Monday, October 31, 2005

''Not above the law''

"There is a cancer on the presidency, and it cannot be exorcised by the resignation of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby.

Libby, assistant to the president and Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, has been indicted on five federal counts, including obstruction of justice, making false statement and perjury. The charges stem from the investigation into a leak disclosing that Valerie Plame, wife of former ambassador Joseph Wilson, was a covert CIA operative.

Based on the allegations special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald laid out in the indictments Friday, it's increasingly evident that officials within the Bush administration disclosed Plame's identity as part of an effort to discredit Wilson's criticism of one of the pretexts for war against Iraq.

Fitzgerald said that the investigation remained open, and the indictments make intriguing reference to the conversation another senior White House official, identified only as "Official A," had with columnist Robert Novak in which Wilson's wife was "discussed as a CIA employee."

No matter where the investigation goes from here, the question is why President Bush didn't fire Libby long ago if his role in outing Plame was as clear as the indictments indicate. It raises the uncomfortable and inevitable question: What did the president know and when did he know it?

The larger, more important context goes beyond palace intrigue: the lengths to which the Bush administration was willing to go to protect its trumped-up justifications for an unjustifiable war."-from the SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER EDITORIAL BOARD.

''Howard Dean on the Nomination of Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court''

"President Bush shouldn't try to use the nomination of an extreme conservative to distract from the ethical problems his White House is facing. Three days after a top White House official was indicted, President Bush continued his troubling pattern of playing to his right-wing political base in times of political trouble. In an indication of his weakened political position, Bush has nominated Samuel Alito, a conservative activist judge, to replace Justice O'Connor, who has been a voice of moderation on the Court for a generation.

"A lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court of the United States is too important to be sacrificed on the altar of short-term political gain. President Bush's nomination of Alito is not leadership, it is capitulation.

"Alito's record suggests an activist judicial philosophy bent on rolling back the rights and freedoms that all Americans value. Alito has sought to limit the rights of women and people with disabilities in discrimination cases, demonstrated an open hostility to women's privacy rights even in basic reproductive health matters, has a record of hostility toward immigrants, and tried to immunize employers from employment discrimination cases. It is particularly troubling that President Bush would nominate a judge who would reverse American progress and make the Supreme Court look less like America on the same day that most Americans are honoring the life and legacy of Rosa Parks.

"Now, as Alito goes before the Senate Judiciary Committee, he must demonstrate that he will be a Supreme Court Justice who uses his position on the highest court in the land to protect and advance the fundamental rights and personal freedoms of all Americans. Alito must prove that he is not a captive of the radical right-wing, and the White House must provide the Senate with all the information it needs to thoroughly evaluate Alito's nomination."-from the DNC. The DNC has also issued the following statement: "Bush Should Hold His Administration Accountable...To His Own Standards" and

''The Libby Indictment: Was It a ''Coverup of a Coverup?''

"Media writer Dan Kennedy believes that the "indictment of Lewis "Scooter" Libby could prove to be a dark day for any notion that reporters have a right to protect their confidential sources." In fact, he reports, that if and when the case goes to trial, "Judith, Miller, NBC's Tim Russert and Time magazine's Matthew Cooper will all have to take the stand and testify against their once-confidential source -- a pretty unappetizing prospect."

Yet just as this indictment was akin to accusing Al Capone of income tax invasion instead of the murders he committed, the real issues facing journalists and journalists go deeper. The federal prosecutor not only did NOT find out who leaked name of the CIA's Valerie Plame—-- the reason for his probe in the first place— -- but he did not place the lies told by Libby in the context of the greater lie— -- the conspiracy to wage an illegal war. (And note how all the focus is still on the lies before the war not the crimes committed in Iraq and the way they have been masked.)

That's the crime that demands investigation and prosecution. Libby's lies were a misdemeanor in the face of multiple felonies that are still unpunished. Crimes against the truth are important to prosecute, but so are war crimes against humanity.

We kept hearing the mantra that the "cover-up" is always worse than the crime, but is it possible that this very investigation which so many hailed for its courage and independence is actually a cover-up itself?

Sheldon Drobny a founder of Air America and someone who "helped prosecute and defend white collar crime offenses for 38 years including experience with Mr. Fitzgerald's office in my home town Chicago," questions the prosecutor's independence and focus.

"Essentially Fitzgerald indicted Libby for preventing his prosecutors from proving the underlying crimes he was investigating by using a baseball metaphor in that Libby "threw sand in the umpires eyes," he writes. "That part is patently absurd….... Those of us who know about prosecutors and Grand Jury investigations would tell you that Fitzgerald, using a baseball metaphor, threw the Bush cabal a "softball." And using a football metaphor, he "fumbled the ball."

Leave aside this one relatively small fry indictment and consider the larger problem in press-government relations. If you have seen the new George Clooney film "Good Night and Good Luck" you will know exactly what I mean.

That movie dramatizes the investigation of Senator Joseph McCarthy by Edward R. Murrow. It showed how the CBS journalist helped demolish McCarthy's reputation which led to his later censure by the Senate. The report struck a blow against the rapacious red-baiting Senator and the fear he spread in every part of American life.

At one point, as he prepared his program, some of his colleagues were worried and suggested the program be killed. Murrow said no, pointing out "that the fear is right here in this room." The New York Times of that era applauded CBS' stand.

In many ways, that expose represented TV's finest hour and highest hopes. What Ed Murrow's work showed was that it was possible for TV News to investigate and confront liars in high places. In those years, journalists saw themselves as crusaders, watchdogs and members of a fourth estate. They challenged wrong doers and did not collude with them.

That CBS is long gone. Last week CBS fired its News President in connection with Dan Rather's story exposing President Bush's military record. He was replaced by a sports executive who donated to the Bush-Cheney campaign. After the invasion of Iraq CBS's news coverage was hailed as best for network by a right-wing media monitoring group.

Today, that fourth estate is more like a fourth front where compliant journalists genuflect to those in power in what is now a military-industrial-media complex. Judith Miller echoed Administration claims about WMDs and then went to jail to protect Libby as a source. Matt Cooper's Time Magazine sold the war along with most media outlets. Tim Russert's Meet the Press on most weeks is a salon for the elite, a platform for Beltway blather, acceptable middle of the road opinion, conventional wisdom, and spinning by the rationalizers in suits.

The real problem is that much of our media has become ensconced in the system. It has lost critical distance. Too many Journalists trade information for access and front for failed policies.

It's clear that these insiders—-- in courts of law and courts of public opinion -- have forfeited our nation's trust. The challenge is what to do about it."-Danny Schecter, on BuzzFlash. I'm hoping this is not the end of Fitzgerald's work on this matter. I was given tickets to Al Franken's appearance this morning in Seattle, so I will be away from the keyboard.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

''5-Mile Pro-Monorail Marches from Interbay and West Seattle Meet"

Dina Lydia Johnson was there and passes along these photos.

''Cheney staffer-turned-reporter now covering Libby indictment for NBC News''

"Over at the Huffington Post, Dan Carol asks a great question: how can NBC's Pete Williams be allowed to cover the Scooter Libby story for the network, considering Williams was a longtime former staffer for Dick Cheney?
That's right – according to Williams' biography on NBC's website, Williams is "a native of Casper, Wyoming" – where Cheney is from. In 1986, Williams "joined the Washington, DC staff of then Congressman Dick Cheney as press secretary and a legislative assistant. In 1989, when Cheney was named Assistant Secretary of Defense, Williams was appointed Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs."

Now Williams is being allowed to report on the indictment of Cheney's chief of staff for NBC News, as if he was just a regular old nonpartisan objective journalist. And, as Carol points out, Williams seems to be using his position on TV in some pretty questionable ways when it comes to the case.

UPDATE: I received a hysterical, breathless email from a well-known NBC reporter complaining about the fact that I raised questions about Williams' objectivity. He whined that I am overlooking "14 years of spotless, impartial work for NBC News" by Williams. But as I told him, here's the deal: Dick Cheney's former longtime flack is reporting for NBC on a scandal surrounding Dick Cheney. If you can't see the conflict there...well, then the media really has bigger problems than even I had originally thought. Regardless of Williams' previous reporting (which has been fine), this is about as blatant a conflict-of-interest as you can get. It's one thing for him to be reporting on the Bush administration in general, despite being a former Republican flack. But it is quite another for him to be reporting directly on a scandal surrounding his longtime former boss. It's right out of Journalism 101 in terms of what not to allow. Period. Not only has Dan Carol raised questions about it, but so has the New York Times, and plenty of others. The media is quick to demand politicians recuse themselves from any situation that even appears to look like a conflict of interest. But when the public asks the same of the media - surprise surprise - the media goes and cries. Pathetic."-from Sirotablog, with lots of links and comments.

''Special report: Bush faces his Watergate''

"Sleaze, leaks and an indictment add up to the worst presidential crisis since Nixon. And it will get worse. The White House has lost one key man but the whole chain of command may be engulfed by a scandal slowly revealing the lies that led to war--
Presidential second terms are prone to scandals, from Bill Clinton's embarrassments over Monica Lewinsky to Ronald Reagan's implication in the Iran-Contra imbroglio. But the troubles now circling George Bush's White House could be even worse than Watergate.

It might not appear that way at first. Mr Bush is unlikely to have to join Richard Nixon, the only president in US history forced to resign from office. But the issues raised by "Plamegate" - the leaking of the identity of Valerie Plame, an undercover CIA agent - are far more significant than those involved in the "second-rate burglary" of the Democratic National Committee's offices in Washington's Watergate complex in the 1970s. They go to the heart of why America, and its faithful ally, Britain, went to war in Iraq.

