Friday, April 23, 2010

The "Democracy is Strengthened by Casting Light on Spending in Elections" Bill

Great legislative response to the Supreme Court's "corporate personhood" ruling on campaign contributions.  From The Hill:

The Citizens United ruling opened the floodgates to unlimited spending by corporations, unions and other groups in individual campaigns. The bill’s title, the DISCLOSE Act, reflects the authors’ emphasis on transparency. The acronym stands for Democracy is Strengthened by Casting Light on Spending in Elections.
The bill would force strict disclosure requirements for ads, including a mandate that CEOs, top officials and donors appear on camera to “approve” messages. It also wouldn’t let major donors hiding behind other groups remain in the shadows.

“In order to seek out the real money behind the ad, this legislation will drill down several layers and require the top contributor directing the funds to also ‘stand by the ad,’” the summary said.
In addition, the bill would require the top five contributors to an organization to be listed on screen or in the radio ad.

It would allow political observers and the general public to know in real time where the money for the ads is coming from. Any organization that funds political advertisements would be forced to disclose its campaign activity and transfers of money to other groups that can then be used for campaign-related activity to the Federal Election Commission “within 24 hours.”

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Apply for your Netroots Nation Scholarship

From the inbox:

From: "Mary Rickles - Netroots Nation " 

It's been five years since we first gathered in Las Vegas for the inaugural Netroots Nation convention. Since then, we've helped shape the public debate, gotten many of our current leaders elected and pushed many more to fight harder for progressive change.

But there's still much work to be done, and we need you to be a part of the planning. We need you to join us July 22-25 in Las Vegas for the fifth annual Netroots Nation convention.

And to help everyone get there, we're partnering again with Democracy for America to offer scholarships to bring activists like you to Las Vegas to network with fellow leaders from across the country.

Click here to apply for your scholarship now.

This competition is your chance to show off what you've done to move the progressive agenda forward. And it's our chance to ensure that activists of every age, background and economic bracket, representing numerous points of view and all 50 states, are able to attend Netroots Nation and make it the richest experience yet.

And because the scholarship covers the cost of registration and lodging for at least 40 winners, it's also a great way to help make sure you have the resources to attend. Over the coming weeks, progressives nationwide will have a chance to voice their support for you and help you earn your scholarship.

It's easy to apply. Just click here to fill out your application.

VIDEO: Morgan Bowen, Davis Democrats' County Convention

(Still more video to come, just keep getting... distracted)

Morgan Bowen, candidate for UT-1, at the Davis County Democrats' County Convention, April 10, 2010.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Virtual University


Since 2001, a growing movement -- from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanford, and hundreds of other universities worldwide to insurgent bloggers and entrepreneurs barely out of school themselves -- is looking to social media to transform higher education. They're releasing educational content for free to the world and enlisting computers as tutors. Google has scanned and digitized 7 million books. Wikipedia users have created the world's largest encyclopedia. YouTube Edu and iTunes U have made video and audio lectures by the best professors in the country available for free.

The face-to-face learning experience, like the live concert experience, remains inimitable. Research shows that, at its best, hybrid learning beats both online-only and classroom-only approaches. Learners can take in and retain more content faster and more easily, form strong mentoring and teamwork relationships, grow into self-directed, creative problem solvers, and publish portfolios of meaningful work that help jobs find them. These innovations hold out the tantalizing possibility of beating the cost disease while meeting the world's demand for higher education.

As exhilarating as this future sounds for students, there is plenty of anxiety about the transition. "Thinking Big in a Crisis" was the title of a summer 2009 higher-education policy summit in Washington, D.C., featuring representatives from the worlds of journalism and architecture sharing war stories about the scary impact of the Web on existing business models. Later that summer, I attended an Open Education conference in Vancouver titled "Crossing the Chasm." The pace of transformation is uneven. Existing institutions don't want to give up their authority, nor faculty their jobs. Even among early adopters, there's a divide over basic issues: Some see an economic opportunity, while others are eager to spread free education; some want the university to absorb the new information technologies, while others see the digital age absorbing the universities.
Highly recommend reading the entire article (also especially interesting is the author's comparison of "bundled services" in the newspaper and university paradigms).

I agree that a "virtual" classroom wouldn't hold the same intensity of an actual classroom when it comes to learning in general, but something the author only briefly mentions here but I think is a larger part of this, moving forward: the a la carte degree.

