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

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Democrats Work in San Pedro With Debbie Cook (CA-46)

Today about 20 volunteers congregated at the White Point Nature Preserve in San Pedro to give back to the community as part of Democrats Work and their national day of service. I know community organizing and community service is teh suck, but that didn't stop us, for some reason. Democrats Work is a really great organization that brands service and volunteerism as a Democratic value, part of protecting the commons and creating a more livable world.

We arrived around 9am and immediately set to work clearing tumbleweed from a large area of the preserve, which formerly housed a naval missile silo. For 2 1/2 hours we picked, pulled and chopped away at the weeds. And joining us was Congressional candidate in CA-46 Debbie Cook (San Pedro is in her district). Now, most candidates would spend about 10 minutes there, get their photo-op, shake a few hands and go home. Cook drove up in her car and spent the entire volunteer session with us. Pretty interesting.

I talked to Cook a bit about her race against Crazy Dana Rohrabacher. Obviously, the big hurdle right now is financial. While Cook has outraised Dana Rohrabacher since she entered the race, she still is at a disadvantage of 3:1 in cash on hand, and until she shows more fundraising strength, outside groups like the DCCC won't jump in. It's kind of a vicious cycle - you can't get money until you raise money. Cook has released a TV ad that's running in the district on local cable, and she has an ActBlue site up for supporters to adopt an ad. She also raised close to $10,000 in Blue America's recent contest, and while she didn't win to receive the extra $10,000, it was still a success. Cook has challenged Rohrabacher to debates but he's been cool to the idea. Local PBS station KOCE has committed to running the debate with or without Crazy Dana, so she may be debating an empty chair. Cook discussed her plan for Iraq (if the oil companies require security to do their business in the country, they can pay for the private security contractors like Blackwater and let us leave), her energy ideas (the drillusion is backwards thinking that will never move us forward), and Sarah Palin (as the mayor of Huntington Beach, she said that she never received such federal largesse from earmarks that Palin did as mayor of Wasilla, despite having 20 times as many constituents), among other things, while helping clear the tumbleweed. Cook is an impressive and dedicated citizen legislator who would truly be a breath of fresh air in Washington.

Overall, not a bad morning.

It was a wide expanse.

This one's me.

Debbie Cook and a volunteer.

The whole gang and the fruits of our labor

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The Slide On Foreign Policy

Barack Obama's assertion to Bill O'Reilly that the surge has succeeded beyond anyone's wildest dreams is being simplified and ripped from context, but it remains a stupid thing to say. Obama was trying to express that the security gains when viewed in a vacuum were positive, but the political situation remains deadlocked, and until Iraqis are allowed the freedom to handle their own affairs, that will never change. Indeed, withdrawal is the only way to break the deadlock instead of enabling a growing Shiite strongman in Maliki. In other words, the surge was a strategic failure. But the problem with the statement is that you know it would be distilled to that one soundbite, which provides fodder to your opponents while giving you nothing in return. Sarah Palin already used this line on the campaign trail yesterday.

During the primary election, Obama was willing to argue for a new mindset for our foreign policy. Now he's buying in to some pretty reprehensible right-wing frames in order to squeeze out a few independent and Republican votes.

He also proclaimed his "absolute" belief in the "War on Terror," and pledged, once again, "never to take a military option off the table" (not even the nuclear option) against the "major threat" of Iran.

In short, he continued his relentless campaign to purge himself of any of that weak-sister "anti-war" taint that got attached to him in the early days of his campaign -- which was, of course, responsible for his phenomenal rise in the first place [...]

Obama also emphasized the obscene and morally depraved position that has become the Democrat's standard line on Iraq: that the lazy, no-good Iraqis "still haven't taken responsibility" for running "their own country." The arrogance and inhumanity of this position is staggering, almost indescribable. The United States of America invaded Iraq, destroyed its society, slaughtered its citizens, drove millions from their homes, occupied the country and made itself the ultimate master and arbiter of the conquered land -- but still the Iraqis are condemned for "not taking responsibility for their own country."

Not a single Iraqi attacked America. Not one. America's action has killed more than a million Iraqis. But it is the Iraqis who are now "responsible."

Let me add to Floyd's complaint the sustained belief that we have to go into Afghanistan to fight "the real war on terror." This position is not out of step with the emerging Pentagon consensus and even the Bush Administration, which wants to affirm a "continuing war on terror" with what amounts to a new Authorization for the Use of Military Force. These are reactionary positions that fail to anticipate the continuing evolution of the situation on the ground. The criminal occupation of Iraq should be abandoned because it makes strategic as well as moral sense; but moving those forces into Afghanistan now, after years and years of continuous airstrikes have rapidly turned the population against the US would be foolhardy.

The bearded, turbaned men gather beneath a large, leafy tree in rural eastern Nangarhar province. When Malik Mohammed speaks on their behalf, his voice is soft but his words are harsh.

Mohammed makes it clear that the tribal chiefs have lost all faith in both their own government and the foreign soldiers in their country. Such disillusionment is widespread in Afghanistan, feeding an insurgency that has killed 195 foreign soldiers so far this year, 105 of them Americans.

"This is our land. We are afraid to send our sons out the door for fear the American troops will pick them up," says Mohammed, who was chosen by the others to represent them. "Daily we have headaches from the troops. We are fed up. Our government is weak and corrupt and the American soldiers have learned nothing."

A strong sense of frustration echoed through dozens of interviews by The Associated Press with Afghan villagers, police, government officials, tribal elders and Taliban who left and rejoined the religious movement. The interviews ranged from the capital, Kabul, to the rural regions near the border with Pakistan.

The overwhelming result: Ordinary Afghans are deeply bitter about American and NATO forces because of errant bombs, heavy-handed searches and seizures and a sense that the foreigners do not understand their culture. They are equally fed up with what they see as seven years of corruption and incompetence in a U.S.-backed government that has largely failed to deliver on development.

This is not Afghanistan circa 2002, which was happy to be rid of the Taliban and grateful for any measure of security and normalcy. This is 2008 and these people want us gone.

Biden's presence on the ticket means that these guys are not afraid to intervene for humanitarian reasons or even that ill-defined "vital national interests." We cannot allow fundamentalists to run around on the Afghan-Pakistan border but the way to dismantle terror networks is through local law enforcement and lifting up societies with anti-poverty measures that will choke off recruitment. I'm really worried that we've ceded far too much ground on foreign policy, robbing Obama of the uniqueness that has defined his campaign. He's welcome to prove me wrong. Immediately.

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Uppity Means What?

Lynn Westmoreland has lived in Georgia all his life, has been white all his life, and yet has never heard the word uppity used with a racial connotation.

“I’ve never heard that term used in a racially derogatory sense. It is important to note that the dictionary definition of ‘uppity’ is ‘affecting an air of inflated self-esteem —- snobbish.’ That’s what we meant by uppity when we used it in the mill village where I grew up.”

I guess he missed the Clarence Thomas hearings, then.

You know, bearing false witness is the Eighth Commandment, Lynn. I know you only know about three, but...

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The Lies And Omissions Of John McCain

I had a chance to finally take a look at the cottage cheese and lime Jello speech from Thursday, and while the AP took a shine to it, I'm not sure what they were watching. This speech tried to sell no policies, no vision for the future, no ideas to restore America at home and abroad, but tried to shame people into not offending a war hero by denying them their vote and their country. The election is not about issues to them, but about a person, a singular figure.

Last week, in an apparent effort to paint Sen. Hillary Clinton as self-absorbed, the AP's Ron Fournier counted the number of times she used "some variation of the pronoun 'I'" in her convention speech. Fournier came up with 17....

... When can we expect Fournier to tally up the number of times John "cause greater than self" McCain used the pronoun "I" in his convention speech? It's well over 100* -- and that doesn't even count variations.

McCain offers nothing but himself, the idea that he can bust heads and crack skulls and somehow come up with plans by accident. Haven't we already had eight years of this?

