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

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Not Just An Old Election Problem

A lot of people are talking about these allegations about Karl Rove's role in stealing Ohio in 2004. Certainly worth paying attention to and following up. It's just as important to note that the right is not only continuing these tactics, but mainstreaming them.

At a little remarked-upon hearing this week, Rep. Keith Ellison grilled liberal blogdom's favorite punching bag Hans von Spakovsky over the voter ID laws he championed which led to disenfranchisement a couple months ago in Indiana:

ELLISON: Now here's something that happened on the May 7th Indiana election. A dozen nuns and another unknown number of students were turned away from the polls Tuesday in the first use of Indiana's stringent voter ID law since it was upheld last week by the United State Supreme Court. Mr. von Spakovsky, you wanna stop nuns from voting?

VON SPAKOVSKY: [silence]

ELLISON: Why don't you want nuns to vote, Mr. von Spakovsky?

VON SPAKOVSKY: Congressman Ellison, uh-

ELLISON: I'm just curious to know.

VON SPAKOVSKY: Those individuals, uh, were told, were- knew that they had to get an ID, they could have easily done so. They could have voted, uh, by absentee ballot- uh, nursing homes under the law are able to get-

ELLISON: ...Mr. von Spakovsky, are you aware that a 98-year old nun was turned away from the polls by a-

VON SPAKOVSKY: They all had passports-

ELLISON: Excuse me.

VON SPAKOVSKY: They had expired passports which meant that they could have gotten-

ELLISON: Mr. von Spakovsky, do you know a 98-year old nun was turned away from the polls by a sister who's in her order and who knew her, but had to turn her away because she didn't have a government-issued ID? That's okay with you?


Okay with him? It's his most fervent dreams realized!

Ellison didn't let up there. He asked von Spakovsky pointedly about the greatest hits of US Attorney/voter fraud cases in Minnesota (where US Atty Thomas Heffelfinger was fired for ignoring voter fraud claims) and Missouri (the infamous Bradley Schlozman prosecution over a separate voter fraud case involving ACORN). Ellison basically accused him of lying to the committee and von Spakovsky became indignant. This guy was on the Federal Election Commission, just to let you know how far these completely bogus charges have progressed into the mainstream.

This voting stuff isn't going away, and if anything it's going to get more intense as Republicans get more desperate. I can't believe that this article didn't get more attention when it came out a few weeks ago. There's no question that this will became an enormous issue literally out of nowhere this fall.

Election officials worry that the state's home foreclosure problem will pose a problem this November for voters still registered at their former address, a newspaper reported Sunday.

Voters in pivotal Ohio with outdated addresses face possible pre-election challenges and trips to multiple polling places. They also are more likely to cast provisional ballots that might not be counted.

"It's a real issue," said Daniel Tokaji, an Ohio State University law professor who specializes in elections. He wonders whether foreclosures might explain the increasing percentages of provisional votes cast between 2004 and Ohio's latest election, the presidential primary in March.

Ohio provided President Bush with an 118,000-vote victory in 2004, giving him the electoral votes he needed to win the election.

All of a sudden you're going to hear that these families forced out of their homes and relocated across the country are actually fraudsters trying to steal the election for Obama. The very fact of vacancy at the addresses where these people are registered makes hundreds of thousands of people prime suspects for voter caging. And you can be sure that re-registering isn't paramount on their minds, either. In battleground states like Nevada, one out of every 120 or so homes is in foreclosure right now. This seems like a huge under-the-radar issue that is receiving literally no attention.

And there's a nexus here between these potential minefields and the voter ID laws conservatives are pushing.

Ohio's requirement that voters show identification at the polls makes it more important that they keep their registration information current, said Jeff Ortega, a spokesman for Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner, Ohio's elections chief.

In 2004, the Ohio Republican Party challenged more than 31,000 newly registered voters statewide after letters it mailed out came back as undeliverable. The challenges failed, but Brunner said a new state law requiring counties to mail their own notices to all registered voters could lead to another round of pre-election challenges.

There may be plenty of illegal disenfranchisement, but is anybody paying attention to the legal version?

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McCain has a weekly radio address now? Isn't that something a President does once they're in office? Shouldn't he wait until November to take a victory lap? Doesn't he know his place?

What about calling himself President in an ad? Doesn't he get there's 100 days to go?

These, of course, are all questions you'll never hear directed at McCain, but at Obama, and actually I think he did a good job batting them down.

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama wrapped up his weeklong foreign tour Saturday, meeting at length with past, present and possibly future British prime ministers and rebutting charges from Republican John McCain's campaign that the trip amounted to a "premature victory lap" by an overly confident candidate.

Obama argued that McCain had long ago urged him to take a foreign trip and now was complaining because he had done so. "John McCain has visited every one of these countries post primary that I have," Obama told a scrum of reporters on the driveway outside No. 10 Downing Street, where the prime minister lives and works.

"He has given speeches in Canada, in Colombia, Mexico, he made visits," he added. "And so it doesn't strike me that we have done anything different than the McCain campaign has done, which is to recognize that part of the job of the next president, commander in chief is to forge effective relationships with our allies."

Quite right. It is time for him to get back home. Hobnobbing with an exuberant Nicolas Sarkozy and hundreds of thousands of screaming Germans is fine for July, but it's time to take control of the domestic policy debate. That said, the trip was successful as a marker that Obama can point to in the future, to reference when making his foreign policy case.

And anything that makes John Bolton spittle with rage was worth doing, no matter how "presumptuous" it looks.

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Obama Is Spanish For "McCain's In Trouble"

Here's yet another poll out showing that Barack Obama is doing extremely well with Hispanic voters, leading John McCain by 66-23. At one level this proves the utter fallacy of trying to conflate primary results with general election projections; as Scott Lemieux says, Hillary Clinton would have done better than 10% of the black vote in the G.E., too. But on a more substantive level, it's devastating for McCain to have this much of a deficit against the fastest-growing voting bloc in the United States. In some states Obama probably only needs 35-40% of the white vote to win, if these numbers hold. And it puts him in great shape in the Southwest and even North Carolina, which has a growing Latino population.

Of course, wait until the Hispanics figure out that Obama can't make full-court basketball shots and that the veracity of his birth certificate has been challenged by random crazy people! Those numbers will dip overnight.

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Zimbabwe Update

So the President expanded sanctions against the Zimbabwean government, at the same time that both Robert Mugabe and opposition leaders are meeting for talks on forming a unity government. So what's going on here? Richard Dowder thinks it's a trap:

It is clear what Robert Mugabe wants to see from the talks with the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) that began in South Africa on Thursday. On December 27 1987 he sat down with Joshua Nkomo, the leader of the Zimbabwe African People's Union (Zapu) and signed a unity accord. It followed seven years of sustained violence against Nkomo's party in which some 18,000 people died. The creation of a government of national unity made Nkomo vice-president. Three Zapu leaders were given cabinet posts. They might as well have been hamsters in a cage on Mugabe's desk.

This is what Morgan Tsvangirai, the leader of the MDC, must remember as he sits down at the talks. Like Nkomo, his party has been battered, with many of his MPs dead, in hiding or facing charges, and more than 1,500 officials in prison. The mediator, Thabo Mbeki, and other African presidents would be happy with a deal similar to the 1987 accord. But will the MDC be able to arm-wrestle a deal that leads to Mugabe stepping down or to free and fair elections - or even a joint Mugabe/Tsvangirai control of the state and its security apparatus? The question, as Humpty Dumpty said, is: who is to be master?

Dowder argues that the talks are aimed at buying time while Mugabe can consolidate his grip on power and prepare for war. Certainly what we saw leading up to the election - tales of rape, murder, and intimidation - lead in that direction. The race might be between time and economic survival. Zimbabwe cannot currently produce enough bank note paper to keep the government solvent and paying for its thugs and supporters in the military. Really chaos is inevitable - it's a matter of how long the ruling elite can keep it at bay. So freezing the financial assets that they are taking out of the country with utmost speed is a good step.

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Reincarnation Watch!

So there's apparently an Obama Death List that's been floating around via the emailz. You know, a list of all the people he's had killed because they came too close to finding out "the truth." Par for the course. They had a Clinton Body Count back in the 90s.

Turns out that "Gandy Baugh" (candy bar?), at the bottom of the Obama list, was actually on the Clinton body count as well, as a lawyer who died by falling out of a window. Just like on this new email forward.

