Thursday, March 31, 2005

From the Department of Redundancy Department...

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. intelligence on Iraq was "dead wrong," dealing a blow to American credibility that will take years to undo, and spymasters still know disturbingly little about nuclear programs in countries like Iran and North Korea, a presidential commission reported on Thursday.

****

"We conclude that the intelligence community was dead wrong in almost all of its prewar judgments about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction," the commissioners wrote.

Wow. Who knew?

I hate it. Really...

...you know, what they've done to my Army...
...The original vision of a light and highly mobile force that could do with less armor because it would have more advanced information about enemy movements is more suitable to battles against recognizable, conventional forces on relatively open terrain than in the new world ushered in by 9/11 and the war in Iraq.

The United States entered that era with Donald Rumsfeld's Pentagon wedded to the concept of deploying military forces rapidly, winning swiftly with technological wizardry and then departing just as rapidly. Instead, the Iraq war has turned into an indefinitely prolonged campaign against hit-and-run insurgents who melt in and out of cities and villages and fire rocket-propelled grenades that make armored vehicles a life-and-death need. This kind of combat seems far more likely to characterize America's wars than set-piece battles like those of the 1991 Gulf war or the first three weeks of the Iraq invasion. The Army needs more armor, not less. Greater mobility and highly advanced radio networks are fine, but not at the cost of leaving American soldiers more exposed to lethal dangers.
More armored transport. More body armor. More troops, dammit, before entering a war that every reasonable military authority knew would involve extended pacification and occupation efforts before withdrawal could begin.

But Rummy wanted to play out his philosophic musings on things military with real infantrymen as pawns. Now, having deployed everything but the Junior Birdmen, a combination of factors like growing fatality rates in Iraq, VA cuts at home and mission uncertainty everywhere has put the additional troop strength we desperately need even for a relatively safe staged withdrawal apparently out of reach. Recruiters are trolling malls with huge cash bounties to award and a requirement standard that seems to be declining as rapidly as the pool of available trainees.

Do I feel a draft?

It's time to drop what the NY Times calls the 'science fiction' aspects of Rumsfeld's military fantasies and rebuild our conventional forces. I don't think that's possible until the mission is clear - to support an orderly, staged and complete withdrawal from the Iraqi theater.

Yes, so it seems...

During the 18 years I served in the Senate, Republicans often disagreed with each other. But there was much that held us together. We believed in limited government, in keeping light the burden of taxation and regulation. We encouraged the private sector, so that a free economy might thrive. We believed that judges should interpret the law, not legislate. We were internationalists who supported an engaged foreign policy, a strong national defense and free trade. These were principles shared by virtually all Republicans.

But in recent times, we Republicans have allowed this shared agenda to become secondary to the agenda of Christian conservatives. As a senator, I worried every day about the size of the federal deficit. I did not spend a single minute worrying about the effect of gays on the institution of marriage. Today it seems to be the other way around.

John C. Danforth, a former United States senator from Missouri, resigned in January as United States ambassador to the United Nations. He is an Episcopal minister.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Sometimes this is easy...

...like when you're looking for a good example of power lust and lawlessness in the Bush administration for another installment of the...



With issues of personal privacy and personal choice on everyone's mind lately, it's worth taking a look at what happens when you choose to fly on an private airline in the U.S.. The IG at the Homeland Security Department did just that during a review of the Transportation Safety Adminisration, and the results were distressing. Watching Washington offers some examples via USA Today...
After getting hundreds of FOIA requests from JetBlue passengers asking if TSA had their records, TSA reported on their website they had none, even though TSA did, in fact, have those records

TSA Chief James Loy told C0ngress in November 2003, that certain kinds of passenger data were not being used in the test -- even though the data was

The TSA failed to disclose when asked how broad it's role was in getting and using passenger data.
Hundreds of violations of the FOIA. Administrators lying to Congress. Withholding information.

The response so far?
Congress has said the TSA can't continue testing the system unto the GAO clears their safeguards to ensure privacy and protect data.
Something, but somehow not nearly enough for hundreds of acts of lawlessness by yet another branch of the Administration.

Simply scandalous.

Belated congrats...

...to our friends at the Northwest Progressive Institute, who began blogging one year ago yesterday. Those are the fine folks kind enough to syndicate this site through their Pacific Northwest Portal, an essential resource for regional and national information and agitation.

Should be easy enough to remember. They're just 53 years and 364 days younger than I am.

Yep, it's my birthday. You're welcome to use this space for best wishes and effusive praise...and don't hestitate to punch the Pay Pal link for emphasis!

New Iraq® by Bushco®...

...now with Democracy™!

via Juan Cole.
Iraqi voters aren't happy.They don't care that some of the biggest political changes ever to happen in their lifetime are going on in their country. All they know is that the electricity still is off for hours every day, the water doesn't always flow out of the faucets, there are still long gas queues at the stations, and the situation still seems pretty lawless in the streets.
Thanks to Bushco, that's what 'democracy' looks like to Iraqis...and it doesn't smell like success to me.

I admit...

...that I'm generally dubious in regard to the continued activity of Democracy For America, primarily because my firm belief that the best place for Democratic activists to stand is under the unified banner of the Democratic Party. I've been hopeful that the folks at DFA, having seen Gov. Dean elevated to DNC Chair, would transfer their affections to the Party more directly. I'm a hopeful guy.

Still, my hat's off to the local affiliate, Democracy For Washington, and their radio campaign in support of Washington State's House Bill 1515, the Anderson-Murray Equal Rights act. The bill, which has been offered in its essential form every session for 30 years, is named for Cal Anderson, the state's first openly gay legislator, who first introduced it, and Ed Murray, who has served in the same House seat since Cal's death. Bill titles notwithstanding, the bill would be a tribute to every Democratic member of the current legislature, and to every citizen those members represent. It's time to get this done.

It's being shepherded by my very own State Senator, Darlene Fairley, who chairs the relevant committee and has held hearings on the legislation. Fairley told the PI...
"I am very optimistic," said Fairley, D-Lake Forest Park. "It's the right thing to do."

The state House has already approved the bill, and Gov. Christine Gregoire has said she will sign it into law if the Legislature passes it.

Public opinion at Fairley's committee hearing ran six-to-one in favor of the bill, though some opponents warned of deep-seated opposition across the state.
If you're a Washingtonian, contact your State Senator. It's time to respect and protect the basic civil rights of every one of our citizens. Wherever you may be, consider hitting the tip jar at the Democracy for Washington site, where they're collecting cash for more air time.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Run, Jesse, run...away.

Tim Grieve makes the essential point...
By making a star turn in the Schiavo circus, Jackson just handed the religious right the gift that Terri Schiavo wasn't. As soon as Randall Terry and Tom DeLay stand up and say -- fairly or not -- that "even Jesse Jackson" agrees with them on the Schiavo case, the Republicans will begin the climb out of the hole they have dug for themselves.
...but I'm intrigued by this...
Terri Schiavo's parents invited Jackson to visit with them in Pinellas Park today, and he took them up on the offer.
Having been on the business end of an 'invitation' to Reverend Jackson, it's my experience that Jesse doesn't work for free...so what wss the offer?

(By the by...Blogger is, well, bloggered today, so anything might or might not appear here anytime...)

Monday, March 28, 2005

The Radical Destructionists...

...can be expected to use the Schiavo case as yet another wedge in their campaign to usurp the rule of law and destroy our constitutional form of government via their attack on the court system whose design is derived from the Constitution itself.

Herman Schwartz' primer on the history of judicial appointments for The American Prospect is thus timely and essential. He writes...
With the notable exceptions of the 1968 Fortas nomination and a failed Republican filibuster of H. Lee Sarokin in 1994, neither party filibustered the other's judicial nominations, and virtually all nominees received a hearing unless they were sent up after the presidential nominating conventions.

All this changed in 1996. Rather than openly challenge President Clinton's nominees on the floor, Republicans decided to deny them Senate Judiciary Committee hearings. Between 1996 and 2000, 20 of Bill Clinton's appeals-court nominees were denied hearings....Some 45 district-court nominees were also denied hearings, and two more were afforded hearings but not a committee vote.
Got that? 65 federal judicial appointments that they wouldn't even talk about. Schwartz warns against the ongoing campaign to paint the Democratic Senate as outrageous judicial obstructionists...
In light of the ferocity with which Republicans stonewalled Clinton's nominees, Frist's entire case folds; the 10 nominees filibustered by Democrats hardly compare to the 65 Clinton nominees denied a vote by the Republicans' under-the-radar procedural maneuvers.
Go read the whole thing and arm yourself for battle.

Just in case...

