Friday, August 31, 2007

Charles Wilson: Ohio 6th District

Charles Wilson (OH – 06) served in the Ohio State House from 96-04, Ohio State Senate 04-06, and was elected to the US House of Representatives in 2006 with a 62% lead over his opponent, Chuck Blasdel, who's campaign was mired in ethics controversy (Bob Ney contributions, Swift Boat ties, and a 50k property tax check that bounced like a Super Ball). During the race, Wilson raised $1,779,436 (38% from PAC's, 35% individual), and spent $1,719,851. Wilson ran as a write-in candidate, after an early campaign flub aced him out of the primary ballot.

According to the 2000 census, Ohio's 6th district, with a population of 630,730, is 95% white, with an average median household income of $32,888, and a large generational steel worker voting block. More than "trending" Democrat, the 6th district hasn't elected a Republican since the 1990 midterm. In 2004, Wilson ran uncontested. In 2002, and 2000, the district awarded it's seat to a Democrat by a 20% margin, and in 2005, saw it's fair share of state Republican ethics scandals., Sept 2005:

Governor Taft is under investigation by the Ohio Ethics Commission for failure to disclose "50 to 60 golf outings and other events." The ethics investigation stemmed from "questions about the state's investment in rare coins" and "an ongoing scandal involving $300 million in investment losses [and] state and federal investigations into state financial policies." The Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation invested funds in Noe's coin collection business and Noe was accused by Attorney General Jim Petro "of stealing about $6 million from the state for personal use." [Columbus Dispatch, 7/20/05; Akron Beacon Journal, 7/21/05; Cincinnati Enquirer, 6/27/05; AP, 7/21/05]
The district went for Bush in the 2004 Presidential election, but by a very narrow margin.

Regarding Charles Wilson as a Progressive, gives him a overall progressive score of 88.64%, with 88.46% in the "war and peace" votes (68th of 432). Wilson however remains an opponent of legalized abortion except in the case of rape, incest, or a threat to the life of the mother.

He has shown vote support for clean coal, breaking our dependency on foreign oil, and criminalizing the oil cartels. On free trade, his 2006 campaign website has this to say:
So called "free trade" is not fair to Ohio workers. Our jobs are being shipped to countries where workers are paid pennies on the dollar. We must fight for fair trade agreements that protect Ohio's working families.
In the 2007 War Supplemental vote, Wilson voted repeatedly for withdrawal time-lines, but eventually stepped in line with fellow Blue Dogs, giving in to Bush's veto threats and voting yes on the final draft to fund the war without the time-lines.

In August, Wilson voted yes to the FISA "fix" (S. 1927), and issued this statement defending the vote:
“The bill I supported was passed on Friday night. Unfortunately that was not the bill that the Senate passed. The version left on the table was unsatisfactory, but it was better than leaving the American people unprotected for the next few months. The legislation that ultimately passed both the Senate and the House, the version that I voted for, is a temporary solution and I’m confident we’ll revisit this issue when Congress returns in September. Again, this was not my choice of bills but to leave America unprotected was not an option."
Wilson, on paper, reads as a progressive, but keeping in mind the favor his district has shown for Democratic representatives, and the popularity of his fiscally conservative voting record, his explanation of his FISA vote falls a bit short considering the risk it poses to civil-liberties. One would be even more hard pressed to believe such a vote was cast for re-elections concerns in Ohio's 6th district.

Wilson sits on the following committees:

Financial Services
Science and Technology
Subcommittee on Domestic and International Monetary Policy, Trade, and Technology
Subcommittee on Financial Institutions and Consumer Credit
Subcommittee on Housing and Community Opportunity
Subcommittee on Technology and Innovation

His top six contributors are:

1- Saber Healthcare
2- LKQ Corp
3- United Parcel Service
4- Wilson Funeral & Furniture
5- Intl Brotherhood of Electrical Workers
6- Teramana Enterprises

The "See Through" GOP

Consider, if you will, the current GOP campaigns.

Done? Okay, so if as a country we banned abortion and gay marriage, left the health care system as is, ignored Social Security and campaign reform for a few more years, and continued our laid back attitude toward the loss of civil liberties, what would "Mitt, Rudy, Tancredo and the Shebangs" have to campaign upon?

Immigration and Terrorists.

That is the Republican Party of today. No substance.

Race vs. Income vs. Bush

EPI makes a graph.

Ezra sums it up.

The Bush years have been really bad if you're black. But they've been pretty weak if you're white, Hispanic, or simply living in this country.

American Cancer Society Ads Target Lack of Coverage

The American Cancer Society plans to devote it's 2007 budget to an ad campaign, targeting lack of health care coverage as an obstacle to early diagnosis.


The campaign was born of the group’s frustration that cancer rates are not dropping as rapidly as hoped, and of recent research linking a lack of insurance to delays in detecting malignancies.

Though the advertisements are nonpartisan and pointedly avoid specific prescriptions, they are intended to intensify the political focus on an issue that is already receiving considerable attention from presidential candidates in both parties.
More bad news for the Republicans.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Bush, The Revelator

Nifty little video recap of Bush's "legacy" I found at the YouTube(s). A little bit cryptic for my taste, but it puts a little Depeche Mode in your day.

The Almanac of American Politics, 2008

Woo Hoo!

The unequivocal 2006 election results suggest we have entered a new period in American politics. When America’s votes were tallied this past November, Democrats had won Election Day majorities in both the Senate and the House for the first time since 1992. The House Democrats’ margin of victory, furthermore, was very similar to the House Republicans’ popular vote margin in 1994—a harbinger, perhaps, of a new political era.

In the wake of such an eventful election, it’s no surprise that pundits on both sides of the fence are clamoring for the 2008 edition of The Almanac of American Politics—the gold standard for anyone who wants to understand the American political landscape. Once again, renowned journalists Michael Barone and Richard E. Cohen present the ultimate reference guide for everyone involved, invested, or interested in American politics. As in previous editions, the 2008 Almanac includes colorful, fascinating profiles of every member of Congress and every governor. It also includes in-depth and up-to-date political profiles of all fifty states and 435 House districts—covering everything from economics to history to, of course, politics.

Specific to this latest edition of the nation’s leading political resource is coverage of all special elections in the 109th Congress and redistricting changes in Georgia and Texas. Barone and Cohen also provide a comprehensive look at the early maneuvering and likely battlegrounds of the 2008 presidential campaign.
Complete with maps, census data, and indispensable information on topics ranging from campaign expenditures to voting records to interest group ratings, this latest edition of the Almanac of American Politics presents everything you need to know about current American politics, related in snappy prose and framed by cogent analysis.

Lieberman for Attorney General?

I threw up in my mouth a little bit.

Bush Posturing for More War

The President, once again determined against all rational thought, plans to march us into another war, this time with Iran.

Glenn Greenwald is pissed:

Leave aside all of the dubious premises -- the fact that the U.S. is supposed to consider Iran "the world's leading state sponsor of terrorism" because of its support for groups that are hostile to Israel; that Iran is arming its longstanding Taliban enemies; that Iran is some sort of threat to Iraq's future even though it is an ally of Iraq's government; and that Iran's detention of American-Iranians inside its own country is anything other than retaliation for our own equally pointless detention of Iranians inside of Iraq, to say nothing of a whole slew of other provacative acts we have recently undertaken towards Iran. Leave all of that aside for the moment.

Viewed through the prism of presidential jargon, Bush's vow -- "We will confront this danger before it is too late" -- is synonymous with a pledge to attack Iran unless our array of demands are met. He is unmistakably proclaiming that unless Iran gives up its nuclear program and fundamentally changes its posture in the Middle East, "we will confront this danger." What possible scenario could avert this outcome?

By now it is unmistakably clear that it is not only -- or even principally -- Iran's nuclear program that is fueling these tensions. As Scott Ritter and others have long pointed out, the fear-mongering warnings about an Iranian "nuclear holocaust" (obviously redolent of Condoleezza Rice's Iraqi smoking gun "mushroom cloud") is but the pretext for achieving the true goal -- regime change in Tehran. Bush all but said so yesterday:
We seek an Iran whose government is accountable to its people -- instead of to leaders who promote terror and pursue the technology that could be used to develop nuclear weapons.
In other words, we "seek" a new government in Iran.
And lets not forget the President has a Congress mired by a "working" conservative majority, and help from the Lieberman Paste Eating Club.

