Read a Pacific Northwest, liberal perspective on world, national, and local politics. From majestic Redmond, Washington - the Northwest Progressive Institute Official Blog.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Permanent Defense debuts major update

Permanent Defense's May Campaign Update, or Version 7 (Whidbey) has just gone live. The long awaited overhaul of the site includes a restyled design and new content, mostly information about Tim Eyman's Initiative 960.

The restored Permanent Defense Journal has a thorough overview of what's included in the update. You can also just begin browsing the new site by heading to Permanent Defense's front page.

Bob Ferguson to run for county prosecutor

If elected, his seat on the county council would become vacant:
Even before Saturday's memorial service for Norm Maleng, the Democratic and Republican parties have all but chosen candidates to succeed him as King County prosecutor.

County Councilman Bob Ferguson is running as a Democrat and interim prosecutor Dan Satterberg is running as a Republican, both with strong party backing, officials of both parties said Thursday.
Ferguson is known for being a strong candidate. He successfully defeated two Democratic incumbents (Cynthia Sullivan and Carolyn Edmonds) in previous years. If Ferguson does run and wins the office, Democrats shouldn't have too much trouble identifying a successor to hold the blue 1st County Council District (including Shoreline, Lake Forest Park, Seattle, Kenmore, Bothell, and northwest King County), which he currently represents.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Fred Dalton Thompson is not a savior

The traditional media is currently buzzing with speculation that Fred Dalton Thompson is preparing to form a presidential exploratory committee to set the stage for a bid for the Republican nomination.

A number of Republicans are praying for a Thompson candidacy, but if they think the Law and Order star is their savior, they're mistaken.

As Greg Sargent of Talking Points Memo notes:
Thompson appears to believe that the huge Democratic victory over the GOP in the 2006 midterm elections had nothing to do with Iraq.

Check out this tidbit buried in the interview he gave today to USA Today confirming his plans to run for President:
On Iraq, Thompson voted to authorize the invasion in 2002 and now opposes setting a timetable to withdraw U.S. troops. Still, his fortunes aren't as inextricably tied to the war as those of McCain, one of the war's leading defenders.

In any case, Thompson argues that Republicans lost control of the House and Senate in November not because of the war but because of out-of-control spending and unrestrained partisanship. What's surprising is that Democrats didn't gain more ground, he says.

"It's been kind of a pox on both your houses," he says.
I dunno, I kind of remember the history a bit differently here. You?

Of course, Dems can only hope that Thompson really thinks this and continues to think it should he become the nominee, because not only were the 2006 elections all about the Iraq War, the 2008 Presidential election will be all about Iraq, too.
What's more, not only will Iraq be a huge issue this cycle, but Republican corruption isn't going away, either. The Bush administration remains plagued by scandal and GOP members of Congress, like Rick Renzi and John Doolittle, are under investigation. The Republicans will be haunted by Abramoff's ghost throughout the next eighteen months and beyond.

But even if you take Dalton's theory at face value, it's not good news for the GOP. If "unrestrained spending" is the reason that voters turned the Republicans out last year, they're unlikely to suddenly trust Republicans on fiscal matters in 2008. All Republicans, from George W. Bush to Dave Reichert, say they believe in balanced budgets, lower taxes, less spending, yadda, yadda, yadda. But people just aren't buying that rhetoric any more. Too many years of witnessing the opposite.

Voters can't trust Republicans because they don't practice what they preach. Why should Fred Dalton Thompson be any different? Why is he special? Because he has been on TV? Because he was in The Hunt for Red October?

Nobody who embraces George W. Bush's Iraq disaster will be able to deliver on a promise of reining in spending. Iraq has cost America hundreds of billions of dollars - an enormous sum of money. Since its founding, NPI has maintained a copy of the "Cost of War" counter on its site, and we've watched it get bigger, and bigger, and bigger as the weeks and months go by.

Of course, our treasury would be in better shape financially even with the cost of the Iraq occupation - if Bush and the formerly empowered congressional Republicans hadn't approved massive tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans at the same time they were supporting a preemptive invasion of Iraq.

The budgeting frame that the right wing uses is entirely phony. Republicans constantly scream that all Democrats want to do is raise taxes (you hear it over and over again) simply because Democrats are smart enough to understand and recognize the value provided by public services.

Meanwhile, Republicans have doled out huge tax breaks we can't afford (to wealthy Americans who don't need them) and mired the federal government in a sea of debt (effectively putting a tax on our children).

It's the equivalent of immature adolescents throwing an out of control party and leaving a total mess behind for the responsible adults to clean up.

Think about the appalling waste of the right wing agenda. We should be responsibly investing in infrastructure and public services here at home, not in Iraq.

The money we're sending over there isn't even being spent wisely. It quickly disappears into the giant pockets of companies like Halliburton which are eager to feed at the trough of the Bush administration. The Inspector General found in 2005 that nearly $9 billion of money spent on reconstruction is unaccounted for because of inefficiencies and bad management!

We can't even take care of our troops. Remember "You go to war with the Army you have"? Our volunteer force is overextended. Our National Guard units are short of equipment because it has been siphoned for use in Iraq. Our returning veterans can't and don't get the health care and benefits they deserve. Republicans seem to privately view our men and women in uniform as tools for accomplishing their political goals, not as our nation's courageous defenders.

The Republican elite who believe a Thompson candidacy will be their salvation are deluded. George W. Bush is a failure because the right wing agenda is a failure. The GOP continues to stubbornly cling to a worldview that the best in American values has defeated over and over again in the course of our history.

While it is difficult to predict what will happen in 2008, Republicans will likely pay a significant price for their utter inability to govern. Thompson may seem attractive as a candidate, but he cannot save an ideology from itself.

U.S. companies used melamine in livestock feed

The blog Pet Connections has a post about the revelation today that an American company has been adding melamine to livestock and fish feed. The information was contained in an FDA media conference that was liveblogged by Pet Connection.

There is also an FDA news release. The melamine was apparently used in a binding agent for pellet feed.

The FDA, as usual, says there is no risk to human health.

And then you get this little nugget at the end of the FDA news release:
The Tembec and Uniscope products also reportedly contain a urea formaldehyde resin-type ingredient, a raw ingredient used to make the binding agent in these products. FDA is investigating this use of the urea formaldehyde resin-type ingredient in the Tembec and Uniscope products, and will take appropriate regulatory action if warranted.
Yum! My grammy used to make formaldehyde-resin cookies for us when we came home from school.

No wonder the FDA won't actually do anything about Chinese food imports -- it's not limited to China.

There have been some moves in Congress to address the shortcomings at FDA, but obviously more needs to be done. FDA better get its act together.

Hitler confusion

Editor and Publisher excerpts a Wall Street Journal editorial from neocon Norman Podhoretz here:
In short, the plain and brutal truth is that if Iran is to be prevented from developing a nuclear arsenal, there is no alternative to the actual use of military force--any more than there was an alternative to force if Hitler was to be stopped in 1938.
It's all so confusing. I thought Grenada was Hitler. Or maybe it was Nicaragua, no wait, it was Panama. Nope, it was Somalia. Serbia? Iraq?

Funny how Godwin's law never applies to neocons. But at least the neocons are approaching that mythical status called an "opposite indicator." You can be assured that whatever the neocons think should be done is almost certainly 180 degrees from the thing that would work best.

The truly disgusting thing is these people have not one ounce of shame or remorse for their already failed policy in Iraq, and they're all set to attack another country. Sick, twisted old men sending the young to die for ideological fantasies.

Who's the Hitler?

Oregonian weighs in on racial attack

There was a disturbing attack near Molalla, Oregon last week.
Gonzales, 27, and Guzman, 26, who work at a nearby lumber mill, went to the park to drink beer and unwind after their shift ended. At one point, the attackers hurled grapefruit-size rocks at the men as they attempted to flee in Gonzales' car.

Law enforcement officials said the attack was an unusual event that resulted from a combination of alcohol, stupidity, immaturity and a pack mentality.

Others say the incident is an example of hostilities that some Oregon Latinos encounter.

"I think it's an ongoing thing and I think it's being exacerbated by this backlash about immigration," said Ramon Ramirez, president of Northwest Treeplanters and Farmworkers United, a Woodburn-based agricultural workers union.
Today The Oregonian weighs in with an editorial that puts the blame where it belongs -- on the nasty, hateful "debate" over immigration that is fueled by conservative propagandists. (My words, not The Oregonian's. They're a little more delicate:)
The United States needs its current immigration debate, but too much of it clearly has become overheated. Hate crimes against Latinos soared by 23 percent between 2003 and 2005, according to the FBI.

Last week's viciousness at Wagon Wheel Park was anything but "isolated."
Anyone who has followed U.S. politics the last several years can see that the immigration "debate" is yet another conservative disaster. Desperate for traction on any kind of issue that will fire up their base, the GOP resorted to that old standby xenophobia with a soupçon of racism (or more) thrown in for good measure. Unfortunately for Republicans, most people saw through it and are revolted at the nasty tone. Just as Pete Wilson severely damaged the California GOP in the last decade with his anti-immigrant stance, so too the national GOP shall reap what it sows on the electoral front.

As for the incident in Oregon, let's hope that appropriate charges are filed and the people responsible are held accountable. The offenders may have been young, but that's no excuse for such a violent mob attack. It's easy to imagine that "alcohol and stupidity" played a role, and that's something prosecutors, judges and perhaps juries might consider, but when two men have to flee for their lives while being assaulted by an angry mob, something is very, very wrong.

MORE -- Andrew Villenueve, NPI's Executive Director, passes along this tidbit from Media Matters on May 16:
On the May 16 edition of CNN's Lou Dobbs Tonight, host and CBS Early Show special contributor Lou Dobbs accused two officials of the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) of misrepresenting a claim made on the April 14, 2005, edition of Lou Dobbs Tonight concerning the number of leprosy cases in the United States. But the SPLC's assertion -- that CNN correspondent Christine Romans inaccurately reported there were 7,000 leprosy cases "in the past three years" -- is true, and, when confronted by CBS News correspondent corespondent Lesley Stahl in a May 6 profile of him on CBS' 60 Minutes, Dobbs insisted it was accurate, then again insisted on its accuracy on his own show the following night.
Dobbs is an embarrassment to CNN. He has some populist opinions at times, but his endless propaganda about immigration is tiresome, and inaccurate. Of course, nobody ever holds these alleged journalists accountable for their inflammatory and misleading conduct.

We have very strong First Amendment protections in this country, as we should. But that doesn't mean CNN should give Dobbs carte blanche to spread hysterical lies about immigrants. It's called editorial judgement, CNN, look into it.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

NPI releases fifteenth podcast

This evening, we're pleased to announce the release of our our fifteenth podcast.

In this episode, NPI's Senior Policy Analyst on Technology talks about the fight to save the Internet, arguing in favor of reframing net neutrality and related technology policies so that sophisticated and dry legislation is connected to widely understood and shared values.

If you have comments or suggestions for the podcast, or ideas for future episodes, send us a note. If you want to subscribe to our Media RSS feed to be notified immediately when new podcasts are released, follow this link.

Members of NPI - Northwest Progressive Institute - Northwest Progressive Institute

If you are an iTunes user and want to subscribe to our podcast in iTunes, click the button above to do so directly.

Larry LaRocco liveblogging

Julie Fanselow announced this morning on Red State Rebels that Larry LaRocco, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for Idaho's U.S. Senate race in 2008, will be doing a series of liveblogging sessions.

The first took place on IdaBlue earlier tonight and two more are scheduled in early June: one on DailyKos, and one on New West Boise.

Learn more at Red State Rebels.

Maleng's successor chosen

The late King County prosecutor's chief of staff will take over:
Five days after the death of King County Prosecutor Norm Maleng, his long-time chief of staff, Dan Satterberg, won an expected interim appointment to succeed him Tuesday.

Satterberg, 47, who became a deputy criminal prosecutor in 1985 and chief of staff in 1990, was named acting prosecutor by the County Council. He will serve until the council names someone to the position from a list of three nominees to be submitted by the King County Republican Central Committee, probably next month.
Satterberg may actually be one of the three nominees submitted by the King County Republican Party, but we'll see.

The office will be back on the general election ballot this November. The individual elected will serve out the remainder of Maleng's term.

Seattle Times report on jobs program

Reporter Andrew Garber of The Seattle Times has an interesting article concerning $100 million in state spending to create family-wage jobs. Apparently it's not working so well:
In many cases, grants were given to projects that provided no information about job creation. In other instances, local communities seeking aid listed the number of jobs expected, but state officials did not vet the information.

In addition, the criteria used to select projects gave more weight to increasing tax collections than to adding family-wage jobs.
The article is worth a full read. I spend a lot of time writing (complaining) about the press here, and when a reporter dives into a nitty-gritty policy issue and does a good job, he deserves kudos. The piece seemed well-researched and balanced to me.

As for the jobs program itself, Garber has a quote from a Cabela's spokesman that is kind of revealing:
Joe Arterburn, a spokesman for Cabela's, said the company would not build in Lacey without state help.

"We've never built a store anywhere without some kind of incentive," he said, noting that Cabela's will draw other stores, motels and restaurants to the area that would benefit from the road improvements.
It's one of the great mysteries of American politics; corporations are always putting the squeeze on taxpayers, be they developers, agricultural interests, sports franchises or retailers, yet the Republican Party always gets to campaign against taxes. You'd think more people would catch on to the scam.

The thing is that modern, complex economies operating in a global environment may require governments to have policies that help shape those economies to achieve desired results. On the macro level, Republicans pray to the magical, mystical free market, and then come running with their hands out anytime someone says the words "economic development." Which would be fine, as reasonable people can have reasonable discussions about the best use of tax dollars, except for the fact that once we hit 2008 the GOP will start claiming ad nauseum that those spendy-crazy libruls are buying poor people Cadillacs and using tax money to light cigars, or whatever fake outrage they come up with during the campaigns.

In the instance of the jobs program, we appear to be paying corporations to provide low-wage jobs, which one can agree with or not, but we really, really need to stop pretending that things like Cabela's get built because magical mystery free market forces got them built.

Principled conservatives would refuse to shop at Cabela's because it's a subsidized operation. Me, I tend not to get so bothered by such subsidies, because compared to the money we waste on the defense procurement system in the U.S., it's chump change. It would be nicer if the jobs paid more, and the Legislature may indeed wish to change things, but I personally don't mind subsidizing a group of consumers that likely skews conservative. We're all Americans, after all, and nothing says that better than cheap hunting and fishing gear. I've always enjoyed perusing the Cabela's catalog, and my relatives in the Midwest actually point out the Cabela's store every time we visit. (OK, the Midwest can be kind of boring.)

But it certainly sounds like the jobs program, whatever it funds, needs better oversight and accountability.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Memorial Day: a time to reflect

Memorial Day originally arose out of tradition as a solemn holiday created to honor the memories of the men and women who have died in the military service of the United States of America. It's a time to reflect on their sacrifices, their heroism, and their courage.

It is difficult to offer a fitting tribute in words, but we will always be grateful for their willingness to defend our country and our democracy. America is a free nation because of them. And so, to our lost brothers and sisters, we say thank you, from the bottom of our hearts.

Fallen soliders lying in caskets

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Lost weekend to work on my Hillary book

Just a quick check-in here from the French Riviera, where George Soros is holding his annual Memorial Day bash, handing out crisp new hundred dollar bills to all us liberal bloggers (hey, Goldy, put down the microphone for one bleeding second and get me some more Cristal, please!) A guy gets a radio show and now he's too good for everyone, when his Soros money isn't any better than anyone else's.

Anyhoo, light posting from me 'cause I'm also putting the finishing touches on my new Hillary book. The working title is "Hillary: Because We Can."

There's actually nothing new in my book, other than an account I pieced together regarding a 1983 incident in Fayetteville where Hillary made Bill go back to the counter at a Popeye's to get her a Dr. Pepper, when she could have just ordered one in the first place. So you know what that makes her, right? We can't print that word on this blog, but let's just say zeee-oww, old Big Dog sure was on a short leash! I'm not so sure we want a little lady like that with the football, if you fellows know what I mean! Every 28 days and "poof!"

Gotta run, we're hitting the clubs to discuss Li-Lo. Poor kid, she needs to learn a lesson we liberal bloggers learned long ago: hire a driver with your Soros money, honey.

Have a nice weekend.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Governor Richardson's stop in Seattle draws interest from local Democrats

Presidential hopeful and New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson was in Seattle on Thursday to talk about his candidacy for the highest office in the land and to share his thoughts on the direction of the country. He spoke to an audience of local Democrats at a Westin Hotel ballroom before meeting with myself and representatives from the local netroots community for under a half hour.

I have written before that NPI is staying out of the Race to the White House sweepstakes (meaning we will not endorse or concentrate any of our resources behind a campaign) but we will of course take advantage of every opportunity to hear what the candidates are saying.

Of all the contenders, Richardson's campaign probably has the most potential - because while he's not considered to be in the top tier now, he is the candidate most capable and most likely of breaking through to join John Edwards, Barack Obama, and Hillary Clinton in a four way race for the nomination.

Richardson made no secret Thursday of his belief that Congress could be doing a better job on legislation relating to Iraq and immigration. But it was his comments on restoring Constitutional freedoms that I enjoyed the most. Here's an excerpt.
"I would dedicate [my sixth day in office] to civil rights, restating my support for a woman's right to choose, restating my support for laws that ban discrimination on the basis of ethnicity, gender and sexual orientation. That I would shut down Guantanamo. That I would restore habeas corpus. That I would stop eavesdropping on citizens without a court order. That I would rejoin the International Criminal Court. That I would abandon our policy of condoning torture. That I would respect the Geneva Conventions. That I would shut down Abu Ghraib."
Contrast that answer with Republican Mitt Romney, who said in the last Republican debate that he wants to double the size of our Caribbean prison and continue the Bush policy of infringing upon civil rights.

Richardson said he would support repealing "most of" the Patriot Act in response to my first question early in the conversation.

Transportation policy came up later during our discussion, and as Richardson began talking about mass transit, I asked him whether he would be willing to help out the Puget Sound with federal money for Link light rail.
Q: Would your administration grant a lot of money to metropolitan areas to build new and expand existing electric transit systems?

A: Yes! There is a highway bill that a President has. It's the biggest pork in any bill. And it's billions of dollars. When I was in Congress, it was $120 billion. We did it every three years. It's gone up. And that's money that goes straight to states. I would be a partner. I would say to Seattle: we will have some joint bonding. We will put in a certain amount if you do this and you build smart growth communities, [implement] sensible land use policies, and you commit to light rail instead of just expanding existing highways.
Richardson also pledged to keep Amtrak going and concluded by saying that he would be "a President with a national transportation policy: focused on light rail, bullet trains, more efficient transportation."

Richardson's answers on transportation left me satisfied but wondering about the other candidates. Transportation is not an important issue nationally - presidential candidates don't spend much time talking about it - but it is a huge issue at the state level, and particularly here in Washington, where our infrastructure is aging and in need of new investment.

Transit in key corridors would significantly ease congestion, but building the systems can't be done very cheaply. A big problem is that construction costs keep going up because materials are getting scarcer. If we're to make serious progress anytime soon, we have to get started by passing the Roads & Transit package. Extending Link could happen more quickly with help from the federal government.

Richardson's key advantage over his competition is his strength in international affairs. Though he is a Governor, he has served in Congress and in the Clinton administration, and has excellent diplomatic skills. He has a powerful resume and would undoubtedly be a great asset to a Democratic administration if he does not emerge as the nominee.

The other candidate who would be a great statesman is undeclared and says he is not focused on politics but has not ruled out running - and that's Al Gore.

Richardson's embrace of the Apollo project is refreshing as well, because a lot of lip service is paid to the goal of energy independence and transitioning to renewable sources, but rarely do we see action. On this particular issue of importance, the top tier candidates are pretty much in agreement.

Still, Richardson's background gives him credibility that the other major candidates don't have. They're senators or ex-Senators - he's a governor with executive experience. (Al Gore is again the exception here as he served as Vice President for eight years - but of course he isn't a declared candidate).

Thursday's brief meeting was my second conversation with the Governor (I also saw him in person last year at YearlyKos in Las Vegas but didn't speak to him). I hope Richardson returns to the Pacific Northwest again during his campaign. Since he is from the West, this is a region he should value spending time in.

POSTSCRIPT: Dan Kirkdorffer and thehim have also posted on the meeting.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Sound Transit 2 formally approved

Sound Transit's board of directors yesterday voted to formally approve the Phase 2 plan that is going before voters this fall as part of a joint Roads & Transit package. Critics have greeted this latest milestone with their usual sneers and jeers about boondoggles.

NPI released a podcast earlier this month refuting misleading or false charges about the package. That episode explains why this twenty year plan for improving transportation in Puget Sound is a wise and sensible investment for our region. You can listen to it by following this link.

Some observers can't see the light, but eventually they will feel the heat

Following yesterday's vote in Congress to send George W. Bush a supplemental budget for funding the occupation of Iraq, local Republican commentators appear to be amused at the disappointment voiced by the progressive movement and the netroots community here and across the country.

At unSoundPolitics, Eric Earling writes:
Seems the "McGovernites with modems" are some kind of pissed that the Democratic Congress had to cave on Iraq war funding. While this latest twist in the Iraq debate gets a lot of headlines, it's hardly an isolated incident of netroots dreams not maturing into reality.
If we're "McGovernites with modems" then what are the crew who blog under the yellow banner with a squashed picture of the Space Needle? They connect to the same Internet. But hopefully their understanding of the information superhighway is better than that of Ted Stevens:
Ten movies streaming across that, that Internet, and what happens to your own personal Internet? I just the other day got... an Internet was sent by my staff at 10 o'clock in the morning on Friday, I got it yesterday. Why? Because it got tangled up with all these things going on the Internet commercially.

[...] They want to deliver vast amounts of information over the Internet. And again, the Internet is not something you just dump something on. It's not a big truck. It's a series of tubes. And if you don't understand those tubes can be filled and if they are filled, when you put your message in, it gets in line and it's going to be delayed by anyone that puts into that tube enormous amounts of material, enormous amounts of material....
More importantly, though, Earling's contention that yesterday's development was "hardly an isolated incident of netroots dreams not maturing into reality" is completely bogus. We've never believed the occupation of Iraq could be ended overnight. That is why it was, and still is, such a colossal and strategic mistake.

