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

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Obama-Related Links

• Yesterday there was a horrible Metrolink train accident in Chatsworth (San Fernando Valley) that killed 23 and injured 135. Mitchell Schwartz, the California State Director for the Obama campaign, sends this along:

Many of you have asked what you can do to help. The UCLA Blood and Platelet Center will be open Monday through Friday to accept blood donations. Healthy donors of all blood types are needed to donate blood. Appointments can be made by calling 310-794-7217 ext. 2. Contact the Red Cross at 800-RED-CROSS or visit for other information about blood donation or ways you can help.

Thank you, and please keep your thoughts and prayers with the families and victims affected by this terrible tragedy.

Please help if you can. It's great that the Obama campaign is sensitive to this kind of thing, especially considering that there's little electoral value in it.

• I also wanted to mention this great tool put together by the Obama campaign called Vote For Change. This is the easiest-to-use tool I've ever seen to register to vote, confirm your voter registration, find your polling place, and apply for an absentee ballot. It's not only a resource for yourself, but something you should forward to everyone you know nationwide. We know that the Republican ground game in this election is primarily concerned with voter suppression and intimidation. Vote For Change is an amazingly simple tool that can help you fight back.

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Oh Todd

Come on down.

Alaska lawmakers voted Friday to subpoena the husband of Gov. Sarah Palin, the Republican vice presidential candidate, in a move that transformed a messy state personnel issue into a national campaign controversy.

The lawmakers acted at the request of Stephen Branchflower, who is in the midst of an investigation into the governor's dismissal of the state's director of public safety.

Branchflower said he also wants to interview the governor, but omitted her from the 13-person list of subpoena targets he presented to the lawmakers overseeing his investigation.

Todd Palin has an unusually large role for an unelected spouse in the affairs of state government. He gets copies of numerous emails from the governor. What other spouse gets that kind of treatment? I don't know how valuable it is to even mention Todd Palin a lot politically, but from my perspective it is very unsettling to have an unelected center of power here.

Meanwhile, this is much better than I expected in terms of the investigation into Troopergate. The legislature is doing its job thus far. Of course, we'll see how it unfolds.

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That's just totally shocking. And sold at the "Values Voters" summit, no less:

Lou Dobbs sez his wife will love it.

Time for a round of conservatives telling everybody to relax and stop being so sensitive. A couple days after "lipstick on a pig."

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Andrew Malcolm Is A Lying Hack

Here's LA Times blogger Andrew Malcolm, who was Laura Bush's press secretary in 1999-2000, trying to make something out of nothing and playing John McCain's POW card for him:

As part of its effort to show the 72-year-old Republican Sen. John McCain as old and out of touch, the Democratic Party's hip campaign of Sen. Barack Obama, which frequently says it honors the former POW's military service to his country, Friday released a new ad.

As noted Friday by our blogging colleagues over at the Technology blog here, the ad says, among other things: "1982, John McCain goes to Washington. Things have changed in the last 26 years, but McCain hasn't.

"He admits he doesn't know how to use a computer, can't send an e-mail."

Like many of his generation, McCain does not like to talk details a lot about his wartime experiences, certainly not about any lingering physical symptoms. To be honest, it could sound like complaining and, as he's ruefully noted, unlike many others, McCain did come home [...]

Here's a passage from a lengthy Boston Globe profile on McCain that was published the last time he ran for president. It was headlined "McCain character loyal to a fault." It was written by Mary Leonard.

And it was printed more than eight years ago, on March 4, 2000.

It is available online, where Jonah Goldberg of The Corner blog at the National Review found it.

"McCain gets emotional at the mention of military families needing food stamps or veterans lacking health care. The outrage comes from inside: McCain's severe war injuries prevent him from combing his hair, typing on a keyboard, or tying his shoes. Friends marvel at McCain's encyclopedic knowledge of sports. He's an avid fan -- Ted Williams is his hero -- but he can't raise his arm above his shoulder to throw a baseball."

OK, it's a nice story, but here's John McCain using a Blackberry.

Here's an article from HuffPo about his learning to use Internet:

BRZEZINSKI: Does John McCain, does he use the internet? Does he use email? [...]

DAVIS: He actually is, he always is grabbing people's Blackberrys on the bus. In fact, no reporter's Blackberry is safe from his prying eyes. He loves to tool around on the internet, he especially loves the videos that get produced that usually poke fun at him. I think that's his most entertaining part of the internet.

Now, maybe his thumbs work and his fingers don't, but considering that he said in the same article that he's learning to get on the Internet by himself, I highly doubt the veracity of this. Oh, and here's Tucker Bounds claiming he travels with a laptop:

“John McCain travels with a laptop,” said McCain campaign spokesman Tucker Bounds. “This is a senseless tactic from Obama’s campaign because they’re struggling with the realization that the American people understand he is not equipped to deliver change because his record has no bipartisanship or significant legislative accomplishment in it.”

This had the makings of another hissy fit, but it's transparent nonsense.

I hate the stupid season.

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Friday, September 12, 2008

Friday Random Ten

Dig it.

Girl - Beck
Black Thumbnail - Kings Of Leon
She's A Rainbow - The Rolling Stones
Leif Erikson - Interpol
Territorial Pissings - Nirvana
Greatest Show On Earth - Andre 3000 feat. Macy Gray
The Edison Museum - They Might Be Giants
In Hiding - Pearl Jam
The Sound Of Science - The Beastie Boys
Smells Like Funk - Black Eyed Peas

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Perata Finds The Knife

And on the way out the door, he had to twist it one more time.

Legislative Democrats and the governor are backing off their demand that the state budget be balanced with new taxes, according to a confidential e-mail the state Senate leader sent to fellow Democrats and obtained by The Times.

Senate Leader Don Perata (D-Oakland) told his caucus in the e-mail, sent Thursday night, that he informed the governor "we urgently need a budget -- let's see if I can work on a deal with the Reps [Republicans] that is no tax, no borrowing. He agreed."

I quibble with the words "Legislative Democrats" at the head of the article. It sounds like Don Perata is backing off his demand. The Assembly appears to have no say whatsoever. Later in the email, Perata writes "We then bring in Assembly leaders to show them what we're sending them," as if they are supposed to just carry out whatever The Don wishes. Maybe he'll force them to contribute to his legal defense fund while he's at it.

A no tax, no borrowing budget is either cuts-only or the mother of all accounting gimmicks, probably both. We do urgently need a budget - but we more urgently need Don Perata to extricate himself from this process. He is nothing but a poison. At a time when 82% of Californians are extremely worried about the late budget, and large majorities favor a balanced approach over the cruelty of the Yacht Party, NOW he decides to cave in? If so, why wait 74 days and cripple working Californians everywhere?

Without 2/3, we can't move forward as a state. But of course Perata has single-handedly made it impossible to get to 2/3 in the Senate, so he's been wrong in practically every respect.

Please resign, Don.

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Meanwhile In Iraq

With less than 60 days to the election, it's easy to get caught up in the back and forth of politics. But the very serious developments in Iraq require some scrutiny.

First of all, the President made his big announcement - 8,000 troops will leave Iraq after he's out of office, with a few thousand re-routed to Afghanistan. He's calling this "return on success" but it's really just kick the can. Bush's advisors seem to understand that the need for a strategic redeployment out of Iraq is palpable, but he can't bring himself to pull the trigger. So the next President has to work out the mess he created, which was really the plan all along.

Let's be clear where we are in Iraq. Violence is down but not out; just today brought news of a pretty horrific car bombing in Dujail. The political factions are still at an impasse, with tensions growing, and Nouri al-Maliki is trying to rub out his rivals and use the leverage of the US troop presence to make it easier. The troop drawdown is so minimal because, under the current strategy, the security gains are fragile because the political reconciliation has not been managed hardly at all. But that's only because the strategy is deeply wrong, concerned only with keeping a lid on violence for political purposes. Barack Obama gets this right.

"His plan comes up short — it is not enough troops, not enough resources, with not enough urgency," Obama said. "The next president will inherit a status quo that is still unstable."

