Friday, March 28, 2008

Grand Departure

There are many routes of attack for approaching McCain's candidacy in a general election. Lobbyists. Pandering to the right. Flip-flopping. Being 104 years of age. All very powerful opportunities juxtaposed with the new directions Obama offers the nation, and all easily wrung from the media once we have our nominee (even if that doesn't happen until the convention, which doesn't seem likely). Of the inroads, though, this is perhaps the argument that will resonate most with voters:

McCain is a pure neoconservative in exactly the way that Bush and Cheney are, which is exactly why David Brooks, and like-minded ideologues like Bill Kristol, swoon over McCain's foreign policy "principles." That's fine. Brooks is a neoconservative and it's thus perfectly natural that he would find a neoconservative foreign policy speech to be filled with wisdom and insight. But to pretend that it's some grand departure from the Bush/Cheney approach is pure deceit.

Just as was true for Bush in 2000, McCain is running at a time when the Republican brand is sullied (in 2000 because of the ugly Gingrich/impeachment crusades and in 2008 because of the destructive Bush years). Thus, McCain is being politically marketed in exactly the same way that Bush the presidential candidate was (he's a uniter not divider; a new kind of Republican; you always know where he stands; he's a conservative who deviates from dogma and appeals to Democrats; he transcends partisanship; we're going to be a more humble nation, etc. etc.). It's exactly the same wrapping. And the media believed all of that about Bush and they now believe it all about McCain.
A sweep in this election may quite simply boil down to riding Obama's coattails of registering new voters, young voters, and continued efforts to draw those who haven't been inspired to vote in years into the voting booth in November.

Many American's are waiting for a reason to cast an angry vote, and despite what hand-wringers may say, some of our nation's brightest and proudest moments have been the result of a frustrated electorate driven to the polls either to rebuke a betrayal, or follow a vague sense of "change" or "hope" that at least hints at trying something new.

Clinton and the Electoral College

Not the best argument for her to make.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Candidate Press Release Archive

Despite the Sutherland Institutes desperate "nothing to see here" efforts to kill the wave before it has begun, it is a good year to be a Democrat.

Find out why at the Candidate Press Release Archive.

Step 1. Get to know em.

Step 2. Help them get elected.

Step 3. Revel in your own sense of self-satisfaction.

Cultural Libertarians

The Democratic Strategist provides a link to a free cover story (pdf) from Campaigns and Elections, "Tuned Out: Cultural Libertarians Are A Growing Force in America. But Just How Can you Reach Them?" J.P. Green weighs in on the story.

The merit of the article, in terms of Democratic strategy, is that it illuminates a significant ideological minority that divides its voters between Democrats, Republicans and the Libertarian Party and sheds light on what they think about a host of issues in current context. The sidebar, "7 Ways to Win Our Vote" limns current Libertarian preferences regarding online gambling; internet tax proposals; eminent domain; Iraq; immigration; medical marijuana; and health insurance. Democrats have an edge with Libertarians on most of these issues and other issues concerning personal and lifestyle freedom. Republicans will do better with Libertarians who are more focused on taxes, shrinking government and expanding unfettered trade.

It's unclear whether the Libertarian percentage of American voters will grow in the years ahead. No doubt, Democrats can bite off a healthy chunk of the Libertarian-leaning constituency with the right kind of candidates.
I'm still processing the article itself, but I've got enough to recommend it as an interesting read.

Texas' Chris Buttars

Texas Mayor Charles Laws channels Utah Sen. Chris Buttars. Via KVUE.com (h/t Radio from Hell):

“It was a comment about the people coming in here illegally,” said Laws.

Laws wrote about a “possible holding pen for wetbacks.”

“The use of this kind of language in a public document but a public official is not acceptable,” said Lee Leffingwell, Austin City Council Member.

Austin city officials immediately asked for an apology and a retraction. Laws fought back.

“I don't work for the City of Austin, I couldn't care less what they think,” said Laws.

Laws spoke to KVUE News Thursday afternoon. He acknowledged a mistake in his choice of words.

“If I hadn't been in such a hurry I would have said ‘illegals’ or something like that, but that's a term that I grew up here out here and everybody said it. I was writing it down and I didn't cross-check it. All hell broke loose,” said Laws.

Permanent Presence in Iraq

Posted without comment, from the Washington Independent:

As if to offer denial in the face of disaster -- and commit the U.S. to losing many more soldiers and Marines -- the Bush administration has begun negotiations with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to keep U.S. troops in Iraq for years, even decades, after President George W. Bush leaves office.

Critics in the U.S. and in the Middle East are talking about the impending accords as the fulfillment of a hidden agenda. On Al Jazeera's "Inside Iraq" program, a recent report on the negotiations began: "This firm handshake between President Bush and Prime Minister al-Maliki may seal what had been predicted all along: that the U.S. has no intention of withdrawing from Iraq." Indeed, for years, the U.S. military in Iraq has quietly constructed massive bases that can garrison tens of thousands of troops indefinitely.

Another line of criticism concerns both the timing and the unilateralism of the negotiations. The Bush administration has less than a year in office, yet it is now negotiating a deal that will commit the U.S. to an open-ended continuation of its most momentous, and controversial, foreign-policy decision. At the very least, the accord will prove a thorny issue for any successor Democratic administration that wins election on a promise to end the war.

Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), the Democratic presidential candidate, wrote a letter to the president about this in January. The move "suggests the United States will indeed construct permanent bases in Iraq, feeding the perception that we intend to remain an occupying force for years to come," Obama wrote. "It would tie the hands of the next commander-in-chief, decreasing his or her flexibility to confront a dynamic threat environment that has shown Al Qaeda more dangerous than at any time since September 11, 2001."

Obama further requested that the president "submit any agreement reached in [U.S.-Iraqi] negotiations to the Senate for its advice and consent." That's precisely what the administration resists.

The Someone Please Buy Chris Cannon a Newspaper Subscription Fund

Because seriously, the man is out of touch.

(P.S. I commented on the post... let's see if it shows up, huh?)

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Trapped by Maliki

Spencer Ackerman:

Iraqi PM Nouri al-Maliki is giving powerful Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr’s forces three days to surrender in Basra, as clashes between Maliki’s security forces and Sadr’s Mahdi Army—in which the U.S. intervenes on Maliki’s side—escalate. But with the U.S. happy about the now-abrogated Sadrist ceasefire, why is the U.S. military getting involved? The Washington Post isn’t sure:

It was unclear why U.S. forces would take part in a broad armed challenge to Sadr and his thousands-strong militia on the eve of Petraeus’s assessment, which the Bush administration has said would greatly influence its decision on whether to draw down troop levels.

Here’s an answer. As long as Maliki is in the prime minister’s chair, and as long as we proclaim the Iraqi government he leads to be legitimate, Maliki effectively holds us hostage. "I need to go after Sadr," Maliki says. "The situation is unacceptable! In Basra, he threatens to take control of the ports, and in Baghdad, he’s throwing my men out of their checkpoints. Would you allow the Bloods or the Crips to take over half of Los Angeles?" And as soon as he says that, we’re trapped. It simply is not tenable for Petraeus to refuse a request for security assistance from the Prime Minister to deal with a radical militia.

