Saturday, November 29, 2008

MoJo Interviews Joss Whedon

For the geeks in all of us...


Once upon a time, the American people could actually think. They had to.


With everything going on at the end of October, I didn't get much time to think about or react to the news that one of my personal heroes, and one of America's greatest historians, Studs Terkel, was dead at age 96, Halloween day.

Studs was not only a radio icon, and true oral historian, but he was also one of the most engaging and lyrical speakers/orators/authors of the 20th century. His ability to get people to tell their own stories in their own words, and his knack for putting the stories together into an illuminating narrative cannot be compared. He was an outspoken liberal activist, and a dedicated chronicler of middle class life in America.

Here's to hoping he had a few books hidden in his desk, yet to see the publishing light of day.

If you're new to his legacy, some clips to get you going:

TV Legends Invterview (3 parts).

A 1996 Interview with Michael Moore on the 1930's labor movement.

One of his final interviews, on BBC's HARDtalk.

Conversations with America: audio from "Hard Times" recordings.

Dead Trees

I decided last weekend to go old school and catch up on a neglected hobby: reading something printed on a dead tree, not electrons on a screen.

It's been a fairly internet free holiday week/weekend so far (excusing some internet only research for Black Friday sales, of course - yeah, I'm a capitalist pig - and the radio show), and it has been nice to finish a few books that have had markers in them since June.

If you're looking for something new, the following come highly recommended:

  • Taking on the System by Markos Moulitsas Zuniga (DailyKos). Obviously heavy on the leftism, but an interesting read (and sage blueprint) for activists of any political lean curious about the intersection of politics and new technology.

  • Public Opinion by Walter Lippman. A very dry read, but also an insightful research project. Makes clear the connections between opinion, the media, and democratic theory.

  • The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. An illiterate young girl finds an interesting way to survive the horrors of war: rescuing books from Nazi book burnings. Think The Diary of Anne Frank with The Grim Reaper as narrator.

  • Quicksilver by Neal Stephenson. Actually a re-read, but it's been too long since the first go round to continue on to the next volume in the series (anyone out there whose read Stephenson's sci-fi omnibuses before will understand... "complex" is too kind a word.)

  • Legacies by F. Paul Wilson. A modern day Sherlock Holmes, Repairman Jack may be one of my all-time favorite fictional creations.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Study: Religion May be Bad for Us

Bad news for those cowering in fear of the Big Gay Marriage Apocalypse?

RELIGIOUS belief can cause damage to a society, contributing towards high murder rates, abortion, sexual promiscuity and suicide, according to research published today.

According to the study, belief in and worship of God are not only unnecessary for a healthy society but may actually contribute to social problems.

The study counters the view of believers that religion is necessary to provide the moral and ethical foundations of a healthy society.

It compares the social peformance of relatively secular countries, such as Britain, with the US, where the majority believes in a creator rather than the theory of evolution. Many conservative evangelicals in the US consider Darwinism to be a social evil, believing that it inspires atheism and amorality.

Many liberal Christians and believers of other faiths hold that religious belief is socially beneficial, believing that it helps to lower rates of violent crime, murder, suicide, sexual promiscuity and abortion. The benefits of religious belief to a society have been described as its “spiritual capital”. But the study claims that the devotion of many in the US may actually contribute to its ills.

Progressive Thanksgiving

Courtesy of The Progress Report.

We're thankful we'll soon have a president who will hit the ground running instead of a president who is running the country into the ground.

We're thankful that Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow are demonstrating every night how strong and intelligent progressive voices can be successful on TV.

We're thankful we live in a center-left America rather than "Hannity's America."

We're thankful John McCain has more time to spend in the houses he owns...even if he can't remember them all.

We're thankful Sarah Palin has more time to watch over Russia and warn us in case Vladimir Putin ever "rears his head."

We're thankful that we're moving closer towards a complete withdrawal from Iraq.

We're thankful for the thousands of protesters who took to the streets across America to push for marriage equality.

We're not thankful for neo-McCarthys, neo-Hoovers, neo-Nazis, and neocons.

We're thankful for Tina Fey.

We're thankful to be liberal hacks.

We're not thankful for hack operatives burrowing into career civil service jobs.

We're more thankful for Vice President Joe Biden and "Morning Joe" than Joe Lieberman and "Joe the Plumber."

We're thankful that our troops will be able to get the education they so richly deserve.

We're thankful for the "Mustache of Justice," "Rahmbo," "Axe," and "Skippy."

We're thankful that reality still has a liberal bias.

We're thankful that there are only 55 days left until the end of the George W. Bush presidency.

We're thankful for the progressive mandate to govern.

Contraction, Expansion

From DS, a little brush up on basic economics.

For those who never took or don't remember Economics 101, two headlines from the front page of today's Washington Post tell you pretty much everything you need to know about the basic quandry facing economic policymakers in Washington right now:

"US Spending Continued Decline in October."

"Food Stamp Use Nears Record."

A contracting economy kills jobs and income and reduces public revenues, even as it boosts demand for public services. A rapidly contracting economy like the one we are facing now does so at a dramatic pace. That's why virtually no one is talking much about "fiscal discipline" right now.
We are seeing a little political posturing - even from Obama - on the spending vs. cuts promises, but anyone arguing spending cuts as a solution to our current economic slump is either 1) still campaigning in a special election or 2) dumb. Even the Blue Dogs - who love to hear themselves talk when it comes to faux "fiscal responsibility" - are silent.

There may be specific cuts to be made, and belts that can be tightened, but overall, the solution to the overall downturn is going to be - should be - increased domestic spending.

Grover Norquist Takes Leave of Good Sense

It would be funny if these people were mocked for being so out of touch with reality. Instead, someone keeps handing them a microphone.

Yesterday on CNBC conservative icon, activist and inside man Grover Norquist blamed the economic meltdown on the election of a Democratic congress. He did so with a straight face, apparently totally serious about it and in no way working in the employ of Ashton Kutcher for a wicked PUNK’D. He seems to actually believe it and will be reciting it as fact the way a child once believed in the Legend Of Zelda.
On the other hand, it bodes well for Democrats in future elections if the conservative meme remains so ungrounded in the world we actually live in.

FEC May Redefine Issue Ad Rules

CQ Politics:

The NRLC submitted two scripts of nearly identical ads in September. The one approved by the FEC, in a non-public vote taken Monday, did not include a line stating that Obama is “a candidate whose word you can’t believe in” — which appeared to play off Obama’s campaign promise of “change you can believe in.”

The commission ruled that the version of the ad containing that language crossed the line by advocating the election or defeat of a candidate, which is not allowed by federal law governing issue ads.

The FEC’s statement leaves a lot of questions unanswered about how far issue ads that are financed with unregulated money can go in advocating for or against a candidate.

Nonetheless, the decision, approved by a 4-2 vote of the commissioners, could still affect future elections — possibly including the year’s three remaining elections for federal office, a Dec. 2 Senate election runoff in Georgia and hurricane-delayed House general elections in Louisiana’s 2nd and 4th congressional districts.

The advisory opinion is the FEC’s first that addresses a Supreme Court decision, issued in June 2007 in the case of Wisconsin Right to Life v. FEC, that allows corporations, unions and nonprofit groups to engage in issue advertising at any time in a campaign, right up through Election Day, as long as the ads do not expressly advocate the election or defeat of a candidate. Since a Supreme Court ruling in 1976, the term “express advocacy” has essentially boiled down to statements that people should “vote for” or “vote against” a particular candidate. Those running issue ads have for years dealt with this so-called magic words test by stating that a candidate is right or wrong on issues, rather than saying the candidate should be elected or defeated.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Sam Seder Returns

Woo hoo!