From Clinton’s list:

#11: Gandy Baugh - attorney for Dan Lasater in a financial misconduct case. Supposedly jumped out the window of a tall building to commit suicide.

From Obama’s list:

GANDY BAUGH - Attorney for Obama friend Antonin Rezko died by falling out an eightieth story window of the Hancock Tower, January, 2003. His client was a convicted Chinese spy.

So the Obama forces are so dastardly that they RE-ANIMATED the lifeless corpse of Gandy Baugh, allowed him (her?) to practice law again, and seemingly provided working capital and access to clients, only to murder him (her?) when (s)he started working for Rezko.

That's cold-blooded, man...

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Friday, July 25, 2008

Putting The "Better" In More And Better Democrats

In 2006 we had a crop of Congressional challengers that was poised to win in tough districts and take back the House and Sente. It was a cautious list, at times a moderate list, and while there have been some excellent progressive lawmakers from that group (Steve Cohen, John Hall, Bernie Sanders and Sherrod Brown come to mind), overall it was a list full of more Democrats instead of better ones. You never know what you're really going to get from a candidate until they're in office, but this year there are some promising signs that the class of 2008 is substantively better on several issues.

For one, there's the great news that every single Democratic Senate challenger with more than $500,000 in cash on hand has fully endorsed net neutrality. This was not necessarily a mainstream Democratic position just a few years ago, and now it's become standard. That's very positive. Furthermore, almost no telecom or cable money is going to the wide majority of these candidates, suggesting that they may not be as beholden to those interests as the current Congress. You can read the candidate statements at the link.

One of those candidates is Jeff Merkley, and he is unafraid to challenge his own Democratic leadership even while in the midst of a Senate campaign where he will probably need their help. We need less Democratic automatons and more lawmakers willing to speak their minds and even criticize their party when it betrays its own values and steps out of line.

But the majority of Merkley's interview with the Huffngton Post this past weekend was spent pinpointing areas in need of political improvement, even calling to task the Democratic-controlled Senate for not showing the requisite backbone.

"A major mistake has been not to force the Republicans to filibuster day and night on these issues," he said. "The public does not see that obstruction because they don't see on their televisions a senator on the floor of the senate going through the night reading out of a thick tomb of law, if you will, in order to block bills from being considered. We have to put that on show to the American public and show that it's unacceptable... And I am [prepared to start standing up]. FISA is a good example right there. I was proud of Senator Dodd and others for what they did. They lost the vote, but I'm proud of them." [...]

He even weighed in on one of the thornier issues facing Democrats today: what to do about Sen. Joseph Lieberman, whose surrogacy on behalf of McCain has been infuriating to many elements of the party.

"It is very disturbing," Merkley said. "I was there in 2000 as a delegate when he was our vice presidential nominee. I remember losing my voice for him and Sen. Gore and I am really disappointed in some of the stances he is taking and I understand he is addressing the Republican convention. Essentially we need him as a clear member of the team and I hope that we see it that way after the election."

He even criticized Sen. Obama for his FISA vote, as well he should. At a time when the progressive community is seeking to hold lawmakers accountable on FISA and civil liberties, it's great to have candidates with the same frame of mind.

In the House, Blue America candidate Joe Garcia is going up against an entrenched anti-Castro Cuban Republican in South Florida. He has no problem in this video calling out one of the top anti-Castro Cuban groups for stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxpayer funds. And Congress actually managed to act on this by freezing payments to these right-wing groups. And also in Florida, Alan Grayson is a man possessed.

Alan Grayson: I'm Alan Grayson, and I'm the Democratic candidate for Congress in Florida's district eight. And I'm the attorney of record in every single case now pending in Federal court involving war profiteers in Iraq. These are cases in which I represent whistleblowers. The Florida civil rights association named me Humanitarian of the Year for my work in this regard, taxpayers against fraud named me lawyer of the year, and I've been featured in Vanity Fair magazine, in media like CBS evening news, 60 minutes, and even Dailykos, imagine that.

I'm running because I'm fed up with the government mismanagement, the Bush administration's shameless pandering to war profiteers. I think they set out on a deliberate course to make this war good for the people who were their friends. And I want to try to hold them accountable when I'm in Congress. When I'm in Congress... the Bush administration's worst nightmare is going to be me with subpoena power because I know everything that they've done, and I'm going to hold them accountable for it.

Right on. Here's a guy who is no-nonsense, unabashed and a great conduit for American anger and frustration at the military contractor feeding frenzy. This ad is pretty awesome, too.

Put this guy on the Oversight Committee, give him a staff, wind him up and watch him go.

Between Merkley, Grayson, Garcia and a host of other reform-minded, tough progressive Democrats, I think we can actually vote our consciences this year, and donate to candidates who will defend our principles.

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The California Report - News Of The Good

We spend an inordinate amount of time on the bad of California politics here on the site. And with a system this dysfunctional, there's a lot of bad to go around. But as the budget hostage crisis continues, and state workers don't know if they'll be able to afford their bills come Monday, I wanted to at least recognize some of the positive developments around the city and state:

• The Governor signed a bill today banning trans fats in all state restaurants and bakeries by 2011. Combined with the law signed earlier this week to crack down on the sale of downer cattle in US groceries, and the LA City Council moving forward on a one-year moratorium on new fast-food restaurants in South Los Angeles, this is a good week for food safety, nutrition and public health.

• As mentioned by Shayera, the Los Angeles City Council voted to ban plastic bags by 2010, if the state does not mandate a $0.25 charge for every bag by then. Additionally on the environmental front, there's also the statewide green building code adopted by the California Building Standards Commission, and another passage for the third year in a row, of a port container fee which would be invested in fighting pollution (Hopefully this time the Governor will sign it). This too is good.

• Leland Wong was convicted yesterday on 14 counts of public corruption and bribery while he was LA City Commissioner. Accountability is good.

• In Orange County, the Laguna Beach City Council, which is majority Republican, became one of the first to publicly oppose Prop. 8, the hate amendment. Saying no to hate is good.

• Unfortunately, not everything is good. Foreclosure rates are skyrocketing nationwide, more than doubling in the second quarter. In one incredible example, almost 1 in 20 homes in Merced have been lost to foreclosure, the highest rate in America. Wow. Not good.

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Fighting Obstructionism

It looks like the series of popular bills that Tom Coburn (R-Lesbians in the Bathrooms) has put holds on are going to be combined into a Coburn omnibus that should get a final vote next week. Sen. Reid's office is calling it the Advancing America's Priorities Act. They are a series of health care provisions, environmental provisions, scientific provisions, and homeland security provisions, all of them with broad bipartisan support. The Congressional Budget Office has debunked Coburn's ridiculous spin that these measures would increase the deficit; these aren't appropriations, but provisions to direct spending, so they don't add a dime to the total fiscal cost.

This bill will put Republican Senators in a bind:

Here, in no particular order, is a list of such Senators, and the legislation they partnered on:

Senator Thad Cochran - introduced - Stroke Treatment and Ongoing Prevention Act (S. 999/HR 477)
Sen. Christopher S. Bond - introduced - Vision Care for Kids Act (HR 507/S. 1117)
Sen. Sam Brownback- introduced- Prenatally and Postnatally Diagnosed Conditions Awareness Act (S. 1810/HR 3112)
Sen Domenici, Pete V - introduced - Mentally Ill Offender Treatment and Crime Reduction Reauthorization and Improvement Act (S. 2304/HR 3992)
Sen Vitter, David - introduced - Enhancing the Effective Prosecution of Child Pornography (S. 2869/HR 4136)
Sen Lugar, Richard G. - introduced - Reconstruction and Stabilization Civilian Management Act (HR 1084/S. 613)
Sen Coleman, Norm - introduced - Torture Victims Relief Reauthorization Act (HR 1678/S. 840)
Sen Stevens, Ted - introduced - Ocean Exploration, Mapping & Research (HR 1834/HR 2400/S. 39)
Sen Snowe, Olympia J. - introduced - Integrated Coastal and Ocean Observation System Act (S. 950/HR 2342)
Sen Voinovich, George V. - introduced - Appalachian Regional Development Act Amendments of 2008 (S. 496)

Coburn blocked every one of those bills - and every one of them will be in Reid's package next week.

Republicans in the Senate played politics with their power as long as they could. But now they're very, very unpopular, and their party's brand is in the gutter. Putting politics over substance by standing with Coburn may have been possible for this bunch even a year ago.

But now?

