police swept the area for evidence after the men had left, according to reports here.

This is simply good solid detective work. Patterns emerged, leads were tracked, suspects were monitored, and arrests were made. I don't see any evidence that this involved the warrantless tapping of phones, surveillence of citizens tangential to the investigation, torturing of suspects, or indefinite detentions and renditions. The Mounties acted on tips.

Another thing that strikes me is that all the talk of the immigration debate in this country focuses on our porous southern border. Anti-immigrant factions use the spectre of terrorism to say that "in this day and age, our borders need to be protected." But it's always focused at Mexico, despite the fact that the only known terrorists to cross into this country over borders were from Canada, including on 9/11 (My apologies, the idea that 9/11 hijackers crossed the border from Canada appears to be untrue. Certainly Ahmed Ressam attempted to cross the border to bomb LAX during the Millennium celebration, but the 9/11 hijackers crossings look to be a myth). In fact, this raid included two men who crossed from here into there:

The charged men, all of them said by authorities to be Canadian citizens or longtime residents, are from areas around Toronto and Kingston, Ontario. Two of those charged, Yasim Abdi Mohamed, 24, and Mohammed Dirie, 22, both of whom moved from Somalia to Kingston, are already in jail, having been caught at the U.S. border last August attempting to bring handguns into Canada.

It begs the question of "Which border is really the porous one?" and "What's really driving the relentless focus on the Mexican border to the exclusion of the Canadian one?"

Finally, this item from the Washington Post shows that the law enforcement apparatus in Canada not only has their act together in fighting terror, they understand the difference between what's important and what's irrelevant:

It promises to be a grand June wedding, two scarlet-coated officers of the famed Royal Canadian Mounted Police standing before a justice of the peace with an escort of similarly spiffy Mounties observing the nuptials on the eve of Canada Day, a national holiday.

When the two constables become the first male Mounties to marry each other, the grumpiest witness-from-afar might well be Prime Minister Stephen Harper. The planned union of Jason Tree and David Connors in Nova Scotia on June 30 has cast a spotlight on Harper's pledge to his conservative backers to try to roll back same-sex marriage laws.

Harper has not spoken publicly about the upcoming wedding and has ordered his party members to shut up about the matter, an attempt to silence lawmakers that has served to draw more attention to the issue while sparking complaints about the prime minister's heavy-handedness.

"I think it's great if we change the public perception," said Tree, 27, who patrols a stretch of rural fishing communities along the Bay of Fundy. "If the public sees the RCMP as representing the diversity of the community, that is good."

About 25 miles away, Connors, 28, helps to police Yarmouth, a town of 8,000. The two men met in college eight years ago and have been partners since.

It's not that these two Mounties (who always get their man... OK, the joke was just sitting there, I had to go for it) had anything to do with stopping the terror cell, or that Canada is truly and completely progressive (witness Prime Minister Harper's anger at the issue, and his pledge to re-open the approval of same-sex marriage). But the difference between the relative nonchalance to two Mounties marrying in that country, and over here, where Arabic translators are fired by the Army because they are gay, is stark. Two servicemen were married in Canada last year at an Air Force base. The RCMP see these impending nuptials as a non-issue. Would that everybody understood the real problems facing the world as well as these two:

Tree said he had been open about their relationship since he joined the force six years ago, and "from the outset, I have never had a single problem." The force has assigned the two men close together, as it does with other couples, and fellow officers "have all been great," Tree said from their home in Meteghan, southwest of Halifax.

"There does exist that social stereotype of a kind of straight, masculine image of police," he added. "We say you can be in the force and be gay."

Maybe, as Canada has been focused on actual threats rather than incidental, made-up threats to traditional marriage, they were more attuned to finding and bringing terrorists to justice. Just a theory.


Taliban Clone Rising in Somalia?

I mentioned this briefly in the quick hits, but this could be a major setback in this war on terrorism we've stumbled into. It was bad enough to back warlords in Somalia whose history includes killing innocent civilians and dragging American troops through the streets. To then have those warlords lose control to Islamists who may do to Somalia what the Taliban did to Afghanistan is even worse. There is actually a government here, albeit one without any power since the early 90s, an interim government which will now negotiate with the group knows as the "Islamic Courts." The government could have been the moderating force in the country if the White House decided to back them instead of the anti-democratic warlords that ruled Mogadishu purely by fear, with little or no popular support.

