Tuesday, January 11, 2005

You can fool some of the people...

...about some (ok, a lot of) things, but sometimes your best efforts come to little or nothing...
A Washington Post-ABC News poll in late December found that 1 in 4 Americans thinks the Social Security system is in crisis, and the percentage that says the country is facing a Social Security crisis has gone down, not up, since 1998.
It's good to know that 3/4 of our fellow citizens know that there is no crisis. Make sure they understand that the Republicans just want to destroy Social Security.

(thanks to Ezra for the tip)

Something to celebrate...

OLYMPIA -- On the first day of the legislative session, Senate Republicans made a rushed attempt to persuade lawmakers to put off Democrat Christine Gregoire's gubernatorial confirmation for two weeks while a court challenge to her slim victory is heard.

They failed...
...and something less pleasant.
Sen. Tim Sheldon, D-Potlatch, switched sides and voted with the Republicans. He has a long history of voting contrary to his caucus...
Back in my days as a Legislative candidate, it was explained in no uncertain terms that while the caucus might tolerate a member going off-reservation on any number of issues, there were two votes that were considered sancrosanct. If you wanted to remain in good standing with the Party, you voted for Democratic leadership candidates and the Caucus budget bill. This year, there has to be a third on the list. Any Democrat worth the designation must support the election of our new Democratic Governor, no matter how scary the rattle and buzz from the Republican sound machine may become.

I'm pleased to see that Sen. Paul Shinn has replaced Sheldon as Vice Chair of the Agriculture and Rural Development Committee. Sheldon deserves no titles, nor does he deserve a single Democratic vote on any piece of legislation he may introduce during the session. When Tim Sheldon calls himself a Democrat, it's simply a matter of identity theft.

I encourage all you upper lefties to contact Majority Leader Lisa Brown and let her know that Real Democrats Shun Sheldon.

Count me in...

Count me in...

Jeffrey Dubner got the ball rolling at TAPPED and folks like Atrios and Dave Johnson have kept it in play. I, too...
"...swear that I have never taken money -- neither directly nor indirectly -- from any political campaign or government agency -- whether federal, state, or local -- in exchange for any service performed in my job as a journalist (or commentator, or blogger, or whatever you think I should be called)."
We know that Mr. Williams won't be aboard, and there seems to be a resounding silence from the winger blogs in general, but I would like to hear from these guys...

Surprise, surprise....

Paging Senator Coleman...
The audits reviewed by The Times, conducted by the United Nations' Office of Internal Oversight Services, do not contain allegations of bribery or corruption.

In an interview on Thursday, Mr. Volcker said that the internal audits "don't prove anything," but do show how the United Nations was urged to tighten up its supervision of the program. "There's no flaming red flags in the stuff," he said.
Were there problems in administering the Oil For Food program? Absolutely. Find me a massive multi-national program run by anybody for any purpose that doesn't have problems. But there's not only no evidence, but not even any "allegations of bribery or corruption."

Unlike, say, Halliburton's deal with Rummy's DoD.

He's back!

Quick. Go see!

One of these things...

...is not like the other.

Apparently this promise...
...Whatever the Governor ultimately decides, the DFA community will be the first to hear because you continue to be the foundation of our success.

Tom McMahon, Executive Director of Democracy For America
...is now inoperative.
Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, whose high-flying presidential campaign crashed a year ago in the political chill of Iowa, is expected to announce Tuesday that he will run for the chairmanship of the Democratic National Committee, sources close to Dean told CNN.

The announcement is expected at around 1 p.m. Tuesday, the sources said. Dean is expected to inform DNC members of his decision first, before it is posted on his blog and sent out to supporters via e-mail, the sources said.
Whatever qualities the Governor may bring to the campaign for DNC Chair, his fabled reputation for 'straight talk' and devotion to the grassroots apparently isn't part of the package, and without that, what's he got that our man Simon hasn't got more of?

Monday, January 10, 2005

An encouraging word...

...from John Kerry can still produce encouraging results. Political Wire reports that when he asked...
...his 2.7 million Web-page subscribers to donate to the USO's program for troops in Afghanistan and Iraq. We learn that the USO raised more at one time than ever before, and it credits 42 percent of the contributions to Kerry's E-mail.
Good for our side.

Tan, rested...

...and repulsive as ever.

