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

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Breaking The Culture Of Chumminess In Washington

This really makes no sense. I appreciate that Daniel Inouye and Ted Stevens have probably known each other for 50 years, and that Hawaii and Alaska have certain desires to stick together as states off the mainland and help each other out. But I wish Inouye would think about the America he wishes to see, and realize that Ted Stevens stands in front of that vision and blocks it with his every vote. Remaining neutral is fine, but holding a fundraiser for Stevens - who has enough shady characters around his canpaign that he could probably gather enough cash on his own - is beyond the pale. There are actually party rules against this that both Senators have habitually ignored. But with Mark Begich we actually have a shot at beating Sen. Series of Tubes this year, and I don't know how a Democrat in good conscience can do this.

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Obama And The Energy Future

Friends of the Earth, the newest and most forward-thinking environmental group, endorsed Barack Obama today, mainly because of his stance on the gas tax suspension.

“We endorse Senator Obama because we believe he is the best candidate for the environment,” said Friends of the Earth Action President Brent Blackwelder. “The ‘gas tax holiday’ debate is a defining moment in the presidential race. The two other candidates responded with sham solutions that won’t ease pain at the pump, but Senator Obama refused to play that typical Washington game. Instead, Obama called for real solutions that would make transportation more affordable and curb global warming. He showed the courage and candor we expect from a president.”

Experts agree that gas prices are likely to decline only slightly under a Clinton-McCain “gas tax holiday”—if they decline all. Instead of signing onto this gimmick, Obama has called for long-term solutions that would limit oil consumption by requiring cars to be more fuel efficient and expanding transportation options including passenger rail.

So Hillary Clinton is not only content to call for pointless proposals that would potentially eliminate hundreds of thousands of highway construction jobs and do next to nothing for working people, she's happy to lose all of her allies in the environmental movement over it. Obama is right - this is a function of status quo political thinking:

He used the tax holiday — an idea that Sen. John McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee, also supports — to illustrate the Democratic Party's need to set itself apart. "When we're offering the same things that John McCain is offering on the cheap, that means we are not presenting a truthful response to the challenges we face in America," Obama said. "We can do better than that this time."

Now, Clinton's team is countering with the fact that Obama voted to suspend the gas tax in Illinois a few years ago. Right, and he LEARNED from it that the oil companies do not pass that relief on to the customer. He also knows that George Bush isn't going to impose any tax burden on oil companies.

"At best, this is a plan that would save you pennies a day for the summer months - that is, unless gas prices are raised to fill in the gap, which is just what happened in Illinois when we tried this a few years ago," Obama said.

"Meanwhile, unless you can magically impose a windfall-profits tax on oil companies overnight to pay for the holiday, it could imperil federal highway funding and cost Indiana more than 6,000 jobs," Obama said.

In the short-term gas prices are going to be high; it's a fact of life in a country where the fuel efficiency is too low and the driving distance is too long. There are plenty of things you can do in the long-term to reduce people's expenses, help save the planet from the ravages of global warming, kickstart the economy and enhance quality of life. It's steps like investing in high-speed rail and mass transit, improving the fuel economy of the national fleet of cars (which was in last year's energy bill, much to the dismay of lawmakers who like their SUVs), eliminating coal-burning power plants (good for Kathleen Sebelius) and investing in wind, solar and biomass, and eventually spurring those investments with money from a tax on carbon that will actually be an economic engine:

If there's a paradise for environmentalists, this Nordic nation of 9.2 million people must be it. In 2007 Sweden topped the list of countries that did the most to save the planet - for the second year running - according to German environmental group, Germanwatch. Between 1990 and 2006 Sweden cut its carbon emissions by 9%, largely exceeding the target set by the Kyoto Protocol, while enjoying economic growth of 44% in fixed prices [...]

The main reason for this success, say experts, is the introduction of a carbon tax in 1991. Swedes today pay an extra 2.34 kronor (20p) per litre when they fill the tank (although many key industries receive tax relief or are exempted). "Our carbon emissions would have been 20% higher without the carbon tax," says the Swedish environment minister, Andreas Carlgren.

"It was the one major reason that steered society towards climate-friendly solutions," reckons Lindberg. "It made polluting more expensive and focused people on finding energy-efficient solutions."

"It increased the use of bioenergy," concurs Professor Thomas B Johansson from the University of Lund, a former director of energy and climate at the UN Development Programme. "It had a major impact in particular on heating. Every city in Sweden uses district heating [where steam and hot water are piped to a building in a particular area]. Before, coal or oil were used for district heating. Now biomass is used, usually waste from forests and forest industries." [...]

Today, environmental measures are common throughout the country. Take Linköping, Sweden's fifth biggest city, which is running its fleet of buses and rubbish lorries, a train line and some private taxis on biogas, from methane produced from the entrails of slaughtered cows.

Similarly, Stockholm's central station is planning to harness the body warmth of 250,000 daily commuters to produce heating for a nearby office block. The body heat would warm up water that would in turn be pumped through pipes over to a new office block. And King Carl Gustaf XVI last month had all the lights at royal castles turned off for an hour to back an energy efficiency campaign.

While our gas tax pays for highway construction, it's structured essentially the same way as the carbon tax. This is what Hillary Clinton wants to eliminate for the sake of a few votes in Indiana.

I believe that Obama's base of support among young people will spur him to fiercely confront climate change in his first term, for environmental, economic and national security reasons. We aren't going to get off fossil fuels overnight but we can make a difference. But not if conventional Washington thinking rules the day.

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How Many Years Until 100 Years?

The unstoppable whine from the RNC over Democratic message dominance on John McCain's "100 years in Iraq" comments has now morphed into "you stole footage from a terrorist Michael Moore!"

[T]he Republican National Committee has learned that the ad features footage from Michael Moore’s 2004 conspiracy theory, “Fahrenheit 9/11.”

According to ABC News, the ad features “an IED blowing up near US soldiers,” an image ABC confirms that was used in “Fahrenheit 9/11.” It is no coincidence that the same Democrat [sic] advertising firm that produced this ad also was responsible for producing over $6.5 million worth of Democrat [sic] political advertising using themes from “Fahrenheit 9/11″ in 2004.

Since the RNC doesn't produce ads with anything but that one shot of a gay immigrant terrorist performing an abortion while filing a lawsuit to prevent wiretapping (I think Zapruder had it on one of his old reels), they might not know that there's such a thing as stock footage libraries, and anyone can buy clips from them, and that's what Moore did, and that's what the DNC did. Actually the one time the RNC did experience the purchase of stock footage, they appeared to get it from Osama's Terrorist Training Video & Tackle Shop.

If one were so inclined, one could point to the RNC ad from 2006 that used footage of Osama bin Laden taken from Al-Jazeera and use it to question whether the RNC is too closed aligned with Al-Jazeera. That would be silly, but one could do so, right?

“Looks like the shoes on the other footage,” e-mailed Mike Gehrke, self-described “DNC Research Director and Joke Plagiarist.” “We won’t be intimidated by a candidate desperately trying to avoid his own record — or his lawyers.”

Of course, focusing on trivialities like footage origins is just what the RNC would like to do, as a way to deflect the impact of McCain's comments. As much as they'd like to spin them into some fantasy of a 100-year peaceful presence in the heart of the Middle East (you know, like Korea or Japan or Germany), the bottom line is, as Ron Brownstein notes in an excellent piece, McCain hasn't explained what all those troops would be doing in Iraq, and how long he'd be willing to keep combat forces there until such a peaceful presence would be reached.

First, if McCain doesn't envision a 100-year American front-line combat presence in Iraq, how long is he willing to keep U.S. forces in that role? So far, all he has said is that the United States should withdraw only if it concludes that the Iraq mission is unachievable or when it has achieved success, which he defines as the establishment of "a peaceful, stable, prosperous, democratic state." [...]

McCain has not said when, but he has pledged that Iraqi units will eventually assume the major combat responsibility. That prompts the next question McCain should address: What would then become the mission for the U.S. forces he wants to maintain in Iraq? McCain hasn't specified. But he has suggested that their job would be to deter external aggression, much as in South Korea where our troops "served as a buffer against invasion from North Korea."

In that example, however, the U.S. and South Korea agreed that North Korea posed a threat. The American troop presence in Germany and Japan long rested on a similar agreement about the potential danger from the Soviet Union, notes Ivo Daalder, a Brookings Institution senior fellow in foreign policy.

Although the U.S. considers Iran the most pressing external danger to Iraq, "the overwhelming majority of Iraqis don't see Iran as a threat," Daalder says. "They see it as a partner." If a threat from Iran isn't the motivation, Al Qaeda might provide the most likely justification for keeping U.S. troops in Iraq. But if Al Qaeda remains a threat there, conditions would likely not meet McCain's standard that American troops are no longer at risk.

McCain and the RNC's explanation is gobbledygook, and while a significant portion of the traditional media has lapped it up, Brownstein raises the crucial questions. McCain wouldn't have combat forces leave Iraq until it was stable, and won't say what would meet the standard of stability, so until he does, it's natural to assume he would spend 100 years there or more trying to find the pony. He spins the comments by describing a desired end state without explaining how we get there or when. Oh, and the price tag for such a commitment? A couple trillion dollars.

