Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Why is this woman smiling?



Kerry said every Arab leader he's talked to expressed a willingness to train more Iraqi military but have been rebuffed by the United States.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarek, he said, has trained only 147 officers and doesn't understand why his training offers are not being accepted.

Current U.S. policy is "growing the insurgency, not diminishing it," Kerry claimed, adding that he met last week with Iraqis in Kirkuk, Mosul and elsewhere who said they are eager to help make democracy work but are not getting the support they need from Baghdad.

Sic 'er, JK!

Blowing my own horn...

...may be unseemly, but since Jesse took kind notice, I'd like to point out that Salon's list of Bushco scandals is a bit short. While they list 34 scandals, "...everyone of them worse than Whitewater," (which sets the bar somewhat low, since, as has been noted elsewhere, Whitewater wasn't a scandal at all), the Upper Left Scandal Scorecard went on hiatus with a total of 64, 48 coming directly from the Administration and 16 more from their partners in crime across Capitol Hill.

I may no claim to a complete list, and new entries have been piling up while I've been otherwise occupied (And, yeah, the Scorcard's coming back. After all, they just can't seem to avoid racking them up.), but here's a quick recap...




Administration
1. Cheney's secret Energy Task Force

2. Ashcroft's illegal campaign contributions in 2000

3. Boeing I - the $23 billion tanker lease deal

4. Boeing II - the $1.3 billion surveillance aircraft boondoggle

5. Bush-Cheney 2000's failure to report $14 million spent on "recount" activities

6. Haliburton in Iraq

7. Haliburton in Nigeria

8. The Valerie Plame outing

9. Withholding information about the Medicare bill costs

10. Daniel Montgomery, Director of the ATSB, accepting illegal gifts from airlines.

11. John Korsmo, FHFB chair and his wife Michelle, a DOL official, involved in illegal political fundraising.

12. The suspension of Parks Police Chief Teresa Chambers in violation of Title 5 whistleblower protections.

13. The Iraqi National Congress' use of government funds to lobby for war.

14. Misuse of the Secret Service and other security to shield the President and Vice President from dissent on the campaign trail.

15. Abuse of the Presidential Records Act, to shield Reagan, Bush I and Bush II from scrutiny, and leaking information about Clinton pardons.

16. DOJ and Interior blocking the investigation of oil leases that cheated American Indian nations.

17. Charges by John Dean that Bush knowingly violated the terms of the Iraq war resolution.

18. Diversion of $700 million in Afghan war funds to preparations for Iraq invasion.

19. Failure to account for $40 billion in 9/11 emergency response funds.

20. Use of IRS web site to disseminate political messages from RNC press releases.

21. Administration appointees with fraudulent academic credentials, including an Assistant and Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense and a member of the National Commission on Presidential Scholars.

22. HHS ethics investigations, including Thomas Scully negotiating a new job representing companies that directly benefit from his work as Medicare chief.

23. The non-partisan General Accounting Office (GAO) found that the administration engaged in illegal propaganda with its fake news segments about the new Medicare law.

24. Rumsfeld's phony list of Iraqi contractors, provided to Rep. Ike Skelton, that doesn't include key Abu Ghraib players Titan and CACI, or Vinnell, MPRI Int., SAIC, Eagle Group, etc.

25. The Defense Department failure to submit the required quarterly reports on how supplemental authorizations have been spent since May 9, 2003, a report that covered spending through February 28, 2003.

26. A dozen current and former truckers say they risked their lives driving across Iraq in empty trucks more than 100 times while "dodging bullets, bricks and homemade bombs" -- trips their employer, a Halliburton subsidiary, billed to the U.S. government.

27. Deputy AG James Comey's attempt to improperly influence the Supreme Court deliberations and/or poison any potential jury pool in the Jose Padilla 'unlawful combatant' case.

28. The DoD/DoJ coverup of the chain of command responsibility for Abu Ghraib tortures. As of 6/9/04, no commissioned officer is facing Court Martial charges for the events at the prison.
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29. Attorney General John Ashcroft's obstruction of Congressional investigators by refusing to provide an unclassified memorandum reported to instruct Administration officials on methods to avoid culpability for torture and other war crime violations against prisoners.

