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

Saturday, October 21, 2006

These Are The Stingrays. Vote November 7th.

Well, the GOP is at it again.  First they raised eyebrows with a menacing video showing statements from Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri vowing to attack the US, and announcing "These are the stakes.  Vote November 7th."

Just when you thought they couldn't sink any lower, here comes another exploitative ad.  Playing on America's natural fear of marine life, they have decided to frighten the public by introducing them to the fearsome and dangerous stingrays who will stop at nothing to terrorize America.  The ad ends with the ominous line "These are the stingrays.  Vote November 7th."  You need to watch it.

Once again, we see a Republican Party out of ideas, with nothing to promote but fear itself, willing to do anything to save their electoral majorities.  To think that they would even stoop so low as to capitalize upon random stingray attacks.  Shameful.

And we all know the truth.  We know that the Republicans have made NO ATTEMPT to stop stingray attacks until now, right before the election.  Remember when the President said "I'm just not that concerned about them?"  Of course you do.  I mean, sure, Cliff May's been talking about the stingrays for a couple months, but who else?  When the military had a chance to corner the stingrays and finish them off once and for all in the mountains of Tora Bora, they outsourced the job to Afghan warlords who let the stingrays escape.  What kind of strong national security is that?  There's no doubt that this ad will backfire.

You know what we have to do.  We need to send this video to as many people as possible, to make sure everybody knows just what the GOP is up to with this nonsense.  I mean, there is low and there is LOW.  And this is, um, even lower than that.

YouTube link

...ok, fine, my buddy Joe Wilson (not the ambassador) and I made the ad. So send it around!


Friday, October 20, 2006

AZ-05: What Not To Say In A Synagogue

It's bad enough when you're listed as one of the worst Congressmen in America on issues facing the Jewish-American community. So you compound it by sending campaign surrogates that say this?

Unable to defend his repeated praise of Henry Ford's anti-Semitic "Americanization" program, U.S. Rep. J.D. Hayworth bailed on a scheduled campaign appearance Tuesday evening [Source: Arizona Republic, Oct. 17, 2006] only to send in his place surrogates who repeatedly lectured the audience at Temple Beth Israel in Scottsdale and proclaimed that Hayworth "is a more observant Jew" than those present (he isn't Jewish -ed).

The comment by Jonathan Tratt, a spokesman for the Hayworth campaign, drew loud and angry boos and caused nearly three-quarters of the crowd of more than 200 to walk out in disgust. After the walkout, another Hayworth surrogate, Irit Tratt, stood on the Temple's bimah as she told members of the audience who gathered to ask questions, "No wonder there are anti-Semites."

I've seen JD Hayworth on plenty of the shouting head shows, and he's a grade-A bully. Voters don't really like being insulted to this degree, I'm guessing.

In case you're scoring at home, Republican spokesmen have been convicted of rape (Mike Tyson) and murder (Don King); show up in photographs with David Duke; and understand why people would be anti-Semitic.

By the way, I went to see what those members of the conservosphere who always accuse "the Left" of being anti-Semitic themselves had to say about this development.



CA-04: Target

I just got an email from the Charlie Brown campaign about

Tuesday's Sacramento Bee reported that John Doolittle continues to insist he is not under Federal investigation despite mounting evidence to the contrary. "Doolittle's office in a statement late Monday again insisted that the congressman is not under investigation. Instead, it characterized the meetings as an effort initiated by Doolittle to clear the congressman's name." ( Sacramento Bee, 10/17/06)

Legal experts familiar with Justice Department investigations say that Doolittle is not telling the truth about the extent of the investigation and is likely to be a subject of ongoing proceedings. Recent discoveries:

On Saturday, the Washington Post reported sources confirming Doolittle is a target of the U.S. Department of Justice probe into Jack Abramoff's bribery of Members of Congress. ( Washington Post, 10/14/06)

On Sunday, FEC filings showed that Doolittle spent over $38,000 for legal advice in the last two months related to Abramoff. Jack Abramoff pled guilty to wire fraud, tax evasion and bribing Members of Congress. Doolittle hired David Barger, who specializes in white-collar criminal defense, government investigations and criminal and civil tax controversies. ( Sacramento Bee, 10/17/06)

Legal expert and former Counsel to the House of Representatives from 1976 to 1984, Stanley Brand said, "John Doolittle's claim that he is not under investigation is just not credible. The U.S. Justice Department is not a public relations machine. You don't send a lawyer to the Justice Department to clear your name." "It's a matter of fact," Brand continued, "that records pertaining to John Doolittle's interaction with Jack Abramoff were subpoenaed. The Justice Department does not subpoena records of people who are not under investigation."

CQ has more. Looks like Charlie Brown can use the campaign slogan of "Vote for me because I'll be out of jail next year."


Let The Shit-Flinging Begin

What is apparently already happening to the GOP as a result of the imminent defeat in the midterm elections is something I call "The Terrell Owens Effect." TO was a cancer when the Eagles went to the Super Bowl, and he was a cancer the next year. It only mattered when the Eagles started losing. Because nothing hides problems like winning.

In the case of the Republican Party this year, the skirmish among conservatives over what is going wrong has begun unusually early and turned unusually personal.

But almost regardless of the outcome on Nov. 7, many conservatives express frustration that the party has lost its ideological focus. And after six years of nearly continuous control over the White House and Congress, conservatives are having a hard time finding anyone but one another to blame.

The most interesting of this blame-gaming is toward the social conservatives, playing into what I noted yesterday as a move away from the culture war focus (which honestly won't leave the GOP with much of a hardcore base left).

This year’s antagonists also include some new critics, including Mr. Gingrich’s one-time lieutenant, Dick Armey, the former House Republican majority leader.

In recent weeks, Mr. Armey has stepped up a public campaign against the influence of Dr. James C. Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family and an influential voice among evangelical protestants. In an interview published last month in “The Elephant in the Room,” a book by Ryan Sager about splits among conservatives, Mr. Armey accused Congressional Republicans of “blatant pandering to James Dobson” and “his gang of thugs,” whom Mr. Armey called “real nasty bullies” — arguments he reprised on the editorial page of The Wall Street Journal and in an open letter on the Web site organization FreedomWorks.

In an interview this week, Mr. Armey said catering to Dr. Dobson and his allies had led the party to abandon budget-cutting. And he said Christian conservatives could cost Republicans seats around the country, especially in Ohio.

“The Republicans are talking about things like gay marriage and so forth, and the Democrats are talking about the things people care about, like how do I pay my bills?” he said.

Mr. Armey also pinned some of the blame on Tom DeLay, the former Republican House majority leader, who “was always more comfortable with the social conservatives, the evangelical wing of the party, than he was with the business wing.”

Mr. Armey, who identifies himself as an evangelical, said he was tired of Christian conservative leaders threatening that their supporters would stay away from the ballot box unless they got what they wanted.

“Economic conservatives,” he argued, were emerging as the swing voters in need of attention, in part because they had become more likely to vote Democratic in the years since President Bill Clinton was in office. “A lot of people believe he brought us from deficits to surpluses, and there is a certain empirical evidence there,” Mr. Armey acknowledged.

There is a delight in this entire article that opponents inevitably take at the infighting of the other side. That's why this election is so important, because after a victory, the narratives will change on a dime. It'll be the GOP in disarray and the Democrats with the ability to get their people out. In fact, you're already seeing this, as stories highlight broad Democratic health care policy objectives. Only the party in power gets to talk about ideas. My representative, Henry Waxman, is quoted in the article saying that, obviously, Democrats will not have carte blanche to implement an agenda so long as George Bush is President. This is why it's so completely ridiculous to see these scaremongering attacks by Republicans about how Democrats would raise your taxes by billions and let terrorists kill you in your bed. Um, the President has spent six years bolstering the powers of the executive and ignoring Congress. Do you honestly expect people to believe that a Democratic takeover would have them rule the country? It's called a veto, Pres. Look into it.

But the change in narrative, the aura of inevitability, is a very positive development. You get to see articles like this, a full-throated airing of Democratic values and Democratic principles without the normal "The Democrats are fighting" theme tacked onto it.

Former president Bill Clinton said yesterday that the governing Republican majority has abandoned the common good in favor of ideologically driven politics that demonize its opponents, has forced ordinary Americans to fend for themselves and has too often left the United States isolated internationally [...]

"They believe the country is best served by the maximum concentration of wealth and power in the hands of the right people," he told a mostly student audience at Georgetown University. "Right in both senses."

Clinton went on to say that while Democrats "believe in mutual responsibility, they believe that in large measure people make or break their own lives and you're on your own." He continued: "We believe in striving, at least, to cooperate with others because we think there are very few problems in the world we can solve on our own. They favor unilateralism whenever possible and cooperation when it's unavoidable."