Storm a-brewin', folks.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Matheson: Mr. Seventeen Percent

Actually, I wasn't surprised much by Matheson's numbers in this SLTrib story, but I was a little intrigued by this:

Votes in the first seven months of this congressional session show that Matheson voted with his fellow Democrats 83 percent of the time and with the Republicans 17 percent, according to a database of votes by The most loyal Utah member is Rep. Rob Bishop, who voted with his fellow Republicans 91 percent of the time.

Cannon is an 86-percent Republican voter, while Sens. Bob Bennett and Orrin Hatch round in at about 87 percent alignment with the GOP.
Cannon is only at 86 percent? Wow buddy, you've got some catchin' up to do. More on Cannon from the same article:
Rep. Chris Cannon has often shown up in videos posted to YouTube, but usually cast in a not-so-great light by critics. But now his office is embracing the Internet sensation and posting videos of the congressman espousing his own arguments.

Who is behind the new effort? Cannon's new spokesman, Fred Piccolo, a Generation X-er who has posted 13 videos of his boss in the past month. Cannon appears to be the only member of the Utah delegation posting his own videos.
This should be fun.

And one last local item; be sure to check out the sidebar widgets for local reps Misty has put together at Saintless.

HB 148 "Scholarship Program"

Ralph Wakely, in todays Standard Examiner:

So now HB 148 goes before Utah voters on Nov. 6. But that’s not the end of the Legislature’s deck-stacking. Someone had to write the impartial ballot title that tries to explain the referendum. And — surprise, surprise — that job falls by law to the Legislature’s own attorneys. Since those lawyers take orders from the Legislature, it’s not surprising that the ballot title fails the sniff test.

Rather than call vouchers what they are — a tax break for the Utahns who need it the least when the state’s public schools are so poorly funded — the Legislature’s lawyers threw up a smokescreen by calling HB 148 “a scholarship program.”

Monday, August 27, 2007

Democrats' Responsibility, Post Gonzales

It really is time Congress put actions behind the words, and take a stand against this White House.

Greenwald says it best (as always):

One of the most blatantly dishonest political hacks ever to occupy the position of U.S. Attorney General, Alberto Gonzales, has now resigned. This is a real moment of truth for the Democratic Congress. Democrats, who have offered up little other than one failure after the next since taking power in January, can take a big step toward redeeming themselves here. No matter what, they must ensure that Gonzales' replacement is a genuinely trustworthy and independent figure.

Vietnam Analogies for the Thinking Person

A much more accurate Iraq/Vietnam similarity, via Counterpunch:

In early November of 1967, the administration of President Lyndon Johnson ratcheted up a media campaign designed to convince the American people that victory in Vietnam was possible. Dubbed the "Success Offensive," it began with coordinated leaks to the press of cherry-picked reports in order to manufacture the most positive spin possible. On Meet the Press, Vice President Humphrey asserted that "there has been progress on every front in Vietnam," and Ambassador Bunker reported that the Saigon government was increasing its territorial control.... For the most part, the propaganda worked. By Christmas, support for the war was holding steady at about 50 percent.
And we all know how many American soldiers died before we realized we'd been duped that time.

And here's a nice comparison from waaaay back in '05, when the Weekly Standard was still telling us how uncool it was to compare this war to Vietnam.
In her incisive 1972 book on the US intervention in Vietnam, Fire in the Lake, Frances Fitzgerald commented on the way in which the Johnson administration and the media presented the Vietnamese election to the American people:

“The message, as received by the American public, was that the United States was generously bringing all the virtues of its own political system to this underdeveloped country, that it was creating a democracy to win the Vietnamese people away from Communist totalitarianism. So clear was the message that none of the distinguished Americans arriving to view the elections remembered that the embassy and the Ky government agreed to elections in the first place only under the threat of defection of the entire northern half of the country and total anarchy in Saigon.”

Once again, the parallels are striking. While Bush basks in the reflected glory of the turnout at the Iraqi polls, virtually no one in the media bothers to recall the unpleasant fact that Washington agreed to the election only under duress. It was organized in order to defuse a full-scale uprising by the Shiite population, whose principal religious figure, Ayatollah Ali Sistani, had demanded a popular vote. Initially, the US administration planned on installing its stooge Ahmed Chalabi and similar CIA operatives in power. Later, occupation authority chief Paul Bremer hatched a plan for a handpicked US council to form a government.

Having been forced to hold such an election—both in Vietnam and Iraq—the US administration turned it into a propaganda vehicle designed to suppress the mounting popular opposition at home to American military intervention.
There are many similarities to be found for any cause from any point in history. Nothing changes the simple fact that unlike previous US endeavors, there is nothing noble about our occupation of Iraq.

AT&T's Failed Investment

New Jersey teen unlocks his first iPhone:

AT&T is paying millions to be the exclusive United States provider of Apple’s much-hyped and glowingly reviewed gadget, the iPhone.

It took 17-year-old George Hotz two months of work to undermine AT&T’s investment.
This is why corporations, from the music industry to cell phone providers are sinking. They fail to see the merit to embracing advances in technology and profiting off of promoting their wide-spread acceptance.

This age-old "snatch and grab" theory of simply being the first one out, then funneling purchasers and subscribers into "you can only get it here" cattle chutes will be their undoing. It worked for companies like America Online in the 90's, but it doesn't work today.

Orrin Hatch Hearts Gonzo

Sen Hatch's reaction to Gonzo's departurer:

"I hope that history will remember Attorney General Gonzales for his honorable service to his country, rather than for the absurd political theater to which some critics have subjected him." _ Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah.

Other positive statements were sparse (and we're talking Fox News here, so these have got to be the best of what they could find), putting Sen Hatch in quite a league on this one.
"His mistake was underestimating the ferocity of relentless partisan attacks and not preparing more to address them." _ Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas.

"I wish him and his family all the best as they enter the next stage of their lives. The work of the Justice Department is indispensable to our global war on terrorism, and as we move forward, I trust that the next attorney general will continue an aggressive approach against those who aim to harm our nation." _ House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio

"The life of Alberto Gonzales has been defined by his devotion to family and deep commitment to public service. ... I appreciate his hard work in defense of our country and look forward to his future contributions." _ House Republican Whip Roy Blunt.

"I thank Alberto Gonzales for his public service and wish him well in his future endeavors. It is my hope that whomever President Bush selects as the next attorney general, he or she is not subjected to the same poisonous partisanship that we've sadly grown accustomed to over the past eight months." _ Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

"Al Gonzales is a man of integrity, decency and principle. ...After months of unfair treatment that has created a harmful distraction at the Justice Department, Judge Gonzales decided to resign his position and I accept his decision. It's sad that ... his good name was dragged through the mud for political reasons." _ President Bush.

George W. Bush, Mitch McConnell, Roy Blunt, John Boehner, and John Cornyn. Impressive company to keep. Even Susan Collins and Pete Domenici were able to say that Gonzales should step down. But not Hatch, only support for Bush and everyone in the administration from Hatch.

Gonzo Is Gonzo

In a way, I'll miss him. It's been fun in an odd way to watch how far he'll go to protect the Bush administration while not being quite able to pull it off gracefully. Who can forget the parade of "I don't remember" variances we've seen from his congressional testimony? My personal favorite from the vast collection of Alberto Gonzales, the pinhead.

As much fun as it was to watch the daily blundering missteps from the Department of Justice, there are some serious aspects of Gonzo's departure, for example the latest FISA revision gave the Attorney General a great deal of power. So are we better off now that he's gone? Now steps in Paul Clement (from FDL)

Publicly, Clement has forcefully argued that the president has broad power in wartime to imprison those he deems enemies, indefinitely and without access to legal counsel. Clement’s allies suggest that behind closed doors he may counsel a more moderate stance.
So I suppose it would be too much to ask for Clement to step up on contempt of congress charges where his predecessor didn't. Maybe Bush will appoint someone who would stand up for justice, and the citizens of America . . . then again maybe not. The rumors persist that Michael Chertoff, overseer of the Department of Homeland Security during it's worst performance ever (and someone who occasionally has a gut feeling that terrorists are about to get us), is next in line for the job. With Harry Reid already having called for his resignation from his DHS post, it seems like the confirmation would be a fight, to say the least. So we may be stuck with interim "Bush can put anyone he wants in jail" Clement for a while (unless Democrats cave to Bush again, but I'm keeping my fingers crossed). But despite the DOJ not really improving under Clement in the short term, or (I hope not) Chertoff in the long term, I'm still glad Gonzales is gone. No one should be able to treat the Constitution as badly as he has and be allowed to keep their job.