Podcast here.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Goodbye Hannity & Colmes?

Does anyone still watch this show, anyway?

Fox News host Alan Colmes will leave his role as co-host of "Hannity & Colmes" at the end of the year, the network announced Monday.

Colmes, who has co-hosted the program with Sean Hannity for 12 years, will remain with the network as a liberal commentator and will develop a weekend program, in addition to his radio show.

"I approached Bill Shine (FNC's Senior Vice President of Programming) earlier this year about wanting to move on after 12 years to develop new and challenging ways to contribute to the growth of the network," Colmes said. "Although it's bittersweet to leave one of the longest marriages on cable news, I'm proud that both Sean (Hannity) and I remained unharmed after sitting side by side, night after night for so many years."

Hannity added, "Not only has Alan been a remarkable co-host, he's been a great friend which is rare in this industry -- I'll genuinely miss sparring with such a skillful debate partner."

Earlier this year, Colmes debuted his blog, Alan Colmes' LiberalLand.

Update: The New York Times' Brian Stelter reports that Fox News may make Hannity the sole host of the program, rather than hiring a replacement for Colmes:

I think Al Franken best summed up the "spirited debate" you could always find on H & C in his Lying Liars book by a subtle font adjustment with each mention of the show:

Hannity and Colmes.

Though I have to admit Alan was making progress and did get a few points against the bloviating Hannity now and then, this was hardly the place to find the voice of the left represented in full.

Out of the Woodwork

So much for the right-wing "Racism is over because Obama won" meme, huh? Just a small portion of the list compiled by E & P:

The Associated Press revealed on Wednesday, "Police on eastern Long Island are investigating reports that more than a dozen cars were spray painted with racist graffiti, reportedly including a message targeting President-elect Barack Obama. The graffiti included racist slurs and sexually graphic references. At least one resident in the quiet Mastic neighborhood told Newsday her son's car was scribbled with a message threatening to kill Obama."

From the Staten Island Advance this week: "The NYPD yesterday confirmed they are treating the Election night beating of a black Stapleton teen by a group of whites as a hate crime. Ali Kamara, 17, a black Muslim and immigrant from Liberia, said he was beaten with a baseball bat Tuesday night by four white men who shouted 'Obama,' before beginning the attack."

From The Republican in Springfield, Mass.: "Community leaders including area clergy gathered Wednesday to show support and offer help to congregation members whose new church on Tinkham Road was destroyed last week by arson....The predominantly black congregation's new church was under construction in the Sixteen Acres neighborhood when it was consumed in an early morning blaze on Nov. 5, a few hours after the election of Barack Obama as the nation's first black president. The timing prompted the church pastor, Bishop Bryant Robinson Jr., to question whether the fire was set and a hate crime."

Employees at Hampel's Key and Lockshop in Traverse City, Michigan, flew an American flag upside down last Wednesday protesting of the new president-elect, the Traverse City Record-Eagle reported. One worker used a racial slur during an interview with the Record-Eagle: "(The inverted flag is) an international signal for distress and we feel our country is in distress because the n----- got in," said Hampel’s employee Rod Nyland, who later apologized for the comment, according to the Record-Eagle.

One North Carolina man who flew his flag upside-down claimed that voters were racist, electing Obama because of his skin color, according to the Winston-Salem Journal. “The flag is stretched upside-down between two poles in a field, with a black X running from end to end. The X is a reference to the Confederate flag, said flag-owner Tony Heath. It reflects his belief that the Confederate flag has been unfairly targeted for protest by people trying to be politically correct,” the Journal reported.

Bad News for Mittens?

You know them by their associations...

Meet the "Whites Only" RNC Chair Candidate

The future of the RNC?

South Carolina's GOP chairman, Katon Dawson, who announced his candidacy to be chairman of the Republican National Committee Sunday, was a member of a whites only country club until September, Talking Points Memo revealed Monday.

South Carolina's The State reported that Dawson had resigned from the Forest Lake Club after concerns about its "whites only" deed. He said that he'd fought to change the restriction over the summer, though he'd been a member for 12 years.
Shorter Dawson: What?! Whites only? Gasp! That suddenly bothers me!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Health Care Myths


4. Health-care reform is going to cost a bundle.

Only if you think that covering the uninsured is our only priority. Yes, making health care available to all citizens is the right and ethical thing to do. But it isn't the only thing to do. We also have to fix the spectacularly wasteful and expensive way doctors and hospitals deliver care.

Our physicians are working within a truly dysfunctional, often chaotic system that prevents them from caring for us properly. Between 50,000 and 100,000 patients die each year from a preventable medical error. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 1.7 million Americans acquire an infection while in the hospital and nearly 100,000 of them die from it. Laboratory imaging tests are routinely repeated because the originals can't be found. Patients with such chronic illnesses as heart failure and diabetes land in the hospital because their physicians fail to monitor their condition. When patients have multiple doctors, there's often nobody keeping track of the different medications, tests and treatments each one prescribes.

Our doctors and hospitals are failing to provide us with care we need while delivering a staggering amount that we don't need. Current estimates suggest that as much as 20 to 30 percent of what we spend, or about $500 billion, goes toward useless, potentially harmful care.

Vatican Forgives John Lennon

Man, holding a 42 year grudge seems a bit extreme.

The Vatican's official newspaper L'Osservatore Romano finally forgave John Lennon's infamous 1966 claim that his band was "more popular than Jesus."

California Takeover


Blue Dog Congressional Democrats, joined by reactionary GOPs, expressed outrage at their stunning loss of the chair of the powerful Energy and Commerce Committee to progressive icon Henry Waxman (D-21st Century):

Particularly upset were the conservative Blue Dog Democrats. One member said they were “in orbit — they think it’s a California takeover.”

The Blue Dogs appear terrified of the leftward turn Henry Waxman's upset victory might signal, and caution him to hew to the Magic Center [...]

The Dailykos/AIG Conversations

Dkos readers submit bailout questions to Peter Tulupman, AIG PR rep. Rep agrees to answer. An interesting conversation ensues.

The Internet President

Obama to appoint nation's first Chief Technology Officer.

Friday, November 21, 2008

MO Republican Three-Fer: Abortion + Welfare = Illegal Immigration

Tying together abortion, Illegal-immigration, and welfare... all in the same report! It's a Republican dream, right? Sometimes Bat-Shit Crazy isn't strong enough.

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo., Nov. 13 -- A Republican-led legislative panel says in a new report on illegal immigration that abortion is partly to blame because it is causing a shortage of American workers.

The report from the state House Special Committee on Immigration Reform also says that "liberal social welfare policies" have discouraged Americans from working and have encouraged immigrants to cross the border illegally.

The statements about abortion and welfare policies, along with a recommendation to abolish income taxes in favor of sales taxes, were inserted into the immigration report by Rep. Edgar G.H. Emery (R), the panel's chairman.

All 10 Republican committee members signed the report, while the six Democrats did not. Some of the Democrats called the abortion assertion ridiculous and embarrassing.

These people are lunatics.

House GOP Caucus (Again) Strikes Earmark Moratorium

This is worth pointing out purely as a symbolic red flag.

The vote again exposed fissures among GOP conservatives and could undercut one of the party’s signature themes, limited government.

Minority Leader John A. Boehner of Ohio and Eric Cantor of Virginia had unveiled late Wednesday a moratorium on GOP earmark requests through Feb. 16 while a new panel of Republicans comes up with proposals for permanent restrictions and disclosure requirements for earmarks

But Todd Tiahrt of Kansas, an appropriator, offered an amendment to strip the requirement for an earmark moratorium. And Tiahrt’s moratorium-killing proposal was approved by the full caucus, said several GOP aides. The amended rules package was then adopted.

