Thursday, November 30, 2006

Listen to Adam Smith on The Ed Schultz Show Today

Click here to listen to Rep. Adam Smith, D-WA, discuss the latest in Iraq.

"Is the Colorado Peace Wreath a Victory Sign?"

The Progressive:
The free speech triumph of Lisa Jensen and Bill Trimarco may herald a less repressive climate, at least for some who dissent.

Jensen and Trimarco of Loma Linda, Colorado, put up a Christmas wreath in the shape of a peace symbol on their house. For doing so, they were threatened by the Loma Linda Homeowners Association with a $25-a-day fine. They said they were displaying the peace sign in part because the association made another couple in their subdivision, Will and Nancy Dunbar, remove their peace sign from the end of their driveway a few days before.
“People have heard our message of peace.”

“Jensen and Trimarco crafted their peace wreath Nov. 18,” the Denver Post reported. “Within 24 hours, they received a notice from their homeowners association stating that the wreath violated covenants against displaying signs and advertisements.”

The letter said, in part, that “Loma Linda residents are offended by the peace sign displayed on the front of your house.” Bob Kearns, who was president of the association at the time, said, “Some people have kids in Iraq, and they are sensitive,” the Post reported, adding that he also said some viewed it as a sign of Satan.

When word got out, the homeowners association was besieged by negative reaction, including from Loma Linda residents and from families of Iraq War soldiers. On November 27, the association apologized to Jensen and Trimarco. Kearns and the other board members resigned.

Meanwhile, people in nearby Pagosa Springs have rallied behind Jensen and Trimarco—and have put up peace signs of their own.

“A new lighted wreath in the shape of a peace sign now graces the tower of the old Pagosa Springs town hall, and a band of townspeople marched Tuesday carrying peace signs and stamping a large peace sign in the snow of a town park,” the Denver Post reported. “Peace-sign wreaths are also popping up on homes as Pagosa Springs becomes part of a wide-ranging holiday wreath movement that has been sparked by controversy” over the Jensen and Trimarco case.

“Score one for peace and comity,” editorialized the Denver Post when the association backed down.

“People have heard our message of peace,” Jensen told the paper. “It’s been phenomenal.”

Will Dunbar reflects back on the whole incident.

“I just thought someone needed to put it out there,” he tells The Progressive, explaining why he posted his own sign earlier this month. “Peace is a good thing.”

After the homeowners association made him take it down, “We put a peace wreath made of Christmas tree lights in our window.” The Dunbars weren’t hassled about that one.

Dunbar doesn’t want the town to get a bad reputation. “We’re in a healing process right now,” he says.

“There’s been so much positive response within our subdivision,” he adds. “Lisa got so many positive calls. Several other people put up small peace signs in support of Lisa, and I personally never heard any negative comments, and last time I asked Lisa, she never had heard any, either.”

Dunbar was one of those who participated in the Pagosa Springs march.

“I think there was only 20 of us,” he says. “We didn’t start organizing until the night before. The walk was at 9:00 in the morning. It was snowing out, so we made a 150-foot peace sign in the snow” at the local park. “There was a lot of support in the town. People waved and gave us the peace sign.”
Howie request: Can anyone help me get my own Peace Wreath?

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

"Protect the Vote Locally"

Paul Rogat Loeb:
Just as cities have adopted environmental and wage laws that exceed federal standards, maybe it's time for local initiatives protecting the integrity of the vote. We've been seeing electoral abuses and manipulations since the Bush Administration took power. So we need to insure the Democrats make national electoral protection a priority. But we can also act on a local level.
To prevent similar future abuses, Illinois Senator Barack Obama's Deceptive Practices and Voter Intimidation Prevention Act would make it a felony to deliberately give misleading information on the time, date or location of elections, or about voter eligibility. New Jersey Congressman and former Princeton physicist Rush Holt has offered the Voter Confidence and Increased Accessibility Act, which mandates a verifiable paper trail for all election machines, requires random audits to insure ballots are properly counted and bans wireless connections to make machines less vulnerable to hacking. Holt's bill had the support of a majority of House members even before the midterm election, and should have an irrefutable additional argument with the meltdown of the machines in the Jennings/Buchanan race--not to mention the inability of Republicans to do comprehensive recounts in states like Virginia, where most machines lacked a paper trail. An even stronger alternative would be Dennis Kucinich's HB 6200, which would require paper ballots to be hand-counted at the precinct level.
But just as local minimum wage and environmental ordinances often surpass federal standards, local election standards can be made stronger than national efforts to protect the vote. Because most of the areas targeted by voter suppression attempts are urban and minority communities, Democratic mayors, county executives and governors already control many of the key jurisdictions. They just need to act on the power that they have.
Passing tough new local laws to protect the vote could create an immediate check against voter suppression in a situation where the Bush Administration is unlikely to prosecute its own political allies. If such laws were enacted before 2008, they could prove a major deterrent to the abuses we've seen in the past several elections, insuring their perpetrators could be prosecuted no matter who won at the national level. We still need strong national laws to safeguard elections in Republican-controlled states--Florida, for instance, has continued its voter purges and has instituted draconian procedures and penalties that have made it virtually impossible for groups like the League of Women Voters to begin major registration drives.

"The Indictment"

For all the legal eagles, here's the follow up document to Elizabeth de la Vega's original post, "The White House Criminal Conspiracy," a legal brief in the matter of United States v. George W. Bush et al.
Elizabeth de la Vega is a former federal prosecutor with more than twenty years of experience. During her tenure, she was a member of the Organized Crime Strike Force and Chief of the San Jose Branch of the US Attorney's Office for the Northern District of California. Her pieces have appeared in The Nation, the Los Angeles Times and Salon.

"TYT interview John Nichols from The Nation" (audio)

The Young Turks talk with Nichols today about the media's changing coverage of Iraq, Howard Dean and other matters (16:05).
They are basing their conversation on this piece that Nichols did in The Nation,"News Flash: Major Media Begins to Think for Itself":
Something important in the overall scheme of the American experiment happened this week.

On Monday morning, MSNBC anchor Contessa Brewer appeared on cable television screens across the United States and announced: "The news from Iraq is becoming grimmer every day. Over the long holiday weekend bombings killed more than 200 people in a Shiite neighborhood in Baghdad. And six Sunni men were doused with kerosene and burned alive. Shiite muslims are the majority, but Sunnis like Saddam Hussein ruled that country until the war. Now, the battle between Shiites and Sunnis has created a civil war in Iraq. Beginning this morning, MSNBC will refer to the fighting in Iraq as a civil war -- a phrase the White House continues to resist. But after careful thought, MSNBC and NBC News decided over the weekend, the terminology is appropriate, as armed militarized factions fight for their own political agendas. We'll have a lots more on the situation in Iraq and the decision to use the phrase, civil war."

The statement followed a similar decision by the Los Angeles Times to drop the pretense of referring to the fighting in Iraq as something other than the civil war it has obviously been for some time. Time magazine and other publications have begun to loosen up on the use of the term "civil war," as well.

What is important about this development is that, for the first time since the debate about Iraq began, some--though certainly not all--major media outlets in the United States are making their own judgments based on developments in the Middle East. Up until now, major media has, with few exceptions, failed to embrace that most basic of journalistic responsibilities. Rather, it has served as a stenography service for the Bush-Cheney administration.

The Washington press corps has imbibed the assessments, the claims, the lies of the White House and then regurgitated them as "news." In so doing, they have warped not just the language but the very essence of the national debate. Meaningless phrases such as "stay the course" and "cut and run" have become mainstays of a discussion that has been stage-managed by White House political czar Karl Rove and his acolytes, as opposed to the news editors who are supposed to be calling the shots for broadcast and cable networks and newspapers.

Major media's on-bended-knee approach to the White House has forestalled an honest dialogue about the crisis into which Iraq degenerated after the U.S. invasion and occupation of that country.

By abandoning the role intended by the founders when they enshrined "freedom of the press" protections in the Constitution--that of checking and balancing executive excess, particularly during periods of one-faction or one-party political dominance--major media failed the Republic at precisely the point when its intervention on the side of realism was most needed.

In no measure has this been more the case than in the refusal of most media outlets to acknowledge Iraq's civil war. By following the dictates of the White House and refusing to employ the only honest description for what's happening in Baghdad and other regions of the country, broadcast, cable and print editors made themselves extensions of the Bush White House during the course of two national election cycles and three years of empty congressional debate.

This in-kind contribution to Republican presidential and congressional campaigns was never appreciated by the White House, which has perfected the art of complaining bitterly about even the most tepid deviations from the official script. But the damage was done--not merely to the Democrats and to the discourse but to the Bush himself.

A president needs a skeptical and challenging media to remind him of the realities that ideologically and personally self-serving aides seek to obscure. Read the transcripts of White House conversations involving Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon during the Vietnam War and it is evident that both men were conscious of critical reporting on their actions and often challenged the sillier spin of their advisors based on information gleaned from print and broadcast news.

For the better part of four years, as he has steered the country deeper into the disaster that is Iraq, Bush--who does not read newspapers but who reportedly catches televised news breaks while watching sports--has been at the mercy of the neoconservative nutjobs and schemers who continue to crowd his inner circle.

