Thursday, January 31, 2008

More progressives in Congress – a BlogTalkRadio interview series

this past weekend, I posted a diary talking about the progressive movement and how we needed to have more progressives in Congress in order for either Senator Clinton or Senator Obama pass anything progressive, as well as to fight for progressive causes, and against any agenda that a (gasp) President McCain or Romney would be pushing.

In that diary, I said the following:

None of the three Democratic candidates can really accomplish much with a Congress that is as divided as this one. That may not be completely their fault, but it could also serve as a convenient excuse (as it has for both Reid and Pelosi). And without more progressives in Congress, our movement will not continue in any meaningful way.


There is at least one, possibly two progressives running in my district on the Democratic side. Scott Garrett will never vote with Clinton, Obama or Edwards on anything that I want to see passed. But the Democratic candidates in my district will. As will many other progressive Democratic candidates - some of whom are members of the progressive blogosphere. From Charlie Brown to John Laesch to Darcy Burner to Barry Welsh to Ron Sheptson to Gilda Reed to Dennis Shulman in my district, and many others (I apologize if I forgot a few).

These are the people that we need - without them, NOTHING that Clinton or Obama or Edwards wants will happen. On the flip side, it is these people who can not only stop the agenda of McCain or Huckabee or Romney but can also plant the seeds for the progressive agenda - one that can last for a generation or even longer.

Now, as someone who has a baby on the way, I have limited funds to spread around, but being someone with a big mouth and a platform like BlogTalkRadio and its progressive website Heading Left, I do have the ability to at least give some of these candidates exposure and a voice that can be heard by many more people than just some in their own districts.

And with that, I am happy to announce that my partner in crime, er, co-host and good friend thereisnospoon and I are starting a series of interviews on our BlogTalkRadio show, ePluribus Radio (which can also be found at ePluribus Media) with progressive congressional candidates.

We will be posting some information on the various candidates as well as a link to their ActBlue page so you can listen in and if you are so inclined, contribute to their campaign.

The first interview will be with Gilda Reed, who is running in Louisiana’s 1st District. The interview will be this Saturday, February 2, at 1PM Eastern/10AM Pacific. The link to the show can be found here as well. Gilda’s ActBlue page is here as well.

Our next interview will be with John Laesch (IL-14), most likely on Monday February 4 in the mid afternoon Eastern (I will update the time when we finalize it). John has been on our show twice before, as has his brother (and also a Daily Kos community member Peter). John’s ActBlue page is here.

Other interviews that we have received commitments from and you can look forward to over the next few weeks are with Dennis Shulman (NJ-5) and my home district, Charlie Brown (CA-4), Ron Sheptson (CA-42) (also known as CanYouBeAngryAndStillDream), Jerry Northington (DE-AL) (also known as possum).

We will also be reaching out to others who work with campaigns and continue this series throughout the next few months. We also will be taking the various statements that we get from candidates on various issues and doing future shows that feature the progressive slate of candidates’ positions and statements on various issues.

Of course, if you know or work on a campaign (House or Senate) and would be interested in having your candidate doing an interview, please please please do not hesitate to let me know.

We have a lot of good Democrats and progressives running for Congress. Without them in Congress, the progressive movement will go nowhere. But with them in Congress, the progressive movement can, well, progress. These candidates don’t get as much press or exposure as they should. Hopefully, this can help get the word out a bit more as well as possibly get a few more much needed dollars for their campaigns as well.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Tax rebates are a goddamn farce

So the breaking news banner on CNN (online and on TV) is touting the fact that the House has passed a stimulus package which includes tax rebates for individuals and families.

While I haven’t seen the final numbers that are in the bill, nor do I know if the Senate will pass a similar bill, NOR do I know who will be eligible for these rebates, I can tell you that the whole idea of tax rebates are no different than putting a band aid on a gaping chest wound.

There are so many things wrong with a quick temporary “fix”, which may very well help some (or many) families in the short term – whether it be paying bills or whatever else they may do with the rebate checks. For starters, as bonddad and a number of others have written about extensively, the economy is pretty much completely in the shitter – no matter what metrics you look at. There was just another article today that indicated the housing market “downturn” has yet to hit bottom. People are paying their mortgage with their credit cards and then can’t pay their credit card bills. It won’t be long before people go into default on their credit cards (if they haven’t already) and then can’t pay their mortgage.

The price of oil has skyrocketed, sending the price of gas, food and just about anything else that either uses gas or oil or petroleum based “products” to make or transport through the roof. The dollar is weaker than it was last week, which is weaker than the week before that, which was weaker than the week, month and year before that – which may only be good for foreign tourism since goods are still cheaper than they are in other countries – even in Canada.

Of course, the whole “you can’t get into or out of this country without being violated in at least two or three different ways” has put a crimp into that as well.

But I digress.

Let’s look at what the likely use of these “rebate checks” will be. I can think of a few categories, and what the likely result is (short term, medium term and long term). As the missus said to me this morning - it really doesn’t matter who gets these checks or what they are used for – they will just go right back into the pockets of Bush and his cronies. and you thought I could get riled up…..

The smart thing to do would be, of course, to deal with the root causes of this recession as opposed to a small band aid patch, most of which ultimately will not be used for anything that will be a mid to long term solution.

Tax rebates being used to pay down debt

OK, so some people will use this to pay off some debt. It could be credit card debt, it could be part of a past due bill for heating, telephone, medical bills, rent or mortgage. So where does all of the money that each lucky individual gets ultimately go to?

Yup – the same corporate interests that are at the root of the problem for higher credit card interest rates, the banks that had a big hand in the housing crisis, the oil, phone or utility companies or the insurance companies who are overbilling the ones who are lucky enough to be insured but are denying claims.

How does this help those who really need help – not just a few hundred dollars that won’t even begin to address the underlying causes of their trouble?

Tax rebates being saved

If someone is at the income level where they are eligible for a rebate and can actually stash some of it away, that doesn’t go back into the economy and therefore won’t do much to address the underlying issue here. Coupled with the declining dollar, these savings may not be worth all that much in the grand scheme of things – especially if nothing is done to strengthen the value of the dollar vs. gold and other countries’ forms of currency.