Think "technical college" computer or business training classes combined with the "$.99 per song or $9.99 for a full album" features of itunes purchasing, as an off the top of my head example.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The "Meh" Revolution

"We had two recent tea party demonstrations in Washington, one a week before the health care vote - drew about 1,000 people.  The tax day rally, by the organizers own estimate was 1,500 people.  If I organized a rally for stronger laws to protect puppies, I would get 100,000 people to Washington.  So, I think the media has blown the tea party themselves out of proportion." -- Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell 
I held off until the second "tax day" to form an official opinion on the Tea Parties, and what I believe their relevance will be going forward.  Secretly, in 2009, I was hoping for true populist uprising, even if it found it's beginnings on "the other side."  I like populism that way.  But I was quickly suspicious when I started hearing the first few fabricated claims rattling around the echo chambers of the rallies.  By August, "unhinged" was the new "informed," it seemed.  My verdict?


A lot of more in-depth polling has emerged lately on the demographics of the "movement," and it's pretty clear the "movement" is little more than angry Republicans looking for a target -- and any target will do, truthful or not.

It's a lot like 1994-95, but so far -- to their credit -- a little less crazy than it was then.  So far.

I'm sure I'll still enjoy poking fun at them, but overall, there's nothing new to see here.

Reports of the revolution were, not surprisingly, premature.  This won't get exciting again until the GOP tries to shut them up about 6 hours after the November ballots are counted.

Monday, April 19, 2010

"Packing and Fracturing" Voters

Well, this didn't take long.  Four days after the Fair Boundaries independent redistricting initiative failed to gather the required ludicrously high number of signatures needed to be on the ballot this fall, House Speaker Dave Clark seems to be organizing a standing ovation for himself this time.  SLTrib:

The always partisan and often contentious redistricting process remains in the hands of state lawmakers after an initiative to create an independent redistricting commission failed to gather enough signatures by last Thursday's deadline.

In preparation, Clark has already surveyed the state's three U.S. House members and examined years of population estimates, developing a "doughnut" and "pie" analogy for what he sees as the Legislature's main choices.

The doughnut would carve a highly urban "island" out of Salt Lake County, favoring a Democrat. This would leave three Republican-dominated districts surrounding it.

The pie, which Clark favors, would split Salt Lake County four ways, creating urban-rural splits that would likely lean Republican.
Would it surprise you to know that Clark has often been floated as a candidate for the proposed fourth seat?  Yeah.  The hubris, huh?  Clark has been pushing this along for quite some time.  Consider his theatrics (with video) at a Fair Boundaries public hearing last summer, if you doubt the passion Dave Clark has for furthering Dave Clark's Career.  And on who's heads will Clark walk to higher office?  You lowly voters.  If you'd only acquiesce, they wouldn't have to pack you into such distorted, gerrymandered "districts" of "representation."  And now look what you're going to make Clark and pals have to do to you (some more):
Taylor has a different way to describe Clark's doughnut or pie districts. He calls it packing and fracturing.
In his view, the doughnut packs all the Democrats in the same district minimizing their impact elsewhere, while the pie tries to fracture the voice of the minority into all four districts, diluting their chances of success.

He isn't shocked that Clark, a leading Republican and oft-rumored candidate for the fourth seat, likes that second option.

"If they can draw four seats that lean Republican, and they probably can, they will do that," he said.  Taylor believes the urban-rural conversation --- which he thinks is code for Democrat-Republican -- should be dropped.

"It should be drawn fairly along currently existing political boundaries -- communities, cities, counties. It shouldn't be intentionally drawn to fracture our existing political communities," he said. Taylor said if the districts were drawn fairly, two districts would likely be competitive, while two would likely remain controlled by Republicans.

As an example, he points to the Avenues neighborhood of Salt Lake City, which is split between Matheson's 2nd District and GOP Rep. Rob Bishop's 1st District.

"I defy you to walk through the Avenues and know what congressional district you are in," Taylor said.

The Obama Effect


One argument many of us made in favor of the election of Barack Obama was that he would instantly help the US recover from its nadir of global reputation in the Bush-Cheney pre-emptive war-and-torture era. No, I sure didn't argue that this would change everything overnight or somehow evaporate the real conflicts and tensions and disagreements in global politics. I simply noted that, especially in trying to defuse as well as defeat Jihadist terror, this kind of profound change could serve America's interests well. The idea that a better reputation abroad is meaningless uplift is foolish. It helps the US leverage its power to greater ends. The more popular the US is, the likelier it is to have a positive impact on other countries' leaders. 
He goes on to note that US reputation world wide is rising under Obama, while every other country listed declines.