And this of course is almost the least troubling of McCain's foreign policy stances, the fact that he finds it OK to go to war for oil and the fact that he wants to kick Russia out of the G8 and essentially restart the Cold War are just as dangerous. And also fantastical.

The Group of Eight, or G-8, as it’s popularly known, makes decisions by consensus, so no single nation can kick out another. Most experts say the six other countries — Great Britain, France, Italy, Germany, Japan and Canada — would never agree to toss Russia, given their close economic ties to their neighbor. A senior U.S. official who deals with Russia policy said that even Moscow would have to approve of its own ouster, given how the G-8 works.

”It’s not even a theoretical discussion. It’s an impossible discussion,” said the senior official, who requested anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to speak publicly. “It’s just a dumb thing.”

McCain '08: It's just a dumb thing.

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I Meant Gulf War I, But I Just Wasn't Thinking About It

Oops. Looks like John McSame's having a hard time lying his way out of that "we go to war for oil" comment that he clearly believes and has no problem with. Remember, his excuse was that he was talking about the first Gulf War.

But then when specifically asked by an Associated Press reporter if, when he made the statement, he was “thinking about the first Gulf War,” he said no.

“No, I was thinking about- it’s not hard to- we will not,” McCain stumbled. “By eliminating our dependency on foreign oil, we will not have to have our national security threatened by a cut off of that oil. Because we will be dependent, because we won’t be dependent, we will no longer be dependent on foreign oil. That’s what my remarks were.”

Can you imagine this guy with a legitimate media circus around him in October? On a level playing field, he would literally be laughed right off the ticket.

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Inexplicably, the territory of Guam is holding a primary today. That'll yield delegates. For the Democratic National (International?) Convention.

The most ridiculous thing about it is that they have four delegates, so it's very likely to wind up 2-2, making it completely meaningless.

But in case you're dying to know, Obama's winning. Will Clinton ever make up this crucial gap among island voters? Will this hurt her in the fall? Will Guam be a swing state in the Presidential election given this split in the Democratic primary? What's the Bob Barr factor on Guam? Nader?

(I actually sort of know someone from Guam. Back when I was working at TechTV there was this guy Rex from Guam who would send us Web videos, in the pre-YouTube era, and participate on the network. He was something of a minor celebrity. Wonder if he's influencing the race today. Rex from Guam, I demand to know who you support!)

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Friday, May 02, 2008

McCain: Iraq war fought for oil

No amount of spin is going to take this one away. At a town hall meeting today, John McCain finally admitted it - that we've been involved in Middle Eastern politics for the last 50 years and beyond because we have to get our oil out from under their sand.

"My friends, I will have an energy policy that we will be talking about, which will eliminate our dependence on oil from the Middle East that will -- that will then prevent us -- that will prevent us from having ever to send our young men and women into conflict again in the Middle East,” McCain said.

The clear implication here is that we have sent our men and women into conflict over oil, repeatedly. Which is an uncontroversial statement. But in the context of the current occupation of Iraq, and the multiple justifications and rationalizations for that war, it's a deadly statement.

Now, McCain has already run to his base, the media, to try and clarify the remark. And promptly made it worse.

The expected GOP nominee sought to clarify his comments later, after his campaign plane landed in Phoenix. He said he didn't mean the U.S. went to war in Iraq five years ago over oil.

"No, no, I was talking about that we had fought the Gulf War for several reasons," McCain told reporters.

One reason was Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait, he said. "But also we didn't want him to have control over the oil, and that part of the world is critical to us because of our dependency on foreign oil, and it's more important than any other part of the world," he said.

"If the word 'again' was misconstrued, I want us to remove our dependency on foreign oil for national security reasons, and that's all I mean," McCain said.

He claims he was talking about the Gulf War, and yet the entire conversation during the town hall prior to the remark was about the current occupation of Iraq, and at no time was Gulf War I ever brought up.

John McCain is a bad campaigner. Just the other day he had to back off his ignorant comment that the I-35 bridge in Minneapolis collapsed because of Congressional earmarks instead of faulty design. But this remark has the potential to stick with him. Chris Matthews was apoplectic today.

“You know, if somebody else were to say that, they would be accused of being a communist, or radical, or a leftist…for John McCain, a war hero, to say that we’re fighting in the Middle East to protect our oil sources is an astounding development.”

In a time when everyone agrees that we must reduce our dependence on oil, saying blithely that America routinely sends soldiers over to the Middle East to grab their oil instead of "democracy promotion" or protecting Israel confirms many suspicions. Heck, Alan Greenspan said it in his recent book. But if this simple fact wasn't so hidden from the public, if the fluff was stripped away, we'd be debating the decisions to go to war in an entirely new context. Not to mention the decision to continue with a carbon-based economy.

This is a gaffe that actually began its life in the traditional media, which makes it different. It took weeks for anyone to confront McCain on whether he called his wife a c**t, and even then it was an audience member at a town hall who was promptly thrown out by the police and the Secret Service. This is different - an unforced error which the media clearly noticed. If we weren't so busy replaying old clips of "The War Room," maybe we'd increase the pressure.

...Let's be clear: this is most definitely "straight talk." But considering that McCain has proudly supported almost every military action the United States has undertaken since entering Congress, including those in the Middle East, one can only conclude that he's OK with sending soldiers to die in a resource grab. That's a good piece of information for voters to have.

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Zimbabwe Update

The election commission has finally released the results of the Presidential election, and they say it shows a win for the opposition candidate Morgan Tsvangirai, but not by enough to avoid a runoff:

Mr. Tsvangirai, leader of the Movement for Democratic Change, won 47.9 percent of the vote to Mr. Mugabe’s 43.2 percent, the election officials said. The third major candidate, Simba Makoni, who broke away from the governing party, ZANU-PF, to run as an independent, took 8.3 percent of the vote.

Nelson Chamisa, a spokesman for the opposition, immediately denounced election officials for short-circuiting the vote verification process and “arrogantly” releasing the final tallies before the opposition had a chance to protest them. But he was noncommittal on the crucial question of whether Mr. Tsvangirai would participate in a runoff. No date has been announced for one.

“They did not verify the results,” Mr. Chamisa said. “They did not give us an opportunity to contest the results. They are waylaying the people’s will. Clearly, this is scandalous.”

The opposition maintains that it won the election outright with 50.3 percent of the vote, while ministers in Mr. Mugabe’s cabinet have for weeks said a runoff would be necessary.

Given past history here, it's hard not to believe that Robert Mugabe's thumb was on the Election Commission's scale. The question is what the opposition is prepared to do about it. If they enter the runoff they will be acceding to what they believe to be fraud, and they will find the odds for eventual election stacked against them; if they do not Mugabe will likely be appointed by default. And if they try to mass popular protest they will likely be slaughtered in the streets. It's a nearly impossible position for them.

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Can Arnold Pass The High School Exit Exam?

The fallout from Gov. Schwarzenegger's demeaning comments about small-town Californians continue to reverberate. Chairman Torres weighed in, and noted that rural Californians don't exactly use a horse and buggy to get around, and some of them even have the teevee and the Internets!

“The Governor’s comments are insulting,” Torres told today. “California does not have villages. This is not Austria, this is California. Voters in Central California and others from small towns have more on the ball than Arnie!”

State Senator Dean Florez, from the small Central Valley town of Shaffer, went a step further, introducing a resolution to have the Governor take the high school exit exam.

Like every other kid around the state, small town students take the same graduation tests as big city kids to show competency. Rural kids can make the grade. Given the Governor’s distasteful comments, what’s unanswered is whether he can make the grade.

That’s why, today, I’m introducing a senate resolution asking the Governor to take the high school exit exam. If the Governor fails the test, then we certainly have a capable Lt. Governor who can assume his duties until the Governor successfully passes the exam.

I hope that he accepts this challenge and that he doesn’t cower behind some excuse. This is a serious effort to bring attention to the divisiveness of placing labels on people based on who they are, how they live or where they come from -- or even how well they do on a test.

If it is a good enough test for our twelfth graders, then certainly it is a good enough test for the Governor to demonstrate his competency.

And after he takes the exam, maybe he’ll think twice about the massive cuts to education funding he's proposing -- he just may have to return to school to brush up for the test.”

I would pay money to sit in while Arnold fills in the bubbles on the Scan-Tron sheet. Can we get this on television? It'd be the first time local news covered state politics all year!

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This Week In Torture

Some notable developments in the torture "debate" this week. Yes, there are some people out there who think that torturing other human beings is up for debate, people like Bill O'Reilly and Justice Antonin Scalia. Oh, and Karl Rove, though he comes down on a side that probably he didn't even envision.

Rove writes, "Another McCain story, somewhat better known, is about the Vietnamese practice of torturing him by tying his head between his ankles with his arms behind him, and then leaving him for hours." So, wait, now putting prisoners in stress positions is torture?


At the beginning of the week, we learned that the Justice Department is perfectly happy with undermining international law with the fig leaf of "fighting terrorism".

The Justice Department has told Congress that American intelligence operatives attempting to thwart terrorist attacks can legally use interrogation methods that might otherwise be prohibited under international law.

