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Thursday, November 30, 2006

LIVE from the SCL: Final thoughts

One citizen we heard from in the last ten minutes is a public relations expert who used to work in the broadcast industry. She explained why there's so much reporting on crime on the local news: it's easy to do, it doesn't require too much work, almost any reporter can do it, and it's sensational.

She also noted that "prepackaged news" prepared by corporations and or interest groups is being substituted for actual journalism.

It was a packed hearing and I don't remember hearing a citizen who did not speak out against media consolidation and concentration. It is clear that what corporate executives want is not what the public wants.

The FCC is supposed to act in the public interest, and as such, each of its commissioners should have been at the Seattle Central Library for this hearing. The three Republicans on the commission are obviously uneasy with the prospect of listening to hours and hours of public testimony.

That's a shame, but it's not really a surprise.

Please visit Reclaim the Media for information on contacting the Federal Communications Commission with your own thoughts.

One last quote from a concerned citizen about today's media: "Important matters are trivialized and unimportant things are glorified."

LIVE from the SCL: Concerned citizens

Commissioners Copps and Adelstein are now taking notes and listening to input from concerned citizens. (Comments are allowed on a first come, first served basis and limited to 2 minutes per speaker).

(Broadband users, watch the live stream here).

Here's a summary of the speakers and the points they made:
  • Todd Boyle: Antiwar activists ran up against a brick wall in 2003 because the traditional media was largely uninterested in viewpoints contrary to the Bush administration
  • Andrew Skotdal: Locally owned broadcast outlets are disappearing, even though they produce programming that the American people want.
  • Emily Horswill: Thanks to the Reagan administration in the 1980s, alternative voices became scarcer and harder to find.
  • Kathy Schrier: A multitude of viewpoints are needed for a free society. Good journalism and good education go hand in hand.
  • Bill Wippel: Keep the rules against broadcast cross ownership in place. It is a shame that media conglomerates are doing little to serve the public interest.
  • Leigh Robartes: Lower power and community FM stations could be shafted under new rules proposed by conglomerates such as Clear Channel.
  • Dennis Lane: Broadcasting is of a higher quality when it is produced locally.
  • Sylvia Haven: Wars like the preemptive invasion of Iraq could have been avoided if the traditional media had not shirked its duty to practice responsible journalism in the months preceding March 2003.
  • Suzette West (Representing Legend Heart Records): Independent music labels are discriminated against because the corporate radio business demands an artist affiliate with an RIAA member before their music can be played on the public airwaves. This barrier must be taken down.
  • Jeff Hoyt: Independent community such as Voice of Vashon (an internet radio operation) have long struggled to gain access to the public airwaves.
  • Rebecca Campbell: Spoke satirically as "Maximilian Bucks" in support of corporate media
  • Monica Hill: Jurassic sized monopolies dominate our politics and culture. They cannot be allowed to get even bigger. More alternative media is needed.
  • Bill Schrier (Chief Technology Officer, City of Seattle): Public broadcasting and municipal government programming is valuable and useful. But it struggles for attention in an advertising-saturated environment.
  • Liz Brown (Pacific NW Newspapers Guild): Competition is healthy. Media centralization and concentration is a threat to competition.
  • Bryan Johnson, activist: More rules are needed to restrict media ownership. The evidence is in and media consolidation is clearly harmful.
We are in the last half hour of the hearing now.

More notes: Several individuals from local media outlets were in attendance. Besides the Seattle Times and KBCS, 710 KIRO sent a reporter and Fisher Communications (KOMO's owner) was represented by an executive. Other news organizations were notably absent.

Live from the SCL: Community speakers

Commissioners Copps and Adelstein are now taking notes and listening to a number of speakers who represent community interests.

(Broadband users, watch the live stream here). Here is the list of individuals who spoke at the hearing and their affiliation:
  • Jean Godden, Seattle City Council
  • John Carlson, KVI talk show host and founder of WA Policy Center
  • Mike Fancher, the Seattle Times
  • Robert Jeffery, Colors NW
  • Mark Emmert, President, University of Washington
  • Diane Lachel, Tacoma Power's Click Network
  • John Sandifier, AFTRA
  • Joel Kelsey, Consumers Union
  • Mai Nguyen, Minority Executive Directors Association
  • David Groves, WA State Labor Council
  • Kathy Gill, UW Department of Communication
Some notes: John Carlson, who was second to speak, mentioned Entercom's snagging of Rush Limbaugh away from KVI as an example of of a big company deciding which distributors may syndicate its "talent". (He actually referred to Rush Limbaugh as talent). But oddly enough he never referred to Limbaugh, Fisher Broadcasting (owner of KVI), or Entercom by name.

Some of the important points made by the speakers:
  • Family owned media companies are in danger of being gobbled up if big corporations get the rules that they want from the FCC
  • It's not possible to have world-class educational institutions unless there is a free flow of ideas. Media consolidation hampers the free flow of ideas.
  • Open debate is crucial and it doesn't happen unless the press is free and independent. Democracy and diversity of opinion depends on a diverse media and decentralized ownership.
  • The local news isn't truly "local" when a small number of companies and their stations have control over a huge market.
  • Greedy telephone and cable providers want to be the media gatekeepers, with ownership of the means of delivery and the ability to decide what content should get priority.
  • Too much media is "absentee owned" by big national or international conglomerates who dictate broadcast programming from afar.
  • Newspapers should continue to be prohibited from gobbling up TV stations and creating media monopolies controlled by own parent company.
  • Coverage of labor issues and matters important to union members has suffered thanks to extreme media consolidation and corporate control
  • The current owners of media outlets appear to be more concerned about satisfying their advertisers and shareholders instead of practicing responsible journalism
  • Preserving net neutrality and resisting network discrimination is a matter of serious consequence. The marketplace of ideas is what is at stake.
Next we're going to hear from concerned citizens.

Live from the SCL: Commissioners speak

Commissioner Copps is currently speaking to the audience here at the Seattle Central Library. He was preceded briefly by Representative Jay Inslee, who reminded the gathering that media consolidation is not a problem that can be solved by the Internet alone.

(Indeed, a free Internet is already under attack, net neutrality legislation is needed to keep it from turning into something like a clone of cable television).

Inslee also made clear his desire to see the whole FCC in Seattle:
On the day that two members of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) who oppose loosening media-ownership rules are in Seattle to hear opinions of local residents on the issue, U.S. Rep. Jay Inslee (D-Wash.) urged the five-member commission to hold an official meeting in the Evergreen State.

"I'm glad we're raising public awareness about the dangers of giving too much control of media markets to a few huge companies," said Inslee about the open forum featuring FCC Commissioners Michael J. Copps and Jonathan Adelstein being held on Thursday evening at the Seattle Public Library. "But we're preaching to the choir."

Inslee, a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee with jurisdiction over the FCC, today sent a letter urging Chairman Kevin J. Martin to hold one of the panel's six official field hearings on changes to media-ownership rules in Washington state.

He, along with six bipartisan members of Washington state's House delegation, wrote, "Washingtonians have been actively engaged in the media ownership debate for several years.

"These hearings are important not only for the public, but also for regulators to hear testimony and understand how their decisions affect communities and our core democratic values."

In 2003, when the FCC first considered weakening regulations, hundreds of Puget Sound area residents voiced their opposition at a forum held on the University of Washington campus. It too was attended by several commissioners, but wasn't an official hearing of the panel.

Inslee, a participant of both the 2003 and 2006 public meetings in Seattle, wants all five FCC commissioners to hear firsthand the concerns of Washingtonians as the federal regulators again consider allowing media conglomerates to own newspapers, radio and television stations in the same market.

The FCC held one official meeting on its renewed effort to change media-ownership rules in Los Angeles last month. Another is slated for Nashville in December; four remaining hearings haven't been scheduled.
Copps' remarks have been eloquent, sharp, and on target. After first going out of his way to thank Senator Maria Cantwell for her leadership, he began talking about the subject at hand. Thus far he has emphasized public ownership of the airwaves, the importance of community media, and the relationship between freedom of the press and a healthy democracy.

Commissioner Adelstein was just as fabulous. Among one of his best lines: "Today, if Elvis Presley was playing, he'd probably throw down his guitar in disgust because he couldn't get on the radio." He also noted that "local newscasts are dominated by sensationalism....if it bleeds, it leads."

LIVE from the SCL: Seattle Times owner complains about consolidation

Well, the FCC hearing has kicked off and Seattle Times owner Frank Blethen was the first to speak. Blethen, who was politely welcomed, used most of his time to complain about consolidation and centralization of media in America, and grumble about "the powerful who co-opt the free press". Indeed.

As he droned on and on I found it hard to restrain myself from chuckling, for here is a man who seems bent on turning Seattle into a one newspaper-town by putting the Seattle P-I out of business.

Here is a man who has directed his editorial board to endorse only Republicans for federal office in this year's midterm elections. And isn't it interesting that most Republicans, unlike Frank Blethen, don't seem to care about doing anything about media consolidation.

But unfortunately Blethen will put his concerns on this issue aside so long as a candidate meets one simple litmus test: repeal of the estate tax. Mr. Blethen needs to learn that you can't be taken seriously when you have a double standard.

Liveblogging the FCC Hearing

I'm at the Central Library in Seattle where two FCC Commissioners are participating in a public hearing sponsored by Reclaim the Media and a number of other organizations. I'll be filing live reports describing the proceedings every so often for the next few hours.

NIST: paperless e-voting systems are fundamentally flawed

Paperless electronic voting systems are fundamentally flawed and insecure.

This statement comes as no surprise to anyone who has spent much time thinking about or researching the issue. But it's not just me (and hoardes of computer security and voting rights activists) saying it anymore. Today, it's also the National Institute of Standards and Technology. Hat-tip to Daily Kos for breaking this story today.

When NIST speaks, people listen. This is the government agency whose job it is to determine what we use as the official standards for, well, basically anything relating to science, technology, or engineering. They're the ones who research the heck out of an issue (e.g. flame retardants for children's clothing) then decide how exactly to measure the thing in question (e.g. how quantify actual fire-proofedness into some sort of useful and general scale), and publishes guidelines that manufacturers can use to make their stuff and that consumers can use to make apples-to-apples comparisons between products (e.g. which jammies will my kid be less likely to burn to death in).

So, when NIST releases a draft report saying that they have found paperless electronic voting systems to be a fundamentally bad idea, that carries some weight. As well it should.

First, let me say I would encourage everyone to go read the draft. It's only 13 pages, and there's a lot of bureaucratic junk at the beginning you can skim right over before you find the good stuff. But to summarize:

NIST's analysis consists, mainly, of trying to determine whether various types of purely electronic or hybrid electronic/paper systems can meet a test of "software independence." NIST defines a "software independant" voting system as one in which errors in the voting software cannot produce errors in the final vote count that are un-detectable in a subsequent audit.

NIST's major finding is that paperless "DRE" systems cannot meet this test. Period. And, conseqently, NIST is recommending that such systems, ones which directly record votes onto electronic media and produce no paper trail, be de-certified by election officials nationwide. Here's the money quote, in typically scientific language:

"NIST does not know how to write testable requirements to make DREs secure, and NIST’s recommendation to the STS is that the DRE in practical terms cannot be made secure."


Translation: "basically it's our job to produce testable requirements for the standards we define, but we can't for the life of us figure out a test that would actually tell whether a DRE system had screwed up or not. Hence, we conclude that these things are un-testable black boxes and you just have to trust whatever numbers they tell you at the end of the election. We say to hell with that!"

Stick that in your pipe, Diebold, and smoke it.

NIST makes this finding because DRE systems produce absolutely no election records that are not directly dependent on the software of the DRE system itself. Undetected errors in the software may lead to bogus electronic records, but because the systems produce nothing at all besides those electronic records, there's nothing to use as the basis for an audit. The systems are not, fundamentally, independent of the software inside them.

NIST's next major finding (which, really, is quite obvious to even a casual observer) is that optical scan systems are great, because they start with a voter-verified paper record (namely, your ballot), which can always be used as the basis for any sort of audit you like. If you think the counting machines messed up, you've always got the paper ballots to fall back on.

The rest of the draft is a discussion of various systems that can be tested for security, including paper-based optical scan systems, hybrid systems that use a touch-screen style input but produce a paper trail, and paperless electronic systems that are based on cryptographically verifiable protocols. It's interesting reading, and again, I would encourage everyone to take a look.

Task force staff says new bridge best option

Oregon Public Broadcasting reports that the Columbia River Crossing Task Force received the staff recommendation yesterday to tear down the existing spans of the Interstate Bridge and replace it.
The staff of the task force has concluded that the I-5 Bridge is just too narrow and too old to fit into new transit plans. Project co-director John Osborn says that would mean a staggered construction project on a new bridge.

John Osborn: "Ideally, the way that we would do these is to either go upstream or downstream. We don't know for sure what the best alternative would be, and construct the facility there, and then cut over to it and then demolish the old structures."

Osborn says the task force will review two options for mass transit on a new bridge - buses or light rail. He says they'd build the mass transit portion of the bridge first and then lanes for cars. The next step is an environmental impact study.
It's certainly not an enviable job to be on a task force with 38 other people, and it's probably less enviable to work for that task force. Coming up with a final plan is likely to be difficult.

But the obvious criticisms that will come from the right on this plan are clear. They will attack the fact that it would replace a six lane bridge with another, albeit much better, six lane bridge. Some will still stupidly demand a third bridge, even though Oregon has made it clear that's not going to happen. And of course they will attack the light rail component and the idea of a toll, and some righties will spontaneously combust if light rail is built before the automotive lanes. Heaven forbid someone takes a train into Portland instead of battling the traffic on the bridge.

Bashing light rail has a long and ignoble history in Clark County. The decision by transit planners to put light rail on the January, 1995 ballot, with the smoke still clearing from the rubble of the November, 1994 election, in hindsight ranks up there with one of the worst ballot placements by any agency in Clark County history. To this day that 2-1 rejection of light rail is cited by opponents, even after nearly 12 years.