Now, if the president happens to tune in NBC or MSNBC, he will be exposed to the fact that he has placed more than 100,000 young Americans in the middle of a bloody civil war that they cannot resolve.

There are no guarantees that Bush will recognize reality and shift course. However, as major media begins to rise from its bended-knee position, and stenography pads are traded for reporters' notebooks, we approach the moment where Congress and the American people can open the honest discussion that should have started years ago. Too many lies have been allowed to go uncontested, too many Americans and Iraqis have died, to suggest that editors and reporters can simply adopt the term "civil war" and then hold their heads high. It will take a lot of realism, a lot of truth telling, to lift the shame that major media brought upon itself in what historians of journalism will see as an era of relinquished responsibility and propagandistic excess. But, for the sake of those still in the line of fire, not to mention the Republic, let us hope that the critical corner has been turned.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

"Triumph Of The Dove Democrats"

Matthew Yglesias:
The notion that the Democratic Party is in some state of electoral crisis requiring radical revisions of existing doctrine has almost no evidence on its behalf. Democrats made gains in congressional elections in 1996, 1998, and 2000. They won popular pluralities in presidential elections in 1992, 1996, and 2000. They won a sweeping congressional victory in 2006. Their political problems in recent decades consist entirely of poor ballot design in the state of Florida and the two post-9/11 elections of 2002 and 2004. The resurgence of public concern with national security issues after the catastrophic terror attacks of September 11, 2001 was a serious political challenge for a party that had been bedeviled by the politics of security ever since the mid-1960s or so.

It was a challenge that the party met very poorly. Soon after the attacks, the Bush administration began moving toward an invasion of Iraq. A timid Democratic Party leadership, given cover by a surprisingly large band of "liberal hawk" intellectuals, chose to go along for the ride. Dubious intelligence claims and dubious strategic assumptions were not seriously challenged by the relevant congressional figures (Carl Levin, top Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee is an honorable exception here — but a rare one) or the leading presidential candidates. This was supposed to save Democrats' skin in the '02 midterms, but it didn't work. It also ensured that when the war was clearly going poorly in 2004, the party was ill-positioned to take advantage of it.

By 2006, things had changed. Nancy Pelosi, an Iraq dove from the beginning, was in charge of the House Democrats. Howard Dean was installed as Chair of the Democratic National Committee. Senate leader Harry Reid, Ike Skelton and John Murtha, the top House Democrats on defense issues, had defected to the dove camp. "Moderate" Republicans who'd backed the war went down to defeat all across the Northeast and in many parts of the Midwest. Strong candidates like Jim Webb and John Tester divorced a hard-headed anti-war message from countercultural associations and won in Virginia and Montana.

It was, in short, a triumph of the doves.
Under the circumstances, the number of people arguing on behalf of a rear-guard holding action by the dwindling ranks of Democratic hawks is truly remarkable. Somehow, the conventional wisdom has become that Emanuel and Hoyer are the keys to Democratic political success and that it's vitally important for the hawkish Jane Harman to run the House Intelligence Committee. James Carville was seen arguing loudly that the Democrats should take the unprecedented step of booting Dean from his DNC Chairmanship in the wake of a win. Hillary Clinton, somewhat astoundingly, continues to be the frontrunner for the 2008 nomination and all eyes are turning to James Baker's Iraq Study Group. This outfit's avoided organizers experts with extreme views on either side of the Iraq war debate" even though in this instance the "extreme" left view — that the war was a mistake and we should stop fighting it — has majority support.

All told, it looks like a remarkable effort to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory; to take power out of the hands of the people who were right on the leading issue of our time and put it back in the hands of those who were wrong, both substantively and politically. That's crazy, but it's what's going to happen unless liberals get serious about national security policy. Not "serious" in the Beltway sense of "inclined to favor starting wars" but actually serious about waging and winning these intra-party battles instead of letting the hawks drive the bus off the cliff and then starting to fight back.
In another look at the Dems today, Terry Leach offers "The Democratic Penchant for Self-Sabotage."

"The Odd Attack on Dean"

The Nation (editorial):
On the day after the election, Clintonistas-in-Waiting awoke to realize their wing of the party is not represented at the top of the party. For them, it seems, restoration of a Clinton White House--getting Senator Hillary Clinton nominated in 2008--needs inside influence. Harry Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, despite their cultural differences, are both labor liberals. So why not take a shot at Dean and see what happens? Senator Clinton issued a limp disavowal, but if her side wants to start a fight, she can't have it both ways.

"A Republican Takes the Lead on Iraq"

John Nichols:
Now that the votes have been counted, the American people are ready for swift steps to extract U.S. forces from a no-win situation.

Yet, while Democratic leaders talk of "going slow," smart Republicans are recognizing the political opening and seizing it.

Case in point: Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel's opinion piece in Sunday's Washington Post.

Hagel has long been blunter than his Democratic colleagues about the disaster that the Iraq occupation has become for the U.S. The Nebraska Republican was making comparisons between the Vietnam War, in which he served, and the Iraq imbroglio months ago -- at a point when most Senate Democrats were holding their tongues.

Hagel has now taken the mightly leap of declaring that it is time to "form a bipartisan consensus to get out of Iraq."
If they are outflanked by Republicans like Hagel on the central issue of our time, Democrats will also pay a high price. They will lose the popular support and the moral authority that their November 7 successes gave them. And Americans, who polls show are ready for rapid withdrawal, will give their support to the leaders who are willing to say not just that it is time to bring the troops home but also, as Hagel does, that it is time for the U.S. to radically alter its approach to the Middle East.
Susan Hu gives us "Predictions DIRECTLY From Baker's Iraq Study Group," from "a member of the Iraq Study Group. I am simply posting the report. The source is trusted."

"Anatomy of a Civil War"

Nir Rosen:
There is no solution. We’ve destroyed Iraq and we’ve
destroyed the region, and Americans need to know this. This isn’t
Rwanda where we can just sit back and watch the Hutus and Tutsis kill
each other, and be like wow this is terrible should we do something? We
destroyed Iraq. There was no civil war in Iraq until we got there. And
there was no civil war in Iraq, until we took certain steps to pit
Sunnis against Shias. And now it is just too late. But, we need to know
we are responsible for what’s happening in Iraq today. I don't think
Americans are aware of this. We've managed to make Saddam Hussein look
good even to Shias at this point. And what we’ve managed to do is not
only destabilize Iraq, but destabilize Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Iran. This
is going to spread for decades, the region won’t recover from this, I
think for decades. And Americans are responsible.
Thanks to Annie Robbins for passing this along. Atrios goes down the memory hole to pull out Bush's "Deck of Cards."

Monday, November 27, 2006

"While Iraq Burns"

Americans are shopping while Iraq burns.

The competing television news images on the morning after Thanksgiving were of the unspeakable carnage in Sadr City — where more than 200 Iraqi civilians were killed by a series of coordinated car bombs — and the long lines of cars filled with holiday shopping zealots that jammed the highway approaches to American malls that had opened for business at midnight.

A Wal-Mart in Union, N.J., was besieged by customers even before it opened its doors at 5 a.m. on Friday. “All I can tell you,” said a Wal-Mart employee, “is that they were fired up and ready to spend money.”

There is something terribly wrong with this juxtaposition of gleeful Americans with fistfuls of dollars storming the department store barricades and the slaughter by the thousands of innocent Iraqi civilians, including old people, children and babies. The war was started by the U.S., but most Americans feel absolutely no sense of personal responsibility for it.

Representative Charles Rangel recently proposed that the draft be reinstated, suggesting that politicians would be more reluctant to take the country to war if they understood that their constituents might be called up to fight. What struck me was not the uniform opposition to the congressman’s proposal — it has long been clear that there is zero sentiment in favor of a draft in the U.S. — but the fact that it never provoked even the briefest discussion of the responsibilities and obligations of ordinary Americans in a time of war.

With no obvious personal stake in the war in Iraq, most Americans are indifferent to its consequences. In an interview last week, Alex Racheotes, a 19-year-old history major at Wesleyan University in Connecticut, said: “I definitely don’t know anyone who would want to fight in Iraq. But beyond that, I get the feeling that most people at school don’t even think about the war. They’re more concerned with what grade they got on yesterday’s test.”

His thoughts were echoed by other students, including John Cafarelli, a 19-year-old sophomore at the University of New Hampshire, who was asked if he had any friends who would be willing to join the Army. “No, definitely not,” he said. “None of my friends even really care about what’s going on in Iraq.”

This indifference is widespread. It enables most Americans to go about their daily lives completely unconcerned about the atrocities resulting from a war being waged in their name. While shoppers here are scrambling to put the perfect touch to their holidays with the purchase of a giant flat-screen TV or a PlayStation 3, the news out of Baghdad is of a society in the midst of a meltdown.

According to the United Nations, more than 7,000 Iraqi civilians were killed in September and October. Nearly 5,000 of those killings occurred in Baghdad, a staggering figure.

In a demoralizing reprise of life in Afghanistan under Taliban rule, the U.N. reported that in Iraq: “The situation of women has continued to deteriorate. Increasing numbers of women were recorded to be either victims of religious extremists or ‘honor killings.’ Some non-Muslim women are forced to wear a headscarf and to be accompanied by spouses or male relatives.”

