Saturday, January 31, 2009

No Ideas

Pelosi:

I didn't come here to be partisan. I didn't come here to be bipartisan. I came here, as did my colleagues, to be nonpartisan, to work for the American people, to do what is in their interest... We reached out to the Republicans all along the way. And they know it... They just didn't have the ideas that had the support of the majority of the people in the Congress.
Nice. And Lux on the strategy:
Who ends up looking worse and better in all this in terms of the general public and the media? Obama is getting points for the gestures, but panned for their ineffectiveness. Republicans look stubborn and petty for not cooperating, but get bolstered by their base. Congressional Democrats are looking more partisan, but also tough and effective. The biggest danger in my mind is that the media, in their worship of bipartisanship, will really start hammering Congressional Democrats. Progressives need to be full tilt ahead in defending our Congressional Dem friends from this line of attack. And President Obama should not get in the triangulation trap, because what that delivered for Clinton was his own personal survival, but in every election while he was President, the Republicans won the majority in Congress, allowing him to get very little important done in his Presidency.
"Bipartisan" is just a word, and those who use it most frequently (including Obama) trap themselves into a political ideal they won't -- and often can't -- live up to and still remain effective. "Postpartisan" isn't even a real word. What we should be expecting is leadership. From both parties.

Retro-Active Privilege

Notice how "retro-active" was a very common word in #43's legacy?

Well he's not done yet.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Stimulus Arguments

Marc and I presenting our cases on the For the People blog.

Marc: Some Thoughts on the "Stimulus"

Me: Some (Reality Based) Thoughts on the Stimulus

Good stuff, if I do say so myself.

Unions See Growth in 2008

Despite all the bustin'.

A new report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that union membership rose sharply last year, adding over 400, 000 new union members. But that growth occurred in the face of a wide range of legal and illegal unionbusting tactics and intimidation: Studies of hundreds of organizing campaigns have found that a fifth of all pro-union activists are fired during a campaign, half of all employers threaten to shut down their plant and roughly 80% of employers hire unionbusting consultants.

Even so, as union activists point out, when workers are allowed to join unions, they do.
As the article explains, some are using this as a reason to oppose the Employee Free Choice Act and it's provisions, as if were now redundant. I think what this tells us is that in times of economic uncertainty, workers see unions as a way to protect their families and prosperity.

The Other 78 Percent

The one thing Dick Cheney got right. It's Hoover Time for the GOP.

The question is whether a result like this could have came about by accident -- or whether it must have been engineered by the party leadership. I'm not sure that the answer to that is obvious. The House does not cast a secret ballot. It seems plausible that there were a dozen or so Republicans who were on the fence, waiting to see how their colleagues would vote --- and when those votes started to come in unanimously against the bill, nobody wanted to be the ugly ducking.

But does it do the party as a whole any good for having opposed the bill unanimously? With headlines like the one in the Associated Press, it's hard to imagine so. Their unanimous opposition reads as an emphatic rejection of the President and the President's attempts at "bipartisanship". And the President is very popular right now.

But -- the base is happy, or at least reasonably so. Rush Limbaugh will be singing John Boehner's praises tomorrow. I'm just not sure what message this sends to the other 78 percent of the country.

Postal Service May Cut Deliver Days

More meltdown.

Massive deficits could force the post office to cut out one day of mail delivery, the postmaster general told Congress on Wednesday, in asking lawmakers to lift the requirement that the agency deliver mail six days a week. If the change happens, that doesn't necessarily mean an end to Saturday mail delivery. Previous post office studies have looked at the possibility of skipping some other day when mail flow is light, such as Tuesday.

Faced with dwindling mail volume and rising costs, the post office was $2.8 billion in the red last year. "If current trends continue, we could experience a net loss of $6 billion or more this fiscal year," Postmaster General John E. Potter said in testimony for a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs subcommittee.

Total mail volume was 202 billion items last year, over 9 billion less than the year before, the largest single volume drop in history.
I assume there will always be a need for the postal service, but honestly I haven't put a stamp on a single thing in over 6 months. And also, what's with Tuesday?

Well That Didn't Take Long

Greg Curtis has a new gig.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Funding Birth Control

It's simple economics.

Gallup: Only 5 Republican States Left

Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, Alaska and Nebraska. Gallup.com:

PRINCETON, NJ -- An analysis of Gallup Poll Daily tracking data from 2008 finds Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and Hawaii to be the most Democratic states in the nation, along with the District of Columbia. Utah and Wyoming are the most Republican states.

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In 2008, Gallup interviewed more than 350,000 U.S. adults as part of Gallup Poll Daily tracking. That includes interviews with 1,000 or more residents of every U.S. state except Wyoming (885) and North Dakota (953), as well as the District of Columbia (689). There were more than 15,000 interviews conducted with residents of California, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Florida.


35 Democratic states, and 10 "if/then" states. Read more.

Stimulated

TPM:

Support for Obama's Stimulus Plan, very high.

Support for Boehner and McConnell, very low.

NOAA: Sea Level Rise, Expanded Deserts "Locked In"

Even if we halted CO2 emissions today:

Researchers examined the consequences of CO2 building up beyond present-day concentrations of 385 parts per million, and then completely stopping emissions after the peak. Before the industrial age CO2 in Earth's atmosphere amounted to only 280 parts per million.

The study found that CO2 levels are irreversibly impacting climate change, which will contribute to global sea level rise and rainfall changes in certain regions.

The authors emphasized that increases in CO2 that occur from 2000 to 2100 are set to "lock in" a sea level rise over the next 1,000 years.

Rising sea levels would cause "irreversible commitments to future changes in the geography of the Earth, since many coastal and island features would ultimately become submerged," the study said.

Decreases in rainfall that last for centuries can be expected to have a range of impacts, said the authors. Regional impacts include -- but are not limited to -- decreased human water supplies, increased fire frequency, ecosystem change and expanded deserts.
Scary stuff.

