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

Saturday, October 18, 2008

The Shame Of Johnstown

As we head into the home stretch of the election, the disturbing examples of racism has risen. But for me, this one is personal:

My mother is from Johnstown. My grandmother and my aunt still live there. I spent many weeks and months there as a kid. The people in this video are people with whom I have probably eaten in the same restaurants, shopped in the same stores, walked down the same streets. They are working people who haven't had much economic opportunity in their Western Pennsylvania steel town in their lives. To see the racism somewhere that you have spent time is much more impactful. I always knew it was in the background, and I must admit that I've seen it at times in my own family. But a video like this with its countless examples is depressing.

I'm not concerned about Pennsylvania - the leaps forward in voter registration will make a difference. And both of my Pennsylvania resident grandmothers are voting for Obama. Neither were on board but I managed to convince them. But as we've been saying here for a while, the election is merely a part of the fight - then there's governing. And the poison that has been injected into the discourse is going to be a strong deterrent.

But of course, it's no different than the demonization of liberals and Democrats that has been a hallmark of the Republican noise machine for decades. One of the best ways to combat this is to reveal it - to create moments of recognition, moments of shame, moments of revulsion. Johnstown needs to know about Johnstown.

...I should add that this doesn't appear to be the prevailing opinion.

...Nancy Pfotenhauer today - in case you didn't think that the McCain campaign is stoking this:

I certainly agree that Northern Virginia has gone more Democratic. … But the rest of the state — real Virginia if you will — I think will be very responsive to Senator McCain’s message... Real Virginia, I take to be, this part of the state that’s more Southern in nature, if you will.

They don't think Democrats are Americans. And that manifests itself in racism.

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Here Are Some Good Ads

This is almost a "best of the cycle."

First, an powerful independent ad hitting Sarah Palin on choice.

Next, a Barack Obama "stealth ad" (unannounced to the media) running in Indiana that resurrects one of the best speakers from the DNC convention, Barney Smith, and uses his signature line:

And finally, an ad for Tom Udall, the next Democratic Senator from New Mexico, that is hard to watch without getting emotional:

Great work.

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MTA Cutbacks At Precisely The Wrong Moment

Measure R on the Los Angeles ballot would impose a 1/2 cent sales tax on county residents to pay for increased transit lines and services. This couldn't come at a more crucial time, as the MTA is poised to become a casualty of the financial crisis:

The next potential victims of the nation's credit crunch: nearly 1.5 million people who ride buses and trains each weekday in Los Angeles County. Transit officials say riders could soon be facing serious service cuts.

That's because the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority might have to quickly come up with hundreds of millions of dollars to pay investors under terms of deals it made involving American International Group, the troubled financial and insurance giant.

"I've lost a lot of sleep over this," said Terry Matsumoto, the chief financial service officer and treasurer for the MTA. He said it was "absolutely" certain the agency would have to cut service if the deals sour.

The state is already cutting transit funding in the budget, and sales tax revenues, which already partially fund the MTA, are seizing up, as the economy slows and job loss increases (fortunately unemployment flattened out in September, albeit at 7.7%).

This is not the time for cutbacks in service at the MTA. Ridership is at record highs, as people both avoid still-high gas prices (historically speaking) and more attention is paid individually to greenhouse gas emissions. The Air Resources Board just released their final draft for compliance with AB32, and I can't see how they could possibly reach their goals for greenhouse gas emission cuts without an increase in transit. That includes passing high-speed rail, of course, but obviously the existing transit structures, can't be pulled back at this important time.

Speaker Bass has been calling for the Governor to prioritize a federal stimulus package and has also been making noises about a state-based stimulus as well. That has to include protections for transit concerns like the MTA, and increased funding flowing to them as well. It's a job creation engine, an economic sustainability engine, and an engine to a better environment.

We can all do our part in Los Angeles County by passing Measure R as well.

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Getting ACORN's Back

ACORN has gone in a mere three weeks from a community organization to the most demonized group in America, yielding death threats and vandalism from the most deranged on the far right. We know that calling ACORN a threat to "the fabric of our democracy" is absolutely absurd; this is really about the longstanding GOP tactic of voter suppression. But with the conservative noise machine ramped up and this small community group left to defend themselves, the winds were blowing in a really bad direction. Until the Obama campaign stepped up.

Charging that the FBI probe of ACORN represents an “unholy alliance” between Republican operatives and potentially illegal conduct by law enforcement targeting voter fraud, the Obama campaign demanded Friday that the U.S. special prosecutor looking into the U.S. attorneys scandal investigate the matter.

General counsel Bob Bauer sent a letter to Atty. Gen. Michael Mukasey charging that coordinated “misconduct” by McCain campaign representatives and GOP officials were relevant to the special prosecutor’s work, because the activities may relate to the dismissal of seven U.S. attorneys in late 2006.

The letter requests that the special prosecutor’s inquiry “include a review of any involvement by Justice Dept. and White House officials in supporting the McCain-Palin campaign [and RNC's] systematic development and dissemination of unsupported, spurious allegations of vote fraud.”

The FBI investigation was really the last straw. And the campaign is absolutely correct to connect this to the US Attorneys scandal - it's precisely because certain prosecutors wouldn't indict anyone on bogus voter fraud cases that they were fired. This is all the same kind of politicization. As the former head of the Justice Department's Voting Rights division said yesterday, this is "a continuation of injecting DOJ into what has clearly become a political issue... That's really not the proper role for the DOJ, and why their policies counsel otherwise." You can read the Obama campaign's letter here.

Moreover, it's important for this to have happened. The Obama campaign coming to the aid of a cog in the progressive movement is very heartening. We have to stick together.

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As Retail Goes... goes the economy. Watch the LA Times try to spin this as good news for bargain hunters!

After 59 years in business, the Mervyns department-store chain called it quits Friday -- promising a huge going-out-of-business sale just in time for the holidays.

And there is plenty of competition for a close-out Christmas. Linens 'n Things Inc. began a liquidation sale Friday, and Shoe Pavilion Inc. starts one this weekend, according to firms that said they were hired to liquidate the stores.

Already gone are the novelty retailer Sharper Image Corp., Wickes Furniture and Levitz Furniture, and retail experts say more closings loom.

"This is unprecedented, really, the number of stores that are going to be closing," said Daniel Kane, principal of Tiger Capital Group, one of several firms hired to liquidate Linens 'n Things and Shoe Pavilion. "There's going to be a tremendous amount of bargains out there."

I think the larger point is that retail stores can't stay open, not that there will be abundant sales spectaculars.

Consumer spending is something like 2/3 of all economic activity, and when people can't keep their job, or can't borrow against their house or their credit card, they can't spend. They don't have a money printer like the government. They can't bail themselves out. So belt tightening leads to store closings, which leads to more job loss, which leads to belt tightening. It's a downward spiral.

And it's UNSUSTAINABLE to rely on the American consumer to drive the entire economy. You have to make stuff as a nation. This is why we desperately need a job creating fiscal stimulus.

On the other hand, there’s a lot the federal government can do for the economy. It can provide extended benefits to the unemployed, which will both help distressed families cope and put money in the hands of people likely to spend it. It can provide emergency aid to state and local governments, so that they aren’t forced into steep spending cuts that both degrade public services and destroy jobs. It can buy up mortgages (but not at face value, as John McCain has proposed) and restructure the terms to help families stay in their homes.

And this is also a good time to engage in some serious infrastructure spending, which the country badly needs in any case. The usual argument against public works as economic stimulus is that they take too long: by the time you get around to repairing that bridge and upgrading that rail line, the slump is over and the stimulus isn’t needed. Well, that argument has no force now, since the chances that this slump will be over anytime soon are virtually nil. So let’s get those projects rolling.

Will the next administration do what’s needed to deal with the economic slump? Not if Mr. McCain pulls off an upset. What we need right now is more government spending — but when Mr. McCain was asked in one of the debates how he would deal with the economic crisis, he answered: “Well, the first thing we have to do is get spending under control.”

If Barack Obama becomes president, he won’t have the same knee-jerk opposition to spending. But he will face a chorus of inside-the-Beltway types telling him that he has to be responsible, that the big deficits the government will run next year if it does the right thing are unacceptable.

He should ignore that chorus. The responsible thing, right now, is to give the economy the help it needs. Now is not the time to worry about the deficit.

I feel a little better about the Beltway chorus after seeing Ruth Marcus' recognition that cutting spending in an economic downturn is suicide.