Journalists in Iraq are being “assassinated with utmost impunity,” the U.N. report said, with 18 murdered in the last two months.

Iraq burns. We shop. The Americans dying in Iraq are barely mentioned in the press anymore. They warrant maybe one sentence in a long roundup article out of Baghdad, or a passing reference — no longer than a few seconds — in a television news account of the latest political ditherings.

Since the vast majority of Americans do not want anything to do with the military or the war, the burden of fighting has fallen on a small cadre of volunteers who are being sent into the war zone again and again. Nearly 3,000 have been killed, and many thousands more have been maimed.

The war has now lasted as long as the American involvement in World War II. But there is no sense of collective sacrifice in this war, no shared burden of responsibility. The soldiers in Iraq are fighting, suffering and dying in a war in which there are no clear objectives and no end in sight, and which a majority of Americans do not support.

They are dying anonymously and pointlessly, while the rest of us are free to buckle ourselves into the family vehicle and head off to the malls and shop.

Maybe this explains why I can't seem to get into the "holiday spirit" this year.

"From the DNC Mail Room: Your Birthday Cards to Governor Dean"

Tracy Joan (the Online Outreach Coordinator/Blogger for the DNC)on Kos:
When I first read about the "Great Howard Dean Birthday Card Project" on DailyKos I must say that I wasn't surprised that so many Democrats had jumped on board with the idea to celebrate Governor Dean's birthday and deliver a nice big grassroots "Thank You" for his special day! Coming up with, organizing and executing this kind of project is the kind of thing that makes this community so special. And it's the kind of thing that we've become accustomed to - people power in action.

* Tracy Joan's diary :: ::

I mentioned to the folks in the Chairman's office, and in the mail room, that they should be on the look-out for cards (from the blogosphere, with love!). A few days later when the cards started rolling in everyone here was, once again, amazed at the outpouring of support that Governor Dean, and by extension, the DNC, has received time and again from grassroots Democrats.

The same Democrats who are out there supporting the Governor, the 50-State Strategy and Democratic candidates who are fighting everywhere, everyday, are the Democrats who took the time to send in a Birthday card and the gesture was much appreciated.

Hundreds of cards and thousands of dollars came via snail mail to the DNC. We saw some Personal Fundraising pages break out the old Dean bat to raise some Birthday donations and a slew of online activity, all because it was your way of helping Governor Dean celebrate his birthday - by supporting something you already know that he loves - our Party.

So this is just a brief diary to say thank you for the hours and hours of time you have given, your kind words, your hard earned dollars, your words of encouragement and and your on-going support. It means a lot to us here, and it means a lot to the Governor. It's because of Democrats like you that we are going strong at the DNC and ready to get back to work and win in 2008!

So from the DNC, with love, thank YOU!
Hat tip to Renee in Ohio.

"Questions on The Progressive Movement and 2008"

Chris Bowers:
1. Will the progressive movement see its influence suffer without a standard bearer in 2008?
The 2003-4 Dean campaign remains the defining moment for the blogosphere, the netroots and the contemporary progressive movement. Whatever other campaigns, innovations, and media stories we helped shape, it was only when the movement nearly made an obscure former Governor of Vermont the Democratic nominee for President in 2004 that the movement received serious attention from the political and media establishment. It is from the Dean campaign that the small donor explosion, the fifty-state strategy, the silent revolution, the revival of volunteer activism, and the confrontational attitude toward Republicans all arose. While up to half of the netroots and the progressive movement supported someone besides Dean for President in 2004, it was the online support for Howard Dean that put the netroots on the map as a force with which to be reckoned.

By way of contrast, at least at this early point, there does appear to be a candidate behind whom even a plurality of the netroots and the progressive movement would support en masse. Several potential candidates, most notably Clark, Edwards, Gore and Obama, appear to have a substantial amount of online support. The BlogPac netroots survey of members back in June showed Edwards, Gore and Obama with clear advantages over other potential candidates. However, it does not take much to wonder if a divided progressive movement in 2008 will result in a dilution of netroots influence over the primary season. All of these potential netroots candidates, to differing degrees, will be starting out behind Hillary Clinton in terms of pole position. Even though Edwards, Gore and Obama would all occupy the tier just below Clinton in the early stages of the campaign, one has to wonder just how much room there is for non-Clinton candidates. As such, could a divided netroots drag all of its favorites down? Will the netroots and the progressive movement as whole see its influence in the Democratic Party wane without a clear standard bearer in 2008?

2. Will the progressive movement emerge as a distinct voting demographic in the 2008 primaries?
The last truly drawn out and conflicted Democratic primary season was 1988. Three candidates, Dukakis, Jackson, and Gore all emerged from Super Tuesday with nearly identical delegate totals. This three way campaign happened because of Gore and Jackson were able to forge together solid majorities, if not super majorities, of Democratic voting demographics. For Jackson, his base of support was within African-American voters, and for Gore it was within southern and rural whites. Dukakis ended up prevailing, largely on the basis of super delegates and released Gore delegates, but deep and real divisions within the Democratic Party were revealed.

Much of it will depend on which candidates end up running, but I am interested to see if these old voting blocks within the Democratic Party still exist, and if the progressive movement has emerged as a new potential voting block. Looking over the post-New Hampshire, pre-Wisconsin results in 2004, even after his campaign melted down, was receiving nothing but bad press and was dark virtually everywhere outside of Wisconsin, Howard Dena still received between 5-15% of the vote in nearly every primary state, and between 15-25% in nearly every caucus state. Was this residual Dean support demonstrative of a newly emerging voting block within Democratic primaries? Have we seen it continue to grow in places like CA-11, NH-01, RI-02, CA-36, MD-04, IL-06, MA-Gov, IL-Gov, and CT-Sen since that time? I would love to see a study on how Dean and Kucinich voters from 2004 participated in 2006 Democratic primaries. I suspect that something is beginning to really emerge that goes beyond just activism and online buzz.

If Obama runs, it will be interesting to see if he could consolidate the African-American primary vote the way Jesse Jackson did. Are African-Americans still a solid voting block in Democratic primaries given the right candidate?

As far as the southern and rural white voting block that helped Gore so much in 1988 and Clinton so much in 1992, I have to wonder how much power it has left within national Democratic primaries. In 2004, according to exit polls, Edwards only scored clear victories over Kerry among southern whites in South Carolina and Georgia. Kerry actually trounced Edwards among white voters in the border states of Missouri, Tennessee and Virginia. If a candidate like Kerry can beat a candidate like Edwards among white Democrats in border states, I have to believe that the long-term shift of southern and rural whites to the Republican party has so depleted that demographic within the Democratic primary process that it can no longer workably serve as the basis support for any Democrat's Presidential campaign. That is not to say that these voters are not important. It is just to say that their influence within the Democratic Party has declined dramatically as the result of so many defections to the GOP.

3. What will be the negative impact of the blogosphere?
I mean this question in two separate ways. First, just how nasty will the infighting be online during the primaries? Second, will the netroots be able to sink one or more candidacies in 2008?

To deal with the first question, I would like to bring people back to the Ohio Senate primary circa late January, 2006 and the IL-06 primary in March. Both race, for only a Senate race and a House race, were two of the nastiest I have ever seen. If we end up being that nasty during small primaries like that, I fear for the Democratic Party and the netroots during Presidential primaries in 2008. Feelings will run much deeper, and it could be a very, very ugly scene online (this also related to the first question in this post).

To deal with the second question, for my money is is arguably far more important to see what sort of impact we can have upon the Republican nomination in 2008. Simply put, we have to take McCain and Giuliani down, and significantly tarnish their images among Democrats and Independents. Giuliani should be a relatively easy target considering the help we will receive from the right-wing base. McCain, as Matt has pointed out, will be a far more difficult nut to crack. If we can succeed in taking out McCain and Giuliani, it would virtually make the Democratic primary the general election. It is in this way that we can virtually win the 2008 election in 2007.

On the Democratic side, the generally low opinion of Hillary Clinton among regular blog readers begs another question: will the biggest impact of the netroots on 2008 be in how they drag Hillary Clinton down, rather than in how they build a different candidate up? Hillary Clinton's favorablity among regular blog readers in the BlogPac netroots survey should be very worrying to any member of her 2008 campaign team. It is also worth asking that if the netroots and the progressive movement serves as a millstone on Hillary Clinton's efforts, and if she wins the nomination anyway, how damaging will this be both to her general election chances and to the influence of the netroots within the Democratic Party? Both questions are worth considering.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

"Democrats say no liberal plans in next US Congress"

Three Democratic congressmen who are about to take important leadership posts said on Sunday they plan to pass popular legislation blocked by Republicans but would refrain from pushing some of the most controversial elements on the liberal agenda.

The three, appearing on Fox News Sunday, are among the most liberal Democrats who will take over key committee chairmanships when Democrats regain control of the House of Representatives in January.

Rep. Barney Frank of Massachusetts, who will take over the U.S. House of Representatives committee that covers banking and other financial institutions, mentioned raising the minimum wage, providing cheaper drug coverage for the elderly and providing more affordable housing and help with college tuition as the focus of Democratic legislation.

"Our first efforts are going to be to do those things that I think the mainstream of America wants," Frank said. "Some things have become liberal because the right wingers who control the Republican party have abandoned them to us."

