Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Real reality...

via Kos
Us liberal bloggers like to brag that we live in the "reality-based community". It's kind of hard to be reality-based when people are claiming that Kerry won with no hard evidence to the contrary. Was there fraud? Sure. There always has been. Was the GOP ready to steal the election if necessary? No doubt. But they didn't have to steal this one. This wasn't 2000. Bush rode his f*cked up war to victory, whether we like it or not. History will judge us right, but until then, we're stuck with the results.
He's right, you know. That's why this is another place you won't find a point by point rundown of the shenanigans in Ohio, or clarion calls for Democratic Senators to protest the electors to no productive end.

There are a lot of things wrong with they way they beat us, but they beat us. We need to fight back on ground we can win.

The "Good" War...?

Like lots of folks otherwise conservative about the use of US military power as an instrument of foreign policy, I supported the decision to attack Al Qaida in Afghanistan and to remove their client government. It was a retaliatory action and retaliating to attack is a fundamental mission of the military.

As valid as the case for the invasion of Afghanistan may have been, though, Bushco has made nearly as complete a mess of their "good" war as they have of their other one. Dr. Alterman tells the truth...
One place liberals are always eager to give Bush credit is Afghanistan. In fact, U.S. policy there has been almost as a much a failure as it has everywhere else. The Taliban has been allowed to regroup. Al-Qaida has reformed and enjoys more recruits than ever. Bin-Laden is partying on in some cave somewhere, laughing at Bush and planning his next attack. And most of the country remains impassable except under the control of local war lords. We alienated much of the Moslem world with our population bombings and killed a lot of innocent people. Now, as the icing on the proverbial cake, we have made the country safe again for the exportation of grade-A heroin to our streets. It’s become a narco-mafia haven, with poppy-growing increasing at a rate of 60 percent a year in 2004.
Even when they do the right thing, they get it wrong.

Monday, January 03, 2005

An unmediated view...

...from Iraq is a rare commodity, which is part of what makes every post from River at Baghdad Burning precious. The latest offers some election news...
The elections are set for the 29th. It's an interesting situation. The different sects and factions just can't seem to agree. Sunni Arabs are going to boycott elections. It's not about religion or fatwas or any of that so much as the principle of holding elections while you are under occupation. People don't really sense that this is the first stepping stone to democracy as western media is implying. Many people sense that this is just the final act of a really bad play. It's the tying of the ribbon on the "democracy parcel" we've been handed. It's being stuck with an occupation government that has been labeled 'legitimate' through elections.
...and then there's the "sell every damn vote" program. Will they hold an 'election' in Iraq this month? Probably. Will it be an election, in any real sense? Hard to believe, I'm afraid.

Sounds like River doesn't believe it, either...

I know this has been everywhere...

...but maybe you haven't, and I just can't resist posting it...



RIP

These are coming way too fast. I don't want this to turn into the dead pool or something, but this one can't go unnoticed.


MIAMI - Shirley Chisholm, the first black woman elected to Congress and an outspoken advocate for women and minorities during seven terms in the House, died near Daytona Beach, friends said Sunday. She was 80.
Always unbought, unbossed. Never to be forgotten...

Sunday, January 02, 2005

RIP


Democratic Rep. Robert T. Matsui of California, who spent time in an internment camp for Japanese-Americans as an infant during World War II and went on to serve 26 years in Congress, has died of complications from a rare disease, his family said Sunday.
As a Democratic blogger, I feel a particular sense of debt to Rep. Matsui. I can't say whether it was a matter of his design or simply his tolerance, but under his leadership the DCCC developed the hands down best internet shop of all the Democratic establishment entities. The Stakeholder, for instance, is different than other institutional blogs. It's better. So is the day to day communication of the folks at the DCCC with the netroots. It happened under Bob Matsui, and keeping it going, bigger and better, would be a fitting tribute.

It's unseemly, I suppose, to risk politicizing a death, but Bob Matsui led a political life, and I'm left wondering how much responsibility for his death, and who knows how many others, can be laid at the door of the inhumane ideologists who continue to block essential medical research...
In a statement announcing Matsui's death, his office disclosed that the congressman was diagnosed several months ago with Milo Dysplastic Disorder, a rare stem cell disorder that reduces the body's ability to produce red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets. Victims of the disease are left more susceptible to other illnesses, with less ability to fight them off.
...and which of our Democratic Congressmen and Senators will step forward to introduce the Reagan-Matsui Stem Cell Research Act of 2005.

(Speaking of The Stakeholder, I found this note at the end of the Matsui tribute there...
The Matsui family and friends are establishing a charitable fund in memory of the Congressman and ask that all gifts be sent to The Matsui Foundation for Public Service, P.O. Box 1347, Sacramento, CA 95812.
I know a lot of our charitable attention is focused overseas right now, and I don't imagine Bob Matsui would have it any other way. Still, consider The Matsui Foundation an Upper Left endorsed place for anything you can spare...)

Kerry-bashing? Me?

Well, maybe just a little...

While I still think he was the best choice for President that our Party has offered in decades, I've still got my complaints about the way the Kerry campaign was conducted. A principle one was the failure to put enough emphasis on his energy independence plank, which was one of the most important issues he raised, but hardly raised enough, either in frequency or emphasis, to satisfy me. It was his best issue, in many ways, and yet it was perplexingly underplayed.

It's a great issue that hits national security, the national economy and consumer pocketbooks all at once. Sure, it's a complex issue that can get buried in a cloud of wonkish detail, but it's got the advantage of the kind of symbolic foe that the American electorat seems to need to hang an issue on. Naming that foe consistently drew a strong response every time I heard Kerry invoke it. A strong enough response that he should have beat that drum till our ears hurt.

The foe in question, of course, is Saudi Arabia. John Kerry was the only Presidential candidate in my memory to directly identify the problem the Saudis pose to the security of the United States, and there is no more deserving target for American scorn. As the New York Times editorialized yesterday...
Part of the price of every extra gallon helps, albeit indirectly, to finance mosques and religious schools all over the world that spread a fanatical variant of Islam that sees legitimacy in terrorist attacks. This financing, amounting to billions of dollars a year, comes from the government and private charities of Saudi Arabia, a country that is now taking in roughly $80 billion a year from oil exports.

****

There is no sinister Saudi conspiracy at work here. This is just what anyone should expect to happen when mind-boggling sums of oil money flow into an absolute monarchy that bases its legitimacy on puritanical militant Islam and offers no pretense of political accountability or transparent accounting. The more copiously that oil money flows, the less pressure a divided Saudi royal family feels to undertake the kind of difficult political and economic reforms that might conceivably break the nexus between oil and terror.

The Saudi syndrome is not the only reason Americans need to get much more serious about energy conservation. But it is a powerfully compelling one.
And, of course, the Saudis are among Bushco's best pals. Could Kerry have won the election by riding the energy independence issue, and the associated national security considerations, harder? I think so, but either way, he did a service by raising the issue in the campaign, and would have done a greater service by raising it higher and louder. Failing to perform that greater service, was, I think, a fundamental mistake by the campaign.


What next?

While I think a call for a unanimous Democratic vote against the Bushco Cabinet sets up an unrealistic expectation and that any listing of 'talking heads' needing to take a more prominent role in the national discourse should include the man who received the votes of more Americans than any Democrat in history, those are only minor quiblles with the excellent agenda Josh Hammond suggests for the Democratic Congress over at Best Of The Blogs.

You should go read. Better yet, Harry and Nancy should go read...

Saturday, January 01, 2005

Common enemies...

...breed uncommon alliances, and when the enemy is the very force of Nature itself, amazing partnerships emerge. Juan Cole notes what might be some bright spots in these dark times in Southeast Asia. For instance...
Pakistan sent money to India, its old enemy. Islamabad also sent emergency aid to Indonesia.

India mobilized its navy not only to aid its own citizens, but to help Indonesia as well.
It's early to tell, but the geo-political impact on the region could be as dramatic as the geophysical. After all, as Dr. Cole points out...
...Pakistan and India were seriously contemplating using nukes on each other as recently as 2002. Now Islamabad is sending rupees to Delhi, and Delhi is expressing gratitude.
It may be transient, the new alliances may just be the stuff of neccessity and/or convenience, but I think it's worth keeping an eye on the diplomatic map of the region is withdrawn as the relief efforts go forward.

Friday just couldn't accommodate...

the customary pet blogging, but this one's worth the wait.

When the Younger Daughter Of Upper Left and Prince Charming joined us for a New Year feast (and feast it was. The Brilliant and Beautiful Bride Of Upper Left outdid herself again), they brought the relentlessly endearing Bentley along, adorned in his brand new Brand Democrat Doggie Shirt.



(Yep, still fuzzy. With the the new computer now in place, the digital camera upgrade can move up the priority list a step or two - you can get a better look at the shirt, and make your own pup proudly partisan, here.)