The way Republicans operate is to make the election about character, and lie about the issues. They obviously want to re-fight the culture wars with a strategy to fire up their depressed base through making them feel resentment against those liberal Eastern elites that are supposedly ruining their life.

One of the key insights in “Nixonland,” the new book by the historian Rick Perlstein, is that Nixon’s political strategy throughout his career was inspired by his college experience, in which he got himself elected student body president by exploiting his classmates’ resentment against the Franklins, the school’s elite social club. There’s a direct line from that student election to Spiro Agnew’s attacks on the “nattering nabobs of negativism” as “an effete corps of impudent snobs,” and from there to the peculiar cult of personality that not long ago surrounded George W. Bush — a cult that celebrated his anti-intellectualism and made much of the supposed fact that the “misunderestimated” C-average student had proved himself smarter than all the fancy-pants experts.

And when Mr. Bush turned out not to be that smart after all, and his presidency crashed and burned, the angry right — the raging rajas of resentment? — became, if anything, even angrier. Humiliation will do that.

Can Mr. McCain and Ms. Palin really ride Nixonian resentment into an upset election victory in what should be an overwhelmingly Democratic year? The answer is a definite maybe.

But let's not underestimate the power of big lies, too. McCain lied about Obama's health care plan, comically so, claiming that Obama would put "a bureaucrat between you and your doctor," when in fact that's what an insurance agent IS. He lied about taxes (even Major Garrett recognized that), neglecting the fact that his own health care plan would tax medical benefits from employers as income, resulting in a huge tax increase on the middle class. He lied about his own record on ethics, claiming he investigated Democrats and Republicans, when he clearly let his fellow Republicans off the hook in the Abramoff investigation. And there was the overarching lie of the whole thing, that McCain is leading those change agents of the Republican Party against themselves, as if they haven't been in power for the past eight years.

In the final analysis, you can easily see the priorities of the GOP by what they discussed at their convention. It was all backlash, personal attacks, POW stories and "drill now" rhetoric, and nothing, of course, about the guy who ran them into this ditch and whose policies John McCain is mirroring. Obama and Biden are absolutely right with their line of attack on the convention, that the economy was the missing elephant in the elephant's room. Especially at a time with 6.1% unemployment, eight straight months of jobs loss and 1 in 10 homes in foreclosure, this is a terrible time to be this out of touch. Joe Biden is on fire in this clip in the city where I grew up, Langhorne.

"What do you talk about when you cannot explain the last eight years of failure?" You lie, and you snark, and you feed the backlash. It didn't work in 2006. Let's see what happens this year.

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Friday, September 05, 2008

Friday Random Ten

This may be it for the day.

Saints - The Breeders
Give It Away - Red Hot Chili Peppers
Frontier Psychiatrist - The Avalanches
Where's Your Head At - Basement Jaxx
Pressure Point - The Zutons
Golden Touch - Razorlight
Devil's Haircut - Beck
Beauty Of The Ride - Sebadoh
The Bleeding Heart Show - The New Pornographers
Blues From Brother George Jackson - Archie Shepp

I was bouncin' when I heard them.

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And Now, A Comedy Video Interlude

Americans United For Change does a fantastic video about the Walter Reed staging screw-up.

Change To Win brings us Real McCain of Genius.

And there's this by a comedy troupe.

"I am royally fucked right now.. he's a speechwriting monster!" Great stuff.

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The Latest In Iraq

I've been remiss in not writing more about Iraq lately, but Gen. Petraeus' recommendation to pause any drawdown in troops until Bush can hightail it out of office provides an opening. At first blush, you have to look at this and shake your head. Republicans spent a whole convention telling us that we're unquestionably winning in Iraq, and now the commander (with the President sure to follow) says that the situation is fragile and we have to wait another Friedman Unit before we start sending anyone home.

Now, Petraeus is right in a certain respect. Baghdad remains a dangerous place, and this campaign to evict squatters carries quite a bit of risk, as those displaced begin to return. The situation in Kirkuk is approaching a reckoning, with the Kurds seeing how Maliki routed them in Diyala and sensing that he will do the same there, depriving the autonomous region of their only oil-producing town. The Sunnis are raging over a friendly-fire incident where the US killed 6 members of their security forces, and while the US has handed over security for Anbar province to the Iraqis, that could intensify tensions, not dampen them, because Maliki is unlikely to integrate the Awakening forces he now essentially controls into the security apparatus. In fact, Maliki's swelled head is a serious threat to long-term stability in Iraq:

He is making himself the symbol of Iraqi nationalism by insisting on a date certain for withdrawal of US forces. Of course, this is more symbolic than real. Any deal will have plenty of loopholes in it. If Maliki wants to keep US forces around after 2011, and McCain is in the White House, he can do so. (Maybe not if Obama wins.) But the appearances are important here. He can go to the provincial elections (if they happen) and the national elections (if they happen) in 2009 saying that he is the man who got a timetable for American withdrawal. Moreover, he just replaced the Foreign Ministry team negotiating with the US side with his own team, headed by his national security adviser Muwaffaq al-Ruba'i and made up of experts not from the FM but from the prime minister's office. This is his negotiation now in a very personal way. Just today the first major oil deal of the post-Saddam era was announced, and it was with a Chinese company. Another bit of symbolism.

He has conducted a fairly successful campaign against the Sadrists, or at least it seems so far. He has skillfully used the new Iraqi forces and the US to cut at the power of the Mahdi Army and go after Sadrist leaders and officials. In doing so, he has also portrayed himself (with some accuracy) as the man who cleaned up militia misbehavior in Basra [...] He is now openly taking on the Sahwa (Awakening Councils) forces, demonstrating that he will not compromise on Shia Arab control of the Arab parts of Iraq. He is reneging on his earlier promises to integrate tens of thousands of Sahwa guys into the regular security forces [...] He is pushing a bit against his own allies in his coalition itself. There was a very interesting incident in Diyala province two weeks ago, covered by al-Hayat. The Iraqi forces in Diyala entered Kurdish areas in the province (Khanaqin) and ordered the peshmerga out. There was a stand-off, eventually settled when Massoud Barazani made a rare trip to Baghdad to work out the problem. But the taste left in the mouth of the Kurds was not a pleasant one, and Maliki has made it clear that the Iraqi Army can go wherever in Iraq he orders it (well, he hasn't tried to send it into the KRG) [...]

So we have what looks like a coherent strategy to go after opponents, weaken allies and portray oneself as the symbol of Iraqi nationalism in dealing with the U.S. Is Maliki overreaching? Despite the Mahdi Army setbacks, Sadrists could still do better at the polls (if they happen) than Maliki's candidates. The Sahwa people could return to insurgency, destroying the security advances of the last year. The Kurds could undercut Maliki's government in parliament. An ambitious army general could push him aside, if his control of the army is less than total. But so far, Maliki seems to be on a winning streak.

This is some solid analysis. The Bush Administration probably feels it is in their best interest to allow Maliki to rule as a strongman. They have always been attracted to dictatorial rule as a means of maintaining order. However, Maliki's tough moves against the Sunnis and Kurds could easily backfire. Maliki clearly thinks he can go it alone, and thus he's extracting all sorts of concessions on a status of forces agreement. I agree that the implementation of that agreement will depend on the US President, and Maliki is largely playing a political game to be the nationalist champion of Iraq.

The truth is, however, that such tension would end if the US simply left Iraq. Maliki is pushing to become the strongman right now because he has US backup. If we actually left instead of constantly pretending to leave he would be forced to negotiate with all sides of the conflict. Plus it would take the large target off the backs of the occupying force. Maliki's worrisome slide into dictatorship would be stifled, threats toward our troops would end, and the situation would force a negotiated solution far more than the current stalemate.

McCain and his team wants to focus on the decision of the surge, when that is irrelevant to what we need to do to go forward. I think the circumstances clearly argue for withdrawal, whereas McCain's position is that leaving is losing. Eventually this will catch up with him in November. He really has become marginalized as virtually the only political figure who wants to stay there indefinitely. It's not only stubborn, it's the wrong strategy for long-term stability.

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The Latest On Troopergate et al.

