Wednesday, April 30, 2008

I'm Not Sure If I'm Proud Of This, But . . .

24

Virtual Congress?

Listening to my NPR podcasts while tillin' the garden. (Laugh if you will, but I am not kidding). One discussion turned to the concept of e-Government, and I found myself left with a few questions.

Why, in this day and age, would a Congressional representative ever need to miss a vote? This can't be set up to be done remotely through an online interface, leaving said rep. with more time at home for constituent interaction? Ahhh, that's where it all falls down, methinks. Is it that real interaction takes much more time, and is endlessly less pleasant than lunch with lobbyists who "speak for the people"?

Recently in the UK, the Parliament posted a very controversial measure on police practice on a state sponsored webpage, with comments allowed. Citizens were given the opportunity to weigh in on the actual language of the bill before their local rep. took it off to the city for voting. Why haven't we seen such steps taken by our own elected officials? Are they afraid us, or do they just fear debate? (Incidentally, Chris Cannon still moderates comments on his blog).

The resources and know-how to create such an interactive "virtual" Congress, and to facilitate the procedures of the House and Senate in such a way as to allow representatives more time with their own constituency, rather than quality time commuting to and from DC exists. But it isn't being implemented. In NYC, they have a number to dial to get any/all questions about legislation or representatives answered. When residents call in, they reach a call center employee with internet access and links to state webpages. Why not just further promote the webpages themselves and save a buck or two?

Has there been no push has been made so far to bring our legislative branch into the 21st century, or are such attempts being organized, then downplayed or even actively campaigned against by the same elected officials who would be effected by it?

And if it's the later, is it the fear of open government that may be a side effect of such changes that these people fear, or is it simply that they would prefer to interact with those who've voted for them as little as possible?

Just a little food for thought. Back to the garden now...

Heartland Institute Falsifies Scientists' Statements, Scientists Respond

Who keeps funding these people?

Dozens of scientists are demanding that their names be removed from a widely distributed Heartland Institute article entitled 500 Scientists with Documented Doubts of Man-Made Global Warming Scares.

The article, by Hudson Institute director and Heartland "Senior Fellow" Dennis T. Avery (inset), purports to list scientists whose work contradicts the overwhelming scientific agreement that human-induced climate change is endangering the world as we know it.

DeSmogBlog manager Kevin Grandia emailed 122 of the scientists yesterday afternoon, calling their attention to the list. So far - in less than 24 hours - three dozen of those scientists had responded in outrage, denying that their research supports Avery's conclusions and demanding that their names be removed.

A handful of responses read as such:

I am horrified to find my name on such a list. I have spent the last 20 years arguing the opposite."

Dr. David Sugden. Professor of Geography, University of Edinburgh

I have NO doubts ..the recent changes in global climate ARE man-induced. I insist that you immediately remove my name from this list since I did not give you permission to put it there."

Dr. Gregory Cutter, Professor, Department of Ocean, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Old Dominion University

I don't believe any of my work can be used to support any of the statements listed in the article."

Dr. Robert Whittaker, Professor of Biogeography, University of Oxford

Please remove my name. What you have done is totally unethical!!"

Dr. Svante Bjorck, Geo Biosphere Science Centre, Lund University

I'm outraged that they've included me as an "author" of this report. I do not share the views expressed in the summary."

Dr. John Clague, Shrum Research Professor, Department of Earth Sciences, Simon Fraser University
Read more responses here.

Someone Gave Him A Microphone

Today from 4-6 pm, on KVNU's For The People show, our own JasonThe will be guest hosting. You can listen on 610 am in Cache valley. The rest of us will have to listen online. An added bonus of listening online is the webcam chat (click on the video in the top left of the page to launch the video stream/chat).

Topics on the show of late have been Logan's parking strip debate, the Dry Canyon dam, Rev. Wright, Texas's mishandling of the FLDS kids, and whatever happens to be on their callers' minds.

If you feel compelled to call and make your voice heard, the number is 1-800-369-KVNU.

And if you miss the first airing, you can find the podcast in itunes.

I hope they have one of those FCC anti-fine delay buttons!

Hoyer, Matheson's Blue Dogs Still Pushing Telco Immunity

FISA "compromise" rumors return to the house. Heading up the possible cave in to Bush and the Telco's is (no surprise), White House lapdog Steny Hoyer ("D"- Md).

Hoyer is the only Democrat pushing FISA, on either side of the Hill. A new vote will only happen if Hoyer makes it happen. And if he gets his crowd of usual suspect Blue Dogs to join in.

Since it seems like we need to keep the reminding Mr. Hoyer just who it is he’s trying to compromise with, we’ll do it again.

“Republicans have dedicated significant time and resources in engaging regional and local media, editorial boards, and talk radio over the break,” said Kevin Smith, a spokesman for House Minority Leader John A. Boehner , R-Ohio. “We’re going to hold every Democrat accountable for their irresponsible actions on this bill, and we will ramp up the pressure until they do the right thing and pass the bipartisan Senate bill. In the end, we believe they will cave.

The only way that happens is through Hoyer and the 21 Blue Dogs who were stupid enough to put their name on a letter to Nancy Pelosi saying they wanted the Cheney/Rockefeller bill. When the House passed its version of FISA reform–without telco amnesty–16 of those signees did the right thing and voted with the majority. As did Hoyer.

You know what to do. Warm up your dialing finger and have at ‘em. Urge Stoyer to leave well enough alone–we’ve won, for gawd’s sake. Urge the rest of them to just say no to any effort to “compromise” on FISA.

Blue Dog Contact Info. And although he has been quiet on this so far, his name is on the atrocious letter. Perhaps a little reminder is in order for Jim, just in case. No immunity for Telco's at the cost of our personal rights.

Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah -- Phone: (202) 225-3011, Fax: (202) 225-5638

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Given the Hubbub

Mounting pressure from readers to get my "take" on the Wright / Ayers "problem" for Barack Obama.

I don't have a take. See, I don't really care. There are many people in my past and even present - some close, some acquaintances - who could present this same problemfor me were I running for the highest of offices. Additionally, I see where Wright was coming from in the first speech. I think he chose his words poorly, but he was giving a damn sermon at the time. Things get heated. (Second speech from yesterday I judge him a bit more harshly for... your 15 minutes is up dude).

Ayers? He's was crazy. May still be. So? He's also heavily involved in the politics of the area, and from what I have read, you'd be hard pressed to find any politically active person in the region who had not spoken to, been at the same dinner party table with, or accepted at least a phone call or letter from Ayers.

It seems unreasonable to me to hold our candidates to any higher standard than is practical for someone of experience. Want someone with a squeaky clean list of previous/present acquaintances, talk to the kid down the street volunteering to stuff envelopes or canvass for their first candidate.

So I really don't care too much about these "issues" much more than my concern that the media seems to be lapping it up (think about it, when was the last time you read something substantial about healthcare, as apposed to lapel pins and screaming pastors?).

Many have argued with me "But Wright presided over Obama's wedding!" Again, so? The bishop who performed my best friend's wedding was arrested three months later for molesting a 13 year old, and until that time, same said friend had never been so close and so entrusted to any of his LDS bishops previous. Does that reflect upon my friend? If you say yes, you have a strange way of looking at human interaction, and the inability to know everything about everyone at all times just in case you are ever running for President.

But I'll go a step further. Even if Obama sat, each Sunday, listening to the same speech that began this entire charade of "issues," I say one final time: so? I've heard some pretty bizarre things from the pulpits of many different churches. I've heard even stranger things come from the mouths of college professors. And I've literally had to pick my jaw up off the floor after several speeches from Utah candidates and/or their supporters. None of these facts changed a single bit of my concern for leadership, governance, and policy.