Ruth Marcus: I'm sure I should have been clearer on this in the column, but I was not arguing for mid-recession belt-tightening. We're all Keynesians now and I am open to stimulative action in the short term. What I am hoping for is that the moment could be used as a way to forge a more responsible, more productivity-enhancing budget in the longer term, that could fund investments in important things like health care, and free the next president from some of his more unaffordable promises.

The responsible thing to do right now is invest in America's future, in its infrastructure and in long-term sustainable industries like renewable energy. Fixing the health care crisis for the sake of American competitiveness must be a priority as well. Considering that John McCain thinks that putting money in the hands of low-income people who will actually spend it during a recession makes no sense and rewards "lucky duckies", the choice for President is clear.

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Friday, October 17, 2008

At Long Last, Medicare

Good to see the Obama campaign finally get around to this:

Senator McCain has been eager to share some details of his health care plan – but not all. Like those ads for prescription drugs, you have to read the fine print to learn the full story. First, we found out that he wants to pay for his plan by taxing your health care benefits for the first time in history, just like George Bush. That was bad enough. But the Wall Street Journal recently reported that it's actually worse than we thought. It turns out, Senator McCain would pay for part of his plan by making drastic cuts in Medicare –$882 billion worth. $882 billion in Medicare cuts to pay for an ill-conceived health care plan, even as Medicare already faces a looming shortfall.

Now, this should come as no surprise – it's entirely consistent with Senator McCain's record during his 26 years in Congress where, time and again, he's opposed Medicare. In fact, Senator McCain has voted against protecting Medicare 40 times. 40 times, he's failed to stand up for Medicare. So what would Senator McCain's cuts mean for Medicare at a time when more and more Americans are relying on it? It would mean a cut of more than 20 percent in Medicare benefits next year. If you count on Medicare, it would mean fewer places to get care, and less freedom to choose your own doctors. You'll pay more for your drugs, receive fewer services, and get lower quality care. I don't think that's right.

When you've worked hard your whole life, and paid into the system, and done everything right, you shouldn't have the carpet pulled out from under you when you least expect it and can least afford it. Health care shouldn't be some kind of either-or tradeoff where our seniors get left out in the cold.

I think every single American has a right to affordable accessible health care. We can strengthen Medicare by eliminating wasteful subsidies to big HMOs in Medicare, and making sure seniors can access home-based care, and letting Medicare negotiate with drug companies for better prices. That's the kind of change we need.

That's strong rhetoric. There's a companion ad:

That sound you heard was Florida slipping away...

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What Was That About Small Businesses?

Tesla Motors is feeling the economic crunch.

Tesla Motors, the fledgling maker of electric sports cars, admitted today it is losing money and in a “critical phase” financially. An undisclosed number of Tesla’s 250 employees will be laid off (and the current chief executive will move to the board of directors), and its Detroit-area office will be shut down.

Further delays and setbacks for the company’s production and growth plans were also announced. Interestingly, these developments come at a time when the public’s interest in electric cars seems to have taken off, given the reaction to General Motors’ recent showing of the production-ready Chevrolet Volt and the introduction of several new electric protypes at the Paris Motor Show this month.

Elon Musk, the Silicon Valley entrepreneur who has been the chief investor in Tesla, said in a blog posting Wednesday on the company’s Web site that with SpaceX, his separate project to develop private-enterprise rockets for outer space, having achieved its first successful launch, he now has more time to devote to turning Tesla into a profitable venture.

This is really awful. Tesla has a dealership by the 405 freeway in West LA, and Governor Schwarzenegger pushed really hard to keep their production in California. Right now their brand is pretty high-end, though they were moving toward making a sedan version, so that could be part of their troubles. The cars, however, are amazing. Faster than a Porsche and can go hundreds of miles on a single charge. They have had some fits and starts with mass producing them, but clearly their future appeared to be bright until the recent economic woes.

What's keen to keep in mind here is that the major auto companies just got a $25 billion dollar bridge loan from the federal government to keep producing the garbage cars they make. Here's a company pushing a green technology and bringing it to market faster than anybody else. I hear all this talk in the election about small businesses being the backbone of America and here is one. So where's their help?

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Like McCarthy, But Clumsy

If you put Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachmann together you still wouldn't add up to the stature of a Joe McCarthy, who was one of the lowest and most execrable figures ever to haunt the halls of Congress. Which tells you a lot about Palin and Bachmann.

Palin, who has now taken to using the Secret Service to cover up the hate rhetoric at her own rallies, went around today saying she was happy to visit the pro-American areas of the country (I don't think she was referring to my little patch of Santa Monica). In context, it looks worse. Apparently only small towns are pro-American. I guess that kind of spirit leads to pro-American behavior like assaulting journalists:

I sidled up to one of the Obama supporters and asked why they were there, what they were trying to accomplish.
As he was telling me a large, bearded man in full McCain-Palin campaign regalia got in his face to yell at him.

"Hey, hey, " I said. "I'm trying to interview him. Just a minute, okay? "

The man began to say something about how of course I was interviewing the Obama people when suddenly, from behind us, the sound of a pro-Obama rap song came blaring out of the windows of a dorm building. We all turned our heads to see Obama signs in the windows.

This was met with curses, screams and chants of "U.S.A" by McCain-Palin folks who crowded under the windows trying to drown it out and yell at the person playing the stereo.

It was a moment of levity in an otherwise very tense situation and so I let out a gentle chuckle and shook my head.

"Oh, you think that 's funny?! " the large bearded man said. His face was turning red. "Yeah, that 's real funny…" he said.

And then he kicked the back of leg, buckling my right knee and sending me sprawling onto the ground.

By the way, Joe Biden was perfect talking about this today: "It doesn't matter where you live, we all love this country, and I hope it gets through. We all love this country."

On Hardball today, Michelle Bachmann (R-MN) was asked about the "pro-American" quote and she essentially called for journalists to investigate all liberal members of Congress.

I associate myself with Katrina vanden Heuvel's remarks: "Chris, I fear for my country."

These people have touched off something very deep in a dark corner of the American psyche. They aren't just demonizing their fellow Americans, they are calling them into question. They are accusing them of treason. They are inciting. They are delegitimizing. They are summoning hatred and violence.

Palin will meet her fate in the Presidential election. But Bachmann and her neo-McCarthyism needs to be repudiated as well. Elwyn Tinklenberg isn't exactly my kind of Democrat (he's been endorsed by the Blue Dogs) but he isn't a vehicle for hatred and factionalism like Bachmann, a parrot for the basest elements of society. He's not that far behind in the polls, either. If you want to put an end to this, you can help out Tinklenberg here.

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Joe The I'm Misinformed About Barack Obama's Tax Cuts

Looks like this plumber guy, whatever his faults, has more integrity than John McCain.

As ThinkProgress and many others noted yesterday, the premise of Joe “the Plumber” Wurzelbacher’s complaints about Barack Obama’s tax plan was ill-informed. Contrary to Wurzelbacher’s claims, “neither his personal taxes nor those of the business where he works are likely to rise if Mr. Obama’s tax plan were to go into effect.”

As CBS News reported, even “Joe The Plumber” acknowledges this fact now:

So today, Joe, who said he makes much less than $250,000, reluctantly admitted Obama would lower his taxes.

“I would, if you believe him, I would be receiving his tax cuts,” Wurzelbacher said.

I'm pretty much done with this guy, but with McCain making him into some kind of symbol, it's worth noting that he's more invested in the lies than his subject.

Meanwhile, I too wish that we could fight an election on terrain other than who can promise more people a tax cut. Joe Biden's brief flirtation connecting taxes to patriotism was an exciting dose of sanity, but all too brief. It is true that, because our tax system is so very imbalanced, you can offer a tax cut to the vast majority of Americans while still raising more revenue. But the tax talk really does play on the other team's court, and I wish it were re-framed into "investment in the future" or something similar.

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CA-50: Yet ANOTHER Deadlocked Congressional Race - Third of the Week

Adding to Bill Durston in CA-03 and Debbie Cook in CA-46, now Nick Leibham has some poll numbers showing a virtual tie:

You can now add Rep. Brian Bilbray (R-CA 50) to the new heap of GOP incumbents who should be suddenly very worried. A new poll, conducted for atty/ex-San Diego City prosecutor Nick Leibham's (D) camp, shows him trailing Bilbray by a miniscule 44-42% margin.

This may feel like deja vu for GOPers. In the '06 special election to fill imprisoned-Rep. Duke Cunningham's (R) term, Bilbray needed $4.5M from the NRCC to skate by a relatively lackluster Dem. What's worrisome for Bilbray is that the cash-starved NRCC can't afford to put anywhere near that amount in his CD to save it this year. And the DCCC has enough cash, if it chooses to enter the contest, to make a difference. The NRCC simply can't afford to overwhelm Dem efforts here like they did in '06.