...you thought the forces behind Dino Rossi's attempt at a coup via the courts gave a good goddam about election reform or any such a thing, one major player has unveiled it's real agenda...and perhaps Rossi's?
The Building Industry Association of Washington (BIAW), one of the state's most powerful conservative voices, is considering sponsoring a so-called "right-to-work" initiative that would prohibit mandatory union dues. Any such effort is certain to face strong opposition from state and national union groups.
Of course, they still need an excuse, but it's revealing that all they can come up with is pure payback...
McCabe said the group wants to do something dramatic to retaliate against recent efforts in the Democrat-controlled Legislature that would have taken a multimillion-dollar bite out of the association and removed much of its political clout. The legislation, which appears dead for this year, was pushed hard by the Washington State Labor Council.
They want to punish Democrats for legislation the Democratic majorities in our legislature didn't pass legislation that would have prevented the leadership of the BIAW from diverting profits earned for its members in a worker's comp insurance fund they administrate into political use. It wouldn't have prevented them from maintaining a PAC and soliciting funds from those members, but it apparently fears they wouldn't volunteer as much cash as they can skim now.

They're right there amongst the worst of a bad lot, and theye're Dino's best buds.

But if they want a 'Right To Work (longer and harder for less)' fight in Washington, I'm with Rick Bender. Bring it on.

Words have meanings...

...and, when used to frame issues, they have consequences. That's why it's important for people of a progressive bent - or anyone with a sincere interest in rationality, for that matter - to be on guard against adopting the language of the right. A case in point comes in the midst of a generally commendable effort by the Seattle P-I's Robert Jamieson to bring some perspective to the Terri Schiavo story.
Conservatives who normally argue for state's rights -- pushing for government to stay out of private life, less government, not more -- sought federal intervention to have Schiavo's feeding tube put back in against what Schiavo's husband claims are the sick woman's wishes.
Bzzzzt. Sorry, but thanks for playing.

This does not hinge on Michael Schiavo's 'claims' vs. Terri's parents. There is no outstanding 'he said, they said' question. The heart of the court decision that has been repeatedly upheld is that Michael Schiavo is properly representing the wishes and interests of his wife. That's not his 'claim,' that's the determination of every court which has studied the question and upheld Judge Greer's original decision.

It's not what "Schiavo's husband claims." It's what the objective determination of the courts has found and affirmed. If you believe in the rule of law that the U.S. Constitution provides for then it's simply no longer a subject of debate. There are no relevant opposing claims.

That's the American way. The other side is simply wrong, and anti-American.

Then there's the whole silly notion that conservatives have any interest in "pushing for government to stay out of private life, less government, not more." Words have meanings, but meanings change. That description of conservative just ain't so no mo...

Lest we forget...

John Emerson emerges from self-imposed exile at Seeing The Forest with an always timely reminder that...
"...the big fact of today's political world is that there are no good guys on the other side of the aisle, and that Democrats should quit looking for them."
The only good Republican pol is a retired Republican pol.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Time to pull the plug.

No, not that one.

The one that keeps pumping a semblance of life into the stinking carcass of Dino Rossi's challenge to the Washington gubenatorial election. The Seattle Times reports on the condition of the corpse...
The list of more than 1,000 alleged felon voters, compiled by attorneys for Dino Rossi, is a central piece of evidence in Rossi's legal challenge to last November's election. It will be argued over in some detail in the lawsuit pending in Chelan County Superior Court.

****
In court papers filed last week, Democrats said Whatcom County's investigation showed a "75 percent error rate" in the Republican felon list.
That's right. 75% of the residents of Whatcom County who have been publically accused of criminal election fraud are innocent of the charges. People whose voting rights have been restored. People who were never convicted of a felony. People who didn't even vote.

People who don't belong on anybody's list. Lots of people.
Other problems with the Republicans' evidence have been uncovered. The felon list includes the names of people convicted as juveniles and whose voting rights were never extinguished. That could mean hundreds of names will be removed from the list. Republicans are reviewing the cases to check for juveniles.

"It's really inconsistent information. But 1,100 felons voting makes a great headline," said Yakima County Auditor Corky Mattingly.
And the sickness is spreading, encouraging illegality among public officials.
Thurston County Sheriff Gary Edwards began investigating before Republicans submitted their list to the court.

****

He looked at dozens of names and was convinced that many voted illegally, perhaps as many as 100. He forwarded one name to the prosecutor for criminal charges in a case where he thinks criminal intent can be proved.

"The way I look at this, I'm like the policeman on the freeway," Edwards said. "Everybody is going 80 and the speed limit is 70. I'm trying to keep it under control and I've got to stop somebody. I'm a realist. I know I can't stop them all. But I've got to do something."
What you don't have to do, Sheriff Edwards, is engage in selective enforcement. There are laws against that, you know...or does that 'R' after your name on the ballot relieve you of your obligations to the law?

Damn.

I hate what they've done to my Army.
At least 37 members of the Army Recruiting Command, which oversees enlistment, have gone AWOL since October 2002, Army figures show. And, in what recruiters consider another sign of stress, the number of improprieties committed - signing up unqualified people to meet quotas or giving bonuses or other enlistment benefits to recruits not eligible for them - has increased, Army documents show.

****

Some recruiters said they witnessed more "improprieties," which the Army defines as any grossly negligent or intentional act or omission used to enlist unqualified applicants or grant benefits to those who are ineligible. They said recruiters falsified documents and told prospects to lie about medical conditions or police records.
The President lied to start a war. The recruiters lie to staff it. The recruits lie to get into it.

Lies, lies, lies, all the way down the line.

A public service suggestion...

I imagine many folks find themselves in a situation similar to Matt Yglesias...
I didn't know any practicing Christians when I was growing up, which perhaps accounts for the fact that I'm not sure what one is supposed to say on Easter Sunday. Is it a "happy Easter" sort of thing?
If you find yourself in a similar situation, or you know someone in a situation like that, may I suggest "Sorry your god died. Glad to hear he's feeling better."

Anyway, hope all y'all are enjoying your chocolate crosses and marshmallow Jesi this morning. Me, I'm not a Christian, but Cadbury eggs are a sufficient reason for the season.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

It's the hate and hypocrisy, stupid.

CLEARWATER - Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge George Greer left his church last week after the pastor wrote him a letter suggesting "it might be easier for all of us" if he leave.

Greer, whose orders on the Terri Schiavo case have brought him criticism, is a Southern Baptist who attended Calvary Baptist Church in Clearwater.
Maybe someone more conversant with the Christian scriptures than I am could offer a pointer, but I completely missed the part about making things 'easier for all of us.'

If you wanna stop the war and stuff...

...singing loud, even with four part harmony and a choral orchestration, just isn't enough.

Geov Parrish has some good ideas in his latest for the Seattle Weekly, though.
Opposition to this war should be rooted in what is best for this country. Rather than being reflexively antimilitary, antiwar activists should learn to understand and embrace why this war is bad news from the perspective of the men and women fighting it. Supporting our troops is not simply the politically correct or a humane thing to do; it's also the best way to work for an end to this war.
Peace is patriotic, you know...

Friday, March 25, 2005

Good questions...

...keep piling up. Here's a couple of the better ones.

Carla wonders...
Isn't it possible instead that we're encountering a President and a Congress so drunk with it's own power and so arrogant in it's irresponsibility that they no longer care about the rule of law?
Well, yeah...but I think 'never did' might fit better than 'no longer.'

Meanwhile, Steve Gilliard takes note of the protesters own disregard for the rule of law and asks...
When are the Schindlers going to ask people to behave peacefully? When are they going to ask no one to use violence?
I dunno. Maybe when Terri sits up and asks for a sandwich?

Will pose for tuna...



The lovely and talented Audrey Hepcat, brought to you by StarKist...

Distracted by the merely outrageous...

...I've let the scandalous slip by without much notice this week, but never fear. There's still lawlessness on the loose in the Bush Administration, so there's still occasion for an update to the

WASHINGTON (AP) - Criticized by a whistle-blower, the Fish and Wildlife Service conceded Monday that it bungled some of the science used in protecting Florida's endangered panthers.

The agency acknowledged three violations of a 2000 law that is intended to ensure the quality of data the government uses. Those involved issuing documents based on faulty assumptions about the habitat of one of the world's rarest animals, agency officials said.
Three violations of the law, and what's the outcome so far? Firing Andrew Eller, the biologist who blew the whistle.

Of course, Eller's complaint gives lie to the weasely excuse about 'faulty assumptions.' Assumptions are decisions made without sufficient information. Eller gave them the information. They knew, but that knowledge would have blocked development in the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge.

There's little enough room for the panthers there, and there are few enough that it matters.
The breeding population is considered to be below 50, the minimum required to sustain the population. Almost half of the panthers' habitat is on private property spread across several southwestern Florida counties.
Fewer than 50 breeding panthers.

Three violations of the law that protects the panthers and their habitat.

Three confessions.

One whistle-blowing scientist fired.

It's scandalous.

I've tried hard...