The immediate problems are bad enough. On Friday Vice-President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, Lewis "Scooter" Libby, was indicted for obstruction of justice and making false statements to a grand jury. Patrick Fitzgerald, the special prosecutor appointed to investigate Ms Plame's outing, announced that he was not indicting Karl Rove, President Bush's closest adviser, although he remains under investigation and may have to give evidence against Mr Libby.

The administration and its friends have done their best to portray the Plamegate affair as an obscure, "inside the Beltway" scandal, of interest only to Washington obsessives and conspiracy theorists. On Thursday evening, as the whole of Washington speculated over his position, Mr Rove did his best to reinforce that view.

At his large home in the Palisades district of Washington, Mr Rove stepped from the driver's seat of his blue Jaguar XJ6 and smiled at a waiting cameraman as he headed inside. Moments later, when The Independent on Sunday rapped on his heavy wooden door, his reaction suggested a relaxed family evening rather than someone waiting to be fed to the lions. "Sorry, but we're all having dinner right now," he said.

It is also true that Washington's Democrats, who have suffered years of humiliation at the hands of a Republican Party which holds not only the White House but majorities in both houses of Congress, are rubbing their hands with glee over the scandal at a time when Mr Bush is already reeling from record low approval ratings and problems on many other fronts.

Earlier in the week, the President had already suffered one humiliating setback when he was forced to accept the withdrawal of his nomination for the Supreme Court, Harriet Miers, after a fierce campaign from right-wing members of his own party.

Larry Sabato, professor of politics at the University of Virginia, said: "It's not good news but it could have worse. That's all you can really say. I would emphasise the bad: there is no good way to spin this, though no doubt they will try."

He said that Mr Rove would be able to continue to do his behind-the-scenes work from the White House.

Yet it is possible to view this week's events in much, much starker terms if one steps back from the all but incomprehensible minutiae of the indictments and of who is alleged to have said what to whom and focuses instead on the broader narrative.

If one believes that the government of George Bush - actively assisted by that of Tony Blair - conspired to make a fraudulent case for the invasion of Iraq, then it is possible to see this week's events as nothing less the first fallout for the administration of their attempt to cover-up what they did.

More than 2,100 US and British soldiers and perhaps 100,000 civilians have died since the invasion of Iraq in 2003. If one believes that using false statements and twisted information to mislead a nation and launch that war is a greater crime than orchestrating a dirty tricks campaign against your political rivals, then it is possible to set this week's events in the context of the seminal Washington scandal from which Plamegate - and all the other "gates" - take their inspiration.

Remember, no one knew where it would all lead when, on June 17 1972, five men appeared for a preliminary hearing at a Washington court charged over a break-in at the Democratic party national headquarters at the Watergate complex.

To appreciate the broader potential of Libby's indictment one cannot avoid a little of the labyrinthine background. Mr Fitzgerald's investigation focussed on the leaking of the identity of Ms Plame, wife of former US ambassador Joe Wilson.

In the summer of 2003 Mr Wilson had publicly questioned claims made by Mr Bush that Iraq had been seeking to buy uranium from Niger to re-establish a nuclear weapons programme. The threat of a "mushroom cloud" had been presented to the American public as one of the reasons for a war against Iraq.

Mr Wilson had investigated the claims at the behest of the CIA and found them to be false. Soon after he went public, a conservative columnist, Robert Novak, claimed that Mr Wilson's wife, Valerie, worked for the CIA and that she had suggested sending her husband to Africa. The leak was widely interpreted as an attempt to undermine the former ambassador, who had, ironically, been commended by Mr Bush's father as "a true American hero" for standing up to Saddam Hussein during the 1990 hostage crisis.

It is now clear that a number of officials spoke to reporters about Ms Plame's identity and her alleged role in sending her husband to Africa. The indictments accuse Mr Libby of lying about what he told the reporters about her and where he learned she worked for the CIA. Indeed, as the indictment makes clear, one of the several sources Mr Libby spoke to about Ms Plame's employment was Mr Cheney.
On Friday, the news of Mr Libby's indictment on five felony counts - two of lying to FBI investigators, two of lying to a grand jury and one count of obstructing justice - rapidly reverberated around this incestuous and self-regarding city. Less than half-an-hour after the charges were filed, the 22-page indictment was posted on to the prosecutor's official website for everyone to tear into.

Shortly afterwards, at a press conference, Mr Fitzgerald finally broke his silence and said he believed that Mr Libby, 55, chief of staff to probably the most powerful US vice-president in history, had repeatedly lied and mislead investigators looking into the leaking of a covert CIA operative's name. That was why he had been charged with offences that carried up to 30 years in jail.

"We brought these cases because we realised that the truth is the engine of our judicial system," said Mr Fitzgerald. "We didn't get the straight story and we had to - had to - act. When citizens testify before grand juries they are required to tell the truth. Without truth, our criminal justice cannot serve our nation or its citizens. The requirement to tell the truth applies equally to all citizens, including persons who hold high positions in government."

In the immediate term, Mr Bush and his White House team will busy themselves by focusing on their agenda and perhaps organising some sort of shake-up of administration officials, not least finding a replacement for Mr Libby who immediately stood down.

Shortly after the indictments were released, Mr Bush praised Mr Libby for "working tirelessly on behalf of the American people". He added that while he and his administration were saddened by developments they intended to "remain wholly focused on the many issues and opportunities facing this country".

In the short term this may be possible. Stephen Hess, a former speechwriter for President John F Kennedy, said that most Americans would have no idea who Mr Libby was or what he had done. Of much greater concern to them, he said, was the state of the economy, the war in Iraq and petrol prices. He said that other scandals such as that involving Monica Lewinsky and President Bill Clinton had much greater traction with the public.

"Next week he will be nominating a new justice of the Supreme Court, which is something of infinitely more importance than the [doings] of Scooter Libby. We have a 5-4 balance and this [nominee] will be swing vote," he said. "Everybody will be chasing this story."

But such an assessment might ignore what may develop from Mr Libby's trial and what news may emerge in the remaining 39 months of Mr Bush's presidency. Democrats would like a much broader inquiry, using a Libby trial to examine not just whether or why he lied but the wider effort by the White House to make the case for war against Iraq and to then discredit critics.

And there remains the very real possibility that Mr Rove could yet be charged over the affair, a much more damaging matter for Mr Bush. It is known that Mr Rove spoke to several reporters about Ms Plame. The indictment also reveals that prosecutors know that an unidentified White House official - "official A" - spoke to Mr Novak. It has now emerged that official A is Mr Rove.

Mr Fitzgerald declined to say if Mr Rove will be charged, but given what is already known, this is very possible.

There is also the chance that in Mr Libby's trial prosecutors could seek to call Mr Cheney as a witness, especially since it is known he spoke to him about Ms Plame. He could be asked how he learned of Ms Plame's identity and whether he knew or even suggested that his chief of staff speak to reporters about her. Mr Wilson has always maintained that Mr Cheney must, at the very least, have been aware of what was happening.

That trial could also examine the activities of the so-called White House Iraq group, a small group of senior officials established in August 2002 and chaired by Mr Rove to coordinate the government's activities and "sell" the war in Iraq to the American public. Mr Libby was a member of this group.

And as preparations for Mr Libby's trial are being made, investigators are separately looking into the source of the original forged documents that found their way into the hands of Italian intelligence and which claimed Iraq was seeking to buy uranium yellowcake from Niger. It was those forged documents that resulted in Mr Wilson being dispatched to Africa. To this day it remains unproven who forged these documents.

If, on Thursday night, Mr Rove needed a reminder of the potential perils ahead for him and his boss, he would have needed to do nothing more than look out of the White House windows before he left for home. On the pavement outside were demonstrators holding a vigil and calling for US troops in Iraq to be called home. Among the demonstrators was Cindy Sheehan, the mother whose soldier son was killed in Iraq and who this summer became a focus for the anti-war movement when she demonstrated outside of Mr Bush's Texas ranch.

Mrs Sheehan told the IoS that she would welcome any indictments and that she hoped the American public would see that the war was based in lies. After Mr Libby's five indictments were announced she issued a new statement directed at the man who sits in the Oval Office. She said: "The responsibility for lying to the American people and targeting critics and dissidents needs to go all the way up the chain of command. Scooter Libby was clearly one of the administration's attack dogs unleashed on opponents of this fraudulent war, but he serves higher masters."-from the story today in The Independent (UK).
Thanks to for the tip. Joe Wilson writes about "Our 27 months of hell" in today's LA Times, via The Smirking Chimp.

''Leaders 'out to kill' monorail''

"The mayor has flipped-flopped on the four-times voter approved monorail while other city leaders have worked to kill it says Cleve Stockmeyer, an incumbent elected member of the Seattle Monorail Authority board of directors who is seeking reelection. "The only thing wrong with the monorail is that city leaders are out to kill it," said Stockmeyer. Meanwhile, it's not often that candidates campaign to eliminate the position they seek, but that's what Beth Goldberg and Jim Nobles are campaigning to do. Both oppose construction of the monorail and are running for the monorail board of directors to oversee what they hope will be its demise.
Goldberg is running against incumbent Cindi Laws and Nobles is challenging Stockmeyer.
Nobles, who works on behalf of homeless alcoholics, is also a member of the King County Mental Health Advisory Board. Stockmeyer is unapologetic in his criticism of Mayor Nickels. "The mayor voted for the monorail in 2002 and 2004," Stockmeyer said. "Now he's against it? What a flip-flopper."

When monorail planners submitted a new financial plan that called for 38 years to pay off the monorail. But Nickels said the debt should be paid off in 30 years. Stockmeyer thinks Nickels was being arbitrary. "Why is 30 years OK but 38 years is not?" Stockmeyer asked.