More Stimulus Myths

Taken to the wall by Brad DeLong. He's been pretty busy with this stuff, considering the amount of stupid Boehner and the GOP have been carpetbagging on the teevee's.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Point/Counterpoint: Net Neutrality Nuances

Free download (text or audio) from ACM Portal.

And some good news on the incoming FCC chair.

Fmr. Secretary of Labor to Limbaugh/Hannity: Take Responsibility

Open letter:

"The hate mail I have received since your broadcast suggests that the mischievous consequences of your demagoguery are potentially dangerous, in addition to being destructive of rational and constructive political discourse. I urge you to take responsibility for your words. Words and ideas have real world consequences, and you have demonstrated a cavalier disregard for both."
It gets even better.

(h/t Newshounds).

You Really Can't Just Listen to Limbaugh

In all the drama over the "Obama vs. Rush" kerfuffle, no one seems to be recognizing the simple truth in what the Preznit said.

You really can't just listen to Limbaugh and expect to get anything done.

It's kind of a fact.

Whale in a Salad Bowl

John Cole's words. Enough with the quest for "bipartisan." The GOP is bereft of ideas.

Let 'em vote no.

The Cove



I've been going to Sundance since the early 90's, and I've seen a lot of documentaries.

I don't know if is was the "wrongness" of watching humans hunt certain animals, or the government complicity in feeding school children the mercury-heavy meat, or the simple pride in barbarism displayed by some of the defenders of the subject at hand, but on the last Saturday of the festival, I left a theater more moved by a documentary than ever before. In fact I'm still furious.

Video we grabbed of the filmmakers and activist Ric O'Barry here.

And there's a trailer for the film (which hopefully sees full release soon) here.

Get involved here.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

You Watch, I Scream

Heh. The Real Fox Motto.

The People vs. Dick Cheney

Get an attorney. Dick.

State of the Net

Well, this would have been cool.

Missed it somehow.

Friday, January 23, 2009

LDS Church: Chilli's is Not a Bar

Ok, not exactly what they said. But they sound like a reasonable voice in contrast with Sen. Bat-Shit Waddoups on the evils of alcohol.

The Turbo Tax "Scandal"

James Fallows on Geitner's tax problem:

Some standard of reasonable judgment has to be applied here.

So by the standard of what the country needs right now, I would probably vote for Geithner's confirmation as Treasury Secretary, if I were in a position to do so.

But I do not believe, and will never believe, that his failure to pay his own self-employment tax while at the IMF was an "oversight" or a "mistake." I have many many friends who have worked for this and similar organizations. I have myself over the years juggled the complexities of what is self-employment income and what is W-2 income and how to handle income from non-US sources -- and I have a lot less financial acumen than any Treasury Secretary aspirant should and must have. (Though I also use Turbo Tax!) Not a single person I have known from the IMF or similar bodies, not a one, believes that Geithner could have "overlooked" his need to pay US self-employment tax. When I have received similar income from international sources, the need was obvious even to me -- and I wasn't receiving and signing all the forms to the same effect Geithner would have gotten from the IMF. I could go on with details but I'll just say: if this were a situation more average Americans had experienced personally, he would not dare make his "mistake" excuse because everyone would say, "Are you kidding me???"
I agree. The faux outrage of the winger communities over the unpaid taxes is overwraught with desperation for scandal, but it's intellectually dishonest to not see the Geitner's explanations for what they are: dissemination. He tried to cheat on his taxes. And he's still one of the best candidate for the position. Own it, and move on.

Reasonable folk don't really care, as long as he's going to be good at his job.

They Spied on Everyone

Whistleblower speaks about NSA wiretapping.

Sundance, Part Two

Off to the film Festival for the rest of the week/weekend so it'll be relatively quiet around here.

Outside of the occasional post, we'll be moving our collective genius (heh!) over to the twitter feed until we return. --------->

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Useless Flailing

Oliver Willis:

Right now, at this moment, those of us on the left should enjoy the complete and utter impotence of the conservative right in America. The White House, House, and Senate are all Democratic. The Republican party doesn’t even have a leader as a victorious Howard Dean passed the torch to Tim Kaine (remember when they told us Dean would be a disaster?). The conservative media - Rush, Hannity, Fox, Wall Street Journal, and of course Drudge - are utterly unable to do anything more damaging than useless flailing.

It’s not going to last long. Unlike the premature triumphalism of the right after 2004, you don’t hear much talk of historical realignment in favor of the Democrats. Now, demographically it’s possible - the Republican party seems intent on keeping itself the party of white southern males, which is their perogative but as our current president shows that group is now a part of the American coalition and no longer its leader by default. In all likelihood the Republicans will find their voice again and win elections once more. I hope it isn’t any time soon, but I’m not going to pretend it ain’t happening.

In a broader scheme of "what's good for the country," it probably should happen. And I wouldn't rule out an ideological realignment of voters either. But two parties checking the power of the opposition through elections and partisan policy battles promotes progress much more than one without a challenge (Utah being the best example right now). But when a party loses it's voice, part of the penance is a few years in the woods. If I were a Republican activist right now, I would accept the reality rather than belligerently claim the opposite is true, and I would do what I could to help my party reclaim a direction that actually speaks to people and their needs, rather than cling to a dying ideology.

We'll see if it happens.

Medicaid Straining States

Just a reminder for the Utah Leg. Might want to get a little more creative in your cuts this time around.

In a number of states, Medicaid populations grew by 5 percent to 10 percent in the last 12 months and, in many, the growth rate was at least double what it had been in the previous year. State Medicaid officials also say that because enrollment often lags behind job losses by several months, the growth in 2008 may represent only the leading edge of heightened demand.

In most states, much of the growth in Medicaid has been among children from low-income families, who constitute about half of all recipients. The program also provides coverage for those with disabilities, pregnant women, nursing home residents, and in some instances parents of covered children and childless adults.