We have, to an extent, coddled the Iraqi government, which says in public that the occupiers must be driven out but says in private that the troops must stay. There are still major political gaps that we're filling in with military force, which is simply untenable.

1. Centralizers vs. de-centralizers. Some Iraqi factions want to see more power placed in the hands of the national government, while others continue to push for more power to be vested in local and provincial governments.

2. State power holders vs. popular challengers. Certain factions have disproportionately benefited from the national government’s spoils, such as Dawa, the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, and the Kurdish factions who are part of national government. Some factions that have not benefited from the national government’s increased oil wealth and military power have stronger support in key areas of Iraq such as the Sons of Iraq in central and western Iraq and the Sadrists in central and southern Iraq.

3. Sunni vs. Shia. Sectarian conflicts are much reduced since high levels of violence in 2006, but the Sunni-Shia sectarian strain endures.

4. Arab vs. Kurds. The Arab-Kurd division is coming to a head in the unresolved crisis over the status of Kirkuk and other disputed territories.

5. Religious factions vs. secular factions. Latent tensions remain between Iraqis who are concerned by the religious nature of Iraqi politics versus those who see politics as one facet of advancing enduring religious principles of either Sunni or Shia Islam. Religious minorities such as Christians and Yazidis have suffered from persecution at the hands of other groups in Iraq since 2003.

These are major conflicts that have yet to be resolved, and they won't be with a purely military solution. Iraqis have simply not been responsible for their own sovereignty when they are "under the umbrella" of a US occupation. Only the Iraqis can make these decisions, and our presence makes that decision-making process remote. This is a key point:

The U.S. military presence in Iraq is not politically neutral. It creates a distinct set of incentives for political actors that directly work against the reconciliation that U.S. diplomats try to promote. U.S. military dominance and support absolves the major political actors from having to make the tough decisions necessary to achieve a power-sharing equilibrium.

In the months ahead in Iraq, the United States will have to distinguish between those outcomes that are truly catastrophic and those that are simply suboptimal given the limits on U.S. leverage over Iraqi actors—leverage that declines each day as the Iraqi government becomes financially self-sufficient and more assertive. Iraq’s leaders over the next year will increasingly demand greater control over their own affairs. The United States needs to rebalance its overall national security approach by stepping outside of the trenches of intra-Iraqi disputes over power and putting the focus back on its core national security interests.

General Petraeus says that he cannot declare victory, but this just serves to put our eventual withdrawal at a constant arm's length. Before declaring it, he and his Republican cheerleaders ought to define it:

WARE: Winning, however, is a matter of definition. Now, if by winning, you mean strengthening a member of what President Bush called the axis of evil, Iran, the very thing Senator Obama -- Senator McCain says that they prevented, Iran is stronger because of this war.

If you mean by dividing a community with blast barriers, if you mean by having to build an American militia, if you mean by destabilizing the entire region, then, sure, that's winning, that's victory. But I'm not sure that's why people went in there.

BROWN: It doesn't sound like you think that's winning.

WARE: Well, at this point, a win may just be getting out while minimizing the damage.

We aren't facing the facts in Iraq. We praise the fine work of our soldiers and point to charts of body counts and think that stability will just spontaneously sprout. It's damaging the long-term success of the region. A careful withdrawal along with a surge in diplomacy is the only solution.

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California Campaign Update

A mini-report:

• CA-04: I love this video from the Charlie Brown campaign. They traveled 412 miles down to Thousand Oaks to talk to constituents of California's Alan Keyes, State Senator and professional office-chaser Tom McClintock. It's really funny and drives the point home that McClintock is a do-nothing at best and a dangerous radical at worst:

And get this, McClintock is now running on the state budget, the Republican version of which has a 19% approval rating. That's like putting Nixon, Bush and Cheney in your campaign ad.

• CA-26, CA-45: Not one but two! Both Russ Warner AND Julie Bornstein have been added to the DCCC "Races To Watch" list. This is a prelude to being listed as Red To Blue candidates. If the D-Trip comes through with some money, maybe threatened incumbents like Dreier will have to stop mouthing off about other GOP races and start paying attention to their own.

• CA-46: When John Fund tries to target a Dem challenger, you know something's going wrong. Fund is sounding the alarm on Debbie Cook, as Dana Rohrabacher tries to greenwash himself with a scheme to build solar-power plants on federal land without environmental impact studies. Fund says that Cook called this "an extreme position," but he chopped the quote:

Democratic challenger and Mayor of Huntington Beach Debbie Cook agrees that the process of approving solar power plants is sluggish and needs to be sped up, but not at the expense of the environment.

"This is just another extreme position by Dana Rohrabacher. What we need to do is come up with a balanced approach that streamlines these projects, because they're critically important to our energy future, but at the same time recognizes the impacts to the environment," Cook said.

Rohrabacher's doing the equivalent of saying he'll grow jobs by hiring 10,000 federally funded serial killers, and then wondering why everyone's worried about the mass death ("You wanted jobs, didn't you?"). There's a sensible way to free up the bottlenecks and a rash one. Rohrabacher chose door #2.

• CA-42: The internal poll results released by Ed Chau are intriguing (showing him up 44-38 after a mix of positive and negative information released on the candidates), but I don't think candidates who have minimal bank accounts should do polls stating the numbers after a mix of information if they don't have the money to get that information out. But if Gary Miller truly has a 28% re-elect number as the poll states, he could be in trouble.

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They Found A Nut

It seems that on the message side, the Obama campaign has been searching for a line of attack against McCain all week. They're hinting at the "he's old" thing. They're having Biden release tax returns to try and make it look like McCain and Palin have something to hide. They're using the line McCain said last night that he's divorced from America's day-to-day challenges to paint a picture of him as out of touch.

Some of these are effective, some maybe not. They could always do more - the Palin charging victims for their own rape kits story needs to be its own ad. I mean, holy crap.

When Sarah Palin was mayor of Wasilla, the city billed sexual assault victims and their insurance companies for the cost of rape kits and forensic examinations.

Palin had been in office for four years when the practice of charging rape victims got the attention of state lawmakers in 2000, who passed a bill to stop the practice.

There's new evidence on this, too. She knew about it directly. That should really hurt her with women and moderates.

But for my money, this is the line that they can run with from now to the end of the election.

Today on "The View," John McCain defended his campaign's latest ad campaign, which has been debunked repeatedly as both false and sleazy. In running the sleaziest campaign since South Carolina in 2000 and standing by completely debunked lies on national television, it's clear that John McCain would rather lose his integrity than lose an election.

This is about honor. John McCain has none. And they have used the line now in multiple statements, and the media is picking up on it. While there is an absolute bias toward anything out of the "assertive" McCain campaign's mouth, traditional media does respond to a fight. They'll be happy to capture that on camera. And that's what they're getting from the Obama campaign today.

Keep this on honor and the lies and pretty soon nothing McCain says will be credible. Everything should be answered with "this is the guy who's been lying the whole campaign, who would you believe?"

...from Obama himself at a campaign event today:

"Just ask the Machinists in Pennsylvania who build Harley-Davidsons," Obama said of McCain's record. "Because John McCain didn’t just oppose the requirement that the government buy American-made motorcycles, he called Buy American provisions 'disgraceful.' Just ask the workers across this country who have seen their jobs outsourced. The very companies that shipped their jobs overseas have been rewarded with billions of dollars in tax breaks that John McCain supports and plans to continue.

"So when American workers hear John McCain talking about putting 'Country First,'" Obama said, "it’s fair to ask – which country?"

This will drive McCain nuts. Keep saying it.

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New Entrants To The "No On 8" Team: Dianne Feinstein, Mary Cheney (!)

Yesterday, the Bay Area Reporter ran a story that raised some eyebrows about Dianne Feinstein's reticence on Proposition 8, the Hate Amendment. It must have certainly raised eyebrows inside Feinstein's headquarters, because today she released this statement:

"Proposition 8 would eliminate the right of same-sex couples to marry in California. I oppose it as a matter of equality and fairness.

The right to marry is fundamental. It provides social stability, economic equality, and the ability to make decisions for a spouse in a time of crisis.