Tax rebates being used for additional current expenses

Maybe now people can afford another tank of gas, or another gallon of milk. Of course, the higher gas prices has contributed to the higher cost of, well, gas – not to mention milk and many other items that I noted above. Once again, there is nothing that will contribute to addressing the root cause of the higher gas prices, higher food prices or higher price of utility bills, and may other items that most people need on a day to day basis.

So who wins with these rebates? Short term, maybe people have one less mortgage payment to worry about, or one less creditor banging on their door, or one less credit agency who is harassing them, or may be able to actually pay for heat during the winter.

But, where does this money ultimately go? And who does this actually help? And what underlying problem or cause does this really address? And of course, how will this be paid for and who will ultimately bear the brunt of the costs?

Mid term, this will not help anyone – other than those who will be on the receiving end of the checks that millions of Americans will now be able to write. Long term, this is yet another disaster in a long line of disasters from short sighted thinking and behavior.

This “stimulus package”, regardless of what final form it ultimately takes, will NOT stimulate anything other than the profits of the credit card companies, the banks, the oil companies and anyone else who will be receiving the ultimate benefit of the lion’s share of these rebates (and of course, business tax cuts too – for the double benefit for corporate interests).

It is nothing more than a bad shell game and yet another cruel joke on We the People.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

The question every candidate should have to answer

I don’t want to hear about what Bill Clinton thinks anymore. I don’t want to hear how McCain “wants to be in Iraq for 1,000 years”, that Romney may have wanted a withdrawal date, that any of the candidates is more or less pure on whatever issue or any other chest thumping drivel.

I want to know what each candidate really thinks or if they haven’t actually thought beyond tough talk, suck up platitudes and bumper sticker slogans, when it comes to addressing the extremely fucked up foreign policy path that this country has taken over the past decade.

No more “would you take anything off the table”.

No more “they may be able to restart a nuclear weapons program”.

No more “we have to kill them before they kill us”.

No more “we will not allow [X] to occur, under any circumstances”.

No more “we must be strong and we must also be flexible”.

No more “we must always stay on the offensive”.

No more “we’ll smoke them all out”.

No more “nothing short of victory will do”.

No more “either you are with us or you are against us”.

No more “spreading democracy and freedom”.

No more fluff.

We have a very delicate, complex and deteriorating situation we have thrust ourselves in the middle of in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and we might as well throw in Saudi Arabia, Iran and Syria into the equation (not to mention Russia, Venezuela, North Korea and China). We have hundreds of thousands of troops in this region, and it is a pressure cooker that has been ready to blow for years - even moreso recently,

What I want to know is:

Given that there has been virtually no political progress in Iraq, the violence is still strong, and in areas where it isn’t it is because of sectarian cleansing, and that the recent NIE indicated that Iran’s nuclear weapons program is false and the recently reported incident in the Strait was proven to be a hoax, that the Taliban and al Qaeda are stronger than ever in Pakistan with a force of up to 40,000, NATO troops in Afghanistan are being attacked with more frequency and Saudi Arabia threatened Vice President Cheney that if the US left Iraq, it would fund the same Sunnis who were killing our troops, why do you think it is so important to threaten Iran and what would you do about these developments in the other countries?

Now, I know this will never be asked - too complex. Too “hypothetical” so we can’t expect a candidate to answer them. The answer doesn’t fit neatly onto a bumper sticker, and can’t be put into a 15 second sound byte.

But it is reality, and something that the next President is going to have to deal with - and it impacts the direction of this country. It impacts our energy policy, our choice of whether we would (or when we would) use our military and a host of other issues that will have a great impact on where this country is in the next 5 years.

I wonder how many candidates are prepared to deal with the reality that faces us. Telling us what they would do should be the easy part.

Psssst.....over here in Pakistan

Since nothing that is about anything other than what Clinton or Obama said or didn’t say, or why John Edwards HAS to stay in/drop out of the Presidential race gets read around here, and since the corporate media is more concerned with Britney or American Idol or what Clinton or Obama said or didn’t say, or why Mitt’s hair is just sooooooo perfect, other major events have gone completely unnoticed.

And you would think that nobody seems to care that we are still engaging in a failed occupation in Iraq, or that the already worsening situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan is getting worse. Despite what was drummed into our heads, al Qaeda and the Taliban are not watching with baited breath to see which Democratic candidate will enable them to move forward with their plan to attack us - those plans are already well underway, thanks to Bush and the republican party’s enabling of him to neglect the region.

From today’s Boston Globe:

Sometime in mid-December, as the winter winds howled across the snow-dusted hills of Pakistan's inhospitable border regions, 40 men representing Taliban groups all across Pakistan's northwest frontier came together to unify under a single banner and to choose a leader.

The banner was Tehrik-e- Taliban Pakistan, or the Taliban Movement of Pakistan, with a fighting force estimated at up to 40,000. And the leader was Baitullah Mehsud, the man Pakistan accuses of assassinating former prime minister Benazir Bhutto.

The move is an attempt to present a united front against the Pakistani Army, which has been fighting insurgents along the border with Afghanistan. It is also the latest sign of the rise of Mehsud, considered the deadliest of the Taliban mullahs or clerics in northwest Pakistan.

Oh, joy.

The Taliban - that same group that harbored bin Laden and al Qaeda, that same group that allowed terrorist training camps to flourish in Afghanistan, the same group that is working with al Qaeda in Pakistan to launch attacks at NATO troops in Afghanistan for the past couple of years, the same group that Hamid Karzai called “defeated” on numerous occasions, the same group that Rumsfeld said were “gone” (he also said that al Qaeda was “gone”).

Yes, THAT Taliban now has selected a “leader” - someone who may have been behind the assassination of Bhutto (but who really knows at this point), has become stronger and more violent and has an estimated 40,000 followers/fighters. This same “leader” has previously been accused by Musharraf of being behind a number of suicide bombings as well. Oh yeah, there is also a stronger alignment with al Qaeda - with funds and logistical assistance being provided to the Taliban by al Qaeda.

And right on cue - only five years after neglecting Afghanistan and Pakistan as well as the Taliban and the real al Qaeda, the Bush administration is starting to realize that “shit” and “fan” have been on a collision course for quite some time:

In a shift with profound implications, the Bush administration is attempting to re-energize its terrorism-fighting war efforts in Afghanistan, the original target of a post-Sept. 11 offensive. The U.S. also is refocusing on Pakistan, where a regenerating al-Qaida is posing fresh threats.