30. Using Doug Feith, a political employee, to award no-bid contracts, coordinated with the Vice President's Chief of Staff, to the Vice President's former firm, Haliburton.

31. Bush's putting ideology above science in policy development, resulting in, among other things, allowing a Cabinet Secretary to withhold evidence in a Congressional Hearing and permitting idustry lobbyists to write mercury pollution legislation according to their profit desires instead of sound science.

32. Attorney General John Ashcroft giving false evidence under oath, according to the testimony of two FBI agents.

33. The Justice Department release without trial of terror suspect Nabil al-Marabh for deportation to Syria.

34. The Department of Homeland security awarding a high-level security clearance to Faisal Gill despite his submitting an application that concealed his association with indicted terrorist Abdurahman Alamoudi.

35. John A. Shaw, Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for International Technology Security, conducting "...unauthorized investigations of Iraq reconstruction efforts," and using the results "...to push for lucrative contracts for friends and their business clients."

36. Bush officials editing the EPA report on NYC air quality after 9/11 in a way that "added reassuring statements and deleted cautionary statements."

37. Misuse of a technology contract with Affiliated Contract Services to employ interrogators at Gitmo.

38. Leaking the identity of Muhammed Naeem Noor Khan, the al Qaida double agent in Pakistan.

39. The EPA delivered an advance copy of a rule for commercial laundries to industry representatives for editing, letting the industry define the regulation.

40. A GAO audit finds the Defense Department has an error rate of 95% in payroll accounting for troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

41. The neo-con cabal operating out of Doug Feith's DoD office, ranging from the espionage investigation of Larry Franklin through the House and Senate investigations of a broader pattern of misbehavior surrounding Feith's operation.

42. The GAO reports that corporations are permitted to bid for US government contracts while using subsidiaries in foreign tax havens to gain a competetive bidding advantage.

43. HHS deleting a chart from its annual report that revealed the cost increases for Medicare recipients until Rep. Pete Stark (D-CA) noticed its absence and demanded disclosure.

44. John Ashcroft's publicity tours to support passage of the PATRIOT, which, as Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) points out, apparently violate laws that prohibit lobbying by executive branch officials.

45. Conditions in the prisons operated by the BIA, which Interior officials report have produced at least 11 fatalities, 236 suicide attempts and 632 escapes since the Bush administration took office.

46. Department of Interior mismanagement of the Indian land trusts, and their legal battles against tribal efforts to gain compensation, despite repeated judical sanctions for misconduct and malfeasance.

47. The GAO found the Bush administration vioalted the law by allowing the insurance industry to impose illegal limits on Medicare recipients under a managed care trial program.

48. A serious breach of homeland security reponsiblities has occured as the Bush administration has sent an aging fleet of Coast Guard vessels into an expanded mission with an understaffed, inexperienced corps of Coasties.
Congress

49. The NRCC's illegal transfer of $500,000 in soft money to ineligible recipients during the 1999 primary season.

50. The House leadership censored the C-SPAN cameras in the chamber during the three hours the they were harassing members to switch their votes, locking the cameras on the Democratic side of the chamber.

51. DeLay selling influence to Westar Energy.

52. DeLay using the FAA to chase the Texas "Killer D's."

53. Rep. Tom Davis using his chairmanship of the House Government Reform Committee to block the Haliburton investigations.

54. Rep. Joe Barton using his franking privelege to contact voters outside the District he was elected to represent.

55. DeLay's PAC contributions to House Ethics investigators.

56. DeLay directing Texas Republican Peter Cloeren to channel contributions to out of state PACs in order to evade FEC contribution limits in a Texas Congressional race.

57. The Republican Congress not only failed to tighten of the rules requiring pensions to set aside enough money to meet their obligations, but actually loosened them, giving the biggest flexibility was given to the most troubled industries.