There are legitimate concerns about the suitability of light rail in Clark County, namely the lack of density and the cost of construction and operations. On the other hand, Portland has expanded its system over the years to the point that it's possible to imagine people using light rail quite extensively in 20 years, particularly as Clark County continues to add population. West-side light rail has, in fact, seen a great deal of use in Portland. Considered in a metropolitan context, light rail becomes much more appealing.

Tolls could ultimately prove less problematic, as it's not that hard to point out that tolls were used to build the current bridge. If nothing else, tolls are very fair user fees, and technology would greatly reduce the hassle factor. (Although the idea of kids missing out on getting to throw the quarter in the basket is somewhat lamentable.)

It's also certain that Clark County commuters would like to see the promised third lane south of Delta Park actually built. Clearing up that bottleneck alone will ease things somewhat in the short term. Oregon is funny about building freeway lanes for people to more easily clog up their downtown, though.

At the end of the day, there appears to be a consensus that something must be done about the bridge. The task force has cleared some important hurdles, but their biggest challenges lie ahead: convincing the public and Congress to adopt a specific proposal.

Oh, and one other thing: the new bridge needs to be the most beautiful bridge ever built in the whole wide world. We can't forget the aesthetics.

MORE-- Here's a link to the PDF file of the staff report.

Iraq Study group to propose "transition to support"

According to Reuters, the Iraq Study Group has come up with a recommendation.
The Iraq Study Group has decided to recommend the U.S. military transition from a combat to a support role in Iraq roughly over the next year, a source familiar with the panel's deliberations said on Wednesday.

"The main thing is (the group is) calling for a transition from a combat role to a support role," said the source, who spoke on condition that he not be named. "It's basically a redeployment."

The source said the idea was to shift U.S. combat forces both to bases inside Iraq as well as elsewhere in the region as the military gradually moved away from combat operations, adding that this should happen over the next year or so.

The New York Times earlier reported that there was no timetable for the proposed U.S. pullback, but the source said: "there is a kind of indication in the report as to when that ought to be completed ... sometime within the next year."

The independent, bipartisan group also decided to call for a regional conference that could lead to direct U.S. talks with Iran and Syria, both accused by the United States of fomenting violence in Iraq, the source added.
Um, two things. Bush isn't likely to go for it, and even if he did, what happens when U.S. bases are attacked? Not that things are neccessarily comparable right now, but does anyone recall Khe Sanh? You go sticking U.S. troops in bases and outposts like that, sooner or later there's going to be a sandstorm.

The Iraq Study Group, while it is in an unenviable position, wasn't elected by anyone. It's been thrust into the limelight by circumstances, and it's not going to come up with a solution. There is no branch of government called the Iraq Study Group. The branch that needs to be reinvigorated and provide a check on the administration meets in the building with the giant dome on top.

Does anyone really think Iran and Syria are going to be eager to help us? It would be nice if they did, but I think we just spent the last five years or so declaring that we need to invade them and stuff. One of them was a member of some "Axis of Bad People." Or maybe it a was a boy band, I can't remember.

So we are left with whatever comes of the (so far) once-postponed Jordan summit. Is it January 4 yet?

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Hearing on media consolidation tomorrow

Two FCC Commissioners are supposed to be in town tomorrow for a public hearing on media ownership organized by Reclaim the Media and KBCS 91.3 FM Community Radio. If the roads are thawed out enough in your neighborhood, we strongly encourage you to attend this event.

The hearing will help the FCC gather public comment as it considers revising its media ownership rules, which help protect viewpoint diversity by limiting the number of newspapers, TV, and radio stations a single company may own or control. This is Seattle's opportunity to weigh in on an issue which is critical to our culture and our democracy.

Senator Maria Cantwell and Representative Jay Inslee are scheduled to speak briefly. Additional event details are as follows:

FCC Hearing with Commissioners Michael Copps and Jonathan Adelstein
Seattle Central Public Library (1000 Fourth Avenue, Seattle, WA 98104)
Microsoft Auditorium - Level 1
Thursday, July 30th, 6:00 PM
Sponsored by Reclaim the Media and other concerned organizations
The event is open to the media and the public. Bloggers are encouraged to come.

Gore won't rule out presidential run

In an interview with GQ, he again emphasizes he has "no plans" to run, but won't rule out the possibility...leaving room for hope:
So if you decide to run, do you think we would see the Al Gore from the movie? Or the Al Gore from 2000?
Well, I don’t plan to run. I don’t plan to run. And I don’t expect to run.

How many times a day does somebody ask you this?
Well, I'm doing a lot of interviews and it's on the list of questions. For every one of them. And I appreciate that. I appreciate that people think enough of me still in that world to ask that question. It's true that I haven't, uh, gotten to the point where I am willing to completely rule it out for all time. But, that is really more a matter of the internal shifting of gears. I'm not making plans to run again.

But you’re not ruling it out?
Uh... no. [smiles]
Al Gore should have been sworn into office back in 2000. It didn't happen, but I pray that Al will make the decision to run again. America needs a statesman, a man of principle, someone with deep convictions and progressive values. After 2000 a lot of Democrats believed Gore was not a very good campaigner. And perhaps he isn't the greatest. But if he runs again, I believe he will win over America.

Gore and other Democratic candidates have suffered from bad advice, bad strategy, and poor campaign decision making. Christine Gregoire almost lost the 2004 gubernatorial race here in Washington State because her campaign was lackluster and uninspiring. Yet she has been a very strong governor, a very strong leader, whose proposals have been repeatedly approved by both the Legislature and the electorate.

It almost hurts to think about what a Gore presidency these last six years might have been like. Gore was actually asked about September 11th in the interview.
Okay, on to 9-11. What were you really feeling? Was there a part of you that felt a sense of relief that you weren’t in charge that day?
You mean a sense of relief that I didn’t have to deal with it? Oh no. Not at all. Not for one second. Not for one second. Why would I? I mean, well first of all, it just didn’t occur to me to feel anything like that. What did occur to me was to feel what every American felt, the outrage and anger and righteous anger, and support for the President at a time of danger… And, honestly, I was focused on the reality of the situation. And I wasn’t president, so, you know, it wasn’t about me. Now, I do wish, now that we have some distance from the events, and we have all this knowledge about what this administration did do, I certainly feel that I wish that it had been handled differently, and I do wish that I had somehow been able to prevent some of the catastrophic mistakes that were made.

Really? How about all the warnings?
That’s a separate question. And it’s almost too easy to say, "I would have heeded the warnings." In fact, I think I would have, I know I would have. We had several instances when the CIA’s alarm bells went off, and what we did when that happened was, we had emergency meetings and called everybody together and made sure that all systems were go and every agency was hitting on all cylinders, and we made them bring more information, and go into the second and third and fourth level of detail. And made suggestions on how we could respond in a more coordinated, more effective way.

It is inconceivable to me that Bush would read a warning as stark and as clear [voice angry now] as the one he received on August 6th of 2001, and, according to some of the new histories, he turned to the briefer and said, "Well, you’ve covered your ass." And never called a follow up meeting. Never made an inquiry. Never asked a single question. To this day, I don’t understand it.

And, I think it’s fair to say that he personally does in fact bear a measure of blame for not doing his job at a time when we really needed him to do his job. And now the Woodward book has this episode that has been confirmed by the record that George Tenet, who was much abused by this administration, went over to the White House for the purpose of calling an emergency meeting and warning as clearly as possible about the extremely dangerous situation with Osama bin Laden, and was brushed off!

And I don’t know why — honestly — I mean, I understand how horrible this Congressman Foley situation with the instant messaging is, okay? I understand that. But, why didn’t these kinds of things produce a similar outrage?

And you know, I’m even reluctant to talk about it in these terms because it’s so easy for people to hear this or read this as sort of cheap political game-playing. I understand how it could sound that way. [Practically screaming now]

But dammit, whatever happened to the concept of accountability for catastrophic failure? This administration has been by far the most incompetent, inept, and with more moral cowardice, and obsequiousness to their wealthy contributors, and obliviousness to the public interest of any administration in modern history, and probably in the entire history of the country!
Amen. You can read the whole interview here.

Mayfield settles with feds

Brandon Mayfield, the Portland-area attorney who was wrongfully detained in the Madrid train bombing case, has reached a settlement in his lawsuit against the feds. From The Washington Post:
The U.S. government has agreed to pay $2 million to an Oregon lawyer who was wrongfully arrested as a terrorism suspect because of a bungled fingerprint match and has issued an apology for the "suffering" inflicted on the attorney and his family.

Under the terms of the settlement announced today, Brandon Mayfield of Portland, Ore., will also be able to continue to pursue a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the USA Patriot Act antiterrorism law, which played a role in Mayfield's case.

The monetary payment amounts to an embarrassing admission of wrongdoing by the FBI, which arrested and detained Mayfield as a material witness in May 2004 after FBI examiners wrongly linked him to a portion of a fingerprint found on a bag of detonators during the investigation of the Madrid commuter train bombings.

Subsequent investigations have also found that the FBI compounded its error by failing to adhere to its own rules for handling evidence and by resisting the conclusions of the Spanish National Police, which quickly determined that the fingerprint belonged to someone else.
When the Mayfield story broke in 2004, I recall reading some web site or another where a brain-dead conservative posted that Mayfield was "obviously" guilty because "he has one of those liberal beards." I kid you not.

I also recall some "private investigator" that one of the Portland television stations hired as a "consultant" on the air at the time insisting that the FBI never, ever, ever messes up fingerprint matches. Right.

I'm certain that "Republicans with a libertarian leaning" (notice how many there are now) will be glad that Mayfield, an American born citizen who happened to marry a woman from Egypt many years ago, has received some small compensation for the ordeal his family was put through. They seized his kids' Spanish homework as "evidence," for crying out loud. They held him for two weeks and threatened him with the death penalty. Oops.

It will be interesting to see how Mayfield's action regarding the USA Patriot Act turns out. This is why you don't screw with the Constitution--period. Human beings make mistakes. Our founders knew that.

Winter storm warning for Portland-Vancouver

The Portland-Vancouver metropolitan area is under a winter storm warning until 10 AM Thursday morning. The latest:
...WINTER STORM WARNING IN EFFECT FROM 10 PM THIS EVENING TO 10 AM PST THURSDAY FOR THE GREATER PORTLAND METRO AREA...THE GREATER VANCOUVER AREA...THE WESTERN COLUMBIA RIVER GORGE AND THE NORTHERN OREGON CASCADES..

THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN PORTLAND HAS ISSUED A WINTER STORM WARNING...WHICH IS IN EFFECT FROM 10 PM THIS EVENING TO 10 AM PST THURSDAY. THE WINTER STORM WATCH IS NO LONGER IN EFFECT.

A PACIFIC SYSTEM WILL PUSH MOISTURE INTO THE NORTHERN WILLAMETTE VALLEY...CLARK COUNTY IN SOUTHWEST WASHINGTON...THE WESTERN COLUMBIA RIVER GORGE AND THE NORTH OREGON CASCADES STARTING LATER TONIGHT AND CONTINUING INTO THURSDAY MORNING. THIS PRECIPITATION WILL OVERRUN THE COLD AIR IN PLACE AND PRODUCE AREAS OF FREEZING RAIN WHICH WILL MIX WITH SNOW IN THE CASCADES AND WESTERN COLUMBIA RIVER GORGE NEAR HOOD RIVER. THE PRECIPITATION WILL BE GREAT ENOUGH TO PRODUCE ICING OF ROADS AND SURFACES THROUGHOUT THE FREEZING RAIN AREAS. SOME TREES OR BRANCHES ALONG WITH POWER LINES MAY COME DOWN.

IN THE COLUMBIA RIVER GORGE SIGNIFICANT FREEZING RAIN IS EXPECTED WITH THE POTENTIAL OF DAMAGE IN THE FORM OF DOWNED TREES AND POWER LINES...THE FREEZING RAIN WILL BE COMBINED WITH FROM 1 TO 3 INCHES OF SNOW IN THE HOOD RIVER AREA.

OVER THE NORTH OREGON CASCADES 4 TO 8 INCHES OF NEW SNOW WILL COMBINE WITH AREAS OF FREEZING RAIN IN THE PASSES AND THE HOOD RIVER VALLEY. SIGNIFICANT ICING IS EXPECTED WITH POTENTIAL OF DOWNED TREES AND POWER LINES.

A WINTER STORM WARNING MEANS SIGNIFICANT AMOUNTS OF SNOW.. SLEET...AND ICE ARE EXPECTED OR OCCURRING. THIS WILL MAKE TRAVEL VERY HAZARDOUS OR IMPOSSIBLE.
Residents of the Seattle Metro area can expect another snowstorm too. So the best thing to do is run through the grocery story screaming and purchasing things randomly. I did that and now I have to eat beef jerky and baby food for dinner.

Recount, snow delaying election certification

There will be a recount in a 6th Legislative District House race. That district is in Spokane. And apparently there were some logistical difficulties with certifying the election in a couple of western Washington counties due to the bad weather. From The Spokesman-Review (subscription required:)
Spokane County elections officials ordered a recount in one close race Tuesday after a meeting that certified all the results for the Nov. 7 general election.

The recount in the 6th Legislative District race between Democrat Don Barlow and incumbent Rep. John Serben was expected, so the certification, which is required by law, went off without any surprises.

That wasn't the case in some Western Washington counties, where a winter storm made some roads impassable and closed some government offices. Skagit and San Juan counties, which were among the hardest hit, struggled to find a way to bring together the three county officials – one person each from the county auditor and county prosecutor offices and a county commissioner – that the law requires.

At the end of the business day, it was uncertain whether they'd found a way to meet or at least certify their election results through a teleconference, Nick Handy, elections director for the secretary of state's office, said.

There's no provision in state law to extend the certification deadline, but Handy said county officials were told that if results did not get certified and reported by Tuesday, they would be accepted today.

"Who would've thought we'd have a once-in-100-year rainstorm on election day … and a severe snowstorm on the day for the certification deadline?" Handy said.

The Barlow-Serben race, in which Barlow leads by 266 votes out of some 52,000 cast, apparently is one of only two in the state that requires a recount, Handy said. The other is a Wahkiakum County commissioner's race, where independent Mark Linquist leads Democrat Blair Brady by one vote, 890 to 889.
Wow, 266 votes in the Spokane race. Should be entertaining. And there are at least 1,779 people in Wahkiakum County, which is also interesting.