In short, Ezra:

Bob Oso writes, "[we] need voter's guides with all of the candidates and their pastor's statements on the following: God's wrath on America, Iran, Israel, Armageddon, Global Warming, and Universal Healthcare.

I suspect the results will be surprising."

I'm in full agreement, though given the hubbub over Ayers, I'd add that we shouldn't just look at pastors, but endorsers, friends, acquaintances, and people they were in a room with that one time. No, not that time. The other time.
Indeed. Here's to getting back to a debate of substance regarding the future of our one and only country. Tis of thee.

The End of Suburbia?

"One notion that is quite radical..."

Border Fence Fun!!!

Admittedly, I have been confused by the concept of a border fence from the beginning, but this didn't really clear things up. Evidently Tom Tancredo (R - Crazytown) wants to build the fence somewhere other than the border (h/t TPM).

During the hearing, he told the Brownsville landowners, "I suggest that you build this fence around the northern part of your city..." implying that all of Brownsville should be on the Mexican side of the wall.
After extensive research I was able to verify that Brownsville is in fact located within the borders of the United States.


View Larger Map

See it there, in the bottom left, Mexico on one side of the line, United States on the other (and Brownsville) side.

Assuming we follow Tancredo's advice, we either have to cut off a city from the rest of the country, or build a fence with a few road sized holes in it (try keeping a dog in your yard with one of those, you'll see it's not really that much of a barrier).

Monday, April 28, 2008

Useless, Self-Indulgent Commentary

Post without such.

In the perfectly titled "Bowling 1, Health Care 0" Edwards implored the political press to start doing its job:

The problem today unfortunately is that voters who take their responsibility to be informed seriously enough to search out information about the candidates are finding it harder and harder to do so, particularly if they do not have access to the Internet.

Did you, for example, ever know a single fact about Joe Biden's health care plan? Anything at all? But let me guess, you know Barack Obama's bowling score. We are choosing a president, the next leader of the free world. We are not buying soap, and we are not choosing a court clerk with primarily administrative duties.

...

If voters want a vibrant, vigorous press, apparently we will have to demand it. Not by screaming out our windows as in the movie "Network" but by talking calmly, repeatedly, constantly in the ears of those in whom we have entrusted this enormous responsibility. Do your job, so we can -- as voters -- do ours.

And yet on the very same page, in almost defiant celebration of useless, self-indulgent process commentary, Maureen Dowd speculates about how much Obama's suits cost and proceeds to analyze...his bowling score:

At Joe's Junction gas station in Indianapolis, Obama did his best to shoo away the pesky elitist label. Accused by an Indianapolis reporter of looking like a GQ cover, he said he has only four pairs of shoes and buys "five of the same suit and then I patch them up and wear them repeatedly." But his campaign refused to reveal the brand, presumably because it's not J. C. Penney.

...he resumed wry whingeing about his 37 bowling score, explaining that he finished only seven frames, including two that "were bowled by a 10-year-old" and another by a 3-year-old.

The Nuclear Lobby

The positioning of nuclear energy as an "alternative energy" through lobbying, policy, and public opinion campaigns is something we can expect to hear more of, I'm sure. I'm sketchy on the actual science behind the claims of "safest, cleanest," but I am also weary of the quick embrace many in the GOP circles (exhibited most recently in Sutherland's "Earth" Week) seem to exhibit for nuclear energy when so many other options are left unexplored, and the channels through which similar efforts have progressed overseas cause me great concern.

Until I'm more confident on the issue (give me a week), I'm going to restrict my commentary to the above paragraph only. This, however, speaks more to our continued criticisms of the continued lobbyist grip on our elected officials, so it's worth passing on: Meet Rep. David Dreier (R-CA), and the opinion he has been paid handsomely to adopt.

Interviewed on Dennis Miller’s radio show today, Rep. David Dreier (R-CA) discussed the House GOP “commonsense” attack on Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) over skyrocketing gas prices. He then went off into the following non sequitur on nuclear power:

And frankly, whatever you want to say, you know, eighty percent of the French energy comes from nuclear power and it’s the cleanest, safest, most cost effective energy source known to man. And they have a very unique way of disposing of it. We should look at coal to liquification. We should be looking at all kinds of alternative sources and what is it that they have done? They refuse to allow us to even have votes on that.

[...] Dreier is mimicking talking points from the nuclear lobby. In a recent column in the Washington Times, Spencer Abraham of the Clean and Safe Energy Coalition claimed nuclear power is the “most environmentally friendly source of all clean-air electricity options.” Dreier is spinning an utter fantasy:

“…cleanest, safest, most cost effective energy source known to man…” Nuclear power requires dangerous mining, produces permanently deadly toxic waste, and may abet the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Nuclear power is only “cost effective” to the degree these costs are ignored.

“…they have a very unique way of disposing of it…” The truth is that France, like the United States, still has no solution for safely managing nuclear waste. [Forbes, 3/22/06]

“…We should look at coal to liquification…” Liquid coal is a climate killer. The energy required to convert coal to liquid fuel doubles the amount of carbon dioxide released compared to petroleum-based gasoline, producing a “ton of carbon dioxide for each barrel of liquid fuel.” [NRDC, 2/07]

“…We should be looking at all kinds of alternative sources…” Energy sources that are cleaner and safer than nuclear power include: energy efficiency, co-generation, wind power, solar power (photovoltaic and thermal), geothermal power, and tidal power — to name a few.

“…They refuse to allow us to even have votes on that.” Rep. Dreier has voted against the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 and Renewable Energy and Energy Conservation Tax Act of 2008, both of which would have taken tax subsidies away from oil companies to invest in renewable energy. He was one of only 31 people to fail to vote on the Advanced Fuels Infrastructure Research and Development Act.

The truth of the matter is that this Congress has raised fuel economy standards, increased investment in renewable energy, and repeatedly attempted to reduce subsidies for oil companies. And they’ve been opposed at every step of the way by Rep. Dreier.

Petulant Children

...should not make policy.

One of the talking points used in the recent debate to increase SCHIP and provide more coverage for millions of uninsured children to kill the bill was the argument that (gasp!) creating universal healthcare in America would mean everyone in America can see a doctor when they need to... even those awful, awful illegal immigrants.

It's a very amazing aspect of American culture, but there are loads of people who actually think like that. People are willing to make their own lives harder for the sake of feeling more confident that someone, somewhere, whom they have never met and never will, isn't possibly having it a little easier than they think they are.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Executive Power

JM Bell & Friends:

Prominent Constitutional law experts believe President Bush has engaged in at least, five categories of repeated, defiant “high crimes and misdemeanors”, which separately or together would allow Congress to subject the President to impeachment under Article II, Section 4 of the Constitution. The sworn oath of members of Congress is to uphold the Constitution. Failure of the members of Congress to pursue impeachment of President Bush is an affront to the founding fathers, the Constitution, and the people of the United States.

In addition to a criminal war of aggression in Iraq, in violation of our constitution, statutes and treaties, there are the arrests of thousands of Americans and their imprisonment without charges, the spying on Americans without juridical warrant, systematic torture, and the unprecedented wholesale, defiant signing statements declaring that the President, in his unbridled discretion, is the law.
Executive powers have evolved greatly since the 1970's. It really is time we address this issue - as a nation - and better define branch powers.

Perhaps an impeachment, even so nearly post term, is the most effective means to send that message? What say you?

"We Must Do Better"

Press Release via Utah Amicus:

Bob Springmeyer, a business-development consultant and long-time civic leader, today challenged incumbent Jon Huntsman Jr. to join other Democrats – including 2nd District Congressman Jim Matheson – in fighting to keep even low-level radioactive waste generated overseas out of Utah.