...to think the best of Terro Schiavo's parents. I really want to believe that, blinded by grief, they've been duped by the swindlers, shysters, criminals and clowns they've chosen to make common cause with. This makes that harder...
"On Feb. 14, 1993, this amicable relationship between the parties was severed," Greer wrote. "While the testimony differs on what may or may not have been promised to whom and by whom, it is clear to this court that such severance was predicated upon money and the fact that Mr. Schiavo was unwilling to equally divide his loss of consortium award with Mr. and Mrs. Schindler."
The 'loss of consortium award' was the $300,000 that Michael Shiavo received as compensation for the loss of his wife's companionship. Spread over a lifetime, it isn't much. Spread over a decade or so of caring for a person in a persistent vegetative state while fighting off the mother of all frivilous lawsuits, it's nothing at all, really.

But the Schindlers, who had apparently declared bankruptcy around that time, wanted half.

As a parent, one of the most challenging things to contemplate is the prospect of outliving one of my children, regardless of circumstance. The particulars of this case make the circumstances more dreadful than most.

I really want to think the best of the Schindlers, but particulars of this case also make that harder than I want it to be.

Some days...

...I wonder why I try, when everyone else is doing this so well.

Rudie's got the goods on Grieving, Bush, and Clinton. I can't do it better. Go read.

...in which I (heart) James Wolcott.

Adam Nagourney really ought to be writing for Tiger Beat. Because only a groupie with a byline could write of Jeb Bush's posturing in the Schiavo story, "[The] events of recent days have fed the mystique of Mr Bush as a reluctant inheritor of perhaps America's most famous dynasty since the Adams family two centuries ago."
Yes, I do wish I'd written that, and the rest of it, too.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

On the other hand...

...maybe we should just let them have their way...
"I think we are in a very dangerous period on Social Security," former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich said in an interview this week, adding his voice to the growing chorus of prominent critics in the GOP. He said the president's advisers think "they could sell benefit cuts and tax increases. . . . It could be catastrophic for the Republican Party if we end up as the party of tax increases and benefits cuts."
...or maybe not. After all, they made being the party of massive deficits and senseless war work for them last time out.

From the Ex-Parrot department.

Jacob Weisberg gives it a poke and nothing moves...
George W. Bush's plan to remake the Social Security system is kaput. This is not a value judgment. It's a statement of political fact.
The road to that defeat is still strewn with hazards for Democrats, though...
...if Bush is shrewd enough to euthanize carve-out accounts while shifting to make solvency his goal, he will leave his Democratic opponents in a quandary. A package of innocuous tax increases and benefit cuts could extend the life of the trust fund out to 75 years in a fairly painless way. Substantively, it would be hard for even the most partisan Democrats to oppose this kind of compromise...
Unless, of course, they had a more progressive, more productive alternative to vote for.

Once again, why shouldn't there be a plan that removes the income cap for FICA, makes no benefit cuts and has a Democrat's name on it?

We've beat back the radical destructionist's worst ideas for Social Security . Isn't it near time to unveil our best, rather than settling for their merely miserable?

Score one for our side?

Steve Gilliard thinks so...
All this stuff is scaring even conservatives. They see the invasion into people's most intimate decisions and they don't like it.

So how did they miscalculate this?

Because they have, in part played this like Tom Daschle was still around and he's not. Reid is a different kind of leader, a lot tougher for one, and a lot smarter tactically.

The smart, but hard move was to see this play out for the disaster it would become. If the Dems got in the way, they would be seen as obstructionists. Instead, they didn't even vote on this. They let the GOP overplay their hand and reap the anger.
...and I don't think he's wrong. I'm not sure how much of the strategy behind the Democratic response (or lack thereof) to the Terri Schiavo case came from the Minority Leader's office, but placing the credit is less important than recognizing the opportunity that response offers. Steve's right - the Republicans come out of this looking scary. The 'conservative' political party has been captured by a band of radical destructionists, and your personal life is one of their targets for destruction.

The federal court process has now run its course, and the Constitutional system of checks and balances has done its job. Jeb Bush is still busy trying to convince everyone he's not interested in the Presidency, discarding any potential electability in a frenzy of grandstanding that will make no difference. Within days, Terri Schiavo's body will join her mind in rest. In time, her name will fade except in the minds of those who knew and loved her. Any vestiges of the Republican image as a party of limited government have been shredded, though, which is likely to be the major lasting impact of the whole sad episode.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

In response to persistent demand...

from the vast Upper Left fan base (otherwise known as the Brilliant and Beautiful Bride of Upper Left), another installment from our adventure in 'red' America.

Dropping south from Bryce Canyon, we took the alternate route into Arizona, intrigued by the chance to see the Vermillion Cliffs National Monument, whatever that was. What it was was mile after mile of dramatic cliff front featuring boulders, veins and fronts composed of the brilliant red earth that crops up throughout the southwest. There were no services to speak of along the little used road, and that lack of development was refreshing after so many miles on the Interstates. Here's a clumsy attempt at a panoramic view, pasted from a pair of disposable camera shot. It offers a hint, anyway, of what we found so awesome.



Of course, when it comes to awe in Arizona, the Grand Canyon is the granddaddy of 'em all. We spent the night on the Navajo rez, and then set off for the G.C., which offered less snow on the ground than we'd seen at Bryce Canyon, but more in the air. Not enough, however, to obscure views like this...



Pretty cool, huh? And we haven't even got to the best part - the Incredibly Endearing Granddaughter of Upper Left (have I mentioned she's the smartest and prettiest girl in the world?).

Oh what tangled webs we weave...

via Think Progress:
President Bush, 10/29/04:

"Unfortunately – unfortunately, my opponent, tonight, continued to say things he knows are not true – accusing our military of passing up a chance to get Osama bin Laden in Tora Bora. As the Commander in charge of that operation, Tommy Franks had said, it’s simply not the case. It’s the worst kind of Monday morning quarterbacking. It is especially shameful in the light of a new tape from America’s enemy."

Associated Press, 3/23/05:

"A terror suspect held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, helped the al-Qaida leader escape his mountain hide-out at Tora Bora in 2001, according to a U.S. government document. The document, provided in response to a Freedom of Information request, says the unidentified detainee 'assisted in the escape of Osama bin Laden from Tora Bora.'"
Dishonesty is complicated. Eventually, the only defense you're left with is the claim that everyone else is lying, a claim which you know is a lie, about which you would lie if confronted, and so on and so on down an increasingly twisted hall of increasingly cloudy mirrors.

I think the pits of Hell are at the end of the hall...at least I hope so.

And it seems like John Kerry deserves an apology from an awful lot of folks, with the Preznit heading the list...

Molly!

You go, girl!

And you? Go read.

A seldom-heard encouraging word?

Although it contradicts my experience as an (ahem) over-50 job hunter, this NY Times piece seems to have some good news about the job market for my cohort...
After years of encouraging workers to take early retirement as a way to cut jobs, a growing number of companies are hunting for older workers because they have lower turnover rates and, in many cases, better work performance.
Except...

How encouraging is it, really, that men and women 30 or 40 years into their careers are willing to accept entry-level retail wages from the likes of Home Depot, Wal-Mart and Borders. And if older workers are filling more and more of those jobs, where do the people really entering the work force go?

Sounds almost like someone's trying to gin up another generation of anti-boomer backlash, a socially unproductive phenomenon that's being exploited, for instance, by the arguments of the Social Security destructionists...

For the Good Question file...

via Mark Kleiman...
Has anyone figured out how Bush’s proposed medical malpractice reform legislation might have impacted the one million dollar settlement that Michael Schiavo received in 1993, and which has paid for Terri’s care the last 12 years?

The quotes just keep coming...

"My party is demonstrating that they are for states' rights unless they don't like what states are doing. One of five House Republicans who voted against the bill. "This couldn't be a more classic case of a state responsibility.

This Republican Party of Lincoln has become a party of theocracy."

Rep. Christopher Shays, R-Connecticut
Proud of that, are you Congressman? Because there you sit with your big fat 'R', voting for Hastert, following DeLay, part of the problem.

Theocrat, hypocrite, whatever. Throw 'em all out.

The only good Republican politician is a retired Republican politician.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Me neither.

Digby takes a stand.
I will not be patronizing any Republicans who need to rely on science to do their job. Clearly, they are aligning themselves with the forces of superstition over reason and can no longer be trusted. Why would you ever put your life into the hands of someone who would sell out their professional ethics and their intellectual integrity for the sole purpose of appeasing a bunch of religious zealots?

Quote of the Day

At least he admits it...
"It goes beyond shameless politics. It becomes a more crystallized proof point that we are no longer the party of smaller government. We have become a party of 'It doesn't matter what size government is as long as it is imposing our set of values.'"

Republican pollster Tony Fabrizio
'Conservatism,' as most Americans understand it, is clearly no longer a Republican value. When it comes to the principles of American democracy, they're simply destructionist radicals.