Until America has a Democratic president, it will be difficult (if not impossible) to withdraw our troops from Iraq...and from harm's way. George W. Bush is so stubborn and so unwilling to listen to reason that he is prolonging the cost and misery of this unnecessary, immoral invasion.

Extracting our country from this mess is not a netroots dream, it's a wise course of action - something the American people want! Congressional Democrats, however, are under pressure to "fund the troops", which is also something most Americans want, if you believe recent polling.

Republicans in Congress won't support timetables or meaningful benchmarks even though polling also exists showing that likely Republican caucus goers support such accountability measures. Without GOP votes, Democrats in Congress can't override Bush's vetoes. Was this bill the most thoughtful response to the Bush stonewall? We don't think so. We think there should have been a better strategy.

Putting this Iraq bill aside, though, our dreams are not electoral victories or policy successes tomorrow or in the short term at all.

Our dream - our vision - is long term: a reinvigorated Democratic Party, a stronger progressive movement that can reframe our public discourse, infrastructure to support that movement, and elected leadership that believes in American democracy as well as our finest traditional values (freedom, protection, opportunity, prosperity, fairness, open government).

Eric and his fellow commentators are so eager to tease or make fun of us that they have not made an effort to actually understand what we're about. If they want to be ignorant, that's their choice. The right wing as a whole underestimates people powered politics at its peril.

Eric's post also relies on that old Fox Noise technique of twisting another commentator's words to present an implied statement he apparently doesn't feel comfortable making himself:
Some observers are again questioning whether the netroots are more bark than bite.
Emphasis is mine. And who are these people?

The agitated scribblers of Little Green Footballs? The top breeder of false political gossip, Matt Drudge? America's favorite cheerleader, Michelle Malkin? No, surprisingly, our expert is one Kevin Sullivan of RealClearPolitics.

Newsflash to Eric: we're running in a marathon, not a sprint. I wrote last autumn that November 2006 was the start of a new era in our country - a post that Eric excerpted. These are still the first days of that era. The 2006 midterms, and taking back Congress, were not an end, but a beginning. We are poised to add to our 2006 victories in this new election cycle.

Democrats are energized for change, while Republicans are demoralized about the disaster that is the Bush administration and its Iraq fiasco. Biconceptuals and independents have already abandoned the GOP. Republican leaders aren't even paying attention to their base, which is rejecting the neoconservative position on Iraq and unimpressed with the current crop of Republican presidential hopefuls. The political landscape is also increasingly hostile for right wing candidates.

We Democrats, on the other hand, are excited about our field (the polling agrees) whether or not Al Gore decides to run (and I hope he does, because we need his leadership). We have good candidates. In fact, I had an opportunity to talk with one of them yesterday - Governor Bill Richardson. I'll be posting on that later today.
Looking at the U.S. Senate electoral map, Republicans are defending far more seats than Democrats are in 2008. Strong progressive candidates have already emerged in states like Colorado (Mark Udall) and Maine (Tom Allen) while the GOP is having trouble finding challengers for Democratic incumbents.

As for the House, we'll be mounting strong challenges to a number of weak Republicans, such as Dave Reichert here in Washington State or John Doolittle in California. Other Republicans, tainted by scandal, like Arizona's Rick Renzi, are likely to find themselves struggling against strong opponents a year from now.

We won't have a Democratic president in office until at least 2009, but there are goals Democrats in Congress can achieve even with an obstructive Dubya. For example, creating the Wild Sky Wilderness, which the White House has said Bush will sign. (The legislation just left the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and now heads to the Senate floor where it should easily pass). That's certainly an example of getting something done - one of many.

Democrats can also shine sunlight into the dark corners of the Bush administration by exercising oversight, exposing corruption, and curtailing abuse of executive power. The probe into the U.S. Attorney firings is a great example.

When 2009 arrives, we will have a better opportunity to shape the direction of America. Think of a Democratic president and a Democratic congress working together to strengthen our nation, increase prosperity, improve the effectiveness of government, and ensure a better future for posterity.

Democrats in Congress ought to govern as wisely, fairly, carefully, and honestly as they can while patiently preparing for the arrival of a reasonable chief executive. The old adage that "Rome wasn't built in a day" applies - getting our country back on track can't be accomplished quickly. But we're on our way there.

Some observers will unfortunately continue to atttack the netroots community and misrepresent what it seeks to accomplish. They can't see the light now, but eventually they will feel the heat from our success.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Prosecutor Norm Maleng dead at 68

This is very sad and unexpected news:
King County Prosecutor Norm Maleng died Thursday night of a heart attack after collapsing at the University of Washington.

Maleng, 68, was attending an event in the UW Urban Horticulture Building when he collapsed.

He was rushed to the hospital after paramedics were called to the university at about 7:20 p.m. While doctors tried to revive him, a number of Seattle and King County officials, including Seattle Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske, Sheriff Sue Rahr and County Executive Ron Sims, arrived at the hospital.

Family members and personal friends also gathered at the hospital in tears, and a statement was issued just after 10:30 p.m., confirming Maleng's death.
Norm may not have been a Democrat or a progressive, but he was a good man, and we will miss him. Norm was the kind of politician who earned the respect of a wide swath of the community. Whether you agreed with him or not, it was not difficult to like him. He ran unopposed for reelection in 2005.

We extend our condolences to the Maleng family in their time of grief, and hope that others in the local progressive community will share their sympathies as well.

Stiff upper lip

What Markos said.
I have news for you guys -- this won't be the last disappointment we'll ever suffer. Heck, politics is about perpetually fighting battles, and no one -- no one -- has an undefeated record.
It's easy to take defeats too hard. None of us invaded Iraq and we have done what we can, in our limited power as regular citizens, to make our voices heard. That doesn't minimize the appalling features of the Iraq occupation, but sometimes you don't get what you want. That's life and that's politics.

Having been someone who has taken his marbles and gone home in the past, I can tell you from personal experience nobody cares, or if they do care a little they get over it quickly and forget all about you. The difference now is that the netroots exists and we can hang together, or hang the other way.

On capitulation

Matt Stoller has a post about how crazy the "capitulation bill," as he calls it, really is. And he's right on that score. The debate has been framed in an utterly false way, and the idea that Democrats would cut off supplies to our troops is both ridiculous and insulting. But welcome to political discourse in the 21st Century.

That being said, while a lot of progressive are incredibly frustrated, we need to understand that the progressive netroots has not existed very long. That's small solace to family members of military personnel, who are being hung out to dry by the entire government of the United States on this one, but it goes to show you how much more powerful old ways of thinking and the D.C. punditry really are than us.

In very rough terms, the netroots was taking on not just the GOP noise machine and the very powerful machinery it built up over 30 years, but an entrenched portion of the Democratic Party that had come to terms with being a permanent minority through adoption of conservative positions. And that part of the Democratic Party still has a lot of clout.

In short, the public is way ahead of either party on the Iraq occupation. One awful thing about military conflicts is that you don't always get to plan what actually happens. It's possible events in Iraq will now outstrip anyone's ability to control them, with heavens knows what result. KBR is already having trouble supplying food to the US embassy, although whether that is a short term weather-related problem or an ominous sign of things to come is not clear.

While it's hard to imagine a complete military disaster, those kinds of things historically happened when nobody believed they were possible (can you say "Khe Sanh?") Our supply lines in Iraq stretch all the way to Kuwait, and while bad weather might mean no mint chocolate chip ice cream for the embassy today, it could mean no ammunition or fuel for troops someday in the future. Steve Gilliard of The News Blog, who is sadly still hospitalized with a grave illness, always feared a (worse) debacle in Iraq. Hopefully he was wrong, but you kind of have to wonder.

Our government is abandoning the troops in the field by not holding the executive branch accountable for its failed policy. It's a bitter pill to swallow, but the only thing progressives can do is keep trying.

POSTSCRIPT (from Andrew): While this "compromise" is an unwelcome development, it's worth remembering that a Republican still occupies the White House, Democrats have a very fragile majority in the Senate, and the right wing agenda continues to be supported by a powerful apparatus which Bush and his congressional GOP allies have at their disposal.

We made huge strides towards a more progressive America in the 2006 midterm elections, but we need more infrastructure, a Democratic president, and bigger majorities in Congress before we can truly shape the direction of our country.

The netroots, progressive response to today's events must be to redouble our efforts to advance our values and elect more progressives to public office - not to despair and scream at Democrats who voted for this appropriations bill, including our local Democratic senators and representatives listed below who voted yes.

Here's the roll call:
Voting No: Jay Inslee, Adam Smith, Jim McDermott (Washington) Ron Wyden, David Wu, Earl Blumenauer, Peter DeFazio, and Darlene Hooley (Oregon)

Voting Yes: Patty Murray, Maria Cantwell, Norm Dicks, Brian Baird, Rick Larsen (Washington)
All of the Pacific Northwest's Republicans dutifully voted yes except for Representative McMorris Rodgers, who did not vote.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Baird was in Iraq

Congressman Brian Baird, D-WA 03, was in Iraq this week. Who knew?
Baghdad, May 22, (VOI) – Iraqi Vice President Adel Abd al-Mahdi discussed on Tuesday, with a visiting U.S. Congress delegation, security developments and a timetable for withdrawal of the Multi-National Forces.

"Abd al-Mahdi briefed the congressional delegation –- led by Republican Christopher Shays of Connecticut and Democrat Brian Baird of Washington –- on developments in the political process aimed at consolidating democracy in Iraq," according to an Iraqi presidency statement received by the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI).

The two U.S. congressmen stressed the need for the Iraqi government to shoulder its responsibilities in imposing security, order and stability, praising the Iraqi vice president's role in pushing forward the political process, VOI writes.
Funny, I don't recall seeing this information in any state outlets. Weird.

Court tells Exxon to quit procrastinating and pay for damages caused by Valdez spill

America's biggest oil company today lost a round in a long running court battle concerning the Exxon Valdez disaster:
A U.S. appeals court declined Wednesday to reconsider its decision to make Exxon Mobil Corp. pay $2.5 billion in punitive damages for the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill.

The punitive damages ruling against Exxon - originally $5 billion in 1994 - has been the subject of a long legal battle between the oil company and 32,000 fishermen, Alaska natives and property owners who were awarded the damages.

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals based in San Francisco has already looked at the Exxon Valdez case on three occasions, taking into account new U.S. Supreme Court rulings in later examinations of the biggest oil spill in U.S. history.
Exxon executives just don't know when to call it a day. They already won a judgment limiting the damages. The company, which rivals Wal-Mart for the title of America's most greedy corporation (and is the sixth biggest air polluter in the country), now says it will appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

If history is any indication, they won't get a sympathetic reception. The Supreme Court previously let stand the $5 billion punitive damage verdict, rejecting without comment an appeal by the company on grounds of jury irregularities (one of the stalling techniques employed by the company's lawyers).

To minimize the amount of damages that could be awarded for future oil spills, Exxon in 1993 spun off its tanker division into a subsidiary known as "SeaRiver Maritime" with a separate corporate charter and board of directors.

And the old ship that ran aground in Prince William Sound?
The renamed [Exxon Valdez] tanker is legally owned by a small, allegedly under capitalized, stand-alone company, which would have minimal ability to pay out on claims in the event of a further accident.
For more on ExxonMobil and its unethical business practices, see As the World Burns from Mother Jones. Joel Connelly also has a post on the Ninth Circuit's decision with background on the case at Strange Bedfellows.

Sound familiar?

Max Blumenthal, writing at Huffington Post, looks into the on-line writings of Mark David Uhl, the man accused of planning to attack the Phelps protesters at Jerry Falwell's funeral.

Here's an idea

The incredibly exciting Dino Rossi idea about ideas is making the rounds, but we find the (ahem) idea of an "idea bank" to not be a very Republican idea, so we're improving the idea to make it reflect the ideas of Republicans more accurately.

Introducing the Dino Rossi Idea Payday Loan Center!™

Here's how it works:

Just bring in a your car title, paycheck stub or bogus prescriptions for "Limbaugh's Little Helpers" and give us an idea about how to make Washington a better place.

Examples include privatizing everything except one state trooper position, making the WEA illegal or requiring that black people show 15 different kinds of ID before trying to vote, and making sure at least one of those forms of ID is impossible to obtain without a trip to the Bahamas. But please, come up with your own ideas. If there's one thing Republicans are good at, it's being creative about stopping the wrong sorts of people from making a living or voting or doing anything but what they are told to do.

After you submit your idea, the Washington Republican Party will lend you $100 at an annual average interest rate of 6 million percent, compounded by the minute. If your idea is enacted into law, you will be refunded half the interest and presented with a small trophy featuring Rodin's "The Thinker" and a Hallmark electronic greeting, all FREE! (Offer void in King, Pierce, Snohomish, Thurston, Clark and Pacific Counties. Earnings may be subject to a small processing fee. The Washington State Republican Party reserves the right to make up any stuff it wants about anyone at any time.)

Democratic presidential candidates confirm participation at YearlyKos this summer

This is incredibly exciting news:
YearlyKos Convention organizers announced today that Sen. John Edwards, Sen. Barack Obama, and Gov. Bill Richardson confirmed their participation in a Presidential Leadership Forum to be held August 4 in Chicago. Confirmations from other candidates are forthcoming.

Organizers say the event—the first ever collaborative presidential forum with both a respected blogger and a leading member of the traditional media as moderators—is an opportunity to use technology to empower citizens to engage and evaluate America’s potential leaders, both face-to-face and online. Many political candidates, including Edwards and Obama, already frequently use sites like Daily Kos to dialogue with the public.

Matt Bai, writer for The New York Times Magazine and author of a book on Democratic politics to be released in August, and Joan McCarter, contributing editor at Daily Kos, will moderate. Author and blogger Dr. Jeffrey Feldman will facilitate questions from convention attendees and those submitted in advance from tens of thousands of blog readers.

“This year we are honored to add the YearlyKos Presidential Leadership Forum to th slate of events scheduled at the YearlyKos Convention,” said YearlyKos Convention Executive Director Gina Cooper. "The forum is an opportunity to have a discussion about the issues that matter and hear detailed responses to the questions America needs answered.”

Organizers are asking candidates to spend time in intimate, unscripted citizen dialogue with attendees, encouraging substantive discussions that transcend the competitive nature of most joint appearances on the campaign trail.
NPI will be represented at YearlyKos by at least two staff members (including myself!) and we'll host live coverage of the convention the first week in August as we did last year - though this year we'll probably have more multimedia to go along with the typed word.

Self-loathing Romney

Mitt Romney hates himself:
"In the most liberal state in the country," a sinister-sounding narrator intones over the obligatory backdrop of photos of John Kerry and Mike Dukakis, "one Republican stood up, and cut spending instead of raising taxes. He enforced immigration laws, stood up for traditional marriage and the sanctity of human life."
Of course, Romney was pro-choice, except when he wasn't. And as TPM points out, the absurdity of attacking the state you served as governor should be obvious.

Here are the rules: conservatives get to attack entire states and cities, like Massachusetts and San Francisco, whenever and however they want, with whatever vicious lies and stereotypes they wish.

But if someone left of Attila dares to mention say, infant mortality rates in the South, they're engaging in "class warfare."

It goes to show how much work we really have to do. Republicans have been pulling this stuff for so long that nobody even really questions it any more.

If we must attack entire states, I nominate Texas. Sure, there are millions of progressives in Texas who must suffer mightily, but it's much easier to simply dismiss the whole state with some insults.

Texas gave us the child in the White House, so I say they pay for the war. And with a barbeque-type holiday coming up, I must again point out that mesquite is not a wood suitable for smoking meat, but a noxious weed that desperate cowpunchers used when nothing else was available. Real men use hickory. How those football Cowboys doin'? You know why they have artificial turf at Texas Stadium? Take Texas, please. That's no lady, that's Texas. Hello, Texas, I'm trying to reach Mrs. Kisu, first name Ivana. I'm not saying Texas is stupid, but when it hears that it's going to be chilly it gets a bowl...

Makes about as much sense as the Romney campaign. Still no AP articles on his hair, how odd.

Seattle's got new trains

Monday morning, Sound Transit put on a press event to show off final assembly of rail vehicles for our new Link rapid transit system. The contractor, Kinki-Sharyo USA, is assembling these vehicles in Everett - providing local jobs rather than doing all the work in Japan. This is what we'll be riding in two years - and this is what we'll see more of with the roads and transit package this November:

Sound Transit Link Light Rail Cars

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

On the death of Falwell

I guess Ray Stevens had it about right:
Would Jesus be political if he came back to earth/Have his second home in Palm Springs.. yeah.. but try to hide his worth/Take money from those poor folks when He comes back again/And admit He's talked to all those preachers who said they'd been-a talking to Him
He was all you can stand, give him a hand, Jerry Falwell.

Victory in Kentucky

In today's Democratic primary for governor, the more progressive candidate won::
Former Lt. Gov. Steve Beshear rode a late campaign surge to capture the Democratic nomination for governor with just enough votes to avoid a runoff.

The Lexington attorney won 41 percent of the vote in a crowded field of six Democrats. He needed 40 percent to avoid a June runoff election.

Louisville businessman Bruce Lunsford, who outspent all Democrats in the race by using $4.2million of his personal fortune, finished a distant second with 21 percent.
Lunsford, the DLC candidate, conceded to Beshear earlier this evening and pledged his support to the Democratic nominee, a nice gesture.

Republicans, meanwhile, renominated corrupt Governor Ernie Fletcher despite the efforts of Senator Mitch McConnell, the Republican minority leader, who threw his weight behind another candidate.

348,759 voters turned out for the Democratic primary, while only 202,131 voters cast ballots in the Republican primary. If Beshear can mount a strong campaign this fall, the odds are very good that Ernie Fletcher will soon be out of office.

Pro-light rail group starts in Vancouver

This is interesting:
Nearly three dozen Vancouver businesses are jumping into the mass transit debate on the side of light rail.

Vancouver Businesses for Smart Transportation, as the group calls itself, has signed up 35 businesses that favor light rail for the planned new bridge over the Columbia River. The group also supports Vancouver Mayor Royce Pollard's plan to cover Interstate 5 through downtown.

"It will make us more connected to downtown Portland, and connect Portland with downtown ­Vancouver," said Joanie Sather, a Wallis Engineering employee and the group's president. "But the big thing is not adding more traffic."
Obviously, these are downtown businesses, many of which could stand to benefit greatly from light rail. So what? Governments do tons of things that shape markets, from regulatory climates to tax policies to outright subsidies.

The bridge project is in the DEIS phase now, so it's going to be a while (perhaps early next year) before more definitive things can be done. In the meantime, it's nice to see that the anti-light rail forces aren't the only ones willing to speak out.

If one were proposing building a light rail system in Clark County from scratch, it probably wouldn't pencil out. What should keep people at least somewhat open minded to the idea is the relatively short distance to connect to Portland's system. A meaningful cost-benefit analysis can't be done until we get the answers to some basic questions, like what the preferred local alternative will be and how much extra a light rail connection would cost on top of that alternative.

An honest debate starts with the admission, which the pro-rail group seems to be making, that light rail is very expensive. MAX has some serious shortcomings, not the least of which is that it is slow, but as things continue to get worse with the Interstate Bridge over time, travel times on MAX may start to look more attractive. Presumably MAX's travel times could be improved in some distant future where express trains run.

Long ways off on a lot of this, but wanted to note the non-wingnut approach to light rail. Next thing you know everyone in Vancouver will grow their hair long and start wearing sandals.

Gasoline bomb attack thwarted at Falwell funeral

ABC News is reporting that a Liberty University student has been arrested at the funeral of Jerry Falwell for having "gasoline bombs" in his car.
The student, 19-year-old Mark Ewell of Amissville, Va., reportedly told authorities that he was making the bombs to stop protesters from disrupting the funeral service.

Three other suspects are being sought, one of whom is a soldier from Fort Benning, Ga., and another is a high school student. No information was available on the third person.
The initial ABC report does not indicate which protesters the student might have had in mind, but it has been widely reported that the Fred Phelps nuts were going to be there.

The mind boggles. I mean really, it's really come to this? One kind of fundamentalist might have been planning to napalm another kind of fundamentalist?

Do we all understand now why the First Amendment exits? Goodness gracious. It's also troubling that authorities apparently are seeking a U.S. soldier in connection with this. Very troubling.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Furrin policies

Via the P-I comes a little AP Q and A on that whole "why is the Middle East so FUBAR" question:
Q: Why are there Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon?

A: Lebanon still has about 400,000 Palestinians -- mostly refugees who fled after Israel was created in 1948, and their descendants. Many are crowded into 12 impoverished and often violent camps, banned from all but menial jobs and mostly living off U.N. aid.
Sixty years seems like kind of a long time to be camping.

In all seriousness, there has to be a sensible middle way between "Islam is a dirty religion that we hate" and "we refuse to call it Israel because it's Palestine."

People get Nobel Prizes for even moving folks forward a tad, so far be it from me to say for certain what the heck would work. There was hope in the last century, and maybe there can be hope again, if sane people can stop the crazy people. Call me an optimist.

In absurdly broad policy terms, the U.S. needs to pursue its traditional role of being something of a cop to hardliner tendencies in Israel, while at the same time holding firm against the Islamist movement. If the Bushies want to compare themselves to the Truman administration, then they need to find a modern doctrine of containment and match it with economic and diplomatic initiatives in the region. Since the legacy of 43 is apparently worth so much damn blood and treasure, they could at least spend their last bit of time in office actually working for it.

Frankly, I'm not sure there's a lot of time. Bombing the crud out of Lebanon worked so well last year that one has to fear what an Israeli government headed by Netanyahu might contemplate. Combined with problems in Afghanistan, Pakistan and that crazy little thing called Iraq, the U.S. could arrive at the 2008 elections in some serious doo-doo.

But go ahead and clap louder, it probably can't hurt at this point.