The legal interpretation, outlined in recent letters, sheds new light on the still-secret rules for interrogations by the Central Intelligence Agency. It shows that the administration is arguing that the boundaries for interrogations should be subject to some latitude, even under an executive order issued last summer that President Bush said meant that the C.I.A. would comply with international strictures against harsh treatment of detainees [...]

“The fact that an act is undertaken to prevent a threatened terrorist attack, rather than for the purpose of humiliation or abuse, would be relevant to a reasonable observer in measuring the outrageousness of the act,” said Brian A. Benczkowski, a deputy assistant attorney general, in the letter, which had not previously been made public.

This is the Scalia argument, that the context of torture somehow matters for its legality. I would like to ask Mr. Originalist, who believes that the words of law are concrete and set in stone, if there is any other law in America or abroad that is mutable based on the context. The answer is pretty much no. And it's the argument of a scoundrel.

But it shouldn't be overlooked that this power is even being discussed due to the Military Commissions Act, which allows for the President to decide whether or not a specific action is in violation of the Geneva Conventions. See Glenn on this and how John McCain enabled this incredible offering of power to the chief executive.

It turns out that there are thousands of other documents relevant to the CIA's use of torture, secret detentions and rendition that the CIA doesn't want to give up, claiming that many are covered by a "presidential communications privilege". And yet later in the week, the White House offered disclosure of additional documents.

In a partial concession to Congressional pressure, the Bush administration agreed on Wednesday to show the Senate and House Intelligence Committees secret Justice Department legal opinions justifying harsh interrogation techniques that critics call torture.

The decision, announced at a Senate hearing where Democrats sharply criticized the administration’s secrecy on legal questions, did not satisfy other members of Congress who have pushed for the documents for several years, notably Senator Patrick J. Leahy, Democrat of Vermont and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

A spokesman for the Justice Department said officials were discussing whether to share part or all the opinions with Mr. Leahy’s panel.

Plus, David Addington, Cheney's Cheney, the Cardinal Richileu of this Administration, after first having said that Congress has no constitutional power to investigate the Vice President's role in authorizing torture, suddenly turned tail and agreed to testify before the House Judiciary Committee.

Today, the Vice President’s office sent a letter to the House Judiciary Committee regarding the Committee’s request for testimony from David Addington, Chief of Staff to the Vice President. The letter is attached.

A committee spokeswoman had the following response: “We acknowledge the Office of the Vice President’s response. Pursuant to their request, we expect the committee to meet next week to authorize a subpoena. We look forward to coming up with a mutually acceptable date for Mr. Addington’s testimony.”

Addington clearly doesn't believe he's wrong about this, and it's unclear whether he's appeared on the record in any public setting. If that hearing goes through, it'd happen in a matter of weeks.

The Senate Intelligence Committee also again banned the CIA from using any techniques not proscribed by the Army Field Manual, from outsourcing torture to private military contractors, and from withholding detainee information from the Red Cross (ending the practice of "ghost detainees").

In the space of a few weeks, there has been a subtle shift on this issue, with some definitive movement. Will it amount to much? The final answer won't come as long as this Administration remains in power - it will come afterwards, in a Democratic Administration, when we discover whether or not Team Torture will be brought to justice and held to account. Until then, we can only keep up the pressure.

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McCain's Bipartisanship Results In Nothing

This week, on the same day that veterans groups rallied in support of the Webb GI Bill, James Inhofe, who was browbeaten into supporting the bill, quietly dropped his name off the co-sponsor list. This is a direct consequence of John McCain's twisted vision of bipartisanship. Because in his mind, no bill can pass muster without his support, he had his minions construct a competing bill (talk about passive-aggressive) and suddenly, conservatives who were won over to the concept started splitting off. The end result is that no veteran will end up receiving increased education benefits, because the two camps will splinter and the whole thing will devolve into a typical Washington clusterfuck. And the only man responsible will be John McCain.

This is the legacy of John McCain's "leadership" - real people suffer.

For their part, Oklahoma veterans have taken him to task.

"Senator Inhofe is undermining America's heroes, as they reach for the American dream," said Miranda Norman, a veteran of the war in Iraq, from Norman, Okla. and a state captain for "It’s insulting and a slap in the face. Not only has Senator Inhofe turned his back on legislation backed by every veterans’ group, but he signed on to a sham bill, because he thinks veterans are fools who won’t be able to tell the difference." [...]

"A fair education benefit is a sacred promise made to America's military after World War II," added Norman. "That promise has been allowed to become outdated and tarnished. Only the Webb-Hagel bill will restore its luster. And, for that reason, it is the only acceptable bill to America's veterans. By removing his name from that bill, Senator Inhofe has made it clear. He does not support our veterans, and we will make sure all Oklahomans are well aware of that fact."

There's a better sway for Oklahoma - Andrew Rice for Senate.

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Quote-Unquote Experts

The Clinton campaign, the campaign pushing the pointless gas tax, represents the serious adults.

“There are times that a president will take a position that a broad support of quote-unquote experts agree with. And there are times they will take a position that quote-unquote experts do not agree with.”

Talk about "creating your own reality."

I don't want to keep finding these parallels between Clinton and Bush, I really don't...

UPDATE: This is fucking pathetic. And the thing is that amplifying the right-wing smear machine to official Washington probably works. It does, however, happen on both sides and it's a necessary consequence of rabid partisanship and the easy facility of linking things around.

UPDATE II: Ouch. And Mark Udall is an uncommitted superdelegate. This is another reason why Clinton's gambit is so tactically stupid - by trying to bully Congress into passing this cynical policy, she's alienating the very people she needs to actually get the nomination - uncommitted supers. Mark Udall probably saw the next eight years flash before his eyes and he didn't like it.

"The so-called ‘temporary gas tax holiday' that Senators Clinton and McCain propose won't deliver this needed relief. This will not create the economic relief they say it will, because prices will continue to rise until we address the real source of this problem. We do need to provide immediate relief for families hard-hit by spiraling gas prices, and we can do that by demanding the President stop adding to the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. This will ease the production crunch that is causing these skyrocketing gas prices.

"Senator Clinton claimed yesterday that I either stand with her on this proposal or stand with the oil companies. To that I say: I stand with the families of Colorado, who aren't looking for bumper sticker fixes that don't fix anything, but for meaningful change that brings real relief and a new direction for our energy policy. We can't afford more Washington-style pandering while families keep getting squeezed.

"It is exactly the kind of short-sighted Washington game that keeps us from getting real results to our energy problem. Experts across the ideological spectrum agree that it will increase the deficit, drain money away from Colorado roads and bridges, and hurt the environment, all without actually making prices lower for drivers."

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The Actual National Conversation on Race

I meant to write about the acquittal in the Sean Bell case, which is tragic. But this video does a better job of it, and reports on the numerous demonstrations in New York City over this, which got little to no play in the traditional media - probably because they weren't violent, and only violent demonstrations by black people get media coverage.

Sean Bell is a symbol but not isolated. And police brutality is not just an issue in New York City but nationwide. And this is also a racial issue, and the Obama comments are interesting, as well as how African-Americans react to his double-bind of how he is constrained by national political forces to remain less angry or militant.

It's a complex issue, but it needs to be addressed openly, and not just among black people but everyone.

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World Food Crisis Update

Bush has done this before in the face of crisis: starting with a pledge of aid too small for the job, then being shamed into something larger (this happened with the tsunami relief). And now, he's doing it again.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President George W. Bush called for $770 million in new U.S. food aid donations and other measures on Thursday as Washington seeks to stave off a food crisis threatening to envelop the developing world.

Bush, expressing concern as skyrocketing world food prices intensify unrest in poor countries from Haiti to Burkina Faso, promised the United States would take a lead in fighting the hunger now gripping a greater swath of the developing world.

"With the new international funding I'm announcing today, we're sending a clear message to the world that America will lead the fight against hunger for years to come," Bush said.

Except he offered less than half this sum a few weeks ago. And actually, he's offering the same kind of money now. The additional funds are toward extra seeds and farming development for third world nations. That isn't bad (teach a man to fish and all that) but what is needed right now is direct aid, and more than the $395 million Bush has proposed. There's an urgent need right now and we can't wait for development programs. This is about saving lives; putting down the roots for the future must wait.

The administration has already requested supplemental food aid funding, a perennial addition to annual budget funds, of $350 million for fiscal 2008, but some are pushing for a figure at least $200 million higher.

"As a humanitarian organization interested in saving lives, we are not sure these resources equip us to meet the needs now," said Catholic Relief Services, an aid group.

Raymond Offenheiser, head of Oxfam America, urged Congress to loosen purchasing rules for food aid to make the most of every aid dollar.

Meanwhile, the WaPo finished up their series about the food crisis by exploring the role of ethanol.

Across the country, ethanol plants are swallowing more and more of the nation's corn crop. This year, about a quarter of U.S. corn will go to feeding ethanol plants instead of poultry or livestock. That has helped farmers like Johnson, but it has boosted demand -- and prices -- for corn at the same time global grain demand is growing.

And it has linked food and fuel prices just as oil is rising to new records, pulling up the price of anything that can be poured into a gasoline tank. "The price of grain is now directly tied to the price of oil," says Lester Brown, president of Earth Policy Institute, a Washington research group. "We used to have a grain economy and a fuel economy. But now they're beginning to fuse."