The GOP and Scary Black Men

Paul Waldman tells us, via TAP, what to expect from the Republican's in the general election. Singling out GOP ad guru Alex Castellanos, Waldman paints a very ugly picture of that should surprise no one:

As Castellanos knows well, these kinds of attacks have their greatest power when they tap into pre-existing archetypes voters already carry with them, and the deeper they reside in our lizard brains the better. So they will make sure white Americans know that Obama is not Tiger Woods. He's not the unthreatening black man, he's the scary black man. He's Al Sharpton, he's Malcom X, he's Huey Newton. He'll throw grievance in your face, make you feel guilty, and who knows, maybe kill you and rape your wife. Castellanos knows what he's talking about -- when it comes to painting frightening pictures for the voters, he's the Rembrandt of racial resentment. Among other accomplishments, Castellanos was responsible for a series of ugly ads on behalf of Jesse Helms' 1990 Senate re-election race against Harvey Gantt, probably the most explicitly race-baiting campaign American politics has seen since the retirement of George Wallace. The story continues:

"It's harder for people to say it's taken out of context because these are Wright's own words," noted Chris LaCivita, the Republican strategist who helped craft the Swift Boat commercials against Kerry that employed the use of their target's own language when he returned from Vietnam and returned his medals. "You let people draw their own conclusions."

"You don't have to say that he's unpatriotic; you don't question his patriotism," he added. "Because I guaran-damn-tee you that, with that footage, you don't have to say it."

The Republicans are certainly setting down their marker: they intend, as they have so many times before, to wage a campaign appealing to the ugliest prejudices, the most craven fears, the most vile hatreds. It's not that people should vote against Obama just because he's black, they're saying, but you know, he's that kind of black. As Rush Limbaugh said on Friday, "It is clear that Senator Obama has disowned his white half, that he's decided he's got to go all in on the black side." Ladies and gentlemen, your "moral values" party.

Perhaps I am too idealistic, but I believe the public has finally wisened to such attack campaigns meant to appeal to our most basic fears, prejudices, and uneducated preconceptions. Evidence of a desire to put cultural divides behind us can be seen even here in Utah with the current approval ratings of Sen. Chris Buttars and the decline from influence of the narrow-minded Eagle County Forum and similar groups.

That the conservative "cultural warriors" will take this route (and be assured, they will) is disgusting, yet encouraging to me. They will try again to retain power by dividing us and playing citizen against citizen. It is their version of Rock the Vote, if you will.

This is completely the Democrats' race to lose.

Attention Bloggers: DNC Convention Conversations Forum

From my Inbox, an opportunity for Utah Bloggers:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

***MEDIA ADVISORY***

MAYORS BECKER AND CORROON JOIN DNCC CEO TO HOST COMMUNITY FORUM HIGHLIGHTING IMPORTANCE OF THE WEST IN LEAD-UP TO 2008 DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL CONVENTION

At Salt Lake Event, Becker, Corroon and Convention CEO Leah Daughtry
to Answer Questions, Offer Information for Utahns Interested in
Getting Involved in Historic Regional Opportunities in 2008


DENVER - Just five months before the 2008 Democratic National Convention in neighboring Colorado, Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker and Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon will join Democratic National Convention Committee (DNCC) CEO Leah D. Daughtry for the sixth in a series of DNCC community forums at 11:00 am MT on FRIDAY, April 4, 2008, in Salt Lake City, Utah.

The series - "Convention Conversations: A Traveling Forum Sponsored by the DNCC" - launched in September and has traveled throughout Colorado and the Rocky Mountain West in recent months. The community forums are designed to provide residents throughout the region with opportunities for direct communication with top Convention organizers and a venue to ask questions, share ideas and find out how they can get involved in the 2008 Democratic National Convention.

WHAT:
Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker and Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon will join DNCC CEO Leah D. Daughtry for a "Convention Conversations" forum to answer questions and offer information to Utahns about the historic regional opportunities presented by the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver.

WHO:
Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker
Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon
Leah D. Daughtry, CEO of the DNCC

WHEN:
11:00 am MT, Friday, April 4, 2008

NOTE: Members of the public interested in attending the forum are asked to RSVP to rsvp@demconvention.com or (801) 328-1212, ext. 205, as space is limited. Members of the media do not need to RSVP.

Blue Majority Endorses Obama as Presumptive Nominee

OpenLeft:

I just made my first contribution to Barack Obama, and I did it through the Blue Majority page on Act Blue. Now, I am asking you to do the same, since Barack Obama is the latest candidate to be added to the Blue Majority page.

Ever since the Blue Majority page was launched nearly one year ago, we at Blue Majority knew that we would add the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee to the page. In my opinion, Barack Obama has now emerged as the presumptive nominee. With a pledged delegate lead of 162, a popular vote lead of more than 800,000, barring a spectacular collapse and / or a highly unlikely thwarting of the popular vote, Barack Obama will become the Democratic nominee for President of the United States. When he reaches 2,024 delegates, which at this point requires only 42.7% of the remaining delegates to be decided, he will control both the credentials committee and the majority of the non-disputed delegates at the floor of the convention. At that point, the only way that Barack Obama loses the nomination is if he decides that Hillary Clinton should be the nominee instead. In other words, Barack Obama has become the presumptive Democratic nominee, and it is time to start supporting him.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Tonight, Bloggers Have No Excuse

Tom writes that students have no excuse, and even work against their own interests by willingly neglecting opportunities to become more involved in local politics. From the For The People blog:

Tonight are the neighborhood caucuses for Republicans, Democrats and some third parties.

There are nearly 20,000 students at Utah State University- that constitutes nearly 1/5 of the total population of Cache County, and an even higher percentage of the voting population. This kind of a proportion in politics is overwhelming, often unstoppable and quite strong enough to dictate the political agenda. Despite these overwhelming numbers, virtually no students will participate in the neighborhood caucus meetings tonight.

It’s tragic, really. I could go on about patriotic duty and how USU students are failing. I could give a lecture on civic involvement and the ethic of community in an attempt to convince students in our audience that they should participate tonight.

But those appeals have been well worn by many before me who have tried in vain to get students involved in the political process. These appeals don’t work. They fall on deaf ears. [more]
I applaud his words, and the sentiment that he and many are passing through the tubes today to draw citizens to tonight's caucus meetings.

I would also like to ad to his words a bit. Most likely, if you are reading this, you have a blog. You set that blog up voluntarily, because you felt that your voice needed an audience. You had something to say, you wanted to be heard. We can make all of the excuses we can imagine but, undeniably, each of us also wanted to make a difference.

Tonight is one night that can make a huge difference. Find your caucus location, and make an effort to be there in any capacity you can. If any time in the past any one of us has posted about something we disagree with, or have written critically of (as is our nature) then we have no reasonable excuse for our absence in this process.

Find your caucus or mass meeting.

Youth to Power: Rebranding the Democratic Party


This is a shameless plug of a book I have yet to read (but my copy is ordered). I worked with the author for a few months in a remote fashion on the MyDD Diary Rescue project. Recently, I assumed responsibility of the project, and Mike went on to promote his book. I still miss his witty emails, and I'd like to see this book do well, not only because I have had chance to interact with the author, but more importantly because it is a very timely and valuable topic in discussions of how the Democratic Party has gone astray, and the opportunities ahead. I would argue that what Mr. Connery writes of in his book and on his blog, combined with the influence of progressive activists and bloggers nationwide, is a snapshot of the future of the Democratic Party.

From Youth to Power:

While a rowdy group of entrepreneurial outsiders were busy building their own progressive youth movement from the ground up, no less significant a revolution was occurring within the two major youth-oriented structures that exist within the Democratic Party, the Young Democrats of America, and the College Democrats of America. Unlike the explosion of funding and organizing that has occurred within the [dot] Org Boom since 2004, the changes within the Democratic Party have come slowly,and have met with only partial success, as YDA has thrived, while CDA has continued to flounder.

{...}

In spite of this brief resurgence, for over forty years, CDA has barely registered on the cultural radar of young progressives. With an annual budget in the low to mid tens of thousands of dollars (compared to the millions available to the College Republicans), little ability to move bodies or messages on campus, and little respect from the Democratic National Committee, CDA has long been an underfunded and ineffective organization, existing mainly to provide networking opportunities and face time with politicians for young people looking to build a career in politics, as well as providing political cover for the DNC whenever it wants to seem friendly to young voters. By 2000,involved in an internal fight to impeach its president, and $30,000 in debt, the CDA had become a defunct organization in all but name.