Let's have the debate over how best to allow for the common good for all of our citizens. The country works best when everyone has a voice. And let's allow everyone to get their message on policy out instead of having to constantly deal with the process stories of "being in disarray." It's amusing to see Republicans struggling with this the way Democrats have for the past half-decade.


CA-11: The Royal Flush

Jerry McNerney has now earned endorsements from every major paper that serves his district, not to mention the LA Times and the NY Times. Because the district is so crazily drawn, that's actually quite a few papers. And the final piece in the puzzle comes from The Sacramento Bee:

McNerney is a political neophyte, a Ph.D. engineer who attended West Point, once worked at Sandia National Laboratories and now owns a wind power company. He wants to develop alternative energy to create power and jobs. Wonkish and facing a charisma deficit, he has so far eschewed big corporate contributions -- meaning he will be thoroughly outspent.

This, like any election with an incumbent, is a referendum. While Pombo has been effective in a few high-profile issues -- such as helping to broker a settlement on rewatering the San Joaquin River -- he has worked even harder for a host of special interests. He is at the diseased heart of the quid-pro-quo process that defines Washington politics today. To send him back to the Capitol endorses a system we can no longer tolerate.

And while his strident environmental views have caused us concern in the past, the idea he floated this past term about selling off parks was over the top. It's just one of many such ideas.

Anyone concerned about the sustainabiliity of this planet should cheer at this news and do whatever is needed to help Jerry McNerney. Pombo is the poster child for anti-environmentalist ideas like trying to overturn the Endangered Species Act, but also blatantly anti-capitalist ideas like giving away natural resources to giant oil companies:

In a little-noticed provision of the much- reviled Deep Ocean Energy Resources Act — which the House passed in June and the Senate will take up when Congress returns — Mr. Pombo lowered the royalty rate for oil shale from 12.5 percent to 1 percent. Should the day arrive when the price of shale oil becomes competitive, this could turn out to be an extraordinary giveaway of federal revenue (most oil shale lies under federal land) and a huge incentive to wreak environmental damage.

None of this is surprising. Mr. Pombo, who is chairman of the House Resources Committee and is facing a tight race for re-election, has been well- financed by oil and gas producers. He has done his best to give away public resources and throw away prudent restraints on energy exploration.

We believe that this country must pursue energy independence. But unlike Mr. Pombo, we believe that there is a vibrant new economy to be found in conservation and that is where our future lies. When we try to envision the America that Mr. Pombo has mapped out for us, all we can see is a nation committed to devouring itself, one barrel of oil at a time.

First of all, call your Senator, and make sure that royalty rate is restored. Second, make sure that Rochard Pombo never has a chance to vote on the final bill by ensuring he will not return to Washington.


Thursday, October 19, 2006

On Religion and Politics

Earlier this week, Mike Rogers of BlogActive, a gay activist, outed US Sen. Larry Craig of Idaho as an allegedly gay man. I don't support the practice, agreeing with Ezra Klein that people have every right to live their life in private as they choose, as long as they aren't hurting anyone (which is where the Mark Foley situation differs). Reasonable people can disagree, saying that someone who consistently votes against gays but is also gay himself displays rank hypocrisy, but then I'd like to find the politician who isn't a hypocrite at least in part.

The disturbing part of this to me is that it comes at a time when public attitudes about homosexuality are clearly changing, and in the direction of tolerance. Over the last week we've seen major Republican figures who were unafraid to defy the social conservatives in the religious right. They were in sometimes symbolic ways, like Condoleezza Rice acknowledging a gay man's "mother-in-law" at a White House ceremony, and Mary Cheney writing a check for a group opposed to Virginia's anti-gay marriage initiative on the ballot this year. By the way, that initiative, similar to the ones used as a wedge in 2004 by Republicans to turn out their far-right base, is only favored by 53% of Virginians, far lower than any of those measures passed with just a couple years earlier. This debate is leading down the road of the inevitable, and we'll look back in a generation with as much wistfulness about it as we do anti-miscegenation laws today.

And the vice-like grip the religious right has had on the Republican Party will just as inevitably fade away. The hardest core will keep voting for those Republicans; I agree with Digby that for them, there is a tribal identification and a decades-long belief that Democrats are simply ungodly, and Democrats who try to capture their vote are banging their head against the wall. But there's a certain separation coming between the party and their most committed supporters, as the non-evangelicals, those who worship a Jesus Christ whose primary concern was with the poor, shift the party away from this troublesome and dangerous extreme. This schism in the Republican Party has been coming for a long time. Nobody was fighting when they were winning, but now that there's a struggle in this 2006 campaign, the differences are becoming sharp:

Even before U.S. Rep. Mark Foley's cybersex scandal, Republicans fighting to keep control of Congress were struggling to hold on to "values voters" who usually are energized by issues like gay marriage and abortion.

While such issues motivated the Republicans' social-conservative base in the past, they are overshadowed in this year's congressional election campaign by concerns about the Iraq war, the economy and national security, according to opinion polls and political strategists.

"Poverty, the wealth gap, health care -- people can't afford Medicare. Something's got to be done about that," Sue Harrell, a school teacher in Monroe City, Indiana, said recently.

She said "Christian values" were important in previous votes but her top issues now are education and the prevalence of methamphetamine abuse and poverty in Knox County, Indiana.

More on the Republican blame game here.

These are serious times. Worrying about whether or not a gay couple who love one another have a piece of paper that shows them to be married simply pales in comparison to the real problems we face. And there simply is not a monolithic group when you talk about religious people. Some of them have other concerns and other ideas about what it means to be moral:

Weighing in on Connecticut's hotly contested congressional races, a group of religious activists have unveiled a giant billboard off busy Interstate 95 that accuses four candidates of voting to allow torture.

The billboard in Stratford names Democratic U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman and Republican Reps. Christopher Shays, Rob Simmons and Nancy Johnson as supporters of the Military Commissions Act of 2006.

The legislation, which President Bush was expected to sign into law Tuesday, allows military commissions to prosecute suspected terrorists and spells out violations of the Geneva Conventions.

Organizers say about 100,000 commuters pass the billboard in Stratford each day. The billboard - 14 feet high and 48 feet wide - was sponsored by Reclaiming the Prophetic Voice, which describes itself as a statewide interfaith network of religious leaders created in 2002.

The legislation would prohibit war crimes and define atrocities such as rape and torture but would otherwise allow the president to interpret the Geneva Conventions, the treaty that sets standards for the treatment of war prisoners.

"This is a shameful law," organizer Rev. Kathleen McTigue said Monday. "It grants extraordinary power to the president to interpret the Geneva Conventions, including which methods of interrogation will be considered torture."

Damn right. The real "values" voters have principles that tell them torture is simply wrong. That tell them the removal of habeas corpus is simply wrong. That tell them indefinite detention without counsel, convicting on the basis of coerced evidence and hearsay, and vesting the determination of who is an unlawful enemy combatant in one man, is wrong. Those are American values as sure as they are Christian values.

And that's why I thought it was wrong to engage in this practice of outing. The people most disturbed by gay Republicans are swiftly becoming the most irrelevant fringe of the party. Why would you play the game their way? Why would you mock as much anger and shock as they would?

There's no more amazing an example of the change in the values vote than in Kansas. Phill Kline is the antihero of Tom Frank's What's the Matter With Kansas. He's the symbol of the divisiveness that has led to the split between the Mods and the Cons there. His policies are horrific, and he offends anyone religious by promoting a peculiar kind of in-your-face Christianism that is more concerned what you do in the privacy of your own home rather than whether or not you can make a living or have health care. If he should lose his state Attorney General seat, it would be a total repudiation of the fundamentalist extremist movement that has become so pernicious in this country. And according to one poll, he's down 13 points.

The times are changing. And we can advocate for that change in more constructive ways. Make no mistake, there's still horrific laws on the books with regard to homosexuals that need to be changed. The spouse of former US Rep. Gary Studds, the first only gay member of Congress, is the first person EVER to be denied federal death benefits because he's gay. This and other issues are against the principle of equality, and I'll be as strong a voice as can be to advocate for that change. Destroying a man's life because he exhibits a behavior that doesn't make me uncomfortable doesn't sit well with me.


Open Up

I didn't see this coming:

A federal judge has ordered the Bush administration to release information about who visited Vice President Dick Cheney's office and personal residence, an order that could spark a late election-season debate over lobbyists' White House access.

While researching the access lobbyists and others had on the White House, The Washington Post asked in June for two years of White House visitor logs. The Secret Service refused to process the request, which government attorneys called "a fishing expedition into the most sensitive details of the vice presidency."

U.S. District Judge Ricardo M. Urbina said Wednesday that, by the end of next week, the Secret Service must produce the records or at least identity them and justify why they are being withheld.

The Secret Service can still try to withhold the records but, in a written ruling Thursday, Urbina questioned the agency's primary argument — that the logs are protected by Cheney's right to executive privilege.