Not everyone thinks it's fantastic. People who use corn to feed cattle, hogs and chickens are being squeezed by high corn prices. On Monday, Tyson Foods reported its first loss in six quarters and said that its corn and soybean costs would increase by $600 million this year. Those who are able, such as egg producers, are passing those high corn costs along to consumers. The wholesale price of eggs in the first quarter soared 40 percent from a year earlier, according to the Agriculture Department. Meanwhile, retail prices of countless food items, from cereal to sodas to salad dressing, are being nudged upward by more expensive ingredients such as corn syrup and cornstarch.

Considering that the most recent energy bill included massive investments in corn-based ethanol, we're in a real quandary here. Corn for ethanol is being grown because it's profitable, and it's profitable because of subsidies. And I have to say that Kevin Drum is right, for the sake of the planet these subsidies should not be extended.

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Dean's Long-Term Move Aligns With Election Reform

Earlier today I mentioned the Feingold plan for universal same-day registration. Some replied that "Republicans would filibuster it" and I think it's shortsighted to look at what would happen on this bill tomorrow. Increasing the voter base and mobilizing new support is the cornerstone of Howard Dean's 50-state strategy, and it's a long-term vision that includes finding the youth vote and taking advantage of demographic shifts.

Step outside of Washington and assessments of Dean are drastically different, and far more favorable.

"I believe the Democratic National Committee should be an organization that is just what its name suggests, a national party," says Steve Achelpohl, the Democratic chairman in strongly Republican Nebraska. "We cannot sustain ourselves, particularly in terms of presidential elections, if we only have 15, 18, 20 states in play. Dean stands for the proposition that we should try to play everywhere."

The plan to do that, dubbed the 50-state strategy, is the fault line that divides Dean's supporters and critics.

Since winning a four-year term as chairman in February 2005, the former Vermont governor has poured tens of millions of dollars into the state parties. Computer systems have been modernized, and voter files -- the information used to solicit money and support -- are constantly scrubbed, expanded and forwarded to Washington, building a national database that should greatly help the presidential nominee.

State parties have also worked to invigorate the Democratic brand, each hiring the basics: a field director, a data manager and a spokesperson. "We've basically gotten people to believe that they can be Democrats in Utah again," Dean says. "That matters enormously."

This is all connected. Making it easier to vote and pouring money into local parties that facilitate that expanded access are two sides of the same coin. Dean knows that the long-term trends are on the side of Democrats, and that by expanding the playing field you dilute the power of big last-minute money and force candidates to compete. And if lots of people are turning out and the party organizations have the means to get them out, we win.

The biggest short-term hurdle to this is onerous election laws like the voter ID ruling. It also manifests in small ways like this outrage.

One of the major demands of may 1 this year was to fight against the disenfranchisement of nearly a million immigrant voters. Despite quadrupling the price of citizenship in the US, USCIS has refused to clear the backlogs of individuals waiting for citizenship- some 2 to 3 years. Nearly a million immigrant voters that have done everything we’ve asked of them in order to become citizens will be denied the vote in Novemeber if we don’t act NOW.

FIRM is teaming up with partners around the country to unite and push for a clearing of the backlog in time to let these people exercise their right to vote!

Yep. I think the DNC ought to be making a MAJOR stink over this. The executive branch has so much control that is off the radar screen - such as little things like this. The Presidency certainly matters. But so does meaningful local action on election reform, which will eventually lead in the direction progressives would like - full access to voting and massive participation.

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BREAKING: Democrats Completely Lose Their Minds

I guess Drudge has now linked to video of Mickey Kantor allegedly referring to Indianans as "shit' and "worthless white niggers".

That is COMPLETELY not what Kantor says. This clip is from "The War Room" and they're looking at early exits from election day 1992. He's saying "those people are shitting," referring to George H.W. Bush's people, and then he says "How would you like to be working in the White House right now?"

Readers of this site know I'm an Obama supporter (and donor) who earlier today essentially wrote that I could never vote for Clinton after her pathetic pander on gas taxes. But this is flat wrong. And as an Obama supporter I value intellectual honesty. Taking down Democrats using half-truths and smears is unacceptable in any form and no matter the Democrat. The YouTube is anonymous and dubious, and I know that unintelligible words become crystal clear once you have writing beneath them. As an editor I do this for a living.

I know someone who knows RJ Cutler, one of the producers of The War Room. I'm going to try and get him to comment.

... Atrios now agrees, this YouTube is crap.

UPDATE: D.A. Pennebaker has now weighed in.

"He does not say that [n-word]. He does not say that," said Pennebaker, after viewing the clip.

He said the initial expletive [shit] referred to the anticipated reaction in the Bush White House to the fact that Ross Perot's polling numbers were holding strong.

"What he says is he’s surprised Perot’s numbers are holding," said Pennebaker in a brief phone interview. "He says they must be shi**ing in the White House."

To be clear, I don't think the clip was doctored, I just think that when you put subtitles over footage your mind fills in the blanks for what your ears can't hear.

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Maybe It's Just Age That Causes The Contradictions

John McCain sez he opposed Mission Accomplished at the time.

On Thursday, the fifth anniversary of Bush’s dramatic landing on an aircraft carrier where the banner hung, McCain said, “I thought it was wrong at the time.” […]

McCain said he can’t blame Bush for the banner. After shifting explanations, the White House eventually said the “Mission Accomplished” phrase referred to the carrier’s crew completing its 10-month mission, not the military completing its mission in Iraq.

John McCain does not recall.

“Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom demonstrated to the world what we saw just 12 years ago. We went to war as the most combat-ready force in the world. The value of that readiness is clear. We won a massive victory in a few weeks, and we did so with very limited loss of American and allied lives. We were able to end aggression with minimum overall loss of life, and we were even able to greatly reduce the civilian casualties of Afghani and Iraqi citizens.

“In order to understand the issues involved, it is necessary to recognize just how difficult it is to achieve the kind of readiness we had during Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom. Readiness is not solely a matter of funding operations and maintenance at the proper level. It is not only a matter of funding adequate numbers of high quality personnel, or of funding superior weapons and munitions, strategic mobility and propositioning, high operating tempos, realistic levels of training at every level of combat, or of logistics and support capabilities.

“Readiness, in fact, is all of these things and more. A force beings to go hollow the moment it loses its overall mix of combat capabilities in any one critical area. Our technology edge in Afghanistan and Iraq would have been meaningless if we did not have men and women trained to use it. Having the best weapons system platforms in the world would not have given us our victory if we had not had the right command and control facilities, maintenance capabilities, and munitions.”

Like I said, this could just be age. So could this.

CAVUTO: ... Senator -- after a conflict means after the conflict, and many argue the conflict isn't over.

MCCAIN: Well, then why was there a banner that said 'mission accomplished' on the aircraft carrier? ... the conflict -- the major conflict is over, the regime change has been accomplished.

In his defense, John McCain is a ridiculously old man. He also thought we won the war until it became politically unpalatable to say that.

UPDATE: Take the Bush/McCain challenge. Better than the Pepsi Challenge, mainly in that you don't have to drink Pepsi to do it.

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This is the best way to deal with that awful Supreme Court decision on voter ID.

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Russ Feingold (D-WI) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Representative Keith Ellison (D-MN) are introducing legislation to help more Americans register to vote by allowing Election Day registration at polling places for all federal elections. The Election Day Registration Act addresses chronic problems with the American electoral process – low voter turnout and archaic voter registration laws. Election Day registration is also seen as preferable to advance registration since voters are actually present when they register, reducing opportunities for fraud. The bill’s introduction comes days after the Supreme Court upheld an Indiana voter ID law that seriously impedes the ability of elderly and low-income Americans to vote. Senators Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Jon Tester (D-MT), who represent states that recently enacted Election Day registration, are also cosponsors of the bill.

Same-day registration ought to be a core election rights value. It raises turnout in every state where it's tried, it encourages new voters to get involved, and as the Minnesota Secretary of State notes it's far more secure:

Allowing Election Day registration can also address concerns about potential voter fraud. Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie has called Election Day registration a “no brainer” and has said it is more secure than advance registration because “you have the person right in front of you – not a postcard in the mail.”

Minnesota and Wisconsin have been running their elections this way for over 30 years. Same-day registration states beat their counterparts in turnout by 16 points (70-54) in the 2004 election.

Now, this wouldn't cure everything enshrined in that SCOTUS ruling - you'd still need some form of ID to present at the polls under Indiana's law, for example - but it eliminates all of the barriers to entry associated with registration, and it allows voter registration and mobilization activists to focus in the states on free ID programs and expanding access to photo IDs in underserved communities. The end result would be positive for our democracy, increasing participation and giving voice to everyone who wants it.

I think this should be a legislative goal as soon as possible.

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Good Way To Attract Superdelegates

Anger them by forcing them to take sides in your pathetic pander game.

After several days of back and forth between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama over whether a summer-long elimination of the gas tax would help or hurt, Clinton took a hard line, asking her colleagues in Congress to take sides.

“I believe it would be important to get every member of Congress on record,” Clinton told supporters at a rally in southern Indiana. “Do they stand with the hard-pressed Americans who are trying to pay their gas bills at the gas station or do they once again stand with the oil companies?

