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

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Day 2 quick thoughts

• I truly think that the governor's mansion is Jerry Brown's if he wants it. I always aprreciate a guy who's been marginalized and demonized by the right for so long, and just keeps going, shoving it right back in their faces. Brown's speech at the convention, delivered without a teleprompter, was great for red meat but also reflected an agile mind that has been right about so many issues for so long. I like a guy who takes "Governor Moonbeam" as a compliment. I really think that if he wants to be Governor again the seat is his. Outside of President I don't believe he's ever lost a political race. (Plus I still remember that Joe Trippi ran his campaign against Bill Clinton in 1992.)

• I don't have a connection to the Leno-Migden fight outside of what I read on Calitics and what I hear from my friends on the site. But I have to say that, looking at it from the outside, this is the biggest waste of resources I've ever seen in my life. What would happen if these hundreds of volunteers walked precincts in the district, instead of providing "visibility" while fighting for an endorsement in a high-information area that won't ultimately matter much? The battle is swamping the entire convention, and it's clearly become a giant pissing contest between the Assembly and the Senate, with each side taking up for their colleague. As you've read here, Migden is nuts, and I have pretty strong opinions about who should serve, and in particular the principle of the unbalanced endorsement process, where an incumbent needs a lower threshold to get the party endorsement than a challenger. That's ridiculous, and in fact Joye Swan of the Progressive Caucus is leading an effort for a bylaw change to address just that. But this is a waste.

• Relevant to that, I think Bill Clinton has NO IDEA what he's about to step into on Sunday. The Leno-Migden thing is sucking up most of the oxygen out of this convention. Clinton and San Francisco DA Kamala Harris are speaking for Hillary and Barack Obama tomorrow, but there's going to be less focus on that than he'd expect.

• We are doing several interviews with Congressional and legislative candidates. So far we had a good chat with Bill Durston, a candidate in the rapidly purpling area of CA-03. We have interviews with Charlie Brown (CA-04), Hannah-Beth Jackson (SD-19) and Russ Warner (CA-26) later on. We will be posting the audio as we get it in. We also had a nice chat between bloggers and Mayor Gavin Newsom. His effort to sue for restoration of Medi-Cal reimbursements is a very strong stand.

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CA-50: Cheryl Ede Endorses The Responsible Plan

Cheryl Ede, a Congressional candidate in CA-50 (Bilbray), just informed me that she has signed on to endorse the Responsible Plan. This is the third Congressional candidate in California to endorse the plan, joining Ron Shepston (CA-42) and Debbie Cook (CA-46). By the end of the weekend I expect several more.

It's time for Nick Leibham to sign on as well. This is a intelligent and important set of policies that will create a legitimate mandate to end this war, not a vague nod toward a "new direction" in Iraq. Plus, it will seek to repair the broken institutions that led us into this disaster in the first place. The candidates that have signed on nationwide seek to represent some of the reddest districts in the country, some of the bluest, and everything in between. There is no reason for a candidate who wants to best represent the Democratic Party not to sign on.

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Blogging the CDP Convention: Day 1

So here I am at the CDP Convention. Unfortunately they didn't have WiFi in any of the caucus rooms yesterday, so I wasn't able to update. But there is wireless in the convention hall, so things should go better today.

What is exciting to me is that convention delegates here are passionately attending to the concerns of this state. You would expect a political convention in this charged time for the Democratic Party to have at least some focus on the Hillary-Barack pie fight. However, I was pleased that many of the speakers at the Progressive Caucus, when they weren't talking about superdelegates, were keying in on the $16 billion dollar budget deficit and the ridiculous 2/3 requirement that keeps lawmakers from being able to do their job. Susie Shannon, who heads up the poverty committee, argued that the state not balance its budget on the backs of the poor and the needy, as is de rigeur. Karen Bass put this at the top of the list when she addressed the Progressive Caucus, too. This state is in trouble, and we need the energy and effort of these attendees to be harnessed and focused on that. For too long the needs of the state have been abandoned by people who could be working to ameliorate it. I'm seeing a real change in the air.

In addition, the fact that the platform committee accepted a single payer healthcare plank is ENORMOUS news. I can't say this for certainty, but does any other Democratic platform in the country include single payer? This sets a goal for California progressives to shoot at, and now any meaningful healthcare reform is just a way station to that ultimate goal. With the right governor in 2010, we may even see a single payer system signed into law, although of course what happens at the federal level will inform our choices here. But this gives some momentum nationally for a comprehensive solution to the healthcare crisis.

I hope to catch up with some of our challengers who have a chance to take out Republicans at the state and federal level in November. So far I've chatted with Bill Durston (CA-03), Mary Pallant (CA-24), Nick Leibham (CA-50), Charlie Brown (CA-04), Hannah-Beth Jackson (SD-19), Greg Pettis (AD-80) and Manuel Perez (AD-80). I continue to be very impressed with Manuel Perez; he is a transformational and not a transactional candidate, someone who doesn't just check the boxes of the single-issue groups and vote the right way, but really changes the conversation and fights for progressive change.

There are a bunch of speakers in today's morning session, but the interesting stuff happens off the convention floor. We'll keep bringing it to you.

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Friday, March 28, 2008

Casey v. Rendell, or Rendell v. Casey?

You know, every analysis I've seen of the Pennsylvania primary is the Obama has to re-run the Ed Rendell strategy from the 2002 gubernatorial primary against Bob Casey, when he won only 10 counties but ran up the score around Philly. Now that Rendell has endorsed Clinton and Casey has endorsed Obama, is that at all operative anymore? Since the players are on the EXACT opposite sides?

Meanwhile, considering that Obama is well ahead in North Carolina (here's a good analysis of that state) and may be more popular in Puerto Rico than everyone thinks (although the indictment of the governor who is supporting him might be a blow), I'm not sure that Pennsylvania matters all that much. But I'm glad Obama is going for it. I want to see a winner actually win instead of back into the nomination at the end.

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Then I'll Give You 30 Days! Best 3 Out Of 5?

Before I go I just have to post about the situation in Iraq, which would be funny if it didn't involve mass death. First the Prime Minister went down to Basra to personally direct the fighting like a miniature Commander Codpiece, and he defiantly gave the ultimatum that all Mahdi Army officers must disarm within three days. After the Mahdi Army replied by, well, kicking the Iraqi Scurity Forces in the teeth, the deadline is now ten days.

Iraq's government has extended by 10 days a deadline for Shia militiamen fighting troops in the southern city of Basra to hand over their weapons.

More than 130 people have been killed and 350 injured since a clampdown on militias began in Basra on Tuesday.

US-led forces joined the battle for the first time overnight, bombing Shia positions, the UK military said.

I'm guessing that US-led forces joined the battle because the Iraqi forces were failing miserably, as we've seen about 25 other times in this misbegotten war. And this doesn't just include air cover, which we've been giving all along, but armor forces. And we're in the lead.

Four U.S. Stryker armored vehicles were seen in Sadr City by a Washington Post correspondent, one of them engaging Mahdi Army militiamen with heavy fire. The din of American weapons, along with the Mahdi Army's AK-47s and rocket-propelled grenades, was heard through much of the day. U.S. helicopters and drones buzzed overhead.

The clashes suggested that American forces were being drawn more deeply into a broad offensive that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a Shiite, launched in the southern city of Basra on Tuesday, saying death squads, criminal gangs and rogue militias were the targets. The Mahdi Army of cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, a Shiite rival of Maliki, appeared to have taken the brunt of the attacks; fighting spread to many southern cities and parts of Baghdad.

As President Bush told an Ohio audience that Iraq was returning to "normalcy," administration officials in Washington held meetings to assess what appeared to be a rapidly deteriorating security situation in many parts of the country.

"Drawn in" like one is drawn into quicksand. Or perhaps a quagmire.

Baghdad Bush can go on all he wants, but I hope something else doesn't get lost. For two years, these Iraqi security forces, the ones who consistently get routed on the battlefield and defect to the other side and generally provide a pretext for our troops having to continue to return to battle, were organized by DAVID PETRAEUS, who now walks with angels, I'm told. We shouldn't forget this.

According to the WaPo we didn't even know in advance that this offensive would be launched, and considering that we had to end up doing the fighting that seems odd. It's obvious that this is a political fight disguised as a military operation, with Maliki's Iran-backed militia attacking Sadr's not-so-Iranian-backed militia in order to gain an edge heading into provincial elections in the Shiite south in the fall. That's all this is about, and our troops are now paying the price.

It's really enough to make you sick. The New York Times has some additional coverage. And don't miss Josh Marshall's take.

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Friday Random Ten

Before we hit the road.