58. Senate Judiciary Committee computer theft.

59. The Nick Smith bribe.

60. Tom DeLay's illegal Texas legislative contributions.

61. Tom DeLay's bogus “Celebrations for Children” charity, used as a front for political receptions.

62. Tom DeLay's abuse of Treasury Department personnel for political puposes by ordering a a partisan analysis of John Kerry’s tax plan.

63. Bill Frist's financial stake in a medical malpractice insurer, while pushing malpractice "reform" in the Senate.

64. Rep. Henry Bonilla's American Dream PAC, which has contributed less than 9% of its funds to the minority candidates it was chartered to assist.
And before the wingnuts weigh in, if you haven't kept up with the posts that introduced each item in more depth, details for each and every charge can be readily found at www.google.com...

Profiles in Courage, '05

Via Peacegarden, 16 who dare speak truth to power (including, I'm proud to say, my own personal Congresscritter...)
January 12, 2005
The Honorable George W. Bush
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20500

Dear Mr. President,

We write to urge you to take immediate steps to begin the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq.

Although the initial invasion of Iraq may have occurred with minimal troop deaths, the subsequent occupation of the country has been anything but successful. Already more than 1,300 American troops have lost their lives since the war began on March 19, 2003. At least 10,000 American troops have been injured as well, and it is impossible to know exactly how many thousands of innocent Iraqi civilians have been killed. Despite the enormity of the war’s casualties, the Iraqi insurgency continues to grow stronger with every passing day.

Iraq is no closer to becoming a stable democracy today than it was two years ago, as evidenced in recent weeks by the daily torrent of insurgent attacks on American forces and Iraqi civilian leaders. On January 4th, insurgents assassinated Ali Haidari, the governor of the Iraqi province that includes Baghdad. Just as devastating to the prospect of democracy, on December 30th, al-Jazeera satellite channel reported that all 700 electoral workers in Mosul quit their posts out of fear of being killed. Two weeks later, on January 10th, the entire 13-member electoral commission in the Anbar province, just west of Baghdad, resigned after being threatened by insurgents. If even Iraqi election officials fear for their lives, how can we possibly expect Iraqi citizens to feel safe going to the polls? How can we continue to put our own troops in harm’s way, the continued targets for Iraq’s thousands of malcontent insurgents?

It has become clear that the existence of more than 130,000 American troops stationed on Iraqi soil is infuriating to the Iraqi people - especially because Saddam Hussein did not possess weapons of mass destruction and did not have a connection to the tragic events of September 11th, 2001 or to the al Qaeda terrorist organization. Indeed, the very presence of Americans in Iraq is a rallying point for dissatisfied people in the Arab world. The events of the last two years have not only intensified the rage of the extremist Muslim terrorists, they have also ignited civil hostilities in Iraq that have made Americans and Iraqis substantially less safe. Therefore, by removing our troops from the country, we will remove the main focus of the insurgents’ rage.

Again, while it may be logistically difficult to immediately remove every American soldier, we urge you to take immediate action to begin the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq. This is the only way to truly support our troops. Thank you for your consideration of this request.

Sincerely,

Representaives
Lynn Woolsey (CA-06)
Danny Davis (IL-07)
Lane Evans (IL-17)
Sam Farr (CA-17)
Raul Grijalva (AZ-07)
Alcee Hastings (FL-23)
Maurice Hinchey (NY-22)
Jesse Jackson, Jr. (IL-02)
Dennis Kucinich (OH-10)
Barbara Lee (CA-09)
John Lewis (GA-05)
Jim McDermott (WA-07)
Grace Napolitano (CA-38)
Major Owens (NY-11)
Jose Serrano (NY-16)
Pete Stark (CA-13)
FWIW, me, too.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Keep climbing...



...He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over. And I've seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get will get to the promised land!

Martin Luther King, Jr.
April 3, 1968

Sunday, January 16, 2005

My two cents...

...on the whole Kos/Jerome/Zephyr blowup. (Did I say two cents? Perhaps I flatter myself...)