There is growing recognition that the United States risks further setbacks, if not deepening conflict or even defeat, in Afghanistan, and that success in that country hinges on stopping Pakistan from descending into disorder.

Privately, some senior U.S. military commanders say Pakistan's tribal areas are at the center of the fight against Islamic extremism; more so than Iraq, or even Afghanistan. These areas border on eastern Afghanistan and provide haven for al-Qaida and Taliban fighters to regroup, rearm and reorganize.

I’ll take the obvious easy joke here, even though it is far from funny and point out this “growing recognition” by the US “leadership”, despite the fact that a dumbass like me pointed out how Pakistan was a “bubbling disaster” well over a year ago, and that this same dumbass made the same “recognition” closer to two years ago with respect to Afghanistan.

And I am still waiting for a call from the State Department for a position there.

Yet, this month alone has seen major attacks and violence in Pakistan (other than the obvious being the Bhutto assassination), and there has been concern about NATO troops being defeated by the Taliban in Afghanistan for almost a year now.

On top of this, I was in Canada less than two weeks ago, and there were a number of stories each day about their troops being killed in Afghanistan. And in today’s Winnipeg Sun, there is this stark assessment:

So far, most NATO countries have been deaf to Canada's cries for help in the deadly Kandahar region where Manley says our troops are waging a losing battle without reinforcements.


The U.S. recently said it would deploy 3,200 more marines to Afghanistan on a temporary basis -- seven months in and out.

I’ll point out that the US is being so generous with their “renewed refocus” on Afghanistan that we are only sending 3,200 marines to Afghanistan on a temporary basis, haven’t come up with any kind of big picture strategy to deal with the mess that was made by ignoring the Taliban and al Qaeda for 5 years since cutting and running from Afghanistan, yet we still have 150,000 troops refereeing a rapidly devolving ethnic cleansing and civil war in Iraq - a country that we had no business invading or occupying in the first place.

So while everyone over here in the US is laser focused on “he said/she said” and whatever other distractions we are being forced to swallow (or ignore), there is now a coordinated and organized Taliban and al Qaeda working together even closer than they have in years. With little to no pushback. With more money and freedom to operate. Resulting in more violence, more damage and more threats. In one country that we have largely ignored and another that we paid lip service to while leaving too soon for a folly in another country that we are still in five years later - with no real plan to help the people of or deal with the resurgent terrorism and civil war in any of the three countries.

Those are things that I would like to hear Clinton, Obama, Edwards, Romney, McCain and the other candidates talk about. How would they deal with the situation that one of them will be presented with in less than one year?

This is not a “hypothetical” - this is reality. And if one of them wants to lead this country, then they better be able to credibly and comprehensively lay out a plan to deal with this.

Or, we can continue to demand from them an explanation as to why the other ones are calling them names and saying mean things about each other.

Of course I'll vote for the nominee. That being said...

Things have reached, shall we say, a fevered pitch lately.

Most of the progressive blogosphere has split up into five camps - Edwards supporters, Obama supporters, Clinton supporters, Clinton haters and the one mentioned in the title. I could also add a sixth category of “general ass”, but that really overlaps with one of the first four camps.

Being one who supported Dodd and then nobody in particular, I fall into the camp that I mention in my title. And I am sure that many others here, and around the country do as well. I think that all three of the remaining Democratic candidates (sorry, Gravel supporters) would be a very capable President and, at worst, wouldn’t make things worse than they already are.

I’ve pushed back against Obama supporters - even some who I would call good friends of mine who say that voter fraud or suppression was being done in Nevada. I have directly criticized Clinton on her votes on Iraq and Iran, I have praised her as a very fine Senator and someone who has kept her cool under some very unfair circumstances. I have directly criticized her husband and former President Bill. I have offered the faintest (if at all) praise for Obama but am not really excited about some of his stances.

I think it is inexcusable that neither he nor Clinton have stood up with Senator Dodd in any meaningful way regarding FISA and the Constitution. I don’t like that they don’t engage with the progressive netroots. On February 5, I don’t know who I will vote for. Probably Edwards but maybe Obama, depending on the polls. I know that if it were on which of the three I identify with most, it would be Edwards. That is not to say that I am overly excited about Edwards, but I am more excited about him staying in the race and shaping the message as best he can. I can say that I will not be voting for Clinton on February 5.

But I will most certainly vote for her, or Obama, or Edwards in November. Even if I feel like I am being used, taken for granted or just dirty and betraying myself just a little bit. I just don’t like Clinton - I know she is brilliant. I know that she is a great politician and can “work the system”. I just don’t really like what she represents and who she aligns herself with. But she is close enough to my ideals on a number of major issues and will get my vote.

I am not thrilled with Obama. I think he isn’t really looking out for progressives as much as he wants to “get things done” - even if that means compromising a number of my very important ideals. I think he is tentative and I don’t always agree with his underlying motives. But he is close enough to my ideals on many issues and will get my vote.

Issues mean a lot to me. I think that a movement, at its core is based on issues, not people. Usually, electing Democrats will help our movement in many ways and on the issues we care about - and the Democrats running for President will, at worst, not stand in the way of some of these issues getting passed or further developed in a way that I would like to see them developed.

This won’t happen under McCain. Or Huckabee. Or Ron Paul, Rudy 9ui11ani or Mitt Romney.

None of the three Democratic candidates can really accomplish much with a Congress that is as divided as this one. That may not be completely their fault, but it could also serve as a convenient excuse (as it has for both Reid and Pelosi). And without more progressives in Congress, our movement will not continue in any meaningful way.

I live in New Jersey’s 5th district - my Congressman is Scott Garrett. He is one of the most odious members of Congress. When you see bills that pass the House with a vote of 390-35, he is one of the 35. Consistently. He has around an 85% voting record with George W. Bush. On the other 15%, his position is more extreme than Bush.