“I want to know where people stand and I want them to tell us, are they with us or against us when it comes to taking on the oil companies?” she added.

Do you understand that, if the skies opened and made you President, you would have to DEAL with those members of Congress, and you're setting off by squeezing them in some triangulating nonsense? Do you think they'll take kindly to that?

Hill, c'mere a second. The oil companies won't suffer one iota from this. They'd pass a lot of a windfall profits tax on to the consumer. The consumer would see no change between eliminating the gas tax for a few months and the inevitable raised prices, in part due to the increased consumption that normally causes gas to go up in the summer. Nothing would change. And you know this. Yet you persist, and absent legislation, by the way - so Congress is supposed to "choose sides" on a non-existent bill?

This is the stupidest, worst piece of cynical politics of the entire cycle. Yes, WORSE than Obama's Harry and Louise ads. This reveals that Hillary Clinton will do nothing to impact global warming if it stands in the way of votes. That's a sin of the highest order at this crucial time. She's not to be trusted on this, or anything for that matter. I know that white working-class voters making under $50,000 aren't the target audience of this site, but I impress upon any of them who are to take a moment to think about the implications of this.

UPDATE: I should add that McCain doesn't know what he's talking about either. Low-income Americans drive the least because a lot of them can't afford a car. And beneficiaries of any cut in gas prices would be rich people driving Hummers and SUVs.

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Thursday, May 01, 2008

Cable News Drives The Boat

Some bloggers are pushing this report of sagging ratings for the cable nets - in the midst of this election year - as evidence of traditional media decline. I'm not so sure. First of all I think that a lot of people have primary fatigue, though the year-over-year decline suggests there's something bigger at work.

But here's the thing. Cable news impacts the nightly news. A lot of the commentators are the same, and NBC, for example, has pretty much the same staff. As we saw with the ABC debate, the network news isn't exactly better at rising above the fluff. Cable news also impacts the morning news. It's not the viewership so much as who watches, and what happens on the casble nets rises up to that morning agenda. And most important, cable news impacts the LOCAL news. Local news outlets have virtually no budget for stories of national significance. Lots of them re-air things from CNN or NBC News or their national outlet. People like Fox News' Chris Wallace do news hits on morning stations all over the country. So what the cable nets are covering impacts practically all broadcast news outlets. And Americans still get the majority of their news from television, even though that's changing.

And what are the cable nets covering? A pelican getting stuck in a tree, which suggests that the local news is bouncing back on cable news, too.

People are dying in Iraq. You need a credit check to buy gas. Your home belongs to the bank now. But stop the fucking presses, ‘cause there’s a pelican in a freakin’ tree!

Doesn't cost any money to run a local news feed. That's the point here. It's all driven by money. Talking heads are cheap. Re-running local stories is cheap. Journalism costs. They don't want to spend it.

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The California Report

Here are a few things I never got around to this week:

• Democratic Senators are asking for a real plan from Gov. Schwarzenegger about how to solve the prison crisis. AB 900 passed a year ago with the promise of building thousands more beds to address prison overcrowding. To date not one construction project has begun. This is a complete shell game, and the courts are likely to act immediately in the face of such incompetence. Just another reason why trying to build our way out of this problem was such a stupid idea.

• Not only did immigrant's rights advocates rally in Los Angeles today, they were joined by businesses who want an end to workplace raids. I actually believe in workplace enforcement to an extent, but business can be a powerful ally in reaching toward a comprehensive solution. The crowd was smaller this year but I think there's a more robust coalition for a breakthrough. Voter mobilization is going to be the key.

• Others have mentioned the new poll numbers on taxes and schools, but I'll say this - decades of anti-tax rhetoric has succeeded in dislodging the relationship between taxes and services. People want education and other services to be funded but don't want to pay for it. The only way to restore that relationship is to... restore that relationship, by specifically explaining how America is worth paying for and turning the whole issue on its head. Not a huge revelation, but thought I'd throw it out.

• Home prices continue to fall in LA and Orange County, and foreclosures continue to wreak havoc on the state's homeowners, including Jose Canseco.

• I thought this was the most interesting study of the week:

It's often said, "You are what you eat," but new research suggests that where you eat may have a lot to do with it, as well.

In communities with an abundance of fast-food outlets and convenience stores, researchers have found, obesity and diabetes rates are much higher than in areas where fresh fruit and vegetable markets and full-service grocery stores are easily accessible.

"The implications are really dramatic," said Harold Goldstein, a study author and executive director of the California Center for Public Health Advocacy, based in Davis. "We are living in a junk-food jungle, and not surprisingly, we are seeing rising rates of obesity and diabetes."

Intuitive, and it's a chicken-or-the-egg argument. Convenience stores and fast-food outlets move to neighborhoods where people are more likely to only be able to afford convenience stores and fast food. However, the researchers claim this holds across socioeconomic strata. "Food environment" is something we have to think about. Education would seem to be the key,

• Forgot to link George Skelton's article on the potential for competing redistricting measures on the ballot. My position on redistricting is well-known. Skelton does segue into initiative reform, which is sorely needed.

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You could see it in words that offer an assumption of elitism, or random associates who cause a guilt by association, or in actions like endangering the lives of everyone around you.

Rep. Vito J. Fossella (R-N.Y.) was arrested overnight in Alexandria and charged with driving while intoxicated, court records showed today.

Fossella is scheduled to appear in Alexandria General District Court on May 12 for an advisement hearing, the records said.

No other details were immediately available.

For some reason, issues of character don't often have anything to do with... personal character. Why is that?

UPDATE: It's also got to be one or the other. I mean, it could be all bullshit evenly spread for everyone, or all legitimate issues evenly spread. But when you have Barack Obama the subject of a character assassination campaign on the basis of his former pastor saying "God damn America" and John McCain never touched for saying "God curse and doom America", clearly there's some imbalance here.

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"Yeah, We Did It, So?"

I don't know if this escaped everyone or not, but Dana Perino yesterday admitted White House involvement in the Pentagon pundit scandal.

But I would say that one of the things that we try to do in the administration is get information out to a variety of people so that everybody else can call them and ask their opinion about something. And I don’t think that that should be against the law. And I think that it’s absolutely appropriate to provide information to people who are seeking it and are going to be providing their opinions on it.

It doesn’t necessarily mean that all of those military analysts ever agreed with the administration. I think you can go back and look and think that a lot of their analysis was pretty tough on the administration. That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t talk to people.

Not said here is the multiple conflicts of interest, particularly on a financial level, between these puppets and the military industrial complex. Not said is that access would be granted in exchange for favorable coverage, and military analysts like Wes Clark frozen out if they used independent judgment.

Sens. Levin and Kerry are calling for investigations. Which is fine. But I think Perino gave us most of the information that we need. And the next group that needs to fess up are the heads of the top broadcast and cable news outlets.

UPDATE: Sen. Feingold has asked the GAO if the Pentagon pundit program is legal. I'm happy that Democrats are talking about this, though I'm not sure they're going after the right source - it's the media who has the responsibility here.

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Coordinated Effort

Digby is right, the news we're hearing about a possible deal on immunity definitely suggests that the Administration knows they're legally liable for spying on American citizens and they're desperate to squash any knowledge of it.

They really, really want this to go through. In fact, their insistence is becoming so desperate that there is simply no more reason to doubt they are hiding something. Nobody works this hard if all it would take would be a couple of court cases to publicly clear their names. These corporations must be knee deep in spying on Americans and their corrupt congressional puppets must know it.

Now we learn today that the Bushies and the telcos have formed a partnership to try and get immunity nailed down.

The Bush administration is refusing to disclose internal e-mails, letters and notes showing contacts with major telecommunications companies over how to persuade Congress to back a controversial surveillance bill, according to recently disclosed court documents.

The existence of these documents surfaced only in recent days as a result of a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by a privacy group called the Electronic Frontier Foundation. The foundation (alerted to the issue in part by a NEWSWEEK story last fall) is seeking information about communications among administration officials, Congress and a battery of politically well-connected lawyers and lobbyists hired by such big telecom carriers as AT&T and Verizon. Court papers recently filed by government lawyers in the case confirm for the first time that since last fall unnamed representatives of the telecoms phoned and e-mailed administration officials to talk about ways to block more than 40 civil suits accusing the companies of privacy violations because of their participation in a secret post-9/11 surveillance program ordered by the White House.

At the time, the White House was proposing a surveillance bill—strongly backed by the telecoms—that included a sweeping provision that would grant them retroactive immunity from any lawsuits accusing the companies of wrongdoing related to the surveillance program [...]

One court declaration, for example, confirms the existence of notes showing that a telecom representative called an Office of Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) lawyer last fall to talk about “various options” to block the lawsuits, including “such options as court orders and legislation.”

Another declaration refers to a letter and “four fax cover sheets” exchanged between the telecoms and ODNI over the surveillance matter. Yet another discloses e-mails in which lawyers for the telecoms and the Justice Department “seek or discuss recommendations on legislative strategy.”

Everybody has been in on this game. The White House, the telco lobbyists, their allies in Congress, and the outside GOP front groups. This has been a full-court press and the entire conservative machine is being brought to bear on Democratic holdouts to force them to give the Administration and their corporate buddies amnesty for breaking the law. This is the real legacy project for the Bush Administration - evading responsibility and accountability.