If Proposition 8 were to pass, not only would it eliminate the right to marry for gay and lesbian couples, but it would also create a complicated legal quagmire for those who have exercised this right under the California Constitution, as adjudicated by the Supreme Court of the State.

The views of Californians on this issue have changed over time, and as a State, I believe we should uphold the ability of our friends, neighbors, and co-workers who are gay and lesbian to enter into the contract of

I urge Californians to oppose Proposition 8."

It shouldn't have taken this long, and it shouldn't have taken a newspaper story to set it in motion, but I'm glad she released this. Now we'll she if she'll do anything more.

Of far more interest to me is this (h/t Think Progress):

Though she long sat on the sidelines as her father served as second in command over the past eight years, Vice-President Dick Cheney’s daughter Mary is flexing her political muscle and joining the fight to stop Prop. 8.

According to the website, Cheney pledged $3,000 back in July to the campaign to stop the ballot measure attempting to re-ban gay marriage in California.

It's quite a coalition that can include all of these disparate elements of the political spectrum. Meanwhile, Ron Prentice of the "California Family Council," running the Yes on 8 side of things, is funneling donations into his own pocket:

Since 2003, the public has given the Riverside, Calif.-based California Family Council (CFC) nearly $3 million to support charitable work that the organizations says "protects and fosters judeo-Christian principles in California's laws." But, according to its federal tax returns, little more than $500,000 of that money has gone to "program services," or expenses directly related to that charitable work.

In contrast, the CFC's top two employees, including its founder and executive director, Ron Prentice, were paid a total of $1.1 million over four years. The CFC's other employees earned a total of $900,000 in compensation -- bringing the total spent on employees at the Council to about $2 million since it began in 2003.

(More on that sordidness here)

This is just a wingnut welfare scheme to the pro side. On the other side are those who believe in equality and fairness.

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It kind of snuck up on everybody, but this could be really bad:







These holdouts are exercising very poor judgment. They need to get out of there. The storm surge could be 20 feet or more. Fortunately most people are fleeing, but they're going to be affected somewhat. Ike is almost the size of Texas.

I'm also hearing reports of gas stations bumping up prices, because a number of major oil refineries are due to be flooded and shut down. This obviously shows the need to drill more off the coast and put more pressure on those refineries for our oil needs.

Brace yourself, Houston.

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The Lobbyist Question

Presumptuous Washington celebrity John McCain decided to pick a Washington lobbyist to head his transition team.

Timmons is old-school power, and he brings all those connections to the McCain table -- for his own and clients' benefits, though, or for McCain's? Or both?

Timmons has been greasing the skids for a whole host of special interests for decades, and thus brings a certain "insider smarm" that the Maverocity PR purveyors will have to try to downplay. But can they?

Just take a peek at a partial list of clients for whom Timmons and Company has lobbied just since 2001 according to Implu:

-- Unocal (now owned by Chevron)
-- American Petroleum Institute
-- American Health Care Association
-- Lincare
-- AT&T
-- Freddie Mac
-- Centex Corporation
-- Cox Enterprises, Inc.
-- National Assoc. of Manufacturers
-- Asbestos Working Group
-- Northrup Grumman
-- American Financial Services Assoc.
-- The NRA (The National Rifle Association)
-- The American Council of Life Insurers
;-- Farallon Capital Management, LLC
-- Bristol-Myers Squibb Co.
-- The Vanguard Group, Inc.
-- Primerica Financial Services
-- Teva Pharmaceuticals USA, Inc.

The guy worked for Nixon and every Republican President since. But you know, "change is coming to Washington."


This is a pretty decent ad for the Obama campaign. And it's all true. Check out McCain's Lobbyists too if you want to know who John McCain really wants in charge of your future.

...I forgot to mention that John McCain spent his 70th birthday partying with a lobbyist and his movie-star girlfriend on a yacht off the coast of Montenegro. How could I forget that?

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Lies Revisited

Brave New Films is out with a new one that has received over a quarter of a million views so far.

McCain is such a pathological liar that he doesn't recognize he's a liar.

I’ve been through this litany before, where I say, “ok, what specific area have I quote changed?” Nobody can name it. … I am the same person and I have the same principles.

Does he mean the position shifts from just today? Or the 76 position changes that have been chronicled?

How about the flip-flop on the question of the experience needed for the Presidency?

When does being a governor or mayor for a short period of time not disqualify your credentials on national security? When you are John McCain and your task is to defend your vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin.

When does being a governor or mayor for a short period of time ABSOLUTELY disqualify your credentials on national security? When you are John McCain and your task is to defeat primary opponents Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani.

Back in October 2007, when McCain's candidacy still appeared dead and buried, the Senator berated the two Republican front runners for lacking the necessary political experience to handle commander in chief responsibilities.

"I have had a strong and a long relationship on national security, I've been involved in every national crisis that this nation has faced since Beirut, I understand the issues, I understand and appreciate the enormity of the challenge we face from radical Islamic extremism," the Senator declared. "I am prepared. I am prepared. I need no on-the-job training. I wasn't a mayor for a short period of time. I wasn't a governor for a short period of time."

The man has no honor left. He's given it away to Republican maniacs so he can get elected.

UPDATE: Bravo to Joy Behar, by the way, for saying this to his face:

JOY BEHAR: "There are ads running from your campaign, one of them is saying that Obama, when he said you can put lipstick on a pig but it's still a pig, was talking about Sarah. There's another ad that says that Obama was interested in teaching sex education to kindergarteners. Now, we know that those two ads are untrue, they're lies. And yet you at the end of it say I approve these messages. Do you really approve them?"

JOHN MCCAIN: "Actually, they are not lies." [ABC, "The View," 9/12/08]

He then went into his whole whiny lament about how Barack Obama wouldn't go on joint town halls with him, so he just had to base the campaign on lies, you see. Which would make more sense if John McCain hadn't abruptly stopped giving town halls himself three weeks ago. And if it made sense at all. "Because my opponent didn't campaign with me, I had to falsely claim that he wants to teach kindergarteners how to have sex."

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CA-AD-10: Fleischman Sounds The Alarm

You do not see Flash Report's Jon Fleischman, who represents nothing if not the internal voice of the California Yacht Party (he's the Vice Chair, after all), this concerned about a Republican-held seat. Not every day.

The Democrats have moved the 10th Assembly District near the top of their wish-list, and for good reason. First, the seat is open, which always makes for a more interesting contest. Second, a once six-point Republican partisan voter registration advantage has shrunk to just two points.

The 10th District is located in the San Joaquin Valley, split over four counties -- El Dorado, Amador, Sacramento and San Joaquin.

Compounding matters for Republican strategists, not only was there a pretty brutal GOP primary contest back in June, but this seat overlaps several U.S. House seats that will likely see action -- CD 3 where Dan Lungren is seeking re-election, CD 4 where Tom McClintock is running, and, of course, CD 11 where Dean Andal is trying to take out freshman Democrat Jerry McNerney (this is a top tier seat).

What Fleischman is correctly describing is what I would call the "Carol Shea-Porter effect." In 2006, Paul Hodes got a lot of establishment and netroots support in his Congressional race in New Hampshire, while the neighboring Carol Shea-Porter got virtually none. However, the state of New Hampshire all resides in the same media market. So Hodes' ads pummeling his opponent and Republicans in general ended up resonating on Carol Shea-Porter's side of the district. In the end, both Democrats won, with Shea-Porter's victory a major upset.

The same is true for Alyson Huber in AD-10 and her race against Yacht Party member in good standing Jack Sieglock. With contested elections throughout her area - in CA-11, CA-03 and CA-04 - Huber's message of change and fighting failed conservative values and ideas will be amplified. In addition, the GOTV programs from those candidates will snag voters for AD-10 (and Joan Buchanan in AD-15) as well. With 82% of voters seeing the budget as a major problem, this is a teachable moment for Democrats, who can tie the burdensome 2/3 requirement and Republican ideological intransigence to a state falling behind, and drive home the need for fundamental change.

Sieglock's bitter primary has given Huber a head start up here. Even his consultant agrees: "Jack is a very good candidate, but he's had a tougher road through the primary than his opponent, and that puts us behind." Add that to the more sophisticated GOTV program for Democrats this cycle, and AD-10 is well within reach. With some good bounces, we can get to a 2/3 majority.