[...}

Under the “leadership” of CDA and YDA, the Democratic brand among young voters floundered for decades, reaching its nadir in 2003 when an increasing number of young voters chose to self identify as independents rather than align themselves with the Democratic Party, and progressive activists who should have formed the core of CDA and YDA, instead focused their activities outside of the party.
Get yourself a copy.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

The Godless Constitution (Theocracy Vs. States' Rights)


A reminder, in honor of Blog Against Theocracy '08.

What the Religious Right doesn't tell people, and what, tragically, many Amer­icans apparently don't know, is that when it comes to determining what the laws of the United States mean, the only document that matters is the Consti­tution. The Constitution, a completely secular document, contains no references to God, Jesus or Christianity. It says absolutely nothing about the United States being officially Christian. The Religious Right's constant appeals to documents like the Declaration of Independence, which contains a deistic reference to "the Creator," cloud the issue and make some people believe their rights spring from these other documents.
Why should Utah conservatives and liberals alike be concerned about theocracy? From Theocracy Watch:

REBELLION OF THE STATES, New York Times, January 16, 2005:

The mandates... emanating from Washington are coming not from big-government Democrats but conservative Republicans. And thanks to the party's successes in recent years, more of the state and local officials who are complaining about those actions are Republicans, too.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Democracy Every Four Years?

White House Press Briefing Transcript (emphasis added):

PERINO: So we believe that the president stood on his principle. He hasn’t chased public opinion polls. He’s aware of them, but he hasn’t made decisions because of them, and I think there’s a distinction. Just because you don’t make decisions based on opinion polls doesn’t mean you don’t care what people think. We are all Americans. We care deeply about what people think.

REPORTER: The American people are being asked to die and pay for this, and you’re saying they have no say in this war? ... [W]hat it amounts to is you saying we have no input at all.

PERINO: You had input. The American people have input every four years, and that’s the way our system is set up.
Heckuva job, Dana.

Ron Paul Remains

Newsweek:

Paul, with a mere 14 (or 42, depending on who's counting) delegates in his column, cannot possibly overtake McCain for the nomination; the GOP front runner has well over the 1,191 delegates needed to secure his party's mantle. A March 7 speech in which Paul admitted that "victory in the conventional political sense is not available in the presidential race" led many media outlets to report his withdrawal. But what they missed was what Paul went on to say: that he does "still encourage all efforts to gain the maximum number of votes and delegates in all the remaining primaries." Flagging pols typically run into fund-raising hurdles, but thanks to massive online fund-raising efforts, Paul still has a hefty war chest. As of the end of last month, he still had more than $5 million in the bank. In Paul's view, he's in second place: his campaign Web site displays a graphic of the 11 original GOP candidates, nine of whom have big red X's drawn across their faces ("There were 11. Now there are two", reads the caption).
Curious to see where this goes.

Republican Cat Fight!

I would have paid good money for a ticket to these comments, but Ethan was gracious enough to provide these two a forum for free.

More hilarity here.

No Meaningful Progress in Iraq

I have tried to be encouraged by reports of decreased violence in Iraq. Despite any political advantage it gives Democrats, there is no joy for me in seeing us make no progress in a war we should not have even begun. Putting all of that aside, it still seems foolish to herald a tenuously bought-and-paid-for downturn in violence as an unquestionable sign of meaningful progress, and I haven't been able to surpass that strategic hurdle as easily as my right-wing peers have. Sometimes there is little pleasure in being right.

The success of the US "surge" strategy in Iraq may be under threat as Sunni militia employed by the US to fight al-Qaida are warning of a national strike because they are not being paid regularly.

Leading members of the 80,000-strong Sahwa, or awakening, councils have said they will stop fighting unless payment of their $10 a day (£5) wage is resumed. The fighters are accusing the US military of using them to clear al-Qaida militants from dangerous areas and then abandoning them.

A telephone survey by GuardianFilms for Channel 4 News reveals that out of 49 Sahwa councils four with more than 1,400 men have already quit, 38 are threatening to go on strike and two already have.

Improved security in Iraq in recent months has been attributed to a combination of the surge, the truce observed by Moqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi army, and the effectiveness and commitment of the councils, which are drawn from Sunni Arabs and probably the most significant factor, according to most analysts.

In his speech marking the fifth anniversary of the war George Bush highlighted the significance of what he called "the first large-scale Arab uprising against Osama bin Laden". Iraq, he said, "has become the place where Arabs joined with Americans to drive al-Qaida out."

But dozens of phone calls to Sahwa leaders reveal bitterness and anger. "We know the Americans are using us to do their dirty work and kill off the resistance for them and then we get nothing for it," said Abu Abdul-Aziz, the head of the council in Abu Ghraib, where 500 men have already quit.

"The Americans got what they wanted. We purged al-Qaida for them and now people are saying why should we have any more deaths for the Americans. They have given us nothing."
Ours is less of a strategy for success than a desperate grasping at straws as our options for progress dissolve. At some point, an honest assessment must lead to a responsible plan. It is unfortunate for the GOP and their electoral future that it will not happen while this President resides and their candidate offers more of the same. As Hunter says, the time has come for an agonizing reappraisal of the whole scene.
The American public has been presented with a set of false choices: a semi-permanent military occupation of Iraq versus a precipitous and destabilizing withdrawal. There is a deepening public desire for a new path forward and a cohesive military, diplomatic, and economic strategy that will end the war in Iraq while protecting American interests.

There are two strategic questions raised by our current dilemma:
1. How do we bring American military engagement in Iraq to a responsible end?

There is no military solution to the problems faced in Iraq: the real progress that can be made requires diplomatic, political, and economic means. We must stop counter-productive military operations by U.S. occupation forces and end our military presence in Iraq.

2. How do we prevent a repeat of the mistakes we've made?

The breakdown of checks and balances in our government led to bad decision-making which damaged America's national security. Ending this war and preventing future situations like it requires that we restore these Constitutional checks and balances and fix the ways in which our governmental, military, and civil institutions have failed us.
Discussions of Iraq in the media have focused almost entirely on military operations and issues, but any real solution will require us to look at a broader set of problems. Beyond redeploying our troops, we must place equal importance on applying the full arsenal of non-military tools at our disposal. The American public must also re-engage in the discussions and decision-making about how to proceed.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Failure to Understand

TPM:

The 'Surge' is working? Try reading Fareed Zakaria's new column on just how poorly things are going on the ground. McCain's opponents may seize on what may possibly be the beginning of an uptick in violence in the country. But that's really secondary to the real issue which is that the strategic aim of the surge has failed. It's fastened us down even more firmly in Iraq whereas the aim was to jumpstart a political process in the country that would allow us to begin to disengage.

These points are completely lost on McCain. A savvy campaign should be able to make McCain's failure to understand the surge's failure into a potent political issue.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

I Get Humane Society Email


Call me a bleeding heart liberal (I am, and you're just jealous), but if you can honestly look at this picture from the Humane Society's most recent email campaign and not want to give them money -- or at least write a letter -- you are are shriveled up and dead inside.

The Speech and The M$M (UPDATED)

Just a brief observation.

Regardless of your take on Obama's speech yesterday, the unavoidable truth is that it had an immediate effect beneficial to his campaign, if not his overall goal of surpassing the petty racial debates.

Monday, you couldn't brush up against a cable news channel without hearing about Wright's comments. Wednesday, they're talking about the speech. I've only heard Wright mentioned one time, and that was in a marginal reference to the speech itself.