“After watching as a generation of fellow Utahns suffers the downwind effects of nuclear experimentation, the governor’s lack of leadership in stopping the EnergySolutions plan is nothing if not remarkable,” said Springmeyer. “The governor’s ‘Life Elevated’ market-tested slogan rings hallow if it includes radioactive waste 80 miles west of where I stand right now.”

Springmeyer said that as governor he would use the full power of his office to stop the politically powerful Salt Lake City-based company. “I join Congressman Matheson who has said for a long time that Utah should not be the world’s dumping ground for nuclear waste.”

Springmeyer mentioned that under the federal Low Level Radioactive Waste Policy Act, states are responsible for regulating access to low-level radioactive waste disposal facilities. And in March, the Utah Radiation Control Board adopted a resolution urging federal regulators to deny the EnergySolutions application.

“It’s clearly a state function that the governor apparently wants to sidestep for purely political reasons,” said Springmeyer.

The McCain Team


From yesterday's RNC email presser:

We are running a different kind of campaign because John McCain is a different kind of candidate. This week, he traveled to some of the forgotten areas of our nation. From rural Alabama to hurricane-ravaged Louisiana, many places across the country have been ignored and left behind. As president, John McCain will change that and will ensure that impoverished areas are not only remembered and helped, but are rebuilt to be stronger and prosper.

We need your support today so we can continue to pursue this mission all the way to the White House. John McCain knows that he will be president of all Americans, not just those who voted for him. He wants to hear from all Americans, regardless of their background or where they live.
John McCain. Standing up for that too often underrepresented demographic... white Republicans in khaki pants.

Calm Down

"They're Tearing the Party Apart!" Except...

The fact that Democratic identifiers now decisively outnumber Republican identifiers means that in order to win, Democrats only have to unite and turn out their own base. If Obama wins the national popular vote by even a single percentage point, it's worth remembering, he'll almost certainly win the electoral vote as well. In order for John McCain to win, on the other hand, Republicans not only have to unite and turn out their own base, which they have been fairly successful at doing in recent elections, but they also have to win a large majority of the small bloc of true independents and make significant inroads among Democratic identifiers, which they have not been very successful at doing recently.

Political commentators often assume that Democratic voters are inevitably less motivated and united than Republican voters--that they either won't turn out or, if they do turn out, they will defect in large numbers to an appealing Republican candidate like John McCain. Leaving aside the question of just how appealing John McCain will be in November after undergoing several months of withering attacks from an extremely well-funded Democratic campaign, this image of Democratic voters is badly outdated.

Friday, April 25, 2008

The Media: Shrinking the Electorate for Headlines

Misty had an announcement today on Obama's endorsement and direct involvement in the 50 State Effort to register new voters that reminded me of something I had read a few weeks back. When the Obama announcement came, reporters were invited to a conference call. It went down a little somethin' like this:

A little while ago the Obama campaign emailed reporters and bloggers announcing a press call regarding the campaign's 50 state effort to register new voters. I'm intrigued about the effort, so I did something I almost never do, I hopped on the press call.

Obama deputy campaign manager Steve Hildebrand spoke, followed by NC Congressman G.K. Butterfield. Hildebrand then opened the call for questions, which led to:

  • A question about Reverend Wright (which had nothing to do with voter registration).
  • A question about Jim Clyburn's remarks that Bill Clinton was tarnishing the image of the Clintons (which had nothing to do with voter registration).
  • A question about TV ads going up in all the remaining states (that the reporter tried to make about voter registration, but really wasn't about voter registration).
  • A question about Obama's performance with white voters (which wasn't about voter registration).

Several times Hildebrand reminded the reporters on the call that the subject was voter registration, and clearly implied that questions about other matters should be directed to the press operation, but none of the reporters asked a single question about voter registration.

Growing, shrinking or not trying to change the size and composition of the electorate is one of the fundamental decisions of a campaign. Most campaigns just deal with the electorate as it is, which is why so much attention is paid to the sliver of voters who are persuadable (which is seldom more than 12-14% of the national electorate). Sometimes, by going mercilessly negative, one seeks to shrink the electorate. Or one can try to grow the electorate, as Obama is doing.
Our press corps. are not concerned with covering this campaign, and our political correspondents are not concerned with providing a picture of the political landscape.

They find import in the banality of flag pins, not the democratic process they bear the title of "watchdog" over. Educated voting is not only a personal responsibility, but also now an effort that requires more personal dedication and attention in the face of growing complexities and a regressive media shrinking the electorate into managed ratings groups for headlines and market demographics for advertisers.

And as long as we are watching/reading their tripe, they have no incentive to change.

Heh

Shurtleff campaign sign. (Photo via Utah Amicus)

DHS Report: Drop "Islamo-Fascist" Language

Bad news for David Horowitz from CAP. New DHS report recommends (and only a few years late at that!) avoiding such language, as it may offend moderates and boost support for radicals.

Really? Go figure.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Vintage Hatch

Indecision Blog:

With Bruce Springsteen coming out in support of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton maintaining her stable of middle-aged divas, it seemed like John McCain was going to have to make like his Republican forbearers and piss off John Mellencamp in order to rustle up a campaign song. That is, until Senator Orrin Hatch came to town.

The Salt Lake Tribune reports that the distinguished senator -- who, amazingly, is a platinum and gold-certified songwriter for this Lindsay-fied Christian pop ballad he co-wrote for Jaci Velasquez -- has written what he hopes will be McCain's official campaign song.

A few lyrical excerpts:
Together forever
America is the country we all love
We believe our destiny
Comes from god above
Let's link our hands for all to see
Our country's majesty
Alright. Vintage Hatch so far...

The Primary is the General Election

Sick of the primaries? Blame the internet. (h/t Democracy for Utah)

If you think superdelegates are undemocratic, back in the bad old days (of a couple of cycles ago) big party donors pulled the strings by pulling the money when they decided that someone had no chance to win. Today, both candidacies are where they are on the basis of avid small-donor supporters contributing online and that's prolonged things past the point where it would have in the past. Thousands of Clinton supporters keep sending her money — ten million since last night, apparently. So, if you don't like the fact that the campaign continues, blame the internet. It wouldn't have happened under the old paradigm.
I would ad that in addition to funding the campaigns, online dissemination of information has encouraged and made possible a larger pool of informed voters who, like it or not, find themselves split between two very strong Democratic candidates.

And to repeat myself, John McCain is incidental in this race. The primary is the general election.

McGovernized

In the discussion of Obama's vulnerabilities in a general election, and how progressives can be best set to respond, many are adopting a comparison between Obama's coalitions and the coalitions that turned on George McGovern in '72. TPM's Ed Kilgore lays the comparison to rest with 6 arguments against.

(3) It's sometimes forgotten that George McGovern didn't actually perform that well among "McGovern Coalition" voters. He lost the "youth vote" decisively, and showed some weakness as compared to past Democratic nominees among minority voters. There's nothing about Obama's primary election performance to suggest that he's going to have problems with either category.