The question is whether or not there's a horse to back, and if the interim government is able to negotiate a settlement that would transform the region from a series of fiefdoms back into a nation. It's not likely, as CNN reports a surge in weapons prices in the capital of Baidoa, "amid fears that the militia could head next" there. Either way, this sorry affair shows that foreign affairs is not a game of white and black hats, and the soaring rhetoric of "spreading democracy and freedom across the world" is frequently inoperative at best and deliberately childish at worst.


The New Jerky Boys

AmericaBlog gets the award for "Funniest Grassroots Action of the Week," and it's only Monday. Here was the game plan:

In a nutshell, the religious right and far-right Republicans have said repeatedly that the "gay marriage" battle is really about outlawing:
out-of-wedlock sex
marriages that cannot procreate

We here at AMERICAblog couldn't agree more. That's why we are asking our readers to contact members of Congress who support the anti-gay constitutional amendment, and to ask them if they're defending marriage in their own lives.

Specifically, we'd like you to ask them to vow that in the past, now, and in the future they will abstain from sodomy (including same-sex and/or male-female analingus, cunnilingus, and fellatio), masturbation, adultery, prostitution, out-of-wedlock sex, and marriages that cannot procreate. We will also ask them about divorce, as there is no greater threat to marriage today than divorce (in addition, the Bible makes clear that divorce is a no-no).

And away they went, calling Senate offices and asking "Does the senator masturbate? Do you masturbate?" Let's make one thing clear. I don't condone this behavior. However I do condone laughing at it. Hard.

Crooks and Liars posted the audio of one of these phone calls, to the office of Idaho's aptly named Senator Crapo.

AmericaBlog has transcripts of the rest. Howls of laughter. Howls. And seriously, if they support the Federal Marriage Amendment, they should back up the statements of its most committed supporters, and be prepared to defend marriage against all its enemies.


Quick Hits

-This is such a fake story:

Speaking to a largely Hispanic audience last Thursday, (Francine) Busby faced a Spanish-speaking questioner who said he wanted to help her campaign but lacked voting papers. The question was translated into English and she responded, "Everybody can help. You can all help. You don't need papers for voting, you don't need to be a registered voter to help."

Busby's GOP rival, Brian Bilbray, criticized the Democrat, saying she was encouraging possible illegal immigrants to volunteer for the campaign. On Monday, the GOP launched a radio ad that said, "That's right. Francine Busby says you don't need papers to vote."

The context is that you don't need "papers for voting" to help the campaign. Which is true, I sat next to a 15 year-old who was phone banking last year. Republicans are desperate to come up with some manufactured issue to save this seat, but taking a slip of the tongue out of context is particularly disingenuous. It'll be a nailbiter, at any rate.

-They're turning on their own now: I always hear about Democrats being a circular firing squad. Now Republicans are learning the same technique. With any luck they'll have the same results!

-Another view of the Garcetti v. Ceballos decision handed down by the Supreme Court last week. In my mind, this was clearly a move by the Court to push government whistleblowers into public (like the press) early, where they have arguably less protections, not more. The end result is that, as Jack Balkin said, “Whatever they do, they are pretty much screwed. So the effect of the Court's decision is to create very strong incentives against whistleblowing of any kind.”

-Islamic militias take over in Somalia, defeating the US-backed warlords.

-Using the Web to patrol the border: for the Minuteman who doesn't do well in the heat. The 101st Fighting Keyboardists are now joined by a Border Patrol division!

- Family values: so much so that some Republicans need two families:

Republican Jim Galley, who is running for Congress as a “pro-traditional family” candidate, was married to two women at the same time, defaulted on his child support payments and has been accused of abuse by one of his ex-wives.

Not the first instance of values hypocrisy in the GOP, but perhaps the funniest.