Stockmeyer said Nickels went to Olympia to lobby the Washington Legislature for $200 million to pay for luxury sky boxes in Key Arena. But the mayor has not asked legislators for a rebate to the Monorail Authority for state sales tax paid for materials purchased in Washington to help build the monorail, Stockmeyer said. Such an exemption is often allowed for public projects and would save the Monorail Project about $57 million, he said. He resents the fact that Sound Transit doesn't have to pay "rent" to cross Seattle city property with its light-rail line on the east side of town. But the Monorail Project must pay the city about $26 million to cross through Seattle Center. Stockmeyer is particularly incensed that voters have to say yes a fifth time to get the monorail after they overwhelmingly turned back an effort to recall the project last year.
"The political establishment has not supported the monorail," he said. "They did not obey the people's will." Stockmeyer also thought the monorail board listened too much to the monorail staff and not enough to the public. "We need public input to help the board make decisions," he said. If Stockmeyer wins, he plans to seek chairmanship of the monorail board.

Even though Jim Nobles grew up in Southern California, he doesn't own a car but relies on the Metro bus system to get around. He said he's a former supporter of the monorail and voted against the monorail recall attempt last year. "But the Seattle Monorail Project made promises it can't keep," Nobles said. It's neither on time nor on budget, and the agency's secrecy belies its claim of "transparency." There isn't enough money to build the project and monorail staffers are being paid too much, he said. Staffers also have too much say in decision making. "It's a project that went out of control," Nobles said. If he is elected, Nobles promises to be more hands-on than Stockmeyer. "I would be a watchdog," he said. Nobles thinks monorail planners should look for more sources of revenue than just the motor vehicle excise tax. He also thinks it's a mistake not to build park-and-ride lots near monorail stations.

Instead of a monorail, Nobles recommends a bus rapid transit system, which means having more dedicated bus lanes like the one on the West Seattle Bridge. He admitted that buses would be stuck in traffic at times. Stockmeyer singled out for criticism Joel Horn, the monorail's former executive director, for not divulging project details to the board of directors. One of the most telling examples was in June when Horn gave the Seattle City Council a copy of the monorail's infamous $11 billion financing package without first getting input, much less approval, from the monorail board, according to Stockmeyer. "He didn't give us options on the financial package before he released it to the public," Stockmeyer said, critical of Horn's "sunny optimism all the time." He had asked Horn for weekly reports that would include three courses of action to give board members options for what to do. He never got them. Horn told him the plan would pay off the costs for the monorail in 38 years but instead the payment plan stretched 50 years, Stockmeyer said. The board member asked Horn for cash-flow information but didn't get it because no information was allowed out during the months monorail planners negotiated the contract with Cascadia Monorail Co., Stockmeyer was told.

Stockmeyer also was critical of the former chairman of the monorail board, Fauntleroy resident Tom Weeks. Both Stockmeyer and Weeks had been involved with the Elevated Transit Company board of directors, which preceded formation of the Seattle Monorail Project and its board of directors. The Elevated Transit Company board was involved in many details of the monorail, but from the first meeting of the new monorail board, Weeks told the group their new role was to be less involved in day-to-day matters. Instead it was supposed to set broad policies for the Seattle Monorail Project.

Stockmeyer said the monorail project is on track. There have been resignations among key people, new financial experts have sanctioned the new, lower cost financing package and, if voters agree, there could soon be a majority of elected positions on the monorail's board of directors instead of appointees.

Seattle Monorail
Position No. 8

Incumbent Cindi Laws is also critical of the ways of the board during Weeks' and Horn's tenure. She said some of the monorail's problems are due to the board being left out when decisions were being made by the monorail staff, Horn and Weeks.

One way to keep the staff under control in the future is for the monorail board to make more of the small decisions, Laws said. Board members have been too disengaged from the day-to-day work of the monorail staff, Laws said. Board members ought to get more involved in what the staff is doing to do a better job of setting policy for the agency. Laws also would like to replace Ross Macfarlane, legal counsel to the Seattle Monorail Project. She disagreed with her opponent, Beth Goldberg, who says the financial package for the monorail project doesn't pencil out. "It's not about the budget," Laws said. "It's about overseeing the staff." "We do have the money to build this," Laws added.

Goldberg disagrees. She works in the King County Budget Office and says monorail directors have been "overly optimistic" about how much revenue the monorail will receive in the future.
Besides being wrong about how much revenue to expect from the motor vehicle excise tax, monorail planners should've widened the number of income sources for the project. She pointed out that Metro receives money from sales tax, the state of Washington, the U.S. government and advertising as well as from passenger fares. Another problem for the monorail, Goldberg said, was its promise to break even financially. Most mass transit systems do not make a profit and must be subsidized by the public. But Seattle monorail advocates vowed the elevated transit system would take in as much as it spent. Goldberg accused the monorail board of "complete abdication" of its responsibilities regarding the financing plans for the project. Board members should've been keeping closer watch over the staff, she said. The board asked "tepid" questions, and only after the infamous $11 billion financial package was announced, she said.

Laws was unsparing in her criticism of former colleagues and political allies. She accused former executive director Joel Horn of lying to the monorail board, when he claimed the project would be built within acceptable costs. She also criticized Tom Weeks, former chairman of the monorail board, who Laws said withheld information from board members. Nor did Weeks want any written record of discussions about Horn's salary, she said. Both Horn and Weeks resigned in early July shortly after their $11 billion financial package was dismissed outright by the public and the monorail board. Laws also singled out Mayor Nickels for the absence of his leadership in the monorail cause. She was "appalled" at a meeting with the mayor and his staff, in which Nickels recommended the Monorail Project first build a "starter line" to see if the monorail would work. Laws pointed out that, for the past 40 years, the World's Fair monorail has been proving monorail technology works. Laws charged the city of Seattle with adding $110 million to the cost of the monorail. The city-required agreement makes monorail pay for sidewalk improvements within a quarter-mile of every monorail station. Goldberg said she voted against the monorail all four previous times the project appeared on the ballot. Although the financing of the monorail is her main objection, Goldberg admits she doesn't like the looks of the monorail either. "It's not the most pleasing from a cityscape perspective," she said. Expansion plans don't go beyond the Seattle city limits yet, she said. Nor is the monorail integrated with the city's other mass transit systems, although a monorail stop is planned at King Street Station, where Sound Transit's light-rail line will have a station too. It was a mistake not to include park-and-ride lots at each monorail station, she said.

Goldberg is not an enemy of mass transit. She rides a Metro bus to work four days a week and suggested Metro explore the possibility of expanding bus service as well as providing more water taxis to help move people around Seattle. Money devoted to the monorail means less money is available to develop other kinds of transit, Goldberg said. But Goldberg said she would not "throw bombs" at the monorail if it is approved and she is elected to the board.

Laws says there's "a civil war" going on in Seattle over transportation policy, with one side promoting cars and the other pushing mass transit. She blames the "gas and asphalt lobby," along with the Downtown Business Association, for much of the opposition to the monorail project. If voters don't approve the monorail on Nov. 8, West Seattle won't see mass transit beyond buses for decades, she said. "There is no alternative," Laws said. "If the monorail is not approved, we won't see grade-separated transit in West Seattle in our lifetimes. "This isn't about waiting for the perfect system," she added. "Perfection is the enemy of progress."

Elected monorail board.
In a separate ballot measure on Election Day, voters will decide whether to continue or end the monorail project once and for all. A "yes" or "no" vote will be taken on whether to build the monorail from the Alaska Junction to Interbay. "And if possible," states the Seattle Popular Monorail Authority's Proposition No. 1, "build the rest of the 14-mile Green Line (into Ballard)."

The Monorail Authority has another proposition on the ballot, Proposition No. 2, asking voters if they want five elected positions on the nine-member Seattle Monorail Project board of directors rather than the current two. Seven members are appointed by the mayor, City Council or the monorail board itself.-from Tim St. Clair's story in the West Seattle Herald, putting the coverage of these issues in the metro dailies to shame.

Bill Clinton to Dems: ''Don't Fear Tough Issues''

"AUSTIN Oct 29, 2005 — Democrats can't be afraid to talk about hot-button issues, including abortion, and should fight back against personal attacks from conservatives if they want to regain power in Washington, former President Bill Clinton said Saturday.

"You can't say 'Please don't be mean to me. Please let me win sometimes.' Give me a break here," Clinton said. "If you don't want to fight for the future and you can't figure out how to beat these people then find something else to do."
Clinton attributed Republicans' control of Congress to Democratic candidates' inability or unwillingness to "stand up and be heard" on issues that matter to people. For example, he said, Democrats too often are unwilling to talk about abortion because they're afraid of virulent reactions from anti-abortion groups.

"So how come we can't talk about it?" he asked. "Because we basically let political ads turn every player in this drama into a two-dimensional cartoon instead of a three-dimensional person."

Clinton also criticized political reporters and authors for failing to use reason and common sense in their writing and failing to dig deeply into stories. Instead, he said, reporters let officials get away with saying things that aren't true so stories include comment from both sides."-from the AP story.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Howard Dean: ''Worse Than Watergate''

"This is a sad day for America.

Beyond the evidence that the White House manipulated the intelligence used to justify the war in Iraq, a group of senior White House officials not only orchestrated efforts to smear a critic of the war, but worked to cover up this smear campaign. In so doing, they ignored the rule of law, endangering our national security and the brave men and women who dedicate their lives to protecting our nation's security. I. Lewis Libby was a part of this internal White House group.

This is not only an abuse of power, it is an un-American abuse of the public trust. As Americans, we must hold ourselves and our leaders to a higher standard. We cannot fear dissent. We cannot fear the truth. And we cannot tolerate those who do.

