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

Saturday, June 07, 2008

For The Love Of Money

Barack Obama's current list of donors is 1.5 million. Hillary's endorsement today is going to net him a bunch more, maybe another half a million. John Kerry's full list of donors in 2004 numbered 3 million. There's no question he's going to have at least that many people donating to him through the general election. And so we're in the very strange place of having a Democratic nominee who can throw money around against the Republican.

Sen. Barack Obama will head into the general election with the ability to raise significantly more money than his Republican opponent, an extremely rare position for a Democrat and one that could give him a huge advantage in mobilizing supporters, reaching voters and competing across the country.

Party leaders say they expect Obama to surpass the more than quarter-billion dollars he amassed during the primaries, buoyed by a fundraising list with more than 1.5 million names, an uncommon knack for attracting money online and the expected addition of scores of established bundlers who helped bankroll Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's campaign.

Obama's advantage, which could stretch into the tens of millions over Republican Sen. John McCain, would allow the senator from Illinois to build a far more robust field operation and let him drench radio and television airwaves in a much broader array of states, including those where Democrats do not traditionally compete. He would also have enough money to enjoy the luxury of making mistakes, whereas any poor choices McCain makes would be felt much more acutely.

It's the field operation where I think this cash is really going to help Obama. If he can organize at the precinct level and put a million volunteers on the streets in the general election, the advantage is going to be overwhelming. McCain just doesn't have that kind of grassroots support. Moreover, if McCain is spending all his time chasing money while Obama lets it roll in online, there's a significant gap in what can be done in personal appearances, too.

And Obama is playing the "will you take public money for the general election" question just right.

On campaign finance. Obama said he'll accept public financing for his campaign — which would limit the amount of spending — only if McCain agrees to curb spending by the Republican National Committee. "I won't disarm unilaterally," he said.

The RNC has a huge war chest and is using a "Victory Fund" to combine fundraising strength with McCain. It's absolutely right to suggest that their presence in the race is forcing Obama to use his own funders to support his campaign. That's the right answer.

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Democats Ceding Ground On The Budget

L.A. teachers walked out of their classrooms for one hour yesterday to protest proposed education cuts in the budget. In West LA they stopped traffic. Speaker Bass, at LA Trade Technical College for a ceremonial swearing-in event, offered support to the teachers.

State Assembly Speaker Karen Bass (D-Los Angeles) said the demonstrators -- who included teachers in red T-shirts, parents with young children and students -- were heard by the governor and state lawmakers wrestling with a $17-billion budget shortfall. She said Democrats in the Assembly and Senate will not accept any budget that is balanced through cuts only.

"I absolutely support the action taken by the teachers, and if it wasn't for the swearing-in activities, I would have walked on the picket line right along with them," said Bass at her ceremonial inauguration as Assembly speaker at Los Angeles Trade Technical College. "What the teachers did today was they sounded the alarm for the people of Los Angeles to understand how serious this crisis is."

Of course, it would be nicer if this show of support translated into a revenue solution more robust than picking up the Governor's ridiculous lottery borrowing idea and running with it.

Democratic lawmakers made an opening pitch Thursday for closing the state's $15.2 billion deficit, using lottery borrowing as well as unspecified proposals to close tax loopholes [...]

Assembly Democrats have supported the governor's plan to borrow from the lottery but rejected his proposal to put the money into a so-called "rainy day" account. Instead, they would like to use the money to pay down debt.

Democratic leaders in both houses proposed giving schools more than the governor recommended. They include cost-of-living increases for teachers.

I think the move here for Bass is to get the necessary short-term revenue by whatever means necessary to balance the budget this year, and then put her taxation task force in motion thereafter and make the real fight through the next two years of her leadership. But that's unfortunately a shortsighted proposal. Borrowing from the lottery means greater deficits in the future, and Californians understand this and have rejected the idea. Every year that we fail to address the revenue side is a year where we have to borrow more and more to get the budget balanced, meaning that we'll need more revenue when we finally get around to structural change. And Bass doesn't seem particularly wedded to any tax loophole closures because she didn't specify any.

You could see this coming when Fabian Nuñez gave his blessing to the lottery proposal in an editorial a couple weeks ago. Democrats should be headed into this debate strongly, with the backing of the people of the state and the spectre of a 2/3 majority cutting Republicans completely out of the equation. But they've already gone more than halfway before the negotiation has even started.

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SOFA Matters

Yesterday we were treated to the revelation that the Cheney Administration is trying to blackmail the Iraqi government by effectively holding billions of dollars of their assets hostage until they seen the status of forces agreement allowing US military and contractor personnel autonomy and immunity inside Iraq. The Iraqis don't have a lot of cards to play, but they're trying to play them.

The Iraqi government may request an extension of the United Nations security mandate authorizing a U.S. military presence, due to expire in December, amid growing domestic criticism of new bilateral arrangements now being negotiated with the Bush administration, according to senior Iraqi officials.

Iraqis across the political spectrum have objected to Bush administration proposals for unilateral authority over U.S. military operations in Iraq and the detention of Iraqi citizens, immunity for civilian security contractors, and continuing control over Iraqi borders and airspace.

Failure to reach an agreement on the arrangements, which must be approved by the Iraqi parliament, would leave the negotiations over a future U.S.-Iraqi relationship and the role of U.S. forces in the country to the next American president.

For some reason, the Iraqis understand the value of stalling this President and running out the clock more than the Democratic leadership. They have a better sense of how their very future is at stake.

In addition to the political machinations inside the UN, protesters are flooding the streets, denouncing the proposed SOFA and calling on a popular referendum before any agreement becomes law. The popular mobilization here is going to make it almost impossible for the Maliki government to sign any pact with the US. They'd have betrayed their own people and would never survive the next round of elections. Similarly, the pressure being put on them from the other side is enormous. I honestly don't know how it will turn out, but our soldiers' safety and the stability of the nation most certainly hangs in the balance.

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Clinton Magnanimous

It's kind of amazing that Obama supporters convinced themselves into thinking that Hillary Clinton, the lightning rod of the late 20th and the early 21st century, wasn't a partisan, and wouldn't come together to endorse the Democratic nominee wholeheartedly. Well, she did today, and it was a solid speech.

I think the rampant speculation about her political future is actually kind of boring, but clearly she's a major voice inside the party and will remain so for years to come, in whatever capacity she chooses. I frankly think that the whole "What does Hillary want?" line of questioning is pretty misogynist, as if she's someone that needs to be dealt with instead of someone who will set her own path.

And I loved how she addressed the issue of women's rights and women's equality inside the speech. It was the subtext undergirding her campaign, and I'm glad she made it over. She should have done it a long time ago.

Overall, we're finally starting to see the beginnings of unity inside the Democratic Party.

UPDATE: Obama's response:

"Obviously, I am thrilled and honored to have Senator Clinton's support. But more than that, I honor her today for the valiant and historic campaign she has run. She shattered barriers on behalf of my daughters and women everywhere, who now know that there are no limits to their dreams. And she inspired millions with her strength, courage and unyielding commitment to the cause of working Americans. Our party and our country are stronger because of the work she has done throughout her life, and I'm a better candidate for having had the privilege of competing with her in this campaign. No one knows better than Senator Clinton how desperately America and the American people need change, and I know she will continue to be in the forefront of that battle this fall and for years to come."

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Support The Troops' Drug Habit

It's just touching what this government does for our men and women we send into battle. If they have concerns about the overextended tours of duty, or the multiple deployments, or the lack of body armor or safety equipment, and the undefined mission, our boys in uniform get the best blue pills money can buy:

For the first time in history, a sizable and growing number of U.S. combat troops are taking daily doses of antidepressants to calm nerves strained by repeated and lengthy tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. The medicines are intended not only to help troops keep their cool but also to enable the already strapped Army to preserve its most precious resource: soldiers on the front lines. Data contained in the Army's fifth Mental Health Advisory Team report indicate that, according to an anonymous survey of U.S. troops taken last fall, about 12% of combat troops in Iraq and 17% of those in Afghanistan are taking prescription antidepressants or sleeping pills to help them cope. Escalating violence in Afghanistan and the more isolated mission have driven troops to rely more on medication there than in Iraq, military officials say.

At a Pentagon that keeps statistics on just about everything, there is no central clearinghouse for this kind of data, and the Army hasn't consistently asked about prescription-drug use, which makes it difficult to track. Given the traditional stigma associated with soldiers seeking mental help, the survey, released in March, probably underestimates antidepressant use. But if the Army numbers reflect those of other services — the Army has by far the most troops deployed to the war zones — about 20,000 troops in Afghanistan and Iraq were on such medications last fall. The Army estimates that authorized drug use splits roughly fifty-fifty between troops taking antidepressants — largely the class of drugs that includes Prozac and Zoloft — and those taking prescription sleeping pills like Ambien.