The earmark moratorium had little teeth, was temporary, and would've restricted a limited range of earmark spending. Also, I'm not one that believes earmarks are in and of themselves evil.

But how many times during the '08 campaigns did we hear Congressional Republican candidates (I'm looking at you Rob Bishop) use spending cuts and limiting the federal government's influence over states as a reason for you to give them your vote?

We need to better understand the difference between something a congressman means, and something a congressman says because it will garner the reactionary low-information vote. Unless we consider this type of "leadership" adequate.

Suck It, Karl

Some change we've already seen, which is not getting nearly enough attention:

Barack Obama raised more than half a billion dollars online from 6.5 million visitors in his 21-month campaign for the White House, "dramatically ushering in a new digital era in presidential fundraising," the Washington Post reports.
Game. Changer. And an undoing of everything Karl Rove brought to campaigning in America.

The Populist President


"Obama's building a political machine," said Stephen Hess, a presidential scholar at the Brookings Institution, a center-left Washington research group.

"These people have just opened up a new world for politics," added Hess, the author of "What Do We Do Now?: A Workbook for the President-Elect."

Pre-Internet presidents, he said, lacked the ability to communicate in real time with masses of their volunteers. In addition, the social networks such as MySpace and Facebook that link Obama's army together didn't exist.

The net effect was that pre-Obama political machines grew out of local politics and remained rooted there. Statewide or presidential candidates relied largely on local leaders' support.

Not so Obama, who, at least for now, has the allegiance of thousands of volunteers in most if not all congressional districts.

"Your hard work built this movement," Plouffe wrote them. "Now it's up to you to decide how we move forward."

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Short on Tangible Ideas, GOP Hopes to Sell You Cheap Crap

Leadership? no.

New ideas? Not yet.

Held positions? Fewer.

Public approval? Shrinking.

Plush toys? And how!

Joe the Plummer has the entire collection! Why don't you?

Defined as Outsiders

Here there be harsh but useful words for progressives, who, until now accustomed to the role of underdog in the political arenas, are about to find themselves in a national spotlight:

Get your shit together, it's our turn.


Though reading him start to finish often gives me a headache, David Sirota never ceases to amaze me with his ability to penetrate to the relevant and gushy bits and find a sharp, highly partisan axe to grind.

Does "Team of Rivals"-ism mean appointing, say, neoconservatives warmongers because they supposedly have a valid meritorious perspective that needs to be included, despite Obama's anti-war campaign platform? What about free trade zealots from Bob Rubin's extended political family - should they be included in the "Team of Rivals" after an election that saw Obama and downticket Democrats campaign vigorously against NAFTA-style trade policies? And sure, Joe Lieberman should be empowered to subpoena the incoming Obama administration that he declared his hatred for, right? Because hey, it's a "Team of Rivals," right? Hell, why not give some congressional chairmanships to some Republicans, so that Congress can have it's own "Team of Rivals?"

Look, I'm all for "inclusion" - but let's also remember, the most comprehensive post-election poll shows that a whopping 70 percent of Americans want conservatives to bend to Obama's agenda, not the other way around. And so what about the other side of the "team?" If "Team of Rivals" = "Bipartisanship," shouldn't there be some full-on progressives in some very powerful positions? Wouldn't that complete the "team" in "Team of Rivals" and the "bi" in "bipartisan?" Or are we really not going to see a "team" nor "bipartisanship" - but merely lockstep corporatism/conservatism disguised with the latest happy sounding terms from the Broder dictionary?

Simple Wisdom in the One Utah Comments

This comment on Glenden Brown's post at One Utah was so simple and direct, it struck me as strangely profound in contrast to the complicated debates currently erupting around Prop 8 and marriage equality.

I think it is time to admit, at least to yourself, that but for the inability to procreate, there is no difference between a gay couple and a heterosexual couple.
Truthful, that.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

KVNU's For The People Blog Button (Get Yours Now!)

Help us promote the For the People show/webcam chat with this sleek, stylish, one of a kind, super cool button for your blog or web page.

Simply cut and paste the code below. (All the cool kids are doing it.)

<a href="" onblur="try {parent.deselectBloggerImageGracefully();} catch(e) {}"><img id="BLOGGER_PHOTO_ID_5270188983165246834" border="0" style="cursor: pointer;" alt="" src=""/></a>

50 State Strategy: Back to Square One?

Discussions ensue on the reported layoffs at the DNC of embedded state organizers and on the future of Dean's successful strategy.

The biggest question for me is not just the future of the program and how it relates to state parties, but also how the organizational juggernaut built by the Obama team will play into the future of state party organizations.

We haven't seen as large a return on the investment (as Kilgore puts it in the article) here in Utah, but one cannot (thought many are trying to) make the case it played a marginal role in Obama's election, and the success of Democrats on the national scene without sounding largely out of touch.

What's Jeffrey Scott Shapiro Smoking?

For a minute, I thought I'd left the WSJ Opinion Page and been redirected to The Onion. Alas, this guy is serious.

Just as Americans have gained perspective on how challenging Truman's presidency was in the wake of World War II, our country will recognize the hardship President Bush faced these past eight years -- and how extraordinary it was that he accomplished what he did in the wake of the September 11 attacks.

The treatment President Bush has received from this country is nothing less than a disgrace. The attacks launched against him have been cruel and slanderous, proving to the world what little character and resolve we have. The president is not to blame for all these problems. He never lost faith in America or her people, and has tried his hardest to continue leading our nation during a very difficult time.

Our failure to stand by the one person who continued to stand by us has not gone unnoticed by our enemies. It has shown to the world how disloyal we can be when our president needed loyalty -- a shameful display of arrogance and weakness that will haunt this nation long after Mr. Bush has left the White House.
Frankly, Mr. Shapiro, I'd have preferred George didn't try to "help" us anymore.

Top 10 Unfortunate Political One-Liners

Ah, the classics.

Most ironic? Mark Foley.

"It's vile. It's more sad than anything else, to see someone with such potential throw it all down the drain because of a sexual addiction."

Also check out Top 10 Gaffes, and Top 10 Campaign Videos.

Yeah, it's a slow news day.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

A User's Guide to How the News Gets Made

New York Times highlights an upcoming IFC production being touted as "an exercise in media literacy":

As self-absorbed as the news media can sometimes be, only a small amount of self-criticism appears on television.

The cable news networks seldom speak about their infatuation with stories of white women gone missing or delve into their military analysts’ conflicts of interest. But a new series on the Independent Film Channel, “The IFC Media Project,” finds plenty to be introspective about.

The program, which begins on Tuesday, calls itself a “user’s guide to how the news gets made.” It examines a wide range of subjects, from coverage of the financial crisis to the narrative of the “war on drugs.”

“The point of the show is that American journalism and especially broadcast journalism right now seems to be spiraling downward,” said Gideon Yago, the host of the six half-hour installments.

The Media Yawns

Sobering C and L commentary on a Countdown clip on closing Guantanamo.

However, that's not the thing that took my breath away in this clip. Listen as Shuster and Turley both matter-of-factly admit that one of the problems that Obama has in committing to close Guantanamo is what to do with the detainees there because some of them could not go through our criminal justice system due to lack of evidence to hold them or because they've been tortured. No outrage. No wringing of hands that these people still exist, years later, within Guantanamo, as we count down the days until George Bush is finally out of office.

Yet the media can get up in arms about Hillary Clinton can "subvert her agenda" to serve as Secretary of State and rehash that ad nauseam? We can have an academic discussion on presidential pardons (and not fail to mention Clinton, mind you), but when it come to authentic crimes against humanity that merit a full blown trial in The Hague, the media yawns, as if it's just par for course.