I never put it past Republicans to hang together to the bitter end, but on this one it seems like they'll either see the light, or be ushered out the door. There's a reason, incidentally, that a bunch of them don't even want to be seen at their own party's convention. They'd rip the word "Republican" off the ballot if they could get away with it.

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McCain's Iraqi Island

On the question of Iraq, John McCain is now a ridiculous figure, as this CNN interview paraphrased by Josh Marshall makes clear.

First, apparently Maliki didn't really mean what he said. Second, Wolf Blitzer read back to McCain his repeated claim that Obama would rather lose a war if it helped him win a political campaign. This is close to an accusation of treason. So Blitzer asked him whether this wasn't an attack on Obama's patriotism. McCain said 'no' that he was only questioning Obama's judgment. In any rational world the maverick label wouldn't survive a fib of that magnitude.

Perhaps best of all McCain appeared to embrace Maliki's timeline for withdrawal, but said there was no conflict with that also being Obama's timeline for withdrawal, because Maliki's was based on conditions and Obama's wasn't.

Last but not least, Blitzer asked McCain if it didn't make sense to scrutinize McCain's judgment in going to war in the first place if he's placing so much emphasis on scrutinizing Obama's judgment on the surge. McCain's answer, in so many words, that's old news.

Just wow, on so many levels. First of all, as Chuck Hagel noted, continuing to try and figure out who was right or wrong about the surge and what the meaning of "conditions on the ground" is completely obscures the key point at this stage, which is "How are we going to project forward ... What are we going to do for the next four years to protect the interest of America and our allies and restructure a new order in the world?" Bob Kerrey echoed this sentiment today.

And making the determination on how we move forward requires assessing the situation as it is, and making the best judgment of how to proceed. Now the situation currently is simply not as rosy as everyone suggests. Violent events that would be unthinkable in a country at peace still happen every day. The political situation is still a mess, and with the delay in provincial elections, it's only getting worse. Juan Cole notes that it's fairly impossible to pin down the exact cause-and-effect of the surge (though the ethnic cleansing of Baghdad and bribing the Sunnis in Anbar is certainly a major facet, as well as the increase in Iraqi oil revenues which has strengthened the central government), but it's also impossible to suggest this is an unquestionably safe and peaceful nation:

I'd suggest some comparisons. The Sri Lankan civil war between Sinhalese and Tamils has killed an average of 233 persons a month since 1983 and is considered one of the world's major ongoing trouble spots. That is half the average monthly casualties in Iraq recently. In 2007, the conflict in Afghanistan killed an average of 550 persons a month. That is about the rate recently according to official statistics for Iraq. The death rate in 2006-2007 in Somalia was probably about 300 a month, or about half this year's average monthsly rate in Iraq. Does anybody think Afghanistan or Somalia is calm? Thirty years of North Ireland troubles left about 3,000 dead, a toll still racked up in Iraq every five months on average.

All the talk of casualty rates, of course, is to some extent beside the point. The announced purpose of the troop escalation was to create secure conditions in which political compromises could be achieved [...]

There has been very little reconciliation between Sunni and Shiite. The new de-Baathification law which ostensibly aimed at improving the condition of Sunnis who had worked in the former regime was loudly denounced by the very ex-Baathists who would be affected by it. In any case, the measure has languished in oblivion and no effort has been made to implement it. Depending on how it is implemented it could easily lead to large numbers of Sunnis being fired from government ministries, and so might make things worse.

So that's where we are. But again, what this proves is that the political situation cannot be managed by increases in American troops on the ground. Now that the country is a bit more stable and the Maliki government on surer footing, only they can make those necessary decisions, and our presence or absence is not really a factor. And the biggest point is that, if the Iraqis want us out, how can we deny them the freedom to have that choice?

McCain ought to embrace withdrawal as the validation of his strategy. That wouldn't be entirely true, of course, but if he's so keen on a counter-insurgency strategy, the first rule would be to listen to the local leaders about their needs and desires. Maliki is asking for withdrawal for nakedly political reasons, but if McCain rebuffs his wishes, he renders illegitimate the elected Iraqi government and threatens to have the entire population turn on us.

Petraeus's counterinsurgency manual also makes clear the Iraqi Government's desire for a timeline should be seen as an important step forward: "The long-term goal is to leave a government able to stand by itself. In the end, the host nation has to win on its own. ... Eventually all foreign armies are seen as interlopers or occupiers; the sooner the main effort can transition to Host Nation institutions, without unacceptable degradation, the better." Of course, it is quite likely that, buoyed by its recent successes, the Maliki Government is overestimating its own capabilities and the U.S. should take care to withdraw carefully in a way that minimizes the likelihood of the situation deteriorating. But with that caveat in place, counterinsurgency doctrine dictates that this assertion of independence is an important step. It should be welcomed -- not derided as political posturing or suppressed by a White House seeking a permanent presence in Iraq.

In the end, COIN doctrine tells us that Prime Minister Maliki's recent assertions are a crucial turning point as Iraqis being to declare their own independence. This moment should be seized on to begin transitioning to a more limited mission that acts to support the Iraqis instead of taking the lead, and which requires a much smaller U.S. force presence. This is the position that Barack Obama has had all along. John McCain would be wise to accept this new reality and move to Obama's position, instead of continuing to reject the major breakthrough that has occurred.

He won't, of course, because he's stubborn, and his strategy - indeed the neocon strategy from the beginning of this war - was far more about staying permanently than building a democratic society. This suggests that McCain doesn't know a lot about foreign policy and certainly nothing about counter-insurgency. And the policies he does articulate - remaining in Iraq, kicking Russia out of the G8, rogue state rollback - really threaten global stability. It's actually dangerous at this point not to leave Iraq. And that's why the best bet for our continued security and the lives of our soldiers is Barack Obama.

UPDATE: This is fucking weird.

What is he talking about? If Maliki says it, then the timetable is based on conditions on the ground, but if Obama says ithe doesn't? This doesn't make any sense. I guess he's trying to blur the lines here, but he's just confusing everyone.

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I don't know what the Wall Street Journal did to piss John McCain off, but he let them have it. Apparently this journalist wrote some article about how coverage of Obama is getting the McCain camp all sore, which is unquestionably true (they sent around the "Obama Love" video, after all), but I guess saying that out loud is verboten. McCain just wants them to change their coverage.

Maybe the anger is coming from the realization that he's running such a terrible campaign. His impromptu press conference at a supermarket sounds like something out of a Will Ferrell movie:

When John McCain descended on a Bethlehem, Penn. grocery store late yesterday afternoon, the unscheduled campaign stop, meant to highlight McCain's concern over skyrocketing food prices, instead quickly became a theater for the absurd. First, a cameraman knocked over several glass jars of Mott's applesauce, which rolled near McCain's feet as he posed for a bevy of cameras while strolling the grocery aisles. Then, the senator's hastily assembled press conference, held in front of a perishable food case labeled "Dairy Delights," was interrupted by the scream of the store's P.A. system announcing a staffer had a phone call. Finally, there was the fact that Renee Gould, the young mother McCain had an extended chat with about the high price of tomatoes and milk, was not a random shopper, but an area resident funneled to the campaign by the local Republican Party. Gould's admission (a reporter cornered her and asked how she came to be there) was ultimately not all that surprising. Even with the amusing mishaps, the entire event came off as canned, and McCain—whose discomfort with the phoniness required by politics has always been evident—spent most of his time shifting uncomfortably.

(I guess that running a shit campaign makes him a straight-talking hero, or something.)

Similarly, his press conference in Columbus yesterday could barely be heard over wind chimes. This is Politics 101 stuff, and they're failing miserably.

I'd be mad too.

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Nice Trick

I guess conservative bloggers are pitching a fit because Obama didn't pay his respects to the troops at Landstuhl AFB in Germany. That might be because the Pentagon nixed it.

I've just gotten clarification from the Pentagon on what really happened with regard to Barack Obama's canceled visit to an Army base in Germany, something the McCain campaign has been using to hit Obama since yesterday.

A Pentagon spokesperson confirms to me that because of longstanding Department of Defense regulations, Pentagon officials told Obama aides that he couldn't visit the base with campaign staff. This left Obama with little choice but to cancel the trip, since the plan to visit with campaign aides had been in the works for weeks [...]

It's unclear how Obama could have made the visit at all, given the Pentagon's directives. No Senate staff was on the trip, and the Obama camp says they received the Pentagon's directives on Wednesday, after they were already abroad.