In a nationwide survey, with 40 states responding, The New York Times found that in some cases the surge in enrollment had overwhelmed social services agencies, and prompted state fiscal analysts to shred estimates that were often only six months old.
I know it's politically popular in our "community oriented" state to cut the rug from beneath entitlement programs and energy efficiency funds when times are lean. I know that for most of you, it gives you a twisted sense of pride in your own indignation at all these poor people with a handout.

But these will still be children in need, and senior citizens with no where else to turn.

Keep that in mind, not your re-election.

From XBox to Atari

TPM:

For technology-saturated Obama staffers arriving at the 20th century White House is like going from Xbox to Atari, says Obama deputy flack Bill Burton. That and the day's other political news in the TPMDC Morning Roundup.

House GOP: No Leverage

Wall Street Journal:

With likely minorities of 41-59 in the Senate and 178-257 in the House, Republicans -- who just four years ago seemed on the cusp of long-term dominance -- have less leverage than any minority in recent memory."

Furthermore, Republicans' internal divisions "have been exacerbated by fights over the weakened party's future.
While it's kind of fun to gloat right now, this isn't necessarily a good thing, long term. I don't really believe in the possibility of permanent majorities, overall, and I don't believe any party (even mine) left without opposition can maintain it's integrity of vision over long periods of time.

The GOP needs to get it's act together, drop the social conservative, kick out the wing-nuts, and offer voters something that actually addresses the problems they face in their real lives, not fabricated threats they worry about only in election cycles.

And for the love of... stop giving Ann Coulter, Michelle Malkin, Hannity, and Chuck Norris the party megaphone!

Intel Director Nominee: No Unlawful Surveillance

Rawstory:

Retired US admiral Dennis Blair pledged Thursday that he would not support unlawful surveillance activities if confirmed as President Barack Obama's director of national intelligence.

"I do not and will not support any surveillance activities that circumvent established processes without lawful authorization," Blair said at his Senate confirmation hearing.

Blair was alluding to the previous administration's practice of intercepting certain US telephone communications without warrants from a special court.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Hypocritic Hand-Wringing

It's amazing, disgusting, and laughable all at once, the sudden leaf-turning we see from so many conservatives, rediscovering "the tone."

After debates on false justifications for war, torture, suspension of Habeas Corpus, warrantless domestic surveillance, a unitary executive branch ignorant of the Constitution, and one of the most secretive administrations since Richard Nixon, conservatives are now up in arms over the send off a few chose to give Bush.

All the "tsk, tsk"-ing and faux indignation at the "disrespect" makes it all that much harder to take any of these people seriously.

I'm so glad the grown ups are back in charge.

And Now the Bad News...

RIP 50-State Strategy.

Sniff.

538 has more.

Pumpkin Bread and Equality

I hate pumpkin bread. But this is quite a story.

Eric Ethington and Elaine Ball, founders of the grass-roots, service-oriented Pride in Your Community, stopped Republican Sen. Chris Buttars in his driveway on Saturday morning to share some home-baked bread and conversation.

Buttars invited Ball, Ethington and two other gay activists inside his home for what turned into an hourlong chat about Equality Utah's Common Ground Initiative, a collection of Democratic-backed bills that would provide some legal protections to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Utahns.

"I don't think we were expecting such a warm welcome," Ball said. "It was nice to be invited in."

The bread-and-Buttars discussion chipped away some stereotypes on both sides.

"That group has been hostile to me for many years," Buttars said Tuesday. "They said, 'Hi,' and it was easy to recognize they weren't there to argue or to condemn me. They were there to talk."

He called it one of the few conversations he has had with members of the LGBT community that "wasn't hostile."

Ball initially felt nervous about meeting the conservative legislator, who has tried to thwart Salt Lake City's domestic-partnership registry and student clubs for gay high-schoolers.

Buttars teased her for cracking her knuckles -- a habit he confessed to having to break himself.

"We were probably all a little nervous," Ball said. "It was nice, as the time went on, to realize that we were actually being listened to."

DNC Winter Meeting: Dean's Speech

Howard Dean passes the torch today at his final DNC Winter Meeting:

"Four years ago we pledged that we would never again run an 18 state campaign. We would show up everywhere and ask everyone everywhere for their vote."

"It's not just about the states we won. Utah went from the most conservative state in the country to the 4th most conservative state. And we lost South Carolina by less than double digits. Next time Texas and Missouri will be Democratic states and will vote for Barack Obama!"

"We have 60 state legislative bodies around the country which is going to have a huge impact on redistricting. We are not going to settle for 60. Tim Kaine is going to build our majorities further."

(h/t MyDD)

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Whitehouse.gov/BLOG

Yes, blog.

The new Whitehouse.gov was introduced in a blog posting at 12:01 p.m. today by Macon Phillips, director of new media, who noted that the Web site was "one of the first changes" introduced by the administration. Phillips came over to the White House from Blue State Digital, which designed a whole constellation of Web sites for the Obama team.

Phillips promised that more goodies would be posted online as Inauguration Day wore on, including video of Obama's inaugural address and slideshows from the festivities. (This First Read blog post shows off a bit more of the site.)

It's the little things, ya know?

Wing Nut Amnesia

Sets in rather quickly.

Court Adjourned

Nice.

A military judge adjourned the Guantanamo Bay war crimes court just before President Barack Obama was sworn in on Tuesday, leaving open the possibility that the hearings might not resume.

The judge, Army Col. Patrick Parrish, dismissed the court until Wednesday "unless otherwise ordered," a nod to the possibility that the Obama administration might suspend the military trials as it wrestles with how to proceed with its plan to close the prison that now holds about 245 men on suspicion of links to terrorism, al-Qaida and the Taliban.

No Complaints



I'm standing by the caution in my optimism, but regardless, I don't feel like complaining about much right now.

New day, etc.

On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord.

On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn out dogmas, that for far too long have strangled our politics.