I'm hardly an apoligist for Kos or Jerome. I do appreciate their work, generally, but since I was a pretty active anti-Dean blogger, some of our differences are apparent. I've cast a somewhat jaundiced eye on some of their tag team consultant bashing, considering that their own consultancy shingle is still hanging high (and despite Kos' assurance that he's mostly out of the biz, he's still a partner in the firm which is still trading on his (well-deserved) high profile in the progressive community). I'm on the other side of Jerome on the DNC Chair question to some degree, and generally unclear about where Kos is on that one.

All that being said, there's just no question that both Kos and Jerome went above and beyond any reasonable level of disclosure and ethical behavior when Armstrong/Zuniga was employed by the Dean campaign. Anyone reading Daily Kos during that time found a disclaimer at the top of the page, and anyone reading MyDD simply didn't find a word from Jerome, because he suspended blogging for the duration of the consulting contract.

So why is it a big deal? Because Zephyr Teachout, for reasons which seem totally clear only to her, chose to bash Kos and Jerome, and by extension the internet team at the Dean campaign, on her Zonkette site, assigning motives of questionable ethics to the decision to hire them. Trippi denies it and anyone who was reasonably observant of the scene at the time knows it's a crock, but it played right into the hands of the wingnuts as they campaign to rescue the reputation of the payola scandal surrounding Armstrong Williams.

Even our presumed friends are confused.
BEGALA: I don’t know. First, if in fact people were paid to flak Howard Dean and didn’t disclose it, that’s reprehensible. We talked about that earlier with Armstrong Williams, and the same standard should apply to liberals.

A couple of things are obvious from that quotation. First, Paul Begala's revealed as just another TV talker willing to prattle on about subjects he knows nothing of. Those that might bemoan the loss of his voice with the cancellation of Crossfire should be comforted that it's a much smaller loss than the removal of Carlson and Novak are gains.

It's also instructive about just how small the reach of even the biggest bloggers is. By the time Begala took to the airwaves with his blather, the truth - that Dean hadn't payed Kos or Jerome or anyone except his own campaign staff who wrote for his own campaign blog - to 'flak' for him had been prominently proven by Kos, Jerome, Atrios, Digby and any number of other heavyweights in the lefty blogosphere. Clearly, one of the most prominent liberal spokesmen in the SCLM went on the air without skimming any of them. All of us combined, I'm afraid, really aren't all that.

Then, of course, there's the craziness of the idea that there's any kind of equivalence whatsoever between the illegal reciept of government payola by Williams and the activities of overtly partisan bloggers. You can't hold people to the same standard unless they're involved in the same, or at least a vaguely similar, activity, and that's just not the case here.

Meanwhile, hay is made of this nonsense by all the usual wingnut suspects, simply because Zephyr couldn't resist a little of the intramural backbiting that's all too typical of progressive politics.

Sheesh.

From the 'Good for the Goose' department..

The memory hole beckons, so we all need to do what we can to keep this one current...
"John Kerry did the right thing by choosing not to drag the presidential election into court. Slade Gorton made the same choice in the 2000 election. I hope Christine Gregoire will follow their example."

-Dino Rossi, 11/12/2004

Must be the weekend...

...because I can't resist playing with these online analysis thingies. Actually, I considered this result kind of flattering and pretty accurate, at least as measured by my self image..

folknik
You are a Folkie. Good for you.


What kind of Sixties Person are you?
brought to you by Quizilla


(That's Phil Ochs, kids. If you don't know him, you should...)

Saturday, January 15, 2005

I'm remiss, too...

...in pointing you toward the work of Carla at Preemptive Karma, whose recent work on the Washington Governor's race transcends ordinary blogging and constitutes extraordinary journalism. I'm not sure you can fully grasp what's going on here without keeping up with her efforts.

She's been focused on one of the major whines of the Republicans, that military votes were treated unfairly, despite the absence of complaints from the military. In fact, as Carla reports, the DoD went to some extraordinary efforts of their own to promote the exercise of the franchise among the ranks (something even I will concede Rummy got right, even if his motives were all wrong), and take some deserved pride in the results.

Rossi, Vance and their brigade of radio talkers and wingnut bloggers, though, disparage those efforts and would have you believe that those efforts were for naught and that stories like the Stars and Stripes report that "...the US military has found no evidence of problems with overseas military absentee ballots" are a sign of some kind of incompetence, lack of concern or evil conspiracy on the part of our military commanders.