Friday, December 31, 2004

Have a happy!



I won't be liveblogging the rollover at midnight, because I'll be manning the bar at the family pub, so I hope you greet the new year safely and happily, and that it brings safety and happiness to you and yours.

If, by chance, you find yourself near Shoreline, WA, tonight, drop by the Cabin Tavern in Richmond Beach and say howdy. Mention the blog and your first pint is on me.

While they're gutting the ethics rules...

...how 'bout leaving my Congressman alone?

The House Republicans just can't find enough ways to demonstrate their arrogance, it seems. The latest example is their wholesale raid on the rules that they apply to themselves. One of their proposed changes would...
...essentially negate a general rule of conduct that the ethics committee has often cited in admonishing lawmakers -- including Majority Leader Tom DeLay -- for bringing discredit on the House even if their behavior was not covered by a specific regulation. Backers of the rule, adopted three decades ago, say it is important because the House's conduct code cannot anticipate every instance of questionable behavior that might reflect poorly on the chamber.
Rising vacation costs seem to be a problem, too, since they also want to...
...relax a restriction on relatives of lawmakers accepting foreign and domestic trips from groups interested in legislation before the House.
Of course, you have to have some rules, but that doesn't mean you have to have any enforcement...
A third proposed rule change would allow either party to stop the House ethics committee from investigating a complaint against a member.
The utter hypocricy of their actions is revealed by news like this...
WASHINGTON - The U.S. House ethics committee announced yesterday that it would investigate a complaint against Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Seattle.

Ohio Republican Rep. David Hobson filed an ethics complaint Nov. 16 alleging that McDermott had violated certain laws, rules and standards of conduct when he leaked an illegally intercepted cellphone tape in 1997.
Jim McDermott is my Congressman, so my interest is personal, but we should all be rising up in his defense

What's the rule they're trying to hang him on?
The subcommittee will determine whether McDermott violated the House Code of Official Conduct, which states members must behave "at all times in a manner which shall reflect creditably on the House of Representatives."
For those of you who've been been distracted by intervening events, Tom Delay's multiple ethics violations, for instance, since 1997, let's review.

At the time, then-Speaker Newt Gingrich was the subject of an ethics complaint, one which ultimately resulted in a fine and reprimand. As Speaker, he swore that he wouldn't use his authority to influence the investigation, but when a Florida couple happened to intercept a cell call between Gingrich and his leadership team, Newt was caught in a lie. The couple recorded the call and turned it over to McDermott, who, as a member of the Ethics Committee at the time, provided evidence of the Speaker's dishonesty to the press.

Now who, in that situation, failed to "reflect credibility on the House of Representatives"? The lying Speaker or the whistle-blowing Congressman? Please.

The whole matter is still in the courts, thanks to a suit filed by Ohio Republican John Boehner, who's been judge shopping for years until finally finding a ruling in his favor this October. (Funny how using trial lawyers to tie up the courts and drive up the costs of our legal system is only bad when people are injured by corporations, isn't it?) Boehmer's only apparent injury was to his reputation, which was besmirched when he was exposed as a co-conspirator in Gingrich's lies. It seems that his reputation is worth $60,000 plus attorney fees (over a half a million to Boehmer's trial lawyer in this case). That's still subject to appeal, and I still expect the First Amendment to prevail.

A lot of folks hereabouts like to poke fun at our "Congressman for life." Some question his influence and effectiveness, since he often finds himself in the progressive minority on important issues like single payer health care and his steadfast opposition to Bushco's expansionist and disasterous foreign policy.

The fact that the House Republicans think he's important enough to drag up this old news in an effort to punish and embarrass my Congressman speaks for itself, though. They wouldn't be out to get Jim McDermott if he wasn't an important voice in the Congress.

We probably can't stop them from throwing out the rules, but every one of us should be raising hell until they throw out this case.

Sometimes...

...someone gets it so right I just have to stea...err...quote the whole thing.
An open letter to responsible Republicans

Dear Responsible Republicans,

While you and I have some pretty significant differences over matters of policy, I know that we all share a common faith in our democratic institutions and a committment to the rule of law.

Our state faces many critical challenges in the coming months and years. Citizens of all political stripes will need to work together in an atmosphere of collegiality and trust in order to develop practical solutions to the real problems we face together -- educating our children, providing access to health care for all, and protecting our state's natural heritage.

Dino Rossi and Chris Vance's ongoing comments attacking the legitimacy of Governor-elect Christine Gregoire and the integrity of our elections system itself are irresponsible and contrary to the democratic ideals that we all share. Not only do these comments damage the credibility of those who make them, but they make it more difficult for Washingtonians to come together to build a positive future for our state.

I call upon you now to acknowledge that the actions of your party's current leaders, Dino Rossi and Chris Vance, are contrary to these ideals of democracy that all Washingtonians share. And I call upon you to choose new leaders for your party who show respect for their political opponents, respect for the law, and respect for our state's democratic institutions. Washingtonians deserve nothing less.

John Stahl, Evergreen Politics
...and me, too.

Thursday, December 30, 2004

It's a conspiracy!

Or maybe it's just the usual post-election Democratic Party circular firing squad.

Or just a squabble between contending teams of consultants.

At any rate, Jerome Armstrong seems pretty fired up about the fact that the Kerry/Edwards campaign actually paid media and advertising firms to prepare media and place advertising. He culls some numbers from a sidebar in a Washington Post article that describes some of the advantages the Bush campaign gained over Kerry on the "bang for the buck" level, noting that the Democratic consulting consortium put together to provide services to the DNC and the Presidential campaign included...
* Shrum, Tad Devine and Michael Donilon's firm, which was paid about $5 million.

* James Margolis's firm, Greer Margolis Mitchell Burns and Associates, and Bill Knapp's firm, Squier Knapp Dunn Communications, which divvied up $5 million.

* Democratic media consultants David Axelrod and Steve Murphy, who split about $1 million in fees for DNC independent expenditure ads.
and complaining...
$5 million for Shrum? And so, where/whom did the other $139 million that went to Riverfront go to? It's a racket by the K St and DC Consultant Class. The media consultants get paid fees, up to 15%, based upon the amount of TV ads they are able to place. This encourages them to buy the most expensive time slots, and spend as much as possible on TV ads. We saw it with the Dean campaign, it happened with Kerry's too, and it's going to continue to happen until we demand our own campaign reform in return for our financial funding of the Democratic candidate campaigns.
It's pretty hard to believe that a principle in the Democratic consulting firm Armstrong Zuniga wouldn't know it, but the answers seem pretty obvious. Most of the $139 million went to production and airtime costs. The 15% isn't an add on cost for the campaign, but the standard 'agency commission' that broadcast outlets routinely offer as a discount when agencies purchase time on behalf of clients. It's a way that advertisers, including campaigns, actually save money on professional services. As far as "most expensive time slots," well, there are some stations that are more expensive than others. They're the ones that people watch and listen to. Those stations, however, are required to flatten their rates for federal political advertising, so there's no incentive except potential audience for the consultant. While this stuff may be arcane for the average citizen, it's really Campaign Management 101 material.

Maybe that's why the information about the payment to the Democratic media consultants was a sidebar issue and only a marginal issue in the article itself. Although Armstrong argues that...
On the Republican side, Bush had the advantage over the Kerry, because they took the racketeer equation out of the mix, by having their media team working on TV placement fees:

Maverick consultants McKinnon, Alex Castellanos (National Media Inc.), Stuart Stevens (the Stevens and Schriefer Group) and Madison Avenue executives Bruce Van Dussen and Harold Kaplan agreed to be paid fees instead of a percentage of their ad buys....
...he leaves out the details from the sidebar that report that "Sources estimated Maverick's consultancy fees were as much as $6 million." Let's see, $6 million for Maverick, as opposed to five for Shrum, Devine and Donilin. That, of course, is money straight off the top from the campaign, rather than paid out of the routine discounts offered by broadcasters. Doesn't seem like such a good deal for the R's at all, on reflection.

Maybe even less so when you look at the fees collected by some other GOP consultants...
• Tony Feather, political director of the 2000 Bush-Cheney campaign, a principal in the direct mail and voter contact firm, Feather Larson & Synhorst DCI, which was paid $21.3 million.

• Todd Olsen and Heather Shuvalov, who bought Rove's Austin direct-mail firm, forming Olsen & Shuvalov, which was paid $41.3 million.
Atrios jumps aboard the Armstrong Express, writing that...
...I just want to make clear that the issue isn't the total amount that these people are being paid, it's that their pay is linked to a certain kind of expensive campaign advertisng. Think Bob Shrum's worth $5 million? Go ahead and pay him $5 million - just don't link the money to ad buys.
...which, again, misses the point that because of the way the advertising industry is structured, it's actually cheaper for the campaign to allow the consultants to collect their fees from the standard agency discount, and, again, that there's no particular incentive outside of audience reach for the purchase of one time slot over another since political advertising rates are flattened (in general, a candidate spot must be given the lowest rate that the station offers to any advertiser, regardless of frequency or placement).