More importantly, we can't ignore the glaring questions this case has raised about the rationale the Bush Administration used to send us to war in Iraq, a war that continues. American soldiers are still in harms way. Over 2,000 brave Americans have lost their lives, thousands of American soldiers have been wounded, and thousands of American families have made the ultimate sacrifice. Still, the President has no plan and no exit strategy. And still he hasn't answered the question, what are we doing in Iraq and when can our troops come home?

President Bush faces a serious test of leadership; will he keep his pledge to hold his Administration to high ethical standards and give the American people what they deserve, and will he answer to the American people for these serious missteps?"-from the DNC. The AP also has this story quoting Dean, that is running widely: "DNC chair Howard Dean says Libby indictment stems from lies about Iraq policy." BuzzFlash gives us: "Statement of Ambassador Joseph Wilson with Respect to the Indictment." David Corn: "A Grave Indictment, but Grave Questions Remain." Trey Ellis: "President Cheney's Goose Is Cooked."

Friday, October 28, 2005

''Carl Bernstein Finds Plame Parallels To Watergate''

"As the anticipation over possible indictments in the Valerie Plame case reaches excruciating levels, Watergate legend Carl Bernstein warns that comparisons to the case that made him famous more than 30 years ago must be viewed carefully.

Still, the former Washington Post reporter who shared a Pulitzer Prize for helping to expose the Nixon administration's wrongdoing says some parallels can be drawn between the two investigations, particularly the way both helped uncover extended dishonesty in the White House.

"We are obviously watching and the press is beginning to document the implosion of a presidency," Bernstein said Thursday, just hours before the Plame grand jury is set to expire. "How destructive that implosion is going to be, ultimately, we don't know yet.

"But what the Plame leak investigation has unveiled is what the press should have been focusing on long before and without let up--how we went to war, the dishonesty involved in that process in terms of what the president and vice-president told the American people and the Congress, and the routine smearing by members of the Bush administration of people who questioned their actions and motives."

Bernstein compared that to the way the Watergate investigation uncovered widespread dishonesty in the Nixon administration in a similar way. "Beware of exact comparisons," he said. "However, in Watergate, the cover-up of the role of Nixon's aides in the Watergate break-in led to the discovery by the press and the political institutions of the larger crimes -- the so called 'White House horrors' -- meaning the constitutional crimes of the president and his men.

"In the case of the disclosure of the identity of Valerie Plame, there also has been a political cover-up, not necessarily a criminal one, having to do with the question of how we went to war and the smearing of this administration's opponents," he added. "The question of whether or not there is criminal culpability by Lewis Libby or Karl Rove is less-important, I believe, than the fact that their actions have finally shed light on questions that long ago should have been examined much more closely by the press and the political establishment, and particularly the president's fellow Republicans."

Bernstein found a similarity there as well, noting "in the Nixon administration, courageous Republicans decided it was important that the president's actions be scrutinized and that hasn't occurred in large measure (in the Plame case). But the implosion that seems to be occurring would indicate that that kind of scrutiny might be on the way."

Citing the Plame case's connection to the Iraq War, and the lies that led up to U.S. involvement, Bernstein found another similarity to Watergate. "The long range interests of the country are affected every bit as much by the (Iraq) war as (by) the events of Watergate," he declared. "What we are seeing is a broad question of the honesty of how we got into this war and the honesty of a presidency."

When asked how the special prosecutors in the Watergate case compared to Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald's work in the Plame matter, Bernstein zeroed in on his subpoenaing of reporters to testify. "Most of our sources in Watergate were in the Nixon administration and some of them probably broke the law," he said. "I think the unfortunate thing about this special prosecutor's investigation is that it took him hauling reporters in to court before a lot of the relevant questions about the president were raised in the press."

That delay in press alertness, he said, was similar in both the Watergate case and the Plame matter. "It took a long time for the press to stay with the story of Watergate and it has taken the press a long time to stay with the story of this presidency's truthfulness and how it went to war."-from Joe Strupp's article in Editor&Publisher.

"The War & Democrats: Muddled middle"

"Cindy Sheehan is at it again, confronting those prolonging the Iraq war. Without letting up on the White House, the mom of one of the first 2,000 U.S. military fatalities is also speaking up about Sen. Hillary Clinton.

The New York senator is one of many Democrats with confused positions on Iraq. Washington Sen. Maria Cantwell is smack dab in that muddled middle.

Like Clinton and Cantwell, many Democrats let President Bush go to war. They have a responsibility to offer coherent alternatives to an endless, incompetently led war. You go, Cindy."-SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER EDITORIAL BOARD.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

''Leak indictments would be 'a sad day,' Wilson says''

"Visiting Seattle on the eve of possible grand jury indictments against top White House advisers over the leak of his wife's identity as an undercover CIA officer, former U.S. Ambassador Joseph Wilson said it was "a sad day for our country."

Wilson said Wednesday he took little comfort that the men he believes have engaged in a campaign of character assassination against him for the past two years -- Karl Rove, President Bush's deputy chief of staff, and Lewis "Scooter" Libby, the vice president's chief of staff -- may soon be facing charges and possible jail time.

"The fact that this may become a crisis of governance should please no one," Wilson said at a private hotel reception before speaking in downtown Seattle Wednesday evening.

Wilson, 55, was here to present information from his book, "The Politics of Truth: Inside the Lies that Led to War and Betrayed My Wife's CIA Identity: A Diplomat's Memoir." His speech was part of Foolproof's American Voices series.

Greeted by a boisterous, packed house of about 900 people at Seattle's Town Hall, Wilson said that by publicly questioning the president's reasoning for the war in Iraq, he was simply acting in the country's best traditions.

"It is called holding your government to account for what it says and does in the name of the American people. We need to put this government on notice that it truly is a government of the people, by the people and for the people.

"When a government takes the country to war on lies and misinformation," he said to rousing applause, "that government ceases to be a government of the people, by the people, and for the people.

"And that government becomes a government that preys on the people."-excerpted from the story in the P-I. Seattle Times: not newsworthy.

Howard Dean on the Withdrawal of Harriet Miers' Supreme Court Nomination

"President Bush's failure to stand up to the right wing of his party and defend Harriet Miers is the latest collapse of leadership at the Bush White House.
In nominating Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court, President Bush had an obligation to do everything possible to support her. President Bush failed in that duty, leaving the Miers nomination to die on the vine. He failed to respond to the many legitimate questions raised about Miers' qualifications, and refused to release documents or disclose vital information that could have shed light on her qualifications. While I had serious questions about her qualifications, she at least deserved an opportunity to make her case to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Now, the President says he plans to move swiftly to fill this seat. As he considers his next nominee, the President should not cave to the right wing again. He should nominate someone who every American can trust to protect their fundamental rights and freedoms, and he should honor his obligation to consult with Senate Democrats."-from the DNC.

'Powerful Government Accounting Office report confirms key 2004 stolen election findings'

"The latest critical confirmation of key indicators that the election of 2004 was stolen comes in an extremely powerful, penetrating report from the General Accounting Office that has gotten virtually no mainstream media coverage.
The non-partisan GAO report has now found that, "some of [the] concerns about electronic voting machines have been realized and have caused problems with recent elections, resulting in the loss and miscount of votes."
Among other things, the GAO confirms that:

1. Some electronic voting machines "did not encrypt cast ballots or system audit logs, thus making it possible to alter them without detection." In other words, the GAO now confirms that electronic voting machines provided an open door to flip an entire vote count. More than 800,000 votes were cast in Ohio on electronic voting machines, some seven times Bush's official margin of victory.

2. "It is easy to alter a file defining how a ballot appears, making it possible for someone to vote for one candidate and actually be recorded as voting for an entirely different candidate." Numerous sworn statements and affidavits assert that this did happen in Ohio 2004.

3. "Falsifying election results without leaving any evidence of such an action by using altered memory cards" can easily be done, according to the GAO.

4. The GAO also confirms that "access to the voting network was easily compromised because not all digital recording electronic voting systems (DREs) had supervisory functions password-protected, so access to one machine provided access to the whole network." This critical finding confirms that rigging the 2004 vote did not require a "widespread conspiracy" but rather the cooperation of a very small number of operatives with the power to tap into the networked machines and thus change large numbers of votes at will. With 800,000 votes cast on electronic machines in Ohio, flipping the number needed to give Bush 118,775 could be easily done by just one programmer.

5. Access "to the voting network was also compromised by repeated use of the same user IDs combined with easily guessed passwords," says the GAO. So even relatively amateur hackers could have gained access to and altered the Ohio vote tallies.

6. "The locks protecting access to the system were easily picked and keys were simple to copy," says the GAO, meaning, again, getting into the system was an easy matter.

7. "One DRE model was shown to have been networked in such a rudimentary fashion that a power failure on one machine would cause the entire network to fail," says the GAO, re-emphasizing the fragility of the system on which the Presidency of the United States was decided.

8. "GAO identified further problems with the security protocols and background screening practices for vendor personnel," confirming still more easy access to the system.

In essence, the GAO study makes it clear that no bank, grocery store or mom & pop chop shop would dare operate its business on a computer system as flimsy, fragile and easily manipulated as the one on which the 2004 election turned. The GAO findings are particularly damning when set in the context of an election run in Ohio by a Secretary of State simultaneously working as co-chair of the Bush-Cheney campaign. Far from what election theft skeptics have long asserted, the GAO findings confirm that the electronic network on which 800,000 Ohio votes were cast was vulnerable enough to allow a tiny handful of operatives -- or less -- to turn the whole vote count using personal computers operating on relatively simple software."-excerpted from The Columbus Free Press (OH) via The Smirking Chimp.