They'll fight tooth and nail for these to be withheld until after the election, and then after that. Cheney doesn't even publish his own schedule. He wants to keep everything he does secret, probably beyond all reason. And so far, the Congress has just gone along to get along.

Courts are really the only hope to get some accountability on this government without a Democratic Congress. And considering who's been appointing judges for 20 out of the last 28 years, that's why taking Congress back is so vital.


CA-GOV: George Skelton is Shrill

"Mr. Schwarzenegger, stop lying about my record!"

"Angelides' $18-billion tax increase would drive California's economy backwards," the mailer reads. And in case you don't get the message, it's repeated twice. "California families can't afford Phil Angelides' $18-billion tax increase…. Phil Angelides would raise taxes on California families by $18 billion."

It parrots what the governor has been saying himself.

And it's all utterly bogus. (My preferred adjective is unprintable.)

Not even close.

Schwarzenegger must know this by now. But whether he does or doesn't, it seems obvious that the governor has little regard for the truth, at least while in political rut.

Once again — and this has been written a zillion times by myself and many others — Angelides is proposing to raise taxes by roughly $5 billion on the rich and big business: hiking the top income tax rate for couples earning over $500,000 a year, and creating a commission to recommend corporate loophole-closings.

In addition, he is proposing $1.4 billion in tax cuts for the middle class, small businesses and seniors, plus $600 million in college tuition rollbacks.

That's it.

Yes, in years past, Angelides has suggested extending the sales tax to services, boosting property taxes on commercial buildings and restoring the car tax to the level it was for decades. But he isn't doing that now.

And to jump on him for his previous notions would be like arguing that Schwarzenegger still proposes to eliminate death benefits for the widows of firefighters and cops. (He pleads ignorance of this embarrassing feature that was included in his abandoned public pension "reform.")

Except, George, Schwarzenegger has publicly said that all his 2005 reforms were "good ideas," so there's good reason to wonder.



You almost have to admire the brazenness of this ad, put out by a rich Republican:

BLACK MAN #1: "If you make a little mistake with one of your 'hos,' you'll want to dispose of that problem tout suite, no questions asked."

BLACK MAN #2: "That's too cold. I don't snuff my own seed."

BLACK MAN #1: "Maybe you do have a reason to vote Republican."

This is like a Martian's version of how black people speak and think and act. "Tout suite"? I don't have to tell you that the rich guy paying for these ads is white.

There are literally dozens of these under-the-radar groups planting ads like this in races all over the country, designed to play to the worst parts of society. Republicans are playing very dirty because it's the only way they can win in a year like this. It's all they've got.

The Patriot Project is one of the groups trying to spotlight who these organizations are (specifically, groups that are smearing Democratic veterans) and who's funding them. I support their efforts.


Can't Sell The Same Crap Anymore

What we're clearly seeing in the country, regardless of the cable news headlines of the Mark Foley scandal, is that the number one issue in this midterm election, as it should be, is Iraq. The American public is getting it right. And while in 2002 and 2004, a focus on foreign policy may have given a perceived advantage to the Republicans, this time around the curtain has been thrown open and the deceptions and half-truths are catching up to them:

Four months ago, the White House offered a set of clear political directions to Republicans heading into the midterm elections: embrace the war in Iraq as critical to the antiterrorism fight and belittle Democrats as advocates of a “cut and run” policy of weakness.

Even President Bush, continuing to attack Democrats for opposing the war, has largely dropped his call of “stay the course” and replaced it with a more nuanced promise of flexibility.

It is the Democrats who have seized on Iraq as a central issue. In debates and in speeches, candidates are pummeling Republicans with accusations of a failed war.

Funny how that goes when you create a civil war where none existed, kill hundreds of thousands of people and put your own soldiers in the crossfire with no sense of a mission or a strategy.

This is a national trend, reflected in this local story in the Philly suburbs. The debate is finally happening, three years too late, on the terms not of "How can we win" because we can't, but "How can we get out and minimize damage?" And by the way, if Democratic consultants had their way, their candidates wouldn't be talking about Iraq at all. They didn't see the mood of the country from their perches in Washington. Fortunately, the candidates did.

And this happened with virtually no vocal antiwar movement, with no nightly drumbeat of deaths on television screens (that's a myth for Bush press conferences), with very little for the public to sift through. They understood because it hit their communities, because they sought out the information, because they didn't understand why nothing ever improved, why 52 year-old reservists were being sent off to fight and die. The truth could not be held back any longer, an ugly truth of chaos, a ground zero in the Middle East that is delivering more death and suffering than anywhere else in the world. And suddenly the bullying of "cut and run," the stupid sloganeering meant to trash talk everyone out of reality, rang hollow.

The daily tragedy all over Iraq should make us all upset, and should make us understand that we are ALL responsible. I read with growing depression and even horror this post from Billmon, and I share his guilt. This deserves a long excerpt, and I urge you to go read the whole thing, but it's important to hammer home the fact that there is blood on all of our hands.

I've probably been as guilty as anyone of thinking of the war as some sort of strategy game, or a domestic political issue or a fascinating, if bloody, story -- a news junkie's next fix. When you're 8,000 miles and an existential light year away from the war, it's easy to distance yourself, intellectually and emotionally, from the stench of blood and the bloated corpses.

There's also a natural tendency, which I touched on yesterday, to make it all about us -- to consciously or unconsciously treat the Iraqis like extras (or worse, bloody mannequins) in a Mad Max remake produced and directed by Americans [...]

The point deserves frequent repetition: We did this. We caused it. We're not just callous bystanders to genocide, as in Rwanda, but the active ingredient that made it possible. We turned Iraq into a happy hunting ground for Al Qaeda and the Mahdi Army. If Iraq is now a failed state, it's because of our failures [...]

For someone in my shoes, though, hopelessness can become an excuse for not thinking about unpleasant truths. But there was something about Riverbend's quiet despair that forced me to think hard about my own moral responsibility as an American for a genocide caused by America -- because of a war started in my name, paid for with my taxes.

I've opposed this war since it was just a malignant smirk on George Bush's face. I've spoken against it, written against it, marched against it, supported and contributed to politicians I generally despise because I thought (wrongly) that they might do something to stop it. It's why I took up blogging, why I started this blog.

But the question Riverbend has forced me to ask myself is: Did I do enough? And the only honest answer is no.

I opposed the invasion -- and the regime that launched it -- but I didn't do everything I could have done. Very few did. We may have put our words and our wallets on the line, but not our bodies. Not when it might have made a difference. In the end, we were all good little Germans.

My question to myself, in other words, is like Thoreau's famous question to Ralph Waldo Emerson when Emerson came to visit him in jail after he was arrested for not paying his poll tax as a protest against slavery:

Emerson: What are you doing in there, Henry?
Thoreau: No, Waldo, the question is: What are you doing out there?

I remember the day that 15 million people worldwide turned out in the streets to protest this senseless war. I was in the midst of an unrelated personal crisis and still put it on hold to go and add my voice. But I knew we were spitting into the wind. I knew that I wasn't selling out and doing everything. Indeed we don't have a sense in this country that we can do anything. We have all achieved learned helplessness.

Generations will blame this country for destroying a country halfway around the world. We will never live down the fact that we watched as an attack on this country was manipulated and abused into setting on an imperial adventure, to teach brown people a lesson, regardless of their culpability. We gave up our agency to have an effect on the actions of our government, and we have profoundly damaged the safety of the world for our children and our children's children.

I am steadfast in my belief that we desperately need new leadership to extract our troops from an unmanageable situation and stop their slaughter. Clearly the American people are coming around to that same conclusion. But I know full well that nothing we do will stop the killing. Iraq is failed and nothing will fix it. And everybody in this country will have to live with that.


FEAR Unit: Protecting the Nation From SOME Terrorism

So, The Federal Even-yeared Anti-Terror Repsonse (FEAR) Unit was all over reports of a plot to bomb US football stadiums. I mean, some anonymous idiot somewhere posted a comment on a random blog! Clearly this is a gathering and imminent threat. It certainly merits full news coverage on all the news networks and ESPN (the sports angle literally doubles the coverage). Good thing FEAR Unit distributed the meaningless information where it needed to go.

Of course, On September 11 of this year, a domestic terrorist attempted a suicide bombing in Davenport, Iowa by dousing his car with gasoline and running it into a Women's Health Clinic. FEAR Unit made a close inspection of the threat, sure. But then they took a look at the picture of the guy:

And realized he was clearly no concern at all, being white and pro-life.

No national newspaper, magazine or network newscast reported this attempted suicide bombing, though an AP wire story was available. Cable news (save for MSNBC's Keith Olbermann) was silent about this latest act of terrorism in America.