Ana Ng - They Might Be Giants
November - Gorillaz
The Horrible Fanfare/Landslide/Exoskeleton - Beck
Crazy In Love - Beyoncé Featuring Jay-Z
The Campaign for Real Rock - Edwyn Collins
Les Lapins - Stereo Total
Heart of Glass - Blondie
CMYK - Ladytron
It's Not Too Beautiful - The Beta Band
Sol (Batucada) - Kinky (my iPod must love that song, it was on there last week)

OK, see you in a few.

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Thursday, March 27, 2008

Bush's Goons, Jenna's Barhopping, and Breathtaking Lawlessness

As I said, I'll be heading out to San Jose tomorrow for the CDP Convention, so posting will be light in the morning and California-centric through the weekend. But I wanted to highlight this incredible excerpt from Eric Lichtblau's upcoming book Bush's Law: The Remaking of American Justice. Lichtblau and his partner James Risen won a Pulitzer for breaking the illegal warrantless wiretapping story in late 2005. But they had the story over a year earlier, and were rebuffed from going to print due to the Administration's intimidation of New York Times editors. In this excerpt Lichtblau recounts the story when Bush sends in the big guns to try and kill the story once and for all. You really sense how they work as a kind of loanshark operation rather than an executive branch:

For 13 long months, we'd held off on publicizing one of the Bush administration's biggest secrets. Finally, one afternoon in December 2005, as my editors and I waited anxiously in an elegantly appointed sitting room at the White House, we were again about to let President Bush's top aides plead their case: why our newspaper shouldn't let the public know that the president had authorized the National Security Agency, in apparent contravention of federal wiretapping law, to eavesdrop on Americans without court warrants. As New York Times Editor Bill Keller, Washington Bureau Chief Phil Taubman, and I awaited our meeting, we still weren't sure who would make the pitch for the president. Dick Cheney had thought about coming to the meeting but figured his own tense relations with the newspaper might actually hinder the White House's efforts to stop publication. (He was probably right.) As the door to the conference room opened, however, a slew of other White House VIPs strolled out to greet us, with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice near the head of the receiving line and White House Counsel Harriet Miers at the back.

For more than an hour, we told Bush's aides what we knew about the wiretapping program, and they in turn told us why it would do grave harm to national security to let anyone else in on the secret. Consider the financial damage to the phone carriers that took part in the program, one official implored. If the terrorists knew about the wiretapping program, it would be rendered useless and would have to be shut down immediately, another official urged: "It's all the marbles." The risk to national security was incalculable, the White House VIPs said, their voices stern, their faces drawn. "The enemy," one official warned, "is inside the gates." The clichés did their work; the message was unmistakable: If the New York Times went ahead and published this story, we would share the blame for the next terrorist attack.

It's impossible to overstate how much of a lie this is. "Terrorists" who didn't know they were being surveilled before December 2005 were indeed very stupid and out-of-work terrorists. The program that would have to be shut down immediately is illegal; but spying on terrorists who threaten the country is still, in fact, both legal and operative, under FISA. And the chief Administration concerns are on full display here: how would the phone companies get out of their lawsuits, and who would get blamed for their own fuck-ups. Corporate crime and passing the buck; that's the Bush way.

And later we learn that the White House is so concerned about keeping every American safe in their beds that they have agencies like the Secret Service only tackle the most important assignments.

As federal officials scrambled to avert the much-feared "second wave" of attacks, reporters likewise scrambled to follow any hint of the next possible attack and to put it on the front page—from scuba divers off the coast of Southern California to hazmat trucks in the Midwest and tourist helicopters in New York City. One example of the shift: On Sept. 12, 2001, another major newspaper was set to run a story on the extraordinary diplomatic maneuverings the U.S. Secret Service had arranged with their Mexican counterparts to allow Jenna Bush, then 19, to make a barhopping trip south of the border. (She had just been charged with underage drinking in Texas.) A few days earlier, a scoop about a presidential daughter's barhopping trip getting special dispensation from the Secret Service and a foreign government might have gotten heavy treatment. But the story never ran, and the Secret Service's maneuverings remained a secret until now. In the weeks and months after 9/11, there was no longer an appetite for such stories.

Then Lichtblau explains to us the Administration's contempt for the press:

By 2004, I had gained a reputation, deservedly or not, as one of the administration's toughest critics in the Justice Department press corps; the department even confiscated my press pass briefly after I wrote an unpopular story about the FBI's interest in collecting intelligence on anti-Iraq war demonstrations in the United States. To John Ashcroft and his aides, my coverage reflected a bias. To me, it reflected a healthy, essential skepticism—the kind that was missing from much of the media's early reporting after 9/11, both at home in the administration's war on terror and abroad in the run-up to the war in Iraq.

And what's so typical of this crowd, guys like Cheney who really think they are the smartest guys in the room, is that they can out and out lie to reporters and the American public even when they must KNOW that the recipients of their lies know the truth. That's a rare gift.

On that December afternoon in the White House, the gathered officials attacked on several fronts. There was never any serious legal debate within the administration about the legality of the program, Bush's advisers insisted. The Justice Department had always signed off on its legality, as required by the president. The few lawmakers who were briefed on the program never voiced any concerns. From the beginning, there were tight controls in place to guard against abuse. The program would be rendered so ineffective if disclosed that it would have to be shut down immediately.

All these assertions, as my partner Jim Risen and I would learn in our reporting, turned out to be largely untrue. Jim and I had already learned about much of the internal angst within the administration over the legality of the NSA program at the outset of our reporting, more than a year earlier in the fall of 2004.

It wasn't until Risen basically told the paper that he would put the wiretapping story in his book State of War that the Times got serious about publishing it. And even after their reporting uncovered all the ins and outs of the story - and how the debate reached the highest levels - the Bushies were about to go so far as blocking publication through a "Pentagon Papers-type injunction." (This led the Times to publishing the story online the night before they put it in the paper.)

There's only one reason for this: because the Administration knew what they were doing was flagrantly illegal, and at the time thought they wouldn't be able to wiggle their way out of it. The extraordinary lengths to which they wanted to go to spike the story speaks only to the enormity of the crime. We still don't know the extent of it, but Lichtblau and Risen gave us a road map to follow, and Mark Klein and the EFF and the ACLU are continuing down that path today. For now, the Congress hasn't put up a roadblock. But add this excerpt, and Lichtblau's forthcoming book, to the pile of cautionary tales which should give any Blue Dog or Jello Jay pause before they eviscerate the rule of law.

That issue looks to be in a stalemate for now. What is far more revealing in this story is how utterly shameless this crew, which should have a restraining order barring them from coming within 100 yards of Washington, has always been. A responsible media would be churning out story after story about the breathtaking state of lawlessness inside the White House, viewing it in historical context and talking about the pall they've cast over our nation. As it is, everybody wants to forget it. But that would be a crucial mistake. There should be no binding up of wounds and moving on for the sake of the nation. In fact, for the sake of the nation we must do just the opposite: have a full recounting of the facts and a full prison cell for everyone who participated in this wreck.

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The Great Disconnect

I don't but all of this "I'm-a gonna leave the party and vote for McCain if my candidate loses" stuff. It's something people say in the heat of battle but rarely is there actually follow-through. I don't remember a ton of reporting about George Bush's nasty primary campaign causing McCain voters to switch to Gore, which was picked up in some post-primary polls, so this is also a media creation, something to pontificate about. And for her part Hillary Clinton is not interested in doing that kind of damage to the country. After the primary it'll be both the nominee and the loser's job to unify the party against the Republicans, and I have little doubt that they'll be able to do it.

Clinton was asked by a questioner in the audience here what she would tell frustrated Democrats who might consider voting for McCain in the general election out of spite.

“Please think through this decision,” Clinton said, laughing and emphasizing the word “please.”

“It is not a wise decision for yourself or your country.”

The crowd applauded loudly.

At the rank-and-file supporter level, I think the damage will eventually be minimal. At the fat-cat big-money boy and girl level, I think they will consider an Obama nomination something of a betrayal. The Clinton campaign did not disavow their big-money donor "shakedown" letter to Nancy Pelosi because they really do think they own the party, as some rich people tend to think about a lot of things they try to purchase. These are people who enjoyed the DLC types in the party helping them out with their businesses and their taxes, and they remain loyal to even the Lieberman fringes because they've paid for those types of politicians for years.

Chris Bowers had the sharpest post I've seen on the primary in quite some time. While it's not perfect (I think a lot of the unelected superdelegates are merely activists, using my experience in California as a guide), I think he's hit on something.

The 2008 nomination campaign has generated quite a bit of talk about internal divides in the Democratic Party: young vs. old, wealthy vs. working class, African-America vs. Latino, male vs. female, etc. However, for my money, the most interesting divide by far remains the full-blown activist class war that the nomination has revealed. A changing of guard is taking place in the Democratic Party, and it might not be long before the entire Democratic Party leadership is transformed.