(4) McGovern's campaign made a variety of big strategic and tactical mistakes that Obama's unlikely to replicate. Barack Obama is not going to deliver his nomination acceptance speech at 2:45 a.m. EST (even if he did, it would be viewed by many millions the next day on cable and YouTube). Nor is he likely to choose as his running-mate an unvetted politician who turns out to have a string of drunk-driving citations, or has repeatedly undergone electro-shock therapy. (If Obama's running-mate did prove to be weak, I doubt he'd say he's behind him or her "1000 percent" before unceremoniously dumping the poor sap, and then choosing a substitute, after repeated public rebuffs from others, whose media nickname was "Bozo."). I cite these mistakes not out of any disrespect for Sen. McGovern, for whom I was a loyal precinct captain in 1972. But his campaign did suffer from a notable plague-of-frogs series of misfortunes, some self-generated, some simply unique.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

GOP Challenger Stirs More Controversy for Bramble and Lockhart

Salt Lake Tribune:

Provo attorney Jacque deGaston, one of two Republicans challenging two-term GOP incumbent Sen. Curtis Bramble, meets with the county party's Credential Committee Friday at 4 p.m.

At issue is whether Hannah Lockhart, who lived with her parents - State Chairman Stan Lockhart and Rep. Becky Lockhart, R-Provo - can represent Provo Precinct 9. She will live there while attending Brigham Young University this spring.

[...] "It's the principle of the thing, that a person can become a delegate in a place they don't even live yet," deGaston said Tuesday.

Last week, Utah County GOP Chairwoman Marian Monnahan said that individuals should attend the precinct caucus where they will be living at the time of the county convention.

While credentials committee membership changes each year, Monnahan said that Senate President John Valentine will be there Friday as well as the county party's secretary Susan Bramble, who is married to incumbent Curtis Bramble.

DeGaston has taken her party on over other points of contention as well. Her request for a comprehensive countywide delegate list roused a denial letter from Valentine.

That request was filled Monday - Monnahan said Valentine changed his position after deGaston pointed out a section in the state party's constitution that said the public is entitled to such information.
The Utah Republican Party, in all of it's glory, huh?

Voter Identification

I've written about this before, but another reminder that - though we may be weary of them personally - the drawn out primary may be the best thing in years for the Democratic Party, up and down ticket. FDL:

[...] as Holly Yeager points out over at The Prospect today, the advantage of having high turnout in states where primary results usually don't matter is giving Democrats a tremendous advantage when it come to voter identification:

Each time a new registration form was completed, McQuarrie said it was photocopied at the local Obama headquarters before it was turned in to local election officials. That's standard operating practice, but with 300,000 new Democrats registered in the state since the start of the year, the information collected -- and entered into campaign databases -- is staggering.

McDonald said switching party registration and voting in a primary send strong signals about a voter's intentions. "Seeing this marker laid down in a primary that somebody will participate means that yes, they are definitely going to be there in the general election."

No matter who the Democratic nominee is, their campaign will have access to the DNC's file, and will likely tap these core voters, McDonald said. "Between now and the general election, they are going to go back and mine these people for volunteers and donations."

But while the data collected throughout the primaries will help identify reliable Democratic voters, it will also help the eventual Democratic nominee know which voters still need to be persuaded. "This information allows Democrats to shift their resources more toward expanding their base," McDonald said. "The McCain campaign is going to have to spend some resources just to identify its supporters."

I wrote yesterday about Catalist, the Harold Ickes database supported by MoveOn, labor unions and other organizations and its growing sophistication. Separate from that, the DNC also announced details in its new Neighborhood Volunteer Program, which begins phased rollout this week. Basically, if you go to the DNC site to volunteer and punch in your address, the names of 25 of your neighbors will appear on the screen. The system will ask you for any information you have about them that can be used to target them for outreach.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

"Stop Loss" Tours Up 43% Since May

Over a year ago, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates ordered the Army to minimize "stop loss" efforts and tour extensions. By May of 2007, the number of troops serving an extended tour, or a return to duty without adequate leave was at a three year low. But since that same month, the dependence on "stop loss" has forced a record number of soldiers into extended active duty.

[In 2007] Gates directed the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the service secretaries to minimize mandatory tour extensions, known as "stop loss," in January 2007. By May, the number of soldiers affected by the policy had dropped to a three-year low of 8,540.

Since then, the number of soldiers forced to remain in the Army rose 43% to 12,235 in March. The reliance on stop loss has increased as the military has sent more troops to Iraq and extended tours to 15 months to support an escalation in U.S. forces ordered by President Bush. The increase last month was driven by the need to send more National Guard soldiers to Iraq.

Soldiers affected by stop loss now serve, on average, an extra 6.6 months, Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell said. Key leaders at the small-unit level — sergeants through sergeants first class — make up 45% of those soldiers. Soldiers typically enlist for four-year stints.

The Fear of Green

...has always seemed short-sighted to me. From Progress Report.

"The green revolution isn't just creating new and different jobs," said David Foster, executive director of the Blue Green Alliance, a joint venture between two unlikely bedfellows, the Sierra Club and the United Steelworkers. "It's revitalizing and creating new investment in a lot of the jobs we already have." Bracken Hendricks, Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress, explains, "If we are smart about it, building a green economy will mean new economic development, greater prosperity, and more opportunity for those who need good jobs most." While much of the hype surrounding green jobs has focused on entrepreneurs, most of the jobs are being created in less glamorous sectors: weatherizing homes and offices, installing solar panels, and retrofitting factories with energy-efficient technologies. "This is not an eco-elite, eco-chic movement for people who can afford to buy hybrid cars and shop at Whole Foods," says Van Jones, founder of Green for All, a California-based organization that promotes green job training for low income people. "The green economy to come is going to be a broad-shouldered, mass movement of American labor." Although the development of new technologies is part of the story, green jobs are also about job security.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Vet Blog Encourages Military/Civilian Interaction

From the inbox:

In only the last few months, VoteVets.org has grown from 50,000 members to nearly 100,000 members. With so many new troops, veterans, family members, and supporters in the system, we want to take the time today to introduce (or re-introduce) you to our community blog, VetVoice.com.

In short, VetVoice.com is the online home of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. It is for Active Duty, Reserve, and National Guard members, as well as for veterans, their families, and their supporters. VetVoice.com is where we can come together to sound off on the issues that concern all of us.

CLICK HERE TO SIGN UP TO VETVOICE.COM

With a blogging community of over 1,000 registered users, VetVoice.com is a nexus for information and opinion on war news, war politics, deployments, optempo, veterans' issues, troops' families' issues, and more.

The reason that we've managed to grow VetVoice.com so quickly is that we consistently provide content that you can't get anywhere else. Whether it's an expose on how the Army runs IRR mobilizations, a discussion about PTSD, or a debate over what to do in Iraq, it's all there - written by the people who've lived it.

But it's not only that: We also use VetVoice.com to spread our message that politicians must be held accountable for their actions. It's why we've gone after Senator John McCain for refusing to support the troops with a new GI Bill. It's also why this month VetVoice.com broke a story that was picked up in the traditional media. In that case, Congressman Patrick McHenry (R-NC) visited the Green Zone and, while there, violated Operational Security in a major way. We broke the story on VetVoice, and it was picked up by the Associated Press as well as by newspapers across North Carolina.

WANT TO JOIN THE CONVERSATION? COME TO VETVOICE.COM HERE

Veteran or not, your voice is welcome at VetVoice.com. There is so often a disconnect between the troops and America in general, so this is a great way for civilians and veterans to exchange ideas.

Shoot Me Now

We're back. Still cleaning Conservative Republican goo off of the keyboards, but thanks to Miss L for keeping an eye on the place. We've invited her to stick around, with the plum de nom "Token" (as in token Republican) for the occasional post and alternate perspective, but for all intents and purposes, it should be business as usual 'round here again.

It was nice to take a break, but it was also frustrating. For us, blogging is as much therapy as it is action oriented. It was very difficult to read accounts of the ABC debate and not have an outlet to berate Stephanopolis (who frankly should know better). It was difficult to read of the Pentagon Propaganda campaign in the Times over the weekend and not have an avenue to discuss our own complicity (I'm talking to you, Congressional Democrats) in buying it, hook-line-sinker.