Republican Rage

Oliver Willis, on what drives conservatives:

At the formation of the modern conservative movement in the mid-1960s, it was sufficient to whip up a frenzy against blacks. Those voters who saw the decay of society in equal rights for blacks found a home in the Republican party as a barrier between their white middle-class America and the supposed hordes of poor inner-city blacks - especially the men who were coming for their daughters. As time marched on, the Republicans regularly used this issue to outrage their base, from Nixon talking about law and order to Reagan's welfare moms and of course George H. W. Bush and Willie Horton. In that time conservatives have also used to varying degrees the spectre of a nation under assault by gays, Jews, and blacks to spook their base into voting Republican. To many of their voters Republican leadership preserves leadership that looks like them and their families.

But things have changed. It's not okay anymore in America for that sort of blatant prejudice to be a part of acceptable discourse. The Republican strategy of bashing blacks, gays, and Jews has had to move underground and while still a part of the conservative movement, it is used sparingly so as not to attract attention. It isn't dead, but close to it.

So what to do? Who is left to demonize?

Soon after the 2004 election the decision was made to transform "immigration" as a major campaign issue.
We've got to hate them here, so that we don't have to hate them over there? Something like that.
Conservatives claim that 9/11 shows us that our borders were not secure enough. But the 9/11 hijackers did not come into America with a coyote across the U.S. - Mexico border. They were here on visas.
Not that that will matter to O'Reilly, Malkin, and the rest of the Chicken Little Crew. Skin color paranoia is still all the rage.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

If Iraqis Looked Like Irishmen

I wish I could say this little bit of nasty reality didn't apply to a large number of my fellow Utahn's, but I need only head to the gas station or mall to overhear enough talk to prove me wrong.

On several occasions as a high school student in Raleigh, North Carolina, programs and competitions brought me into contact with students from rural parts of the state. Quite a few of them mentioned that they'd never met anyone of Indian descent before. I remember one girl asking, "Oh, you're Indian! do you know so-and-so?" The idea that India was a nation of nearly a billion people, most of whom do not know each other, was lost on her.

They were very nice people -- I was happy to have known them, and to have played some role in expanding their cultural horizons. But I wonder how significant that sort of lack of a diverse upbringing was in getting many people, especially in rural areas, to think there was a connection between Saddam and the 9/11 hijackers. If you haven't ever met any Arabs before, and you have only the vaguest sense of what the world outside America looks like, it probably becomes a lot easier to think that all those brown-skinned Allah worshippers are conspiring to destroy America.

So when I see that 41% of the country still thinks that Saddam was helping the 9/11 terrorists, I'm not all that surprised.
If Iraqis looked like Irishmen, I don't think Americans would've even considered invading the country as a plausible post-9/11 course of action.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Confession: I'm Really Enjoying The Giuliani Campaign

Rudolph W. Giuliani's alarm clock goes off at 5am, each morning, blaring "God Bless America." He rises from his pillow (stuffed with rose petals hand picked by the Pope) dresses himself in "Made in the USA" tighty-whiteys, Dockers, shirt and tie, steps sprightly to the kitchen for a bowl of apple pie, then it's back upstairs for an hour of prayer and online charitable donations to orphanages. When finished, he bathes in water filtered through an American flag, and brushes his teeth with toothpaste from a tube purchased at a grocery store Ronald Reagan was rumored to have visited three times in the spring of 1987.

Refreshed and ready for his day, "America's Mayor" walks the 5 miles to campaign headquarters, humming along with the chorus of singing birds that constantly circle his head, fearless in their joy, despite the gaggles of adoring patriots that similarly circle his feet.

As Rudy humbly describes the scene, "They all just want to see their first American Hero."
Ok, so none of this has actually occurred (as far as we know, though I'd lay money on the tighty-whiteys), but if you read it in your Sunday newspaper, would you be surprised? No. Thus, I have to confess to you, our regular readers, that I am really beginning to enjoy the Rudy Giuliani campaign.

Hey, it's cheaper than the circus.
Giuliani keeps undermining his own credibility on all policy issues by exaggerating to the point of comedy. He can't just say he spent time at Ground Zero; he has to exaggerate to say he spent as much time (if not more) than the rescue, recovery, and cleanup workers who spent a year sifting through human remains and rubble. He can't just say he's interested in counter-terrorism; he has to exaggerate to say he's been "studying Islamic terrorism for 30 years." He can't just say he's committed to promoting adoption over abortion; he has to exaggerate his record as mayor. He can't just he cut taxes in NYC; he has to exaggerate his record to include tax cuts he opposed (he even counted one cut twice). The guy can't even release a list of congressional endorsements without exaggerating the numbers.
And slightly less low-brow than a Monster Truck-Pull.
The assertion, which Mr. Giuliani has repeated on the trail as he has promoted his fiscal conservatism, is somewhat misleading, independent fiscal monitors said. In fact, Mr. Giuliani left his successor, Michael R. Bloomberg, with a bigger deficit than the one Mr. Giuliani had to deal with when he arrived in 1994. And that deficit would have been large even if the city had not been attacked on Sept. 11, 2001.
Ah Rudy, you are too modest. Why don't you tell them about the time you saved that kitten from the tree while wrestling the communist who had infiltrated your gym class in high school, all with a bullet in your leg from when you threw yourself in front of those nuns during the assassination attempt? What about that little old lady who's lawn you mowed in secrecy, every saturday night from 1964 to 1967? Or the secret plan you have for Jell-O as a renewable energy source? Of course you can have the keys to the White House. Hell, we don't even need to vote.

Rudy also invented Post-it Notes, and is a skilled juggler.

There Is No Immigrant Crime Wave

Guess it's back to "They took our jobs!" for the ultra-paranoid racists of the "they've come for our daughters" anti-immigration hordes. Jeralyn Merritt, of TalkLeft:

There is no immigrant crime wave in the United States. Statistics prove it. In June, as it does every year, the Bureau of Justice Statistics released its “Report on the Number of Prison and Jail Inmates.”

As of June 2007, there were more than 2.25 million federal and state inmates. Just 4 percent — fewer than 100,000 — were non-citizens, a group that includes both those here legally and those here without proper documentation. While there were 331 more non-citizen inmates in 2006 than 2005, that number was still 700 less than in 2004.

In 2000, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, young foreign-born men were five times less likely to be incarcerated than those born in the U.S, accounting for only 4 percent of the prison population.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Jim Matheson (UT-02): Red Handed

Jim Matheson (D - UT) won his first 02-District election in 2001, taking over a district that had remained strongly republican since 1994. Shortly after his election, state legislators gerrymandered his district (a move even the Wall Street Journal called “a Republican scam”), to include Utah’s Washington County, with the conservative “retirement community” of St. George.

Matheson surprised them by winning again in 2002 (although by a very small margin of 1600). Matheson’s support in Salt Lake City has grown in each election, while throughout the rest of his district the gap has been steadily shrinking, until 2006, with some of his worst margins overall gained during Presidential election years, with higher voter turnout.

Matheson reigned in a 67,000 vote advantage in Salt Lake County in 2004, taking his district by only about 20,000 votes. In 2006 he took Salt Lake County by 52,000 votes, and the overall district margin of over 49,000, clearly gaining ground in the state. Without Salt Lake County, which made up his entire district before the Dec 2001 gerrymander, he wouldn’t have fared well in any election, but his acceptance in the reddest of states seems to be growing, as his election margins for the entire district show:

2000 – 38,000 votes
2002 – 1,600 votes (less than 1% of the district vote)
2004 – 20,000 votes
2006 – 50,000 votes.
His voting history leaves much to be desired. Chris Cannon he isn’t, but he calling his record “leadership” would be a stretch. As a supporter of children’s welfare (SCHIP), stem cell research, environmental protection, conservation land management, and government accountability, Matheson nonetheless broke with his party and supported handing even more authority to the tainted DOJ with his vote for the FISA (H.R. 3356) “fix.” Several attempts to contact Matheson’s office for a statement, since the vote, have yielded no response, and no press release resides on his official site regarding that specific vote. In his tenure, Matheson has missed only 23 votes, but has a troubling habit of following lock-step with the Bush White House when it comes to Iraq (a habit most local Democrats attribute to his R+ 16 post-gerrymander district). Surprisingly though, his district, in overall polling does support “some kind” of withdrawal when it comes to the war.