I think this Tony Snow thing is turning into yet another embarrassment for the Administration. You can make shit up on right-wing radio all the live-long day and get no mention of your lies and misleading statements outside of Media Matters. When you're the press secretary and you make shit up it's news, and you can't wriggle your way out of it. This case, where Snow claimed "activist judges" overturned the will of the people on marriage in Massachusetts when that is not at all the case (there's never been such a referendum in the Bay State, the judge's ruling arose out of 7 couples trying to obtain marriage licenses), is at least the third outright lie I've heard Snow say in a week. He also called a gay marriage ban civil rights legislation today, and last week he claimed that the Iraqi Prime Minister was misquoted when he lashed out at multinational troops for "common(ly)" harming civilians. Condi Rice contradicted him on that Sunday.

Tony Snow cut his political teeth in Fox News and right-wing radio, which exists on an entirely different reality plane where you can make shit up over and over again without any retribution. Snow has never been called on lies in the past. So why care about telling the truth now? It sounds right, the will of the people maybe shouldn't be overturned, somewhere people voted to ban gay marriage, it's just truthy enough that he thinks he can get away with it.

It was better for the administration to have a press secretary who said nothing rather than one that makes shit up. This is backfiring.


We're Getting Smarter

I love semiotics, and Tristero gives one of the best close readings of a political comment I've ever seen, contrasting a pithy statement by Grover Norquist (who talks "TeeVee") with a long-winded one on the same topic by Dianne Feinstein.

I certainly didn't speak TeeVee in my media appearance last week. This is some definite food for thought. But the question is whether or not this matters anymore. Have the Republican'ts so screwed up with their actions that even their prowess with words is blunted? In another amazing piece, Stirling Newberry argues that this is the case, and it's as much of a testament to the rising power of the blogosphere as it is the recent damage done to the conservative movement:

...there is a growing body of evidence that the public has become more and more immune to the traditional media, and that, in fact, we have two streams of discourse. The media/public discourse, and the private discourse. Each, in its own way exists in a kind of bubble, ignorant of the realities of the other [...]

When asked about Congressional ethics in general, the public is remarkably consistent: congress is seen as being corrupt both in the present – with 66% responding that Congressional ethics were "Not so Good" or "Poor", while the January 1995 number was 72%. Half of this difference is "Unsure", so what we are really saying is that the present is almost the same – within the margin of error – as the past, in terms of the publics view of the institution and its members. However, when asked for a partisan breakdown a clear pattern emerges – namely, that while 71% of the public say there "isn’t much difference" between the two sides, the Republican support has bled downards, while the Democrats have remained largely the same.

Thus the constant media narrative of equal ccorruption is the overwhelming majority position, but while the coverage has not made clear differences between individually corrupt members among the Democrats, and the kind of systematic party corruption that is being investigated on the Republican side, the faith of those paying attention in the Republican Party has been shaken. Because that is who would respond that the Republicans are better at ethics in the first place. Lossing 25% of one's partisan base is significant on any issue, these are the people who are going to make the argument at the ground level. The picture is starker when asked about financial corruption, a recent CBS poll had the Republicans as more financially corrupt 40-15, with a trendline against the Republicans: a previous poll had it at 34-18. This means that the spread has gone from 16% to 25% - a ballooning deficit. In this poll, "unsure" was going down, and the "the same" stayed the same.

This is significant – because it means that the public does not believe the media coverage of a balance of corruption, despite the coverage. Within the public, there is a persistent erosion of support for Republican ethics, despite outlets like Fox covering almost nothing but a one sided view of who the guilty party is, and it isn't, on Fox, the Republicans.

And that disconnect between the public narrative and the private narrative needs to be attributed to the Internet, in my opinion, and in Newberry's:

Thus there is something larger and more complex here, where the public trend line indicates that there is a reappraisal of the parties and of George Bush, while the media continues to portray him as the once and future king – that this is a temporary dip in his approval, which he can battle back from with support from the good moral people of America.