Interesting. And no doubt, a change. It is only one day (I hesitate to give the media easy credit, they've let me down so many times before) but if this keeps up, it will be hard for his opponents to claim he cannot effect lasting change.

The skeptic in me isn't placing a bet, but if it sticks, tell everyone you heard it here first.

UPDATE
: The New Yorker's resident media sage Hendrik Hertzberg weighs in:

This speech should provide skeptics with a clue or two about why many of us are grateful for the opportunity—an opportunity that I, for one, never imagined might come along in what’s left of my lifetime—to support a Presidential candidate like Barack Obama. The speech has the intellectual and emotional acuity which readers of “Dreams from My Father” are already familiar. Ditto the honesty, straightforwardness, and empathy.

Obama has a feel for the texture of American life, both in its complexity and in its grand themes. He has a sure command of the terms of the American civic religion. And he has an understanding of the American past that does justice to many kinds of historical experience. Especially impressive here is his treatment of two kinds of volatile parochialism, black anger and white-working-class resentment: he explains their origins without making excuses for their destructive forms, and he hints at the positive potential of their commonalities.

The speech will not prevent some of those bent on Obama’s political destruction—I’m thinking especially of talk-radio thugs like Limbaugh, Hannity, Levin, and Savage—from portraying him as an exponent of America-hating, whitey-baiting militancy, or at least as a wimpy tool thereof. People who actually read or listen to it will be reassured (if they already support him) or given pause (if they don’t). Its effect on people who don’t experience it directly—the vast majority, presumably—will depend on how it is getting filtered through the media.

Voucher Supporters Seek School Board Positions

Salt Lake Tribune:

Candidates include former state Sen. Dave Thomas and Parents for Choice in Education spokeswoman Leah Barker.

Several candidates said Tuesday they're not running because of vouchers despite their positions on the matter.

"I do think school choice is a good idea, but I don't think the voters are so enthusiastic about it, so I think one needs to take a lesson from voters and move forward," said candidate Roberta Herzberg, a Utah State University professor who co-authored a study about tuition tax credits.

Candidate Lincoln Fillmore, who works with Parents for Choice in Education and is a business officer for several charter schools, said the voucher issue isn't the reason he's running.

"Vouchers are not a concern," Fillmore said. "That really seems to me a legislative issue." He's running because he'd like to see the state board focus more on administrative matters and less on school-level issues.

Barker, who was the main voice of the pro-voucher campaign last year, said she's not running just because of vouchers. She said she wants to focus on improving open enrollment and merit and differential pay for teachers.

"The most amazing thing that happened as a result of Referendum 1 was the highlight on public education," Barker said. "There are just amazing people out there, like me, perhaps, who just want to create positive change and be part of the solution."
It is encouraging, and ever so charming that these candidates have learned from the voucher battles that the voters dislike the voucher system. It is even a bit endearing that they want to just "move on."

None of this, of course, challenges the poor judgment they have shown in their quest for solutions and recent willingness to back the voucher proposition. Their lack of ability to address our state education system from a perspective that meets the needs and values of Utah parents only a few short months ago should weigh heavily on their decision making future in our state.

UPDATE: KVNU's For The People has posted a press release on the filings from the Sutherland Institute (hip waders recommended).

Sen. President Valentine, Chris Cannon Disagree on Balance of Power

Two videos showing the willingness of Utah Republican leadership to twist Constitutional safeguards around a specific agenda. (h/t JMBell for the Valentine video)

Valentine on "The Importance of the Balance of Power":



Chris Cannon on "We Don't Need No Stinking Balance of Power":



It's either important or not, boys. Pick one.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Not This Time

I'm not surprised the Republicans are eager to jump on the comments of Obama's pastor. It's an opportunity for a political dig that seems to be having a temporary effect on his polling numbers.

What gets me is the Obama campaign's weak reaction to it, until today, the media's willingness to make it a headline after ignoring McCain's uncomfortably close ties to lobbyists, and our own willingness as voters to get sucked into it again, and again, and again (rinse, repeat).

We have learned nothing from the Swift-Boat Veterans for "Truth" of 2004, that weren't, or the manufactured attacks on Al Gore's integrity in 2000. Both attacks became political dynamite, and even house-hold names, greatly effecting the outcome of the election (and not in America's favor), yet neither proved factual in the end. And we all let it slide.

If you want to talk "Anti-American Sentiment," let's talk about our complicity -- with the media -- in avoiding real issues that actually effect the lives of Americans, and our refusal to acknowledge that today's Republican party is not concerned with truth or integrity but relies largely on fabricated scandal and distracting voters to win elections.

We are smarter than this. They depend on our simplicity. We gladly hand it to them on a silver ballot.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Strategic Choice

Wisdom through satire:

For many Democrats, voting for Hillary Clinton would make them feel icky. Even if she somehow gets the nomination, many of them will probably stay home, or vote for Ralph Nader, who is running again so that he can feel good about himself by making people feel good about themselves. Then their souls will remain pure and not be sullied by voting for someone who gets elected and does something they don't like. That's much more important than who becomes president. I don't know what the average age of Kossacks is but judging by the level of their writing, it appears that most of them weren't even born when Bill Clinton was President. But they have studied enough history in school to know how terrible those years of peace and prosperity were since they directly led to the war and economic downturn we are experiencing now and understandably they don't want to go back to that.

Obama supporters also understand that voting should never be about picking the lesser of two evils or about making a strategic choice. If you don't agree with everything your candidate says, believe he or she can do no wrong and think that the other candidate is evil and that everyone who supports him or her is a traitor, then you really have no business voting at all. That's what those of us who supported George Bush believed and look how great that has been for the country.

Democrat?

Meet the DCCC's Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

Whistleblowers

Rick Karr via Bill Moyer's Journal (h/t C&L):

Sometimes the Administration’s efforts to squelch critics seem downright petty: Reporters for the Web site TALKING POINTS MEMO, for example, led the way in showing how the Administration encouraged federal prosecutors to go after Democrats, but go easy on Republicans. So the Department of Justice kicked the web site off of its press list. A small thing, sure, but it rankled one member of the House enough that he asked Attorney General Michael Mukasey about it at a hearing. Mukasey’s response? “I don’t know.”

Recently, the Department of Justice reinstated TALKING POINTS MEMO to its press list — right around the same time that the web site won an award for its reporting on the Department of Justice.

So, Administration officials stonewall lawmakers and try to silence critics — or just make their jobs harder. That’s not news. But this time, a reporter could go to jail. The irony in James Risen’s predicament is that he was one of the reporters who revealed that the Administration could never have secretly listened in on phone calls, or read emails, without help from big telecom firms — the conglomerates that supply most Americans with phone or Internet service. After the article appeared, civil-liberties advocates filed lawsuits against the conglomerates trying to hold them accountable for helping the Administration break the law. Just recently, the Senate voted to grant those telecom companies immunity from the lawsuits — to let them off the hook — while the reporter who’d exposed them fought to stay out of jail.
For me, journalists protecting their sources, and protection for corporate whistleblowers are principles similar to allowing anonymous comments on your blog (not in importance, of course, just principle). You get the occasional Mark Towner, but for every ten of those, there is the one person with something important to say who could not say it without great risk to his/her career of person.

It's a sticky issue, to be sure, but if the Bush years have taught us anything it's that regular channels of information dissemination are prone to break down.

The Central Point of the Debate

The Hill:

Appearing on Fox News Sunday, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), a Clinton supporter, refused to criticize Obama for controversial comments his hometown pastor made.

“Look, each campaign is wide-ranging. Supporters are all over the place,” Schumer said. He added that past campaigns have placed too great of an emphasis on such things.