Consider the current delegate counts from primaries, and from superdelegates who currently hold public office:

Primary delegate totals: Obama 1,081.5--1,063.5 Clinton
Supers who hold public office: Obama 99--96 Clinton

Tight as a glove. The "public" portion of the Democratic nomination campaign shows Obama only narrowly ahead of Clinton, and the campaign in a virtual tie. However, now look at the delegate totals for caucuses and for supers who do not currently hold public office:

Supers who do not hold public office: Clinton 150--110 Obama (58%-42%)
Caucus delegate totals: Obama 334--190 Clinton (64%-36%)

While publicly elected officials and primary voters are virtually split between the two candidates, the Democratic Party leadership heavily favors Clinton and the highly engaged activists who keep the party's electoral engine running heavily favor Obama. This divide between the party leadership and the rising, activist base points strongly toward an ongoing battle in the party that online we have deemed "the silent revolution." While the other demographic divides listed above have longstanding cultural legacies that go well beyond a single election or political party, it is truly shocking to see such a huge gap between a party's leadership and that party's most dedicated activists. At least in theory, these are two groups of people who should be on the same page.

They're not because for too long, the Democratic Party's leadership was defined by past victories from the Clinton years. And that leadership is simply wrong for the historical moment. The Obama ground campaign, like the Dean campaign before it, is going to bring in a whole new class of leaders and activists who will be able to outwork and outmaneuver an ossified leadership class. The fat cats with the $10,000 checks for the DCCC are irrelevant in this environment. Obama raised $175 million or something and barely touched them. A more informed, more engaged political culture is going to demand transparency and put an end to unelected elites controlling the party. It's not going to happen overnight, but like Bowers said, this disconnect is both striking and untenable.

It's pretty gratifying to be on the right side of this for a change. Tomorrow I'll be driving up to San Jose for the California Democratic Party convention to witness the silent revolution in action. I ran for and snagged a spot in the DSCC in 2007, and I see a concerted strategy by the progressive grassroots to make more inroads into the party leadership. This includes running progressives in seats where they will be able to appoint party officials, which accounts for about a third of all delegates. This is nuts and bolts kind of stuff and the progressive grassroots is really thinking this through.

Despite the pie fight primary, I'm optimistic about being a Democrat. I think the dinosaurs' time has passed. A new era is dawning.

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End This War

The events of today in Baghdad and Basra and Hilla and Kut just reinforce the need to end this war immediately, responsibly, and without delay. The political situation is a shambles, all sides of the sectarian divide are at odds, and our troops are nothing but targets. The metrics by which "victory" can be reasonably counted, political reconciliation, reconstruction, etc., are not moving forward and haven't for years. There's simply nothing more our military can do and we need to get out.

The Congressional challengers that have stepped forward with the Responsible Plan to end the war have shown a great deal of courage. So far the only criticism I've seen of it falls along the predictable lines of "What if it doesn't work," which of course is a giveaway that the critic has no endgame strategy of their own. Today Chris Hayes had a great story in The Nation about the Responsible Plan.

In the face of this official indifference to public opinion, it is tempting to succumb to despair. The antiwar strategy, after all, has not been static. In the run-up to the war, organizers managed to pull together the largest simultaneous worldwide demonstrations in history. That didn't work. Then the antiwar movement channeled much of its energy into electoral politics, helping to elect Democratic majorities in both houses. That hasn't worked either. So we find ourselves in the situation of Beckett's protagonist in Worstward Ho: "Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better."

Although the electoral strategy has not yet borne fruit, it is still the most viable option, barring a draft or a radical turn in public opinion that would once again bring people en masse into the streets. (There are, of course, parallel strategies to be pursued. Passing a ban on mercenaries in Iraq would make the occupation untenable.) The question, then, becomes how to create the electoral conditions that maximize the power and representation of the majority who want the war ended. The antiwar caucus doesn't have enough votes to override a delusional President or enough members willing to bear the political risk of cutting off funding for the war. The solution to this impasse is, in the words of Congressional candidate Darcy Burner, to elect "more and better Democrats"--Democrats who have publicly committed to pursuing a legislative strategy to end the war.

So at Take Back America, Burner--a former Microsoft manager from the Seattle suburbs who narrowly missed unseating a GOP incumbent in 2006--with nine other Democratic Congressional challengers released A Responsible Plan to End the War. Developed in collaboration with retired military officers and national security professionals, the plan attracted the support of fifteen additional Democratic Senate and House challengers in the first week after it was unveiled (see Unlike the withdrawal plans offered by both Democratic presidential candidates, the Responsible Plan opposes any residual forces as well as permanent military bases. It flatly states, "We must stop counter-productive military operations by U.S. occupation forces, and end our military presence in Iraq." It looks toward restoring "Constitutional checks and balances and fix[ing] the ways in which our governmental, military, and civil institutions have failed us." It also addresses the need to take responsibility for a humanitarian crisis in which thousands of Iraqis who worked with US forces are in danger and millions are displaced across the region.

As an organizer working on the Responsible Plan stressed to me, it is an explicitly legislative road map, to be pursued by Congress with or without a President committed to withdrawal. Among other actions the plan calls for war funding to be brought into the normal budgetary process, as opposed to the ersatz emergency supplementals, which detach the cost of the war from the rest of the nation's discretionary spending. The plan also highlights more than a dozen bills that have already been introduced, like HR 2247, the Montgomery GI Bill for Life Act of 2007, which the signatories would support if elected.

The activism has simply worn itself down working from the outside in. We have to work from the inside out. And that means getting as many candidates as possible to endorse the Responsible Plan so we can deliver a mandate for its policies in the fall. The Washington Post had a nice piece on this as well today. In the wake of the tragic news out of Iraq, it's almost an act of criminal proportions NOT to do all you can as a lawmaker to end this war once and for all. This plan is a road map to end the war and to end the funnel effect which always seems to push us toward war. It's a strategy that forces the other side to react to us on a national security issue. It's just sensible policy in the final analysis. We need it more than ever.

One other thing, we need to be, as Naomi Klein and Jeremy Scahill put it, be players and not cheerleaders and use the leverage we have as a movement to force this plan up through the ranks. I'm tired of feeling helpless about this war so I choose not to. Naysayers are rampant throughout the blogosphere but activists are sometimes rare. Everyone has the ability to be an activist.

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Hope For Justice

Activism and relentless focus from progressives have yielded fruit. Don Siegelman is free pending appeal.

Former Gov. Don Siegelman will be released from prison, after the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals granted him an appeal bond, the lead prosecutor in the case said.

Acting U.S. Attorney Louis Franklin said he received a courtesy call from the court today. "He's going to be released," Franklin said.

He said he was disappointed but said, "The 11th Circuit has the discretion to do that and I respect that."

...I just got off the phone with Hiram Eastland, one of Siegelman's lawyers, who said that today the appeals court had issued a "straightforward" four-page order simply finding that there were, indeed, "substantial questions" raised by Siegelman's appeal. The ruling overruled the controversial finding by the district judge in the case, which had sent Siegelman immediately to prison after his conviction.

The House Judiciary Committee was already seeking Siegelman's temporary release to testify before them, and now that he will be released, I expect that hearing will take place.

The Siegelman case is maybe the clearest case of Bush's Justice Department misconduct, and Karl Rove is right in the middle of all of it. Rove had better give Gold Bars Luskin a call - time for some more billable hours.

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Old Corporate Democrats Never Die

They just go to K Street.

Rep. Albert Wynn (D-Md.) is expected to announce Thursday afternoon that he will leave the House in June to join a Washington, D.C., law firm, according to Democratic sources.

Wynn was defeated in February in his bid for a ninth term when he lost the Democratic primary to challenger Donna Edwards.

They can all go to K Street for all I care, and spend their time lobbying actual Democrats who beat them out for their seats. People like Donna Edwards.

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Return On Success

So Bush today scolded the nattering nabobs of negativism on Iraq and claimed that the country is making good progress toward political reconciliation.

As if on cue, news came out that two Americans had been killed in rocket attacks inside the Green Zone, the city of Baghdad is under a weekend curfew, per MSNBC all Green Zone personnel has been told to stay inside fortified areas, and the Iraqi Army may have "faltered" in Basra:

Iraq’s Prime Minister was staring into the abyss today after his operation to crush militia strongholds in Basra stalled, members of his own security forces defected and district after district of his own capital fell to Shia militia gunmen.

With the threat of a civil war looming in the south, Nouri al-Maliki’s police chief in Basra narrowly escaped assassination in the crucial port city, while in Baghdad, the spokesman for the Iraqi side of the US military surge was kidnapped by gunmen and his house burnt to the ground.