This is particularly acute in CA-50. Leibham beat Bilbray in fundraising in the third quarter, and they are almost even in cash on hand. Which means that, barring a life raft from the national party, Bilbray is largely on his own. And he doesn't have much to run on. Here he is whining about that powerful ad from Leibham supporter Joe Hoar, a retired Marine General, which ripped Bilbray for voting against the new GI Bill:

Bilbray said he was one of the GI Bill's original co-sponsors, but voted against it after congressional Democrats loaded it up with extraneous goodies, including a "massive tax increase" and a foreign aid package for Africa and Mexico.

"That's the kind of cynical tactics we said 'no' to," the Carlsbad Republican said. "We forced it to come back as a clean bill and we were able to pass it and it was signed into law in June."

Actually, it wasn't a clean bill at all, it was folded into an Iraq appropriation. And he objected to it initially because it was funded by a tax on millionaires.

Liebham supporters have put up an attack website called Wrong Way Bilbray highlighting his votes. Now that the campaign has settled into attacking Bilbray on the issues, with the Democratic wind at their backs, they are gaining traction.

And more than CA-50, what we're seeing is an across the board re-evaluation of Republican incumbents, with multiple GOPers in trouble.

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NE-Sen: Johanns Making With The Hatch Act Violations

Earlier this week, Henry Waxman's team at the House Oversight Committee detailed, in a scathing report, multiple instances of the Bush White House organizing taxpayer-funded trips for government officials into swing districts to seemingly help threatened Republican incumbents. In 2006, Department Secretaries and agency heads were all of a sudden jetsetting all over the country, giving grants or talking up the positive effects of policies in regions that just happened to coincide with the swing district lists.

One of those department heads was Mike Johanns, who in 2006 was the Secretary of Agriculture. He jaunted along to appear at 38 separate stops that year, with such upstanding public servants as:

4/21/06 Marilyn Musgrave, Colorado, Taxpayer Expense for Official Event
7/7/06 John Doolittle, Auburn CA, Taxpayer Expense for Official Event
7/7/06 Richard Pombo, Elk Grove CA, Political Event
11/1/06 Heather Wilson, Albuquerque, NM, Taxpayer Expense for Official Event
11/2/06 Rick Renzi, Casa Grande, AZ, Taxpayer Expense for Official Event

Doolittle and Renzi have been indicted, Wilson is under questioning in the US Attorneys scandal, and Pombo was as corrupt as they come. In short, a pretty ignominious list.

Now, this would mean little, considering that the penalty for violating the Hatch Act (engaging in political activity as part of official government business) is removal from office, and Johanns is no longer the AgSecretary. However, he is running for the US Senate in Nebraska this year, against Democrat and netroots favorite Scott Kleeb.

Last night, Johanns was confronted with these charges at a debate, and he admitted to the wrongdoing.

Last night's Senate debate in Grand Island gave Mike Johanns his first opportunity to defend himself from devastating new allegations that he used taxpayer funds in 2006 to travel across the country campaigning for Republican candidates.

The Lincoln Journal-Star reports on Johanns' response:

As U.S. secretary of agriculture, Johanns attended 38 events recommended by the White House Office of Political Affairs headed by Karl Rove, according to the committee report.

Most of the travel costs for Rove-generated events were paid with federal funds, the report stated.

Answering a question posed by a panelist.., Johanns said he believes it would be "a great idea" to ban the use of taxpayer funds by the White House for such activities.

In case it isn't clear, this still-erupting scandal has the potential to remake Nebraska's 2008 Senate race.

Yes, it's quite clear. Johanns is basically calling himself guilty of participating in an illegal Rovian scheme. If there's one person you don't want to be tied to in this election, it's George Bush. And if there's another, it's Karl Rove. Scott Kleeb has a real opening.

I like Scott a lot. I've had the opportunity to meet him at a couple events, and he has some of the best Internet people around working for him. I really hope he can pull this off, especially because his race could mean a filibuster-proof majority for the Democrats in the United States Senate.

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The Newspaper Endorsement Primary

I don't think newspaper endorsements have the kind of resonance they did before the media landscape exploded and most Americans received their news from television. Still, I have to admit that it's notable that The Washington Post, an editorial board which is aggressively center-right and still supports the war (!), endorsed Obama. The LA Times, which is very right-wing economically and which hasn't endorsed a Presidential candidate in 30 years, endorsed Obama. And the Chicago Tribune, which has NEVER endorsed a Democrat in their history, endorsed Obama.

And if you read the endorsements, they have precious little to do with policy, but with their personal comfort level with Obama's leadership. I actually think that's tragic, but the key to this is a profound disappointment with how John McCain has conducted himself in this election. He has taken his base, the media punditocracy, and showed them the hollowness, anger, and dishonor that many of us have seen for years.

Ultimately, the problem for Obama is going to be getting out of this box that these type of endorsements want to put him in, as a talented and educated man who would surely not take us to extremes like providing health care for all Americans or creating a new energy economy. The question is whether Obama wants to break out of that box.

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Can We Get Letterman To Anchor The Evening News, Then?

It's pretty revolting that the only guy on the media landscape who can ask a decent follow-up question is a comedian.

Letterman questioned him about Palin's claim that Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama "palled around with terrorists," and McCain backed her up, saying his opponent need to better explain his relationship with former Weather Underground activist William Ayers.

"Did you not have a relationship with Gordon Liddy?" Letterman asked about Watergate burglar G. Gordon Liddy.

McCain said he knew him. Then, after a commercial break, McCain said, "I know Gordon Liddy. He paid his debt, he went to prison ... I'm not in any was embarrassed to know Gordon Liddy."

"You understand the same case could be made of your relationship with him as is being made with William Ayers?" Letterman said.

McCain said he has been completely open about his relationship with Liddy.

Letterman appeared to ridicule McCain about the implication that Obama and Ayers had a relationship.

"Are they double-dating, are they going to dinner, what are they doing?" Letterman asked. "Are they driving across country?"

"Maybe going to Denny's," McCain said.

Letterman said that Obama was 8 when Ayers was 29, and McCain appeared exasperated. "There's millions of words said in a campaign. C'mon, Dave," he said.

That, people, is how you interview someone. The idea that you can't ask tough questions because you might offend someone's delicate sensibilities is absurd. And yes, Gordon Liddy is a domestic terrorist.

Media Matters for America has previously noted McCain's ties to Liddy. Liddy served four and a half years in prison in connection with his conviction for his role in the Watergate break-in and the break-in at the office of the psychiatrist of Daniel Ellsberg, the military analyst who leaked the Pentagon Papers. Liddy has acknowledged preparing to kill someone during the Ellsberg break-in "if necessary"; plotting to kill journalist Jack Anderson; plotting with a "gangland figure" to kill Howard Hunt to stop him from cooperating with investigators; plotting to firebomb the Brookings Institution; and plotting to kidnap "leftist guerillas" at the 1972 Republican National Convention -- a plan he outlined to the Nixon administration using terminology borrowed from the Nazis. (The murder, firebombing, and kidnapping plots were never carried out; the break-ins were.)

But he's a radio host, so he's a media member in good standing, I guess.

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No Voter Suppression For You

Very good news from the Supremes.

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court is siding with Ohio's top elections official in a dispute with the state Republican Party over voter registrations.

The justices on Friday overruled a federal appeals court that had ordered Ohio's top elections official to do more to help counties verify voter eligibility.

Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner, a Democrat, faced a deadline of Friday to set up a system to provide local officials with names of newly registered voters whose driver's license numbers or Social Security numbers on voter registration forms don't match records in other government databases.

Damn activist judges! Like Alito, Roberts, Thomas and Scalia! (It was a unanimous 9-0 ruling)

Looks like there's some internal pushback to the reports of FBI investigations against ACORN, too.

Today is a better day in the world of enfranchisement.

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Forget W.

I'm getting my tickets for this.

Will Ferrell, the star of the films Anchorman and Talladega Nights, will get his own one-man show on Broadway, titled You're Welcome America. A Final Night with George W. Bush, the New York Times reports.


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Friday Random Ten

Light posting is likely today. Deadlines.