It also personalizes the payments in a way that's not exactly fair. I know Bob Shrum and his compatriots have become popular bogeyman among the netroots as the DLC's status in that regard continues to wane as the Clinton Presidency becomes more distant, but it wasn't Bob Shrum who was paid the $5 mill, really. It was a firm with two other principles and a staff of researchers, copyrwriters, producers, etc. Several people made very good livings via the campaign, no doubt, but neither Bob Shrum nor anyone else banked $5 million personally.

In fact, while Shrum & Co. are in a for profit business, does anyone really believe that he would have deliberately made a bad ad or chosen a bad placement to make a few more dollars? Questions about the competence of his decisions are certainly fair game, and I have a few myself, but accusation that he would consciously sell out the campaign to boost his billing are as specious in this case as they were when hurled at Joe Trippi earlier in the year. Does anyone out there really think they wanted Dean to win more than Trippi did? Does anyone think they wanted Kerry to win more than Shrum did? Well, then, I want some of what they're smoking.

Taegan Goddard makes note of the same article, but reads it closely enough to discover some of its actual import, which had little to do with consulting fees and much to do with specific areas in which expenditures on behalf of Bush had impact that exceeded their apparent dollar value, such as...
"In a $2.2 billion election, two relatively small expenditures by Bush and his allies stand out for their impact: the $546,000 ad buy by Swift Boat Veterans for Truth and the Bush campaign's $3.25 million contract with the firm TargetPoint Consulting. The first portrayed Kerry in unrelentingly negative terms, permanently damaging him, while the second produced dramatic innovations in direct mail and voter technology, enabling Bush to identify and target potential voters with pinpoint precision."
There's a lot more in the piece that's worthy of your attention, such as...
A large part of Bush's advantage derived from being an incumbent who did not face a challenger from his party. He also benefited from the experience and continuity of a campaign hierarchy, based on a corporate model, that had essentially stayed intact since Bush's 1998 reelection race for Texas governor.

****

But the 527s, fueled with money from billionaires such as George Soros, proved ineffective in helping Kerry deliver a consistent and timely message in his advertising.

Of all the money spent on television advertising for the Democratic nominee, Kerry's campaign controlled 62 percent, according to spending totals analyzed by The Washington Post. The rest was spent on ads whose content or placement could not be coordinated with the campaign. The Bush campaign controlled 83 percent of the money spent on its behalf, giving it far more control over when and how it advertised.

****

The Democratic media 527s "didn't do what we wanted done," Kerry media adviser Tad Devine said. "We would have run ads about Kerry, we would have had answers to the attacks in kind, saying they were false, disproved by newspapers."

Harold Ickes, who ran the Media Fund, a 527 organization that raised about $59 million in support of Kerry, said the federal election law prohibiting communication with the Kerry campaign created insurmountable obstacles in crafting effective, accurate responses to anti-Kerry ads. Ickes said he regretted not responding to the Swift Boat Veterans' attacks, but at the time he thought they seemed "a matter so personal to Senator Kerry, so much within his knowledge. Who knew what the facts were?"
Ickes couldn't figure out the facts behind the Swift Boat smears? Is there anyone out there except Hillary who still thinks he'd make a good DNC Chair? Sheesh.

Based on the real issues raised in the WaPo article, it's likely that the most valuable contribution to future Democratic campaigns that will come out of the 2004 cycle will be the work that Terry McAuliffe did to update the technology and voter lists at the DNC headquarters, though it was too late to be effective against the Republican machine that went into the election at least a cycle ahead of us in those areas.

It's worth looking at which consultants our candidates employ, and the terms of their employment. Armstrong Zuniga, for instance, is apparently available for hire on a fee for service basis. As for their effectiveness in Presidential campaigns, well, you'll have to check with Governor Dean and General Clark. No actual Presidents or Presidential nominees are available for comment...

No, we're not "stingy"...

...but the guy running our government is.

Juan 'The Cruncher' Cole takes a swing at Bush's defense of the US Government's (as opposed to the unquestionably generous US people's) feeble response to the tsunami relief efforts in South East Asia and hits one out of the park...



...Bush is an MBA, so he knows very well the difference between absolute numbers and per capita ones. Let's see, Australia offered US $27 million in aid for victims of the tsunami. Australia's population is about 20 million. Its gross domestic product is about $500 billion per year. Surely anyone can see that Australia's $27 million is far more per person than Bush's $35 million. Australia's works out to $1.35 per person. The US contribution as it now stands is about 9 cents per person. So, yes, the US is giving more in absolute terms. But on a per person basis, it is being far more stingy so far. And Australians are less wealthy than Americans, making on average US $25,000 per year per person, whereas Americans make $38,000 per year per person. So even if Australians and Americans were both giving $1.35 per person, the Australians would be making the bigger sacrifice. But they aren't both giving $1.35; the Bush administration is so far giving an American contribution of nine cents a person.
...while offering a telling point about the administration's feeble support for their own education program at the same time....
The apparent inability of the American public to do basic math or to understand the difference between absolute numbers and proportional ones helps account for why Bush's crazy tax cut schemes have been so popular. Americans don't seem to realize that Bush gave ordinary people checks for $300 or $600, but is giving billionnaires checks for millions. A percentage cut across the board results in far higher absolute numbers for the super-wealthy than for the fast food workers. But, well, if people like being screwed over, then that is their democratic right.
(As usual, emphasis mine throughout...)

Of course, Bush is promising more to come. Who knows, maybe his humanitarian contribution to the most severe natural disaster of our time will outstrip the spending on his inauguration after all.

There are a few governments that don't think a dime is too much to give, including...
AUSTRALIA: Increased aid to $27 million
BRITAIN: Pledged 15 million pounds ($28.9 million
CANADA: Government aid C$40 million ($33 million).
DENMARK: Increased aid pledge to 85 million Danish crowns ($15.6 million)
EUROPEAN UNION: Ready to release up to 30 million euros on top of 3 million euros already allocated to IFRC.
FRANCE: 15 million euros pledged to affected states
. They all put Bushco to shame on a per capita basis, and they're not alone.

(Thanks to the Beltway Bandit for the link.)

And we have a winner...

OLYMPIA - Secretary of State Sam Reed, a Republican, certified Gregoire, the three-term attorney general, as the winner of the closest governor's race in state history.
Praise for Republicans is a rare commodity around here, but credit Sam Reed for plotting an even course throughout the recall process and certifying the results in a timely manner. No such credit for his whiny partisan compatriot Dino Rossi, though...
Just hours before Christine Gregoire (D) was to be officially declared governor-elect in Washington, Dino Rossi (R) asked her to agree to call on the state legislature "to authorize a new election to head off what could be months of bitter legal fighting..."
Gee, Dino, don't you think you could just as easily head off "months of bitter legal fighting" by swallowing that mouthful of bile you've got there and accepting the will of the people as expressed through the most thoroughly and carefully audited election result in our state's history? Despite your bitching and moaning, you didn't "win twice." Nobody wins until all the votes are counted. That's why we counted (over your strenuous objections) every damn vote.

I have mentioned before that my favored choice for Governor, Phil Talmadge, had to drop out of the primary race for health reasons and I never really caught the Gregoire bug, except on the most basic partisan level. I admit, though, that my opinion has changed somewhat during the recount process. Chris Gregoire has been resolute, hopeful and has consistently said she would respect the vote of the people once all the people's votes were tallied. She's been, in fact, the mirror image of Rossi, who declared himself 'Governor-elect' while the ballots were still being counted, apparently going so far as to drag the kids over to the Governor's mansion to pick out their bedrooms. She's been downright gubenatorial, while Dino's been a shameless, obstructionist hack.

It looks like we're getting a better Governor than I'd imagined.

Congrats, Chris!

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

RIP



1933-2004

As a matter of fact...

...it is as bad as you think. Or worse.

Georgie Anne Geyer offers a pretty clear-eyed view of the situation in Iraq. It's worth your attention in full, but here are some key points...
One senior U.S. officer tells CNN, we have no Iraqi police force up in Mosul today...

The military assessment now is that the U.S. miscalculated Iraqi tribal and religious loyalties and did not realize Iraqis are likely to fight only for their brethren...

American generals now speak in interviews about the "cellular expansion" of the insurgents. They see a constant spread of new, small cells...

Officers and diplomats in the area are now changing their time limits. Some are saying that all of 2005 will be a very troubled year, that it will take five to 10 years, even under reasonably effective Iraqi rule, to bring any stability at all...
...and what do you figure the odds are on achieving "reasonably effective Iraqi rule" anytime soon?