Change

On video.



And the full text of Obama's inauguration speech is here.

Does it Work?

Inauguration day post from my radio show pard'ner Mr. Riggs (who is in DC somewhere right now) that I think says it all.

I found it just as Obama was saying "We shouldn't be asking ourselves if our government is too small or too big, but does it work?"

Monday, January 19, 2009

Inextricably Linked

Obama, on last day as President-Elect, issues a Martin Luther King Day statement:

Today, we celebrate the life of a preacher who, more than forty-five years ago, stood on our national mall in the shadow of Lincoln and shared his dream for our nation. His was a vision that all Americans might share the freedom to make of our lives what we will; that our children might climb higher than we would.

Dr. Martin Luther King's was a life lived in loving service to others. As we honor that legacy, it's not a day just to pause and reflect - it's a day to act. Today, ordinary citizens will gather together all across the country to participate in the more than eleven thousand service projects they've created using USAservice.org. And I ask the American people to turn today's efforts into an ongoing commitment to enriching the lives of others in their communities, their cities, and their country.

Tomorrow, we will come together as one people on the same mall where Dr. King's dream echoes still. As we do, we recognize that here in America, our destinies are inextricably linked. We resolve that as we walk, we must walk together. And as we go forward in the work of renewing the promise of this nation, let's remember King's lesson - that our separate dreams are really one."

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Inauguration Events on Park City Main Street


The screen being set up for Tuesday's Inauguration Celebration on Park City Main St. Located just up from the Music Cafe, if you're looking for a unique and really really cold place to watch the event.

Sundance Sideshow: Solar Powered Thing


Waitlisting "The Yes Men Save the World" at the Libary Theater in Park City, we caught sight of "the worlds largest solar powered iPod accessory. Basically a truck trailer with solar panels powering a PA system, music supplied by iTunes/Ipod.

I of course want one.

Incidentally, we didn't get into the movie.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Twitter Fest


We're all off to the film festival, if we don't return, avenge our deaths, etc.

Follow our fest festivities via The SideTrack Twitter feed (over there --------------->) or subscribe here.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Steve Urquhart's Liberal Media

Is at it again. Looks like they've recruited D-News' Lee Davidson now too.

One example of the things Whitley wished Americans more fully realized, he said, is that Bush warned for years about conditions that led to this year's economic meltdown, but he is being blamed for it.

"During his entire administration, President Bush pushed Congress to rein in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac," the mortgage-backing agencies blamed for too-little oversight that helped lead to a crash in housing and banking, he said.

The only problem with that, Mr. Whitley, is that facts are what keep people from realizing that, as -- and I'm not sure how you missed it, perhaps you've been really busy -- Fannie and Freddie Mac were incapable, as an institution, of causing the credit meltdown, and even if the very way the institution functions was different, their sub-prime lending made up for a very tiny percentage of the credit swapping when contrasted with the percentage done by private lenders that Bush said nothing about.

Whitley goes on to ad -- with considerable help from Davidson in not challenging a single assertion -- that we have not been attacked since Sept. 11th and that Bush has made the world safer. Which is also not true.

I don't blame Whitley. It's his job to be a douchebag and lie to us. Davidson, on the otherhand, has to at least heard of, if only in passing, the most basic tenets of journalism, and should be ashamed of himself for the sheer vapidity of this article, if not it's blatant misdirections.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Ted Nugent Was Never That Smart


One of the coolest side effects of being a political junkie is that you subconsciously open yourself up, almost daily, to very engaging and challenging discussions with people of all political bents in all kinds of surprising circumstances.

On the other hand, you do occasionally find yourself sitting in the news room prepping for a radio show listening to someone who just read Human Events' latest lump of thoughtless word waste -- on this occasion penned by the infamous Ted Freakin' Nugent (Chuck Norris being busy saving a bus load of nuns somewhere on the interstate, I assume) -- and thinks they've discovered editorial genius that will blow your mind.

It's so sad to see the look of dejection slip down over their face as you explain to them that no, Ted Nugent has not found his calling, and he's not "stepping up" from washed up loser to political pundit. He's just always been an idiot. Human Events has not discovered the next batch of political leaders but rather tossed in the towel on maintaining integrity in a conversation that probably went: "What the hell, Coulter has turned us into a joke... let's at least make some advertising dough. What's Ted Nugent doing these days?" And unbelievably, both Ted and Chuck weren't busy!

Tune in next week for the Human Events/Townhall/Heritage Foundation WWF Smackdown to decide the 2012 GOP presidential contenders... hosted by Steven Segal, Sammy Hagar, and that guy that played Ricky Schroeder's dad on Silver Spoons.

Foreign Affairs Chat

@ The Atlantic.

Jeffrey Goldberg and James Fallows discuss foreign policy, Hillary Clinton, China... and everything really.

Highly recommended reading.

Learning from 2003: Get Afghanistan Right

In an effort to avoid repeating mistakes, several organizations, including The Nation magazine, and Brave New Films have teamed up to spark a real discussion on our future in Afghanistan.

Check out Get Afghanistan Right!, an entire week of diverse discussion and debate over what will work and what won't, presented by various experts on our efforts there speaking out in opposition to another escalation.

Basically, this site represents everything the build up to the Iraq invasion wasn't. Foreign policy, now with brains!

Dear (Your Congressman): No Bailout for AT&T, Comcast, Verizon

The upcoming stimulus contains long overdue language to increase broadband availability and innovation. The only problem? AT&T, Comcast, and Verizon -- arguably the biggest obstacles to broadband saturation and developing new technologies -- are hoping to get a piece of the pie. Freepress's Timothy Karr:

Free Press has a five-point plan3 to ensure that any public investment actually serves the public interest. Our plan makes crystal clear that any taxpayer money should support broadband that is:

  1. Universal: focused on connecting the nearly half of the country stuck on the wrong side of the digital divide.
  2. Open: committed to free speech and without corporate gatekeepers, filters or discrimination.
  3. Affordable: providing faster speeds at lower prices.
  4. Innovative: dedicated to new projects only and available to new competitors, including municipalities and nonprofits.
  5. Accountable: open to public scrutiny so we can ensure that our money isn't being spent to prop up stock prices and support market monopolies.

