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

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Wherein the biggest media insider in California flips out on me

(a good bit of this is in the previous post, but I had to get the whole thing in one place)

Bill Bradley has been one of the main political journalists covering state politics in Sacramento for years. He writes for the LA Weekly and at his site New West Notes, which used to be a top secret newsletter for political insiders. Indeed everything about him screams insider, and most of the time he's the one doing the screaming. Bradley touts himself as a longtime Democratic operative, a moderate who crossed over to vote for John McCain in the 2000 Republican primary (um, wasn't that held a couple months after McCain dropped out?), the first reporter to get it right on the outcome of the 2003 California recall, etc., etc., etc. In the world of Bradley, Bradley is king.

What he is not is forgiving of even a shred of criticism. As you will soon find out.

I went over to New West Notes on Thursday, as Bradley is typically a decent source for information about California politics. When he plays it down the middle, he gives you the story as soon as it comes down the line. The problem is that his creeping bias has been particularly evident in this year's gubenatorial race. His close relationship to Arnold Schwarzenegger is unquestioned; many of his past articles feature close contact with the governor. The frequency with which personal phone calls and insider sessions are bandied about, you'd think he was Arnold's Judy Miller. And there definitely seems to be some personal animus between Bradley and Democratic nominee Phil Angelides. I don't consider Bradley a partisan Democrat or Republican, but he certainly gives big wet kisses in print to his political friends, and savages his political enemies, no matter the party. Look no further than these back-to-back posts on his website. The first is a nice fellation of Arnold and Tony Blair's agreement to work together on environmental cap-and-trade issues.

With sizable advantages in public opinion polls and fundraising for his re-election bid, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger yesterday joined British Prime Minister Tony Blair in a high-profile pact between California and the United Kingdom to jointly pursue anti-global warming strategies. While the accord may be less than it seems, it does achieve the mutual goal of two high-profile figures on the global stage: Distance from George W. Bush. And it, along with a developing attack on Democratic challenger Phil Angelides’ developer background, makes plain Schwarzenegger’s plan to drive environmentalism as a key to his political career.

This really isn't all that bad, but does leave out some significant points. First, the accord that is "less than it seems" is entirely VOLUNTARY on the part of the polluters. A reporter might mention that. Second, there's the fact that Big Oil has contributed at least a couple million to Arnold's coffers, and that this photo-op was little more than that, and that the "plan to drive environmentalism" is kind of a craven way to go hunting for votes and play both sides of the issue (as all skillful politicians do, of course, but a little transparency in the reporting would be nice).

Now, take a look at how Bradley frames the just-as-big press event where Phil Angelides endorsed the California Clean Money initiative, which is kind of improbable for a mainstream politician to do:

Angelides' event today, in which he endorsed the Proposition 89 Clean Money initiative at the sponsoring California Nurses Association offices in Oakland, quickly morphed into an anti-Schwarzenegger rally. The two most public backers of Prop 89 to date, the California Nurses Association (which dogged Schwarzenegger throughout the special election last year) and the Foundation for Taxpayer & Consumer Rights -- which began funding the web site as soon as Schwarzenegger was elected -- did not criticize Angelides for his own campaign finance controversies during the Democratic gubernatorial primary.

He then went on to print his running count of how many days its been since Angelides announced he has an "exact plan" for a tax policy to fund California.

Now, we all know that Angelides used independent expenditures up the yin-yang to get the nomination. But he's been pretty consistent in supporting campaign finance reform in the past, including the Clean Money Act that got as far as the State Senate this year. Those who would criticize him about that would have him fight with one hand tied behind his back. The electoral playing field in California today is extremely broken, and Angelides has to do what he has to do to get elected. Arnold Schwarzenegger has accepted upwards of $90 million in campaign contributions. Is Angelides supposed to unilaterally disarm for the sake of comity? I welcome him coming aboard to the Prop. 89 campaign.

But Bradley, now, he obviously sees it as a crass attempt to get votes (The Proposition isn't all that popular or even known right now, so I don't know how that works). He DOESN'T see a high-profile meeting with the Prime Minister of England as a crass attempt to get votes though, just the fulfillment of a long and responsible agenda from his political buddy.

So I'd had enough. I decided to post a comment. Here it was:

It’s so very interesting that in the opinion of the LA Weekly's Bill Bradley, Angelides’ move to endorse Prop. 89 is a craven play for votes from someone with dirty hands on the matter, yet three posts below, Schwarzenegger’s “deal” on finding global warming solutions with Britain, which is purely voluntary and opposed by such groups as Environment California, is somehow NOT a craven play for votes from someone with millions in contributions from Big Oil.

I know I’m not one of the Sacramento Kool Kidz and I don’t get press releases from campaigns and crap, but the logic of that set of statements escapes me. Maybe I should get some more inside sessions with operatives, that’d help with the edification. Or I could call Arnold myself. I could get the number from Bill.

Aggressive, yes, but substantive to the matter at hand, I'd say.

Within minutes, yes, minutes, I got a email in my Inbox:

Pretty sure you were already banned, sport.

Don't enjoy wasting any more of my time with nonsense.

I've posted at New West Notes either 0 or 1 times before in my life. But apparently, challenging the statements of the writer is too much for this newspaper man. Too much two-way communication, I guess.

My reply:

I don't read your site enough to know of my not being wanted.

Incidentally, I suggest sweaters to help keep that thin skin from any damage.

have a smurfy day!

p.s. I do enjoy wasting your time.

I figured that was it, but I was a little amused that one comment could lead to an immediate banning.

Well, the guy keeps emailing me. First I get one with the scintillating comment:

Sent via BlackBerry from EarthLink Wireless.

Which the dude obviously can't work, since he sent a blank email in reply to my last note. I tweaked him:

Don't tell me I missed more wit and wisdom by the
errant press of a button! Please re-thumb.

To which he responded:


And, much later, after he got home since it wasn't from the Blackberry, and after I had forgotten the whole thing:

You don't think you deserve attention, do you?

Now, let's recap. I wrote a comment on a public blog. I get banned within a couple minutes, get personal emails sent to me, and they continue far beyond the point where it should have ended. And in the ultimate instance of projection, this one says "you don't deserve attention."

So I let him have it:

'scuse me, am I the one continuing this sorry email exchange long past its due?

Since I obviously have your attention, let me give you some advice, reader to writer. If you think legitimate criticism and a questioning of motivations warrants banning from your self-congratulatory website, you're a bit further gone than I expected.

I'm not sure when it stopped being about reporting facts to you, and started being about proving how much more inside you are than anyone else in Sacramento, but rest assured it comes off in, shall we say, a masturbatory manner. You obviously see anything from your politician friends in a positive light and your politician enemies (who've slighted you in I've no idea what way) in a negative one, and the slip is REALLY showing in this governor's race. I think Angelides has run a pathetic campaign myself, but you seem to be coming at it from a personal animus that is as transparent as it is shallow. If you're writing for 40 political operatives and muckety-mucks, fine, close it up and make it a newsletter again. But don't put it up for public view and then expect not to be criticized for the obvious biases you display.

Pretty sure I wrote an opinion as millions of bloggers do on other sites every day, and then got banned and harangued with a series of emails. If you can't take it, find another line of work. If you're a reporter, be a reporter and play it down the middle. If you're a columnist with a partisan slant, be up front about it. But for God's sake don't get the vapors every time one of your readers (who I believe indirectly pay for your house) sees through your BS.

If you write back, you won't think you deserve a reply, will you?

good times.

Well that felt good. But it continues with a reply:

You are clearly a pathetic troll.

Stop wasting your time.

Um, about the word "troll," I do not think it means what you think it means. A troll hijacks, a troll is inflammatory, a troll makes repetitive messages over and over again. Now, Bradley does this all the time; in the comments of his own site, on Calitics, and even right here on DailyKos, where in a flurry of activity late last month he heckled anyone who dared mention the Rasmussen poll showing Angelides with a slight lead, then came out with this stemwinder:

Phil Angelides can't carry John Kerry's jock strap.

I've known them both for years.

Angelides is in deep guano.

Policywise, he still has not spelled out the centerpiece of his campaign, the tax hikes, 16 weeks after claiming he has an "exact" tax plan.

His energy plan is that he will tell us his energy plan within 100 days of being sworn in.

This is sophisticated behavior for a high schooler, but that is about all we can say.

BTW, when you rip John Kerry from the safety of your little computer screen, know that he is one of the most highly decorated vets of the Vietnam War. And that I am a vet, too, and have done far more in politics than you might dream of as a third generation Californian.