Bush Hates Veterans

No More Mr. Nice Blog spikes my outrage meter with a few more facts and figures.
The president's budget will create a $250 annual enrollment fee for 2 million veterans; increase the prescription co-payment from $7 to $15; reduce prosthetic research by $9 million; slash $351 million from veterans' nursing homes by serving 28,000 fewer residents; and eliminate $104 million in state grants. It would do away with 3,000 Department of Veterans Affairs workers while a backlog of more than 700,000 claims exists, according to the Veterans of Foreign Wars.
Where's the concern about the sanctity of the lives of those who put theirs on the line for this country?

Being an eternal optimist...

...can be hard, but every now and then my faith in the American people is reassuringly confirmed...
70% of Americans say it is inappropriate for Congress to involve itself in the Schiavo case.

67% of Americans “think the elected officials trying to keep Schiavo alive are doing so more for political advantage than out of concern for her or for the principles involved.” (Just 19% believe the elected officials are acting out of concern for her or their principles.)

58% of Republicans, 61% of independents and 63% of Democrats oppose federal government intervention in the case.

50% of evangelicals oppose federal government intervention in the case, just 44% approve of the intervention.

63% of Catholics and a plurality of evangelicals believe Schiavo’s feeding tube should be removed.
The radicals in control of the Republican apparatus thought this was their issue. They were wrong.

War by the numbers.

Dr. Alterman does the math...
200: Lowest estimated number in billions of U.S. taxpayers' dollars that have been spent on the war in Iraq
152,000: Estimated number of troops currently deployed in Iraq
1,511: U.S. troops killed in Iraq since the invasion
11,285: Americans wounded since the invasion was launched two years ago
21,100-39,300: Estimated number of Iraqi civilians killed since the invasion by violence from war and crime
176: Non-U.S. coalition troops killed in Iraq since the invasion
339: Coalition troops killed by Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs)
70: Daily average number of insurgent attacks on coalition forces in February 2005
14: Daily average number of insurgent attacks on coalition forces in February 2004
18,000: Estimated number of insurgents in Iraq today
5,000: Estimated number of insurgents in Iraq in June 2003
27/14: Countries remaining in the "coalition of the willing" versus number of former coalition members that have withdrawn all their forces or announced their intention to do so
25,000: Non-U.S. coalition troops still in Iraq
4,500: Troops that Italy and the Netherlands have pledged to withdraw before the end of the year
142,472: Iraqi security troops the Pentagon says it has trained and equipped
40,000: Iraqi troops that General Richard Myers, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said are adequately trained and equipped to handle most threats
0: Number of active Army combat units deployed to Iraq that have received the required year-long break from active duty required by Pentagon rules
30: Percent by which the U.S. National Guard missed its recruitment targets in November and `December 2004
27: Percent by which the U.S. Army missed its recruitment goals in the past month
15: Percent of military personnel, according to GAO, who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan, who could develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
2: Estimated output of Iraqi oil industry in millions of barrels per day
2.8: Estimated output of Iraqi oil industry in millions of barrels per day before the U.S. invasion
8: Average number of hours that Iraqis have electricity per day
28-40: Estimated Iraqi unemployment rate
108: Millions of dollars in Halliburton overcharges hidden from international auditors by the Pentagon
9: Billions of dollars the Coalition Provisional Authority cannot account for of all funds dispensed for Iraq reconstruction

Monday, March 21, 2005

What I meant to say...

Carla at Preemptive Karma takes exception with at least part of something I posted last week about message focus for Democratic bloggers, and I can't say that I entirely disagree with her critique. I think it's less a matter of a disagreement between us, in fact, than my own failure to clearly express my point. For instance, she interprets the post thus...
Shaun at Upper Left wants to find a way to hold lefty bloggers to a standard...
Well, not exactly.

While it's true that I used the phrase 'lefty blogosphere' in the conclusion she cites, my target was somewhat more precise in context. The intro to my post addressed the Democratic blogosphere, which overlaps with, but does not encompass, the full range of lefty bloggers. There are pacifist bloggers, anti-capitalist bloggers, anti-corporate bloggers and various others who claim, and generally deserve, the tag 'lefty,' but who are bound to be somewhat uncomfortable being identified with a Party which is not pacifist, nor anti-capitalist, nor anti-corporate, though it contains elements who might merit any of those descriptions. I do believe that those of us who identify as Democrats should be conscious of the need for some degree of message discipline, just as we expect such discipline of Democratic elected officials and Party spokespersons. Carla takes demurs, noting that...
...Shaun is wrong about having such expectations for bloggers. First of all, most bloggers aren't paid for what they do. In fact, most bloggers pay for their own domain and blog upkeep. Second, most of us have a real job outside of blogging that takes up the majority of our time (nevermind parenting and other community based activities).
She's mostly right there. After all, although this site is hosted by Blogger, I pay for the service that hosts my graphics and my internet connection. I, too, have a 'real' job and a wide range of other community based activities, political and otherwise. (All the kids are grown up now, so most of my active parenting responsibilities are behind me, but they never go away entirely, do they?) My plea for some level of partisan discipline is more a hope than an expectation, because I think for those of us who are Democrats, and who hope for Democratic electoral victories, that kind of discipline is an important part of achieving our common goals. Thus, if I implied that I was trying to "...force bloggers under these circumstances to adhere to a standard..." it seems pretty clear that what we have here is a failure to communicate. My failure.

I do think that, absent a Democratic Presidential administration, Democrats are wise to look to Congressional leadership for direction. The real burden is not on us to adhere, though, so much as it is to those leaders to provide appropriate direction. Both the House and Senate caucuses have issued agendas which are more complementary than not. It's past time for those agendas to be united into a coherent statement that can fit on a post card and disseminated through every means available, including every willing blogger.

Carla seems to find my hopes unrealistic, noting that...
The Democratic Congressional leadership can't even hold their own fractured group together and speak with a united voice that articulates the values and ideas of the left.
If we wait for the Democratic Party to speak for 'the left' I'm afraid we're never going to accomplish anything constructive at all. The 'left' is simply too broad in its makeup for anyone to speak for, especially an entity that is struggling to be electorally relevant. The Democratic Party may welcome elements of the pacifist left, or the anti-capitalist left, etc., within its ranks in pursuit of electoral or legislative goals, but those goals will always be more limited than those factions will desire.

The fact is that we can't win elections in this country in any forseeable future with a message that articulates pacifism or anti-capitalism, because most Democrats, let alone most Americans, aren't pacifists or socialits. My own Congressman, Jim McDermott, certainly ranks among the most progressive members of the House, but despite his opposition to the Iraqi war or his advocacy of single payer health care, even he doesn't articulate a pacifist or socialist position.

I'm simply suggesting that when we define what constitutes a 'real' Democrat these days, we turn to the agendas articulated by the Congressional caucuses, rather than our most fervent ideological desires, for guidance. Is there dissension on many issues dear to progressives among the Congressional D's? Sure. We are a big tent Party. At the same time, a review of the House's New Partnership plan, or the Senate's American Promise agenda will reveal broad agreement among our Senators and Representatives on a set of core principles that, while perhaps imperfect from a 'left' perspective, constitute real progress when compared to our current national circumstance. I think it's worthwhile for progressives to endorse that progress, and to temper their attacks on the Party and its officials while continuing to argue for even more. I think, too, that it's essential for us to keep electoral realities in mind as we articulate our arguements.

One thing on which Carla and I heartily concur is this...
I blog because I like to write. I do it for my own pleasure. It's helped me to discover and explore aspects of my own belief system...I can't imagine I'm the only one that feels this way.
Nope, you're not. I'm one, too.

Quote of the Day

Rep. Barney Frank, via Oliver...

"We're not doctors. We just play them on C-SPAN."

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Just wondering...

...how many of the Congresscritters who are voting for the 'Let Terri Schiavo Suffer Act of '05' would happily endorse legislation limiting appeals of death penalty sentences...

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Before I was so rudely interrupted...

...by the existence of an actual life I was getting caught up on new news that I'd missed during my southwest expedition. Turns out a bit of old news is getting a lot of attention, though.

Scanning Atrios, I was pointed No More Mr. Nice Blog where this Linda Douglass report is highlighted...
ABC News has obtained talking points circulated among Republican senators explaining why they should vote to intervene in the Schiavo case. Among them: "This is an important moral issue and the pro-life base will be excited..." and "This is a great political issue... this is a tough issue for Democrats."
I hope they believe that. I hope we've got enough sense to cash the political blank check they're handing us for all it's worth.

The fact is, there are any number of folks out there who vote for Republicans despite their misgivings about the influence of religious fundamentalism in the GOP. They're able to do that because, in fact, the GOP has moved on very little of the radical issues promoted by the fundies. It's a formula that's worked well for a couple of decades - mouth the designated platitudes in order to get Fallwell, Dobson, Robertson and lesser lights among the American mullahs to send their flocks to the ballot box, and then ignore the ideas that inspire the rhetoric in the process of governance.