Building better broadband cannot be another corporate bailout. It must be a buildout for better democracy.

Only public opposition will stop Bishop/Matheson/Crazy-Guy-in-UT-03 from another give away to Telco's and Cable providers. Contact your representative using this tool and let them know you oppose handing more money to corporations who have kept us behind even China in the developing broadband revolution.

Bush Does What the Rolling Stones Couldn't

Prints the Greatest Hits and says goodbye.

Tonight at 8.

Advice for Waddoups and Lockheart

From former GOP Rep. and NRCC Chair Tom Davis.

With the heavy lifting out of the way, we indulged in more trivial pursuits – and this led to trouble. We talked to ourselves and not to voters. We became more concerned with stem cell policy than economic policy, and with prayer in schools rather than balance in our public budgets and priorities. Not so long ago, it was easy to paint the Democrats as the party of extremists. Now, they say we’re extremists, and voters agree.

As a result, we’ve seen our support erode. Urban centers remain under Democratic control. Exurbs and rural areas remain under Republican dominance. But in the battleground that lies between – the suburbs -- we were winning them; now we’re not. Our candidates are safe in a swath that extends from North Texas across to North Alabama and up through Appalachia. Elsewhere, we are on the run. Almost every voter who can be convinced – who sometimes votes Democratic, sometimes Republican – now votes Democratic.

We’ve long-since given up on the African-American vote. We’re forfeiting the Hispanic vote with unwarranted and unsavory vitriol against immigrants. Youth vote? Gone. We ask for nothing from these idealistic voters, we offer little except chastisement of their lifestyle choices and denial of global warming, and we are woefully behind the Democrats in learning how to connect with them.

Soccer moms? They’re not comfortable with much of our social policy agenda, so many are gone as well. NASCAR dads? They’re our last redoubt, and the trends even there are not encouraging as unemployment rises and 401 (k)s are decimated.
(h/t DailyKos)

The times, they are a-changin'.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Taxes: Not a Binary Choice

As the Utah legislature is about to begin, and talk of budget cuts (which will of course come... as is tradition... from education, medical assistance, services, education, and oh yeah, education) is in the air, I've been reading around the talk in other states, to see how our situation compares.

Everyone is feeling it, it would seem. But I thought this explanation from the Las Vegas Sun explaining how Nevada's current troubles came to be applicable to our own situation, and probably that of many other states.

A political class looking ahead to the next election and unwilling to take on the larger problem of a tax system with an inherent structural deficit. A gaming industry that paid lip service to the notion of community responsibility but spit on the proposition that its taxes should be regularly increased. And a business elite that salivated at the profits to be made in a boomtown but whose throats dried up when asked how much they would contribute to the state’s coffers.

If Carson City politicians actually had engaged in a vigorous debate about how the state raises and spends money, if the gamers had agreed to have their taxes raised more often and if the business community had not serially removed its chair from the tax discussion table, we would not be here now. Don’t misunderstand: The national recession would still have hit home. But it would have been better to be cutting from funding levels at or above the national average in a state that had shucked its backwater tendencies than to be slicing bone from bone.

The blame game is hardly productive, though, unless it is instructive, too. This is not, as the ideologically blinded forces of the right and their tools would you have believe, simply a binary choice about taxes.
It's the one factor never mentioned. We cut (which is good), but we do it lazily. We underfund (which is pointless and counterproductive) and we do it too frequently. One thing we never consider -- like a spoiled teen weaseling away from weekly garbage and lawn mowing chores -- is that all budgets need revenue, and all revenue is due for the occasional increase or the system fails.

A Disappointing Year for Moderate Voters

Rob Miller, on the 2009 legislative session:

Whether you’re interested in the budget or policy, 2009 is shaping up to be a year of disappointment for moderate voters.
Indeed. But we'll have screens at Chilli's (Thank You Sens. Waddoups/Lockheart! We are saved!), and a pause in the "abortion gets me elected, each and every time!" gimickry, at least for a few weeks.

Joe the Plummer and Bono

I'm a huge fan of U2, and watching low-information Republicans make fools of themselves in a national spotlight.

So one would assume I would enjoy Joe the Reporter and Bono the Columnist.

I would, were it not for the growing decline in newspaper quality and newsroom integrity, juxtaposed with the increasing severity and proclivity of urgent issues and crisis facing our country from the national level down to our city councils.

(Most) Journalists should not be blamed for the decline of American journalism. The dipshits they work for, however, should be tarred and feathered.

Long Term Investments

From Howard Dean:

When the 447 members of the Democratic National Committee elected me, it wasn't because they thought I could accomplish these things.

They elected me because I knew that only you could.

I believed then -- and I believe now -- that every single one of us must take responsibility for building our party. It's not enough to simply vote for Democrats -- in order to win, every one of us must deliver our message and values into our own communities. We must organize.

Four years later, we have more Democratic state legislators and governors. We expanded the electoral map, regained a majority in both houses of Congress, and put a Democratic president in the White House.

We did it by rebuilding the party infrastructure from the ground up, creating a truly national voter database, and developing 21st century campaign tools that merged traditional organizing with new technology.

I said on my first day on the job that this wouldn't be my chairmanship -- it would be ours together. And you reshaped the political landscape over these four years.

Next week, I will step down after four years as chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

I'd like to congratulate Governor Tim Kaine of Virginia, who will take my place as Chairman on January 21st. He will be an excellent leader in the years ahead.

I know a lot of people are wondering what to expect as we move forward. I can assure you that Governor Kaine will continue the grassroots approach that has made our party and Barack Obama's campaign so successful.