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The Anti-Truth Campaign

The first line of this AP story says it all.

Republican presidential candidate John McCain said Friday running mate Sarah Palin has never asked for money for lawmakers' pet projects as Alaska governor when in fact she has sought nearly $200 million in earmarks this year.

They are running a campaign based on lies. Lies about their opponent's record. Lies about their own record. Lies on all things great and small.

And the Obama campaign responds by saying, b-but I'll offer real change! And anyway, McCain is old and out of touch!

The first ad is useless (does talking to the camera directly really work anymore?), the second ad would have been good three months ago but we're in a different phase of the campaign. Sen. McCain is lying about the record, lying about everything, actually, and the only antidote is to call this what it is. And then hit back with the truth, which is actually more shocking than the lies in this case.

Planned Parenthood does it:

And Defenders of Wildlife pivots.

I mean sheesh, if you wanted to go the "out of touch" route, how about the fact that just yesterday McCain called himself "divorced from everyday challenges"?

Ari Berman shows how it's done, you call these hacks liars, you call them dishonorable, you do it again and again.

I'm slightly fed up this morning.

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Cindy Story Fizzles

The mystery of the missing Washington Post article has been solved, as they published a very long front-page story today about Cindy McCain's drug addiction. I have to say that I think they puled their punches, however. Mainly it removes John McCain's involvement from the story, and the DEA investigation just sort of ends, according to their account. A lot of the burden is placed on heavyweight lawyer John Dowd instead of McCain himself. There's no mention of her securing a passport to hide her drugs on travel, there's no mention of McCain's office strong-arming the DEA to drop the charges. These are elements that Tom Gosinski was willing to put on the record to other journalists. WaPo didn't think they were worthy.

It reads more like a puff piece with a slight edge to it. You certainly learn about Cindy's criminal activities, but not about the abuse of power.

Very depressing.

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This is Going To Leave A Mark

I already talked about Sarah Palin's interview with Charlie Gibson, the reviews for which have not been all that positive. She made an honest but ill-considered comment about going to war with Russia over Georgia, and she blanked on the question of what is the Bush doctrine, only answering it after help, and wrongly (the issue was preventive war vs. pre-emptive war, and she just went with the latter). But this statement could be even more damaging, because it's such an obvious falsehood.

Gov. Sarah Palin linked the war in Iraq with the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, telling an Iraq-bound brigade of soldiers that included her son that they would "defend the innocent from the enemies who planned and carried out and rejoiced in the death of thousands of Americans."

The idea that the Iraqi government under Saddam Hussein helped al-Qaeda plan the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, a view once promoted by Bush administration officials, has since been rejected even by the president himself. But it is widely agreed that militants allied with al-Qaeda have taken root in Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion.

"America can never go back to that false sense of security that came before September 11, 2001," she said at the deployment ceremony, which drew hundreds of military families who walked from their homes on the sprawling post to the airstrip where the service was held.

I think the last thing anybody wants or needs is for a national leader to go around conflating Iraq and 9/11 again, especially on THE ANNIVERSARY OF THE 9/11 ATTACKS. It's discredited nonsense designed to whip up a patriotic fervor that can be used for all kinds of nefarious ends. And as you'll see in the video of the event, she was reading from a prepared script. This was intentional.

Now, you would think that such an astonishing ignorance of world affairs would be immediately disqualifying for higher office. But you would be wrong. In fact, Palin's lack of knowledge or even interest in foreign policy isn't a bug, says Robert Kagan, it's a feature.

Robert Kagan, a foreign policy advisor to McCain, derided criticisms of Palin as elitist.

“I don’t take this elite foreign policy view that only this anointed class knows everything about the world,” he said. “I’m not generally impressed that they are better judges of American foreign policy experience than those who have Palin’s experience.”

They really think this way. The neocons believe that those with experience of the world are eventually corrupted by it, and those pure enough to have no experience whatsoever are more receptive to their worldview. This stands to reason - only an ignorant fool would follow the logic of the group that has been wrong on foreign policy time and again for over 50 years. The value of ignorance EXPLAINS the failures of neoconservatism, and the neocon worldview cannot be ingested without a fair degree of ignorance. So it's symbiotic.

Neocons believe that on the world stage, a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. No wonder they consider Sarah Palin such a darling.

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Show Don't Tell

This is a Nagourney piece, so it's always going to have that "Democrats in disarray" patina to it, but one longstanding piece of advice I'd have for Sen. Obama is this:

Instead of, for example, telling the world that you're going to take a sharper tone, just actually take a sharper tone. There's no need to telegraph a punch, as it diminishes the impact. Obama is often too willing to play commentator and too unwilling to play candidate.

Now I agree with a fair bit of this post by Tim Fernholz that Obama actually has been hitting back, it's just that the traditional media has amplified the McCain attacks more. But I really don't need to hear "we're going to fight" from Obama; just show me with your actions.

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Thursday, September 11, 2008

Faces Of The Budget

The latest economic numbers for the state are over at the Department of Finance, and they are as expected.

From July 2007 to July 2008, the state lost 75,900 nonfarm jobs, a 0.5-percent drop, with the state’s beleaguered housing industry continuing to be the focus of most of the losses. Employment rose 47,000 in educational and health services; 39,300 in government; 9,200 in leisure and hospitality; 6,200 in professional and business services; and 900 in natural resources and mining. Of the year's growth in government, more than three-fourths—29,800—was in local government. Over the year, employment fell by 83,100 in construction; 35,400 in financial activities; 30,900 in manufacturing; 20,500 in trade, transportation, and utilities; 7,800 in information; and 800 in other services.

The state’s unemployment rate rose to 7.3 percent in July—a 12-year high. July's unemployment rate was up 0.3 percentage point from a revised June unemployment rate of 7.0 percent and 1.9 percentage points from July 2007's unemployment rate of 5.4 percent. This large year-over-year increase will most likely be revised down next February. The national unemployment rate increased by 0.2 percentage point to 5.7 percent in July, leaving the gap between the state and national rates at 1.6 percentage points.

And of course, the national numbers in August were even worse, so this has nowhere to go but down right now.

More important, the General Fund numbers for August were $124 million dollars below forecast, with personal income tax revenues down $67 million and sales tax receipts down $222 million. In essence this means that the deficit is even worse than advertised, and the projections to bring it into balance are likely to be bogus if and when a budget is signed, provided that the economy doesn't rebound quickly.

I listened to this NPR report yesterday, which put the budget delay into an entirely new context. In Sacramento it's a fight between competing ideologies; but in rural health clinics, at community colleges, all over the state, it's the difference between staying in school and dropping out. The difference between getting medical care and finding it out of reach. The difference between keeping your clinic running and having to shutter it. These are deeply harrowing personal stories, and there are millions of them, and they're only getting worse. For some reason, while a few of these stories have been told in Capitol committee hearings, I haven't seen Democrats amplify one of their voices - not one - through a television ad describing the stakes of the budget delay, Yacht Party intransigence and the need to abolish 2/3 or throw enough Yacht Party members out so that 2/3 is achieved. What exactly are they waiting for? At least you could message test this on local cable and the Web.

You can't just expect people to figure these things out for themselves.

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Four More Wars

I'm going to step cautiously with this bit of newsmaking from Sarah Palin's first national interview.

GIBSON: Would you favor putting Georgia and Ukraine in NATO?

PALIN: Ukraine, definitely, yes. Yes, and Georgia.

GIBSON: Because Putin has said he would not tolerate NATO incursion into the Caucasus.

PALIN: Well, you know, the Rose Revolution, the Orange Revolution, those actions have showed us that those democratic nations, I believe, deserve to be in NATO.

Putin thinks otherwise. Obviously, he thinks otherwise, but...

GIBSON: And under the NATO treaty, wouldn't we then have to go to war if Russia went into Georgia?

PALIN: Perhaps so. I mean, that is the agreement when you are a NATO ally, is if another country is attacked, you're going to be expected to be called upon and help.