Nothing to shake a stick at, though I'm sure Sarah Palin will find a way, and some moron with a microphone will give her the podium to say it from.  Somewhere Mitt Romney is wishing he'd written a completely different book (also probably wishing he'd helped create a completely different successful and popular state health care system, but that's for another post).

Friday, April 16, 2010

VIDEO: Morgan Bowen, Weber Democrats' County Convention

Morgan Bowen, Democratic candidate for UT-1, at the Weber Democrats' County Convention, April 10th, 2010.

Neener, Mark

Yesterday's Twitter throw down with the Attorney General over his grandstanding was overshadowed by my other obligations (which ironically led me to a Tea Party on the clock... Just like Shurtleff!).  Thankfully, JM Bell kept the pressure on into the afternoon.  Gehrke chronicled the dust-up between the two here.  It got personal.  Alas, scientific examination of criteria lended the "win" to Shurtleff.

But all is not lost.  In the @MarkShurtleff v. @TheSideTrack Stupid Fight matchup, Shurtleff hits the mat.  Victory is sweet.

Also, Mark Shurtleff has agreed to take the debate to the airwaves.  He'll be our guest on KVNU FTP next Thursday @ 5pm to talk about these (stupid, stupid, stupid) lawsuits.

VIDEO: Peter Corroon, Davis County Convention

Peter Corroon's speech at the Davis County Democrat's Convention last Saturday.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Direct Message from @markshurtleff

Looks like I've gotten under the AG's skin a bit:

Hey sidetrack - why do u hide behind a nickname? Who r u?And 4000 tweets?!! Including a dozen today - and you're telling me to do MY job? FYI Utah's cost share for the healthcare litigation is capped at $5000 and could save state taxpayers hundreds of millions. Maybe that's why you stay anonymous so you don't have to worry about the facts.
Hello Mark. Jason Williams. We've met a few times.


Trentelman: Bishop's Tax Cut Rhetoric 'Kind of Cowardly'

Standard Examiner blog:

So when someone demands smaller government the reporter should say “which government agency, in particular?” If they say “entitlements,” they should say “which entitlements?” and let them pick from a laundry list: Medicare, Social Security, Medicaid, whatever. If they don’t specify, they should be asked to pick: HIghways, Defense, health and human services? Emphasis should be placed on entitlements the complainers receive.

And if they say “a balanced budget” the reporter should say “The Tax Foundation reports that we would have to double our income taxes to balance the budget. Do you favor doubling your taxes?” And if they say no, then they should be asked to find $1 trillion in cuts, this year.

Interestingly, Rep. Rob Bishop is sending out releases lambasting the sunsetting of the Bush tax cuts next year, somehow blaming Obama for this. Why not blame Bush? It was Bush’s slight of hand way of cutting taxes while keeping the lost revenue amounts low (relatively speaking) while conveniently kicking the problem down the road.

Kind of cowardly, you ask me, but now, of course, it’s an “Obama” tax hike.
Yesterday, the teabaggers released their "Contract" for America. Predictably Vague Demand #7 was
Defund, repeal, and replace the recently passed government-run health care with a system that actually makes health care and insurance more affordable by enabling a competitive, open, and transparent free-market health care and health insurance system that isn’t restricted by state boundaries.
Genius! Why didn't anyone else think of that? Let's just sprinkle the ashes of a copy of Atlas Shrugged anointed by the tears of Michele Bachmann over that plan and make it happen, shall we?

And as for ending "government run," it's worth pointing out that according to this NYT/CBS poll, the average age of the North American Teabagger is 45 to... you guessed it: 64.

Keep your government out of my Medicare!

(Carte) Blanche

PCCC in the inbox:

Remember how Arkansas Senator Blanche Lincoln bragged to voters about her role in killing the public option? Remember when she said "I don't answer to my party" in a TV ad? Well, it's finally catching up with her.

A new poll shows Democratic primary challenger Lt. Gov. Bill Halter is gaining on her -- for the first time, the race is now down to single-digits! 

Can you help keep the momentum going by chipping in $4 to Halter's campaign right now?

The new poll shows Lincoln ahead 38% to 31% with a ton of undecided voters who Halter is gaining with.

Another recent poll shows Blanche Lincoln loses to every potential Republican. Bill Halter is already beating some of them, and his name recognition and popularity are rising every week.

Bill Halter can totally win this race. His willingness to take on the insurance companies and Wall Street banks is exactly what voters want -- and Halter's victory will teach Democratic candidates across the nation that bold populism is the political winner in 2010.