This same effect is writ even larger on the war in Iraq – which has been "the invisible war" – with few pictures of the casualties, devastation or collateral damage of the war – merely wide panning shots with smoke rising over a city, whose details are indistinct. Iraq has become the "internet war" as the first invasion was the "cable war" simply because the television and print media have abandoned coverage. As a result, without prompting from above, the American public has turned against the war. To some extent this is a reflection of a long standing narrative, Americans like short interventions in other nations, even though we have fought numerous long wars in our history. However, again, it is not completely the result of this: public support for Afgahnistan is untouched, and there is still a broad willingness to use force around the globe. It is Iraq that is seen as a dry hole in the desert.

There's enough information available on the Internet (this Salaam Pak story is an example), and more important, enough ways to look at the media portrayal of the news, with its peculiar tiltings and biases, that the American public isn't engaging in a one-way information exchange anymore. We are all editors now, searching for a wider expanse of news that will give a fuller picture of events shaping our world. And this active engagement with the news, rather than the passive one which characterized the past couple centuries, virtually guarantees a more well-informed citizenry. By no means are we there yet. And the amount of misinformation on the Internet is staggering. But this is clearly where we're moving. We're getting smarter.


Double Standards and Gate Crashers

It's undeniable that the pundit class of the media has marginalized progressive voices while highlighting conservative ones. Seeing Robert Reich on the "This Week" roundtable almost made me flip out of my shoes. That never happens. You either get ideological conservatives of the Bill Kristol/George Will stripe or Beltway consensus types of the manner of Gwen Ifill or Cokie Roberts. That's the range of political thought in the pundit class.

And I think a perfect example of this is this story by Chris Bowers about the brouhaha over the Ned Lamont primary race against Joe Lieberman in Connecticut. He's not the only Senator facing a primary challenge. He's not the Senator most in danger from a primary challenge. But the pundit class simply can't believe that a progressive candidate would dare use the tools of democracy to try to unseat Holy Joe from his well-deserved perch. Chris explains:

Ned Lamont's campaign has generated quite a bit of press lately. In fact, Google News lists 341 hits for "Ned Lamont" in the last month. It is particularly interesting how much more interest this campaign has generated form the press than two other, arguably more serious (or at least more advanced) primary challenges against sitting U.S. Senators have generated. For example, in Rhode Island, the most "liberal" Republican of all, Lincoln Chafee is being challenged by hard-right Stephan Laffey and the extremist Club for Growth. Two recent polls (see Polling Report's subscriber section) have shown Chafee under 50%, and Laffey within single digits. However, despite the seriousness of this challenge, there have been only 39 hits in the last month on Google News for "Steven Laffey." That is only one-ninth the total for Ned Lamont, despite no poll in Connecticut showing the race particularly close. Further, in Hawaii, Ed Case is challenging arguably more progressive Daniel Akaka in the Democratic primary, and polls indicate that the race might be close (although there are real questions about those polls). However, when it comes to this race, there have been only 49 articles on Google News over the past month.

It is also interesting how the same sources that are defending Lieberman have not editorialized in favor of Chafee or Akaka. The New Republic has no commentary on the Hawaii primary, and in its two pieces on the Rhode Island primary, it does not editorialize as in favor of Chafee ala Jonathan Chait in favor of Lieberman. Stuart Rothenberg's opening piece on the primary challenges in Hawaii and Rhode Island featured no editorializing at all. I guess he wasn't as bothered by incumbents being challenged from the right as he clearly was by incumbents from the left. I can't find a single word from the DLC about either the Hawaii or Rhode Island primaries.

This is a clear double-standard. A somewhat more longshot, left-wing challenge to a sitting U.S. Senator has generated far more news and more pro-incumbent editorializing from the political and media establishment than have two very threatening, right-wing challenges to sitting U.S. Senators. I believe that this double-standard can only be interpreted as a another example of the political and media establishment developing a narrative where liberals and progressives in America are portrayed as extremists, while conservatives are portrayed as mainstream. What other rationale could there be? Why aren't groups like the Club for Growth being lambasted by the political and media establishment for running a primary challenge against Chafee? Why isn't Ed Case being accused of trying to "purge" the Democratic Party of liberals? Why is the political and media establishment coming to the defense of Joe Lieberman and not Lincoln Chafee or Daniel Akaka, even though Lieberman's situation is less perilous than either Akaka's or Chafee's?