And if the combination of psychotropic drug use and the horrors of a war zone prove too much for them upon return to the states, that's OK - they just stick them in the back of the base by the firing range:

FORT BENNING, Ga. -- Army Sgt. Jonathan Strickland sits in his room at noon with the blinds drawn, seeking the sleep that has eluded him since he was knocked out by the blast of a Baghdad car bomb.

Like many of the wounded soldiers living in the newly built "warrior transition" barracks here, the soft-spoken 25-year-old suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder. But even as Strickland and his comrades struggle with nightmares, anxiety and flashbacks from their wartime experiences, the sounds of gunfire have followed them here, just outside their windows.

Across the street from their assigned housing, about 200 yards away, are some of the Army infantry's main firing ranges, and day and night, several days each week, barrages from rifles and machine guns echo around Strickland's building. The noise makes the wounded cringe, startle in their formations, and stay awake and on edge, according to several soldiers interviewed at the barracks last month. The gunfire recently sent one soldier to the emergency room with an anxiety attack, they said.

"You hear a lot of shots, it puts you in a defensive mode," said Strickland, who spent a year with an infantry platoon in Baghdad and has since received a diagnosis of PTSD from the military. He now takes medicine for anxiety and insomnia. "My heart starts racing and I get all excited and irritable," he said, adding that the adrenaline surge "puts me back in that mind frame that I am actually there."

It's like they're TRYING to create another generation of strung-out homeless veterans.

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OK, What The Hell Is EMILY's List Doing?

I was prepared to bash EMILY's List, which is by all accounts seems to be a fine organization, for endorsing Nikki Tinker, a Harold Ford/DLC clone who isn't personally pro-choice. Now, EMILY's List's ENTIRE raison d'etre is to support pro-choice women for elected office, so I'm not seeing the point here. Plus Rep. Steve Cohen, her primary opponent, is a great progressive, and they're not expanding the field of pro-choice legislators whatsoever by going after this seat. Cohen is a Jewish man in a predominantly black seat in Memphis, Tennessee, but that doesn't mean EMILY's List has to jump on board with any woman challenger.

But it doesn't stop there. Pam Spaulding writes:

In one Congressional race (Tennessee’s 9th district, which includes Memphis and environs), EMILY’s List is backing a candidate, Nikki Tinker, who is up against a pro-choice, pro-LGBT incumbent, Steven Cohen. Tinker’s campaign and surrogates have engaged in disturbing tactics that show how conflicts between core Democratic constituencies have erupted into ways difficult to paper over.

Rep. Steve Cohen, who is Jewish, was attacked in a flier (left, “Memphis Congressman Steve Cohen and the Jews hate Jesus") distributed by a black homobigoted pastor from Murphreesboro who is not even from Cohen’s district, Rev. George Brooks. Tinker, who happens to be black as well, and was called to condemn the flier. (WaPo):

[T]he literature encourages other black leaders in Memphis to ”see to it that one and ONLY one black Christian faces this opponent of Christ and Christianity in the 2008 election.”

The Commercial Appeal wrote an editorial in Wednesday’s paper condemning Tinker for not speaking out against the anti-Semitic literature.

“What does Nikki Tinker think about anti-Semitic literature being circulated that might help her unseat 9th District Congressman Steve Cohen in the Democratic primary next August?” the editorial asked. “The question goes to the character of the woman who wants to represent the 9th District, and 9th District voters deserve an answer. But Tinker declined to return a phone call about the flier.”

That's really disgusting. Is there any vetting going on at Ellen Malcolm's offices?

The real sad thing is that unless you get a group like EMILY's List aboard you can kiss a primary challenge goodbye. And this is who they decide to lend that power to. There is so much work to be done.

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Peace With Honor

It took me a little while to figure out what this new John McCain ad reminded me of.

"Only a fool or a fraud talks tough or romantically about war," McCain tells the camera. "I was shot down over Vietnam and spent five years as a POW. Some of the friends I served with never came home. I hate war. And I know how terrible its costs are."

Never mind that McCain routinely romanticizes war, such as in his books like Faith of My Fathers or Worth The Fighting For (yes, for some reason there's a "the" in there). But let's try and determine what's really going on here. In the midst of a war he's cheerleaded for five years, he comes out and tells us how much he hates war, leaving unsaid any desiresor strategies to end the current one.

It reminded me an awful lot of this Richard Nixon ad from 1968:

Nixon talked in slightly more explicit terms about new leadership and an honorable end to Vietnam. But there was no substance behind the talk. While the visual styles are different, each suited to its time period, these are basically the same ads. Rick Perlstein writes about the Nixon ads in his book Nixonland on page 333:

Nixon's commercials would run without narration as well. The sound would only be music and snippets from stump speeches. The images, rapid-fire collages of still photographs, told the story just as effectively with the sound off, a visual semaphore. TV specialist Harry Treleaven was so proud of their aesthetic force that he screened them for curators at the Museum of Modern Art, hoping they might be added to the collection. The aesthetes were unimpressed: "The good guys are either soldiers, children, or over fifty years old." It was a telling moment: that's why Treleaven believed they belonged in the museum. He responded, "Nixon has not only developed the use of the platitude, he's raised it to an art form" - a mirror of Americans' "delightful misconceptions of themselves and their country." (He meant it as a compliment.) (Gene, the combat photographer who created the spots) Jones's assistant imagined staging the State of the Union the same way - intercut with heart-tugging stills.

While McCain's spots have that personal touch of narration, they really are meant to evoke the same "delightful misconceptions" - meant to make the viewer feel good instead of informed about any agenda or plan for the future. If you felt good about Nixon pursuing an honorable end to the war in Vietnam, you were comfortable with his escalation into Cambodia and carper-bombing of the North. If you feel satisfied with McCain's explanation about his hatred of war, you won't mind so much when he declares it approximately once every 28.4 seconds upon reaching the Oval Office.

This is a blurring strategy, making war into an abstraction that is excruciating but necessary, and avoiding the unnecessary invasion that has saddled us with the occupation of Iraq. The idea that nobody likes war but sometimes there is no choice is a powerful mainstream opinion in America. It has absolutely nothing to do with the current war in Iraq or proposed wars with Iran or Syria or whatever other tiny adversary we have, which is why McCain feels on more solid ground going with the abstraction.

Watch out for this. It's bound to be effective.

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Hussein Obama X, White America's Nightmare

I think that the conservative noise machine needs to go with an Obama slur and stick with it. Either he's a scary black man, as exemplified by the description on a new RNC attack site of Obama's job working with church groups and displaced steelworkers on the South Side of Chicago as a street organizer (I would have also accepted "slum herder"), or he's a bombs-away jihadist, as exemplified by E.D. Hill's description of Barack and Michelle's fist bump before his victory speech on Tuesday (which is so 2003 that my uncle Irving probably does it by now) as a terrorist fist jab.

He's a black carjacker, or he's a terrorist. I mean, you've got to come up with one.

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Friday, June 06, 2008

The AIPAC Shuffle

For the record, Barack Obama spent the day after clinching the primary at TWO conferences; the SEIU convention (via satellite) and the AIPAC conference. One gives us hope that he will be a leader on labor rights and universal health care; the other, as Scarecrow notes, was terribly depressing. Obama's speech to the conservative pro-Israel group had moments of pushback, suggesting that the failed Bush policies like the Iraq war have strengthened the hand of Hamas, Hezbollah, and Iran, and weakened Israeli security, for example (yeah, no kidding). But by and large, it was a full-on pander, designed to reassure hardliners that he was tough enough to out-bluster them.

Virtually every speech ever delivered to an AIPAC conference, going back 54 years to the first AIPAC conclave, is a litany of pro-Israeli shibboleths. Obama didn't disappoint. He learned about the Holocaust from a camp counselor at age 11, he said, and his great-uncle helped to liberate Buchenwald. Check. "As president I will never compromise when it comes to Israeli security." Check. He advocates strengthening US-Israeli military ties, and wants to sign a memorandum of understanding to provide Israel with $30 billion in military aid over the next ten years to "ensure Israel's qualitative military advantage." Check. No negotiations with Hamas and Hezbollah. Check. And while he will talk to Iran, it will be "tough and principled diplomacy with the appropriate Iranian leader at a time and place of my choosing--if, and only if--it can advance the interests of the United States." Check. And just in case AIPAC thinks that he won't act, Obama added: "I will always keep the threat of military action on the table."