(Just kidding, Wahkiakum - I used to live in Cowlitz County, it's lovely country there in Wahkiakum, or as Al Gore once called it at a rally in Southwest Washington, "Whacky-akum.")

Sadr supporters leave Iraqi government in protest

In protest of Maliki's summit with Dubya, Sadr's supporters have walked out of the government. From The NY Times:
Lawmakers and cabinet members in Baghdad who are loyal to the anti-American cleric Moktada al-Sadr followed through on a threat to boycott the government if Mr. Maliki went ahead with his meeting with Mr. Bush, and suspended their participation in both the parliament and the cabinet, The Associated Press reported. Mr. Sadr controls one of the biggest blocs of seats in Parliament; last week he reiterated his claim that the American presence was the root cause of the rising violence in Iraq.

In Amman, there were signs that the American president would be greeted with a decidedly blunt message. Slogans on banners condemned American hegemony; details of a possible march were being worked out, and DVD’s of a British movie depicting the fictional assassination of President Bush sold briskly here while the police cordoned off streets in preparation for the summit meeting.
The traditional media continues to focus on the Iraq Study Group, which is reportedly still debating troop levels in meetings at the Woodrow Wilson Center. (No, you can't make this stuff up.)

Meantime, "events on the ground," as cable reporters like to intone, are seemingly out of anyone's control.

It may be good domestic politics for the Iraq Study Group to be prominently displayed, but in the end, we have little actual leadership in the executive branch and a possible severe flare-up of violence and tensions in the Middle East.

We're left to speculate about the next move of an administration that has done virtually nothing well since 2001, when it adopted a CIA plan shortly after the September 11 attacks to assist the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan.

That action led to a quick victory over the hated Taliban. (Though the resurgent Taliban is proving the "victory" has been short lived). But then the focus shifted to a preemptive invasion of Iraq.

We can hope as Americans that even at this late date, someone will talk some sense into Bush, although that's a lot to hope for. He wants to "win" in Iraq so that his presidential library can glorify his war, but the rest of us just want him to stop being so stubborn. Congress is going to have to lead.

I've been thinking that impeachment is a political impossibility, but unless Bush gets a clue and stops it with the absurd platitudes about Iraq, that may change. The clock is ticking.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Seattle Metro area still frozen over

It's going to be a very, very, very chilly night - 18 °Fahrenheit in Redmond and most other cities in the Central Sound. That's fourteen below freezing. In the north, it's even colder. The low in Bellingham, for example, will be 11 °Fahrenheit.

The wind chill, though, is making it even colder in the North Sound. Bellingham really felt like fifteen below earlier today.

School districts have already announced another day of closures. The list includes Lake Washington SD, Seattle Public Schools, Bellevue SD, Issaquah LD, among others. (A complete list is available here).

Banks and retail shops everywhere closed up early today, with managers leery of slick and icy roads. And believe it or not, more snow is forecast for tomorrow. It's supposed to hit in the late afternoon and early evening.

So another storm is rolling in. Here's the forecast for the next few days, courtesy of Pacific Northwest Portal's official meteorology partner AccuWeather:
Tuesday Night: Mainly clear and very cold. Winds will be light and variable. (Low 18 °F, RealFeel®, 27 °F)

Wednesday: Mostly cloudy and not as harsh. Winds from the SE at 4 MPH. (High 37 °F, RealFeel®, 36 °F)

Wednesday Night: Periods of snow and rain with little or no accumulation in the evening followed by rain late; cold. Winds from the SSE at 6 mph. (Low 34 °F, RealFeel®, 31 °F)
On Thursday (during the day) the high will finally climb back into the low forties, and much of the snow and ice will likely melt away at that time. The bottom line: a minimum of one more day of motorist suffering and shutdowns is ahead of us.

In Brief - November 28th, 2006

Haven't done one of these in a while. Here is today's quick news digest:
  • Following in the footsteps of House Speaker-elect Nancy Pelosi, incoming Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is pledging to keep the Senate working solidly through the first seven weeks of the session - without any breaks. The Associated Press quoted Reid as saying: "We're going to put in some hours here that haven't been put in in a long time."
  • Pelosi, meanwhile, told Democratic Rep. Alcee Hastings that he will not be chairing the House Intelligence Committee - a decision we commend and applaud. Neither Hastings nor Representative Jane Harman should be conferred with the chairmanship. They simply haven't earned it. The three likeliest candidates whose names have been floating around are Representatives Silvestre Reyes of Texas, Rush Holt of New Jersey, both members of the Intelligence Committee, and our own Norm Dicks (who serves on the House Homeland Security Committee).
  • The Seattle Times had a nice article this morning about Senator Patty Murray's increasing clout. Murray, now in her third term, will head a powerful Appropriations subcommittee come January and now holds the fourth highest position in the Democratic caucus.
  • Markos has started an ActBlue fund to help netroots candidate Barry Welsh retire his $3,000 in campaign debt. (Welsh is likely the candidate with the most prolific posting record on Daily Kos. He ran a great race against an entrenched Republican incumbent - Mike Pence).
Finally, U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary Peters visited the Puget Sound region on Monday and participated in several news conferences, including one where she pledged federal money to help repair roads damaged by the recent flooding.

But the biggest announcement was about Sound Transit's Link Light Rail project, in which Peters announced federal approval for Sound Transit to enter final design for the University extension:
"This federal commitment will help give the region’s commuters a choice in travel that is fast and frequent and it will help get them where they need to go without worrying about being stuck in traffic," Secretary Peters said. "It is a great example of what we can do together to reduce congestion."

"Today marks another major milestone for Sound Transit and is a reminder to commuters stuck in traffic that help is on the way," said Senator Patty Murray. "Thanks to the hard work and dedication of the board and employees at Sound Transit, and the partnership of Secretary Peters and the Department of Transportation, this project is going places. I look forward to continuing to support these efforts to reduce congestion and improve the quality of life of Puget Sound residents."

The final design authorization that enables Sound Transit to begin negotiations with the Federal Transit Administration as part of the agency's efforts to secure a $750 million federal grant for the University Link project. The project has received the highest-possible ranking in the FTA's competitive New Starts program based on its major public benefits, including exceptional ridership projections.

The projected 2020 daily ridership for the 15.6-mile light rail segment that is currently under construction between downtown Seattle and the airport is 45,000.

The University Link project alone is projected to increase the regional light rail system’s 2030 ridership to more than 114,000 a day. Further light rail extensions to the north, east and south are proposed as part of the November 2007 regional Roads & Transit ballot measure.
Our thanks to Secretary Peters for her support and enthusiasm. Finally, a Bush administration official who believes in sound public policy.

The sea lions know

Sometimes you happen to run across competing headlines that are too good not to share, and on the same day no less.

Headline in The Columbian: States ask permission to kill sea lions
Headline in The P-I: California sea lions attack humans

I think the sea lions are on to us.

Gingrich attacks free speech

Newt Gingrich spouts more nonsense. From the (Manchester, N.H.) Union Leader:
Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich yesterday said the country will be forced to reexamine freedom of speech to meet the threat of terrorism.

Gingrich, speaking at a Manchester awards banquet, said a "different set of rules" may be needed to reduce terrorists' ability to use the Internet and free speech to recruit and get out their message.

"We need to get ahead of the curve before we actually lose a city, which I think could happen in the next decade," said Gingrich, a Republican who helped engineer the GOP's takeover of Congress in 1994.
I suppose all those Republicans "with a libertarian bent" will be quick to denounce this fear-mongering by Gingrich. It's worth noting Gingrich talked about dismantling the First Amendment at a dinner celebrating free speech.

While the Nov. 7 election was a turning point, it's clear that those who would sell out our freedom for the illusion of safety have not changed their repugnant views.

It's not really clear what Gingich has in mind. Whose web sites are to be monitored and perhaps shut down? How will this eliminate the chances for terrorism?

Our rights are not Gingrich's to eliminate, we are endowed with them by our Creator, as some dude named Jefferson wrote in 1776.

Unfortunately, the danger has not passed in this country, either from crazed religious terrorists nor from those who would use that threat to create an authoritarian state.

Gingrich has the reputation as a deep thinker, and still carries with him something of the manners of the history teacher he once was. But he seems to be ignoring one of the most vital lessons our founding fathers learned: if the government is allowed to control speech, it will do so, and will do so for nefarious purposes.

Portland and Vancouver on winter storm watch for Wednesday, Thursday

Looks like it might be Portland and Vancouver's turn Wednesday and Thursday:
...WINTER STORM WATCH IN EFFECT FROM WEDNESDAY EVENING THROUGH THURSDAY MORNING FOR THE NORTHERN WILLAMETTE VALLEY AND CLARK COUNTY IN SOUTHWEST WASHINGTON AND THE I-5 CORRIDOR OF SOUTHWEST WASHINGTON.

THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN PORTLAND HAS ISSUED A WINTER STORM WATCH...WHICH IS IN EFFECT FROM WEDNESDAY EVENING THROUGH THURSDAY MORNING.

ANOTHER PACIFIC SYSTEM WILL PUSH MOISTURE INTO THE NORTHERN WILLAMETTE VALLEY...CLARK COUNTY IN SOUTHWEST WASHINGTON AND THE I-5 CORRIDOR STARTING LATER WEDNESDAY NIGHT AND CONTINUING INTO THURSDAY MORNING. THIS PRECIPITATION WILL OVERRUN THE COLD AIR IN PLACE AND PRODUCE AREAS OF FREEZING RAIN WITH THE HIGHEST THREAT NEAR THE COLUMBIA RIVER AND IN THE PORTLAND VANCOUVER AREA.

THE PRECIPITATION WILL BE GREAT ENOUGH TO PRODUCE ICING OF ROADS AND SURFACES THROUGHOUT THE FREEZING RAIN AREAS. SOME SMALLER TREES OR BRANCHES ALONG WITH POWER LINES MAY COME DOWN.

A WINTER STORM WATCH MEANS THERE IS A POTENTIAL FOR SIGNIFICANT SNOW...SLEET...OR ICE ACCUMULATIONS THAT MAY IMPACT TRAVEL. CONTINUE TO MONITOR THE LATEST FORECASTS.
Oy, the freezing rain is the worst.

Seattle winter weather update

Many road conditions have improved as of this afternoon, so if you MUST go out for something, now is the time is to go. But don't venture out unless you really have to. Better to stay at home.

Here's an advisory from Waste Management about garbage collection:
There will be no garbage or recycling collection in the Puget Sound Area by Waste Management today, Tuesday, November 28, for the safety of their employees. The Waste Management Customer Service Center is also closed.
Lightning strikes were also reported at Seattle Tacoma International Airport earlier, and "thunder snow" was reported in some neighborhoods around the Sound.

It sounds too weird to be true.

It reminds me of a sequence in one of Lewis Black's standup routines in 1998:
It doesn't matter...the weather is out of control across the entire country. Wherever you go - one day it's ninety, the next day it's thirty; then it's eighty, then it's twenty.

I knew that the weather in this country was completely out of control and that something was wrong ten years ago.

I was in Boston, Massachusetts, in February. OK? Normally, in February, in Boston, and in most of the country, the weather is gray, rainy gray, sleet gray, rain gray, sleet gray, snow gray, every day it just gets grayer... and grayer...and grayer.

But in that February, in Boston, in four days, I experienced five seasons. It was thirty, it was sixty, it was ninety, it was twelve! And on the last day, there was thunder, lightning, and snow...together!

And I hadn't done drugs! 'Cause when you're lying in bed, OK, and you hear thunder outside, you get up to look, you have an expectation. And it's not snow, with lightning behind it. That's...not...right! They don't even write about that kind of weather in the Bible!
Meanwhile, the state Department of Transportation website has slowed to a crawl because so many people are trying to access it. The National Weather Service is forecasting a low tonight of 18 ° Fahrenheit. Any moisture on the roadways right now is going to freeze over fast after darkness falls. That's why you need to get back home before the daylight runs out.

Send us some cheese eating surrender monkeys

I guess Europe is okay now, since George W. Bush wants their help in Afghanistan. Alhthough he didn't exactly ask nice. From the BBC:
US President George W Bush has berated Nato members reluctant to send troops to Afghan hotspots, demanding they must accept "difficult assignments".

Speaking just before a Nato meeting in Latvia, Mr Bush said members must provide the forces the alliance needs.

Several Nato nations have caveats that keep their troops out of the most dangerous areas of Afghanistan, where Taleban forces are strengthening.
It truly boggles the mind how incompetent this administration has been. Afghanistan is a trouble spot again partly because Bush's government decided to divert resources and attention to the misadventure in Iraq. Let's not forget that in doing so, members of Bush's government and their supporters made a great number of disparaging remarks about Europe, including Cheney's infamous "old Europe" comment and the now infamous hate-radio insult "cheese eating surrender monkeys."

The truth is that more does need to be accomplished in Afghanistan. But with our military hollowed out by the neo-cons, we find ourselves reliant on those the Bush government found fit to dismiss a few short years ago. It's likely NATO members will act in their own self-interest, and it would still be advisable to go after the Taliban in Afghanistan, but they have domestic politics to consider as well.

The arrogance and stupidity of the Republican administration bites us in the rear once again.

Seattle area is a winter wonderland

The snow and ice have largely immobilized the greater Puget Sound region, creating road conditions that are simply awful and bringing many daily activities to a halt.

Dozens upon dozens of school districts have canceled classes, including Lake Washington and Seattle Public Schools (just the tip of the icicle). Bellevue Community College has shut down. Western Washington University remains closed. UW Bothell suspended all morning classes and UW Tacoma suspended operations for the day. UW Seattle is still operating normally.

Many roads and highways are closed in some areas due to extremely hazardous conditions. If you must leave your home, do so with extreme caution and check the latest advisories.