Not Even Chris Cannon Wants to be Tied to Chaffetz

What an effective congressman Chaffetz will be!

Washington » As congressman-elect Jason Chaffetz gets ready to move to Washington, D.C., he has sought advice from Utah's other members of Congress on everything from how to organize a staff to how best to help Utahns navigate the bureaucracy.

But the one person he hasn't connected with is the man who now holds the 3rd District seat Chaffetz will claim in January.

That's Rep. Chris Cannon, a six-term incumbent whom Chaffetz beat in a Republican primary in June. The men haven't talked since.

"Mr. Cannon's staff have been polite but I have not met with Mr. Cannon," Chaffetz said. "I've reached out at least a dozen times. So far, no luck."
When the guy who made a career out of parroting right-wing talking points and kissing George Bush's ass won't return your calls, you know your political future is dim. Again, District 3, you've voted yourself zero representation.

No one wants to talk to your guy. No one will want to work with your guy. No one will want their name on legislation with your guy, nor theirs on your guy's legislation. They can smell crazy a mile a way.

Monday, November 17, 2008


Juan Cole hits a nail.

This is pretty amusing. After actively campaigning to end the right to marriage for a large group of people, including donating money, blackmailing businesses, and turning the issue into a religious crusade, people are absolutely mortified to find out to be publicly associated with the cause. There is, after all, a reason the Klan wears hoods.

Here is a pro-tip: If you do not want to be called a bigot or to be associated publicly with bigotry, stop spending so much of your time and money advancing bigotry.

Drilling Lease Authorized 1 Mile from Delicate Arch

Bush's last minute oil-lease fire sale comes to Utah.

Plans recently announced by the Bush administration to sell oil- and gas-drilling leases on parcels near Utah's national parks could place drilling operations within a 45-minute hike from the state's most famous red-rock icon: Delicate Arch.

An examination of the parcels, superimposing low-resolution government graphics onto Google Earth maps, shows that in one case drilling parcels bordering Arches National Park are just 1.3 miles from the arch.

''If you're standing at Delicate Arch, like thousands of people do every year, and you're looking through the arch, you could see drill pads on the hillside behind it. That's how ridiculous this proposed lease sale is," said Franklin Seal, a spokesman for the environmental group Wildland CPR, which carried out the parcel examination with Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance.

The planned Dec. 19 auction of oil and gas parcels alongside or within view of Arches and Canyonlands national parks as well as Dinosaur National Monument has brought criticism by environmentalists and the National Park Service.

''We find it shocking and disturbing," said Cordell Roy, the chief Park Service administrator in Utah. ''They added 51,000 acres of tracts near Arches, Dinosaur and Canyonlands without telling us about it. That's 40 tracts within 4 miles of these parks."
Read more.

Thorough Fact-Checking

Quote of the day.

I have written for perhaps a dozen major publications over the span of my career, and the one with the most thorough fact-checking process is by some margin Sports Illustrated. Although this is an indication of the respect with which SI accords its brand, it does not speak so well of the mainstream political media that you are more likely to see an unverified claim repeated on the evening news than you are to see in the pages of your favorite sports periodical.
What does it say about the media that a sports reporter would be relegated quickly into copy editing for providing the shoddy information most political reporters slide by with. And how relevant would a sports editorial writer remain having provided brain dead analysis on par with Bill Kristol?

Priorities, man. We need some.

From Crisis to Crisis


Support for a GM bailout is negatively correlated with your distance from Michigan.

Joking aside, this is one of those subjects I don't have especially strong opinions about. I think a bad approach to policy is to lurch from crisis to crisis, using each one as an excuse to DO SOMETHING. We should have a general framework for dealing with companies which are too big to fail, as apparently there are a lot of them

The Market's "Invisible hands"

We were bitch-slapped by them.

When my office, along with the Department of Justice, warned that some of American International Group's reinsurance transactions were little more than efforts to create the false impression of extra capital on the company's balance sheet, we were jeered at for attacking one of the nation's great insurance companies, which surely knew how to balance risk and reward.

And when the attorneys general of all 50 states sought to investigate subprime lending, believing that some lending practices might be toxic, we were blocked by a coalition of the major banks and the Bush administration, which invoked a rarely used statute to preempt the states' ability to probe. The administration claimed that it had the situation under control and that our inquiry was unnecessary.

Time and again, whether at the state level, in Congress or at the Securities and Exchange Commission under Bill Donaldson, those who tried to enforce the basic principles that would allow the market to survive were told that the "invisible hand" of the market and self-regulation could handle the task alone.

Friday, November 14, 2008

What's the Matter with Idaho?


VAY, Idaho - The Secret Service is investigating a sign erected by a northern Idaho landowner that advertises a "free public hanging" of President-elect Barack Obama and other political figures.

Bonner County Sheriff Elaine Savage said Thursday that she and a Secret Service agent from Spokane, Wash., planned to take a look at the sign put up by Ken Germana.

"That's a political statement," Germana told the Bonner County Daily Bee. "They can call it whatever they want, a threat or whatever."

The handmade cardboard sign posted to a tree has the words "FREE PUBLIC HANGING" written in large letters above an equally large "OBAMA." A noose hangs down the middle of the sign.

In smaller letters are the names of Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and civil rights activist and former presidential candidate Al Sharpton.

The Secret Service in Spokane did not immediately return a call from The Associated Press on Thursday.

Germana said that he poses no threat to Obama, but that he wouldn't lose sleep if the Democratic president-elect came in harm's way.

"JesusLand" Students Chant 'Assassinate Obama' on School Bus

A little reminder that racists continue to breed in Eastern Idaho.

"They just hadn't heard anything like this before," Whoolery stated. "I think the thing that struck us was just like, 'Where did they get the word and why would they put that word and that person together?'"

Whoolery, a psychology professor at Brigham Young University in Rexburg, is not an Obama supporter, but he was shocked that any public official would be threatened in that way. "I don't think that the majority of people in Rexburg have extreme ideas like that, but we were just surprised that it would go that far," Whoolery told KIKD.

The Madison County School District has sent out an email saying that students are to be told this sort of behavior is unacceptable.

According to an article which appeared in Salon in 2006, "You've heard of Jesusland, but Rexburg, Idaho, is something more. It's not just a small town in rural Eastern Idaho. It's a small town in rural Eastern Idaho completely dominated by a fast-growing Mormon college, Brigham Young University-Idaho."
Watch the KIDK 2 video here.

Dennis Miller

I remember when he was more funny, less stupid.

Fines for Blackwater


WASHINGTON — The State Department is preparing to slap a multi-million dollar fine on private military contractor Blackwater USA for shipping hundreds of automatic weapons to Iraq without the necessary permits.

Some of the weapons are believed to have ended up on the country's black market, department officials told McClatchy, but no criminal charges have been filed in the case.

The expected fine is the result of a long-running federal investigation into whether employees of the firm shipped weapons hidden in shrink-wrapped pallets from its Moyock, N.C. headquarters to Iraq, where Blackwater is the State Department's largest personal security contractor.

EPA Blocks Vernal Coal Plant

The Wonk Room:

In a landmark action, the Environmental Protection Agency’s final decision-making board has ruled that all new and proposed coal-fired power plants must have their carbon dioxide emissions regulated. The Environmental Appeals Board ruled today that the EPA has no valid reason for refusing to place limits on the global warming emissions from Desert Power’s proposed 110-megawatt coal-fired power plant in Vernal, Utah.