Governor Kaine knows first-hand what a commitment to fighting everywhere means -- Virginia is a prime example of what can happen when we refuse to concede any part of this country and build our organization everywhere.

In that spirit of grassroots engagement, Governor Kaine has offered to answer your questions personally in a video on Democrats.org.

Submit your question for incoming DNC Chairman Tim Kaine.

Democrats have made great gains over the past four years, but we still have a lot of work to do to get this country back on course.

Governor Kaine knows that the strength of our party comes from the bottom up, and he will need your support as we take the next steps to grow our party and elect Democrats everywhere.

You've done a lot over the last six months, and over the last four years. You've donated money, talked to friends, knocked on doors. You've invested yourself in the political process. And it's tempting to take it easy after a big victory.

But these are not short-term investments. We will only create lasting change if that sense of obligation to one another and responsibility for the common good becomes a permanent part of our lives.
We recommend you ask Kaine about the 50 state strategy, and it's future.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Congress Comes to YouTube

Google Public Policy Blog:

As the 111th Congress kicks into gear, many Members of Congress are starting their own YouTube channels. They're posting videos direct from their Washington offices, as well as clips of floor speeches and committee hearings alongside additional behind-the-scenes footage from Capitol Hill. And in conjunction with both the House and Senate, today we're launching two new platforms that will help you access your Senator and Representatives' YouTube channels: The Senate Hub (youtube.com/senatehub) and The House Hub (youtube.com/househub).
Bookmark 'em.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

High End Hamburger

Strange headline of the week (comes early):

The ancestral bull of a high-end brand of beef is cloned by Japanese scientists.
I'm assuming this is the beef they make the Whopper with.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

"Poker with Harry Reid" Debate

Following this conversation has been the most entertaining experience of the year.

So far.

Exxon Endorses Carbon Tax

No kidding.

Exxon had already dropped its funding of lobby groups which deny the science of climate change and begun to take a softer public line, but even Mr Tillerson admitted that propounding a carbon tax had stuck in the craw until recently. However, with European-style "cap and trade" rules governing carbon emissions moving up the agenda in the US, a carbon tax may be the least worst option, he said. Environmental groups gave a sceptical response to Exxon's U-turn, calling it a deliberate attempt to torpedo the movement for outright carbon caps and any early switch to alternative energy.
Eventually, one must accept a logical approach, if for no other reason than avoiding negative PR.

Newsweek: If Obama is serious, he must get tough with Israel

The new administration will have to be tough, much tougher than either Bill Clinton or George W. Bush were, if it's serious about Arab-Israeli peacemaking. The departure point for a viable peace deal must not be based purely on what Israel will accept, but on the requirements of all sides. U.S. national interest demands it.

read more | digg story

Friday, January 9, 2009

US Values, "No Exceptions"

Even a cynic like me can admit to a sense of pride reading this:

More important than anything Dennis Blair and Leon Panetta said at their rollout this morning as intelligence chiefs -- it's a rollout, after all, so you're not getting anything controversial -- were two things President-elect Obama said that directly repudiate the intelligence regime of the previous administration. First, among the "tough lessons" of the last eight years is "to insist on assessments based solely on facts, and not to seek information to support any ideological agenda" and to receive thorough information, "even if it's not always the information we want." (Do Obama's intelligence picks still have the support of Doug Feith and Richard Perle now?)

Second, and more important from a human-rights perspective, was what he said about torture and interrogations: "We must adhere to our values diligently and with no exceptions." No exceptions. None of this ticking-bomb crap that doesn't exist in the real world, none of these Jack Bauer distortions. Sullivan up, Krauthammer down.



URGENT: Fellow Utahn's, Get My Back!

I will be attending a family event this evening at (gasp!) Chilli's restaurant BAR.


There will be children present.  And we cannot guarantee that we will be placed adequate distance from the central "Den of Evil" where they pour the drinks and watch the sports - or that someone nearby might not order a drink and leave it on a neighboring table in plain sight - to ensure we are not consumed with alchohol induced depravity or emerge intact from the depth in which we'll be dining. 

Should I not return, or should this blog fall silent, please contact Sen. Michael Waddoups, Stan Lockheart, or the esteemed Paul T. Mero.  

They will know what to do.

$44 Million Broadband Stimulus, with Telco Sock Puppets?

HuffPo's Craig Aaron:

I touted the detailed plan put forward by colleague S. Derek Turner, which proposes $44 billion in broadband stimulus spending, and I listed some of the key elements -- such as future-proof speeds, universal service, and no blank checks -- that must be part of any legislation.

But I forgot to include an important warning: Beware of sock puppets.

Sock puppets, for those unfamiliar with the creatures commonly found inside the Beltway, are mouthpieces who rent out their academic or political credentials to argue pro-industry positions. These pay-to-sway professionals issue white papers, file comments with key agencies, and present themselves to the press as independent analysts. But their views have a funny way of shifting depending on who's writing the checks.
I'm very excited about a long overdue push for broadband saturation and improved services (and competition), but no checks against handing large sums over to Telco's - themselves responsible for the sluggish growth and lack of innovation- is like asking Dick Cheney to hold the Constitution and a box of matches while you clean the air-tight display case.

Save Soapblox

We've considered Soapblox in the past (as well as a Wordpress migration), but we're - frankly - too lazy to make the switch.  Marshall's Wasatch Watcher provides a great example of the platform it offers, and as described below, it's contribution to the progressive blogosphere has been (and will be, with our help) imeasurable.  From Blogpac:

For two years, as part of our efforts to build progressive media, BlogPac has paid the website hosting fees for the 50-state blog network. This collection of progressive blogs provides vital reporting and grassroots activism at the state level across the country. The rate of political return has been stellar, but this week, the platform supporting 90% of those blogs, Soapblox, was hacked to within an inch of its life. The entire network is now in real jeopardy.