There is at least one, possibly two progressives running in my district on the Democratic side. Scott Garrett will never vote with Clinton, Obama or Edwards on anything that I want to see passed. But the Democratic candidates in my district will. As will many other progressive Democratic candidates - some of whom are members of the progressive blogosphere. From Charlie Brown to John Laesch to Darcy Burner to Barry Welsh to Ron Sheptson to Gilda Reed to Dennis Shulman in my district, and many others (I apologize if I forgot a few).

These are the people that we need - without them, NOTHING that Clinton or Obama or Edwards wants will happen. On the flip side, it is these people who can not only stop the agenda of McCain or Huckabee or Romney but can also plant the seeds for the progressive agenda - one that can last for a generation or even longer.

So, I will continue to hold Senator Clinton’s and Senator Obama’s feet to the fire. I will not do it based on something they said or something they may or many not have done. I will do it based on the bigger picture - how does what they are doing or saying impact the chance for the progressive movement to move forward. It will be reflected in what I say and what I write. It will be reflected in where and to whom my donations go. It will be reflected in how I spend my time during this summer and fall, whose campaign I work on and in what capacity.

And as much as you want to call me a republican, an asshole, a whiny ass titty baby, a dumb douche, an sore loser Obama supporter, a pie-in-the-sky Edwards supporter, or tell me that I am writing a “hit diary” (most of these have happened over the past couple of weeks), you will be missing the bigger picture.

I am looking out for the long term prospects of a progressive movement. None of our Presidential candidates are perfect for that, although some are better than others.

All of them will get my vote in November if they are the nominee.

But if they are making it tougher to get enough voters to help get Scott Garrett out of office, that is not good for the progressive movement. That is something that I will remember and it is what will ultimately matter most to me, no matter what names I am being called for the things I say about our Presidential candidates.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Scott Garrett - no friend of the education community

Back in 2002 then-candidate Scott Garrett gave us a taste of his feelings on education when he said that “we could do without the Department of Education”.

His overall voting record on educational matters is just as abhorrent as his comment above. While his choice to home school his kids isn’t necessarily something to hold against him in and of itself, it does offer insight into how out of touch he is on matters concerning education. On numerous occasions, Garrett has been the only Congressional member from NJ - Republican OR Democratic to vote in a certain manner.

In fact, Garrett voted “no” on each and every one of the last 10 education bills in Congress. Some of his “highlights” are noted below:

Just last year - Garrett was one of only 36 Representatives to vote against Project Head Start, in a bill that passed the House by a vote of 381-36 and the Senate by a vote of 95-0. This made Garrett one of only 36 out of 435 people in Congress that voted against this bill.

Garrett voted against helping college students pay for college - reducing interest rates on student loans, increasing Pell Grants. He was one of two NJ Representatives to vote against this bill. This was also the second time during 2007 that Garrett voted against a bill whose main thrust was to help college students.

Garrett voted not once, not twice but three times against the Appropriations bill for the Department of Education - the last time casting the deciding vote that kept the House from overriding Bush’s veto of this bill.

And of course, back in 2005, Garrett urged New Jersey schools to teach “intelligent design” in addition to evolution, when he made the following statement:

"Evolution is the predominant theory right now," said Garrett, R-Wantage. "[But] intelligent design is one that is apparently growing in some scientific communities, in academia. ... It seems that a school board should at least consider being tolerant and open to discussing both theories."

On education - whether it be our children’s education, funding for public schools, the Department of Education itself, assistance for college students or advocating for introducing out-of-the-mainstream religious teaching in our public schools, Scott Garrett stands alone when it comes to extremist views on this District’s education policies. It is clear that Garrett is not looking out for the people of this District when it comes to educating our children.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Bill Clinton is hurting the Democratic Party

Please note that I am talking about Bill Clinton, former President as opposed to Hillary Clinton, current Senator and Presidential candidate. This diary is about him and the impact of his actions and comments - notthose of Hillary nor of her campaign.

That being said, this is not about whether Bill Clinton should be out on the campaign trail for his spouse – as many spouses do when their husbands run for President. There is a big difference between campaigning for your spouse and crossing the line - especially when you are a former President.. For better or for worse, Bill Clinton is still, to many people, the face of the Democratic Party and the one person who many people think of when they think of “the Democratic Party, personified”.

He is the immediate former President, he is the only Democratic President in more than 25 years, and he has used his time since leaving office doing some very high profile humanitarian work. A lot of this recent work has actually raised the view of him by people whose view was not so favorable while he was in office as well as people who had already viewed him favorably.

That all being said, as a former President and the de facto face of the Democratic Party (to a good number of people), he does have a bigger responsibility than “just a spouse who is aggressively campaigning” for their husband or wife. Yes, there is loyalty to your spouse, but for Bill Clinton, there should be a loyalty and a responsibility to the Democratic Party as a whole.

Sadly, he is failing miserably here, and his “aggressive campaigning” is not only making him look bad, but it is making Hillary look bad (possibly hurting her campaign), making Obama look bad, and fracturing the Democratic Party.

I received an email right after the New Hampshire primaries from someone that I have been in regular contact with for the past year or so. This individual was involved in a number of campaigns, political organizations (both on the Democratic and republican and “bipartisan” side), and knows former and current Congressional officials, staffers and consultants that he used to work with who are still “in the business”. While he is not necessarily a fan of Hillary, he was impressed with the way that she was running her campaign.

He met with some PR people who were also working with Mark Penn, and the relevant text of his email to me is below (take it however you want, but he has proven to be pretty reliable in the past and the part I snipped out talked about Hillary in the diner, and the “Iron my shirt” idiots):

I was meeting 2 days ago in NJ with a PR firm I am working with who do a lot of work for Corzine and also do a lot with Mark Penn - Hillary's top strategist. Before the meet we were just talking about what happened in New Hampshire.


The Bill Clinton speech where he not so subtely used the race card against Obama was not planned - he winged it - and the campaign is extremely concerned over repercussions from it.

These guys said that if they were advising Hillary they would tell her to keep Bill home because he is no longer an asset.

Again, this is just one individual’s opinion who I happen to agree with on this issue. But even since NH, Bill has made a fool out of himself in Nevada on a good number of issues, and there has been more than a bit of hand-wringing by prominent Congressional Democrats as well as Hillary campaign “insiders”:
In recent weeks, Sen. Edward Kennedy and Rep. Rahm Emanuel, both currently neutral in the Democratic contest, have told their old friend heatedly on the phone that he needs to change his tone and stop attacking Sen. Barack Obama, according to two sources familiar with the conversations.