Bless the wankosphere

Jane Hamsher riffs about the wankosphere:
There's also a pretty good article in the Washington Post by Jose Antonio Vargas about how the GOP lags well behind the Dems when it comes to an online presence. There have been rumors for quite some time that members of the GOP speak privately about what a bunch of useless, embarrassing wankers Malkin, Instahack, the Power Tools, Red State etc. are, so it's amusing to see that they're coming out of the closet about it, so to speak.

I don't know how much of the abject mediocrity of right wing blogosphere is attributable to the fact that, as the Post article notes, the authoritarian, top-down ethos of the modern GOP is antithetical to the "often chaotic, bottom-up, user-generated atmosphere of the Internet," and how much can be placed at the feet of a bunch of second-tier minds artificially sustained by wingnut welfare that causes the talent pool to be clogged by enormous, stinking turds floating on the surface and choking out any possibility of quality writing or original thought from rising to the top.

Ah, the great questions of the ages.
Ouch.

Back in the last century, I always thought one advantage Democrats had, ironically enough, was that many candidates had to learn to make do with less. This wasn't always the case, of course, and there were and still are many shades of Democrat, but I always liked our chances when we had at leat 2/3rds as much money as a Republican and a good candidate. Republicans always had to have nice offices and could certainly afford things (like plenty of phone lines) that we couldn't.

The internet has equalized that somewhat, and even led to Democratic candidates having more money than Republicans in many cases. More importantly, perhaps, the netroots has allowed people to test their ideas, and yes, argue, amongst themselves. Kind of a "marketplace of ideas," something the cons used to love. Now if it doesn't talk about clapping louder and hating on the gays, they don't want to hear it in many cases.

Here is where we all add the usual disclaimer about blog triumphalism: it's not the whole ballgame, it's just a small part. But it's a relatively new part, and as people smarter than me figure out new and interesting ways to use it, it will only help our cause and thus our country, at least until Soros gives us our money and we screw everyone. I want one of those yachts that goes over 70 knots, those are kewl.

Voter fraud? Eh, not so much

Via Think Progress comes this Slate article headlined "The Fraudulent Fraud Squad."
Imagine the National Rifle Association's Web site suddenly disappeared, along with all the data and reports the group had ever posted on gun issues. Imagine Planned Parenthood inexplicably closed its doors one day, without comment from its former leaders. The scenarios are unthinkable, given how established these organizations have become. But even if something did happen to the NRA or Planned Parenthood, no doubt other gun or abortion groups would quickly fill the vacuum and push the ideas they'd pushed for years.

Not so for the American Center for Voting Rights, a group that has literally just disappeared as an organization, and for which it seems no replacement group will rise up. With no notice and little comment, ACVR—the only prominent nongovernmental organization claiming that voter fraud is a major problem, a problem warranting strict rules such as voter-ID laws—simply stopped appearing at government panels and conferences. Its Web domain name has suddenly expired, its reports are all gone (except where they have been preserved by its opponents), and its general counsel, Mark "Thor" Hearne, has cleansed his résumé of affiliation with the group. Hearne won't speak to the press about ACVR's demise. No other group has taken up the "voter fraud" mantra.
You know, sometimes you have to step back and look at the big picture. The only way the GOP could get away with voter suppression is to make it appear that "Democrats do it too." Thus the constant effort to claim things happened that didn't happen, and the assaults upon U.S. attorneys who wouldn't play ball.

Whether the 2004 election in Washington was just kind of lucky for Republicans in that regard, or whether there was more of an organized effort to be prepared for a close election, it seems pretty clear the same basic strategy and tactics were used here. The internet tubes just made it easier to push the baloney to all parts of the state, where the hardcore wingnuts gladly seized upon orange balloons and spreadsheet columns as "evidence" of something that didn't happen.

And the traditional media was largely happy to present this burgeoning "controversy," because after all, they were just telling "both sides."

If people want to talk about "improving election systems," great. If the intent is actually to construct a voting system that makes it harder for certain types of people to vote, not great. There's no legitimate reason to raise hurdles for lower-income (read: minority) citizens who might tend to move around more.

If the intent is to carry the Lost Cause into battle again in 2008, it's more baloney. I'd suggest buying a lot of brown mustard.

McKay says stuff

So John McKay had some stuff to say over the weekend at the "Mainstream Republicans" convention. From the P-I:
He referred dismissively to "cybercowards," apparently meaning conservative bloggers who have criticized the lack of prosecution, and scorned the purported evidence of election fraud alleged by Tom McCabe, the aggressive, conservative executive vice president of the Building Association of Washington and a Rossi supporter.

McKay said he, four other federal prosecutors and a number of FBI agents conducted an exhaustive investigation of McCabe's complaint. He said McCabe's allegation that he, McKay, "failed to follow this up is utterly false and he knows it."

McKay said the evidence McCabe presented was "a joke from an evidentiary standpoint that a crime had been committed. ... Every FBI agent who looked at the evidence and every federal prosecutor who looked at the evidence that the BIAW sent in concluded that it was completely, utterly insufficient to move forward in an investigation."
If you go read the whole article, you'll see that McKay also said the 2004 election "smelled bad." Which, you know, it did, on a whole number of levels.

One thing that people up in the Puget Sound region might want to keep in mind is that certain "cybercowards," as McKay called them, spurred attacks not just on Dean Logan and King County Elections, but on public servants in other counties, like Greg Kimsey, the Clark County auditor. Kimsey is one of the most honest and dedicated public servants around, so to put it mildly those attacks were pretty darn low.

It was a state-wide attempt to create a media firestorm, and in many ways it did.

The narrative that was presented outside the Puget Sound area was that mafia-type Democrats out and out stole the election, and that is the narrative that is still being presented in certain conservative circles, with supporting publicity (at times) from the traditional media. It's a ridiculous and utterly false narrative, as all the actual evidence (or lack thereof) has shown, but both the "cybercowards" and (at times) the traditional media just can't seem to help themselves.

To this day, Republicans insist on saying things like "Dino Rossi won the election twice, but he had to win it three times," which is very disingenuous. It was a recount process, under the laws of the state, and they know it.

If anyone says they have evidence of conspiratorial acts, then they should, as McKay suggested, go present it to the proper authorities. Failure to do so immediately should be seen, properly, by the traditional media as an admission that no real evidence actually exists.

My crystal ball needs an oil change, but for my money I'd guess things would ultimately turn out about the same as before -- the election was razor thin and compounded by errors.

All this being said, it's encouraging to hear that some Republicans will applaud a man like McKay, who obviously has a strong sense of duty and ethics. We hasten to add that we would probably disagree with him on a whole ton of stuff, but we can respect folks like John McKay, even if we probably wouldn't vote for him.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Light maintenance tonight

We'll be tweaking the Official Blog's template tonight, so don't be surprised if something looks strange in your browser or there are hiccups loading a page. I'll post a short note when we're done doing this.

UPDATE: Maintenance completed.

Lakoff

SusanG has this diary at Daily Kos concerning George Lakoff's latest book, "Whose Freedom?"
The definitional confusion—capitalized on by the right wing through repetition—begins with trying to give meaning to secondary characteristics of freedom. All of the crucial parts of simple freedom are left unspecified," Lakoff points out, and then asks, "What is to count as free will, ability, and interference?" It is largely on the battleground of free will that what he calls "contested" freedom begins. If I’m denied access to a quality education through an accident of birth, am I really able to exercise "free will?" If not only desirable connections, but information itself is unavailable, how "free" am I to take action on my own behalf and exercise my rights?

At this point, one runs up, of course, against the legendary "pull yourself up by your own bootstraps" school of thinking, which has increasingly insisted that Americans who can’t make it in this grand land have only themselves to blame (a perception that would be alien and surprising to the Greatest Generation, which came home from World War II and made use of the GI Bill to go to college, buy homes and use VA medical facilities to solidify the middle class). The recent conservative redefinition of freedom (often code-worded as "liberty") has succeeded in shifting the debate from public obligation to ensuring access in a competitive system, to private selection of who precisely is captured in notion of the "worthy poor" – who should shoulder the responsibility for failure in a "free" society. Lakoff points out that the nature of competition itself requires a large class of "losers" (the uninsured, the unemployed) to define the winners against.
As our executive director, Andrew Villeneuve has discovered, perhaps to his chagrin or even irritation, I'm among the Lakoff-impaired amongst progressive bloggers. It's not that I don't welcome Lakoff's observations, or even at times find some of his points interesting, I just don't find Lakoff's work to be as important as some do.

Probably I'm just dense, or maybe I recoil at his tendency to point out the obvious truth that facts alone are not enough, or maybe he repeats the same thing so many times that I fall asleep before I can finish a chapter. Yes, language matters, and the concept of "framing" is important, but I guess I'm just not going to be one of the people who builds those long term frames. I'm too much of a former campaign hack, probably better at minor tactics than grand strategy.

To be clear, just because I don't truly understand Lakoff doesn't mean you can't, and to the extent I can take one of his ideas and use it I'm fine with it, but I'll probably keep making the "error" of leaning towards rational explanations for things. Some of us are getting too set in our ways; it happens with kids and mortgages and such. If someone can explain this stuff to me better, I'm all ears. Maybe I just don't understand what we are to do on a daily basis with information about neural pathways.

But I will have some coffee and start in on "Thinking Points" again, maybe something will click this time.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

End of the line for neocons?

It's always interesting to get international takes on U.S. politics, and this article from The Sunday Times headlined "Decline and fall of the neocons" is worth a look if you choose:
Wolfowitz, the cerebral neocon, and Falwell, the braying theocon, had nothing in common personally. Indeed, Falwell blamed “the pagans and the abortionists and the feminists and the gays and the lesbians” for provoking the 9/11 attacks, an explanation uncomfortably close to the views of the Taliban. But the unlikely alliance between their two movements provided the brains and the brawn behind Bush. Now the neocons have been ousted, one by one, from their positions of influence and trust while the Republican party base is desperately thrashing around for a successor to Bush that it can back in 2008.

The cleavage between the two marks the end of an era in which Bible Belt conservatives became the surprise champions of radical nation-building in the Middle East in the hope of crushing terrorism and halting the march of militant Islam. After Bush, such reforming zeal is unlikely to be repeated.
The article quotes Christopher Hitchens quite extensively, so make of that what you will. He's been somewhat lucid lately, so hey, whatever. The article has quite a bit of interesting detail about Wolfowitz and his girlfriend, who is quite an accomplished person in her own right.

The article also speculates that if Alberto Gonzales is finally forced out, that may take the last tiny bit of wind out of the administration's sails, as it were. It's hard to see how this administration could sink much lower, but then again, what we've endured the last six years is pretty stunning when you add it all up.

The fundamentalist GOP legacy

This Cynthia Tucker column is so spot-on:
Falwell was among a handful of ambitious activists who saw the potential in marrying the Republican Party to ultraconservative Christianity, an alliance that magnified the influence of the South in national politics and boosted the fortunes of a born-again governor named George W. Bush.

Ascendant Christian conservatives forced traditional Republicans -- those who believed in a more circumspect government that stayed out of adults' bedrooms as well as their pockets -- to swallow their principles. The Grand Old Party is now hostage to a group of flat-earthers who deny evolution, mock gays, denounce stem cell research, suspect contraceptives and believe all Muslims are going to hell. Indeed, some of them actually want a conflagration in the Middle East because they believe it will hasten the Second Coming of Christ.
The GOP sold its soul for some narrow electoral victories. The country could actually stand to benefit from a future non-insane Republican Party, as despite how utterly it has failed there are doubtless individuals out there with good ideas. Personally I don't care who comes up with a workable plan to deliver health care to all Americans; if it turns out to be a quasi-private corporation model that could succeed, so be it.

I have no earthly idea how honest Republicans might go about reforming their party, but for starters more of them will have to acknowledge just how off course they went. Easier said than done, no doubt, but the first step is the hardest.

Moore anonymously pays medical premiums of critic

Via this Daily Kos diary comes a NY Daily News tidbit that is priceless:
Filmmaker Michael Moore has come to the rescue of his harshest critic.

For several years now, Jim Kenefick has been railing against the Oscar-winning director on Moorewatch.com. Recently, Kenefick wrote about the difficulty he was having paying his wife's medical bills. Fellow conservatives guided him toward a cheaper health insurer, but Kenefick said he still had trouble making payments.

"Someone e-mailed me and asked if an 'anonymous' benefactor could offer to pay my first year's premiums - $12,000," Kenefick wrote on his site.

He was skeptical when the check arrived. "I opened a whole new account at my bank, waited for it to clear, checked twice with bank personnel to make sure it wasn't a scam, and waited a full 60 days before spending the money. At that time, I started drawing on it and paying the monthly premiums until it was gone."

We can now confirm to Kenefick that his secret benefactor is none other than the dreaded, detestable, loathsome Michael Moore.
Say what you will about Moore, and I certainly have mixed opinions of his work, but he certainly knows how to get press. As the diarist at Daily Kos noted, asking whether it was pure altruism or a calculated move by Moore may not become known, and it could very well have been a little of both.

But the guy at the Moorewatch site is well, not exactly a happy camper:
He’s leaking and using this in whatever way he can think of to promote his film. He paid $12,000 so that you, the press, would focus on what a “nice guy” he is and in the same breath, make me look like a jerk.
Somehow, we think the Moorewatch guy is pretty capable of making himself look like a jerk all by himself.

You can't make this stuff up.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Zarelli: US protecting Islam at expense of Jews and Christians

Some interesting stuff regarding next month's Convergence Northwest conference, to be held in early June in Vancouver. The event may feature former Israeli prime minister and Likud head Benjamin Netanyahu as a keynote speaker, and has a distinct conservative tone.

State Senator Joseph Zarelli, R-18th District, is one of the key organizers and was quoted in the (Portland) Jewish Review discussing his motivations:
The Zarellis set forth three goals for the conference:

• Provide an honest depiction of the current state of the war in Israel, the threat of terrorism, and how they both affect the United States.

• Establish effective, direct relationships between Israeli and local community leaders.

• Empower local leaders to begin making impacts within their communities with ripple effects reaching to our federal government.

"People need to be educated," said Sen. Zarelli. "Then we'll have a greater impact in Congress."

Tani Zarelli believes very few Americans truly understand what is at stake in the Middle East.

"There is a real enemy out there," she said. "They intend to wipe the Jews off the earth and the United States that stands behind them."

The senator expressed alarm over the failure of Americans to understand how they may be playing into the hands of those he believes may not have America's best interests at heart.

"If you listen in the United States," he said, "there is such an effort to protect this one particular belief system (Islam) at the expense of Judaism and Christianity."

He pointed to the recent creation in New York City of a controversial public school focusing on Arab language and culture.

Although named for a renowned Christian-Lebanese poet and proclaimed by some as a center of tolerance and cultural bridge-building, New York's publicly funded Khalil Gibran International Academy has drawn fire from conservative critics and others, such as Jewish commentator Daniel Pipes, as a potential hotbed of militant Islam and a model for segregation at public expense.
Daniel Pipes? They must mean this Daniel Pipes, who writes and works with such reputable outfits as FrontPageMag.com and that stellar truth-teller David Horowitz, according to a Wikipedia entry. You can read a recent New York Times article about Khalil Gibran school if you wish. Sounds like a bunch of parents acting stupid to me.

And really, what the living heck are the Zarellis talking about with this alleged effort to "protect Islam" at the expense of Judaism and Christianity? How exactly do the views of Daniel Pipes about some program in New York apply to the 18th legislative district, anyhow? All very strange, and the arrogance of conservatives who continue to imply that they are the only ones who really understand the threat posed by terrorism grows very, very old. The Zarellis are certainly free to organize any conference they want, but that means others are free to examine the claims being made about it and at it.

In that vein, Jewish Review had a rather candid article, concerning the model for the Vancouver conference.
The Convergence Northwest Conference 2007 that will take place in Vancouver, Wash., in June takes its name from a similar gathering in Savannah, Ga., last October.

That event, dubbed "Convergence: Claims and Challenges of Israel's Future in the Middle East," was organized by an Israeli businesswoman, Orly Benny Davis, who lives in nearby South Carolina and reportedly dreams of building the Third Temple on Jerusalem's Temple Mount.

Although a variety of voices "converged" for the Savannah conference, including the Atlanta-based Consulate General of Israel for the southeast United States, not everyone was entirely happy with the event.

Besides those who characterized Davis' views as extreme, others were troubled by the significant involvement of conservative Christians.

In very broad terms, there are two perspectives in the Jewish community on working with Christians on behalf of Israel.

At a time when some mainstream Christian sects have distanced themselves from Israel and taken up the cause of the Palestinians, a number of evangelical or fundamentalist Christian sects not only have stood by Israel, but have stepped forward to take an active role in building grassroots support for the Jewish state while lobbying hard in Washington to help ensure continued U.S. support for Israel.

Savannah Reform Rabbi Arnold Mark Belzer is among those Jews who, at the very least, are skeptical of the Jewish alliance with Christians
.
He declined to take part in the Savannah Convergence conference or to promote the conference at his Congregation Mickve Israel because, according to a report by Rachel Pomerance in the Forward, he objected to Davis'politics.

But it was more than Davis' politics that rankled Belzer. He elaborated for the Jewish Review.

"I think it does matter who your friends are," he said, pointing to what he described as the Christian right's commitment to doing whatever is necessary to hasten the coming of Armageddon and the return of Christ, which, some on the Christian right believe must be preceded by the unification of greater Israel, the ingathering of the Jews in the Holy Land and their ultimate demise.
The article goes on to give something of a rebuttal from Convergence Northwest speaker and Jewish Review publisher Charles R. Schiffman, so credit where credit is due to the publication for discussing the matter, and if you're interested, go check out the full article. It's a fascinating discussion.

Another item in one of the two Jewish Review articles was that Benjamin Netanyahu, scheduled to keynote the conference, may have to appear by satellite if elections occur in Israel. So Vancouver may not be world news headquarters for a day after all.

EFFWA: Waaaaaaahhhhhhh

Offhand, I'd say that this is pretty much sour grapes:
Foundation members were particularly dismayed that Gregoire did not veto the emergency clause in a controversial bill intended to help its longtime adversary, the Washington Education Association.

The foundation and the union are battling in the U.S. Supreme Court over the way the union accounts for money paid to the union by people who object to its political activities.

The Legislature passed a bill this year rewording the law to clearly allow the union’s accounting methods. Gregoire signed it last week.
EFFWA exists to attack the WEA. It has continually and repeatedly tried to de-fund it through initiatives and legal maneuvers.

EFFWA gives no quarter and it should expect none. The state Supreme Court apparently says an emergency is what the Legislature says it is. It may not be pretty, but that's the way it is. EFFWA wanted hardball, they get a fastball under the chin.

It's not our side that has taken a scorched earth approach to everything political for the last twenty or more years.

One solution would be for EFFWA to reveal all of its funding, so the people could judge for themselves if EFFWA is truly interested in Washingtonians or if it's simply a front group for out of state interests.

If it did that, I might support a limitation on the use of emergency clauses. Otherwise, Legislators are well within their moral and constitutional rights to make sure secretly funded cabals like EFFWA will have a more difficult time subverting the will of the people as voiced by their elected representatives.

I got yer loophole right here

The Republican Party: all projection, all the time:
Pointing to an overlooked consequence of the change, state Republican Party Chairman Luke Esser accused the Democratic governor Wednesday of "exploiting a newly opened loophole in Washington's campaign finance laws to shake down donors for cash at the same time she is deciding whether to sign their bills into law."
Of course they think that, because that's what they would do. It's like having bank robbers critique bank tellers -- "hey, if you let them touch that stuff they'll steal it!"

Some things are actually quite simple.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

NILF Hunter

Sam Bee rules my world. (The "N" stands for "news," if you were wondering.)

W Strikes Again

The Commander Guy was at his oratory best today with Tony Blair in DC for his grand farewell tour. He spontaneously crafted this gem:

"He has led the British people for a long time--since 1797."

Didn't even correct himself. Must be leftover bravado from The Decider days.

If you insist, you can witness the whole thing here.

Republican to Republican: Shut up

Here's an ominous update to the Ron Paul dustup from Tuesday's debate: Saul Anuzis, the Chairman of the Michigan State GOP, wants Mr. Paul barred from further debates based on his last performance.

Really, Mr. Paul, how long did you think you could get away with voicing honest dissent within your own party?! Get your head in the game - you act like we have a Constitution or something.

Fisher Communications: Fox Noise of the Northwest

Scott Moore at Blogtown PDX, the blog of The Portland Mercury, notices a horrific example of contaminated journalism:
On last night’s late news, KATU (whose building I can see through my window right now) aired the most horrifyingly asinine segment I’ve ever seen on a television news show.

Called “Hummer Vs. Hybrid,” the piece profiled Art Spinella of Oregon-based CNW Marketing Research, who put out a report last year claiming that Hummers (as in the paramilitary SUVs) are better for the environment than hybrid cars. Spinella, who, BTW, makes a living doing market research for automobile companies, allegedly looked at the full cycle of development for both vehicles, including manufacturing, research & development, how far employees had to drive to get to the factory (!), etc. Only problem: CNW won’t divulge its research methodology, so it’s not peer-reviewed, or even verifiable.
KATU is owned, of course, by Fisher Communications, the same outfit that owns KVI (and KOMO, which airs an uncritical report on Tim Eyman every now and then). I certainly remember KATU being the worst of the Portland television stations during the recount in 2004-2005.

I distinctly remember they were the only Portland station gullible enough to promote the GOP "felon voters" meme, going so far as to ambush a couple of three hapless souls in Clark County who the GOP claimed were not entitled to vote. KATU really had to go out of their way to be asinine with that one. But Hummers as environmentally friendly? Even Fox Noise wouldn't try to sell that.

Wolfowitz's long goodbye

He'll be leaving at the end of June, according to CBC and others.

One down, three to go.

An incredible legacy for Mr. Wolfowitz. A key architect in PNAC and thus the Iraq Occupation, co-star of "Fahrenheit 9-11," and another in a long (and growing) list of corrupt neoCons finally seeing the results of the faintest bit of oversight. Some of his studied comments can be found here.

Maybe he can join Tom DeLay's defense team?