Once again I'm left wondering...

Why do Republicans hate the men and women who fight for America?

Building the Monolition...

I've been remiss in updating the list. No excuse really. Since it seems to get shorter all the time, it should be easy to track. Here's an update from the New York Times, via the Toronto Star...
Ukraine became the latest dropout from the "coalition of the willing" when President Leonid Kuchma formally ordered his generals to start pulling his country's roughly 1,600 troops out of Iraq.

That was not a surprise because Ukraine has been heading for the door for some time. Still, given that Ukraine has been much in the news and that its contingent was the fifth-largest in Iraq (after the United States, Britain, Italy and Poland), the exit is worth noting.

****

Ukraine's withdrawal punches a major and potentially fatal hole in the much-ballyhooed multinational division that Poland volunteered to lead in Iraq. Spain was the first to drop out, and Ukraine had the second-largest contingent after Poland itself.

The coalition has also lost Hungary, the Philippines and Honduras, among others, while Poland itself, long regarded as second only to Britain in its fealty to the United States, is talking of cutting back. Several other countries intend to reduce their participation in the next few months.
...and so goes the Coalition of the Coerced.

The Brilliant and Beautiful Bride...

...of Upper Left is right about an astonishing range of subjects, but she's wrong when she accuses me of acting like a 12 year old, and I have the proof right here...





You Are 27 Years Old



27



Under 12: You are a kid at heart. You still have an optimistic life view - and you look at the world with awe.

13-19: You are a teenager at heart. You question authority and are still trying to find your place in this world.

20-29: You are a twentysomething at heart. You feel excited about what's to come... love, work, and new experiences.

30-39: You are a thirtysomething at heart. You've had a taste of success and true love, but you want more!

40+: You are a mature adult. You've been through most of the ups and downs of life already. Now you get to sit back and relax.




Not bad for a guy about to turn twice the age I apparently act, huh?

Friday, January 14, 2005

From the Good Answers file...

Streak...er, pardon me...Dr. Streak reminds us...
What do we know about our Capital Punishment?

1) The states that execute the most are from the old Confederacy.

2) Those same states had the most illegal lynchings as well.

3) Our system is biased on both class and race. If you are poor and can't afford good counsel, you have a much higher possibility of being executed (especially in Texas).

3b. If the victim is white, much more likely to result in execution. Victims of color don't count as much.

4. Since the advent of DNA testing, the Innocence Project has exonerated 154 people who were on death row. Remember, DNA evidence only comes into play when there is, well, DNA to be tested. That doesn't mean those are the only wrongful convictions. Especially with what we know about eye witness testimony, it is inconcievable that we can claim that we only execute the guilty.
...which reminds me of one of the big reasons I was such a strong John Kerry supporter last year, and why I still think he's one of our finest leaders. Public officials who resist public blood lust to oppose state sanctioned murder deserve our support.

(as usual, my emphasis)

From the Good Question file...

Noam Scheiber's curiosity is piqued at TNR's etc...
According to Dick Cheney:
Others have made the broader argument that any kind of stock market investing is unwise when it comes to personal retirement....
...Who, exactly, has made the "broader argument that any kind of stock market investing is unwise when it comes to personal retirement"?
Who, indeed? If you can, you certainly should have investments independent of Social Security. I think that's univerally accepted. Some folks can't, though, for a variety of reasons, and the nature of the market is such that while some folks come out winners, some inevitably come out losers. Social Security evens the field a bit for everyone. That's what it's for.

Of course, if you have the resources and skills to get in the market, by all means do so. That's no reason to destroy Social Security, though, and that's what the Bushco scheme will do, because that's what they want it to do.

I choose...

...to take it as a compliment that I'm not on the list of folks nominated for a Koufax award in the Most Deserving of Wider Attention category. I figure the only reason I'm not on the list is that all y'all figure that this place is just so terrific that everyone already knows about it.