But he needs your help to win in next month's primary.

Can you help defeat Lincoln -- and teach other Democrats to take on corporate interests in 2010 -- by chipping in $4 to Halter's populist campaign today?

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Bring the Kids! But Just Once Leave the Racist Signs at Home!

SLTrib's Political Cornflakes:

[...]the Republican establishment is joining forces with a Utah tea party group to hold rallies. The party starts at the Capitol at noon with Gov. Gary Herbert and then moves to the old Utah County Court at 5:30. Everyone is invited, but as the email says: “BRING FAMILY FRIENDLY SIGNS. RACIST, BIGOTED, OR OFFENSIVE SIGNS--NOT WELCOME.”
What an ordinary, not unusual at all thing for promoters of Herbert's tea party to point out, huh?

I can't even remember how many times I've said to my friends, "Hey, let's catch a movie! But this time, let's leave the racist, bigoted, offensive signs at home, huh?"

And how many wedding invitations have you gotten recently (if can you even count them, they are so numerous) that read "Reception, 7pm, Leave the racist, bigoted, offensive signs at home"?

Great of Herbert to put a halt to the ass-hatery for one event. After that? By all means carry on, Teabaggers, carry on.

VIDEO: US Senate Candidates Sam Granato and Christopher Stout

The video uploads continue.  Democratic candidates for US Senate Sam Granato and Christopher Stout from Saturday's Davis County Democratic Convention.



The 47% Distraction


So a much greater share of income is now concentrated at the top of distribution, while each dollar there is taxed less than it once was. It’s true that raising taxes on the rich alone can’t come close to solving the long-term budget problem. The deficit is simply too big. But if taxes are not increased for the wealthy, the country will be left with two options.

It will have to raise taxes even more than it otherwise would on everybody else. Or it will have to find deep cuts in Medicare, Social Security, military spending and the other large (generally popular) federal programs.

All the attention being showered on “47 percent” is ultimately a distraction from that reality.

The 47 percent number is not wrong. The stimulus programs of the last two years — the first one signed by President George W. Bush, the second and larger one by President Obama — have increased the number of households that receive enough of a tax credit to wipe out their federal income tax liability.

But the modifiers here — federal and income — are important. Income taxes aren’t the only kind of federal taxes that people pay. There are also payroll taxes and capital gains taxes, among others. And, of course, people pay state and local taxes, too.

Even if the discussion is restricted to federal taxes (for which the statistics are better), a vast majority of households end up paying federal taxes. Congressional Budget Office data suggests that, at most, about 10 percent of all households pay no net federal taxes. The number 10 is obviously a lot smaller than 47.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

VIDEO: Betty Sawyer, Democratic Candidate for Senate District 18.

Second only to the standing ovation Peter Corroon got at the Davis County Convention was this crowd pleasing speech by Senate District 18 candidate Betty Sawyer.  I spoke with her in the lobby after the convention wrapped, and her energy is as sincere as it gets.  My prediction: a candidate to watch for.

Betty Sawyer's speech:

VIDEO: Chairman Wayne Holland and Mayor Peter Corroon

Finally getting some of the video kicking around "SideTrack HQ" for a long while now edited and uploaded to The Tubes.  Some of it is from '09, some of it just a few days old.  Wanted to start out with two clips from the most recent events filmed.  Here is State Party Chairman Wayne Holland's introduction (on crutches!), and a great speech from Mayor Peter Corroon at the Cache Democrats' Jefferson Jackson Dinner last Friday.  Enjoy.

Wayne Holland's Introduction:

Mayor Peter Corroon's Speech:

Monday, April 12, 2010

Tea Parties: Now 25% Less Crazy?

The only problem I see with this supposed (and admirable, if sincere) effort to cleanse the Tea Parties of violent extremists, and screaming racists is that they still won't really be able to explain what it is they will be slightly less irrationally angry about.

In his weekly address, President Obama takes on outraged teabaggers' claims about higher taxes and bigger government by pointing out some real statistics and facts, starting with this: tax refunds are 10% higher because of Recovery Act tax breaks aimed at the middle class.

Got that, teabaggers? You're going to go out on April 15th and cuts for the middle class?

[...] If you want to see all the different ways your taxes were lowered, or show your favorite Tea Party neighbor how their taxes were lowered, here's the tool for that.

What a country we live in, where a teabagger can cash their refund check and send it all to FreedomWorks to protest the break they just got on their taxes.

Reid Challenger: "Barter" for Health Care

If  Lowden ends up the NV GOP nominee, and Harry Reid doesn't beat her in the general...