Ron Paul's anachronistic lucidity

I heard a clip of Ron Paul's rather scathing, yet well-informed analysis on how conservatism has been abducted by these, neo...theo...well, whatever-they-are-Republicans that happened to debate last Tuesday night (5/15/07) in South Carolina. He simply laid out the facts, beginning with Eisenhower, and brought the other nine gentlemen up to present day, and even included 9/11 for context.

This seemed to upset Rudy Giuliani, who, of course, has a monopoly on National Security and Patriotism because he was the mayor of New York when 9/11 happened, and he alone insisted that the command center be in the World Trade Center after it was bombed the first time.

Chris Wallace, the “moderator” (“batting tee”) then tried to corner Paul into rephrasing his assessment, trying to goad him into saying that the US “invited” the 9/11 attacks.

When Paul didn't immediately begin retracting and self-flagellating, Giuliani jumped in and demanded he take back what he said about inviting the attacks on America. I can understand Paul being a tad rattled. There they were, frothing and vibrating as if he had a well-marbled sirloin clinging to his rump, waiting for their chance to burst from behind their podia to call him an America-bashing traitor.

For his part, Paul didn't deny that he said the US invited the attacks (but he obviously didn't), he just gave the example of “blowback” as defined by the CIA in the '50s after we installed the Shah of Iran, and how it manifested itself in the '70s in the form of the Hostage Crisis.

But Giuliani: Wow! He was still operating on the 2002 RNC talking points that said quite clearly if you didn't agree with everything the president did, you were aiding the enemy, that if you weren't with us, you were with them, and that this was no time for understanding, this was a time for attacking anything that moved.

It's interesting spin, and the media still lets it play: “America's Mayor” is somehow not crazy and out of the mainstream when he insanely regurgitates five year old propaganda, but a guy who presents a clear, lucid argument based on verifiable historical facts is presented—with the help of Chris Wallace, Faux News, and a willing audience of True Believers—is clearly the deranged outsider.

How dare he lead people to believe there might be a Republican you could actually reason with? He obviously didn't get the Memo.

BREAKING: Lawsuit filed to invalidate I-960

Two allies of NPI and Permanent Defense are filing suit in King County Superior Court seeking an injunction that blocks Tim Eyman's I-960 from going on this November's ballot, according to court documents.

The intent of Initiative 960 is to undermine representative democracy by forcing the Legislature to operate under un-American rules. Initiative 960 would turn our cherished tradition of "majority rules with minority rights" on its head by requiring two thirds supermajority approval for any increase in revenue.

Futurewise and SEIU Local 775, both progressive organizations, are asking for an order that prevents the Secretary of State from spending any public funds processing I-960 or treating it as a valid initiative at all.
"We’re confident I-960 is unconstitutional. We're hoping the courts will block it before taxpayer money is wasted putting a legally invalid measure on the ballot," explained Keith Scully, Futurewise’s Legal Director. "For someone claiming to be worried about taxpayers, Eyman sure is wasting our money with this initiative."
The suit does not simply challenge the constitutionality of Initiative 960 - normally a matter that courts would wait to rule on until after passage - but contends that the measure exceeds the scope of the initiative process altogether, which is a distinctly separate issue.

The state Supreme Court noted in Coppernoll v. Reed that a reviewing court may enjoin such a measure prior to an election. An initiative or referendum is outside the scope of the process, for example, if it attempts to amend or circumvent the Constitution, as the Court established in the 2000 case Amalgamated Transit Union Local 587 v. State.

Initiative 960 appears to be in conflict with two sections of the Constitution. First, Article II, Section 1(b) states:
(b) Referendum. The second power reserved by the people is the referendum, and it may be ordered on any act, bill, law, or any part thereof passed by the legislature, except such laws as may be necessary for the immediate preservation of the public peace, health or safety, support of the state government and its existing public institutions, either by petition signed by the required percentage of the legal voters, or by the legislature as other bills are enacted
There is no provision in this section for the system of non-binding referenda that I-960 attempts to set up. Additionally, acts raising revenue for the State are exempted as emphasized above.

Second, Article II, Section 22 clearly states that bills require a vote of the majority to become law - as opposed to approval by a minority.
SECTION 22. PASSAGE OF BILLS. No bill shall become a law unless on its final passage the vote be taken by yeas and nays, the names of the members voting for and against the same be entered on the journal of each house, and a majority of the members elected to each house be recorded thereon as voting in its favor.
Finally, Article XXIII concerns amendments to the Constitution:
SECTION 1 HOW MADE. Any amendment or amendments to this Constitution may be proposed in either branch of the legislature; and if the same shall be agreed to by two-thirds of the members elected to each of the two houses, such proposed amendment or amendments shall be entered on their journals, with the ayes and noes thereon, and be submitted to the qualified electors of the state for their approval, at the next general election; and if the people approve and ratify such amendment or amendments, by a majority of the electors voting thereon, the same shall become part of this Constitution, and proclamation thereof shall be made by the governor: Provided, That if more than one amendment be submitted, they shall be submitted in such a manner that the people may vote for or against such amendments separately [...]
The remaining sections of Article XXIII describe the process for setting up conventions to amend the Constitution.

Amendments require supermajority approval in the Legislature - the people's representatives (this is to protect minority rights, because the Constitution is so sacred) - and majority approval by the people.

It is plainly evident from Article XXIII that the Constitution cannot simply be amended by statute - whether that be through a bill or an initiative. And the Supreme Court has made clear that any ballot measure that purports to amend the Constitution is outside the scope of the initiative process.

The matter is now before the Superior Court, which we hope will grant Futurewise and SEIU 775 the injunctive and declaratory relief they seek.

POSTSCRIPT: David has a great perspective on this at HorsesAss.

Clark growth plan moving forward

The Oregonian reports that the process to scuttle the 2004 Clark County growth plan is nearing fruition:
Clark County is nearing, ever so carefully, adoption of a new 20-year Comprehensive Growth Management Plan.

The latest plan, under construction for about three years, will be reviewed at two public open houses next week and in a public hearing June 5-6 before the Board of Clark County Commissioners and the county planning commission.

The county is complying with the state Growth Management Act and is preparing for a nearly 50 percent population growth over the next two decades: from 391,500 in 2005 to a projected 584,300 in 2024.
Well, they're complying with the letter of GMA anyhow.

What I don't understand is why anyone still calls it a "20 year growth plan," when it's so obviously a "three year growth plan" and one possible outcome of the current process is that it becomes a "one year growth plan." The process is pretty simple for developers: buy some land just outside the UGB, then claim the existing growth plan is "unrealistic" and support politicians who will share that view. Rinse, repeat.

Meanwhile, schoolkids and ordinary folks who just want to get home from work to see those schoolkids are left holding the bag with lesser services and higher taxes. At which point the Republicans come in and claim it's all the Democrats' fault. Brilliant.

It couldn't have been designed this way, but it's the perfect symbiotic relationship between BIAW and the GOP.

Anyone who dares to point out the massive deficits in transportation needs or all the little kiddies spending their school careers in trailers is an "extremist," and there's always a way around GMA anyhow by lowering traffic concurrency standards, which has happened repeatedly over the years in both Vancouver and Clark County. And as soon as a moratorium is lifted some kind outfit like Wal-Mart swoops in and uses up the capacity again.

It's actually all quite hilarious in a way, except when you're sitting at the stoplights in Salmon Creek, at which point it just seems stupid.

And remember, light rail is evil, because it's "social engineering," as opposed to blowing out the UGB's, which is just good business sense, even if it creates massive amounts of new congestion and all the attendant ills that come with it.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Four Horsemen of the Neocons

Recently I posted on these integrity-challenged gentlemen, and I thought an update might be in order:

They're still hanging on: Gonzales, Wolfowitz, Renzi, and Doolittle.

Gonzales, by three or four amnesiac episodes; Wolfowitz by a spit-soaked comb; and Renzi and Doolittle by dint of comparative obscurity.

Last week, Alberto Gonzales smarmed himself through more testimony as Congresswoman Maxine Waters and others verbally whacked the bejeezus out of him and left his threadbare credibility swinging from the mast of the sinking Justice Department.

I can't imagine this ending well for him or the Justice Department, but that doesn't seem to bother him, the President, Tony Snow, or anybody in the administration. Seemed to irritate this Comey fella, though. Huh. But Gonzales remains steadfast in his ability to avoid the truth and the President has his full support.

Same with Paul Wolfowitz, who, as of this afternoon, was said to be negotiating with officials at the World Bank the terms of his resignation in such a way that both parties can save face. In other words, he won't go willingly, so the Bank is offering to word his ouster in such a way that spreads blame to both sides. Whatever works.

For Renzi and Doolittle, there have been no real changes. I vaguely recall something about some indignance over the charges and a vow to fight from both of them. Time will tell there, too.

Strangely enough, Newsday.com ran a piece this afternoon insinuating that Wolfowitz and Gonzales were a sign that politics might be turning sour in the USA. Gee, ya think?

But we can hope that if Wolfowitz is gone by daybreak tomorrow or shortly thereafter, maybe the other three will follow suit, in a fit of conscience. Maybe. Stranger things have happened. But it can't happen fast enough.

Countdown runs "DC Idol" contest

Countdown is running a contest called "D.C. Idol," featuring video clips of famous political figures um, jamming out and such. The nominees, strangely, don't seem to include Tony Snow on jazz flute (let's repeat that for our conservative friends -- Tony Snow plays the jazz flute, and, we hasten to add, Democratic Senator James Webb packs heat. So there.) But really, can anyone top John Ashcroft and "Let the Eagle Soar?" You make the call.

Romney abandons his religion

So sad when a member of a persecuted minority religion renounces his faith. From Huffington Post:
Then it was Mitt Romney's turn. This is his exact quote:

"You said they're at Guantanamo? I'm glad they're at Guantanamo. I don't want them on our soil. I want them at Guantanamo where they don't get the access to lawyers that they'd get when they're on our soil. I don't want them in our prisons, I want them there. Some people say that we should close Guantanamo, my view is: We outta double Guantanamo."

The audience burst into thunderous applause.

---snip---

In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, there is something called the Articles of Faith. It's sort of like a Mormon version of the Ten Commandments. The 12th article discusses the need to obey, honor and sustain the law (the Constitution). Advocating the denial of basic constitutional rights (which Americans deeply believe are unalienable and God-given) is in direct contradiction to this article. The 13th article also calls for members to be benevolent, virtuous and good to all men (emphasis added).

I fail to see where torture (whoops, sorry, we mean "enhanced interrogation techniques") fits into benevolence, virtuosity or being good to anyone.

In The Book Of Mormon, which is another book of scripture used by Mormons, it is claimed that Christ came to America following the crucifixion and subsequent resurrection and preached to the people here. According to the Book of Mormon, Jesus is said to have taught the following:

"And behold it is written also, that thou shalt love thy neighbor and hate thy enemy, but I say unto you, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them who despitefully use you and persecute you.

That you may be the children of your Father who is in heaven."

And then in an alleged revelation to Joseph Smith, Christ said:

"And that law of the land which is constitutional, supporting that principle of freedom in maintaining rights and privileges, belongs to all mankind, and is justifiable before me."
Hey, this Mormon thing may not be as loopy as some people claim. Well, you know, if people actually follow all of it, which is not a fault limited to Mormons.

Double Gitmo. Nice. Where should we put it? A desert wilderness, perhaps?

U.S. House to consider fair elections bill

The Electronic Frontier Foundation has an important action alert today:
A bipartisan bill requiring paper trails for electronic voting machines just cleared a major hurdle and could be taken up by the House of Representatives next week. Defend your right to vote and support H.R. 811, the Voter Confidence and Increased Accessibility Act of 2007.

E-voting machines have wreaked havoc and undermined confidence in our election system. Despite demonstrated technical failures - including the loss of thousands of votes - nearly half of all states still do not require a voter verified paper ballot. Most of the voting machines in operation today haven't been sufficiently reviewed for security, and poll workers frequently do not receive adequate training to deal with machine problems.
H.R. 811 isn't just about producing voter verified paper ballots. It also ensures random audits and availability of voting machine computer code for review by experts and litigants, besides many other critical reforms.

H.R. 811 has successfully made it out of committee with friendly amendments that have strengthened its effectiveness. NPI wholeheartedly supports this bill and urges Pacific Northwest lawmakers from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho to vote in favor.

This is an extremely important bill that has been in the making for years. Your help is needed to ensure victory. If fair and transparent elections are important to you, take action now!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

More old white guy liberal media bias

If you look to the Sunday morning TV talkers to get a pulse of the nation's news, know that your view is skewed. Yeah, it's that old white guy liberal slant.

Media Matters, once again, has come out with a study that should shock people for its obviousness: On Sunday morning TV talk shows that reportedly give you straight news, you're getting one phenomenally biased point of view. And that view is overwhelmingly white and male.

It's something you could probably watch a few times and know anecdotally, but the numbers are staggering. Face the Nation, the worst performer of the bunch, checks in with 90% of their guests being white, and of those, 80% are male. Fox News Sunday has some interesting stats, too, regarding race.

When interviewing black guests for example (which they do 16% of the time — higher than anybody else; read on), they tend to use their own back yard quite a bit. Over the course of the two year study, Fox News Sunday interviewed 126 black guests, 99 of which were Juan Williams. The other two were Condoleeza Rice and Colin Powell. If this weren't tragic, it would be hysterically funny.

And as bad as African Americans fared in this study, Hispanics and Asian Americans did even worse, representing about 1% of the guests on these shows. Women were outnumbered 4 to 1.

In short, even on weekends, the message is still conservative, it's still being controlled by rich white men, and the concept of a "liberal media" - let alone a liberal media bias—is an abject myth. Year after year, study after study proves this, but you will hear the phrases and key words spewing like fresh effluent from O'Reilly and Limbaugh: The liberal media.

Live in Federal Way or Snoqualmie Valley? Don't forget to vote today!

Special elections are being held in two school districts today:
Both the Federal Way and Snoqualmie Valley school districts need a 60 percent "yes" vote and minimum turnout to pass construction bonds.

Election officials predict a 30 percent turnout in the Federal Way School District and a 42 percent turnout in the Snoqualmie Valley School District based on historical trends.

"Early reports from the polls this morning indicate all polls opened on time and voters are trickling in to make their voices heard on these local school measures," said Sherril Huff, director designee for King County Records, Elections and Licensing Services Division. "By tonight we will have counted more than 16,000 mail ballots which represents all ballots received through yesterday’s mail."
If you live in either school district, be sure to mail in your ballot today or go to the polls to cast your vote before 8 PM this evening.

Comey's shocking testimony

It's what we've come to expect from this administration, but hearing this account from a former high ranking official in the Bush administration is startling:
In testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee this morning, former Deputy Attorney General James Comey detailed the desperate late night efforts by then-White House counsel Alberto Gonzales and White House chief of staff Andrew Card to get the Justice Department to approve a secret program -- the warrantless wiretapping program.

According to Comey's testimony this morning, only when faced with resignations by a number of Justice Department officials including Comey, his chief of staff, Ashcroft's chief of staff, Ashcroft himself and possibly Robert Mueller, the director of the FBI, did the White House agree to make changes to the program that would satisfy the requirements of the Justice Department to sign off on it (Comey refused to name the program, but it's apparent from the context and prior reports that this was the warrantless wiretapping program).
"I Don't Recall" Gonzales is undoubtedly one of the worst goons in the Bush cabal. He has no respect for American democracy and no respect for the rule of law. No wonder Bush and Rove have such confidence in him. They know they can expect blind fealty every time.

ThinkProgress has a transcript of Comey's testimony.

Jerry Falwell dead at 73

We don't wish death upon anybody - but we're not going to miss him:
Falwell was found without a pulse in his office at Liberty University and pronounced dead at a hospital an hour later. Dr. Carl Moore, Falwell's physician, said he had a heart condition and presumably died of a heart rhythm abnormality.
As Atrios says, "Obviously sympathies to those who cared for him...One hopes he finds that his God is a more forgiving being than he believed."

Bob Johnson has posted a fitting diary over at Daily Kos entitled "Falwell blames 'pagans, abortionists, gays, feminists, lesbians' for death" in honor of the late Reverend. Meanwhile, Senator John McCain's campaign has released a short statement: "I join the students, faculty, and staff of Liberty University and Americans of all faiths in mourning the loss of Reverend Jerry Falwell...a man of distinguished accomplishment who devoted his life to serving his faith and country."

How moving.

POSTSCRIPT: Extremist bigot Fred Phelps is vowing to crash Falwell's funeral:
WBC ["Westboro Baptist Church"] will preach at the memorial service of the corpulent false prophet Jerry Falwell, who spent his entire life prophesying lies and false doctrines like "God loves everyone".

There is little doubt that Falwell split Hell wide open the instant he died. The evidence is compelling, overwhelming, and irrefragable [sic].
Hard to top that for outright hate and meanness.

Black voter equals illegal voter

That's what Fox News thinks. This is not the first time that Fox News or conservatives have used FUD to cast a shadow on Black and minority voters.

This is all part of the right wing media's campaign to blow the "voter fraud problem" completely out of proportion. They already want you to think all non-Republicans are voting illegally, and thinking that black voters are voting illegally too is icing on the cupcake.

That media reform really can't come fast enough.

NPI releases fourteenth podcast

This morning, we're pleased to announce the release of our our fourteenth podcast.

Critics of the nearly finalized Roads & Transit ballot measure have recently made a number of misleading claims about the package, its projected effectiveness, and the wisdom of building its key components. This episode demonstrates why this twenty year plan for improving transportation in Puget Sound is a wise and sensible investment for our region.

If you have comments or suggestions for the podcast, or ideas for future episodes, send us a note.

If you want to subscribe to our Media RSS feed to be notified immediately when new podcasts are released, follow this link.

Members of NPI - Northwest Progressive Institute - Northwest Progressive Institute

If you are an iTunes user and want to subscribe to our podcast in iTunes, click the button above to do so directly.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Gazing

Digby loves her navel:
Once again the journalistic elite are up in arms by the fact that they are getting criticism from the pseudonymous polloi. I'm sympathetic. It's quite annoying to have rude critics, as any blogger will tell you. Yes, we get them too, just like the big boys.

We get them in the form of rheumy upper class contempt from the likes of multi-millionaire Brian Williams dismissing us as "some guy in an efficiency apartment" and we get them from loyal readers who dislike something we've written and we get them from our political enemies who will sometimes sic their most hate-filled neanderthals on our blogs or email addresses for one thing or another.

It's not as if we don't know what it's like to be dumped on by commenters. It's so common that years before the dead tree visionaries came up with the idea of moderated comment sections, many bloggers with high traffic were using them.
Indeed. Not quite sure why 35 years or so of organized, well funded attacks on them didn't bother them so much, but a bunch of low and unpaid bloggers really upset them sometimes. Some things are a mystery.

And back to robo-calls

Josh Marshall today had a post about robo-call hijinks that happened in Camden, N.J. earlier this month regarding a municipal election.

Now the incident is being described as possible voter suppression.

Sooner or later progressives will have to make a concerted push to get the infernal robo-calls banned. Voters hate them, and there's no constitutional right to come in my house and tape a poster to my wall, so I don't see why there would be a constitutional right to call people using robots. It's my phone service, not theirs.

Sure, some candidates and political consultants love them because they're cheap. So what? There is too much monkey business that happens with them, so there's a major transparency issue as well.

Obviously some consultants, having no scruples, figured out you can damage your opponent by making people think they are calling them during the wee hours of the morning, for example. Or in the Camden case, threatening people for no good reason. Nice.

So far from being a tool to promote voter participation, robo-calls have been used to harass voters. There's no excuse for it.

DoD to soldiers: "No more MySpace "

The Internets have gotten too scary for the Department of Defense. They don't want soldiers accessing MySpace, YouTube, and other popular web destinations, in order to "protect information and reduce drag on the department's networks."

"Protect information" can mean a couple of things:

  1. Protect information on military computers from hackers and Internet secruity risks.
  2. Protect soldiers from sites that offer dissenting viewpoints to current policies
A simple search on YouTube returns 165,000+ videos about Iraq. Looking at the first page of results, at least 9 of the 20 are videos that are not in support of the U.S. Iraq occupation.

Sounds like #2 is about as much of a threat to occupation supporters as #1. I guess the answer to that is "protecting" soldiers from information instead of doing something that makes sense.

No txt msgs while driving

An update on the messaging and driving ban: On Friday, Governor Gregoire signed the country's first law prohibiting sending text messages while driving. Now it's officially illegal to do something that was stupid anyway. Not sure how exactly they'll enforce this though...

Jonah Goldberg is in my newspaper

With apologies to Atrios for an Eschaton style title, why is Jonah Goldberg in my newspaper this morning? And why is it almost a week late? Projecting your own fears and foibles onto the netroots is so early May. Hey, Oregonian, check out how Goldberg closes:
Netrooters want it both ways. The GOP is evil and intellectually bankrupt because it doesn't care about anything but winning. But it would be the greatest thing in the world if Democrats could be just like Republicans!

That doesn't sound like a winning strategy to me.
First off, the GOP is evil and intellectually bankrupt because it embraced an ideology that is evil and intellectually bankrupt, an inconvenient truth that Goldberg tries to slide past earlier in his column by claiming it was all "Great Thinking" and look how those silly libruls think it was all PR, as if we are incapable of understanding the relationship between the two.

Conservatism went off the rails because its ideology went off the rails on all fronts--economic policy, international relations, environmental policy and domestic social policy were all captured by the most extreme elements of the GOP. What the PR did was claim, with some success thanks to a press that was phoning things in, that these extreme conservative policies were actually moderate policies that are supported by a majority of Americans. Turns out, eh, not so much, although we seem to continually battle the media, trying to convince them that it's no longer 1994 and Newt Gingrich is finished, at least until he pops up on MTP again.

We still get the press warning oh-so-sincerely that Democrats better watch out and not "overreach," as if goals like providing health care, basic consumer protections and a non-insane foreign policy are the same as dropping acid in the Haight in '67. Peace, love and help for my sciatica, as it were.

It's actually becoming rather amusing to watch morans (sic) like Goldberg continue to fruitlessly label the netroots as this or that thing, when anyone who has closely observed it knows it is vibrant and alive with a multitude of competing ideas. Here's an experiment Goldberg should find easy: go post something stupid on Daily Kos and watch how quickly it is logically torn to pieces, probably with links and statistics.