Asked about his opposition to the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy toward gay service men and women, Frank, one of the few openly gay members of the House, said he would fight discrimination but that issue was "not what we're going to begin with."

"Democrats like winning elections," said Rep. John Dingell of Michigan, the incoming chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee and the longest serving member of the House.

"We want to win elections and we're going to do our best to do so," he said. "This doesn't mean to get into any extreme positions on any matter. We'll do what makes good sense."

Rep. Charles Rangel of New York, who is about to become chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee which handles tax matters, said, "We don't want really a fight with the president. What we want to do is to prove we can govern for the next two years."

While he stood by his proposal to bring back the military draft to spread the burden of the Iraq war more evenly throughout U.S. society, Rangel said he would not push the issue and recognizes the obstacles to it ever passing.

He pointed out that Democrats' majority in House and especially in the Senate was thin and in the end President George W. Bush always had the power to veto what Congress passes.

"Controversy simmers over Pelosi's choice for key intelligence job"

Cox News:
House Speaker-elect Nancy Pelosi has set off a power struggle among fellow Democrats and drawn unusually dire warnings from editorial writers coast-to-coast as suspense builds over who will chair the House intelligence committee.

Pelosi, who has already named most of the committee heads along traditional seniority lines, has balked at picking fellow California Rep. Jane Harman, who is now the top Democrat on the highly sensitive intel panel.
Powerful civil rights groups are pressing her to pick the No. 2 in seniority, Rep. Alcee Hastings. But critics and newspaper editorials from the New York Times to the Los Angeles Times, as well as a raft of columnists, say that choice would guarantee a public relations disaster for Democrats, who have pledged to end the "culture of corruption" in the capital.

Hastings, a Florida lawmaker and former federal judge, was impeached on corruption charges nearly 20 years ago. Pelosi was among the overwhelming majority of House Democrats who voted for his impeachment.

Even so, the Black Leadership Forum, a coalition of groups including the NAACP and the Congressional Black Caucus, has sent a letter to Pelosi saying the forum expects her to select Hastings, along with other veteran black lawmakers who are in line for top House posts. Most of those wishes have been fulfilled, but the intelligence spot is still unfilled.

Conservative Democrats, known as the "Blue Dog" coalition, are pressing the incoming speaker to pick Harman, whose moderate views they support.

Potential compromise choices include Rep. Silvestre Reyes of Texas, a veteran of the U.S. Border Patrol, or Rep. Anna Eshoo of California. Both now serve on the intelligence panel.

Pelosi has sent clear signals that she plans to skip over Harman, who has been criticized by some Democrats for not being tough enough in criticizing the Bush administration's Iraq policies.

Spokesman Drew Hammill said Tuesday that the Select Committee on Intelligence, as it is formally called, is different from other panels. "Seniority doesn't carry over from Congress to Congress," he said, adding that the speaker could not only change the membership but pick "virtually any" House member to be chairman.

He said she would announce her selection no later than early January.

Former Rep. Timothy Roemer, co-chairman of the Sept. 11 commission, said his advice to Pelosi would be "to be creative" in her choice.

Roemer, who was a "Blue Dog" Democrat when he served in the House, said the decision would be one of the most important for the new speaker. "It's like the president picking a cabinet," he said, adding that the intelligence committee post is a key indicator for the party's foreign policy positions.

"This is no short order cook" job, he added. "She needs to get somebody who is an articulate spokesperson, open to new ideas, (who) can be effective in the media, and also work in a bipartisan manner."

Roemer suggested that Pelosi could go outside the committee to select Rep. Norm Dicks of Washington, who previously served on the intelligence panel; Rep. Rahm Emanuel, the Illinois lawmaker who led the party's successful election campaign in the House and who previously worked in the Clinton White House; or Rep. Adam Schiff of California, currently serving on the House International Relations Committee.

Asked about the reaction if Pelosi should pick Hastings as chairman, Roemer said, "There will be a beehive full of Republicans with their talking points already written, ready to go after whoever she picks. She has to make sure she doesn't give them a lot of ammunition on this particular appointment."
Thanks to SusanUnPC for the tip.

"Video: Ellsberg on Possibility of Attack on Iran"

After Downing
Ellsberg is optimistic that Gates less likely than Rumsfeld to attack Iran, and that Democratic Congress will investigate bogus claims used to justify an attack on Iran: VIDEO.

"U.S. Retreat from Iraq? The Secret Story"

Tom Hayden:
According to credible Iraqi sources in London and Amman, a secret story of America's diplomatic exit strategy from Iraq is rapidly unfolding.
The key events include:

First, James Baker told one of Saddam Hussein's lawyers that Tariq Aziz, former deputy prime minister, would be released from detention by the end of this year, in hope that he will negotiate with the US on behalf of the Baath Party leadership.
The discussion recently took place in Amman, according to the Iraqi paper al-Quds al-Arabi.

Second, Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice personally appealed to the Gulf Cooperation Council in October to serve as intermediaries between the US and armed Sunni resistance groups [not including al Qaeda], communicating a US willingness to negotiate with them at any time or place. Speaking in early October, Rice joked that if then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld "heard me now, he would wage a war on me fiercer and hotter than he waged on Iraq," according to an Arab diplomat privy to the closed session.

Third, there was an "unprecedented" secret meeting of high-level Americans and representatives of "a primary component of the Iraqi resistance" two weeks ago, lasting for three days. As a result, the Iraqis agreed to return to the talks in the next two weeks with a response for the American side, according to Jordanian press leaks and al-Quds al-Arabi.

Fourth, detailed email transmissions dated November 16 reveal an active American effort behind the scenes to broker a peace agreement with Iraqi resistance leaders, a plot that could include a political coup against Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.

Fifth, Bush security adviser Stephen Hadley carried a six-point message for Iraqi officials on his recent trip to Baghdad:

* include Iraqi resistance and opposition leaders in any initiative towards national reconciliation;general amnesty for the armed resistance fighters;

* dissolve the Iraqi commission charged with banning the Baath Party;

* start the disbanding of militias and death squads;

* cancel any federalism proposal to divide Iraq into three regions, and combine central authority for the central government with greater self-rule for local governors;

* distribute oil revenues in a fair manner to all Iraqis, including the Sunnis whose regions lack the resource.

Prime Minister Al-Maliki was unable to accept the American proposals because of his institutional allegiance to Shiite parties who believe their historic moment has arrived after one thousand years of Sunni domination. That Shiite refusal has accelerated secret American efforts to pressure, re-organize, or remove the elected al-Maliki regime from power.

The Backstory

Underlying these developments are three American concerns: first, the deepening quagmire and sectarian strife on the battlefield; second, the mid-year American elections in which voters repudiated the war; and third, the strategic concern that the new Iraq has slipped into the orbit of Iran. It remains to be seen if Iran will exercise influence on its Shiite allies in Iraq (the Grand Ayatollah Sistani was born in Iraq, and the main Shiite bloc was created in Iran by Iraqi exiles). But that is the direction being taken by Baker's Iraq Study Group and former CIA director John Deutch in a New York Times op-ed. The principal US track, in addition to a declared withdrawal plan, should be to work towards a hands-off policy by Iran, at least for an interval, according to Deutch.

This possible endgame has been in the making for some time. Even two years ago, US officials were probing contacts with Iraqi resistance groups distinct from al-Qaeda. Recent polls indicate sixty percent Iraqi support for armed resistance against the United States, while approximately eighty percent of Iraqis support some timetable for withdrawal, an indispensable indicator for Iraqi insurgents laying down some arms.

Earlier this year, an American peace delegation, including Cindy Sheehan, found themselves in two days of meetings with Iraqis of every political stripe. US Congressman Jim McDermott (D-WA) was crucial in making these contacts by his persistent efforts at mid-east dialogue. Dal LaMagna, a self-described "frustrated peacemaker" made both trips to Amman, and provided this writer with videos and transcripts of the interviews on which this article is based.

It must be emphasized that there is no reason to believe that these US gestures are anything more than probes, in the historic spirit of divide-and-conquer, before escalating the Iraq war in a Baghdad offensive. Denial plausibility - aka Machiavellian secrecy - remains American security policy, for understandable if undemocratic reasons.

Yet Americans who voted in the November election because of a deep belief that a change of government in Washington might end the war have a right to know that their votes counted. The US has not abandoned its entire strategy in Iraq, but is offering significant concessions without its own citizens knowing.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

"Poll on Impeachment"

From bob fertik on Kos:
Wednesday's open thread turned into a terrific debate on impeachment.
Kos is opposed to impeachment because

1. "'President Cheney' is fucking scary."

2. "We have a chance to show America what a governing Democratic Party looks like. And a governing party governs" - which excludes impeachment.

3. "We spend all of our time and media oxygen trying to convict, and it costs us Congress" in 2008

* bob fertik's diary :: ::

Kos's objections were vigorously disputed by commenters:

1. We must impeach Bush and Cheney - perhaps Cheney first.

2. Oversight and investigations are an essential part of Congressional governing. Besides, Democrats can walk (govern) and chew gum (impeach) at the same time.

3. After Democrats hold hearings, prove the case for impeachment, and win support from the 60% of Americans who already disapprove of Bush, the Republicans who stand in the way will be endangered, not the Democrats who support it.