The Carpetbagger Report is on the list, though, and I heartily encourage all of you to click over to Wampum and give the CBR your vote. I've got dozens of blogs on my Bloglines list, but when I just want to do a quick scan of a few sites, that's one I never skip. There's always something worth my while, and yours, there. This concise and insightful review of the function and future of the DNC Chair is a good example.

In fact, there are days when I think I should just convert this to a mirror of the Carpet Bagger. It would save a lot of time and be a considerable upgrade in content. But you'd miss me, right?

Right.

Anyway, give him a boost with your vote. And if you're inclined, toss something in the Wampum tip jar. They take on considerable effort and expense to provide this service to the lefty blogosphere.

The lion roars...

I could have picked most anything from Ted Kennedy's National Press Club speech as a quote of the day, but these comments really sum up why I'm a Democrat, and why despite setbacks, I'm a confident Democrat.
In fact, our values are still our greatest strength. Despite resistance, setbacks, and periods of backlash over the years, our values have moved us closer to the ideal with which America began - that all people are created equal. And when Democrats say "all," we mean "all."

****

A new American majority is ready to respond to our call for a revitalized American dream - grounded firmly in our Constitution and in the endless adventure of lifting this nation to ever new heights of discovery, prosperity, progress, and service to all our people and to all humanity.
The dream will never die.

On guard...



The lovely and talented Audrey Hepcat shifts into fierce and intimidating mode and takes a post in defense of the box that is Upper Left World Headquarters...

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Please, be specific.

Just a note for the wingers who drop by to comment on the "corruption and illegality" in King County's hand recount process.

Do you mean that the Republican vote counters and Republican election judges who were present to oversee the tally of each and every vote counted in King County were so hopelessly inept that their incompetent efforts spoiled the result, or that they were so universally corrupt that they were all bought off and thus failed to meet their responsibilities?

I'm sure either might be true, but I'm wondering which you mean...

Good news...

...on the internets.

Any legal eagles out there...

...who know what constitutes an illegal effort to influence a judicial decision under Washington law? This passage from a piece by Sandeep Kaushik in The Stranger got me wondering...
On Wednesday, Gregoire will be inaugurated governor. Whether she stays governor will be decided by the courts, not the public. But as Vance points out, "Even judges are human beings. They read newspapers too."
Sure they do. And being human, they might be influenced. But when someone openly admits that they're spending thousands of dollars to gin up a controversy in order to deliberately influence the decision of a judge, well, if it's legal, it shouldn't be.

At any rate, it seems that Vance's bald admission that he's at the head of an effort to intimidate the bench should be pretty offensive to every judge in the state, and put any decision in favor of a Mulligan for Rossi in doubt.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Yglesias gets it, too...

...and makes an important, if uncomfortable, point.
...there's simply too much bad blood between Dean and other important people in the party. Many centrist Democrats (and, frankly, non-centrist Democrats) are simply bitter about Dean's over-the-top "Republican-lite" rhetoric. Dean, too, is bitter about the over-the-top "Mondale-McGovernism" rhetoric that was directed at him. Neither side is blameless in this, and I don't really care to adjudicate who's more in the wrong. But that's the reality. The party could use a shake-up, but it certainly doesn't need a bitter, emotion-laden pissing match...
It's just true. Among Party regulars, 'important' and otherwise, there was a lot of resentment toward Howard Dean's implication that being a Democrat was something to be ashamed of. Folks who work year around, year in and year out, for the Democratic Party and Democratic candidates are generally proud of their work and their Party. Many of them, and I'm talking about the grassroots rank and file Party regulars, were offended by the tone of the Dean campaign, and they were I think, the biggest reason the Dean machine crashed and burned as soon as the pundits were replaced by the voters last winter and spring. They haven't gone away, and they won't (I certainly hope) be going away. Precinct captains tend to outlive Presidential candidates in the party organization, by years, sometimes decades.

Again, I'm largely over it. I don't have any great objections to a Dean chairmanship, at least not from the way he conducted his primary campaign. I think he aquitted himself admirably during the general election campaign and since. I question the depth of skill as a strategist and fundraiser he brings to the job. He's depended on hired guns for those services in the past, while the DNC Chair is a hired gun. A lot of folks, though, are no where near over it, and the overheated rhetoric that many of the hardcore Deaner's continue to throw at the Party regulars doesn't help a bit. I know the Deaniac fringe doesn't really speak for the Governor, but they don't seem to know it.