Deeper Into Movies - Yo La Tengo
Shut The Club Down - Girl Talk
Nature Springs - The Good, The Bad & The Queen
Party Up (Up In Here) - DMX
Beauty #2 - Ladytron
Margaret Vs. Pauline - Neko Case
Revolving Dora - Fountains Of Wayne
Me Gustas Cuando Callas - Brazilian Girls
Learnin' To Love - Ween
Happy Warriors - Jill Cunniff

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Thursday, October 16, 2008

Joe The 285 Million Other People Who Can't Buy A Plumbing Business

If you want to know why Barack Obama is poised to win this election, it's because of circumstances like this:

To monitor the multiple sclerosis attacking Ann Pietrangelo's central nervous system, her doctor recommends an annual MRI. Last year, the 49-year-old Winchester, Va., woman had to pay a $3,000 co-payment to get the imaging done.

This year, she's skipping the test. Even with insurance, it's more than her budget can tolerate, especially with the roller coaster on Wall Street devouring her retirement savings.

"I'm doing everything I can to avoid going to the doctor," she said.

From Park Avenue dental offices to the Arlington Free Clinic, the global economic crunch is forcing a growing number of Americans to scale back on medical care. Consumers are attempting their own form of triage, pushing off seemingly less-urgent services in the hope that their financial health will improve. But the danger, say physicians, is that the short-term savings may translate into more severe long-term health implications [...]

Nationwide, the number of consumers who went without a prescription, tapped into retirement savings to pay for health care or skipped a doctor visit for themselves or a child has risen since last year, according to a survey released this summer by the Rockefeller Foundation and Time magazine. One-quarter of the 2,000 respondents, for example, said they had decided not to see a doctor because of cost in 2008, up from 18 percent the year before. Ten percent said they did not take a child to the doctor for the same reason.

This is about more than just the subject of health care, which even the head of the Congressional Budget Office agrees must be dealt with as soon as possible or it'll threaten the entire federal budget and make the financial bailout look like the give-a-penny take-a-penny tray. But indeed you could have chosen any topic that the vast majority of Americans interface with. Their wages haven't gone up, their gas prices are still twice as much as they were before, their food costs are higher, the student loans for their children are a crushing burden, the jobs are scarce and aren't much more promising than service-sector McJobs, their credit cards are full, their home prices (if they're lucky enough to own one) are falling and they owe more on their houses and cars than they're worth, and their quality of life, between commutes, carrying two or three jobs to get by, etc., is, to put it mildly, in the crapper. They aren't making it. The American dream that's been sold to them for decades is dead. And it's been that way for a while.

And yet our profoundly stupid political discourse continues to focus on the aspirational class and small businessmen and the methods to trickle wealth down. And they use these insane shibboleths, icons that stand in for human beings who have actual struggles, to make it seem like there's any respect left for the common man. The common man has been kicked. He's been punched. He's laying on the side of the road. And he doesn't give a damn about someone screeching about a $900 tax increase.

Joe the Plumber, or whoever the fuck he is, means nothing. Neither does the media conception of white working-class voters. They are absurd caricatures, disconnected from any truth and really just pawns in the depressing reality show that has become politics. The more we look at some sideshow, the more muzzled the truly voiceless in this society become. For all the faults of the Democratic Party, there is finally a recognition this year that people vote, not pastiches or sketches but hundreds of millions of people, and maybe, just this once, we ought to pay attention to what the hell they are going through.

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Gainin' On Ya

Looks like Barack Obama has a spare few million to spend in West Virginia:

Leading in polls and exuding confidence, Democrat Barack Obama is edging into traditionally GOP states -- now including West Virginia -- as Republican John McCain looks to protect his turf less than three weeks before the election.

On the heels of the campaign's final debate, the Democrat is launching TV ads in West Virginia, which George W. Bush won four years ago and hadn't been on the list of target states until recently, according to two Democrats with knowledge of the strategy.

Obama lost West Virginia in the Democratic primary to Hillary Rodham Clinton as he struggled to win over working-class whites. But Democrats say the economic turmoil in the hard-hit state and TV ads Obama has been running in its neighbors have made West Virginia competitive. These Democrats spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid angering the campaign.

I'll bet he goes back into North Dakota and Georgia before this is over, too. And the article is talking about Kentucky. Kentucky!

And the improved environment for Democrats generally, combined with the incredible ground game from the Obama campaign, has rallied a late push into state legislative races:

The Democratic National Committee is waging a last minute injection of as much as $20 million into state legislative races in key states, hoping to take advantage of Democratic momentum this cycle.

A senior Democrat familiar with the conversations said: "We are looking at options, races, where we can be helpful, as we did in 2006. This is the time when some races pop."

DNC chairman Howard Dean has made it a priority to help Democrats win down the ballot, so that if Obama wins the presidency, Democrats will have a larger majority in Congress. But with states planning to redistrict their congressional boundaries in 2012, control of state legislative chambers is all the more important, people close to Dean said.

Very sharp strategy. Dean has learned from the bottom-up conservative movement that started in the states.

Drudge can cheer himself with cherry-picked polls all he wants, but this is a bloodbath.

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Fighting Back On Voter Suppression

This is welcome news from Jennifer Brunner, the Ohio Secretary of State.

Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner told the Huffington Post on Thursday that she is ready not only to fight the state's current election law battle in front of the Supreme Court, but is also willing to wage a new fight, if necessary, to make sure hundreds of thousands of new voters are not "forced" onto provisional ballots on election day.

Spurred by revelations that the community organizing group ACORN has submitted many thousands of ineligible voter registration cards in battleground states, Ohio Republicans have been calling for a wholesale comparison of the state's nearly 666,000 new active voters against data collected by the local DMV.

Brunner charged that Republican demands are meant to create confusion at the polls and keep all the ballots from being counted.

Brunner says that, according to the League of Women Voters, there were only four instances of "illegal voting," or the actual casting of an illegitimate ballot, between 2002 and 2006 -- when just under 8 million ballots were cast. As such, she said, ACORN's registration problems are being improperly lumped in with the casting of bad ballots, something she says is not likely to occur no matter how many fraudulent registrations are turned in. "Unfortunately, despite the messaging of certain political parties ... when they bring ACORN into it, they're talking about false voter registration. Seldom does that lead to illegal voting. Mickey Mouse and Jive Turkey don't vote."

ACORN itself has launched a truth-squad site and has released this statement on the news of the ridiculous FBI investigation:

ACORN has not been contacted by any federal law enforcement agencies. Should any investigation be forthcoming, we are confident that we would be exonerated. We have always, and will continue to, work with any inquiry.

It is well established and documented that in 2004 the Bush Administration was involved in a scandal where Bush Administration political appointees, working in concert with the Department of Justice, pressured some U.S. Attorneys, such as David Iglesias, to pursue partisan investigations of ACORN. Given that in the last forty-eight hours we have seen a coordinated attack by the Republican Party, including a conservative think tank in Ohio connected to the well-know voter suppresser and McCain supporter Ken Blackwell, file a frivolous lawsuit that is virtually identical to the lawsuit filed in 2004 that was dismissed for lack of evidence, followed by Senator Voinovich, a supporter of Senator McCain, calling for a Justice Department investigation, followed by Senator McCain's attack in the debate last night, we believe that dirty politics are at work.

ACORN is extremely proud of our work to register 1.3 million new voters this year. Through ACORN's voter registration drive, Americans of all political persuasions and all walks of life are participating in our democracy. Through the course of ACORN'S voter registration drive we hired over 13,000 canvassers most of who worked to the highest standards of accuracy. ACORN has a zero tolerance policy and works closely with local elections officials to get to the bottom of any problems, as we have in this case. But let us be clear - and this is a critical fact: issues related to voter registration are not voter fraud. These are not cases where people are able to vote multiple times. Let us repeat - these are not situations involving actual votes.

John Conyers is on this as well, as is David Iglesias, who you'll recall was fired for refusing to press bullshit investigations like this.

What ACORN needs, and the progressive movement needs, a coordinated media strategy. It's clear that the traditional media has no institutional memory and will continue to unquestioningly pass along these "voter fraud" charges without any meaningful evidence. The goal here is a legitimacy goal, not a law enforcement one. And the media are being willing dupes for this GOP strategy.

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Smash and Grab Job

Kevin Drum is uneasy about the terms that Emperor Paulson used to nationalize the banks - particularly, how quickly the bank CEOs accepted them.

A final deal between regulators was hashed out in Mr. Paulson's office Sunday afternoon....The top bankers were then told to show up for a meeting Monday at 3 p.m., but were given few details. Expecting an uproar over the plan, government officials secretly planned to break off the first meeting, giving CEOs time to vent, talk to their boards, clear their heads, and reconvene at 6:30 p.m.

In Mr. Paulson's call with Morgan Stanley's Mr. Mack, the CEO asked the Treasury secretary the reason for the meeting, according to people familiar with the matter. Mr. Paulson responded, according to a person familiar with the matter: "Come on down, we'll tell everyone at the same time," adding, "I think you'll be pleased."