Had the criminal, David McMenemy, been Arab or Muslim, this would have been headline news for weeks. But since his target was the Edgerton Women's Health Center, rather than, say, a bank or a police station, media have not called this terrorism -- even after three decades of extreme violence by anti-abortion fanatics, mostly fundamentalist Christians who believe they're fighting a holy war.

Thank your personal God (as long as it isn't Allah) that we have trained professionals like FEAR Unit to tell us what might be TERRORISM!, and what's nothing more than a white antiabortion activist trying to suicide bomb a women's clinic on the anniversary of the biggest terrorist attack on American soil.


Apply Directly To The Problem

Whether that problem is stopping cover-ups of predators:

Former House Clerk Jeff Trandahl repeatedly raised red flags about former Rep. Mark Foley years before GOP leaders said they knew about Foley's inappropriate conduct with pages, sources said.

Trandahl's lawyers said he is scheduled to testify Thursday before the House Ethics Committee, which is investigating the Foley case.

Two sources close to Trandahl told CNN that he had been monitoring Foley's interaction with pages after being told of troubling behavior by the congressman in the House cloakroom and elsewhere. Trandahl took his concerns to Kirk Fordham, Foley's former chief of staff, many times, the sources said.

Or protecting voter integrity:

State investigators have linked a Republican campaign to letters sent to thousands of Orange County Hispanics warning them they could go to jail or be deported if they vote next month, a spokesman for the attorney general said.

[Attorney General Bill Lockyer] declined to identify the specific Republican campaign Wednesday, citing the ongoing investigation. The Los Angeles Times and The Orange County Register both reported Thursday that the investigation appeared to be focused on the campaign of Tan D. Nguyen, a Republican challenger to Democratic U.S. Rep. Loretta Sanchez.
The letter, written in Spanish, tells recipients: "You are advised that if your residence in this country is illegal or you are an immigrant, voting in a federal election is a crime that could result in jail time."

In fact, immigrants who are naturalized U.S. citizens can vote.

Complaints about the letters this week prompted state and federal investigations, and Barankin said investigators had been questioning people in Orange County.

The two newspapers reported state investigators had found the location where the letters were printed and mailed to an estimated 14,000 Democratic voters in central Orange County. The Los Angeles Times, citing an unnamed source, said authorities had interviewed Nguyen at his office.

Or ensuring the separation of church and state:

Did a Michelle Bachmann event at a church violate IRS regs? Several days ago, state Sen. Bachmann, who's battling Dem challenger Patty Wetterling for the open seat, spoke at local megachurch Living Word Christian Center. At the event, Bachmann received the public endorsement of their pastor — in possible violation of IRS regulations.

Or cleaning up Congress from the morass of corruption and graft:

Former Representative Randy Cunningham pressured and intimidated staff members of the House Intelligence Committee to help steer more than $70 million in classified federal business to favored military contractors, according to a Congressional investigation made public on Tuesday.

The investigation found that Mr. Cunningham, a California Republican who is serving an eight-year prison sentence for bribery, repeatedly abused his position on the committee to authorize money for military projects, often over the objections of staff members who criticized some of the spending as wasteful.

The inquiry also found that despite numerous “red flags” about the propriety of a particular contract for work on a controversial Pentagon counterintelligence program, committee staff members for three years “continued to accept and support Mr. Cunningham’s growing requests for this project.”

Or trying to restore our fundamental values as Americans, which have been usurped by the executive branch while Congress sleepwalked and let it happen:

We have lived as if in a trance.

We have lived as people in fear.

And now—our rights and our freedoms in peril—we slowly awake to learn that we have been afraid of the wrong thing.

Therefore, tonight have we truly become the inheritors of our American legacy.

For, on this first full day that the Military Commissions Act is in force, we now face what our ancestors faced, at other times of exaggerated crisis and melodramatic fear-mongering:

A government more dangerous to our liberty, than is the enemy it claims to protect us from.

Then you need to apply those Democrats to the problem who are standing up, all over the country, and putting forth an agenda of hope, committed to working for the middle class, raising the minimum wage, implementing all the recommendations of the 9-11 Commission, draining the swamp in Washington of lobbyists and kickbacks, passing the Employee Free Choice Act, making a REAL change of course in Iraq, and generally solving problems for the people that send them there.


Wednesday, October 18, 2006

CA-04, CA-11: Capitol Weekly piece is up

I wrote another piece for the Capitol Weekly, the Sacramento-area newspaper covering California politics. You can find it here.

I want to mention that I didn't mean to infer that Jerry McNerney is coordinating with 501 (c) (4) organizations like the Defenders of Wildlife and the Sierra Club. He most certainly is not. I'm trying to get this changed for publication. Thanks to Say No To Pombo for bringing this to my attention.


Call YOUR FRIENDS for Change: Updated (I have a website)

I think it's great that both Kos and Chris Bowers continue to push the importance of getting active in phonebanking to help get this majority in November. I thought this was an opportune moment, then, to reiterate my post from a few days ago about TARGETED phonebanking by calling every single person in your cell phone address book.

You have to be polite when you call strangers, but you can yell and scream at your friends and family and say, "Dammit, get your ass to the polls!" We all know the arguments we can use to get our friends out to vote. We need to take ownership. I guarantee you the other side encourages this. We need to do it, AND make it systematic.

So, like a good member of the netroots, I built a quickie website.

Cell Phones for Democracy explains the details of the project to reach as many people as humanly possible with TARGETED, KNOWLEDGEABLE, FRIEND AND FAMILY CALLS between now and November 7.

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

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

So that's it. You go right down the list in your address book, from A to Z, and ask your friends and family to vote, make sure that they're registered, tell them how to get an absentee ballot if needed, tell them how to find out where their polling place is, and if they have a higher level of engagement, tell them how to volunteer, or tell them to do this cell phone calling project themselves. This will end up in a huge amount of registered voters being called. There are 85 numbers in my cell phone. If I don't want to call someone in there for whatever reason, they ought not be in the address book in the first place.

Here's what I need you to do. I need you to make an appointment to do this. In the comments section of Cell Phones For Democracy you need to pledge to call everybody in your cell phone. You should also put approximately how many people that is. I want to track the numbers. I want to be able to say, on November 7, that I helped get ONE MILLION personal phone calls to voters. It's completely possible. This has the potential to be exponential.

The site launched two hours ago. I'll be updating it with the numbers as they roll in. Let's make it huge. I'm not asking, I'm telling with this. Get to your phones! Now!



Big John gets angry and good for him. There's a lot to be angry about. Not the least of which is the deliberate smearing of our men in uniform.

The Patriot Project has an incredibly important and concise mission. "Freedom of speech and the right to dissent are cornerstones of our democracy. The Patriot Project will defend any man or woman, regardless of party or affiliation, who is attacked or defamed and whose patriotism is questioned simply because they exercise their rights as Americans. This is our mission."

That's pretty damn fundamental in itself to who we are. But there's a human face behind it. The fight is intensely personal to me. Veterans are running for office all over our country. A lot of them got interested in politics as part of my campaign, and some got involved in Wes Clark's race. Some of us had disagreements for thirty five years -- like me and Jim Webb, we didn't see eye to eye over the war we fought in. But no matter where we came from, something much bigger now brings us together -- we're all a band of brothers now. When I got off the phone with Patrick Murphy after the chickenshit attacks on his military record, something felt awfully familiar and it got me pissed off. I care about these men and women. They've got guts and they've got brains and they've got heart and I'm telling you they will change the character of this pathetic Congress, and I'm boiling mad watching people who didn't serve attack those who did because they can't win a debate on the merits.

Some weak-kneed liberals are getting all a-scared because Karl Rove's got a hundred million dollars and he knows how to use it. Look, guys: they're bullies and they're trying to bully the media into getting their "we're fine" message out. They're chickenshit bullies who'll tear down their opponents rather than engage them on where to take the country. They have no agenda other than aggrandizing power and turning the executive branch into something approaching that of a despot.

If you're strong, which John Kerry now understands, they'll wilt. The media, you'll notice, isn't even buying Karl, instead openly speculating about a lame-duck President. Karl Rove and all his money are swiftly becoming irrelevant. That's right, IRRELEVANT. No amount of ad money is going to change the "helluva mess" in Iraq. No amount of ad money is going to give 46 million Americans health insurance (though ACTUAL money might). No amount of ad money is going to stop the buzzards swirling around Dennis Hastert and anyone else who covered for Mark Foley.

Rove and the gang have bravado because they HAVE TO. They have to show a united front to keep the volunteers working and excited. We can't let up with the historic possibilities we're being given. It's all about outworking. I think I've signed up for 5 phonebanks this week already. The more we match their energy and effort, the more the realities of where we are as a country and where we need to be will come to the fore.