“This election won’t,” Schumer said. “And the reason is people are worried about the future of the country, and they want a real discussion on issues.”

When pressed on the issue, Schumer did not budge.

“As you know, I prefer Senator Clinton for a whole lot of reasons, but I don’t cast aspersions on Senator Obama for what somebody else said,” he stated.

In return, Obama supporter Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) did not criticize Clinton over controversial statements made by one of her surrogates, former vice presidential candidate and Rep. Geraldine Ferraro (D-N.Y.).

Dodd said those comments should not be “the central point in the debate.”

It's nice to see Democrats framing the debate for a change.

The Media and The War

FDL:

Yesterday, the Washington Post wrote about how the Public has become less knowledgeable about the Iraqi war occupation as media coverage dissipates. That story was published on page A12.

"It Must Be Exciting for You"

Sometimes you almost feel guilty mocking the man. Other times, he reminds you why you shouldn't.

On Thursday, the first day of Winter Soldier, President George W. Bush participated in a video conference with U.S. soldiers and civilians in Afghanistan. "It must be exciting for you," he said, as reported by Reuters. "[And] in some ways romantic, in some ways, you know, confronting danger. You’re really making history, and thanks."
One Utah and The Washington Independent have more on the Winter Soldier project.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Liberty and Personal Responsibility

Spare me the woes...

Religious Right: At Least It's Not Giuliani

Washington Independent:

I thought Tony Perkins made an interesting case about the way the religious right is evolving. But when I heard him speak Wednesday, he offered one bit of evidence about the movement’s ongoing strength that was hard to accept.

"The fact that we have a John McCain candidacy shows that the evangelical movement remains strong," Perkins said. Huh? I thought he still had a long way to go to bring social conservatives to his side.

Well, Perkins said, it could have been worse. Despite early polls that held great promise for Rudy Giuliani, the former New York mayor couldn’t get close to winning the Republican nomination.
The religious right once held weighty influence over candidates, elections, and policy. In their self absorbing quest for "moral purity" they have helped to turn the GOP into a shell of the small-government fiscally-responsible party many of our parents fell in love with.

Their legacy? A fractured party that can produce no better than Mitt Romney, Rudy Giuliani, Tom Tancredo, and John McCain as options for a disenfranchised core. Ain't karma a bitch?

What Can You Do to Them?

San Diego, Texas:

For 20 years, Sheriff Santiago Barrera Jr. had done what he pleased. He decided who sat in his jail and when they were released. Sometimes it was before a judge got involved and other times it was after.

"I brought the sheriff's department from nothing to what it is right now," said Barrera, 67, who is likely in his last year in office after losing a primary challenge.

That's why journalists are on edge about Barrera's recent threat to an Alice Echo-News Journal reporter.

Christopher Maher wrote a front-page story about the arrest of the sheriff's 42-year-old son, Miguel Barrera, on charges of public intoxication and resisting arrest. According to the newspaper, when Maher interviewed the sheriff at the jail about another story, Barrera said, "If you guys keep interfering with my business, I'm going to have you arrested."

Nicole Perez, managing editor of the Echo-News Journal and The Freer Press alerted the county attorney.

"I am bringing these remarks to your attention in the hope that they will remain as such, just remarks," Perez wrote to Duval County Attorney Ricardo Carrillo. "However, considering the volatile political atmosphere in Duval County I have no doubt that Sheriff Barrera would carry out such a threat."

Santiago Barrera confirmed he made the remarks to the reporter and acknowledged the newspaper's story about his son's arrest upset him.

"To me that was bad," Barrera said this week. "Of course, what can you do to them?"
Sigh.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Chris Buttars, Margaret Dayton, Greg Curtis, and Ssssssssuper Dell!



Yes, that Super Dell. A re-run episode of Hee-Haw, you ask? No! It's your very own Utah Republican Party.

Incidentally, I'd like to thank the Republicans for giving me an excuse to finally make a Hee-Haw reference on the blog. Listen to Dell's call as a candidate at KVNU's For The People.

(h/t Bob @ TWATM and Utah Amicus)

213 to 197

The House passed a surveillance bill today, without retro-active immunity for Telco's.

The final votes were tallied at 213-197. TPM:

The House Dem leadership's surveillance bill just cleared the House by a vote of 213-197 with 1 vote of present. 12 Dems crossed the aisle to vote against it.

The bill has stricter privacy safeguards than the Senate's version -- and of course does not contain a provision granting retroactive immunity for the telecoms' participation in the administration's warrantless wiretapping program.

As for what's next, it's over to the Senate where it's sure to undergo some modifications. In a statement earlier this week, Senate intelligence committee Chair Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) said that "considerable work remains" on reconciling the House's latest version and the Senate version. Rockefeller said he's willing to adopt a number of the House's provisions, including a much shorter sunset (2 years) on the law, but notably omitted the topic of immunity. Rockefeller supports blanket immunity for the telecoms.
I was encouraged to see that Matheson voted in support of the bill, despite what the Blue Dogs had to say about immunity in an earlier letter. Take a moment to applaud good behavior. I was surprised not at all that Bishop and Cannon opposed. More important to tow the line for the President and his talking-points than to make a principled stand in defense of civil liberties for these two.

This is still a long way from being over, but we are finally starting to see some backbone from Congressional Democrats against the President's disregard for the Constitution.

Our Tainted Attorney General has a Challenger

Ah, Mr. Pay Day Loans. I shouldn't call him that. Mostly because I'm more upset about issues like this than I am things like this (though neither paints a picture of integrity, huh?). But take a second and compare words from Shurtleff against those of challenger Jean Hill.

Politicized AG Pay-Day-Loan spokesman Chris Buttars Mark Shurtleff:

Standing in for McCain was Mark Shurtleff, [Utah's Attorney General],...

Shurtleff repeatedly ridiculed the opposition for their personal characteristics. "Barack or Hillary -- my apologies to the Baracks or Hillarys in the audience, but even their names sound liberal," he said.

Referring to a Clinton ad that asks who is best suited to rise to a late-night crisis, Shurtleff said, "When Hillary gets the call at 3 a.m., the call is, 'Do you know where your husband is?'" And he pointedly referred to "Obama's fathers -- one was African, one was Indonesian...
Attorney, and candidate Jean Hill:
I am running for Attorney General of Utah because I believe in protecting the public interest,” Jean said. “When the AG and vast majority of the Legislature are from the same party, the public interest gets lost in partisan politics. However, with the combined talents of the attorneys in the AG’s office, the AG can do more, such as protect the vulnerable from predatory lenders or overzealous developers, or protect teens from dating violence, or protect the public coffers from legislation that does little more than generate useless and expensive litigation.
Shurtleff's words are those of an awkward 14 year old, cracking wise (and narrow minded) to impress the school yard bullies so that they will stop stealing his lunch money.

Hill sounds like someone who understands the importance of the office.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Re-Vote This

Though my name appears on most posts here, what you often read is very much the result of a collective effort. Craig and Jeff (Not Bell) play a large role in ideas, focus, and direction; issues their real jobs won't allow them to expand on in a timely fashion. Normally ideas that intrigue me I run with in my own words and perspective. But sometimes the idea is so simple, it's best left in original form, as is the case with this from Craig on the Proposed Florida Re-Vote Plan:

I think it's time for the eff-em post. The [Florida] state party broke the rules, if the Democrats in the state don't vote for a Democrat in November because they didn't get a "say in the nominee" because their state party broke the rules then they deserve McCain. In fact if that happens I think McCain should get to be President for Florida no matter what, so they can see what childishness leads to. The rest of the country gets the winning Democrat, but McCain is President (or baby sitter?) of Florida. Maybe in four years the state party will learn to follow rules, and the voters will see that temper tantrums don't really work out that well for adults.
Florida and Michigan: if you object to the way this is playing out, take it up with your state party leadership, as it has no place in our national theater. If you feel cheated, replace that leadership. They have cost you your voice.