Digby informs...
In other GOP megalomaniac news, it looks like Newtie's back!
Garlic won't work with these people. It takes a stake to the heart

Sunday, January 09, 2005

We've got it in writing...

...they really are shameless.
The state's chief elections officer, accused of mishandling the presidential vote in Ohio, sent a fundraising letter for his own 2006 gubernatorial campaign that was accompanied by a request for illegal contributions.

A pledge card with the letter from Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell, a Republican who co-chaired the Bush-Cheney election campaign in Ohio, said, "Corporate and personal checks are welcome."

Corporate donations are illegal in Ohio.

Everything I need to know...

...about the Armstrong Williams payola flap I learned from Roger Ailes...
Section 317 of the Communications Act, as amended, 47 U.S.C. § 317 requires broadcasters to disclose that matter has been broadcast in exchange for money, service or other valuable consideration. The announcement must be made when the subject matter is broadcast. The Commission has adopted a rule, 47 C.F.R. § 73.1212, which sets forth the broadcasters' responsibilities for sponsorship identification.

Section 507 of the Communications Act, as amended, 47 U.S.C. § 508 requires that when anyone pays someone to include program matter in a broadcast, the fact of payment must be disclosed in advance of the broadcast to the station over which the mater [sic] is to be carried. Both the person making the payment and the recipient are obligated to disclose the payment so that the station may make the sponsorship identification announcement required by Section 317 of the Act. Failure to disclose such payments is commonly referred to as "payola" and is punishable by a fine of not more than $10,000 or imprisonment for not more than one year or both...
Roger's letter to Commissioner Powell is here. He invites you to borrow.

Be like Roger.


Yeah, me too...

Kerry in Syria...
After Kerry left the Foreign Ministry on Saturday, 13-year-old Mustafa al-Nabulsi approached him with a drawing of the senator as a soldier in his Vietnam days.

"You have made me much more important than I was, though. You made me a general," Kerry said.

"I wish you were the president," al-Nabulsi said.

"Thank you very much. So do I," Kerry said.

via War And Piece

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Places to go, people to see...

but here's something to chew on until I get back.

I have to admit that I wasn't immune to the notion that the challenge to the Ohio electors had a certain element of grandstanding. Sure, I knew there were problems, but there were problems in lots of places, not the least right here in the upper left, with the seemingly interminable obstructionism by Republicans determined to seat their own Governor without counting all the votes.

Media Matters offers a list culled from the executive summary of the Conyers report on the Ohio election, though, and things really were that bad. There's not enough to overturn the result, I'm afraid, but there's certainly more than enough to justify the Congress pausing for a couple hours to reflect on what went wrong and what can be done about it in the future.

It seems that dueling election reform bills will soon be in the hopper. We need to get behind one or the other, or distill them into a single proposal. Election reform should be near the top of the Democratic Congressional agenda (nothing trumps defending Social Security from the Republican attempt to destroy it when there is no crisis. Blocking Ken Blackwell's political ambitions belongs somewhere on every Democrat's priority list, too.

Need proof? Here's the list.
The misallocation of voting machines led to unprecedented long lines that disenfranchised scores, if not hundreds of thousands, of predominantly minority and Democratic voters;

Ohio secretary of state and Ohio Republican Party co-chair J. Kenneth Blackwell's decision to restrict provisional ballots resulted in the disenfranchisement of tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of voters, again predominantly minority and Democratic voters;

Blackwell's widely criticized decision to reject voter registration applications based on paper weight may have resulted in thousands of new voters not being registered in time for the 2004 election;

The Ohio Republican Party's decision to engage in pre-election "caging" tactics, selectively targeting 35,000 predominantly minority voters for intimidation had a negative impact on voter turnout;

The Ohio Republican Party's decision to utilize thousands of partisan challengers concentrated in minority and Democratic areas likely disenfranchised tens of thousands of legal voters, who were not only intimidated, but became discouraged by the long lines.

Blackwell's decision to prevent voters who requested absentee ballots but did not receive them on a timely basis from being able to receive provisional ballots likely disenfranchised thousands, if not tens of thousands, of voters, particularly seniors.

Widespread instances of intimidation and misinformation in violation of the Voting Rights Act, the Civil Rights Act of 1968, Equal Protection, Due Process and the Ohio right to vote.

Improper purging and other registration errors by election officials that likely disenfranchised tens of thousands of voters statewide.

A total of 93,000 spoiled ballots where no vote was cast for president, the vast majority of which have yet to be inspected.