The Soapblox platform offers advanced community engagement features most bloggers could never afford to add to a site on their own. But there's a hitch: Soapblox has been the work of one part-time netroots activist with another full-time job, Paul Preston, who clears less than $1,000/month for providing this vital progressive infrastructure.

When malicious hackers hijacked Soapblox, threatening over 100 progressive blogs that served more than 50,000,000 page views in 2008, Paul wasn't sure he'd be able to bring the system back online.

Click here to save Soapblox

Here's where you come in. Your donation to BlogPac today will pay for server migration and restoration, improved backup and recovery, and better hosting security. Recurring donations provided to the Save Soapblox effort will go towards hiring a permanent assistant programmer.

I know it's not the greatest time of year for anyone to be digging into the wallet (and I also know that personally I've felt recently a little "donation ask" burnout from the ol' inbox) but if you have even $10 to spare, it would be money well invested.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

A Smarter Approach to Regulation

Meet the Regulator:

The president-elect is expected to name Sunstein—his friend and informal adviser—to head the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, a transition official said late Wednesday.

A low-profile position in the current administration, the job is likely to be a higher-wattage one after Obama takes office this month.

Obama has promised an overhaul to federal regulation, specifically of the U.S. financial markets, and Sunstein's job description suggests a sweeping agenda.

"This office is in charge of coordinating and overseeing government regulations," a transition official said Wednesday, "and a smarter approach to regulation is key to making government work better and getting better results in terms of protecting health, the environment, etc."
Sunstein's wikipedia bio here.

Red Cross Issues Rare Press Statement on Grisly Gaza Find

WaPo Foreign Service:

Red Cross officials said rescue crews had received specific reports of casualties in the houses and had been trying since Saturday to send ambulances to the area, located in Zaytoun, a neighborhood south of Gaza City. They said the Israeli military did not grant permission until Wednesday afternoon.

In an unusual public statement issued by its Geneva headquarters, the Red Cross called the episode "unacceptable" and said the Israeli military had "failed to meet its obligation under international humanitarian law to care for and evacuate the wounded."

When rescue workers from the Red Cross and the Palestinian Red Crescent arrived at the site, they found 12 corpses lying on mattresses in one home, along with four young children lying next to their dead mothers, the Red Cross said. The children were too weak to stand and were rushed to a hospital, the agency said.
I don't claim to fully understand the complexities here, and I know just enough to be convinced there is no innocent victim on either side of this war (other than civilians minding their own business), but it does seem a bit ironic, after all the right-wing outrage at Georgia in the mid-campaign dust up with Russia that winger silence now (or worse, unquestioning defense of Israel) stands out as a great hypocrisy.

Tax Havens and Economic Meltdown

Morgan Stanley: 99 subsidiaries in tax havens.  Citigroup: 92 subsidiaries.  Bank of America: 52.

Watch the report here.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Petition: Reinstate the 50 State Strategy

With Dean gone, and Kaine stepping in, DFA steps up the pressure. From the inbox:

The 50 State Strategy will go down as one of the most successful long-term programs the Democratic National Committee has ever implemented. Not just for Barack but for candidates up and down the ballot all across the country. But while there has been a lot of talk about keeping it alive, all of the original DNC 50 State Strategy organizers have been let go.

With special elections, local mayor and city council races all coming up soon, this is one decision that can't wait any longer. Call on Tim Kaine to immediately renew the 50 State Strategy and we'll make sure he gets the message.

CLICK HERE TO ADD YOUR NAME

The 50 State Strategy delivers proven results.

What Money?

Fed to Taxpayers: Stop asking so many questions, dammit!  

Last week, we looked at the process by which the New York Federal Reserve selected four investment firms to manage its program to purchase $500 billion of mortgage-backed securities, in order to bolster the housing market.

Or at least, we tried to.

A fact sheet on the website of the New York Fed, announcing the details of the program stated that "a competitive request for proposal (RFP) process was employed" to select the four firms -- Blackrock Inc., Goldman Sachs, Wellington Management, and PIMCO. A Fed spokesman declined last week to give TPMmuckraker any information about the value of the contracts or the nature of the firms' successful bids. But he did tell us that he expected to be able to provide us with a copy of the RFP, after it had been inspected by Fed lawyers.

But now things seem to have changed. The spokesman hasn't responded to our followup calls, placed this week, about the RFP. In other words, not only will the Fed not tell us how much its paying the firms to manage our money, it won't even release the document it used to solicit bids for the contract.

Chief Performance Officer

From the inbox, a new gig at the White House per Obama:

For nearly thirty years - as a leader at McKinsey & Company, and as Assistant Secretary for Management, Chief Financial Officer, and Chief Operating Officer at Treasury under President Clinton — Nancy has built a career out of making major American corporations and public institutions more efficient, effective and transparent.

Nancy is an expert in streamlining processes and wringing out inefficiencies so that taxpayers and consumers get more for their money. And during her time at Treasury, she helped bring the Department into the twenty-first century, modernizing the IRS and preparing systems for Y2K.

But Nancy also understands that at the end of the day, government services are delivered by people. That’s why she’s always worked tirelessly to empower employees to take matters into their own hands: to rethink outmoded ways of doing things, to embrace new systems and technologies, and to take initiative in developing better practices.
Hard to say how effective this will be, but considering Obama is inheriting Bush's ginormous deficit, and will be forced to spend out the wazzoo to make any economic stimulus (to counteract Bush's ginormous stupidity) effective, having a dedicated position to cut costs where possible is a nice idea.

America: Moderate, Trending Left

"Center-Right" this, conservative punditocracy!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Panetta

Via Mother Jones, your new CIA Director Leon Panetta in 2007:

How did we transform from champions of human dignity and individual rights into a nation of armchair torturers? One word: fear.

Fear is blinding, hateful, and vengeful. It makes the end justify the means. And why not? If torture can stop the next terrorist attack, the next suicide bomber, then what's wrong with a little waterboarding or electric shock?