Which is to say, don't embarrass yourself further with ignorant comments.

Which again (1) proves my point about him having some personal thing against Angelides, and (2) proves that he only cares about giving his resume and showing the world how inside he is.

Now, back to our story:

So after being called "a pathetic troll," I write back:

Just a reader, man, and trying to be straight with you.

Return serve:


Did I mention that at this point it's 12:30 in the morning? I was up doing a work assignment, I don't know his excuse. But I decide to try and duck out of this thing.

perfectly willing to be done with this. You must be
one of those "must get the last word" guys.

And two minutes later:

I have your ISP address.

I don't know what's funnier, that he thinks I'm going to be frightened out of my wits because he has deep secret personal information of mine, or that he thinks it's called an "ISP address."

I went to bed at that point, and in the morning I decided to volley:

This how you treat everyone who "doesn't deserve attention"?

P.S. It's called an IP address. Yours ain't hard to find either.

And a minute goes by...

Yours is on my screen automatically when you post on my site. Your behavior is stalkerish. Your correspondence is ended.

Right. My behavior is stalkerish. My behavior, incidentally, consisted of writing a comment on a public blog, and replying to a bunch of emails, one of which said "I have your ISP address" like I was supposed to hide under my couch or something.

At this point I didn't bother and let it go. But I think there's a teachable moment to be gleaned here. The traditional media is so very unused to two-way communication, that even when they put up their own blogs, they can't imagine they'll generate any criticism, and if they do, it's freak-out time. Yet they think it's perfectly fine to show personal bias in their reporting, to let conventional wisdom and happy talk from political operatives color their mindset, and to lash out in this way when challenged. This must be why the Deborah Howells and the Jim Bradys of the world call the blogosphere so "mean" and "hurtful", as they never expected anyone would dare scale the iron fortress they've built around themselves.

UPDATE: So I cross-posted this over at Kos, and Bill Bradley himself showed up! I can't do it justice, ya gotta go over there and look at it. High-larious.


Thursday, August 03, 2006

CA-GOV: A Big Moment for Clean Money

This is This is pretty big news:

California State Treasurer and Democratic nominee for Governor Phil Angelides today endorsed the Clean Money Initiative, Proposition 89 on the November ballot.

"I am proud to join the ranks of California Nurses Association, The League of Women Voters, California Common Cause and so many others in supporting Proposition 89 - the Clean Money Initiative," said Angelides who was joined by California Nurses Association President Deborah Burger and Assemblywoman Loni Hancock. "It is time for the people of California to clean up the influence of money in our government. Our government should answer to the voices of Californians, not corporate special interests."

We all know that Angelides used independent expenditures up the yin-yang to get the nomination. But he's been pretty consistent in supporting campaign finance reform in the past, including the Clean Money Act that got as far as the State Senate this year. Those who would criticize him would have him fight with one hand tied behind his back. The playing field in California today is extremely broken, and Angelides has to do what he has to do to get elected. Arnold Schwarzenegger has accepted upwards of $90 million in campaign contributions. Is Angelides supposed to unilaterally disarm for the sake of comity? I welcome him coming aboard to the Prop. 89 campaign.

Modeled after successful laws now in place in Arizona, Maine and other jurisdictions, Proposition 89 would provide public financing to candidates who:

Reject private fundraising (except for a small amount of seed money) and agree to limit spending
to the amount provided by the public;

Demonstrate broad-based public support by gathering a set number of signatures and $5 qualifying donations (from 750 - $5 contributions for an Assembly candidate to 25,000 - $5 contributions for a candidate for Governor); and

Participate in at least one primary and two general election debates.

It's enormous to have a major-party frontline candidate in California pushing this bill. Candidates literally have no reason to change the system until forced. And the Clean Money Campaign is extremely important. As I've mentioned before, last week I met Julia Brownley, who's going to be my next Assemblywoman, and asked her how much was spent on her primary in June, because it seemed like I was getting 8 pieces a mail a day by the end.

"$3.5 million," she said casually. For a State Assembly primary.

What a waste of money. What a perpetuation of a system that shuts out independent voices.

This is one of my main priorities for November.

As a postscript, it’s so very interesting that in the opinion of the LA Weekly's Bill Bradley, Angelides’ move to endorse Prop. 89 is a craven play for votes from someone with dirty hands on the matter, yet three posts below, Schwarzenegger’s “deal” on finding global warming solutions with Britain, which is purely voluntary and opposed by such groups as Environment California, is somehow NOT a craven play for votes from someone with millions in contributions from Big Oil.

I know I’m not one of the Sacramento Kool Kidz and I don’t get press releases from campaigns and crap, but the logic of that set of statements escapes me. Maybe I should get some more inside sessions with operatives, that’d help with the edification. Or I could call Arnold myself. I could get the number from Bill.

Postscript to the postscript: I posted a version of this comment at Bill's New West Notes blog and got this in my email box:

Pretty sure you were already banned, sport.

Don't enjoy wasting any more of my time with nonsense.

My reply:

I don't read your site enough to know of my not being

Incidentally, I suggest sweaters to help keep that
thin skin from any damage.

have a smurfy day!

p.s. I do enjoy wasting your time.

Ooh, blog-fight! This could get fun. Maybe he'll try to "out" me like Patterico did to TBogg.


DeLay for America

Thank Jesus in heaven that Tom DeLay has decided to come back to serve his country and his God by running to represent the 22nd District of Texas again!

Oh, wait, he didn't come back, he just couldn't weasel his way off the ballot:

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals today ruled that former U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay must stay on the November ballot for the office he resigned in June, according to a lawyer for the Texas Democratic Party. Details of the ruling were not immediately available.

Democrats said Texas Republican Chairman Tina Benkiser had violated state law and the U.S. Constitution in declaring DeLay ineligible for office so the party could replace him on the ballot.

U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks of Austin ageed with the Democrats' position last month and issued an injunction against Benkiser.

The GOP appealed the decision to the New Orleans-based 5th Circuit.

Sounds like the rumor is that the Republicans will appeal to an en banc panel of the whole 5th Circuit, and if necessary, the Supreme Court to get DeLay off the ballot.

Wow, they must have seen a poll.

Meanwhile, time marches on and there's 96 days until the election, and I'd assume the ballots will have to be printed at some point. So at this point, the Texas GOP's best shot of taking the seat is to just have DeLay jump back in with both feet. I'm sure Chris Matthews will do a fundraiser for him.

DeLay for America! It's my new PAC.


Forget Iraq, What About Spotted Owls?

So very true:

All these politicians and pundits that shake their heads sadly and "tsk tsk" at the thought of Iraq being a voting issue, I have a single question:

There are 2,582 families who have lost a loved one in Iraq. I'd like to see these politicians and pundits tell these families, to their faces, that the loss of their loved ones isn't a valid reason upon which to base one's vote.

There can be no more valid reason to cast a vote than matters of literally life and death.

The generals are even starting to tell the hard truths on this war.

"Iraq could move toward civil war" if the violence is not contained, Gen. John Abizaid, the top U.S. commander in the Middle East, told the Senate Armed Services Committee.

"I believe that the sectarian violence is probably as bad as I have seen it," he said, adding that the top priority in Iraq is to secure the capital, where factional violence has surged in recent weeks despite efforts by the new Iraqi government to stop the fighting.

And the American people get the picture on Iraq now as well. And they understand the implications. It's done more to set back the American cause than anything in a generation. I've never been a single-issue voter, but getting out of Iraq is a single issue that makes perfect sense. It affects everything: our federal treasury, the domestic programs that go unfunded because of the money thrown down the drain, our foreign policy, our fight against Islamic radicalism and how to go about it. I wouldn't blame anyone who thought the war was noble and just for voting on that single issue either. I'd try to dissuade them of that notion with facts, but I wouldn't say "the war's just one thing." Because it's not.