The problem is that after a couple of decades of faithful service, the mullahs and their minions are getting impatient for some action on their issues. Terri Shavio is an unfortunate pawn in the process, but that's the role they've assigned her to. Repeated pressure to ignore and overrule the courts and her doctors are bad enough to satisfy most folks with the slightest progressive bent, but this offers an opportunity to drive a real wedge between rational conservatives (yes, they're out there) and the radical fundies. In fact, it could be the focal point for some internal dissension in the ranks of the fundies themselves if Democrats get a clue...and some courage.

After all, the focus of the right wing exploitation is a direct attack on the institution that they've declared so critical to the foundations of our civilization that it's deserving of its very own Constitutional amendment - the marriage of one man and one woman.

They're anti-choice, anti-science and, in this case, anti-marriage. They think court rulings and marriage vows are just silly putty, a toy to throw, stretch and break according to their whims, and we should beat them to death with it.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Well...

...I survived St. Patricks Day. Had a grand time, in fact, and was as reasonably moderate as I could be, given the offers of Guinness from the audience faster than I could drink 'em.

Oh, yeah. The lovely and talented Audrey Hepcat survived, too, but she seems to be under the table...

Thursday, March 17, 2005

If you're Irish...

...or not, Happy St. Pat's. As holidays go, St. Patrick's Day has fairly little to do with Ireland, really. It's more a celebration of being Irish American, a blessing we extend to virtually anyone for one night of the year. I'm busy today, preparing for an orgy of corned beef, green beer (I think I'll stick to the Guinness, thanks) and song. I'll cap the evening leading the Irish sing-along at the family pub, so if you're anywhere near Shoreline, WA tonight, drop over the hill to the Cabin Tavern and join right in.

St. Patrick's Day is the hook the media uses, though, to abandon their general neglect of the news from Ireland. True to form, there's another outrage over the conduct of the Irish Republican Army, and the customary imprecise linkages of the Provos and Sinn Fein.

I don't have the time (or the inclination, really) to launch into a spirited defense of armed resistance to foreign occupation. The question, and the circumstances from which it rises, deserves more attention, though. At some point you have to come to terms with the people for whom "the Irish problem" is simply the British.

But while American politicians dodge Sinn Fein leaders on St. Pat's because the continued activity of the IRA threatens the 'peace process,' it's also well to consider that absent the resurrection of the IRA, there'd likely be no 'peasce process' at all. Nothing in the history of British tyrany in Ireland suggests they would be at the table with anyone at all about anything whatsoever absent pressure from the Provos.

Ireland unfree will never be at peace, but tonight, at least, we party!

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

An Ethics Chair scorned...

Rep. Joel Hefley (R-CO), "the former chairman of the House ethics committee, said yesterday that he will co-sponsor a bill to repeal or revise changes that Republican leaders made to the committee’s procedure at the start of the 109th Congress..."

"Hefley’s support is expected to provide incentive and political cover to other Republicans who are thinking about supporting the ethics legislation."
...and bring (more) shame on those who oppose repeal. A bigger than average chip out of DeLay's crumbling foundation.

It's an ex-parrot...

Three months after President Bush launched his drive to restructure Social Security by creating private investment accounts, public support for his program remains weak, with only 35 percent of Americans now saying they approve of his handling of the issue, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.
What I've come to realize during Bush's Social Security campaign is that the man is truly delusional. He seems to actually beleive that he was re-elected because the sheer magnetism of his personality and ideas won over the hearts of the nation. He doesn't seem to understand that the exploitation of doubt and fear that was the centerpiece of the re-election can't work this time, because tampering with Social Security inspires more doubt and fear than any plan he might propose. The more he campaigns for change, the stronger the popular hold on a system that works becomes.

What I don't understand is how 50 Republican Senators could have thought it was a good idea to vote against a 'sense of the Senate' resolution that simply read "Congress should reject any Social Security plan that requires deep benefit cuts or a massive increase in debt."

The Republican plan? Deep cuts and massive debt.

You don't even need a Beltway consultant to write that ad.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

We were right!

Lefties surveying the vast expanses of so called 'Red America' after the election took comfort in nothing that there was nothing there.

Having recently traveled extensively in the region, I offer graphic evidence that that's literally true...

So outrageous...

...it's scandalous.



I differentiate from the truly scandalous and the merely outrageous on the basis of actual mis or malfeasance that leads to investigation by a body with some kind of authority to sanction. Of course, on matters of Congressional ethics in the House of Representatives, that body would naturally be the Ethics Committee, if there were one in more than name only. There isn't, though, so the scandal is, in fact, the lack of investigation of this particular outrage.

It's not for lack of trying, though. Today, Shadow Speaker Nancy Pelosi, for instance, offered a privileged resolution calling for a bipartisan task force to conduct that very investigation.

The Stakeholder has more, including this from Pelosi's statement after her resolution was tabled by the Republican majority.
"Today, the Republicans dealt a blow to the ethical standards of the House by voting to declare their allegiance to the ethical standards of Tom DeLay.

"This resolution, however, was not about the Majority Leader personally, but about the ethics rules that have been gutted to protect him. Until now, there had always been a strong bipartisan effort on the Ethics Committee to uphold a high ethical standard in the House. But this year, the ethics rules were written solely by the Republican leadership, to protect one Member.

"That is unacceptable and Democrats will not take part in a fraudelent ethics process. We must restore the integrity of the ethics process and regain the confidence of the American people."
They broke it, and not only do they have no intention of fixing it, they won't even look at it.

But we can keep shining a light down the hole.

Some days it's not so easy...

...to take the side of 'unity' in the Democratic blogosphere, because there are so many voices, important and not so, drawing lines to determine who is or isn't a 'real' Democrat, which issues are make or break, who must not be considered in '08, yadda, yadda, yadda. Part of the problem is that everyone seems to be able to assemble a fairly compelling case for their own postition.

The problem isn't that any of the points raised in various quarters contradict, either. The problem is that way too much ends up on the table, and by the time we've had our way in the blogosphere, we've whittled the scope of Democratic 'respectability' down so much that, well, we could be left without a single blogger-approved 'real' Democrat who also happens to be electable in all but the liberal ghettos of urban America.

Along with Matt Yglesisa, writing for TAPPED...
I'm getting a bit worried that the "netroots" don't necessarily have the best sense of which are the really important lines to draw.
Of course, that could be because that's really not our job. Drawing the important lines, in the current situation, should fall with the Democratic Congressional leaders, and they've actually stepped up to the plate, although they have yet to really swing the bat.

The House Democrats, of course, have their New Partnership for America's Future, and the Senate D's have the complementary American Promise agenda. The greatest service that the Democratic Congressional caucuses could do now would be to join those two agendas and come up with a set of priorities from them that could be published on a post card.

If the lefty blogosphere is ever going to become the kind of sound machine that can beat back the wingnut echo chamber, that kind of simple, consistent message is what we need, and our Congressional leadership, is where it should come from. I know that will sound unacceptably 'top-down' to some, but we expect the members of the Congressional bodies to observe some level of Party discipline on principle issues. Why should the grassroots be held to a lower standard?

Monday, March 14, 2005

Failure to plan...

...according to a motivational chestnut, is planning to fail, and that notion colors my view of the debate over whether or not to put forward an alternative to the Bushco Social Security scam.

I think it's more a matter of when and what, rather than whether or not. It's certainly premature to lay out an alternative to a proposal that's currently ill-defined and apparently evolving. Whatever emerges will fall a bit short of our worst fears and will be offered as Bush's bid for a bi-partisan, "moderate" approach. A key feature, I suspect, will be raising the income limit subject to SS taxation.

That's our issue though, and we ought not give it up. In fact, it should be the centerpiece of any Democratic plan. This is a chance to make a stand for progressivity in taxation. Whatever lid the Administration proposes, Democrats should raise. Hell, I think we should rip the cap off altogether, but more "reasonable" voices will no doubt prevail.

Strengthen the solvency of Social Security by increasing (though hardly perfecting) progressivity in the taxation.

That's not the slogan, surely, but that's a plan we could work on once the corpse of privatization has been burned to ash and the ashes stomped into the ground.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Unaccustomed as I am...

...to heaping praise on Amy Sullivan, her latest piece at Salon is worth the price of admission. Though she can't resist a gratuitous slap or to at the Kerry campaign over slights, real or imagined, she suffered at their hands, it's a good summary of who the religious left was, is, and just might be again.

Suitable for Sunday reading. Just keep in mind that any American who was unaware of the history and depth of John Kerry's religious devotion simply chose not to know.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Some good news.

Really good news. Andrew at the Northwest Progressive Insistute highlights this article from the Seattle PI on the Washington Education Association's decision to stop reimbursing Wal-Mart purchases from union funds.
Taking a bold political stand, the state teachers' union last week declared the fund off-limits to Wal-Mart purchases.

In a newsletter distributed to teachers, association President Charles Hasse cited Wal-Mart's "exploitative labor practices (that) have added to public assistance burdens in our state and across the nation."