Burnout is to be expected with such a long primary, but there is also a certain amount of perpetual frustration at lack of progress from Democrats in Congress, and our own state leadership in capitalizing on the general sense of dissatisfaction the public feels after 8 years of crony-ism and failed leadership, and working toward better policy. I think it began to feel like our wheels were just spinning, and we needed to walk away for a few days.

I can't speak for the rest of the blog, only for me, but my sense of opportunity has definitely returned. One of my first reads this morning was this from Open Left:

Shoot me now if this goes all the way to the convention, and we have to deal with ABC debate style narratives that ignore McCain for another four months. Fortunately, there are some other ways the campaign can end, even apart from a shocking Obama Pennsylvania victory. Here are just a few:
* Delegate Conclusion: Going strictly by delegate counting, I currently project Obama will reach 2,208 delegates, with Michigan and Florida included, on June 28th. I provide details explaining this projection in the extended entry. If Obama reaches the magic delegate number even in Clinton's best-case delegate counting scenario, that could be one way for the campaign to end. Note that the delegate conclusion includes a possible superdelegate conclusion.

* Financial Conclusion Given stories about how the Clinton campaign is in the red, the campaign might simply run out of money in a few weeks.

* Media conclusion: The national press could simply stop taking the Clinton campaign seriously at some point, just as they did to Mike Huckabee at some point in February. If the narrative becomes that there is no way Clinton can win, and the focus instead turns to McCain vs. Obama, then the nomination campaign will end.

* May 6th Conclusion: Given polling that shows Obama headed toward a May 6th sweep in Indiana (look at the two mot recent polls) and North Carolina, it is possible that the campaign will come to a merciful end on May 7th. A big May 6th sweep for Obama would put a serious delegate, media and financial hurt on the Clinton campaign.

* National Poll Conclusion: Another way the campaign could end is if Clinton's support among Democrats simply crashes. A recent Newsweek poll showed Obama ahead by 19% nationally, and Pollster.com currently estimates Obama with a national lead of 50.2%--39.8%. If this continue to rise, it will increase the likelihood of one of the other types of conclusions listed here.
Now, given that the Clinton campaign has repeatedly made the point that they don't consider any delegate totals to be final, and that all delegates can be swayed, they might never quit until the actual roll call at the convention. Further, since there is nothing the national political news media likes more than a "Democrats divided" narrative, this type of they will probably take the nomination campaign seriously as long as Clinton doesn't drop out.
The primary is wearing thin in the media, while concentrating the frustration of activists and even candidates in that McCain enjoys a near complete lack of criticism from the bloviating scribes, obsessed with portraying the Clinton/Obama competition as a "cat fight" for that ever important Jerry Springer demographic.

But the failure of the media is by no means a failure of our system of electing future leadership in response to the complete failure of current leadership. I said at the very beginning, and I am even more confident in it now; this drawn out primary is an opportunity for Democrats. It gives us a direct line into almost every living room in the country, and the ear of nearly every voter, with which we can better define what our party stands for and represents against the past 30 years of Republican defined mythology. A realignment of principles and increased understanding of the values the Democratic Party embodies will, quite simply, win elections for us for many years to come. A focus of direction and purpose will push policies that without which our country has suffered. We do not need to tell the country how the Bush/McCain Repubicans have failed, they have that information. This primary is a chance for us to define for them how, exactly, we plan to get the country headed in a better direction.

This election is not, and will never be about McCain Vs. (Blank). McCain is incidental, and will remain so well into the fall. In a sense, the primary is the general election. It is about Clinton Vs. Obama, and which of them will seize control of a unique situation, and not only talk about "change," but also make it happen in a way that reflects what being a liberal, and a Democrat, and an American, and a Utahn is really all about.

So it's good to be back.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Profiling Jim Matheson (Republican Guest Blogger)

I answered my own question earlier about who this Howard Dean fella is that sends so many emails, and in doing so, I found myself with another set of questions for liberals in Utah.

Jim Matheson. Love 'im or hate im'?

I understand that as a Democrat in Utah, it is sacrosanct for many to support anything the solitary "D" of the state says or does, but what say you when I tell you that as a devout conservative, I don't disagree with Matheson often.

Furthermore, I read today that the very Howard Dean you political lefties sometimes take marching orders from is calling superdelegates out to announce their support for either Clinton or Obama. Understanding that Matheson must maintain a moderate, sometimes even conservative appeal to hold on to his district in such a Red State, I've still often wondered how Matheson's back and forth effects liberal Democrats.

Is it difficult to rally behind him at times? What say you about his complete absence of involvement in the presidential primaries (I couldn't find a single statement from him), and assuming, if you are reading here at The SideTrack, that many of you are inline with the politics of the regular writers here, how do you place yourself with Matheson and his sometimes complicity with congressional Republicans on war funding, troop withdrawal, etc.

I know this is not unique to Utah, but it is an interesting situation to ponder, where national politics and issues sometimes diverge from taking what state representation you can get when your options are slim.

Does this anger Utah Democrats, or is this something you have grown accustomed to?

-L

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Questions for Liberals (Republican Guest Blogger)

Been picking through The SideTrack inbox here off and on today, getting a feel for what it must be like to be a liberal. Let me tell you, dear readers, this lady is very confused. So if you would allow me the trespass into your realm, I'd like to ask a few questions, just to get a feel.

Much here about last night's debate. I find the organized message of outrage over the "fluff" questions Georgie asked very impressive. We hear all the time the effectiveness of the Republican messaging machine, but judging by the multitude of hits from many different organizations in the boys' inbox here, I think the GOP may have lost the corner on the market. And I am in agreement, it was an embarrassing debate. ABC should be ashamed. Are Democrats aware of this shift in messaging powers, and do they worry about repeating the missteps of the GOP?

I've also learned a lot hear today. Mostly about Net Neutrality. It seems there was a big to-do at Stanford with the FCC and the Net Neutrality thing. I find myself wondering, as I read through many emails about the issue, why have the Liberal Democrats cornered the market on this Neutrality issue? Isn't this something we should all care about? Any thoughts?

And finally, this Jimmy Carter thing. I dare any of you who read here regularly to make his trip make sense to me. What is Jimmy thinking? What's the goal? Laying a wreath on Yasser Arafat's grave? I assume there is a political point being made there, but I don't see it. Help me out, would ya?

I'd hoped to write more today, as I really do have questions what life as a liberal must be like, but time did not allow. Perhaps tomorrow. I'll leave you with a handful of links I assume you'll find interesting. Related: Did you know that this one inbox (of four) alone got over 62 political emails today (and one Stephen King fan club newsletter...) and over 200 RSS feed posts from various blogs each day?! I wish I were that studious in my political education... alas I am not (see critical comment on my post yesterday)... Have some linkage.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Highjacking The SideTrack (Republican Guest Blogger)

When Jason asked me to take the keys to The SideTrack for the week, I was surprised. Surprised not only that the boys were taking an intentional break from blogging - something they've never done in the time I have known them - but also surprised that it was me they handed the keys to. I'm sure a 12 pack had to have been involved.