P.S. I keep forgetting to recommend Michael Hirsh's Newsweek article about how Bush has (deliberately, I think) confused the issue on "terrorists," treating Al Qaeda and Hezbollah and Hamas and Iraqi insurgents and now even Iraqi Shiites the same way when in fact they are all different. When you start conflating anyone with brown skin as "a terrorist" it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy:

The Bush administration has fought the "war on terror" as a series of Jerry Springers, one lunatic leap of logic after another based on unreliable sources, linking up enemies that had little to do with each other. The White House's failure to understand counterinsurgency in Iraq is, writ large, its failure to understand the radical Muslim enemy as a whole. The president has used Al Qaeda to gin up the threat from Iraq, just as he is now conflating Hizbullah and Hamas with Al Qaeda as "terrorists" of the same ilk. Actually these groups had little connection to one another—or at least they didn't until America decided to make itself their common enemy. Al Qaeda was always, in truth, the only "terrorist group of global reach" in the world—which is how Bush accurately defined things back in that long-ago fall of 2001. Both Hizbullah and Hamas had publicly disavowed any interest in backing Osama bin Laden's goals. Al Qaeda was Sunni, Hizbullah is Shiite. Even within the Muslim world these groups had scant support, although Hamas and Hizbullah had a lot more than Al Qaeda did because they were providing social services in Lebanon and Gaza.

Read it all. A really good piece that tries to address some fundamental truths.


I Was Against the War Before I Was For It... And After... Or Something

On the heels of another new poll showing Ned Lamont up by 13 points in next week's primary battle, Joe Lieberman has decided to take the final refuge of the truly desperate: make a last-minute change on a salient issue to curry favor with the voters:

Embattled Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman - facing a possible primary defeat Tuesday because of his strong backing for the Iraq war - yesterday launched a Hail Mary attack on the Bush administration's handling of the war.
"I supported our war in Iraq but I have always questioned the way it was being executed," Lieberman said.

"This administration took far too many shortcuts. We continue to suffer the consequences, as do the Iraqi people."

Lieberman, an 18-year veteran of the Senate and a former vice presidential nominee, has been stunned by polls showing anti-war challenger Ned Lamont might win the Democratic primary.

"It sounds like he's finally starting to wake up," said Lamont spokeswoman Liz Dupont-Diehl.

Of course, the danger of doing this is manifold. First, Lieberman, by his actions, now supports the charge Lamont has always thrown at him about the war. He verifies Lamont's frame. Second, you have to wonder what core principles Lieberman has if he's gone from "we undermine the credibility of the President at our nation's peril" to "I've been critical since the war started."

But I guess desperation forces risk-taking. I think for Lamont, he has to look at these numbers and think "I need to not only beat Lieberman but demoralize him. Beat him so badly that he'll think twice before coming back as an independent to challenge me again." Of course, that would require a check on Joe's ego that I think doesn't exist.

I also want to say that Jane Hamsher did a stupid thing by posting a photo of Lieberman in black face. And I found her mea culpa to be not a little defensive.

Bloggers have a target on our backs, like it or not. The NRSC is digging at the comment-level on Daily Kos looking to highlight "crazy left" posts, even if they're troll-rated.

Fair? Maybe not. Politics? You betcha.

Jane was doin' what she does, but she hurt the race with this action, unquestionably. If Lieberman mentions it in a press conference, it's news. And with the Michelle Malkins of the world (no link) braying about it, Republicans clearly think they've found their "You don't need papers for voting" moment, and expect the outrage to grow and grow and grow. But this is a Democratic primary. All Ned Lamont has to do is say "Why are Republicans so interested in getting Joe Lieberman re-elected?" Which is what Jane said, too, but she's not in the position to make that statement right now.

If this is played right, it could end up shooting Joe in the foot. If Ned Lamont can be criticized for his supporters, Joe can be as well.

Speaking of those supporters, here they are, in YouTube form:


Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Can't Believe I'm Losing To This Guy 2

This is a compendium of things that have happened just in the past 24 hours, courtesy of your Republican candidates for Congress. It'd be funny if it weren't so sad.

Mean Jean Schmidt of Ohio's 2nd District writes a letter to her constituents called "Why They Hate Us." Written at roughly a second-grade level, it contains some of the most insane projections of American exceptionalism ever committed to parchment.

On every continent in every corner of the planet you will find people that know of the United States of America. The United States is not just another country to them, we are utopia. The United States is a collection of wealth, might, and technology mixed into a culture where freedom is abundant [...]

It is easy to understand that when you know your liberator and he does not come, it must mean he doesn't care. Hearts begin to fill with hate. Evil takes root. Soon all of your problems only exist because the United States failed to solve them.

A young soldier in Baghdad told me a story of a local Iraqi who had questioned him. The local Iraqi wanted to know how a country as powerful and advanced as the United States could possibly send a man to the moon, defeat one of the world's largest armies in hours, and yet still not have the power restored to his apartment.

The Iraqi's perception is that we are all powerful. We watch them from space with technology they cannot even imagine. Surely if we wanted to turn on his electricity we could do so. He has no idea how large the problem is but he knows we can do anything. He was angry. Eventually his air conditioning began running and his anger cooled.

Apparently, Iraqi citizens are "noble savages" who are ungrateful for all the gifts we have bestowed upon them. You know, like rubble. And free limb removal. And civil war.

Support Victoria Wulson in OH-2.

Katherine Harris received a grand jury subpoena and hid it from her Senate staff, AND from the House leadership, which is a violation of their internal laws.

As we've seen most recently in the case of Rep. Bob Ney's (R-OH) heavily-subpoenaed office, any representative or staffer receiving a subpoena concerning any work-related issue must disclose it, and an announcement is subsequently published in the Congressional Record. It's called "House Rule VIII," and it's cited in just about every disclosure.

Yet a search of the Record turns up no mention of a subpoena for Harris.

And this isn't a staffer being subpoenaed, but Harris herself.

Support Bill Nelson in FL-SEN (though I'm not sure he needs the support; the Harris campaign is desperately in search of a Viking funeral).

Jim Talent made a big stink out of Claire McCaskill's FEC report not being sent in on time, as required by law. The McCaskill campaign showed that it was indeed sent out on time, and that the staffer responsible was actually killed over the weekend in a tragic skydiving accident. Talent's people CONTINUED to berate the McCaskill campaign for "incompetence" after knowing that the staffer responsible was dead.

Berridge, 38, of St. Louis, was among six skydivers who died Saturday in the crash near the eastern Missouri town of Sullivan.

Adrianne Marsh, spokeswoman for the McCaskill campaign, said Berridge's records show she sent the report on July 24, as required, and produced a certified receipt to prove it. Marsh said the filing may have been lost in the mail, but the campaign is working it out with FEC officials.

Marsh called on the Republican Party and incumbent Sen. Jim Talent - McCaskill's opponent - to issue "an immediate apology to Melissa's family and retract their insensitive release."

Sloca declined.

"It's unfortunate that Claire McCaskill has turned this into an issue about the unfortunate death of a staffer to hide from her incompetence," he said.

McCaskill later wrote to Talent directly, thanking him for a previous note of condolence about the death but calling the GOP's claims about Berridge's work "hurtful to her family."

"I would really appreciate it if you would ask your party to stop this and apologize," McCaskill wrote.

Well, yeah, but that dead girl didn't double-check with the post office! What's her problem?

Support Claire McCaskill in MO-SEN.

Richard Pombo had a staffer pen this lovely note in reaction to a newspaper editorial in Connecticut that opposed drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge:

“Connecticut should have its statehood taken away from it. The foolishness of its pampered residents should be demonstrated to others by a government program to bulldoze the entire state, salt the land and construct a windfarm to supply NYC with electricity. And its residents should be relocated to Guantanamo Bay where they can take a number behind the 3 who hung themselves this weekend, since they seem so intent on suicide.”

-- Daniel Kish, a senior adviser to Pombo, in an email

Cut him some slack, it WAS a strongly worded editorial.

Support Jerry McNerney in CA-11.

The lot of nutty Republicans running in the Colorado district that houses Focus on the Family's James Dobson (or SpongeDob Squarepants) put on an interesting show at a Focus Congressional forum the other day:

Bentley Rayburn spoke of opening Iraq to the word of Jesus. He and Duncan Bremer

said they had been called by God to campaign for Congress.

An exchange on abortion between Democrat Jay Fawcett and Jeff Crank was illustrative of the event.

Fawcett explained his prochoice stance by saying: “I have no desire to dictate your faith to you, and I hope you have no desire to dictate mine for me.”

Crank, who supports outlawing abortion, shot back that votes on abortion always are based on the faith of the member deciding them.

“We need to stop this phony baloney about not bringing faith into the public square,” the former Chamber of Commerce vice president said. “We absolutely need to bring faith into the public square.” [...]

Rayburn, a retired Air Force major general, framed several answers in terms of what “we as Christians” would do. As he has throughout the campaign, he described the war in Iraq as a battle against radical Islam and said establishing a democracy in Iraq would send a message.