....U.S. officials argued the plan represented a good deal for the banks: The government would be buying preferred shares, and thus wouldn't dilute their common shareholders. And the banks would pay a relatively modest 5% in annual dividend payments.

The meeting ended at about 4 p.m. By 6:30 p.m., all of the [term sheets] had been turned in and signed by the CEOs. No second meeting was held.

Of course not, because the banks got everything they wanted - no-strings money, no voting shares for the government in return, no regulations on their activities, and no meaningful restrictions on executive compensation. Here we have a bipartisan chorus against golden parachutes and extensive CEO pay, and yet the provisions in the bill are toothless:

"Restrictions on executive compensation will ensure that taxpayer money is not wasted enriching the same people whose poor decision-making created this crisis," Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) wrote to Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. yesterday. "It is imperative that these restrictions, including limitations on the incentives for executives to take excessive risks and the elimination of golden parachutes, should apply to any capital injection program."

Exempting the banks in the program is "not in the spirit of the thing," said Rep. Spencer Bachus, (R-Ala.), ranking member of the Financial Services Committee.

Dean Baker has more on these new "welfare queens" running the banks. Injecting the money directly into the banks makes it cheaper and potentially more effective, but at the same time, this feels more and more like a theft. Especially because the neo-Hooverites are ready to step in and forbid such gifts to the mere mortals not on Wall Street.

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CA-46: Another Tie Race

The Capitol Weekly reports, in an article about dimming GOP prospects, that Dana Rohrabacher is in a world of trouble.

The third contest is in the 46th Congressional District in Orange County, where incumbent Republican Dana Rohrabacher faces Huntington Beach Mayor Debbie Cook.

According to GOP sources, internal polling shows the difference between Rohrabacher and Cook, the mayor of Huntington Beach, to be within the margin of error, although Rohrabacher has heavily outspent Cook. Hoffenblum believes Rohrabacher faces “possibly the strongest Democrat to run against him since the current district lines were drawn in 2001.”

I don't think it's accurate to say that Rohrabacher has heavily outspent Cook. He only spent a paltry $38,000 in the third quarter, though that may be ramping up now. I don't think the NRCC is going to have a lot of money to help him either, though they're making noises about it.

The strapped National Republican Congressional Committee, which at the end of August had $14 million in the bank, compared with $54 million for the Democrats, last week took out an $8 million loan to fund races in the final days of the campaigns. With scant resources, the fight for dollars is intense.

GOP insiders believe some funds may flow to Rohrabacher in the 46th C.D., but that money for any of the others is problematic. Democrats declined to say whether Cook would get last-minute cash from national Democrats.

Calitics Match candidate Debbie Cook is a better Democrat. She supports the Responsible Plan to End the War in Iraq, quality health care for every American, and a post-carbon economy with green energy pushing out the dirty fuels of the past. She would be an amazing legislator. This can be done. She needs your support. Donate here. I will be down in the district over the weekend to get a report.

And don't just believe me about all this, check out theCook Political Report.

Here's yet more evidence that the Dems are poised for huge gains in Congress: The Cook Report has released a new set of updated rankings on 25 House races -- and all 25 are shifts in the Dems' direction.

CA-03 Dan Lungren (R) - Solid Republican to Likely Republican

CA-04 OPEN, Doolittle (R) - Likely Republican to Lean Republican

CA-46 Dana Rohrabacher (R) - Solid Republican to Likely Republican

CA-50 Brian Bilbray (R) - Solid Republican to Lean Republican

That's right, Charlie Brown, Nick Leibham and Bill Durston are looking very impressive. And Charlie Cook is being very conservative with these picks. We have the momentum, now we have to go out there and pull it off.

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Running A Respectful Campaign

Robocalls are cheaper and less labor-intensive than having volunteers man phonebanks. They are also more controllable in terms of message - what you want to communicate to the voter is communicated, every single time.

They're also extremely annoying, ask anyone who's been on the receiving end of them. And they are typically used to deliver the ugliest messages of a campaign.

So can you be at all surprised that this is what John McCain has been reduced to?

A harsh new robocall (above) — at least the third in a series — attacks Obama for having "worked closely with domestic terrorist Bill Ayers" whose group "killed Americans."

The script:

"Hello. I'm calling for John McCain and the RNC because you need to know that Barack Obama has worked closely with domestic terrorist Bill Ayers, whose organization bombed the U.S. capitol, the Pentagon, a judge's home and killed Americans. And Democrats will enact an extreme leftist agenda if they take control of Washington. Barack Obama and his Democratic allies lack the judgment to lead our country. This call was paid for by McCain-Palin 2008 and the Republican National Committee at 202-863-8500."

They're not even trying to hide this. The McCain campaign and the RNC are explicitly paying for these, not some front group.

Another one claims that Obama denied babies medical care.

I'm calling on behalf of John McCain and the RNC because you need to know that Barack Obama and his Democrat allies in the Illinois Senate opposed a bill requiring doctors to care for babies born alive after surviving attempted abortions -- a position at odds even with John Kerry and Hillary Clinton. Barack Obama and his liberal Democrats are too extreme for America. Please vote -- vote for the candidates who share our values. This call was paid for by McCain-Palin 2008 and the Republican National Committee at 202 863 8500.

If Barack had only agreed to town hall meetings, this could have all been avoided!

I mean, this is the obvious manner for what's left of McCain's message. Angry candidate, angry robocalls. But I should note that in 2006, when the Republicans flooded Democratic voters with waves of spoof robocalls meant to seem like Democrats were sending them, one lawmaker stood up and demanded action. He introduced legislation called the Deceptive Practices and Voter Intimidation Prevention Act of 2006 which would have prevented this type of nonsense.

His name was Barack Obama.

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Magnificent Bastard

Here's John McCain saying "BOORRRR-INGGGG" with his eyes over the deaths of Colombian labor leaders:

And here's him making air quotes to deride something so frivolous and mockable as women's health.

The reason John McCain is losing this race has something to do with the fundamentals, but also because he's simply an arrogant asshole. This is why independents are laughing in his face. He's inauthentic, hollow, callous, and believes he should have the Presidency handed to him by divine right. His delusions of grandeur aren't playing well.

He's also a liar, and so are his friends:

Verizon spokesman Jeffrey Nelson attacked The Post's story as "wrong," saying, "Verizon received a request from Mrs. McCain, but declined. Subsequent to that, the Secret Service made a legitimate request for a temporary tower for its work and Verizon complied as is required by our contract with the agency."

However, interviews and public records filed in the development services offices of Yavapai County, Ariz., reveal a different timeline. Getting cell coverage was the culmination of an effort begun in early 2007 by Cindy McCain, when her staff first requested coverage through Verizon's Web site, according to the McCain campaign. After discussing the matter with the company, Mrs. McCain offered land for a permanent cell tower. She gave Verizon authorization to act on her behalf to seek permits from the county. Verizon hired contractors to draw up the plans and Cindy McCain signed a contract in May.

After a regulatory hurdle delayed installation of the permanent tower, Verizon received e-mails from the Secret Service asking about coverage in the area and asking for the process to be rushed. Verizon's contractor then petitioned for a cell site on wheels. It was installed in June.

Erratic. Dishonest. Dishonorable. Dismissive.

John McCain 2008.

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State GOP Bugging Out Of Unwinnable Races

Much as we've seen on a national level, the California Republican Party is leaving its candidates on the side of the road and playing pure defense this cycle:

Democratic and Republican sources have informed CMR that the GOP has pulled the plug on future ads for Assemblymember Greg Aghazarian's bid to replace termed out Democratic Senator Mike Machado in California's 5th Senate District. Aghazarian's Democratic opponent, Assemblymember Lois Wolk, is up around 20 points in internal polling, so Republicans have decided to cut their losses.

This means that there will be no more than 15 Republican Senators (and probably less) and no more than 32 Republican Assemblymembers (and probably a lot less). They will not pick up a single seat at the state level.

Unless you think they can still win in AD-30, where an intra-party feud has left drama queen Yacht Dog Democrat Nicole Parra to endorse the Republican in the race between Danny Gilmore and Democrat Fran Florez. Florez' response ad to Parra's endorsement is hilarious, check it out at the link.

The truth is that while AD-30 is competitive, it's not a likely pick-up. And the CRP had better get in the habit of cutting losses; a couple assembly seats are lost causes for them, too.

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Vote Suppression Now Aided Directly By Federal Gov't

This is outrageous.

The FBI is investigating whether the community activist group ACORN helped foster voter registration fraud around the nation before the presidential election.