The Newsweek article goes on to indicate that while Kennedy is not yet endorsing Obama or Clinton, he is pointing the finger at Bill for injecting race into the campaign, and Hillary’s campaign had some concerns that this could lead to Kennedy endorsing Obama over her.

What makes this even more concerning to the Democratic Party is that the “win at all costs” approach that some have accused the Clinton campaign of running shows through in comments made by people connected with Bill:

"History will judge the impact on the Clinton legacy, not daily or weekly political reporters," says Matt McKenna, Bill Clinton's press secretary.

While this isn’t necessarily the same situation, George H.W. Bush stayed out of the fray and didn’t get nasty during the 2000 republican primary – even though his son was in the race – one small thing to actually give Poppa Bush credit for.

When a former President cares more about his legacy than the long term goals and path of his party, it is a big problem. When he is damaging the campaign of his spouse by taking the spotlight – and in a negative way that unfairly (and in some instances willfully inaccurately) attacks another candidate –that damages the party as well.

A former President – especially one that was the only President from that party in the past 25+ years, and is still generally the face of that party has a much bigger legacy to look out for than his own – the legacy of what he (or she) can do to keep that party moving in the right direction and also to achieve electoral victories.

Bill Clinton has proven that he can’t do either and is more concerned with his own “family legacy” than the one of the party that got him elected in the first place.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

I'm just sayin'...

Consider the following:

A 46 year old man is running for President. He has some good solid experience, but being that he is only 46, that experience is derided as “not enough”, or that it “doesn’t count as much because of the background behind that experience”.

His policies and “successes” prior to his running for President are, by no stretch, “far left wing”, rather they turned out to be relatively middle of the road - liberal on some, not as much on others. And even though the success stories were based on policies that were not against some conservative ideals (i.e., job growth, economic policy), he was derided by the right wing nonetheless as being a lightweight or too liberal.

When running for President, he had used a message of “hope” and used his personal story of coming from a less-than-stellar childhood or background to overcome the obstacles placed before him and rise to political prominence.

His speeches contained quotes like the following:

`This election is a race between hope and fear, between division and community, between responsibility and blame, between whether we have the courage to change, to stay young forever, or whether we stay with the comfort of the status quo."

He talked about taking on the “status quo” as well as proclaiming that it was “time for change in America”. Another of his more spot on quotes was this one about private interests in Washington:
Our people are pleading for change, but government is in the way. It has been hijacked by privileged private interests. It has forgotten who really pays the bills around here. It has taken more of your money and given you less in return. We have got to go beyond the brain-dead politics in Washington and give our people the kind of government they deserve, a government that works for them.

He talked about a “New Covenant” so that America can move forward and turn the page from the policies of the past which were dividing the nation. He said in a debate that “we have got to have the courage to change” and that “the same old experience is not relevant”.

Those comments were spot on. All of them.

And they were also all made by then-candidate Bill Clinton in 1992.

The “youth vote” was heavily courted and nearly half of the eligible “young voters” were heavily engaged enough to vote him into office. At the time, it was a record in terms of percentage of young voters (since broken in 2004). And here we are now - fifteen years later, in a situation where the economy is in worse shape than 1992, there is more divide in this country than there was in 1992, we are more despised around the world than pretty much any time in our history, and people in all walks of life are fed up.

Just like Bill Clinton said in 1992 - this country is crying out for real change. It is in desperate need of a “new way to do things”. It is time to turn the page.

Bill Clinton’s words were spot on fifteen years ago. And they are still spot on today, regardless of what he (or Hillary) may think or say.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

World to US - “Don’t elect another idiot, please...”

Well, that isn’t exactly the headline, but it may as well have been.

In a WaPo article from today outlining the increased world opinion about and interest in the Presidential primaries and our upcoming election, the general feeling around those terrorist loving, freedom hating countries in the Middle East, er, Europe, Africa and South America is that hopefully us Americans can elect someone this November that isn’t out of touch with the rest of the world on, well, just about everything, actually.

It has been one of the bigger stories in the UK lately:

[M]ajor British newspapers this week alone have devoted more than 87 pages to news of the U.S. primaries, including 22 front-page stories -- exceptionally intense coverage of a foreign news event. More than 700 correspondents from 50 countries covered the Iowa and New Hampshire events.

And while only someone who has been in a coma for the past 7 years is oblivious to the fact that Mister Bush’s administration’s actions, decisions and positions have been disastrous when measured by any metric that doesn’t involve favoring the ultra wealthy corporatists - much of the world is just waiting for the clock to run out on the most embarrassingly dangerous era in this country’s short history.

Of course, in recent history, the opinion of too many people in this country has been to do the opposite of what the general consensus of the rest of the world wants or is doing - even if just for spite and phony chest-thumping. But this election does present an opportunity; even a historic one - to set this country (somewhat) in the same direction as the rest of the world is moving.

While I am not talking about any one candidate in particular, there is a big contrast between the “worst” Democratic candidate and the “most palatable” republican candidate - not just here but also in the eyes of those around the globe. If we look at major issues where we have not played well in the sandbox with others, the list would be a long one. The environmental, trade and foreign policies (pick pretty much any aspect of it), not to mention nearly all of the domestic policies have had disastrous results or are setting this country on a dangerous path.

The WaPo article is a pretty funny read, and discusses the level of interest in South Africa in both Obama and Clinton (no “what about Edwards?” comments, please), but not in the republicans. Ireland has a lot of coverage of Clinton, and others are quoted as wondering if this will be the end of the US being “the bully on the playground” or that we “choose a person who is both talented and willing enough to work towards peace rather than war.”

Interest was high in Brazil, Denmark and other countries as well - mostly in Clinton and Obama. And foreign policy analysts have been outspoken about just wanting to turn the page, while hoping that the American people redeem ourselves for the debacle that has become the worst administration ever:

Many analysts said the election has created high expectations that the new president will be more in tune with the rest of the world.

"In many capitals people have been waiting for this change for some time," said Rosa Balfour, a senior analyst at the European Policy Center, a Brussels-based research group.