Because the Lamont campaign is not funded by the usual suspects, because it exists outside the typical Beltway campaign structure, without their consultants, without their media people, without their pollsters, it represents a real threat. A threat to job security, to be sure, but a threat to the institutional structure of a political class that has no connection to the people it represents. Case and Laffey are not that kind of threat, so they are ignored, or treated with kid gloves.

I don't think there's any turning back for this kind of movement, try as the political class might to stop it. The progressive movement, which is people-powered, will only expand in the coming years, and the dinosaurs of the current political structure in the Democratic Party will die off. It's inevitable.

P.S. This professor explains why Lieberman is in a world of trouble in this primary. In short, the people most motivated to vote (which are the only ones who typically vote in a primary) have no reason to vote for him.


Pundits Play It Both Ways

I was watching ABC's "This Week" when Claire Shipman out-and-out called Al Gore a liar based on "just look(ing) at his face."  And then she had the audacity to complain about this:

But if I read one more time that if we'd only seen this Al Gore during the election -- this is the same Al Gore. That storyline was written every two months during the 2000 campaign.

Her mockery that Gore was obviously lying about not wanting to be a candidate again is precisely the storyline that was written, and precisely the attitude that led many to believe that Gore was an inauthentic braggart.  When journalists say "if only we'd seen this authentic Al Gore this time" they completely distance themselves from how they impacted that viewpoint and shaped that opinion.  Shipman deciding that this, in fact, is the same Al Gore, and that he's not to be trusted about not running, gives you a good example of why Gore said "I don't particularly enjoy politics."  Because the media is not just dishonest, but willingly so.

It's interesting that the panel on "This Week," including the great Robert Reich, accepted that Gore was obviously lying about his intentions as conventional wisdom.  But just as interesting is how nobody called George Stephanopoulos on his tautological assertion about what will impact Gore's decision to run for President:

GS: Two schools, here's what I've heard, tell me what's right, tell me what's wrong.  One says that if Senator Clinton runs, you're not going to be able to help yourself, you're going to have to get into the race.  The other is, you know, that you'll only get in if there's a vaccuum, if she chooses not to run.  Any truth to that?

GORE: (laughing) No.

You see what he did there?  Stephanopoulos basically said that Gore will only run either (a) if Hillary runs, or (b) if Hillary does not run.  This means that he cannot possibly be wrong WHETHER GORE RUNS OR NOT.  The circumstances of the race (Hillary running/not running, Gore running/not running) will determine the narrative he can then graft on top.  Boy George was so proud of this fallacy that he repeated it later in the show.

The media does this all the time, routinely contradicting themselves or offering up scenarios where they cannot be wrong.  Neil Cavuto, not exactly someone who cares about consistency, also playing it both ways:

On Fox News' Your World, host Neil Cavuto complained that "the media is all over" the alleged Haditha killings but that there has been "virtually no coverage of the daily savage attacks by insurgents on Iraqi civilians and our troops." Onscreen text during the segment read: "Blatant Bias?" But Cavuto has previously alleged that "all you see in the media out of Iraq are the insurgent activity, our soldiers getting killed or hurt." In fact, he recently asked if "beheadings and roadside bombs, suicide attacks" in Iraq are "being blown out of proportion by the media." Onscreen text during this segment read: "Media Bias?"

In Cavuto's world, the media is either biased if they report about insurgent attacks (to the exclusion of the "good news"), or biased if they DON'T report about insurgent attacks (to focus on incidents like Haditha).  Either way he gets to make the argument he wants.

It's important to recognize these moments by the so-called pundits, who innoculate themselves from making bold predictions by instead making predictions they can control, and then claiming they don't have any power to control events.  This is a key component to the development of the all-hallowed media narrative, which doesn't have to be true in order to survive.


Happy Gay-Bashing Day

Today the Senate begins a futile debate to enshrine discrimination into the Constitution, a debate that is pure Kabuki theater, over a Constitutional amendment that has no chance of passing, a fact that everybody engaging in the debate knows going in, but is of no consequence, as the Republican'ts have decided to cynically use the issue to placate their theocon base. Ron Brownstein sharply criticized the maneuver in his column yesterday:

'That's vanity ... not politics," President John F. Kennedy once snapped at an aide who wanted him to provoke a confrontation with Congress on an issue Kennedy knew he didn't have the votes to pass.