Stop bitching to the rest of us... we have an election to win. From the August J. Pollack post Craig references in his email:
I know I'm in the minority here, but eff Florida and Michigan. This whole mess started because they wanted to be the first, ergo most important primaries in the nation. So now, after that plan worked about as well as, I don't know, let's say the Maginot Line, their brilliant idea is to schedule another round of votes so they can be... umm.. the most important primaries in the nation. Well la dee frikin' da.

Beyond, of course, their electoral votes, I'm not exactly sure what suddenly inspired the legislatures of Florida and Michigan to decide they're literally more important than every other state in the country, but the idea that the DNC or either Democratic campaign is even entertaining their delusions of grandeur is insulting to the other 95% of the U.S. populace.

As someone who lives in a very special section of the country that is Constitutionally forbidden from even having voting representation in Congress, could Florida and Michigan kindly shut the hell up about not "having a voice?" Opening your trap is what cost you your voice in the first place. You blew it. Deal with it.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

FISA: Despite Blue Dogs, Democrats Stand Up

Despite the best efforts of Matheson's Blue Dogs to capitulate at the President's every whim, Congressional Democrats have found their collective voice in the FISA debate and protecting the rule of law:

The shrewdness of what House Democrats did is reflected in today's news accounts reporting on their bill. Almost every news article frames the House Democratic bill not as a refusal to protect telecoms, but rather, as "offer[ing] the companies an olive branch: the chance to use classified government documents to defend themselves in court." This is the headline for today's Washington Post article: "Relief for Phone Firms Proposed."

It's a clear, easy-to-understand, and intuitively fair way to give the telecoms all the protection they've been saying they need to defend themselves in court -- a true "compromise," rather than a Beltway "compromise" (which means: "Bush makes demands and Democrats ultimately agree"). Now, if telecoms really did nothing wrong, if they really did comply with the law, they can just go to court and easily demonstrate that. Who could possibly object to that?

Notably, House Democrats actually sound more confident now, as they're saying things like this:

"We are not going to cave in to a retroactive immunity situation," Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) said. Democratic leaders said that they think they could pass the bill with support from the moderate-to-conservative Blue Dog Democrats. "I'm feeling very confident," Majority Whip James E. Clyburn (S.C.) said.
At the very least, the more resolution is delayed, the longer this drags on, the higher the probability that amnesty and warrantless eavesdropping can be blocked. I recall back in January and February, 2006 -- in the months immediately following disclosure of the illegal NSA program -- the conventional wisdom was that the GOP-led Congress would quickly vote to legalize the program and end the scandal with ease. But Russ Feingold unexpectedly introduced his Censure Resolution, Arlen Specter changed his position on an almost daily basis, hearings ended up being held by the Judiciary Committee, and just enough delay occurred to drag it out to the November mid-term elections without resolution.
It's not over, but this is very good news.

Healthy Criticism for Utah Democrats

I think it is appropriate to follow my previous post on the strong 2008 Democratic candidates with some constructive criticism. While we have opportunity ahead (I'd be willing to bet Rob Miller hasn't slept more than 4 hours in the last two weeks preparing candidates for the filing deadline) and the folks at ActBlue are working quickly to put together fundraising efforts, these races are still ours to lose. Yesterday, JM Bell pointed to a facet of our party where we are still following rather than leading.

This year, Cantrell once again took a major step forward for Utah Republicans (yeah, yeah, you invite the Dems to play on your hard right messaging portal, I know, blah, blah, I’ve been invited to join the Republican Party … about the same thing) insofar as making the Senate Republicans look open and transparent (still closing caucus meetings from the press and public? Thought so). Which it’s not. But it LOOKS like it is. That’s hard to do, but, Ric did it.

So, where the hell were the Democrats this year? Unlike the situation in most of the states, in Utah, Democrats are still living in the 1980’s as far as technology is concerned. You know … Fax machines (with a little Frontpage thrown in as a nod to the changing times).

Both the Democratic House and Senate use their “blogs” and/or “web pages” as a complete after-thought. It’s almost as if they still consider newspapers to be important or relevant and the only game in town.

Look, in a world where Rep. Chris Cannon has a blog that accepts comments (even if they do edit them when they don’t like the message) why the hell does the Utah Democratic Senate Site (designed, I have to believe, by someone’s 12 year old nephew) have comments turned off?

Part of the problem of Utah’s Democratic Minority (and the reason for it) is their sheer terror/complete ignorance about technology, use of technology, manipulation of technology by elected democrats and their unwillingness to do something about it.

Regaining an edge in Utah politics isn't going to happen simply because nationally, the Republican's have destroyed their chances. In order to get the votes, we have to first reach the voters, and many tools available for building organized coalitions and effective messaging are sitting idle. We cannot wait for the perfect opportunity to fall in front of us, and there is no time better than right now for each of us to get involved in letting our fellow Utahns in on what the Democratic Party is really about. And we have to face it, folks, the conservative coalitions are getting way ahead of us on voter outreach.

Perhaps it's time we bloggers/activists/concerned citizens stepped forward, and led by example? Interested parties, email thesidetrack AT gmail DOT com.

Healthy Competition from Weber County Democrats

From the Amicus, reporting on Weber County Democratic candidates:

Steve Olsen, vice chair of the Weber County Democratic Party wanted me to add that the Weber County Democrats have successfully filled all of their legislative races this year, and that the Weber County Party is throwing down the gauntlet to the Utah County Democratic Party by stating, "Guys, we're going to win more races this cycle."
Utah County Democrats received praise recently for their organizational effectiveness from all walks of Utah's political spectrum. Lavarr Webb writes, in What's With Utah County Dems?:
Utah County Democrats are offering the strongest field of legislative candidates that I’ve seen in many years of observing Utah politics. The remarkable class of candidates reflects the strong leadership county Democratic Chair Richard Davis and Vice-Chair Larry Brown. Davis, a BYU political science professor, is showing that someone who hangs out in the ivory tower can also fight and scrap and do the nuts and bolts grassroots work so important in building a county party.

Many of the candidate recruits are prominent in their communities and have strong ties to BYU and the LDS Church. Most of them will run smart, well-organized campaigns. While winning in overwhelmingly Republican Utah County will always be difficult for Democrats, it’s clear that GOP candidates are going to have to get out and work, for a change
Utah County Democrats also attract the notice of bloggers and activists throughout the state with their effective online presence, and incorporation of ActBlue fundraising.

Weber County definitely has their work cut out for them. And it sounds like they're up to the challenge. For those of us watching close, it is nice to see a little healthy competition to raise the bar and perhaps energize a new way of campaigning in Utah, getting the message out to voters that have been wanting to hear a strong voice from Democrats for years.

Also courtesy of the Amicus, here is a list of the Weber County Candidates. For Utah County candidates, look here.
2008 Democratic candidates from Weber County include the following:

Bill Hansen, 41, is a candidate the State Senate in District 19. He is a law enforcement officer. He has decided to run because he feels that Senator Allen Christensen needs to be held accountable for the rise in property taxes in Weber County. He also feels Senator Christensen has been unresponsive to public education issues, especially vouchers.

Steve Olsen will be running for State Senate from District 20. He was the 2006 Democratic candidate for the 1st Congressional District, and is a principal engineer at a major Weber County manufacturer.

Ava L. Painter is running for the House of Representatives in District 6. She is currently serving a second four- year term on the Farr West City Council. Prior to this she was a member for three years on the city’s planning commission, serving the last year as the chair. She holds a Master’s in Human Resource Management and currently works at Weber State University as an Administrator in the Office of Sponsored Projects promoting and managing external funding. She is also an Adjunct Professor.