“That will open up hope within these countries for the gospel of Jesus Christ to change hearts,” he said.

Rayburn and Bremer, a former El Paso county commissioner, said they believe God had called them to run for office.

“I want to be God’s man in Washington,” Bremer told the crowd. “I want to represent the heart of this district . . . whether people who are saved and working side by side with you or whether people who are unsaved.”

What's in the holy water over there in Colorado Springs?

Support Jay Fawcett in CO-5.

This all happened in roughly the last 24 hours. This is from THE PARTY IN POWER.

At least for now.


Say It Ain't So, Joe

Joe Lieberman should sack his staff after he loses next week's primary. They've done a terrible job for him. But what have they had to work with? A pro-war Democrat who refuses to acknowledge the reality of Iraq? I mean, even National Review has bailed out on the rose-colored glasses when it comes to Iraq, in a stunning turnaround:

Well, the editors of the National Review are less sanguine today:

"We may not be losing in the Middle East, but we certainly aren’t winning. On top of the growing chaos in Baghdad comes the prospect of a Hezbollah victory in its confrontation with Israel, which would strengthen Iran’s play for regional dominance."

Of course their answer to the Assministration's foreign policy failures is to attack Syria and Iraq, but they are nevertheless admitting the downfall of Chimpy's grand scheme.

Joe Lieberman won't acknowledge these fundamental realities. He won't even talk about the war anymore.

This is a man who says "we undermine the credibility of the President at our peril" - and this is coming from a Senator from the OPPOSITION party.

I don't know what a campaign staff is supposed to do about that - except to counsel their candidate not to destroy the party out of ego, and NOT to run as an independent when he gets trounced next week.


"We Should Wait Until It's Complete"

...was the refrain of those in the conservosphere who kneecapped Jack Murtha for speaking out about the tragedy in Haditha. Well, it's pretty much complete, and the results are exactly the same:

Evidence collected on the deaths of 24 Iraqis in Haditha supports accusations that U.S. Marines deliberately shot the civilians, including unarmed women and children, a Pentagon official said Wednesday.

Agents of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service have completed their initial work on the incident last November, but may be asked to probe further as Marine Corps and Navy prosecutors review the evidence and determine whether to recommend criminal charges, according to two Pentagon officials who discussed the matter on condition of anonymity.

The decision on whether to press criminal charges ultimately will be made by the commander of the accused Marines' parent unit, the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force at Camp Pendleton, Calif. That currently is Lt. Gen. John Sattler, but he is scheduled to move to a Pentagon assignment soon; his successor will be Lt. Gen. James Mattis.

The "we should wait" crowd just wants to run out the clock and deny reality until it's too late. Their loyalty is to the war effort rather than truth or justice. Haditha and other massacres have a terrible impact on our global standing, and it's made all the worse when those who defend this tragedy of a war shout down the allegations in a kind of knee-jerk reaction.


Rewriting McGovern

"Every senator in this chamber is partly responsible for sending 50,000 young Americans to an early grave. This chamber reeks of blood...It does not take any courage at all for a congressman, or a senator, or a president to wrap himself in the flag and say we are staying in Vietnam, because it is not our blood that is being shed. But we are responsible for those young men and their lives and their hopes."

-George McGovern, US Senate floor, 1970

The battle between Ned Lamont and Joe Lieberman in Connecticut is nothing new. It's a continuation of a 35-year battle between those Democrats who would sell out the Party for personal power and treasure, and those who would keep the Party as the true voice of the people. It's extremely telling to me that so many in the liberal commentariat are using the spectre of 1968 and 1972 as compelling reasons to fear a Lamont challenge. Via Digby, the Dean of the Washington press corps makes it explicit:

The people backing Lamont are nothing if not sincere. But their breed of Democrats -- many of them wealthy, educated, extremely liberal -- often pick candidates who are rejected by the broader public. Many of the older Lamont supporters went straight from Eugene McCarthy and George McGovern in the 1960s and '70s to Howard Dean in 2004.

It always goes back to George McGovern. For Jonathan Chait and David Broder and Jonathan Alter and so many more in the Beltway, McGovern represents the worst of the Democratic Party: the "hippie candidate" who's strident antiwar stance led to one of the most crushing defeats in the history of Presidential politics and the destruction of the Democratic Party as a whole.

How dare they besmirch the honor of this patriot, who ran against two parties in 1972, not one. Proven right by history, and only taken down by a combination of corrupt politicians on the take and the nascent neoconservative movement, George McGovern represented what Beltway politicians obviously see as a real threat: the triumph of people over a failing establishment in thrall to the trappings of power. He's exactly what our democracy needs today, and this narrative of him as a disaster must be challenged, now more than ever.

FACT: Far from being a Birkenstock-wearing peacenik, George McGovern was as decorated a soldier ever to win his party's nomination for President. He flew 35 B-24 missions over enemy bases in North Africa and Italy as a member of the US Air Force. He received the Distinguished Flying Cross for his service. He was passionate about war because he knew war intimately. That's as true today as it ever was in the Vietnam era. Here's a recent quote from McGovern.

"Let me say that one thing that Richard Perle and Dick Cheney and George W. Bush have in common is that none of them have ever been near a combat scene. They're perfectly willing to send younger people -- other people's sons -- into war. They're very generous with that blood of the young men and women that they throw into combat so casually. But they've protected their blood and their limbs by never serving near a battlefield. That's true of the President. It's true of the Vice President. It's true of Perle and Wolfowitz -- that whole crowd of neo-conservatives that have the ear of the President."

(McGovern didn't talk much about his war hero record on the '72 campaign trail because he has said “it was not in my nature to turn the campaign into a constant exercise in self-congratulatory autobiography.” He talked about the issues facing that country at the time from the moral authority of someone who's experienced the horrors of war and knew that there had to be a damn good reason for committing American sons and daughters to a battlefield.)

FACT: McGovern was right about Vietnam from pretty much the very beginning. He voted against the 1957 "Eisenhower Doctrine" that would commit the United States to facing Communist uprisings anywhere in the world without equivocation. He understood the importance of Congress' warmaking powers. He reluctantly voted for the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution (which he called the "biggest mistake of his career") but even before that, in 1962, was decrying the military buildup in South Vietnam, and the propping up the corrupt and ruthless Diem government. He was maybe the only person in the government at that time to understand the particular historical realities of Vietnam (as befitting a former professor, and the only Ph.D. I can remember to run for the White House). He explains in this great Buzzflash interview:

George McGovern: Well, you're absolutely right about that -- that as far back as 1945, Ho Chi Minh tried to work out a negotiated deal with the United States to support the movement that he led for an independent Vietnam. He didn't want to be controlled by the French, which they were for a hundred years. He certainly didn't want to be controlled by the Japanese. And he and his men helped spirit some of the American pilots who were shot down over the Vietnamese jungle in World War II back to their homeland -- some of my fellow pilots that survived the War because of Ho Chi Minh's cooperation were with us in slowing up the Japanese.

At that point, we should have recognized him. We'd have had the same kind of constructive and peaceful relationships at that time that we now have going on, but without killing 2,000,000 Vietnamese and losing 58,000 young Americans.

I'd add that the Chinese were historical enemies of the Vietnamese, who merely wanted to shake off the binds of colonialism and were loath to enter into any arrangement with their mortal foes to their north. This renders moot the Domino Theory, and it's why McGovern was, in the words of his fellow University of South Dakota history professor Herbert Schell, “The only nominee of either major party since World War II who has not accepted the assumptions of the Cold War." That is to be celebrated, not demonized.

The McGovern-Hatfield bipartisan amendment to end the war in 1970 generated more mail in the Capitol than any legislation up to that time. I've already cited his amazing speech on the floor of the Senate in favor of that amendment. It increasingly applies to the present day. McGovern does that parallel himself:

I think the same procedures could have been used in Iraq. Saddam Hussein was a miserable S.O.B. We all know that. But he wasn't much of a threat to anybody after he was thrown out of Kuwait. And for the next 10 years, he never stuck his big toe beyond the borders of Iraq. So I think we should have tried to work out some kind of an understanding with him while strenuously objecting to the way he treated his own people, but not to put an American army in there.

The President keeps talking about the Iraqi terrorist danger. It's a danger because we have an American army in Iraq to be shot at by the guerillas and by the terrorists.