In case anyone missed the point, Obama added: "I will do everything in my power to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon." He repeated that sentence twice, for emphasis. And for additional emphasis, he said again: "Everything."

I'll get to the Iran scaremongering in a moment, but a major failing of the speech was Obama calling for an undivided Jerusalem, even though parts of it are entirely Arab, and from a historical standpoint it remains the capital of Palestine. Obama tried to clean up the comment later, saying that he was just talking about barbed wire or barricades in the city. But this kind of talk is very detrimental to the quest for peace in the Arab-Israeli conflict and not worth a few idle votes from hardliners.

The Iran talk is even more worrisome. It mirrors Condi Rice's tough talk at the conference, and suggests that the only way to deal with Iran is through making belligerent threats and then asking them to be an honest partner in negotiations. The world doesn't work that way. Obama may be making a distinction on negotiating at all - a distinction that American overwhelmingly support - but the style of the rhetoric is redolent of your garden variety Bush press conference:

President George W. Bush told Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Wednesday Iran posed an "existential threat to peace" the world must take seriously.

The White House talks came a day after Olmert, on a U.S. trip while under criminal investigation at home, issued his toughest warning yet to Iran, saying its nuclear program must be stopped by "all possible means."

Echoing Israel's frequent description of a nuclear-armed Iran as a risk to its survival, Bush said at the start of the meeting: "It is very important for the world to take the Iranian threat seriously, which the United States does."

(no word on whether Olmert, trying to wag his own dog, asked Bush to bomb Iran, but I wouldn't call that unlikely.)

By engaging Iran solely on the terms of a nonexistent nuclear program, Obama insults the intelligence of the international community and causes great danger over the next six months for the entire region. As Scarecrow says:

Even more troubling, if the Bush Administration is planning to attack Iran, claiming it's necessary to carry out their promise not to allow Iran to develop nuclear weapons, it doesn't appear the Democrats said anything to AIPAC that could be interpreted as demanding the Administration stop. If everyone says, "we won't allow Iran to do this," while adding "we won't rule out military force to make sure they don't," then there's no reason to expect George Bush and Dick Cheney to interpret these statements as anything other than a green light to do as they please. The only thing to decide is the timing.

When/if this Administration attacks Iran, it simply won't be credible for Democrats to say, "gee, we thought Bush should have pursued diplomacy more than he did." Clinton said that about Iraq, and that's probably why she lost the nomination. The usual rationale, that by providing a united political front against Iran, we strengthen the Administration's diplomatic hand, thus encouraging more compliant behavior from Iran, might make sense with any Administration other than the Bush/Cheney regime, whose judgment cannot be trusted. We heard that reasoning before too, on the Lieberman/Kyl resolution regarding Iran, and Obama rejected that argument then. The point then, as now, is not whether we trust Obama to act wisely once he is President, but whether we trust Bush/Cheney to act wisely in the next six months, given what others say today.

Exactly right, and considering the close ties between Iraq and Iran, failure to check such warmongering deliberately puts our own soldiers at risk and makes possible a total regional conflagration.

We already know that John McCain is a lunatic cowboy. It was very depressing seeing Obama give his cowboy impression.

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World Report

• This Zimbabwean election is poised to end in violence and tragedy. The runoff between ruler Robert Mugabe and challenger Morgan Tsvangirai is set for later in the month. And already Tsvangirai has been arrested and detained before being set free, and US and British diplomats have also been detained. They're trying to suspend all NGO work in the country under the suspicion that aid workers are undermining the ruling party. This kind of paranoia combined with brute force never ends well.

• Speaking of fearful dictators, in Burma the military junta has rejected the aid of US Navy ships, leaving up to a million people still without adequate food or water in the wake of the cyclone. Meanwhile, the country has gone so far as to detain an activist comedian named "The Tweezers" for the crime of trying to help out cyclone victims. That's a humanitarian disaster beyond all reason, and a telling reminder of the tragic intersection between natural disasters and despotic governments.

• Here's a nice interview with the world's most notorious nuclear proliferator - A.Q. Khan, under the scourge of house arrest at his elaborate villa in Pakistan. He claims in the interview that he was doing the bidding of Pakistan by selling nuclear secrets to the likes of Libya and North Korea. That just shows the stupidity of trying to work with Pervez Musharraf, the head of the government during Khan's selling spree.

• I've been sitting on this one for a couple weeks, but haven't had the time to go into it. Basically, the British have been laundering money through a weapons maker called BAE and creating a giant off-the-books slush fund that has been used to finance covert ops with Britain and the United States in the lead. The Saudis were at the head of this, through former US Ambassador Prince Bandar. It's looking pretty clear that these bribes from the Saudis to BAE funded covert ops. The story is labyrinthine, but Marcy Wheeler's on it.

• There may be nothing sadder than the plight of the Baghdad Jews. This is a sect that has direct roots back to Abraham, and in the strife of the Iraq occupation they've been almost completely wiped out.

• Maher Arar was a Canadian citizen who US officials detained after 9/11 and rendered to Syria, where he was tortured. Now the Justice Department is investigating the incident, but I hold little hope that they will reach any actionable conclusion. What's sad is how stories like Arar's are NOT the exception. Also sad is the number of investigations that this branch of the DoJ, the Office of Professional Responsibility, has on their plate.

• And the story of the day is the retelling of how the Defense Department was duped by Iranian intelligence into advancing the cause of exiles, which led to the Iraq war.

Defense Department counterintelligence investigators suspected that Iranian exiles who provided dubious intelligence on Iraq and Iran to a small group of Pentagon officials might have "been used as agents of a foreign intelligence service ... to reach into and influence the highest levels of the U.S. government," a Senate Intelligence Committee report said Thursday.

A top aide to then-secretary of defense Donald H. Rumsfeld, however, shut down the 2003 investigation into the Pentagon officials' activities after only a month, and the Defense Department's top brass never followed up on the investigators' recommendation for a more thorough investigation, the Senate report said.

The proper response to unbelievable misconduct of this kind is to stop any investigation into it.

You should read the whole sordid story. It involves neocon crackpot Michael Ledeen, an old Iran-Contra hand named Manucher Ghorbanifar, and basically a bunch of idiots at the Pentagon taking these stories at face value. The stories that have come out JUST THIS WEEK about the war are enough grounds for impeachment.

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CA House Races Roundup - Post-Primary Edition 6/6/08

Well, the votes are in, the matchups are set, and so I thought it was time for a baseline roundup of where I think the California House races stand as of now. The main pieces of information that are causing me to reset my expectations are the primary results, the April 1-May 15 fundraising numbers and the new registration numbers from the Secretary of State's office. You can track all three yourself:

FEC disclosures (you can search by candidate name)
Voter registration by Congressional district.

That said, let's take a look, starting with the one threatened Democratic seat.

(A note: I'm going to start a state legislative roundup as well)


1. CA-11. Incumbent: Jerry McNerney. Challenger: Dean Andal. Cook number: R+3. % Dem turnout in the Presidential primary: 53.7%. DCCC defended. Good news and bad news out of this race. The good news is that Dean Andal can't seem to raise any money - just $11,000 in the pre-primary filing period. The bad news is that Andal got about 900 more votes in his uncontested primary than McNerney did in his. McNerney seemed to have a lot of trouble attracting votes in San Joaquin County, which brought back more votes than any county in the district. While the NRCC and RNC will clearly be gunning for McNerney, the Barack Obama factor is certainly going to help him, as well has his incumbency status. So it's not time to pull the alarm just yet. But McNerney does have some work to do.


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. challenger: Tom McClintock. PVI #: R+11. % Dem turnout in Feb. primary: 44.7. DCCC targeted. Well, the battle is set. Tom McClintock, the Alan Keyes of California, came out of his divisive primary triumphant, and now Charlie Brown has an opponent. The Brown campaign released polls showing him leading McClintock in a head-to-head matchup. Steve Weigand isn't yet willing to bet the farm on a Brown pickup, but he recognizes the Roseville Democrat's strength against the carpetbagging Republican from Thousand Oaks. That Brown was able to get 42,000-plus votes against token competition on Tuesday shows that he has an energized activist base. Peter Hecht has a good primer on the state of the race. Expect Brown to hammer the message of Patriotism Above Partisanship against his knee-jerk wingnut conservative opponent. Also, McClintock is broke after a costly primary and has a lot of catching up to do financially.