Always balancing the teeter-totter of political correctness, we cross the street to give equal time to the other "alternative" weekly for this excerpt: "City Council Position 8--Vote for Dwight Pelz--

Dwight Pelz, a Democratic partisan brawler on the King County Council, deserves your vote over two-term City Council incumbent Richard McIver. Pelz, a recent Deaniac who's been active in progressive Seattle politics since the 1970s (when he worked to kill a regressive sales tax on food) has long been liberals' most loudmouthed representative at the county. He spoke up for the county's controversial Critical Areas Ordinance which seeks to curb sprawl by limiting suburban development in rural King County, over the objections of pitchfork-wielding (literally) rural residents; torpedoed Republican efforts to ax the county's domestic-partner benefits; and was a vocal supporter of proposals to elect the city council by district. As head of the county council's transportation committee, he successfully restored Metro bus service after Tim Eyman's license-tab-slashing Initiative 695 led to massive transportation budget cuts; fought to get transit included in a regional transportation funding package; and spearheaded efforts to move Sound Transit's light rail station in the Roosevelt neighborhood from Eighth Avenue, where it would have served mostly suburban park-and-riders, to 12th Avenue, where it will serve neighborhood residents. He also led the council's fight for the controversial East Lake Sammamish Trail, which will extend the Burke-Gilman Trail to Issaquah.

Some have criticized Pelz, who is white, for running against the council's only black incumbent. We think Pelz's record representing South Seattle at the county proves he'll stand up for Seattle's communities of color. (When the state put a sex-offender city in South Seattle, Pelz loudly called it a "racist" decision.) It's condescending and dumb to set aside council seats for members of a particular race. Progressive voters should elect the person who will be the most effective advocate, regardless of his or her skin color.

McIver has done some good work at the council, pushing to focus the city's planning efforts on South Seattle and working to secure fair compensation for businesses displaced by light rail in the Rainier Valley. But the SECB believes the council needs a fighter, not a conciliator, to serve as a counterbalance during four more years of Nickels. Vote Pelz."

''Civil Disobedience at the Whitehouse''

"Witnesses to the scene called in the story to us. It went sort of like this (see here for pictures).
"The time to lay down is right now. Those who are willing to be arrested will not get up. Others will get up and will observe the scene.

David has layed down as has Cindy, Ann Wright, Gail, and others from Code Pink and the World Can Not Wait Organization. Now the police are beginning to arrest people.

Some people are sitting by the wagon waiting to be processed. In the meantime, we are singing songs like "God Bless America" and "This Land is My Land".

David has just been arrested. He is waiting to be processed. In the meantime, they have just put the cuffs on Ann Wright. People are calling out encouragement."

And I, as a phone observer, have heard shouts of "Go Ann" ect...

In the meantime, the Pro-war counter protestors are shouting, "Give war a chance!" From what I'm told there are 15-20 verbally abusive pro-war supporters out there, but there are at least 200 Peace Supporters at the vigil and possibly 20-50 people participating in the civil disobediance.

At this point, everyone has been processed and the people at the vigil are leaving.

They will return tomorrow. God Bless the Peace Makers!"-from Local daily newspapers: not newsworthy. Cindy Sheehan has this account of her day in DC yesterday. Here's "Film of White House Vigil Wednesday Night."

''Many candles are lit at vigils for fallen soldiers''

"In a sense, Joseph Colgan's candle was lit by his wife's scream in their doorway when the soldiers arrived to tell them about their son. Colleen Isbell's ignited from a political awakening that unexpectedly gripped her at age 50. Cliff Wells says his candle has been burning for years, ever since his time in the Marine Corps just before the Reagan administration.

Among the hundreds of people who gathered Wednesday in Seattle for candlelight vigils mourning the 2,000 U.S. troops killed in the war in Iraq, all three said they know that war protest in liberal Seattle is nothing new and might not change any minds.

But that wasn't the point of the multiple vigils throughout the Seattle area, they said -- not entirely, anyway.

"It's a comfort to me," said Colgan, 64, whose son Benjamin died two years ago at age 30 as a second lieutenant stationed in Iraq. "Being here, praying together is very uplifting.

"He was an awful good kid."

Colgan, along with Isbell and Wells, were among the 200 to 300 gathered in Green Lake Park to hold candles along a stretch of the roadway surrounding the park.

In West Seattle, where a crowd of about 100 people crowded around the Statue of Liberty at Alki, Linda Stern said the vigil was a chance for a self-described "Gen X-er" to connect with other generations and with something larger.

"I wanted to gather for something, and it was important, in my mind, for people concerned about the war to do something," she said. "It helps me not feel so isolated and weak."

Wells, 48, a member of Veterans for Peace for three years now, wasn't politically active while growing up in Edmonds. Joining the Marine Corps in 1976 cured him of that. He said he stood on the sidewalk with his candle because he wanted people to witness that he was another "living example of an ex-Marine," albeit one they might not regularly see."Like a lot of people, the Reagan administration made me scared he was going to blow up the world."

He said he came to the gathering on the chilly evening because "it assures me that there is somebody else out there who cares."

Nationally, the vigils occurred Wednesday because it was the official day the U.S. government confirmed the country's 2,000th dead service member. Some gathered at the vigils asked why no similar official tally exists for Iraqi war dead.

The events were sponsored by, the American Friends Services Committee and Peace Action, among others.

Elizabeth Falzone, who lost a cousin in the war and organized the Green Lake vigil, said it's important for people to realize that the mourners, activists and protesters often do "respect and honor the military. We just want them used in the right way.

"We want to know the truth."

A search for just that was the political awakening for Isbell, 52. Born and raised in Seattle, Isbell has a husband, a 26-year-old daughter and little background in war protests or public vigils. Although she has never missed voting in an election, she also had never attended a rally of any sort until recently, after she got angry about the war.

"I've never been political," she said. "I'm here because I wanted to be part of something political."

She admitted that things were easier before she started paying so much attention to politics -- "I was ignorant," she said. "So I was happy." She said seeing so many people with so many candles "restores my faith in the system."

Her new political life surprised both husband and daughter. "My husband's all for it as long as I don't bring him along."-from the front page of the B Section, today's P-I, with photos. Seattle Times: not newsworthy. Thanks to Dina Johnson for sending along these photos from the vigil at the Statue of Libery at Alki.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

''Talking with Cindy Sheehan''

"Cindy Sheehan, the superstar of the anti-war movement, will descend upon the White House on the day U.S. casualties in Iraq hit 2,000—a grim milestone expected any day now. Sheehan, whose 24-year-old son, Casey, was killed in Iraq last year, will say a few words in protest, and then tie herself to the fence. She says she won't leave until she's arrested. Once she's out of jail, she promises, she'll go right back to the fence.
And when she's done with that, she intends to set up a new Camp Casey outside President Bush's ranch in Crawford, Texas, hounding him throughout the Thanksgiving holiday.

She has also been hounding the Democrats—especially Hillary Clinton. Earlier this month, Sheehan penned an article denouncing New York's junior senator as a "pro-war Democrat," calling her "a political animal who believes she has to be a war hawk to keep up with the big boys." Sheehan echoed the charge on Saturday, when she appeared at the Brooklyn Peace Fair, among other anti-war events in New York City. Delivering a speech to a crowd of 200-plus—many of whom shouted "We love you Cindy!" and "You're the best!"—she urged fellow anti-war activists to hold Clinton accountable when she runs for re-election next year. "It's time to call a war hawk a war hawk," she said, to rousing applause. "And if it hurts people politically, so be it."

The Voice caught up with Sheehan after her speech.

You've been credited with galvanizing a movement that had been in hibernation.

Well, I think I was the spark. The movement was there, but it was like dry kiln. It needed a spark to catch on fire and, ever since, it has spread and spread and spread.

How have you seen this since the first Camp Casey, in August?

I've noticed a total difference at anti-war events. I used to speak before crowds of a hundred, and sometimes 50. Now the crowds are larger; the enthusiasm is greater; the counter-protests are fewer. Even before Camp Casey, I was on the Alan Colmes Show. At first, callers were all hostile. But I was on the other night and callers were supportive. One caller respectfully disagreed with me. But he did say, 'Well, I have to agree with you on that point.' So I see the mood changing.

What sparked your article denouncing Clinton earlier this month?

She was in California fundraising recently, and Code Pink went out to protest. They were passing out fliers on her voting record. I was going to go. But then one of her supporters, somebody I love, called me and asked me not to go. I said, 'Out of respect for you, I won't. Not out of respect for Hillary Clinton.' I challenged my friend, saying, 'How could you support someone who met with me yet still says this is not a good time to withdraw troops?' Senator Clinton has said she wants to make sure my son didn't die in vain. Don't use my son's death to justify continued killing in Iraq.

So should anti-war Democrats here abandon Clinton next year and beyond?

I'm not going to support another pro-war Democrat. I made that mistake with John Kerry last year and I'm not going to do it again. While I've been here this week, I've seen tremendous support for this view. The majority of New Yorkers are against this war. So if the senator will start speaking out against the war and calling for withdrawal of troops, then support her. But if she is for more troops, don't.

Do you think New Yorkers would kick the senator out of office over one issue?

Yes. It's the mood I get. It's more than dissatisfaction. People know this war is the most important issue, and they know it's not like bringing home pork for your state. It's life and death; it's flesh and blood. I'm challenging Senator Clinton to speak out, but I'm also challenging the people of New York to exercise their vote and force their senator to represent their values.

What have you learned as an icon for the movement?

Politics are really frustrating. I realize that I have to work within the system but it's frustrating. Every decision a politician makes is weighed. They ask, 'If I do this, am I going to get re-elected?' This war is one issue where they should vote from their hearts, with courage and integrity. I've also learned that people have power and we're the ones who have to effect true change. Look back in history at the civil-rights movement, the women's suffragist movement, the labor movement. The grassroots forced change, and that's what the peace movement is doing.