But NATO, I think, should include Ukraine, definitely, at this point and I think that we need to -- especially with new leadership coming in on January 20, being sworn on, on either ticket, we have got to make sure that we strengthen our allies, our ties with each one of those NATO members.

We have got to make sure that that is the group that can be counted upon to defend one another in a very dangerous world today.

GIBSON: And you think it would be worth it to the United States, Georgia is worth it to the United States to go to war if Russia were to invade.

PALIN: What I think is that smaller democratic countries that are invaded by a larger power is something for us to be vigilant against. We have got to be cognizant of what the consequences are if a larger power is able to take over smaller democratic countries.

And we have got to be vigilant. We have got to show the support, in this case, for Georgia. The support that we can show is economic sanctions perhaps against Russia, if this is what it leads to.

It doesn't have to lead to war and it doesn't have to lead, as I said, to a Cold War, but economic sanctions, diplomatic pressure, again, counting on our allies to help us do that in this mission of keeping our eye on Russia and Putin and some of his desire to control and to control much more than smaller democratic countries.

His mission, if it is to control energy supplies, also, coming from and through Russia, that's a dangerous position for our world to be in, if we were to allow that to happen.

Now, let's be crystal clear on this, even if our friends on the right would certainly not be. Palin is accurately describing the state of affairs if a NATO member country is attacked. Signatories to the treaty would be obligated to go to war with them.

What you can be terrified about is her absolute certainty that Ukraine and Georgia ought to be allowed into NATO. That would put the United States in a position of restarting the Cold War with Russia if Georgia provokes them by invading South Ossetia first and trying to massacre Russian peacekeepers. Of course, that is also John McCain's position, and he's quite adamant about it. What you can also be terrified is that John McCain thinks Palin knows Russia very well because she lives next door to them, and yet she continues to argue for NATO expansion and a generally belligerent attitude toward Russia. (She also has national security credentials because she "knows energy." Really, that's the terrible interview of the day.)

Now, the other issue here is that Barack Obama has argued for something similar to NATO inclusion for Georgia.

Going forward, the United States and Europe must support the people of Georgia. Beyond immediate humanitarian assistance, we must provide economic assistance, and help rebuild what has been destroyed. I have consistently called for deepening relations between Georgia and transatlantic institutions, including a Membership Action Plan for NATO, and we must continue to press for that deeper relationship.

There is a difference between arguing for expansion of NATO and arguing for a Membership Action Plan. The MAP is a process where the country in question must prepare a long list of qualifications for possible future membership. It does not mean instant membership.

However, it's not the polar opposite of what Palin has advocated, either. It's part of the way there.

Later in the interview she offers a slightly more cogent imminent threat standard for pre-emptive military action, but of course George Bush offered the same standard, he just lied about the imminent threat coming from Iraq and now Iran. So that doesn't warm my heart. She didn't know what the "Bush Doctrine" was.

I think going on national television and saying we might have to go to war with Russia is perhaps ill-timed, but it also happens to be John McCain's policy. He just won't tell you. She did. Whether or not it's Barack Obama's policy is unclear - there is indeed a difference between an MAP and membership.

UPDATE: Just to make myself clear - Democrats should go after this comment. The Governor is calling for possible nuclear war with Russia over a non-strategic internal skirmish in a region with a history of skirmishes. I agree that it would be tantamount to Russia saying "If the US ever invades Panama again, we'll declare war!" Whether or not the Obama campaign will say anything about this depends on how far they've gone with their Georgia/NATO policy. Maybe seeing the stakes laid out this clearly will show them how dumb it is to argue for NATO expansion.

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You Can't Build A Progressive Movement With Conservative Republicans

Digby and I, along with a bunch of LA-based bloggers, were fortunate enough to have lunch a couple days ago with Darcy Burner, the progressive candidate in WA-08 who is fighting to upend Bush rubber stamp Rep. Dave Reichert. By the way, give money to Darcy.

She is optimistic about her chances in November, but as Howie Klein, who set up the luncheon, notes, she is being somewhat stymied by the counterproductive way that labor unions and Dem-leaning orgs sometimes do business.

One thing we did discuss, though, is the NEA and how they, and other "progressive" interest groups like them routinely sell out progressive candidates for their own pathetic, shallow and ineffectual Inside the Beltway politics. Earlier today I corresponded with someone from the campaign of Florida Blue Dog Christine Jennings. She was trying to persuade me that Jennings was a good match for Blue America and, naively, mentioned other "progressive" organizations that had endorsed her. One was HRC, one of the most craven and despicable of all the sell-out one-issue bottom feeders in DC. Desperate for the "credibility" of bipartisanship, HRC looks for Republicans who may be disastrous for gay families but who aren't quite as disastrous as a Jim Inhofe, John Cornyn or self-loathing closet queen Mitch McConnell. Take their shameful endorsement of Susan Collins whose so-so voting record is no match for her Democratic opponent's perfect voting record. Collins voted for all Bush's hideous, violently anti-gay judicial appointments. Tom Allen, of course, opposed every one of them and, as a senator, has vowed to never vote to confirm anyone who favors discriminating against any group of Americans.

The NEA, similarly desperate for that kind of bogus Inside-the-Beltway credibility, scoured the country for Republican incumbents in high profile, tight races who they could endorse. One was Darcy's abysmal opponent, Dave Reichert, and another was Missouri reactionary goon Sam Graves. Like HRC, the NEA has lost all credibility. (Fortunately the American Federation of Teachers endorsed Darcy, which means the bureaucrats who waste tax money are for Reichert and the actual front line teachers are for Darcy.)

This is just ridiculous. No matter how many endangered Republicans the NEA endorses, they are not going to fully support the kind of education policies the NEA purports to wanting. And the most important vote any member of Congress makes is for the leadership. Dave Reichert would vote for John Boehner. The NEA endorsement is an implicit endorsement for Boehner.

I'm sure the calculus here is that Reichert might be with them on one or two extra votes if he wins, whereas Burner will vote with their interests anyway, so why not cover all of their bases? This does nothing, of course, to help progressive leaders actually move education policy. And it's important to note that right-leaning groups NEVER do this, and certainly not in hotly contested races. Much like our leadership feels the need to extend remarks like "John McCain is a hero" before disagreeing with his policies, organizations like the NEA feel like they must appear bipartisan, while the NRA dispenses with such niceties. Look what they're running against Obama.

Burner is not the only candidate to speak out about this. Josh Zeitz, a progressive candidate in NJ-04, has spoken out as well.

Public pressure is what will end this perniciousness... or better, building truly progressive infrastructure to take the power out of the hands of the single-issue groups. Burner is endorsed by Blue America, which over its lifetime has raised $1.288 million dollars for candidates and causes. Until groups that claim to support progressives actually do so, they're your best bet.

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Today In Palin

As we await the hard-hitting, brutally frank, just-the-facts-ma'am interview that I'm sure Charlie Gibson is about to throw down for his prime-time special on 20/20, today options for questions sprouted up practically all over the place.

First, we have yet another of her "accomplishments" called into question as just a substanceless catch-phrase. The natural gas pipeline she claims to have built is anything but.

Certainly she proved effective in attracting developers to a project that has eluded Alaska governors for three decades. But an examination of the pipeline project also found that Ms. Palin has overstated both the progress that has been made and the certainty of success.

The pipeline exists only on paper. The first section has yet to be laid, federal approvals are years away and the pipeline will not be completed for at least a decade. In fact, although it is the centerpiece of Ms. Palin’s relatively brief record as governor, the pipeline might never be built, and under a worst-case scenario, the state could lose up to $500 million it committed to defray regulatory and other costs.

Indeed, claiming any kind of major fiscal success in Alaska at a time of record energy prices is kind of like saying that the King of Saudi Arabia is a competent fiscal steward. It's not his leadership, but the resources in the ground that provide the wealth. Alaska is a petro-state that nevertheless steals from the federal government treasury billions upon billions in largesse to finance themselves. It's true that its proximity demands some manner of federal aid, but look at what Palin has requested in earmarks over the past year:

According to Alaska's 2009 catalog of earmark requests the state's sea life are in great need of federal money. As Politico points out, Palin's office requested $2 million in federal monies to study crab mating habits; $494,900 for the recreational halibut harvest and $3.2 million for seal genetics research.