Rob Reynolds is a candidate for the District 7 seat in the Legislature. Rob is a Weber State University professor, and feels the people in his district need more sensible representation than they have received the last few years, especially in the areas of immigration, education and clean, renewable energy.

Trent Alvord is a candidate for State Representative, District 8. This district covers Ogden Valley, parts of East and Northern Ogden and Harrisville. He is a life-long resident of Ogden, having been educated in Weber County schools, and a graduate of Weber State University. “I believe that it is time for the people of Dist. 8 to have their interests represented. My goal is to take your voice to the State Legislature.”

Neal Hansen is the Democratic incumbent in the Legislature for District 9, and is running for re-election.

Jessie Garcia has been an Ogden City Councilman for many years and has decided to run for the Legislature in District 9 this year.

Mark Openshaw is an educator and entrepreneur who is running for the Legislature in District 11. He is interested in listening to his constituents and making sure their views are represented and respected.

Mark Sage is running for the Legislature for District 12. He has 33 years of service as a public servant, including the FBI, Hill Air Force Base, and as a Vietnam veteran. He is currently the program manager for the Living Museum. He wants to improve education, increase fiscal responsibility and raise ethical standards in the Legislature, and he understands the issues important to Hill.

Ed Allen will be running for Legislative District 10, a seat that is currently held by Representative Lou Shurtliff (D) who is retiring this year. Ed has been married to Patricia Moore Allen for 40 years. Patricia and Ed have six children and 20 grandchildren. Ed is a dermatologist and private practitioner in Ogden, Utah. He is also a adjunct clinical professor at the University of Utah. Ed is a former Chair of the Weber County Democratic Party, a former member of the Utah State Democratic Party Executive Committee, and served as a Utah State Senator from 1999 - 2003.

So What's Next?

TPM:

A good portion of those 935 false statements uttered by administration officials in the run-up to the invasion had to do with claims of Iraq ties to Al Qaeda. That was, in part, thanks to the intelligence shenanigans of Doug Feith at the Pentagon, but of course it was an administration-wide mentality. Which explains that even after the 9/11 Commission found that there was no significant relationship, they kept on pleading the point.

Well, I think it's time to finally consider this negative proven:

An exhaustive review of more than 600,000 Iraqi documents that were captured after the 2003 U.S. invasion has found no evidence that Saddam Hussein's regime had any operational links with Osama bin Laden's al Qaida terrorist network.

The Pentagon-sponsored study, scheduled for release later this week, did confirm that Saddam's regime provided some support to other terrorist groups, particularly in the Middle East, U.S. officials told McClatchy. However, his security services were directed primarily against Iraqi exiles, Shiite Muslims, Kurds and others he considered enemies of his regime.

The new study of the Iraqi regime's archives found no documents indicating a "direct operational link" between Hussein's Iraq and al Qaida before the invasion, according to a U.S. official familiar with the report.

So what's next?


Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Matheson, Cannon & Pals: Torching the Fourth Amendment

House and Senate negotiations look to be headed for a straight up or down vote in the house on retroactive immunity provisions in FISA legislation. Most likely, thanks to the visionary leadership of Chris Cannon, and Jim Matheson's "Anything Else We Can Get You, Mr. President?" Blue Dog "Democrats", this vote will not go in favor of protecting our civil-liberties.

This vote will not happen for reasons of national security. This was, is, and remains completely centered around retro-active immunity for AT&T and Verizon. If this vote goes as expected, any hope that may have remained that our Constitution comes before political machinations is dissolved. From Veterans for Common Sense:

Civil liberties groups and progressive members of Congress oppose immunity because it would cut off around 40 lawsuits against the telecoms - court cases that have been the only significant source of information about the administration's surveillance activity. However, House Democratic leaders face mounting pressure to grant telecoms immunity, from the Bush administration and from members of the Blue Dog coalition - a group of conservative Democrats who often cross the aisle to vote with Republicans on legislation framed by the Bush administration as pertaining to national security.

"A capitulation on this point [legal immunity] would destroy a small flickering flame of hope by many citizens that Congress was not entirely in the pocket of lobbyists and could on this one occasion stand firm on a point of legal principle. If the companies and the White House were acting lawfully as they insist, there is nothing to fear from judicial review. If not, it is important to establish that this was an unlawful program," constitutional law scholar Jonathan Turley wrote on his web site.
Take a second to thank our representatives for standing up for the Telco's instead of citizens, setting a precedent of betraying our constitution to protect the corporations who fund their campaigns.

Jim Matheson: Phone - (801) 486-1236 Fax - (801) 486-1417
Chris Cannon: Phone - (801) 569-5125 Fax - (801) 569-5126
Rob Bishop: Phone - (801) 532-3244 Fax - (801) 532-3583

Orrin Hatch: Phone - (801) 524-4380 Fax - (801) 524-4379
Bob Bennet: Phone - (801) 524-5933 Fax - (801) 524-5730


Once again, we owe them one.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Zombie Apocalypse

53%

I'm actually very disappointed with these results.

(h/t Misty and Bob)

Update, craig41 3/11/08 - 9:51: so I'm at

71%
I don't know what's wrong with jason . . .

Opportunity

Harold Meyerson offers sound advice:

If the Democrats are to carry Ohio, Pennsylvania and Michigan in the general election, they need to put a spotlight on McCain's continuing infatuation with trade policies that have taken the Midwest's good jobs offshore. Obama and Clinton will attack McCain on trade while stumping in Pennsylvania, but their chief focus is more likely to be on attacking each other.

McCain's vulnerabilities as a candidate are legion. He accepted his party's de facto nomination Tuesday night without mentioning any ideas on how to get us out of the coming recession. His perfervid support for the Iraq war has blinded him to the bigger strategic picture, which is that the predictable pro-Iranian tilt of Iraq's post-Saddam Hussein leaders has helped Iran in its drive to become a regional superpower. Now, McCain speaks of war against Iran to undo the consequences of the war in Iraq that he has championed.
While our presidential candidates receive a free ride in media attention over the drawn out primary, activists and organizations have an opportunity to frame the general election debate and influence local elections using the existing momentum and organized grassroot efforts.

It is an unprecedented (in our lifetimes at least) opportunity for activist voters to play a very active roll in a historic (on multiple levels) presidential race.

Tracking Utah Candidates on Broadband

The issues of broadband saturation, Net Neutrality, and real competition play a growing role in our political debate. Where the candidates stand on such issues should be taken seriously, and directly effects not only the future of our political discourse, but also Utah's direction in an increasingly technology dependent climate. So I was excited to read this today on the FreeUTOPIA blog:

On March 7, the candidate registration period for state and county offices opened up. It'll close on March 17. At that point, I'm going to send the following list of questions to each candidate and post their responses on the wiki.

  1. Do you generally support or oppose projects like UTOPIA and iProvo?
  2. What is the basis for your support or opposition?
  3. Is your support or opposition based on the general concept or specific implementations used in UTOPIA and/or iProvo?
  4. What is your position on the regulation of incumbent local exchange carriers (ILECs) such as Qwest?
  5. What is your position on the regulation of incumbent cable companies such as Comcast?
  6. What role, if any, should the state play in allegations of unfair business practices leveled at incumbent carriers such as Qwest and Comcast?
  7. What proposals or concepts do you support to bring better broadband access to rurals Utahns?
  8. What proposals or concepts do you support to improve average broadband speeds to be better competitive on an international basis?
  9. What proposals or concepts do you support to increase competitive options for Internet, television and telephone services?
  10. Do you have any other related comments you would like to add?
Each time I receive a response from a candidate, I'll post it on the wiki with a link from a post on the main page. As part of this, I'm also going to include some background information on each question to provide some neutral basis for the question. You'll be able to track all candidate positions from the wiki.