****

Hasse said he's received more than 200 responses from teachers around the state, who were 20-1 in favor of eliminating Wal-Mart reimbursements. "It was interesting to see the intensity of feeling around this," he said.
The NEA and its state affiliates are sometimes guilty of pursuing parochial interests that put them at a distance from, and occassionaly at odds with, the larger House of Labor. This, however, is a remarkable demonstration of solidarity with low income workers and a step toward building healthier communities. My hat's off to 'em.

Wal-Mart. They don't sell American products. They don't pay American wages. They don't get my American dollars and now they don't get the WEA's either.

Really good news.

And then I saw...

When the Brilliant and Beautiful Bride of Upper Left and I set out on our winter adventure in the Southwest, I really only had one concrete goal - to give a big hug and kiss to the Absolutely Adorable Grandaughter of Upper Left (have I mentioned that she's the smartest and most beautiful child in the world?).

The 3BUL had other ideas, though, and I'm happy to report her ideas prevailed. She wasn't about to let me cruise past some of the world's most amazing natural wonders without stopping, and first on her list was Bryce Canyon National Park.

I have to admit that the Park wasn't really on my radar at all before she brought it up, but it was well worth the investment of time. Winter conditions closed some trails and viewpoints, but there was more than enough open to produces several hours of oohs and ahs as the beauty of the Park was revealed.

I don't know where this path led, exactly, but the 3BUL is sitting on the top rail of the fence that lined it. It was kind of fun to see some real snow during a Northwest drought year...



The main attractions are the 'hoo-doos,' towers carved by the elements, gathered in vast stone gardens.



There was plenty of pretty country on the way down, but Bryce Canyon was the first big scenic stop before pushing on to Arizona.

Friday, March 11, 2005

How's this for warm and fuzzy?

The Brilliant and Beautiful Bride of Upper Left and I spent some part of our Southwest wander wondering how badly we'd be punished by the Lovely and Talented Miss Audrey Hepcat for her 10 day abandonment (which consisted of the Oldest Daughter of Upper Left making a daily visit to put out fresh water, tuna, kibble and to offer such affection as might be accepted).

The good news is that Audrey seemed as happy to see us as we were to see her, and she's hardly been in a snit at all. Hey, tonight she walked right up and let me take her picture...

OK, then.

One more grumpy post, then I'm going to go find something warm and fuzzy to write about. But first, I gotta cover a buddy's back.

Writing about the paucity of reaction to the Slaughter report on the "Death of Deliberative Democracy" that the Republican leadership has brought about, Kos uses the story as a hook for a patently untrue attack on the internet shop at the DCCC, saying that...
Same goes to elected officials and caucuses. If Senate Dems (and at least one senator) want to communicate something to us, they simply post a diary, no need to ask me for permission or approval or anything else. They just do it.

But then again, the Senate Democrats have a top-notch netroots communications machine, while the House Dems have zilch. Pelosi could learn a great deal from Reid.
"House Dems have zilch"? Well, whatever it is, they've got a hell of a lot of it. An active blog, multiple email lists, online chats and forums, conference calls with bloggers, tools like the blogads and newsfeeds that decorate this page - if the House Dems have nothing, they seem to have plenty of it, and it's been plenty for me.

But they made the mistake of issuing an important policy document through an avenue other than a Kos diary. Wow, the nerve. (In fact, the House Dems do make use of the diaries, including at least one Member - mine, as it happens.) Jesse Lee, the master of all things online for the DCCC, subsequently made his case, and made it with a lot more grace than I might have mustered, in a diary you can read here, but he shouldn't oughta had to, really. Kos' shot was only made that much cheaper by the fact that it's demonstrably not true, but it wouldn't have been useful even if it had been point on accurate.

It's way past time to choose up sides, folks. Does what we say, do or write build up or tear down the institutions of our Party? And if we don't want to help, is it absolutely necessary to hurt? Even if we have to lie?

Kos apparently has a real fine relationship with the Senate folks. Great. My best efforts to make them aware that I exist have gone mostly unacknowledged. I'm not about to trash them, though. I choose to believe that whatever they're up to matters more than the care and feeding of a regional blogger. All I really want from them is 51 votes for Majority Leader Reid.

Over at the DCCC, on the other hand, I've found a variety of tools to make myself more informed and my blog more informative. I've been able to track my reader's contributions to the DCCC fundraising efforts and I've always found Jesse amazingly available and accessible, considering the broad range of activities he's responsible for. My impression is that he's so accessible because he gets it. He knows that there's enourmous untapped potential on the net, and he's actively trying to tap the vein.

"House Dems have zilch"? It's not just a lie, it's a dumb lie. I can't imagine what Kos hope to accomplish by deliberately feeding a divisive feud with a gratuitous shot, but I'm sure he's got a lot more on his mind than the high opinion of a regional blogger.

Whoa!

Excuse me. For a second there, I thought I'd slipped through some kind of vortex in the Nevada desert and come out in an alternate universe where Democrats held commanding leads at every level of government and our prospects were even brighter.

That's the only rational explanation for having the luxury of time and resources to allow for all the intramural pissing and moaning in Democratic circles, these days, isn't it? Sadly, no. It's just business as usual for the party of Jefferson and Jackson. A good example is the current dustup between the DLC and the Center for American Progress.

The CAP would seem to be in ascendency, with a new campus program, a new blog and top forty style rotation on Air America for some of their main voices, including David Sirota. Sirota sounds almost under seige, though, when he writes....
"Let me be crystal clear in where I come down on this one: a person who describes themselves as a Democrat or a 'liberal/progressive', yet who advocates purging the grassroots while pushing a right-wing agenda on fundamental issues is just as dangerous - if not more dangerous - to both the progressive movement and the Democratic Party's long term viability than any Republican..."
I've been looking, but I'm afraid I just don't see any grounds for concern that a right-wing conspiracy is out to purge the Democratic grassroots of anyone, or that anyone from, say, the DLC, is so delusional as to believe they could achieve any such a thing if they tried. To the contrary, it's the self-styled champions of progressive liberalism that are most likely to call for a purge. Joe Lieberman is the perennial favorite target, but the gaggle of Senators that voted (like Joe) for the bankruptcy bill have generated significant levels of froth.

My two cents? It behooves us all to back off a bit. We've got just a little time to get ready for the '06 campaigns. Republican shenanigans with redistricting make every single Democratic victory at that level or in a Governor's mansion critical. In all the discussion of the bankruptcy bill, it bears remembering that while a Democratic Congress may have passed a bankruptcy reform bill (people, after all, deserve more protection from predatory lenders and the like), that bankruptcy bill would never have seen the light of day. Not in any Democratic Congress.

The tent is big, but really, the spectrum isn't that wide. We can all find common points to focus on as we seek the unity we'll need for victory.

Me, my kind of Democrat is the kind that votes for Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Reid so we can get back to arguments about what we'll pass instead of what we'll block again.

Diane beat me to the punch...

...with the Kennedy endorsement of Kerry '08, but those are her home boys, so she's entitled. The other big bit of buzz around Kerry has been the weakly sourced reports of a face off between the Junior Senator from Massacheusetts and the Minority Leader of the Senate during a caucus policy debate. The upshot seems to be that Sen. Reid asserted his prerogatives as leader, which is fine, but I think it would also be wise for him to give more than customary consideration to Kerry's counsel.

After all, Kerry's mailing list is one of the more formidable tools in the Democratic organizing arsenal. He won more votes and raised more dollars than any Democrat in history. He's fresh off an extended period of direct contact with voters from every region, in every circumstance, a process which visibly affected and energized him.

And he's as likely as anyone, and more likely than most, to be our nominee in 2008. Reporting on the organization of his new PAC, Keeping America's Promise, the Boston Herald offers...
Unlike most defeated nominees, Kerry has barely broken stride since the November election.

He's been busy pushing legislation on kid's health care, traveling overseas, raising money and expanding his political network.

Kerry's PAC will raise money for other candidates, parties and issues - helping Kerry build political chits.

He will also use his PAC for staff, travel and more fund-raising.
He's acting smart, and forging new partnerships. The Washington Governor's race, for instance, may have had a much different outcome without Kerry's substantial and timely contribution to the Party's deposit on recount costs. Apparent slips, like his absence from the Senate during the Electoral College challenge, turn out to well-considered, in that case the product of an arrangement engineered in cooperation with the Congressional Black Caucus. Perhaps most significantly in raw political terms, he seems to be holding the core of his fund-raising team together.

He's coming atcha, folks, and the last time he rolled that train it rolled over everybody in sight.

For all those who insist "never again," the first question is who ya' got?

I mean, I'm willing to listen, but the fact is that everything that made me an early and enthusiastic supporter of Kerry '04 is still true. I still think he has the potential to become one of our greatest Presidents. And the fact is, he's still one of our most progressive, most principled, most popular leaders.

Catching up on the news...