Vote in the poll below.

"Oh Bobby, Where Art Thou?"

David Sirota:
I just returned from seeing the new movie “Bobby” about RFK. It was a very rich, textured movie, and one that left me with an incredibly empty feeling. I wasn’t around back then, but from what I can tell as an amateur student of history and political junkie is that, at least at the end of his life, RFK managed to inspire people; to make them feel like the day-to-day issues they faced were finally being confronted by the political Establishment; and to let them know that politics could be an arena where citizens - regular citizens - could be part of something larger than themselves. He did this by using the celebrity power that came with his family name to shine a bright light on the taboos the Establishment back then and now would rather sweep under the rug: war and economic inequality.

What brings me down about the movie is not only that RFK was killed, but that there are so few leaders today who aspire to his model. Yes, there have been flashes. Bill Clinton’s populist campaign in 1992 was a flash, even if Clinton’s behavior in office and historical revisionism in Washington has now converted it into the supposed triumph of microwaved Fortune Magazine talking points. John McCain’s race in 2000, too, had Kennedy-ish themes to it, not necessarily because of any of his issue positions, but because it had a genuine anti-Establishment feel. That McCain’s subsequently dove right back into the muck that is the Beltway’s destructive faux “centrism” does not negate what his momentary flash evoked in many.

But when you look around today, at this moment, there are only a very few national political leaders who are willing to spend their political capital even trying to build something larger than themselves. To hear Bobby Kennedy’s voice in this movie, you can hear traces of people like Sherrod Brown, Bernie Sanders, Russ Feingold, Brian Schweitzer, Byron Dorgan, Jim Webb, John Edwards and, of course, RFK’s brother Ted Kennedy - people who are at least willing to talk about the immorality of economic inequality and of Old Serious Men sending other people’s kids to die in a war those Old Serious Men fabricated a motive for. But on the national stage, that’s really about it. Most of the other players are concerned about building something for themselves and themselves only. Their celebrity is used in pursuit of their vanity, not a cause (And please - don’t insult people’s intelligence or dishonor the memory of the dead by saying with a straight face that someone like Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton emulates RFK - these are not people who, at least not yet, have shown themselves to be serious about using their celebrity power to talk about or act on issues of economic inequality or ending the war in any serious way).
Howie opinion: I was around then and wouldn't leave Obama off the list quite yet. Unlike others, he did oppose the war in Iraq, back when it wasn't so popular to do so.

Friday, November 24, 2006

"An Electronic Canary"

E. J. Dionne, Jr. in the WaPo today (so it should get some attention from the insiders):
Americans can be grateful that Sarasota County is in Florida and not in Montana or Virginia.

There's nothing wrong with Sarasota, a lovely place. But if the voting snafus in the contest for Florida's 13th District had hung up either of this year's two closest Senate races, we still would not know which party had won control of the Senate.

Supporters of new voting technologies have been patting themselves on the back, saying there were no big voting problems this year. Let them go to Sarasota.
Here's the story so far: The official vote count in the battle for -- you won't believe this -- Katherine Harris's seat put Republican Vern Buchanan 369 votes ahead of Democrat Christine Jennings out of roughly 238,000 votes cast.

But in Sarasota County, there was an "undervote" of more than 18,000 -- meaning that those voters supposedly didn't choose to record votes in the Buchanan-Jennings race. Jennings carried the county 53 percent to 47 percent.

The Sarasota undervote in the congressional race amounted to nearly 15 percent. Kendall Coffey, Jennings's lawyer, has pointed out that in the other four counties in the district, the undervote ranged from 2.2 to 5.3 percent. Put another way, roughly 18,000 of the 21,000 undervotes in the contest came from Sarasota County.

It's hard to believe that Sarasota's voters had a different view of the race than voters everywhere else in the district, considering that the undervote on the county's absentee ballots, cast on paper, was only 2.5 percent. The upshot: Any reasonable statistical analysis suggests that only 3,000 to 5,000 of Sarasota's undervotes were intentional, meaning that 13,000 to 15,000 votes were probably not counted.

If you believe that these machines operated properly, then you must also believe that I missed my true vocation as an NBA center.

Imagine if 18,000 votes had just disappeared in either of the key Senate races. Or imagine a presidential election in which the electoral votes of Florida were decisive and the state was hanging in the balance by -- to pick a number that comes to mind -- 537 votes. And, by the way, in 2000 we could at least see those hanging and dimpled chads. In this case the votes have -- poof! -- simply disappeared.

Despite the Sarasota problem, the state Elections Canvassing Commission certified Buchanan's "victory." Jennings has gone to court to demand a new election.

But there is good news here: This is a problem in just one congressional district. Control of the House does not depend on how this race turns out. It is therefore in the interest of both parties, not to mention the country, to be simultaneously aggressive and judicious in figuring out what went wrong in Sarasota and to use that knowledge to fix the nation's voting system before a major disaster strikes. Sarasota is the canary in the electronic coal mine.

On Tuesday, Judge William L. Gary decided not to move the case along quite as fast as Jennings had requested. That will prove to be an excellent decision if the delay is part of an effort to collect every bit of information we can on Sarasota's machines.

Jennings's lawyers have asked the judge to give her campaign full access to at least eight of the voting machines and their software -- a fair request. If the taxpayer-supported companies that sell this equipment are not willing to be 100 percent open about how their machines and their programming work, they should not be allowed to record and count the people's votes.

And if anyone still needs evidence that all electronic systems should provide verifiable paper trails so real ballots are available in the event of a recount, let them go to Sarasota.

If the courts punt, Congress, which has a right to judge the credentials of its members, should get to the bottom of this. It may be asking the impossible, but Democrats and Republicans should not make this a fight about which party picks up one more seat. Instead, they should conduct a joint inquest into this contest to provide a basis for bipartisan legislation creating national standards for improving our voting systems.

The U.S. Supreme Court has insisted that "[h]aving once granted the right to vote on equal terms, the State may not, by later arbitrary and disparate treatment, value one person's vote over that of another." Thousands of voters in the 13th District have an interest in demanding that the system live up to those words, which came from the decision in a little case in 2000 called Bush v. Gore.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

"Turkey Day on 710-KIRO"

Pinch me. Is this a dream, or is Seattle's Big Blogger really on mainstream AM radio for four hours today? You can listen online here, too.

"Chief Joseph, Washington, D.C., 1879"

Courtesy of Booman:
Whenever the white man treats the Indian as they treat each other then we shall have no more wars. We shall be all alike -- brothers of one father and mother, with one sky above us and one country around us and one government for all. Then the Great Spirit Chief who rules above will smile upon this land and send rain to wash out the bloody spots made by brothers' hands upon the face of the earth. For this time the Indian race is waiting and praying. I hope no more groans of wounded men and women will ever go to the ear of the Great Spirit Chief above, and that all people may be one people.

"Defining Moments"

Looking back on my post yesterday on JFK, I realized it was focused on his assassination. From Firedoglake:
Kennedy's genius as a leader was to appeal not to the worst that is in us, but to the best — and to make that appeal tug at our heartstrings and our brains at the same time, planting little ideas that if we would only stretch a little bit further, that we might be able to reach a star.
Hope is very powerful. Hope in the hands of a people who are inspired to reach even further toward a dream of a better society is more powerful still. Let us all take President Kennedy up on his challenge, and rise up together to reach for the stars.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

"Pelosi readying a pre-emptive House agenda"

San Francisco Chronicle:
House Speaker-to-be Nancy Pelosi made clear Tuesday she's not willing to cede the public spotlight to President Bush in the weeks before his State of the Union speech.

Pelosi plans to start the 110th Congress with a bang on Jan. 4 -- when the House holds its ceremonial swearing in and elects her as speaker -- by immediately setting off on a sprint of several weeks to enact the Democrats' ambitious 100-hour agenda.
Lawmakers usually return home between the swearing-in ceremony and the president's speech, but analysts say the hurried schedule gives Democrats a chance to show instant results. It could also put Bush on the defensive, forcing him to sign or veto a host of popular initiatives.

"Given the well-earned do-nothing reputation of the 109th Congress and its record-setting minimal number of days in session, Pelosi is right to get a quick and sustained start to the 110th Congress," said Thomas Mann, a congressional scholar at the Brookings Institution. "Forget the vacation time -- better to move quickly to set an expectation of more time and serious work in Washington."

Pelosi, in a statement, said the rapid start is needed to tackle a lengthy to-do list that includes everything from passing new ethics rules to raising the minimum wage to $7.25 an hour.

"It is imperative that we waste no time in addressing the pressing needs facing our nation," the San Francisco Democrat said.

Tactically, the move has several advantages: January is usually a slow news month that the president dominates by leaking tidbits from his State of the Union speech and his proposed budget a few days later. Instead of waiting for Bush's agenda, Democrats could have a half-dozen bills waiting for his signature or veto by the time he makes his primetime speech.

After her election as House speaker, Pelosi's first moves will be on ethics, a reminder to voters of the scandals that plagued the GOP Congress and part of her pledge that Democrats will run a more ethical Congress.