On the firing of US Attorneys, however, Matheson has this to say:
"U.S. Attorneys are charged with ensuring that federal laws are enforced and that wrongdoers are fairly tried and when convicted, appropriately punished. There is nothing partisan about their responsibilities. It is very troubling that political pressure or intimidation was brought to bear on how these public servants do their jobs. It's duty to the law, not duty to a political party that should guide their performance.”
Other troubling votes, of course, are his vote against withdrawal timelines in the war-funding bill (although he did support an amendment for withdrawal, with the withdrawal date held confidential), and his vote to authorize the war. To his credit, he did oppose the first three efforts to renew the Patriot Act. rates his closest match in voting record similarity as Melissa Bean (D – IL), a frightening comparison to say the least (Matheson at least offers a slightly more friendly attitude toward immigration).

Locally, Matheson is seen as a hero of sorts, for his fight against “Divine Strake,” the proposed detonation of 700 tons of ammonium nitrate and fuel oil in the nearby desert, a plan even federal environmental assessment officials admitted would result in radioactive debris being hurled thousands of feet into the atmosphere.

Applying pressure to Matheson on specific votes could prove risky, and cost Utah their only Democrat (“far left” in this state is subject, greatly, to lack of voter education and successful Republican spin), but the tide is shifting, and there is a growing movement inside other red districts for representation more in line with Utah’s values. With a dominant LDS community, Matheson stands great challenges in 2008 should Romney win the GOP nomination, but that same LDS community places great importance on children and family, community, and small government (I am not LDS, so LDS readers, forgive me for the over-simplification for the sake of brevity), a notion local Democrats have not been successful at capitalizing on. Still there are signs of change, as grassroots organizations statewide seek to educate Utahn’s that the GOP today is not their fathers’ Republican Party (see Democracy for Utah’s “Are Your Friends Demo’s but Don’t Know It?”).

Maybe it is time Jim Matheson stepped out on a limb a bit. It is not enough for him to merely win elections. Matheson could be doing much more to promote the Progressive Movement inside of Utah, and it is believed by many (including this blog) that ears are open to change in this state as more people realize how the conservatives have strayed from the traditional Republican values of the late 50’s, early 60’s (also the same time Utah became a red state).

Could Matheson be doing more to promote his own party? Definitely. Could he be pressured to vote against his constituency? Not without help. But it wouldn’t take much. It is possible Matheson could be swayed on issues such as the future FISA vote with a simple promise of local contributors lined up to help him pay for the PR campaign he would have to run, once returning home.
Jim Matheson sits on the following committees:

Member, House Committee on Energy and Commerce
Member, Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade, and Consumer Protection
Member, Subcommittee on Energy and Air Quality
Member, Subcommittee on Health
Member, House Committee on Science and Technology
Member, Subcommittee on Technology and Innovation

His top six contributors are:

1 UBS AG $20,300
2 Tosh Inc $18,800
3 SLM Corp $16,750
4 1-800-Contacts $15,500
5 EnergySolutions LLC $11,546
6 Merrill Lynch $11,500

Ushering In the American Military State

US officials say plans to use spy satellites for domestic surveillance are under way. Via Democracy Now:

According to officials, the spy satellites will be used in part to monitor the nation's borders and to aid federal and local law-enforcement agencies. Access to the high-tech surveillance tools would, for the first time, allow Homeland Security and law-enforcement officials to see real-time, high-resolution images and data. Experts say there is effectively no legal framework governing their domestic use, raising concerns from privacy advocates that Americans could be subject to warrantless surveillance from space. Some military experts have questioned whether domestic use of such satellites would violate the Posse Comitatus Act. The act bars the military from engaging in law-enforcement activity inside the U.S., and the satellites were predominantly built for and owned by the Defense Department.
How far are Americans willing to go in this exchange of civil liberties for alleged national security? Does it change any minds that the statistical likely-hood of a terrorist attack on American soil, despite the horrors of 9/11, is less than a shark attack in a kiddie pool? Does it not matter that crime statistics, despite what reactionary flop you read on the Utah Rattler, still point to natives over immigrants?

This xenophobia and irrational fear of strangers (popping up, ironically, while we "spread democracy" about the globe like pixie dust laced with arsenic) leads only to a future step backwards for freedom. How far will we let it go? Before you answer, consider today's Bangladesh:
Demonstrations have spread across the grindingly poor South Asian country since Monday with students demanding an end to emergency rule. The emergency was imposed in January when President Iajuddin Ahmed canceled scheduled elections, outlawed demonstrations, curtailed press freedoms and limited other civil liberties.

The interim government now running Bangladesh is doing so with the backing of the military, which ruled the country throughout the 1980s. Officials say elections will be held in late 2008.

The protests began when University of Dhaka students called for the removal of an army post from the campus. The soldiers withdrew a day later after violent protests left 150 injured, but the students' demands escalated and the protests continued. Hundreds have since been injured.

On Wednesday, students said they wanted the return of democracy immediately.
It may seem absurd, the idea of something similar happening on American soil, but 6 years ago, many of us would have said the same thing about warrant-less wiretaps and suspending habeas corpus in any US sanctioned court.

Is this a trade we're willing to make in order to quell our fears of the foreign and the unknown? With each bold over-step this administration makes, and each acquiescence we allow with fear, we become less American.

Correction: A Lying Sissy


Some distortions are so massive and so deliberate as to constitute outright lies. See if you can spot the dishonesty in this line in President Bush's speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars' national convention today:
U.S. forces have killed or captured an average of more than 1,500 al Qaeda terrorists and other extremists every month since January.
That "and other extremists" line sure does a lot of work here. No order of battle for the insurgency is available, but all credible estimates peg al-Qaeda in Iraq as by far the smallest contingent. One rough assessment, cited by The New York Times last month, put AQI at possessing perhaps 5,000 fighters. Yet Bush suggested this morning that the U.S. has captured as many as 12,000 members of AQI so far this year.

Since the surge began, the U.S. has had between 17,000 and 23,000 Iraqis in custody each month, according to the Brookings Institution's Iraq Index (pdf). Last month, Ned Parker of the Los Angeles Times reported that of the 19,000 detainees in U.S. custody in Iraq, only 135 were foreigners -- the most likely indicator of membership in al-Qaeda.
And if that isn't enough bull-puckey to fill your frustration coffer for the day, the White House is now claiming the broom closet is also off limits to FOIA:
The Bush administration argued in court papers this week that the White House Office of Administration is not subject to the Freedom of Information Act as part of its effort to fend off a civil lawsuit seeking the release of internal documents about a large number of e-mails missing from White House servers.

The claim, made in a motion filed Tuesday by the Justice Department, is at odds with a depiction of the office on the White House's own Web site. As of yesterday, the site listed the Office of Administration as one of six presidential entities subject to the open-records law, which is commonly known by its abbreviation, FOIA.
What? The DOJ obscured the law to benefit the White House? Gasp!

It's gettin' pretty deep.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Taking on the "Bush" Dogs

Open Left has launched a new campaign (call it an "accountability" campaign) against the Bush Dog Democrats who have continually sold the Democratic Party out to the will of the White House, with the Habeas, War-Funding, and FISA votes. Matt Stoller:

I'm hearing more and more frequently a sense of rage with the Democratic leadership in Congress. From failing to stop the war to expanding Bush's wiretapping authority, the swing vote of conservative Democrats in the House are forming an effective conservative majority that is enabling Bush to govern as he wishes. The polls show that this is a very bad political move for Democrats. Congress has an 18% approval rating, from Democrats, and 60% of all voters strongly disapprove of Bush's new wiretapping authority. Democrats haven't stopped the war, haven't stopped torture, haven't curbed corporate abuses, and haven't really done anything except raise the minimum wage as part of a package to send $100B of taxpayer into the sands of Iraq.
The campaign is a great idea that could not be more perfectly timed. It is time that our leaders understand the (D) is not enough, getting re-elected is not always enough (you hear me Matheson?!), and allowing conservatives to define the Democratic Party has to end.

The Bush Dogs, and any others who can sleep with a similar voting record, do not deserve the (D) and no longer reflect what the Democratic Party is about.