Bush Courts the Insane-o-Sphere

Charming photo of a group of hatemongerers:

(Via Think Progress)

Can we talk about the size of Sean Hannity's boobs now, since that was fair game in the picture of bloggers with Clinton vis-a-vis Jessica from Feministing?


CT-Sen: The Soap Opera Has a Twist

When we take back Congress (and if Ken Mehlman can act ridiculously confident then I can), it will be because candidates stood up and said NO to the pleading from Washington consultants that they not talk about Iraq, that they focus on bread and butter issues, that they shield themselves from being weak on terror, that they try to be Republican lite. The Washington consultant class has been truly, madly, deeply wrong about how politics is played nowadays at every opportunity. This little nugget about the Connecticut Senate race should amplify that statement with some evidence:

Lamont's primary victory drew national attention, but momentum in the Senate race began to change that night. Lieberman used his concession speech to launch his independent campaign, with a fierce blast at the partisan gridlock that has gripped Washington and a vow to use the general election to reverse the outcome of that day's balloting [...]

There followed a series of missteps. Lamont, who had run a skillful, grass-roots primary campaign, left for vacation and his campaign immediately began to flounder.

"We kind of went to sleep," said Tom D'Amore, a senior Lamont adviser. "We were led to understand, as naive as it sounds, that there were forces at work" trying to persuade Lieberman to give up his independent candidacy for the good of the Democratic Party. "They said, 'Don't come out and go too hard on Joe. Give us an opportunity.' " That never happened. Lieberman ignored pleas to quit the race and quickly swapped out his primary team of advisers for new consultants, including GOP pollster Neil Newhouse and Democratic ad maker Josh Isay.

Guess what, the DC Dems weren't able to get a guy who loses his party's primary and announces he doesn't agree with the results and will stubborn stay in the race THAT NIGHT to drop out. I mean, who could have seen that one coming?

As Lamont received a grudging acceptance from official Washington, he got a little heady and co-opted by it. That's over, and he's charging hard now, and I expect the polls to reflect that. Particularly because little Alan Schlesinger, liitle poker-playing Alan Gold, is not going quietly and following Karl Rove's script. Schlesinger not only won this week's first debate, but he made himself a factor in the race overnight, which only hurts Lieberman.

With a forceful debate performance, Schlesinger reminded voters, the media and possibly his own party Monday that Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman and Ned Lamont are not replaying their Democratic primary.

Schlesinger made the most of the cumulative 17 minutes allotted to each candidate, repeatedly asserting that he is the only Republican.

"Don't waste your vote on either of these liberal Democrats," Schlesinger said [...]

"I think we will begin now to make this a horse race," Schlesinger told reporters after the debate. Schlesinger may have been exhibiting what one of his heroes, Alan Greenspan, might call "irrational exuberance."

A more realistic assessment is that Schlesinger, long neglected by GOP donors and unable to escape single digits in the polls, might become a player in a race dominated by Lamont and Lieberman. Lieberman leads Lamont, 48 percent to 40 percent in the most recent poll, with Schlesinger at 4 percent.

With Lieberman relying heavily on Republican and unaffiliated voters in the general election, any gain Schlesinger makes in winning back a portion of the GOP base is likely to come at Lieberman's expense.

Not surprisingly, the Lamont camp was happy to talk up Schlesinger.

"He doesn't get a forum like this every day of the week," said George Jepsen, co-chairman of the Lamont campaign. "He spoke with great clarity."

Can anybody say "Ross Perot"? I'm sure Lieberman can, since his DLC-backed former colleague Bill Clinton basically has Perot to thank for his two-term Presidency.

Joe Lieberman is now in a Republican primary for the Senate, and he's pissed off that he should have to work to earn anyone's vote. But now that he is pressured on his right wing, he's catering to their interests by flipping on support for UN Ambassador John Bolton, whose renomination to the post is completely dead and buried to begin with (so it's convenient for Lieberman to use that one, since there will be no accountability on it). Matt Stoller analyzes:

For my money, this is Joe Lieberman slapping Chris Dodd and the Democatic Party in the face. Say what you will about Dodd, but this Dodd cares about John Bolton's nomination. Dodd was the whip on the vote, and successfully blocked Bolton's confirmation. Dodd played the good soldier to Lieberman's campaign in the primary, campaigning for him and starring in one of Joe's ads. Even before the primary ended and while Dodd was campaigning for Joe, Joe stopped taking Dodd's calls, and he wouldn't talk to him on primary night, sending an aide to deal with Dodd as Dodd stood outside Joe's hotel room. Joe hates Dodd because Dodd treated Joe like he deserved to be treated, as the loser of the Democratic primary.

In other words, Joe is angry and vindictive, and is starting his retribution early. Just today he reversed himself and said Democrats should win Congress (he demurred a few days ago), but that Democrats need to change their tone. Lieberman essentially threatened Dodd on Pajamas Media, a right-wing media site. And now on Bolton, Lieberman is just stabbing Dodd and the rest of the Democrats in the front. He's not even bothering to stab us in the back anymore.

So why would Lieberman adopt Bolton now, after rejecting him twice before? It's probably the same reason Joe is selling out net neutrality, going back on his promise to support it by offering to help Senator Ted Stevens in the lame duck session pass a bill that would in all likelihood get rid of net neutrality.


So Lieberman's spitting in the face of liberals and Democrats. He's being attacked for his voting record from conservatives and Republicans. Just who is the constituency of the Connecticut for Lieberman Party, besides Joementum himself?

Less and less, maybe not enough for victory on Election Day.


More On The Idiots Who Currently Govern Our Country.

Mike Sodrel, Congressman from Indiana's 9th District, on the 46 million Americans without health insurance:

"They're young people who think they're bullet-proof" and who buy color televisions rather than pay for insurance, he said.

Conrad Burns, Senator from Montana, on President Bush and the Iraq war:

Burns, at a debate Tuesday night with Democratic challenger Jon Tester, said he believes Bush has a plan to win - but added: "we're not going to tell you what our plan is."

George W. Bush, President of the United States, on shaking hands with black people:

(Obama) recalls a meet-and-greet encounter at the White House with George W. Bush, who warmly shook his hand, then “turned to an aide nearby, who squirted a big dollop of hand sanitizer in the president’s hand.” (“Good stuff,” he quotes the president as saying, as he offered his guest some. “Keeps you from getting colds.”)

Had enough?

UPDATE: Just to be clear, I don't think the President is a racist, though his policies do have a disproportionate impact on African-Americans (a function of class more than race). But the fact that he's so clueless that he'd shake someone's hand and immediately have to disinfect himself is embarrassing no matter who he was greeting.


A Word on the Liberal Media

I don't think the media gives a crap about liberal/conservative as much as (a) they are lazy and rely on the same narratives over and over, and (b) they serve corporate masters in corporate-friendly ways.

Case in point: Jamie Court of the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights about Prop. 89:

Take today's Los Angeles Times editorial against Proposition 89, the California ballot measure to take big money out of politics. The essence of the editorial is special interests have too much control, but Prop 89 unfairly taxes business (albeit 0.2%) to pay for the political campaigns of candidates that reject special interest dollars and unfairly limits corporations expenditures on ballot measures.

So isn't the fact that the newspaper's parent The Tribune Company would be subject to a 0.2% income tax increase relevant to the paper's opposition? Is the Times looking out for voters or its own bottom line? That's the question readers should ask if they tear out their newspapers' recommendations to bring to the polls.

The Tribune also owns television stations like KTLA. Prop 89's limit on ballot measure spending would cut significantly into the gravy train of political advertising KTLA is receiving from oil companies that have spent $52 million opposing Prop 87, a tax on oil producers to pay for alternate fuel development (also opposed by the LA Times), and from tobacco companies that have spent $55 million opposing Prop 86, a tobacco tax to fund health care. The main opposition weapon against Prop 87, in fact, is a television commercial airing editorials from newspapers like the Times weighing in against it.

You cannot look at the media without also understanding that they are a collection of businesses trying to maximize profits. Campaign advertising maximizes profits. They want more of it and they want to make sure there's more money available for it. Raising taxes on them, even 0.2%, minimizes profits. They don't want that.

The laziness of the media is nailed by Bob Harris, who notices that the LA Times managed to write an entire cover story yesterday about how Governor Schwarzenegger has held the media spotlight... accompanied with a giant picture of the Governor, in the media spotlight.

The story, believe it or not: an allegedly objective look at -- wait for it, this is fabulous -- how the media is getting used by Schwarzenegger, and how his opponent just can't get a fair break.

Accompanied by a photo of Arnold that is more than eleven times larger by area. And Angelides isn't mentioned by name -- in fact, there's no mention that Arnold even has any political opposition whatsoever -- until the fourth paragraph.

The story continues on page A17. With only one picture -- of Arnold, of course -- and the new headline:

Arnold Staying Front and Center

Well bloody hell yes he is.