Democratic leaders signaled this week they will break up their package of ethics reforms to allow separate debates and votes on proposals -- including a ban on gifts, meals and travel paid for by lobbyists -- and earmark reforms to require lawmakers to own up to federal money they secure for pet projects. They also will push "pay-as-you-go" budget rules requiring that any new spending be offset by cuts in other spending cuts or tax increases.

The strategy would force Republicans to take tough votes on ethics measures that, in essence, are a rebuke to the way the House has conducted its business in recent years. GOP leaders may seek a party-line vote against the entire package, but members who just went through close races in which ethics was a big issue may be loathe to vote against the reforms.

Norman Ornstein, a congressional scholar with the American Enterprise Institute who has lobbied for changes in ethics rules, said he was pleasantly surprised to see the shift in strategy. He and other congressional watchdogs were angry when Pelosi backed Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., for majority leader -- a lawmaker with a checkered ethical past who told colleagues in a recent meeting that ethics reforms were a "bunch of crap."

"I'm actually encouraged now for the first time," Ornstein said. "The idea of having this not as a package, but as a series of issue areas with debate and showcasing these areas and getting a lot of publicity that comes with it -- it's the way I hope Congress will be run."

Pelosi also is considering the idea of an independent ethics board that would act as a grand jury and vet ethics complaints before referring them for action by the House Ethics Committee. Some lawmakers oppose the idea, preferring to police themselves, but it's backed by many of the reform groups.

Pelosi's promised "100-hour" agenda probably will stretch out over at least two to three weeks, and some initiatives may take longer. The agenda is almost a reverse image of former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich's "Contract with America," which he maneuvered through Congress in early 1995 after Democrats were ousted from power, also following a series of ethical lapses.

The media's focus on Democrats' first weeks in power also will give Pelosi a chance to provide high-profile roles to her old allies and newly elected Democratic members. For example, Rep. George Miller of Martinez, the likely chairman of the House Education and Workforce Committee, is expected to take the lead on a proposal to cut interest rates on student loans. Newly elected Rep. Zack Space of Ohio, who won the open seat vacated by disgraced Republican Rep. Bob Ney after Ney's indictment in the Abramoff influence-peddling scandal, could be handed a prime role in introducing one of the ethics measures.

Pelosi's thorniest task will be setting committee assignments for longtime members and the new freshman. Those decisions are handled by the Democratic Steering Committee, but the panel is stacked with Pelosi's allies, including its chair, Connecticut Rep. Rosa DeLauro. Capitol insiders are already speculating that Pelosi will deny Rep. Jane Harman of Venice (Los Angeles County), the ranking member of Intelligence Committee, the chairmanship of the panel because the two Californians have clashed in the past.

Decisions on committee posts could come as soon as the week of Dec. 4. Pelosi said she has scheduled a Dec. 5 forum for Democratic members on the future of Iraq, with former National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski, former Ambassador to the United Nations Richard Holbrooke and retired Army Major Gen. John Batiste.

Nov. 22, 1963

For some of us, this day remains remarkably vivid in our memories, considering it was forty three years ago. Library of Congress:
For the next several days, stunned Americans gathered around their television sets as regular programming yielded to nonstop coverage of the assassination and funeral. From their living rooms they watched Mrs. Kennedy, still wearing her blood-stained suit, return to Washington with the president's body.

Many witnessed the murder of accused assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, on November 24. Viewers followed the saddled, but riderless, horse in the funeral cortege from the White House to the Capitol where Kennedy lay in state. They saw the president's small son step forward to salute as his father's coffin was borne to Arlington National Cemetery.

Television played a significant role in the collective mourning of American society. For the first time, the majority of citizens witnessed ceremonies surrounding the death of a beloved leader, creating a shared experience of the tragedy. Even now, television programming maintains public memory of the assassination by transmitting vivid images from those difficult days to successive generations.

Despite this intimate experience of events surrounding the death of John F. Kennedy, the nation failed to achieve closure. Oswald never confessed, and the facts of the case remain mysterious. The Warren Commission's conclusion Oswald acted alone failed to satisfy the public. In 1976, the House of Representatives' Select Committee on Assassinations reopened investigation of the murder. The Committee reported that Lee Harvey Oswald probably was part of a conspiracy that may have involved organized crime.


Watch Part 1 (9:34) of this video about Bev Harris and link to the other eight parts here.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

"Fixing The 2008 Election"

Jonah Goldman and Tova Wang:
The mainstream media in its instant analysis has proclaimed the election system worked surprisingly well in 2006. While it is true that no single catastrophe of election administration grabbed headlines this year, it is quite dangerous to suggest that the problems voters encountered on Election Day were not serious. As over 25,000 callers from across the country to the 866-OUR-VOTE voter information and protection hotline confirm, these problems led to thousands of eligible Americans being denied the opportunity to cast a ballot.

There’s a sense that the book is already closed on the 2006 election. But despite the nation’s attention now turning to the seismic political shift in Washington, several House races remain undecided. In Ohio, two of the races hinge on thousands of provisional ballots that likely were cast by legitimate voters but because of misguided and confusing election rules, will be thrown out, clearly affecting who wins the race. In Florida, it is likely that problems with electronic voting machines caused far more votes to be lost than the current margin of victory.

While the case should not be overstated, it is critical that as we immediately enter the 2008 presidential election cycle, we undertake a more honest assessment of what happened in this election so we can concentrate on ensuring real, meaningful reform before the next federal election cycle. Only if we understand the problems that voters reported in 2006 can we enact real solutions that will move us toward a more fair and accurate system of elections.
Identification Problems

Over the past two years, the country has engaged in a national debate about how voters should identify themselves at the polls. Advocates for election reform and voting rights have shown that current protections, such as signature matches and severe penalties, strike an effective balance between protecting the rights of eligible voters to participate in the process and preventing ineligible people from manipulating the system. Unfortunately, partisanship has trumped reason as the states and the Congress are now grappling with unconstitutional legislation which hypes the false specter of voter fraud as an excuse for disenfranchising countless eligible voters.

On November 7, 2006, the result of this exaggerated concern over voter fraud was two-fold. First, in states like Arizona where restrictive voter identification requirements were operable, eligible citizens were prevented from casting a ballot because they did not have the requisite documentation. Second, a combination of confusion and lack of training forced voters to provide identification that was not required by law, resulting in many voters being turned away at the polls. In over a dozen states across the country, the Election Protection Hotline received complaints of poll workers asking voters for identification that was not required by law, wrongly forcing voters to cast provisional ballots, and otherwise misinterpreting the voting rules to prevent eligible voters from casting a ballot.

In Ohio particularly, poll workers improperly implementing identification requirements could have significant ramifications as two House seats remain undecided. The winner of those seats may well be elected by a margin smaller than those eligible voters who were either turned away, or who wrongly were forced to vote a provisional ballot that will not count. The most public example of this misapplication of Ohio identification requirements is Rep. Steve Chabot, who was wrongly turned away at the polls because his Ohio driver’s license did not have a current address. Although he was able to come back to the polling place and eventually cast a ballot, many ordinary Ohioans do not have the time to make multiple trips to the polls. Missouri’s Secretary of State Robin Carnahan was also improperly asked for photo ID and reported that her office got numerous complaints of similar incidents throughout the day.

Congress and state legislatures must pay more attention to the problems created by our election system and less to partisan proposals designed to remove eligible voters from the process. In addition, confusion about identification problems will be solved through better poll worker training.

Voting Machines

Problems with the administration of the election that could have been avoided instead created obstacles to efficient voting that have become increasingly familiar to voters across the country. In multiple states there were reports of people waiting in line for hours on end because of machine failures, poll workers who didn’t know how to operate the machines, insufficient numbers of voting machines and general poor administration of election systems. In Tennessee for example, too few machines in one jurisdiction led to waiting times of five and a half hours. In Prince George’s County, Maryland, voters stood in line for hours as poll workers struggled with voting technology and new voter registration procedures.

In all of these places, many voters left without casting a ballot. This denial of voting rights disproportionately impacts working people, especially those who have work or family duties that prevent them from having enough time on Election Day to stand on long lines or make multiple trips to the polls. There must be statewide standards for sufficient and equal distribution of voting machines, improved and standardized training and testing of poll workers, and increased resources to ensure sufficient numbers of machines and professionals operating them in every jurisdiction.

Across the country voters noticed that electronic machines “flipped” their votes when the vote summary screen indicated that the machine registered a vote for the opponent of their desired candidate. Elsewhere, voters complained that, despite going through the steps required by the machine, their vote for certain races never registered. Problems caused by inadequate procedures for making the best decisions about voting machines will be solved by demanding accountable, accessible and transparent voting technology.

Deceptive Practices

Voters also encountered problems before they even arrived at their polling place. Voters complained of cynical and fraudulent activities of both campaigns and individuals. In Orange County, California, a congressional campaign sent 14,000 voters with Hispanic surnames a letter advising recipients that “if you’re an immigrant, voting in a federal election is a crime that can result in incarceration,” or deportation. While illegal immigrants are barred from voting, legal immigrants who have become citizens are of course permitted to do so. In Virginia there were numerous reports of voters receiving calls telling them, falsely, that their polling place had changed, and telling them to go to the wrong precinct. Similar reports came in from New Mexico. In Colorado it was reported that Hispanics were getting phone calls telling them they were not registered and that they might be arrested if they voted. In heavily Democratic Maryland, materials were distributed statewide that suggested Republican candidates actually represented the Democratic Party, causing widespread confusion.