Conservatives always loved to talk about "the marketplace of ideas," and now that there actually is one in the netroots, they are finding that conservative ideas don't always hold up so well. Drowning the government in the bathtub didn't work out so well for New Orleans, and a Reagan-Rambo foreign policy has led to disaster abroad. And so on.

As for the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy, well, that's another area the netroots has proved effective against. Conservatives pay for their opinions to be manufactured according to the specifications of industry groups and ideological groups bent on making sure their agendas stay front and center.

That's not to say we haven't seen groups started to fight back, like Moveon, but clearly the netroots itself is not funded at anything close to the level conservative infrastructure is funded. (I'm looking at you, Soros.) That may change, or not, but for now the netroots is a relatively spontaneous national uprising of thought combined with action. Different people can be involved at different levels, as the internet tubes have lowered the transaction cost of participation to a very low level. You don't even need a Microbus.

In short, we're exactly like the Christianist right, minus the theocracy, homophobia and misogyny, and we're exactly like the economic royalists except we think consumers have some rights as well, and we're exactly like the Haight in '67, without the drugs, the music, the sex, the crowds and the street crime.

But what the heck, everyone, levitate the Pentagon today using your magical modem-mind powers. It'll blow your mind. Ommmmmmmmmm..........

Sunday, May 13, 2007

WaPo: Rove's office sent precinct info to DOJ

Things seem to be looking worse for Karl Rove. From The Washington Post in a story dated for tomorrow's edition:
Rove, in particular, was preoccupied with pressing Gonzales and his aides about alleged voting problems in a handful of battleground states, according to testimony and documents.

Last October, just weeks before the midterm elections, Rove's office sent a 26-page packet to Gonzales's office containing precinct-level voting data about Milwaukee. A Justice aide told congressional investigators that he quickly put the package aside, concerned that taking action would violate strict rules against investigations shortly before elections, according to statements disclosed this week.
Oh my. Wonder what we'll ever find out about the Washington state stuff? If only we had a majority in Congress -- oh, yeah right. We do.

My crystal ball has a busted potentiometer, but this could get extremely interesting for certain folks here in the state.

AP error of omission in Coulter story

The AP continues to deceive readers with what is, at the least, incredibly sloppy journalism, this time in connection with the "clearing" of Ann Coulter in regards to allegations she committed voter fraud in Florida. The wire service moved a half-truth story that doesn't even mention allegations of FBI interference as reported in Friday's Palm Beach Post:
Conservative pundit Ann Coulter has been cleared of allegations that she falsified her Palm Beach County voter's registration and voted illegally — this, after a high-level FBI agent made unsolicited phone calls to the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office to vouch for Coulter.

The caller wasn't just any G-man. According to PBSO documents, he was Supervisory Special Agent Jim Fitzgerald, of the FBI Academy's Behavioral Analysis Unit in Quantico, Va. — the closest reality gets to the serial-killer catchers on CBS' Criminal Minds.

So why would an FBI profiler who went after the Unabomber take time from his busy day to even think about a municipal election snafu?

Fitzgerald is mum. But when the bureau heard about this from Page Two, it immediately launched an internal review of the agent's involvement.

"We're looking into it," bureau spokeswoman Ann Todd said.
There's a word for deliberate errors of omission -- they're called lies. And no, I'm not willing to give the AP a break, because it happens far too often. They could have at least discussed Coulter's hair style.

Does the AP think people can't Google? Why does AP think it can simply suppress relevant facts? Gee, there's been an awful lot of talk, both in this state and nationally, about what a huge threat voter fraud is, and here you have an allegation of voter fraud, now dismissed, combined with an allegation of FBI meddling. You'd think that'd be a good story, and it was for The Palm Beach Post. The lead US wire service? Eh, not so much.

Your liberal media strikes again. Soros, I'm still waiting.

Oregonian examines ATV's

The Oregonian begins a series that examines ATV's and finds them well, unsafe, and not simply because of "rider error:"
But failure to comply with warnings doesn't always explain rollovers, The Oregonian found.

Working with the Consumer Product Safety Commission's crash data, the newspaper examined 2,732 fatal accidents involving four-wheel ATVs since 2000 and separated the cases into two groups: the large group of riders who ignored at least one safety warning, and the much smaller group of riders who didn't.

The newspaper then looked to see how often overturns were the primary event in the crash.

The unexpected result: Riders who followed the warnings overturned in about two out of five cases, a rate comparable to the frequency of rollovers in the group that ignored one or more warnings.

The comparison doesn't suggest that riders should ignore safety warnings. The analysis also showed, for example, that overturns are more likely in crashes where an adult-sized ATV is driven by a child under 16.

A lawyer for the industry's trade group, the Specialty Vehicle Institute of America, called The Oregonian's analysis "fatally flawed," saying the industry's research over the years shows the benefits of following warnings.

The persistence of rollovers among riders who followed the basic precautions shows why engineers and safety advocates have long pointed to another factor: ATV design.

ATVs have a narrow track width and high ground clearance, necessary qualities that allow them to travel on rough territory and narrow trails. The same qualities make them far less stable than cars or SUVs.
Naturally, some folks won't appreciate what The Oregonian is doing by examining injuries and fatalities in a methodical fashion. The paper even hired an engineer.

The very first post under the article mentioned "super liberal moms," Subarus and frumpy clothing in one breathless outburst, so you can kind of see where this is headed. Accusations of nanny-statism and such will surely follow. And frankly, if an adult wishes or needs to ride an ATV, I don't really have problem with it. But a companion story about the death of a young girl involved in an ATV accident is truly heartbreaking.

Thoughtful ATV owners might at least wonder if the design of their machines could be improved. It's not a "liberal" verus "conservative" question, it's a technological question, just as changing the design of steering wheels back in the 1960's was a technological question. For a few pennies per unit, the number of people being impaled was cut drastically. And we are definitely anti-impalement here.

If improvements turn out to be possible, for example by slightly widening the wheel base of ATV's in order to reduce rollovers, it could be a positive development.

Obviously, I'm not an engineer, but since it appears The Oregonian has invested a substantial amount of resources into these stories, and it's clear that in certain quarters the cry will arise that it's some kind of liberal plot by dirty hippies in their furin cars, it's worth considering whether changes need to be made in ATV's.

The irony, of course, is that ATV riders would stand to benefit, but some of them won't see that simple fact through their outrage.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Crosscut's self-inflicted wound

Carl eviscerates the editor of Crosscut over this ridiculous piece about John McKay.

Note to Crosscut: it's 2007, and as Carl points out, most of the people who have determined there was no basis for fraud indictments are Republicans.

Here we are, a year away from a new gubernatorial election, and at least one journalist is still carrying water for the conspiracy crowd.

I guess it doesn't matter how many different officials, judges and investigators came to the same basic conclusion. Sad. Although we might add we're relatively confident McKay can more than take care of himself.

Some things you wish you didn't know

You might think The General is making up the existence of something called "Christian Domestic Discipline," which in some quarters might also be known as "domestic violence," although I guess if it's truly consensual then um, adults can play.

I certainly wish The General had made it up. If you google the term "Christian Domestic Discipline" you will find results indicating it may, in fact, exist. Obviously I live a very sheltered existence, and use my spatulas for cooking. Call me old fashioned, even conservative, at least about what I do with my cooking implements.

I bet some of these same folks are worried about a Mormon running for president, because Mormonism is a "cult."

Okay then.

I'll leave it to the professionals to diagnose why people might seek to anoint a BDSM fetish with the imprimatur of religion. Do these people think about anything besides sex, ever? I wish they would stop trying to punish the entire country for their sins, it's really getting old.

But the books look, um, interesting. I wonder if there are bears? On second thought, I truly hope not.

Friday, May 11, 2007

The Republican Monica

The New York Times offers more information about the damage done at DOJ by Monica Goodling:
Ms. Goodling, now 33, arrived at the department at the start of the Bush administration after working as an opposition researcher for the Republican National Committee during the 2000 presidential campaign.

Her legal experience was limited; she had graduated in 1999 from Regent University School of Law, which was founded by Pat Robertson. Deeply religious and politically conservative, Ms. Goodling seemed to believe that part of her job was to bring people with similar values into the Justice Department, several former colleagues said.

---snip---

In one case, Ms. Goodling told a federal prosecutor in the District of Columbia that she was not signing off on an applicant who had graduated from Howard University Law School, and then worked at the Environmental Protection Agency.

“He appeared, based on his résumé, to be a liberal Democrat,” Ms. Goodling told Jeffrey A. Taylor, the acting United States attorney in Washington, according to two of the department employees who asked not to be named. “That wasn’t what she was looking for.”

Mr. Taylor ultimately found a way to go around Ms. Goodling in hiring the applicant.

She appeared to take similar concerns about political leanings into account when making decisions about promotions and special assignments for Justice Department lawyers.

Robert Nicholson, a career lawyer from the Southern District of Florida, was asked some unusual questions when he applied for a post at the Justice Department headquarters, according to two department lawyers, including Margaret M. Chiara, the former chief prosecutor Western Michigan.

“Which Supreme Court justice do you most admire and why? Which legislator do you most admire and why? And which president do you most admire and why?” Mr. Nicholson was asked by Ms. Goodling, according to Ms. Chiara and the other lawyer, who asked not to be named.

Mr. Nicholson, who did not get the job, did not dispute the account, but he declined to comment, citing the investigation of Ms. Goodling.
How many Monica Goodlings are still working for our government? How many of these arrogant, narrow-minded creatures, full of contempt for anything and anyone who dares to believe differently than them, are lurking in the halls of power, ready to sabotage our country?

It's disgusting. Hey, war on terror! War on terror! War on terror! What happens if DOJ messes up an investigation because of idiots like Monica Goodling, what then? They just say, "Oops, sorry, we didn't mean for that to happen, we were just purging DOJ of Democrats and well, Republicans who disagree with us, and we didn't like the guy in the green shirt 'cause he has snaggly teeth?" It's as if our government has been turned over to infants.

We've known for a long time now that the religious right has created its own funhouse institutions like Regent University in order to imbue their theocratic ambitions with legitimacy. They may have some very skilled professors at Regent for all I know, but that's not the point. The problem is the mission, which is to take over and dominate this country and this society on behalf of one particular subset of one religion. Goodling was quite clearly advancing that mission, and if she and others hadn't gone too far, we might never have known about her.

Goodling just happens to be the public face of the theocrats' agenda right now, thanks to some events that must have seemed unlikely to her. It was only a little more than a year ago, according to the article, that she and Kyle Sampson were given greater authority to hire and fire political appointees other than US attorneys. One problem with buying your own side's spin is that you leave yourself vulnerable, in this case believing that the GOP would hang on to Congress. Surprise, Monica! Wonder what she felt like the morning after the election?

John Dean wrote a book called "Worse Than Watergate." That may prove to be a very prophetic title. These people need to be fully held to account, and if appropriate, prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

The United State government doesn't belong to Monica Goodling, Pat Robertson, Kyle Sampson, Alberto Gonzalez or George W. Bush, it belongs to all the people. And we want it back.

Good consultant, bad general

It seems CBS has quite the double standard. You can be an on-air consultant if you say the occupation of Iraq is great, but if you tell the truth, well, buh-bye.

Your liberal media strikes again. Now send me my check, Soros, momma needs some new slippers.

Health care for everyone

This sounds good:
Rep. Brian Baird will introduce a sweeping health care reform bill in the U.S. House this year that aims to ensure universal private health insurance for every American.

The Healthy Americans Act, introduced in the Senate this year by Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., has bipartisan sponsorship in that chamber. And Baird, a Vancouver Democrat, said Rep. Jo Ann Emerson, a Missouri Republican, has agreed to co-sponsor the House version.
As Baird suggests, health care is killing businesses, large and small. And as he also points out, it won't be easy to reform, but we have to do it. Cue the insurance industry screams about "socialized medicine" in five, four, three, two...

"Harry, we're getting old now and the Defeatocrats want to socialize our medicine....Stuff it, Louise, if we hadn't lied back in '93 maybe we wouldn't a lost all our assets when I broke my hip. Now pass the oatmeal, I need to get outside and patch up the FEMA trailer."

More meta: The first draft of history

Atrios weighs in on the meta-discussion that has been bouncing around the internet tubes, mostly as a result of Jonathan Chait's behind-a-subscription-wall opus at TNR. The following is something of a long excerpt for Eschaton, which tends towards brevity, but as usual Atrios boils things down to their essence in a post called "Bloggity Blog Part The First - The Media:"
The media system has long included players other than The Journalist. Political hacks get their time on CNN and are (often anonymous) sources for print journalists. Rush Limbaugh does election night analysis for NBC and goes on Katie Couric's show to do commentary. Journalists regularly mix it up with hacks and ideologues (usually conservatives) on the various roundtable programs.

Think tank "experts" with overt agendas fill the hours on NPR. Mark Halperin gets down on his needs to beg for Hugh Hewitt's approval. Pat Buchanan is on MSNBC constantly. And, of course, Matt Drudge Rules Their World. All of these players in tandem provide legitimacy to each other, and reinforce the notion to casual consumers that they are in effect all the same beast.

All of this was true before blogs, as was the existence 35 year conservative attack on mainstream media institutions. Still, there's something about blogs which really bothers them. There are various somewhat unrelated reasons for this I think.

One is general anxiety about their profession and a tendency to blame the Internet and blogs for those anxieties. Two is that it's perhaps easier to not listen to Rush Limbaugh than it is to ignore easily digested bits of text.

Three is that their existence degrades the value of punditry and the elite station of tenured pundits, which has long been the gold watch awarded at the end of a long career doing harder journalism.

Four is that they were used to hearing and internalizing the conservative critique of what they do, and they don't know how to react to a sustained critique from the left. Five is that since text is the medium it's more obviously similar to what they do so they feel the need to distinguish themselves somehow.
I think it's really kind of hard to explain to most folks just how much the conservative claim that "the media is biased toward liberalism" has been accepted in this country, and it's been going on for a very long time.

There's a joke in the netroots community that "facts are biased" (or, as Stephen Colbert said, "reality has a well known liberal bias") which is a shorthand way of pointing out how absurd the conservative claims of bias really are.

When conservatives get caught doing highly illegal, immoral and downright stupid things and are exposed in the press, it somehow becomes "liberal media bias." In this construct the bad things that have happened over the last 40 years or so are not the product of bad policy or deceitful conduct, but rather a gigantic conspiracy by liberal reporters and editors to cast Republicans in a bad light.

It's absurd, but millions of American truly believe this nonsense, and after decades of taking a pounding, the American media seemingly had neither the institutional fortitude nor capacity to elucidate much but pro-war opinions during the lie-up to the invasion and occupation of Iraq.

Things are changing somewhat, as the sheer disaster of our Iraq policy has for the moment pulled scales from many eyes in the country, but this isn't over. Limbaugh, O'Reilly, and the rest of the hate propagandists still command a following, and as conservatism continues to decline both in influence and popularity, their rhetoric will likely become even more bitter and ridiculous.

But those two are simply the circus clowns, sent out to keep the drooling base entertained while more "serious" Beltway commenters and journalists continue discussing haircuts and why Democrats and other dirty hippies are bad and need to adopt the policy positions of their opponents.

It's all really, really weird.

But what is the netroots? Why does it exist? It's people, that's what it is, mostly unpaid, and with many different backgrounds, perspectives and areas of expertise, who have decided that democracy itself has been under threat by an allegedly conservative movement, one that is actually a radical alliance between corporate power, extreme reactionaries and theocracy.

People can argue about how many elements of fascism are actually present, but it's kind of like trying to count cockroaches once you spot ten of them. You just want something done about it, fast.

American history is filled with progressive accomplishments. The New Deal was pioneered 75 years ago. The major civil rights laws were passed over 40 years ago. The Environmental Protection Agency was launched about 35 years ago.

We are the ones trying to build upon and improve upon basic concepts of human dignity, the rule of law and stewardship of the planet. The tradition of the Democratic Party, while imperfect (especially in the initial moments of the civil rights struggle), has broadly been to advance the standard of living, economic opportunity and equality of citizenship for all people.

The history of the Republican Party for the last eighty years or so has been, for the most part, to obtain power by dividing Americans along class and, more recently, racial and sexual orientation lines, because it has been the only way they can ever obtain power. McCarthyism was, in one sense, a temper tantrum at having been denied power for two decades.

Nixonism and Watergate, too, revealed the moral degeneration at the heart of conservatism, with its deep-seated bigotry and paranoid, illegal actions. And here we are, all these years later, and the same basic elements are still what define movement conservatism.

Yet some in the media treat that movement with a deference it does not deserve and a fealty better suited for a different century (say, the 12th.)

If journalism is the first draft of history, journalists better get it right. Reporting the downright atrocious policies and behavior of conservatives is not "bias," it's what journalism is supposed to be about.

It is not, for example, the fault of journalists that certain segments of the conservative movement harbor unrepentant racists and homophobes, and it's certainly not biased to report what they do.

It's a difficult job to be a journalist, or so I've heard, and heated elections and scalding rhetoric would seem to create a pressure-filled atmosphere at times. But there are many fine journalists out there, and the work that we find most interesting are the stories that go beyond the surface, and seek to create a meaningful, accurate picture of what is happening. Easier said than done, of course, but well worth the effort.

MORE: As if to prove the point, David Neiwert catches Lou Dobbs just making stuff up about immigrants.

And Atrios has posted Bloggity Blog Part the Second - The Vacuum.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Fired U.S. Attorney John McKay calls for Alberto Gonzales' ouster

If Gonzales believes he has "weathered the storm" created by his own mismanagement of the Department of Justice, he is mistaken:
The only way to restore the public's faith in the Justice Department and boost the flagging morale of federal prosecutors nationwide is for Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to step down, John McKay, former U.S. attorney for Western Washington, said Thursday.

"The only solution I see coming is for a new attorney general who has the instant respect of the Senate Judiciary Committee," he said. "I think what people fear is another political battle and another Bushie coming in."
And just how badly have these firings been mishandled?
"The problem is that loyalty to the presidency was allowed to be the principal driver at the Justice Department," McKay said. "What I am seeing are the beginnings of a criminal investigation case."
Gonzales isn't gone yet, but he has become a big liability for the administration. At some point, Bush will probably ask him to leave, just as he did with Donald Rumsfeld, who stayed at the Pentagon despite pressure to resign. He was ultimately canned after the 2006 midterm elections.

Truly a Poison Pill

"Well, once again the big drug companies have proved that they are the most powerful and best-financed lobby in Washington [DC]."

Sounds like a snippet from Randi Rhodes, maybe? Or that ultra-Liberal Thom Hartmann. Nope. That was from Republican Senator David Vitter of Louisiana, quoted in an AP article on May 8.

He's referring to an amendment to a bill that would have allowed US consumers to buy prescription drugs from other countries, often at significantly lower costs. The amendment, in other words, effectively rendered the bill useless. Never a more poignant, vicious appropriateness for the political jargon, "poison pill amendment."

The bill, thus neutered, was defeated 49-40. And everybody took their payoffs and went home happy. Except, of course, the American healthcare consumers, who continue to be screwed by astronomical pharmaceutical costs.

And what was the rationale for amending this bill? What was wrong with trying to give the elderly, people with diabetes, MS, Parkinson's, ALS, migraines, AIDS, or cancer some sort of relief from their medical bills without even touching the complicated idiocy of the American Healthcare System in general?

What's the objection to trying to make the medication a little cheaper for people who can barely afford it anyway--even with their meager insurance coverage? What did the "amendment" accomplish?

Why, safety, of course. Yes, Senator Mike Enzi (R) Wyoming) suddenly became concerned for the general welfare of every American and insisted that every drug entering the country from these unsavory, untrustable countries undergo a rigorous safety certification inspection. And if they don't do as we wish, we, as the arbiter of safety and security for the industrialized world, should not do business with them. Miraculously, the amendment was added to the bill, thus killing it.

In theory, a safety inspection on pharmaceuticals is a good thing. That's why, I presume, we here in the US have the FDA. We don't want everybody in a basement with a pill press and chalk to be called a pharmacy. Nor should we blindly accept boxes of pills and syrups from Jimbo's Drug Hut in Burnaby, delivered via retired school bus.

But here's where Enzi's plea for safety becomes absurd. The countries in question are not Third World hellholes with questionable drug policies, run by drug lords and thugs. We are talking specifically about importing drugs from Japan, Canada, Europe, New Zealand, and Australia.

I know we're the best at everything, but can't we give other countries (and continents, for cryin' out loud) some credit for having schools, pharmacies, doctors, and--what the hell--governments, too?

Might these entities not have their own counterparts to the FDA and maybe regulate their own pharmaceutical industries? Crazy talk, I know, but I poked around on the Internets, and I found out that Europe has the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency; Canada boasts Health Canada; Japan checks in with their Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare; Australia has the Therapeutic Goods Administration; and New Zealand brings up the rear with New Zealand Medicines and Medical Devices Safety Authority, or MedSafe (but soon, those last two will soon merge to form the Australia New Zealand Therapeutic Products Authority, or ANZTPA).

Go to these Web sites. Do they look like they were thrown together by lesser folk than anybody than at the FDA? Do you hear any more or less scandal going on in these agencies?

It is not only insulting to every American's intelligence to be treated as if we can't see through an idiotic, yet greedy ruse like this, it's also insulting to the countries we've just dismissed as incapable of properly regulating their pharmaceutical industry (as ours goes completely nuts).

So, with Mike Enzi's help, Big Pharma wins another round, and a bunch of billionaires keep their string of victories alive. Meanwhile, the US cements its position as the most expensive country in the world in terms of healthcare, people still can't afford the medicine they need, and our status as world citizen takes another hit. Thanks, guys.

Many sites blocked by China

Over at HA, Goldy reports that his blog has been banned in China, presumably due to his outstanding work on the melamine/food safety issue.

That got me curious about such things, and I found a site called Great Firewall of China, which offers what it calls real-time testing to detect censoring of web sites by China. The group describes itself as a non-profit collection of "creatives" who wish to further the discussion about censorship.

There is a disclaimer that says, in effect, that sites could be wrongly labeled "blocked" due to ordinary technical glitches, so please note that and perhaps take the results with a grain of salt.