Harry Reid's got his work cut out for him if he plans to be in the Senate in 2011. But, my God, his probable opponent, former Nevada GOP chair Sue Lowden, looks like her ideas for reform come from the 18th rather than the 21st century. In this video, she suggests more use of 'barter' may be a key way to rein in health care costs.  
...well, I just won't know what to say.

Is this what the GOP means when they say "exchanges"?

Claudia Wright Speaks for Me (And That's Why She Would Lose in UT-2)

Primary challenges are always good.  I just want to get that out first before I offer up my thoughts on the Claudia Wright.  Primary challenges keep incumbents on their toes, and create -- if nothing else -- a discussion inside a party that often won't happen otherwise. But that is for a serious primary challenge. A token primary challenge gets us nowhere.

We don't endorse here, because... well honestly, who cares who we endorse?  And my opinion here won't mean much to many outside of those who've read here for the past five years, or know me personally.  I have been a consistent Matheson critic many times over.  And this weekend I did finally get a chance to read through all the content at Claudia Wright's campaign page, and I loved every single word of it.  From her position on health care, to her environmental policy, this is a candidate I could get behind 100%.

And that is exactly why Claudia Wright as a candidate in Utah this cycle would result in Congressman Morgan Philpot (R-Mars).

Idealists will call me a cynic, but I'm not.  I have and will always believe anything is possible in politics, if you get the necessary support.  But "possible" does not equal "good idea."  I'm just realistic. If you want to primary Matheson, take it seriously. Running someone this far left will only push Matheson further right. It's self defeating, and I can't take it seriously. A primary challenge isn't something to take lightly, and with Wright as a candidate now -- as opposed to two years from now -- I can't help but think those behind the primary challenge aren't taking this seriously enough themselves.

Do I think Jim had the political capital to vote for the health care bill and still keep his seat?  Yes.  Do I find it irritating when Matheson not only votes against the bill (House version), but also spends the following weekend campaigning against it on Fox News for any self respecting Democrat?  Yes.  Was it infuriating when he not only cast his final "no" against reform, then put out a press release using the exact (and oft debunked) talking points of the Party of No?  Absolutely.  Was it relevant when JMBell posted this (and hilarious when he posted this)? Without a doubt.

But I think Jim knows his district, and that press release will be forgotten in a month.  You know what won't go away in one month?  Congressman Morgan Philpot.  A Congressman Morgan Philpot would be around for at least two years, teabaggin' the hell out of every bill this administration pushes for.  Check out what Philpot defines as "common sense economics," if you need more.  Matheson scores only 70 or 80% on most Democratic Party "loyalty" vote checks, any given year.  You know what a Congressman Morgan Philpot would score?  A negative so far right it would would be the voting equivalent of anti-matter.  I'm not advocating never taking a risk.  Not doing so has been the biggest boon to Democrats winning elections in Utah for far too long.  But you also have to keep a grip on political realities.  Losing elections while patting yourself on the back for ideological purity is for Club for Growth and FreedomWorks.  We have to play smarter pool.

This isn't to say we should settle (and yeah, I think Jim's gotten away with it for a little too long... time to spend some of that capital, take a risk now and then for the good of country, etc).  And in no way am I advocating never criticizing publicly our Only Democrat.  But if we don't realize political realities of elections and remember that those elections have consequences (think of the lunacy you'd hear from Chaffetz in 2011 if the GOP "reclaims" all of Utah's federal delegates?) and if we don't keep in mind that just being "right" (which I believe Claudia is) doesn't guarantee "getting things done," then we point ourselves in the same direction of the to-date ineffectual Congressional Progressive Caucus, or worse, the realm of the tea-baggers (not the racist part, obviously, just the "we're a majority!" tripe they've convinced themselves of by screaming louder than Chris Matthews).

Matheson deserves the criticism.  And he even deserves the primary challenge. But I only got as far as "single payer" on Wright's website (loving everything that I read!) before realizing there isn't a chance in hell District 2 would elect her.  It's unfortunate, but I believe it's a reality those backing Wright haven't considered. If you're going to do this, you need to do this to win, not send a message.

So as an alternative for those of us that are frustrated with Matheson, and believe he could tack a bit more left than he has so far on key items from this administration and still keep a Democrat in that seat, here's a thought: There are two other ways to push him left, and keep a Democrat in UT-2.

1. Get Bishop and Chaffetz to go more left themselves, giving Matheson some breathing room.

This will happen about the same time Hell freezes over, or Chaffetz tweets something intelligent, or I read anything written by Jonah Goldberg.