Geyer still seems to have one small blind spot, writing that...
The truth no one really wants to deal with is that this war could very easily be lost by the United States.
No, Georgie Anne. The truth no one really wants to deal with, not even, apparently, you, is that this war has been lost by the United States.

The more you know...

...the more you know you need to do something.

jnfr at Fierce Planet points to tsunamihelp.blogspot.com, which offers comprehensive coverage of reports on the situation in SE Asia and opportunities to provide assistance.

Honestly, I'm a bit overwhelmed by the scope of the tragedy. Having lived through a few earthquakes of lesser dimension, and under the constant warning of the immanent 'big one,' I have a lot of compassion but very little comprehension of the situation. Death toll now over 80,000, I'm told, but the impact on the living must be devastating beyond my imagination.

Anyway, check out the new blog, and do what you can.

Check that.

Do what you must.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

If you're among the Red Cross-phobic...

...and a lot of folks seem to have good reasons to be, Ellen Dana Nagler at Bopnews offers some useful links for Southeast Asia disaster relief.

44,000 dead so far.

Damn.

A Cronkite moment for Iraq?

Americans of a certain vintage will remember Walter Cronkite's decision to call for an end to the war in Vietnam as a critical turning point in bringing US involvement to an end. We don't really have a Cronkite anymore. It's hard for younger folks to understand how pervasive his influence was, how large the role of any network news anchor was in shaping public opinion in the days when there were no cable networks, no 24 hour news programming, when a handful of broadcasters were in virtually every home, every night.

Although media ownership is increasingly consolidated, media influence is increasingly fragmented. There's still one mainstream outlet, though, that appears in every community, carrying the same message everywhere. USA Today holds a unique place in the media spectrum as the only truly national newspaper, the one you can pick up in a convenience store anywhere.

That's why I think the column by USA Today's founder Al Neuharth that appeared three days before Christmas may be Iraq's 'Cronkite moment.' When Neuharth writes...
"Support Our Troops" is a wonderful patriotic slogan. But the best way to support troops thrust by unwise commanders in chief into ill-advised adventures like Vietnam and Iraq is to bring them home. Sooner rather than later. That should be our New Year's resolution.
...people who will never read a lefty blog or trust the New York Times are going to get the message.


Must be a typo.

The New York Times needs to beef up the proofreading crew...
...King County elections officials announced that they had erroneously rejected 573 ballots because election workers failed to locate their signatures on registration cards on file. Then King County elections officials, who have been criticized for mistakes in this and previous elections, said they had found an additional 150 ballots that had not been counted at all.

The county went to court to have those ballots included in the tally during the hand recount, and ultimately won their case in the State Supreme Court last week. That was a major victory for Democrats...
I'm sure they meant "a major victory for democracy," because that's surely what it was.

We're all winners when we count every vote, election results notwithstanding.



Monday, December 27, 2004

I'm still kind of bogged down...

...getting the new 'puter just the way I want it (the !%*$# printer drivers I spent three hours downloading, for instance, that don't seem to have the latest impact on making my shiny new operating system recognize my aging but serviceable Deskjet...).

All that, though, and damn near everything else I could write about, seems to pale in significance compared to events in the south Pacific. Never mind me, I'm fine and the machine is a delight and everything here will be back to normal soon enough. Give some attention to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in the meantime. People who aren't doing fine at all and don't have much prospect of doing fine anytime soon are counting on the ICRC, and the ICRC is counting on you.

Sunday, December 26, 2004

While we were away...

...sucking down eggnog and inventorying the holiday plunder, Christine Gregoire became the apparent Governor-elect of Washington, taking a 130 vote lead in the hand recount that concluded when King County reported its final figures on Thursday.

I say apparent because the state hasn't certified the count yet and the state Republicans have "...vowed to seek out Rossi voters whose ballots were disqualified and said they will fight to have those votes counted."

Good luck to them, I suppose, but time is tight, and it's doubtful that they can find enough truly valid ballots within those previously disqualified to make up the difference. If they can do that before the certification, well, fair enough. As Kos rightly notes, only Republicans think valid votes shouldn't be counted.

It's not as though they didn't find a few new votes of their own during the recount process, though. Timothy Killian at More Perfect did the math and found that...
...guess what? King County wasn't the lead vote finder. Nor were they second. Or third. Or even fourth, fifth or sixth. Nope. The top six counties to add votes to their final tallies were counties that Dino Rossi won.
In fact, among counties that added votes to their previous totals during the recount, nine of the top ten, by percentage of votes cast, were Rossi counties. It really looks like he's already sifted the voter roles for everything available.

It's done, folks. Time to make it official and move on. In some earlier comments, it was noted that Republican Secretary of State Sam Reed seemed to have put himself on the right side of counting all the votes in King County. I'm not sure how much praise he actually merits for simply following the election law of the state, but compared to some of his compatriots across the country, in Florida, say, or Ohio, he is somewhat remarkable that regard I suppose.

Still, a better measure of his fairness will be in how quickly he now moves to certify the election of Governor Gregoire and to short circuit Republican maneuvers to manufacture votes or further disrupt the ballot via the courts.

Saturday, December 25, 2004

Fighting the good fight...

...doesn't guarantee perfect outcomes, but we can't afford to let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

With Bush sending back the names of his 20 most objectional first term judicial nominees and putting up various serial liars and torture enthusiasts for cabinet posts in his second administration, talk among Democrats naturally turns to filibusters. The filibuster is, after all, a tool that's been part of the Senate tradition precisely as a defense against the most egregious missteps of an arrogant majority.

To hear the Republicans holler, though, you'd think that the filibuster was something invented by Harry Reid between sessions. Spyderz' comment to an
earlier post is too typical...
Every other president has gotten his judges accepted. This filibustering, etc., is ridiculous.
That's hardly a unique view these days. It's one the Republicans are heartily encouraging, so much so that they're willing to lie repeatedly to support it.

Problem is, it's just not so. In fact...
Judicial nominees have never been immune from filibusters. When Republicans opposed President Lyndon Johnson's choice for chief justice, Abe Fortas, they led a successful filibuster to stop him from getting the job. More recently, in the Clinton era, Republicans spoke out loudly in defense of their right to filibuster against the confirmation of cabinet members and judicial nominees. Republican senators, including Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania and Mike DeWine of Ohio, used a filibuster in 1995 to block President Bill Clinton's nominee for surgeon general.
And when the Majority Leader starts spouting off about the 'nuclear option,' it bears remembering that...
Bill Frist, now the Senate majority leader, supported a filibuster of a Clinton appeals court nomination.
In fact, everyone would prefer a world in which cooperation and consultation with the minority (and in the US Senate, we should remember that far more Americans have voted for members of the minority than of the majority. The Senate's weird that way...) produced more mainstream nominees who could be approved without extraordinary efforts on either side. When faced with nominations of the marginally competent and/or idealogically extreme, though, extreme measures may be called for.

It's too bad. Filibusters are hard to explain to constituents and hard to sustain on the floor. If they fail, it tends to inflame the idealogues on our side, and when they succeed, it puts a further strain on the already tenuous collegiality that members of the minority count on to maintain even a minimal level of programs and services for the folks at home. In an enviroment where subcommittee chairs in the Republican House are empowered to punish members of their own caucus who stray from the partisan reservation, it's not hard to imagine the price that might be paid by participants in a successful filibuster.

Filibusters are an extreme measure. But these are extreme times, and extremists are being catered to by the Republican Party.

Can we stop everything the GOP exteme wants to do? Probably not. Can we at least block the worst of a bad lot? Hopefully so.

Either way, we have to try, and we should applaud the intent regardless of the outcome.

There's new news...

...and news not so new I'm itching to post about, but the first order of business is configuring the shiny new computer that the thoroughly delightful Younger Daughter of Upper Left and her Prince Charming delivered to Upper Left World Headquarters last night.

So while Rummy goes to Mosul and Chris Gregoire's going to the Governor's mansion and the world goes round and round, I'm tinkering with a version of linux that I'm generally unfamiliar and somewhat dissatisfied with. Yeah, I've been pretty thoroughly Borged by now, and this thing is doubtless about to become a Windows box.

But it's a dandy. Bigger, faster and better in every way than the old machine I've been using to create this blog. Once I get it tweaked into fighting form I'll be back with even newer news and some reflections on some older stuff, too. But after 15 years or so of working on a series of underpowered, outdated hand me down machines, tweaking my first brand spanking new reasonably contemporary computer is nothing but joy.

You don't have to be a Christian to have a merrry Christmas, and thanks to the YDOUL and the Prince, I'm living proof. Thanks kids!

Friday, December 24, 2004

We can't always get good news...

...but we can always do good deeds.