For fun, I tested a few sites, including the NPI blog (this page,) Slog, The Seattle Times main page and HA. Those came back as blocked.

Curiously, the P-I and Daily Kos came back as "available."

Lastly, I checked Postman on Politics, mainly out of curiousity, as logically it would be blocked, being part of the Times web site. And sure enough, the result indicate it's blocked.

Naturally, at this point we have no way of knowing how or when these sites might have been blocked, or for what reason, but I certainly wouldn't put it past the government of China. But it's certainly very fascinating, and kind of odd to think that a foreign government might have decided you are a threat to them.

If you wish, head on over to Great Firewall of China and see which of your favorite sites might be censored.

You know cons, Al

So one of the benefits of ignoring the cable news stations yesterday is that I missed out on the bogus controversy the Romney campaign cooked up over Al Sharpton, which is of course tactic-driven more than anything else. When your candidate is taking a pounding over truly bizarre comments, it's time to go to town on Rev. Al, who clearly loves the attention. Republicans love nothing more than their faux victimhood, which seems to be the main reinforcement mechanism in that party these days.

It both saddens and, at times, amuses me to listen to some of my fellow whites get all outraged about Sharpton, especially suburban whites who clearly don't understand much about New York and really don't understand anything about race relations there. I didn't really understand much about Sharpton myself until late last year, when the incredible blogger Steve Gilliard posted this:
What people need to understand is that Sharpton has both a broad base of support and a great deal of respect. If people think his views are unrepresentative, they are delusional. While I make no excuse for his antics with the Dems or his hotel bills, there is a simple reason that he can still command respect among black New Yorkers.

It's because when things get tight, he doesn't run.

He stood by the Central Park Jogger defendents long after the case was no longer news. And he was vindicated as DNA cleared them. This took ten years.

While most people see the Tawana Brawley case as an abuse of power, many black people think she was raped by the police and it was covered up. So when the badly conducted libel trial took place, Sharpton was given credit for sticking up for her. Yes, he libeled innocent men, but what black women took away from that was that he refused to toss her under the bus.

Given the history of black women in this country, it's not a small deal. So while people are still ouraged by it, more than a few black people still believe she was telling the truth. So when white people bring this up in outrage, it means nothing. The effect of whites saying that as an allegation against Sharpton makes them look racist in many eyes. It is not an argument which has any validity.

I personally thought her story was bulls*** and that the lawyers should have never thrown her on TV. I don't think they treated her very well. But politically, I think that whites think that it kills his credibility and for many blacks, she's a victim denied justice.
Now, one doesn't have to agree with Sharpton, and one doesn't have to agree with Gilliard, but most people can surely see the misguided game the conservative blogs and outlets are playing here. If they didn't have Sharpton they would have to invent him.

To his credit, Romney seemed somewhat restrained in his comments. That being said, it's not, by and large, Democrats who would refuse to vote for him because of his religion, it's the Protestant evangelical base of the GOP. So all the noise about Sharpton isn't going to amount to much in the long run, other than to reinforce already existing assumptions some whites have about Sharpton.

Who knows, maybe Glenn Beck can attract more than 90,000 viewers with Sharpton's help.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Islamofascist Dawn

For devotees of truly terrible movies, AMC is running Red Dawn, so because we know these are tough, tough times for our conservative friends, we thought they'd like a heads up. Just pretend the Russians are "Islamofascists" or Democrats and sit back and enjoy.
Set sometime in the not too distant future, Red Dawn is the story about teenagers who must defend their small Midwestern town against a WWIII communist invasion. Forgoing a nuclear attack, the Soviets and Cubans select U.S. targets and then launch a ground invasion.
Look, if Patrick Swayze doesn't fight we're all speaking Sandinista right now.

Note to US Freedom Fighters of the Not So Distant Future: stand behind the boulder when firing at the Russian/Islamofascist helicopter, then it won't blow you to bits.

Geography question: if they got to Colorado, what does that say about the men of Texas?

Also, when we are invaded by Russian Islamofascists in helicopters, all US headgear will be destroyed, so the Freedom Fighters of the Not So Distant Future (especially Charlie Sheen) will have to wear a combination of Mongolian garb and 1930's football helmets.

So conservatives, stock up on ammo and golf hats.

McKay assigns blame to Rove

John McKay minces no words. From The Seattle Times:
Two former U.S. attorneys said today they believe ongoing investigations into the dismissals last year of eight federal prosecutors could result in criminal charges against senior Justice Department officials.

John McKay, the former U.S. attorney for Western Washington, and David Iglesias, the former U.S. attorney for New Mexico, also said they believe White House political operative Karl Rove and his aides instigated the dismissals and ultimately decided who among the nation's 93 U.S. attorneys should be fired.
Um, wow.

It'll be interesting to see if McKay, Iglesias or Paul Charlton, another fired prosecutor, can top those comments at a forum this afternoon at Seattle University.

Fakery in casino opposition

The Oregonian runs a story that fleshes out some of the opposition to the proposed Cowlitz casino in Clark County, and (surprise surprise!) some folks in Oregon have teamed up with locals.
Before they voted Monday night to formally oppose a tribal casino near La Center, Vancouver City Council members were told that they were doing the bidding of the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde.

To that, most council members replied with a collective "huh?"

Although the Oregon-based tribe apparently has not dealt directly with council members, it is a significant part of an opposition group, Citizens for a Healthy Clark County. And the tribe is providing the bulk of money to buy television advertisements that have been airing in recent weeks opposing the proposed casino.
And further down:
Along with the Grand Ronde, Citizens for a Healthy Clark County includes North Clark Conservationists, No Ridgefield Casino and the Faith and Freedom Foundation.

Coalition spokeswoman Ann Rivers declined to say how much the Grand Ronde had contributed to the coalition. Taylor said she didn't know.
The web site No Clark Casino.com offers very little information, but if it's this Faith and Freedom Foundation, then it would be the one run by uber-wingnut Gary Randall, a retired co-founder of Pamplin Communications.

Pamplin owns The Portland Tribune and KPAM radio, among other outlets, in Oregon.

I can't honestly offer an explanation for much of this right now, other than to state the obvious: there are a lot of outside players. It would be easy to assume Pamplin might want to protect advertising revenue that comes from the Spirit Mountain casino operated by the Grand Ronde, but then again, the Cowlitz casino would likely have a rather large advertising budget if it is built, so I would be cautious about jumping to economic conclusions until we know more.

It's a little simpler to understand why people who live in north Clark County might not want a rather large casino plopped down nearby, and since Clark County has traditionally been home to large numbers of extremely conservative fundamentalists, property rights types and other assorted wingnuts, it makes sense some of them would turn to Gary Randall. Birds of a feather and all that.

Really, it would be shame if this becomes a partisan issue. There are people in this community who like gambling enough that they take vacations to do it, or ride buses for hours, so you can't exactly say it's against community standards. That being said, how big the casino is and where it is located is a legitimate issue for the citizens of Clark County to be concerned about.

I guess everything these days is subject to third-party campaigns with fake names, but I still think it's a shame, because I doubt that Gary Randall or the Grand Ronde really care all that much about my health.

A Little More Background: I found a Blue Oregon post from about a year ago detailing ads the Grand Ronde tribe paid for attacking Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski during the primary. Worth a read if you're interested.

White Male News Network

A recent report by Media Matters for America indicates that most of the traditional cable media outlets haven't changed much in terms of racial and gender bias, even in the wake of the Imus fiasco of the week of 4/9/07.

The study ("Locked Out: The Lack of Gender & Ethnic Diversity on Cable News Continues) charted these cable network shows: CNN's The Situation Room, Paula Zahn Now, and Larry King Live; Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, and Hannity & Colmes; MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews, Countdown with Keith Olbermann, and Scarorough Country.

The findings, published in an 11-page PDF on 5/7/07, actually break no new ground, which is what is so disquieting. Everything you would expect of corporate media is there: a white male bias, disturbed briefly only during an obvious and dramatic racial crisis.

And this is what we have come to expect of our TV news, it would seem: Father figures telling us authoritative stories. But perhaps the reason they're not connecting is that they no longer represent who we are as a country anymore. If they did, a cable news anchor desk - and its sources - would be significantly more Hispanic, female, Asian and African American than they currently are.

My favorite example in the report had to with the Hispanic population:
...Yet Hispanics made up less than 2 percent of the guests on these
programs during these three weeks. In fact, this number represents a total of
only 13 guest appearances, six of which were by Geraldo Rivera.
Statistically speaking, if you know the Hispanic population is growing by 14%, but you keep getting the same guy for the "Hispanic response" 50% of the time, that strikes me as, uh, lazy.

If any conservatives are trolling, thinking I'm protecting Keith Olbermann and MSNBC, fear not: Media Matters just reports the stuff, they don't make it up. MSNBC fared consistently worse (savor it; it may be the last thing you can savor from this blog) than the other networks in the report in terms of racial and gender bias in their reporting structure - talking heads delivering news.

In other words, where racial and gender diversity is concerned, they all suck, it's just that MSNBC sucks worse than the others. Note, however, that this is entirely separate from content. It would take remarkably little for MSNBC to improve diversity in their organization, but for a company like Fox, a paradigm shift to investigative journalism could prove to be a real challenge.

But I don't want to be too generous with the wagging finger. As viewers, consumers, participants - and I hope, civic activists - we bear some of that blame. We don't demand better. We're probably getting our news elsewhere, so why bother, right? Well, maybe. But the people who rely on TV news might not understand they're being shortchanged by someone else's homogeneous worldview.

They might not appreciate that the news they're watching is the result of a choice made in a room full of people that look more like the rich white guy on TV than those of us dashing out the door, kids in tow, coffee in hand, on the way to (we hope) work. Media Matters has shown us a subtle yet dramatic warning about diversity and our public airwaves. It's up to us to keep that dialogue alive.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

In Brief - May 8th, 2007

Here is today's quick news digest:
  • The French have elected a conservative as president, just as Britain's ousted Prime Minister is stepping off the world stage and clambering down from Bush's lap. A number of French citizens responded to Sarkozy's victory by lighting celebratory fires in people's cars.
  • Libertarian Ron Paul apparently "won" the Republican presidential debate. His twin brother, the Cryptkeeper, remains unconvinced.
  • According to newly surfaced tax records, Rudy Giuliani once donated money to Planned Parenthood. Some Republicans are thinking of urging him to abort his campaign for the presidency.
  • Six incredibly stupid terrorists videotaped themselves practicing to kill U.S. troops, went into a shop and tried to have it copied to DVD. They have been arrested. Expect the White House to attempt to spin this into an argument for the existence of their illegal domestic spying programs.
  • The administration has told 35,000 American soldiers that they will be sent to Iraq by the end of the year. The continuous deployments are severely straining the Army's resources.
If you have something to add, please leave a comment.

Contaminated AP stories on rise

It sounds like the Associated Press has a serious fraking problem. Greg Sargent explains:
Those funding provisions that the GOP is insinuating Pelosi included because they benefit her husband's real estate were actually initiated by a local agency in San Francisco, the agency says, and not by Pelosi herself. It took one phone call to nail that down -- and to show that this is a complete non-story.

But the AP went ahead and ran with this crap anyway. It was bad enough that the AP even ran some versions of the story with a headline that wasn't even supported by the story in the first place, as Media Matters noted. Now we find that the story doesn't hold up at all.
Look, this kind of thing bogs down arguments by good journalists that there's not an agenda at work. It's happened too many times, it's too transparent and it's more than "laziness." It's hackery of the worst sort, and it needs to stop.

Member papers need to get on the AP about this baloney, and they certainly need to instruct their own editors to be on the lookout for contaminated AP stories. Some keywords to look for include "haircut," "front lawn" and "square footage."

You are what you eat

Another day, another food contaminated with melamine.
During an ongoing media teleconference call, USDA/FDA officials have revealed that melamine-tainted “protein concentrate,” imported from China, contaminated fish meal manufactured in Canada. The tainted fish meal was then distributed to an unknown number of fish farms in the US and Canada.

Other revelations:

50,000 swine have been quarantined in Illinois due to suspect feed.

The tainted “wheat gluten” and “rice protein concentrate” at the center of the pet food recall, was actually misrepresented as such. Further tests have determined that it is wheat flour, adulterated with melamine.
As Goldy points out, this is stunning. We've been told it was wheat gluten and now there is a problem with wheat flour?

You may recall that one reason the FDA said, in effect, the risk from pork was low is because pork is just one food, and some of the chemical is probably excreted by the animal. It's the "dilution" argument.

So let's see, now we have pork, chicken and fish, in addition to all the protein additives and now wheat flour.

Why are we still importing any foodstuffs from China? This is beyond ridiculous. Clearly China's food safety system doesn't function effectively.

Meta, meta, meta: the rise of the netroots

Will reads Postman who reads Jonathan Chait, who is behind a firewall at TNR. But Chait's article (did I mention it's behind a firewall?) is entitled "The Left's New Machine" and subtitled "How the netroots became the most important mass movement in U.S. politics."

(Postman has the subtitle as "Inside the Most Important Movement Since the Christian Right." I'm not sure what accounts for the difference, but for the record it's not a big deal in my book. Editing happens, it's part of the process.)

Booman Tribune had a decent take on the whole thing, namely that Chait focused too much on Daily Kos.

Frankly, I'm really not into navel gazing discussions about the netroots, but here goes anyway. Chait can garner some attention by discussing what makes it tick, and you may or may not agree with his take, but one thing we most definitely are not similar to is the Christian fundamentalist Republican right.

We believe in rationality and tolerance, and they believe liquefied brains can come back to life. We don't require preachers claiming to know the will of God to tell us how to think; we think for ourselves and act out of principle, not fear nor hatred. Progressives of faith respect those of other faiths.

If there's one common thread in the netroots, it's that ordinary people have awakened to realize that if they don't take their government back from the lunatics, nobody else will do it for them.

On a range of issues (Iraq, health care, Social Security, the environment, food safety) this holds true. The netroots is more utilitarian than anything else, in my view. Discussions that implicitly involve the traditional left-right economic axis are tricky, although we all use shorthand terms at times.

My sense is that progressives want sensible, effective government regulation when it's needed to protect capitalism and consumers, and otherwise the government can stay out of say, toothpaste production. This is a rather mild, pro-reform progressive movement in historical terms.

We also believe firmly in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, and while the Second Amendment can cause differences of opinion even within our movement, the fundamental guarantees of personal liberty and a system of checks and balances are not negotiable. This is something we have in common, of course, with true conservatives.

Postman notices a distinction that Chait makes between the netroots and the "wonkosphere," which is fine. If there's one thing that is totally cool about the 'net, it's the wide availability of information, assuming you are willing to think critically and listen or read other opinions.

Policy does matter, whether you are a commuter trying to get home from work or a wounded veteran trying to obtain benefits. The netroots functions best when it supports candidates who broadly support sound policy, and there can be a great deal of latitude given candidates. Good ideas are good ideas.

There are some other simple dictums that seem to get a lot of attention, like you can't be a Democrat if you're actually a Republican. This isn't that complicated. Let's call it the Lieberman-Sheldon principle.

If nearly every position you adopt and nearly every public pronouncement you make sides with the GOP, you're a Republican.

That's not an ideological act on our part, it's a recognition of practical political realities. The netroots is not responsible for the positions taken by Joe Lieberman or Tim Sheldon. Joe Lieberman and Tim Sheldon are responsible for their positions.

Only a fool would support their political opposition. It takes a true moron to support wolves in sheep's clothing like Lieberman and Sheldon. Basic honesty would compel them to switch to the GOP, but (irony alert!) conservatives are often lacking in both personal and political honesty. Funny how that works out.

Consider, in contrast, the overwhelming netroots support for people like Jim Webb, a former Reagan official and heat-packing Virginian.

He's been welcomed into the party with open arms and broad enthusiasm. We're willing to have a big tent, but you have to be in the tent. Far from being closed, the netroots is for an open Democratic party - where the welcome mat is put out for anyone who broadly shares its goals.

It's also been discussed many times elsewhere, so this is not a new thought, but it's worth repeating that the netroots has functioned as a counter-weight to the noise machine controlled by the conservative movement and the GOP, a noise machine that has become particularly adept at inserting right-wing frames into the traditional media.

One of the community's chief complaints to this day is how traditional media outlets still accept uncritically right wing canards. I mean, look at Iraq. The short history is best described as follows:
evil dictator, mushroom smoking guns, WMD's, flower petals, pencils and schools, Pottery Barn flypaper, six months, six months, six months, six months, six months, six months, six months six months, cut 'n run, deafeatocrats, keep us safe, follow us here
There's a strange, strange tendency in this country to keep selling right wing talking points, no matter how many times they have been wrong and no matter how many people suffer. "Objective" is such a loaded word these days that's it's difficult to use, but by any reasonably objective measure, the conservative movement is an utter failure, so it's difficult at times to understand the respect still afforded it in certain journalistic quarters.

It's sometimes as if New Orleans, Iraq, intelligence breakdowns, the partisan smears, the corruption and outright hypocrisy never happened. Is Chait a conservative? I don't know, and frankly I don't really care. If I knew anyone who actually reads TNR I might care, but I don't and haven't since about 1989.

There's also an often hilarious tendency for conservatives to project how they view things onto progressives. In other words, if they would seize and hold power at any cost and violate any principles to do so, such as is readily apparent in the DOJ scandal, then we must be just like them.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Vancouver opposes Cowlitz casino

Things heated up a little more regarding a proposed Cowlitz tribe project that would include a casino in Clark County:
The Vancouver City Council approved a resolution Monday night opposing a proposed tribal casino near La Center, Wash.

The council, following nearly two hours of public testimony and nearly an hour of its own public deliberation, voted 7-0 for the resolution.

In addition to formally stating its opposition to the project located 10 miles north of the city, the resolution says the city would sue if the U.S. Department of the Interior approves the casino project in its present form.
There's plenty to consider, and frankly I've rather doggedly not made up my mind about the issue.

Gambling has always seemed to me a very lousy way to develop an area. While "social problems" can be overstated, they are nonetheless real, and problem gambling does cause heartache for families. While many folks can enjoy casinos for entertainment, it's not the kind of people who donate money to Mitt Romney that are going to be closing the place down every night.

I'm troubled a bit, however, that Vancouver would come out quite so strongly against a project that is not in nor adjacent to their city (the site is about 16 miles north of the Columbia River, near La Center.) Tribal members rightly offered some strong objections to the idea that the Vancouver City Council could tell the Cowlitz government how to care for tribal members or where its historic homeland lies. On the latter point, as one council member noted, federal officials will have to sort it out.

Vancouver, and other jurisdictions in the area, like other cities and school districts, do have legitimate concerns about traffic, housing and education. By some accounts the casino would be very large -- as big as the third or fourth casino in Las Vegas -- and that would be a significant addition to Clark County.

I'm also a bit troubled by the rather ham-handed statements made by some labor representatives at the meeting, which was aired on the local government access cable station. Yes, jobs are good, but showing up and repeating that a hundred times, with a few clear implications that political retaliation might be in the offing, is crass and counter-productive. The comments of city council members after the public comment period made that pretty clear. High paying union jobs are something we should all support, but not at the expense of all other considerations.

So far this controversial proposal has not erupted into a full-blown partisan issue, although it has that potential. Casino proponents have in the past donated heavily (both directly and indirectly) to some Democrats, and the unions have made it clear they support the project, while one of the most forceful speakers against the casino last night is a well known local GOP activist. Combined with the opposition to the casino from The Columbian and other downtown real-estate interests, it's pretty clear this could become even hotter.

One city council member, Jeanne Harris, held out hope that since the process is still on-going, with federal reviews and approval still in the works, that the proposal could be still be shaped so that it fits both the needs of the Cowlitz and the community. It became a running joke during the city council meeting yesterday, as someone made a quip, but everyone likes a good buffet, so if there's a way to have some entertainment and food, it might not be all bad.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Romney in outer space

Anna Marie "Wonkette" Cox excerpts a Washington Post article where Mitt Romney makes this rather startling claim:
"It seems that Europe leads Americans in this way of thinking," Romney told the crowd of more than 5,000. "In France, for instance, I'm told that marriage is now frequently contracted in seven-year terms where either party may move on when their term is up. How shallow and how different from the Europe of the past."
Cox writes she talked to an actual French person, who is mystified. Cox seems mystified how it got into The Washington Post in the first place.

Then Cox gives the hilarious update:
*UPDATE: (Orson Scott) Card's book with the seven-year marriage contracts? It's called "The Memory of Earth," and it is a fictionalization of the Book of Mormon set in outer space. Of course, Romney could believe the French are aliens. And, yes, Romney laid down this thunderous helping of nuttitude at Regent's University, Monica Goodling's alma mater.
Oh my. You don't suppose all those Romney donors in Clark County will hear about this, do you? It would be a shame if all that money turned out to be wasted on someone who is, well, not going very far. (And yes, Romney is a Mormon, and no, that's not why we would oppose him. We would oppose him because he may be slightly crazy and he's definitely a Republican. So hard to tell any more which is which.)

In related French news, we will no longer refer to deep fried sliced potatoes on this blog, due to the election of Nicolas Sarkozy. They will instead be called Brussels sprouts, unless Belgium does something that makes us mad.

Jeers right back at The Columbian

A shocking development: the editors of The Columbian put a cheap hit on the party on Saturday:
Jeers: To Democrats of Washington state, or at least to their supposed party leaders who voted last week to use the caucus system instead of the presidential primary to determine the state's national convention delegates. We agree with columnist Peter Callaghan of The News Tribune (Tacoma), who wrote that the state Democratic Central Committee "put its own interests ahead of the public interest. They acted to make sure only insiders get to help pick the party's nominee for president."
What a complete crock, and double jeers back at The Columbian for this bit of fakery. The Columbian knows darn well we don't have party registration in this state, which is the heart of the issue, and funny thing - the national party, as well as Democrats here in the Evergreen State, don't want Republicans helping pick our nominee.

This same game has been going on for as long as I have lived in the state: the GOP tries to put a black eye on us by apportioning some delegates using the primary (or offering to if we will, which they know we can't without losing delegates.) Then intellectually dishonest journalists get on their soapboxes and talk about caucuses as if they are some mysterious, exotic creation instead of what they are: meetings.