First of all, I am not a political blogger. My blog is filled with stories about my dead end job, my grumpy yet lovable husband, and my ungrateful cat. Second, and possibly most shocking to regular readers here, I am a Republican. Worse, you may say, I voted for George Bush in 2000 because I believed him (I voted for him in 2004 because my party offered nothing better and Al Gore gave me the willies). I will vote for McCain in November, not because I like him more than Obama or Clinton (Ok, maybe more than Clinton), but because he has an R next to his name. Sad, but true. I am a loyalist, who acknowledges the religious right and delusions of American empire have highjacked the soul of my GOP. Politically, Jason and I have little more in common than a dislike of Chris Cannon's faux leadership. Personally, we have little more in common than a love of B grade horror movies and Paul Thomas Anderson movies. Yet somehow we have remained friends enough that when he asked, I agreed to take the helm here for a bit.

And let me tell you it reeks of dirty hippies and Che Guevara in here!

For my first post, I want to do something I have been begging the SideTrack boys to do for a long time; write about themselves. Who they are, their political efforts outside of blogging, their favorite colors, etc. Jason has no interest, as he sees blogging as a tool. A means to an end. I see it as a network for strangers to become friends without knowing each other's last names. I also know that writing this post will piss Jason off, and I owe him because he is going to vote for Obama in November.

So who are they?

Three very different people make up The SideTrack. Jason , Craig, and Jeff (not Bell) P.

Jason is the voice of the group (in fact it is said he has never met an opinion he hasn't wanted to shout across a crowded room), who is obsessed with right and wrong, and talks entirely too much about Firefly and Battlestar Galactica. He loaned me a copy of Crashing the Gates, by Armstrong and Moulitsas that still has me frightened he may be right about the Democrat majority in our future. He is an idea guy, with a lot to say.

Craig is the strategic planner of the group (it is also often said that Jason would finish not a damn thing if Craig didn't remind him often he had agreed to do it) and I am told saves himself from total geekdom only by being a DMB fan, and condemns himself to total geekdom with the skill of making anything happen with code. Apparently his "Cheesy Potatoes" recipe is legendary in many parts of the world.

Jeff, I am told, is the conscience of the blog. Jeff keeps Jason and Craig out of jail when they are angry, and sane when they are in over their heads (which Jason admits is often). Jeff has also been missing in Washington state since October.

What you read on this blog is often the core of their political involvement, but at other times merely the tip of the iceberg. Jason has an ability to get very important people with very important sounding titles to store his number in their phonebooks, and actually answer when he calls. I don't know how he does it, but I know he does it with sincerity and an honest desire to make a difference. He tells me that none of this would be possible if the three of them, all longtime friends, did not work so well in unison, supporting each other. And it seems they are constantly involved in this project or that, this volunteer "opportunity" or that. It's impossible not to be inspired by either admiration or guilt, watching them go.

Politically, this blog cannot be narrowed down into a niche based on the personal politics of it's writers. Jason is as liberal-commie as they come, yet agrees with me that Obama's "hope" and "change" rhetoric wears thin quickly. Craig is an economist turned software programmer who has actually read (without chemical aide) The Federalist Papers and has disliked Hillary from the start. Jeff is a humanist who believes, truly, that every man/woman is equal, yet enjoys offensive jokes when in safe company, has been wearing an Obama '08 pin since they got a chance to meet him in Las Vegas last year, and does one hell of a rendition of the Jefferson's theme "Movin' on Up!" All of them will vote for Hillary if she wins the nomination, but they would prefer to reward Obama with the presidency because of the attention he has paid to grassroots efforts (and somehow they are able to overlook his lack of experience? Sorry, I had to throw that in).

This is The SideTrack, in a nutshell. But I want to ad here that there is much more to The SideTrack than just the words you see on your screen, or in your preferred RSS reader. These guys understand that people can regain control of their nation, and they believe that complaining only goes so far. Eventually you have to put the keyboard down and put your time where your mouth is. I have seen them inspire entire rooms of people into political activism, and I have seen them make the veins bulge on a Congressman's forehead.

I tried to fight liking them, I really did. They are unashamed liberals, through an through. Bipartisan is a dirty word here, yet pluralism can be spotted hidden under the John Lennon posters and Take Back the Nation dvds. Simply put, I will never vote as they do, and I will never be able to discuss tax policy with them without voices being raised and coffee mugs thrown, but I recognize that Utahn's would benefit from more who believe as these fella's do; that one person can truly make a difference, and that it really is up to one person to accept the responsibility of making that very difference.

For me, posting here until they return will be an opportunity to dialog with a different crowd, and expose myself to the multitude of email received here every day that I would probably never be caught dead reading in my own inbox (who is this Howard Dean guy, and why is he emailing them so often?). For you, perhaps I will do no more than provide you with the insight above into who you have been reading from all of these years, and a few links to things I find interesting each day.

Either way, knowing how irritated the guys are going to be reading this post, it has already been a lot of fun.

Signing off for now to go take money from poor people and hand it to a wealthy corporation. (See, Republicans can laugh at themselves too...)

L

Friday, April 11, 2008

Hiatus


Taking a break from the blog for personal reasons.

Craig, Jeff, and I have been at this blogging gig for a few years now, with little time spent away from SideTrack HQ (which is usually my couch or a coffee shop or someone's respective place of employment...Shhh!), and it's been a lot of fun. Still, staying angry and indignant and loud 24/7 can lead to a little burnout.

Ya'll are in charge of the President until we return.

While we're out, Misty and JM Bell are back, so show em some love. Also, if you don't listen to this show, the terrorists win.

Comic Relief: 3rd District GOP Debate

Bob Lonsberry hosted a live debate this morning on KNRS with Chris "Don't tell me classified info, I'm a walking security breach!" Cannon and his two primary challengers Jason Chaffetz and David Leavitt.

Good for a laugh. Listen here (podcast).

Contempt

Finally.

Lawyers for the Democratic-led panel argued in court documents that Bush's chief of staff, Josh Bolten, and former White House counsel Harriet Miers are not protected from subpoenas last year that sought information about the dismissals.

The legal filing came in lawsuit that pits the legislative branch against the executive in a fight over a president's powers.

The committee is seeking the testimony as it tries to make a case that the White House directed the firing of nine U.S. attorneys because they were not supportive enough of Republicans' political agenda.

Restore the Rule of Law

A noble effort we should all be eager to get behind.

Recently, several conscientious members of the House Judiciary Committee, including the Chair, Congressman John Conyers, have indicated support for public hearings to investigate and disclose the facts concerning claims of illegal conduct and other abuses of power by members of the Executive Branch. If misconduct has occurred, the American people are entitled to know. If misconduct has not occurred, hearings will determine and disclose that as well.

By showing that the American people – without political partisanship – support the disclosure of the truth through public hearings, we can make a difference, together standing up for the truth, the rule of law, and our Constitution.
• We are entitled to know whether members of the Executive Branch misrepresented the facts and withheld crucial information, thereby deceiving our nation and the international community before the invasion of Iraq.

• As American citizens who value the system of checks and balances among the three branches of government, we are entitled to know whether that system has been seriously undermined. We are entitled to know whether the courts and Congress have fulfilled their important constitutional roles in investigating and disclosing the misuse of Executive power.

• Our nation has engaged in the unprecedented, illegal, and immoral kidnapping, disappearance, and torture of human beings around the world (some of whom have been proven to be innocent of any wrongdoing), with no due process, in complete secrecy, and with no accountability. Even US citizens have been held in prisons indefinitely, with no legal counsel, no trial, and no charges filed against them. As Americans, we are entitled to know what has occurred in connection with these human rights abuses. In our democratic system of government, there must be full accountability.
Speaking out together, as concerned, patriotic Americans, we can send a clear message to Congress: In the United States, the rule of law must prevail, our Constitution cannot be disregarded, and the fundamental morality to which our nation has always laid claim will be restored.
Read Rocky's original post here. Ad your name to the letter here.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

TownHall Polling


I subscribe to TownHall.com "Spotlight" newsletters because, honestly, a train wreck can sometimes be quite a thing to see.