FACT: McGovern has done more for restoring American credibility in the world than a bomb or a gun barrel can ever do. He spent the early 1960s in the Kennedy Administration as director of the "Food for Peace" program, which distributed US crops to impoverished civilians around the world. He's continued to advocate against the needless scourge of world hunger in the United Nations ever since leaving the Senate in 1980. As a prairie state populist, he's understood the needs of working farmers as much as anyone on the national stage, and how their efforts could be used to advance American foreign policy and national interests. He helped establish the National School Lunch program, incidentally.

FACT: If it weren't for George McGovern, there wouldn't be anything close to democracy in the Democratic Party primary system. If you think the primary system is broken now, go back to 1968, where Hubert H. Humphrey received his party's nomination without winning a single state primary. In the wake of that election, McGovern chaired a 1969 Reform Commission which led to reducing the role of party officials in the nominating process, and foregrounding the role of the primaries and caucuses. It also required proportional delegate representation. McGovern brought thousands of committed Democrats into a process that was completely closed off to them.

FACT: The McGovern campaign of 1972 had its most vociferous opponents on his own side of the aisle. Ed Muskie was the favorite going into that year's election. The DLC's Al From was running a subcommittee for him at the time. Henry "Scoop" Jackson was one of his opponents that year. Jackson's top campaign advisor was Richard Perle. It was Jackson, not the Republicans, who used the phrase "acid, amnesty and abortion" to describe the McGovern platform. His people-powered campaign represented a major threat to the institutional forces of the party (sound familiar?). After winning the Wisconsin Primary, the powers that be drafted Hubert Humphrey and sent him into the race as the "Anyone But McGovern" candidate. In a famous debate, Humphrey suggested very directly that McGovern's plan to reduce defense spending would "sweep the Army and Navy off the table." ALL of these smears and slurs were used by the Nixon campaign in the fall. They ALL came from inside the party, from the wing that is now largely the modern neoconservative movement.

Establishment Democrats never came on board with McGovern's campaign, fighting him at the convention tooth and nail. The reason McGovern's amazing "Come Home, America" nominating speech happened at 3am ET was because of the massive floor fight engaged to knock him out of the race. Humphrey supporters tried to change the rules with respect to California's delegates after agreeing to the rules in the first place. This futile attempt took up weeks leading up to the convention, and lasted all night on the floor. Party rules mandated that a Vice Presidential candidate come out of the convention, and honestly the McGovern campaign was too busy securing the nomination to even consider it. They went through many choices because establishment figures were pressured not to join up with him. Boston Mayor Kevin White was on the verge of receiving the nod, but the Kennedy clan found him unacceptable. This chaos led to the choice of Maryland Senator Tom Eagleton, who had a history of mental illness and was eventually dumped from the ticket. More than anything, this stalled any momentum they could have gained. Intra-party squabbling was a major part of all of this. George Meany, an old lion of the establishment, refused to let the AFL-CIO endorse McGovern. Labor was a far bigger factor in elections at the time.

The Democratic Party had a vested interest in sandbagging the McGovern campaign then, as surely as its offspring today have a vested interest in using McGovern as an example of a liberal hippie counterculture that would destroy the party. It was done to protect little fiefdoms, to ensure corporate dominance and to keep intact the warmaking machine.

FACT: There were two antiwar candidates that year. Nixon never ran as a "stay the course" candidate. He announced just days before the 1972 election that "peace is at hand" and that negotiations were about to commence. Between that, McGovern's mistakes in running the campaign, and the bounty of Democratic attacks at his disposal, it was enough for victory. George McGovern ran against two parties in 1972 and got a respectable 38% of the vote. This of course was the year burglars broke into the DNC offices, leading to Watergate. Why is MCGOVERN used as the boogeyman in that scenario? All he did was lose an election. Pretty much everyone on Nixon's staff went to jail or resigned in disgrace.

George McGovern, the prairie populist, the minister's son from South Dakota, has been vindicated by history on all levels. The only people who fail to see this are those who want to keep the status quo that has failed the Democratic Party for a generation. We shouldn't shrink from the "McGovern" label: he was honest, principled, and right. And to this very day he continues to be right, understanding the problems with using the military to achieve political solutions.

McGovern: We couldn't win the war in Vietnam, not because we lacked military power, but because we were allied with a corrupt regime in South Vietnam that had lost the confidence of the people there. And because we were trying to argue that we could defeat the guerilla forces there with napalm and with strategic bombing and using chemical warfare -- it just didn't work. Finally we decided, after many, many years, to withdraw.

In Iraq, you have a similar situation in that we have easily defeated the official Iraqi Army. But now we have this band of guerillas fanned out across the country who are picking off our troops one at a time -- sometimes two or three at a time. I think we'll eventually get tired of that and decide to withdraw. In that sense, it's quite similar to our experience in Vietnam [...]

Just about every American would now agrees that those of us who opposed the war in Vietnam, well, we were right. I don't worry about the nitpickers who go around saying that we sold out the country. I don't believe that. I think that most Americans know we were right. And what angers the Republicans is that they know that we were right.

Let me end with this incredible January 2006 article from the American Conservative Magazine, of all places, where the author completely upends the conventional wisdom on McGovern and looks at him not through the fractured prism of politics, but as a man. I quote liberally from it because it is so very cogent and relatable to our present day.

But perhaps, as George McGovern ages gracefully while his country does not, it is time to stop looking at McGovern through the lenses of Scoop Jackson and those neoconservative publicists who so often trace their disenchantment with the Democratic Party to the 1972 campaign. What if we refocus the image and see the George McGovern who doesn’t fit the cartoon? [...]

Robert Sam Anson wrote in McGovern, his fine biography, “To the extent that his vision of life is bounded by certain, immutable values—the importance of family, the dependence on nature, the strength of community, the worth of living things—he is a conservative. He seeks not so much to change America as to restore it, to return it to the earliest days of the Republic, which he believes, naively or not, were fundamentally decent, humane, and just." [...]

I suppose no Democrat could have defeated Nixon in 1972. The incumbent’s popularity was buoyed by a fairly strong economy, détente with the USSR, the opening to China, and rumors of peace in Vietnam. But still, imagine George McGovern running not as an ultraliberal caricature but rather as the small-town Midwestern Methodist, a war hero too modest to boast of his bravery, a liberal with a sympathetic understanding of conservative rural America. That George McGovern might have given Nixon a run for Maurice Stans’s money [...]

In the home stretch of the ’72 campaign, McGovern was groping toward truths that exist far beyond the cattle pens of Left and Right. “Government has become so vast and impersonal that its interests diverge more and more from the interests of ordinary citizens,” he said two days before the election. “For a generation and more, the government has sought to meet our needs by multiplying its bureaucracy. Washington has taken too much in taxes from Main Street, and Main Street has received too little in return. It is not necessary to centralize power in order to solve our problems.” Charging that Nixon “uncritically clings to bloated bureaucracies, both civilian and military,” McGovern promised to “decentralize our system.” ... He spoke of open government, peace, the defense of the individual and the community against corporate power, a Congress that reasserts the power to declare war...

“[M]ost Americans see the establishment center as an empty, decaying void that commands neither their confidence nor their love,” McGovern asserted in one of the great unknown campaign speeches in American history. “It is the establishment center that has led us into the stupidest and cruelest war in all history. That war is a moral and political disaster—a terrible cancer eating away the soul of the nation. … It was not the American worker who designed the Vietnam war or our military machine. It was the establishment wise men, the academicians of the center. As Walter Lippmann once observed, ‘There is nothing worse than a belligerent professor.’”

...At its not-frequent-enough best, McGovernism combined New Left participatory democracy with the small-town populism of the Upper Midwest. In a couple of April 1972 speeches, he seemed to second Barry Goldwater’s 1968 remark to aide Karl Hess that “When the histories are written, I’ll bet that the Old Right and the New Left are put down as having a lot in common and that the people in the middle will be the enemy.”


Source (Not the best movie, more of a polemic, but a good source of information)


Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Quick Hits

• It really is all about Israel on the cable news nets, isn't it? CNN just gave a news report that was dangerously close to announcing troop movements. Obviously it's an important issue, but when's the last time you heard about Iraq? It's amazing how quickly the media has turned away from the forgotten war.

• Those troop movements put Israel way into the north and perilously close to the Syrian border. Here comes that wider war the US appears to be asking for. God help us that Chuck Hagel is the only one asking for some sanity.

There's a lot of rejoicing as Fidel Castro gives away the Presidency to his brother Raul. Our policy toward Cuba is one of complete isolation, and when a development like this presents itself, we're in little position to affect any kind of change. Raul Castro is not likely to change much in the country, but he's 75 himself. There will be a power vaccuum, and we're too far away to do anything about it.