A senior law enforcement official confirmed the investigation to The Associated Press. A second senior law enforcement official says the FBI was looking at results of recent raids on ACORN offices in several states for any evidence of a coordinated national scam.

This is a federally-backed effort to suppress the legal votes of minorities and the lower class. Bottom line.

I hate to keep making the argument over and over, but it's necessary. The FBI is taking an organization with a 97% accuracy record in turning in registration forms, certainly better than the paid signature gatherers of any right-wing ballot initiative out here in California, and subjecting them to investigations and scrutiny that is wholly unwarranted. When a paid worker for ACORN falsifies a registration form, they are not scamming the voting system, they are scamming ACORN. They are trying to get paid extra for illegal work. ACORN flags every single suspicious form and turns all of them in to election officials BY LAW in most states. If they didn't, the right wing would be screaming about how ACORN holds back forms that Republicans fill out. And then, of course, the flagged registrations are noticed by election boards (if they weren't you wouldn't be hearing so much about this). And even if they weren't, Mickey Mouse and Hugh Jass and Ivanna Tinkle aren't showing up at your friendly neighborhood polling place. Not one honest person in this country seriously thinks that individual voter registration fraud is part of a coordinated effort to tip the election. Grabbing at straws, I hear wingers claim that ACORN "dumps voter registration forms on elections officials at the last minute" to overwhelm the system. See, when there's a deadline typically a lot of whatever is requested by that date comes in at the end. Another ridiculous claim.

If you want to solve the problem of inaccurate voting registrations, there are a million ways to do it. Automatically register everyone with a Social Security number or a driver's license or a pay stub. End the practice of paying people to gather forms or signatures. And on and on. But of course, the right doesn't want to fix the problem. They want a scapegoat to point their fingers at and blame for their own electoral and governing failures. That's why they're claiming vote fraud in states where ACORN didn't even run voter drives this year.

But the real outrage here is the involvement of the FBI in the investigation. The US Attorneys scandal was almost entirely predicated on compelling federal prosecutors to pursue investigations of bogus voter fraud cases and charges against Democrats. Those who didn't got fired, and we know the consequences of those attorneys who did what they were told. See Don Siegelman in Alabama, Georgia Thompson in Wisconsin, even ACORN in Missouri. This was wholesale politicization of the Justice Department, using prosecutions as an extension of the RNC. That's exactly what this FBI investigation reveals.

The Justice Department is using its law enforcement arm to stir up doubt about a legitimate community organization as a means to delegitimize this election. This is designed to sap voter confidence in the process. It's also designed to harass and intimidate low-income and minority voters. The 1.3 million people who registered through ACORN and Project Vote this year are now seeing the law come down on that organization. They're seeing their registrations questioned. They're being accused of stealing the election. Do you think they're going to risk going to the polls? It's an open question.

There should be outrage at this maneuver, a federal attempt to step into the election process and a complete waste of taxpayer dollars. This is dirty and Congress needs to assert its voice.

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Tales of Airport Security

A while back (too lazy to find the link), I remember Digby saying that the airport security system is just a method to get us all used to endless surveillance and authoritarian government. Given a look at this article explaining how completely easy it is to subvert their security measures, I have to say I agree.

In Minneapolis, I littered my carry-on with many of my prohibited items, and also an OSAMA BIN LADEN, HERO OF ISLAM T-shirt, which often gets a rise out of people who see it. This day, however, would feature a different sort of experiment, designed to prove not only that the TSA often cannot find anything on you or in your carry-on, but that it has no actual idea who you are, despite the government’s effort to build a comprehensive “no-fly” list. A no-fly list would be a good idea if it worked; Bruce Schneier’s homemade boarding passes were about to prove that it doesn’t. Schneier is the TSA’s most relentless, and effective, critic; the TSA director, Kip Hawley, told me he respects Schneier’s opinions, though Schneier quite clearly makes his life miserable.

“The whole system is designed to catch stupid terrorists,” Schneier told me. A smart terrorist, he says, won’t try to bring a knife aboard a plane, as I had been doing; he’ll make his own, in the airplane bathroom. Schneier told me the recipe: “Get some steel epoxy glue at a hardware store. It comes in two tubes, one with steel dust and then a hardener. You make the mold by folding a piece of cardboard in two, and then you mix the two tubes together. You can use a metal spoon for the handle. It hardens in 15 minutes.” [...]

Schneier and I walked to the security checkpoint. “Counter terrorism in the airport is a show designed to make people feel better,” he said. “Only two things have made flying safer: the reinforcement of cockpit doors, and the fact that passengers know now to resist hijackers.” This assumes, of course, that al-Qaeda will target airplanes for hijacking, or target aviation at all. “We defend against what the terrorists did last week,” Schneier said. He believes that the country would be just as safe as it is today if airport security were rolled back to pre-9/11 levels. “Spend the rest of your money on intelligence, investigations, and emergency response.”

Everyone has a story from a friend or relative of the TSA neglecting to notice some banned object accidentally stuck in their luggage. This "heightened security" is theater - the measures are easily evaded, the "trained professionals" easily duped. This is all true if you think that the goal of it is to catch terrorists. I'm starting to think that the goal is to keep us well-trained for fascism.

A politician could get a lot of goodwill by simply speaking the truth about airport security. Everyone who's ever been to the airport knows it's a crock.

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We Are All Joe The Plumber Now

We Are All Joe The Plumber Now

by dday

There were early reports by Internet sleuths that the ubiquitous Joe the Plumber, the manifestation of the guy in "Swing Vote" come to life, was not a registered voter in the state of Ohio. As it turns out, he is, but with a slight misspelling - and if all elections systems were run by Republicans, that would be more than enough to disenfranchise him.

Purging voters or blocking their registration because of data errors is disenfranchisement by typo," said Michael Waldman, the executive director of the Brennan Center for Justice, a liberal legal group involved in litigation in those states. "Joe is a perfect example. If he were anew voter, he would be being challenged right now as not eligible to vote."

"Joe the Plumber is not committing voter fraud by having his name spelled differently on two different lists," he said.

Republicans have argued that there are safeguards against improper purges, and state officials say their lists are more accurate, and their purges more careful. They also note that voters whose registration is challenged can vote by provisional ballot.

National Review's Jim Geraghty wrote that "if there's a typo in the voter rolls, I trust local election officials to sort it out and ensure that that provisional ballot is used and subsequently counted once it's certain that the voter in question is the person on the registered voter list."

"Provisional ballots are not a substitute for actually voting," said Waldman, who pointed to data suggesting provisional ballots are rejected at a high rate, and that voters who are told their names don't appear on the rolls often simply walk away.

And he produced cases in which typos similar to the one affecting Wurzelbacher have knocked citizens off the rolls.

For instance, Florida officials in 2006 removed the name of Jose Lopez-Sandin, after officials typed his name in as "Joseph Lopez-Sandin." They also removed the name of Anne Nguyen after election officials typed her name as "Ann Nguyen."

"Because he’s the famous 'Joe the Plumber' it seems like an obvious typo, but this is the sort of error that will keep people from voting," Waldman said.

The idea that Jim Geraghty has so much "trust" in local election officials is laughable. Because the Republican Party has spent the better part of 40 years trying to break that trust.

There is a current lawsuit in the state of Ohio that would force the Secretary of State to check hundreds of thousands of new registrants, by Friday, against government documents and databases, which is explicitly not required by the 2002 Help America Vote Act. The insertion of "Friday" is important, since this is clearly impossible. We know this is going to result in thousands of Ohioans losing their right to vote at the very minimum. People like Joe the Plumber, who because of a typo would be pushed to use a provisional ballot were he a newly registered voter. (Other reports say this is less of a problem, but I'm going on the word of the Secretary of State).

Our grip on the franchise of voting is so tenuous that a mishit letter at the DMV, poor penmanship on a voter registration form, could be all that stands between you and ineligibility. And this has been exploited by experienced voter suppression operatives in the Republican Party, a number of whom work on John McCain's campaign, who
have raised this bogus spectre of voter fraud, against all known evidence, to try and lower turnout, historically in lower-class and minority regions of the country. Last night John McCain accused ACORN as "destroying the fabric of democracy." Physician, heal thyself.

A few braver Republicans are speaking up about this coordinated effort to undermine American confidence in elections and delegitimize any Democratic President.

Florida's governor says his fellow Republicans may be exaggerating claims of voter fraud in the state.

Gov. Charlie Crist said Wednesday that he has confidence in Secretary of State Kurt Browning, who says there's only been a scattering of isolated incidents.