Blackwell's failure to articulate clear and consistent standards for the counting of provisional ballots resulted in the loss of thousands of predominantly minority votes.

Blackwell's failure to issue specific standards for the recount contributed to a lack of uniformity in violation of both the Due Process Clause and the Equal Protection Clauses.

The voting computer company Triad has essentially admitted that it engaged in a course of behavior during the recount in numerous counties to provide "cheat sheets" to those counting the ballots.

Friday, January 07, 2005

Oops. It's still Friday, right?

Cool. Then there's time for a peek at the lovely and talented Audrey Hepcat.

That look seems to say she knows I nearly forgot her...

Where was Kerry?

The question seemed to be on everyone's lips yesterday, except those of his colleagues, who knew very well where he was and didn't seem resentful (or particularly envious) so far as I could tell, and the American troops who greeted him enthusiastically in Iraq, who seemed downright grateful...
U.S. soldiers approached Kerry inside the restaurant of the Rashid Hotel, asking him to pose for photographs and sign T-shirts...

Later in the day, Kerry met with about 20 soldiers based in his home state, including reservists from the 356th Engineer Detachment and 126th Aviation Company of the Massachusetts Army National Guard at Camp Victory...


Kerry was scheduled to fly on a C-130 military transport plane today to visit troops in Fallujah and Mosul.
Baghdad, Mosul, Fallujah. Heck of a vacation trip, huh?

Actually, to think that Kerry might have served the cause better elsewhere reveals, I think, a lack of strategic imagination.

What purpose would have been served if John Kerry had been in the Senate chamber during the electoral challenge? The entire event would have been painted in terms of how did Kerry vote, what did Kerry say, Kerry, Kerry, Kerry. In fact, although his problems in Ohio were exemplary of, they were largely incidental to the real issue at hand. The issue wasn't what happened to John Kerry, it was what happened to the voters of Ohio.

My best guess? John Kerry knew there would be a challenge from the House, knew it would be supported by a Senator, and he, and the Congressional leadership, knew that the best place for him to be was elsewhere. The best place of all was exactly where he chose to be, choosing this day of all the days of his trip to the Middle East to be with American troops in places the President who started the war would never dare visit.

I know we're all brilliant in the blogosphere, but it's just possible that there are a few strategists hanging around Congress who can match our strategic skills. In this case, I think they did us one better...

Just imagine...

Imagine an America where all Democrats stand proud because all Americans look to us, the party, to make America more prosperous, more secure and more free. Imagine a time in the not-too-distant future when George Bush puts up a Supreme Court justice that wants to roll back the rights this party has fought for, and we have organizations in all 50 states that are ready to stand and fight. Imagine a party, when the other side raises $50 million to wage a campaign to privatize Social Security, that is able to go online, raise double that amount, and defeat this irresponsible plan. Imagine a party that is proud of who it is and what we believe and has the confidence and faith to stand for what is right and works to make the word “Democrat” something to run to, not to run from, an imagine a party that is talking to America not just in English, but in Spanish, and sees the exurbs, the South and rural America not as places to run from, but as places in which to run and win. Imagine a party that doesn’t take its base for granted but is fighting for every voter every day and talking with our truest supporters and organizing them to rejuvenate our parties all over the nation. And imagine a party on Election Day where the day after we aren’t offering excuses, but instead claiming victories.
And then imagine this...

The words are from the Simon Rosenberg's official announcement for Chair of the DNC, and this post constitutes my official endorsement of his candidacy. There's simply no one better prepared or better positioned to lead our Party, or to serve as a unifying link between the regulars and the reformers. He's a proven fundraiser who has a firm grasp of the need to strengthen and expand the Party infrastructure, incorporating new technologies, new ideas, and, perhaps most importantly, new people in order to answer the Republican challenge. Based on my experience as a State and County Committeman and a District Chair, I judge him as the leader we need and, in fact, have long needed.

I'll be encouraging the Washington State representatives to the DNC to support Rosenberg, and I urge you examine the experience and ideas outlined at his campaign website carefully and contact your state's DNC members with similar encouragement.


One of the abiding memories of my trip to the Jolly Green Jungle oh so many years ago is the guy on the flight over who had a copy of Country Joe McDonald's "Feel Like I'm Fixing To Die Rag" on a cassette. He persisted in playing it over and over, inspiring a hearty sing along among the lower enlisted and the visible umbrage of our sundry superiors. Soldiers going to war will not be denied their black humor, though, and we kept it up for most of the flight, until sleep overcame us.