You're going to the White House this week. What's the message you want to bring?

We have to invest everything we have right now to ensure our children and their children have a future. I believe what the Bush administration is doing is harmful to our present but it will be more harmful to our future. It's contaminating a region with depleted uranium. It's depleting our treasury. And if it has its way, it'll wage an eternal war in the Middle East. We have to change this. I'm going to Washington with my sister, Dede, who was my partner in crime in Crawford. I'm going to relay this message, and get arrested. And when I get out of jail, I'm going to go back and do the same."-from the story by Kristen Lombardi in the Village Voice, via

Seattle Weekly Editorial Board Election Wisdom

Regular readers know I'm more of a Stranger kind of guy, but I like at least one of their picks: "We just can't go along with the coronation of Mayor Greg Nickels. While he claims his pro-development policies are new and environmentally friendly, they are just the same old neighborhood-trampling developer giveaways that City Hall has practiced for decades. His administration is so closed that even the weak City Council got angry enough to demand disclosure of information. While he finally woke up about the disastrous finances of the monorail project, his criticism was too slow in coming. Take this opportunity to let the mayor's opponents know that they should produce a real challenger next time. In the meantime, vote for author and former professor Al Runte."-from The Weakly's list of picks. Thanks to Jeff Reifman for the tip.

''Gore Will Run, His Backers Say''

"Forget that half-hearted declaration Al Gore gave at an economic forum in Stockholm, Sweden two weeks ago about having "absolutely no plans and no expectations of ever being a candidate again." According to friends, family and political advocates, Gore's playing it coy and has every intention of entering the race. "I'm not discouraged at all by what he said," said one of the Gore backers who's recently spoken with US News & World Report. "He doesn't want to be embarrassed and he won't just slowly tip-toe into the race. He wants the whole thing set up for him and that will be easy to do."

Gore's supporters cite his strong, early anti-war stance and his concern over environmental issues, as well as his successful economic track-record and the fact that he won the popular vote in 2000. Many believe he won the Electoral College and the thus the presidency but had it stolen by the Florida GOP and the U.S. Supreme Court.

His advocates say Gore could get a groundswell of support from high-tech, media and corporate donors.

The DRAFT AL GORE PETITION started this past weekend has almost 1200 signatures."-from The Ostroy Report, tipped by BuzzFlash.

''Missing the Katrina Moment''

"The Democratic leadership seems somehow unable to grasp the huge gap in outrage between them and their base. I recently received a letter from Nancy Pelosi, my close personal friend. Well, at least the letter was addressed "Dear Friend." If I sent the Democrats $25 or more, I would be the lucky recipient of something not available in any store, anywhere--the "Democrats Fighting Donkey Lapel Pin! Exclusively Yours!"

The letter said that the "conventional wisdom here in Washington says that it's better just to go along and get along." But the Democrats were not going to do that, Pelosi insisted. "I am going to work hard and fight alongside Senator Reid and all the Democrats in Congress to make sure we are asking the tough questions" of John Roberts and other judicial nominees. Hmm, I guess that explains Reid's instantaneous puckering up to Harriet Miers and the Democratic split on the Roberts vote.

The letter assured me that the Democrats will "ensure your rights are safeguarded." Which Democrats? The increasingly Republican-lite Hillary Clinton, who, whatever her celebrity status, cannot win the presidency and has sold out on everything from the invasion of Iraq to abortion rights? John Kerry? Joe Biden? As compelling as the donkey pin offer was, I resisted temptation. The letter is now making its own contribution to Ann Arbor's recycling program. When we have to turn to The West Wing to hear a sophisticated dismissal of intelligent design by a fictional presidential candidate, or fantasize about Geena Davis being president, we know just how bereft we are.

There have been the intermittent reports and think pieces about how the Democrats need an agenda, their own "Contract with America," since people don't seem to know what they stand for. Indeed, in my letter from Pelosi, the "demands" that were listed were all about rolling back the excesses of the Bush administration--saying no to privatizing Social Security, stopping cuts to veterans programs and the like.

But where is the bold, pro-active agenda? To create one, they would do well to get out of Washington, fast, away from the consultants and politicos, and talk to everyday people. They would get an earful, and it would be ferocious. The Democratic leadership seems somehow unable to grasp the huge gap in outrage between them and their base. Go anywhere, talk to people who are Democrats or, poor souls, progressives, and the sheer fury of everyday people, if it could be harnessed, would solve this winter's upcoming energy crisis. People are not only enraged; they are also deeply worried.

Hurricane Katrina not only changed things for the Republicans--it changed things for Democrats too. Katrina exposed the nation's continuing failures to combat poverty and racism; it exhumed, from the '70s, awareness of the country's energy dependency and profligacy; it showed that we can move people in and out of a Big Ten football game more efficiently than out of the path of a storm; it showed that you actually need a functioning federal government; and it revealed our contempt for the elderly and the sick. (Indeed, we desperately need an 80-year-old rapper to proclaim "George Bush hates old people.")

So, while it was fun to pop champagne corks when Tom DeLay was indicted, and when the networks, in mid-October, revealed the White House's careful rehearsals with soldiers in Iraq for a supposedly "spontaneous" exchange with the president, the Democrats must see the implications of Katrina for them.

On the Sunday talk shows, various representatives of the party are urging, and taking, the oft-cited advice from Napoleon, "Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake." When is the last time we remember the Republicans doing this? It is this silence--that comes across as sheer cowardice--that is enraging people and could make a turn to a third party much more attractive to many more people. Pelosi and the lugubrious Reid are reportedly meeting with mayors and governors to develop a strategy for 2006. But where are the meetings with actual people? Where is Howard Dean's barnstorming of the country, with town meetings everywhere, to get a reality check on the passion of the people?

In fact, it is that very passion that seems to scare the Democratic leaders. The Republicans have, in addition to demonizing "liberals," succeeded in marginalizing the party's own base in the eyes of its timid and compromised leaders as too fervent, too far to the left. This is no mean achievement given how much farther out of the mainstream the religious right is. How else can you explain the utter absence of Democratic leaders at the enormous antiwar march in late September?

Hurricane Katrina has created the moment for a true paradigm shift in American politics, because many Americans have actually become scared about what it means to have an eviscerated, dysfunctional federal government. That's what Democrats would hear if they listened to their base, instead of shunning it as their own advisors have convinced them to do. If they miss the Katrina moment, it will go down as one of the biggest political blunders of the early 21st century."-from the commentary by Susan J. Douglas on AlterNet.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

''As Death Toll Hits 2,000, Democrats Divided on Iraq''

"At least 2,000 U.S. forces have been killed in Iraq since the United States invaded the country two and a half years ago. With the support of a majority of Americans waning, many Senate Democrats are reconsidering their votes to authorize President Bush's military action in Iraq -- an issue that continues to split the party.-from NPR, with audio.

''Statement of U.S. Senator Russ Feingold''

"Why a Timeframe for the U.S. Military Mission in Iraq Will Improve Our National Security--Mr. President, today I come to the floor to talk about why we need a timeframe for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq. I don’t mean a rigid timetable, nor do I mean a timetable that isn’t connected to clear and achievable benchmarks. What we need is a public, flexible, realistic timetable that will tell people when and how we expect to finish the military mission in Iraq.

As my colleagues may know, I have suggested a target date of December 31, 2006 for the completion of our military mission. Today I want to explain why a flexible timetable for withdrawal will help make the U.S. stronger and our enemies weaker.

Some have argued that a timetable is designed to appeal to the American public, but that it has no relationship to our security, or to achieving policy goals in Iraq. Actually, it is just the opposite – I proposed the timeframe because it has everything to do with improving our national security strategy.

Our fundamental national security goal must be to combat the global terrorist networks that attacked and continue to threaten the United States. An increasing number of military experts and members of the public have concluded that our military presence in Iraq is not consistent with that goal – and that it is in fact undermining that goal.

It's becoming increasingly clear that we have created a breeding ground for terrorism in Iraq and that the indefinite presence of tens of thousands of U.S. troops is often fueling, not dampening, the insurgency in that country.

Melvin Laird, a former Republican congressman from Wisconsin who was defense secretary under Richard Nixon, said, "We owe it to the rest of the people back home to let them know that there is an exit strategy. And more important, we owe it to the Iraqi people. Our presence is what feeds the insurgency. And our gradual withdrawal would feed the confidence and the ability of average Iraqis to stand up to the insurgents."

General George Casey, the commanding general of the allied forces in Iraq, made a similar point in testimony to Congress last month. He testified that “getting Iraqis into leading the counterinsurgency effort as they are capable will allow us to gradually reduce the visibility of coalition forces across Iraq and, ultimately, as conditions warrant, to begin to reduce our presence in Iraq, taking away an element that fuels the insurgency; that is, the perception of occupation.” He went on to call reducing the visibility and presence of coalition forces “a key element of our overall counterinsurgency strategy.”

Melvin Laird and General Casey know that our presence has fed this insurgency, making it easy for the insurgents to convince recruits that we are there to stay. That’s not the fault of our men and women in uniform, who are serving courageously. It’s the fault of the Administration for sending them into battle without a clearly defined or well thought-out mission.

In February, I asked one of the top allied military commanders in Iraq, what would happen if we suggested to the world that there is a timeframe for achieving our military mission? His response to me, which of course was off the record, was that nothing would take the wind out of the sails of the insurgents more than providing a clear public plan and timeframe for a remaining U.S. mission.

The President himself in June told the nation that he didn't support putting more troops into Iraq because “sending more Americans would suggest that we intend to stay forever.” That same logic applies to his refusal to issue a public timetable.