Crist said in the closing days of any campaign "there are some who sort of enjoy chaos." There may be more of that going on than fraud, he said.

I can identify those "some" for you, Gov. Crist. They are the members of your own party who use chaos to create opportunities, in voting as well as governing.

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Still President Bush

There are 19 days until a general election replacing George Bush (I'll wait for the cheers to die down). We all know he can still cause a lot of pain, and not just to 401(k) accounts. But there are things occurring in the shadows that aren't getting enough attention.

• He's still making signing statements exempting himself from current law.

President Bush asserted on Tuesday that he had the executive power to bypass several parts of two bills: a military authorization act and a measure giving inspectors general greater independence from White House control.

Mr. Bush signed the two measures into law. But he then issued a so-called signing statement in which he instructed the executive branch to view parts of each as unconstitutional constraints on presidential power.

• The laws he doesn't amend are really crappy.

President Bush on Monday signed into law legislation creating a copyright czar, a cabinet-level position on par with the nation's drug czar.

Two weeks ago, the House sent the president the "Enforcement of Intellectual Property Rights Act" (.pdf), a measure the Senate approved days before creating a cabinet-level copyright czar charged with implementing a nationwide plan to combat piracy and "report directly to the president and Congress regarding domestic international intellectual property enforcement programs."

• He continues to break the law and ignore Congressional oversight.

Oversight Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Rep. Tom Davis (R-VA) came together today to criticize the White House for their use of executive privilege in the Valerie Plame leak scandal.

The two lawmakers called Bush's refusal to disclose the report of the FBI interview with Vice President Cheney "legally unprecedented" and "inappropriate." The committee seeks the document in order to establish the White House's role in the leak of Plame's name to the media.

• Like I said, he continues to break the law.

A draft Committee report circulated by Chairman Waxman finds that in the months before the 2006 elections, the White House Office of Political Affairs “enlisted agency heads across government in a coordinated effort to elect Republican candidates to Congress,” directing them “to make hundreds of trips – most at taxpayer expense – for the purpose of increasing the electability of Republicans.”

• And he's making rules that could have deleterious effects far into the future.

WASHINGTON -- Bush administration officials, in their last weeks in office, are pushing to rewrite a wide array of federal rules with changes or additions that could block product-safety lawsuits by consumers and states.

The administration has written language aimed at pre-empting product-liability litigation into 50 rules governing everything from motorcycle brakes to pain medicine. The latest changes cap a multiyear effort that could be one of the administration's lasting legacies, depending in part on how the underlying principle of pre-emption fares in a case the Supreme Court will hear next month [...]

These new rules can't quickly be undone by order of the next president. Federal rules usually must go through lengthy review processes before they are changed. Rulemaking at the Food and Drug Administration, where most of the new pre-emption rules have appeared, can take a year or more.

We haven't even come to the inevitable pardons. Or the illegal programs he has started and continues to run. Or the failed policies.

What a terrible President. No wonder nobody wants anything to do with him.

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The Strange Death Of Republican America

The campaign arm of Senate Republicans just pulled out of Louisiana to focus on saving their seats in Georgia and Kentucky. Louisiana, where Karl Rove personally recruited a former Democrat to face Mary Landrieu, was the only Democratic-held seat where Senate Democrats were playing in 2008.

This guarantees not only that Democrats will keep the Senate, but that Republicans won't pick up one single solitary seat for the second campaign cycle in a row.

Meanwhile, some of the very Southern states where Republicans picked up their last seats, way back in 2004, are holding competitive races in 2008. The money is pouring into Georgia, where progressive Democrat Jim Martin is trying to unseat Saxby Chambliss. The early voting there has been so huge, with such a high black turnout, that Martin has an excellent chance. In North Carolina, listless Liddy Dole is in big trouble.

As economic turmoil has driven down support for Republican candidates in recent weeks, several polls have suggested that Mrs. Dole’s opponent, Kay R. Hagan, a relatively unknown state senator from Greensboro, has closed Mrs. Dole’s double-digit lead or even pulled ahead, and many analysts are now calling the race a tossup.

Ms. Hagan is a crucial part of the effort by Democrats to gain a 60-seat majority in the Senate, a margin that could limit Republican filibusters. From Nov. 16, 2007, to Oct. 5, the Democratic senatorial committee spent more than $4 million on advertising in North Carolina, more than in any other Senate race, according to TNS Media Intelligence/CMAG, a political data firm in Arlington, Va. The Democrats have reserved television time worth millions more.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee, which has less money, has also spent more in North Carolina than in any other state, $1.7 million. That disparity between parties is reversed when it comes to the candidates’ own treasuries. By the end of September, Mrs. Dole had raised $12.9 million, and Ms. Hagan, $4.8 million.

If Republicans need to pull out all the stops to win in Georgia and North Carolina, they're in worse shape than I thought. And it's not simply the economy, IMO; these are BAD lawmakers. Liddy Dole never spends a second in her home state and has no accomplishments. Saxby Chambliss is arguably worse. They were in the majority for four years and did nothing to distinguish themselves. When you are a robotic rubber stamp, there's no way to show leadership - you're spending all your time following. And I think people understand this.

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Joe. My. God.

So Joe the Plumber isn't a registered Ohio voter?

Two readers with access to the Ohio voter file say that Joe Wurzelbacher's inluence on this cycle will be limited in one way: He doesn't appear to be registered to vote.

(And yes, the freelance opposition research on Joe began before the debate ended.)

Priceless. And how uniquely American. Attention whore McCain latches on to an attention whore undecided voter who's probably more interested in promoting his plumbing business than anything else.

This is the best election evah.

...more here. I don't know if the guy is a Republican plant or not, but certainly he seized the moment to get 15 minutes in the spotlight.

...A Keating connection?

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Wednesday, October 15, 2008

More California Q3 Numbers

Charlie Brown: raised $539K, $456K cash on hand. GREAT numbers.
Tom McClintock: raised $978K, but spent a ton, and has only $94,000 left, with $110,000 in debts. He is BROKE. Brown has an infinite lead in CoH.

Bill Durston: raised $149K, $145K CoH.
Dan Lungren: raised $173K (wow, Durston almost outraised him), $680K CoH. Dr. Bill is going to need some help.

Russ Warner: raised $289K, which is great, but he's spent a lot early. He has $119K CoH.
David Dreier: raised $255K. Wow, Warner outraised Dreier. He still has $1.7 million in the bank, and he doesn't seem to be using the money. He only spent $345K in Q3. I don't know if it's for leadership purposes or what, but he has a hell of a war chest that he's not using.

Jerry McNerney: raised $601K, $1.02 million CoH.
Dean Andal: raised $345K, with $850K CoH. Some prize recruit.

Brian Bilbray: This was the number I was waiting for. He raised $262K and has $382K CoH. OK, Nick Leibham didn't just beat Bilbray in Q2, he destroyed him. And the cash on hand is virtually even. Wow.

Dana Rohrabacher: Drum roll... raised $148K. OK, he beat Debbie Cook for once. The CoH is $497K, but much like Dreier, he's spent next to nothing. $35K in the quarter.

Overall, these are good numbers. Lots of our candidates have the resources they need. Keep up the pressure.

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Obama's Wind At His Back

The snap polls are coming in for Barack Obama in much the same numbers that they did in the first two debates. CNN has it 58-31 for Obama. CBS' poll is similar. That's because Obama came out, in the same way as the other debates, with the same even keel. And also, the fundamentals of the race have crashed on McCain and Republicans. All Obama has to say is that McCain supports the same policies as George Bush and everyone gets knocked over as if with a feather. McCain can make ideological arguments about big government and higher taxes and liberal ideas all he wants, but the public has thoroughly rejected them. Just completely. Obama's specifics are pretty cautious and circumscribed and nuanced and I don't agree with all of them. But he doesn't have the weight of party identification against him. Given the Bush/Republican known they are more than willing to grasp the unknown.

People know one thing that can't be dislodged from their minds - Republican governance has been a total failure. A 90-minute debate isn't going to change any of that.

And staying focused like a laser on the issues about which Americans clearly care the most helped as well. This is the anti-smear campaign no matter how much the fever swamps want it. The Ayers question in this debate - which I rightly called at Bob Schieffer's wet kiss to McCain - was a microcosm of the campaign. McCain wanted to simultaneously take the high road and the low road. He tried some ju-jitsu by forcing Obama to distance himself from John Lewis' remarks. No sale, Obama rightly brought up the impetus for the remarks - the hateful rhetoric coming from McCain/Palin rallies. Then McCain shifted into a backlash-type defense of his supporters. Obama flicked it off, and was finishing up the question, and McCain sensed he was losing his moment, and cut off Obama mid-sentence to get in his licks about Bill Ayers and ACORN, in kind of an erratic way. It was a meandering exchange, was highly negative and misleading, and it ended with Obama saying that making Bill Ayers the centerpiece of his campaign says a lot more about McCain than anyone else.