Quite a few developments, actually. Michael Wooten has emerged for an interview with CNN:

Wooten doesn't come off as entirely credible here, and he admits he tasered his own son in a demonstration. I don't know where the sympathies are going to go, but the personality of Wooten vs. Palin is besides the point. The Public Safety Administrator wouldn't fire him, so Palin fired Walt Monegan. And she used her public office to settle private scores. That's the issue.

The Alaska State Legislature has now fast-tracked the investigation, which means the details will be released earlier in October and not by Halloween, as scheduled. However, while they will issue subpoenas in the case, Palin will not be compelled to testify.

The commitee, led by Sen. Hollis French, an Anchorage Democrat also announced that it would meet on September 12 to issue subpoenas in the case.

But according to the release, Palin herself will not be subpoenaed. The committee still holds out hope that she will talk to indepedendent investigator Steven Branchflower voluntarily.

"We also discussed and agreed amongst ourselves that no subpoena will be issued for the Governor," said Representative Nancy Dahlstrom, R-Eagle River. "She has told the public that she intends to cooperate with the investigation, indeed, she has told the public that she welcomes the investigation and I have every faith that she means it. If necessary we can send Mr. Branchflower to wherever the Governor is, or she can give her statement to him over the telephone, whatever is most convenient for her. We recognize that her schedule is extremely busy, and we want to accommodate that."

I think the majority-Republican committee is being way too nice to Palin here. She has explicitly said that she wouldn't testify in the case. And now they've moved up their deadline, making it easier for her to elude them. Like Palin's media strategy, her strategy will be to deny any request followed by attacking them for bothering to investigate. There won't be a backlash strategy, she won't call the Alaska Legislature "effete" or "East Coast liberals," but she will certainly mourn the "witch hunt" that intrudes on her private life (all the while making sure everyone sees the results of her private life, which she'll use as a human shield).

Meanwhile, on the earmark front, it turns out that the lobbyist for Wasilla, Alaska is the lobbyist that secured the bridge to nowhere, and Palin was certainly happy with his performance while she was mayor. In fact, she's praised the earmarking done by her porkbarrel colleagues in the Congress as recently as this year:

"And our congressional delegation, God bless 'em. They do a great job for us," she said at the forum hosted by the Alaska Professional Design Council. "Representative Don Young, especially God bless him, with transportation -- Alaska did so well under the very basic provisions of the transportation act that he wrote just a couple of years ago. We had a nice bump there. We're very, very fortunate to receive the largesse that Don Young was able to put together for Alaska."

Young barely hung on in his primary race - will Palin endorse him? Will she endorse the indicted Ted Stevens, who she ran a PAC for a few years ago?

Radio silence.

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Pirate McCain

I think that a recording artist suing to stop a candidate from using their music is a little like suing to stop a bowling alley from using the music. I assume they still get ASCAP royalties from the song being played in a public space and broadcast on television. What is different is that there is a tacit endorsement of the candidate from the artist when you use the song. So most campaigns ask permission. Except John McCain, because he was a POW so shut up.

Last night at the conclusion of the GOP convention, the Sen. John McCain’s (R-AZ) campaign blasted the song “Barracuda” by Heart. The tune is meant to be a theme song for Gov. Sarah Palin (R-AK), whose high school nickname was reportedly “Sarah Barracuda.”

The problem is that the McCain campaign never obtained legal permission to use the song. Heart’s representative issued a statement:

The Republican campaign did not ask for permission to use the song, nor would they have been granted that permission. We have asked the Republican campaign publicly not to use our music. We hope our wishes will be honored.

This is the fifth time that the McCain campaign has used music improperly and been asked to cease and desist.

And adding to the irony, his tech policy promises to protect the creative industry from piracy.

But not from Old Man McCain, ye maties!

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Wow... Two THOUSAND People Show Up For Obama Campaign HQ Opening In L.A.

The general election has begun. On a random Thursday night, when most political junkies were watching POW McCain's cottage cheese and lime Jello speech at the RNC convention, in a town notoriously hard to get anywhere in on time, 2,000 people showed up at the opening of Barack Obama's first campaign office in Southern California.

There were a couple speeches from locals (Eric Garcetti, Harb Wesson, Mark Ridley-Thomas, and a couple others) at the beginning, and they handed out a few yard signs and bumper stickers, but basically, this was an office opening. Just a walk-through of the building. And the campaign sent only one email out about it, with just 24 hours advance notice.

Two thousand people.


Practically every local TV station in L.A. was out there, including a NEWS CHOPPER. It basically turned into a block party, with supporters waving signs at passersby on the street. But there was also some positive work being done. Most of the people who turned out to the event signed up to volunteer, whether by phone banking or traveling to Nevada. It's a large enough office to handle a lot of volunteers at once. And they are organized and ready.

I was able to talk with Mitchell Schwartz, who will be the California Field Director for the next two months. He said the goal of the office was to win California, and then help Nevada. So there will be legitimate actions taken here to increase turnout, which bodes well for the propositions and downticket races, even though the Obama campaign will strictly be trying to identify and turn out Obama voters. The CDP is running a coordinated campaign for downticket (they had their opening in Santa Monica on the same night, which kind of shows how the two entities aren't really working together).

What's more, Schwartz told me that there are going to be up to 10 field offices opening in California over the next week or two, including 3-4 more in the SoCal area (East LA and San Bernardino are likely to get one, among other locations). There will be places to work.

There was a genuine excitement last night. I think what we're seeing on the ground post-Palin is a real determination to get to work. There is a backlash to the conservative culture war backlash they are trying to ride to victory. The denigration of community organizing really hit a nerve, and I think now there's a common opponent, one that's bigger than McCain and more visceral. "We're going to show everyone what community organizing is about," said one attendee to me.

This is no joke. The Obama campaign raised $10 million in one day this week. People are energized and fired up. The spirit of 2004, as Van Jones called it to me at the DNC last week, is back.

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The Backlash To The Backlash

The community organizer slur in Republican speeches on Wednesday continues to be a rallying cry for Democrats, spawning viral videos and major media coverage.

For community organizers, the Republican vice presidential candidate didn’t just drag their profession through the mud, she mocked the entire belief that Americans can’t collectively work to solve problems.

“I think it demonstrated that they don’t take common people seriously,” says Gonzalez. “They put all their trust and faith in themself and other electeds… just elect me and I’m gonna fix your problems. Who believes that?" [...]

“I think it was a cute line that she felt like she could deliver,” says Gonzalez. But, “it invites a contempt for organized Americans, and I think that is incredibly dangerous and short-sighted.”

The coup de grace, of course, was from Jon Stewart, who summed it up brilliantly:

So to everyone out there trying to make a difference in your communities, FUCK YOU! You stupid asses! You jerk-offs! You know what you are? You're a thousand points of bullshit, that's what you are. By the way, if it seems odd that the GOP was denigrating community service, the night after making "service" their slogan... you're confused. Those Republicans were not praising service with those signs, they were demanding it from the waitstaff.

Never underestimate the ability of Republicans to keep two contradictory notions in their head at the same time. Indeed, in last night's address, John McCain appeared to flip back to advocacy for community service and community organizing when he said this:

If you find faults with our country, make it a better one. If you're disappointed with the mistakes of government, join its ranks and work to correct them. Enlist in our Armed Forces. Become a teacher. Enter the ministry. Run for public office. Feed a hungry child. Teach an illiterate adult to read. Comfort the afflicted. Defend the rights of the oppressed. Our country will be the better, and you will be the happier. Because nothing brings greater happiness in life than to serve a cause greater than yourself.

They are for service, except when it's done to help scary black people. That's basically it in a nutshell.

This backlash is a bit under the radar, but it's absolutely real. Anecdotally I'm getting a lot of information to buttress that. And the $10 million raised in a day, after a fundraising email explicitly attacking the slur on community organizing, speaks volumes.

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Food for Thought

I think there's much more to talk about Sarah Palin about than personal issues - her extremism, her habitual lying, her abuse of power. But we all know what gets the eyeballs - train wrecks.