Saboteurs also blew up one of Iraq's two main oil pipelines from Basra, cutting at least a third of the exports from the city which provides 80 per cent of government revenue, a clear sign that the militias — who siphon significant sums off the oil smuggling trade — would not stop at mere insurrection.

Or, as Bush would put it, "good progress".

It's time more than ever for leading Democrats to speak up on the war. The country is in flames.

UPDATE: New York Times:

During a briefing in Baghdad on Wednesday, a British military official said that of the nearly 30,000 Iraqi security forces involved in the assault, almost 16,000 were Basra police forces, which have long been suspected of being infiltrated by the same militias the assault was intended to root out [...]

Though American and Iraqi officials have insisted that the operation was not singling out a particular group, fighting appeared to focus on Mahdi-controlled neighborhoods. In fact, some witnesses said, neighborhoods controlled by rival political groups seemed to be giving government forces safe passage, as if they were helping them to strike at the Mahdi Army.

Even so, the Mahdi fighters seemed to hold their ground. Witnesses said that from the worn, closely packed brick buildings of one Mahdi stronghold, the Hayaniya neighborhood, Mahdi fighters fired mortars, rocket-propelled grenades, automatic weapons and sniper rifles at seemingly helpless Iraqi Army units pinned on a main road outside, their armored vehicles unable to enter the narrow streets [...]

A Basra newspaper editor who asked that his name not be used for fear of reprisals said most residents despised the Mahdi Army and welcomed the assault. But he said it was obvious that the central government had not consulted with local commanders in planning the assault, citing the inability of the armored vehicles to fit through city streets. But support for the assault already seems to be eroding in several neighborhoods, as militiamen retained control of their strongholds and residents were confined in their homes. “The Mahdi Army is still controlling most of these places,” the editor said. “The result is negative.”

Col. Abbas al-Tamimi, media officer for the 14th Iraqi Army Division operating in the city, said he expected the fighting to escalate. “The gunmen have heavier and more sophisticated weapons than we have,” he said.

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CA House Races Roundup - March 2008

Welcome back to the California House races roundup for March. The races are coming into focus, with new challengers entering the fray before the March 7 deadline, and some actual campaigning between candidates (shocking!). And with the DCCC looking at four races in the state, California will certainly be a battleground in Congress in November.

We also know with a fair degree of certainty that Jackie Speier will be the next Representative in CA-12, after Lawrence Lessig declined to run. The initial primary is April 8 and Speier is heavily favored.

So that leaves just one Democratic seat in any degree of question, and I've decided to expand to write about 13 Republican-held seats that have varying degrees of challenges. Overall, Democrats are running in 18 of the 19 seats currently held by Republicans, and 52 of 53 seats overall. Only Kevin McCarthy in CA-22 (Bakersfield) is uncontested AFAIK. You can track these races yourself with the 2008 Race Tracker wiki.

A couple notes: I've changed the percentage of Democratic turnout in the February 5 primary statistics to reflect the final numbers from the Secretary of State's office. As you'll see, six of the thirteen Republican-held seats mentioned had majority Democratic turnout. Very encouraging. Also, I've noted where applicable which challengers have endorsed the Responsible Plan to End The War In Iraq. My hope is that eventually every candidate will do so; it will absolutely help them in their campaigns to show some leadership and offer a comprehensive strategy to end the war and change our conversation around national security.


1. CA-11. Incumbent: Jerry McNerney. Main challenger: Dean Andal. Cook number: R+3. % Dem turnout in the Presidential primary: 53.7%. DCCC defended. In researching this race, I've noticed that Jerry McNerney gets excellent press inside his district. He's moved to more comfortable policy areas for him, like renewable energy and the green economy. And he was pretty bold in standing up to the fearmongers who ran ads in his district against him about the FISA bill. The NRCC found some coins in the couch and paid for a "Vote McNerney Out" website in support of their challenger Dean Andal. But the percentage of Democratic turnout in the district reflects the fact that the demographics really have shifted here. So, good luck, NRCC.


I'm going to do three tiers in setting apart the top 13 seats where we have challenges to Republican incumbents.

First Tier

1. CA-04. Last month: 1. Open seat. Dem. challenger: Charlie Brown. Repub. challengers: Doug Ose, Tom McClintock. PVI #: R+11. % Dem turnout in primary: 44.7. DCCC targeted. This race is really heating up. The Tom McClintock welfare queen story has legs, and may damage him in his primary fight against former US Rep. Doug Ose. A guy running as the ultimate rock-ribbed fiscal conservative can't be seen enriching himself on the public dole. The Ose-McClintock primary is getting nasty, with McClintock saying things like "He is one of those congressman that has squandered away our rights." Meanwhile, Charlie Brown has kept his promises by donating $17,500 to veterans care providers, an event which got great press. He also took the endorsement of VoteVets PAC and won an online poll with the veterans' group, yielding $5,000 for his campaign. CA-04 is most definitely still in play.

2. CA-26. Last month: 2. Incumbent: David Dreier. Challenger: Russ Warner. PVI #: R+4. % Dem. turnout: 50.2. DCCC targeted. The first real misstep of the campaign from David Dreier came this month, as he misstated his earnings from stock sales (to the tune of $263,000) in financial disclosure reports. Russ Warner pounced on it, and Dreier tried to make excuses, but it fits into the narrative of him being out of touch with the district.

Kristin Ponts, campaign manager for Warner, said, “The idea that David Dreier, who has been in Congress for 27 years, wouldn’t know how to fill out a basic financial disclosure form is absurd.”

Warner called the report an example of the “scandal-plagued culture of corruption” in Washington. He said that it was “no surprise given these recent failures to comply with House ethics rules” that Dreier chose to vote against stronger rules being adopted in the House.

The creation of an independent house ethics office was recently approved by a 229-182 vote with opposition from most Republicans.

That's a fighting Democrat right there. Dreier also has a Republican primary challenge, though it doesn't look to be that big a deal.

3. CA-50. Last month: 3. Incumbent: Brian Bilbray. Challengers: Nick Leibham, Cheryl Ede. PVI #: R+5. % Dem. turnout: 50.8. DCCC targeted. The press is starting to come around in thinking that this is a legitimate race. Nick Leibham was profiled in an interview by Lucas O'Connor that was pretty revealing. I liked this:

We win this fight because their platform is old and it's worn out...The Reagan Revolution...which started really in 1964 with Goldwater's culminated in 1980 and 1994 and the end of the Bush years are a bookend. It's tired, it's played out, and it no longer offers up a positive agenda for America. This isn't just a change election in the sense of Democrats or Republicans. This is a paradigm shifting election and Democrats can capture that...they've got a lot of work to do but we can capture it and I think the pendulum is swinging our way.

Cheryl Ede, who's been endorsed by Progressive Democrats of America, has a base of support in the district, as evidenced by this account of an Escondido Democratic Club meeting where Leibham's policy stances were questioned as perhaps being too conservative. I think it's great to be having this debate, and having Democrats locally move their candidates to the most representative positions. That can only help in the fall.

Second Tier

4. CA-45. Last month: 4. Incumbent: Mary Bono Mack. Challengers: Paul Clay, David Hunsicker, Julie Bornstein. PVI #: R+3. % Dem. turnout: 51.3. As seen by the majority Democratic turnout in the primary, this is a district that's ripe for a takeover. And I'm intrigued by the prospect of proven electoral winner Julie Bornstein rising to the challenge. Bono Mack is married to a guy in Florida and lives in Washington. Bornstein is someone who's represented the district and can do the same in the Congress. And her son is currently serving in Iraq, which is undeniably powerful. She announced her candidacy on the fifth anniversary of the war. Her area of expertise is affordable housing, which is a sorely needed perspective in Washington, too. Keep an eye on this race, it could easily go top-tier.

5. CA-46. Last month: 7. Incumbent: Dana Rohrabacher. Challenger: Debbie Cook (Responsible Plan endorser). PVI #: R+6. % Dem. turnout: 47.2. This is going to be the most fun race of the cycle, no doubt about it. Dana Rohrabacher is crazy. This is well-known. He spent an hour on the floor of the Congress recently ranting about a secret investigation about the 1993 WTC bombing that sounded like a first draft from an Oliver Stone movie. His former aide was just sentenced to three years in prison for molesting young boys. Howie Klein can give you all the background you'd ever need on Rohrabacher. And this year, we're actually poised to capitalize on this. Debbie Cook is the mayor of Huntington Beach, a solid Democrat who has endorsed the Responsible Plan. The Rohrabacher people are clearly nervous; they've been trying to use legal shenanigans to remove "Mayor" from Cook's designation on the ballot. This was tossed out of court, but the strategy is to bleed Cook of money and resources and tangle her up in legal machinations. It's almost just as telling that Crazy Dana is teaming up with Maxine Waters and calling for a boycott of the Olympic opening ceremonies in Beijing in protest of the crackdown in Tibet. He's trying to moderate his nutball stances. He's scared.