John McCain is a terrible candidate and that is the perfect example. But even if he was a stellar, superior candidate, I just don't think it would matter. People have rendered their verdict on conservatism.

...other fun facts:

McCain cares so much about regular Americans like Joe the Plumber that he mispronounced his last name.

The abortion question was seriously a mess for McCain, offending conservatives (no litmus test), liberals (the "pro-abortion" movement) and the truth (the nonsense about Obama's votes in the Illinois State Senate).

"Senator Government" was not a slip of the tongue.

McCain totally - totally - lied about his own health care plan, and Obama's. His claim that the average health care plan costs $5,800 and he would give a $5,000 health care tax credit is true - but the $5,800 is for INDIVIDUALS and his $5,000 is for A WHOLE FAMILY. Just one example.

Obama was excellent on trade, IMO.


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The Debate Begins - Semi-Liveblog

OK, I'm sorta following the stream. So far, my thoughts are this:

McCain: Obama, you want to hurt Joe the Plumber. You're robbing a white man!

Obama: I'm going to stick to my proposals and gently bat away McCain's ramblings. And I like Joe the Plumber.

Joe the Plumber is the most damn important guy in the history of the world.

Obama: But Warren Buffett...

McCain: Joe the Plumber. Plumber!!!!!one!

God, this election is stupid.

...OK, this is being played out on the terrain of taxes, which is kind of silly at this time of crisis. And here comes the neo-Hooverism from Bob Schieffer, with a focus on the deficit. Will Obama call him out?

...well, he's pushing back, sort of... he does say that public investment will be a savings in the future. And he does say that there's a time for fiscal responsibility, AFTER this economic crisis. I generally agree. You can be fiscally responsible and smart - in good times. In bad times like this you simply have to use the federal government to provide stimulus, since monetary policy is currently useless.

This allows McCain to go into his across-the-board spending freeze and porkbusting nonsense. Obama goes back to earmarks acocunting for 1/2 of 1% of the federal budget. And he talks about Bush ballooning the deficit.

The focus on balancing the budget is absolutely annoying.

McCain: "I am not President Bush. If you wanted to run against President Bush, you should have run four years ago." That was a very good moment for him. I don't think it'll be enough, but it was a solid moment.

Obama on the tax increases for $42,000: "Even Fox News disputes that, and that's unusual for them to dispute a charge at me." Then he goes back to telling McCain if he mistakes McCain for Bush it's because they're the same on economic policy. McCain responds with a bunch of stuff that has virtually nothing to do with economic policy. it comes, Schieffer gives McCain the Ayers opening, like a good little soldier. I knew it, I knew it, I knew it. McCain starts with how everything could have changed if they only went out on town hall meetings. Now he says that Obama must repudiate the remarks about John Lewis. Now Obama is the dirty negative campaigner ("More money on negative ads than any campaign in history" -yeah, more money on ads.)

Obama's response - "We expect campaigns to be tough." Mentions the CBS poll. "100% of your ads have been negative." McCain meekly denies it. "I don't mind being attacked for the next 3 weeks. But what the American people deserve is not four more years of the same economic policies." It's the usual "Let's get back to the issues" high road. "Politics as usual is not solving the big problems in America."

McCain goes the "stop lying about my record" route. Worked well for Bob Dole. And Joe the Plumber is back!

...McCain is really a pathetic human being. He's trying to play backlash politics by saying that Obama mentioning that McCain's rallies have featured people yelling "Terrorist" and "Kill him" is an attack on his supporters. It's absolutely absurd and beneath any sentient human being. McCain's trying to wiggle away from the environment he created at those rallies.

Then, he jumps in during Obama's colloquy, right in the middle of a sentence, to bring up Bill Ayers and ACORN, who are "destroying the fabric of democracy." Conservatives everywhere just had an orgasm. Obama returns with his prepared remarks demurring the Ayers thing and ACORN. But the way in which McCain brought it up is what's significant. He jumped in because he thought he was going to get away from the question before name-checking ACORN and Ayers. He had to bring it into the dirt. What a sad display.

...The Biden-Palin question was absurd and boring.

...McCain corrects Schieffer on climate change for absolutely no reason. In his response, McCain apparently thinks that cars run on nuclear power.

...Obama explains what free trade actually means. That populism is going to be off the charts. He's been pushed into this position on trade, but he's absolutely right. Education and training for workers, like McCain says, is a total dodge. His answer is a complete mess.

OK, I'm going to drive home and listen to the rest of this on the radio.

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Hey Schieffer, Incorporate Some Breaking News

Waiting on the debate, which I think has about a 50/50 chance of turning into a smear factory. But if it does, it would be nice if Bob Schieffer could work it around to one of today's top stories and see what the Maverick would have to say in his defense:

Early in 2007, just as her husband launched his presidential bid, Cindy McCain decided to resolve an old problem -- the lack of cellular telephone coverage on her remote 15-acre ranch near Sedona, nestled deep in a tree-lined canyon called Hidden Valley.

By the time Sen. John McCain's presidential bid was in full swing this summer, the ranch had wireless coverage from the two cellular companies most often used by campaign staff -- Verizon Wireless and AT&T.

Verizon delivered a portable tower know as a "cell site on wheels" -- free of charge -- to Cindy McCain's property in June in response to an online request from Cindy McCain's staff early last year. Such devices are usually reserved for restoring service when cell coverage is knocked out during emergencies, such as hurricanes.

In July, AT&T followed suit, wheeling in a portable tower for free to match Verizon's offer. "This is an unusual situation," said AT&T spokeswoman Claudia B. Jones. "You can't have a presidential nominee in an area where there is not cell coverage."

If you think this sounds perfectly reasonable, consider that Ted Stevens is facing jail time for pretty much exactly the same thing. Oh, and the McCain campaign's spin is that the Secret Service made him do it - which the Secret Service denies.

"The Washington Post story regarding Verizon providing a cell tower to the McCain Ranch is wrong," (Verizon PR guy) Thonis said. "Verizon received a request from Mrs. McCain, but declined.

"Subsequent to that, the Secret Service made a legitimate request for a temporary tower for its work and Verizon complied as is required by our contract with the agency. The Secret Service request, made on May 28, specifically said it needed the service urgently and requested that Verizon 'explore every possible means of providing an alternative cellular or data communications source in the referenced area and provide any short term implementation of any type as a solution in the interim."

But James Grimaldi, the Post reporter who broke the story, has the Secret Service saying they did not formally request the tower.

Secret Service spokesman Eric Zahren told the paper: "This was something that was being addressed before we were out there."

Just the Verizon flack's protestations are revealing. They confirm that Cindy McCain asked for a cell phone tower for her personal use - and pretty much only the McCain family's use, as there are few other homes in the area. They confirm that the request was in well before McCain took the nomination.

McCain, of course, regulates these phone companies as part of his day job, and mixes with their lobbyists on his campaign staff.

Ethics lawyers said Cindy McCain's dealings with the wireless companies stand out because Sen. John McCain is a senior member of the Senate Commerce Committee, which oversees the Federal Communications Commission and the telecommunications industry. He has been a leading advocate for industry-backed legislation, fighting regulations and taxes on telecommunications services. (he was a past chair of the Commerce Committee, too -ed.)

McCain and his campaign have close ties to Verizon and AT&T. Five campaign officials, including campaign manager Rick Davis, have worked as lobbyists for Verizon. Former McCain staffer Robert Fisher is an in-house lobbyist for Verizon and is volunteering for the campaign. Fisher, Verizon chief executive Ivan Seidenberg and company lobbyists have raised more than $1.3 million for McCain's presidential campaign and Verizon employees are among the top 20 corporate donors over McCain's political career, giving more than $155,000 to his campaigns.

McCain's Senate chief of staff Mark Buse, senior strategist Charles R. Black Jr., and several other campaign staffers have registered as AT&T lobbyists in the past. AT&T Executive Vice President Timothy McKone and AT&T lobbyists have raised more than $2.3 million for McCain. AT&T employees have donated more than $325,000 to McCain campaigns, putting the company in the No. 3 spot for career donations to McCain, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.

I don't know, rather than Bill Ayers, that might be something the public would like to know, Mr. Schieffer.

Or, you could mention the international terrorists tied to John McCain, otherwise known as "anti-Castro Cubans".

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