2. CA-26. Last month: 2. Incumbent: David Dreier. Challenger: Russ Warner. PVI #: R+4. % Dem. turnout: 50.2. DCCC targeted. Russ Warner avenged his earlier loss to Cynthia Matthews in 2006 by winning handily on Tuesday, 67%-33%. His turnout was not great, however (just 14,000 votes). David Dreier got 74% of the vote, not great for an incumbent, and turnout was low district-wide. Warner has been stepping up his game with a Web ad about Dreier's frequent trips abroad and a companion site, Frequent Flyer Dreier. My gut feel is that this is not an effective line of attack, especially when the easiest one is tying Dreier, a member of the House Republican Leadership, to George Bush and a failed conservative agenda. I think there's enough interest in this seat that such a message will get out there, however. But Warner needs to improve on his June performance. The new registration numbers are moving in Warner's favor, however.

Second Tier

3. CA-45. Last month: 4. Incumbent: Mary Bono Mack. Challenger: Julie Bornstein. PVI #: R+3. % Dem. turnout: 51.3. Bornstein easily bested two challengers and won her race on Tuesday with just over 60% of the vote. Adding up the Dem v. GOP vote you get about 22,000 Dems and 33,000 Republicans, which isn't great. But I feel Bornstein has some advantages. Being an affordable housing advocate at a time when foreclosures are at an all-time high gives her authority on an important issue. This article explaining her support for the Foreclosure Prevention Act is an example. Manuel Perez' win in AD-80, which partially overlaps the district, will be helpful too, especially if they engage in a campaign to register voters in the underperforming eastern regions of Riverside County like the Coachella Valley. There's a lot of room to run here, and it's wide open for Democrats to exploit. The registration numbers show just a 19,000-vote difference between Democrats and Republicans, and a dearth of registered voters relative to other districts. This is an opportunity. Bornstein also had pretty solid fundraising in the pre-primary filing (around $40K in 6 weeks).

4. CA-46. Last month: 6. Incumbent: Dana Rohrabacher. Challenger: Debbie Cook (Responsible Plan endorser). PVI #: R+6. % Dem. turnout: 47.2. There's a great profile of this race in today's Los Angeles Times.

Huntington Beach Mayor Debbie Cook has survived a few long-shot political battles. But the Debbie-versus-Goliath matchup she's facing this fall is her biggest gamble yet.

The popular Surf City official is the Democratic hope to unseat GOP incumbent Rep. Dana Rohrabacher -- seeking his 11th term -- in an underdog campaign some observers believe may succeed.

Read the whole thing. I need to see Cook's fundraising numbers go up before I become a true believer, and her primary performance on Tuesday didn't set the world on fire. Cook got around 20,000 votes to Rohrabacher's 35,000. But Rohrabacher isn't doing any meaningful fundraising at all, and he continues to stick his foot in his mouth with asinine comments like yesterday's about torture being just a bunch of "frat boy pranks." Cook's communications team is fabulous and understands the netroots, and they'll be sure to get attention in this cycle (Blue America has already hosted her). Rohrabacher acknowledges in the LAT article that he'll have to pay attention to this race. He's right.

5. CA-50. Last month: 3. Incumbent: Brian Bilbray. Challenger: Nick Leibham. PVI #: R+5. % Dem. turnout: 50.8. DCCC targeted. Nick Leibham had a good fundraising cycle (about $70K raised in 6 weeks) but a disastrous primary. Cheryl Ede, who was not well-funded, got 43 percent of the vote, and Leibham was only able to manage 19,000 votes to Brian Bilbray's 46,000. The implication here is that Leibham has a problem with the activist support he's going to need going into November. That spells trouble - especially in a seat that's winnable enough that Bilbray's going to try and blur party lines in anticipation of a Democratic wave. In such an environment, we need someone willing to offer a real politics of contrast. This biographical ad is a decent start but Leibham has to get the message out there.

6. CA-03. Last month: 5. Incumbent: Dan Lungren. Challenger: Bill Durston. PVI #: R+7. % Dem turnout: 51.8. The news is all pretty good for Bill Durston. He had a fantastic fundraising cycle (77,000 in 6 weeks) and a strong showing in the primary, getting 26,000 votes to Dan Lungren's 34,000. Lungren, last seen in a Speedo on a lobbyist-paid trip to Hawaii, is absolutely going to have to work this time around. Durston's strategy in his second attempt to win this seat is slightly reminiscent of the effort against Richard Pombo in 2006. He'll need the same kind of support from outside groups to pull it off but it's not impossible; like in CA-11, the registration numbers are all pointing in the Democratic direction, with less than 4 percentage points and only 15,000 votes separating Democrats and Republicans, the closest of any GOP-held seat.

Third Tier

7. CA-52. Last month: 8. Open seat. Dem. challenger: Mike Lumpkin. Repub. challenger: Duncan D. Hunter. PVI #: R+9. % Dem. turnout: 47.2. The election night numbers show this seat to still be firmly Republican, with Duncan D. Hunter getting over twice as many votes in his race as Mike Lumpkin got in his. Lumpkin managed only 58% of the vote, too, so he needs to lock down base support. Lumpkin's fundraising remains OK but Hunter's got a big advantage there. I personally liked Lumpkin's rejection of those who would treat marriage equality as a divisive wedge issue.

8. CA-44. Last month: 11. Incumbent: Ken Calvert. Challenger: Bill Hedrick (Responsible Plan endorser). PVI #: R+6. % Dem. turnout: 49.3. Bill Hedrick got only 15,000 votes in his uncontested effort on Tuesday, but Ken Calvert got only 25,000 votes in his. This seems like one of those seats where nobody actually knows who the incumbent is. In a Democratic wave election, this is on the outside edge of being competitive.

9. CA-24. Last month: 9. Incumbent: Elton Gallegly. Challenger: Marta Jorgensen. PVI #: R+5. % Dem. turnout: 50.6. This was the shocker primary of the night. Marta Jorgensen, who had dropped out of the race up until a couple weeks before the primary, ended up besting her two challengers, leaving party leaders in the district baffled. There were hopes that this could be a battleground in November, but obviously Jorgensen - who had no expectation of winning and was told about her victory by the media - has a lot of work to do. She introduced herself to the Calitics community today, and her record as someone who worked on the Draft Gore movement is admirable. We'll see how she approaches the next few months.

10. CA-41. Last month: 10. Incumbent: Jerry Lewis. Challenger: Tim Prince. PVI #: R+9. % Dem. turnout: 46.3. Tim Prince received just 32% of the vote in winning his primary over 3 challengers on Tuesday. With Jerry Lewis apparently in the clear from a legal standpoint, even his role as one of America's most corrupt politicians may not be enough to take him down.

11. CA-42. Last month: 7. Incumbent: Gary Miller. Challengers: Ed Chau. PVI #: R+10. % Dem. turnout: 44.0. Ed Chau got around 7,000 votes in disposing of two challengers on primary night, while Gary Miller, running unopposed, got 32,000. Chau needs to raise his profile throughout the district, as he lives outside it. There is a small Asian community in the district and that would be a good place to start.

12. CA-48. Last month: 13. Incumbent: John Campbell. Challenger: Steve Young. PVI #: R+8. % Dem. turnout: 45.1. In a district including Irvine, the housing issue is going to be enormous, so if Steve Young wants to have a shot he's going to have to make that the big issue. He got 18,000 votes in his uncontested primary; John Campbell got 40,000 in his. It's an uphill climb.

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Today is the anniversary of D-Day. My site is about modern politics and not about that event; the name "D-Day" is a contraction of my name.

However, I appreciate the annual traffic spike! And to help you in your journey for information about the storming of the beaches at Normandy, here's a nice article from the OC Register about the remaining survivors of the invasion.


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McCain's Telecom Flip-Flop Breaks Into Big Media

McCain's flip-flop on radical executive power and illegal spying actually happened a few days ago, but I'm glad Charlie Savage elevated it by covering it in the New York Times.

A top adviser to Senator John McCain says Mr. McCain believes that President Bush’s program of wiretapping without warrants was lawful, a position that appears to bring him into closer alignment with the sweeping theories of executive authority pushed by the Bush administration legal team.

In a letter posted online by National Review this week, the adviser, Douglas Holtz-Eakin, said Mr. McCain believed that the Constitution gave Mr. Bush the power to authorize the National Security Agency to monitor Americans’ international phone calls and e-mail without warrants, despite a 1978 federal statute that required court oversight of surveillance.

Mr. McCain believes that “neither the administration nor the telecoms need apologize for actions that most people, except for the A.C.L.U. and trial lawyers, understand were constitutional and appropriate in the wake of the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001,” Mr. Holtz-Eakin wrote.

Those eeeeevil trial lawyers! And that darn ACLU, trying to protect the Bill of Rights and stand in the way of a President asserting the right to break the law and what-not...