Todd Palin's former business partner files an emergency motion to have his divorce papers sealed. Oh God.

The McCain campaign personally put out a statement two days ago threatening to sue the National Enquirer for their imminent printing of a story regarding an affair between Palin and her husband's former business partner.

As I said, we all know that train wrecks get eyeballs.

... better link. Also, I hear that the motion was denied.

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Decent Productivity, No Jobs

Another horrible jobs report came out today - the only good news for the Republicans is that there will only be one or two more before the election.

The U.S. lost more jobs than forecast in August and the unemployment rate climbed to a five- year high, heightening the risk that the economic slowdown will worsen.

Payrolls fell by 84,000 in August, and revisions added another 58,000 to job losses for the prior two months, the Labor Department said today in Washington. The jobless rate jumped to 6.1 percent, matching the level of September 2003, from 5.7 percent the prior month.

What's odd is that the productivity statistics were actually up for the last quarter, companies appear to be getting more out of less. I don't think that's an efficiency argument, though, because we simply have less in this country to produce, with the flight of manufacuring jobs. Krugman muses on this:

But to be fair, this is an odd slowdown, by historical norms: no clear decline in GDP, no months of 6-digit job losses. Instead, the economy is being slowly ground down.

What I suspect, however, is that this is what the 21st-century business cycle looks like. The sharp slumps of the past partly reflected an inflation-prone environment, in which the Fed occasionally had to slam on the brakes; it also reflected a mainly goods-producing economy, with lots of inventories, in which recessions had a lot to do with inventory adjustments.

Right, and now that we produce no goods, the jobs of the 21st century in America at this point are expendable, useless, just middle managers pushing money and information around, and eliminating them has little impact on GDP. But it does have a major impact on families, and in the long term it's completely unsustainable. This is why we need a green jobs program that brings the manufacturing and construction sectors back to America and actually adds some balance to the economy. Sen. Obama is right on this:

"Today's jobs report is a reminder of what's at stake in this election – John McCain showed last night that he is intent on continuing the economic policies that just this year have caused the American economy to lose 605,000 jobs. John McCain may believe that the fundamentals of our economy are 'strong,' but the working men and women I meet every day are working harder for less, the typical working age family's income is down $2,000 since George Bush took office, and their purchasing power is as low as it's been in a decade.

His solution is middle-class tax relief and block grants to the states so they don't eliminate their own jobs, but the green collar program, providing incentives and encouragement to create 5 million new jobs building the energy infrastructure of the future, is the only way to end this terrible cycle of misery.

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Amateur Hour

Another sign that the Republican Party has divested itself of all competent people is that they have this firecracker of a Vice President, but they did such a craptacular job of vetting her that they have to send her up to Alaska for a week off the campaign trail to hide her away.

CHUCK TODD:Well Ron, We’ve been able to see that there are a few folks who are saying [Palin is] actually going to hole up in Alaska for a little, she’s got to see her son off who’s going to be deployed to Iraq, so we may not see her on the campaign trail for a little while.

RON ALLEN: Yes she hasn’t been home for a long time, and she’s obviously got some business to deal with there.

Usually, what you do after introducing someone to the nation, and getting a positive reception, is you CAPITALIZE on it. But the McCain campaign is so terrified of an unscripted moment or a need to answer questions that they literally have to send her 6,000 miles away from the media glare. In fact, they're going to try and get through the entire campaign without having a question lobbed at their VP nominee.

Now, aside from this being a direct threat to democracy and the desire to show the nation only propaganda and nothing else, this is just bad strategy. Here's the one asset to the ticket - really the only thing firing up the base right now - and they sock her away. I know there's a lot for her to work on in Alaska - there's that road to nowhere to build, with $100 million in taxpayer money connecting about 10,000 people to one another, and there's that ethics inquiry to squash, and a subpoena to avoid, and there are all those issues to learn about, except for energy, where she's so smart that she actually believes, contra George Bush and John McCain, that we can totally drill our way out of crisis, and her perspective is great for Alaskans and oil companies but bad for humanity... so yeah, maybe she needs a week or so.

But still, taking your best asset off the trail with 8 weeks to go until the election? That's just dumb. And it's not like it'll stop the media hounds, either.

Who the heck is running the McCain campaign, and are they trying to lose?

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OK, That's the Funniest Thing I've Ever Heard

To a man, everyone on the liberal blogger side of the aisle was stunned that the McCain campaign would allow the TV shot to go out to the world on his big night to be him in front of a lime green background. Cottage cheese and lime Jello, in the vernacular of the blogosphere. Surely they WATCHED the shot through a monitor and knew that it would make him look sickly.

But that's not the only head-scratcher with the RNC staging, which the set designers had months to organize. The giant screen was useless outside of the room, always putting the speaker at the podium behind monochrome, or worse, in the East River (in Rudy Giuliani's speech). Putting the seats for dignitaries along the side of the stage was OK, but the white line across the boxes designating them looked to the TV angle like the seats were empty, in a wide shot. And then there's this, which is absolutely amazing.

A lot of people were asking tonight: what the hell was that mansion up behind John McCain tonight during the first part of the speech? As I noted below, the TV close-ups only showed McCain's head against the grass in the picture, which made it look like he was reprising his famed green screen performance. And when they panned out, it looked like McCain was showing off one of his mansions.

Well, several readers have written in to tell me that the building is actually the main building on the campus of the Walter Reed Middle School in North Hollywood, California. And sure enough, this page on the school's website makes it pretty clear that they're correct.

Could this be? Could the producers have wanted a shot of Walter Reed Army Medical Center, and they farmed it off to the intern who picked Walter Reed MIDDLE SCHOOL? I mean, is that possible? None of the consultants and muckety-mucks charged with picking the backgrounds know what Walter Reed looks like? As Josh Marshall says, "is this the RNC or a scene out Spinal Tap or Waiting for Guffman?"

You know, it wasn't so long ago that these guys were the pros at this. Say what you will about Mission Accomplished Day, putting Bush in that flight suit was brilliant theater. Where did those people go?

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Thursday, September 04, 2008

I Respect John McCain's Incredible Service To Our Nation

OK, so I missed McCain's speech (more on that later), but I'm catching snippets here and there and reading the reports, and it looks to me that he ate it.

Of course, the guy's not known for oratory, so I wonder why they made it 53 minutes long. I guess that his main message was that the whole country must come together in the spirit of bipartisanship and line up behind every single conservative policy that the Bush Administration has rammed down our throats for the past eight years. But that doesn't make it a bad speech. I think the wooden delivery, the fact that they used that stupid screen so that the subject at the podium was behind a solid color almost all of the time (yes, we had more lime green Jello to watch tonight), and the lack of passion had something to do with it.

Jeffrey Toobin called it "the worst speech by a nominee that I’ve heard since Jimmy Carter in 1980." Michael Gerson, Bush's speechwriter ferchrissakes, said it was "a missed opportunity. Many Americans needed to hear from this speech something they have never heard from Republicans before. And in reality, a lot of the policy they’ve heard from Republicans before." The reviews aren't glowing.

And Tom Ridge calling him John Bush doesn't help.

For three days, the Republicans hid the top of their ticket and talked in abstractions about some brave warrior king, Sgt. Rock or something, and then the real guy walked out tonight and offered the exact same policies as the past eight years. I think Matt Stoller is absolutely dead on.

If I'm a Republican, I'm really annoyed that Palin isn't running for President. McCain's speech was not nearly as good or as interesting as Palin's, and he's an awkward speaker. The loudest applause came from his references to her.

...oh, and I guess there was a completely gratuitous 9-11 reference, on video no less. Nice exploitation.

...two things I noticed from the earlier part of the program. Tom Ridge told a story about how he visited McCain at a low point in the primary campaign, and asked him how he was doing, and McCain said "I've been through worse." Amazing that he plays the POW card in private, too. Then, in Cindy McCain's campaign video, they tell the story of how the two met, at a party in Hawaii. They seem to have forgot the part about John being married at the time.