Of course, that eliminates pretty much every republican candidate right off the bat. But it does show that, even this early on in the election process that many eyes are on what is happening, what will happen and what we are thinking/doing. It is obvious who are viewed as viable candidates to function and participate on the world stage. And it is a good warning and bit of advice that the American public should take.

“Our” candidates have their differences. But they are not going to act like a buffoon and be an embarrassment to us or to the rest of the world. We can only hope that enough people around this country remember the last time that a buffoon and embarrassment was on the ballot.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Making change


It is the buzzword of the campaign so far. It is the message that Barack Obama has based his campaign on (that, and hope). It is the message that John Edwards is representing when he talks of taking on corporate interests. Hillary Clinton talked in New Hampshire about the fact that she spent 35 years making change and will continue to make change.

While there are some differences between the three, it is evident that each one does bring an element of change, even if more of it is lip service. I, as well as many others in the progressive blogosphere (and elsewhere) want to see drastic changes from the past decade.

Even the republicans are getting into the change business now - I just heard Mitt Romney on the Today Show talk about how he can bring change. Almost a year ago, Chuck Hagel said that the republican party must change. Ron Paul seconded that comment a few months ago. Mike Huckabee said last week that change is necessary. And John McCain - the ultimate DC insider (regardless of his double, um, “straight” talk) said after the Iowa caucuses that “change is coming”.

Of course, much of this is hopping on the bandwagon of what is likely going to be the one word that ultimately will describe this campaign when we look back on it. But with all of the talk about who can make the most change and who can make the best change and who has the most experience with making change - every single candidate has severely missed the boat.

Not one has come up with a message about making change that is remotely close to, as powerful as, or as convincing as this one below. And until someone does, the meme of “making change” will always fall short in practice when compared to the following video that I am sure no candidate wants you to see:

Now that is a message about how to really, truly and HONESTLY make change for the people you serve.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

One year later and nothing about the "surge" worked

Today’s WSJ has a commentary by new best friends forever John McCain and Joe Lieberman that is simply titled “The Surge Worked”. We heard this same nonsense on Sunday night during a long soliloquy by Charles Gibson as he debated the Democratic Party Presidential Candidates, and this commentary by McCain and Lieberman is only stunning in reaching new heights of disingenuous drivel.

No doubt, on this one year anniversary of the escalation, we will be treated to more of the same crap about how “the surge worked” and how “Democrats and other anti-war people are living in denial of reality”. And as usual, it is the war cheerleaders who are living in denial of reality when it comes to any measure of success.

Let’s take a trip down memory lane to exactly one year ago and take Bush’s exact words from his speech announcing the escalation:

The most urgent priority for success in Iraq is security, especially in Baghdad. Eighty percent of Iraq's sectarian violence occurs within 30 miles of the capital. This violence is splitting Baghdad into sectarian enclaves, and shaking the confidence of all Iraqis. Only Iraqis can end the sectarian violence and secure their people. And their government has put forward an aggressive plan to do it.

So one goal (or the main military goal) was to get the violence in Baghdad down. By the end of April, violence was still raging in Baghdad, despite this escalation. And while violence in Baghdad decreased by October, it was still raging elsewhere. On top of this, the decrease in violence in Baghdad was due to the fact that Sunnis have been “cleared out” or “cleansed” from most Baghdad neighborhoods.

Even the one measure of reduced sectarian violence in Baghdad is an absolute failure because it comes at the price of the same segregation and sectarian enclaves throughout Baghdad that Bush decried in his speech. But what does that say for the other areas of Iraq?

As noted in Slate, violence is still high in other areas of Iraq, as we see from the daily reports of bombings and attacks elsewhere (emphasis mine):

But where we don't have sufficient troops, as in volatile Diyala province north and east of Baghdad, violence remains high. The large northern city of Kirkuk, a powder keg of Kurdish and Iraqi Arab residents, continues to see significant insurgent activity. Over the past few months, Tal Afar and Mosul have also seen spasms of deadly violence. As a general rule, where Sunnis, Shiites, or Kurds live in close proximity and we have too few American troops on the ground, violence persists.

Back to Bush’s speech from last year:
A successful strategy for Iraq goes beyond military operations. Ordinary Iraqi citizens must see that military operations are accompanied by visible improvements in their neighborhoods and communities. So America will hold the Iraqi government to the benchmarks it has announced.

To establish its authority, the Iraqi government plans to take responsibility for security in all of Iraq's provinces by November. To give every Iraqi citizen a stake in the country's economy, Iraq will pass legislation to share oil revenues among all Iraqis. To show that it is committed to delivering a better life, the Iraqi government will spend $10 billion of its own money on reconstruction and infrastructure projects that will create new jobs. To empower local leaders, Iraqis plan to hold provincial elections later this year. And to allow more Iraqis to re-enter their nation's political life, the government will reform de-Baathification laws, and establish a fair process for considering amendments to Iraq's constitution.

Of course, the oil law has not been passed, the Iraqi Parliament can barely get a quorum, there has been little to no progress on any of the political goals and there has been absolutely no accountability for not meeting any of the benchmarks previously set out. As for the “Anbar success”? Well, if arming, bribing and paying off former insurgents is a success, then there is a big problem with moving the bar here:
There have been a lot of reports about the fact that the people who the U.S. is working with, the supposed "freedom fighters," the "counter-insurgents" are former insurgents. They were Iraqi al Qaeda before they started working with the Americans. That is troubling because if they were fighting the Americans once, they'll fight Americans again. And more troubling for the future of Iraq is the fact that many of the tribes that the U.S. is working with are war criminals who are directly responsible for ethnic cleansing and who are using American support to prepare for sectarian civil war. The U.S. is funding Sunni militias. They already funded the Shia militias. They're now funding all sides of this sectarian war.


The U.S. is funding sectarian militias fighting in a civil war in order to momentarily decrease attacks on Americans.

As for another reason for the decrease in violence, we have this reminder from Brandon Friedman:
The "Shiite militants" described by the New York Times were, in fact, members of Muqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army. And, as we all saw this past summer, Muqtada’s fighters were really doing a job on American forces—despite the troop increase which began earlier in the year.