To the extent we don't explain what our military goals in Iraq are and when we hope to achieve them, we play into the hands of the insurgents. The insurgents are motivated by our presence, and they feed off conspiracy theories and suspicions regarding American intentions. And, of course, our brave servicemembers and their families deserve some clarity about how long they are likely to remain in Iraq.

The President is one of an ever-narrowing group of people who believe that a timetable works against our goals in Iraq. Military experts, people I talked to in Iraq, and the American people increasingly agree that the Administration’s refusal to even suggest a timetable for meeting our military goals in Iraq is feeding the insurgency.

The lack of a timetable doesn’t just feed the insurgency -- it also discourages Iraqi ownership of their own political process. By making it clear that the U.S. will not be there indefinitely, we will help the Iraqis move toward the real political independence they need and dispel some of the cynicism about American intentions that empowers some of the more extreme elements of Iraqi society.

Finally, a timetable is important because it enables us to devote more resources to the other national security issues that demand our attention. To fight the global terrorist networks that threaten the U.S., we need to focus energy and resources on countering emerging terrorist tactics, dealing with the threat of “loose nukes,” and repairing the damage to our Army, to name just a few urgent priorities. Drawing down U.S. troops in Iraq will allow us to focus on these priorities. It’s time to make sure that our Iraq policy is advancing, not undermining, our national security goals.

The Administration and its allies have offered various arguments as to why they can’t or won’t come up with a clear plan and timeline for military success in Iraq.

One argument has been that the U.S. pullouts from Somalia in the 1990s and Lebanon in the 1980s emboldened terrorists and others who oppose American interests. To pull out of Iraq without having put down the Iraqi insurgency once and for all would supposedly be another sign of American weakness.

Mr. President, our decisions about national security shouldn’t be made based on conjecture about the “message” that some might perceive. No one, including the Bush Administration, can know how the insurgents in Iraq might feel about the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq. We do know, however, that right now we are making the insurgency stronger with our indefinite presence in Iraq, and our failure to articulate a timetable for military withdrawal. We also know that our commitment of resources – money, troops, time – to Iraq is detracting from our ability to focus on our most pressing national security goals and stretching our military to the breaking point. Terrorists will not feel particularly emboldened about us putting our Iraq policy on track so that we can focus our attention on eliminating them. The President suggests that if he issues a timetable for how long he expects U.S. troops to remain in Iraq, our enemies will think that we are weak. But without a plan to finish our military mission, our enemies will know that we have fallen into a trap and we can’t figure out how to get out.

When I pressed Secretary Rice on the need for a timetable last week, she responded that “we’d like our discussions of withdrawal and of bringing down the numbers of forces to be results-based rather than time-based.” Mr. President, of course a timetable should be results-based. As I have said over and over, any timetable needs to be flexible and needs to be tied to achievable benchmarks. The point is to have some idea of when those benchmarks, those results, can be achieved. Without such a timetable, and without clear, realistic benchmarks, we cannot hold ourselves accountable for meeting our goals. Nor can we give our troops and the American people the clarity they deserve about their mission.

The Bush Administration, with all these arguments, has succeeded in one thing: in intimidating people into not uttering the words timetable, or timeframe, or target date for finishing the military mission.

But with the words of Republicans like Melvin Laird and military leaders like General Casey, more and more people understand that having a flexible timetable will strengthen our national security. This is not a timetable where the objective is troop withdrawal – the objective is to focus on our national security needs and the timetable is one step towards that goal. A timetable is not about domestic politics – it’s about undercutting insurgency recruiting and unity, encouraging more Iraqi ownership and responsibility, and creating space for other important U.S. national security efforts.

I again emphasize that the timeframe I have proposed is a flexible one -- not a drop-dead date, not a deadline, not a formula for “cut and run.” It is linked with a call for more clarity about what we want the U.S. military to achieve in Iraq.

And, Mr. President, please note that I am only referring to a timeframe for the military mission in Iraq, not for our broader political and other missions in Iraq. We all understand that our engagement in Iraq won’t end with the U.S. military mission. We will still have a great deal of tough diplomatic work to do in Iraq well after the bulk of U.S. troops leave, and probably some serious security cooperation as well.

We will continue to devote resources to Iraq, without a doubt. But as it stands today, we have focused on Iraq to the exclusion of critically important national security priorities. And we have done so at great cost to the outstanding men and women of the U.S. military, and to their families. When I speak to servicemen and women in Wisconsin and in Iraq, and when I speak to their families, their pride in their service is evident and it is well earned. But their frustration with this open-ended commitment, with the stop-loss orders and the multiple deployments, with the extensions and the uncertainties, is equally evident, and it is painful. We can do better by them, by insisting on clarity, by insisting on accountability, and by assuring them that we have a plan with clear and achievable goals.
Mr. President, we must stop feeding the insurgency in Iraq, and focus on the fight against the terrorist networks that threaten the security of the American people. A timetable can make us stronger, and our enemies weaker. That is the strategy we must pursue, and I look forward to working with colleagues here in the Senate to move such a proposal forward."-from Feingold's statement today on the floor of the U.S. Senate.

''Bush Ignores 2,000th US Fatality in Iraq''

"Today, our nation marks one of the saddest days of the war in Iraq, the loss of the 2,000th American soldier there. Each soldier lost on the battlefield leaves behind a family forever marked by tragedy, and scarred with grief. Their loss weighs heavily on the heart of every single American. Today, we are united in reflecting on the suffering and sacrifice of the brave men and women in uniform and their families.

Sadly, in delivering yet another speech about the war in Iraq that lacked a clear plan for victory, President Bush failed to mention the tragic milestone we mark today. This is not the type of leadership that the brave men and women serving in Iraq and their loved ones here at home expect or deserve from the Commander in Chief. Now, even though we have lost 2,000 servicemen and women and spent more than $218 billion over the last two years, just 800 Iraqi troops have been fully trained. The need for a clear plan for victory in Iraq cound not be more apparent.

Democrats believe Americans, particularly Americans serving our nation in the armed forces, deserve leaders who honor their sacrifice by making sure that our armed forces are never sent to war without a clear plan for victory and without the resources to carry out that strategy. That is why Democrats are unwavering in our commitment to pressing President Bush for a clear plan for victory in Iraq. We will honor the service and sacrifices of our soldiers by continuing that effort."-Howard Dean, from the DNC.

''How Did Patrick Fitzgerald Become the U.S. Attorney in Charge of the TreasonGate Investigation?''

"It may appear odd, but actually a maverick - although largely forgettable and ineffective - former Illinois Republican Senator, Peter Fitzgerald (unrelated to Patrick), is responsible for Fitzgerald's appointment in Illinois. The former senator (who we will call Peter G. to avoid confusion) was at odds not only with Democrats but with the Republican Party in Illinois. He particularly squared off against then Republican Governor George Ryan (who is, ironically, now being tried for various felonies by Patrick Fitzgerald).

When it came time for the Bush White House to sign off on a new U.S. Attorney for Chicago, they, as is the custom, deferred to the senior Republican senator from Illinois. Since Dick Durbin (the current Democratic Assistant Minority Leader) was the other senator, it fell to Peter G. to make a recommendation.

Being a bit of a rebel, Peter G. decided he wanted someone who would be professional, non-partisan and in no way connected to politics in Illinois. In order to achieve that, he looked out of state and found Patrick Fitzgerald, who had established a reputation as a tenacious, brilliant prosecutor in New York, with a lot of experience in convicting mobsters. (To this day Patrick Fitzgerald won't disclose where he lives in the Windy City, because he is concerned that there are some gangland figures who might want to seek vengeance.)

The Republicans in Illinois - and some Democrats - weren't happy that Peter G. was going out of state to bring in a new U.S. Attorney. Usually, the position went to someone local - and it was thought that the U.S. Attorney in Chicago, in general, stayed out of investigations of politicians in either party, unless the crimes were so flagrant and public that they had no choice but to pursue prosecution.

So, Peter G. met with a bit of resistance, but ultimately prevailed. The White House apparently didn't see any red flags and probably thought that they had a good mob prosecutor on their hands - little did they know that they were going to be one of the mobs that he was going to end up investigating. So, ultimately, Patrick Fitzgerald was appointed to his current Department of Justice post in Illinois by Bush. It is worth noting that whatever autonomy he has been granted, he still does ultimately report to the U.S. Attorney General: Bushevik crony Alberto Gonzales.

Now, here is where it gets a little murky. When Corn and then BuzzFlash first started calling for an investigation of Novak's outing of Valerie Plame, the White House did nothing. It was only after the CIA requested the Department of Justice to pursue an investigation under a formal process that exists when the CIA believes that one of its operatives has been compromised that John Ashcroft, then Attorney General, formally announced an investigation would be launched and that he would be responsible for it.

For many weeks, it appeared that the TreasonGate investigation would be just another Bushevik whitewash - and most certainly that is what Ashcroft had planned. But, for reasons that are still not publicly clear, it appears that some brave career attorneys in the DOJ confronted Ashcroft and told him that he had a conflict of interest in the investigation, in part because Karl Rove had helped him in his political campaigns in Missouri."-from BuzzFlash.

''Frightening Stats Beg Question: Why No Exit Strategy?''

"These frightening statistics from a recent poll beg a serious question: why is neither major political party in America demanding a concrete exit strategy for withdrawal from Iraq?"-from Sirotablog. An example of the statistics: "A stunning military poll conducted by the British Ministry of Defense shows that 82% of Iraqis are "strongly opposed" to the occupation, 45% support attacks against occupation forces, and "fewer than one per cent think Allied military involvement is helping to improve security in their country." As the Sunday Telegraph reports, 67% feel less secure because of the occupation."-from Night Light.