6. CA-03. Last month: 5. Incumbent: Dan Lungren. Challenger: Bill Durston. PVI #: R+7. % Dem turnout: 51.8. As I've said earlier, this is the most Democratic seat currently held by a Republican. It had the highest Democratic turnout in February of any Republican-held seat, and it has the narrowest registration advantage, too. Bill Durston is a physician and a Vietnam combat veteran. He needs the resources, but a Democrat can win this district, and maybe some of the national money put into the neighboring district of CA-04 will wear off on people over here. Plus, Debra Bowen's relentless registration efforts have their best effect in the districts in and around Sacramento, and these days that means more registered Democrats. This one will be close.

Also, Dr. Durston wrote a song about war.

Third Tier

7. CA-52. Last month: 6. Open seat. Repub. challengers: several, including Duncan D. Hunter. Dem. challengers: Mike Lumpkin, Vicki Butcher. PVI #: R+9. % Dem. turnout: 47.2. Duncan Hunter is still favored, but Navy SEAL Commander Mike Lumpkin has been good at raising money, and this interview with him shows that he has a decent command of the issues. Green Beret Jim Hester dropped out to endorse Lumpkin. Much like in CA-50, Vicki Butcher has been endorsed by PDA, and will offer a nice progressive counter-weight in the primary. A contested primary can only help a novice candidate like this. Here's a not-so-decent story on the race.

8. CA-42. Last month: 10. Incumbent: Gary Miller. Challengers: Ron Shepston (Responsible Plan Endorser), Ed Chau. PVI #: R+10. % Dem. turnout: 44.0. Disclosure: I do some netroots work for Ron Shepston. You pretty much can't find Gary Miller anymore, he's gone so far underground, but Ron Shepston has become more visible of late. He endorsed the Responsible Plan, and he attacked Gary Miller for a $1.28 million dollar earmark that he placed in the 2005 highway bill, clearly to benefit his biggest campaign contributor. Ed Chau is also a bit of a mystery, although the LA County Labor Fed endorsed him. I can't imagine they'd put money into the primary, however.

9. CA-24. Last month: NR. Incumbent: Elton Gallegly. Challengers: Jill Martinez, Mary Pallant, Marta Jorgensen. PVI #: R+5. % Dem. turnout: 50.6. I decided to add this seat after seeing the Democratic turnout numbers from February. If the right candidate can raise enough money to be visible, this is a dark horse seat. Elton Gallegly is your basic rubber stamp Republican, and he flirted with retirement in 2006. Jill Martinez was the opponent that year, and Mary Pallant, my fellow 41st AD delegate, appears to be putting together a decent organization locally. PDA has endorsed Pallant, and she penned an op-ed in the Ventura County Star responding to Elton Gallegly's no new taxes screed in the same paper.

The congressman plays a numbers game with the people's money, while distorting history and facts. He feigns compassion for the nation's middle class and poor while protecting tax loopholes for megamillionaires and the well-connected few.

Gallegly's tax policy is inconsistent and unsound because it is too simplistic and relies upon the discredited notion of supply-side economics. The only thing that trickles down is massive debt to those least able to pay.

I love a strong an unabashed progressive in this district. Let's see what happens. Marta Jorgensen is also running in this district.

10. CA-44. Last month: 9. Incumbent: Ken Calvert. Challenger: Bill Hedrick. PVI #: R+6. % Dem. turnout: 49.3. Bill Hedrick is the only challenger for this seat headed into the primary, as Louis Vandenberg and Rogelio Morales have dropped out. Ken Calvert's corruption questions continue to grow, as he has sponsored legislation that would help some business partners back home. The fact that Democratic and Republican turnout was virtually tied in February shows that there's an opportunity here.

11. CA-41. Last month: 8. Incumbent: Jerry Lewis. Challengers: Tim Prince, Dr. Rita Ramirez-Dean. PVI #: R+9. % Dem. turnout: 46.3. Jerry Lewis just got a lifeline from the new US Attorney for Los Angeles. Thomas O'Brien disbanded the public corruption unit that would be investigating Lewis' corrupt actions on behalf of lobbyists. Dianne Feinstein is seeking answers on this, but the short answer is that Lewis is probably out of the woods on the indictment front.

12. CA-25. Last month: NR. Incumbent: Buck McKeon. Challenger: Jacquese Conaway. PVI #: R+7. % Dem. turnout: 50.9%. I threw this in because this is yet another seat where Democratic turnout outpaced Republican turnout in February. I know nothing about Jacquese Conaway other than her candidate website.

13. CA-48. Last month: NR. Incumbent: John Campbell. Challenger: Steve Young. PVI #: R+8. % Dem. turnout: 45.1. I really like Steve Young and the tireless work he's done to build the party in one of the reddest areas in the entire country. Visit his site, won't you?

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The High Broderists Come To Sacramento

Seeking to increase the statewide per capita vomit output, this $16 million dollar boondoggle called California Forward continued its weeklong rollout with yet another fawning article, this time from Shane Goldmacher.

Could late and unbalanced budgets, along with partisan gridlock, disappear from Sacramento?

That's the goal of a new bipartisan political foundation that unveiled its campaign Wednesday to improve state government, bringing along a three-year, $15.9 million budget and high hopes for overhauling the way the state does business.

If there's one thing we've seen over the years, it's that bipartisan unelected commissions really do change everything. After all, the Iraq Study Group got us out of the war, right?

"California cannot be a leader in the 21st century if its government is not functioning effectively and efficiently for the people of this state," said the group's co-chairman, Leon Panetta, a Democrat who has served in Congress and as chief of staff to President Clinton.

Thomas McKernan, a wealthy Republican activist in Orange County and CEO of the Automobile Club of Southern California, is the other co-chairman.

The foundation's leaders promised it will differ from past reform coalitions. As board member and former state Sen. Chuck Poochigian, a Fresno Republican, put it, California Forward has "the resources to get the job done."

You don't need ten cents to know what has to be done in California. You need to let elected officials govern. I believe in checks and balances, but here we have barriers and deadbolts. And guess what, the entire state understands this already. Well over 2/3 of the state believe major changes need to be employed in the budget process, like eliminating the stupid requirement allowing 1/3 of the legislature to block tax and budget proposals. Everyone gets that budget reform needs to reflect democracy.

But closing loopholes, while helpful, doesn't come close to real budget reform and restoration of the representative democracy and accountability that have been eroded for decades by an initiative process that encourages both ad-hoc automatic spending formulas and paralyzing revenue limits.

The governor properly points out that the common cycles of feast and famine – both in California and elsewhere – make little sense. But the fix is not more formulas. It's a return to a system of representative government that forces voters to make choices between good services and low taxes, and makes all politicians accountable instead of rewarding them, as the process does now, for fudging, borrowing and irresponsibility.

I don't think Peter Schrag was given $16 million dollars to come up with that.

Of course, it wouldn't be right to just advocate for democracy in Sacramento, because that would be too terribly "Democratic." It'd ruin the street cred of these sensible wise men, these moderate militants, who think that the best solution necessarily includes a little bit from the left and a little bit from the right, claiming that the real solution is just to tell lawmakers that "governing is more important than winning," because holding hands in a circle is the $16 million dollar answer. We actually need partisanship and a politics of contrast so voters can make real choices. This call for bipartisan solutions only goes out when progressive ideas are flourishing. Sacramento wasn't "broken" when the energy market was deregulated. It wasn't "broken" when Prop. 13 made it impossible for the state to gather expected revenue. It's only "broken" when a tiny group of Yacht Party Republicans are straining to hold back the tide of legitimate government with a proper revenue structure.

And by the way, guy from California Forward who emailed me within 10 minutes of the last time I wrote about this: don't bother. I've little interest of being assimilated into the Borg.

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Knock It Off

I'm on the record as saying that I have no problem with this Democratic primary trudging on until May or even June. But I'm not a superdelegate. And this seems to me like they'll shut it down if the Clintons continue with this nonsense.

At a time when Sen. Hillary Clinton is increasingly relying on superdelegates to vault her to the Democratic Party's nomination, a handful of undecided and pledged superdelegates are coming forward to say her campaign's tactics in recent weeks are doing more harm than good.

The Democratic Party insiders say they believe Clinton's direct attacks against Sen. Barack Obama in recent days are hurting the party and its chances in November, and also say it is showing a calculated, desperate-to-win side of Clinton that they dislike.