Mike Lux spells it out:
1. Every time the Democratic Congress caves to the president, it drives the Democratic Party's numbers down. Or have you noticed already? I hope so. You are being too clever by half with these votes, and it's not working. I know that a lot of your caucus members from purple and red districts are looking for political cover, but voters, activists and donors don't care about legislative subtleties when our side gets rolled. The Party doesn't get credit for the majority of the caucus that voted against Bush, all they know is that a Democratic-led Congress let Bush win again. Voters want to support Democrats, and they do support you when you oppose Bush, but, they have questions about your competence and toughness - and caving to Bush doesn't bolster that confidence.

2. Party discipline is a good thing. The leaders of the Democratic Party ought to support efforts to get more party discipline. I'm all for a big tent and all that, but to govern effectively with narrow margins, you have to have both carrots and sticks and not be afraid to play hardball. Both Reid and Pelosi have shown signs of this at times in terms of their inside maneuvering, but having folks outside of Capitol Hill swing a few sticks is good for you too.

3. A little pushback now could solve bigger problems later. If this kind of cave-in routine keeps happening, and nothing bad ever happens to the more conservative members of your caucus who are going astray, the anger is going to keep building. The result could be ugly in the middle of an election year. Consider strategies like our Bush Dog campaign as shots across the bow. If it helps your caucus members stand up to Bush, and stops this crap from happening again, then the festering anger coming from your base in the summer of 2007 gets better resolved by the 2008 election season, and folks will be united and happy when it really counts. But, if we don't raise the warning flag here and now, and your Bush Dogs keep hurting the entire Democratic Party by making us look weak and incompetent, then all hell will break loose at exactly the wrong time.

4. Great opportunity and great danger. Every poll I've seen shows that the Democratic Party is at a moment of great opportunity. Bush's failed presidency has convinced voters that if this is what it means to be conservative, then they consider themselves progressive. They are moving our way on issue after issue, and we clearly have the opportunity to build on the 2006 election results, and have an even bigger year in 2008. This is an opportunity of historic proportions.

History Repeating

Bush, today:

“Here at home, some can argue our withdrawal from Vietnam carried no price to American credibility -- but the terrorists see things differently.” He claimed that Osama bin Laden himself had predicted that the American public, remembering Vietnam, would also rise up against the Iraq occupation... "Whatever your position in that debate, one unmistakable legacy of Vietnam is that the price of America's withdrawal was paid by millions of innocent citizens whose agonies would add to our vocabulary new terms like 'boat people,' 're-education camps,' and 'killing fields.' "
Appearing on CNN today after the coverage of the Bush speech, former Reagan adviser and magazine editor David Gergen said, "He may well have stirred up a hornet's nest among historian. By invoking Vietnam, he raised the automatic question, 'Well, if you've learned so much from history, Mr. President, how did you ever get us involved in another quagmire?'"
So let me get this right. We should have stayed longer? How Nixon. And the horrible apocalypse will be caused by Congress' and Dirty Hippies again? Deja vu!

This is shocking that the POTUS, of all people, could have such an incoherent grasp on history. (P.S. George, the "killing fields" were in Cambodia)

Not that there aren't ample reasons to compare Iraq to Vietnam:
The real domino in the Vietnam War was American public opinion. From the very beginning of US escalatory moves in early 1965 there were limits to American public and congressional tolerance of the war's cost and duration. These limits were moreover reinforced by the Johnson Administration's behavior: its refusal to arouse popular emotion on the war's behalf, its failure to make a compelling strategic case for massive US intervention, its deliberate and repeated public misrepresentation of the war's "progress" and of its own escalatory intentions, and its refusal to make hard political choices.
Gotzta learn to use The Google, Mr. Preznit.

Bush Explains Future Victories for Democrats

with Video!

The Slow Painful Death of DRM

The Times, They Are A-Changin':

Even as we get the rumor (not yet substantiated) that the NYT’s dropping their TimeSelect deal (because we can get get Krugman for free anyway and nobody wants to pay to read Tom Friedman), another bit of interesting news is on the horizon:
Universal Music Group, the world’s biggest music conglomerate, has announced that it will sell tracks from thousands of albums without the customary copy protection software for at least the next few months. The tracks will be available from recording artists’ Web sites and through several established online music retailers, but Universal is excluding Apple Inc.’s iTunes store, the No. 1 online music retailer. Universal claims it is excluding Apple so that it can use the Apple store as a control group for measuring the impact on pricing, piracy and sales, but Michael Gartenberg, an analyst with Jupiter Research, “There’s no doubt these guys are poking a stick at Apple,” adding:

“Clearly the handwriting is on the wall for DRM-protected content. We are seeing more of the players fall as they recognize that it’s just a hassle for the consumer and doesn’t really help the piracy problem.”
Especially as DRM cracking software is nearly as ubiquitous as porn online. (And DRM software is unpopular among many audiophiles for its perceived negative effects on sound quality, so it’s not just the evil music pirates working to strip musical tracks of their shackleware.)

Back during the days of the first Napster, I bought more major-label CDs (and even LPs) than I have at any time before or since. Napster enabled me to get MP3 copies of songs by artists who intrigued me, such as Nirvana and Sarah McLachlan and Luscious Jackson and the Dandy Warhols, so I could try before I bought the higher-fidelity CD versions. (I really hate shelling out $20 for a CD that might have one good song on it, don’t you?) In addition, Napster enabled me to acquire copies of tracks from LPs which, because of their obscurity and nonexistent market potential, will never officially make it to CD.

Nowadays, I don’t download music anymore, not unless it’s from a trusted source. I don’t buy major-label stuff, either. Instead, I buy music direct from the artist, and these days every street busker and bar musician who can play more than three chords on his or her guitar has piles of self-burned, self-marketed CDs sitting in the open axe case next to the pile of quarters, dollar bills and fivers.

The movie and music industries — and in many if not most cases, the major players are the same in both — have been freaking out at the prospect of the internet and the home computer destroying their market share. And so they have, but not in the way the movie/music moguls thought they would.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Our President is a Sissy

Yep, I said it. And it's true. Check out the details of this law suit (yes folks, that was $80,000 of your tax dollars paid to have the case dismissed) against demonstrators:

The details of the Rank lawsuit and the cases involving similarly harassed folks are always fascinating: citizens removed from a Bush event in Denver because of an offensive bumper sticker on their car outside ("No More Blood For Oil"); a Tucson student barred from a Bush event for sporting a Young Democrats T-shirt; Wisconsin citizens forced to unbutton their shirts before attending a Bush speech, only to have an attendee wearing an anti-Bush T-shirt ejected from the event. But the best thing to have emerged from the Rank litigation was the official—if heavily redacted—Presidential Advance Manual (dated October 2002), which, although stamped "SENSITIVE" and not to be "duplicated ... replicated ... photocopied or released to anyone outside of the Executive Office of the President, White House Military Office or United States Secret Service," is now posted right here at the ACLU's Web site.

There is so much that is entertaining in the Advance Manual, it's hard to know where to begin. Sure, it's not a surprise anymore that it is official White House policy to use staff to foster "a well-balanced crowd," with well-balanced evidently defined as a subtle melange of those citizens who adore the president and those who revere him.
Bush was the kid we all knew in high school who would challenge the entire gym class to a game of dodge-ball, and then cry when he got hit with the ball.

Tough Texan my ass!

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Civil, Political, and Social Unrest

The soldiers speak:

As responsible infantrymen and noncommissioned officers with the 82nd Airborne Division soon heading back home, we are skeptical of recent press coverage portraying the conflict as increasingly manageable and feel it has neglected the mounting civil, political and social unrest we see every day. [...] Given the situation, it is important not to assess security from an American-centered perspective. The ability of, say, American observers to safely walk down the streets of formerly violent towns is not a resounding indicator of security. What matters is the experience of the local citizenry and the future of our counterinsurgency. When we take this view, we see that a vast majority of Iraqis feel increasingly insecure and view us as an occupation force that has failed to produce normalcy after four years and is increasingly unlikely to do so as we continue to arm each warring side. [...]

Thursday, August 16, 2007



That's really all I have been able to think about since the weekend the vote went down. I have read, listened, watched, and read again anything I could get my hands on, simply to get my brain free of the disgusting show of (lack-of) leadership the FISA cave-in represents, but alas, blogger vapor-lock set in.

It is a horrible to feel the gusto falter, if only for a moment, from the sails of what I feel is a defining moment in American Political history. I know it is just a speed-bump, but it serves to remind us how fragile this politics gig can be, and how, regardless of what the polls tell us, it is always someone's game to lose.