I'm glad Savage got Sen. Obama to comment on McCain's position, too.

In an interview about his views on the limits of executive power with The Boston Globe six months ago, Mr. McCain strongly suggested that if he became the next commander in chief, he would consider himself obligated to obey a statute restricting what he did in national security matters [...]

Mr. McCain’s position, as outlined by Mr. Holtz-Eakin, was criticized by the campaign of his presumptive Democratic opponent in the presidential election, Senator Barack Obama of Illinois. Greg Craig, an Obama campaign adviser, said Wednesday that anyone reading Mr. McCain’s answers to The Globe and the more recent statement would be “totally confused” about “what Senator McCain thinks about what the Constitution means and what President Bush did.”

“American voters deserve to know which side of this flip-flop he’s on today, and what he would do as president,” Mr. Craig said in a phone interview.

It's absolutely a flip-flop and it's good to see it described as such. Of course, Sen. Obama has the opportunity to do more than criticize his opponent - he can go to the Democratic leadership right now and get them to stop the giveaway of immunity for telecoms for lawbreaking and massive new spying powers for the federal government.

As for McCain, aside from cozying up to conservatives, it's obvious why he's changed his position - all that luscious telecom money.

Republican presidential candidate John McCain has condemned the influence of "special interest lobbyists," yet dozens of lobbyists have political and financial ties to his presidential campaign — particularly from telecommunications companies, an industry he helps oversee in the Senate.

Of the 66 current or former lobbyists working for the Arizona senator or raising money for his presidential campaign, 23 have lobbied for telecommunications companies in the past decade, Senate lobbying disclosures show.

And they get what they pay for.

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Dating Himself

Let me ask you something. If you're an old guy named John McCain, and you don't want to call attention to the fact of how old you are, would you describe your opponent by making a reference to William Jennings Bryan, who last contested for the Presidency in 1908?

Would that be the smart thing to do?

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Everything's Coming Up Crap

The job news today was quite discouraging.

The nation's unemployment rate jumped to 5.5 percent in May — the biggest monthly rise since 1986 — as nervous employers cut 49,000 jobs.

The latest snapshot of business conditions showed a deeply troubled economy, with dwindling job opportunities in a time of continuing hardship in the housing, credit and financial sectors.

"It was ugly," said Richard Yamarone, economist at Argus Research.

This really is about two things - rising energy prices and the collapse of the housing market. Foreclosures hit a record in the first quarter of 2008 as adjustable rate mortgages continue to reset at levels too high for homeowners. The financial industry is holding bunches of bad loans, not only from mortgages but from what they floated for construction of buildings that aren't selling. This is causing a construction slump, which has hurt Latinos tremendously, but also the greater economy. Without rising property tax revenue local governments find it harder to deliver services, which tends to lock in class struggles. This blog post from Sen. Bernie Sanders is telling:

As gas and oil prices soared and as the nation slipped into recession, I made a request to Vermonters on my e-mail list. I asked them to tell me what was going on in their lives economically. That was it. Frankly, I expected a few dozen replies. I was amazed, therefore, when my office received more than 700 responses from all across the state, as well as some from other states.

A Vermont mother wrote, "We have at times had to choose between baby food and heating fuel." A 55-year-old man from rural Pennsylvania said, "I am just tired, the harder that I work the harder it gets." A retired couple in Vermont asked, "Does anybody in Washington care?"

It is one thing to read dry economic statistics which describe the collapse of the American middle class. Since George W. Bush has been in office 5 million Americans have slipped into poverty, 8 million have lost their health insurance and 3 million have lost their pensions. In the last seven years median household income for working-age Americans has declined by $2,500. Our country, for the first time since the Great Depression, now has a zero personal savings rate and, all across the nation, emergency food shelves are being flooded with working families whose inadequate wages prevent them from feeding their families.

It is another thing to understand, in flesh-and-blood terms, what that means in the lives of ordinary Americans. The responses that I received describe the decline of the American middle class from the perspective of those people who are living that decline. They speak about families who, not long ago, thought they were economically secure, but now find themselves sinking into desperation and hopelessness.

We are looking at a disruptive economic downturn that will either be countered by some kind of 21st-century New Deal, overturned by some technological innovation or expansion, or ignored as the stratification between rich and poor becomes almost unthinkable. This is a dangerous economic picture. It may mean electoral success for the Democrats, but right now I'm worried about the pain and suffering.

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Friday Random Ten

This is likely to be a light posting day, but of course every other time I say that I end up putting up a million things, so we'll see...

Bar Infierno - Fussible
Sea Lion Woman - Feist
Chocolate City - Parliament
The First Five Times - Stars
How I Could Just Kill A Man - Rage Against The Machine
Alright Hear This - The Beastie Boys
Public Pervert - Interpol
Les Lapins - Stereo Total
Just Friends (live) - Amy Winehouse
The Fallen - Franz Ferdinand

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Climate Bill Fails

It wasn't a good bill anyway. But I sort of see the point in getting a baseline lay of the land. The vote was 48-36, but apparently there were 6 other yes votes out there from members who weren't present (including Obama and McCain, although it's easier for McCain to say that in a letter). I sort of get the strategy of setting a baseline of support and then going all-out next year to get it passed, as John Kerry predicted in a post-vote press conference. But that eventual bill has to be stronger than this one and in line with the position of the head of the party, Barack Obama.

Interesting to look at the roll call.

The vote broke largely along party lines, although GOP Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Elizabeth Dole of North Carolina, Mel Martinez of Florida, Gordon Smith of Oregon, Olympia Snowe of Maine and John Sununu of New Hampshire joined with the majority of Democrats in voting for cloture.

Meanwhile, Democratic Sens. Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Byron Dorgan of North Dakota, Tim Johnson of South Dakota and Mary Landrieu of Louisiana sided with most Republicans in opposing cloture.

Collins and Smith and Sununu are election-year votes, but Liddy Dole must feel REALLY threatened if she felt the need to go there as well. And Sherrod Brown, a progressive, clearly wasn't fooled by the bill (maybe Dorgan too, he's usually on the right side of these things).

UPDATE: In case you were wondering whether or not the GOP's objection to the bill was based entirely on making poilitical points, well, wonder no more.

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Thursday, June 05, 2008

Bush blackmailing Iraqis into signing security agreement?

When I read Patrick Cockburn's article yesterday about the "secret" agreement for the US military to remain in Iraq indefinitely I thought he was a little bit behind the story. The only place where the discovery that the US wanted permanent basing rights and air superiority and immunity from prosecution for their personnel was HERE, where we've all been dazzled by the election. The Iraqis have been fighting this agreement and making direct signals of moving away from it, calling for a national referendum on any agreement and demanding national sovereignty within it.

Now, the follow-up article shows what may be the Cheney Administration's strategy to get the Iraqis to sign it:

The US is holding hostage some $50bn (£25bn) of Iraq's money in the Federal Reserve Bank of New York to pressure the Iraqi government into signing an agreement seen by many Iraqis as prolonging the US occupation indefinitely, according to information leaked to The Independent.


US negotiators are using the existence of $20bn in outstanding court judgments against Iraq in the US, to pressure their Iraqi counterparts into accepting the terms of the military deal, details of which were reported for the first time in this newspaper yesterday.

This is the very point that Bush used to hold up the defense bill with that pocket veto last winter. He claimed that the claims against the Iraqi government would bankrupt a young country on the road to democracy. Now we know why he vetoed that provision - he wanted to make sure he could use those lawsuits as a bargaining chip instead of having the money get paid out to the plaintiffs.

Iraq's foreign reserves are currently protected by a presidential order giving them immunity from judicial attachment but the US side in the talks has suggested that if the UN mandate, under which the money is held, lapses and is not replaced by the new agreement, then Iraq's funds would lose this immunity. The cost to Iraq of this happening would be the immediate loss of $20bn. The US is able to threaten Iraq with the loss of 40 per cent of its foreign exchange reserves because Iraq's independence is still limited by the legacy of UN sanctions and restrictions imposed on Iraq since Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in the 1990s. This means that Iraq is still considered a threat to international security and stability under Chapter Seven of the UN charter. The US negotiators say the price of Iraq escaping Chapter Seven is to sign up to a new "strategic alliance" with the United States.

Read this entire article. This is blackmail, plain and simple. Bush and Cheney are demanding a permanent agreement that would basically turn Iraq into a client state of the US and corporate interests.

This is a hardball move. And a President Obama would not be able to extricate himself from such an agreement so easily. The neocons in the White House are laying the groundwork for a permanent presence, and using the tactics of an economic hitman to do it.