"In looking at the manner in which the candidates are campaigning, I think it would be best they focused their attention on the presumptive nominee and showed our party which one is better in campaigning against McCain," said Garry Shay, a California superdelegate, who announced his support for Clinton [...]

"I don't think anybody's saying 'step aside,' but 'stop with the garbage' is what people want to say," the delegate said. "Just chill a little bit."

As activists committed to the party, they said, they have been impressed by Obama's ability to bring new Democrats into the fold, and they worry that Clinton is threatening that.

"We like the fact that there is a candidate that has won so many states overwhelmingly," the delegate said. "We're feeling her advisors are leading her in a path that diminishes her as well as him." [...]

The final straw, though, were Clinton's comments Tuesday, when she said the Rev. Jeremiah Wright "would not have been my pastor." Several superdelegates saw it as a direct, personal attack on Obama.

"I think it's very dangerous for any candidate to constantly thrum on what they perceive as sensational criticisms of their opponent," said Debra Kozikowski, an uncommitted superdelegate from Massachusetts. "I would be more likely to respond positively to discussions of issues that effect Americans versus what might be perceived as character flaws." [...]

The delegates said there is little the party or its leaders can do to prevent the current back and forth. But some said they were increasingly in touch with Clinton campaign officials to say their support is in jeopardy.

"Uncommitted delegates can come out and say, 'If you don't stop this now, we won't vote for you,'" one uncommitted superdelegate said.

This is pretty much where I'm at. The fact of remaining in the race is not a problem at all. It's the style of campaigning, the "Tonya Harding strategy," that's the problem.

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Fill 'Er Up

That's the thing about attacking a popular militia group in the most oil-rich city in the country, they have options:

Saboteurs blew up one of Iraq’s two main oil export pipelines in southern Iraq on Thursday, a Southern Oil Company official told Reuters.

”This morning saboteurs blew up the pipeline transporting crude from Zubair 1 by placing bombs beneath it. The pipeline was severely damaged,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

This will probably stall 1/3 of all oil exports out of Basra. And the Mahdi Army made intimations that this would be their next move, so this is obviously a result of the Maliki invasion.

Meanwhile, Baghdad is so safe that a spokesman for the security plan has been abducted. And the battles have widened to the entire Shi'a region between Baghdad and Basra. The Mahdi Army "opened fire on civilians in downtown Baghdad," which doesn't seem like the actions of a group under cease-fire. After all the "success" of the surge, we're back to open warfare on the streets of Iraq. Tell me again how we're winning?

...Apparently Bush said in a speech today that "the groundwork had been laid for political reconciliation." Only the ground is covered in oil from the blown pipeline and the blood of martyrs, I guess.

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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Repression In Tibet

The arrest numbers of activists yearning for a free Tibet continue to rise. Just between the publication of this New York Times piece and this Washington Post piece a few hundred were detained. Of course they've also opened fire on protesters as well. The way this is playing out is eerily similar to the way the military junta in Burma re-established order, by arresting everyone in sight and blacking out the global media. Now they're sending journalists in for a dog and pony show.

A small group of hand-picked journalists touched down in Lhasa on the first government-led tour since China closed the tightly restricted region to foreigners last week, but it was unclear how much freedom they would have to report.

Meanwhile, experts from the government-established China Tibetology Research Center echoed leaders in blaming the Dalai Lama for deliberately sparking the protests in order to separate Tibet from China and sabotage the Aug. 8-24 Beijing Olympics.

China has been treating the broad unrest and, as of Tuesday, still-spreading protests as a law-and-order issue that has mostly been contained. But rights groups and foreign leaders continue to pressure China to exercise restraint, open Tibetan areas to foreign observers and sit down for frank talks with the Dalai Lama, with some even raising the possibility of a boycott of the opening ceremony of the Olympics.

Repressive societies don't deviate much from the plan. Meanwhile the global community is finally coming around to recognize the scale of the problem. In addition to the expected outspoken human rights defenders, like Bishop Tutu and Avaaz (one million people have signed their petition), the world powers are stepping up as well.

European leaders sharpened their tone over Tibet on Wednesday, as President Bush telephoned President Hu Jintao of China and urged a resumption of negotiations with the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan spiritual leader.

Even as Chinese diplomats sought to defend the crackdown on protesters in Tibet, officials said they were considering sending a fact-finding mission to Beijing, signaling an intensification of international concern over the violent repression in the region.

In London, President Nicolas Sarkozy of France told a joint session of the House of Commons and the House of Lords during a state visit that Britain and France shared a responsibility to urge the Chinese leadership to respect human rights and cultural identity.

That goal could only be achieved if there was “true dialogue” between China and the Dalai Lama, he said, a day after hinting that France might boycott the opening ceremonies of the Olympics in Beijing this summer.

Obviously, the Olympics are a bit of leverage for the world, though it's silly that it should be (Bush, of course, isn't going that far). But China is very concerned about its image, and beating and jailing Tibetans isn't helping.

Speaking of image, if Gavin Newsom wants to become the Governor of California in 2010, he would do well not to hide the Olympic torch route and set up free speech zones to try and curtail expected protests. That's not going to put a smile on any liberal's face.

China is truly sacrificing their emerging status as a world power with this maneuver. I know they're an economic juggernaut, but this sends a message to the world that is being received poorly. The Tibetans can and will be free, and China's remaining in denial will only harm them more in the end.

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Nice Party You've Got Here, Be A Shame If Something Happened To It

I'm not sure what the Clinton campaign seeks to gain by sending an extortion letter to Nancy Pelosi and the DCCC.

As Democrats, we have been heartened by the overwhelming response that our fellow Democrats have shown for our party's candidates during this primary season. Each caucus and each primary has seen a record turnout of voters. But this dynamic primary season is not at an end. Several states and millions of Democratic voters have not yet had a chance to cast their votes.

We respect those voters and believe that they, like the voters in the states that have already participated, have a right to be heard. None of us should make declarative statements that diminish the importance of their voices and their votes. We are writing to say we believe your remarks on ABC News This Week on March 16th did just that.

During your appearance, you suggested super-delegates have an obligation to support the candidate who leads in the pledged delegate count as of June 3rd , whether that lead be by 500 delegates or 2. This is an untenable position that runs counter to the party's intent in establishing super-delegates in 1984 as well as your own comments recorded in The Hill ten days earlier:

"I believe super-delegates have to use their own judgment and there will be many equities that they have to weigh when they make the decision. Their own belief and who they think will be the best president, who they think can win, how their own region voted, and their own responsibility.'"

Super-delegates, like all delegates, have an obligation to make an informed, individual decision about whom to support and who would be the party's strongest nominee. Both campaigns agree that at the end of the primary contests neither will have enough pledged delegates to secure the nomination. In that situation, super-delegates must look to not one criterion but to the full panoply of factors that will help them assess who will be the party's strongest nominee in the general election.

We have been strong supporters of the DCCC. We therefore urge you to clarify your position on super-delegates and reflect in your comments a more open view to the optional independent actions of each of the delegates at the National Convention in August. We appreciate your activities in support of the Democratic Party and your leadership role in the Party and hope you will be responsive to some of your major enthusiastic supporters.

That's just sad. The big-money boys did this to Howard Dean too, when his 50-state strategy didn't meet with their satisfaction. And he went ahead and implemented it and put us far ahead of Republicans on the ground all over the country. GOP incumbents are dropping like flies because they see the reality of going up against serious political muscle in an election with some headwinds. We have a decent pickup shot in Alabama, for crying out loud. And those Republican incumbents don't want to pay the bills for their own campaign committees because they see it as wasted money. (What's nutty is that even Joe Lieberman gave $100K to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee in December - he knows where his bread is buttered - that's money designed to bribe the leadership into keeping him in the party).

Dean defied these big-money morons and beat them all. So they can threaten and intimidate Nancy Pelosi and the D-Trip all they want, and say they're going to take their wallets and go home. They don't own the party anymore and it must be killing them.

The idea that Pelosi should say "How high" when these fat cats tell her to jump, and that she should claim that ALL delegates, not just superdelegates, should exercise independent judgment no matter what the will of the people expressed, is just nuts.

Jerome Armstrong said today that this Gallup poll, which suggests that 28% of all Clinton supporters would vote for McCain if she loses, means that Obama supporters should "stop to think a bit about not alienating the Clinton voters that they'd need to win over McCain." You'd think the reciprocal would be true as well.

(By the way, those Gallup numbers are in the heat of a primary campaign, and can reasonably be seen as the highest possible point for them. Also, the numbers are FACTORED INTO current head-to-head matchups against McCain. In other words, McCain is getting as many crossover Democrat voters as he can possibly hope to get in November, and he's still generally tied with Obama and Clinton. Meaning that he's doomed.)