Those requests for the study of wildlife genetics and mating habits seems pretty antithetical to the long-standig views of Palin's running mate, John McCain.

Might be a good question for either Palin or McCain.

Meanwhile, the continuing saga of Troopergate has added more surprises and revelations. Palin was apparently warned by a judge to stop disparaging her sister's ex-husband, even before she became governor of the state.

Court records obtained by NEWSWEEK show that during the course of divorce hearings three years ago, Judge John Suddock heard testimony from an official of the Alaska State Troopers' union about how Sarah Palin—then a private citizen—and members of her family, including her father and daughter, lodged up to a dozen complaints against Wooten with the state police. The union official told the judge that he had never before been asked to appear as a divorce-case witness, that the union believed family complaints against Wooten were "not job-related," and that Wooten was being "harassed" by Palin and other family members.

Court documents show that Judge Suddock was disturbed by the alleged attacks by Palin and her family members on Wooten's behavior and character. "Disparaging will not be tolerated—it is a form of child abuse," the judge told a settlement hearing in October 2005, according to typed notes of the proceedings. The judge added: "Relatives cannot disparage either. If occurs [sic] the parent needs to set boundaries for their relatives."

Indeed, after she clearly fired Public Safety head Walt Monegan for his refusal to fire Wooten, an adviser to her warned her of the abuse of power perception, telling her that "'the situation is now grave' and recommended that she and her husband, Todd Palin, apologize for 'overreaching or perceived overreaching' for using her position to try to get Trooper Mike Wooten fired from the force." He also told her to fire any staff members who contacted Monegan over the firing.

Of course, Palin didn't step back then, and she's certainly not now, enlisting her state Attorney General to help quash subpeonas that may arise during the legislative investigation.

"The eyes of the nation have now turned upon us,'' senior Assistant Attorney General Michael Barnhill wrote. "We think there is a legitimate concern that this investigation is no longer being conducted in a fair manner.''

Barnhill complained in a seven-page letter about public comments made by Hollis French, a Democratic senator, that Palin or her aides may have broken the law by allegedly obtaining personnel files of the fired state public safety commissioner, Walt Monegan.

TPM Muckraker is skeptical that much will come of the investigation, as Republicans in the state who were eager to look into this before Palin was made their party's Vice Presidential nominee feel less inclined to do so now.

But there's one story that could absolutely get lots of attention, and should, especially by women.

Speaking to a teleconference audience of reporters around the nation, former Gov. Tony Knowles and current Ketchikan Mayor Bob Weinstein -- both Democrats -- accused Palin of misleading the public in her new role as the vice presidential running mate of Arizona Sen. John McCain.

While some of their complaints have already been aired, Knowles broke new ground while answering a reporter's question on whether Wasilla forced rape victims to pay for their own forensic tests when Palin was mayor.

True, Knowles said.

Eight years ago, complaints about charging rape victims for medical exams in Wasilla prompted the Alaska Legislature to pass a bill -- signed into law by Knowles -- that banned the practice statewide.

"There was one town in Alaska that was charging victims for this, and that was Wasilla," Knowles said.

Note that it essentially was an Obama surrogate that pushed this story into the mainstream. It's getting other traditional media pickup, too.

I cannot imagine someone so callous as to charge victims of rape for their own exams. That's shocking. Disgusting. It speaks to judgment. And it should be known by every family in America.

UPDATE: Great catch by Jed - McCain voted against Joe Biden's bill which ended the practice of charging victims for rape exams. McCain and Palin really are soulmates.

This HAS to be an ad.

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Great Developments in Emission Reduction

This happened a couple days ago, but as it's crucial that the clean-truck program at two of the nation's busiest ports go forward, I think it's significant:

A federal court judge in Los Angeles on Monday tentatively denied a trucking association's bid to block a landmark clean-truck program at the nation's busiest port complex.

After a 40-minute hearing, U.S. District Judge Christina Snyder said she would probably allow the program to move forward, despite objections from truckers.

"The balance of hardships and the public interest tip decidedly in favor of denying the injunction," she said in court.

Under the program, the adjacent ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach would upgrade their aging fleet of about 16,800 mostly dilapidated rigs that produce much of the diesel pollution in Southern California.

Though the American Trucking Association is opposing the bill and filed the attempted injunction, the clean-ports program was borne of a true blue-green alliance between labor and environmental groups, which is the next level of how we're going to fight climate change in this country and build millions of new green-collar jobs. The courts are now on the record as saying that reducing greenhouse gas emissions are in the public interest. And the ATA is being a little coy here - a good number of the trucking firms are already upgrading, so their injunction effort was meant to satisfy a few big corporations. It didn't work.

The second exciting development is SB 375, which for the first time links emissions to urban planning, and could easily become a model for the nation. We have to make sure it's signed into law, of course, but if and when it is, it will represent a great leap forward for the environment, live/work issues, quality of life, and traffic reduction.

The measure, known as SB375, aims to give existing and new high-density centers where people live, work and shop top priority in receiving local, state and federal transportation funds. The idea is that such developments check sprawl and ease commutes, in turn cutting the car pollution wafting through the Golden State.

Authored by Sen. Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento), the bill reflects California's push to slash its greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent by 2020. Sponsors say the measure is part of a much-needed growth policy for a state whose population is expected to swell to 50 million from the current 38 million in two decades.

"Many places across the country have realized that if you just build spread-out developments, with the expectation that everyone will have to drive for everything, it should be no surprise when the result is excessive burning of gasoline," said David Goldberg, spokesman for Smart Growth America, a Washington D.C.-based nonprofit group that helps cities and towns plan more workable, environmentally friendly growth.

"SB375 breaks new ground, because it specifically links that pattern of development to excess driving and what we need to do to address climate change," he said.

Instead of trying to capture more resources every time there's an energy shortage, we can reorganize our lives to maximize existing resources while making our lifestyles far less stressful and more pleasant. It's the solution that works on all fronts.

The budget madness is super-depressing, but these developments are cause for optimism.

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Digby already mentioned the breaking story about John McCain's strong-arming of the DEA to stop them from investigating his wife's prescription drug theft. Raw Story adds more to the case.

Tom Gosinski, a former employee of the medical-aid charity Cindy McCain used as personal supplier of Percocet and Vicodin, is speaking out publicly for the first time.

On Wednesday, Gosinski sat down with RAW STORY and other outlets to tell his story and distribute copies of his personal journal from his time with the American Voluntary Medical Team in the last half of 1992, where he voiced ever more acute concerns and frustrations over McCain's drug use and its impact on her mood and job performance.

"My journal wasn't to trash Cindy or anything," he says. "My journal was kept because I came in contact with so many people. It was a way of keeping an ongoing biography of all the people I met, so I could refer back to it."

He says he can't buy the official McCain camp line that Cindy's drug abuse was kept from her husband, he saw and heard too much for any of their stories to make sense -- like the time Cindy was allegedly taken to the hospital after an overdose and John rushed in to berate the doctors and nurses there before moving Cindy to their secluded Sedona ranch. Then there were the Hensley family interventions and the fact that Cindy's drug abuse came to be something of an open secret among employees of the charity.

There's a lot here, from Gosinski being fired and blackballed for knowing too much about Cindy's drug abuse, to Cindy getting a diplomatic passport from her husband's Senate office so she wouldn't be searched in airports with all of these drugs, and on and on.

It's a dense story. But there's another aspect to it revealed today by John Aravosis. Apparently, the Washington Post recorded an interview with Gosinski that they are hiding from the public.

Go to Google. Type in the name "gosinski." Look at the sixth result.

John Mccain abused his power to keep it a.... secret, perhaps? This isn't a story about the wife, it's a story about the Senator possibly using his office to obstruct justice for personal gain. Sounds a lot like Troopergate in fact. Definitely a story.

But when you click the link and go to the Washington Post's Web site, there's nothing there, just a blank template with no content.

I just checked this a second ago. It's still on Google, and there's still a blank template at WaPo when you click on the link.