King County Metro has issued an advisory this morning warning riders to expect service delays or no service at all:
As of Tuesday morning, most Metro Transit buses are operating on a limited schedule because snow and ice is making driving conditions difficult throughout King County. When buses are on adverse weather routing, Metro revises its service to bypass hazardous and hilly streets. Passengers should check paper timetables and online schedules for the adverse weather routing for their particular bus route. See Metro Online for more information.
Sound Transit also has a few rider alerts:
Due to inclement weather and lingering bad road conditions in Snohomish County, ST Express Route 513 will not operate on Tuesday, November 28. The remaining ST Express routes operated by Community Transit (510, 511, 532 and 535) will run on a Sunday schedule on Tuesday, November 28. ST Express Route 532 will operate hourly during peak hours only.
The Washington State Patrol's latest advice mirrors ours from last night: Just stay home and relax. Don't try to go anywhere.

Incredibly, some of the region's major highways remained jammed well past 2 AM last night. Some drivers had been on the road for more than seven or eight hours.

The authorities cannot keep up with the number of vehicles that have spun out and gotten stuck. Last night the state Patrol only had enough officers to deal with crashes involving injuries. If you got stuck but weren't hurt, then no help would be forthcoming anytime soon.

Thousands are still without power though utilities are working to fix outages.

If you thought last night was bad enough, tonight will be colder and more snow is expected later today. Tomorrow could forseeably be even worse. If that turns out to be the case, the same advice goes:

Just stay home and relax. Build a snowman, go sledding, have a snowball fight. (There's even enough powder to build snow forts).

TransAlta coal mine closes

The TransAlta coal mine in Lewis County has closed.
TransAlta Corp. announced late Monday that it had closed its Centralia coal mine, putting 600 employees out of work and dealing a significant blow to the Lewis County economy.

TransAlta, which operates a coal-fired electrical generating plant in Lewis County, said the 225 workers at the power plant would not be affected by the coal mine's closing, said Doug Jackson, president of TransAlta's U.S. operations.

Union workers at the mine are members of the International Union of Operating Engineers, Jackson said. The Olympian reported in 2000 that mine and plant workers made on average $54,000 a year.
You might recall that one of TransAlta's more prominent employees is TransAlta lobbyist and Republican minority leader Richard DeBolt. He certainly worked hard for TransAlta. From The P-I in 2004:
Legislators often say that what's best for their bosses is best for their districts. Consider Rep. Richard DeBolt, R-Chehalis. The House Republican leader also serves as "external relations" officer for the TransAlta energy company.

Last year, DeBolt co-sponsored a bill that made small changes to an assortment of tax breaks, aiming to clarify previous legislation. The broadly supported package included a tax break for the Centralia Steam Plant, owned by TransAlta.

"It was more technical corrections," to avoid violating interstate commerce laws than it was a new tax exemption, said DeBolt, who said he had helped push through the original tax break. TransAlta employs 835 in his district, DeBolt said, and the bill "ties (TransAlta) down" to buying coal from the local mine.
According to The Olympian, that coal mine has been open for 35 years. Did TransAlta and DeBolt not know the mine was running out of coal? One would think this would be a fairly obvious scenario, and it raises even more questions about DeBolt's true motivation to pursue the rail spur.

Maybe as Washington state Republicans work themselves into a lather about how to make re-make their party, they could start by not electing ethically challenged lobbyists to lead them.

It's been a stellar year for House GOP members in this state. They started the year with the infamous fake sex offender postcards, and now they end it having been severely damaged in the election. Their leader's own company is sticking it to a heavily Republican community.

Luckily for Lewis County, their Congressman is Democrat Brian Baird, who has pledged to search for new economic development for the area. From today's Olympian article:
"While I understand that TransAlta's decision to close the Centralia mine is based on a lack of resources in the coal mine itself, I am deeply concerned about what the decision means for the employees, their families, and the local economy," U.S. Rep. Brian Baird, D-Vancouver, said in a prepared statement. "In the long term, we must find ways to bring new industry and economic development to this area."
You see, Baird will put aside the partisan makeup of Lewis County because it's the right thing to do. Something for Republicans to chew on as they consider how to rebuild their shattered party in this state.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Interstate 90 shut down east of Issaquah

TRANSPORTATION WARNING/ADVISORY -- EASTBOUND INTERSTATE 90 IS COMPLETELY SHUT DOWN EAST OF FRONT STREET IN ISSAQUAH DUE TO EXTREMELY HAZARDOUS ROAD CONDITIONS.

UPDATE: One lane has reopened, but avoid this highway at all costs. Also note that WSDOT is closing I-90 in both directions at Snoqualmie Pass tomorrow morning:
State transportation officials plan to close Interstate 90 at Snoqualmie Pass for about one hour starting at 9 a.m. for avalanche control work Monday.

Technicians will set off explosives above the east snow shed to bring down about 12 inches of snow that accumulated in the past 24 hours.

Traffic will be stopped until about 10 a.m. in the eastbound direction at Gold Creek (milepost 56) and westbound at Price Creek (milepost 61).
You have been warned.

Blow the place up

Media Matters reports that, regarding the Middle East, Rush Limbaugh said, "fine, just blow the place up."
On the November 27 edition of his nationally syndicated radio show, in response to claims made by King Abdullah II of Jordan on the November 26 edition of ABC's This Week that "we could possibly imagine going into 2007 and having three civil wars on our hands," Rush Limbaugh said: "[W]ell, let's just have them. Let's just have the civil wars ... because I'm just fed up with this." Limbaugh then asserted: "Fine, just blow the place up. Just let these natural forces take place over there instead of trying to stop them." Additionally, Limbaugh claimed: "[E]verbody comes to us. ... So we go and try to fix it and our own people, Democrats and the left in our country do their best to sabotage our efforts, and then we get blamed for trying to clean up the messes that these people start."
Chances are you already know that Limbaugh is an idiot and then some. But as we move into a new political era, it's worth noting that Limbaugh still has the largest radio audience in the country, according to Media Matters.

So the problem with Limbaugh isn't that he makes much sense, because he doesn't and never has, but by legitimizing emotion over reason and blame over cooperation, he puts opinion that otherwise would be justifiably dismissed as lunacy into the mainstream. The people of Iraq didn't "come to us" asking us to help them. The war in Iraq is failing because it was and is a bad policy, not because anyone in the U.S. is sabotaging it.

But it's just hyperbole, right?

It's become fashionable on the right to point to the excessive and violent rhetoric used by radical Islamic terrorists, but here we have the host of the biggest radio show in America calling for the wholesale destruction of an entire region of the world. Do we think that maybe, just maybe, Limbaugh is not exactly helping the situation?

Basically Limbaugh is expressing a rather sick sentiment that some of our fellow citizens seem to possess. Sometimes it's called "the sheet of glass" strategy, meaning that the U.S. should simply use nuclear weapons in the Middle East. But then Curtis LeMay had something of a following, too. The main difference between Limbaugh and LeMay seems to be that LeMay was actually in a war. Other than that you could throw Rush in an ill-fitting uniform and prop him up next to the corpse of George Wallace.

Talk radio is a weird format to begin with. While Air America has certainly had its moments, I must confess that I have run hot and cold on folks like Randi Rhodes. She relies heavily on emotion as well, although she is relatively honest about it and has at times insisted to her listeners that they shouldn't believe things just because she says them.

But Limbaugh takes things to a whole other place. It doesn't really matter whether Limbaugh believes the crud he spouts, what matters is that he continues to have such a large presence when he clearly has no credibility. Shame on the radio stations who carry him, shame on the advertisers and shame on those who support him. It's not entertaining and it's not responsible to put this kind of nonsense on the air. It may be a First Amendment right, but so is marching through Skokie.

Heavy snowfall hits Redmond, Puget Sound

Mother Nature has dumped a ton of snow on Redmond and Puget Sound tonight, and almost all of the roadways here in town have frozen over.

A thick coat of slick ice has made driving extremely difficult for those without chains, traction tires, or studded tires.

If you are north of the Bellevue city limits - picture an imaginary line running west to east from the shoreline of Puget Sound (in Seattle) into the mountains - chances are you're snowed under by at least several inches.

Here in NPI's home neighborhood it's at least five inches deep. The snow is piling on top of the ice on the roads, creating extremely hazardous conditions. In some areas it is still, in fact, snowing at this hour.

South of that imaginary line, there's plenty of snow and ice but it appears to be more scattered. The winter weather has created driving havoc on almost every highway in the area. Some areas have as much as two feet of snow.

A summary of some of the major developments:
  • Thousands of residents are now without power due to the storm
  • State Route 522 is closed due to heavy snow
  • Driving conditions over the mountain passes are miserable
  • The Monday night football game at Qwest featured a wintery white field
  • Chains are advised if you're venturing out tomorrow morning
  • A significant number of school districts and colleges are closed
  • All eastbound lanes of SR 16 are blocked by a nasty collision
A snow advisory is in effect for the region until 5 AM tomorrow morning. According to AccuWeather, Pacific Northwest Portal's official meteorology partner, here's the forecast tomorrow:
Tonight: A couple of flurries this evening; otherwise, mostly cloudy and cold. Winds will be light and variable (Low 25 °, RealFeel®, 27 °Fahrenheit)

Tomorrow: Very cold with times of clouds and sun. Winds will be light and variable. High: 33 °F Realfeel®: 34 °F

Tuesday Night: Partly cloudy and very cold. Winds will be light and variable. Low: 22 °F Realfeel®: 25 °F
It's going to be extremely cold, and that means the snow and ice are here to stay for quite a while. If conditions are bad in your area - and it's likely they are - just stay home - better be safe than sorry.

UPDATE: A warning from King County Roads Services:
As many motorists are discovering, travel all across King County is becoming increasingly treacherous tonight due to snowfall and plummeting temperatures. And weather conditions are not expected to improve much as we head toward the morning commute.

The King County Road Services Division reports numerous slick roadways in all areas of the county tonight as a result of snowfall that began during the afternoon commute. While road crews are now operating around-the-clock to clear roadways of snow and ice, the potential for additional snow showers and sub-freezing temperatures will nevertheless make travel extremely hazardous just about everywhere over the next day or two.

Until temperatures moderate, motorists should make every effort to be well prepared for winter driving and use extreme caution when traveling. If you are heading out tomorrow morning, leave plenty of time to get to your destination or take the bus. The Roads Division is also advising motorists to monitor the latest weather conditions and, if possible, postpone travel if conditions deteriorate further.

If you spot a problem on a road maintained by King County, report it by calling (206) 296-8100 or 1-800 KC ROADS. This alert will be updated as conditions change.
Again, the best advice: just stay home, relax, and enjoy the snow.

NPI to refer to NBC News workers as "journalists"

Today we at NPI wish to make an important announcement. Beginning now we will start referring to NBC News workers as "journalists," a title they relinquished during the last five years, especially in the months before the invasion of Iraq.

Analysts predict the move will cause other ex-journalists to compete to regain the formerly respected title by refusing to use Orwellian administration terms. The change comes after NBC News announced it will call things what they are.

Other terms on the chopping block, according to industry sources, include "private retirement account," "pro-life" and "fiscal conservative."

Washington's suburbs have turned blue

Much to the dismay of state Republicans almost three weeks ago, Democrats overnight chalked up wins in legislative district after legislative district all up and down the Puget Sound as the national blue tidal wave extended into the Evergreen State.

They won especially on the Eastside, in the central Sound, as Seattle Times reporter Andrew Garber points out this morning in an intriguing article.

The headline was "Region's suburbs may see benefit from one-party rule in Olympia". The only quibble we have with it is the word "may". "Will" should have been used instead, because this and future legislative sessions are going to prove that issues important to suburban communities are going to be at or near the top of the legislative agenda.

(Democratic leaders have of course been quick to point out that they will not ignore rural constituents, even though most of those communities are still going to be represented by Republicans. That's the proper approach.)

For years Democrats have been making inroads in the suburbs, but it wasn't until this year that a transformation has really been felt. Democratic candidates won all over - by sizable margins. Voters like the leadership they're seeing from the Governor and the state Legislature. They understandably want more.

Republicans have long claimed that they are the party that best represents suburban interests - the WSRP has previously had a graphic on its website with such a boast. (That image is now nowhere to be found).

But voters are convinced otherwise.

On a side note, it's actually surprising how many Republicans and conservatives believe Democrats are strictly an urban party. Oftentimes when we have talked about the suburbs, we have received comments and emails telling us we Seattle liberals don't know what we're talking about.

NPI, however, is not based in Seattle. It is actually headquartered in the suburbs - in Redmond, Washington. So while we are a statewide and regional organization, the Eastside is where a sizable number of our staff live. We have been at the forefront of the effort to make our representation in Olympia more Democratic.

Indeed, our home legislative district, the 45th, has gone from being represented by two Republicans and a Democrat to three Democrats - Representative Larry Springer, Representative-elect Roger Goodman, and Senator-elect Eric Oemig.

To the south, the 48th is also all Democratic now. Ross Hunter is returning to the state House and he's bringing Deb Eddy with him. Rodney Tom, meanwhile, is headed to the state Senate.

The shift leaves Republicans in a lousy position. As more and more legislative districts have turned blue, their minority has gotten smaller and smaller. Democrats now have supermajorities and the ability to confidently ignore demagogues like Tim Eyman, who has essentially been reduced to an irrelevant failure.

Republicans have predicted that the Democratic caucuses will go wild and hand out a lot of favors to interest groups. We strongly disagree with such sour cynicism.

Democrats are not in Olympia to make a mess or reward friends...unlike the Republicans in Washington, D.C., many of whom are now departing Congress.

Democrats are in Olympia to govern and to make progress. There is going to be a serious focus on solving problems over these next two years. That's what the voters expect and that is what we in the progressive movement expect.

Already my new state Senator, who represents our home legislative district, is talking about his plans:
Senator-elect Eric Oemig, D-Kirkland, today laid out his priorities for his first term in the Washington Senate, saying he is excited to take on the challenge of performance-tuning the state budget.