Here's one I heartily endorse, via correspondence snagged from Juan Cole. (If you don't know, CAP is the Civil Air Patrol. Kids, mostly. Great kids.)
Dear CAP Friends:

I am writing is to tell you about a project the Ramstein Cadet Squadron at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, is starting. The Landstuhl Regional Medical Center (LRMC) here in Germany got an influx of about 500 wounded troops from Iraq last week and more arrive almost daily. They arrive straight from the battlefield, with only the torn, dirty, bloody clothes on their back. They have no clothes, underwear, or toiletry items. The hospital provides them with only a cotton gown or pajamas, robe, and disposable slippers. Some stay only a few days before being sent to hospitals stateside, while others are here up to several weeks. The military gives them a $250 voucher to buy clothing and toiletries at the BX, but many are not ambulatory, and those who are have to wait for a bus to get down to the BX on Ramstein 7 miles away. The BX runs out of the clothing and it takes weeks for more to come in. Those who can go to the BX still need something to wear to get there!

The cadets are collecting new clothing and toiletries to that they can take to the wounded at LRMC. Below is a list of items the wounded need. It is cold here in Germany and warm items are needed. Items need not be name brands . . .

For males - all sizes, but mostly medium and large
briefs
boxer shorts
undershirts or T-shirts
white crew sox
cotton turtleneck shirts
flannel shirts
sweatshirts (crew or zip-up hooded)
sweat pants
inexpensive athletic shoes
knit caps
knit gloves
For females - all sizes, but mostly medium and large

cotton briefs
cotton T-shirts
cotton turtleneck shirts
flannel shirts
bras - mostly sizes 34, 36, 38 with cup sizes B and C
white crew sox
sweatshirts (crew or zip-up hooded)
sweat pants
inexpensive athletic shoes
knit caps
knit gloves
Toiletry articles -

disposable razors
shaving cream - regular and/or travel size
deodorant - regular and/or travel size
tooth brushes
tooth paste - regular and/or travel size
nail clippers
combs
hair brushes
The hospital could also use new or used video tapes or DVDs of movies for the patients to watch. Comedies or light drama are best. Please avoid movies about war or those with excessive violence.

If your squadron would like to help, we would greatly appreciate it, no matter what the quantity. Every little bit helps.

If you wish to send money, make your check out to the Ramstein Cadet Squadron and put "Help for LRMC" on the memo line. We will use the money to purchase toiletry items and movies. But American-sized clothing listed below is what is mostly needed, which the BX is currently out of.


Send your donations to:

Lt Col Lori Noyes
PSC 2 Box 6037
APO AE 09012

or

Ramstein Cadet Squadron NHQ-OS-119
Unit 3395
APO AE 09094


We can get items to the hospital faster if they come to my mailing address, but feel free to send them to the squadron address.

Feel free to pass the word along to other CAP units in your wing. Thank you for your support of our troops.

In service,

Lori L. Noyes, Lt Col, CAP
Deputy Commander
Ramstein Cadet Squadron
I've done winter duty in Germany. Warm stuff matters. These soldiers matter. Whatever you can do will matter, a lot.

20 lumps of coal...

...in the Senate's stocking.
WASHINGTON, Dec. 23 - President Bush plans to renominate 20 candidates for federal judgeships who have been unable to win confirmation in the Senate, the White House said today, in a signal that the president is ready for a showdown early next year.
He's drawing a line, still believing that the slimmest electoral majority of any wartime President in history has garnered him surplus political capital.

Fact is, no matter how weak we think he should be, or how bad we know some of his nominees are, this will be a hard fight, or, rather, a series of hard fights. We'll probably lose some of 'em. Face it, the Senate Democrats are a bit short on political capital these days, too.

Still, we can surely win some of them if we pick our targets right. William Pryor, Priscilla Richman Owen and Janice Rogers Brown all seem like good targets to start with.

We've beat 'em before. Let's beat 'em again.

The lovely and talented...

...Audrey Hepcat would like you to think she's too cool to care about her new catnip ball...



Don't you believe it. She's just too proud to pose.

Pretty soon she'll be too stoned to care, though, and maybe I'll try for another picture...

Last minute shopping?

How about giving the gift of truth?

As you gather with friends and family for (insert festive occassion here) over the next few days, simply remind them...
There is no crisis. The Republicans just want to destroy Social Security.
It is true, you know.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Another question...

...that occurs to me everytime I hear someone say that we have to 'win' in Iraq. What does victory in Iraq look like? It can't be this...
FALLUJAH, Iraq - U.S. Marines battled insurgents in Fallujah on Thursday with warplanes dropping bombs and tanks shelling suspected guerrilla positions, causing deaths on both sides, as the first 200 residents returned to the battered city.
...can it?
U.S. officials have hailed the military offensive to retake Fallujah in November as a major tactical victory.
We could end up 'winning' this war for years.

Enough. Declare victory, admit defeat, whatever.

Just bring the troops home now.





Things That Make Us Go Hmm...

Questions abound around the blogosphere.

Kevin at Preemptive Karma finds this one in yesterday's Washington Supreme Court proceedings...
Justices questioned Republican claims that counting the votes would cause irreparable harm. "You're looking at it from the point of view of the winner or the loser — shouldn't we be looking at it from the point of view of the voter?" asked Justice Susan Owens.
And adds a query of his own...
Why are the Republicans only now seemingly concerned with possible legitimate votes that might have been incorrectly disqualified?
Good questions, both of 'em. As good as this one from Jeff Popovich at Best of the Blogs....
First, everyone take a second to check out the latest cost of Bushco's war.... Then ask yourself, in the shadow of that ever-increasing price, what possible effect on the national deficit could cutting Pell Grants make?
Elsewhere, Jesse at Pandagon looks at the goings on in the Dover, PA school district and offers...
My big question: are they going to teach kids what a scientific theory is? And that intelligent design, while a "theory", is not a scientific theory?
Me, I want to know how many seas must the white dove sail before she sleeps in the sand...

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Count every damn vote!

Well, that's not exactly the way they put it, but that's the net effect of the Washington Supreme Court's ruling this afternoon.

And they're right.
OLYMPIA -- The state Supreme Court today unanimously overturned a lower court order that had stopped King County from counting 735 disputed ballots cast in the closest governor's race in state history.

The court, siding with Democrats, King County and Secretary of State Sam Reed, said that state law gives counties the power to reconsider ballots mistakenly rejected in earlier counts if there is evidence of an error.
With reports circulating that Christine Gregoire was holding a slim but sufficient 8 vote lead before the ruling, and the heavily Democratic tilt in King County at large, it looks like we hold the Governor's mansion despite the kicking and screaming of the most definitely anti-democratic (in every sense of the word, partisan or otherwise) efforts of the state Republicans, who vow to drag this thing back to the courts and/or petition every county for yet another (probably illegal) count.

Funny, when they were ahead, they said there wasn't time for any more of that. But hey, if they've really got valid votes out there, I can wait, because whatever the outcome, we've got to count every damn vote.

Why do I suspect they're lying, and they'll lose?

Yeah, we've got problems...

...a bunch of them. But maybe it's time that we, as Democrats, recognize that one of them isn't the failure of our Congressional leaders to stand against to the Republican agenda. In fact, if you pay attention, it hasn't been for a long time, if ever.

Don't believe me? Well, lately Harry Reid got downright medieval on Bill Frist's 'nuclear option' rhetoric, and now, here's Nancy....
"The Administration's cunning in hiding the failure of its economic policies from the American people is just another example of why the Bush Administration's pronouncements cannot be trusted...."
...and here...
"To get serious about lowering prescription drug prices for all Americans, President Bush must stop serving as a handmaiden for the pharmaceutical industry."
Yep, our leaders have been doing fine by us lately, and it wouldn't hurt a bit to own up to it and offer them some support. Heck, it might even help!

As usual, The Stakeholder has more.

In fact, if I haven't said it before, I'll say it now. If you call yourself a Democrat, The Stakeholder belongs on your bookmarks list. On top of it.

And sic 'em, Nancy!

A hard truth...

...but one it's past time to admit. James Wolcott faces facts...
...those troops in Vietnam did die in vain, as did the Marines who died in the barracks in Beirut, as do most of the men and women who die in war. Most wars are unnecessary, waged on the basis of lies, power, and fear; to justify the unnecessary deaths, the funeral services float the soft consolation that the body lying in the flag-draped coffin died for Peace, or Democracy, or the Good of the Country. When often they died because too many fools wouldn't admit they had made a ghastly mistake and kept perpetuating that mistake even after they and all the world recognized the mission was futile. How many more soldiers and civilians are going to die in vain in Iraq to prove that those who died before them didn't die in vain?
Eric Bogle offered the same truth more poetically in his classic WWI anthem, The Green Fields Of France.