States and the federal government must do more to prevent and punish those who would commit this type of fraud. This means taking measures to directly criminalize such activity and requiring election administrators and elected officials to take proactive steps to ensure that voters are made aware of the deception and provided with the correct information immediately.

Voter Registration Problems

Voting rights advocates widely predicted that many voters would appear at the polling place to find their names not on the registration list. It was an easy prediction given the fact that many states were imposing unnecessarily high hurdles to registration. This included states requiring exact matches between voter registration information and information in existing state databases—despite the overwhelming evidence that much of that information is inaccurate because administration of both the registration rolls and other state databases is often inexact, frequently causing the names and other information in the databases to be incorrect. In other states, new registration requirements for proof of citizenship and rules virtually shutting down voter registration drives by civic organizations both reduced registration rates and made it more likely that voters would be left off the rolls.

On Election Day, voters from Georgia to California who were eligible to vote and submitted a timely voter registration form were turned away at the polls because their names did not show up on the registration lists. In some situations, these voters complained that they were not provided a provisional ballot.

These problems underscore the importance of fair and effective protocols for matching voter registration information and the elimination of rules requiring an “exact match”; the abolition of rules requiring proof of citizenship in order to register, when voters already must swear an oath under penalty of a felony that they are a citizen; and only reasonable rules governing third party voter registration drives, not rules that are meant to shut such worthy and essential services down.

Of course, Americans deserve better than what many thousands of them experienced on Election Day 2006. The infrastructure that supports our voting system should be strong and responsive to the will of the voters. Our democratic values demand that issues around election reform be considered outside of politics and the campaign cycle. In short, Congress and the states must move forward on meaningful reforms that strengthen citizen confidence in the system and expand access to all eligible Americans, as well as the resources necessary to make our democracy the model for the world.

Rolling Stone version: "Missing Votes? Who Cares? We Have a Winner."

"Behind Democrats' climb in Mountain West"

USA Today (excerpt; there's lots more here):
Signs that the Democratic Party is getting the message:

•The Democratic National Committee this year added Nevada to the early presidential nominating contests. Nevada's caucuses will be in January 2008, between the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary. The DNC wanted to move up a racially diverse state and to please Las Vegas' powerhouse, 60,000-member Culinary Union, says Michael Gehrke of the Senate Majority Project, a Democratic group separate from the party.

•Denver is a finalist to host the 2008 national convention. The DNC will decide between it and New York City next year.

•DNC Chairman Howard Dean's "50-state strategy" put field operatives on the payroll and dispatched them a year ago for groundwork in Mountain West states that Democrats used to write off.

"The GOP's dirty deeds of 2006"

Salon's guide to robo-calls, push polls, vigilantes and other murky dealings from this year's elections.
Nov. 21, 2006 | Before the 2006 midterm election, you couldn't escape the predictions of Election Day disaster: voting machine meltdowns, interminable lines, endless recounts. But the control of both houses of Congress was decided without interference from Diebold or hanging chads, so few (outside of Florida's 13th Congressional District) are suffering flashbacks of 2000 and 2004.

But while this year might not have included any repeats of Palm Beach County or Ohio, that doesn't mean the midterm elections were squeaky clean. This November there were some old-school dirty tricks that had nothing to do with voting machines or secretaries of state. An unscientific sample seems to show that most were the product of a party that was desperate for something, anything, that would help it protect its doomed congressional majorities. The bulk of this year's murky dealings took place in those tightly contested races -- from the battle for Virginia's Senate seat to House races in Illinois, New York and Connecticut -- that were crucial to control of Congress.
Fortunately, politicians in several states and the U.S. Senate are taking steps to criminalize some of the more heinous tricks played this year. Before any of the bad deeds from this election are forgotten, here's Salon's Cheat Sheet -- our top 10 list of dirt.

In Maryland, Republicans turn Democrat -- and truck in homeless men to spread the word

In some states, like deep-blue Maryland, being a Republican is a political liability. Still, it's not often that you see Maryland's top Republican candidates actually pretending to be Democrats -- but that's exactly what Gov. Bob Ehrlich and Lt. Gov. Michael Steele, who was running for the state's open Senate seat, did.

A flier distributed in majority black Prince George's County, and unsubtly hued red, black and green, featured three prominent black Democrats -- Kweisi Mfume, a former congressman and former head of the NAACP; Wayne K. Curry, the former county executive in Prince George's County; and Jack B. Johnson, the current Prince George's county executive -- stating that each endorsed Steele for the U.S. Senate and Ehrlich for governor. In reality, none of them had endorsed Ehrlich, and only Curry had endorsed Steele. On the back of the flier was a "Democratic Sample Ballot" that endorsed Ehrlich for governor and Steele for Senate.

The men who were passing out the deceptive fliers were homeless, and had been trucked in from Philadelphia specially for the event with the promise of three meals and $100 cash in exchange for one Election Day's work.

In Virginia, voter intimidation

It's not illegal to be registered to vote in two places, as long as you don't vote in both. But that's not what Timothy Daly, of Clarendon, Va., was told. Daly got a message on his answering machine that told him that the nonexistent "Virginia Elections Commission" had "determined you are registered in New York to vote."

"Therefore," the message said, "you will not be allowed to cast your vote." It ended by promising Daly, who has voted in Virginia since 1998, that if he did come to vote, he would "be charged criminally."

Daly wasn't the only Virginia resident to receive such a message; enough similar calls were made, in fact, that the FBI has opened an investigation into the allegations. It's not yet known who was behind the calls, but it seems likely they would have taken an organized effort, or at the very least no small investment of time -- whoever called Daly and the other victims of the scam would have had to comb through voter registration data to find voters registered in multiple states. In the end, Democrat Jim Webb defeated incumbent Republican Sen. George Allen by just over 7,200 votes.

The Social Security Administration gets into the act

Illinois Democratic congressional candidate Tammy Duckworth, running for the open seat that once belonged to Henry Hyde, wanted to extend Social Security benefits to illegal immigrants. At least, that's what one mailer to district residents said -- and there was no reason to doubt it. After all, it was from the Social Security Administration. The mailer came in a yellow-brown envelope whose front bore the image of an eagle and the words "Notice: Social Security Benefit Change Proposal." To be fair, the letter did acknowledge its source -- the National Republican Congressional Committee -- at the bottom of the page and again on the back of the envelope, where the return address listed "Social Security Benefits Proposal c/o National Republican Congressional Committee." But some of Duckworth's supporters have alleged that the mailing was more than just deceptive: It could, they say, be considered mail fraud for seemingly imitating mail from an official government agency without the disclosure required of any non-governmental entity sending out such a letter. On Election Day, Republican Peter Roskam beat Duckworth by less than 5,000 votes.

"Not like in Mexico, here there is no benefit to voting."

This October, nearly 14,000 Orange County, Calif., residents received a letter stating that if they attempted to vote on Nov. 7, they could face jail time or deportation. The recipients -- all of whom had Latino last names and were registered as Democrats -- were discouraged in formal Spanish laden with grammatical errors from voting in the midterm elections. The letter not only targeted illegal immigrants and legal immigrants who are not naturalized citizens; it also went to naturalized legal immigrants, who are eligible to vote, and to many native-born Latinos. Although early investigations by the state attorney general pointed to an independent anti-immigration group as the source of the letter, it was later discovered that campaign officials working for Republican congressional candidate Tan Nguyen were responsible for composing the letter and compiling names for the mailing list. Nguyen, who is a staunch supporter of anti-immigration legislation, has said that he had nothing to do with the letter, but believes it was legal. Not everyone agrees with Nguyen’s assessment, though; the California Attorney General's Office is weighing criminal charges.

Blood runs thicker than party affiliation

Family ties can make for some strange political situations; perhaps none was stranger this year than the saga of the Ford family in Tennessee. Though it was Rep. Harold Ford Jr. who received the lion's share of the attention as the Democratic candidate for Senate in a key state, his younger brother Jake was on the ballot as well, hoping to take over the 9th District House seat Harold Jr. had vacated to run for Senate. Jake Ford was running for Congress as an independent after losing the Democratic primary. But that's not what Ford family patriarch Harold Ford Sr. said.

The elder Ford, himself a former congressman, is famous for his unofficial party ballots, handed out to the black voters of Memphis. This year, like every year, he printed and distributed a "Ford Democratic ballot." This time, though, one candidate stuck out -- Jake Ford, who made the sample ballot over Steve Cohen, the real Democratic candidate. Cohen easily beat Ford in the general election.

The robot that called. And called. And called

If you're the average American, you've gotten a call from a telemarketer. You've probably gotten a call from a telemarketer who was really a robot. And if you're like most of us, you've probably hung up. But what if the robot didn't get the message?