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June 5, 1968

I'm the wrong age to have personal knowledge of the shock Americans felt 40 years ago today when they awoke to the news that Robert F. Kennedy was shot at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles (which has now been torn down, because LA has such a great sense of history). But as I was driving in to work today I heard the reminiscences and some of the live audio of RFK's final speech before campaign supporters after winning the California primary. There's video of it here, and there's a section in there that both reads as almost a reaction to Rick Perlstein's Nixonland, and also the kind of words we could imagine coming from another young Senator striving to become the President of the United States.

What I think is quite clear is that we can work together in the last analysis, and what has been going on within the United States over the period of last three years, the divisions, the violence, the disenchantment with our society, the divisions, whether it's between blacks and whites, between the poor and the more affluent, or between age groups, or on the war in Vietnam, that we can start to work together. We are a great country, an unselfish country, and a compassionate country, and I intend to make that my basis for running over the period of the next few months... what all of these primaries have indicated, and all of the party caucuses have indicated, whether they occurred in Colorado or Idaho or Iowa... is that the people in the Democratic Party, and people in the United States want a change. And that change can come about only if those who are delegates in Chicago recognize the importance of what has happened here in the state of California, what has happened in South Dakota, what happened in New Hampshire, what happened across the rest of this country. The country wants to move in a different direction. We want to deal with our own problems within our own country, and we want peace in Vietnam.

The message of change is nothing new, and Robert Kennedy is a study in change all by himself. A conservative who worked for Senator Joe McCarthy in the 1950s, who signed the orders to wiretap Martin Luther King while Attorney General, Kennedy eventually had his moment where he saw the true face of America, the struggles in the inner cities, the plight of the farm workers whose cause he championed, and he came around to his better self, running a campaign in 1968 based on peace and equality, and a better life for all citizens.

That story is well-known. What I did not know was the story at the rememberance page put up today by the Los Angeles Times.

David Steiner was a Justice Department employee who left his job to work on the campaign for Robert Kennedy in 1968. He was one of the two men who ran to the microphones and starting asking for the doctors in the audience to come to the hotel kitchen. He literally lost his innocence at that moment and spent decades in the wilderness.

He drove around Los Angeles for days, depressed and lost. He saw the photos and TV footage of "Bobby" lying on his back, blood pouring from his head. Steiner thought Kennedy looked like a little boy, alone, as people panicked around him.

Following the assassinations of JFK and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Steiner saw this as the very vision of hope dying. Old, cynical forces had finally trampled a youthful insurgency that sought only justice and peace.

Steiner hooked up with an old girlfriend and went with her one afternoon to a hairstylist on La Cienega Boulevard. While she was getting her hair done, he wandered the street and stepped into a rug shop. The owner -- a burly, thick-forearmed man -- offered him some tea. They sat and talked about the assassination. The man kept saying how the Kennedys were womanizers. Steiner blurted out: "I think I'm going to Europe."

The man, perhaps sensing that Steiner had lived a sheltered life, offered some advice: "Jump in every barrel of . . . you can find." [...]

He signed up for film school at UCLA and worked the window at All-American Burger on Melrose Avenue and La Cienega Boulevard. One day, he saw a stylish man coming up to the window.

It was his father.

They eyed each other.

"It was the Kennedy thing, wasn't it?" his dad asked.

The look in his eye said more: Why is my Boalt grad, Justice Department attorney son working at burger stand?

"Yeah," Steiner said.

The hope was boiled out of this guy, another casualty of the chaos of the 1960s. For those who were idealistic enough to believe that something different would appear, in our politics and in our culture, only to see those leaders murdered over and over, this is probably a familiar story.

We're moving into a campaign season where another candidate is using the rhetoric of change to inspire a nation. With the weight of decades of disappointment, a media that is congenitally clueless and the last eight years of near-total heartbreak, there are always going to be those cynics who roll their eyes and expect the absolute worst. A lot of the time, I'm one of them. It's like David Steiner at the burger stand. That story, however, ended well. Steiner eventually started teaching high school, and through the experience restored some of his confidence that we can, piece by piece, fulfill the vision of the Kennedy campaign in 1968.

I don't expect my leaders to fully mirror every single one of my views, I know there will be times they'll disappointment and at those moments I'll exercise whatever options I can to hold them accountable. But as Digby said earlier today, things do get better. Things can change. And we all are allowed a moment or two to dream.

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SD-15: Update On The Dennis Morris Write-In Campaign

The campaign liaison to us blogger folks is providing us with constant updates about the write-in campaign of Dennis Morris, the legal scholar who launched a last-minute effort to step into the breach and get on the ballot to face Abel Maldonado in November in the 15th Senate District. San Luis Obispo County, where the effort originated, now reports 2,385 write-in votes, an addition of 396 since the count on election night. As far as the other counties, we have:

Santa Barbara: 413 write-in votes
Santa Cruz County 897 write-in votes

Which brings us to 3,701 votes, with 3,689 needed for passage. Now, Monterey and Santa Clara Counties have not released their write-in totals, but Frank Russo is reporting that there were 1,182 write-in votes in Monterey County. That brings us to 4,883. And that's without Santa Clara County:

And we don’t have any figures from Santa Clara County that supplied 24.4% of the Democratic votes in this district the last time the seat was contested in 2004. If Santa Clara County voters follow the rule of thumb of the other counties, there should be at least another thousand or more write-ins.

And in each of these counties there are a number of ballots not included in the initial election night sweep—vote-by-mail ballots or absentee ballots as they used to be called that were either dropped off at the polling place on election day or arrived in the mail at the registrar’s office on election day and were not opened until later. Also provisional ballots. These are thousands of ballots that will undoubtedly contain many more write-ins. In fact, Morris’ write in campaign got rolling—as much as it did—late. So a higher percentage of late voters would have been aware of it.

The caveat is that we don't know anything about what these write-in votes say on them. They could have Dennis Morris' name. They could have Abel Maldonado's name, considering he petitioned at the last minute to file as a write-in candidate in the Democratic primary. And they could have Mickey Mouse's name. We have no idea at this point.

Still, if all the votes come in at roughly the same level as they had, there's at least theoretically a decent cushion of votes for Morris to get to the 3,689 needed. That said, it's not at all safe, and there's nothing we can do but wait and see. We'll probably know sometime around the middle of the month, as the write-in canvass occurs after all other votes have been tabulated.

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Closing In

Karl Rove has been extremely slippery with what he was able to get away with while in service at the White House, but over the past couple weeks events have probably made him gulp and pull the collar away from his neck a couple times. Same with his former bosses.

First you have Scott McClellan basically admitting that Bush and Cheney gave the go-ahead to Scooter Libby to selectively leak contents of the 2002 Iraq NIE, and in the process the identity of Valerie Plame. Henry Waxman, upon hearing this, immediately set to work.

New revelations by former White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan raise additional questions about the actions of the President and the Vice President. Mr. McClellan has stated that "[t]he President and Vice President directed me to go out there and exonerate Scooter Libby." He has also asserted that "the top White House officials who knew the truth - including Rove, Libby, and possibly Vice President Cheney - allowed me, even encouraged me, to repeat a lie." It would be a major breach of trust if the Vice President personally directed Mr. McClellan to mislead the public [...]

In his interview with the FBI, Mr. Libby stated that it was "possible" that Vice President Cheney instructed him to disseminate information about Ambassador Wilson's wife to the press. This is a significant revelation and, if true, a serious matter. It cannot be responsibly investigated without access to the Vice President's FBI interview.

The interviews with senior White House officials also raise other questions about the involvement of the Vice President. It appears from the interview reports that Vice President Cheney personally may have been the source of the information that Ms. Wilson worked for the CIA. Mr. Libby specifically identified the Vice President as the source of his information about Ms. Wilson. None of the other White House officials could remember how they learned this information [...]

In his FBI interview, Mr. McClellan told the FBI about discussions he had with the President and the Vice President. These passages, however, were redacted from the copies made available to the Committee. Similar passages were also redacted from other interviews.

There are no sound reasons for you to withhold the interviews with the President and the Vice President from the Committee or to redact passages like Mr. McClellan's discussions with the President and the Vice President. Mr. Fitzgerald's investigation is closed and he has indicated that it would be appropriate to share these records with the Committee. There has been no assertion of executive privilege.

Well sure, when you line it all up like that, it looks like a conspiracy.

What's more, Marcy Wheeler thinks Patrick Fitzgerald, who prosecuted the Plame case, might be ready to talk about allegations about his potential firing that came out during the investigation into the US Attorneys scandal.