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Update On State Worker Salary Slash - Chiang Outflanks Arnold Again

You may remember that Arnold Schwarzenegger sued John Chiang in state court to follow his order, and his dream, of cutting all state worker salaries to the minimum wage while we wait for a budget. The court date was set for September 12, which salvaged the salaries for the month of August. Chiang's next move was to partner with some labor allies and move the lawsuit into the federal courts. This not only would delay the question of whether or not Chiang needs to follow the order, but removes a serious liability problem for the state, because if they slashed salaries per a state court order and then had it overturned by the feds, they would be on the hook for expensive penalties and payments.

Now, this has become complete, with the state canceling the September 12 court date.

This afternoon, controller spokesman Jacob Roper delivered this bit of news via e-mail to the State Worker:

Since the case has moved to the Federal court, the Sept 12th superior court hearing will not be held. A group of labor organizations has filed a motion to move the case from the Eastern Federal district to the Northern district, and a hearing on that motion is scheduled for October 31.

Roper also restated the controller's position that cutting salaries to minimum wage would be a massive, time-consuming reprogramming task, "so there is no reason to believe that minimum wage checks would be issued anytime soon."

While the lingering budget crisis is still incredibly painful for all manner of Californians, with missed payments sure to come if nothing is settled by the end of the month, at least the state workers have John Chiang in their corner, fighting for their interests. And this is mirrored by the stirring testimony of everyday workers who are losing their benefits and the control of their lives as the Yacht Party turns up its nose and turns its back on the people. John Chiang is doing his part, and Republican rank and file citizens are putting on the pressure in selected districts; the only way to ultimately win this fight is at the ballot box.

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The Ego Has Landed

Before I take a look at tonight's RNC hatefest, I just want to look back at the astounding arrogance of Rudy Giuliani, who relished in his churlish insults so much that he went over time and forced the cancellation of Sarah Palin's video tribute. Those things go a long way to humanize candidates - think the gauzy Olympic profiles. Rudy was too busy yukking it up, so he ruined it for the party.

He also hit Barack Obama for not being as into a suicidal concept of an undivided Jerusalem as he is. Did we ever dodge a major bullet by avoiding this guy.

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Most Dangerous Trouble Spot In The World Update

Digby wrote about this earlier today, and I don't know what to make of it. I have no faith that the Bush Administration will be able to pull this off, not to mention it being yet another invasion of a sovereign country.

A deadly American-led raid on a Pakistani village embarrassed the government and eroded support for the pro-U.S. presidential front-runner Thursday just two days before the election.

Furor continued to mount over the first known foreign ground assault inside Pakistan against a suspected Taliban haven. The government summoned the U.S. ambassador for an official protest, while Parliament passed resolutions of condemnation.

In news likely to stoke more anger, intelligence officials said a missile strike was suspected in a blast Thursday that killed at least four people in North Waziristan, part of the tribal belt where Osama bin Laden and his deputy are thought to be hiding. Previous such strikes have been blamed on the U.S.

The ground assault, with troops helicoptered in, occurred in adjacent South Waziristan early Wednesday. Officials said at least 15 people died, including women and children. The Foreign Ministry said no militant leaders were killed and there was no sign the attackers detained anyone.

We can't stop killing women and children, can we?

Look, it's clear that the Pakistani government isn't willing or able to stop extremist forces operating inside their own country, no matter how much they say otherwise. The problem is how best to handle that, or how to pressure the Pakistanis to do it themselves, rather. Ground incursions by US forces can be very counterproductive at this sensitive time. If we have actionable intelligence, that's one thing. But I've seen what's passed for "intelligence" these last eight years. Which makes me more than a little frightened that the same crowd is tutoring Sarah Palin in foreign policy.

On a side note, if John McCain has a secret plan to capture Osama bin Laden, wouldn't it be a little bit treasonous not to tell the President about it?

(yes, I know, the point is he has no such plan)

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The Same

And you'll hear more of this tonight, I'm sure:

John McCain may not say the name Bush in his speech tonight, but he'll sure as hell display the same mindset.

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Troopergate Update

It's actually hard to keep everything straight with Sarah Palin, but I think the radical extremism, the constant lying, and the abuse of power are the three silos you can pretty much stack everything in. For the moment, let's focus on the abuse of power.

The effort to fire Department of Public Safety chief Walt Monegan has taken a couple of turns. First of all, there is more documentary evidence.

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, the running mate for GOP presidential candidate John McCain, wrote e-mails that harshly criticized Alaska state troopers for failing to fire her former brother-in-law and ridiculed an internal affairs investigation into his conduct.

The e-mails were shown to The Washington Post by a former public safety commissioner, Walter Monegan, who was fired by Palin in July. Monegan has given copies of the e-mails to state ethics investigators to support his contention that he was dismissed for failing to fire Trooper Mike Wooten, who at the time was feuding with Palin's family.

"This trooper is still out on the street, in fact he's been promoted," said a Feb. 7, 2007, e-mail sent from Palin's personal Yahoo account and written to give Monegan permission to speak on a violent-crime bill before the state legislature.

"It was a joke, the whole year long 'investigation' of him," the e-mail said. "This is the same trooper who's out there today telling people the new administration is going to destroy the trooper organization, and that he'd 'never work for that b****', Palin'.)"

She went right to the line of asking Monegan for Wooten's firing, and when he refused, she fired him. There aren't a lot of lines to read between here.

For the record, Monegan says that Palin is lying.

Monegan says he believes that the Governor has not told the truth about what happened.

"I think there are some questions now that, coming to light about how transparent and how honest she wants to be," Monegan said [...]

"You should never use your public office to settle a private score," said Sen. Hollis French. "And that's what the legislature is looking into, to what degree did the Governor's personal family relationship inject or get introduced into her work as Governor."

In case you haven't read what Palin aide Frank Bailey discussed with a police official, on tape, here it is:

Bailey asks the officials why there's been reluctance to fire the brother in law.

"The Palins can't figure out why nothing's going on. And here's the problem that's gonna happen is that, there is a possibility because Wooten is an ex-husband of the governor's sister, and there is a custody situation, there is a strong possibility that the Governor herself may get subpoenaed to talk about all this stuff on the stand. Right in the coming months, which would be, it would be ugly," Bailey says.

"I mean, you know, I don't think anybody wants that. But you know, Todd and Sarah are scratching their heads, you know, why on Earth -- why is this guy still representing the department?," he asks.

And then later, a more direct reference to the commissioner Walt Monegan.

"I'm telling you honestly, I mean, she really likes Walt a lot, but on this issue, she feel like she doesn't know why there is absolutely no action for a year on this issue. It's very, very troubling to her and the family," Bailey said.

This is pretty darn clear. Incidentally, Bailey is now refusing to testify in the legislature's investigation.

Meanwhile, the Alaska police union has filed a complaint on behalf of Wooten.

The GOP candidate for vice president, Gov. Sarah Palin, may be facing yet another ethics investigation back in her home state of Alaska. An ethics complaint obtained by NBC News was filed Wednesday by the police officers union in Alaska, requesting a probe into possible wrongdoing by the governor or her office. It was brought on behalf of state trooper Mike Wooten, an ex-brother-in-law of Palin who is at the center of the "Troopergate" scandal.

The complaint alleges that the governor or her staff may have have improperly disclosed information from Wooten's personnel records. The complaint alleges "criminal penalties may apply."

John Cyr, director of the union that filed the complaint, told NBC News, "It seems obvious to us somebody has improperly accessed [Wooten's] personnel file."

This is but one example of why Roger Simon was absolutely right with his mocking tone today. The press has the responsibility to provide a fuller picture of elected officials and ask tough questions about them. It is not their job, no matter how much they think to the contrary, to lovingly transcribe whatever inside sources feed them. Just not their job. And it's in no way sexist to get to the bottom of these stories, either. Which it seems like they're following through on.

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CA-46: Rohrabacher Buddy Abramoff Sentenced

You'd think this would be bigger news on the last night of the Republican Convention, that the guy that used to be their go-to lobbyist got sentenced today.