• I support any campaign that suggests Americans need to Do More Than Vote. We need to understand that democracy requires participation.

• Ha ha, those black wymmyns sure is funny! Seriously, what the fuck is that? The more time I spend in media, the more I realize that the people in it are far more culturally backwards than anyone would realize.

• According to Rush, civilians need to learn that they're on the front line and deserve death for their government's policies. Pretty much exactly what bin Laden says.

• The Swift Boaters are coming after John Murtha. That won't work in Johnstown. I have family there. Murtha's been around for a long time, and unlike Lieberman, he stays in touch with the district. He's at Windber Hospital (my aunt works there) all the time. Plus, his opponent is the wife of a war profiteer whose company got a $300 million dollar contract with the Iraqi Defense Ministry through a corrupt arms dealer with ties to Ahmad Chalabi who ended up getting murdered in a mysterious drive-by shooting in Baghdad.

• Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador is not giving up in seeking electoral justice in Mexico, bringing the capital city to a standstill. That election is not over by a longshot. The Federal Electoral Court had better step in with a ruling soon, because that's going to spill over into confrontation. It's inevitable.

• Bush is creating the Axis of Evil he labeled a few years ago.



Reading over this article about last week's execrable House bill that tied a minimum wage increase to Paris Hilton's tax cut, this line by a Republican Congressman struck me.

Representative Zach Wamp, Republican of Tennessee, said Democrats were upset with the legislation because Republicans had found a clever way to link the two. “You have seen us outfox you on this issue tonight,” Mr. Wamp told Democrats in the floor debate.

They're not even hiding it. This Republican Congress cares only about playing the game of politics instead of getting the work of the American people accomplished.

They would rather "outfox" Democrats than let a family of four climb out of poverty by demanding that employers provide an honest day's pay for an honest day's work.

"Outfoxing" is more important than giving Americans the facts on WMD in Iraq and letting them decide if the potential threat is worth the severe cost in lives and treasure.

"Outfoxing" is more important than providing the elderly with a real prescription drug benefit instead of providing pharmaceutical companies with billions of dollars in giveaways and inflated sales figures.

"Outfoxing" is more important than actually informing Congress about warrantless wiretapping, massive electronic databasing, the existence of a Pakistani plutonium plant, or even Indian arms sales to Iran.

"Outfoxing" is more important that giving people the retirement security they need in the most successful government program in the history of the nation, instead preferring to "reform" the system by giving it away to corporate fund managers who can rack up administrative costs and put the lives of old people at the whim of the market.

"Outfoxing" by editing audio to make Democratic Congressman appear to support Hezbollah is more important than having a real debate about how to stop the senseless violence in the Middle East instead of cheerleading toward a wider regional war.

"Outfoxing" by putting bills up for a vote before anyone can even read them is more important.

"Outfoxing" by submitting posion pill amendments and then claiming that their opponents voted against the minimum wage is more important.

"Outfoxing" by claiming hatred of gays equals protecting families is more important.

"Outfoxing" is what they do every day. They even have a news channel named after the practice.

Of course, we all know this. But so many people in the country do not. And now is the time, in the final 100 days, to turn to your friends, your neighbors, your co-workers, and explain that the current Republican Party only cares about "outfoxing." They don't care about people.

The election is something of a referendum on George Bush. But he's not on the ballot. People like Zach Wamp are. And there are extremely compelling reasons to kick them out of Washington as well. Results, not "outfoxing." That's what people want. That's what Democrats can provide.

P.S. I'm trying to find a clip of this guy saying "we have outfoxed you" and any help would be appreciated. The Democrats are very slowly getting better at campaign commercials (Patrick Murphy's got a good one up today), but as a media professional I feel it's high time for us pros to get involved. YouTube and other distributed networks make it so easy, and you can arguably capture more eyeballs for less money.


My Democratic Reunion

I keep forgetting to post about my attendance on Saturday at The Democratic Reunion, a series of events which brought Democrats from all over the country to meet, organize, and activate. My event was a Potluck BBQ and fundraiser for the West LA Democratic Club, which featured some candidates and a lot of food.

Debra Bowen, maybe the most engaged politician in the country when it comes to election issues, was there. She's running for California Secretary of State against incumbent Bruce McPherson, and the SoS position in the states is becoming as important as the governor, given the difficulties with voting over the last several years. Bowen is smart, tough, and well-informed about this burgeoning crisis in our democracy. We talked briefly, and she didn't think that the lawsuit filed in San Diego would do much to overturn the Francine Busby-Brian Bilbray race, but she thinks it will be a powerful bit of imagery for her election, and a warning that the system is broken. As you may know, poll workers in San Diego took home the electronic voting machines two weeks prior to the June 6 election on unsupervised sleepovers, opening them up to all kinds of potential hacking.

Just yesterday Bowen held a hearing in Bakersfield on statewide voting problems. She's very tenacious and she's exactly who we need to get the potential for mischief out of the electoral process. And the rest of the committee was just as fiery:

Committee Chairwoman Sen. Debra Bowen, D-Redondo Beach, said the mission of the committee is to prevent problems in future elections.

"One thing that's always frustrated me about government is we don't do a good job learning from our mistakes, or the mistakes of others," she said [...]

Committee members pelted local elections officials with searing questions about why they failed the voters.

State Sen. Roy Ashburn, R-Bakersfield, asked why touch-screen voting machines failed and paper ballots ran out making voting nearly impossible for as many as 500 Kern County voters.

County Deputy Registrar of Voters Sandy Brockman, sitting in for elections boss Auditor-Controller Ann Barnett, took the brunt of Ashburn's questions.

Under his questioning, she said Barnett decided not to train elections workers on the use of paper ballots and decided to send only the minimum number of paper ballots to each polling place.

Elections workers testified they were told not to use paper ballots.

But when electronic voting cards failed, the paper ballots ran out and as many as 500 voters could have lost the chance to vote, Brockman said [...]

The third member of the committee, Sen. Joseph Dunn, D-Garden Grove, asked hard questions of Diebold Election Systems official Mike Rockenstein.

Diebold made the voting machines and electronic ballot cards that malfunctioned in Kern County on June 6.

Through the negligence of Diebold, Dunn said, hundreds of Kern County voters were turned away at the polls and lost their chance to vote.

If a chance to vote is priceless, Dunn asked Rockenstein, how much would Diebold be willing to pay voters who could prove they couldn't vote because of the company's mistakes.

Rockenstein said he had no answer to that question.

The other politico I met on Saturday was Julia Brownley, who will be the next Assemblywoman in my district. California's State Legislature is so gerrymandered that no seats changed hands from Democrat to Republican in 2004. That's a problem, and I support the proposed deal that would remove some term limits for legislators in exchange for sensible redistricting run by citizens rather than courts. The term limit process mandates that inexperienced politicians populate the State House and lobbyist influence increases since they're the only ones that know the playing field. And this redistricting proposal is much more fair than the one defeated by the voters in 2005.

But the other problem I found out from Brownley is how pervasive and corrosive money truly is to our democracy. During her primary campaign, I was beseiged with literature from all the Democratic candidates, to the tune of at least five or six pieces a day by the end. I asked Brownley how much money was spent on the primary by all the candidates. "$3.5 million dollars," she said.

$3.5 million. For a Democratic primary for State Assembly.

That's outrageous. And it needs to be changed. Ezra Klein reports that it might be this year:

California's politics are so screamingly dysfunctional that I long ago gave up any hope that they could be reformed. But a new proposition proposes to dynamite the system, and it looks to me as if it just might work. The only question: Can a ballot initiative to kill the special interests survive the campaign the special interests will mount to defeat it? I'm unconvinced.

The Clean Money Elections coalition that's sponsoring Prop. 89 is indeed going to need a tremendous effort to get this thing passed. It's bitterly ironic that they're going to need lots of money to pass an initiative to get money out of politics. It's almost like the system is set up against change. Well, it is. But a grassroots army can change that and bring Clean Money Elections to California the way it brought them to Arizona and Maine. I think full public financing of elections is as important to restoring democracy as anything we can do. There's going to be so much mud flung at this initiative because it would effectively kill entire industries devoted to raising and distributing political money. A lot of it will come from outside the state, because California is an incubator for national legislative action, far more than Arizona or Maine. This initiative represents a threat to the status quo.