The FISA vote represents the first big failure since the mid-term, and the frustration and disappointment got to me. Everything I tried to write seethed with angst, and was far from inductive of constructive debate. I know from past experience (and current example) that speaking or writing emotional vitriol serves no purpose but to "Malkin-ize" the discourse.

Then I found this post regarding liberalism's lack of "identity" in the face of a well constructed (if no longer accurate) portrayal of what it means to be a "conservative."

What Free and Cantil discovered then remains true to this day: self-identitified and ideological liberals are a relatively small part of the electorate, while operational liberals are a landslide majority. Conversely, self-identified and ideological conservatives are relatively large groups compared to their liberal counterparts, while operational conservatives are not even a majority among conservatives themselves by either other measure. It makes sense to regard operational conservatism as the core of conservatism for at least three main reasons: First, because it empirically is the core. This is the relatively small group of people who are overwhelmingly conservative by all three measures. Second, because it reflects the actual political agenda of the conservative movement over time-its political leadership, that is. [Snip] ...the distrust of others centered among operational conservatives also explains why demonizing liberals as the "other" comes so naturally to conservatives. They have plenty of practice thinking similar thoughts about lots of other groups of people--all of whom, coincidentally enough, liberals have stood up for when conservatives have attacked them.

The challenge for liberals/progressives... is how to respond by forging our own identity politics, when (a) we do not have a single cultural identity to cluster around and (b) we have some residual degree of distrust in power-sharing ourselves.
What you will read in this post, I believe, is the most important challenge the progressive movement faces today, and also gives us a clue as to where we go from here. Why we have failed in the past, and why we will succeed (again) in the (very near) future.

Reading this, I realized there is much work to be done, and I decided to forgive (but not forget) the failure of the FISA vote. With that vote, congress reminded us that there is still room for failure, and it's no time to get cocky. We gotta keep on their asses until the Democratic Party is once again about being Democratic, and being progressive is once again about progress.

Speed bump. That's all.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Romney Still Hesitant About YouTube Debate

The Republican YouTube debate is seemingly back on, but Mitt Romney still isn't committing.

Romney, the lone GOP holdout, has posted more videos on his YouTube channel (283 as of Sunday afternoon) than any other presidential candidate, Republican or Democrat. But he has resisted the debate, in which videotaped questions are submitted through YouTube. In an interview with Manchester Union Leader, Romney said, "I think the presidency ought to be held at a higher level than having to answer questions from a snowman."

So while his campaign finds YouTube to be a worthy outlet for spreading it's message, it's evidently not up to par for a debate questions. Billiam the snowman in question responded.

For a snowman, he makes a good point. So is Romney not committing because questions submitted by ordinary people over the internet below the level of the presidency, or is he hoping to avoid questions like this?

PS - There are a lot of questions about legalizing marijuana posted so far, I wonder if one will make it on the air, hippies anyways.

Not Journalism

A lot of mean things are said about Bill O'Reilly, and he deserves every one of them, but not for the reasons most people believe. For your review, I present Exhibit A:

In a segment with Kirsten Powers and Michelle Malkin on The O'Reilly Factor last night 8/13/07, the trio discussed Democratic presidential hopefuls' appearances at a debate focused solely on GLBT issues. O'Reilly said that according to some poll, "Pew Research or something like that," "Most Americans won't vote for you if you get an endorsement by a gay-rights group."

Well, how does one confuse the single-syllabic "Pew" with "Quinnipiac"? Mayhaps one doesn't want viewers to find the poll too easily, for they would find the big BOR misrepresented the findings:

"In Ohio, 10 percent say the endorsement of a gay rights group would make them more likely to support a candidate while 34 percent say less likely and 54 percent say it would make no difference. In Pennsylvania, 11 percent say it would make them more likely, with 28 percent saying less likely and 59 percent saying it would make no difference. Among Florida voters, 10 percent say more likely, while 28 percent are less likely and 60 percent say it would make no difference. "

Powers said she found that very difficult to believe (O'Reilly's spin of them, that is) and he went so far as to restate it incorrectly again: "If a gay rights organization endorses you, would that make you more or less likely to vote... and most Americans said less likely."

In spite of O'Reilly's lies about the poll findings, Powers defended the candidates' going on the LOGO channel, as the GLBT community gives a lot of money to Democrats and is influential, and Democrats generally support gay rights; it's a progressive issue.
I am a firm believer that the best way to win an argument is to let your adversary be heard fully. Let them speak their mind, and they will do most of the damage themselves. It is only a matter of time, especially when you are challenging such an unethical beast as BOR, who has no qualms distorting the truth to make a case for his xenophobia, homophobia, and irrational propaganda campaigns. Eventually, his lack of substance and standards will catch up to him. We need only keep giving him a mic, and keep educating against his wildly illogical conclusions. He is not deserving of attack for having a talk show, or cashing his large paycheck. That is simply capitalism at work, and unfortunately, he is making money for Fox News.

He deserves to be marginalized simply for the disservice he does to his own audience, and the American people at large, for not, above all, telling the truth. He deserves to fade into the sunset of a nationwide wake-up call for his simple lack of respect for his viewers, and even for himself.

But until that day, please, don't call it journalism. Call what he does editorializing, opining, exaggerating issues, framing the argument, grasping at straws, or any other euphemism for "stupid" you care to use. Just don't call it journalism.

Giuliani's Foreign Policy

I would never call myself an expert on foreign affairs, but if you're trying to convince Americans you have the aptitude to lead the country out of the sorry state of affairs we find ourselves in today, shouldn't your foreign policy at least appear to make sense?

Giuliani promises to expand the military by at least 10 brigades, which probably means between 15,000 and 35,000 new soldiers. We also need a missile defense system, because "Rogue regimes that know they can threaten America, our allies, and our interests with ballistic missiles will behave more aggressively, including by increasing their support for terrorists. On the other hand, the knowledge that America and our allies could intercept and destroy incoming missiles would not only make blackmail less likely but also decrease the appeal of ballistic missile programs and so help to slow their development and proliferation." This makes, so far as I can tell, no sense.
Policies like this are telling. A vote for Rudy would be a vote for four more years of the same.
Instead of pursuing the diplomatic route, the Bush administration tried to ignore Pyongyang. Then came the schoolyard taunts such as lumping North Korea together with Iraq and Iran in an “axis of evil.” When indifference and insult failed to move the isolated East Asian country, the administration accused North Korea of enriching uranium, which led to the unraveling of the 1994 Agreed Framework and the reigniting of a major crisis. To top it off, Washington began to squeeze Pyongyang economically with sanctions.

Pyongyang has refused to cry “uncle.” Instead, it has replied in kind. With its missile launches in July and its recently announced nuclear test, Pyongyang has demonstrated that it can be as stubborn and as enamored of military playthings as the Bush administration.

With such a miserable track record in inducing behavior change, why has the United States continued to speak loudly and wield a big stick against a hornet's nest like North Korea? It might be, like North Korea's recent test, a fundamental miscalculation. The Bush administration, after all, has shown a pathological inability to learn from its mistakes.

History of the "Religious Right"

As a matter of curiosity, I've been digging through recent history to find starting points in sweeping shifts of ideology and redefining "movements", as opposed to brief political trends and short-lived superficial phases. This eventually led, of course, to the "Moral Majority" movement that grabbed hold of the GOP decades ago, and has yet to release it's authoritarian grip on both conservative politicians and constituents alike.

I found this little tidbit of historical trivia interesting:

A group of Republican strategists who had worked on Barry Goldwater's 1964 presidential campaign were worried. Goldwater had been soundly defeated, and the strategists feared that the base of the Republican Party -- primarily southern segregationists and the very wealthy -- was too narrow. So they set out to expand the base calling themselves the New Right. Goldwater was not part of the New Right.