I am starting to think that irony got killed by a drunken mob in a bar fight sometime around 2002. Would explain a lot.

The media, when it reports on actual news, provides a public service. When it strives for analysis, it is either incredibly lazy or lets its pro-growth corporate bias show.


Governed By Idiots, But It Doesn't Have To Stay That Way

The blogs are necessarily highlighting this amazing op-ed from the New York Times, which simply asked the question "What's the difference between a Sunni and a Shiite?" and found that WAY too much of the current government couldn't answer it. We have public officials proclaiming from the mountaintop that no threat to civilization has ever been greater than the War on Islamic radicalism, and at the same time they can't even be bothered to have a basic understanding of the contours of Islam.

Take Representative Terry Everett, a seven-term Alabama Republican who is vice chairman of the House intelligence subcommittee on technical and tactical intelligence.

“Do you know the difference between a Sunni and a Shiite?” I asked him a few weeks ago.

Mr. Everett responded with a low chuckle. He thought for a moment: “One’s in one location, another’s in another location. No, to be honest with you, I don’t know. I thought it was differences in their religion, different families or something.”

To his credit, he asked me to explain the differences. I told him briefly about the schism that developed after the death of the Prophet Muhammad, and how Iraq and Iran are majority Shiite nations while the rest of the Muslim world is mostly Sunni. “Now that you’ve explained it to me,” he replied, “what occurs to me is that it makes what we’re doing over there extremely difficult, not only in Iraq but that whole area.”

Representative Jo Ann Davis, a Virginia Republican who heads a House intelligence subcommittee charged with overseeing the C.I.A.’s performance in recruiting Islamic spies and analyzing information, was similarly dumbfounded when I asked her if she knew the difference between Sunnis and Shiites.

“Do I?” she asked me. A look of concentration came over her face. “You know, I should.” She took a stab at it: “It’s a difference in their fundamental religious beliefs. The Sunni are more radical than the Shia. Or vice versa. But I think it’s the Sunnis who’re more radical than the Shia.”

Did she know which branch Al Qaeda’s leaders follow?

“Al Qaeda is the one that’s most radical, so I think they’re Sunni,” she replied. “I may be wrong, but I think that’s right.”

Did she think that it was important, I asked, for members of Congress charged with oversight of the intelligence agencies, to know the answer to such questions, so they can cut through officials’ puffery when they came up to the Hill?

“Oh, I think it’s very important,” said Ms. Davis, “because Al Qaeda’s whole reason for being is based on their beliefs. And you’ve got to understand, and to know your enemy.”

Why these people who are sending American soldiers and Marines off to die don't try to "know the enemy" BEFORE the fact is, honestly, stunning. I can be expected to be pretty cynical about the knowledge of our political leadership. But this is enough to literally send me screaming into the streets. This is five years out from September 11, and Congressmen still don't understand that the two major sects in Islam differ over the line of succession to the prophet Muhammad? It's a ten-minute lesson, here, go read.

I think this ignorance doesn't only reflect a certain imperial mentality, but it also reflects a core desire of xenophobia in general, to lump in every single foreigner into a coagulated mass of "the other" in order to make it easier to attack any country on Earth we decide not to like. This is an outgrowth of authoritarianism, which infantilizes the public by promising safety and security from the big bad meanies out there, whether those meanies are Mexican or Sunni or Shia or gay people or whoever. Here's an example of this authoritarianism treating us all like we're 5:

We are truly governed by willfully ignorant authoritarians who want to blur all nuance and gradation from the political scene so they can demagogue their way to the next war. The battle for Congress right now is all about returning the country to those who don't treat the electorate like children, who do care enough about the country to understand the nature of the threat to it. Get involved. Call your friends. Make a difference. Ignorant imperial nations don't survive; just look at history.



It's silly to waste two posts on Michael Steele, who's about to lose his race for the Senate in Maryland to Ben Cardin, but he's turned out to be the whiniest candidate I've ever seen. Now he's making people apologize to him for using accepted English words. And fools like Steny Hoyer go ahead and do it:

A ranking Democrat in the House of Representative is apologizing for saying an African-American Senate candidate "slavishly" supported the Republican Party.

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Maryland, said he meant no offense when he made the remark about Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael Steele, the GOP nominee for the seat being vacated by longtime Democratic Sen. Paul Sarbanes.

In a statement issued Tuesday, Hoyer said, "I should not have used those words."

Hoyer was speaking to a largely black audience at a campaign event for Steele's Democratic opponent, U.S. Rep. Ben Cardin, when he made the comment.

So now we can be offended by DERIVATIONS of words? Are you kidding me? If I call Michael Steele a blackguard, does that get me in trouble? If I say he would darken the door of the Senate with his conservative views?

What a whiner. Meanwhile this is the guy picking up the endorsement of Mike Tyson and Don King, a convicted rapist and a convicted murderer, but he's offended by words.

Go home, dude.


Reality Check

One thing I notice the conservosphere never tires of mentioning lately is the record high of the Dow. Today it passed 12,000, so I'm sure there will be another round of stories (although it's dipped below that figure currently).


The Dow Jones Industrial Average, which measures 30 blue-chip stocks and not the entire NYSE, is up a hundred or so points in six-plus years. That means that an initial investment of $1,000 in those 30 blue-chip stocks six years ago would net you about 10 dollars of profit.

By contrast, the NASDAQ average, which measures not a 30-stock sample but every stock in that market, is hovering around 2,300. It's six-year high was over 5,000. That means that your initial investment of $1,000 would have lost you over $500.

In addition, the S&P 500 is around 1,365, down 200 or so from its all-time high. So that would be a losing proposition as well.

Never mind the fact that 1% of the population own 65% of the stocks.

I know that economics is not the strongest subject of the conservosphere, but I do wish they'd put down the Cheetos long enough to recognize these facts.


Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Quick Hits

The lay of the land with three weeks to go until Election Day:

• Free speech is apparently alive and well in Georgia, where a woman got a $100 fine for sporting an anti-Bush bumper sticker on her car. All the right-wingers who support free speech when the question is, say, Mohammed cartoons, go silent when it comes to something that makes them uncomfortable.

FEAR Unit is on the march as Michael Chertoff announces that THE WEB is a terrorist training camp. The whole Web. How much longer before any site where you can communicate and leave a comment must be made off-limits in the name of national security? These are not abstract, conspiratorial thoughts. If the DHS head believed the Web WAS a terrorist training camp, it'd be a dereliction of duty not to shut it down, no?

• Just like in the US, the mantra for the British government is that if one of their own speaks their mind, what you have to do is attack them personally.

Tony Blair will hit back today at General Sir Richard Dannatt, who warned last week that the continued presence of British troops in Iraq was "exacerbating" the country's security crisis [...]

Mr Blair's allies made clear that he could not allow the challenge to go unanswered. David Blunkett, the former home secretary, is believed to have been reflecting views inside Downing Street when he criticised Sir Richard for "trying to introduce a new constitutional element" by interfering with the Government's decisions.

Somehow, the next paragraph says that's not "attacking Dannatt personally". Hmph.

• Today is a sad anniversary. It's been one year since the disgusting backruptcy law went into effect. John Edwards writes a great piece at Think Progress that shows the impact of this on the middle class and those struggling to survive. We have predatory lenders in the credit card industry turning handworking Americans into debt peons.

• Hey, Iraq's a nightmare, in case you forgot. Of course, if you're Rep. Peter King, you think it's like being in Manhattan. Honestly, the stupidity which rules our political discourse is staggering.

• And finally, Afghanistan: You put your WEED in there!

Note to self: when fighting militants in a giant forest made of pot, it's best not to try to burn the place down (unless you've got time to make a run for some munchies, that is).

Canadian troops in Afghanistan found this out the hard way.

Reuters reports the troops were fighting Taliban militants when they were met with a greener, more potent enemy: a 10-foot-tall marijuana forest.

The Taliban fighters were using the dense thicket of plants for cover, so the troops were forced to eliminate the weedy threat.

"The challenge is that marijuana plants absorb energy and heat very readily. It's very difficult to penetrate with thermal devices ... and as a result you really have to be careful that the Taliban don't dodge in and out of those marijuana forests," General Rick Hillier said in a speech in Ottawa.

"A couple of brown plants on the edges of some of those (forests) did catch on fire. But a section of soldiers that was downwind from that had some ill effects and decided that was probably not the right course of action," Hiller said.

Afghanistan is clearly a gateway war. First you're fighting militants in pot fields, then poppy fields, coca farms, pretty soon you're making your way through freebase and crack jungles.


Now THAT'S An Endorsement

I've been trying to come up with a worse person to come out with you on the campaign trail, but I honestly can't think of one. John Mark Karr? Robert Mugabe? Mark Foley?