It's a cheap stunt, and sadly par for the course from the editors of The Columbian, who should know better because I saw one of their editorial board members working at a Democratic caucus in 2004. He apparently managed to find it okay.

Caucuses are not just for party insiders or dedicated activists. Here are the simple requirements for participating in a caucus in Washington:
  1. Be a registered voter in the state.
  2. Show up once every four years.
And obviously, by participating in a caucus you publicly acknowledge a partisan affiliation - but there's no registration beforehand.

Of course, there could be a reason intellectually dishonest journalists like to get on their soapboxes about the primary: explaining the facts is boring and doesn't allow them a cheap hit on the Democratic Party. Hey, if a primary system could ever be worked out that would satisfy national party rules, I'm all for it. But seeing as that hasn't happened in nearly 20 years, maybe it would be better to stop the finger pointing and explain to people how easy it is to attend a caucus.

POSTSCRIPT from Andrew: I am getting very tired of hearing the old stereotype about smoke filled back rooms where party bosses get together to decide the nomination. That's not what today's caucuses are like. A caucus is indeed a meeting - an exercise in democracy. It's about grassroots interaction and discussion. Most are held at schools, churches, and other public buildings.

It's not a gathering of an exclusive club. If you consider yourself a Democrat, and you want to participate, the party wants you at the Democratic caucus. Even if you're not a party regular and even if you've never been before.

Rebuilding in Kansas would be foolish

I say orders be issued to shoot to kill.
GREENSBURG, Kan.-- Four soldiers and a reserve police officer were arrested Sunday on suspicion of looting cigarettes and alcohol from a store in this tornado-ravaged town, state officials said.

The soldiers from Fort Riley Army base and reserve police officer had come to assist on their own and were not part of any official detachment, said Maj. Gen. Tod Bunting, the state's adjutant general.

"These were people who weren't supposed to be there," Bunting said.

Sharon Watson, a spokeswoman for the adjutant general's office, said the five were arrested at a Dillon's supermarket and were being held at the Pratt County Jail without bond. They have not yet been charged.
Well, you know how those people are. Bunch of dang criminals, deserve what they get. Good thing they didn't try to take bottled water, they probably would have been shot.

I was in Kansas once and a Kansan looked at me kind of funny. I would have beat him up but we had to be somewhere. Plus I'd had about ten 3.2 beers, so I was about as buzzed as having say, one real beer. Then this one chick, she came up to us (um, never mind.)

Kansans chose to live in a tornado zone and live off government handouts agriculture subsidies, so why should I pay to rebuild their town? It's not like it has Mardi Gras or something.

I had the common sense and fiscal responsibility to get the heck out of Kansas just as early in life as I could manage. I'm now sitting safely in the shadow of a volcano, here at the point where the North American plate meets the Pacific plate.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Presidential Debate Video Footage Should Be Part of the Public Domain

Today, it is illegal to show clips of presidential debates on YouTube or online destinations. That's because television networks have exclusive rights to the video - which is completely ridiculous. Since candidates for president are seeking a public office, why is footage of major campaign activities such as debates not be freely available as part of the public domain?

I believe this is a reasonable expectation, which is why I support this letter to the Democratic and Republican National Committees urging them to put the debates into the public domain.

Politics and technology collide all the time because they both have one thing in common: they thrive on information.

Access to information is of the utmost importance to all of us - technologists, political activists, but especially voters. It is unacceptable that footage of debates is being locked in the dungeon of corporate media.

To make your voice heard, call the Democratic National Committee (202-863-8000) and Republican National Committee (202-863-8500) to express support for this proposal. We also encourage you to ask local candidates about their position on this issue, and broader issues about copyright law and media ownership.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Let me tell you how it will be

Strange little item from Strange Bedfellows:
Fifty-eight percent of Washington voters say taxes are somewhat or very high. That's bad news for Democrats who control the Legislature.

The good news for Dems? The percentage of people who think the tax man's hand is too heavy has been going steadily down in recent years, according to the Elway Poll. Seventy-one percent of respondents said state taxes were too high '03. In '05 that number was 64 percent.
So it's basically good news, good news for Democrats. Or something. Without knowing what the poll was about or whether people were asked about the potential benefits they might receive from say, a college education, it's really hard to judge.

Plus it's an Elway poll. Not sure where the actual cross-tabs might be, because I'm not finding much on the Elway site, but typically they poll over 12 people with a margin of error of 95%.

(People, I kid. It's what I do. John Elway is a great pollster, and he did The Drive against the Browns. Enjoy the lighter side - I wouldn't want to be forced to make jokes about poisoning Supreme Court justices.)

First there was hail

Even the birds know something is happening:
It is mysteriously quiet in the hours before the other “sensible heel” drops in the case of the D.C. madam. ABC News, which was handed her phone records, is airing a report tonight on 20/20.

Since the last time we checked in, Deborah Jeane Palfrey was promising to shock Washington by exposing public figures that called her escort service and then call them to testify in her prostitution trial.

Prominent names that have emerged so far included Deputy Secretary of State Randall Tobias, who resigned last Friday, and Harlan Ullman, a military analyst who designed the “shock and awe” strategy.

A lawyer for Mr. Ullman said that he had no problems testifying, ABC’s investigative blog reported this afternoon in one of its many small updates on the story this week.
I'm some 3,000 miles away, but the sky is green and I saw a black SUV flying through the air. Then it set a piano down right here in the field, good as new. And the thing, whatever it is, sounds like a locomotive.

Better get under the work bench and start praying. Well, you better if you're the prominent head of a conservative Washington. D.C. think tank, or so it seems to say. Feel that little breeze just now? Ooh, it sends chills.

Namus Interruptus Update-- Names Not Worth Mentioning, ABC Decides in Escort Case:
“Our decision at the end was not to name any names,” said Brian Ross, the news correspondent who presented the segment. Mr. Ross said that the network went with a “conservative approach,” and that “based on our reporting it turned out not to be as newsworthy as we thought in terms of the names.”
So much for my happy ending. Can I at least have a burrito?

Your liberal media strikes again

Glenn Greenwald traces out the GOP connections of Politico.com, which was one of the co-sponsors of the Reagan-fest last night in Simi Valley.
In addition to his long-time Reagan connections, Politico CEO Frederick Ryan was also (along with Jonathan Bush and Joseph Allbritton) himself a Board Member of Riggs Bank (h/t EJ). And Ryan, in addition to serving as Politico CEO, is also President of Allbritton Communications (a subsidiary of Allbritton Group, Inc., which in turn is a subsidiary of "Perpetual Corporation").
So now it's entirely understandable why the outfit got off to such an "inauspicious" start, as Greenwald puts it. Perhaps the Edwards error was eh, not so much a mistake as wishful thinking? Oopsy-daisy!

Greenwald is relatively careful to give them the benefit of the doubt in some of his post. Which, you know, is fair. It is certainly a theoretical possibility that an Allbritton outfit will practice above-board, fair journalism. The same could be true at News Corp., truth be told. All Murdoch would have to do is go "stop being a bunch of Republican propagandists or you're fired" and voila, problem solved!

The liberal media is on such a roll, if it gets any more liberal we'll have to go get liberal vaccines to protect us from liberal media bias.

Voodoo history for GOP

Yeah, the Gipper was awesome, dudes!
When, in August 1981, Reagan signed his Recovery Act into law at Rancho del Cielo, his Santa Barbara ranch, he promised to find additional cuts to balance the budget, which had a projected deficit of $80 billion -- the largest, to that date, in U.S. history. That fall, the economy took a turn for the worse. To fight inflation, running at a rate of 14 percent per year, the Federal Reserve Board had increased interest rates. Recession was the inevitable result. Blue-collar workers who had largely supported Reagan were hard hit, as many lost their jobs.

The United States was experiencing its worst recession since the Depression, with conditions frighteningly reminiscent of those 50 years earlier. By November 1982, unemployment reached, nine million, the highest rate since the Depression; 17,000 businesses failed, the second highest number since 1933; farmers lost their land; and many sick, elderly, and poor became homeless.

The country lived through the recession for a full year before Reagan finally admitted publicly that the economy was in trouble. His budget cuts, which hurt the poor, and his tax cuts, which favored the rich, combined with the hardships of a recession, spawned the belief that Reagan was insensitive to his people's needs. (Although it was a 25% across-the-board tax cut, those people in the higher income brackets benefited the most.)
Obviously, the economy rebounded thanks to harsh Fed policies and cheap Middle East oil. (Who was it we were supporting at that time...oh yeah, that Saddam guy.) But somehow the rather disastrous first Reagan term is overlooked in media accounts, allowing Republicans to claim a greatness that simply did not exist.

The early '80's were just as difficult for ordinary Americans as the late 1970's, in economic terms. Once the cheap oil, junk bonds and cocaine started flowing, things picked up, but it didn't last all that long and the country faced severe economic challenges again during the late 1980's and early 1990's.

It wasn't until the long national nightmare of peace and prosperity under Clinton that the economy really took off. That's not an argument that Clinton was an economic genius, as there was once again the Fed, oil prices and a brand new technology sector helping things along, but if we're going to be all misty-eyed about something let's at least pick a good time period.

The '80's generally sucked, for a multitude of reasons, including but not limited to fashion, music, Wall Street, Republicans, the Republican War on Drugs, Strategic Defense Initiative, ketchup defined as a vegetable for kids, arms for hostages, ignoring AIDS, savings and loans, cocaine, Lee Atwater, Elliot Abrams, Alexander Haig, David Stockman, James Watt, Oliver North and John Negroponte. Some of these events and names should sound familiar.

So while the GOP candidates went to Simi Valley last night and paid homage to a myth, it's worth remembering what things were really like, and that it's unlikely we will ever see cheap Middle East oil again.

I wish we could have said the same for the rest of it.

Microsoft, Yahoo thinking about merging?

The rumors are flying this morning. From the Wall Street Journal:
In what appear to be early-stage discussions, executives at Microsoft and Yahoo are taking a fresh look at a merger of the two companies or some kind of match-up that would pair their companies' respective strengths, say people familiar with the situation.

The renewed talks are a sign of the continued growth in Google's power and problems over the past year with in-house efforts at Yahoo and Microsoft to ride a boom in Internet advertising. Meanwhile, management changes at both companies could help pave the way for a pairing that a year ago couldn't happen.
A Microsoft-Yahoo deal would be a monster - one of the biggest combinations the technology industry has ever seen, easily overshadowing Google's recent acquisitions of YouTube and DoubleClick. Then there was its 2005 deal with AOL, and its 2006 deal with MySpace. Yahoo's market value is $38 billion and its fiscal 2006 revenue was $6.43 billion. It has almost 12,000 employees.

But it has had a difficult time competing against Google, as has Microsoft. A merger would instantly give Microsoft a powerful position on the Internet since Yahoo is the world's number one portal. But what would it mean for Microsoft's MSN site and its Windows Live initiative? There's a lot of overlap.

Microsoft and Yahoo executives may ultimately decide it's in their best interest to join forces, but that doesn't mean consumers will benefit. Consolidation usually means there's less competition and less choices, not more.

TechMeme has complete coverage.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

McKay on KCTS Connects

Sorry about the last-minute post (my ISP figured, hey, why provide service today?) but fired US attorney John McKay is scheduled to appear on KCTS Connects in a few minutes (7 pm PDT.) Combined with this stunning Seattle Times article, there's a whole lot of stuff going on. More later.

UPDATE, 7:40 PM PDT: McKay talked on the KCTS program about prosecutorial independence and how important it is that things get fixed, to paraphrase his words. At one point he likened the phone call he got from DOJ official Michael Elston to the kind witnesses might receive from thugs.

McKay referred obliquely to the Thomas Wales matter at one point. Wales was a US attorney who was murdered in Seattle in October of 2001. When asked by host Enrique Cerna if he ever felt pressured by DOJ, McKay cited both the 2004 gubernatorial election and the Wales case in saying he had not felt pressured.

Cerna asked McKay near the end if Gonzales should resign, and McKay rather deferred, saying there were only two people who could make that decision, Gonzales and the president. Asked if he thought he would find out in the end what really happened, McKay said he thought that he would.

Overall, I'm not sure if there was much new information, but I'll review the DVR recording later this evening. Suffice it to say that McKay was adamant that this issue is important because the people must trust the justice system not to insert political motives into prosecutions.

And while I've expressed similar sentiments before, the fact that this administration and some state Republicans would attack John McKay, who is so eloquent and sincere about American ideals, is proof positive that the GOP is currently run by a collection of misfits, morons and criminals. If a guy like that ever ran for state-wide office he would stand a very good chance.

When asked about possible political aspirations by Cerna, McKay kind of brushed it off, saying his current interest is in law and teaching.

The Decider Dons a New Cape

He's now "The Commander Guy." As Jon said in an earlier post, on a completely different topic, "you just can't make this stuff up."

Internet Freedom

Representative Jay Inslee (D-Bainbridge Island), along with Rep. Don Manzullo (R) Illinois, want to save independent internet radio. The "Internet Radio Equality Act" would nullify a law set to take effect in July, which would essentially wipe out operators of smaller, independently owned Internet radio stations.

According to a recent Newsweek article, over 50 million people listen to Internet radio, and apparently corporations hadn't yet found a way to make a killing on it.

In March, though, our Free Market or Bust government put an end to that. The Copyright Royalty Board, at the behest of SoundExchange (A royalty collection agency for the recording industry), decided to drastically incresase royalty fees--anywhere between 300%-1200%. This, would have the practical effect of driving smaller Internet radio station operators out of business.

What this means to you: Instead of hearing news and music from all over, you would hear exactly the same focus-grouped set of manufactured music and selected newsbits from the same newsgrinders we already have, just packaged differently for you geeky internet folk. But now, corporations have a bigger piece of the pie. There, isn't that better? More American?

This corporatist effort isn't limited to the Internet, of course. The latest postal rate increase similarly has the "accidental" effect of driving smaller operators out of business. Further afield in the dairy industry, the same "crush the independents" movement has prevailed in King and Whatcom counties, and elsewhere.

It is troubling enough that economic monopolies are being encouraged through a "get bigger or get out" mentality in the auto industry, in the clothing industry, in agriculture and manufacturing. But when a monopoly of communication is created in the guise of economic competition, we lose the voice of the people. We must not let this happen.

And we've already lost so much in the past seven years, haven't we? Say goodbye to habaeus corpus, privacy, peace, surplus, the Geneva Conventions, First Amendment, Second Amendment, intelligent political discourse, and on and on.

Fortunately for us here in Washington, Jay Inslee gets it. For him to introduce this bill is at once observant and courageous. There aren't enough people in Congress like Inslee willing to make this sort of stand about something so elemental to our democracy as our right to speak to each other publicly--and to protect that right jealously. He has our support; he should have yours, too.

For further information and comment:

Seattle Times Editorial
Seattle P-I Editorial
Music industry news and updates
GET INVOLVED

Likud-GOP convergence in Vancouver

As Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert faces calls to resign, and reports indicate that Likud leader and former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu could likely win if there is a new election, it certainly poses the interesting possibility that little old Vancouver, WA., could become something of a center of attention next month if Netanyahu remains as the keynote speaker for a conservative US-Israeli conference called Convergence Northwest here next month.

To follow up on Tuesday's post about Convergence Northwest, here's a portion of an interview that Brigitte Gabriel of the American Congress for Truth did with conservative radio talk show host Larry Elder. Gabriel is listed as a conference speaker on the Convergence Northwest web page.

From The Orange County Register:
Elder: What happens if a Democrat wins the 2008 election?

Gabriel: We are doomed. Our enemies want the Democrats to win. This last election, jihadist Web sites were playing victory songs and declaring the Democrats are our allies in the war against America. … Whoever comes next is going to have to deal with the same things Bush is dealing with.
Okay, lest someone misunderstand, I'm not against people having their say. But when they say things that equate Democrats with terrorists, an obnoxious and tired rhetorical trick of the right, then they deserve to be exposed, because if that's what they really think then they don't consider us political opposition, they consider us to be enemies. So much for civility.

While there are some who think Israel has "no right to exist," I'm not among them. I was, however, horrified by the senseless and fruitless destruction brought to bear last year against Lebanese civilians, which is not the same as "supporting terrorists." Hey, here's a concept for conservatives -- death is bad, even if it involves beings other than blastocysts. It's not "pro-terrorist" to recognize the shortcomings of Israeli policy. For some reason, conservative fantasies that violence is always a preferred solution, no matter the consequences, seem to know no international boundaries.

The intertwining of Israeli and US politics is, of course, not new. Harry S. Truman faced extreme pressures to recognize Israel, and did so after considerable angst and against the advice of his trusted secretary of state, George C. Marshall. It's true that our countries should have a special bond and share core values.

But that doesn't change the facts on the ground, and the strong support by evangelical Christians in the US for Israeli hard-liners is neither new nor a secret.

If bombing the crud out of Lebanon didn't really do much positive, continuing to deny and ignore the abysmal treatment of Palestinians isn't going to do any good, either. Both sides have plenty of blood on their hands already. Do we really have to spell out that we are equally horrified by suicide bombers walking into hotels?

I suppose we do, otherwise people like Gabriel start in with their Limbaugh-esque shtick. Enough already. If that's what GOP state Sen. Joseph Zarelli, one of the organizers of the conference, wants to bring into our community, then let the record show that he did so.

Clark County might have been the perfect place to hold such a conference, with its strong evangelical forces and still-believing Republicans. Normally they would have faced little media scrutiny here, due to the magical forcefield that repels journalists at the Columbia River.

A possible return to power by Netanyahu might change that a bit, although we'll have to see how it shakes out. The conference organizers and attendees are certainly entitled to speak their minds, but if public officials and world leaders are involved, it would be nice to see some reporting about their entire message, in context, so citizens can judge it for themselves.

West Seattle can have mass transit

I've seen some complaints lately that Sound Transit isn't building light rail to West Seattle and Ballard, and I want to address them. First, original Sound Transit long range plan maps do show a Ballard line - it was removed after the Seattle Monorail Project got rolling because it didn't make sense for two agencies to build in one corridor. In the aftermath, you can now see a study of those corridors back on the final Sound Transit 2 map.

In Sound Transit 2, Seattle gets several more stations - Brooklyn, Roosevelt, Northgate, and Jackson Park, as well as a streetcar line. Seattle got the bulk of light rail investment in Sound Move - ten of twelve stations!

Without the balance of investment provided in ST2, Sound Transit wouldn't see the support they do outside of the city core - support they need in order to keep building the system at all.

The size of the ST2/RTID "Roads and Transit" package is already a contentious issue for some. It connects regional centers - which means West Seattle is competing with Tacoma and Bellevue in terms of who gets a line first, out of a limited pot that's coming from people living everywhere from Everett to Dupont. Adding a new line in Seattle would have to be balanced with further investment all around the region - more than voters might be willing to agree to.

As I said in response to the West Seattle Herald's editorial on this issue a few days ago, if we want more mass transit in the city right now, we could create a local agency that isn't having to balance West Seattle against Bellevue.

The Seattle Monorail Project was good in theory - but forcing a particular route and technology limited their flexibility and contributed to their demise. An agency without these shortcomings could fill the void in the next few years.

I want to reiterate: supporting Sound Transit 2 will only make building an in-city line easier as they bring more people throughout the region to mass transit.

A line from West Seattle to downtown won't have strong ridership if users have to ride buses to any other destination - and if ST2 were to fail, the pressure for transit in intercity corridors would only increase, making it harder to fight for local transit funding.

I would love to be involved in a local transit project to serve other in-city corridors - but only after we pass the package on the table now.

Just keep your mouth shut

Lovely folks they have in this administration.
As the Justice Department struggled in January to suppress embarrassing stories about the firings of eight U.S. attorneys, John McKay received an unsolicited telephone call from a senior official named Michael Elston.

It was a strained conversation, according to a written account McKay provided to the House Judiciary Committee that was released Wednesday in advance of a hearing Thursday. According to McKay, Elston, who was chief of staff to the deputy attorney general, advised him in a "sinister" voice to simply repeat public statements from Attorney General Alberto Gonzales when asked about his firing or face serious consequences.

"I greatly resented what I felt Mr. Elston was trying to do: buy my silence by promising that the attorney general would not demean me in his Senate testimony," said McKay, who was fired as the chief federal prosecutor for Western Washington in December. He did not leave office, however, until Jan. 26.
Remember, Karl Rove is a political genius and he brought them to this wonderful place.

What a mastermind! Nobody else in political history has ever come up with the brilliant idea of running a government like a bunch of two-bit thugs. Truly inspired. If the trains ran on time we would really have something.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

In Brief - May 3rd, 2007

Here is today's quick news digest:
  • Republican presidential candidates are unsure what to say publicly about "President" Bush. Apparently "You Suck" is too restrictive.
  • Bush renews his "Al Qaeda = Iraq" speeches today. Apparently hoping for the good old days when everyone bought boxes of bottled water, sat at home, and cried all day.
  • Immigration rallies were held today across the country. In Washington, the rallies went on without incident. Elsewhere, in Los Angeles, the LAPD decided to "enforce" the law by using batons and rubber bullets in place of Miranda rights.
  • Bush, having failed as president, is now "The Commander Guy."
  • Former army generals express outrage over the Bush's veto on Monday. For their eloquent Bush bashing, visit the National Security Network.
If you have something to add, please leave a comment.

Edwards gets it

Over at MyDD, Jonathan Singer covers the John Edwards speech in Portland today and posts an excerpt and audio file. Here's what Singer posted as an excerpt, and it's a very important point that deserves to be spread far and wide:
And I don't know how many of you even noticed this or how many of you watched the Democratic presidential debate from South Carolina, but I suspect some of you did. But a question was asked whether you agree with the language - the Bush language, which is what it is - "Global War on Terror." And I did not. And I said, I took that position at the debate...

[Applause]

This is a political frame and political rhetoric. They use it to justify everything they do. They use that language to justify the war in Iraq. They use it to justify Guantanamo. They use it to justify torture. They use it to justify illegal spying on the American people.