One member of the New Right, Republican Strategist Paul Weyrich, founded the Heritage Foundation in 1973 -- a think tank to promote the ideas of the New Right. Weyrich also founded ALEC, The American Legislative Exchange Council in 1973 to coordinate the work of Religious Right state legislators. ALEC initially positioned itself as a counterweight to liberal foundations and think tanks, focusing on social issues like abortion and the Equal Rights Amendment, but became a magnet for corporate lobbyists.
ALEC gives business a direct hand in writing bills that are considered in state assemblies nationwide. Funded primarily by large corporations, industry groups, and conservative foundations -- including R.J. Reynolds, Koch Industries, and the American Petroleum Institute -- the group takes a chain-restaurant approach to public policy, supplying precooked McBills to state lawmakers. Since most legislators are in session only part of the year and often have no staff to do independent research, they're quick to swallow what ALEC serves up. In 2000, according to the council, members introduced more than 3,100 bills based on its models, passing 450 into law. Ghostwriting the Law, Karen Olson, Mother Jones, Sept.Oct. 2002
In 1979 Weyrich coined the term "Moral Majority." Their goal was to politicize members of fundamentalist, Pentecostal and charismatic churches - a constituency that had been basically apolitical.
Even more interesting was this depiction of covert stealth tactics used as the Christian Coalition went underground to gain even more influence over policy.


Monday, August 13, 2007

Greewald Interviews Mikey "Surge Is Working" O'Hanlon

...and reveals, to our complete and utter surprise (sarcasm), that the surrounding media blitz, and actual content of the Op-Ed itself, is little more than horse-shit.

As you rightly reported -- I was not a critic of this war. In the final analysis, I was a supporter.
Well, a number of those [Meetings] -- and most of those were arranged by the U.S. military. So I'll be transparent about that as well. These were to some extent contacts of Ken and Tony, but that was a lesser number of people. The predominant majority were people who we came into contact with through the itinerary the D.O.D. developed.
If someone wanted to argue that we were not getting a representative view of Iraqis because the ones we spoke with were provided by the military, I would agree that this would be a genuine concern
. Wait, there's more...
GG: Your claims in that regard in the Op-Ed were based upon your belief that what the U.S. military commanders were telling you was accurate. Is that true?

MO: Yes, that's true. Based on that example, on that type of example, you're right.
And Greenwald, as always, takes the rest of the steam out of the "groundbreaking" Op-Ed in his final summary:
Sweeping conclusions from 2-hour visits

But this only begins to convey how ludicrous and misleading a spectacle this whole event was. O'Hanlon and Pollack were in Iraq for a total of 7 1/2 days. They spent every night ensconced in the Green Zone in Baghdad. They did not spend a single night in any other city. As O'Hanlon admitted, they spent no more than "between 2-4 hours" in every place they visited outside Baghdad, and much of that was taken up meeting U.S. military commanders, not inspecting the proverbial "conditions on the ground."

Yet in their Op-Ed, they purported to describe the encouraging conditions in four places other than Baghdad -- Ramadi, Tal Afar, Mosul, and the Anbar Province -- as though they could possibly have made any meaningful observations during their visits which were all roughly the duration of the average airport layover. Worse, both O'Hanlon and Pollack -- and especially Pollack -- in their interviews repeatedly described their optimistic observations about Iraqi cities in such a way as to create the misleading impression that these were based upon their first-hand observations.
Can we bury this already? Super.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Rudy's Ego


* Giuliani informs the world that he is the greatest American hero of all time.

Google Changes the Tone

Google is experimenting with a new feature (launching this week) for it's Google News page, offering a forum for anyone mentioned in any article posted by the news aggregator's searches to respond, in writing, on the same page.

LA Times:

A Google employee must verify the authenticity of the e-mail. Methods include independently tracking down the subject’s contact information and calling that person directly, and checking the author’s e-mail address and phone number against information on a company or organization website.

If the author’s identity is confirmed, the response is posted on the same page as the search results for the story.

Google pointed to several examples on the site Wednesday, including one from a professor at UC San Francisco commenting on a new HIV treatment.

The feature is intended to help Google’s news site evolve from being solely an aggregator of news articles to a forum where news subjects — and even the journalists who wrote the stories — can respond publicly to criticisms.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Fred Thompson, An Economist He Ain't

In an attempt to cozy up to the right by proclaiming victory for Bush's tax cuts, Fred Thompson laid out his argument that the economy under Bush has actually been better than it was under Clinton. Now given that the economy was receiving a lot of press during the Clinton years, were it the case that Bush's economy was doing better and not getting any press that would be a fairly great story that was never told. As Fred says

Since the spring of 2003, the economy has had average growth of over 3%, 8.2 million jobs have been created, and the inflation rate has stayed low. The current unemployment rate, 4.6%, is a full percentage point below what it averaged during the 1990s, and there have been 47 consecutive months (almost four years) of job growth. In the last three years, workers’ salaries have risen by $1.2 trillion, or $8,000 per worker, and consumer confidence recently reached its highest level in almost six years.

People have pointed out that journalists were trumpeting economic statistics during the Clinton administration that were not as good as those we have now, hence the “greatest story never told.”

Notice anything odd about the statistics he sights? What stuck out to me is that he keeps referring to 2003-2004 as the starting point of the good economy under Bush. But Bush didn't get inaugurated in 2003, that happened in 2001. Now, what would the best way to make your economy look better than the previous administrations while at the same time ignoring the first few years of horrible economic performance of your own? If you said act like it wasn't yours, you win a prize. If you compare Bush's whole term to Clinton's whole term, you see there isn't actually a comparison at all. Let's take it one falsity at a time.

1 - Jobs - Since I'm too lazy to look it up, I'll take Thompson's 8.2 million since 2003 number. Clinton created over 22 million jobs in his two terms. 22 is more than 8.2, also between when Bush took office and 2003, jobs weren't created, they were destroyed, negative job growth, less jobs. In January of 2001 there were 137,778,000 people employed, it took Bush until October of 2003 to surpass that number and remain above it. The low point in Bush employment slide was 135,701,000 which is a loss of over 2 million jobs, that's a lot of people out of work.

2 - The unemployment rate - When Clinton took office, the unemployment rate was around 7.3%, in December of 2000, it was 3.9%. That decrease included 40 consecutive months of sub 5.0% unemployment. Now Bush has brought unemployment back down to 4.6%, but that is after pushing it back up to as high as 6.3%. So on the unemployment front we have Clinton with a 3.4% decrease, and Bush with a 0.7% increase, which is actually a 1.7% decrease from his original 3.4% increase.

3 - Wage/consumer confidence - Again we're looking at comparisons of numbers from early Bush to late Bush. While income has risen during the Bush administration, it's growth rate has slowed from that of the Clinton administration. During the first 7 years of the Clinton administration, income increased by about 2,440 billion dollars. So far in the Bush administration, the total growth has only been 2,239 billion. A seemingly small difference, but still a larger growth during the Clinton years (and the Clinton administration saw an additional 690 billion in it's final year, will Bush be able to match?). With consumer confidence again we see the comparison made to 2001-2002 time frame, during Bush's time in office consumer confidence has yet to hit levels attained by the Clinton administration.

When we sit back and take the whole economy into account, we are better off than we were 5 years ago, but are we better off than we were 8 years ago? Thompson is trying to reach to the right for support by saying that he thinks the economy is doing fine under Bush (just as Giuliani said he'd raise money by cutting taxes in the debate on Sunday). Which implies that he won't shake things up, more tax cuts for businesses and the rich, more national debt, but the same economic policies that have yielded far less success than those of the Clinton administration. But perhaps they don't teach you things like this on the set of Law and Order.

P.S. Here, and here is some more information comparing the two administrations' economic results, as if this post wasn't long enough already.

[Update - months later - I realized I didn't link back to the original Thompson column, the link is there now]

Author Ponders Our "Overblown" Fear of Terrorists

Overblown, by Ohio State National Security Studies Chair, John Mueller.

It is time to consider the hypothesis that dare not speak its name: we have wildly overreacted. Terrorism has been used by murderous groups for many decades, yet even including 9/11, the odds of an American being killed by international terrorism are microscopic. In general, international terrorism doesn't do much damage when considered in almost any reasonable context.

The capacity of al-Qaeda or of any similar group to do damage in the United States pales in comparison to the capacity other dedicated enemies, particularly international Communism, have possessed in the past. Lashing out at the terrorist threat is frequently an exercise in self-flagellation because it is usually more expensive than the terrorist attack itself and because it gives the terrorists exactly what they are looking for. Much, probably most, of the money and effort expended on counterterrorism since 2001 (and before, for that matter) has been wasted.