Among the first bills Oemig plans to sponsor is one calling for “smart metering” for utilities:

"By moving utility meters inside of the home, people see exactly how much money they are spending, as they are spending it. Smart meters change the way people think about and consume energy. When people see exactly how much money they save by switching off an extra light, they tend to turn off the light."
Eric has also clearly laid out his top priorities, which he put together after listening to constituents. They are:
  • Improving public education by investing in early learning,
  • Reducing health care costs and improving access by requiring large companies to provide a basic health care plan and ensuring every Washington child has access to high-quality health care,
  • Saving taxpayers time and money by strengthening Washington’s roads and transit system.
In last week's podcast I talked about legislation that Democrats are planning to introduce. That episode highlighted the need for actual governance, delving into how Democrats can link proposals to simple, widely held progressive values that the electorate already understands and appreciates.

With Republican roadblocks out of the way, Democrats are poised to move forward again, this time with greater ease. Even some Republicans recognize that:
"As much as it pains me to say so, it may actually be beneficial that all of the responsibility for either solving the public's problem ... or being solely responsible for doing nothing about it falls right at the feet of only one party," said Bob Wallace, a Bellevue developer and longtime Republican.

"There shouldn't be as much arguing about what we're going to do and how we're going to pay for it," he said.

[...]

Many of the Republicans in the Legislature had campaigned on various no-tax-increase themes over the years and had made commitments to not raise taxes ... even though their constituents were strangling in traffic and even though some taxation was the only way to pay for solving those problems," said Wallace, the Bellevue developer. "The Democrats generally aren't in that bind."

[The 41st's Republican Representative Fred] Jarrett agreed, saying, "I think it will be easier to move the transportation debate forward because people who are just anti-government are much less important in the discussion. Getting rid of that roadblock of no new taxes, for example, I think makes progress easier."
In the podcast I noted that Republicans have actually helped Americans lose faith in government. Voters are acutely realizing that government can make a positive difference and they want to see the tough problems get tackled.

They can't turn to the Republicans, because the GOP's answer is to axe revenue, repeal regulations, and destroy programs. That's not fixing what's broken, it's making the situation worse.

But Democrats understand the importance of public investment. Democrats are keen to listen and figure out solutions that work. We'll concede that Republicans and conservatives have identified some problems with how government works. But their answers to those problems have been wrong.

Democrats want government to be more efficient. Democrats know that tax cuts do not make government more efficient. They exacerbate existing difficulties.

And thanks to voter education efforts, taxpayers are figuring out the same thing. In the last two years the people of the Evergreen State have rejected two tax cut initiatives and sanctioned the Legislature's decision to increase or save existing revenue.

Washington is becoming more progressive and more Democratic. Its suburbs have turned a deep shade of blue. In the coming months our state's political leaders will have the opportunity to demonstrate that tough problems can be addressed. Rarely has the future ever looked so good for the Evergreen State.

Supreme Court to hear important case on global warming in Massachusetts v. EPA

This morning Grist Magazine has a thorough review of an upcoming case that the Supreme Court will be hearing oral arguments for next week - Massachusetts v. EPA. Here's a backgrounder from Gristmill:
The case involves a suit by Massachusetts and its allies (a coalition of other states and nonprofit groups) -- I'll refer to them as the petitioners -- against the EPA for refusing to use the Clean Air Act to regulate greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide emitted from motor vehicles. The petitioners lost in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, but convinced the U.S. Supreme Court to review the case.

When the Supreme Court decides to hear a case, it grants certiorari on specific questions. In Massachusetts v. EPA, the Court agreed to consider two:
  • "Whether the EPA Administrator has authority to regulate carbon dioxide and other air pollutants associated with climate change under [the Clean Air Act]" (I'll call this the authority issue), and
  • "Whether the EPA Administrator may decline to issue emission standards for motor vehicles based on policy considerations not enumerated in [the Clean Air Act]" (I'll call this the discretion issue).
There's also the potential for a sleeper issue: Constitutional standing. Over the years, the Supreme Court has crafted an elaborate body of law that governs whether a suit involves, in the words of Article III of the Constitution, a "case or controversy."
The first question is whether the language of the Clean Air Act gives the EPA the authority to regulate greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide. The EPA argues it does not have this authority (of course, it's run by a Bush administration stooge) and petitioners say the law does.

There are other issues in the case, too, but we see the first question as being the most interesting. Whether the Supreme Court decides in our favor or not, though, action is desperately needed to make progress in tackling global warming.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Snow flurries hit Redmond, Puget Sound

A whirlwind of white is blanketing much of the Puget Sound, including NPI's hometown of Redmond, in a coat of white this evening. According to AccuWeather, the official meteorology partner of Pacific Northwest Portal, the low tonight will be about 31 degrees Fahrenheit, and it will actually feel one degree colder.

At least one inch of snow is expected to fall during the night.

Snow falling in Redmond
Above: A snowy street in Redmond, Washington around 7:45 PM Pacific Time

Sunset was about a half an hour ago, and sunrise tomorrow is projected around 7:31 AM, leaving the region in darkness for about sixteen hours. As it's likely that pavement will be extremely slick and icy tomorrow, we urge our readers to be careful and cautious when venturing out on the roadways.

UPDATE: Some of the latest news and advisories (more here):
  • Everett Mall has been closed because of snow
  • Western Washington University has cancelled all classes and activities for tomorrow (Nov. 27th) at its Bellingham campus
  • Chains advised on Interstate 5 north of the Whatcom County line
  • Up to 15 inches of snow in some areas of Whatcom County
  • Traction tires required on major state passes
  • Motorists, expect road closures on I-90 and U.S. Highway 2
You can also check out Pacific NW Portal's special Winter Preparedness section for links, tips, and instant forecasts.

UPDATE II: The National Weather Service has updated its forecast.
A HEAVY SNOW WARNING has been issued until 4 AM Monday for Snohomish and northern King County, including the greater Everett area and north Seattle area. Already 3-6 inches have fallen in the Everett area, and 1-3 inches from Seattle north through King County and east to Carnation. An additional 1-4 inches are possible overnight for areas north of Seattle through Snohomish County.

For Sunday evening, A HEAVY SNOW WARNING remains in effect until 7 PM for western Whatcom County, western Skagit County, the San Juan Islands and the northern Olympic Peninsula.
So the bottom line is pretty simple: expect awfully slow going tomorrow morning, especially in the North Sound. The State Patrol is advising all residents of Snohomish, Skagit, and Whatcom counties not to venture out unless you absolutely need to go somewhere. Their advice is to stay home.

The punditocracy

David Sirota takes a swipe at the media opinion makers known as the "punditocracy" and concludes a lot of the problem is geography. From The Huffington Post:
That's right folks, the stereotype is, by and large, factually true: coastal elites are trying to impose a very narrow world view on the rest of the country - and people sense it because the opinionmaking machine is so uniform, and the media so consolidated, that this very narrow world view is being jammed down our throats everywhere. Hell, I can see it right there in my face when I sit down for a bagel at my local coffee shop in Helena, Montana, and open the local paper's commentary section, which - like many local papers' opinion pages these days - is now dominated by "national" pundits. On any given day, I see pieces from George Will trumpeting a New York City billionaire for his Wall Street conservatism. Or, I see right-wing Washington nobody Mona Charen and her latest screed demanding that all Jews adhere to neoconservatism as proof of their religious devotion. At best, if I'm lucky, I get a David Broder piece telling me how anyone who thinks our economic policies should serve middle America is a "protectionist" worthy of being tarred and feathered.
The full post is a great read. At a time when people are looking for better content and creative solutions to problems, the national media universe is so restricted and incestuous that it debilitates the national debate. Most of America does not vacation at Martha's Vineyard, as Sirota alludes.

Flipping through channels a week or so ago, I saw Brian Williams being interviewed by Charlie Rose, or to put it more accurately, General Electric being interviewed by Bloomberg L.P. As GE and Bloomberg LP prattled on about why The Nightly News is discrete about showing the effects of wars and other horrible things (it's dinner time in "rock-ribbed America" or whatever) I had a sudden and profound realization: these people are utterly clueless about most things. (Yes, another "duh, stilwell" moment.) Hey, nobody wants to see disturbing images, and I generally shy away from them myself, but the Iraq war has been so sanitized that the media acquiesced to administration prohibitions against showing caskets.

Sure, the pundits and high-profile national reporters live lives of privilege and wealth, but they don't understand nor seem to care much about the rest of us. Sirota, rightly in my view, attributes this to a lust for power rather than an ideology.

Tim Russert let Dick Cheney lie right to his face during the run-up to war not because Tim Russert is a Republican but because Russert gets all goose-bumpy being close to power.

The sick thing is nothing has changed much. There was a massive voter revolt against neo-conservatism on Nov. 7, but you wouldn't really know it from reading the op-ed pages, which seem to be full of arguments about how Democrats better not "go too far" and earnest discussions of which Democratic leader might have had cosmetic surgery. In a quest for "balance," newspapers allow right wing columnists to print the worst sort of personal attacks. Nancy Pelosi is a bitch, you know.

The best thing, of course, is to ignore the chattering class, but unfortunately they tend to influence public opinion through their sheer omnipresence. The silver lining is that thousands of progressive bloggers around the country are daily coming up with more trenchant analysis than all of the corporate world put together. And Sirota correctly notes that there are a few voices of sanity like Bob Herbert out there. We haste to add that Keith Olbermann can vacation any place he wants as far as we're concerned.

But while the voters have spoken, the Gang of 500 will spend the next two years chipping away at the conclusion rightly drawn by the majority of Americans, especially when it comes to foreign policy. After all, you can't trust the regular folks with important decisions; they might do something stupid like get us bogged down in an unwinnable war.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Pharmaceutical industry bigwigs annoyed by progressive victories

A major article in the Washington Post on Thanksgiving Day contained revealing excerpts from a memo distributed by the corporate brass at GlaxoSmithKline. Circulated to major executives at the drugmaker by e-mail, it was subsequently leaked and reported on.
"We now have fewer allies in the Senate," says the internal memo, obtained by The Washington Post. "Thus, there is greater risk over the next two years that bad amendments will be offered to pending legislation." The company's primary concerns are bills that would allow more imported drugs and would force price competition for drugs bought under Medicare.

The defeat of Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) "creates a big hole we will need to fill," the e-mail says. Senator-elect Jon Tester (D-Montana) "is expected to be a problem," it says, and the elevation to the Senate of Rep. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) "will strengthen his ability to change us."
Yes, indeed. How dare those progressive populists push for policies that benefit the American people and force corporate bosses to focus on any objective other than their bottom line!

Big Pharma is used to counting on its "friends" in Congress, like Rick Santorum, to protect their interests and their profits. Any development that ultimately results in more accountability, like the returns of the 2006 midterm elections, is bad news.

Democrats like Jon Tester and Sherrod Brown are progressive champions who will not kneel before special interests. They and almost every other victorious Democratic challenger represent a new wave of Democrats - not conservatives, or moderates, but populists. Progressive populists.

They will put their constituents' concerns, and the American people's concerns, at the top of the agenda. Big corporations and much of the political establishment may not like that idea - that's too bad. They'll have to get used to it.

More FUBAR

Sadr's people are broadcasting calls for retribution.
Followers of the militant Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr took over state-run television Saturday to denounce the Iraqi government, label Sunnis "terrorists" and issue what appeared to many viewers as a call to arms.

The two-hour broadcast from a community gathering in the heart of the Shiite militia stronghold of Sadr City included three members of al-Sadr's parliamentary bloc, who took questions from outraged residents demanding revenge for a series of car bombings that killed some 200 people Thursday.

With Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki relegated to the sidelines, brazen Sunni-Shiite attacks continue unchecked despite a 24-hour curfew over Baghdad. Al-Sadr's Mahdi Army militia now controls wide swaths of the capital, his politicians are the backbone of the Cabinet, and his followers deeply entrenched in the Iraqi security forces. Sectarian violence has spun so rapidly out of control since the Sadr City blasts, however, that it's not clear whether even al-Sadr has the authority - or the will - to stop the cycle of bloodshed.
And get this:
Al-Maliki's administration acknowledged it was powerless to interrupt the pro-Sadr program on the official Iraqiya channel, during which Sadr City residents shouted, "There is no government! There is no state!" Several speakers described neighborhoods and well-known Sunni politicians as "terrorists" and threatened them with reprisal.
Sounds like a civil war to me. Unfortunately, we've got 140,000 American troops smack dab in the middle of it.

It appears the situation is more serious than reports about game consoles and shoppers would suggest. I fear Americans of all political stripes need to brace themselves. Where this thing goes from here is anyone's guess.

FUBAR

The situation in Iraq is FUBAR. From The Washington Post:
The ferocity of the latest attacks complicates the prospects of major progress at the talks in Amman, U.S. experts warned.

"This summit is an act of desperation. The White House doesn't know what it can do," said David Rothkopf, a Carnegie Endowment for International Peace fellow and the author of "Running the World: The Inside Story of the National Security Council and the Architects of American Power." "The situation is deteriorating more rapidly than anyone anticipated and to an unending depth.

"I don't think, in modern American history, there is another example of such egregious failure of policy and execution. We're really seeing something unprecedented here. Even Vietnam was a slower decline, and the military forces were more in balance. . . . I don't know anyone who thinks there is an outcome in Iraq now that is hopeful."
If the first rule when you're in a hole is to stop digging, the second rule might be to stop listening to the people who told you to dig the hole in the first place.

People, and that means journalists, politicians, talk radio hosts and right-wing bloggers, need to get their heads around a very simple concept. This is not going to end well. The only question now, sadly, is how badly it is going to end, and under what circumstances. Pretending otherwise is not the act of rational people. It's not a football game, and there are no speeches by the Gipper (or Ronald Reagan playing the Gipper) to be had.

Idle talk from certain quarters, whether via a microphone or a keyboard, about "defeatism" is not only unhelpful, it misses the key point: whatever chance there ever was to build a "democratic Iraq," however one defined it, is long past. It was washed away in a sea of incompetence and arrogance, the chief offenders being the Young Republicans' Tigris Office and their corporate partners Theft R Us, known respectively by the formal names the Coalition Provisional Authority and Haliburton. The PNAC plan was both childish and insane, the work of fools. Yet these fools came to dominate the debate in the U.S., and to this day their supporters insist on attacking those who disagree with them using idiocies about how the "terrorists are glad Democrats won."