2.  Elect another Democrat to a federal office in Utah.

This is a long shot, especially this year.  But there are candidates to get behind, and anything is possible, right?

So Claudia, I love what you stand for.  If I were a delegate, supporting you would be an honor from an altruistic point of view.  But I wouldn't, because I am realistic.  And considering what I've heard from Morgan Philpot so far, I don't think I could stomach him on CSPAN for the next two years.  District 2 isn't ready for Wright.  It might be one day (I hope) but it isn't today.  Matheson deserves credit for recognizing that, and criticism for not doing more to change that.  But regardless, it will remain the case at least for the 2010 cycle.

Nationally, progressives have spent enough time standing on principle alone while losing elections and failing to influence policy even when elected.  It's time to recognize the political realities and spend less time sitting back with our noses in the air being "right," and more time playing the game (distasteful as it might seem) in order to actually influence the political realities, and make a representative like Wright a viable possibility one day, rather than a just an idealistic notion.  The best way to change the game is from the inside.  But you've got to get inside first.

If Claudia loses the nomination, I'd hope every one of her supporters will jump in behind another Democratic candidate for federal office.  Morgan Bowen, Granato or Stout.  Even working with Matheson himself to change the political climate of UT-2, if he by chance invites such a thing.  If the goal is to push Jim, and therefore the state, left, there are many ways to do it and many of us that share that goal.  Giving up a very popular Congressman isn't the best way to go about it.

After the convention, we should all talk.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Two Words for Orrin

With Justice Stevens out this summer, we can bet safely on a complete meltdown from Orrin Hatch no matter who Obama might choose for the Supreme Court spot.

So in the interest of getting ahead of the predictable bull from our absent minded Senator Hatch, who has yet to find a hypocritical position he won't publicly embrace, I have two words:

Roberts, and Alito.

Consider this an advance "Shut it," Orrin.

UPDATE: Aaaaaaand we were too late.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Schoolyard Bully Foreign Policy

Via RawStory, a quote from Palin that reveals what foreign policy is about for many conservatives:

"Calling the president's move "unbelievable," Palin told Fox News' Sean Hannity that "no administration in America's history would, I think, ever have considered such a step that we just found out President Obama is supporting today."

Said Palin: "It's kind of like getting out there on a playground, a bunch of kids, getting ready to fight, and one of the kids saying, 'Go ahead, punch me in the face and I'm not going to retaliate. Go ahead and do what you want to with me.'"

I don't think it's an accident Palin uses such a childish analogy. To them, it really is a schoolyard, and the biggest bully wins the best swing on the swingset.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Congressman Bishop and NASA funding

Congressman Bishop feels your pain! At least that is what he says if you have been impacted by the numerous layoffs at ATK. The congressman wants to tell you that he has been trying to secure funding for ATK and NASA but his record on this issue shows something completely different.

When Obama entered office there were numerous concerns about the direction of the Constellation program and a commission was created to evaluate the long term viability of the Constellation program to replace the space shuttle. The commission was composed of a variety of stakeholders in the Constellation program along with experienced aerospace executives that could provide a complete view of the status of the Constellation program. The Augustine commission concluded that the Constellation program had been chronically underfunded during the Bush administration and could not successfully replace the space shuttle without significantly more funding.

During the entire process of the Augustine commission gathering feedback Congressman Bishop was strangely silent and did not provide any leadership with advocating for the importance of ATK to the Constellation program. Congressman Bishop could have provided some leadership in this process but decided not to. I wonder why Congressman Bishop didn't show any leadership but it appears that our congressman does not provide leadership on many issues. Ask yourself the last time Bishop was a leader on any issue that was important to you.

Obviously Bishop will dispute this characterization and I am sure he will say his lack of leadership was due to him being in the minority. If that is true then we would think those priorities would be present in the GOP alternative budget.

But this is not true!

Lets look at last year's GOP budget (page 52).

(click to enlarge)

The 2009 budget is rather substantial but then take a look at 2010 – 2015. The NASA budget is reduced and then is not raised at all for another FIVE YEARS! The exact next five years that the Augustine commission says are critical to the success of the Constellation program. And funding for NASA never recovers to the initial funding provided in 2009. This is the future of NASA under Republican leadership. This is the future of ATK with the leadership that Congressman Bishop has within his own party. When Congressman Bishop can’t even convince his own party to fund NASA appropriately then what makes us think that Congressman Bishop can convince the rest of congress to fund NASA appropriately.