Bottom line: We're not seeing any issue here at all.

This of course, won't stop anyone, including McCain, from making it an issue.

It is a nice trick by the supposedly apolitical Pentagon, however. Allow Obama to plan a trip to the Air Force base, then lay down the rules at a time when Obama has no choice but to cancel it, and then watch the political fur fly.

Good work.

UPDATE: This Daily Kos diarist has a lot more (apparently McCain visiting troops at US Naval bases with campaign staff wasn't a problem). And then there's this:

Utah Army National Guard Intelligence Officer (i.e.,. spy) reportedly authors chain email defaming Obama

The new chain email claims, incorrectly, that Obama blew off the troops waiting to shake his hand at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan so he could shoot hoops instead (was the alleged Intell Officer trying to imply a racist smear against Obama as well? You know those black guys and their basketballs...). In any case, the Army came out and denied the veracity of the email - Obama didn't shoot hoops, and he did greet the troops - but screw that, where is the denial from the Intell guy? I want to see him declaring that he didn't write the email and that it's factually untrue. If our spy didn't offer the anti-Obama smear, then wouldn't you think the military would have mentioned that right at the beginning of their denial?

Just as importantly, if the author of this phony smear is an Army intelligence officer - read: a US spy - then there is some serious potential illegality with him using his professional disinformation spycraft in an attempt to influence an American election. Remember, it was just yesterday that State Department employees in Berlin were told not to dare show up at Obama's speech, lest they appear to be weighing in on our elections. So how do you think a US spy using his spy talents to influence our elections falls under the rules?

You take each one of these by itself, maybe it's nothing. But they're starting to add up. Funny how all of these "nonpartisan" military brass seem to be weighing in on the election on precisely the same side, isn't it?

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John Chiang: Working Class Hero

It does appear that our state Controller has basically said "No Dice" to the governor's plan to punish state workers for his own leadership failures.

While the governor is poised to order the cuts on Monday, state Controller John Chiang, who is responsible for disbursing state workers' paychecks, said Thursday that he will refuse to go along with the governor, setting up a political standoff and a possible legal fight.

"The authority to issue people's paychecks is mine. I have both constitutional and statutory authority," said Chiang, a Democrat. "Frankly, (the governor) is just trying to make me do something that's improper and illegal."

The same exact thing happened in 2003, with Steve Westly refusing to cut salaries as then-Gov. Gray Davis requested. And Westly got his way until the budget was eventually signed on August 2. This basically throws the whole issue into the courts and delays the implementation of any salary cut. And that's a legal fight I relish having. For too long the chief executive of the state - and in some cases, the legislature - has absolutely overstepped their authority with regard to fiscal matters. The most egregious example is their raiding municipal government and transit funds to fill in the cracks of the budget deficit, which leads to ridiculous outcomes like cutting bus service at a time when mass transit should be expanding.

But Chiang standing with workers and holding on to his authority as a statewide elected official is just as important. We elect a governor, not a king, and this encroachment on the jurisdiction of other constitutional officers is illegal and increasingly dangerous. State workers who are rallying against the proposed cuts should understand that they have a champion in John Chiang, and that his decision deserves their support. The California Democratic Party has a petition you can sign to stand with the Controller in this effort.

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Friday Random Ten

Took the bus again this morning. I have this knack for watching my bus drive away when I'm about a block from the stop. Did give me more time to listen to tunes, however:

Reunion - Stars
Hit Liquor - Shudder To Think
Planet Rock - Afrika Baambataa and Soul Sonic Force
Motion Picture Soundtrack - Radiohead
Over The Line - The Crystal Method
Store Bought Bones - The Raconteurs
Wild, Sweet And Cool - The Crystal Method
Where It's At - Beck
Bangs - They Might Be Giants
What's The #? - Apples In Stereo

I gotta say, that might be the best random ten I've ever put up. Let's press my luck with a bonus track:

This Mess We're In - PJ Harvey feat. Thom Yorke


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Republicans Vote Against Lowering Gas Prices

Even though I don't think it's the entire story, there's certainly SOME speculation in the oil futures market that is driving up the price. Ian Welsh has a pretty good explanation of this. And so to see the Senate block consideration on a bill that would rein in speculation in the market, a few days after voting 94-0 to move it forward, is just embarrassing, and really shows where the loyalties of the Republicans lie - with the speculators and with the oil companies that benefit from the speculation.

The DSCC puts it all together in a press release:

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell voted against a bill today to lower gas prices by curbing excessive speculation in energy markets. Experts have noted that speculation is driving up the price of a barrel of oil, and a recent House committee report revealed that speculators – institutional investors buying contracts with no intention of taking delivery of oil – now account for 73% of all trading of crude oil contracts on the New York Mercantile Exchange, up from 37% in 2000.

"Mitch McConnell had an opportunity to lower the price of gas today, but instead he voted with the speculators who are profiting from Kentuckians' pain at the pump," DSCC spokesman Matthew Miller said. "Mitch McConnell's constituents deserve better than a politician who sides with Wall Street speculators over Kentucky families."

McConnell voted against legislation to guard against price manipulation just one day after the Commodity Futures Trading Commission announced its first case against a trading fund in the agency's probe of crude oil market manipulation. The bill will eliminate so-called "dark markets" to increase transparency and accountability in commodities trading, strengthen the CFTC's enforcement capacity, and close the "London Loophole" so all U.S.-based trading of American commodities is subject to American regulation.

And the only action the Republicans want to take to relieve the burden of high gas prices is more drilling and spilling, and they'll lie through their teeth to do so, that the wildlife "wouldn't care" about giant oil rigs going up in their backyard (in that case, let's put one behind John Boehner's house). Of course, that drilling and spilling will only advantage- you guessed it, giant oil companies.

It's all so transparent...

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The Sourpusses On The Bus

Digby writes about the press turning back on Obama out of sensitivity to the "liberal media" label. And that's true. So is the fact that they are small-c conservative, lazy, and easily led. But there's another factor. They're whiny little babies who aren't getting the access they demand by divine right, and sometimes the Obama campaign dares to question them.

But, the next morning, Nagourney awoke to an e-mail from Talking Points Memo writer Greg Sargent asking him to comment on an eight-point rebuttal trashing his piece that the Obama campaign had released to reporters and bloggers like The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder and Politico's Ben Smith. Nagourney had not heard the complaints from the Obama camp and had no idea they were so steamed. "I'm looking at this thing, and I'm like, 'What the hell is this?' " Nagourney recently recalled. "I really flipped out."

Later that afternoon, Nagourney got permission from Times editors to e-mail Sargent a response to the Obama memo. But the episode still grates. "I've never had an experience like this, with this campaign or others," Nagourney tells me. "I thought they crossed the line. If you have a problem with a story I write, call me first. I'm a big boy. I can handle it. But they never called. They attacked me like I'm a political opponent."

You know, the remedy to that is to not build an entire article out of completely misreading poll data.

But there's more. Seems that the Obama camapign, in addition to mildly standing up for its candidate, doesn't dole out the barbecue with the same vigor as the presumptive Republican nominee.

Last year, when Hillary Clinton campaigned as a front-runner, Obama provided access to the press corps and won over the media [...] But, as Obama ascended from underdog to front-runner to presumptive nominee, the flame seems to have dwindled. Reporters who cover Obama these days grouse that Obama's flacks shroud the campaign in secrecy and provide little to no access. "They're more disciplined than the Bush people," a reporter on the Obama trail gripes. "There was this idea of being transparent, but they're not. They're total tightwads with information."

In June, there was something of a revolt after Obama ditched the press corps on his campaign plane for a secret meeting with Clinton at Senator Dianne Feinstein's house in Washington, leaving the reporters trapped on the flight to Chicago. The D.C. bureau chiefs of half a dozen news organizations, including the late Tim Russert, sent an angry letter to Obama aides Robert Gibbs and David Plouffe and threatened not to reimburse the campaign for the cost of the flight. "The decision to mislead reporters is a troubling one," they wrote. "We hope this does not presage a relationship with the Obama campaign that is not based on a mutual respect for the truth." After the incident, the press corps decided that one pool reporter would keep Obama in sight at all times. "It's a body watch," one reporter jokes.

It just goes on like that. The sense of entitlement is really incredible. Obama isn't a certified Village member in good standing as it is, so these indignities like keeping a private meeting private and holding a 10-minute interview to 10 minutes (yes, that's really a compliant) are magnified. The idea that the press considers the Obama campaign operation "young and arrogant" both really betrays their bias and displays a stunning lack of self-awareness.