Times change, don't they? [...]

In the latest Gallup Poll, 50% said they supported a constitutional ban on gay marriage; 47% opposed it. Nine other Gallup surveys since 2003 have produced similar results. There's no evidence supporters have established the overwhelming social consensus that should accompany any effort to amend the Constitution on this issue.

But like so much else in contemporary politics, the Senate vote isn't designed to produce a law; it's intended to pick a fight. The White House and Senate GOP leadership are betting that a noisy confrontation over gay marriage will encourage turnout this November from conservative voters — many of whom, polls show, are discouraged over President Bush's second term.

Brownstein notes that there are moral issues that are of paramount concern, but they're never the issues debated in the halls of Congress. He cited this Center for American Progress poll which shows that, while religion and morality play a valuable role in the lives of a majority of Americans, the most serious moral crises have nothing to do with the so-called "hot button" issues.

Atop the list, 28% cited "kids not raised with the right values." Next came corruption in government and business, followed by greed and materialism, people too focused on themselves, and too much sex and violence in the media. Only 3% named abortion and homosexuality as the nation's top moral challenge. Even among those who attend religious services most often, just 6% picked abortion and homosexuality.

These findings challenge the values agenda of both parties. They do point to priorities different from the conservative focus on gay rights and abortion. But they also suggest liberals don't hit the mark either when they try to signal their values simply by describing causes, such as reducing poverty, as moral imperatives.

"There is a deep hunger to get away from religion being associated solely with the antiabortion and anti-gay marriage agenda — there is a deep public yearning for an alternative moral vision," said John Halpin, a senior fellow and opinion analyst at the Center for American Progress. "But it's not just talking about the left's issues and tagging the word 'moral' on it. You have to talk to people at a personal and family level about what faith and values mean."

This is something all progressives should step back and try to understand. I actually think this is a little schizophrenic. If "kids not raised with the right values" is the deepest moral crisis, doesn't that fall to the individual parent to solve? Kids aren't raised in a vaccuum, despite the passive voice of that statement. I think there could be a role for government in helping with that, but if that crosses a line into abridging free speech I think it does more harm than good. Corruption, greed and materialism, on the other hand, go hand in hand with unregulated capitalism and the moral hazards associated thereto. If this is a true portrait of the issues affecting "values voters" I think there's a real opportunity for candidates who wish to regulate greed (by stopping the marketing of cigarettes to children, for example) and provide alternatives for parents. Sometimes I feel a lot of this is parents who wish to blame outside forces for their own failings or inattention, and there's no way government can soften that blow. Yes there are competing forces vying for the attention of children, but ultimately the parent can be responsible through open communication, while realizing that at some point they must let the child experience life on their own, and if they "raised them with the right values," their decisions will be sound.

If the government really wanted to protect marriage, they might start by encouraging couples to really think long and hard before getting married, so they don't lead to broken homes. Or they could improve the economic fortunes of young families, money being the single biggest obstacle to marriage. Or they could counsel couples on parenting skills, so that the authoritarian approach, which this study says is linked to child obesity, isn't favored. What they should expressly not do is disallow families who want to be together from ever achieving it. Especially when that doesn't reflect any genuine belief, but a notion of what they think their most radical supporters might believe. I think that if this guy is right, Bush is right where the country is on this but refuses to admit it:

Though Bush himself has publicly embraced the amendment, he never seemed to care enough to press the matter. One of his old friends told NEWSWEEK that same-sex marriage barely registers on the president's moral radar. "I think it was purely political. I don't think he gives a s--t about it. He never talks about this stuff," said the friend, who requested anonymity to discuss his private conversations with Bush.

Of course, the White House denied this, as they must. And until the rest of our lawmakers face reality and start talking their convictions instead of hiding them to encourage divisiveness, the kind of nonsense you'll see this week in the Senate will continue.

UPDATE: Julie Mason at the Houston Chronicle blogs some further thoughts. The flag burning and indecency bills are right on the heels of this gay marriage boondoggle.