Now let’s take a look at what the GOP budget for this year has to say about NASA funding.

Oh you aren’t seeing anything about NASA. Yea it looks like Republicans decided that NASA didn’t even deserve one word, one figure, one calculation in this year’s budget. But don’t worry Congressman Bishop got the Republicans to spend paragraph after paragraph on political theory and the thoughts of Adam Smith. When Congressman Bishop can’t even convince his own party to include one word in the budget then what makes us think that Congressman Bishop can convince the rest of congress to fund NASA appropriately.

Rob Bishop is a sub-par congressman that barely lifts a finger in properly representing our district and depends on us blindly voting for him every two years. Well I have had enough, Bishop has been MIA on one important issue too many. Send Rob a wake up call and vote in Morgan Bowen for Congress (


PS - This is an excellent letter to the editor about NASA and ATK and what is at stake and the challenges that President Obama is tackling.

Monday, April 5, 2010

The Candidate vs. The Politician

Article at TAP explaining (well) the mistake this White House made in it's approach to populist America:

Team Obama can almost be forgiven for adhering to a quaint but mistaken theory of democracy. It won the election by a substantial margin and assumed that victory delivered a mandate for its major initiatives, both those that helped mobilize supporters (such as health care) and those that went unmentioned. It tried to advance those initiatives with an air of technocratic paternalism through a handful of really smart people -- -Timothy Geithner, Larry Summers, Peter Orszag -- who would figure out what was best for America and then through skilled political operatives who would get it through Congress.

Obama and the White House staff seem to have lost sight of a reality that the election did not change: Most Americans have become extremely cynical about government. Pollsters often ask Americans whether they think that "this country is run by a few big interests looking out for themselves" or whether it is run "for the benefit of all the people." In the 1960s, the majority of Americans thought that government was run for the benefit of all. But in recent decades, most Americans respond that they think government is run by a few big interests. One election and one president, no matter how appealing or articulate, cannot reverse that tectonic shift in American political culture. Because Americans trust their government much less than they did in the past, politicians must earn public support every day, not just on Election Day. But Team Obama thought that it could live off of the interest.
A book I read a few years back (and written many years before that even) The Paradoxes of the American Presidency, talks about a contradiction in voters when it comes to elections, and office holding: Voters want a "cowboy" candidate, but a pragmatic President, once in office. I think that paradox has only grown in many ways since the books publication, and not just in our attitudes toward presidents.

I don't think that entirely sums up voter attitudes toward office holders today, but it does shed light on the difficulties (and often broken promises) of a campaign, once the candidate is elected and must do the job elected to do. (A great example of this in local politics would be the unrealistic rhetoric of the Mike Lee campaign... if he's elected, his campaign rhetoric continued on the Senate floor would likely get him laughed off the Senate floor. You want to what? AHAHAHAHHAHA! Sure, Mikey!) There are obvious contradictions in our attitudes toward our politicians. We will vote them in to solve all our problems, and then hate them when they don't solve our immediate personal problems. Polls show most Americans want what government provides, but generally don't want to pay for it. And evident in the health care town halls last summer, the most vocal activists -- rarely speaking the sentiment of the majority -- get the most media play.

Drew Western has written repeatedly about the Democrats' failure to connect with majorities in certain policy making debates, even when they are on the "truth telling" side of the argument, up against a Republican (and now Tea Party) Bullshit Campaign. Republicans, Western writes, often win those debates despite the bullshit they're spewing because their rhetoric connects with the "gut" while Democrats are trying to talk to the "head."

Combine these ideas with the loss of the populism he enjoyed during the campaigns, and the author has an extremely important point I hope this White House hears. For better or worse, good policy, explained by competent experts will never give the lawmakers you need to get your policy through the political capital necessary to get the job down. There's no need to sink as low as feeding the uninformed angry mobs of the Tea Party "movement" as the GOP has done (and arguably, there is political damage in that route as well) but -- using financial reform as an example -- selling the policy through an OFA ground assault, coupled with a revived "us" message mostly absent since the campaigns will gain more ground than any number of educated experts pushing it on CSPAN. Good or bad, voters respond to an emotional message now more than an intellectual explanation of policy.

I think this is excellent advice for this President, when considering only how to get his policies through more quickly, and less watered down. But I can't help but wonder what this says about our politics. Is this really, as the article's author says, a result of cynicism from voters? Is it a result of a dumbed down 24 hour cable news cycle? Is it real populism that might lead to a one day more engaged electorate? Or is this a message from the American people that they want their politicians to stop using big words, and start telling them what to feel warm/fuzzy about, or afraid/angry about?