And there's just no getting around it. Other than the totally unacceptable Tim Roemer (sorry Nancy and Harry, but squeezing out a few more bucks for the Congressional campaign committees doesn't justify a bloody debate over key Democratic principles), there's just no more divisive figure in the DNC Chair race than Howard Dean. That might not be fair. It's probably not justified.

But it's true.

Power plays.

While John Kerry was using the power of the internet and the patriotic devotion of Democrats to set a new fundraising landmark for the USO's work to support our troops, House Speaker Dennis Hastert was demonstrating his power to punish people who support our troops, ousting Chris Smith from his role as Chair of the Committee on Veterans Affairs.

Smith's sin?
During his four-year tenure, Smith authored twenty-two bills benefiting veterans: increasing veteran education funding through the GI bill by 46 percent, allocating $1 billion for homeless vets and $1.4 billion for expanded healthcare programs, and providing an extra $100 million in benefits for surviving spouses.
Take a note, Mr. Speaker. When you lose Robert Novak, you've blown it...
"The extraordinary purge buttressed the growing impression of arrogance as Republicans enter their second decade of power in the House," Novak wrote.
And this doesn't help a bit...
A top Republican aide justified his party's brutish behavior by praising Smith's replacement, the fiscally hawkish Buyer, as someone who'll be able to "tell the veterans groups, 'Enough is enough.'"
The veterans groups know that, of course. And they know that there isn't enough. And not enough isn't, well, enough.

Why do Republicans hate the men and women who fight for America?

Way to go, Joe.

Trippi gets it.
CHRIS MATTHEWS: Let me ask you, we have a fight going on for DNC chairman, are you for Dean, Joe Trippi?

TRIPPI: I'm coming out for Simon Rosenberg, the head of the New Democratic Network. I think he's somebody I think that's going to make a big difference, pull the party together and actually is very savvy about the internet grassroots and I think has proven himself...

...it's not about Howard, it's not about opposing him. I think Howard Dean should run for-- if he asked me for advice, he doesn't do that these days— but I'd tell him to run for the U.S. Senate, to run for President in 2008 if he wanted to, I think he's got a lot of assets. But I think this is, right now, about building this party.

Say it ain't so, Daniel!

Longtime pal o' Upper Left (according to Technorati, his old site Blog4Kerry was the first external link into this joint) Daniel reports that he's suspending work on a post announcing his endorsement of Simon Rosenberg for DNC Chair for his blog, Democrat's Soul. Not because he sees a better choice, but because he sees a lost cause...
So why am I not making an effort? I had two sources tell me Dean would not announce unless he was close to having enough votes. Then last night I had a conversation with a friend who recently had lunch with a top Democrat operative (associated with Dean) who said, "It was a done deal." Considering the source, this operative would know.
Aw, c'mon Daniel! Write the damn thing. Wasn't it just a year or so ago that 'top Democrat(ic) operatives' hither and yon were telling Kerry to bag his bats and succumb to the inevitable Dean steamroller? I mean, they had an insurmountable hard count in Iowa, right? And a double digit lead in New Hampshire.

But you made the effort. And I did. And thousands of volunteers, and more importantly, voters did. And we won.

Simon Rosenberg knows a few top operatives himself. In fact, he is one. And he's talking to the same DNC voters Dean's talking to. You really think he would have announced last week if he'd found the Governor had this thing in the bag? In fact, some of the DNC voters can't even be truly ID'd yet, since some states (this one, for instance) haven't completed their reorganization process yet.
We've got about a month to go and a hell of a fight on our hands. No time for faint hearts now.

Write the damn thing, Daniel! I really want to read it. (And thanks, as always, for the plug.)

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.

http://rogerailes.blogspot.com/2005_01_09_rogerailes_archive.html#110529484977382370

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.

Flashback...

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...



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...