Disgraced former lobbyist Jack Abramoff, whose corruption scandal shook up Washington's power elite and contributed to the Republican loss of control in Congress, was sentenced on Thursday to four years in federal prison.

Abramoff is already serving a nearly six-year term on unrelated charges and the new sentence will be served at the same time, meaning he will not spend any extra time behind bars once his original sentence ends in 2012.

Judge Ellen Huvelle issued the sentence after federal prosecutors recommended leniency due to Abramoff's cooperation in pursuing corruption cases against lawmakers and former administration officials. He faced a maximum of 11 years under a plea deal reached in 2006.

Abramoff has major ties to John Doolittle, Ken Calvert and several other California Republicans, but the Debbie Cook campaign has been pressing the connections between this twice-convicted felon and Dana Rohrabacher. To wit:

Abramoff Funded Trips
Rohrabacher’s ties to Jack Abramoff date from the 1980s. In 1999, Rohrabacher went on an Abramoff-funded trip to the Marshall Islands with John Doolittle (R-CA), Ken Calvert (R-CA) and eight staffers. (

Rohrabacher Used As Reference By Abramoff
In 2000, Abramoff listed Rohrabacher as a reference on a loan application for the purchase of SunCruz Casinos. “I don’t remember it, but I would have certainly have been happy to give him a good recommendation,’ Rohrabacher said. “He’s a very honest man.” (LINK)

Another Overseas Trip Paid For By Abramoff
In 2002, Rohrabacher and his wife and campaign manager Rhonda, took a trip to Malaysia, accompanied by two Abramoff partners at the firm Greenberg Traurig. House records indicate the trip to Malaysia focused on terrorism and trade. Rohrabacher’s spokeman called the trip “very positive.” (LINK)

Rohrabacher Calls Abramoff “a fine man”
In April 2005, with Abramoff the target of a grand jury, Rohrabacher said “Jack has made some mistakes…but he is not the dishonest, malevolent, arrogant, wheeler-dealer that people are portraying. He is a fine man.”

Rohrabacher: Abramoff’s Crimes Are Business As Usual
Rohrabacher defended Abramoff to the Washington Post: “I think he’s been dealt a bad hand and the worst, rawest deal I’ve ever seen in my life.” Words like bribery are being used to describe things that happened every day in Washington and are not bribes.”
Abramoff pleaded guilty in January 2006 to fraud, tax evasion and conspiracy to bribe public officials. (LINK)

Rohrabacher Alone in Praising Abramoff, Despite Guilty Plea
Following Abramoff’s guilty plea for his role in the fraudulent purchase of a fleet of casino cruise boats in Florida, Rohrabacher was the ONLY member of Congress to request leniency from the federal judge sentencing Abramoff.

Today, Debbie Cook released this statement: "Rohrabacher's ongoing relationship with Jack Abramoff and his willingness to excuse his crimes, even now, as Abramoff is sentenced for bribery, speaks volumes about the Congressman's judgment and his Washington D.C. mindset." The words "culture of corruption," which Democrats successfully branded in 2006, can be thrown in there as well.

Good to see some aggressiveness out of Cook. They just released their first ad of the cycle, too, designed for local cable, which also displays some toughness against Rohrabacher. It's the first ad run against Crazy Dana in 20 years. What's more, they're asking supporters to buy an ad through Act Blue.

The Cook campaign will be on hand at this Democrats Work event, along with me, on Saturday.

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We're Getting There

Barack Obama was asked about the persistent attacks on community organizing at the RNC last night, and he eventually gets to a good response.

I thought the open was a bit defensive ("I've done a lot of things!") but then he found the nut:

I would argue that doing work in the community, to try to create jobs, to bring people together, to rejeuvenate communities that have fallen on hard times, to set up job training programs in areas that have been hard-hit when the steel plants close, that that's relevant only in understanding where I'm coming from, who I believe in, who I'm fighting for, and why I'm in this race. And the question I have for them is, why would that kind of work be ridiculous? Who are they fighting for? What are they advocating for? Do they think that the lives of those folks who are struggling each and every day, that working with them to try to improve their lives is somehow not relevant to the Presidency? I think maybe that's the problem. That's part of why they're out of touch and they don't get it, because they haven't spent much time working on behalf of those folks.

You combine this with an uproar over the "uppity" remarks, and we have the makings of a hissy fit.

I should remind you that John McCain, who talks about serving a cause greater than himself, today cancelled a Habitat for Humanity event because, I guess, that sight of people actually helping their communities would be too blinding for him. Either that or he just wanted to offer up one of his 12 homes instead of doing the work of building one, I don't know.

...Credo gets it. From their email:

In her acceptance speech last night at the Republican National Convention, Vice Presidential nominee and Alaska Governor Sarah Palin said, "I guess a small-town mayor is sort of like a `community organizer,' except that you have actual responsibilities."

Nominally, her words were an assault on Barack Obama's early career as a community organizer on Chicago's south side. But the impact reaches farther than that and is a direct affront to the thousands who have dedicated their lives to making America great.

Community organizing is the heart and soul of American democracy. We are privileged to live in a country where people with the energy and passion to dream of a better world can put in the sweat and shoe leather to build social movements from the ground up. Indeed, if it weren't for the sacrifice of organizers, we wouldn't have many of the opportunities we take for granted today — from the 40-hour work week and the minimum wage to protections for a woman's right to choose and the right of African Americans to vote.

This is ridiculous. Tell Governor Palin to quit bashing community organizers.

UPDATE: Some great responses here. My favorite:

Community Organizers of America: The last thing we need is for Republican officials to mock us on television when we’re trying to rebuild the neighborhoods they have destroyed. Maybe if everyone had more houses than they can count, we wouldn’t need community organizers. But I work with people who are getting evicted from their only home. If John McCain and the Republicans understood that, maybe they wouldn’t be so quick to make fun of community organizers like me.

I would also accept Chris Hayes' take:

But this kind of hits me where I live, since my dad is a community organizer, so lemme spell this out: the difference between a community organizer and a politician is that a community organizer can't tell anyone what to do. They have to listen. So they can't order books banned from a library to indulge their own religious sensibilities. They can't fire someone because they didn't follow orders to fire an estranged family member. They can't ram through a $15 million dollar sports complex that leaves their local town groaning underneath the debt. Unlike politicians, they don't have any power other than the power of people who want to see something changed.

Decades ago, before the ADA and a raft of other legislation, schools had essentially no requirements to provide decent education for special needs children. Then a movement of parents, engaging in - gasp - community organizing changed that. And they continue to fight day in and day out for educational equity for children like Sarah Palin's.

Too bad Sarah Palin just spit in their faces.

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If Democrats can't throw a fit over this, there's something wrong.

Georgia Republican Rep. Lynn Westmoreland used the racially-tinged term "uppity" to describe Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama Thursday.

Westmoreland was discussing vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin's speech with reporters outside the House chamber and was asked to compare her with Michelle Obama.

"Just from what little I’ve seen of her and Mr. Obama, Sen. Obama, they're a member of an elitist-class individual that thinks that they're uppity," Westmoreland said.

Asked to clarify that he used the word “uppity,” Westmoreland said, “Uppity, yeah.”

Yesterday, multiple speakers from the podium denigrated community organizing, a pursuit that is often the last line of defense when politicians fail the country and knock out the social safety net. They sneered at Barack Obama's former position as "community organizer" as if it meant "street hustler." Now they are using extremely typical code words to suggest that Obama doesn't know his place.

This is part of the authoritarian mindset. They don't think the people should have any say in the key questions affecting their lives. They don't believe in anyone but them, the wise leaders, having a voice. It is elitist to the extreme, and has characterized the Republican form of government from the founding of the United States onward. We know that it's the community organizers who have beaten back the status quo and offered real hope to this country. We know that without community organizing, there wouldn't be civil rights or labor rights or women's rights or American rights, for that matter. And we know that, when challenged by anyone who comes out of that movement, who comes out of the community and the grassroots, the answer from these moneyed elites is to call them "uppity." To tell them they don't know their place. That they ought not try to empower their community. That they ought to shut up like the boys that they are and sit down and let the adults run things.