You can't beat Mike Tyson:

At the press conference, Tyson posed for photos with fans, signed autographs and campaigned for Maryland U.S. Senate candidate Michael Steele.

Tyson, wearing a white and blue Steele for U.S. Senate T-shirt, said he used to believe black Republicans were "sellouts." But Tyson said he changed his mind after researching the Maryland lieutenant governor.

"We have to open our eyes more," Tyson said, as he pointed to his T-shirt.

There's no doubt in my mind that convicted murderer Don King talked him into this. Quite a one-two punch there for Mr. Steele, I'd say. The "ear-biting rapist with Maori face tattoo" vote is sewn up, as is the "kick the life out of a man" vote, I'd gather.


CA-GOV: Signing Statements, California-Style

jennifer poole has a great diary on Kos right now, and while I can't add anything at the moment, I wanted to call your attention to it. The Governor got major props and burnished his Democratic credentials on this signature piece of legislation combating global warming, which he is CHANGING UNILATERALLY through executive order, in much the same kind of violation of the Constitutional process that the President does when he writes signing statements that overturn Congressional laws.

The California Democratic Party is populated with, frankly, suckers. They took this governor at his word when they had no reason to do so. They allowed him these so-called victories that were nothing more than propaganda events, and they think he can be trusted to be the nice bipartisan moderate moving forward when he's done nothing but change his positions while in office.

With Phil Angelides, you know exactly where you stand. With Arnold Schwarzenegger, you know you'll hear one lie after another.


A Little Less Free

Today is a very sad day for the country, and while the prospects for a Democratic takeover of Congress look decent, it will be very difficult to reverse this trend of the imperial executive after six years of rubber-stamping.

Today the torture bill was signed into law, and the President never looks and sounds happier than when he's depriving people of human rights. So he was ebullient at the signing ceremony.

"With the bill I'm about to sign, the men our intelligence officials believe orchestrated the murder of nearly 3,000 innocent people will face justice," Bush said.

A coalition of religious groups staged a protest against the bill outside the White House, shouting "Bush is the terrorist" and "Torture is a crime." About 15 of the protesters, standing in a light rain, refused orders to move. Police arrested them one by one.

Among those the United States hopes to try are Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the accused mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks, as well as Ramzi Binalshibh, an alleged would-be 9/11 hijacker, and Abu Zubaydah, who was believed to be a link between Osama bin Laden and many al-Qaida cells.

"It is a rare occasion when a president can sign a bill that he knows will save American lives," Bush said. "I have that privilege this morning."

And so with the stroke of a pen, 800 years of habeas corpus rights have been removed, and now the world's purported leader in freedom and human rights can indefinitely detain anyone, US citizen or not, at the whim of the chief executive, without that detainee being able to question the nature of his detention. As Anthony Romero explains:

The American Civil Liberties Union said the new law is "one of the worst civil liberties measures ever enacted in American history."

"The president can now, with the approval of Congress, indefinitely hold people without charge, take away protections against horrific abuse, put people on trial based on hearsay evidence, authorize trials that can sentence people to death based on testimony literally beaten out of witnesses, and slam shut the courthouse door for habeas petitions," said ACLU Executive Director Anthony D. Romero.

"Nothing could be further from the American values we all hold in our hearts than the Military Commissions Act," he said.

The next few weeks will have me brimming with optimism over the prospects of actually turning this country around and solving the surfeit of problems we all face. But the damage this Administration has done to American Constitutional democracy will be extremely difficult to reverse. No executive, Democratic or Republican, is likely to willingly give up the power invested in his/her office. And certain provisions in bad laws like the Military Commissions Act have as their primary function the weakening of checks and balances from the legislative or judicial branches.

This is also going to be near-impossible because of what Digby calls "bipartisan nothingness":

Now that the Republicans have successfully moved the political center so far to the right that they drove themselves over the cliff, we must stop all this "partisan bickering" as if the Democrats have been equally partisan and therefore can ask for and expect the right to meet them halfway, which they never, ever do. That means we must let their most heinous ideas congeal into conventional wisdom, let their criminal behavior go unpunished, clean up the global disaster they've created, do the heavy lifting to fix the deficit they caused. While we're fixing things, they'll count their ill-gotten gains, catch their breath and gear up to trash the place all over again.

Modern bipartisanship can be simply defined as Democrats repeatedly getting taken to the cleaners by Republicans. Until the rules of the game are changed it will remain so whether Democrats are in the majority or not. That pathetic Charlie Brown with the football ritual is what Joe Lieberman is running on and what Joe Klein is angling for with his Blankslate Obama love-fest. (Norquist called it date rape but that's too kind -- the Liebermans and Kleins love being in the spotlight giving wingnuts lapdances. They enjoy every minute of their rightwing orgy --- they just don't want to take responsibility when they turn up with wingnut transmitted diseases.)

This false equivalence, to compare removing habeas corpus and allowing torture to 3% increases in the capital gains tax, is UNBELIEVABLY dangerous. It's this he-said she-said style that has turned our electorate's brains to mush. This law should not be looked at through the lens of politics (calling it "a victory" for the President or whatever); its specific policy debases all Americans, and that's more important.

Vyan at DailyKos has much much more. Lawsuits are being filed, and the hope is that these have a chance to go up the ladder to the Supreme Court. The question is whether or not these cases can gain standing, as the law appears to have denied these lawsuits (removing democracy in the service of unclogging the courts of 200 cases. Ridiculous).

Support Amnesty International and the Center for Constitutional Rights in their efforts to restore an America we all can believe in.


CA-50: The Troika?

I already think that two House districts in California (CA-04, CA-11) are within striking distance of the Democrats, despite the partisan gerrymander. Could it be that a third is in play?

In an election in California's 50th Congressional District today, 10/16/06, Republican incumbent Brian Bilbray is narrowly ahead of Democrat challenger Francine Busby, 49% to 46%, according to a SurveyUSA poll conducted exclusively for KGTV-TV San Diego. Since a SurveyUSA KGTV-TV poll released 9/13/06, Bilbray has lost 5 points and Busby has gained 6 points. Bilbray had led by 14 points, now leads by 3. Bilbray gets 85% of Republican votes. Busby gets 87% of Democrat votes. These numbers are similar to last month's. Most of the shrinkage in Bilbray's advantage is because the Republican edge in the composition of CA50 likely voters has decreased from 14 points to 6 points.

Busby has competed against Bilbray for this seat three times in seven months. Her 46% number in this poll is pretty much in line with what she got (45%) in the other two elections. The difference is that Brian Bilbray may be under a grand jury investigation over his residency status. And Francine Busby has learned from her other two losses by running against Bilbray's ethical questions this time instead of Duke Cunningham's:

If Brian Bilbray is indeed being investigated by a criminal Grand Jury with the District Attorney's office, the voters of the 50th District deserve to know. They have a right to know because they have endured the Cunningham scandal. They have endured a year without effective congressional representation and they have endured a series of very difficult elections that cost over $15 million dollars. All because an elected official refused to be honest with voters and fully disclose the facts in a timely fashion.

Now, we find ourselves in similar circumstances. The citizens of the 50th District deserve no less than the full truth before casting their votes on November 7. Brian Bilbray must tell the voters of the 50th District if he is being investigated by a criminal Grand Jury for fraud. The people of this district have been through enough. They deserve nothing less.

Bilbray, for his part, is contesting the story. Then again, Curt Weldon claims the whole world is out to get him and that he's not under investigation when the Feds have apparently been listening in for months.

A grand jury, impaneled in Washington in May, has obtained evidence gathered over at least four months through wiretaps of Washington area cellphone numbers and has scrutinized whether Weldon received anything of value, according to the sources. They spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the investigation.

The investigation focuses on Weldon's support of the Russian-managed Itera International Energy Corp., one of the world's largest oil and gas firms, while that company paid fees to Solutions North America, the company that Karen Weldon and Sexton operate.

The congressman, for example, intervened on Itera's behalf when U.S. officials canceled a federal grant to the company. He also encouraged U.S. companies to do business with Itera at a time when its reputation had been sullied by accusations of Russian corruption.

So believing a US Congressman under investigation who says he's not under investigation is dubious.

That Francine Busby is making a race of this at this late stage is, frankly, amazing. I think this is a real longshot given the number of times she's competed for this seat recently, and the fact that her opponent will almost certainly use her out-of-context "you don't need papers for voting" comment between now and November. But winning the seat that Democrats put s much faith in back in June would be a sweet victory.

CA-11 UPDATE: McNerney gets another newspaper endorsement wherein the editorial board calls Rep. Richard Pombo an "embarrassment."


The Problem is Voter Suppression

Yeah yeah, there are black boxes and e-voting machines and they need a paper trail and all of that. But the tactics used by the GOP to influence elections are actually old-fashioned and time-honored. Like intimidation:

The state attorney general's office is investigating a letter received by some Southern California Hispanics that says it is a crime for immigrants to vote and tells them they could be jailed or deported if they go to the polls next month [...]