Now young Willie McBride I can't help wonder why
Do all those who lie here know why they died?
Did they really believe when they answered the cause,
Did they really believe that this war would end wars?
Well the sorrows, the suffereing, the glory, the pain,
The killing and dying was all done in vain,
For Willie McBride it all happened again,
And again, and again, and again, and again.


And John Kerry put it more succinctly when he asked...
"How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake."
It's true no matter how put. It's still happening. It's time to stop asking and start demanding.


Exley explains.

Almost.

Zack Exley weighs in with a pointed self-defense at Kos. In short, he says he comments were generally misrepresented and specifically misquoted. Fair enough. While my overall criticism of the Kerry/Edwards online campaing stand, it's hardly fair to hold Exley responsible for word he says he never said, or those whose meaning was misconstrued.

Still, a couple of points from his defense leave me scratching my head. He writes...
My main point was that the conventional wisdom of Internet politics mistakenly de-emphasizes list building, email communications from the campaign to supporters, doing tools right, and constantly evaluating every online endeavor that consumes resources INSIDE the campaign on the basis of measurable positive results for the campaign.
Really? Where does that "conventional wisdom" come from, exactly? Who in the online community argues against creating and refining voter lists? Who's advocating doing tools wrong, purposely? Who claims that results don't matter? It's that kind of generalization that could lead even a friendly observer (and really, I want to be a friendly observer) to misconstrue what Zack's talking about.

He goes on to say that...
I keep getting criticized by Internet thinkers for being all top-down. The reason: I keep telling them that when it comes to campaigns (and only campaigns) they need to stop focusing on communication among supporters TO THE EXCLUSION of communication from the center.
..but it never seems to occur to him that if a campaign's online activity is perceived as being "all top-down" some responsibility for that perception might accrue to, well, the Director of Online Communications, for instance.

One of the most frustrating parts of any campaign is the postscript. When successful, there's always a line of people willing to take full credit, and when there's failure, the same lineup is on hand to insist that they had little to say about the campaign and little to do with the outcome.

In fact, there's praise and blame to be shared, regardless of the outcome. The Kerry/Edwards campaign didn't win the election (pending a miracle in Ohio), but they got a lot of things right along the way, some of which Zack Exley can rightly claim credit for. They got a lot of things wrong, too, and Exley shares some degree of culpability in some of them, including the final outcome. Any truly usefull assessment of the outcome has to recognize both sides of the credit/blame equation.

Exley learned a lot from the '04 campaign, and has a lot to teach us, but those lessons won't be fully digested by him or translated to us without a higher level of objectivity. That may well come in time. It hasn't, apparently, happened yet.

(Daniel has a different take and an independent defense of Exsley that's worth your attention. And thanks to Linnet for tipping me to Exsley's comment at Kos.)

Quote of the Day

Higher Pie clips a gem from Kid Oakland at DailyKos...
"I've been reading some of the noxious media tripe about attempts all over, I guess, to put the "Christ" back in "Christmas"....

I'm sorry, but I'm still waiting for them to put the Christ back into Christianity."
...then maybe they can figure out the Rabbi's real birthday and let the rest of us celebrate Giftmas in peace...

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

From the Department of Redundancy Department

via Juan Cole

"(David) Brooks's column makes no sense to me."

Words to live by.

Putting my credentials...

...as an unrelenting Kerry apologist at risk (though they're a bit tarnished already), let me just say that Kos is right, at least if Zack Exley, who left Move On to take the reigns of the Kerry on-line shop, actually believes what he said. Exley's an idiot.

Of course, I often felt that way during the campaign, as I watched the steady deterioration of the official Kerry/Edwards online presence, but now I understand why. It sounds like Zack never got it.
"The difference between the approach of the left in general, and the Republicans, is that the left was more interested in just putting cool software up. The idea was to put up the tools and let people use them."

****

"The belief was 'let's get 5,000 people out there and they'll talk to each other, but to put a president in office we need to get people organized and trained." In the end, he said, a field organization was far more valuable than blog blather.
Just whose belief was that?

For starters, "the left in general" means, well, it doesn't mean anything that I can discern. But whatever it may be, "the left in general" wasn't the Director of Online Communications for Kerry/Edwards. Zach Exley was, and if he believed what he says they (whoever they are), he definitely is a fool. I've certainly never heard anyone except Zach Exley express the notion "'let's get 5,000 people out there and they'll talk to each other" was a way to organize a campaign, or that "cool software" was the key to campaign victory.

There probably were 5,000 or so folks involved in commenting at the official Kerry blog, and the comments were about the only useful portion of the blog (well, 10% or so of them). The general utility of the blog, though, might be reflected in the dearth of links it drew from places like this. I was actively blogging on behalf of John Kerry for over a year, and the number of times I found occassion to link to his blog could easily be counted on my fingers. (Of course, maybe one reason I was partial to the comments was that every link out to here came from within them.) I was a relatively small fish in the sea of supportive bloggers, I admit, but all of us were cut off when the campaign inexplicably decided to drop its blogroll altogether (roughly coincident with Exley's arrival, as I recall), and between us we had a lot more than 5,000 pairs of eyes to offer.

I don't fully share Kos' objections to the fundraising emails that came on a near daily basis from the campaign, but that may be a reflection of my old-school political training that dictated that every communication from a campaing should include a pitch. It's worked for countless cycles, and based on Kerry's record-setting fundraising success it seems to work now. If you don't ask, you don't get. Still, there has to be more than a pitch to make the pitch more effective, and there's no question that the campaign did fall down on that score more often than was wise. The on-line audience is information hungry, and "We need money" just isn't that informative.

The only useful tool I can recall was the Kerry Core fundraising program, that allowed bloggers and others to track the contributions that they solicited. It was fun to watch the Upper Left Kerry Core account pass the $2000 mark, meaning I raised more through the blog than I could have legally contributed as an individual. I have no idea what the combined take from that program was, but it had to be impressive.

What else was there? A blog that cut itself off from the blogging community. An online forum, generated from the grassroots and staffed by volunteers, that was cut off from the main site. And, of course, the repeated iterations of the startling news that the campaign needed money. Meet Up? A fairly useful way to get in touch with fellow Kerry supporters for moral support and to plan activities - until the campaign took over, after which they seemed to get increasingly bigger and, perversely, less useful.

And Exley's remarks are the best explanation I've heard for the problems with Kerry's on-line organizing. His principle on-line organizer just didn't get it. Now he moans...
"There wasn't a shortage of people - but we didn't have an organization."
But Zack, whose fault is that? The people's? Or the organizer's?

The North Pole Department of Santa Security...

...seems to have saved Christmas for another year, despite the best efforts of Preznit Happy Holidays.

Turns out that the liberal anti-Xmas conspirators are just too busy. Jeanne, for instance, finds that...
...destroying Christmas is way down at the bottom of my To Do list. Today I'm baking gingerbread and helping to sandpaper and paint the salt dough stars, and tomorrow, I still have some wrapping to do. At the rate I'm going, I won't have time to destroy Christmas at least until Sunday, and by then, what's the point? The siege will just have to wait until next year.
I know how she feels. No sooner had I finished my annual Santa gig at the charity breakfast than it was time to haul out the menorrah, and as the last candle expired, the Brilliant and Beautiful Bride of Upper Left was happily tossing tinsel and colored balls on the fir tree in the living room as yet another batch of her famous Christmas cookies browned in the oven. The cookies, of course, have required my full attention whenever I can haul myself away from the keyboard, so there's just no time for the revolution this year.

Maybe next year...if I get those lighted candy canes off the porch here at Upper Left World Headquarters in time...

I wish I'd written this, too...

...not just because it's written well, but expresses my feelings at least as well as I could ever hope to...
...I am against the death penalty and also pro-choice, pro stem cell research and pro right to die. And that view is also perfectly consistent and moral because I simply don't believe that a tribunal or a judge or, least of all, a politician, is capable of making these complicated moral decisions about life and death. If I had my way, I'm sure that some guilty people who deserve to die would live to be 90 (imprisoned, I trust) because of this stand. And I assume that some women would have abortions for selfish and shallow reasons. But until human perfection can be achieved, which is never, these extremely complicated moral issues cannot be dealt with through law without often being immoral themselves.
Damn I dig Digby.

He's also right about this.
Instead of trying to convince people that we are moral because we share their discomfort about our deeply held principles, perhaps we should instead just hold to our deeply held principles and explain why they are moral in terms they can understand. I think that's what reframing is all about, actually.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Victory via repetition...

...has been the operating principle of the wingnut echo chamber. Make up a story, any story, and repeat it ad infinitum in every outlet available, and it will eventually become 'true.' And dammit, it works.