Glenn Greenwald makes an important point about Republican perfidy:
So, to recap: when insurgents engage in violence before the elections, that's the fault of Democrats because it's done to help them win (and credit to Republicans because it shows how tough they are on The Terrorists). When the insurgents engage in violence after the elections, that's also the fault of Democrats because they are excited by the Democrats' success (and credit to Republicans because Republicans want to stay forever, which makes the insurgents sad and listless). And when there is no violence, all credit to Republicans because it shows how great their war plan is.

Put another way, no matter what happens in Iraq (violence increases, violence decreases), and no matter when it happens (before the election, after the election), it is the fault of Democrats and it reflects well on the Republicans. Isn't it fair to say that that's the very definition of the mindset of a cultist?
There are disturbing signs that U.S. foreign policy is badly adrift. From the BBC this morning:
The killing of Lebanese politician Pierre Gemayel may be the "first shot" in a coup against the government, a top US official has said.

John Bolton, the American ambassador to the United Nations, said recent probes into political killings in Lebanon suggested Syrian involvement.

He told the BBC that if Syria was deemed to have been involved, the implications were serious.
So on the one hand Syria better, as Bolton put it in the BBC interview "listen" to the U.S. On the other hand, the U.S. hopes that Syria will assist in stabilizing Iraq. I'm not quite sure what to make of this mixed message. It could be a fiendishly clever plot inspired by Dr. Strangelove Henry Kissinger, or it could be further evidence that the neo-cons have zero idea what they are doing and are simply making stuff up as they go. My money is on the latter.

Things are pretty bad when Dick Cheney goes to Saudi Arabia, presumably to beg for help, and while he's there, they have Bolton spouting trash. Nice.

Our uniformed military personnel are now at risk of being caught in an ever widening sectarian civil war in Iraq. Whatever American conservatives think of their political opponents, it is past time for them to accept that basic fact. Calling for U.S. backed assassinations or demanding this thing or that thing from Iran or Syria is grasping at straws. But when one constructs a fantasy world it tends to all come crashing down at once. Our military personnel continue to suffer further losses due to wishful thinking.

The debate in the United States continues to center around domestic politics rather than the situation in Iraq. Somehow, this factor must be lessened. For starters, the U.S. media can stop regurgitating the lies and spin put forth by the very people who created and supported this fiasco. The inanity of "stay the course" and its offspring are a testament to how unserious and untrustworthy the conservative movement has become. It's well and good to consider both sides of an argument when both sides act in good faith; it's not helpful to consider arguments that lack grounding in fact, reason or comity.

It's probably too much to wish for, but if we are to have a reasoned debate the right wing noise machine needs to be turned down several notches in this country. If elected Republicans, in their minority status, wish to be taken seriously, they will start to act in a serious manner. Continued attempts to paint Democrats as somehow "soft on terror" will not stop the new Congress from exposing, through hearings, the corruption that became a hallmark of Republican rule and has been a serious problem with the war effort.

In the tradition of the efforts made by then-Senator Harry S. Truman during World War II, Democrats should ask tough questions and make sure our troops get what they need and those who have acted unscrupulously get what they deserve.

This is not a time, of course, for glee on the progressive side, although doubtless that accusation will be hurled. It is time for a cool assessment about what constitutes the national interest of the United States, and what is to be gained and what is to be lost by staying in Iraq.

There are no easy answers. But the new Democratic Congress must assert itself and demand accountability from the executive branch. At the rate things are going in Iraq, the situation could be even more severe by January 4.

MORE---Chuck Hagel generally gets it. From a guest editorial in tomorrow's edition of The Washington Post:
We have misunderstood, misread, misplanned and mismanaged our honorable intentions in Iraq with an arrogant self-delusion reminiscent of Vietnam. Honorable intentions are not policies and plans. Iraq belongs to the 25 million Iraqis who live there. They will decide their fate and form of government.
That's some straight talking maverick-type stuff there from one of the few Republicans who still make any sense at all. Better than the non-straight talking and non-maverick stuff that comes from a certain Senator from Arizona.

EVEN MORE--- Apparently there has been a move afoot among some military historians to revise history:
In historical assessments and the American recollection, Vietnam was the unwinnable war. But to many in the armed forces, Vietnam, as a war, actually was on its way to succeeding when the Nixon administration and Congress, bowing to public impatience, pulled the plug: first withdrawing U.S. combat forces and then blocking money and supplies to the South Vietnamese army.

If they hadn't, the South Vietnamese army, which had been bolstered by U.S. advisers and a more focused "hearts-and-minds" campaign in the later stages of the war, could have fended off the communist North, military thinkers have argued.
Still fighting the last war. Maybe if we mine Iraqi harbors and bomb them at Christmas...

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving

Very few of us at NPI are doing any kind of work today, including writing, so expect extremely light to no posting for the rest of the day and throughout the weekend.

In the spirit of the holiday, here's a list of some of the things we're thankful for:
  • We're thankful for the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights
  • We're thankful for our men and women in uniform
  • We're thankful that Democrats are now the majority party in America
  • We're thankful that Howard Dean is Chairman of the DNC
  • We're thankful for a number of terrific organizations, like the Center for American Progress, Media Matters, and the Progressive States Network
C.A.P.R. also has some additional reasons for progressives to be thankful.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Pelosi: This House Stays Open

The leader of the House Democratic caucus is making smart moves:
Speaker-to-be Nancy Pelosi will open the House for the first session of the 110th Congress on January 4, and keep it in session for the first several weeks of January.

While that may not sound remarkable outside-the-beltway, it is departure from tradition that is certain to prompt some teeth gnashing among Republicans.

Congress typically convenes the first week of January after a holiday recess just long enough for new members to be sworn in, and then promptly adjourns until the president's State of the Union Address toward the end of the month.

Pelosi's team apparently figures there's no reason to allow President Bush to set the agenda in January by leaking bits of his speech. Instead the Democratic Congress will immediately plunge into its lengthy to-do list, starting with an ethics reform package, and perhaps have some bills on Bush's desk by the time the State of the Union is ready for delivery.
Kudos to her. This the kind of leadership we've been expecting.

Interstate bridge proposal put forth

A task force will recommend replacing the Interstate Bridge between Vancouver and Portland, according to The Columbian.
The iconic twin spans of Interstate 5, melded into Vancouver's skyline, will make way for a single modern bridge across the Columbia River, under the latest plan for the new Columbia River bridge.

The two spans -- the first built in 1917 and the second in 1958 -- won't be needed under the proposal prepared by the staff of the Columbia River Crossing project. The proposed draft environmental impact statement will recommend replacing the bridges with one new bridge carrying traffic, bikes, pedestrians and mass transit.

Bridge construction could begin as early as 2009, according to documents. The replacement bridge would be built upstream or downstream from the current spans, those documents say.

"All the highway transit, bike and pedestrian traffic would be on one new structure," said Doug Ficco, the Washington director of the Columbia River Crossing.
Obviously Seattle is facing a massive decision with the viaduct, but as that gets hashed out in the Legislature this session, folks might want to keep in mind that early guesses about the cost of replacing the Interstate Bridge are in the $2 billion range. Obviously federal funding would be sought, and it involves Oregon, but still, the costs to Washington are likely to be substantial.

I've been following the deliberations of the Columbia River Crossing task force as I can, both on-line, in print and on the local government channel. I don't envy the 39 members their rask. As The Columbian article notes, the design challenges are severe. You have two airports (PDX and Pearson Field,) a national historic reserve, two cities, two states, a major navigable river, rail lines, interstate and state highways and businesses and neighborhoods to consider. And I probably left something off of that list.

Once the public becomes more focused on this issue, we're likely to get more discussion about transit. For reasons I don't understand, many Clark County residents are almost pathologically opposed to light rail. While it's not perfect, and improvements in Tri-Met trip times would make it a lot better, I can't resist noting that the failed 1995 proposal to connect Vancouver to Portland's light rail system would have cost something like $250 million, which would have been a fantastic bargain.

It's understandable that people don't want to pay for things they don't see as an immediate benefit to themselves, but as we go forward more people need to put forth the argument that transit is a long-term investment. I could be mistaken, but I think it took New York City a century to build their subway system. Just because an initial Clark County light rail line would only go as far as downtown Vancouver is no reason not to think ahead 50 years or more.

Of course, we all have our preconceptions and bias. Another transit option that is often brought up is "bus rapid transit," which to me is an oxymoron. So you build a 500 foot bus lane and call it something else, it's still a bus. An ugly, diesel spewing bus that has none of the grace and elegance of electric trains, merrily sparking along (I told you I was biased.)

Another grumble that comes out of Clark County is talk about a "third bridge," which is the mother of all non-starters. For that to happen, you'd need highways to connect it to, and Oregon simply will not allow that to happen. Period.

Doubtless one or more politicians will grand-stand about it, but it's not a very practical discussion at this point.

If you wish, you may visit the Columbia River Crossing task force on-line. They welcome public comment.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

NPI releases eighth podcast

We've released our eighth podcast - a retrospective on this year's midterm elections and the victories that were won in early November. This episode also highlights the need for actual governance, delving into how Democrats can link proposed legislation to simple, widely held progressive values that the electorate already understands and appreciates.

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.

Did you vote absentee? King County Elections may need to reach you!

An important message from King County Elections:
King County Elections is making one last attempt to contact voters whose signatures on their absentee ballots either do not match their voter registration or whose ballot was not signed. These automated phone calls use the voters registered phone number and will start today. Contacting a total of almost 4,000 voters, these calls will continue through Monday afternoon, the day before the election is certified.

“During each election, hundreds of absentee voters either overlook the signature and oath or their registered signature does not match the signature on their return envelope," said Jim Buck, interim director of Records, Elections and Licensing Services. "Voters need to make sure to sign the return envelope and to keep their signature and registration information current in order to avoid these calls."

King County Elections compares every absentee ballot signature against the voter’s registered signature on file. If an absentee ballot is returned with a signature issue, election officials immediately attempt to contact the voter both by mail and by phone, as is required by state law. Contact attempts have already been made for a vast majority of these voters

If King County Elections does not receive the required documents from voters with signature issues by Monday, November 27, at 6 p.m., their balhttp://www.blogger.com/img/gl.link.giflot will not be tabulated.
If there's a problem with your ballot, you should have already received a letter in the mail, and additionally, you may get a phone call that sounds like this.

To accommodate voters, King County Elections will offer extended office hours at the downtown Seattle office on Monday, November 27 from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. King County Elections is located in the King County Administration Building at 500 Fourth Ave, Room 553 in Seattle. Voters may also call 206-296-VOTE (8683) for more information during those hours. But note that King County Elections will be closed Thursday, November 22 through Sunday, November 26 in observance of the Thanksgiving holiday.

Voters may also visit a King County Community Service Center during normal hours of operation to pick up and complete or drop off their affidavit or registration form. For more information on King County’s Community Service Centers, .

Food

Just in time for the holidays, Steve Gilliard has added a new blog about food called, of all things, The News Blog Food Blog.

Lots of folks always liked Gillard's food discussions. It's always fun to see him take down the righties and then discuss desserts. Anyhow, I'm headed into a holiday "light posting" mode, although if it keeps hailing I might check in. Or I might be getting hailed on in some mall parking lot, hard to say. Thanks for reading and have a great Thanksgiving.

Both sides don't do it

Democrats are demanding a big settlement from the Republican phone-jamming effort in 2002.
New Hampshire Democrats says Republicans should pay them $4.1 million in damages for an illegal phone-jamming operation by an Idaho company that disrupted get-out-the-vote operations on Election Day 2002.

That's nearly half of what Democrats spent on their six-month effort, which was disrupted for nearly two hours the day it was supposed to pay off.

The state and national Republican parties say they should pay only $4,974 - the actual cost of the disrupted telephone service and rental costs - to $21,287.

[...]

The Republicans hired a telemarketing firm, Mylo Enterprises of Sand Point, Idaho, to place hundreds of hang-up calls to phone banks for the Democratic Party and the Manchester firefighters union, a nonpartisan group offering rides to the polls. The election featured a hotly contested U.S. Senate race in which U.S. Rep. John Sununu defeated Democratic Gov. Jeanne Shaheen.

Two Republican operatives served prison time after pleading guilty to criminal charges in the case, and Shaun Hansen, the telemarketer from Spokane, Wash. who owned Mylo Enterprises, agreed this month to plead guilty. Hansen is scheduled to be sentenced in February.
The attorneys can fight it out over damages; once an election is over the actual damage is done. There were Republican dirty tricks with phone calls this year as well.
Both sides don't do it, only one side does the dirty tricks phone calls. And it's not just "playing rough," it's illegal and unprincipled.

Our state Legislature needs to crack down on this. They can start by banning all political "robo-calls." That will put Democrats squarely on the side of regular people, who don't need telephone harassment every election season.

Fox's Mark Foley moment

Was it Fox's Mark Foley moment?
The decision to cancel the twin Simpson projects was greeted with widespread expressions of relief. Michael Angelos, a vice president of Pappas Telecasting Companies, which told the network Friday that its four Fox-affiliated stations did not intend to broadcast the interview, released a statement calling the network’s decision “a victory for the people who spoke out.”

The statement concluded, “This special would have benefited only O. J. Simpson, who deserves nothing but contempt, and certainly no benefit.”

Numerous staff members at the News Corporation and the Fox network, all of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity because they had been ordered not to comment about the Simpson deal, said they were thankful the company had abandoned the project. A News Corporation executive said that internally the project had been considered a disaster for the company.
You would think that since the public has recoiled in horror at Fox's putrid attempt to make money from this, the public would come to realize the morally bankrupt nature of News Corporation. (And despite the silly claims of a certain falafel fan, most people would find it hard to draw a distinction between Fox Entertainment and Fox News when it comes to corporate ownership.)

Just as the Mark Foley scandal came to symbolize more serious flaws in the Republican Party, the tawdry attempt by Fox to cash in on murder should come to symbolize the flaws of Fox and its parent corporation.