But it can be done. Common Cause and the League of Women Voters are already on board. There are less than 100 days left. Please consider a contribution. This will end up costing you so much LESS in the long run, as a democracy not besotted with money is one that's responsive to the needs of ALL people.


Into the Lion's Den - Only It's Not A Lion's Den

Ned Lamont gave a nice performance last night on The Colbert Report. According to Nancy Pelosi, he shouldn't have been on there in the first place. His campaign manager sets her straight:

What exactly was the media strategy?

"It's another chance to engage and excite young voters," said Tom Swan, Lamont's campaign manager, who chewed gum like an expectant father.

The show has the best political demo on television. If Colbert asks, you go, and you go again, and you go again. He's not a "tough interview," as Pelosi believes. Colbert's playing a character, and if you listen he sets his guests up to knock it out of the park every time. The character of Colbert frames the issues in the most marvelously backward, intentionally stupid ways that if you play along, answer straight, and, as Al Franken said in the article, don't try to be funny, you look great by comparison.

Why would any politician shy away from that? Pelosi needs to explain that to me.


Monday, July 31, 2006

Don't Open Your Mouth

In my last post on the Israel-Hezbollah war, I wrote:

Anytime you lead off with "a new Middle East" that's going to rattle everyone in power in the old Middle East. And any time you hold out for a "sustainable cease-fire" you admit that you couldn't care less about those dying today. So the strategy is to hold the entire Middle East in utter comtempt and once again force democracy through the barrel of a gun. See Iraq for how that ends up working.

Whatever happened to speaking softly and carrying a big stick? The threat of violence is often more effective than the violence itself.

This is being played out in the last few days. Instead of keeping quiet and letting everyone believe they're idiots, Olmert and his cronies opened their mouths and removed all doubt.

Hezbollah is a terror organization that fires rockets indiscriminantly into Israel, positions their artillery under civilian residences and UN outposts, and will use any opportunity to use the language of martyrdom to gain sympathy. An enemy like this will never attack directly, with uniforms and phalanxes and pinzer movements. The wars of the 21st century will all be fought this way. Hell, the biggest war of the 18th century, the one that achieved American independence, was fought this way. And you can't fight an unconventional war conventionally.

Yet this is exactly what Israel, and (allegedly) its allies in this country, appear to be doing. They're trying to stop guerrilla fighters with an air war, which is bound to lead to a tragedy like the one in Qana, especially when Hezbollah has a history of using human shields. Then, after claiming to institute a temporary 48-hour cease-fire, they break it about 18 hours in, then reject all calls for a permanent cease-fire and give authorization for a wider war and a ground offensive. This has only added to the rhetoric of martyrdom that has rallied the entire Islamic world to Hezbollah's cause. Lebanon has no reason to support Hezbollah, which caused this mess, which has intervened in their lives and made them miserable for decades. 87% of those Lebanese now support Hezbollah. Israel is talking about taking back Bint Jbail, which they abandoned after a three-day offensive. What the hell is the strategy here?

Meanwhile, the US is clinging to their brother in blood like a sock to a T-shirt after an hour in the dryer, matching failed strategy with failed strategy. Christopher Dickey writes:

Imagine, if you will, that arsonists have set your apartment block on fire. You call 911 and plead for help. The dispatcher tells you of her “determination to work immediately with the utmost urgency” to douse the flames, but only if plans can be agreed on for the new building to be erected when the decrepit old one has gone up in smoke. She’s stalling, hoping the arsonists will be eliminated by the conflagration. And she’s got a great vision for the way that block should look some day. That’s what counts. Not your furniture, or for that matter, your family inside … No wonder Siniora looked distraught as the conference closed.

He also catches on to the fact that, the way this war is being waged, Hezbollah necessarily has the edge.

The bottom line: Hizbullah is winning. That’s the hideous truth about the direction this war is taking, not in spite of the way the Israelis have waged their counterattack, but precisely because of it. As my source Mr. Frankly put it, “Hizbullah is eating their lunch.”

We’re talking about a militia—a small guerrilla army of a few thousand fighters, in fact—that plays all the dirty games that guerrillas always play. It blends in with the local population. It draws fire against innocents. But it’s also fighting like hell against an Israeli military machine that is supposed to be world class. And despite the onslaught of the much-vaunted Tsahal, Hizbullah continues to pepper Israel itself with hundreds of rockets a day.

The United States, following Israel’s lead, does not want an immediate ceasefire precisely because that would hand Hizbullah a classic guerrilla-style victory: it started this fight against a much greater military force—and it’s still standing. In the context of a region where vast Arab armies have been defeated in days, for a militia to hold out one week, two weeks and more, is seen as heroic. Hizbullah is the aggressor, the underdog and the noble survivor, all at once. “It’s that deadly combination of the expectation game, which Hizbullah have won, and the victim game, which they’ve also won,” as my straight-talking friend put it.

Like I said, don't open your mouth and remove all doubt. If you decide on military conflict, you'd better make damn sure you win. Or at least, make sure you know what you're doing.


Sully: Practicing What He Preaches Against

Once every six months or so, when I get really desperate, I'll head over to Andrew Sullivan and see what he's got to say. Some progressives are welcoming him into the fold, given his tough talk against the management of the Iraq war and the growing Christianist movement in the US. But he'll still use exactly the same tactics in his own arguments that he decries in other people's.

For example, today he's gone on and on about Mel Gibson's remarks, with particular emphasis on the reaction from the conservosphere. He sees a very particular technique in how they're deflecting Gibson's comments and turning them into an attack on the Left:

The diversionary tactics being deployed by the theocon right (and fellow-travelers) in defense of their cultural icon, Mel Gibson, are getting quite inventive. Here's David Frum, who uses the occasion to suggest Gibson's anti-Semitism qualifies him to become head of the U.N. Can you imagine him taking such a jocular approach if, say, Louis Farakhan had been ranting similar things about Jews?

Here's Captain Quarter's blog who summons up his greatest outrage for Abraham Foxman:

Foxman had our support while he expressed outrage and disgust at Gibson's drunken rant. However, he loses it when he advocates criminal penalties for merely offering an opinion. Gibson's remarks, as reported, were hateful and obnoxious - but Foxman's are truly dangerous.

You'll find no more passionate opponent of hate crime laws than me. (there's a platform to run on! -ed.) But Foxman's idiocy is more dangerous than spreading medieval anti-Semitism through the Middle East in the midst of a global terrorist movement to eradicate the Jewish people and state? Please.

Sully has other examples, but I think you get the picture. He can't stand when bloggers bring a completely unrelated boogeyman into a debate to distract from having to confront the real issue, i.e. bringing up the UN, or Abe Foxman, or Ted Kennedy, or liberal Hollywood, when the issue is Mel Gibson's anti-Semitic comments (and his long history of them, I might add).

In the very next post below the Gibson one, Sully links to something very dangerous, namely that Ayatollah al-Sistani, our erstwhile partner in Iraq, is warning the US that he will protect and defend his Muslim brothers from aggression:

Iraq's top Shiite cleric demanded an immediate cease-fire in Lebanon, warning Sunday that the Muslim world will "not forgive'' nations that stand in the way of stopping the fighting [...]

"Islamic nations will not forgive the entities that hinder a cease-fire,'' al-Sistani said in a clear reference to the United States.

"It is not possible to stand helpless in front of this Israeli aggression on Lebanon,'' he added. "If an immediate cease-fire in this Israeli aggression is not imposed, dire consequences will befall the region.''

To which Sully adds his piercing analysis:

Maybe even Moulitsas will have to have an opinion now.

So, instead of acknowledging his role in promoting the neocon element that has led us to the brink, instead of discussing how Iraq has put us in this horrible military and geopolitical position, instead of arguing the complexities of the situation in the Middle East, instead of GIVING HIS OPINION, he scoffs at Kos for not giving HIS opinion. And therefore all of Sully's credibility as the intrepid truth-seeker, punishing pundits with the destruction of their Chewbacca Defense-like arguments, is completely wasted in the course of one sentence, when he uses the exceedingly real threat of a wider war in the Middle East as a means to bash Markos Moulitsas.

How is that ANY different from his examples of bloggers using the Mel Gibson situation as a means to bash their usual suspects?

Of course, when has consistency EVER mattered to Andrew Sullivan, I guess that's the better question.


Hot Enough For Ya?

60% of the US is in drought:

An area stretching from south central North Dakota to central South Dakota is the most drought-stricken region in the nation, Svoboda said.

"It's the epicenter," he said. "It's just like a wasteland in north central South Dakota."