The Democrats have thus far resisted this wave of efforts; maybe not for long. But they should understand that Republicans would have no problem losing the next round of elections as long as they get their immunity.

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General Strike

There was some question whether or not this would actually happen, but I'm proud of the ILWU for putting principles first and pulling this off.

Thousands of dockworkers at all 29 West Coast ports, including Los Angeles and Long Beach, took the day off work today in what their union called a protest of the war in Iraq, effectively shutting down operations at the busy complexes.

The action came two months before the contract expires between the dockworkers, represented by the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, and the Pacific Maritime Assn., which represents port operators and large shippers, many of them foreign-owned.

"We are supporting the troops and telling politicians in Washington that it's time to end the war in Iraq," said union President Bob McEllrath.

This is the first major general strike against the war I can think of in my personal memory. Two years ago most truckers stayed away on May Day to protest immigration policy and attend rallies in LA. But this is the entire west coast of the US and Canada.

The longshoremen understand what our politicians must: this war is immoral, unnecessary, catastrophic, and damaging to our national character. It needs to end.

(This is also why a strong labor movement needs to be sustained. Not only does it provide an engine to upward mobility for the working class, it takes the role of our national conscience.)

UPDATE: Here's an example of why the ILWU is out in the streets today.

Sgt. 1st Class David L. McDowell, 30, of Ramona, California died Tuesday in Afghanistan of “wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked using small arms fires.” The San Diego Tribune reports, “He had been deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq seven times and was a recipient of two Bronze stars and a Purple Heart.”

Seven tours of duty. No end in sight. What a tragedy.

UPDATE II: Oh yeah, none of this has made us safer, either.

Al-Qa’ida (AQ) and associated networks remained the greatest terrorist threat to the United States and its partners in 2007. It has reconstituted some of its pre-9/11 operational capabilities through the exploitation of Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), replacement of captured or killed operational lieutenants, and the restoration of some central control by its top leadership, in particular Ayman al-Zawahiri. Although Usama bin Ladin remained the group’s ideological figurehead, Zawahiri has emerged as AQ’s strategic and operational planner.

AQ and its affiliates seek to exploit local grievances for their own local and global purposes. They pursue their own goals, often at large personal cost to the local population. These networks are adaptive, quickly evolving new methods in response to countermeasures. AQ utilizes terrorism, as well as subversion, propaganda, and open warfare; it seeks weapons of mass destruction in order to inflict the maximum possible damage on anyone who stands in its way, including other Muslims and/or elders, women, and children.

Despite the efforts of both Afghan and Pakistani security forces, instability, coupled with the Islamabad brokered cease-fire agreement in effect for the first half of 2007 along the Pakistan-Afghanistan frontier, appeared to have provided AQ leadership greater mobility and ability to conduct training and operational planning, particularly that targeting Western Europe and the United States. Numerous senior AQ operatives have been captured or killed, but AQ leaders continued to plot attacks and to cultivate stronger operational connections that radiated outward from Pakistan to affiliates throughout the Middle East, North Africa, and Europe.

This war is awesome.

UPDATE III: Good progress.

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Two suicide bombers killed 30 people and wounded 65 others when they detonated explosive vests in a busy market in a town northeast of Baghdad on Thursday, Iraqi police said.

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We're Going To Win A House Race In Deep Red Louisiana Today

While the traditional media ping-pongs back and forth between Jeremiah Wright and Miley Cyrus, they're missing the fundamental political story of 2008: George Bush broke the Republican Party and nobody's going to be able to put it back together.

There is no way that a Democrat should have a chance in the 6th district of Louisiana. But Don Cazayoux has a nine-point lead over Woody Jenkins in the latest poll headed into today's special election. George Bush got 59% of the vote here in 2004. Today, we're going to flip this seat blue. Swing State Project will have the results tonight.

And that's not the only seat where we're seeing such a phenomenon. In MS-01, which is normally just as Republican, Travis Childers may be able to take that seat as well. The DCCC is putting a lot of money into that race, almost twice that of the Republicans, suggesting that it's very close.

There are no more Republican districts. George Bush is incredibly disliked and he's dragging down the whole party.

WASHINGTON - Sen. Barack Obama’s ties to the Rev. Jeremiah Wright could hurt his presidential hopes. So could his comment about “bitter” small-town America clinging to guns and religion. And Americans might question Sen. Hillary Clinton’s honesty and trustworthiness.

But according to the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, the bigger problem appears to be John McCain's ties to President Bush.

In the survey, 43 percent of registered voters say they have major concerns that McCain is too closely aligned with the current administration.

Got that? George Bush is the problem. I fully expect the traditional media to now ask questions every day whether McCain will disown or divorce Bush, how Bush and McCain are like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and how Bush's latest press appearance re-opened the McCain-Bush wound.

Oh wait, I don't expect that.

In fact, I don't expect them to notice that red Louisiana has turned against Republicans.

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Schwarzenegger: You Hicks Know What An Air-O-Plane Looks Like?

I almost get what the Governor was trying to say, but the fact that it was a proud endorsement of lobbyist-paid junkets, as well as the demeaning stance toward small-town Californians, doesn't come off well:

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Wednesday encouraged lawmakers -- especially those from small towns -- to do more globe-trotting on the dime of special interests.

Speaking at a forum on global economics held by the nonprofit Milken Institute, the governor suggested lawmakers would be more willing to embrace his plans to privatize the building of roads, schools, high-speed rail systems and other public works if they could see how effectively it has worked in other countries.

"Some of them come from those little towns, you know what I am saying, they come from those little towns and they don't have that vision yet of an airport or of a highway that maybe has 10 lanes or of putting a highway on top of a highway," Schwarzenegger said. "They look at you and say, 'We don't have that in my town. What are you talking about?'

"So they are kind of shocked when you say certain things. So I like them to travel around."

Remember, folks, it's Barack Obama who's the elitist. Arugula!

What shouldn't get lost here is that Schwarzenegger made this little comment to justify what he has done multiple times since entering public office - jetsetting around the world on trade missions paid for by shadowy interests who expect a return on their investment.

There's a virtue and value in world travel, and the country could go a long way to fostering it by providing grants for international study, for example. If he wants to build a program like the "overseas experience" they have in New Zealand for California's young people, great. But Schwarzenegger isn't really endorsing that. He just wants his secret free trips. The "y'all are hicks" part is just frosting on the cake.

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Mission Accomplished

Happy Anniversary!

Yes, 5 years ago manly George Bush strode onto that aircraft carrier in his flight suit and codpiece and made the national media swoon.

Chris Matthews on MSNBC called Bush a “hero” and boomed, “He won the war. He was an effective commander. Everybody recognizes that, I believe, except a few critics.” PBS' Gwen Ifill said Bush was “part Tom Cruise, part Ronald Reagan.” On NBC, Brian Williams gushed, "The pictures were beautiful. It was quite something to see the first-ever American president on a -- on a carrier landing. This must be very meaningful to the United States military."

When Bush’s jet landed on an aircraft carrier, American casualties stood at 139 killed and 542 wounded.

We were also apparently going to shrink to two divisions by the fall of 2003. And Maureen Dowd told us that Bush was dead sexy and the greatest American since Gary Cooper (or Tom Cruise!):

The tail hook caught the last cable, jerking the fighter jet from 150 m.p.h. to zero in two seconds. Out bounded the cocky, rule-breaking, daredevil flyboy, a man navigating the Highway to the Danger Zone, out along the edges where he was born to be, the further on the edge, the hotter the intensity.

He flashed that famous all-American grin as he swaggered around the deck of the aircraft carrier in his olive flight suit, ejection harness between his legs, helmet tucked under his arm, awestruck crew crowding around. Maverick was back, cooler and hotter than ever, throttling to the max with joystick politics. Compared to Karl Rove’s ‘‘revvin’ up your engine’’ myth-making cinematic style, Jerry Bruckheimer’s movies look like Lizzie McGuire.

This time Maverick didn’t just nail a few bogeys and do a 4G inverted dive with a MiG-28 at a range of two meters. This time the Top Gun wasted a couple of nasty regimes, and promised this was just the beginning.

Apparently these people still sleep at night.

It didn't work out as planned, by the way, because it could NEVER work out. Occupying a country in the Middle East, destroying their infrastructure and stirring up all sorts of sectarian resentments was doomed to failure. It wasn't that we were simply incompetent (though we were), it wasn't that if we did a couple things better it would have turned out fabulous. The war was predicated on a fiction, and afterwards the Shiites were going to persecute the Sunnis as retribution, and nobody was going to tolerate an occupier.

While the media continues to talk about random pastors (you go, John Kerry!), we are stuck in Iraq with no end in sight, with no good options left, 4,000 American soldiers dead, 30,000 wounded, maybe 200,000 Iraqis dead or more, 4.7 million Iraqis displaced, trillions of dollars spent, and a nation tarnished.

UPDATE: This is from Democratic House candidate Eric Massa:

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Who Rules Their World?