''Cindy Sheehan to Begin Week-long Vigil at White House''

"Civil Disobedience Planned for Day After 2000th US Death in Iraq is Announced--Sheehan and other peace activists will mourn the lives lost in Iraq and serve as a daily reminder to the Bush administration that the majority of Americans want the troops brought home from Iraq NOW.Cindy Sheehan and other peace activists will begin a week-long vigil in front of the White House on Tuesday, October 25 at 12 Noon to remind those responsible of the Iraq war that people throughout the country are mourning the loss of nearly 2000 US soldiers in Iraq and demanding that the US troops be brought home now. Sheehan will be joined by former US diplomat Ann Wright as well as members of CODEPINK: Women for Peace, Gold Star Families for Peace, Veterans for Peace, and others.

Peace groups throughout the country have called for vigils, marches and other peace events to be held the day after the US announces the 2000th US soldier death in Iraq. Some 327 events are planned in 48 states. For a list of all events planned to mark the 2000th US soldier death in Iraq, click here.

Sheehan plans to engage on nonviolent civil disobedience in the tradition of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. on the day after the US announces the 2000th US soldier death in Iraq, and is inviting people from throughout the country to join her.

“On the day of the 2000th US death, I will go to the White House, and I will sit on the sidewalk and demand that the war mongers who live and work there bring our troops home. I hope that every person who cares about ending the immoral war and occupation of Iraq either joins me at the White House or goes to their local Congressional offices to demand that each and every member of Congress do everything in his/her power to bring our precious sons, daughters, husbands and wives home from this nightmare,” Sheehan said.

“Our young people aren’t numbers.”

In addition to the 2,000 US troops who’ve been killed in Iraq, more than 28,000 troops have been wounded and many continue to suffer event when they come home. Troops returning to the US are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, and are even turning up in homeless shelters in cities through the country. The risk for Iraqis is even more severe: Tens of thousands of Iraqis have been killed in the war, and hundreds of thousands of lives have been devastated, even according to the most conservative estimates."-from This act is also in the tradition of Rosa Parks.

''What Rosa Parks Gave America''

"In 1776, the Continental Congress awarded the first Congressional Gold Medal of Honor to General George Washington, a bold and determined man who had the courage to lead his country into battle for its freedom but who lacked the wisdom to recognize that the promise of the American Revolution would never be fully realized for so long as African Americans were second-class citizens.
In 1999, two hundred and twenty three years after Washington was recognized by the Continental Congress, its successor, the 106th Congress, voted overwhelmingly to award the same Congressional Gold Medal of Honor that had once been given to the man know as The Father of His Country to the woman who will forever be known as the Mother of the Civil Rights Movement.

With her December 5, 1955, refusal to give up her seat on a Montgomery, Alabama, city bus to a white passenger, Rosa Parks triggered a boycott by African Americans of the municipal bus system that lasted more than a year and inspired the movement that forced the end of the officially-sanctioned segregation that had created an apartheid system in the American south.For that, and for her resolute commitment to carry on the struggle for social and economic justice throughout a long life of fighting discrimination based on race, class, sex and sexuality, Parks received many awards, all of them richly deserved.

But Parks, who died Monday at age 92, never needed those honors as much as America needed to bestow them.

And no recognition of Parks was more necessary than the awarding of that Congressional Gold Medal of Honor in 1999.

The American Revolution was not an event but rather a promise of freedom. That promise may have been made by a Virginia plantation owner and his white male compatriots. But it was realized by an African American seamstress from Montgomery, Alabama, who refused to believe that that promise did not apply to her.

President William Jefferson Clinton, who was named for the greatest of Washington's comrades in that struggle for freedom, and who presented the medal to Parks on June 15, 1999, gave voice to that reality when he explained to the crowd that gathered in the Capitol Rotunda to celebrate the honor that, "In so many ways Rosa Parks brought America home to our founders' dream."

It was not merely appropriate that Rosa Parks receive the same recognition as George Washington had been accorded. It was essential, for without Parks and those who joined her in forging the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s, Washington's promise of freedom would have remained forever constricted by the overt chains of slavery and the covert chains of segregation."-John Nichols in The Nation, via Yahoo News.

Monday, October 24, 2005

''Democrats flush with new blood''

From the North Carolina grassroots: "Rising activists score wins in state, but tensions stir-- RALEIGH -- Jesse Goslen is a foot soldier in the new North Carolina Democratic Party.
Presidential candidate Howard Dean enticed him into politics. Goslen now organizes monthly meet-ups of party activists at Jillian's restaurant in downtown Raleigh. And he says his newfound activism can be explained in two words.

"George Bush pushed me into it," said Goslen, 50, who owns Fine Art Framing in Raleigh. "I was just so disgusted with the way things were going. I lived through Reagan and complained. But it seems this is a whole new radical form of Republican politics that I've never seen before. I think the country is heading in a very scary direction."

Goslen and other newcomers are helping transform the state Democratic Party. They have infused it with energy, providing volunteers to knock on doors and a new source of money. And they are making their presence felt in local elections, such as the Raleigh City Council races earlier this month. But the transition has not always been smooth. Democratic Gov. Mike Easley has practically divorced himself from his own party organization. And there has been tension between the more centrist, pro-business Democrats who hold most of the elective offices and the new, more liberal activists.

The state Democratic Party has for years been run by moderates such as Easley and former Gov. Jim Hunt, and legislative leaders such as Marc Basnight and Jim Black. In recognition of North Carolina's strong conservative streak, they have emphasized issues such as education and job creation that appeal to swing voters while avoiding divisive issues. Nationally, former U.S. Sen. John Edwards voted to authorize the war in Iraq when he was in the Senate, and two-time Democratic U.S. Senate nominee Erskine Bowles supported the war effort. In February, Easley nominated Ed Turlington, a former top adviser to Hunt and Edwards, to be Democratic chairman. But in an upset that drew national attention, the Democratic Party elected Jerry Meek, a 34-year-old Fayetteville lawyer who overcame his lack of support from elected officials with strong backing from party activists.

'It scares some people'

Meek's election echoed the national party's chairman choice of Dean, a former Vermont governor who once declared that he wanted to represent "the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party." Among those who cheered Meek's and Dean's elections was Goslen, who serves on the state Democratic Party's governing Executive Committee. Goslen likens the rise of the Deaniacs to that of 1980s Christian conservatives in the Republican Party. He notes that the Christian right was first feared, but then embraced, by the GOP establishment, and later helped to broaden its coalition. "The Christian right has tried to take over the Republican Party," Goslen said. "I guess this is a counter to that to make the Democratic Party stand for something. "It scares some people in the Democratic Party. Some people fear that we are going to move to the left. But I don't consider myself a big leftist. If we are going to recruit new people to the party, we need to stand up and say what we believe."

Meek downplays ideological shifts in the party. He said his mandate is not to change the party's philosophy but to involve more local Democrats in its decisions. He notes that the coalition that elected him included not just the so-called Deaniacs but also Democrats who felt the party ignored them. Meek sees a new Democratic Party that is more attuned to local interests, that listens to local activists and that provides a more open forum on controversial issues. Democratic activists complain that in the past, party leaders would not allow platform voting on such issues as gay rights or gun control, for fear of giving Republicans ammunition.

New state chairman reaches out

Although the state chairmanship is an unpaid position, Meek said he spends 60 hours a week trying to build the party while maintaining his law practice. He has earned good marks from party elders by hiring respected political pros to help run the party. He has pushed party efforts into the field by hiring three regional directors around the state. He has sent "action alerts" by e-mail to 10,000 party activists on issues such as lobbying reform. He holds monthly conference calls with all 100 county leaders.

In the most recent Raleigh city elections, the new activists helped elect Russ Stephenson and Joyce Kekas to at-large seats and almost elected fellow Democrat Paul Anderson in a heavily Republican North Raleigh district. "Jerry has done quite well," said U.S. Rep. David Price, a former state party chairman and a Hunt protege. "He has made some good hiring decisions. He has proved to be a very vigorous fund-raiser."

What Meek has not done is get Easley engaged. Governors historically have named their party's chairman. After his election, Meek said he had one pleasant 30-minute meeting with Easley -- and has not talked with him in the eight months since. Nor has Easley appeared at either of the Democratic Party's two main fund-raisers -- the Jefferson-Jackson Day Dinner in Raleigh and the Vance Aycock dinner in Asheville earlier this month. It is unusual for a Democratic governor to skip them. "This governor has a different style," Meek said. "We welcome him in the process but understand if he wants to be, to some degree, apolitical." Many party activists also take issue with Easley's policies, such as his backing of business incentives, the death penalty and a state lottery.

Easley's role may be different

Mac McCorkle, a political adviser to the governor, said Easley might have a different role -- with the party tending to its base while the governor reaches out to political moderates and Republicans. "There is such an imperative in a red state, where we haven't won a presidential race in years, to keep on doing what we are doing," McCorkle said. "Governor Easley and other statewide leaders have to have a big-tent philosophy and reach out to people who are not Democrats." McCorkle says the strategy must be working, because North Carolina Democrats did better in last year's elections than those in other Southern states. But success at the state level has not softened the anger of many activists about Bush and the war in Iraq.

At a party-sponsored forum on Iraq at Chapel Hill High School this month, Price, the 4th District congressman, received a cool reception from many of the 700 people present. Price said he opposed the war but does not favor setting a timetable for withdrawal until Iraq stabilizes. That put him at odds with many in the room. Price said he understands the anger but warned that Democrats should not let their feelings about Bush divide their party.

"Count me as an angry Democrat, but also as a Democrat who wants to win and wants to maintain the broadest possible coalition," Price said. "...That involves finding common ground."-from The News & Observer (NC).