...I came across an interesting set of data points that New Donkey snagged from the Washington Post.
Three percent of the respondents said they read blogs every day; 12 percent said they visit them at least a few times a month. Forty-eight percent said they never look at the sites, and 24 percent said they do not have access to the Internet.
It's just a bit of statistical support for my empirical observation that we bloggers ain't, in fact, all that. Spending a fair bit of time out and about in the world, not to mention my own recent self-imposed blogging blackout, I constantly find myself in conversation with well informed, articulate, often activist folks who, when I mention my obsession, simply say "What's a 'blog'?"

New Donkey notes that....
...for some bloggers, "disrespecting the netroots" is the political Sin Against the Holy Ghost, the one truly unforgivable act. But the political potential of the netroots, and more importantly, the political prospects for the Democratic Party, require some perspective, and at least a bit of the humility which "netroots" advocates rightly demand from everybody else claiming to speak for Democrats. Nobody other than Democratic voters has the standing to decide who is and isn't a "real Democrat."
I heartily agree. While even a small fraction of the population can produce hundreds of thousands a hits a day on the biggest sites, and even a remote outpost in the online world like this joint is closing in on 75,000 visits and continuing to grow, we aren't the world. We aren't "the people." Not yet, anyway.

We're just a bit. An bit that's important beyond the numbers, certainly, but the numbers should inspire appropriate humility.




OK. I'm humbled. But golly gee! Almost 75,000 visits! Wow, thanks!

The last thing I'd want...

...you to think is that the Republican mob in DC are somehow less venal, lawless and loathsome this year than they were last year. There's plenty of evidence to the contrary. That's reason enough for a bonus update (really a catchup, since I skipped a week, I suppose, to the



Of course, it helps when Tom DeLay makes it so damn easy. This time he delivers up a three-fer!

First a report that there are a number of ethical inconsistencies surrounding a golf junket to Scotland in 2000. Falsified documents, unreported funding, and a special guest appearance by Jack Abramoff. More than enough there to log a point on the Scandal Scorecard.

You'd think that would be a busy day of ethical concerns for most any Mortal, but it's just not enough to satisfy the BugMan, who seems to have a penchant for world travel. Maybe he should save up and buy his own tickets, though.
A delegation of Republican House members including Majority Leader Tom DeLay accepted an expense-paid trip to South Korea in 2001 from a registered foreign agent despite House rules that bar the acceptance of travel expenses from foreign agents, according to government documents and travel reports filed by the House members.
Score two for Tom.

But wait! There's more! Not exotic locales this time. Nope, the hat trick comes with a little home grown malfeasance...
Austin, Texas -- Several e-mails point to Republican House Majority Leader Tom DeLay's involvement in corporate fund-raising for a political action committee under investigation for alleged election violations, Democrats contend.

The e-mails were from Warren M. RoBold, an indicted fund-raiser for Texans for Republican Majority and DeLay's national political action committee.

The e-mails were entered into evidence in a civil trial last week focusing on the Texas committee's activities in the 2002 state legislative elections.
Yep. TRMPAC's back in the news, and DeLay is deep in the middle of it. Are these emails the smoking gun that will produce the long awaited DeLay indictment? You never really know. He is one slippery critter.

What we do know is that Tom DeLay was a principal in a conspiracy to use illegal campaign cash to manipulate legislative elections in Texas in order to set the stage for manipulating Congressional elections in Texas.

It may be business as usual in Republican Party leadership, but out here in America, it's just plain scandalous.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

That simple...

March 10, 2005 | Washington -- The Defense Department hasn't developed a plan to reimburse soldiers for equipment they've bought to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan despite requirements in a law passed last year, a senator says.

In a letter sent Wednesday to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Sen. Christopher J. Dodd, D-Conn., asked details on the Pentagon's progress setting up the reimbursement program and questioned why it was not in place yet.

"Very simply, this is either negligence on their part, because they were not happy with this when it passed, or it's incompetence," Dodd said. "It's pretty outrageous when you have all their rhetoric about how much we care about our people in uniform."
...or even simpler.

Bush just hates soldiers as much as he hates veterans.

Why it matters.

"What difference does it make, they're all crooks."

You know you've heard it. Or...

"Those Democrats, they're just sellouts. Can't tell the difference at all."

You've heard that, too, haven't you?

Here's what difference it makes. If the Republicans controlled the Washington Legislature and Governor's Mansion, here's some of what would be coming down the legislative pike, according to Olympia Watch...
SB 5905: To allow immediate eviction of tenants committing crimes or "unlawful civil disruptions."

SB 5821: Requiring that girls under 18 notify a parent before getting an abortion, except in a medical emergency.

SB 5747: Freezing the minimum wage during bad economic times.

And the real corker, SB 5078, canceling all voter registrations and requiring re-registration by 2007.

There's an agenda, for you. Anti-tenant. Check. Anti-choice. Check. Anti-low income worker. Check. Anti-every damn registered voter in the entire state? Check.

Happily, our Democratic leaders in Olympia have seen that those items were assigned to an appropriately cylindrical file, but we've got to remember to make them run on the kind of stuff they actually try to do.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Thanks, but no thanks...

...but thanks, really!

Paul Waldman weighs on on the Carville/Greenberg call for a Democratic Social Security plan, and it's fine up to a point, but then he steps across a line I've set up, at least in my own mind.
And while we're at it, any Democrat who votes for that abomination of a bankruptcy bill - I'm looking at you, Biden - has no right to call himself a Democrat, I don't care how many credit card companies have greased your pocket. You don't get many opportunities to take such a clear stand - on one side, the American public, and on the other, a small group of rapacious corporations. Which side are you on? If Democrats don't stand against things like this, they really don't stand for anything.
Sorry, Paul. I mean, I'm glad you're interested and all, but so long as you refer to Democrats and the Democratic Party in the third person, you disqualify yourself from deciding who we are and what we stand for. I mean, which side are you on? I might agree with what you say, but your voice simply doesn't have standing in the arena of the Party.

The reason that the GOP noise machine works so well is that even in disagreement with their Party, many of the biggest noisemakers are openly partisan, while so many "progressive" voices duck identification with the Democratic Party when not issuing a litany of external complaint. I'm still interested in what they have to say about any number of subjects, but I'm only taking advice on the direction of the Party in the first person these days.

Still, you gotta agree with Waldman when he offers...
You convince people you stand for something by, oh I don't know, standing for something. Here's something: "We refuse to let President Bush and the Republicans destroy Social Security. We will fight this 'till the last dog dies."
Damn straight.

Everyone's got a Salt Lake City story...

...it seems, but I'm afraid we don't have much of a one. Exploring a city wasn't really on my agenda. My interest in geology far outstrips my interest in architecture, but, hell, it's an icon, so we did swing through the city to get a look at the Mormon Tabernacle.



We actually got a little closer, but had to flee with earnest young 'Sisters' perpetually offering half hour indoctrinat...err..."tours."

My biggest impressions were how quickly you pass out of SLC itself and into suburbs that seem to have more relaxed attitudes toward coffee shops and taverns. That, and the many, many payday loan, pawn and check cashing shops everywhere in the area. No surprise to me that Utah leads the nation in bankruptcy rates.

And again...

...just as I work up a good head of snark, Riverbend puts things in unique perspective...
We woke up this morning to a huge explosion.
Dammit.

Now what was it I was going to bitch about...

Jeanne Dixon Mode On

Concerns for the health of former President Bill Clinton will ultimately prevent his wife Hillary from seeking the Democratic nomination in 2008.

You read it here first.

/End Jeanne Dixon Mode

He who gasps last...

The Preznit: "The advance of hope in the Middle East requires new thinking in the region. By now it should be clear that authoritarian rule is not the wave of the future. It is the last gasp of a discredited past."
Maybe he can sell it to the Saudis. Riverbend isn't buying.
What it seems policy makers in America don't get, and what I suspect many Americans themselves *do* get, is that millions of Iraqis feel completely detached from the current people in power. If you don't have an alliance with one of the political parties (ie under their protection or on their payroll) then it's difficult to feel any affinity with people like Jaffari, Allawi, Talbani, etc. We watch them on television, tight-lipped and shifty-eyed after a meeting where they quarreled about Kirkuk or Sharia in the constitution and it feels like what I imagine an out-of-body experience should feel like.

In spite of elections, they still feel like puppets. But now, they are high-tech puppets. They were upgraded from your ordinary string puppets to those life-like, battery-powered, talking puppets. It's almost like we're doing that whole rotating president thing Bremer did in 2003 all over again. The same faces are getting tedious. The old Iraqi saying sums it up nicely, "Tireed erneb- ukhuth erneb. Tireed ghazal- ukhuth erneb." The translation for this is, "You want a rabbit? Take a rabbit. You want a deer? Take a rabbit."

Except we didn't get any rabbits- we just got an assortment of snakes, weasels and hyenas.
George Bush's "road to democracy" is paved with corpses. American corpses, Iraqi corpses, British corpses, many others but all, really, "ours" because they're all, really, human and so, we hope, are we.