Conditions aren't much better a little farther north. Paul Smokov and his wife, Betty, raise several hundred cattle on their 1,750-acre ranch north of Steele, a town of about 760 people.

Fields of wheat, durum and barley in the Dakotas this dry summer will never end up as pasta, bread or beer. What is left of the stifled crops has been salvaged to feed livestock struggling on pastures where hot winds blow clouds of dirt from dried-out ponds.

Some ranchers have been forced to sell their entire herds, and others are either moving their cattle to greener pastures or buying more already-costly feed. Hundreds of acres of grasslands have been blackened by fires sparked by lightning or farm equipment.

There are immediate short-term effects to drought conditions. Ask the Ethiopians.

And then take a look at this:

The vast Amazon rainforest is on the brink of being turned into desert, with catastrophic consequences for the world's climate, alarming research suggests. And the process, which would be irreversible, could begin as early as next year.

Studies by the blue-chip Woods Hole Research Centre, carried out in Amazonia, have concluded that the forest cannot withstand more than two consecutive years of drought without breaking down.

Scientists say that this would spread drought into the northern hemisphere, including Britain, and could massively accelerate global warming with incalculable consequences, spinning out of control, a process that might end in the world becoming uninhabitable.

Alarmist, to be sure, but there are undeniably immediate short-term consequences to drought conditions, especially if one is taking place in the Amazon rain forest, the "lungs of the planet."

Amazingly, today British Prime Minister Tony Blair completely sidestepped the federal government and went right to California to strike a deal on combating global warming. The Bush Administration has been made totally irrelevant through their antipathy to science. They sit around arguing about who or what is responsible.

WHO CARES? We need results instead of debates. And there's still time, regardless of the doomsayer talk. We stopped acid rain ('member that?) and we can stop global warming. It only requires will and desire for action.


Enough Is Enough

Iraq has become such a glaring failure that it's done the impossible: it's managed to unite the Democratic Party in full-throated opposition to it.

Key Democratic leaders in the House and Senate have united to call on President Bush to begin pulling U.S. troops out of Iraq by the end of the year, citing an overtaxed military, billions of dollars spent and ongoing sectarian violence.

In a letter to Bush released Monday, the Democrats backed a plan for the "phased redeployment" of troops.

"U.S. forces in Iraq should transition to a more limited mission focused on counterterrorism, training and logistical support of Iraqi security forces and force protection of U.S. personnel," the Democrats wrote.

This is the entire letter and it was signed by the Ranking Members of every single relevant committee and the Congressional leadership. Joe Lieberman isn't part of that, but I imagine he wouldn't have signed it since he's too busy not talking about the war at all.

Maybe the Democrats got the memo that it was OK to come into the water now that the majority of American opinion has turned against the war. Maybe the Democrats have read stories from the front where incredibly brave soldiers lament that "it just feels like we're driving around waiting to get blown up." Maybe they're sick of seeing money that could impact the American people positively simply being tossed down the drain, or worse, knowingly transferred into the hands of members of the military-industrial complex. Maybe they understand that this latest set of troop movements back into Baghdad, along with the under-the-radar increase of overall troops, represent an entirely new war where US troops are simply peacemakers trying to stop religious violence instead of fighting terrorists. Maybe they listen to the leaders of the war on terror and know that they are completely out of their minds when it comes to Iraq (as a side not, the DoD has taken down the embarrassing transcript where Rummy makes a fool of himself by saying "I don't think the Iraqi civil war will be like the US Civil War." Thanks for the insight, dude; they won't be eating hardtack. But it's pretty damn interesting that the DoD is trying to scrub it).

I don't know what the reason is. But I haven't been prouder to be a Democrat in the last 6 years than I am today. They're finally portraying principles rather than betraying them.

UPDATE: The DoD did not scrube Rummy's comment. They moved it.

It's worth reproducing here:

Q: Is the country closer to a civil war?

SEC. RUMSFELD: Oh, I don't know. You know, I thought about that last night, and just musing over the words, the phrase, and what constitutes it. If you think of our Civil War, this is really very different. If you think of civil wars in other countries, this is really quite different. There is -- there is a good deal of violence in Baghdad and two or three other provinces, and yet in 14 other provinces there's very little violence or numbers of incidents. So it's a -- it's a highly concentrated thing. It clearly is being stimulated by people who would like to have what could be characterized as a civil war and win it, but I'm not going to be the one to decide if, when or at all.

Don Rumsfeld, continuing his metamorphosis from the Secretary of Defense to the old guy from the neighborhood who yells "get off my lawn!" to the kids.


Not Your Father's Antiwar Movement

Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young are playing the Hollywood Bowl tonight. Their Freedom of Speech Tour, the first in four years, winds through the country until September. My membership in Generation X is supposed to preclude me from appreciating such baby boomer stalwarts. And indeed, I did bristle at Neil Young's contention that he starting singing about Bush and the war because "nobody else in the young generation was doing it," which is simply not true (as Ann Powers illustrated in a fantastic LA Times article a few weeks ago).

But this video, featuring live clips from the concert, and regular people discussing their views about Iraq in the most sane and reasonable way possible, is a stunner.

The current situation at home bears no resemblance to the caricature of the antiwar movement of years past. These are moms and dads, sons and daughters, working class and middle class, rich and poor, black and white, all of them willing to articulate that we will not stand for unnecessary wars that end up making us less safe around the world. This video may harken back to the halcyon (or is that hallucinogen?) days of the 1960s, but it reflects a new paradigm of communication and activism. You don't have to be at the Haight Ashbury to get the message, and this time, the revolution will not be televised. It's an under-the-radar groundswell, a silent majority (to use a 60s phrase) that desperately needs to be inspired to vote resoundingly against the idea of perpetual war.


High-Level Cabinet Meeting

You know, in politics, timing is everything. But there's such an arrogance about this White House that they don't feel like they need to adjust their schedules based on bad timing. This is both symptomatic of tone-deafness, and borne out of a belief that the Administration's defenders will have their back on literally anything. That's why you saw the President playing guitar and eating birthday cake in the middle of Hurricane Katrina. And that's why, during a crisis in the Middle East, right after a joint press conference with Tony Blair discussing a cease fire, with dozens dying in Lebanon and Israel and Iraq, you get a meeting like this:

On the other hand, of course Bush met with the "American Idol" finalists. They have better approval ratings that he does.

And they've received more votes.


Accidents Won't Happen

Ari from Entourage (all right, not really, but the model for Ari from Entourage) gives his take on Mel Gibson's fun evening over the weekend:

I wish Mel Gibson well in dealing with his alcoholism, but alcoholism does not excuse racism and anti-Semitism. It is one thing when marginal figures with no credibility make anti-Semitic statements. It is a completely different thing when a figure of Mel Gibson's stature does so. Even when he sobers up and apologizes [...]

At a time of escalating tensions in the world, the entertainment industry cannot idly stand by and allow Mel Gibson to get away with such tragically inflammatory statements. When The Passion of the Christ came out, Gibson was quoted as categorically denying any anti-Semitism attributed to him: "For me, it goes against the tenets of my faith, to be racist in any form. To be anti-Semitic is a sin. It's been condemned by one Papal Council after another. There's encyclicals on it, which is, you know -- to be anti-Semitic is to be unchristian, and I'm not."

Now we know the truth. And no amount of publicist-approved contrition can paper it over. People in the entertainment community, whether Jew or gentile, need to demonstrate that they understand how much is at stake in this by professionally shunning Mel Gibson and refusing to work with him, even if it means a sacrifice to their bottom line.

Gibson's rich enough to self-finance movies, and he doesn't really act anymore, so the entertainment community isn't enabling him a whole lot outside of distribution. But what's striking is Ari's position that this is somehow a new phenomenon. Gibson's been using Holocaust denier language for years, subtly minimizing that genocide by saying things like "a lot of people died in Europe, atrocities happened, war is horrible." Gibson doesn't want to be tried for the sins of his nutcase father, but he apes his language, and of course now comes out with a very direct form of anti-Semitism. Incidentally, Gibson reportedly blew a .12 BAL. The legal limit in California is .08 and used to be .10. He wasn't all that drunk, and I don't think that can be used as an excuse anyway. If the seeds of anti-Semitism weren't there already they wouldn't gush out so easily.

This was no accident or slip of the tongue, it's been a stated belief for a number of years. And yet you don't see Mel Gibson being savaged and criticized the way an Alec Baldwin or Oliver Stone does for stating their political beliefs. Until now, that is.