Once in a while they send me a "poll," and I am always shocked at the wording. Not because I am surprised their poll is conducted with an agenda, meant more to encourage compliance to their views than it is an attempt to collect useful data, but rather at the reminder that this type of thing really works on a good number of people (and I'd be willing to bet these same people own Salad Shooters).

The poll offers two choices on the deportation of illegal aliens who've been charged with a crime. "Criminal Illegal Aliens" it says multiple times in large, putridly colored font (the person behind the HTML design is obviously colorblind).

Once you give your answer, you get to see the results and a brief message. Answer "correctly" and you get a simple thank you with the results so far. Answer "wrong" and you get what you see in the image to the right. "We're sorry that you feel that way. It's not too late to change your vote!"

These are the things that keep me entertained on an otherwise slow political day.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Tell Me How This Ends

Something I had forgotten about, but E&P's Greg Mitchell had not:

What will end up being the most famous quote of the Iraq war? Remember, President Bush did not actually say "Mission Accomplished." Perhaps Vice President Cheney's "final throes" will take the prize. But increasingly, as the significance of Gen. David Petraeus grows (seemingly by the minute), it seems possible that it might up being his once-obscure 2003 remark to a well-known newspaper reporter: "Tell me how this ends." It was cited again today by Andrew Bacevich in his New York Times op-ed contribution.

Petraeus said that line when he was a Major General directing the 101st Airborne during the U.S. invasion but, for some, his testimony today before Congress suggested that he still did not have an answer to it.
Often our own inability to accurately judge the aptitude of an elected official, or person of authority, is our own inability to remember anything in context older than a few months.

The perspective gained in do so, however, can be extremely revealing.

Shorter Bush/McCain Iraq Strategy

On the heels of Petraeus' testimony (or lack of testimony, if you will), one of our brightest political columnists sums up the "strategy" Bush Republicans have sold (and will continue to offer nothing more than). Using a McCain townhall event as example, Hertzberg summarizes:

McCain pointed to a burly, white-bearded man along one wall and said, “I think Ernest Hemingway is with us tonight.”

When the chuckles subsided, the Hemingway look-alike (who later identified himself to Mother Jones's David Corn as Dave Tiffany, a “full-time antiwar activist”) asked McCain “what you hope to accomplish in Iraq and how long it’s going to take.”

[...]You have to hand it to McCain. It's impossible to imagine any of the other Republicans engaging in this kind of extended conversation with a citizen. There was more real debate in this exchange than in any of the so-called real debates.

But what the context shows, I think, is that yanking that sound bite out of context isn’t really all that unfair. McCain's wants to stay in Iraq until no more Americans are getting killed, no matter how long it takes and how many Americans get killed achieving that goal—that is, the goal of not getting any more Americans killed. And once that goal is achieved, we'll stay.
Brilliant.

Hockey and Politics

DNCC Press, via my inbox:

The National Hockey League's Stanley Cup Playoffs commence this week, and the cities hosting the 2008 Democratic and Republican National Conventions will be at the center of the action when the Colorado Avalanche and Minnesota Wild face off. Today, the two leaders planning the political conventions agreed to a friendly wager on the series.

Democratic National Convention Committee (DNCC) CEO Leah D. Daughtry and Republican National Convention President and CEO Maria Cino agreed to the stakes in a phone call earlier today. The losing city's Convention team will send a "taste" of that city's local delicacy for the winning city's Convention staff to enjoy. If the Avalanche win, the Republican team will send the DNCC staff an assortment of walleye fish from the lakes of Minnesota. If the Wild win, the DNCC will send the Republican Convention staff a selection of delectable Colorado-raised beef steaks.

Chris Cannon On Iraq: Too Much Focus on American Lives Lost

It was no surprise to me that each Republican Rep. from Utah lined up yesterday behind Petraeus and all of the "fragile and reversible" progress (hey, the esteemed general's words, not mine). But Cannon did surprise me, yet again, with the severity of his obtuse detachment from the hearts and minds of real Americans, and the realities of the region. On Petraeus' call to halt troop draw down...

Chris Cannon agreed, saying there was little choice but to carry on in Iraq. "The last year has also seen great hope and promise as well . . . " he said. "Taking the fight to al-Qaida anywhere makes America safer here at home."

Cannon blamed "the lack of reasoned discourse" in the United States for the slowing of progress in Iraq. "Republicans have been ready to portray every success as a turning point while Democrats have ignored all successes and focused on bloodshed," he said.
What buzz-kills those Democrats can be, huh? Mr. Cannon continued, when probed about the 4,000 lives lost, and tenuous al Sadr cease-fire, "La la la la la la la la I can't hear you!"

Not really, but would it surprise you?

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

With the Click of a Mouse


Science fiction becomes reality.

Last week, the American Civil Liberties Union released letters showing that the Pentagon is using the FBI to skirt legal restrictions on domestic surveillance.

Documents show the FBI has obtained the private records of Americans' Internet service providers, financial institutions and telephone companies, for the military, according to more than 1,000 Pentagon documents reviewed by the ACLU -- also using National Security Letters, without a court order.

The new revelations show definitively that telecommunications companies can "with the click of a mouse, instantly transfer key data along a computer circuit to an FBI technology office in Quantico" upon request.

A telecom whistleblower, in an affidavit, has said he help maintain a high-speed DS-3 digital line referred to in house as the "Quantico circuit," which allowed an outside organization "unfettered" access to the the carrier's wireless network.

The network he's speaking of? Verizon.

In suspicion we trust.

Invasion, Nation Building, then Permanent Occupation

More attempts to tie the hands of the next President, and further example that Teh Surge is merely a sideshow. Democracy Now:

The Guardian newspaper reports it has obtained a controversial draft agreement between the US and Iraqi governments that would allow for an open-ended US military presence in Iraq. The draft strategic framework is intended to replace the existing UN mandate. It authorizes the US to “conduct military operations in Iraq and to detain individuals when necessary for imperative reasons of security” without time limit. Iraqi critics point out that the agreement contains no limits on numbers of US forces, the weapons they are able to deploy, their legal status or powers over Iraqi citizens, going far beyond long-term US security agreements with other countries.
Read more.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Petraeus Still Spinning

And of course, everything is going just smashingly well "over there."

Long Primary Hand Wringing

Can't throw a rock without hearing someone prattling on about the long primary battles "tearing the Democratic Party apart" or "costing us in November."

I respectfully (and tiresomely) disagree. And I think this past weekend Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid encapsulated my thoughts best with this simple truth:

The negative toll on Obama and Clinton will end five minutes after the nominee is chosen. That will be before the first of July.
Five minutes after. Until, we have the nation's undivided attention.

Mukasey's FISA Trouble

It plays out like this:

Mukasey makes the claim that FISA warrant requirements caused 9/11, in an unscrupulous attempt to scare Americans into rolling over for an over-reaching surveillance policy, and immunity for Chris Cannon's telecommunications pals. (FISA requires no warrants for overseas surveillance, and domestic surveillance can continue as long as a warrant is obtained up to 72 hours after it is conducted.)

Some people begin asking questions, as this means that either A) Mukasey is lying, or B) The Bush administration failed to prevent a horrific terrorist attack on American soil. Someone finally gets in touch with a former member of the 9/11 commission to determine the veracity of the Attorney Generals claim.

The 9/11 Commission response to Mukasey's assertions?

"Huh?"

You tax dollars at work. Enjoy.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Cultural Divides on Government Surveillance

I found this interesting. A PEW report (via James Fallows) showing a vast difference in attitude toward government control in China than you would expect from Americans.