The terrorism industry and its allies in the White House and Congress have preyed on our fears and caused enormous damage. It is time to rethink the entire enterprise and spend much smaller amounts on only those things that do matter: intelligence, law enforcement, and disruption of radical groups overseas. Above all, it is time to stop playing into the terrorists' hands, by fear-mongering and helping spread terror itself.
Often I am reminded of an episode of the Simpson's, when a bear wanders down Evergreen Terrace, frightening citizens until it is removed by animal control. The result is the creation of an anti-bear task force, and new taxes for the residents of Springfield. Homer, standing on the front yard with Lisa, compliments the effectiveness of the anti-bear initiatives.

Lisa argues there is no proof of the effectiveness of the expensive new program, since that was the only bear ever sighted, before or since, in Springfield.

Picking up a rock, she says, "It's like me saying this rock is a Tiger deterrent. I mean, do you see any Tigers?"

"I'll give you $10 for the rock!" Homer replies.
Is it possible that there is a simple explanation for the peaceful American homefront? Is it possible that there are no al-Qaeda terrorists here? Is it possible that the war on terror has been a radical overreaction to a rare event? Consider: 80,000 Arab and Muslim immigrants have been subjected to fingerprinting and registration, and more than 5,000 foreign nationals have been imprisoned -- yet there has not been a single conviction for a terrorist crime in America. A handful of plots -- some deadly, some intercepted -- have plagued Europe and elsewhere, and even so, the death toll has been modest.

We have gone to war in two countries and killed tens of thousands of people. We have launched a massive domestic wiretapping program and created vast databases of information once considered private. Politicians and pundits have berated us about national security and patriotic duty, while encroaching our freedoms and sending thousands of young men off to die.

Judge Admits No Murder Was Committed, Yet Texas Execution Continues

This is unbelievably disgusting.

Three weeks from today, a 30 year-old African American man on death row in Texas is scheduled to be executed. Kenneth Foster was sentenced to death ten years ago in a San Antonio court for the murder of Michael LaHood, a white man, in 1996. What makes Foster's case unique is that he didn't commit or plan the murder. Even the trial judge, the prosecutor, and the jury that sentenced him to die admit he never killed anyone.

Foster is scheduled to be executed under a controversial Texan law known as the "law of parties." The law imposes the death penalty on anybody involved in a crime where a murder occurred. In Foster's case he was driving a car with three passengers, one of whom left the car, got into an altercation and shot a Michael LaHood dead. At the time of the shooting, Kenneth Foster was 80 feet away in his car. Since Foster's original trial, the other passengers have testified that Foster had no idea a shooting was going to take place... Today, Kenneth Foster's family joins us from Austin, Texas. His wife, Tasha Narez-Foster, his eleven year old daughter Nydesha Foster...
There are times, when reading the news, that I can't believe this is the United States of America.

GOP: If You Can't Beat 'Em, Cheat 'Em

Democracy Now:

GOP Pushes Ballot Initiative in California to Alter Electoral Vote: In California, Republican strategists are preparing to gather signatures for a ballot initiative that would alter how the state awards its electoral votes. It's a move that could help a Republican win the White House in 2008. Historically, the winner of the presidential election in California wins all of the state's 55 electoral votes. Backers of the ballot initiative want to apportion electoral votes by congressional district. Such a change could help Republicans win as many as 22 electoral votes in California even if a Democratic candidate won the majority of votes in the state.

Harold Ford: "I don’t know who’s been right about this war all along…"

Harold Ford can't tell us who's right and wrong on the war in Iraq. I can't even come up with a response to that, it's like when someone tells you that the sky is red, you say they're wrong, and they say 'I don't know who's right about the color of the sky.' And why is he making his case on Hannity and Colmes? That's a great place to win over the center. Could someone please explain to Mr. Ford that "Fair and Balanced" is a slogan, not what they actually are?

I was so disgusted by this that I went to the DLC website, they've put their Ideas Primary website back up, and they have a post explaining why we still need them around.

Our formula has always been the same: to tackle the challenges of today and tomorrow with new and innovative ideas that further those principles. Our mantra has been problem solving, not polarization. That’s the essence of Clintonism: always searching for new ways to further progressive ideals and, most importantly, getting good things done for the American people. The result when it was put into action was a decade of peace and prosperity.

I understand why the candidates believe they can avoid unnecessary grief from bloggers and other DLC critics, by skipping high profile DLC events in the heat of the primary season. They don’t have to come to DLC events to use DLC ideas.

Now we've all seen how well the DLC has done in the realm of furthering progressive ideals in the past 6 and a half years. Unless you count steps backwards they haven't really moved progressive ideals at all. But it is nice of them to allow candidates to use their ideas, even though they won't show up at their event. Perhaps they aren't showing up at your event because they don't like your ideas, did anyone at the DLC stop to consider that option?

Since it seems to be a hot topic in the Democratic primary so far, I decided to see what the DLC has to offer along the lines of government reform. They gave me this. Am I to take there will be no government reform?

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Bush Iraq Strategy: A War FOR Terror

If I had a nickel for every time I had to listen to some imperialistic speech about the treacherous Democrats supporting terrorists by democratically criticizing the Bush administrations failed foreign policy, well, I would have a shit-load of nickels. And every debate I enter into with these nay-sayers of logical realism ends with me being labeled a peace-lovin' communist hippie by some fact-challenged troglodite in a business suit.

I am peace-lovin'. I admit it. So was Jesus, so you got somethin' to say about it? More importantly, I am a lover of rational foreign policy, and have a sincere concern for the future of my country. I am not so peace-lovin' that I don't want to see Al Qaeda squashed. I have a very healthy fear of organized religion in general, and have never seen good come of religious zealotry or extremism, no matter how far back I dig in the history books. Osama Bin Laden is still at large (as far as we know) and so are the idiots who lay claim to his ideology, and I would like to see that change, even if it means war.

But also free to wreak illogical damage to my country and my sense of security are the fools who got us into a war that has gotten us no-where, and not quickly. In fact, after 4.5 years, I do not feel my family or friends are any safer from Islamic extremism.

These two zealots (terrorists and the Bush White House) are in cahoots to push their ideology on me and my nation, without regard to facts, the future, or the state of affairs in the middle east. Both seek to promote their agenda at all costs. Both have lost simple decency and rational thinking, for reasons of faith. Both seek to destroy anyone who disagrees with them in order to reinforce their convictions. Neither will change course, engage in debate, or admit to wrong-doing. Neither can be reasoned with. One seeks to destroy, in the name of God, their chosen enemy with violence and blood-shed. The other seeks to destroy, in the name of the Bush Legacy, anyone who sheds light on alternate paths to tread, or better strategies toward success. Most importantly, neither is doing a thing to make the world a better place, nor are they deserving of the power they command. In fact...

The current Iraq strategy is exactly what Al Qaeda wants—the United States distracted and pinned down by Iraq’s internal conflicts and trapped in a quagmire that has become the perfect rallying cry and recruitment tool for Al Qaeda. The United States has no good options given the strategic and tactical mistakes made on Iraq since 2002, but simply staying the course with an indefinite military presence is not advancing U.S. interests.

Instead, the United States must reset its strategy by looking beyond the deteriorating situation in Iraq in order to counter the threat from global terrorist groups and ensure stability in the entire Middle East and Gulf region. To do this, we need to develop a new overall Middle East strategy, not just a series of tactics focused heavily on Iraq. Retired Marine Corps General John Sheehan succinctly identified the main problem when turning down the Bush administration’s offer to serve as the White House “czar” for Iraq and Afghanistan:

“What I found in discussions with current and former members of this administration is that there is no agreed-upon strategic view of the Iraq problem or the region ... the current Washington decision-making process lacks a linkage to a broader view of the region and how the parts fit together strategically.
Also, check out the time-line of "a few more months" this administration has passed off as war-time strategy for 4 years (and make note of the fact that this has taken longer than it took us to win WWII).

We are fighting the wrong war, and killing the wrong people (nearly 1 million Iraqis), for a very long time, while the Bush "administration" and Al Qaeda range free, calling the shots for us.

To all the Preachers of Doom and Boom, seething to attack me in the comments, have at it. I already know each and every thing you will say. I am not a traitor, I've never burned a flag, and I rarely read the communist propaganda I get from the Super Secret Order of Progressive Bloggers anymore. I have never been to Cuba or worshiped as a Muslim (sober), or made sweet love to a Canadian on a bed of Iranian rugs.

What I am is an American capable of using the left side of my brain to overpower the emotional, blind rhetoric behind this ill-conceived war and the ill-informed "leaders" I see on my teevee. A thinker, if you will.