The situation in Iraq sometimes fades from my perception into a blurry, dull pain, the product of what seems to be a distillation of every bad idea that the Bush administration can muster. Then Riverbend comes along and puts a human face on her country and her situation and my focus gets sharp enough to notice again that this is first of all about people. People who have died and people who live in the kind of ever-present fear that is a standard feature of life in a war zone. People who have been removed from job and family on a mission that looks increasingly like a fools errand, returned from across the sea and plunked back down without anything mildly resembling the kind of support system we know is needed for combat vets to successfully re-enter civilian life. Those peoples families, and friends. Every single person in Iraq. Threatened. Every day.

The pain we have caused and the pain we are causing is beyond measure. Is there anyone who really believes there can be a result that will truly compensate that pain.

It's not that there's nothing we can do, though.

There's something we can do.



It's a start.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Why Proudly Partisan?

I think the vote on Ted Kennedy's minimum wage increase sums it up well...
Democrats No:

None.

Republicans No:

Alexander, Tenn.; Allard, Colo.; Allen, Va.; Bennett, Utah; Bond, Mo.; Brownback, Kan.; Bunning, Ky.; Burns, Mont.; Burr, N.C.; Chambliss, Ga.; Coburn, Okla.; Cochran, Miss.; Collins, Maine; Cornyn, Texas; Craig, Idaho; Crapo, Idaho; DeMint, S.C.; Dole, N.C.; Enzi, Wyo.; Frist, Tenn.; Graham, S.C.; Grassley, Iowa; Gregg, N.H.; Hagel, Neb.; Hatch, Utah; Hutchison, Texas; Inhofe, Okla.; Isakson, Ga.; Kyl, Ariz.; Lott, Miss.; Lugar, Ind.; Martinez, Fla.; McCain, Ariz.; McConnell, Ky.; Murkowski, Alaska; Roberts, Kan.; Santorum, Pa.; Sessions, Ala.; Shelby, Ala.; Smith, Ore.; Snowe, Maine; Stevens, Alaska; Sununu, N.H.; Talent, Mo.; Thomas, Wyo.; Thune, S.D.; Vitter, La.; Voinovich, Ohio; Warner, Va.
Any questions?

It's almost too easy...

...but I can't help myself. Mediscam™ by Bushco® logs another notice from the



So how much is a $400 billion dollar boondoggle worth these days? Oh, about $849 billion.

They're just shameless. Liars, blackmailers, miscreants of every kind cling to this program like leeches. And these guys want a chance to "fix" Social Security?

Travelogue, part 1

I'm still sorting out anecdotes and inspirations from my road trip with the Brilliant and Beautiful (if ever so slightly lead-footed when behind the wheel) Bride of Upper Left, but to kick things off, here's a reasonable approximation of our route...



Of course, it was a bit more twisty and turny than that, with the twists offering many of the best parts. If it looks like I came anywhere near you, I waved, really, but you didn't seem to be paying attention...

My Cocktail Party with Wolfowitz

Well, not mine, exactly, but rather Eric Alterman's.
    Speaking of burying the lede, here is some possible actual news: There was a lot of talk of whether Wolfowitz would take over the World Bank. Henry Kissinger came over and told him he was glad he turned down the job (and made a bad sushi face when shaking my hand and learning who I was—to the everlasting joy of myself and, I hope, my parents).
Check it out. Most amusing. Even if Alterman's take on Wolfie is way more charitable than mine.

Pondering partisanship...

Like the heading of this blog, adapted from a famous Sam Rayburn quotation, says, I'm a Democrat, without prefix, without suffix, without apology. That doesn't mean beyond description, though. I'm from the liberal wing of the party, and a bit beyond that on some issues. Because of that, I generally share the frustration about Democrats like, say, Joe Lieberman. As I've said elsewhere, I'd support a decently liberal primary alternative to Lieberman, but if that were unsuccessful, I'd still rather have Lieberman, however diminutive the 'D' after his name seem to be sometimes, than anyone designated by an 'R.'

That's why I hope this snippet from a Daily Kos proves true...
Some lawmakers and senior party aides say that Mr. Lieberman remains in good standing. But they say that could change if he broke ranks and gave Mr. Bush a prominent Democratic ally on Social Security. "I think that Joe understands that, at this point in time, unity is the most important card Democrats have to play," said one Democratic senator, who like others, would only speak about Mr. Lieberman without being identified because of the sensitivity of his position. "He is sympathetic enough to that need that he is not going to bolt the reservation."
Let's face it, if Bush can't move Lieberman then the Bushco campaign to destroy Social Security really is DOA. I also take some encouragement from the statement by the Democratic Senator that "...unity is the most important card Democrats have to play." That's consistent with the general tone that's been set by Harry Reid, especially on the Social Security issue. It addresses the bottom line in an issue that will always plague the Democratic Party, which has a real committment to maintaining a 'big tent' policy. You really can't draw the kind of hard ideological lines that typify Republican discipline in the Democratic Caucus. The ideological range is simply too broad. Nope, sometimes you just have to bite the bullet and vote with your Party as a matter of loyalty and integrity that transcends ideology. Not often, and not lightly, but sometimes you just gotta.

The Social Security issue brings us to just such a time. In a way, it's a gift. Clearly the bankruptcy issue isn't strong enough to hold the Caucus. There's just too much home interest for some, like Joe Biden, and once the ranks break, subsequent defectors have cover. The attack on the rights of citizens to get compensation for injuries is another big piece of the Bushco agenda that it's hard to get real consencus on. Of course, on thing common to both issues is the tendency for the folks back home to think that those things always happen to someone else, so there's more pressure from K Street than Main Street brought to bear.

Not so Social Security. It has an unmatchable universality. You're on it, or expect to be. Your folks, maybe, or your maiden aunt, or that nice lady next door with the beautiful garden. They're on it. We're all in the plan. It's also got a terrific emotional advantage among Democratic partisans, since the destruction of Social Security, the ultimate pride of the New Deal, the greatest legacy of one of our greatest partisan icons, would be an enormous symbolic blow to Democrats of every ideological stripe. Heck, even the Republicans invoke FDR with a regularity I find offensive, since he's ours, dammit, and they've just got no right.

So it's a good place to take a stand, and it's appropriate to hold every Democrat to an exacting standard on it. It behooves us, though, to show some degree of forbearance when some D's stray on issues that are near and dear to those of us on the leftish edge of the Party. Once we had majorities large enough to tolerate deviance and still enact Democratic programs. A tradition of tolerance for that deviance established the proverbial 'big tent.' As that became the norm in the Congress, it became enshrined as a principle in Democratic politics. It is, I think a good principle, but sometimes it's complicated. Now we have a minority so slight that a unified front by our Democratic Senate can rescue the nation from the worst excesses of the radical Republicans. But our priniciple of tolerance within our own ranks means that a unified front can only be achieved in, at best, a very few instances, and we just have to...ahem...tolerate that.

Ezra Klein hits a key point in a post about the role and future of the DLC...
"...it's fine to consider the DLC's role reduced and their chairman irritating, but I wouldn't wish them out of the party, particularly not when we're out of the majority. They need to have a place at the table so their ideological soulmates feel that they've got a role in the talks and a stake in the outcome. If we kick them out of the room, it's all the easier for them walk across the aisle."
And that's it, really. The Senate Democrats are in the minority, and the first responsiblity of a minority isn't to slake the ideological thirst of the netroots - it's to become a majority. Sometimes that means accomodating differences between ourselves and some of our elected leaders. Sometimes that's not going to make me very happy, but sometimes being a Democrat means just dealing with it and leaving attacks on deviant Democrats to the GOP hit squads.

Just part of being proudly partisan...

Monday, March 07, 2005

It's Kind of Morbid

But I do love the obits. In recapping someone's life there is often a history or science lesson that the person had something to do with. And it really is amazing. So when I read Gladys Marín's obit in the Times, I thought it was an amazing story that I wished I knew more about.

In this nation, still divided between pro- and anti-Pinochet people, even those on the right begrudgingly recognized Ms. Marín as a selfless crusader.

...

Ms. Marín came from a humble family and joined the Communist Youth Party in the 1950's when studying to be a teacher. She became a congresswoman and supported the Marxist president, Salvador Allende, at the time of the 1973 military coup. Mr. Allende killed himself during the coup, and Ms. Marín went into exile in 1974 as other Communist Party leaders disappeared or died in custody.

Ms. Marín's husband, Jorge Muñoz, was arrested by the military government in 1976. He is presumed to have been killed but his body has never been found.

More than 3,000 people died in political violence during the years that Mr. Pinochet was in power, and tens of thousands of others were tortured and exiled. Ms. Marín returned secretly to Chile in 1978 and worked against the dictatorship from within the country.

She became the Communist Party leader in the 1990's and was among the first to file a criminal complaint against Mr. Pinochet in the late 1990's for rights abuses.