This is a spiked story. There's plenty of precedent for this in 2004, when 60 Minutes delayed broadcast of a story about Iraq, Niger and yellowcake that would have been very damaging to President Bush until after the election. There are other examples as well.

This now becomes the scandal. It is completely inappropriate for the Washington Post to spike a legitimate news story about the corruption of a Presidential candidate, especially considering that candidate is running on this platform of reform. And all the other news outlets need to be informed of this as well. If there's enough pressure, one of them may see the tactical value in going forward with interviewing a willing witness before their competitors. If that's how the news business still works, anyway.

Some phone calls need to be made.

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Paul Army!!

So at that press conference yesterday, Ron Paul urged his supporters to back third-party candidates. Most of them joined him onstage, except for Bob Barr, who then turned around and asked Paul to be his running mate.

Libertarian presidential nominee Bob Barr, the former Georgia congressman, rejected comparisons to Cynthia McKinney on Wednesday and made a bid for Ron Paul’s undivided support.

Paul, who this year sought the GOP presidential nomination, told reporters at a Washington press conference that the two-party system is broken. He urged Americans to vote for one of the third-party candidates running, including McKinney, who is also a former member of Congress from Georgia [...]

McKinney, the Green Party nominee for president, appeared with Paul at the National Press Club, as did independent candidate Ralph Nader and Constitution Party nominee Chuck Baldwin.

Barr, who served in the U.S. House as a Republican from Cobb County, was scheduled to be there, too, but changed his mind.

“Bob had a press conference right after that one,” said campaign spokesman Andrew Davis. “He didn’t want to dilute his message by being on the same stage as people like Cynthia McKinney, who is completely opposite of what a Libertarian is." [...]

Barr sent Paul a letter Tuesday asking him to be his vice presidential nominee. Barr already has a running mate, Wayne Root of Las Vegas. Root said in the letter he would step aside for Paul.

How much of a sad sack is Wayne Root?

I don't think that Paul will realistically join Bob Barr's ticket. But he unquestionably has a strong contingent of supporters, most of them from the paleoconservative Republican side of the aisle, who are receptive to his messages, and who I believe will end up voting third party. And as we know, he's on the ballot for President in Montana, where he could grab as much as 5-7% IMO.

Most amusing about this is that the McCain campaign called begging for his support, and Paul stiff-armed them. I didn't hear him say that Obama was looking for an endorsement. This news definitely hurts McCain on the margins, but that might be all that is needed to sink him.

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Best Little Whorehouse In Denver

Charlie Savage advances the ball on this story of debauchery at the Minerals Management Service in the Department of the Interior. If we weren't talking about billions of wasted dollars it'd actually be funny.

As Congress prepares to debate expansion of drilling in taxpayer-owned coastal waters, the Interior Department agency that collects oil and gas royalties has been caught up in a wide-ranging ethics scandal — including allegations of financial self-dealing, accepting gifts from energy companies, cocaine use and sexual misconduct [...]

The investigations are the latest installment in a series of scathing inquiries into the program’s management and competence in recent years. While previous reports have focused on problems the agency had in collecting millions of dollars owed to the Treasury, and hinted at personal misconduct, the new reports go far beyond any previous study in revealing serious concerns with the integrity and behavior of the agency’s officials.

In one of the new reports, investigators concluded that Ms. Denett worked with two aides to steer a lucrative consulting contract to one of the aides after he retired, violating competitive procurement rules.

Two other reports focus on “a culture of substance abuse and promiscuity” in the service’s royalty-in-kind program. That part of the agency collects about $4 billion a year in oil and gas rather than cash royalties.

It's really an eye-opening report. The graft here is widespread, and these aren't rinky-dink companies engaging in this - Chevron and Shell are implicated.

Showing that impeccable timing that always seems to characterize Congressional Democrats, they today released their offshore drilling plan, which is tone deaf in so many ways:

• The price of oil has dropped 30% from its height, and the price of gas nearly 20%, without one drop of new oil being drilled, entirely due to lower demand and increasing transit ridership. Such conservation not only works, it works at a level that the pathetic amounts of coastal drilling never can.

• The federal agency that would be tasked with approving and managing all these new oil leases is having coke orgies with Big Oil.

Bill Nelson, at least, has stepped up and said that there should be no new drilling as a cause of this.

But of course, such a maneuver would mean that logic is taking over in the government.

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Joined At The Hip

John McCain is fond of saying that his nasty, divisive campaign would have been all sunny and keen if only Barack Obama had joined him for weekly town hall meetings on the road. That would have made the campaign entirely civil, and there wouldn't have been any accusations that Obama wants to teach sex to kindergardeners, I guess. This would be more compelling if McCain hadn't stopped giving town halls himself lately.

For a candidate who once railed against “stale soundbites, staged rallies and over-managed messages,” John McCain seems to have turned over a new leaf.

Today marks the four-week anniversary since McCain held his last press conference (8/13 in Birmingham, MI) and three weeks since his last public town hall meeting (8/20 in Las Cruces, NM).

McCain’s new campaign strategy: staged rallies with thousands of supporters. Since announcing Sarah Palin as his VP choice on August 29, McCain’s has appeared at 11 rallies with his new running mate where both members of the ticket delivered a 10-15 minute stump speech.

And all the rallies have come with Palin at his side. In fact, when she returned home to Alaska yesterday to have her celebrity interview with ABC (the thing's going to look like an Olympic profile, it'll be embarrassing), McCain tried to fly solo and delivered a performance more reminiscent of a local committeeman, which is actually insulting to local committeemen:

After lunching with a roundtable of women at Philadelphia’s Down Home Diner, McCain shook hands with supporters and strode up to a podium to deliver a statement. But as he spoke, chants of “Obama, Obama, Obama” filled the room.

Reporters craned forward trying to hear the Arizona senator. Unfortunately for McCain — and possibly overlooked by aides who planned the event — a section of the diner opened up to a market where a crowd had gathered behind a cordon.

A large contingent of Obama supporters showed up, mixed with some who had bumper stickers reading “Democrats for McCain”.

“It’s time to leave the talk behind and start shaking up Washington and fixing our economy, taking care of the problems facing our families. We’re going to give a tax cut to every family with a child,” he said.

His words were barely audible.

McCain’s supporters shouted “John McCain”, “John McCain,” “John McCain”. The duelling chants nearly drowned out the presidential hopeful’s voice.

“Pennsylvania is a battleground state as we can tell,” McCain said.

Among other things, that's just horrible advance work. The Reading Terminal Market is clearly open-air, and Philly is Obama country. It was obvious that they'd crash the party.

But clearly, McCain is lost at sea without Palin, and his handlers are planning more joint events because it's the only way to draw some excitement. This isn't a big problem now, but it really does cut your campaign time in half. I know some people are wondering if Joe Biden has dropped off the planet, but the fact is that he's campaigning apart from Barack Obama, as most Vice Presidents do, instead of being joined together like the McCain-Palin ticket. Obama and Biden are covering far more ground, and we'll see if that makes them more effective.

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McCain and 9/11

Another year has passed, another memorial to the victims of the September 11 attacks has been set, more wreaths have been laid, and Osama bin Laden is still at large.

Let's take a look at John McCain's relationship to this, shall we? On the morning of 9/11, he listed a host of countries that would have to pay for the attacks, including Iraq:

To be honest with you, Dan, I never thought that an operation of this sophistication and size would take place. I just never did. But I don’t think there’s any doubt that there are countries — Iraq, Iran, Libya, North Korea and others — who we know engage in proliferation of — of capabilities and, from time to time, involve themselves in state-sponsored terrorism. But never did we imagine on a scale such as this.

He said Iraq was "obviously" next to Paula Zahn on October 9, 2001.

He was simply in a rush to get to Iraq, just like this President and this Administration. Now that Iraq has been proven beyond all doubt to have nothing to do with 9/11, and the occupation itself has been a disaster (more on that later), only NOW has McCain turned back to bin Laden, making the most selfish statement that a national politician has maybe ever made.

Keith Olbermann raised a brilliant point tonight. John McCain bragged in June that he, and only he, knows how to capture Osama bin Laden, the man responsible for killing 3,000 people on September 11. Pray tell, how Senator?