Deseret Power’s Bonanza Generating Station would have emitted 3.37 million tons of carbon dioxide each year. In July 2007, the EPA issued a permit for the plant, ignoring the Clean Air Act’s stipulation that all such permits must include a “best-available control technology” emissions limit for each pollutant “subject to regulation under the Act.”

[...] The 69-page decision described the Bush administration’s arguments as “weak,” “questionable,” “not sustainable,” and “not sufficient,” and rebuked EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson for failing to issue CO2 regulations, repeatedly recommending an “action of nationwide scope.”

Thursday, November 13, 2008


Campaign for America's Future and Democracy Corps do some polling (via MyDD).

On virtually every dimension of the liberal-conservatism debate, voters have moved to a new place. They show a new openness for the country to use government for a range of public purposes: restoring taxes on the wealthiest and corporations to bring sustained relief for the middle class and regulate corporate excess to protect the public. A large majority wants to reduce troops in Iraq, while support for multilateralism over a go-it-alone, military-centered policy has held at historic highs. And despite results on some ballot measures this year, voters show a new level of tolerance on sexual preference, with 54 percent saying homosexuality should be accepted, not discouraged.

2012 and the Republican Party Blind Spot

Henry of The Monkey Cage.

Even if party politicians are (as Bawn et al. argue they are) uncertain of exactly where the edges of the blind spot lie, one can make some predictions about their behavior. First, “Politicians will systematically give more weight to the risks of extremism, i.e., the risks of straying outside the blind spot, thereby guaranteeing electoral defeat.” Second, party politicians will ‘obfuscate’ (by hiding the details of deal making) and ‘bamboozle’ (by sequencing votes in ways that allow them to appear to support measures they oppose and vice-versa) so as to expand the effective limits of the electorate’s blind spot. Third, parties will occasionally test the limits of voter tolerance by proposing ‘extreme’ candidates to see whether they can win despite the party’s expectation (which would suggest that the blind spot is bigger than they previously believed). Fourth, when this doesn’t work, they will be likely to choose a more moderate candidate the next time around to increase their chances of winning.
My bet is this is the opposite of what happens. Not that I mind.

The article is also interesting in a less partisan take, arguing that parties are the new "populists" of political movements, and special interest groups will have the say. (Back to a partisan take: what does this say about the future of the GOP if they hang on to the evangelical religious right?). Check it out.

Beltway Mentality and Taking a Stand

More Greenwald.

Joe Lieberman didn't merely campaign against Barack Obama and several other Democrats. That's the least of his sins. He was not only among the most vocal supporters of the Iraq War, but at least as bad, has endorsed and supported every last radical Bush policy to expand executive power and surveillance activities while destroying core constitutional liberties and checks and balances. He used his Chairmanship for only one purpose: to block oversight into Bush scandals and corruption. He has spouted the most defamatory attacks, not only against Barack Obama, but against war opponents generally. More significantly still, Democrats in his own state -- his own constituents -- booted him out of the party, no longer wanting to be represented by him.

That is who Senate Democrats appear well on their way to selecting to serve as their Chairman of Homeland Security, of all committees. That's because nothing that Lieberman has done really bothers them. Endorsing the Iraq War and the full panoply of radical Bush policies isn't disqualifying in the least because so many of them also endorsed that and support it, or, at the very least, it's not a priority for them. They care even less what their "base" thinks, what the so-called "Left" wants. Few things in this world are less likely than them ever taking even a mild stand -- such as stripping Lieberman of his Chair -- in order to defend some sort of political principle, or to punish ineptitude, or to announce that there are certain lines to the Right that can't be crossed. They don't do that. They never have. And it shouldn't surprise anyone that they won't now.

I think what is important about what Greenwald writes here goes beyond the specifics of what his argument, and addresses a larger problem the country faces.

Representatives react to constituencies and public pressure, but too often public pressure comes to a stop after an election. Many people voted for Obama several days ago to bring about a change that meant different things to different people. And while I object to those who are judging Obama's intentions before he even steps into office, it's worth remembering that there is indeed a "beltway think" that is more intent on preserving itself and it's members than in better policy and governance. It's going to take an effort very similar in scope to what activists did to get Obama elected to also make a real change in how the entrenched govern, and how far they will take the message of change.

The simplest way to put it: too many Democrats oppose Bush's policies only in stump speeches and campaign ads. Overall, the past eight years don't keep them awake at night.

We've got an opportunity to change that, but assuming it will all come from the Obama White House would be naive.

Asset Management

You gotta give it to 'em for the sheer chutzpah.

AIG executives may not be making better business decisions while they're asking the federal government for more money, but at least they're getting sneakier! An ABC News investigation has revealed that a conference last week at the Pointe Hilton Squaw Peak Resort in Phoenix was another chance for AIG executives to frolic (on the taxpayers' dime).

The conference was called the Asset Management Conference, and hotel personnel were ordered to not mention AIG either verbally or on signage. An AIG spokesperson told ABC News that there was no AIG signage because they wanted to lower the company's profile. As consumers, I think we're a little too smart to believe that. Something tells me that the company executives knew they'd get heat for another luxury trip
I think it's time taxpayers saw a little return on their investment. We could all use a little getaway on AIG's tab once they're back on their feet. Hell, I'd make it cheap and settle for a weekend at a Days Inn in San Diego.

(h/t E.W.M)

George on Teevee

Telling me that "government intervention is not a cure-all."

All I can do is laugh.

This from the man who leveraged federal power to stop states from intervening on predatory mortgage lending practices and the founder of our current sweeping warrantless surveillance programs.

Suddenly he remembers power checks and the constitution?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Newt for RNC Chair?

Please let this happen.

A behind-the-scenes battle to take the reins of the Republican National Committee is taking off between former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele.

Neither man will acknowledge his interest in the post, but Republicans close to each are burning up the phone lines and firing off e-mails to fellow party members in an effort to oust RNC Chairman Mike Duncan in the wake of the second consecutive drubbing of Republican candidates at the polls.

Either one would be fine with me. Everyone knows the best thing to do with a losing hand is to refuse a new card and double down.

MInuteman Project Falls Apart

Good riddance. Somewhere, Congressman Tent Cities sheds a tear.


The military has been back and forth on embracing online activity for the troops. After banning YouTube and many social networking sites from use by active duty service men and women, they responded to the vacuum with DOD Live, the "unofficial" Pentagon blog, without much fanfare.

Now, it seems some independent companies have been pulled in to give troops a way to connect not only with those at home, but with each other with TroopTube.

The platform, very similar to YouTube, was developed by a small start up company outside of DOD circles, and allows military gatekeepers to account for matters of national security and troop safety, while maintaining the community exchanges, doing for service people what YouTube has done for politics: documenting the experience.

Crazy, but not Off-Base

Speaking directly too the base, in fact.

"It may sound a bit crazy and off base, but the thing is, he's the one who proposed this national security force. I'm just trying to bring attention to the fact that we may -- may not, I hope not -- but we may have a problem with that type of philosophy of radical socialism or Marxism."

-- Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA), quoted by the AP, saying President-elect Obama may "establish a Gestapo-like security force to impose a Marxist or fascist dictatorship."
"Out of touch" may be just the tip of the iceberg.

"Does Not Oppose Civil Unions"

I can understand the frustration that leads Avarosis of AMERICABlog, a blogger and social activist with a successful history of organizing in support of gay rights (just ask Colorado), but I think boycott's and direct attacks on religious institutions are ineffective, and sometimes even counter productive. I much prefer the tactics exhibited by Equality Utah, cleverly calling the LDS Church's bluff on supporting equality without a redefinition of marriage. Full press release via SLCSpin:

The LDS Church has articulated it is not “anti-gay” but rather pro-marriage and it “does not object to rights for same-sex couples regarding hospitalization and medical care, fair housing and employment rights, or probate rights.” On November 5th, Elder L. Whitney Clayton stated the LDS Church does not oppose “civil unions or domestic partnerships.” In response to these statements, Equality Utah is drafting legislation for the 2009 General Session of the Utah Legislature to address each of the issues mentioned by the LDS Church.