Later in the Rezko trial, two witnesses said that Rezko told them not to worry about the criminal investigation, because the Republicans—Rove and Kjellander—would get rid of Fitzgerald. Hastert would install a friendly federal puppy who wouldn't bother the Combine, according to the testimony. "The federal prosecutor will no longer be the same federal prosecutor," testified Elie Maloof, a Rezko associate who is now a cooperating witness.

And a state pension board lawyer who has already pleaded guilty told grand jurors that Cellini told him "Bob Kjellander's job is to take care of the U.S. attorney." [...]

"If I owe a response [about the putsch to remove him from his job], I owe it to Congress, first," Fitzgerald said when asked about all this after the verdict.

But that's not all. As pressure grew on Rove for answers about the railroading of former Alabama governor Don Siegelman, prosecutors
abruptly dropped their appeal that sought longer sentences for him and former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy in the "bribery" case, also known as "a politician appointing an ally to a board." And 54 former state attorneys general from across the country filed a brief on Siegelman's behalf with the appellate court where he is contesting his conviction, asking that it be overturned. And now the Justice Department's Office of Professional Responsibility is investigating.

The US Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) is investigating the conduct of at least two specific US Attorneys in the “selective prosecution” of former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman, sitting Mississippi Supreme Court Justice Oliver E. Diaz Jr., and Mississippi attorney Paul Minor, according to attorneys close to the investigation.

In a May 5 letter sent to House Judiciary Committee chairman John Conyers (D-MI), OPR Director H. Marshall Jarrett wrote that OPR “currently has pending investigations involving, among others, allegations of selective prosecution relating to the prosecutions of Don Siegelman, Georgia Thompson, Oliver Diaz and Paul Minor.”

RAW STORY has confirmed that Leura Canary (above right), the US Attorney for the Middle District of Alabama, and Dunnica Lampton, the US Attorney for the Southern District of Mississippi , are under investigation. Their offices are also being probed.

This leads back to Rove - the Siegelman case, the politicization of US Attorney positions, firing prosecutors who wouldn't play ball, leaking classified information in the Plame case. Rove is a slippery creature. But there are a lot of investigations all happening at once.

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THWACK! F*!k You Al Qaeda

Swing 'em home.

I think McCain's already taking up the challenge. On the front page of his website today is the item "golf gear." For the swinging, able-bodied, prime-fighting-age conservative at the country club instead of Iraq.

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The Money Goes In, The Favors Go Out

This article by Frank Russo got me pretty depressed about the state of California politics.

There’s something amiss in the state of Sacramento—and it has something to do with the state’s banking and lending institutions and the stacking of committees that deal with them with legislators that are either weak kneed or just a bit overfriendly with the industry that they should be protecting us from.

What else is new?

Well, this afternoon, the Senate Committee on Banking, Finance, and Insurance, Chaired by Senator Michael Machado of Stockton, will be hearing two bills that have been gutted down behind a closed door process such that today’s public proceedings on them may amount to little more than a sham [...]

It’s difficult enough to get bills passed through the Assembly Banking Committee and the Assembly floor when going up against the behemoth banking industry which has a lot of spare change to throw around in legislative races and many high paid lobbyists scurrying about the Capitol.

It looks like AB 69 by Assemblymember Ted Lieu, originally a great bill, has been amended since it left the Assembly—and before today’s hearing—such that the Center for Responsible Lending, a nonprofit, nonpartisan research and policy organization dedicated to protecting homeownership and family wealth by working to eliminate abusive financial practices, initially listed in support, has withdrawn that position.

Read the whole thing. The bottom line is that in this recent primary election special interest groups spent nearly $10 million, and a good bulk of them were business interests who are now playing inside Democratic primaries in traditionally liberal areas to sell low-information voters a bill of goods. This doesn't always work, but it works just enough to frustrate progress in Sacramento.

Lesson 3: The business lobby can influence Democratic politics, even in a largely minority district.

Former Assemblyman Rod Wright, a moderate, defeated liberal Assemblyman Mervyn Dymally -- reversing the pattern of leftist victories -- in a South Los Angeles Senate district after business donors invested roughly $1 million in Wright's campaign.

"Business has tended to stay out of black politics," says Sragow, who advises the business lobby. "But some black politicians ask, 'Why? We're always out looking for economic development in our districts.'

"The business community has decided it can't get a Republican Legislature, so it will play in districts where there's a Democratic candidate it can work with."

A major Democratic strategist has all but said that Don Perata shepherded along the candidacy of Rod Wright, and actually put it in terms that come very close to illegal coordination (note "a flurry of record spending by closely-aligned IE groups focusing all of their attention and ammo in one, concerted direction.")

This is the game. IE's are increasingly the only way to reach the electorate, as the low-dollar revolution has pretty much not reached the Golden State. So the Chamber of Commerce and industry groups fill the pockets of the politicians who, once elected, feel obligated to repay them. The US Constitution allows the right for anyone to petition their government for redress of grievances; outlawing lobbyists or the ability of merchants to consult their politicians is not tenable. What is tenable is to either create a parallel public financing system by employing the residents of the state to pay attention to local politics enough to fund progressive-minded candidates, or to bring clean money to California, where it's arguably needed more than anywhere else, and end the pernicious influence of special interests in state elections. Otherwise, you get a steady parade of mortgage relief bills that offer no relief.

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Secret Agreement is Not So Secret

Two big news stories out today regarding Iraq, one about the past and one about the future. The long-awaited release of the Phase II report showing that the Administration intentionally lied and deceived and misused intelligence in the run-up to the war comes off as kind of obvious, but I suppose it's nice to see in print. PDF's of the report are here:

"Report on Whether Public Statements Regarding Iraq by U.S. Government officials Were Substantiated by Intelligence Information"

"Report on Intelligence Activities Relating to Iraq Conducted by the Policy Counterterrorism Evaluation Group and the Office of Special Plans Within the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy"

Statements and implications by the President and Secretary of State suggesting that Iraq and al-Qa’ida had a partnership, or that Iraq had provided al-Qa’ida with weapons training, were not substantiated by the intelligence.

Statements by the President and the Vice President indicating that Saddam Hussein was prepared to give weapons of mass destruction to terrorist groups for attacks against the United States were contradicted by available intelligence information.

Statements by President Bush and Vice President Cheney regarding the postwar situation in Iraq, in terms of the political, security, and economic, did not reflect the concerns and uncertainties expressed in the intelligence products.

Statements by the President and Vice President prior to the October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate regarding Iraq’s chemical weapons production capability and activities did not reflect the intelligence community’s uncertainties as to whether such production was ongoing.

The Secretary of Defense’s statement that the Iraqi government operated underground WMD facilities that were not vulnerable to conventional airstrikes because they were underground and deeply buried was not substantiated by available intelligence information.

The Intelligence Community did not confirm that Muhammad Atta met an Iraqi intelligence officer in Prague in 2001 as the Vice President repeatedly claimed.

The other report, from Patrick Cockburn in The Independent, discusses the negotiations for a new status of forces agreement that would keep Iraq under indefinite occupation by the United States military.

A secret deal being negotiated in Baghdad would perpetuate the American military occupation of Iraq indefinitely, regardless of the outcome of the US presidential election in November.

The terms of the impending deal, details of which have been leaked to The Independent, are likely to have an explosive political effect in Iraq. Iraqi officials fear that the accord, under which US troops would occupy permanent bases, conduct military operations, arrest Iraqis and enjoy immunity from Iraqi law, will destabilise Iraq's position in the Middle East and lay the basis for unending conflict in their country [...]

America currently has 151,000 troops in Iraq and, even after projected withdrawals next month, troop levels will stand at more than 142,000 – 10 000 more than when the military "surge" began in January 2007. Under the terms of the new treaty, the Americans would retain the long-term use of more than 50 bases in Iraq. American negotiators are also demanding immunity from Iraqi law for US troops and contractors, and a free hand to carry out arrests and conduct military activities in Iraq without consulting the Baghdad government.

The precise nature of the American demands has been kept secret until now. The leaks are certain to generate an angry backlash in Iraq. "It is a terrible breach of our sovereignty," said one Iraqi politician, adding that if the security deal was signed it would delegitimise the government in Baghdad which will be seen as an American pawn.

I respect Cockburn's journalism here, but I think he's a little bit behind the story. In fact, this is the American side of the story and their demands for what they want out of a security agreement, which as I mentioned a couple days ago is already well-known inside Iraq. In fact, in a fascinating session yesterday in front of a House Foreign Relations Subcommitte, two members of the Iraqi Parliament, one Sunni and one Shiite (a member of the Al-Fadhila Party (unaffiliated with Prime Minister Maliki or Muqtada al-Sadr) rejected the US-Iraqi arrangement, demanded a referendum on it from the Iraqi Parliament or the people, and explained to Congress that a timetable for withdrawal would end the violence plaguing the country. They rejected that the surge was in any way responsible for the drop in violence and attributed it to local control, and they insisted that an end to the occupation is the only way for reconciliation to take place.