A new report from the Pew Internet Project indicates that most internet users in China accept the idea that material on web sites should be monitored and controlled -- and that the government should do the controlling. For instance:
Most readers of the Western press are aware of efforts by the Chinese government to control what its people can read and discuss online. Outside observers and human-rights groups monitor and criticize the government's actions and publicize the techniques through which technologically savvy Chinese internet users can work around restrictions. Some analysts also track and interpret the government's subtler shifts in balance that seek to encourage internet development while still exercising control over it...

[O]ther evidence suggests that many Chinese citizens do not share Western views of the internet. The survey findings discussed here, drawn from a broad-based sample of urban Chinese internet users and non-users alike, indicate a degree of comfort and even approval of the notion that the government authorities should control and manage the content available on the internet.
The report goes on to say that 84 percent of Chinese internet users felt content should be controlled, and about the same number approved of the government's doing so. It also explores some of the reasons behind an attitude that confounds many American expectations about what the spread of the internet "should" mean. The discussion is based on a nationwide survey funded by the Markle Foundation and conducted by a respected Chinese social scientist named Guo Liang. It is very much worth reading, in connection with ongoing stories about mainstream Chinese views of news from Tibet and of criticism on that and other subjects from overseas.
While Chris Cannon would have us be more like China in allowing the government into our homes, this, to me, reeks of Stockholm's syndrome.

W

Oliver Stone, one of my favorite lunatic film-makers (no, don't believe everything he films... just sit back and enjoy his crazy), is chronicling the Preznit's life in his new film, "W."

W, which shows how the younger Mr Bush gave up drinking after his 40th birthday and became a born-again Christian, also investigates what Stone sees as his determination to avenge Saddam Hussein's attempt to assassinate his father.

When Donald Rumsfeld, then defence secretary, asks: "What's the big deal about Saddam? Bin Laden's the trained ape", Mr Bush responds: "You don't go after the Bushes and get to talk about it. Ya got me?"
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Stone, a polarising director who has described Mr Bush as "a synthetic person", could face more of the criticism he elicited for his takes on Richard Nixon and John F Kennedy, which some historians saw as full of inaccuracies.

But the film, which may come out before November's presidential election, also seeks to capture Mr Bush's inner struggles.

At one point he is shown telling the Rev Billy Graham that "there's this darkness that follows me. People say I was born with a silver spoon, but they don't know the burden that carries".
I'm giddy with anticipation.

Coalition Building: Obama Organizing Fellows

Obama speaks on his start in politics as a grassroots organizer, and the efforts his campaign has organized to reach out to others interested in doing the same.

I got my chance on the South Side of Chicago, as a community organizer, and it was the transformative experience of my career.

It allowed me to put my values to work and to see that real change comes not from the top-down, but from the bottom-up, when ordinary people come together around a common purpose.

The experience changed the course of my life -- and I want to share that kind of opportunity with you.

That's why we're introducing a program that's going to train a new generation of leaders -- not only to help us win this election, but to help strengthen our democracy in communities across the country.

If you apply and are selected, you'll be trained in the basic organizing principles that this campaign and our movement for change are built on. You will be assigned to a community where you'll organize supporters. Assignments will begin in June, and you'll be required to work a minimum of six weeks over the summer.

This program is designed to give you real world organizing experience that will have a concrete impact on this election.

Apply to be an Obama Organizing Fellow and put progressive values to work in the real world:

http://my.barackobama.com/fellows

If you can't take the time away from work or your family that's required for the fellowship program, you can still get involved.

Being a community organizer wasn't easy, but it was the most valuable education I ever received. It taught me that together, ordinary people can do extraordinary things.

This is why he got my vote in the primary, and will get it again in November. This is how we will achieve and maintain a Democratic majority in this country, plain and simple.

DNC Convention Conversations

Slow blogging day as The SideTrack head to "represent" at the DNC Convention Conversations Forum. I'll have a summary up as soon as possible. Or, if you have the time, meet us there (RSVP required, but there's still time).

DNC "Convention Conversations"

At the 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 TOMORROW, 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

WHERE:
Memorial House
485 N Canyon Rd
Salt Lake City, Utah

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.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Sutherland Institute's "Earth Week": A Look at the Guest List

The Sutherland Institute has announced "Earth Week 2008: The Future of Utah." From the press release:

From April 22-25, the Sutherland Institute is launching Earth Week 2008: The Future of Utah. The nation's top energy and climate experts will be in Salt Lake City to discuss the effects that "green" policies will have on the state of Utah. These experts know the truth about man-made global warming, the benefits of nuclear energy, and the disastrous Clinton "off-limits" policy regarding the Grande Escalante Staircase.
With no mean spirited intent toward the forum before it even begins (I plan to attend if possible), though with admitted skepticism that this event will be no more objective than Lyall's blogposts from his Heartland trip, I did a little research into their selection of speakers. Unfortunately a predictable profile.

Judge for yourself:
  • Dave Tabet, Program Manager, Utah Geological Survey. Little information on Mr. Tabet, outside of his various presentations on oil sale production, and various personal opinions of friends at the BLM.
  • Roy Innis, CORE president, and former state chair of the 2000 Alan Keyes' campaign. My first recollection of Roy's insight was this little gem from Townhall:
    Agitators use global warming and “corporate social responsibility” to force companies to acquiesce to their agendas – and ignore human rights to energy and technology, and people’s desperate cries for a chance to take their rightful places among the Earth’s healthy and prosperous people.
  • Jack Spencer, author of the Heritage Foundations infamous "There Is No Energy Shortage"
    Think about it. The legitimacy of these draconian efforts is rooted in the notion there is an energy shortage. Conservation, after all, makes sense when there is a shortage of something.But energy is not in short supply. There are fossil fuels, and lots of them, right here in America. Yet America is one of the few nations that chooses to leaves much of its own reserves untapped.
  • Willie Soon, chairman of Republican think tank Science and Public Policy Institute. Soon was widely criticized by fellow scientists for his use of "research and review" of his peers and his attempts to influence public policy using funds from the American Petroleum Institute. From his ExxonSecrets Factsheet:
    Published, with fellow sceptic Sallie Baliunas, an article in the Climate Research journal which reviewed the work of a number of climate scientists who concluded that the last century is the hottest in the last 1000 years. The article, partly funded by the American Petroleum Institute, caused the resignation of three of the journal's editors, in protest at the peer review process. The peer review process was conducted by New Zealand sceptic scientist Chris de Freitas. The Soon/Baliunas article was widely picked up by Exxon-funded groups and led to a Senate hearing chaired by James Inhofe (R-OK).
  • Roy Spencer, Heartland Institute member ('nuf said?), vocal "intelligent design" supporter, and accomplished meteorologist. Spencer developed one very cool method for monitoring tropical storms that once held my reading interest for an entire week (a long time for my attention span). His book Climate Confusion was panned by, well, the entire climate research community, so probably not the expert he portrays himself to be. (Starting to notice the pattern with these speakers though? Yeah, me to.)
  • Ann McEelhinney and Phelim McAleer, the folks behind the anti-environmentalist documentary Mine Your Own Business.
Just as we would any public forum (and free to boot!) we urge our readers to go. But in the interest of providing you a fair look at what they plan to offer, I must advise you to expect nothing new from this event.

It is unfortunate that for those who truly want to learn about climate change and make an educated decision on global warming policy would have to look so hard to find it, amidst the emotional arguments of both supporters and deniers of global warming suppositions. With a look at the line-up for Sutherland's "Earth Week," it's apparent the search for the real meat of this issue is still up to us.