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CNA Forces Insurer to Buckle, Provide Life-Saving Care for Sick California Teen

The CNA has been in the headlines for other reasons lately, but I don't think anyone can discount the incredible activism they have engaged in on behalf of patients being denied life-saving medical treatment. Word now comes of another victory against the "murder by spreadsheet" insurance industry who felt like saving a kid's life wasn't good for business.

In the face of a national campaign on behalf of Nick Colombo, insurance giant PacifiCare has reversed its decisions and agreed to critically needed cancer treatments for the 17-year-old from Placentia, Calif. The decision came after the company was overwhelmed by calls organized by Nick’s friends and family, along with RNs from the California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee, and netroots activists.

Over 100 of Nick’s classmates, friends of the family with their young children, and nurses protested in front of the insurance company headquarters this morning to demand that the approval be put in writing, which a PacifiCare representative, surrounded by T.V. cameras, and promised to do.

“I am extremely happy about PacifiCare’s reversal, said Ricky Colombo, Nick’s 19-year old brother. “The goal was to get treatment for Nick, and CNA/NNOC and other allies helped us with that. We decided to go through with the rally in order to get their decision on the record and make sure they back up their words—and also because there are thousands of others in similar situations who can’t get the care they need. We feel blessed to have this community supporting our family.”

In the fight for universal health care, all sides of the debate on the left are going to be instrumental. The CNA's tenacity and effectiveness in organizing "patient revolts" like this is very valuable, particularly to show the inequities in the current broken health care system. Activists shut down PacifiCare's phone system on multiple occasions before they capitulated.

To beat the powerful interests that want to maintain the status quo you're going to need every activist and every strategy you can find. And we're going to win this fight, one patient at a time.

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I Picked The Wrong Day To Tell Everybody We're Winning In Iraq

John McCain gave another "sound and fury signifying nothing" speech today, the centerpiece of which being his belief that we're winning in Iraq. Only problem was that it happened as Iraq literally goes up in flames amongst fighting between Shi'a factions, and MSNBC LITERALLY broke away from his speech to show some of the carnage. Crooks and Liars has the video.

The speech itself, including a call to kick Russia out of the G-8 and restart the Cold War, and a smily happy depiction of Iraq as a grand paradise while bombs are raining down on the Green Zone and everywhere else, was an exercise in ignorance. The speech showed a reliance on military action to solve any global problem, and was such boilerplate that he recycled large portions of a pro-war column he wrote in OCTOBER 2001.

This is the same kind of ignorant rhetoric that characterizes the Pentagon's position that the current chaos in Iraq is a sign of the surge's success (tell that to the 70 dead and 300 wounded since yesterday). More of the same, McSame as Bush.

When you actually hear a real perspective from Iraqis and those who know the region, the platitude of "we're winning" becomes nothing more than a mockery. Yes, Iraq IS worse off after five years of occupation, and such a statement shouldn't be rejected out of hand because it's not "serious" as defined by foreign policy elites who have been wrong about everything in this war and occupation. McCain is wedded to these ignorant statements and a warped sense of "honor" that demands more and longer wars. The public will NOT stand for it.

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Sensible Centrist Crisis Manufacturing

This is a dumb article.

Presidential hopefuls are mum on Medicare and Social Security woes

With the presidential campaign going full tilt, a new government report on a big national problem is usually followed by volleys of rhetoric from the candidates. But on Tuesday, when the annual report on the precarious state of Medicare and Social Security came out, the reaction was not exactly deafening.

The two programs on which millions of elderly Americans depend are apparently just too hot to handle -- especially since any realistic solution is likely to involve a politically unpalatable mix of higher taxes and lower benefits.

Apparently, the candidates aren't worshipping at the High Broderist altar of entitlement reform quite enough for the refined tastes of media elites. It's an easy issue to demagogue ("They're going to run out of money!") but nobody wants to tell the truth about it.

The trustee's report on Medicare and Social Security showed the programs "running out of money" at the same time in the future as the year before. In other words there's no financial deterioration in these programs, and they have massive trust funds to cover the distant possibility that expenditures will outpace receipts.

Medicare is a problem, but it's a symptom of the much larger problem of soaring costs in health care. And both Democratic candidates have extremely detailed programs to deal with that in a comprehensive way. So "being mum about Medicare" apparently means "having a plan to fix health care including Medicare."

Social Security is most assuredly NOT a problem. As Paul Krugman notes, statistically speaking the program is in better shape in 2008 than it is in 1993. This doesn't compute because we've been fed this line, and are continuing to be fed this line, that the baby boomers are all retiring and the entitlement system is a minute away from collapse. This has become hardened conventional wisdom that "everybody knows," and so when the Secretary of the Treasury comes out and claims that government benefit programs are in trouble, everyone nods sagely. Happens to be untrue, and you'll never guess the reason why: undocumented immigrants.

(L)ast year the trustees estimated that Social Security had an overall 75-year deficit of 1.95% of taxable payroll. This year it's 1.70%. That's a pretty substantial improvement. What caused it? [...]

In previous reports, the other-immigrant population was projected using assumed annual numbers of net other immigrants with a static age-sex distribution. For this year's report, the annual numbers of net other immigrants are projected by explicitly modeling other immigrants and other emigrants separately.

Translation: instead of just pulling a net number out of a hat, the trustees built a model that estimated the actual demographic characteristics of both immigrants and emigrants. And guess what?

• Illegal immigrants tend to skew young. This benefits the system.

• Young people have more children than older people. This benefits the system.

• Some illegal immigrants pay taxes for a few years and then leave. This benefits the system.

Bottom line: "This year's report results in [...] a substantial increase in the number of working-age individuals contributing payroll taxes, but a relatively smaller increase in the number of retirement-age individuals receiving benefits in the latter half of the long-range period." Give or take a bit, it turns out that this shores up the Social Security system to the tune of around $13 billion per year. Thanks, illegal immigrants!

This is one of those issues where the "sensible realist" proposal is actually radically skewed to suit the needs of the "drown-the-government-in-the-bathtub" crowd. Entitlements are mostly fine. Health care itself is in crisis and needs major cost control reform, but Medicare and Social Security are successful government programs. That's why they must be demonized as "on the verge of collapse" by conservatives who must never allow the perspective that government can work to enter the mainstream, and a lazy media elite goes ahead and believes them.

I'm assuming that most people reading this kind of already know all this, but it's good fodder for your conversations with those who don't.

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Ron Shepston is a friend, and I've just signed on to be the netroots coordinator for his Congressional campaign. He's an avionics engineer, a Vietnam-era veteran, and a Daily Kos diarist who stepped up to contest a seat in CA-42 that was unopposed in 2006. Rep. Gary Miller is a complete slimeball and it's great that he'll have some competition this year. And it's all the better that he's showed some leadership and become the first California Congressional candidate to endorse the Repsonsible Plan to end the war in Iraq.

George Bush or the next President must give the order to prepare a plan to leave. Generals implement orders. From General Franks to General Petraeus, they have all attempted to plan to wage a war and occupation they didn’t want to wage. As a veteran, I know that generals have few choices – they could do their best to execute their orders, or leave the service.

Generals don’t get far by being negative so they will always look for a way to succeed. It’s no surprise that General Petraeus can sound positive in the face of such a daunting occupation. It’s part of his job [...]

When Darcy Burner first asked if I wanted to be part of the effort to create the plan I immediately said “yes”. I was grateful for the opportunity to be involved in something this important to the future of America, Iraq and in fact, the world.

The Responsible Plan will not only end the war but change the conversation around national security. As Darcy Burner put it in her op-ed in the Seattle Times, it became endlessly frustrating waiting for the elites in Washington to come up with a plan to end this war. So she built it herself, and is assembling a group of leaders that will enter Congress with a mandate for change.

This plan presents a set of actions that Congress can take to convert our current military approach in Iraq to a more effective civilian one that addresses the root problems we face. It proposes using the full strength of our nation to achieve our goals and strengthen our country, and includes measures to rebuild the military, expand the capabilities of the State Department, and keep our promises to returning veterans.

We can do all of these things and save hundreds of billions of dollars that can then be used here at home addressing our growing list of urgent needs: economic stimulus, affordable health care, better schools, improvements to infrastructure. Ever wondered why there is so little federal money to replace the aging and dangerous Highway 520 Bridge? Taxpayers in my congressional district alone have sunk roughly $1.5 billion into funding the war so far — money that now can't be spent here at home.

The national media like to say that Iraq is off the table, but voters in the 8th Congressional District don't seem to have gotten that memo. The voters I talk to understand that this war is undermining our country. Five years is long enough, and $3 trillion is too much; as a nation, we simply cannot afford this misguided war any longer.