The simple answer is the rule of law....

Those who support torture may believe that we can abuse captives in certain select circumstances and still be true to our values. But that is a false compromise. We either believe in the dignity of the individual, the rule of law, and the prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment, or we don't. There is no middle ground.

Wiretap Lawsuits Return, Data Breeches Rise

Revived by "sufficient evidence." Wired Magazine:

SAN FRANCISCO — A federal judge ruled Monday that "sufficient facts" exist to keep alive a lawsuit brought by two U.S.-based lawyers for a Islamic charity who say they were eavesdropped on without warrants.
The suit involves two American lawyers accidentally given a Top Secret document showing they were eavesdropped on by the government when working for a now-defunct Islamic charity in 2004. Their suit looked all but dead in July when they were initially blocked from using that document to prove they were spied on.
The case tests whether a sitting U.S. president may bypass Congress — in this case whether President Bush abused his power by authorizing his secret spying program in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.
And WaPo is reporting that (predicted) data breeches of surveillance data hubs are increasing in number.

Don't you feel safer?

538 vs. Wall Street Journal

On Franken's lead.

The Wall Street Journal is bar none one of the best newspapers in the country -- except when its Editorial Board is having a bad day. And today the Board is having a very bad day, having published an editorial that declares Al Franken's provisional win in Minnesota, which the state just certified moments ago, to be illegitimate, while accusing Minnesota's Canvassing Board of being inconsistent and biased in favor of Franken.

There is nothing intrinsically wrong with taking such a position. The Journal's editorial, however, has several basic facts wrong, makes several other assertions based on flimsy or nonexistent evidence, and generally has little understanding of the process that has taken place to date.
Read the paragraph by paragraph break down. Humor and education, all in one convenient ball of smart ass courtesy of Nate Silver.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Shurtleff Nixes Trib

Petty.

It appears Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff has instructed his staff to cut off The Salt Lake Tribune .

Apparently, we haven't been nice enough to Shurtleff.

When information sought by Tribune reporters was refused, and the reporters were told to get their information from AP reports, one staffer indicated a Tribune editor had failed to get back to them on their complaints about the "tone" of Tribune stories about Shurtleff.

Perhaps Shurtleff could consult with Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich on other productive ways to keep a pesky newspaper in line.

GOP Online

But still not getting it.

Conservatives getting excited about being on Twitter simply for the sake of being on Twitter reminds me of Democrats and related groups adding “blog” to everything in 2002-5 and thinking that made up for being weenies. It doesn’t. As long as the Republican party is still debating whether a racially insensitive song is really that bad, listens to marching orders from Rush Limbaugh, and consistently defends the failed presidency of George W. Bush, they will stay in the wilderness.
Willis' assertion that there was a learning curve for Democrats as well - circa 2002 - is a unique (and acccurate) point, but in my memory these efforts were driven by outsiders, then adopted by insiders, and over promoted to an annoying extent.  The GOP seems to be taking the approach of "fooling" the outsiders into engagement by pretending the insiders are "hip" to electronic doo-dadery and all own iPods.

I'm not sure it's an effective approach to citizen involvement.  And I'm not sure that's what the GOP really wants anyway.




The Art of War (on Terrorism)

Rosenberg:

There are two keys to winning the war on terrorism. The first is to recognize that it is not a war on terrorism. It is a war of ideas, against people who use terrorism. This gives special meaning and focus to Sun Tzu's maxim from The Art of War, "If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle."

The second key is to understand the situations in which terrorism flourishes, and act to change them. We need to understand the grievances--legitimate or not--that terrorists exploit, and do what we can to address them. We must enter into a dialogue with people who feel powerless and abandoned, for terrorism appeals most strongly to those who feel they have no other way.
Many have been arguing these points since 2003. Fighting terrorism is not necessarily a military fight, nor something that can be achieved with brute force. When every enemy you kill becomes a martyr for new recruits, you can't win that war. And as Rosenberg argues, when you are being attacked for your values, you should strengthen your commitment to those values, not weaken them for the sake of "security." Respect for our Constitution and international law must be restored, the military role limited, and support rather than demonization of Arab culture are key to building allies in a war of ideas.

It's a debate we've all had a hundred times, and have grown tired of. But it deserves new life moving into a new administration and congress.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Cornyn promises filibuster on Franken seating

A late Christmas gift for Senate Dems:

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) threatened Friday to filibuster any attempt to seat Democratic Minnesota Senate candidate Al Franken next week.

read more | digg story

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Final Nail

In the Bush Administration coffin:

Bush pollster and strategist Matthew Dowd: "Katrina to me was the tipping point. The president broke his bond with the public. Once that bond was broken, he no longer had the capacity to talk to the American public. State of the Union addresses? It didn't matter. Legislative initiatives? It didn't matter. P.R.? It didn't matter. Travel? It didn't matter."

White House communications director Dan Bartlett: "Politically, it was the final nail in the coffin."
In any situation when you operate under a vague but undeniable contract of trust with a group of people (in this case, the American public), there is a tipping point where there are fewer people making excuses for you or defending and redefining your actions in their own arguments than there are people who feel you have failed them and betrayed the power they granted you.

Bush pushed early and was given a pass, but by the time Katrina hit land, he was on tenuous ground with the more rational factions of the public. His administrations failure to place the people of New Orleans first and respond effectively to a crisis the entire country was watching play out in great detail on their teevees each morning served as a confirmation to what many suspected but were hoping to never confirm:

The President could not lead.

Hindsight is 20/20, but I'm still blaming a lot of this on John Kerry and his campaign advisors. We need to take our Presidential nominees and campaigns much more seriously. It matters. I'm hopeful still that the new life the 2008 Obama Campaign Machine has injected into the world of high level campaigning allows such a shift in American's attitudes toward expectations from candidates.

First

Post.

(Just wanted to see the time stamp)