The author of the TAP article calls it "A Tea Party for Obama." But considering how uninformed the Tea Party activists seem to be, is this really what we want? From a perspective of "winning," Drew Western is right on how Republicans have succeeded even when they are lying. But it's hard not to wonder where "speak to the gut, not the head" will lead us in the long run. A more engaged, involved, and informed electorate would be amazing. A contest of who can build the biggest uninformed angry mob when making policy, not just -- as is tradition -- while campaigning? Bad. Very bad.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

This is "Failure"?

TWI's Mike Lillis on the failed positioning of GOP and the Stimulus numbers:

House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.), for example, issued a statement arguing that no long-term recovery can happen until "Washington stops actively impeding economic growth." And Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.), who heads the Republican Study Committee, said "we have still yet to see the robust private sector job creation the Obama administration promised would come from its $862 billion failed stimulus."

It's a curious tactic, considering that (1) the economy created 162,000 jobs last month — 114,000 when census hiring is excluded; (2) that the "failed stimulus" included more than $300 billion in tax cuts for businesses and individuals, which is the same strategy that GOP leaders have argued would most effectively grow the economy; and (3) that 162,000 is quite an improvement above the 700,000+ jobs that were being shed each month when Obama moved into the White House.

Case in point: this graph from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

Digital Due Process

A coalition is being put together to update the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, made up of scholars, civil rights orgs, and tech companies (including Google).  From the their website:

The Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) was a forward-looking statute when enacted in 1986. It specified standards for law enforcement access to electronic communications and associated data, affording important privacy protections to subscribers of emerging wireless and Internet technologies. Technology has advanced dramatically since 1986, and ECPA has been outpaced. The statute has not undergone a significant revision since it was enacted in 1986 - light years ago in Internet time.

As a result, ECPA is a patchwork of confusing standards that have been interpreted inconsistently by the courts, creating uncertainty for both service providers and law enforcement agencies. ECPA can no longer be applied in a clear and consistent way, and, consequently, the vast amount of personal information generated by today’s digital communication services may no longer be adequately protected.
The group is pushing a "update" rather than a full rewrite of EFCA to better clarify the lines between social interests (like law enforcement issues, national security) and civil interests (like the government having to get a warrant before they locate you using mobile positioning data via your cell phone).

Seems like a pretty common sense approach.  And it's no question EFCA in it's current form fails to address a good chunk of new technology and information flow processes.

Hopefully this coalition gets taken seriously.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Census Karma


It's not enough that folks from the Birther & Death Panel set have convinced many good folks that the Census is a secret plot to steal their lawn furniture. There's another irony waiting. Historically, the real problem with underreporting has been in underprivileged communities -- particularly African-Americans and Latinos and especially in large urban areas. To that end, conservatives have worked for the better part of two decades to stop the Census from taking any steps to correct numbers in the face of widespread non-response: namely, statistical sampling. And in the face of that pressure, the current Census Director has ruled out using sampling in the 2010 Census.
Under-reporting, in general, cheats everyone in the end.  But if it happens, it's nice to see that -- for a change -- the under-reporting won't be a result of ignoring low-income urban dwellers, but rather the wild emotional conclusions of tea baggers and 9-12ers, living in a conspiracy theory consumed haze fed by reality challenged reactionaries like Rep. Michele Bachmann and Sen. Jim DeMint.

Combining their fervent opposition to using statistical sampling (Grrrrr!  More science!  Elitists!) and their charged (and lunatic) rhetoric over ACORN conspiracies and gov'mint takeovers, conservative luminaries may have tea partied themselves into under-representation.  Which is even more ironic, considering representation -- not Democrats winning elections -- spawned the revolution that these "visionaries" pretend to be recreating.  The money quote, from Bachmann
If we look at American history, between 1942 and 1947, the data that was collected by the Census Bureau was handed over to the FBI and other organizations at the request of President Roosevelt, and that's how the Japanese were rounded up and put into the internment camps ... I'm not saying that that's what the Administration is planning to do, but I am saying that private personal information that was given to the Census Bureau in the 1940s was used against Americans to round them up, in a violation of their constitutional rights, and put the Japanese in internment camps.
It's a confusing new world, today, for morons.  So much idiocy to align oneself with, how can one be expected to choose? 

Best just to sit the next few years out listening to the HAM radio in the basement, wrapped, shaking, in a "Don't Tread on Me!" flag. 

We'll let you know when it's safe to come out.