Funny, so Lurita Doan completely abuses her job, uses the General Services Administration to help out Republican members of Congress in their re-election campaigns, is shown a briefing on how her staff can help Republicans and enthusiastically agrees, stays in her job for about a year, claims she was singled out because she is black when I don't think anyone actually knew she was black, finally gets canned after the media long forgot about her and her incompetence, and Karen Tumulty of Time can only say what took so long, as if she doesn't know that without sustained media pressure EVERYONE in this Administration gets off easy. Then she claims that the Doan story was on the front page of the Washington Post once, so clearly the media did its job. As Atrios says:

It is a mystery, though, isn't it. Some stories land front page of the Washington Post and then just sort of disappear, never to be heard from again. Some light up the Drudge siren, get talked about nonstop on cable news, breathless Politico reports, follow up stories, editorials, coverage in weekly news magazines.

And no one in the press quite understands how this happens. Some stories magically take flight, and some don't. It's all very strange.

I wish we could get to the bottom of who controls that process. It's not like newspapers, magazines and TV news shows have editors who manage what goes in the paper. I just don't kn-

Hold on, DRUDGE ALERT!!!! Rev. Wright found eating arugula without wearing a flag pin!

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Wednesday, April 30, 2008

This Happens Every Day

Either John McCain has the worst advance people in the world, or his policies - and Republican policies in general - are so decidedly aristocratic that they can't help tripping all over themselves.

At his health care policy event yesterday at the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute in Florida, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) was introduced by the institute’s chairman, former Republican senator Connie Mack. But, as Hotline reports, Mack is more than just a chairman. He’s also a registered state lobbyist “advocating for health insurance companies“.

(By the way, Mack just married Rep Mary Bono (CA-45). Surely that will come up in her re-election campaign.)

This has happened at virtually every McCain appearance recently. Last week he rode on and praised a ferry which was created with an earmark. He went to Youngstown, Ohio and praised NAFTA at a factory that was closed after NAFTA was enacted. Reality keeps getting in the way of McCain's Presidential hopes.

The funny part here is that the McCain camp tried to deep-six the story:

According to Hotline’s Jennifer Skalka, “the McCain campaign lobbied On Call feverishly to tank” its reporting on Mack’s role as a lobbyist, calling the story “ludicrous, absurd and ridiculous.”

I guess Ms. Skalka didn't get any of that yummy BBQ, or she would have known her place.

Later in the day, McCain blamed the Minnesota bridge collapse on runaway spending and earmarks - not that Republicans have gutted infrastructure spending at all - then was presented with an earmark that, gosh, saved lives.

On the same day, McCain was confronted with an earmark he did consider worthy. During a forum at Lehigh Valley Hospital, he met a woman with ovarian cancer who was treated in a clinical trial funded with $80 million in congressional earmarks.

The hospital was showing off an electronic medical records system that is virtually paper-free.

McCain insisted he was not trying to have it both ways and said that deserving projects can get money through regular channels.

"It's the process I object to," he said. "I'm sure that I can give you a list of projects the Mafia funds, and they would probably be good projects. But I can't give you a justification for the Mafia. I can't give you a justification for the corruption that's been bred which has sent members of Congress to the federal prison," he said.

I'm sure the Republicans who turned the earmark process into their personal favor factory in the 1990s are going to be so eager to campaign for McCain now. You know, after being compared to the Cosa Nostra and all.

On top of that, McCain has gone from a position against spending to a position against the technical process by which spending is achieved. That's going to really bowl them over on the stump. McCain wants to make himself the grand poohbah deciding what spending is OK and what spending isn't. The problem is that when he is put to the wall, he can't come up with more than a scattered few projects that are verboten. And he doesn't dare touch that sacred cow, the military budget, which is responsible for about 100 times the wasteful spending as earmarks.

McCain has put himself in a terrible position. Plenty of earmarks provide tangible benefits for people. Every campaign stop, he's going to be confronted by someone. And he'll have to say "Well, when I say cut spending, I don't mean THAT," and this is why his trillions and trillions of dollars in tax cuts for the wealthy and new spending will never be brought into balance. He is dangerous and fiscally irresponsible.

Also, his health care plan will bankrupt a lot of sick people.

McCain is offering people like (Elizabeth) Edwards what he calls a "Guaranteed Access Plan." But unlike all those awful big-government entitlements the Democrats are promising--you know, the ones that (supposedly) make you wait in long lines and cut off access to high-technology treatments--McCain says his plan will let the states handle the problem by working hand-in-hand with private insurers to offer insurance for people with pre-existing conditions [...]

It all sounds very lovely--unless you know something about health care policy, in which case it sounds absolutely preposterous.

More than 30 states already have programs almost exactly like the one McCain just sketched out. They are called "high risk pools," and the idea is pretty straightforward: Private insurers agree to sell policies directly to individuals, even those with pre-existing medical conditions, as long as the state helps to subsidize the cost.

But the whole reason conservatives like McCain prefer this approach to liberal schemes for universal coverage is that it involves minimal government regulation. As a result, private insurers have enormous leeway in dictating the terms of coverage. And one place they use that leeway is by setting high prices. A few years ago, a Commonwealth Fund study found that, on average, state high-risk pools offered coverage that was two-thirds more expensive than regularly priced coverage. In some states, the high-risk coverage was actually twice as high as regular coverage.

At those prices, you might think the coverage was spectacular. Not so. While private insurers in high-risk pools are willing to accept people with pre-existing conditions, they're not generally willing to cover expenses related to those pre-existing conditions--at least not right away. Nearly all the plans surveyed had waiting periods of between six months and a year, during which the insurers would not cover care for prior medical problems.

Between out-of-pocket expenses, deductibles, cost-sharing, and treatment not covered by high risk pool plans, someone like Elizabeth Edwards, with her breast cancer, would probably have to pay around $100,000 under McCain's plan. She has it; most cancer patients don't.

Someone's going to ask him about that on the trail, too. And it'll be another embarrassment. In fact, the only way McCain's bankrupt domestic policies will not cause one misstep after another is if he confines himself to whistle-stop tours of gated communities and medieval castles.

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Good Response

Obama on this gas tax nonsense.

I like that they didn't feel the need to quote Krugman or Friedman or every economist alive talking about how silly this is. He just said it in his own words, and tracked it back to the central message of his campaign. And it's refreshing to see a major political candidate treat Americans like adults.

I have, of course, no idea if it'll work. But I'd like to think that it's so different from Bush that it will.

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CA House Races Roundup - April 2008

Getting this one in under the wire. On the last day of April, with just over a month to go until the June primaries, and six months to go until Election Day, there's a lot going on all over the state in the Congressional races. Of the 19 seats in California currently held by Republicans, 17 will be contested in the fall, and some strongly so. And we now have a full 34 Democrats with the election of Jackie Speier early in the month, and only one of them is a serious challenge. We also have the first quarter of 2008 fundraising numbers, which will raise some eyebrows. You can track these races yourself with the 2008 Race Tracker wiki.

A note: I'm mainly getting my numbers on cash-on-hand competitiveness from the Swing State Project. Fundraising information comes from the FEC.

Here we go...


1. CA-11. Incumbent: Jerry McNerney. Main challenger: Dean Andal. Cook number: R+3. % Dem turnout in the Presidential primary: 53.7%. DCCC defended. Well, we're seeing today the San Jose Mercury News reporting that this race is a "pure tossup." I don't know where they're getting that from. There's no question it'll be competitive, but I look at the metric of fundraising in the first quarter, and I see that Andal, who is supposed to be the number one challenger for Republicans this cycle, couldn't manage to raise more than $90,000. That's not really the numbers of a formidable opponent. He trails McNerney in cash-on-hand by a 2-1 margin and will need significant outside expenditure support to win. He's getting some of that, but the DCCC isn't abandoning McNerney either, already putting together their Radical Andal site, designed to paint the challenger as an extremist in the pocket of corporate lobbyists. I'm sure they'll bring up these ties to Don Young's PAC, arguably the most corrupt member of Congress there is. Both sides are headed door to door in the district, and McNerney is picking up a nice issue with the "Helping Our Veterans Keep Their Homes Act of 2008." The district is turning quite blue, and I like McNerney's chances to hold the seat.


I'm going to do three tiers in setting apart the top 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. Charlie Brown is the John McCain of this Congressional cycle. He's sitting back and reaching voters while his opponents bruise and batter each other. The differences are that Brown is a better candidate and he has a bigger money advantage. But he must be sitting back and laughing right now. Doug Ose has gone after Tom McClintock drawing welfare from the state of California in the form of per diem payments. McClintock called Ose a liberal Democrat. Most of the headlines in the race have headlines like McClintock, Ose Attack Each Other. Neither of them are from the district - McClintock won't even be able to vote for himself in the primary - and in the meantime, lifelong resident Charlie Brown is making things happen. He's mobilizing volunteers in district offices. He's continuing to donate campaign funds to groups that provide support from veterans. And he's drawing on important support, like this message from area veterans.

Last week, something unprecedented in our country's history happened here in Roseville. While politicians in both parties used the Iraq War Anniversary for pontificating and armchair quarterbacking, a local candidate for office (himself a 26-year vet with a son going back for his fifth rotation in Iraq) made good on a pledge to donate 5% of money raised in his congressional campaign to non profit organizations helping veterans and families in need. He gave away $17,500 last Thursday - just a down payment [...]