The whole thing came back to mind when I stumbled across this, reposted by Jo Fish at Democratic Veteran. It first appeared at No More Apples, where the composer, Motherlode, blogs.

Everybody sing...
The Rumsfeld Rag (With apologies to Country Joe)

Well come on, all of you big strong men,
Uncle Sam's telling lies again,
Figured out that to fight a war
All you have to do is send the poor.
While Georgie and his buddies laugh and feast
They'll send you to the Middle East.

And it's one, two, three, what were you voting for?
Oil profits and endless war?
Did you think there was something more?
And it’s five, six, seven, let the theme reverberate:
“Muslims, gays, and liberal states,
Whoopee! We got lots to hate.”

Come conservatives throughout the land,
Now’s the time to take a stand,
Get it into liberal weenies’ heads
That the only good Iraqi is one who’s dead.
Raze their cities, destroy their lives
And convert ‘em all to Jesus Christ.

And it’s one, two, three, who were you voting for?
One deserter and a chickenhawk?
Who else could win Iraq?
And it’s five, six, seven, let the theme reverberate:
“Muslims, gays, and liberal states,
Whoopee! We got lots to hate.”

On 9/11 the country changed
And some of us became quite deranged.
With fears abounding from out and in
We launched a crusade to battle sin.
We all see something’s going wrong,
It’s about the time to drop a bomb.

And it’s one, two, three, what were you voting for?
Don’t you see or don’t you give a damn
‘Bout the lessons of Vietnam?
And it’s five, six, seven, let the theme reverberate:
“Muslims, gays, and liberal states,
Whoopee! We got lots to hate.”
Whoopee! indeed...

The Challenge

It seems obligatory to make note of the Democratic challenge to the Ohio electors by Congresswoman Stephanie Tubbs Jones and Senator Barbara Boxer. While it wasn't something I was particularly exercised about one way or another going in, on balance I'm glad it happened and Jones and Boxer deserve every accolade we can bestow. It's value as an exercise in focusing attention on the kind of election reform that should be a rallying point for Democrats in the new Congress was sufficient to make it worthwhile, regardless of the certainty of the final outcome.

Hunter at Daily Kos offers a particularly insightful observation, writing that he was...
...impressed by how prepared the Democratic speakers were, in both houses, and how very unprepared the Republican speakers were. While Democrats were citing example after example of actual vote suppression efforts, partisan electioneering on the part of state officials, etc., etc., Republicans who got up to speak mainly read from newspaper clippings or otherwise strutted and blustered about. It seems fairly clear that the Republicans weren't actually expecting a contest, and were unprepared for it.
In fact, the debates in each chamber that were forced by the action of Jones and Boxer leave the impression that this was an effort that was coordinated on a much broader level than their respective offices. Members of both houses came to the floor with facts, figures and speeches that reflected more polished eloquence than would be expected if this were truly an eleventh hour decision by Boxer to stand with Jones. Maybe I'm overly hopeful, but I'd like to think I see the work of Reid and Pelosi in play, in a way that portends good things for the future. John Kerry's email message on the eve of the occassion, referring to what he called a "formal protest" might be evidence that he was aware of, and perhaps involved in, a coordinated effort, as well.

At any rate, our Congressional Democrats did us proud, even if there's some quibbling about who did what on the final vote. The final vote was never the issue. The debate, and the focus on the need for election reform, was the issue, and it was (at least on our side) a good debate and a fine focus.

Speaking of quibbling, let me full endorse another remark by Hunter.
...it's high time we stopped calling people "sellouts" when they don't think or do exactly as we would on every single issue. This is national politics we're talking about, not whether Cindi gets to join our afterschool mall walk. God help Obama when the blogosphere suddenly learns he has opinions on things.
If you'll pardon the expression, dittoes, Hunter.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

"Squeaky-clean and totally transparent..."