The letter, written in Spanish, tells recipients: "You are advised that if your residence in this country is illegal or you are an immigrant, voting in a federal election is a crime that could result in jail time."

The truth is that immigrants who become naturalized citizens can legally register to vote.

Several of the people who received the letters appeared to be naturalized citizens, said John Trasvina, interim president and general counsel for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund.

Or outright theft:

Ted Strickland, the Democratic nominee, is leading Mr. (Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth) Blackwell by as much as 28 points, according to one recent poll. In their panic, some Blackwell supporters have hit on the idea of trying to prevent the election from occurring. One of them filed a complaint alleging that Mr. Strickland, who is a member of Congress, does not live in the apartment where he is registered to vote. Mr. Strickland owns a condominium in another part of Ohio, and the complaint alleges that he actually lives there. If Mr. Strickland was not a qualified voter, he would be prohibited from running for governor.

The complaint itself is without merit. No one disputes that Mr. Strickland lives in Ohio, or that he is registered. The only issue is which of his two homes he chose to register from, and the law gives voters with multiple homes broad discretion in choosing among them.

THIS is the real threat to democracy. It's sending flyers in poor and black neighborhoods telling residents they'll go to jail if they vote with outstanding parking tickets. It's requiring voter IDs like a driver's license at the polls and not telling the public. It's putting too few machines in Democratic precincts so that people have to wait in line for 10 hours to vote. It's purging voter rolls of anyone who has a similar-sounding name to a felon who also happens to vote Democratic. These all happened in 2000 and 2004, and they're happening again. I know that vote machine hacking is a sexy topic and it resonates for those who think they know better than anyone how the world works, but vote stealing is brutally simple, and it's happening right now.

I've decided to get off my ass this year and become a Pollworker for Democracy, sponsored by People for the American Way. Most of the ways Republicans try to pick off votes has to do with low information. With more information out there and more sunshine, we can prevent the most rampant abuse and ensure that elections are a little more fair. You're not going to stop everything, as elections haven't been 100% clean at any time in the history of the Republic. But you can stop a lot.


Monday, October 16, 2006

Heartening Times For Progressive Capitalism

I write a lot of posts about what angers me out there in the world. Let's flip that on its head and highlight some good news, all of which are around the same theme: progressive economics. Consider what's been happening just in the past few days:

• Wal-Mart was ordered to pay $78 million dollars in Pennsylvania for violating labor laws, including forcing employees to work off-hours and during breaks. Regulations on workplaces mean nothing unless there are teeth behind them. When people are ripped off by their bosses and the bosses are made to pay, it's a good day in America.

Hundreds of top economists have urged a raise in the minimum wage of at least a dollar, on up to $2.50. Nobody in this country can live on $5.15 an hour. And leading economists are finally coming around on this. Raising wages for workers does not kill the economy, in fact it makes it more robust by raising purchasing power and rewarding work. This is a major reversal, albeit more because of how long it's been since the last minimum wage increase.

• The Nobel Committee decided to note the global security value of raising people out of poverty by bestowing their Peace Prize on a man who pioneered the practice of microcredit. Muhammad Yunus provides collateral-free loans as little as $30 to brutally poor people in the developing world, to give them the ability to provide for their families, start small businesses, and eventually work their way out of their plight. Microcrediting is finally taking hold in economic circles as an effective way to pull people out of poverty. And yes, it is an issue of war and peace. Societies which have upward mobility, where everyone hass a chance to realize their dreams, are societies which are far less susceptible to fundamentalist and extremist rhetoric. Enlightened economic policy like this makes far more of a dent in the war on terror than catastrophic wars of choice.

• Even China is coming around on worker protections, understanding that their policies of allowing massive labor exploitation is unsustainable. They're proposing baseline standards for union negotiations, and setting penalties for maltreatment of workers. These are baby steps, but moves closer to the kind of global labor and environmental standards that would allow real globalization and real economic competition worldwide, rather than the kind of race to the bottom we have now. Not surprisingly, this proposal by the Chinese is being fought by... multinational corporations! This couldn't be more telling. But it's also doomed to failure. You can simply not suppress every worker on the planet.

• Finally, the environment has become a definitive economic issue, and industries great and small are making decisions based on their environmental impact. The Christian Science Monitor notes that the insurance industry has come to the front lines of the global warming debate. From discounts in insurance for hybrid cars, to cutting insurance for "green" buildings and homes, to teaching corporate board members about the importance of climate change. Risk assessment models have changed for the insurance industry as climate patterns have changed and dangerous storms have increased. It's in the industry's economic interest to stop the disastrous effects of global warming.

• And when rock bands refuse to tour unless they can lower their carbon footprint, it's clear these issues are way out in the open. You wouldn't hear that 10 years ago. You wouldn't hear it 2 years ago.

These are all symptomatic of a growing realization that the neoliberal model of globalization and free trade isn't working for enough people. And the market, as well as sensible people who see the signposts ahead, have combined to bring us around to a true progressive capitalism which provides opportunity and potential for everyone on the planet.


Prop. 89: Giving Elections Back To the People

A major point of contrast between Governor Schwarzenegger and Phil Angelides is on the issues of public financing of elections and campaign finance reform. Proposition 89 is one of the freshest, most important, and most groundbreaking initiatives to come along in the last 25 years, and Phil Angelides, in an act of political courage, supports it. His opponent does not, because it would be a major blow to the special interests that control this state and this country through kickbacks and payouts.

I want you to look at their latest ad:

We have a political culture, deeply institutionalized for decades if not centuries, that disqualifies 99.9% of society from running for public office. You either need to be ingratiating and sleazy enough to rake in millions of dollars or obscenely rich enough to give it to yourself. Elected officials spend upwards of ten hours a day on the phone raising money. Issues, positions, personality and character are all a sidelight to phrases like "Is he competitive financially?" and "How much cash on hand does he have?" In California politics (and, I'd gather, in national politics) (s)he who has the most money wins:

(h/t to the Prop 89 Blog)

Though it seems hopeless, there is a way to break this cycle, to enable the potential for citizen legislators untainted by big money donations, to make any candidate or any ballot initiative in the state competitive, to level the playing field and return government to the people. If you don't believe it can work, take a visit to beautiful Arizona and Maine. Here are some facts from 10 years of clean elections in The Pine Tree State:

Clean Money was an immediate success in Maine. One-third of the state’s legislators took office on December 6, 2000 without ties to special interest money. Challengers, who were only able to spend 54 cents for every dollar spent by an incumbent in 1998, before public financing was available, were able to close that gap dramatically in 2000. Overall, private campaign spending in Maine was cut in half.

Participating candidates gave the system rave reviews. In a survey conducted by the Maine Citizen Leadership Fund, 99% of candidates said they were “reasonably satisfied” or “very satisfied” with it.
Results got even better in 2002, as participation in the Clean Elections system increased across the board:

• The number of candidates running clean nearly doubled over 2000.

• The number of Republican candidates running clean nearly tripled over 2000.

• 55% of Maine’s legislature is made up of members elected clean.

• 77% of Maine’s Senate is made up of members elected clean.

• Voter turnout increased by 5% over 1998.

State government runs better when people who are unbought and unbossed populate the legislature. We all know that in California, the state capital is overrun with lobbyists who use the Assembly and the Senate as their personal money-printing facility, getting hundreds of millions in corporate welfare for their clients and valuing Big Business over the average citizen. Arnold Schwarzenegger made a pledge to get the money out of politics, saying that he had plenty of money and couldn't be bought. He's taken 90 MILLION from special interests since that time.

If this initiative were financed with payroll taxes, it would still result in a net positive in the average Californian's budget, as the ability to provide affordable health care and lower school tuitions and more goods and services as a consequence of eliminating corporate welfare would dramatically increase. But Proposition 89 is actually financed through a %0.2 increase in the corporate tax rate, returning the rate back to where it was in the Wilson and Reagan Administrations. Ultimately a more prosperous California, a California more attractive to potential residents, will be a more rewarding California for businesses to profit in (as was the entire country in the 1990s).

Clean money elections WORK. Anyone who can raise a certain number of $5 contributions from voters to prove their viability can qualify. They then receive full public funding, allowing them to campaign and speak to voters about issues. They get to ask voters what they want, and tell voters what they would do, instead of having to beg voters for what they NEED to stay competitive. It limits spending for candidates who opt out of public financing so that the playing field is leveled.

These are the facts on Proposition 89. Phil Angelides supports it because he understands the iron grip special interests have on Sacramento, and he wants to change that. If you believe that the political system is broken, if you believe that you're constantly voting for the lesser of two evils, you need to say yes to Proposition 89 and strike a powerful note for change in this state and this country.