After all, the press has lived through eight years of a notoriously tight-lipped and secretive White House, whose President would regularly demean them in public and call them major league assholes behind their back, and they lapped it all up, believing Bush to be a popular and mythic hero long after the public had turned away.

But of course, he was a Republican, and all that humiliation was just locker-room joshing. The Democrat is supposed to be afraid of the press, because they can take him or her down over an afternoon tea, and the fact that this guy isn't totally letting the media run roughshod over him must be deeply frustrating. It does not compute. And he's limiting access and maximizing his campaign time! How dare he!

Aside from all the laziness and hewing to narrative and all the rest, the press corps are, in general, exceedingly vain. When the Village makes the decision that they are offended (and somehow they didn't through eight years of a President who held them in the utmost contempt), they will lash out. And so expect this over the next several weeks.

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The Health Care Moment Has Its Epiphany

There's something of a consensus that Netroots Nation didn't offer enough adversarial panels and instead largely consisted of bloggers agreeing with one another. But that's not true. I personally witnessed the most adversarial panel of the weekend, and it was spectacular, because finally, both factions of the debate about health care policy on the left were able to come together and understand the political contours of the brewing fight in the Congress.

The panel was entitled "Time for Action: How the Netroots Can Lead on Healthcare Reform," and was put together by Eve Gittleson, who blogs at Daily Kos under the moniker nyceve. There's a good liveblog of the panel here, but what you need to know is that Gittleson stacked the deck. She had some great health care activists who are doing great work in different areas of the space: Giuseppe Del Priore, MD, MPH a New York cancer surgeon; Hilda Sarkisyan, whose daughter, Nataline, died after being denied a liver transplant by Cigna; Rocky Delgadillo, Los Angeles City Attorney, who is pursuing civil and criminal investigation into insurance practices; Geri Jenkins, RN a member of the Council of Presidents of the California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee. And then Ezra Klein, associate editor for The American Prospect and a health care policy guru, appeared at the end of the panel. The aforementioned speakers were all powerful advocates. Sarkysian, whose family HAD health insurance and still couldn't get their daughter what she needed, said bluntly "This is not a good country anymore." Del Priore discussed the need for doctors and patients to handle questions of care and the need to arrest insurance executives for their crimes in denying coverage. Rocky Delgadillo outlined the schemes, like rescission (even based on spousal applications), that insurers are engaging in to maximize profit at the expense of patient care. He also mentioned how California regulators ignored a million-dollar fine to Blue Cross because they feared they would lose the case if it went to court, which is just unbelievable. And Jenkins argued that the insurance industry will play no role in reforming health care, and we need to move immediately to a not-for-profit system.

Good points all. And then Eve turned to Ezra:

Eve: Ezra, why does HCAN want to condemn Americans to this kind of system? I get confusing emails from Elizabeth Edwards and MoveOn talking about the atrocities of the insurance industry, then marginalizing the only viable solution. Can you explain this new Edwards HCAN initiative, the TV commercials, etc. . . What's it all about? What are they trying to do? It seems there are three initiatives on the table--676, Wyden and HCAN. What's wrong with Wyden and Edwards? And a follow-up...what can we realistically expect from President Obama?

I hope you don't mind that I'm sand-bagging you. I love you, really, Ezra. I just don't agree with you on this point.

This apparently startled Mr. Klein. But for him to not know the position of Eve and the CNA and an activist like Hilda Sarkysian speaks a lot to his cloistered state in Washington. Because I know all about this fight. I made one positive comment about HCAN upon their launch and took massive amounts of crap for it. I was called a defeatist and admonished for not being true to the cause. My only point was that having an organization with $40 million dollars to spend on calling out health insurers on their garbage is going to be tremendously helpful to whatever reform we get through the Congress, and furthermore I didn't see them having much of a place at the table in the policy debate. In other words they were finally an organization concerned with moving public opinion and playing the health care debate out on political grounds rather than policy grounds. And on the panel, Klein echoed the importance of politics over policy:

You can take a lot of approaches to health reform. You can emphasize policy, politics, principles, or some mix thereof. Judging from the panel, Health Care for All, and the California Nurses, could use a bit more politics in their approach. It was a panel about "health reform" -- not care or policy, but "reform" -- at a conference of engaged politicos that never mentioned the Senate, or votes, or the conditions required for presidential signature.

There was a lot of talk about "fighting" insurers and other special interests, but not much about what that fight will look like, or where it will take place, or who decides the winner. My argument, was that, for reformers, insurers aren't the real enemy. Setting them up as the opponent actually gives them too much credit. Insurers are stupid, profit seeking beasts -- the enemy is American politics, and in particular, the structural feature of the US Senate that have repeatedly killed health reform in the past. No matter what your policy preference, that's where your organizing has to be focused, because that's where the actual fight happens: In Congress. Not on panels, or on blogs, or among the Left. In the US Senate, where you have to get to 60, or at least figure out how to get rough Democratic unity for using budget reconciliation and then convince Kennedy and Carper to vote "aye" on the same bill.

This is basically the same argument Ezra makes continuously on his site, but it appeared to hit the audience like they never heard it before. And considering that it's largely the correct analysis, it was generally well-received, I thought. I spoke later with Eve, who told me that she had a conversation with someone from HCAN and "they are not the enemy." What a concept - all elements of health care advocacy on the left working together, for a change, toward a common goal.

Now granted, this week they all had a big juicy target. AHIP, the health insurance lobby, put together a fake grassroots front group called The Campaign for an American Solution. Of course, that "solution" involves funneling more cash and customers to the same broken insurance system we have now. Now, who was the very first group to coordinate a counter-attack on this front group on the first stop of their listening tour in Columbus, OH? That's right, HCAN

Well, that didn’t take long.

A day after Politico reported the health insurance industry is launching a health care reform campaign next week, the progressive reformers are firing back.

Health Care for America Now announced Friday that it plans a news conference and a rally next week to counter the insurance industry’s Campaign for an American Solution, which launches in Columbus, Ohio, on Tuesday with a roundtable discussion among uninsured locals.

“They’re pretending that the health industry represents the American public, and we need to make it really clear to them and the public that all they represent are their own profits,” said Richard Kirsch, national campaign manager for Health Care Now.

Indeed they did attend the launch, and got to ask some tough questions, confronting the head of AHIP and asking her how an insurance industry group could possibly be objective in pushing for lower rates and higher quality coverage when they are concerned solely with the profit motive. It got heated, and I'm glad they did. And all of a sudden, Daou's Triangle started closing. Rep. Pete Stark came up with a great quote:

"America's Health Insurance Plans' new 'Campaign for an American Solution' rings as true as the tobacco industry's efforts to end smoking. There is nothing grassroots about it. It is designed, financed, and coordinated through their Washington trade association with the singular goal of protecting their profits.

"I hope it is true that these companies intend to be a positive force in health reform efforts, but I tend to be cautious when the fox starts drawing up plans for a new henhouse."

HCAN called up the hotline for the Campaign for an American Solution that they set up for the public to provide input... and they got an answering machine. They've trickled this out one by one and pretty much ruined the launch of AHIP's front group. That's REALLY important for the future of health care reform. Because on the policy the views are far closer on the left than most people imagine. Everyone knows that whatever system is ultimately put forward can be paid for in a far better manner than the current wasteful, inefficient system. So expense should never be a deterrent, meaning we can build whatever system we choose and it is extremely likely to go revenue-neutral very quickly once we eliminate the shoddy budgeting of the current broken system. We know that health insurers will not jeopardize their profit margins unless they're forced to. Once you recognize these two realities, the policy goals become fairly clear. The political goals have to include attack dogs pushing back on the false memes of the right and the insurance industry, and pressuring the Senate to do the right thing.

Now Obama's plan includes some better regulation toward insurers (including guaranteed issue and community rating) and a public option to compete with the private insurance market and take the step toward a sequential single-payer. (His latest addition to the plan, a tax credit for small businesses who offer quality health care, is borrowed directly from the Clinton plan, raising hopes that eventually he'll just borrow all of it, as he should). Despite this being a fairly modest set of reforms, McCain and the right are going to denounce it as government-run "Hillarycare" anyway. So it's vital to have a broad coalition to give as good as they'll get from the right and give the lawmakers backbone to push the policy forward. Matt Stoller writes:

Coalitions are strange beasts, with multiple moving parts, but they are also the only way anything gets done. A coalition has a core of organizers behind it, and a variety of groups out in front who each take different roles. Some people can talk to Republicans, some people can talk to Democrats, some people threaten, some people cajole, some people talk to businesses, etc. HCAN is driven by labor in the form of SEIU, the NEA, AFSCME, and United Food and Commercial Workers, as well as groups primarily funded by labor such as Americans United for Change and the Campaign for America's Future. It is also driven by direct mail and Foundation based organizations, such as La Raza, Planned Parenthood, Center for American Progress Action Fund, Center for Community Change, and the National Women's Law Center.