We didn't get to this point in history by taking these insults and moving on. An organized community with a group of, yes, "uppity" people working together to create a difference creates profound and lasting change.

Every single Republican should be confronted with this statement and forced to answer for it.

This is a pretty good statement by Sen. Obama, but I think he gets one thing wrong. He's saying that "What you're not hearing is a lot about you," that there's no substance at the convention. True, but you're also hearing an attack on "you," an attack on the very concept of political and social participation and engagement. The Republicans are holding a giant middle finger up to the entire nation. It's time we get mad about it.

UPDATE: True Majority gets it:

Last night, the right wing sank to a new low. Governor Sarah Palin didn't just talk about issues and disagreements over policy; she launched a series of attacks aimed directly at you and me. Here's what Gov. Palin had to say about community organizers:

"I guess a small-town mayor is sort of like a "community organizer," except that you have actual responsibilities."
Gov. Palin was trying to insult Sen. Barack Obama's work history, but she also slurred tens of thousands of Americans dedicated to making their communities better.

This is personal for the TrueMajority/USAction family. Just consider community organizer Chrystal Hutchison from our Florida affiliate. Chrystal grew up as the middle child of two blue-collar parents; her older brother is a Marine and her younger brother is a firefighter. After living in Florida her whole life, she now organizes communities for the Florida Consumer Action Network just a few towns away from where she grew up.

Last fall, Chrystal was working with community members to protect health care for children when she met a little girl named Bethany Wilkerson, whose life had been saved by heart surgery paid for with the government program George Bush wanted to cut. She took Bethany's story to the press, introduced her to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and although she's only 26, Chrystal was a key leader in the successful fight to save the kids' health care program.

Governor Palin just doesn't get that community organizers like Chrystal have led the fight and taken responsibility for fixing the upside-down priorities of right wing dominance in Washington for the last eight years. That's why I'm writing today to ask you to contribute $30 right now to support community organizing.

Link here.

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...And The Lies

I'm firmly committed to a "hissy fit" strategy about Republicans attacking the very people who have made this country great. But I would be remiss if I didn't continue to provide perspective on how Sarah Palin just stood up there and willingly lied in front of her countrymen last night.

I've already discussed the earmarks and the bridge to nowhere - Palin is as besotted with porkbarrel projects as anyone in Washington. That's how Alaska operates. But let's also note this fiction - that Barack Obama has no record.

In reporting on Gov. Sarah Palin's September 4 speech at the Republican National Convention, numerous print media, including the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune, Time magazine, the Dallas Morning News, Reuters, and an article and a column by Debra Saunders in the San Francisco Chronicle, uncritically reported Palin's claim that Sen. Barack Obama "is a man who has authored two memoirs but not a single major law or reform -- not even in the state senate," without noting that Obama has played key roles in the passage of reform legislation at both the federal and state levels. For example, Sen. John McCain, a co-sponsor of the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act, thanked Obama for his work on the bill.

Obama was a lead co-sponsor of that bill (S.2590), which sought to "require full disclosure of all entities and organizations receiving Federal funds" -- an amount that approximately totals $1 trillion in federal grants, contracts, earmarks and loans. While signing the bill into law on September 26, 2006, Bush recognized Obama as a sponsor of the legislation, saying, "I want to thank the bill sponsors, Tom Coburn from Oklahoma, Tom Carper from Delaware, and Barack Obama from Illinois." Moreover, in a press release upon Senate passage of the bill, the bill's primary sponsor, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK), referred to the legislation as the "Coburn-Obama Bill." In media reports, the bill has also been referred to as the "Coburn-Obama" legislation or bill.

There are plenty more, too. But it takes some kind of chutzpah for a lady to lie about her own record while claiming her opponent's is non-existent. Of course, lying is all in the Republican family.

GIBSON: Senator, since I've been following politics, every single presidential nominee has said that the first quality they look for in a vice presidential pick is the capability and the readiness to take over as president.

Can you look the country straight in the eye and say Sarah Palin has the qualities and has enough experience to be commander in chief?

MCCAIN: Oh, absolutely. Having been the governor of our largest state, the commander of their National Guard, she was once in charge of their natural resources assets, actually, until she found out there was corruption and she quit and said it had to be fixed.

The "largest state" thing - in landmass, 47th in population - is so absurd it ought not be dignified. But this "she is commander of the Alaska National Guard" is just as juvenile.

Maj. Gen. Craig Campbell, the service commander of the Alaska National Guard, told McClatchy that Palin has "no command authority" over the Guard when it comes to national security. The Guard responds to in-state natural disasters and civic emergencies, but Palin hasn't approved any of these activities during her tenure, allowing Campbell to have authority over Guard operations.

Just to be clear, Palin's lack of national security experience, to my mind, is not necessarily a disqualifier for national office. Plenty of capable national candidates have run without direct experience in foreign policy. Few have been as unprepared as Palin, but that need not be a deal breaker.

The problem here is that McCain and his campaign keep lying about this. Instead of crafting a compelling defense for Palin's lack of qualifications, the Republican campaign just creates its own reality.


...I agree with James Fallows, this speech is likely to have played much better in the hall.

UPDATE: The governor's plane never went on eBay. She's a pathological liar.

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Bling We Can Believe In

Cindy McCain had the price of an average house on her body Tuesday night.

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Meet Your New Zombie Lie

Next thing we'll be hearing that Sarah Palin fought off a polar bear while delivering her remarks last night:

Sarah Palin delivered a powerful speech last night, but she did not "wing it."

That is what Erick Erickson, citing sources close to McCain, has written on his blog, RedState.

Erickson writes that "the teleprompter continued scrolling during applause breaks. As a result, half way through the speech, the speech had scrolled significantly from where Governor Palin was in the speech."

This claim has been picked up on Drudge and could quickly enter into the insta-mythmaking about a speech that need not be embroidered.

Perhaps there were moments where it scrolled slightly past her exact point in the speech. But I was sitting in the press section next to the stage, within easy eyeshot of the teleprompter. I frequently looked up at the machine, and there was no serious malfunction. A top convention-planner confirms this morning that there were no major problems.

It's mythology now, of course, to be repeated endlessly. Despite there being photographic evidence, on every shot over her shoulder, that the TelePrompTer matched her words.

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Base Election

Just got this in an email:

McCain and Palin will begin the fall campaign on Friday with visits to Colorado Springs, home of Dobson, and Cedarburg Wisconsin, an exurb of Milwaukee that went Bush in 2004 with 66% of the vote.

They think this election is close enough, that they knocked down Obama over the summer to the degree that they can make it a base election about turnout.

I just don't think the fundamentals are there for that this year. And Obama's ground game is about a million times better than Kerry's. But it'll certainly make it a more decent loss.

...given this strategy, I wouldn't be surprised if the McCain campaign put this out themselves.

"God's plan" in Iraq? Yeah, that'll whip up a sliver of the electorate.

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Thank You Sarah Palin

This is the right tone.

In a nation ripped asunder by right-wing policies, community organizers are often the last line of defense. Leaders of this nation like Martin Luther King, Cesar Chavez, Susan B. Anthony, even Thomas Paine and Sam Adams, were community organizers. As this fellow writes today, Jesus was a community organizer and Pilate was a governor.

The question, of course, is whether or not this indignation can be sustained and loud enough. There are a lot of factors working against this, like the no liberals on the teevee rule.

But a speech designed for the backlash, for the Orthogonians, can be turned right around if there's a sufficient amount of political will. And by the way, the reaction among the country wasn't universally positive, so there's an opening here.

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Good Speaker, Same Lies

If this is indicative of the reaction to last night's set of speeches, then I'm not too concerned. The GOP is running a red meat base strategy because they think the low-information voters will just jump on board with the tougher candidate. Na ga happen.

In two different focus groups of Clinton-supporting Nevada women -- married and unmarried -- conducted immediately after Gov. Sarah Palin's Wednesday night speech to the Republican National Convention, a few common reactions quickly took shape.