Everyone knows the only thing Rupert Murdoch cares about is money. If, in the 1990's, there had been money to be made trashing Republicans and spreading lies about them, Fox News would have been more liberal than Air America.

Fox News is nothing but a profit center and is not a legitimate journalistic outfit. (Yeah, duh, stilwell, but--the problem is all the people in this country who watch Fox and believe it. Not to mention competing networks that think the path to profit is by becoming "Fox Lite.")

You can't have a meaningful discourse in this country if a propaganda channel enables a certain portion of the citizenry to keep their long-held delusions. Admittedly, many on the right will cling to their delusions no matter what, but without the right wing noise machine they will be justifiably marginalized, which could create space for the much longed for "civility" and "moderation" in our politics. As things stand at the moment, it's going to be verbal combat for the foreseeable future, because the first thing progressives did right was the minute they started to fight.

The progressive blogs have proved how important it is for people to have a voice for their views. Just as progressive blogs provide a means of verifying facts and holding policy decisions up to scrutiny, Fox News provides the right a means of justifying its prejudices and lies. If you don't believe me turn on any right-wing talk radio show.

Now, there is a First Amendment right in this country to be wrong, and a certain amount of falsehoods are to be expected when it comes to political matters. These things come in degrees, of course. Arguing about tax rates is not the same as Swift-boating. The courts rightly give people a great degree of latitude in political speech.

We don't want the government to be the referee, however. The answer to speech you disagree with is more speech.

But when it comes to credibility, other media organizations have the right and obligation to denounce and counter the lies spread by Fox. MSNBC is doing an okay job of this with "Countdown," but more needs to be done. And all media outlets should stop coddling people who insist on regurgitating Fox-Republican propaganda, be it in letters to the editor or elsewhere. Printing Fox-Republican talking points is not "listening to all the voices," it is promoting one narrow voice above all others, when that voice already controls so much of the public debate.

It's not that hard to spot Fox-Republican talking points, for crying out loud. Just ask for the memo.

Training

So maybe the Iraqis need some better training. Thomas E. Ricks writes in The Washington Post:
The U.S. military's effort to train Iraqi forces has been rife with problems, from officers being sent in with poor preparation to a lack of basic necessities such as interpreters and office materials, according to internal Army documents.

The shortcomings have plagued a program that is central to the U.S. strategy in Iraq and is growing in importance. A Pentagon effort to rethink policies in Iraq is likely to suggest placing less emphasis on combat and more on training and advising, sources say.

---snip---

One of the most common complaints of the Army officers interviewed was that the military did a poor job of preparing them. "You're supposed to be able to shoot, move and communicate," said Lt. Col. Paul Ciesinski, who was an adviser in northern Iraq last year and this year. "Well, when we got to Iraq we could hardly shoot, we could hardly move and we could hardly communicate, because we hadn't been trained on how to do these things." The training was outdated and lackadaisical, he said, adding sarcastically: "They packed 30 days' training into 84 days."
The full article paints a very bleak picture, unfortunately. These are uniformed military personnel speaking on the record.

It would take time, money and expertise to correct the failures of the Iraq war policy, and even then it's an open question whether better training and more troops would make a big difference. It would have been a great challenge even if things had been handled properly from the beginning.

The issue is not one of will nor patriotism, it's one of facing facts. The desperate searching for any way to salvage this fiasco shows how unlikely the war in Iraq is to end well. It's a sobering time for all Americans, or it should be.

Nor should there be recriminations against uniformed military personnel. It was the civilian leadership in the Pentagon, chiefly Donald Rumsfeld, who brought about this disaster, along with the rest of the neo-con cabal. Full Congressional hearings into the conduct of the war in Iraq must be held as soon as possible, starting in January.

There will continue to be those on the right who think brave talk and political attacks are a substitute for living in the reality based world, but as the election showed, they are a minority and are being marginalized by the day. It's time for the actual grown ups to go about the business of trying to clean up the neo-con mess.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Let's try a Hail Mary pass

Now there's yet another "option" to support the failed Iraq war policy, the so-called "surge option." Well, it's a new name but it sounds kind of familiar for some reason.
Pentagon officials conducting a review of Iraq strategy are considering a substantial but temporary increase in American troop levels and the addition of several thousand more trainers to work with Iraqi forces, a senior Defense Department official said Monday.

The idea, dubbed the “surge option” by some officials, would involve increasing American forces by 20,000 troops or more for several months in the hope of improving security, especially in Baghdad. That would mark a sharp rise over the current baseline of 144,000 troops.

But some officials and senior military officers are arguing against the idea, saying that it could undercut a sense of urgency for Iraqi units to take on a greater role in fighting the insurgency and preventing sectarian attacks. Gen. John P. Abizaid, the head of the United States Central Command, told Congress last week that the military was stretched so thin that such an increase could not be sustained over the long term.
As each trial balloon comes crashing to the ground, real people get hurt in a real place called Iraq. It's a tragic spectacle. Come January, when a Democratic Congress takes charge, we can hope that a serious policy to end the war can be drafted. Right now, it's like watching the same frames of a horror movie repeatedly.

Tomorrow, someone in the Bush administration proposes we run the Wing-T...

Try 65 toss power trap

Oh, all we need in Iraq is a new play? I'm not certain if we should go long or not, but I am utterly convinced that the failure to consider 65 toss power trap means we won't be matriculating the ball down the field any time soon.

Kick it up high, George, so we can cover this thing. No frozen ropes. Sigh.

"Carville coup" has been crushed

The Carville coup has been crushed. From MyDD:
The attempts to oust Dean have been crushed. The anti-Deaniacs in the party are fresh out of friends:

"James Carville's attempt to topple Howard Dean as chairman of the Democratic National Committee failed after state party officials and even a vocal critic of Dean crushed the coup, officials said.

Insiders from the Clinton camp winced at Carville's untimely remarks last week calling for Dean's ouster in favor of unsuccessful Senate candidate Harold Ford of Tennessee.

"It was not coming from [Sen. Hillary Clinton] and they made a real effort to distance themselves from James' comments," said a source close to the Clintons.

The Clintonistas don't want an undeserved backlash from the activist wing of the party that overwhelmingly supports Dean, especially because some anti-Clinton Democrats have blamed Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) for the attack by Carville, a longtime Clinton insider. Those forces claimed Carville's motive was to topple Dean in favor of a chairman more favorable to Sen. Clinton's bid for President."

The remarks form Clinton's camp come after Charles Schumer and Donnie Fowler backed Howard Dean and the fifty-state strategy, the Association of State Democratic Chairs did the same, and after Dean scored a 96% approval rating on the latest Dailykos leadership poll. The latter two are particularly key, because over the past two years, Howard Dean's base of support in the party has come primarily from two sources: state parties and the progressive movement. Although lacking in nuance, it would not be inaccurate to characterize the current modus operandi of the DNC as follows: small donations from progressive movement activists flow to the DNC in record amounts, and most of those donations end up being spent on direct grants to state parties and in the form of state-level field organizers. This is a novel path for Democratic money to take, especially since it generally bypasses both Washington, D.C. based consultants and wealthy donors. It is also exactly why Carville's base of supporters hate Dean so much.
Naturally, those who have made tremendous amounts of money losing elections for us will never go away completely. But it's very clear that the progressive netroots will not allow scummy consultants like Carville to mess with our hopes for success. Smart consultants will embrace the new era. Dumb ones will continue to make lousy television ads.

Carville should be finished as a Democratic Party force. But he'll be back in one form or another, I'm sure, probably on Faux Network. I hear they have a big programming hole to fill now.

Growth: It's what's for dinner

It seems earlier this month the Washington Supreme Court made a key ruling involving boundary review boards. From The Columbian:
A recent Washington Supreme Court ruling eliminates a key part of the annexation dispute between Vancouver and Clark County that boiled over earlier this year.

The state's high court, in a 5-4 decision earlier this month, ruled that boundary review boards have no authority to expand annexations.

The Nov. 9 decision is not retroactive and will not affect the massive 1997 Cascade Park annexation, where the local boundary review board doubled the amount of land that was added to Vancouver.
The case originated in King County, according to The Columbian. The ruling could, the paper notes, prompt legislators to review the applicable statutes.

When Clark County commissioners simply disbanded the boundary review board in January rather than risk letting Vancouver push through another large annexation without a popular vote, it sent a lot of shock waves through the power structure of Clark County.

There are tensions at work between Vancouver and Clark County that could resurface. And as usual, the regular people lose out.

While it's true in the abstract that a city should be better suited to handle urban issues, in the real world, it depends on the city and it depends on the issues. Vancouver won itself no friends on the east side with its gigantic 1997 annexation, and to this day that part of Vancouver bears some of the worst effects of bad planning and high growth rates.

Having the county in charge of large urban areas is not ideal, but it appears to be the way things will be in Clark County. There's no way Vancouver can win voter approval to expand north and west into Hazel Dell and Felida, and now it will face a difficult time annexing to the north and east.

That will doubtless cause the planning types some consternation, but by doing such a poor job in east Vancouver while concentrating on downtown redevelopment, the city has made its own bed.

Politically, the big races in Clark County in 2008 will be for the county commission spots currently occupied by Betty Sue Morris, technically a Democrat but an ardent supporter of development, and Marc Boldt, a Republican with a hard-right bent but a reputation for being a decent fellow on a personal level. Since the going rate for county commission seats is about a cool quarter million now, anyone wanting to challenge the incumbents is going to face a pretty steep hill.

There have been rumors about who may or may not run for re-election and who might challenge whom, but nothing concrete at this point. The third seat is held by Democart Steve Stuart, who just handily won re-election. Observers will now be keen to see if Stuart, who touted his "smart growth" background, will now act in a more vigorous manner on growth issues.

And so it goes. Pave, destroy, pave, destroy, donate. Meanwhile the regular people, who just want decent schools and to be able to drive home after work without sitting in massive traffic jams, will continue to have a jaundiced view of politicians who say one thing and then line their campaign coffers with developer money.

It's the perfect right-wing scam: prove to people that politicians and government are working against their interests, raise some taxes, then make that an issue come election time. Brilliant.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

The First One Hundred Hours - the Democratic Plan for America

Nearly two months ago, Nancy Pelosi and other House Democratic leaders introduced the "First 100 Hours" plan to clean up our nation's capitol and move our country forward. Here's another look at the plan and our take on it.

Day One: Put new rules in place to "break the link between lobbyists and legislation."

Day Two:
Enact all the recommendations made by the commission that investigated the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Time remaining until 100 hours:
  • Raise the minimum wage to $7.25 an hour
  • Cut the interest rate on student loans in half.
  • Allow the government to negotiate directly with the pharmaceutical companies for lower drug prices for Medicare patients.
  • Broaden the types of stem cell research allowed with federal funds ("I hope with a veto-proof majority," she added in an Associated Press interview Thursday.)
By all means - put ending corruption at the top of the agenda. Lawmakers should be serving their constituents and furthering the greater public good, not working as a tool of corporations and special interests. And Democrats would do well to seize the initiative and take the lead in implementing common sense recommendations to make America safer.

The other policy goals will assist Americans in need, boost the economy, and help put an end to the Republican war on science. And lest you think all the action will be over after the first 100 hours, here's a note from Pelosi, written on Election Day:
In 100 hours, the top five oil companies will take in $4.3 billion in profits.
In 100 hours, $1.1 billion will be spent on the war in Iraq.
In 100 hours, the public debt will grow by $4.9 billion.
In 100 hours, the top 10 pharmaceutical companies will gain $2.6 billion in profits.
In 100 hours, the top CEOs will earn an average of $2 million each.
In 100 hours, a minimum wage worker working 8 hours a day will earn $171.67.

And if all goes as expected, in less than 100 hours my sixth grandchild will be born.

I want my grandchild to be born into an America where government is for and by the people. I want my grandchild to be born into an America that rewards and values hard work. I want my grandchild to be born into an America where you are not labeled a terrorist coddler when you honor the Constitution.

I want my grandchild to be born into an America where if the U.S. Central Command judges the situation in Iraq to be near chaos, with "violence at all-time high, spreading geographically", if the top intelligence agencies tell you that the war in Iraq is inspiring the very terrorism it was purported to prevent, and if four highly respected military newspapers say of the Secretary of Defense that "his strategy has failed, and his ability to lead is compromised...[he] must go" that you fire your Secretary of Defense and change the course.

I want my grandchild to be born into an America whose government honors its duty for accountability and oversight.

I want my grandchild to be born into an America that inspires innovation, that leads with dignity and diplomacy, that rejects fear mongering, and whose leaders start each day remembering that the Constitution begins with the simple but revolutionary phrase "We the people," which announced to the world that here, the people rule.

If you honor Democratic candidates with your vote today, in the first hundred hours of a Democratic Congress: We will restore civility, integrity, and fiscal responsibility to the House of Representatives. We will start by cleaning up Congress, breaking the link between lobbyists and legislation and commit to pay-as-you-go, no new deficit spending.

We will make our nation safer and we will begin by implementing the recommendations of the independent, bipartisan 9/11 Commission.

We will make our economy fairer, and we will begin by raising the minimum wage. We will not pass a pay raise for Congress until there is an increase in the minimum wage.

We will make health care more affordable for all Americans, and we will begin by fixing the Medicare prescription drug program, putting seniors first by negotiating lower drug prices. We will also promote stem cell research to offer real hope to the millions of American families who suffer from devastating diseases.

We will broaden college opportunity, and we will begin by cutting interest rates for student loans in half.

We will energize America by achieving energy independence, and we will begin by rolling back the multi-billion dollar subsidies for Big Oil.

We will guarantee a dignified retirement, and we will begin by fighting any attempt to privatize Social Security.

I say this as a grandmother (of almost six) and as the Democratic Leader of the U.S. House of Representatives.