Lies

While my preference is that elected officials embrace honesty in all endeavors, I feel it worth reminding everyone, in light of this, that Bill Clinton only lied about a blow job.

Where's the outrage over dishonesty now?

Surveillance

Wall Street Journal:

Two former officials familiar with the data-sifting efforts said they work by starting with some sort of lead, like a phone number or Internet address. In partnership with the FBI, the systems then can track all domestic and foreign transactions of people associated with that item -- and then the people who associated with them, and so on, casting a gradually wider net. An intelligence official described more of a rapid-response effect: If a person suspected of terrorist connections is believed to be in a U.S. city -- for instance, Detroit, a community with a high concentration of Muslim Americans -- the government's spy systems may be directed to collect and analyze all electronic communications into and out of the city.

The haul can include records of phone calls, email headers and destinations, data on financial transactions and records of Internet browsing. The system also would collect information about other people, including those in the U.S., who communicated with people in Detroit.

[...] The NSA, which President Truman created in 1952 through a classified presidential order to be America's ears abroad, has for decades been the country's largest and most secretive intelligence agency. The order confined NSA spying to "foreign governments," and during the Cold War the NSA developed a reputation as the world's premier code-breaking operation. But in the 1970s, the NSA and other intelligence agencies were found to be using their spy tools to monitor Americans for political purposes. That led to the original FISA legislation in 1978, which included an explicit ban on the NSA eavesdropping in the U.S. without a warrant.

Pew: American's Prefer Democrats

FDL:

Though we should do it as loudly and as often, and it's factually true, it's almost not even necessary to link John McCain with George W. Bush. All we have to do is say, "Republican."

From Pew (2/24)

"Please tell me if you think the REPUBLICAN Party or the DEMOCRATIC Party could do a better job in each of the following areas. Which party could do a better job of [see below]?"

Foreign policy: Democrats +5

Immigration: Demorats + 5

Iraq: Democrats +10

Taxes: Democrats +12

Morality: Democrats +10

Economy: Democrats +19

Education: Democrats + 29

Health care: Democrats +30

Reforming government: Democrats +25

Energy: Democrats +34

Environment: Democrats +44

[...]

Here's the funny part: St. McCain has no choice but to keep singing "lower taxes" and "no surrender in Iraq," over and over, because that's the only song the GOP knows, and it's the only one his wingnut base wants to hear.

And Americans, finally, are sick of it.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

The Quotable Chris Buttars

Senator you make us so proud... SlCrawler:

White Reference Library Blog describes itself as an archival site for white nationalist books, essays, discussion and rants. In a sarcastic attack on the Holocaust Museum, the Alaska-based blogger writes:
To quote my favorite state lawmaker, Utah's Chris Buttars (R-West Jordan), "This baby is black, I'll tell you. This is a dark and ugly thing."
Who would have ever thought Buttars' vocal spasms would be repeatable, let alone quotable? It appears there's a market for the "Wit and Wisdom of Chris Buttars."
(h/t Green Jello for tipping me off to the Crawler post)

The RNC's Elephant in the Room


I'm all for courting small donors to engage voters and activists. But in my inbox today was this email from Amway the Repubican National Committee.

Meet Paddy, the newest member of the Republican National Committee's family of elephants.

Paddy is available for a limited-time only and is sure to be snapped up quickly. Embroidered with the official logo of the RNC, Paddy is a wonderful plush toy and makes a perfect gift for St. Patrick's Day. Or give Paddy to the "Green" Republican in your life who is dedicated to improving the environment.

Jason, we'll send you Paddy today with your special contribution of at least $35.
Nice. Grassroots fundraising, reduced to gimmicks and "Hey, you using that dime?" desperation.

Lauding their imaginative efforts, Wonkette has created the Ethnic Elephant Coalition Toys, augmenting the Irish "Paddy" with Max, the Republican Jewlephant, and more.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Media Documentary: Citizen McCaw

E & P:

"Citizen McCaw," which will debut Friday at a theater in Santa Barbara, chronicles the newsroom turmoil at the Santa Barbara News-Press.

Wendy McCaw is the owner of the daily newspaper.

Tyler and several other local residents whittled down more than 80 hours of interviews for the movie that raises questions about journalistic ethics and media ownership.

"The message is really important about who owns the newspapers, and if those people adhere to the standards," Tyler said.

The News-Press has been embroiled in controversy since July 2006, when a dispute between McCaw and staff spilled into public view as nearly every top editor quit to protest what they said was the owner's interference with coverage.

McCaw fired back with a front-page note to readers saying those who quit were upset they could no longer inject their personal opinions into the newspaper.

Newsroom employees voted to form a union, sparking an ongoing fight over the legitimacy of the vote certified by the National Labor Relations Board.

Among those who were interviewed and appear in the film are former Washington Post executive editor Ben Bradlee and Ronald Reagan biographer Lou Cannon.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Steve Freakin' Olsen, People!

A long time ago in an election far, far away, I remember reading these words...

You don't encourage invention and ambition by giving a quarter-million dollar tax cut to a $15 million a year man. Give the bus driver's bright child a chance to get a great education. That's an investment.
...and thinking; you know, it really is that simple.

Intrigued that such an honest and almost over-simplified approach to politics would come from a congressional candidate, I began my search for more information about the man behind those words. What I found can literally be credited for my desire to take my blogging and political involvement to the level of actual activism.

I have always found inspiration to be involved in national political activism, as it's in my vocal nature, but my discovery of Steve Olsen and what he has written was the first time I realized that Utah was not forever trapped under a single party, ruling over us like King's of an ancient feudal system (evidenced in the School Voucher battle and the public rebuke that followed.)

Steve made me realize that Utah remained a red-state not because the Republican Party still espoused the values important to the average voter, but because we, as Democrats, had seriously dropped the ball in getting our own message out. As a party, much as we've seen nationally, Democrats have allowed themselves to be defined more by the (effective) propaganda machine of the GOP, without etching out a strong identity -- independent of that spin -- that truly defined what being a Democrat in Utah is all about.

Steve Olsen has done, is doing, and will continue to do exactly that.

And Steve Olsen is running for office. From his first press release:
Thoughtful Utahns are beginning to realize what Utah’s moderate, patriotic Democrats have known for years – the Republicans that control the Legislature have become so extreme that Utah Democrats more closely represent the values of our citizens.”

Olsen gives other reasons he would effectively represent the citizens of Weber County. “One of the big problems with the Legislature these days is they aren’t listening to the people. My neighbors have great ideas about how government should be run; I will actively seek out those ideas. You will never see me voting for measures like vouchers that a majority of the people in my district oppose.

“In addition, I believe my professional skills would represent a unique and important asset on Capitol Hill. As an engineer who specializes in team-based problem solving, I have the ability to get people on both sides of the aisle talking to each other, incorporating the best ideas to solve the problems facing this state. It frustrates me that the Legislature continues to address issues like educational improvement, immigration, and health care reform with ideologically driven schemes. It’s time we reach out to the collective wisdom of our citizens and go after effective solutions based on evidence and common sense, not theories based on political philosophy.
For every Democrat and dissatisfied Republican in this state, regardless of where you reside, Steve Olsen's candidacy is an undeniable opportunity for us to return to what it means to each and every one of us to be a Utahn. Some of us will get to vote for him (like my SideTrack co-writer Craig), while the rest of us are restricted to hoping from the sidelines that the voters of Plain City will continue to fight for a new direction in our local political arenas.

If you trust one blogger on one election in 2008, make it this one. Steve Olsen's candidacy is one to get behind.

Weber County Forum has more. Also, read more from Steve himself here and here.