Which is why I feel no qualm about doing my small part in replicating the tactic by quoting Dr. Atrios' full quote from Bob Herbert's latest. Of course, in this case, our side has the modest advantage of starting with the truth to begin with...
From the earliest planning stages until now, the war in Iraq has been a tragic exercise in official incompetence. The original rationale for the war was wrong. The intelligence was wrong. The estimates of required troop strength were wrong. The war hawks' guesses about the response of the Iraqi people were wrong. The cost estimates were wrong, and on and on.

Nevertheless the troops have fought valiantly, and the price paid by many has been horrific. They all deserve better than the bad faith and shoddy treatment they are receiving from the highest officials of their government.
And while I'm at it, I may as well mention that there is no crisis. They just want to destroy Social Security.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Soul Power

While doing some overdue maintenance of the Other Lefties blogroll, I found another longtime pal o' Upper Left, Daniel in Chicagoland, had suspended his election year blog, Blog4Kerry, in favor of pursuing his Search for the Democrat's Soul. It's another fine site, and now blogrolled as Democrat's Soul for your clicking convenience.

Given his new blog's title, his latest posting seems on point.
Democrats should be striving to establish a baseline of what we ALL believe. After all, Democrats are the mainstream party; the new Republican Party consists of radical ideologues. We should be able to establish basic core principles that resonate with Middle America...
As Daniel notes, establishing core principles is a hard task for a truly 'big tent' Party, but it's not only worth doing, it's essential that we do it. Happily, the biggest tent of all, the House Democratic Caucus, has done a lot of the heavy lifting for us.

There's simply no body of Democrats that represent interests more diverse than our members of the US House. Choose any measure - geographic, economic, ethnic, racial, age, rank or serial number - some Democratic House member from somewhere represents the relevant interest. That's why, in summary, I think they best represent the general interest, and that's why I think their New Partnership For America's Future holds such promise for our Party.

Organized around six principles that serve as a lens for each of our proposals and a filter for each of theirs, this is something worth promoting. Here's the general outline...
PROSPERITY

Providing all Americans with the opportunity to succeed and to live a secure and comfortable life, including good jobs here at home, affordable health care, a growing economy with stable prices, investment in new technologies, and fiscal responsibility in government.

NATIONAL SECURITY

Guaranteeing military strength second to none, stopping the spread of weapons of mass destruction, building strong diplomatic alliances to protect America’s national interests, and collecting timely and reliable intelligence to keep us safe at home by preventing terrorist attacks before they occur.

FAIRNESS

Ensuring equal opportunity for all, including affordable health care for everyone, spending Social Security funds only on Social Security and eliminating tax loopholes so that all Americans pay their fair share.

OPPORTUNITY

Providing Americans access to the tools to succeed as they choose: a vibrant public education system, accountable to the highest standards for every school and a chance for all children to reach their potential, including an affordable and accessible college education.

COMMUNITY

Working together for safe communities free of crime and drugs, supporting local businesses and groups to keep our families safe and our neighborhoods strong, and enforcing our anti-pollution laws to keep our air and water clean and healthy, with polluters paying for the damage they cause.

ACCOUNTABILITY

Holding those in power accountable for their actions, acting responsibly for our children by restoring fiscal discipline and eliminating deficit spending with pay-as-you-go-budgets, and requiring real consequences for CEOs and corporations who break the law at the expense of those who play by the rules.
That's the stuff of the Democratic soul, and that's powerful stuff.

I've had trouble...

...getting as exercised as I probably should be over the recount in the Washington Governor race. I've never been particularly confident that a recount would produce the desired Democratic victory, and, in fact, the Leg is Democratic enough to keep Dino Rossi from doing anything particularly evil, and the state is broke enough to keep Chris Gregoire from doing anything particularly good, and the vote is close enough to keep either of them from claiming any particular mantle of legitimacy.

My sole interest, really, has been on the 'count every damn vote' principle. One recount, two, three, whatever it takes. Count every damn vote.

So I am pretty exercised over this...
TACOMA, Wash. - A judge Friday granted a state Republican Party request to block the counting of hundreds of recently discovered King County ballots in the governor's race, which the GOP's candidate is winning by just a few dozen votes.

Even if the election workers wrongly rejected the ballots — 150 of which were discovered Friday — it is too late for King County to reconsider them now, Pierce County Superior Court Judge Stephanie Arend said.
A couple of points.

First, I'm kind of puzzled over why they went to a Pierce County judge to get a ruling on King County ballots in a statewide election. Just smells wrong, even if Arend was originally a Democratic appointee to the bench.

Mostly, though, I'm confounded by the decision that votes that were cast by demonstrably eligible voters (including a King County Councilmember!) at the proper time in the proper fashion would be cast aside for any reason. If the statute doesn't provide for counting these votes, the courts should set aside the statutes, not the votes. These aren't 'hanging chads' or otherwise disputed ballots. These are the votes of citizens properly exercising their franchise. Clerical error can't be the grounds for denying that franchise.

The State Supremes take up the matter next week. Statutes be damned. There's only one principle that matters in this case.

In a democracy, we count every damn vote.

A reminder...

There is no crisis.

They just want to destroy Social Security.

Congratulations...

...to George W. Bush for taking his rightful place among such previous Time Man of the Year honorees as Ayatullah Khomeini (1979), Joseph Stalin (1939,1942) and Adolf Hitler (1938).

Yep, an honor indeed. But still some work to do if he wants to catch up to Uncle Joe...

Saturday, December 18, 2004

All they want for Xmas...

If only those Iraqis truly understood the glories of American consumerism, they'd put away those Kalishnikovs and run to the streets laden with flowers for our troops, don't you figure?

So what could be more appropriate than including an Iraqi family or two on your holiday shopping list? But what to get them? Riverbend offers some modest suggestions at Baghdad Burning...
1. 20 liters of gasoline
2. A cylinder of gas for cooking
3. Kerosene for the heaters
4. Those expensive blast-proof windows
5. Landmine detectors
6. Running water
7. Thuraya satellite phones (the mobile phone services are really, really bad of late)
8. Portable diesel generators (for the whole family to enjoy!)
9. Coleman rechargeable flashlight with extra batteries (you can never go wrong with a fancy flashlight)
10. Scented candles (it shows you care- but you're also practical)
And remember, no war toys!

Friday, December 17, 2004

Ezra explains...

...a great deal about the intra-party debate in this excellent post at Pandagon. You should really read it all, but let me share the conclusion...
The DLC's problem is not what Sirota is trying to diagnose it as, an unbridgeable distance on policy. Instead, it's a well-telegraphed disrespect for large, loud portions of the Democratic Party. And that's why people keep publishing barely-different versions of Sirota's article. Until the DLC starts sounding like Democrats, very few people are going to care whether they actually are Democrats. And that means few will note the promise of the PPI, the potential of the many downticket candidates the DLC spotlights, the legitimate insights in every issue of Blueprint magazine and the many policy forums they put on. The DLC is, in fact, a great, Democratic, organization. Why they're so determined to hide that is beyond me...
"Great" isn't really the adjective I'd choose to describe the DLC, but they do represent a significant and legitimate faction of the Democratic Party. The the only successful two-term Democratic Presidency of my lifetime, after all, emerged from their ranks. Whatever my disagreements with the organization might be (and they're multiple), they have earned a place in the debate.

The DLC needs to refine its approach so that its good ideas (and there are some) aren't buried in its awful presentation. The Democratic Party isn't quite big enough to afford a purge right now, so I hope they succeed in that. Ezra's analysis and advice are spot on, and I hope somebody near Mr. From is paying attention.

Pierce ponders.

In his latest missive to Dr. Alterman, our man Charles poses...

"...the question that's been rattling around my head since I saw that photo on Page One of the Times from the Medal of Freedom ceremony. To wit,

Which one's Shemp?"

Good, no, great question.

The picture's kind of fuzzy...

...but that's fitting, because the lovely and talented Audrey Hepcat doesn't seem to clear about who those packages she's guarding are intended for.

(Hint - not her. Well, maybe one...)


Everything I need to know...

...about the Social Security debate I learned from Digby:
They want to destroy social security. They voted against it in 1935 and they have been trying to figure out a way to get rid of it ever since. The Republicans do not believe that we should have a safety net for old people. They never have.

Don't get bogged down in details, just repeat, repeat, repeat. They do not believe that the government should provide all Americans with a small guaranteed income when they are unable to work due to old age or debilitating illness. They never have. The Republicans want to destroy social security.
Rinse. Repeat. Ad infinitum.

That's our case, in a nutshell. It's straightforward and succinct, and has the added advantage of being true.

They don't want to reform, preserve or even privatize Social Security.

They want to destroy Social Security.

You know it's true. Speak the truth.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Wish I'd written that...