Stoller goes on to make the point that HCAN should broaden their mandate and make this a fight about general health, and I agree. Going after convenience stores that sell fatty, sugar-laden food to kids sounds like it could be a part of their mandate. The farm bill, the transportation bill (more mass transit and more livable, walkable cities means healthier lives), and others could be brought onto the field of battle. But the larger point is that coalitions of this nature are built because they work. And the benefit is that they give lawmakers breathing space to do their job and the spine to do it right. This moment in health care demands that everyone understands the political spade work necessary to reach the desired outcome. So out of the ashes of that contentious NN panel came something pretty special. Groups across the center-left ideological spectrum working together to end the health care crisis in America and restore treatment as a basic human right.

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Thursday, July 24, 2008

Millions Of Little Small-D Democratic Fascists

Obama's small donors, donating $200 or less, have actually outraised McCain by themselves throughout the campaign. That is an incredible statistic.

And many of those who make the trip out to Denver to be a part of that historic speech in Invesco Field will have to earn their way through the door.

In a half-hour interview Wednesday with The Denver Post, Obama's deputy campaign manager, Steve Hildebrand, said he wants to use the ticketing process as a massive recruitment tool meant to bring in supporters from all 50 states and energize them to carry the campaign into the final 60 days of the general election.

"We're going to ask those 80,000 people in that stadium to march out of there and go with very specific instructions and goals to register millions of new voters," Hildebrand said [...]

By seating the 6,000 delegates down on the field normally defended by the Denver Broncos, and by keeping the number of journalists, technicians and VIPs at the same level as those attending the Pepsi Center events earlier in the week, the campaign could bring in more than 60,000 members of the public, Hildebrand said.

As a battleground state hosting the convention, Colorado will have access to the largest percentage of public tickets, but Hildebrand wants to draw significant support from neighboring states, such as the other Intermountain West battleground states of New Mexico and Nevada.

People getting involved enough in politics to out-fund special interests and lobbyists and corporate donors. Using their passion and energy to mobilize other voters and get their voices to be heard in the process.

Buncha fascists.

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Republican 419 Schemes, Cont'd

It's pretty hilarious that Michelle Malkin's secret weapon, the candidate who was going to stick it to that traitor and coward Jack Murtha, is one of the useful idiots propping up BMW Direct's Republican thievery project:

Lt. Col. William Russell is a clean-cut Army veteran who served in Iraq, the Gulf War and at the Pentagon on 9/11, according to a campaign Web site.

Malkin claims there's been a "great media wall of silence around Russell's upstart campaign." OK, let's break that silence and take a close look.

In the most recent quarter Russell raised $669,534, almost all from out-of-state donors who presumably are on BMW Direct's list of self-styled conservatives with a good track record of responding to direct-mail fundraising.

At the same time, he spent $442,990, almost all of it on expenses related to the direct mail effort and paid to BMW Direct and its affiliates (some of which share the same downtown Washington office).

The only expenses that appear to be spent on an actual campaign totaled about $20,000 for Web site design, a low-budget video and a campaign consultant based in Pennsylvania rather than Washington.

He reports having $269,953 in cash on hand. But he also reports debts totaling $242,521 -- almost all for direct mail expenses to BMW Direct and its vendors.

So that leaves him only about $27,431 ahead -- not much for a guy who's raised a total of nearly $1 million this election cycle.

Hilarious. Republicans really do treat their supporters like complete suckers. And they come back over and over again. La Malkin has responded to this with crickets, so far. Wonder if she got any BMW Direct kickbacks for talking up one of their "heroes"?

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CA-26: Americans United For Change Hit Dreier On Drilling

Today Americans United for Change, the progressive advocacy group that is visiting districts throughout the country on the "Bush Legacy Tour," hammered David Dreier for being a tool to Big Oil and special interests. From their release:

With gas prices above $4, Americans United for Change, the progressive issue-advocacy group that recently launched its national Bush Legacy Bus tour, blasted Rep. David Drier today for standing in the way of lower gas prices for California families by voting against meaningful legislation to release 70 million barrels of light, sweet crude oil from the nation’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve into the open market and replace it with heavy, sour oil that is tougher to refine – a move that has historically brought down gas prices and strengthened our national security.

The SPR has been tapped or suspended before by the current President Bush, President Clinton, and the first President Bush and each time oil has been released the impact on prices has been dramatic and immediate. For example, in 1991, oil prices immediately dropped by 33 percent. The 2000 exchange drove oil prices down by 19 percent. And the release by President Bush in 2005 resulted in a 9 percent drop.

“With gas prices hovering above $4 a gallon, Rep. Dreier was given a chance today bring real relief now to California families forced to make incredible sacrifices choosing between bills, gas, and food,” said Caren Benjamin, for Americans United for Change. "But without apology or question, Congressman Dreier chose to put his loyalty to Bush and his addiction to big oil cash ahead of relief for struggling Californians."

I don't know if the "Free Our Oil" campaign and focusing on the Strategic Petroleum Reserve is the most effective message, but clearly somebody has to show some leadership on the energy front. Contrary to popular beliefs, Democrats are NOT being pushed out of this debate. In a recent poll by The Wilderness Society, the public is split on the question of drilling or protecting arctic lands and offshore areas, and they believe 76%-19% that the best way to secure our energy future is to invest in new technologies and renewable sources rather than continue to drill. In addition, by a 63%-31% score, those polled believe that the President's proposal to open up ANWR and the Outer Continental Shelf to drilling "is more likely to enrich oil companies than to lower gas prices for American consumers." That's why it's so crucial for AUFC to note that David Dreier has taken $129,400 in contributions from oil company executives over the years.

There's starting to be some real pushback on this "drill now" blather. The Democrats put forward this SPR bill today and most Republicans took the bait of voting against it. Jimmy Hoffa Jr. of the Teamsters, in a real game-changer of a move, came out with a very strong statement rejecting "drilling our way out" of this crisis, and demanding long-term energy solutions. Democratic Congressional candidate John Boccieri from Ohio made this amusing Web video to mock his opponent's reliance on drilling:

And just to your left, CA-46's Debbie Cook has put together a comprehensive 10-point plan to realize Al Gore's vision of receiving 100% of our electricity from renewables by 2018.

There's work to be done - by candidates, policy wonks, advocacy groups, and regular people - but together we can beat back these shortsighted solutions and expose those who want to wed our energy needs to the failures of the past.

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Demonizing Political Participation

Jesse Taylor at Pandagon had a remarkably insightful piece today about the wingnut carping over the Barack Obama speech in Berlin, the media reaction, and his popularity generally. I really think this is important to understand. The right has always held a goal of minimizing political participation; normally this is done through voter suppression, onerous voter ID or ballot access laws, and generally disenfranchising those for whom it is hardest to engage in the process. Now they've taken it a step further, basically planting the seed that ANY participation whatsoever, not just voting but showing up for a rally or working a phone bank or donating money, is toxic and inherently fascistic. Because their deficit in this election year is enthusiasm, they're trying to make such support and excitement untenable. Behold:

But what (author of Liberal Fascism Jonah) Goldberg has done is provide intellectual cover for a growing meme: Obama is the leader of a new fascist revolution. Why, you may ask? Well, it’s all got to do with the defining downward of fascism towards a gooey puddle that virtually anyone not a movement conservative can step in.

The Goldbergian view of fascism (and I’m sure he’ll deny it, which will then be followed by a criticism of my argument, which will in turn be fascist, which will in turn be the exact point he was trying make) is that the marriage of any measurable popularity whatsoever to any state action whatsoever outside the boundaries of Reaganite conservatism is de facto fascist. The point was never to explore fascism or provide an analysis of the phenomenon that cast new light on it - a feat of which Goldberg was summarily incapable - but instead to provide the exact utility we see on display now, and provide a way to brand any popular Democrat or liberal as the handmaiden of evil.