In this year's biggest dirty trick, that's what happened to voters across the country, who were deluged with robo-calls that purportedly were coming from Democratic candidates. The calls started innocently enough, by offering information about the local Democrat. But if you hung up, the robot would call back. Hang up again and, like some character out of a Stephen King novel, the robot would call again. And again. And again, sometimes as many as seven times before it gave up. So the voters who had the temerity to want to enjoy their dinner unmolested were left with the impression of a Democratic candidate who simply would not leave them alone; those who stayed on the line were instead treated to a string of disinformation about the Democrat. The calls, which were paid for by the NRCC, hit many of the House races vital to Democrats' chances to take back the House. They ran in at least two key Illinois districts, including Duckworth's, and in Connecticut, where vulnerable Republican incumbent Chris Shays survived a stiff challenge from Democrat Diane Farrell, and in other races in states as diverse as Georgia, California, Pennsylvania and New York. In all, a total of 1 million calls were spread over 53 House races; this means that an average of 20,000 calls were made in each district, each of which contained about 200,000 votes. The calls could potentially have reached one out of every 10 voters in the targeted races.

The uproar that followed hasn't escaped the attention of politicians. Sen. Barack Obama has introduced a bill that would criminalize the practice, and on the local level several states are considering similar legislation.

Push polls

The robo-calls weren't this election season's only example of trick by telephone; another old tactic was trotted out this year: the push poll.

Relying on the public's trust of pollsters as objective questioners, not partisan propagandists, push polls come from callers pretending to be interested in recipient responses -- but what they really care about is their own message, which is slipped into the question.

One group, Common Sense Ohio, was responsible for many of the push polls this year, which hit key Senate races in Maryland, Montana, Ohio and Tennessee, along with the governor's race in Ohio and a ballot initiative in South Dakota to overturn an abortion ban. In Missouri, where stem cell research became an issue with the intervention of Parkinson's-stricken actor Michael J. Fox, voters were asked about their support for medical experiments on babies still in the womb -- and were then told that Democrat Claire McCaskill did.

The progressive group that wasn't

Bob Casey, the Democratic candidate for Senate in Pennsylvania, isn't your typical Democrat -- pro-gun, pro-death penalty, antiabortion -- but he was running against a Republican, Rick Santorum, who made him look positively liberal by comparison.

Still, there was ample room for anyone who wished to attack Casey from the left -- and there were plenty who did. Like the people behind the Progressive Policy Council, a self-described nonprofit organization that popped up just before the election to denounce Casey's conservative stances. But the group, which appeared to have no signs of actual life other than mailers sent out attacking Casey, may not have been as "progressive" as advertised: It's represented by the former deputy general counsel to President Bush's 2004 reelection campaign, who has also worked for the Dole campaign and the Republican National Committee.

It wasn't the only attempt by Republicans to hit Casey from the left. The race's Green Party candidate was funded entirely by donors who normally support Republicans.

Case of the vanished polling place

Most people -- well, most people other than Ann Coulter -- try to make sure they're voting in their assigned polling place. But voters in several states had their polling place changed just before the election.

At least, that's what the phone calls told them. Voters in New York, New Mexico and Virginia were told by anonymous callers that their polling places were changed and they were given erroneous directions to new polling places that didn't exist. In New Mexico, at least one call giving incorrect information about a polling place was actually traced back to the local Republican Party. Republicans claimed it was a mistake, but in response the state's Democrats unsuccessfully petitioned a judge to enjoin the state GOP from calling any more Democrats at all.

And last, but not least -- vigilantes

On Election Day, a posse of three men in Tucson, Ariz., proved that the Wild West still lives.

The group, which was three strong, and allegedly composed of two anti-immigration activists, Russ Dove and Roy Warden, carried a camcorder, a clipboard -- on which, they said, was information about a proposed law to make English the state's official language -- and a gun. While one man would approach a voter, holding the clipboard, another would follow, pointing the video camera at them. The third would stand behind, holding his hand to the gun at his hip in what activists on the other side called classic voter intimidation tactics in a precinct one local paper had previously declared the bellwether of the area's Hispanic vote.

It's not the first time Dove and Warden have been accused of this type of act. Dove, who is a convicted felon and former militia member, patrolled Arizona's polls in 2004 as well, and Warden has publicly burned a Mexican flag (for which he was charged with in arson) and acknowledged that he sought a concealed carry permit for a gun, partly in hopes of enticing a local police officer to attack him and force Warden to use deadly force in self-defense.

Monday, November 20, 2006

"Democratic Chairman Howard Dean Rallies Party Heads in Wyoming" (with video)

KIFI 8 News:
Democratic National Chairman and former presidential hopeful Howard Dean was in Jackson, Wyo., Friday to say thank you to all of the volunteers that made Wyoming Democratic candidates competitive in this last election.

Wyoming is typically a state, like Idaho, that is very conservative. Wyoming Democrats don't typically get a visitor like this, especially with it being the home field, so to speak, of the vice president.

Friday Dean was in Jackson for a meeting with all of the state Democratic chairs from each of the 50 states. Before that meeting began Friday afternoon, he stopped by the Snake River Lodge and Spa to say thank you.
It was Howard's birthday, so you can guess what happened.

"Democrats Gain On GOP In New Race: Who's Got The Best Database" (UPDATED)

Information Week:
Pundits have ascribed the sweeping Democratic victories in this year's midterm elections to a number of factors, including dissatisfaction with the war in Iraq. But Democrats had at least one more thing going for them: microtargeting. That's politico-speak for their mining of vast databases to target likely Democratic voters. The Republicans have built and mined their own "Voter Vault" databases since 2002, helping drive the 2004 presidential victory. While the Democrats had similar databases, until these latest elections they were rife with problems, such as incorrect address fields that had Florida residents living in the city of Fort and the state of Lauderdale, and data errors that resulted in more names being listed for Colorado than there are state residents. The Democratic National Committee spent $8 million this time around on a multiterabyte relational database from Netezza. Instead of assembling an Oracle database, EMC storage, and IBM servers, Netezza's Performance Server stores, filters, and processes terabytes of data within a single Linux-based appliance, installed in hours rather than weeks and at lower cost, says Gus Bickford, a consultant who helped implement the DNC database.
Between 60% and 70% of the system's data came from InfoUSA, which sells data on voters' income, age, address, home value, telephone numbers, vehicles, bankruptcy filings, mail order purchases, marital status, and more--including such "lifestyle" information as whether they like auto racing or motivational speakers. The rest came from commercial and public databases. One scenario for microtargeting goes like this: Female cat owners tend to vote for Democrats, as do the majority of married women with children. So if you see a woman at the polls with a ring on her finger, a toddler in her arms, and cat dander on her jacket, you probably know for whom she's voting. Using the data it acquired, chances are the Democratic machine also knows who this lady is and has bombarded her with specially crafted phone calls, mail, and TV ads. Leading up to previous elections, the DNC's data cleansing was unorganized and often manual. This time around, the Dems bought software from Business Objects unit Firstlogic that allows for the creation of rules to automatically scan and correct data, making sure addresses and phone numbers are formatted correctly or people's nicknames are recognized. Meantime, Harold Ickes, former deputy chief of staff for President Clinton, set up a separate database, called Catalist, for America Votes, a coalition of Democratic groups that targeted elections in battleground states. One source says the rival DNC and Catalist data-gathering efforts will come together eventually. The DNC's voter file contains 300 million records with up to 900 fields per record, everything from voting history to purchasing power to whether the voter has a hunting license. It can handle 30 to 40 queries at once, automatically cleans up dirty addresses, and crunches numbers up to 20 times faster than it did in the past. Lists will get rebuilt three times a year and could quadruple in size in two or three years as voters move and new data flows in.

Ken Strasma, president of Strategic Telemetry, a microtargeting company that works with the Democrats, says the technique may have tipped the U.S. Senate races in Virginia and Montana by identifying voters in bright red counties that may have otherwise been overlooked. However, the Democrats still lag the Republicans in volume of data and in experience. "It's good for us, just as it is in any industry, to go out and make our universe larger," consultant Bickford says. After all, the 2008 presidential race is just around the corner.

UPDATE: Keith Goodman continues his series of posts on microtargeting with "GOP Microtargeting Doesn't Live up to the Hype (Republican Perspective)."
In my final pre-election post, I wrote that the Republicans faced a major problem in 2006 with their microtargeting and 72-hour plan:

One of the interesting features of microtargeting is that the intelligence is a snapshot in time. That is, microtargeting is built from a large poll that is, in most cases, conducted MONTHS before an election.

If the environment is static, the microtargeting will be pretty accurate on Election Day. But what happens when conditions change between the date the microtargeting is completed and the election? This is precisely the problem facing the Republican 72-hour plan.

Now that the election is over, Republicans have started talking about this problem. One of my favorite quotes from this article, referring to the 2005 VA governor's race:

What I found was frightening and mind-boggling. Voters who were microtargeted and estimated to be pro-life at a 75%-90% confidence rate (meaning 75%-90% chance that a voter will vote for a candidate who supports the pro-life position), were actually measured at an average rate of 45%-50%—suggesting that half of our get-out-the-vote turnout universe would be voting for the Democrat candidate for governor, Tim Kaine.

Now, this is no disgruntled peon. His bio from the article:

Mr. Stutts served as the national 72-Hour/GOTV director during the 2004 Bush-Cheney re-election campaign. He is president of Phillip Stutts & Company, a political consulting firm.

Yet more evidence that Republican microtargeting and the 72-hour plan are not as great as advertised. In fact, this Republican perspective makes it highly likely that Democratic microtargeting was far more effective in 2006.