The Aggressive Progressive scores the Rant of the Day...
Okay, Mr. and Mrs. Reality-Based (and isn't that pretty damn arrogant?): while we fight tooth and nail with people who agree with us 85 percent of the time, the bad guys are winning. By that I mean: people are dying on the streets of Baghdad, and let's be frank, they don't give a f*ck about NAFTA. Somewhere in the county you live, a child will go to sleep tonight hungry (far, far too many of them) and they could(n't care)less if the Tooth Fairy is the next chair of the Democratic National Committee, but they could really use a hot meal. There's an unemployed steelworker who just found out he's being laid off from his crappy McJob at Wal-Mart who is way less worried about tort reform then how the hell he is going to pay his rent.

If you think the current Republican regime is evil, does it matter whether you think Howard Dean is a saint or a jerk? Does it matter what you think about Joe Lieberman? Neither of them are the bad guy, but once again, we're ready to kick the hell out of each other. Regardless of what you think, both guys are on our side, they're both good guys in the big picture.

So here's some advice: knock it off.
There's more. Go read.

Who's sorry now?

Amy Sullivan's at it again. Touting the wrong issue with the example, that is. Last time around it was chiding Democrats for their reluctance to embrace religious language and holding up John Kerry, the former altar boy and weekly communicant who kept a variety of favorite Bible passages in his rhetorical arsenal as a case in point. Even if one accepted Sullivan's notion that we should let the Republicans define the playing field by 'chuching up' our rhetoric, Kerry was a lousy example. Southern Baptists don't have a chokehold on religious belief or language, and whild Kerry didn't have a down home, Bible thumping, pulpit pounding style, everyone who cared knew that he is a man of abiding faith.

She's picked a new topic this time, but is stuck on the same example. Noting that Kerry, appearing at a meeting of Democratic interest goup leaders, responded to a question from Ellie Smeal of EMILY's List telling the assembled that "...they needed new ways to make people understand they didn't like abortion..." she allows how "Standing up and saying that to the head of the pro-choice group that holds the biggest purse strings for the party takes some guts." She's right. It did. But she can't leave it alone. She adds, parenthetically "(Not as many guts as it would have taken to say it during the election, but these are baby steps.)"

Which is where her argument starts to collapse. Because John Kerry did say just that, very clearly, and repeatedly, during the campaign. He doesn't like abortion and, again, anyone who cared to know knew that. It was clear in July, when he told the Dubuque Telegraph Herald that
"I oppose abortion, personally. I don't like abortion. I believe life does begin at conception."
While making a principled defense of his pro-choice voting record at the same time.
"I can't take my Catholic belief, my article of faith, and legislate it on a Protestant or a Jew or an atheist. We have separation of church and state in the United States of America."
And he was consistent when responding to the issue in the second Presidential debate.
"First of all, I cannot tell you how deeply I respect the belief about life and when it begins. I'm a Catholic - raised a Catholic. I was an altar boy. Religion has been a huge part of my life, helped lead me through a war, leads me today.

"But I can't take what is an article of faith for me and legislate it for someone who doesn't share that article of faith, whether they be agnostic, atheist, Jew, Protestant, whatever. I can't do that. But I can counsel people, I can talk reasonably about life and about responsibility."
I think it would be clear to anyone except a single issue zealot that John Kerry was a Democratic candidate who shared the ambivalence many people feel when they try to balance their gut feeling that there's something wrong with abortion with the understanding that under our system of government there's no room for legal sanctions to enforce those feelings, particularly when the feelings are inspired by religious conviction. Not to Amy, though. She insists...
"...it's long past time for the Democratic Party to realize that they continue to lose voters who aren't one-issue abortion voters but who feel unwelcome in the party because of their beliefs. Rhetoric that verges on being pro-abortion rankles even pro-choice Democrats like me..."
OK. But where, among Democratic politicians or within Democratic platforms does she find such rhetoric. The most common language I hear tends to mimic the Clintonian formulation, "safe, legal and rare." Kerry went a step further, plainly stating his personal opposition. I've never, though, heard a Democratic candidate take a "pro-abortion," as in "I like abortion. People should have them." position. Never.

Sullivan's right when she says...
"Parents who are uneasy about parental notification laws don't have rocks in their heads...I'm not saying Democrats should back down from protecting girls in extraordinary circumstances who need to get abortions on their own. But they don't need to frame the argument in a way that implies that those who disagree with them are stone-age misogynists."
Fair enough. But what, then, is her problem with the Kerry, and by extension, Democratic position as outlined, again, at the second Presidential debate?
"...with respect to parental notification, I'm not going to require a 16- or 17-year-old kid who's been raped by her father and who's pregnant to have to notify her father. So you've got to have a judicial intervention. And because they didn't have a judicial intervention where she could go somewhere and get help I voted against it."
People are pro-choice for a variety of reasons. In one corner there's an absolute defense of a woman's right to control her reproductive health. Atrios, who offers a rigorous response to Sullivan here, argues "I'm not pro-abortion. I'm not anti-abortion. I'm anti-unwanted pregnancy." My position is anti-abortion and pro-Roe. It's a matter of privacy. Whether I like abortions or not isn't the issue. I don't, but it's simply none of my business unless an actually concerned party makes it my business, and then all I can do is offer advice. That's happened a couple times in my life. So far as I know, my advice was rejected each time. Neither woman delivered the child in question. I can only guess, though, because the actual circumstances were, once my advice was registered, none of my business.

But Sullivan credits Democrats with no shades of grey on the issue, arguing...
"If Democrats can change the perception that they are pro-abortion, they will finally be free to go on the offensive."
People who cling to that perception of a Party that made the avowedly 'pro-life' David Bonior House Minority Whip and has just selected the avowedly 'pro-life' Harry Reid Senate Majority Leader, choose to cling to it despite the obvious facts. They tend to be exactly the kind of single issue zealots that demand a position so extreme that, frankly, their votes are simply unavailable to us.

Since Sullivan herself is pro-choice, the Party is so clearly tolerant of a diversity of views on the issue and John Kerry's campaign was actually emblematic of the position she asserts we should adopt, it's really kind of hard to figure out what inspired her outburst. She admits that...

"Democrats have nothing to be ashamed of when it comes to their record of protecting life..."
But frets
"...no one is going to listen to them if they're too busy chanting 'I'm not sorry.'"
Well, if we have nothing to be ashamed of, what is there to be sorry about?

Atrios offers a counter suggestion...
It seems like pro-life Democrats who honestly recognize that the platform of the party is unlikely to change just want people like me to admit that abortion is "icky" to make them feel better. Well, I'm not going to do that.
I will. I admit it. I think abortion is "icky," at best.

Just the same, I'm pro-Roe. I'm pro-choice. And I'm not sorry.

Quote of the day.

Or quote of a quote of the day. Or something. Whatever. It's a good 'un.

AIDS activist Larry Kramer quoting a Brazilian journalist...
"You call that a demonstration? In my country, when they raise the bus fare we burn the buses!"

Via John at AmericaBlog.

Georgia on my mind...

...thanks to a little prompting from our favorite Georgian and longtime pal o' Upper Left, Steve, who reminds us that his old site, I Like To Write, is defunct in favor of his new one, Distance (as in 'going the...'). It's blogrolled for your clicking convenience and, as before, Steve's efforts have the Upper Left seal of approval.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Honesty...

...is our policy, right? At least I hope so. Sure, they just lie, but we don't have to, especially to ourselves. What am I talking about?

Citing the latest move by Pennsylvania to move its primary date forward in the nomination schedule, Kos declares that "Iowa's and New Hampshire's decisive role in nominating our candidate needs to end."

It's a popular meme these days, especially among the Deaners who are sure if one of the places they lost had just been scheduled ahead of some of the other places they lost, they would have won, but how true is it?

New Hampshire has been pledging delegates via their primary since 1952. Among the notable winners of the majority of those delegates were Estes Kefauver, Ed Muskie, Gary Hart and Paul Tsongas. None of them made it to November. In fact, there have been only four winners in New Hampshire who weren't sitting Democratic Presidents or Vice Presidents. How decisive is that, really?

Iowa's history is shorter, pledging delegates by caucus since 1980. There have been two winners who weren't sitting Presidents or Vice Presidents. One (Kerry) became the nominee. One (Gephardt) didn't.

There may be good reasons for changing the primary and caucus schedules. There are some reasonable arguments in favor of things as they are. It's a debate worth engaging.

But let's engage in it honestly, and honestly, there's just no real evidence that Iowa and New Hampshire are "decisive."

Mild?

Or wild?

I missed this one. Happily, Liberal Oasis didn't...
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) has hinted he may resort to an unusual parliamentary maneuver, dubbed the "nuclear option," to thwart...filibusters...

..."If they, for whatever reason, decide to do this, it's not only wrong, they will rue the day they did it, because we will do whatever we can do to strike back,"...Reid...said last week.

"I know procedures around here. And I know that there will still be Senate business conducted.

["]But I will, for lack of a better word, screw things up."
Sic 'em, Harry!