During this press conference Equality Utah will be asking the LDS Church to demonstrate its conviction on these statements as well as its willingness to secure such rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Utahns.

Good Cop, Bad Cop

Biden's role defined.

"But Democratic insiders say the appointment of tough-guy Rahm Emanuel as chief of staff -- and the administration's need to forge a governing coalition that includes some Republicans -- has brought Biden's upcoming role more clearly into focus: He'll play the good cop."

"The Democrats' apparent failure to win the 60 Senate seats necessary to halt a GOP filibuster has created the need for inter-party ambassadors like Biden who are practiced at the art of aisle crossing. In his 36-year Senate career, Biden was never considered a bomb-throwing ideologue, and he still has plenty of chits to cash in with Republicans on the Hill."
Makes sense. And much less obnoxious than prattling on about bipartisan ideals under a partisan umbrella of opportunity.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Utah Bloggers Git-Ta-Gether, Friday

Jesse of CoolestFamilyEver and FreeUTOPIA has put together a social gathering for Utah bloggers. It's an opportunity to put politics, ideology and elections aside, catch up in person, and a chance for newcomers to put faces to userIDs.

Friday, Nov 14th
Squatters Pub (147 W Broadway [300 S.])
Salt Lake City

Anyone who's anyone will be there (this means you!).

(Rumor has it Sutherland Prez. Paul Mero may drop by, so I can't guarantee the night will be completely politic free, but if you've never seen Paul and I disagree, it's not something to be missed!)

Practical People

Building political bridges.

Politics, properly considered, has limited aims. Attempts to use it to create heaven on earth, whether motivated by secular or religious thinking, usually backfire. Fortunately, most practical people realize this. We should be looking to build political bridges across moral divides by lowering the temperature of such debates, and keeping our expectations of what politics can accomplish appropriately humble.
Nice to see some sense and reason return to NRO. Things were getting a bit crazy there after the election.

7 Day Anniversary

Because there is just not enough talk about the election out there...


No really, this is just cool.

"Barack Hussein Obama: last week, sixty-five million Americans turned a liability -- a moniker so politically inflammatory that the full recitation of it was considered foul play -- into a global diplomatic asset, a symbol of the resurgence of America's ability to astonish and inspire."
Hertzberg speaks.

White House Family Tree

Washington Post continues their never-ending quest to counter-act their boring pundit staffers with creative online information expos. The latest, a recap of how recent administrations and cabinet members, and where they came from/are today: Week One and Counting.

In ways, it reads like a hill-billy family tree. Not nearly enough forks.

From Prop 8 to Repealing DOMA?

I believe it was Jeremy who once said that Greenwald was interesting, but much too wordy.

In a post that proves Jeremy right on both counts, an argument for where the No on 8 crowd may head from here.

I'm game.

Kennedy Comparisons

I think we're too quick to make modern comparisons to historic dead people. On the other hand, it's sometimes insightful to do so.

President Kennedy responded not just with soaring rhetoric and new programs like the Peace Corps. He also transformed communication between the president and the people. At the White House, he projected an image of openness and transparency. He let photographers take pictures of the Kennedy children. He held televised news conferences for the first time.

Theodore Sorensen, the Kennedy speechwriter, said the youthfulness of Camelot brought a new casualness and intimacy to Washington. He recalled a softball game with reporters in the early ’60s, in which the younger staff members invited the Council of Economic Advisers to play. Three older economists showed up and tried to fit in.

“They took off their jackets and ties,” Mr. Sorensen said. “They didn’t go home to change into blue jeans, but they were swinging bats.”

Mr. Obama has created his own jacketless atmosphere, but on a grander scale, with a steady stream of e-mail messages and Facebook postings. Obama supporters know, of course, that the text messages from “Barack” are the work of a campaign aide, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not effective.

Ellen Steiner, 23, a graduate student at the University of Colorado, Denver, said the direct style “makes me feel like I really was part of something great.”

Monday, November 10, 2008

Conservative Expectations


It's been fascinating to watch The Corner's obsession with the idea that Obama will prioritize "structural things like unions, open borders cum amnesty, and fairness doctrine/talk radio, etc. that would all be seen as investments in ensuring more liberal voters in the next elections." Obama opposes two of those three policies, and my hunch is he won't really fight for the Employee Free Choice Act even as he nominally supports it. So maybe it's just that conservatives don't know that much about Obama's governing agenda. But as insight into the conservative approach to governance, this panicked belief that Obama will single-mindedly harness the power of the government to expand his coalition is interesting, if only because it is so rarely attempted by Democrats.
Further downsides to Bush's and the GOP's "perpetual campaign" mentality of governance. If results of 2008 elections prove only to break that method of thinking and politicking, the various successful Democratic campaigns would have been a national success story.

Referendum on "Trickle-Down"

From Sirotablog, some pundits finally notice the post election trend:

We now keep hearing, for instance, that America is "a center-right nation" -- apparently because the percentages of Americans who call themselves conservative (34), moderate (44) and liberal (22) remain virtually unchanged from four years ago. But if we've learned anything this year, surely it's that labels are overrated. Those same polls find that more and more self-described conservatives no longer consider themselves Republicans. Americans now say they favor government doing more (51 percent), not less (43) -- an 11-point swing since 2004 -- and they still overwhelmingly reject the Iraq war.
And react:
Economic populism is thriving right now, and if Obama wins, his election would not simply be a non-ideological verdict against the status quo. It would be a clear repudiation of conservative economic ideas and McCain's claim that a more egalitarian approach to growth constitutes "socialism." McCain's attacks on Obama's thinking have been so forceful and direct that they require this election to be seen as a referendum that will settle a long-running philosophical argument.

Hard Truths

I really try very hard to maintain a pluralist attitude when reading about politics or absorbing information. But sometimes the truth of a situation doesn't allow for it, and I just have to say something - for the record - to all of my Republican friends:

There sure are a lot of racists, xenophobes, and homophobes in your party, and often times, it makes it very hard to take you seriously, and increasingly difficult to remember that these zealots are not the leaders of the party but (hopefully) a fringe, when they are so often the voice of the party.

Take care of this, could ya? (Helpful Hint: Electing Jason Chaffetz was a move in the opposite direction...)


Rekindle Some Idealism

One of the most under-reported aspects of the recent campaigns, and preceding primaries, has been the architecture and procedure of Obama's campaign machine itself. It's been an amazing story from the start.

It began 22 months ago on a frigid day in Springfield, Ill., almost it seemed on an impulse. There was no money and no real organization - only a vast untapped reservoir of disaffected voters and potential volunteers.

"This campaign can't only be about me. It must be about us. It must be about what we can do together," Sen. Obama said in the February 2007 Springfield speech.

Axelrod recalled, "When we started the campaign, we met around a table like this. And there was just a handful of us. You know, we started with nothing. And Barack said to us, 'I want this to be a grassroots campaign. I wanna reinvigorate our democracy. First of all I think that’s the only way we can win and secondly I want to rekindle some idealism that together we can get things done in this country,"
Read more.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

BLM Expands Drilling Leases Near UT National Parks


National Park Service officials say that the decision to open lands close to Arches National Park and Dinosaur National Monument and within eyeshot of Canyonlands National Park was made without the kind of consultation that had previously been routine.