That was on August 7th. And remember, this was during a summer throughout which we were bombarded with news of Iranian/Shia efforts to kill Americans and destabilize the Iraqi government.

Then, barely three weeks after the New York Times article ran, 50 Muslim pilgrims were slaughtered in sectarian fighting in Karbala. In response, Muqtada al-Sadr announced that he had ordered his militia to suspend offensive operations for six months.

Interestingly, those six months are about to run out and it will be interesting to see what al-Sadr says, what his militia does and what the response will be from Sunnis (not to mention the war cheerleaders who have been crediting themselves for all things good while ignoring the obvious).

What is even worse than the disingenuous nature of crying “SUCCESS!!!” based on some largely unrelated measures that actually are more indicative of failure and a precursor to more violence – including a civil war within a civil war and warnings by our own military leaders that any reductions in violence may very well be temporary and reversible – is that this completely ignores the reality of the fact that any measure of success is selfishly short term in that it is sacrificing long term security for short term reductions in violence that may not likely even be related to last year’s escalation.

To crow about the escalation working is flat out false. By any goals, measures, metrics or “results”, it is most certainly NOT a success. By digging even a bit below the surface, the tactics used, including bribery and arming those who recently were killing and attacking our own troops is stunning in its hypocrisy and lack of consideration for medium to long term goals, not to mention the safety of our troops, the Iraqis, the greater Middle East and Americans as a whole.

It is a lie to say that the “surge” worked. It is nearly traitorous to use the tactics that were used to measure the shortest term of “goals” when it comes to a temporary decrease in violence that is based on arming both sides of a civil war – including those who were attacking US troops a few short months earlier.

Monday, January 07, 2008

What does Iran have to gain here?

The answer is, as far as I can think of, is nothing, and there is pretty much everything to lose.

This is why I reacted to the report that Iranian boats had “provoked” US ships in the Strait of Hormuz with a “WTF????”. Let’s look at a few things here, just to make heads or tails of things.

So what is the common thread here? Well, pretty much all of these are a threat to US economic interests, not to mention partially avoidable had this administration acted differently back in 2001, 2002 and 2003. Additionally, all of this has happened despite (or as a response by the global community) the saber rattling that Mister Bush, Dick Cheney and the other neocons have been doing for the past few years.

The US economy is getting rapidly worse – pretty much by any metric. The Iraq occupation is an unmitigated disaster, with the only “success” being a decrease in violence to an already unacceptable level, while there is no political success in any way, shape or form. Afghanistan is getting worse, as is the situation in Pakistan. The Taliban and al Qaeda are stronger than ever (but being Sunni, there is really no reason for the Shiite Iran to cooperate with them to begin with).

In short, the US foreign and domestic policies are miserable and with miserable but predictable results. Another parallel is the fact that this is election season, and with republicans getting slammed left and right by an apathetic (at best) population, it is about time for the “tried and true” fear card to be played yet again.

And if this is “provoking”, as Mister Bush (or an unnamed and anonymous official says it is), then what about this action from May 2007 when the US sent nine warships through the Strait, along with 17,000 Marines and sailors in what was called a ”show of military force”? How is that NOT a threat or “provoking” Iran?

This makes absolutely no sense for Iran to take action. But with the other actions taken by Iran over the past few years that threatens US economic “might” and our ability to pull the strings in the global economy – but even if these actions were designed to strengthen Iran’s position or to weaken the US’s position – it is not a threat that required lies about weapons parts, nuclear weapons programs or whatever else has been conjured up about Iran being a direct and immediate threat (or growing and gathering threat as Iraq became) to the US.

As with the convenient bin Laden tapes that always surface at opportune times, we should be very mindful of the timing here, as well as what else is going on that is damning or damaging to the republicans or the Bush administration. Could it also be that by sending 9 ships and 17,000 servicemen and women to the Strait back in May that could be construed as a “provocative act” or that the Bush administration was threatening Iran then? And couldn’t the continued presence of US military ships in the Strait, along with the tough words, lies and threats coming out of Washington at least every week be construed as “provocative” or “threatening”?

Now, I am not the only one, surely, that has figured out what looks like the obvious here. The editors at Foreign Policy had this to say::

There's no story yet, but I think it's a safe bet that hardliners in the Guard are seeking to create an incident on the eve of U.S. President George W. Bush's visit to the region. Why would they do that? Well, it makes for good distraction from their sinking popularity ahead of March's legislative elections. It forestalls the admittedly dim prospects of a U.S.-Iran rapprochement. It complicates Bush's efforts to buck up the United States' Arab allies (though depending on how they react to this news, it may simplify his mission). And as an added bonus, it'll probably send oil prices upwards for a short while. We can't exclude the possibility that some Guard higher-ups are speculating in the oil markets and turning a tidy profit from these sorts of incidents.

So, back to my original question – what does Iran really have to gain by doing something like this? And what does Iran have to lose by doing something like this? On the flip side, who does gain from a report such as this?

It seems pretty obvious here, and the timing is doubly suspicious in light of Bush’s visit to the Middle East, his approval ratings, the rise of Obama and the general apathy and implosion of republicans in general.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Thank you, Senator Dodd

Just a short post here to express my thanks to Senator Dodd for all that he has done to raise the issues of restoring the Constitution and for his actions during this campaign.

Although I had a hunch that there may be no New Hampshire for the good Senator, I was holding out hope. But as reported last night, Dodd is dropping out of the race for President.

The campaign still has a number of excellent candidates, but a voice that was of strength and taking bold stances where few others would take the stands that he did is now out of the campaign.

Regardless of whether he had a shot of winning, the fact that some of the issues he stood for and the things that he brought to the debate - I am proud to have supported the too-short candidacy and campaign until the end.

At least we can look forward to Dodd continuing his strong leadership in his currently elected position in the Senate, and I look forward to continue having him represent my values and stand up for what's best for this country.

And no, he wasn't perfect on all votes, and this is not to diminish anything that Obama, Edwards or Clinton did tonight, but it is an expression of thanks to someone who ran an uphill campaign and just continued to take the lead in the Senate - even if it was against his party leadership.

Thanks again, Senator - the only consolation is knowing that you are still fighting for us in the Senate.

I look forward to you being the next Senate Majority Leader.