In a way, Goldberg lucked out (but he’s used to that) - Obama’s popularity and McCain’s plodding campaign provide the perfect stand-in for his argument. A Republican candidate with any stature, any devotion from the base, anyone who’s invested in seeing him elected for reasons that extend beyond his party affiliation, and it’s entirely ruined. A boring Republican running a bad campaign (Bob Dole, Gerald Ford) inevitably creates a fascist Democrat, not by anything they’ve said or done but by the simple act of showing up and not being a dumbass.

Yep. And because McCain is running such an awful campaign, conservatives must then rationalize that there's something deeply wrong with the popular and competent campaign that Barack Obama is running. And so he becomes a leader of a fascist movement. His creation of fliers for his Berlin event in the language of the country where he's appearing becomes proof. So does the location of the event in front of a Nazi monument. And his head is tilted in profile in the picture - just like Hitler! Because electoral history has shown that imitating Hitler is a surefire vote-getter. Those supporters are being lured by music and food they have to pay for into worshipping this false idol who will lead us down a path to destruction.

But that's all subtext, of course. The idea is to create the connection between large crowds and enthralled supporters in the 1930s and in the Obama campaign today. And that is meant to induce feelings of revulsion and shame, not just in those voters who are more passive and see these images on television, but among the very participants themselves. Going to an Obama rally? You're a mindless pawn. Send him money? You are funding a cult. Work on his behalf? You have drank the Kool-Aid and are pathologically creepy.

This pervades the media conception of the Obama candidacy, too. Never in my life have I seen such a concern troll statement like this from a political reporter.

Candy Crowley on CNN: Barack Obama was, indeed, awesome in his Berlin speech tonight, but watch out! Americans might decide he was a little too awesome.

Obama has to be "careful." He mustn't be too presumptuous. He has to scale back with the soaring rhetoric and the inspiration and the winning, you see. It's decidedly unfair of him to run a decent campaign and soak up all the media attention at the expense of the guy who shows up at the German sausage restaurant on the same day as the Berlin speech.

The biggest fear of the GOP is that the great silent majority, the people who don't get involved in politics and don't even vote, are spurred to consistent action. This manifests itself in the concern that they're losing the new media war, which they'll surely throw billions at in the next decade. But there's another element of this project: marginalization. Here's an example: yesterday Color of Change and MoveOn put together a great protest of Fox News' racist attacks on Obama, delivering hundreds of thousands of petitions and enlisting rapper Nas, who actually has a new track called "Sly Fox" about the channel, to be their spokesman. So Bill O'Reilly had to respond.

Fox officials are not only attacking Nas for selling his album (which already topped the charts), some are likening the anti-racism activists to the KKK. MTV reports that Bill O'Reilly also responded, deriding protesters such as MoveOn as "the new Klan" with "a radical left agenda." He continued:

"The latest smear from Move On is telling their Kool-Aid-drinking zombie followers that Fox News is smearing Barack Obama and is a racist concern. Of course, that's a lie. This broadcast and FNC in general have been exceedingly fair to Senator Obama. ... But in order to intimidate anyone from criticizing Obama in any way, Move On is playing the race card."

It's a fairly rare coalition that can include Nas AND the Klan, but that's the world according to BillO.

Being a member of MoveOn for almost its entire 10 years, it's pretty clear to me that they represent a kind of passive liberalism which engages people online who otherwise might not participate.

MoveOn's success (and, indeed, its limitations) is powered by its appeal to today's non-shouters. Though its politics are in many ways the opposite of the Nixon silent majority's, they share a disposition. They are people not inclined to protest but whose rising unease with the direction of the country has led to a new political consciousness. For citizens angered, upset and disappointed with their government but unsure how to channel those sentiments, MoveOn provides simple, discrete actions: sign this petition, donate money to run this ad, show up at this vigil. "Before I joined MoveOn," says staffer Anna Galland, "I was organizing in Rhode Island doing faith-based antiwar activism. In March 2003, MoveOn had put out an action alert for a vigil against the Iraq War. There were 500 people on the steps of the Capitol, and I remember thinking, 'I know all the activists in the state; where did all these people come from?' I think many people have a MoveOn moment where they look around and realize that this organization has managed to tap into a much broader range of people than they might have seen at past activist events."

MoveOn is essentially a conduit for ordinary Americans to collect their voices and mobilize political power. Color of Change is doing the same thing in the African-American community. They aren't the Klan - they're actually you, your friends and neighbors. They have fairly baseline liberal beliefs, nothing shocking. This kind of activism isn't going to change the world - it's a gateway into more civic engagement and participation - and when it's demonized as "the Klan" or some outpost on the radical left, the goal is made obvious - to strangle activism at the very outset. If MoveOn is smeared and made radical, there's not very much hope at REALLY engaging people (That's why it was so damn stupid for the Democratic Congress to condemn MoveOn for the "Betrayus" ad last year). And it's the same with the more intense activism of the Obama campaign.

We have to recognize this and understand it. There is a very concerted and completely ahistorical effort to make "fascism" synonymous with "popularity." As Jesse Taylor notes:

On the one hand, it’s an awful abuse of the concept of fascism, disrespecting the millions upon millions of people whose lives and livelihoods were destroyed because of the dream of nationalist identity and corporate power uber alles. On the other hand, it is remarkably entertaining to see them try to figure out how Barack Obama’s favorite ice cream flavor plays right into the hands of the fascist dream.

Entertaining, but also dangerous. They're taking a hip campaign and trying to make it radioactive. Those silent masses could easily be turned off by something they are browbeaten into considering the work of wild-eyed cultists. It's absurd, but it can be effective if we don't head it off. With growing numbers of the politically active and engaged, the Republican Party withers and dies. This is their latest suppression tactic.

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Walking Gaffe Machine

Is it the self-assuredness or just the ability to rely on the compliant press that enables John McCain to bust out all these misstatements on a daily basis?

Adding to the total today is the idea that Iraq was the first major post-9/11 conflict... boy, I knew that the GOP forgot about Afghanistan, but I didn't know they TOTALLY forgot about it.

And then he tried to deflect Barack Obama's successful speech in Berlin today by saying that "I would rather speak at a rally or a political gathering any place outside of the country after I am president of the United States," apparently forgetting the events of a month ago:

However, on June 20, McCain himself gave a speech in Canada -- to the Economic Club of Canada -- in which he applauded NAFTA's successes. An implicit message behind that speech was that Obama had been critical of the trade accord. Also, McCain's trip to Canada was paid for by the campaign.

I could loop in the persistent and damaging reports about Randy Scheunemann working in close contact with Bush Library briber Stephen Payne on influence-peddling schemes, too.

If I were McCain I'd just pack it in and follow the route of William McKinley's front-porch campaign - never leave the office or the homestead, and for God's sake don't open your mouth anymore.

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I, Klan

So Color of Change and MoveOn put together a great protest of Fox News' racist attacks on Obama, delivering hundreds of thousands of petitions and enlisting rapper Nas, who actually has a new track called "Sly Fox" about the channel, to be their spokesman.

Since Fox News wouldn't accept the petitions, Stephen Colbert did and it turned out pretty funny.

So O'Reilly had to respond.

Fox officials are not only attacking Nas for selling his album (which already topped the charts), some are likening the anti-racism activists to the KKK. MTV reports that Bill O'Reilly also responded, deriding protesters such as MoveOn as "the new Klan" with "a radical left agenda." He continued:

"The latest smear from Move On is telling their Kool-Aid-drinking zombie followers that Fox News is smearing Barack Obama and is a racist concern. Of course, that's a lie. This broadcast and FNC in general have been exceedingly fair to Senator Obama. ... But in order to intimidate anyone from criticizing Obama in any way, Move On is playing the race card."

It's a fairly rare coalition that can include Nas AND the Klan, but that's the world according to BillO.

Being a member of MoveOn for almost its entire 10 years, it's pretty clear to me that they represent a kind of passive liberalism which engages people online who otherwise might not participate. In other words, they are the opposite of radicals, and while Fox News and other traditional media outlets want to marginalize them, they do so with exactly the wrong narrative.