The inclusion of the new lease tracts angered environmental groups, which were already critical of the bureau’s original lease proposal, made public this fall, because they said it could lead to industrial activity in empty areas of the state, some prized for their sweeping vistas, like Desolation Canyon, and others for their ancient petroglyphs, like Nine Mile Canyon.

The bureau’s new maps, made public on Election Day, show not just those empty areas but 40 to 45 new areas where leasing will also be allowed.
Many land managers were surprised by the announcement, as they are usually given up to 3 months to comment on proposed leases before they are auctioned. They see this as a last ditch land grab by the Bush administration before leaving office.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Double Down

Swift with more satire. (Apparently I'm only reading the funny stuff today)

Some conservatives have gotten the mistaken impression that this election was some kind of repudiation of conservatism, which couldn’t be further from the truth. Thank goodness Michelle Malkin was there to go all Don Corleone and bitchslap the whiney, spineless conservatives who harbored such notions. “I’m getting a lot of moan-y, sad-face ‘What do we do now, Michelle?’ e-mails,” wrote Malkin. But this is no time for self-reflection and mea culpas, Malkin told her minions. “We do not apologize for our beliefs. We do not re-brand them, re-form them, or relinquish them. We defend them.” In other words we must double down on our beliefs no matter how distasteful some Americans find them to be. In fact, Americans were telling us that we weren’t conservative enough, that we need to get back to our core principles by being stingier and more callous. John Derbyshire, lamented that we probably would have won this election if only George Bush had deported 20 million illegal aliens and not visited mosques. But this is no time to regret the past. In fact, conservatives have a lot to be proud of.

For years conservatives have been saying that racism doesn’t exist anymore. The election of Barack Obama proves we were right all along. Throughout the campaign we reminded people at every opportunity that while it might be frightening that Obama is a socialist who pals around with terrorists, probably wasn’t born in this country and is secretly a Muslim, it made no difference whatsoever that he was black.

Whatever Scares You the Most

236 satire vs. Bat-Shit Crazy.

Get the latest news satire and funny videos at

That's how we do. (h/t JM Bell)

Republicans for a Reason

GOP looks for advice:

Republican National Committee Chairman Robert M. (Mike) Duncan said today the party will be creating a Web site to gather feedback from GOP voters.

“In the coming weeks the RNC will launch a new online initiative called ‘Republicans for a Reason,” Duncan said at a National Press Club gathering. “It will provide voters a forum to speak their mind; to tell us why they are Republicans; to tell us how we may have let them down this year; and what we can do to restore their confidence in our party.”

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Yeeeeeeeeeargh! Indeed.

More from the Inbox. Democracy for America:

Governor Dean never let us down and now it's time to give him the credit he has earned. Please join me and thank Howard for getting the job done.


The 50 State Strategy laid the ground work for President-Elect Obama's 50 State Campaign and landslide victory.

Governor Dean delivered a 50 State primary between two historic candidates. Every Democrat in every state had a chance to cast their vote and make it matter. Governor Dean's leadership created a tidal wave of progressive victories in 2006.

And even before we elected him to DNC Chair, Governor Dean led DFA's early endorsement of Barack Obama for U.S. Senate. Making Barack one of the first Dean Dozen candidates and shining a national spotlight on a soon to be rising star.

Let's deliver hundreds of thousands of messages from people across America and around the world thanking Governor Dean for making change happen.

PSN: Moving forward from the 2008 Elections at the State Level - Conference Call, Noon Today

Sorry for the short notice to those interested. From Progressive States Network, in the Inbox:

Moving forward from the 2008 Elections at the State Level

Call to analyze the results of state-level elections from across the country, review the outcome of key ballot initiative votes, and outline a strategy for capitalizing on this election's nationwide mandate with a strong progressive legislative agenda, including strategies for collaborating with President-Elect Obama and the Democratic Congress.
- David Sirota, PSN Co-chair, Nationally Syndicated Columnist, and New York Times Best-selling Author

- Nathan Newman, Policy Director, PSN

Caroline Fan, Immigration and Workers' Rights Policy Specialist, PSN

Julie Schwartz, Broadband and Economic Development Policy Specialist

- Christian Smith-Socaris, Election Reform Policy Specialist, PSN

- Adam Thompson, Health Care Policy Specialist, PSN


2pm EST, Thursday November 6, 2008
DIAL-IN: (800) 391-1709, Login Code 709424

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Barack Obama's Internet Army: The New Lobbyists

For me, this is what it has always been about. Populism realized in 3.1 million "connected" volunteers and supporters, waiting for "what's next."

WASHINGTON — A powerful new lobbying force is coming to town: Barack Obama's triumphant army of 3.1 million Internet-linked donors and volunteers.

In a mass e-mail thanking them, written moments before his Grant Park victory speech, Obama put them on notice. "We have a lot to do to get our country back on track, and I'll be in touch soon about what comes next," he wrote. [...]

Joe Trippi, the Internet politics guru whose computer geeks made Howard Dean a contender in 2004 and who went on to design Obama's socially networked campaign machine, offers a provocative and educated guess.

Trippi predicted that Obama would use his forces, first and foremost, to intimidate congressional foes of his agenda, rally his allies and forge "one of the most powerful presidencies in American history."

Certainly, Obama reaches the White House with the biggest, best organized, fastest-acting grass-roots army in the history of presidential campaigning.

Moreover, because his Internet operation was miles ahead of Republican John McCain's, Obama's liberal-to-libertarian electronic activists are in a position to dominate the new political medium much as conservative Republicans dominate talk radio.

As for political utility, many thousands of volunteers such as Hood will be deployable within hours, with great precision and at almost no cost, thanks to the campaign's state-of-the-art information-management systems.

The president-elect's political operatives know, for example, the ZIP codes and hence the congressional districts of each of Obama's million most active campaigners, those who volunteered via his Web site It's a social network that the campaign set up to communicate needs, events and assignments to volunteers.

The profiles that Obama campaigners submitted to the site also reveal which supporters in each district are environmentalists, concerned about health care or keen on government reform.

Moreover, because the so-called "MyBO" site quantified volunteers' participation and fundraising totals digitally, there's a numeric score for each participant's success. It's even adjusted to give more credit for recent help.

"We really know who Obama's community leaders are," issue by issue, said Thomas Gensemer, the managing director of Blue State Digital, the Washington-based mobilizer of online communities created by four Dean campaign veterans.

Instead of e-mailing members of Congress, Gensemer continued, Obama's most effective supporters will meet with them in their district offices and press them at local town hall meetings.


(Stealing from myself)

While reading through the morning after newspapers, websites, and blogs still groggy with their post election hangover, I've noticed a narrative repeating that I believe encapsulates what yesterday means, beyond a decisive win for Democrats. Two particular articles summed it up best.

From the Washington Independent: McCain and the New Opposition.

In the aftermath of defeat, with the arc lamps having dimmed on the presidential candidacy of Sen. John McCain, one thing is clear: the Republican Party as we have known it — strong, disciplined and precise in its execution since Ronald Reagan’s victory in 1980 — will cease to exist beginning today.

During the course of this long campaign, even some of the most fervent GOP boosters found themselves running for cover, bracing for losses of a kind that haven’t been seen in a generation. With big gains in the House and Senate, Democrats have something approaching effective control on Capitol Hill. After most of the final tallies late Tuesday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has a stronger majority, while Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has 56 of the 60 votes needed to assure passage of Democratic bills.