That's what Karyn Quinlan has to say about the hand recount in the Washington Governor's race, and she should know. She was there, all day, every day, and writes about the experience in the Seattle Weekly. It's a nifty read, full of juicy bits like this...
While waiting for my training session the first day, I went looking for a comfy chair somewhere in the almost-vacant office building at Boeing Field, which was leased from King County International Airport by the elections division for this historic hand recount. A sign indicating the GOP Lounge looked at least partially promising. Sadly, I was shown the door moments after stepping inside. But I did manage to glimpse the big empty room with offices around the perimeter. It wasn't much of a lounge, but it was theirs, bought and paid for, as it happened, and they vigorously asserted exclusive rights to their domain. The GOP Lounge was essentially a war room, and it was strictly off-limits to Democrats.
Of course, Democrats, having just put down a $750,000 deposit for recount expenses, didn't have a lounge, so we couldn't hold their own private strategy meetings and prayer sessions on the premises. We just had to rely on counting all the votes and accepting the results.

We took our best shot, and non-stop whining from the other side notwithstanding, we won. Of course, it's not over, even though this one should be. As Quinlan points out...
If Republicans are complaining about the outcome, they do so with knowledge that they did everything they possibly could to game the system. On one point, at least, there should be no argument: Election reform, at the state and national level, is sorely needed. We simply must find a way to ensure that no legally entitled citizen is disenfranchised, that every vote is counted.

Truer words...

...were never blogged.
The prerequisite for defending and preserving Social Security is Democratic unity. As the senators apparently told Mr. Rove, down-the-line opposition from the Democrats raises the stakes on them dramatically. Then the demise of Social Security becomes a Republican deed through and through. All the political coverage of the Social Security debate will center on divisions among the Republicans, their internal discussions of strategy, who has cold feet about the phase-out and who's pushing full steam ahead.

Josh Marshall
I'm generally a supporter of the 'big tent' version of the Democratic Party. We can and should tolerate a reasonably broad range of positions on a wide range of issues. Still, there are lines that must be drawn.

Protection of Social Security is a bedrock Democratic issue. Signing on to the Bushco plan to eliminate (and that's what it is - don't doubt it for a minute) Social Security crosses a defining line. Any Democrat who does so should be considered ineligible for Party, Caucus or Committee leadership roles of any kind, or for any higher office they may seek in the future.

Of course, there's a certain level of risk involved in demanding partisan fealty on this issue. There's even a remote possibility it could cost us a couple of seats in the short term. It's a price worth paying, though, when the alternative is the sacrifice of our souls as Democrats, and the security of the aged and disabled the program has effectively provided and will effectively for decades.

Any necessary reforms, and there's a reasonable argument that some minor adjustments will be needed some time in the future, can wait for a Democratic majority to craft them.

Quote Of The Day

"I doubt that when the president sits down with his advisers they scream at him to bring him up to date on all of the issues. I don't know why we don't treat the audience with the same respect."
CNN-U.S. CEO Jonathan Klein on the summary discharge of Tucker Carlson.

Score one for Jon Stewart...and credit Jon Stahl at Evergreen Politics with the tip.

A reminder...

There is no crisis. They just want to destroy Social Security.

Find that hard to believe? Digby explains (again)...
Their motive for destroying social security is that it puts the lie to their contention that government can't be trusted to do any positive social good. They are wrong and social security proves it. That's why they must create the lie that it won't work even while it's clearly working.
Tell your friends.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

The Shadow Presidency...

...Chapter One. In which our guy shows how it's done...
Kerry is the only elected official on his trip, and he is making an unusual number of stops in the Middle East, suggesting that he wants to go beyond the sometimes-scripted events planned by the Bush administration. Foreign trips are fairly typical for members of Congress -- a large number of House and Senate members are making trips to Iraq in the run-up to the Jan. 30 elections there -- but Kerry insisted on charting his own course for his trip. He is making stops in Israel and its occupied territories, as well as other Middle Eastern nations.


Kerry's current trip includes meetings with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon of Israel, King Abdullah of Jordan, President Bashar Assad of Syria, and interim prime minister Iyad Allawi of Iraq...
Can you imagine George getting face time with any, let alone all, of those guys if he wasn't POTUS?

Quote Of The Day

"There are some people who have been dismayed that I wasn't a Katherine Harris who took the position, 'I'm a Republican, and by God that comes first.' "
Washington Secretary of State Sam Reed (R)

And some of us, Sam, are grateful that you saw your Constitutional duty and did it.

USC 55, Oklahoma 10

That's kind of bluish shade of Crimson, isn't it?

As Tbogg writes...
Jeez. If the red states can't even play football, what good are they?

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...


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


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.


...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



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.


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
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
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


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.


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?