But understanding MoveOn as the direct descendant of the '60s protesters gets the organization exactly wrong. MoveOn's success (and, indeed, its limitations) is powered by its appeal to today's non-shouters. Though its politics are in many ways the opposite of the Nixon silent majority's, they share a disposition. They are people not inclined to protest but whose rising unease with the direction of the country has led to a new political consciousness. For citizens angered, upset and disappointed with their government but unsure how to channel those sentiments, MoveOn provides simple, discrete actions: sign this petition, donate money to run this ad, show up at this vigil. "Before I joined MoveOn," says staffer Anna Galland, "I was organizing in Rhode Island doing faith-based antiwar activism. In March 2003, MoveOn had put out an action alert for a vigil against the Iraq War. There were 500 people on the steps of the Capitol, and I remember thinking, 'I know all the activists in the state; where did all these people come from?' I think many people have a MoveOn moment where they look around and realize that this organization has managed to tap into a much broader range of people than they might have seen at past activist events."

MoveOn is essentially a conduit for ordinary Americans to collect their voices and mobilize political power. Color of Change is doing the same thing in the African-American community. They aren't the Klan - they're actually you, your friends and neighbors. They have fairly baseline liberal beliefs, nothing shocking. This kind of activism isn't going to change the world - it's a gateway into more civic engagement and participation - and when it's demonized as "the Klan" or some outpost on the radical left the disconnect is remarkable. Of course, the goal of this marginalization is to strangle activism at the very outset - if MoveOn is smeared and made radical, there's not very much hope at REALLY engaging people. That's why it was so damn stupid for the Democratic Congress to condemn MoveOn for the "Betrayus" ad last year. MoveOn is effective not only in what it does, but by empowering citizens to do even more. And so it's a cornerstone in the movement to make the country more progressive. That's why O'Reilly can't stand it, that's why Democrats ought to be completely supportive of it, and that's why I'm a member. I don't always agree with them, I think they can always go further, but they are building organizers across the country and that's meaningful.

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Stopping The March To Iran

Over the past couple days some big hitters have come out and warned the Administration not to continue to threaten war with Iran. Zbig Brzezinski and Brent Scowcroft made the case in the Washington Post that war is unnecessary and the constant tough rhetoric is unhelpful.

"Don't talk about 'do we bomb them now or later?' " said Brent Scowcroft, adviser to presidents Gerald R. Ford and George H.W. Bush, during a discussion at the Center for Strategic and International Studies on the negotiations between the United States and Iran.

Scowcroft added that by mentioning that threat, "we legitimize the use of force . . . and may tempt the Israelis" to carry out such a mission. He said he thinks that negotiations must continue and that sanctions have had an effect on Tehran, noting that even with elevated oil prices, Iran, alone among oil producers, is having a difficult time economically.

Zbigniew Brzezinski, adviser to President Jimmy Carter, described the Bush administration's policy of maintaining the option of military action as "counterproductive."

"I don't want the public to believe a preemptive attack can be justified," he said. Repeating the possibility "convinces Iran it is being threatened . . . and maybe it ought to have a [nuclear] weapon."

He added that a U.S. attack on Iran would be a "disaster," suggesting it could result in the U.S. fighting "for at least two decades" on four fronts -- Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

We never have a conversation in this country about the consequences of both our talk and action. Clearly a country like Iran, which sees US troops on its borders in neighboring countries, which sees nuclear-capable nations treated with respect and incapable nations treated to bombing, understand the role nuclear weapons can play, especially given continued threats. And Scowcroft rightly explains that the Iranian economy is dependent on the world community right now and thusly more susceptible to a negotiated settlement.

Similarly, Gen. John Abizaid's comments were level-headed and reflected some actual thought beyond a knee jerk over how to respond to Iran.

Although he didn't say it outright, General Abizaid's implicit view seemed to be that the world would not be able to stop Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon and that we would have to learn to live with it. He questioned whether war with Iran to stop that eventuality would be a wise idea "at this particular time" not only because world oil flows would be shut down and turmoil would spread across the Middle East where Iran's Shia allies hold sway, but also because the US armed forces lacked strategic flexibility, bogged down as they are in Iraq and Afghanistan with "our ground forces tapped out."

What, then, when they get the bomb? "I don't believe Iran is a suicide state," he said. "Deterrence will work with Iran. It is a country of many different power centers that are competing. Despite what their crazy president says, I doubt seriously whether the Iranians are interested in starting a nuclear war." [...] We should be talking to Iran, according to Abizaid, just the way we talked to our other enemies in the past. "We need to make it very clear to the Iranians, the same way we made it clear to the Soviet Union and China, that their first use of nuclear weapons would result in the devastation of their nation."

The pat conservative response to this is that people like Abizaid don't understand the nature of the threat (despite being on the ground in the Middle East for years) and that Iran is not a rational actor, but this is not borne out by their actions to this point. Their current first-strike capability doesn't exist, and beyond words there has been no meaningful action. I don't know if I agree with Abizaid that Iran will eventually get the bomb, but certainly we have the deterrence capability to deal with that if it happens, and even more capability to stop the threat through international pressure before we come to that.

The neocons, I believe, are of a different opinion. But the good news is that a bipartisan movement against pre-emptive war is building. H.R. 362, which would have called for a blockade around Iran, is stalling out in Congress, thanks to some better-informed legislators (Wexler, Cohen, and Frank) taking their names off the bill. The House leadership needs to put this to bed once and for all. J Street has a petition on this.

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This Moment

Take a look at these pictures and you recognize that something is very different about this Obama campaign and how restorative it can be for our relationship with the world.

There's limited value in this iconography in and of itself, but clearly Europeans are excited to have an American leader with whom they might work in concert. And the speech was very good in its own right, a message that weaved Obama's personal history, the kinship between the United States and Germany dating back to the Berlin Airlift, and how that kinship - a multilateral coming together of nations - can meet the challenges of this century and triumph over them.

Yes, there have been differences between America and Europe. No doubt, there will be differences in the future. But the burdens of global citizenship continue to bind us together. A change of leadership in Washington will not lift this burden. In this new century, Americans and Europeans alike will be required to do more – not less. Partnership and cooperation among nations is not a choice; it is the one way, the only way, to protect our common security and advance our common humanity.

That is why the greatest danger of all is to allow new walls to divide us from one another.

The walls between old allies on either side of the Atlantic cannot stand. The walls between the countries with the most and those with the least cannot stand. The walls between races and tribes; natives and immigrants; Christian and Muslim and Jew cannot stand. These now are the walls we must tear down.

We know they have fallen before. After centuries of strife, the people of Europe have formed a Union of promise and prosperity. Here, at the base of a column built to mark victory in war, we meet in the center of a Europe at peace. Not only have walls come down in Berlin, but they have come down in Belfast, where Protestant and Catholic found a way to live together; in the Balkans, where our Atlantic alliance ended wars and brought savage war criminals to justice; and in South Africa, where the struggle of a courageous people defeated apartheid.

So history reminds us that walls can be torn down. But the task is never easy. True partnership and true progress requires constant work and sustained sacrifice. They require sharing the burdens of development and diplomacy; of progress and peace. They require allies who will listen to each other, learn from each other and, most of all, trust each other.

That is why America cannot turn inward. That is why Europe cannot turn inward. America has no better partner than Europe. Now is the time to build new bridges across the globe as strong as the one that bound us across the Atlantic. Now is the time to join together, through constant cooperation, strong institutions, shared sacrifice, and a global commitment to progress, to meet the challenges of the 21st century. It was this spirit that led airlift planes to appear in the sky above our heads, and people to assemble where we stand today. And this is the moment when our nations – and all nations – must summon that spirit anew.

This is a simple call for a foreign policy that respects allies and listens to the breadth of opinion; that moves forward with humility but with the common purpose to share wealth, reward work and stand on the side of restoring this planet's resources and protecting the human rights of all citizens; and that makes a profound call for the end of a world with nuclear weapons, which, incidentally, I don't remember ANY other Presidential candidate doing since the invention of the atomic bomb.

The current President, meanwhile, banned State Department officials from attending the speech. And the other guy running for President had lunch at a German restaurant. Only one of the three attempted to lead today.

I agree with Meteor Blades. This is now the benchmark for how an American leader conducts himself on foreign soil.

Greg Sargent has some other good analysis.

UPDATE: Yes, Ezra is right to mention the inordinate amount of time spent in the speech on the Berlin Airlift, a story recounted in Andrei Cherny's new book The Candy Bombers: The Untold Story of the Berlin Airlift and America's Finest Hour. I think the reason for that is that it was an example of the exact opposite foreign policy of the Bush Administration - showing how we can best our adversaries by raising to our highest ideals, by helping people rather than harming them. If this is the model for an Obama foreign policy I'm all for it.

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