As veterans, we would hope that the voters of District Four understand that tough talk by career politicians usually masks the coward within. Ose and McClintock are birds of a feather, flocking together.

We are soldiers. We believe in keeping promises. We believe in leading by example. We believe that patriotism trumps partisanship, action speaks louder than words, and we know, first hand what it takes to defend America. And for all of these reasons and more, we are proudly supporting Retired Lt. Col. Charlie Brown for Congress.

Powerful stuff. And another reason you shouldn't believe the hype that this district is hopeless - Charlie Brown is ready to win.

2. CA-26. Last month: 2. Incumbent: David Dreier. Challenger: Russ Warner. PVI #: R+4. % Dem. turnout: 50.2. DCCC targeted. On the financial front, Warner came close to raising as much as Dreier in the 1st quarter ($136,000 to $110,000), but Dreier still has a big well of cash to draw from. So the key for Warner is to find and exploit areas of weakness. One of them is health care. Warner vowed to forego the Congressional health care package until his constituents are fully covered - a very smart tactic that forces Dreier to confront the issue. He also used the anxiety around the housing crisis to note that Dreier took $12,000 in contributions from members of Countrywide Financial while voting against aid for homeowners. This is particularly salient given that Countrywide was basically looking past lying on applications in order to drive people who couldn't afford it into risky loans. For his part, Dreier is trying to pin high gas prices on Democrats, when he's voted time and again against reining in record oil company profits and removing their subsidies. Warner is running a pretty smart campaign thus far, and clearly Dreier knows he's in for a fight.

3. CA-50. Last month: 3. Incumbent: Brian Bilbray. Challengers: Nick Leibham, Cheryl Ede. PVI #: R+5. % Dem. turnout: 50.8. DCCC targeted. I like Nick Leibham's motto at the top of his website: "I am running for Congress because I want to be proud of my government again." Local op-ed columnists think he might indeed have reason to be proud come November - Logan Jenkins think the race isn't separated by more than a few points. Leibham had decent fundraising in Q1 and is only a couple hundred thousand dollars behind Brian Bilbray in cash-on-hand. We know that Bilbray will try to make this a single-issue race on immigration and I say let him. It's getting him headlines in the district like Bilbray strikes out on the Constitution. Cheryl Ede is running a strong grassroots campaign and endorsed the Responsible Plan to end the war in Iraq. If there's one beef I have with Leibham it's an unwillingness to be bold and run his campaign on contrasting policies. Hopefully he'll learn this lesson.

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. Julie Bornstein, former Assemblywoman and affordable housing expert, got into this campaign late but she was still able to raise around $30,000 in a matter of weeks. Add to that some money from prior election accounts and she's already within a couple hundred thousand dollars in cash on hand of Mary Bono Mack, whose fundraising has been anemic this year. I don't think she's taking this race seriously, but Bornstein is rounding up all the key endorsements, from the Senators Boxer and Feinstein, the CDP, labor, et al., and she's going to run a strong race. She does need a website - if she has one, I can't find it. Paul Clay and David Hunsicker are also running.

5. CA-03. Last month: 6. Incumbent: Dan Lungren. Challenger: Bill Durston. PVI #: R+7. % Dem turnout: 51.8. It should have raised eyebrows throughout the country when Fourthbranch Dick Cheney came out from his undisclosed location to appear at a fundraiser for Dan Lungren. Cheney doesn't visit districts where the Democrat doesn't have a shot, and this was WAY early for someone in Washington to be sounding the alarm button. Maybe they noticed that Lungren only raised around $100,000 in the first quarter, nearly matched by Bill Durston's $75,000. Durston was quick to respond to the Cheney fundraiser, too.

Dr. Bill Durston, Lungren’s Democratic opponent for House of Representatives in California’s 3rd Congressional District, states, “The fact that Dan Lungren would have Dick Cheney as his special honored guest at a fundraiser is one more demonstration of the fact that Lungren is in virtual lock step with the Bush/Cheney Administration.”

It's the old Cheney/Bush double bind; they help raise money, but most voters don't want to see you and Darth Cheney or W. in the same room. With more favorable numbers headed Durston's way, this race continues to get more and more competitive.

6. CA-46. Last month: 5. Incumbent: Dana Rohrabacher. Challenger: Debbie Cook (Responsible Plan endorser). PVI #: R+6. % Dem. turnout: 47.2. This is amazing. Debbie Cook outraised Dana Rohrabacher in the first quarter of 2008. Cook didn't even enter the race until mid-January, and yet she won the fundraising battle. Either Rohrabacher isn't paying attention or people are tired of his act. And the cash-poor NRCC isn't going to be able to pull these candidates out of the fire anymore. Debbie Cook is opening her first campaign office in Huntington Beach this coming weekend, and she's going to run a strong race about energy, global warming and the environment. We'll see if Rohrabacher can keep up. It was notable that Rohrabacher attacked the cost of the war in Iraq during the Petraeus/Crocker hearings. He knows he's vulnerable.

Third Tier

7. CA-42. Last month: 8. Incumbent: Gary Miller. Challengers: Ron Shepston (Responsible Plan Endorser), Ed Chau, Michael Williamson. PVI #: R+10. % Dem. turnout: 44.0. Disclosure: I do some netroots work for Ron Shepston. Another amazing number - Ed Chau outraised Gary Miller in Q1. The numbers are paltry - $39,000 to $36,000 - but it suggests that Miller doesn't care, isn't paying attention, or can't find anyone to give his corrupt ass a buck. Add all the Democratic challengers up together and Democrats outraised Republicans significantly out here. And the primary should be interesting. Ed Chau got labor endorsements but most of his work has been fairly under-the-radar. Ron Shepston's grassroots efforts may be able to pull the primary out, and he is starting to raise money. Shepston has Ambassador Joe Wilson coming out for a fundraiser next month. Michael Williamson has been quiet other than this attack Web ad hitting Ed Chau for not living in the district. Gary Miller actually backed Barney Frank's housing bill, which suggests that the mortgage mess is a REAL problem in the district. Jonathan Weil at Bloomberg attacked Miller for trying to hide the extent of the mess from the public.

8. CA-52. Last month: 7. Open seat. Repub. challengers: several, including Duncan D. Hunter. Dem. challengers: Mike Lumpkin, Vicki Butcher. PVI #: R+9. % Dem. turnout: 47.2. Mike Lumpkin has Max Cleland coming in for a fundraiser with him this week, and he raised a decent amount of money last quarter. Here's an overview of the race; Lumpkin apparently endorsed removing "half the troops" from Iraq, which seems to me to be a silly idea, but his background as a Navy SEAL and liaison between Congress and the Special Ops Command gives him at least some facility with the region. This is a tough seat, especially going against what amounts to a legacy candidate. And Hunter has a lot more money. Vicki Butcher is a grassroots-oriented candidate who will get her share of votes in the primary. There was actually a candidate forum in this race yesterday. Any reports out there?

9. CA-24. Last month: 9. Incumbent: Elton Gallegly. Challengers: Jill Martinez, Mary Pallant (Responsible Plan endorser). PVI #: R+5. % Dem. turnout: 50.6. Marta Jorgensen has quit the race and backed Jill Martinez. Unfortunately, the primary fight here has turned a little nasty, with Jill Martinez stretching the truth about Mary Pallant's positions and her own finances. Neither candidate raised a lot of money last quarter but Martinez claimed she had, despite her bank account being in the red. Pallant is working the progressive grassroots to win the nomination, winning the endorsements of's David Swanson and author Norman Solomon. I'd love to see a true progressive take on Elton Gallegly. He wants to drill in ANWR. He's not that bright.

10. CA-41. Last month: 11. Incumbent: Jerry Lewis. Challengers: Tim Prince, Dr. Rita Ramirez-Dean. PVI #: R+9. % Dem. turnout: 46.3. Jerry Lewis has become the point man on forcing retroactive immunity for the telecom companies back into the House for a vote. In his speech he assailed trial lawyers for wanting to sue the phone companies, which is funny because at a million dollars his legal defense fund has put several trial lawyers' kids through college. Of bigger note here is that Republicans in San Bernardino County now number under 40% and Democrats are within 8,000 voters of retaining the majority. The district is changing, and we'll see if Tim Prince or Rita Ramirez-Dean can capitalize. I do like Rita's website and use of Web video.

11. CA-44. Last month: 10. Incumbent: Ken Calvert. Challenger: Bill Hedrick (Responsible Plan endorser). PVI #: R+6. % Dem. turnout: 49.3. Bill Hedrick endorsed the Repsonsible Plan this month, which certainly helps raise his profile a bit. He's holding fundraisers and trying to make voters aware of his presence headed into the general election. Ken Calvert is gearing up for re-election by requesting all kinds of porkbarrel projects.

12. CA-25. Last month: 12. 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. This seat also includes a portion of San Bernardino County (see CA-41). McKeon has a substantial money advantage. He, by the way, "wants the victory" in Iraq. That must be nice, thinking about foreign policy like it's an NBA playoff game.

13. CA-48. Last month: 13. Incumbent: John Campbell. Challenger: Steve Young. PVI #: R+8. % Dem. turnout: 45.1. I'll keep including this race because I really like Steve Young.

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