This is completely in line with the majority of the Iraqi Parliament and the Iraqi people. In fact, Reuters is reporting that they are essentially demanding that we leave.

A majority of the Iraqi parliament has written to Congress rejecting a long-term security deal with Washington if it is not linked to a requirement that U.S. forces leave, a U.S. lawmaker said on Wednesday.

Rep. William Delahunt, a Massachusetts Democrat and Iraq war opponent, released excerpts from a letter he was handed by Iraqi parliamentarians laying down conditions for the security pact that the Bush administration seeks with Iraq.

The proposed pact has become increasingly controversial in Iraq, where there have been protests against it. It has also drawn criticism from Democrats on the presidential election campaign trail in the United States, who say President George W. Bush is trying to dictate war policy after he leaves office.

"The majority of Iraqi representatives strongly reject any military-security, economic, commercial, agricultural, investment or political agreement with the United States that is not linked to clear mechanisms that obligate the occupying American military forces to fully withdraw from Iraq," the letter to the leaders of Congress said.

There is nothing "secret" about this "secret deal" from the standpoint of the Iraqis. They are well aware of it and committed to stopping its progress, protesting it and demanding it be put to a popular vote. Where the Independent article is valuable is if it can bring attention to this issue in the United States (God forbid it winds up in the American media - it's only the confirmation of the 100-year presence John McCain seeks). Members of Congress have already demanded that they be given the opportunity to ratify any agreement made between the US and Iraq. What they can do in addition is stand with the Iraqi people as the Bush Administration tries to bully the deal into place in Baghdad. The only ones doing the heavy lifting on ending the occupation right now are the Iraqis. And they're actually mobilizing almost all factions against this agreement. We can do the same here at home, and it's not enough to wait for a "referendum" on the war in November.

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Big Moves At The DNC

It's very encouraging that Barack Obama recognizes the job Howard Dean has done as the architect of the 50-state strategy and building Democratic infrastructure nationally, and that he's going to keep him in the job through the election. It's also encouraging that he's bringing the same reformist style to the DNC and branding the Democratic Party as the one which doesn't take lobbyist or PAC money.

NEW YORK - Acting swiftly as his party's presumed presidential nominee, Barack Obama is keeping Howard Dean at the helm of the Democratic National Committee, while bringing in one of his top strategists to oversee the party's operations.

The campaign also announced that the DNC will no longer accept donations from lobbyists and political action committees, to comply with Obama's campaign policy. Party officials say they expect the DNC's staff to quickly expand to run an aggressive general election campaign.

Campaign adviser Paul Tewes was dispatched to help lead the changes Thursday.

"Senator Obama appreciates the hard work that Chairman Dean has done to grow our party at the grass-roots level and looks forward to working with him as the chairman of the Democratic Party as we go forward," Obama spokesman Bill Burton said.

I expect Obama to do some major fundraising for the DNC, perhaps pushing out to his list, over the next few days. It's also worth mentioning that Obama actually had to buck conventional Washington wisdom and take the side that building infrastructure across all 50 states is preferable to trying to win a narrow set of swing states and just make it across the line every election. This is an endorsement of a national campaign strategy that Dean has spearheaded since 2005.

And the contrast of one party united in not taking lobbyist or PAC money and the other party's nominee having a campaign full of lobbyists is pretty stark, and Obama knows it:

"I've sent a strong signal in this campaign by refusing the contributions of registered federal lobbyists and PACs," Senator Obama said. "And today, I'm announcing that going forward, the Democratic National Committee will uphold the same standard and won't take another dime from Washington lobbyists or special interest PACs. They do not fund my campaign. They will not fund our party. And they will not drown out the voices of the American people when I'm President of the United States."

It really feels like a weight has been lifted, the internecine bickering is over, and now the fun can begin.

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Barack Obama is touring Virginia today with Virginia's three top Democrats, all of whom have been mentioned as potential VP candidates in one place or another. I'm not of the view that a Vice President gets you a state, the way it may have in the less national media landscape of the past. People in this day and age generally vote for the guy at the top of the ticket. I think it's far more important to pick a VP who 1) reinforces Obama's message, and 2) would make a good President in his own right. And in this story, a new name (at least to me) emerged that I quite like:

Rep. Artur Davis (D-Ala.), an Obama adviser, offered several names to the list of potential vice presidential choices, including those of former Florida governor and senator Bob Graham; Sen. Evan Bayh of Indiana, a top Clinton supporter; and Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, an Obama supporter who could assuage the disappointment of women who wanted the chance to vote for the first female president. (emphasis mine)

Bob Graham, ay? I think the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee in the run-up to the war, the guy who knew that the Bush Administration was lying and told his colleagues all about it, who voted against the authorization, is someone who would amplify that message on the war. He's beloved in Florida and that might help there, but that's not the point. Graham is very intelligent and provides an authoritative voice on foreign policy issues. I don't know that he's the best campaigner, but again I think that stuff is kind of overblown.

I think there are a lot of good choices, but I like the Graham idea, it's growing on me.

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Well That Wrapped Up Cleanly

I don't know why she didn't wait for the all-important second round of primaries (it was going to be a round-robin, and the loser would have to leave the island!), but Hillary Clinton has decided to hang him up, which must be terribly depressing to the armchair psychologists who knew, just KNEW, that she was taking it to Denver because "that's who she is."

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton will endorse Senator Barack Obama on Saturday, bringing a close to her 17-month campaign for the White House, aides said. Her decision came after Democrats urged her on Wednesday to leave the race and allow the party to coalesce around Mr. Obama.

Howard Wolfson, one of Mrs. Clinton’s chief strategists, and other aides said she would express support for Mr. Obama and party unity at an event in Washington that day. One adviser said that Mrs. Clinton would concede defeat, congratulate Mr. Obama and proclaim him the party’s nominee, while pledging to do what was needed to assure his victory.

I think the enormity of the whole moment has been lost in the drawn-out process, but I was at the first one-on-one debate in Los Angeles in late January, and it was electric. There's really something pretty great about Democrats recognizing their own diversity. Neither of these two were my first choice, but I'll be happy to support the nominee - and then hold him to the same standard I would any leader (see putting the brakes on the FISA bill for an example). Barack Obama may be cool in the moment, but he's really accomplished something remarkable. Never mind the strategy, based on winning delegates instead of states, brilliant in its simplicity (and I think he knows the general election is winner-take-all and he'll set off with the proper strategy to win that) - this is something really different, both generational and racial and tonal, actually. The "wine track" candidate, the idealist, won without completely compromising his principles and keeping to his core message throughout.

It's a big moment and a hopeful time - but now it's time to work, and to never lose sight of what's at stake, and that not one man will be able to do it alone (nor should anyone presume that all he wants to do is sweetness and light, either).

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McCain And Katrina

For some reason, John McCain has spent the past two days in Louisiana (if he thinks the state depopulated of black people after Hurricane Katrina is worthy of attention, he's in BIG trouble), and yesterday, he got a little tripped up about his response to the Katrina tragedy.

Still in Louisiana today, following his epic speech in Kenner last night, John McCain was asked by a local reporter why he had voted against creating a federal commission to investigate the Katrina disaster.

McCain's response? "I've supported every investigation and ways of finding out what caused the tragedy. . . ."

The problem is that's just not true. He voted against such a commission -- twice.

If you want to extend that out, his bestest pal Joe Lieberman has chaired the committee with jurisdiction over investigating the federal response to the hurricane and the condition of the levees, and he checked out on that investigation two years ago.

Barack Obama jumped on this yesterday, once again demonstrating the speed of their rapid response team.

As the Obama campaign put it, “Whether he simply wasn’t aware of his voting record again or he was intentionally misleading the people of Louisiana, John McCain certainly isn’t offering us ‘leadership you can believe in.’”

That's McCain's new rip-off tag line, by the way: "Leadership You Can Believe In". More like "Leadership You Can't Remember."

The problem is making this stick. The traditional media is very invested in an image of McCain as a straight-talker, that they'd twist his words in whatever way possible to fit the narrative.

But the Obama team could have just sent along one photo, taken while people were drowning in New Orleans and the federal government wasn't doing much of anything about it:

It's one of those "Picture=1,000 words" moments. I expect to see that one a lot this election season.

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