First, women in both groups were impressed with Palin's speaking ability and poise. But they were hardly convinced that she was qualified to be vice president, or that she truly represented the "change" they were looking for, especially in light of what was deemed an overly harsh "sarcasm" pervading her address [...]

In the "married" group, when one attendee kicked off the discussion by saying "she's a good speaker, and a crowd pleaser," the rest of the room articulated their agreement. "I didn't expect to be as impressed as I was," said another respondent. But then another woman added: "Once she started mudslinging, I thought, it's the same old crap as other politicians. McCain used her to get the women's vote. And she's using McCain."

"Thank you," another woman responded. "That really upset me; there was no need for that. It was snippy."

The unmarried group also voiced similar objections to the harsh, partisan edge of Palin's remarks. "I'm not impressed with her at all as a person," one said, citing her "finger pointing" and general sarcasm after the group had generally agreed that she was a talented public speaker.

Still not all focus group members thought Palin came off too harsh. "She didn't seem very aggressive to me at all," said one unmarried participant.

But in both groups, narrow majorities said they held a more negative view of Palin after her speech. "She comes off pretty cutthroat," said one.

On other issues, women in both groups said they wanted to hear more of Palin's own policy views, outside the realm of energy. Education, heath care, the economy and Iraq were all cited as areas in which women were hungry for more information -- especially in light of McCain's age. "I think America is concerned, because of McCain's age, that we're gonna have a female president who's maybe inexperienced. The nation needs to know what her issues are," said one married respondent, which prompted another to add: "I don't think she's got what it takes." An unmarried participant said she had yet to hear enough "in regards to her personal views, which could be implicated on us if McCain was to die."

The speech didn't reflect her views because it wasn't her speech; it was written for somebody else. And she delivered it well, but the effect showed her to be just another Republican politician playing the resentment card. Works well in the hall, not necessarily at home.

Not only that, when there was substance, it was a set of lies:

PALIN: "I fought to bring about the largest private-sector infrastructure project in North American history. And when that deal was struck, we began a nearly forty billion dollar natural gas pipeline to help lead America to energy independence. That pipeline, when the last section is laid and its valves are opened, will lead America one step farther away from dependence on dangerous foreign powers that do not have our interests at heart.

THE FACTS: Palin implies that construction has begun on a major natural gas pipeline from the top of Alaska into Canada. That is not correct.

In fact, no building has begun and actual construction is years away, if it ever happens. This summer the Alaska Legislature, at Palin's request, passed a bill under which the state will issue a "license" to a Canadian energy company, TransCanada Corp., and pay it up to $500 million as an incentive to someday build this enormous project, which Alaska politicians have long sought with little success. The license is not a construction contract, and federal energy regulators have not yet approved the project [...]

PALIN: "I have protected the taxpayers by vetoing wasteful spending ... and championed reform to end the abuses of earmark spending by Congress. I told the Congress 'thanks but no thanks' for that Bridge to Nowhere."

THE FACTS: As mayor of Wasilla, Palin hired a lobbyist and traveled to Washington annually to support earmarks for the town totaling $27 million.

In her two years as governor, Alaska has requested nearly $750 million in special federal spending, by far the largest per-capita request in the nation, although she has cut, by more than half, the amount the state sought from Washington this year. While Palin notes she rejected plans to build a $398 million bridge from Ketchikan to Gravina Island, that opposition came only after the plan was ridiculed nationally as a "bridge to nowhere."

It's amazing that she kept in the bridge to nowhere line, when she's documented as supporting it. And this memo of an earmark with Palin's own handwriting on it, pronouncing "We did well!!!" just shows how bankrupt this "reformer" meme is. Here's another report fact-checking the speech. Obviously the GOP hopes that they can keep lying their way through it.

And there was one line that overreached.

“Before I became governor of the great state of Alaska, I was mayor of my hometown,” Ms. Palin told the delegates in a speech that sought to eviscerate Mr. Obama, as delegates waved signs that said “I love hockey moms.” “And since our opponents in this presidential election seem to look down on that experience, let me explain to them what the job involves. I guess a small-town mayor is sort of like a ‘community organizer,’ except that you have actual responsibilities.”

Let's see if the media will react to a Democratic hissy fit. Because there's ample opportunity. Roland Martin lays this out. Community organizers, which were part of George H.W. Bush's thousand points of light, give comfort to the suffering, help save jobs, create opportunity. In the largely white confines of the Republican convention, the phrase is a slur, like "ghetto hustler," but lots and lots of people benefit from community groups, including church groups, and the help they provide ordinary people. The Obama campaign is going to try and ramp this up, they've already done so in an email to supporters:

I wasn't planning on sending you something tonight. But if you saw what I saw from the Republican convention, you know that it demands a response.

I saw John McCain's attack squad of negative, cynical politicians. They lied about Barack Obama and Joe Biden, and they attacked you for being a part of this campaign.

But worst of all -- and this deserves to be noted -- they insulted the very idea that ordinary people have a role to play in our political process.

You know that despite what John McCain and his attack squad say, everyday people have the power to build something extraordinary when we come together. Make a donation of $5 or more right now to remind them.

Both Rudy Giuliani and Sarah Palin specifically mocked Barack's experience as a community organizer on the South Side of Chicago more than two decades ago, where he worked with people who had lost jobs and been left behind when the local steel plants closed.

Let's clarify something for them right now.

Community organizing is how ordinary people respond to out-of-touch politicians and their failed policies.

And it's no surprise that, after eight years of George Bush, millions of people have found that by coming together in their local communities they can change the course of history. That promise is what our campaign has been about from the beginning.

Throughout our history, ordinary people have made good on America's promise by organizing for change from the bottom up. Community organizing is the foundation of the civil rights movement, the women's suffrage movement, labor rights, and the 40-hour workweek. And it's happening today in church basements and community centers and living rooms across America.

Meanwhile, we still haven't gotten a single idea during the entire Republican convention about the economy and how to lift a middle class so harmed by the Bush-McCain policies.

It's now clear that John McCain's campaign has decided that desperate lies and personal attacks -- on Barack Obama and on you -- are the only way they can earn a third term for the Bush policies that McCain has supported more than 90 percent of the time.

But you can send a crystal clear message.

Enough is enough. Make your voice heard loud and clear by making a $5 donation right now:

Thank you for joining more than 2 million ordinary Americans who refuse to be silenced.

They can go ahead and hate the people who try to make a difference in their communities. They can keep turning up their nose at regular people. Winning this election will be about making sure those people know who's on their side.

Palin read a TelePrompTer well last night, but I'm not sure it fundamentally changed this campaign. And if the Obama campaign can pull off the righteous indignation, it might have hurt.

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Wednesday, September 03, 2008

As I Was Saying

I thought Palin would do a great job tonight and she did. She had the crowd from the first moment. And there's absolutely a not-so-good movie, American Idol quality to the candidacy that is very dangerous for the Obama ticket. It really didn't matter what she said. There were lies in it, of course. But she was brassy and sassy and well-scripted, and she delivered. There was a meanness to the speech that didn't make a ton of sense, but a smile can do a long way to mask that. The Orthogonian resentment is embedded into it, and we'll see if a new face can make that work for going on 40 years.

This is probably the best the Obama campaign can do as a response:

"The speech that Governor Palin gave was well delivered, but it was written by George Bush's speechwriter and sounds exactly like the same divisive, partisan attacks we've heard from George Bush for the last eight years. If Governor Palin and John McCain want to define 'change' as voting with George Bush 90% of the time, that's their choice, but we don't think the American people are ready to take a 10% chance on change," said Bill Burton, Obama Campaign Spokesman.

The other clowns on the dais today were bitter old men. Palin didn't fit and she was sure to be endearing. The problem for her is that the record isn't washed away by this, and there's still a lot to uncover, but this will undoubtedly give the ticket a bump in the polls. The key is to ignore her completely and keep the focus on McCain, his loss to the religious right, his giveaway to George Bush. It's how to win this election.

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