What the Republicans now face is something akin to an all-out blame-brawl, with finger-pointing, nail-gouging and yelling in closed rooms and in the most public of squares. All in the pursuit of answers to two basic questions: How on Earth did Sen. Barack Obama achieve the greatest Democratic victory since Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964? And, more important, what do we do next?
And from columnist/author David Sirota: America Looks in the Mirror, and Celebrates.
For three obvious reasons, last night was an historic landmark - the election of the first African American president, the success of a campaign that was more grassroots than any past, and the very bold progressive mandate the country delivered thanks both to the sheer size of the victory and to the candidates making clear this was an ideological choice between Reagan-ism and Roosevelt-ism. While I tend to try to live up to the "there's no crying in politics" rule, I'll admit it - I, like so many others last night, shed more than one tear of happiness and hopefulness.

In the weeks ahead, pundits, pollsters, prognosticators and prevaricators will inevitably analyze the election to death, tell us that these stark results somehow mean America is more conservative than ever, and insist that the only Serious and Responsible thing for an Obama administration to do after such a resounding election is to perpetuate the status quo. [...]

Though the post-election political coverage is all about D.C. jockeying for cabinet positions - that's not what this election was about. Though the television broadcasts that delivered last night's news were chock full of professional pundits and D.C. operatives and political insiders insisting that we needed their analysis to tell us what happened - we didn't. Because for once, this wasn't their election, it was ours; this isn't their presidential candidate, he is ours; and if we keep pushing and remember that election night was the start of our work and not the end, it won't be their government, it will at last be ours.
Though the ideological battle only got direct voice in the final few weeks of the race, it was/is always there.

I think yesterday was as much a win for Obama's style of campaigning and policies with a progressive lean as it was a rejection of what the Republican Party has come to represent in the minds of Americans. Both parties would do well to waste little energy defending what they've become or have been in the past, and devote all efforts to redefining themselves for the future. I think we've hit one of those rare points of political realignment that come maybe once in a generation. And I think it will be a challenge for both parties to harness for their own interests and elections to come.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

150 Plus Ballot Initiatives Nationwide

Democracy Now: From Gay Marriage to Predatory Lending, Voters to Decide on 150+ Ballot Initiatives Nationwide.

It’s fascinating, especially in the last week, you see more coverage related to some of the more eclectic and controversial kinds of issues around animal rights or the drug reform or criminal justice issues, and those are an annual part of the ballot.

But what is a little lost in that attention to those measures is some real fundamental issues that we believe are present this cycle, because people really have big problems and want big solutions, around healthcare, clean and reliable energy, and issues that are more core to what people wake up in the night worrying about. And so, from some that you mentioned, around children’s healthcare, home care authorities, creating those in Washington and Missouri, stem cell research, and then everything from alternative fuels in California to clean and solar energy, oil severance tax—there’s a variety of issues that are really fundamental to the kinds of things that we know voters are worried about and want to see real progress on.
Definitely the more complicated way to achieve progress, but if it works, it works.

Live Election Night Coverage, For the People

The Best Election Night Coverage in the Free World begins at 4pm and goes until Midnight (or longer, if need be) tonight on KVNU's For the People.

Listen on AM610 via live stream and chat at as Tyler, Marc, and I are joined by Paul Mero of Sutherland Institute (who's going to owe me dinner when Obama wins), Tom Grover, Ryan Yonk, as well as other special guests (including others from The SideTrack) and live reports from the polls around the country.

It's going to be fun. It's going to be informative. And I guarantee there will be at least one on-air fight between myself and either Marc or Paul (silly Conservatives, never argue with a gloating Liberal!). Not something you can afford to miss.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Obama on Prop 8

An MTV Interview, via Andrew Sullivan.

Cease and Desist Order Issued Against Colorado's Voter Purge Efforts

Despite a high court settlement denouncing voter fraud claims from Colorado's Secretary of State, Mike Coffman, vote purging efforts have continued, drawing new ire from the federal courts.

Earlier today, Coffman told the Rocky Mountain News that the settlement "still allowed him to remove voters from the state rolls when he found duplicate names, people who moved or deceased voters." An interpretation voter rights groups have roundly dismissed.

"The Court unambiguously stated that Colorado's voter cancellation practices violated federal law," Myrna Perez counsel for the Brennan Center for Justice -- a party in the suit -- told TPMmuckraker. "The Secretary of State and Colorado counties must provide the agreed upon safeguards to protect the voters adversely affected by the illegal practices."

The suit against Coffman alleged that more than 35,000 voters were purged from the rolls based on a faulty system for identifying illegitimate voters, and within 90 days of the election -- both of which violate the federal Voting Rights Act.
Help counter the move to suppress the vote by signing up for 20min of phone calls to voters in Colorado today.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Alright, I'll Say It: Screw Joe The Plummer

He just not very smart. (With video).

Samuel "Joe the Plumber" Wurzelbacher, in his newfound fame as political pundit and emerging GOP campaign brand name, is "really scared" of an Obama presidency.

"McCain has fought and bled for our country, loves our country--there's too many questions with Barack Obama," Wurzelbacher said on Sunday, "and his loyalty to our country. I question that greatly."

Wurzelbacher also put into question Obama as a "good American," saying that his "ideology is completely different than what democracy stands for."
Voters like Joe vote for bad representatives, because they don't educate themselves on the issues. Giving someone like Joe the national spotlight encourages others to do the same. I understand McCain really, really, really wants to be President, but he introduced Joe to Cable News... and that's bad for America.

Fake Registration an Unlikely Vehicle for Voter Fraud

Do not fear the ACORN.

Numerous election experts, including Barnard College political scientist Lorraine Minnite and Justice Department veteran Gerald Hebert of the Campaign Legal Center, told ProPublica that fake registrations were an unlikely and unwieldy means of stealing an election.

Such a scheme would have to involve a substantial crew of fraudsters -- tens of thousands of people -- willing to risk the hefty prison sentences and fines if caught.

Michaelson agreed that the scenario is implausible. “We have to distinguish between voter registration fraud and voter election fraud,” he said. He said that officials “inundated at the last minute” with piles of applications can let phony registrants “slip through the cracks” and get on the voter rolls. But he could not name a type of voting fraud that would begin with the filing of false registrations.

The McCain campaign has asserted that phony registrations could facilitate fraud on absentee ballots. “Voter registration fraud can quickly turn into vote fraud -- especially in the case of absentee balloting and in states that do not require photo identification to vote,” the campaign wrote in a letter to U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey calling for a federal investigation. (The Associated Press, quoting two “senior law enforcement officials,” recently reported that an inquiry is under way. Justice Department spokesperson Laura Sweeney told ProPublica she couldn’t “confirm or deny” an investigation.)

Michaelson said absentee ballot scams have typically involved political operatives telling legitimately enrolled people for whom to vote.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

200,000 Events

Grassroots organizing, in all it's glory.

Writing from Chicago on Sen. Barack Obama’s social network, MyBo, Amy Hamblin reports that supporters have posted a whopping 200,000 events, with volunteers steadily “blowing past one milestone after another.” The pace of event organization has dramatically accelerated, Hamblin noted, since the campaign only passed the 150,000th event-mark about three weeks ago.

“People are stepping up every day and taking leadership in this campaign, hosting phonebanks and canvasses,” Hamblin wrote in a blog post, reporting that supporters also launched more than “27,000 MyBO groups.”

Many observers focus on the Obama campaign’s candidate rallies and large crowds, but the parallel grassroots events are a critical part of the ground game, especially in states that the candidate rarely visits.

It hit me finally, when I read this, that I got involved in politics because one day, years from now, I wanted to see happen what has really just happened. Not so much a Democrat in the White House (which is a nice bonus, of course) but hundreds of thousands of citizens engaged in the system of election, representation and leadership of our country.

Now if we can just get Utah up to speed.