Ron Shepston is at the forefront of this effort, and I invite you to support him with a donation so he can keep this message going. He's in a contested primary against a carpetbagger from Montebello, and considering that the primary will have low turnout, he needs some help from his friends. Getting a solid progressive like this as the nominee has benefits even if he doesn't win - a nominee appoints members of the California Democratic Party and enhances efforts to change the party from within. We need more people like Ron Shepston in public life. I'm proud to be part of his campaign.

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Bring It On, McSame

This is fantastic.

Senator John McCain does not plan to make any public statements during today's brief visit to The Inn at Spanish Bay in Pebble Beach.

But union families, organized through the Monterey Bay Labor Council, intend to make some of their own.

A union demonstration against the senator's economic policies will take place at noon at the Highway 1 entrance to Pebble Beach during McCain's $2,300-per-person fundraising luncheon. The demonstration is part of the AFL-CIO's recently launched $53 million "McCain Revealed" campaign, which focuses on McCain's support of President George W. Bush's economic policies, which the AFL-CIO claims have hurt working Americans.

McCain's spent three days here in California, giving speeches that show he's as out of touch with America's domestic and foreign policy challenges as he is unsuccessful with a teleprompter. Please come back, John, we'll leave the light on for ya. Between this labor muscle and a general distaste for Republicans, the more McSame wastes his time arguing for a third Bush term in California, the better.

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Today's Horror Show In Iraq

The cover of this "Battle of Basra" story in the mainstream media has been nauseating. It's being spun along the same familiar lines that has characterized the entire conversation on Iraq in this country. First of all they're focusing on Basra, when the unrest has spread all over Shia strongholds in the country. At least 70 deaths have been reported nationwide, including many in Sadr City in Baghdad.

Second of all, this is being called an "Iraqi mission" with "minimal support" from the United States. Air support is NEVER minimal. Air strikes are POUNDING various cities, with 10 civilians dead in airstrikes in Tikrit and American planes firing on residential areas of Sadr City. I know that Nouri al-Maliki is playing dress-up by traveling to Basra to personally direct the fighting, but believe me, there is PLENTY of US support.

Third of all, this is being seen as a test for the Iraqi security forces and not what it is, essentially an intra-Shiite sectarian battle for power. Maliki is trying to eliminate a rival, and invading a major population center in order to do it.

And now, the question: How will the U.S. media portray this? As the Iraqi Army cleaning up a renegade militia in Basra? Probably. But the Iraqi Army in Basra is mostly composed of another renegade militia--the Badr Corps, an organization founded by Iran and answerable to ISCI--the Shi'ite faction led by the Hakim family, Sadr's great rival. There are no heroes here. The Sadr movement is populist, nationalist, anti-Iranian, in favor of a strong central government...but it's also anti-American and oriented toward a stricter Islamic state than the current Maliki government is. The Hakim family's movement is both pro-American and pro-Iranian. It is federalist, rather than nationalist, in favor of a weak central government with a strong Shi'istan in the south (which would be heavily influenced by Iran).

What Klein doesn't mention is that the Badr movement is far more hollow than the Mahdi Army, which has a mass of popular support. We know that his cease-fire is one of the main reasons for security gains in Iraq. If he halts it, our troop numbers really aren't going to matter - hundreds more are going to die. The New York Times has a good in-depth piece today.

It is not clear how responsible the restive Mahdi militia commanders are for stalling progress in the effort to reduce violence. In recent weeks, commanders have protested continuing American and Iraqi raids and detentions of militia members.

If the cease-fire were to unravel, there is little doubt about the mayhem that could be stirred up by Mr. Sadr, who forced the United States military to mount two bloody offensives against his fighters in 2004 as much of the country exploded in violence [...]

“We are doing this in reaction to the unprovoked military operations against the Mahdi Army,” said a Mahdi commander who identified himself as Abu Mortada. “The U.S., the Iraqi government and Sciri are against us,” he said, referring to a rival Shiite group whose name has changed several times, and is now known as the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, which has an armed wing called the Badr Organization.

“They are trying to finish us,” the commander said. “They want power for the Iraqi government and Sciri.”

Let's go a little in-depth ourselves about SCIRI. As said before, they are very pro-Iranian and theocratic. With the tentative agreement to hold provincial elections in October, their survival is predicated on keeping their majorities in Basra and southern Iraq, instead of losing control to the Sadrists. This is a clash for political power being waged by force, and it's not some new idea but a sustained effort.

It is no secret that America's main ally in Iraq (and Iran's), the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI), is likely to lose ground to the more popular Sadrist current in the upcoming provincial elections (the Sadrist current boycotted the 2005 round). Absent some extracurricular activities to level the playing field that is. As Cernig noted quoting an AP article on Friday, ISCI, whose Iran-trained militia (the Badr Corp.) has heavily infiltrated Iraqi Security Forces, has been moving aggressively (in tandem with US forces) to help overcome what it lacks in popular appeal.

A Sadrist member of parliament alleged that the crackdown in Kut and elsewhere in the south was part of a move by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's Dawa party and [ISCI] to prevent al-Sadr's followers from winning control of key southern provinces in provincial elections expected this fall.

"They have no supporters in the central and southern provinces, but we do," Ahmed al-Massoudi told the AP. "If the crackdown against the Sadrists continues, we will begin consultations with other parliamentary blocs to bring down the government and replace it with a genuinely national one."

We know that the deadlock over provincial elections was broken with the possible aid of Fourthbranch Cheney, who was in the region last week, and just days later this offensive is launched. Spencer Ackerman plays this out a bit more.

As long as Maliki is in the prime minister's chair, and as long as we proclaim the Iraqi government he leads to be legitimate, Maliki effectively holds us hostage. "I need to go after Sadr," Maliki says. "The situation is unacceptable! In Basra, he threatens to take control of the ports, and in Baghdad, he's throwing my men out of their checkpoints. Would you allow the Bloods or the Crips to take over half of Los Angeles?" And as soon as he says that, we're trapped. It simply is not tenable for Petraeus to refuse a request for security assistance from the Prime Minister to deal with a radical militia.

Now, some Iraq-watcher friends of mine point out that this is absurd. "Sadr is, of course, a thug," they say, "but he's a nationalist. And he's far less beholden to Iran than the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq or Maliki's Da'wa Party -- both of whom we're supporting! And most importantly, Sadr remains perhaps the most popular figure in Shiite Iraq. Petraeus can do business with him. This doesn't make any sense!" And they're right. It doesn't. But as long as we sponsor the Iraqi political process -- and a Sadrist doesn't actually become premier himself -- this will keep happening.

The US military is being used as the muscle in an internal political fight, and thousands will be killed in the exchange. Imperial occupiers always get this wrong, picking sides based on expediency and always winding up angering large groups of the public. And yet John McCain continues to believe this is somehow a central front in the war against terror. That's absurd. Our troops are pawns in Iraq. Our real fight against extremism is in Afghanistan and Pakistan. We're being played as fools in Iraq.

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Strange Bedfellows

Yes, it's weird to see Hillary Clinton and Richard Mellon Scaife in the same room together.

I guess that if your last hope is to kneecap your opponent you might need the friendship of a professional smear merchant.

As Kevin Drum notes there was something of a detente in the works between Scaife and Clinton for some time. But just like seeing McCain hug Bush, the guy who whispered he had an illegitimate black baby, seeing Clinton and the guy who claimed she murdered Vince Foster hanging out together is unsettling. It's a question of personal dignity, honestly.

By the way Hillary's membership in the secretive right-wing prayer group "The Fellowship" is about to go mainstream. I don't want to have this who's-religion-is-acceptable debate but she brought up Rev. Wright with Mr. Scaife, so what's good for the goose, I guess.

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Fit McCain For Leg Irons

John McCain is a fugitive from justice. He spoke at the Los Angeles World Affairs Council a man on the lam. With every passing day, every fill-up on the Straight Talk Express, every sandwich, every long-distance phone call to a lobbyist friend, he is further breaking campaign finance law. He has overspent federal limits while remaining in the public system for the primaries. And the netroots is doing something about it.

Yesterday afternoon, FDL's Jane Hamsher filed a complaint with the FEC charging John McCain with violations of campaign finance law for spending beyond limits imposed by his decision to take public financing.

McCain has claimed he is backing off that decision, and justifies it with the fact that he never received any of that public money. However, the law clearly states that he is bound by those limits if he uses the promise of those funds in order to secure campaign loans -- something he absolutely did.

I signed on to this early, and I would have tried to make a citizen's arrest in LA today if I had been awake earlier (this is why I'm not a cop). You can sign on to the complaint as well here. The full text is here (PDF). This is a great action by the netroots.

Book 'em, Dan-o!

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