As Keith notes, it's been several months now and John McCain is still keeping his little secret. Is McCain planning on blackmailing the country, Olbermann asks - he won't tell us unless he wins? I can imagine some in the media will say "pshaw, we know what McCain meant." No we don't. McCain was happy to invoke September 11 for his own political purposes in June, and just last week at his own convention John McCain was happy to force the nation to witness again the horrific spectacle of planes flying into the World Trade Center and the towers falling. For some reason, John McCain thought showing that video, up until then taboo at a political event, was now fair game. John McCain told the country three months ago that he and only he - not Barack Obama, but John McCain - had the secret to how to capture Osama bin Laden. But apparently he's keeping the secret a secret.

Somehow the war on terror is supposed to be a "plus" for Republicans. The facts, of course, are that we invaded Afghanistan and then neglected the country to such a degree that even the Pentagon agrees that the current strategy is not working, and we're running out of time for our efforts to be anything but counterproductive. Not only is our coalition dissolving in Iraq, but the Canadians are bugging out of Afghanistan, leaving us practically alone in these money pits and sinkholes which are failing to make the country any safer. The President is only know authorizing raids inside Pakistan, but it's a clear end-of-the-term, election-year ploy to make a big headline splash, at the expense of angering a brand new Pakistani government.

(of course, Obama is talking about falling into these same traps. I don't argue for isolationism, but an understanding that, as Admiral Mullen said yesterday, "we cannot kill our way out of the problem." Ending terrorist threats require local law enforcement and lifting societies out of poverty as much as bombs and guns.)

The truth is that John McCain, a dishonorable man, has shown that he does not have the judgment and temperament to deal with the threats we face in a measured and realistic way. In fact, it's clear that he would fly off the handle and run the globe red with blood at the slightest provocation.

UPDATE: Michael Smerconish, who I couldn't stand when I lived in Philly but has also come around as a more sensible conservative, addresses this subject today as well.

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Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Two Ground Games

I've written a fair bit about, and I still believe in, the Obama campaign's leap forward in the ground game, and how this will eventually help them in the final analysis. The Seminal posted a long, link-heavy piece about this today, and Time did a feature as well.

For the next month, the Obama campaign's ground focus is on finishing up the stunning gains in voter registration that it and the Democratic Party have made. Since January alone more than 3.5 million new voters have been registered in 17 of the 23 states tracked closely by the Obama campaign where information is available. Three states — Florida, Michigan and North Carolina — have seen increases of more than 400,000 new voters, and 10 more states have recorded new registrations of more than 100,000. Though these numbers include registrants to all parties, in 14 of the states at least half of the new voters are under 35, a key demographic for Obama.

"We're on pace to hit goal," says Jason Green, a 27-year-old Gaithersburg, Md., native who is Obama's national voter registration director. "I would love to exceed goal." Green, not surprisingly, isn't in the mood to get specific about what that goal is, though he does say that it is "in the millions," and that the bulk of the voters will be in the 18 battleground states, including Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Florida, Michigan, Wisconsin, Colorado and New Mexico (though drives have been mounted in all 50 states). Green is also happy to share the news that they registered more than 100,000 people over Labor Day weekend, capitalizing on the wave of excitement coming out of the convention in Denver.

Harold Ickes, whose company essentially put together the voter list that Obama is currently using, is quoted in the article saying that "(The McCain campaign) should not pooh-pooh the ground game that Obama is mounting; it's a formidable one. I don't think in my experience in Democratic politics there's ever been anything like it." Of course it takes a lot of money and even more staff and volunteers to make sure this very new vote actually gets to the polls, but Obama has both.

All of that is great. But of course there are two ground games. I'm not talking about the Republican GOTV efforts; I frankly think they've misjudged how many new voters the Obama campaign has the potential to activate. I'm talking about the Republican ground game to suppress the vote, which is starting to take shape.

First there's the campaign to delegitimize absentee balloting, headed by our old friend Hans Von Spakovsky. This is from an article he wrote for something called "Spero News," asserting a stolen election in Alabama in the 1990s:

...The most important lesson of Greene County is that absentee ballots are extremely vulnerable to voter fraud. The case shows how absentee ballot fraud really works, and it is a reality very different from the claims of partisans and advocacy groups. More broadly, the case shows how voter fraud threatens the right to free and fair elections and how those most often harmed are poor and minorities. This directly rebuts the usual partisan conspiracy theories about voter fraud.

According to the self-appointed liberal guardians of the poor, practically every effort to legislate against or prosecute voter fraud is intended to keep minorities and the poor from voting at all. Concern over voter fraud, say some partisans, is simply Republicans' cover to intimidate voters and raise obstacles to minority voting. Indeed, groups like the NAACP argue that racism and intimidation are the motivation for voter fraud prosecutions, and some prominent Democrats dismiss voter fraud as virtually nonexistent. As a result, prosecutors are intimidated from fighting vote fraud for fear of the political consequences, and elections continue to be stolen.

He's tipping his hand here, that absentee ballots will be challenged by Republican officials wherever the vote is close.

Then there are the ongoing disputes over ballots and voter registration forms, which are occurring throughout the country right now. We learn in the article that Republicans are trying to keep Bob Barr off the ballot in Pennsylvania, trying to stop organizations like the League of Women Voters from registering voters in Florida, as well as trouble with de-certified and re-certified voting machines in Colorado. And then there's this:

Virginia: Virginia is neck and neck this year, to the surprise of Democrats and Republicans alike. At this point, Democrats appear to have an advantage, thanks to an aggressive voter registration effort by the Obama campaign, which has been especially successful in registering young voters. Republicans have responded to the surge in voter registration by raising the tried-and-true boogeyman of voter fraud. In addition, some local registrars in Virginia have been incorrectly—though perhaps innocently—telling college students who legally register to vote in their college towns that by doing so they "could no longer be claimed as dependents on their parents' tax return … and could lose scholarships or coverage under their parents' car and health insurance." Which candidate wins Virginia could well depend on which campaign is able to turn out its voters.

Finally, there's this major issue that I flagged a couple months ago, but now we're seeing Republicans seek to use it as a strategy - taking the foreclosure crisis and connecting it to suppression operations:

The chairman of the Republican Party in Macomb County Michigan, a key swing county in a key swing state, is planning to use a list of foreclosed homes to block people from voting in the upcoming election as part of the state GOP’s effort to challenge some voters on Election Day.

“We will have a list of foreclosed homes and will make sure people aren’t voting from those addresses,” party chairman James Carabelli told Michigan Messenger in a telephone interview earlier this week. He said the local party wanted to make sure that proper electoral procedures were followed [...]

The Michigan Republicans’ planned use of foreclosure lists is apparently an attempt to challenge ineligible voters as not being “true residents.”

One expert questioned the legality of the tactic.

“You can’t challenge people without a factual basis for doing so,” said J. Gerald Hebert, a former voting rights litigator for the U.S. Justice Department who now runs the Campaign Legal Center, a Washington D.C.-based public-interest law firm. “I don’t think a foreclosure notice is sufficient basis for a challenge, because people often remain in their homes after foreclosure begins and sometimes are able to negotiate and refinance.”

As for the practice of challenging the right to vote of foreclosed property owners, Hebert called it, “mean-spirited.”

Well that'll stop them. After all, they don't want to be seen as "mean-spirited." By the way, Michigan isn't the only state talking about this; GOP officials in Ohio have the same idea. And remember, swing states like Nevada and Florida have among the highest concentration of foreclosures in the country.

I know that lots of people focus on e-voting machines and hacking, but the ground war is where votes are really stolen, through intimidation, suppression, bogus challenges and ruthlessness. And with Obama's strategy relying heavily on new voters (and now, with little room for error), the battle over the vote becomes even more pronounced. Sunshine is obviously important; in fact, it has brought about small victories, like the VA relenting and allowing voter registration at stateside veteran's facilities. But we need more than sunshine. We need an army of lawyers who are aggressive and unrelenting.

You can educate yourself about your voting rights at The Brennan Center or The Lawyer's Committee for Civil Rights Under the Law, as well as your local registrar. Know your rights, and know the rights of your friends and relatives, to boot.

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