The youth vote

A lot has been said of the record shattering numbers from last night’s caucuses – moreso on the Democratic side. The numbers are staggering, no matter how you slice them.

With that, there has been some talk about the demographics in terms of young voters, new voters and how they are more energized or motivated than in years past. While we saw this as well in 2004, there is a further uptick now. Of course, this is only based on one state’s caucuses, but there are stories from New Hampshire as well about the level of motivation by “younger folk”, and judging by the large number of Facebook “elections” (and votes), this may be something that has legs.

All that being said, I wanted to go through a few numbers, but also to explore what this means – less in terms of which candidate it works best for, but more along the lines of the Democratic Party and the potential for keeping these votes in the future as well as keeping them engaged enough in the political process that it adds to the movement that we here on the left have been trying to build for the past few years.

According to CIRCLE (Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement), the youth turnout rate rose to 13 percent from 4 percent in 2004 and 3 percent in 2000. About 65,000 Iowans under the age of 30 caucused.

That, in and of itself is a huge number. Taking into account that the temperatures were frigid, at best, yesterday, and this is even more impressive. More stats from Young Voter PAC are as follows:

Initial statistics for youth (ages 18-29) turnout in Iowa:

The youth turnout rate tripled in Iowa.

Out of all of Barack Obama’s support in Iowa, 57% came from young voters (CNN, MSNBC, FOX).

60% of the caucus participants were first time caucus goers and of those 39% of them went for Obama.

22% of the Democratic caucus goers were young people, up from 17% in 2004.

A total of 65,230 young people were caucus-goers in 2008. 52,580 caucused with Democrats and only 12,650 turned out for Republicans. That means of the young people that turned out, 80% were for Democrats!

The totals for both parties are 239,000 Democrats (compared to 125,000 in 2004) and 115,000 Republicans.

Again, I don’t want to make this into something about Edwards or Clinton or Obama – since I am sure that these numbers can be sliced up in a number of ways to support whatever you want to support, and as someone who is now pretty much in the “undecided” category after Dodd’s withdrawal, I don’t really care enough now to take the discussion in that direction.

That being said, there are a few things that come to mind:

1. What does this mean, if anything long term?

2. Is this for real or just an aberration? (I think it is for real)

3. Why is the youth coming out so strong?

4. Who does this benefit?

5. How do we keep this going?

As for the first question, Bowers had a good post last night and there was one paragraph that stood out in terms of “long term” (again, I don’t mean this as support for Obama, but facts are facts – emphasis is mine):

Toward the end, many voters broke for Edwards. However, more voters broke for Obama, specifically new and young voters. Tonight, Obama won because he did something many campaigns have claimed they would do in the past, but never until now had never actually accomplished: he turned out young voters and new voters in record-smashing numbers. This has long been the holy grail of progressive politics, and until now no one had been able to pull it off. Well, Obama pulled it off. That is a remarkable an historic accomplishment. That is why he won.

It has been said that if a youth votes for the same party in three consecutive elections, they are fairly likely to stay with that party for life.

So, on the surface, this would appear to be a real good thing as far as Democrats go. Youth turnout was very high in 2004, it was very high in 2006 and so far, there is a lot of motivation for 2008. Youth turnout was much higher in Iowa for Democrats than republicans, and going by the “Facebook election”, all Democratic candidates (or at least as much as I remember) had more friends than the republican counterparts, and the number of campaign donations of under $100 (more likely from youth in my unscientific opinion) were for Obama and Democrats than republicans (other than maybe Ron Paul).

To answer points 2 and 3 above, it would look like this is for real, and is not an aberration. The way that the republican party has turned off most voters, and certainly turned off many young voters on a large number of issues seems to indicate that there is a lot of motivation to “take control” of a situation that is spiraling out of control – whether it is on the environment/global warming, the foreign policy disasters (after all, who are the ones that are being shipped off to Iraq – or who are most of those that are coming back with PTSD, severely injured or dead?) and a number of social issues that are coming under attack.

However, as my good friend The Maven said to me earlier – we should be cautious of this, depending on (1) if the Democrats extend their gains in Congress and win the White House and (2) what they do (or don’t do) with respect to Iraq and a number of other issues and problems that face our country – and of course, are important to young voters. To quoth The Maven (and not “never more”):

This is a demographic cohort that may indeed stay very heavily involved throughout this election year and into next, but two years from now, faced with a Democratic Administration and growing majorities in both branches of Congress that has managed to accomplish surprisingly little substantively (due to a powerful combination of Republican obstructionism and institutional inertia), what then?

I foresee a strong possibility that many of these younger voters might turn vehemently against the Democrats, both supporting our opponents as well as becoming extremely cynical and dropping out of the political process (fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice . . .).

In that sense, I guess I'm trying to say -- not very successfully -- that a serious effort has to be made to ensure that these younger voters are actually in it for the long haul and do not become so disenchanted by the beast that is our political system (and whatever Obama might want to believe, the right wing will not go gentle into that good night) that they abandon the public fight and tune inward. That's how so much of the activism of the 1960s mutated into the Me Generation of the 1970s, which led to . . . well, you know how that story goes.

So this certainly could be a huge benefit to the Democratic Party, especially if they do some of the things that they promised (or promise) to do. However, if little gets done (due to republican obstruction or other), then there is a risk of losing a part of this segment to apathy. This, obviously, is a challenge – and leads to the last point of “how do we keep this going?”

If you think that this 37 year old has the answer to that one, then you are mistaken. I think that some of this depends on what happens over the next few years, and we as dedicated activists can only do so much there. Obviously, educating and setting the tone of the debate and story lines are where we can help a lot. Using the new(ish) technology that the intertubes provides us is very important as the progressive movement has a pretty good headstart with the use of YouTube, Facebook and internet outreach.

But a lot of this depends on the Obamas, the Edwards’s, Clintons and the many online organizations to keep the pressure on our elected leaders in order to effect change. The generation in power now will not be in power for all that much longer – relatively speaking. It is this wave of people who are just getting acclimated to politics and the political process who will be driving the political agenda for the next generation.

The trick and the $64,000 question is to figure out how to keep them motivated, especially when times get rough (as we have all been going through for the past few years) and not have them tune out.