[Applause]

It is time for us to quit kowtowing to these people. We have to say what we really believe. Now, are there really dangerous people in the world? Of course there are. We need to be smart and aggressive and intelligent, use intelligence - did I say dangerous people? - we have to use intelligence to fight them and stop them. Everybody recognizes that. But the one thing that's been proven beyond any doubt as a result of what's happened in the last six years is raw power alone will never make you a leader. You actually have to have the moral authority.
The right repeatedly repeats the canard that Democrats don't understand that there are bad people in the world, which is both ridiculous and insulting. But it's typical of the comic-book view of the world that many conservatives seem to have, as if wishing things makes them so.

The truly frightening thing is that the conservative approach after the initial, brilliant success in Afghanistan (which was not the product of this administration in any meaningful sense but rather a triumph of intelligence and military professionals) has been to advance a highly partisan, myopic view of the world. It's a world in which there are few shades of gray and anything the administration does is correct because the administration does it. In short, it's a fantasy world, one as utterly unreal and useless as the very idea of waging war on an emotion.

We need a reality-based president, and while it still seems early in the process, Edwards certainly qualifies. He obviously understands how the GOP operates and what it will take to defeat them. Step one is to reject the framing used by conservatives to portray themselves as better on defense issues. Hopefully the American people already intuitively understand what an abject failure this administration has been on that score.

A reality-based president will support our military and intelligence personnel in doing true damage to al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups, rather than creating conditions that enable them to recruit more terrorists.

O'Reilly worse than 1930s fascist

Think Progress links to a media study at Indiana University that analyzed statements by Bill O'Reilly by checking for "propaganda devices," a technique once used to study the fascist Father Charles Coughlin.

Guess who beat out Father Coughlin? From an Indiana University news release:
In this study, O'Reilly is a heavier and less-nuanced user of the propaganda devices than Coughlin.
How very civil of Bill-o.

Let's be clear about this, so there is no misunderstanding. We're not calling Bill-o a fascist. We're stating that there is empirical evidence that Bill-o is worse than a leading American fascist when it comes to his use of propaganda. The sick joke of Fox Noise's motto "fair and balanced" now stands utterly revealed.

You can't make this stuff up.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

The Port of Seattle needs new leadership

"The way I characterize the Port Commission today is...it's treading water."

- Gael Tarleton, candidate for Port Commissioner (listen to interview)

On April 18th, the Seattle Post Intelligencer ran a front page article by reporter Kristin Millares Bolt which revealed that Seattle Port Commissioner Pat Davis had signed a document to extend the $339,841 salary and benefits of ex-CEO Mic Dinsmore for up to one year past his departure from the port.

Three other commissioners - John Creighton, Alec Fisken, and Lloyd Hara - told the P-I they had no memory of a discussion about a possible severance package, which supposedly occurred in executive session - according to Davis.

Dinsmore tried to collect his unauthorized severance package in early March, but the new Port CEO, Tay Yoshitani, had doubts, and no payment was made. Last week, Dinsmore announced he wouldn't seek the money and the Port Commission voted not to approve any severance package for him the following day.

Notes released by the Port of Seattle, however, indicate that Commissioner Bob Edwards was also involved in laying the groundwork for the sweetheart deal:
...According to Dinsmore, it was then-Commission President Edwards who in January brought up Dinsmore's retirement package and explained how Dinsmore, who retired of his own accord, would receive 40 weeks of salary based on an "HR 10" policy meant to compensate employees who had been fired or whose jobs had been eliminated.

"Bob, as outgoing president presented what we discussed and agreed upon," related the undated notes, which Dinsmore said in an interview with the Seattle P-I were taken after a closed-door commission meeting on Jan. 10.
Edwards, however, says he doesn't remember having reached any agreement or even discussing the matter when the notes were taken at a June meeting - and Dinsmore isn't happy that Edwards hasn't backed him up:
Dinsmore, who received Edwards' unfailing support since he joined the commission in 1999, doesn't appreciate the sudden about-face.

"I am not going to get into a debate with one, two, three, four or five commissioners about what took place in their memory," Dinsmore said [...]
Our thirteenth podcast (released yesterday) includes an interview with a Gael Tarleton, who is leading the charge to change the way the Port of Seattle does business. (Jack Block, Jr. is also in the race, running on a similar platform). Gael's campaign has made accountability an important theme:
"It's clear from the weekend's Seattle Times coverage of the ongoing Port Scandal that now Bob Edwards was involved in the packing of Mic Dinsmore's golden parachute. It's time for the Port Commission to call for a full investigation from an outside, independent group, not from an internally-appointed pool of potential friends and cronies. Only then will the trust of citizens be restored and will we be able to get back to the business of moving trucks, planes and ships."
The severance flap, which has touched off a fresh round of media and blog coverage, is the latest chapter in an ongoing saga of scandals and controversies at the Port, each reinforcing the conclusion that the Port is desperately in need of fresh blood and new leadership.

Dinsmore's tenure, as I have stated in our podcast, has been characterized by bad decision making, wasteful spending, poor management, and ethical lapses. For example, the no-bid contracts given to Columbia Hospitality in the 1990s, or Dinsmore's significant involvement in the 2005 commissioner elections, or the badly handled controversy over plastic Christmas trees last December, or the use of property tax dollars to pay for equipment belonging to Cruise Terminals of America.

While Dinsmore has left the Port of Seattle, his two loyal sidekicks, Pat Davis and Bob Edwards, remain on the Commission. Davis unfortunately doesn't have to face King County voters this year, but Edwards does. If Gael Tarleton and Alec Fisken (the other commissioner standing for reelection) are victorious this autumn, the Commission will have a 3-2 progressive majority.

We're committed to helping both candidates cross the finish line first. That may be a challenge, but it's also a tremendous opportunity to bring responsible leadership back to the Port Commission - one that we must take advantage of.

Conservative losers

Hey, here's a fun idea. The Campaign for America's Future is having a Failure of Conservatism Conference.
At the Failure of Conservatism Conference -- May 3 in Washington, D.C. -- some of the progressive movement’s leading thinkers will show why conservatism cannot be made better by competent leadership; competent conservatism, in fact, would be an even worse deal for the American people. Advancing that argument effectively is essential to reshaping the political debate and taking advantage of the new opportunities for progressive change.
I'm sure C-SPAN will abandon Holy Joe Lieberman and his civility in order to cover this conference.

The people hate the occupation of Iraq, and they know the right wing agenda is responsible for it. It can't feel good to be a conservative these days. Please tell us more about civility, spending and taxes and guns. You were so smart and nice, what happened? I used to understand you, conservatives. You changed.

Now get out and leave the key.

Faux Street Journal?

If you think the editorial section of the Wall Street Journal runs a little conservative for your tastes now, just imagine what might befall your liberal sensibilities if this deal takes place: Rupert Murdoch wants to buy it.

For those of you not keeping track of how information gets to your eyeballs: Media consolidation is bad news. It means fewer incredibly rich people controlling the way most of America gets its news (TV, radio, and newspapers).

Rupert Murdoch is one of the people who controls far too much of the media that delivers the message to people who are too busy to dig beneath the veneer of popular newscasts to get to the truth of a given issue. But lest you think I'm just making too much of this, and poor Rupert just wants to buy a li'l ol' newspaper, let's have a look at just some of his media holdings:
  • Fox Broadcasting (which includes Fox News Noise, Fox Sports Net, and FX, plus others)
  • National Geographic
  • Speed
  • DirecTV
  • News America Marketing (Smartsource, and those wads of coupons that regularly flood your mailbox)
  • The Weekly Standard
  • TV Guide
  • The New York Post
  • The Times of London, United Kingdom (and a total of 175 papers in Australasia, Europe, and the United States)
  • The book publisher Harper Collins
Oh, and last year he picked up MySpace. Sorry, kids. (He's got American Idol, too). There's more listed on his web site; I just picked the U.S.-related holdings (with the exception of the Times, of course). And that's just one guy. Clearly, it's not about money. It's about power.

Fox News is Murdoch's reeking, glowing monument to media consolidation and newstainment. Sean Hannity. Bill O'Reilly. Ann Coulter. There is no news here. There really is no opinion here; there is little more than thinly veiled, dysfunctional hate. You can't scrape hard enough to get to the bottom of this barrel. Fair and balanced? Right.

Thing is, Fox News is Murdoch's gift to America. Murdoch himself is an avowed conservative and isn't shy about pushing his agenda. People who watch Fox News tend not to think critically about what they're seeing or analyze their news too deeply (remember the PIPA study about perceptions of the Iraq occupation versus how people got their news?).

Now, if he ends up buying the Wall Street Journal, we can expect that same sort of integrity distorting reality for generations to come.

Bush cuts off funding for our troops

It's official, and not unexpected:
Bush vetoed legislation to pull U.S. troops out of Iraq Tuesday night in a historic showdown with Congress over whether the unpopular and costly war should end or escalate.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi had this to say in response:
The president wants a blank check. The Congress is not going to give it to him. The president said, in his comments, he did not believe in timelines, and he spoke out very forcefully against them.

Yet in 1999, on June 5th, then-Governor Bush said, about President Clinton, "I think it's important for the president to lay out a timetable as to how long they will be involved and when they would be withdrawn."

Despite his past statements, President Bush refuses to apply the same standard to his own activities. Standards — that's the issue.

If the president thinks that what is happening on the ground in Iraq now is progress, as he said in his comments tonight, then it’s clear to see why we have a disagreement on policy with him. I agree with Leader Reid.

We look forward to working with the president to find common ground, but there is great distance between us right now.
Emphasis is ours. We heard a lot about "flip flops" in 2004 - it was a Bush campaign theme - but it's never been more clear that the real hypocrites are Bush, Rove, Cheney, and their cronies. Remember - It's OK If You're A Republican. Congressional oversight and benchmarks are only appropriate if there's a Democrat in the White House.

Veto
Reproduced with permission from cartoonist Andrew Wahl

POSTSCRIPT, from stilwell: Congressional Democrats should send him another bill, with new details, and make him veto that.

The American people hate the occupation of Iraq, and they are disgusted with the Republican Party for supporting it. This alleged president and this incarnation of the Republican Party are in the dumps and headed for the ash bin of history.

Put that on a car magnet.

Capitol Watch: Why haven't these guys left?

There is enough corruption and scandal in DC to keep somebody dedicated to reporting on that alone full time and never truly be caught up. I'm going to do my best to pick a few of the most egregious over the past two weeks just to give you a taste of what the Republican culture of corruption really means.

First and foremost, it means never having the decency to resign. You can be guilty. You can steal land, hide money. You can lie. You can be incompetent. You can surround yourself with liars and incompetents.

You can surround yourself with lies and incompetence. You can take an apolitical office and turn it into a political cesspool just to prove your loyalty to your boss. Or girlfriend. You can do all that — and get caught.

You can get caught in your lies by people who would otherwise want to protect you — and if, at that point, you can still turn your Shame Switch off, well, call yourself Gonzales, Renzi, Doolittle, or Wolfowitz.

These four are clinging to their posts like Gollum to the Ring. Gonzales has caught all the headlines and received much of CNN's and C-SPAN's airtime, so I won't belabor that point. Others have flown a little lower under the media radar.

Renzi and Doolittle, you may remember, had their homes and offices raided a few weeks ago by the FBI as evidence linked them to the Abramoff fiasco.

Seems like a long time ago, but we don't know exactly how many names Jack Abramoff coughed up in exchange for a shorter stint in prison.

Apparently, they were next on the dance card.

Renzi, an Arizona Congressman from the 1st District, is currently under investigation for a proposed 2005 Arizona land swap, in which the investors became a little nervous and eventually backed out, based on who the players were in the deal.

Suspicion grew deeper when the prosecutor in the case was suddenly forced to resign—he was one of the eight attorneys encouraged to vacate his post in what has become the infamous AlbertoGate Scandal.

Doolittle, a Congressman from California's 4th District, had his Virginia home raided on April 11th under suspicion of ties to Jack Abramoff. A detailed list of his woes can be found here.

And there's Paul Wolfowitz, the Bush Administration's Steadfast Soldier in the War on Poor People. The Honorable Mr. Wolfowitz is indignant, nay appalled at the mere thought that he could be treated so "shabbily" by the World Bank.

The mere thought that he could use an international organization designed to eliminate poverty as a vehicle to enrich his girlfriend — well, that's just, well... harrumph, I say…

So far, none of these guys have resigned. They half-heartedly admit mistakes while throwing their underlings under the bus. They conveniently forget vast tracts of knowledge. They'll look at the senators, the cameras, you, and the world, and shamelessly lie or forget what they're not supposed to say.

They should follow the example of Julie MacDonald - and step down:
An Interior Department official accused of pressuring government scientists to make their research fit her policy goals has resigned.

Julie MacDonald, deputy assistant secretary for fish, wildlife and parks, submitted her resignation letter to Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne, a department spokesman said Tuesday.

Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said MacDonald had "betrayed the mission she swore to uphold," adding that her actions "undermined both the work and the integrity of the Fish and Wildlife Service and its many dedicated employees."
Laws, ethics, responsibility...all cast aside for power, ideology, and greed.

The American people deserve better. Since these guys won't go willingly and with dignity, they must be shown the door.

Another brick in the wall

A while back David Postman mentioned next month's international right-wing love fest in Vancouver, cryptically called Convergence Northwest, which is going to feature conservative Knesset member and ex-prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Amusingly, Postman found out by asking why the heck the Republicans were listening to Pink Floyd in caucus, and it turned out, according to Postman, that it was a pitch for this conference. Way back when, listening to Pink Floyd was considered a warning sign of depression by counselors and up-tight parental unit types, so make of that what you wish.

The Columbian previewed the conference yesterday:
Participants include Brig. Gen. Elihu Ben-Onn; writer and lecturer Brigitte Gabriel; and Knesset members Limor Livnat, Arieh Eldad and Yuval Steinitz. Local leaders include Robert Horenstein, columnist for the Portland Jewish Review; and Charlie Schiffman, executive director of the Jewish Federation of Portland.
The Columbian seems to have left out at least one name, strangely enough, who is mentioned both by Convergence Northwest and by Postman on April 18th.

Somehow the local paper managed to not mention Clark County's own Joseph Zarelli, state senator from the 18th District. Zarelli was heavily involved in planning the conference, or so he seems to have told Postman.

And you thought this was just a nice, genteel conference to help poor Israel. Oh, my friend, you must understand the convergence between right-wing Israel and right-wing America, and more to the point, the convergence of right wing Judaism with right wing Christianity.

And what better place than Clark County? As long as nobody gets uppity and starts a War on Christmas or something, it'll be great. If I give a Jew my money for presents, he better damn well tell me Merry Christmas, even in June.

One scheduled attendee only briefly mentioned in yesterday's Columbian article is Brigitte Gabriel of the American Congress for Truth, whose views Postman described this way:
Gabriel was born in Lebanon and raised as a Christian. After 9-11 she started ACT to help America "win the war against Islamofascism" and to battle the "political correctness" she thinks hurts that fight.
Has anyone other than hardcore right-wingers even used the term "political correctness" since 1988? Talk about the straw man to end all straw men. And what about the Christo-fascists, who is fighting them? Oh, yeah, um, right. Never mind.

However, truth be told, the American Congress for Truth web site is truly special. Colbert would dig it -- a lot. You can practically hear that eagle scream.

But there's another invited guest The Columbian failed to mention: Holy Joe Lieberman.
9:00am - 4:00pm: General Session
Welcome: WA State Senator Joseph Zarelli (Senator Joseph Lieberman invited)
Wow, that would be super! Wonder why The Columbian didn't mention such an awesome idea? I sure hope Lieberman shows up, because it would be a shame if people concluded the conference was mostly about building a stronger political alliance between American conservatives and Israeli conservatives.

As everyone knows, the Lieberman for Lieberman Party is very liberal when it comes to matters involving Lieberman.

There's one other unanswered question about the conference, of course. Who is paying for all this? I bet Bibi and Joe don't travel or speak cheaply.

Take this case to the next level

The United States D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in a 5-4 decision that Representative Jim McDermott should not have shared the audio from an illegally taped telephone call (which McDermott did not tape) with two newspapers:
The ruling upholds a previous decision ordering McDermott to pay House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, more than $700,000 for leaking the taped conversation. The figure includes $60,000 in damages and more than $600,000 in legal costs.

Boehner was among several GOP leaders heard on the December 1996 call, which involved ethics allegations against then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga. Gingrich, who was heard on the call telling Boehner and others how to react to allegations, was later fined $300,000 and reprimanded by the House.

McDermott, who was then serving on the ethics panel, leaked the tape to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and The New York Times, which published stories on the case in January 1997.

In a sharp dissent, Judge David B. Sentelle said that under the majority's ruling, "no one in the United States could communicate on this topic of public interest because of the defect in the chain of title," that is, the fact that the tape was illegally obtained.
A detailed and informative history of the whole case is here. We urge Representative McDermott to respond to this ruling by appealing the decision. We'll gladly stand with him as he stands up for the First Amendment.

Happy Codpiece Day

Happy Codpiece Day. It's been a swell four years. Media Matters takes a look back:
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you, Bob Dornan, you were a congressman all those years. Here's a president who's really nonverbal. He's like Eisenhower. He looks great in a military uniform. He looks great in that cowboy costume he wears when he goes West. I remember him standing at that fence with Colin Powell. Was [that] the best picture in the 2000 campaign?
See, the fact that Chris Mathews would compare Commander Codpiece with Dwight D. Eisenhower in any context shows what kind of media we were, and in many ways still are, dealing with. All Eisenhower did was hold together the greatest and most important military coalition in human history in order to defeat the worst threat to civilization in human history. The Chimperor in Chief, eh, not so much.

The people hate the occupation of Iraq, and they hate the Republicans for doing it. It's an anchor around the GOP's neck, and if that party will not be even slightly reasonable as an institution about finding a way out of the disaster, then they will deserve everything they get at the ballot box. The platitudes and lies don't work any more, so put that on a car magnet and stick it to your bumper.

Wither the heat packers?

Sadly, there were no conservative bloggers packing heat at Ward Parkway Mall in Kansas City over the weekend:
Logsdon drove to the shopping center, fatally shot two people in the parking lot and wounded seven others outside the Target where he used to work, then went inside the mall, where he was killed by police, authorities said.

Logsdon's sister, Kathryn Cagg, said he was mentally ill and an alcoholic. She said the family had feared he would commit suicide in October 2005 and had taken him for treatment, but he was released from the treatment after six hours.
We could try to do something about guns, or we could try to do something about mental health care, or both, but this is the USA.

We'll do neither. Or as the NRA might put it:

Guns don't kill people, people kill people, and we don't fund programs for certain kinds of people, so if people keep killing people, it's not our fault, because next time I'll be there with my Model 1938 Red Ryder Lever Action .177 BB Carbine to stop Black Bart.

FDA crawls forward in melamine scandal

The Pet Connection Blog is all over the Chinese protein additive scandal (there's also a diary posted by Pet Connection's ChristieKeith at Daily Kos:)
In an import alert buried deep on its website and just uncovered tonight, the FDA last Friday expanded its hold on imported foods from China - ingredients including Wheat Gluten, Rice Gluten, Rice Protein, Rice Protein Concentrate, Corn Gluten, Corn Gluten Meal, Corn By-Products, Soy Protein, Soy Gluten, Mung Bean Protein, Soy Bean Meal/Powder/Gluten/Protein Isolate, Soy Protein Powder, Wheat Gluten, Wheat Flour Gluten, Wheat Gluten, Rice Protein, Rice Gluten, Rice Protein, Corn Gluten, Milled Rice Products, Amino acids and protein hydrosylates.

They also, for the first time, published estimates of pet deaths closer to what other authoritative sources have been speculating for weeks now:

"As of April 26, 2007, FDA had received over 17,000 consumer complaints relating to this outbreak, and those complaints included reports of approximately 1950 deaths of cats and 2200 deaths of dogs."

These numbers are very much in line with what we've seen in our own database of self-reported cases at PetConnection:
  • Total reports of illness or death: 14,228
  • Total cats reported dead: 2,334 cats
  • Total dogs reported dead: 2,249
At long last, the FDA has seemingly done something. From USA Today:
The Food and Drug Administration is enforcing a new import alert that greatly expands its curtailment of some food ingredients imported from China, authorizing border inspectors to detain ingredients used in everything from noodles to breakfast bars.

The new restriction is likely to cause delays in the delivery of raw ingredients for the production of many commonly used products.

---snip---

According to the alert notice posted on the FDA website Friday, the agency has so far taken 750 samples of wheat gluten and products made with wheat gluten and found 330 positive for melamine or melamine combined with another substance. It also found 27 positives out of 85 samples of rice protein concentrate and products made with rice protein concentrate.
Yikes. Seeing as scientists don't seem to understand why melamine caused pet deaths, and have speculated that some as yet unknown chemical transformation may be responsible, that's profoundly disturbing.

Here's a little, um, sampler from that FDA alert:
For the vegetable proteins and finished products that have been found to be contaminated, it is unknown who the actual manufacturers are, how many manufacturers there are, or where in China they may be located.

The samples of vegetable proteins that have tested positive for the presence of melamine and melamine analogs have, thus far, been traced to two Chinese firms, Xuzhou Anying Biologic Technology Development Co. Ltd. and Binzhou Futian Biology Technology Co. Ltd. Records relating to the importation of these products indicate that these two firms had manufactured the ingredients in question. There is strong evidence, however, that these firms are not the actual manufacturers. Moreover, despite many weeks of investigation, it is still unknown who the actual manufacturer or manufacturers of the contaminated products imported from China are.
The FDA alert is going to require importers to provide evidence that their product is free from melamine using third party laboratory tests, which is a step in the right direction. It does nothing, of course, to bring back the dead pets nor does it provide anything approximating a solution. It's a stop-gap measure at best. I still don't understand why we would still import this stuff right now.

And finally, you knew it would be Goldy who brings up Soylent Green. ("FDA and USDA believe the likelihood of illness after eating Soylent Green would be very low.)

Double yikes.

You know, I guess we need to remember something in all this: there are strong suspicions that the melamine was added to foodstuffs on purpose for economic fraud. By importing food from China, we are essentially transporting our country back in time 100 years to the era detailed by Upton Sinclcair in "The Jungle."

Pass the sausage.