The Democratic Congress can't even begin to tackle most of our nation's pressing problems in just 100 hours. But that doesn't mean they can't get started.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Heavy debt puts the economy in trouble

The universal elements of financial crashes are:
  • Substantial and steady increases in the value of an asset -- tulips, stocks, property.
  • Leverage -- borrowing -- that is easy to get.
  • Nearly universal belief that a new form of wealth creation has been found that is immune from the limitations of past economics.
  • Disgust with and marginalization of any naysayers.
  • A precipitous retreat of values and panic dumping of assets.
  • Denial, after the fact, in the form of scapegoating individuals or a sector and minimizing personal culpability.
  • Astonishment and anger that lenders, as John Kenneth Galbraith put it, "should now in hard times, ask for payment of debts so foolishly granted and incurred."
  • Phenomenally short memories with regard to any lessons learned.
Background
In the year 2000, interest rates as arranged by the Fed and its then chairman Alan Greenspan were at an all-time high. This was not an effort to rein in the dot.com bubble, but a reaction to invisible threats of inflation discerned by Maestro Magoo. [Reining in the stock market bubble should have been done by adjusting margin requirements, tightening rules on brokers, and jawboning to discourage blatant speculation. Never done.]

Inflation never showed up for Greenspan, but the economic slowdown did. And down came the interest rates, until eighteen short months later they were at their lowest point in history. Highest to lowest. The fact that the reduction was meted out in monthly quarter point drops makes it only cosmetically less drastic.

A few of us predicted the economic slowdown based on the fact that energy prices were spiking at the same time Greenspan was spiking interest rates. Others -- notably Dean Baker of the Center for Economic and Policy Research predicted the dot.com bust, but not the slowdown. Most, you may recall, had discovered the "New Economy" and "Dow 36,000," a new age of information technology unrestricted by the fundamentals of the past.

The effort of the Fed to restart the economy with low interest rates succeeded after a fashion, but not in the way that was hoped -- by restarting business investment. Instead, millions of Americans took advantage of the low rates to buy homes. With interest rates down, principle can go up while the payment remained the same.

Home values increased, partly based on demand, and partly based on the seemingly inexorable rise in the values. Where was a stock market shy investor going to make his big bucks now? Speculation moved from the stock market into real estate.
What now?
Now things have changed. Residential investment is plummeting. See EPI's chart.

The Financial Times reported yesterday:
The US homebuilding sector slowed dramatically last month as new home construction tumbled to a six-year low, according to figures released on Friday which contained troubling signs for the economy.
....
There was a clear indication of further weakness ahead for the construction industry as building permits for residential homes fell to the lowest level in nearly a decade after a drop last month of 6.3 per cent to 1.5m, while the number of permits issued in September was also lower than previously thought.

The fall in permits for new homes suggests the housing market has reached a critical point as builders abandon speculative residential developments to curb oversupply.
What does a housing crash look like?
In housing, a crash may have a different dynamic. "Panic dumping" is less feasible. Speculators may dump their property at the first downturn, but homeowners who live in their assets will tend to hold on, perhaps thinking they are whole, since they have to spend on shelter anyway.

But there are inescapable consequences. When prices go down, the equity in homes will go down, with four depressing consequences: (1) There will be no more equity to tap for current spending, which has been a significant source of spending for the past decade, (2) Mortgage payments that are much higher than (lower) home values warrant, making people feel poor, and hence hold back on spending, (3) The retirement piggy bank that people were counting on in the value of their homes recedes before them, creating the need for other types of savings, and (4) A continuing depressing influence on the housing market, as potential buyers delay purchases because in a few months they may pay less.

So as it plays out, the crash could be a long, slow depletion of economic vigor.
The problem of the debt
As we've shown elsewhere, there is no "growth," only borrowing, a shift of action from the future into the present.

Debt is a burden on our future, but seemingly necessary for our present. Should our overseas partners, the less wealthy countries that are subsidizing our purchases of homes and other goods, decide to reduce their lending, the pressure will become more intense.

Interest on the debt is going to begin taking its bite. No jobs are created when interest is paid. It would be one thing if the massive debt had created productive assets, infrastructure, or human capital. That is not the case.

Federal debt has been spent on a destructive war and nonsensical rewards to the rich. Private debt is in the largely passive and nonproductive asset of housing. [Note: The "Federal" bar in this chart shows only the so-called "unified" budget deficit. A segment should be added to each red bar in this chart to reflect the hudreds of billions of dollars per year in borrowing from Social Security and Medicare funds.]
When will it start?
Considering the "political business cycle," the fact that the Republicans pushed every spending choice and every positive indicator they could into the pre-election period, a return to reality happens right after the election. Housing weakness has been around for some time, but is now becoming serious.

As long as we can borrow, the day of reckoning can be pushed out. With weakness starting to show, however, our lenders may begin to lose confidence.

With Democrats in control, the chances that the Middle Class will get some attention is good, and this is fundamentally positive for the economy as a whole. Likewise, the serious attention by adults now in Congress to the debt will be significant. But the fundamentals and embedded debt are so heavily negative that it will take concerted and disciplined action to avoid serious loss to our standards of living.

For most of the country, it is likely to begin soon, by next spring. For the Puget Sound, with its trade-based economy that runs counter to the rest of the country, it will be delayed.

Begin the War on Christmas!

I hate Christmas so much that our family has spent the day putting up Christmas decorations. (Ladders hurt your feet, by the way.) Luckily the weather isn't half bad this year.

Thought I would check in quickly and post this column I wrote that appeared about one year ago in the now defunct Vanguard, an alternative newspaper in Vancouver. (Sorry, no link as Vanguard tended to have a limited on-line presence.) So without further delay here is some "stilwell classic" to hold you over:
Today this nice saleslady handed me the blue Tiffany box she had tied with a ribbon just so and, with a twinkle in her smile, wished me a Merry Christmas. So I socked her.

--James Wolcott
Scene from the War on Christmas
(a brief post from jameswolcott.com)

As if the stress of the holiday (oops, I mean Christmas) season weren’t enough, for the second year in a row right wing luminaries like Bill O’Reilly, Jerry Falwell and John Gibson are trying to generate controversy about the “war on Christmas,” the non-event that is taking the media world by whimper.

There’s no good footage available, just people being outraged, no outraged! that the store clerk wished them “Happy Holidays.” At least the clerk spoke to them. Most clerks this time of year seem to avoid making eye contact out of fear you will ask them a question.

Gibson wrote a book about this pretend war, O’Reilly started blathering about it before the Halloween candy was gone and Falwell is putting together a cadre of lawyers ready to take on any government entity that doesn’t send him a Christmas card, although a fruitcake would suffice nicely.


Our local daily dutifully reports that Vancouver calls its tree lighting ceremony the Community Tree Lighting, much to the chagrin of whichever hapless city worker has to field the phone calls. Such a threatening word, “community.” Downright inclusive. Makes you wish for the good old days, when non-Christians knew their place and stuck to their bagels.


Not to be outdone, local O’Reilly imitator Lars Larson of KXL radio tried to generate controversy about Portland’s holiday (oops...I mean Christmas) tree, which Portland calls simply “The Tree.” Residents of Portland promptly didn’t care, as they were busy wondering why they bought the damn scooter in the first place when it rains so much.

KGW-TV reported that Larson also planned to rent space in Pioneer Courthouse Square to erect a cross, the point being that he can do it if he has the money. Again, Portland shrugged and went to look at a Prius, which at least has a roof.

At this point in the column, I could launch into a discussion of symbolism in politics, the role of religion in government and society, and so on, but I’m very, very tired this weekend, having spent most of it on a ladder putting up holiday (oops...I mean Christmas) lights, a few of which actually work. If only O’Reilly could have been there, he would have understood just how much I love Christmas, especially when the wind came up. It put tears in my eyes, in fact.

You probably already know that allegations about a “war on Christmas” are a smoke-screen for a failed political movement. Christmas is everywhere, Virginia, but most of all it has become a commercial event, something which religious leaders and social critics used to lament.

What you didn’t know, unless you’re well educated (something political columnists try to avoid,) is that none other than Oliver Cromwell preached against the use of Christmas trees. The Puritan leader liked to rail against “heathen traditions” such as carols and decorated trees, according to an extensive two minute google search.

On the down side, Puritans tended to do stuff like throw women in ponds to see if they were witches, but everyone has their faults. They did bring beer on the Mayflower, so I guess it balances out. It’s all so confusing. I wish the Fox Right would decide if it’s for or against Puritanism.

It is mighty interesting how things change in one short year. At this time in 2004, conservatives were crowing about a permanent Republican majority, and religious conservatives were being credited with the victory. Reporters interviewed mega-church pastors who would proudly claim that they won the election for the GOP. The culture war was over and they won.

Now, under the weight of a poorly conceived and poorly executed actual war combined with scandal and corruption, conservatives have nothing left but silliness like “the war on Christmas.” And, shiver me timbers, the public seems to have caught on to the ruse.

Of course, the country is in dire need of a positive message. So whichever faith you belong to, or even if you are, like Gibson, “non-practicing,” we can always hope for a better way.

Maybe those who control the airwaves, satellites and and cable transmissions could ask their employees to see if they can find a message that speaks to the better parts of human nature, instead of constantly seeking to divide in the name of ratings.

Here’s one idea, from St. Luke, Chapter 2, 12-14, although it’s okay with me if you have a different idea or belief:

And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,

Glory to God on the highest, and on earth, peace, good will toward men.
Honestly, if the media begins in again with the "War on Christmas" stuff, then you have my permission to toss the egg nog down the sink.

Friday, November 17, 2006

RIP Milton Friedman - the PT Barnum of economics

As an economist, Milton Friedman was a great showman and self-promoter. He died yesterday, at the age of 94.

Friedman's foundational work, A Monetary History of the United States, attempted to show how the Great Depression was purely a function of misguided Fed policy, and that inflation is always and everywhere a result of the quantity of money available. The government prints money, prices go up. Thus, the answer to inflation is to cut back on the money supply.

Unfortunately, Friedman was wrong, demonstrably wrong, repeatedly wrong, and when his theories were incorporated into policy, as they were in the late 1970s and early 1980s, disastrously wrong.

Inflation then was caused by oil price shocks. When the Fed listened to Friedman and squeezed the quantity of money, we developed near money -- the credit card. Also the price of money, the interest rate, went through the roof, creating another upward cost and fueling the fire. And millions of people were thrown into the unemployment lines, "an army of inflation fighters," one observer put it.

The country entered the worst recession since the Great Depression. The Fed finally blinked and abandoned that program. Oil prices also stabilized. And in spite of massive federal deficits under Reagan, inflation moderated. The supposedly "painless" process of using the money supply had been very painful indeed.

Too much disparagement on the occasion of a person's death is not good form, I suppose. But the casual reader who may not follow economics closely might waste too much effort exploring the cul-de-sac of Friedman's simplistic notions looking for a way out. There is none.

The quantity theory of money upon which his work was based had been debunked even prior to his adoption of it. It was only by dint of tireless self-promotion that he acquired influence, particularly among bankers.

In Sweden, the "Bank of Sweden Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel," the stepchild Nobel prize invented for economics, was awarded to Friedman in 1976, prior to his being exposed by history. This says more about the prize than it does about Friedman.

As I've noted before, this prize has lost any legitimacy for never having been awarded to John Kenneth Galbraith, one of the acknowledged giants of the discipline. It is too late for them to recoup that blunder. Galbraith died earlier this year. The prize is awarded only to the living.

The limitations of the prize were exposed again this year the Bank of Sweden awarded it to Edmund S. Phelps, and left to the Nobel Peace Prize committee to reward the micro-lending work of Muhammad Yunus. Phelps' notion that expectation of inflation produced inflation was refuted by the experience of the late 1990s.

Yunus' work disproved the conventional thinking of banks and has been a boon in the lives of many of the poorest of the poor.
PS: A troubling quote turned up in my web survey for this piece:
"Regarding the Great Depression. You're [Friedman] right, we did it. We're very sorry."

- Ben Bernanke, 2002
Yikes. Bernanke is current Fed chairman. I hope the remark was a joke.

Bellevue crane collapses

Part of downtown Bellevue is a huge mess right now because of a terrible accident in which a crane collapsed and toppled over, causing major damage to several nearby buildings in downtown Bellevue last night.
The accident occurred about 7:30 p.m. at 108th Avenue Northeast near Northeast Fourth and Second streets, a bit north of the Seastar Restaurant. The crane was blocking 108th Avenue Northeast, a major downtown intersection, and the damaged buildings included Plaza 305 and the Civica Office Commons. Trafffic remained blocked overnight and into Friday morning.

The crane had been working on Tower 333, which is an office building that has been vacant for a few years, officials said.
Darryl has posted some pictures over at Hominid Views.

It just goes on forever

The Washington Post is reporting that new troop deployments to Iraq include elements of the 2nd Infantry Division based at Ft. Lewis:
The Pentagon announced Friday that 57,000 U.S. troops, including five combat brigades, have been told to deploy to Iraq early next year- a move that will maintain current force levels there.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld signed the deployment orders for about 20,000 soldiers from active duty Army brigades based in North Carolina, Georgia, Washington, Kansas and Italy. Another 10,000 reserves and 27,000 active duty troops are scheduled to go to Iraq in smaller units.

---snip---

The deployments, which will serve as replacements for troops leaving Iraq, will largely maintain the current force level of 141,000. The moves were initially described by military officials last week, but the specific units were announced Friday.

The units scheduled for deployment are the 3rd Infantry Division headquarters from Fort Stewart in Georgia; the 4th Brigade, 1st Infantry Division from Fort Riley in Kansas; the 4th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division from Fort Lewis in Washington; the 3rd Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division from Fort Benning in Georgia; the 1st Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division from Fort Bragg in North Carolina; and the 173rd Airborne Brigade, based in Vicenza, Italy.
It just goes on. Forever. That's the plan.

Simple answers, 8th District version

Time to do our local rip-off version of "Simple Answers to Simple Questions" again, as always with apologies to Atrios.

Q: Why did Darcy Burner lose?

A: Because it was a really close race that could have gone either way.

Thanks for playing.

If you need a slightly more complicated version, it's this: in a close race, everything matters. So it may be a fun game for reporters to ask candidates to speculate, but in the end it's not very useful other than as an opportunity for reporters to play "gotcha." And then reporters complain when candidates like Maria Cantwell tend not to return calls. Gee, wonder why?

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Hoyer wins number two spot

So Steny Hoyer won the race against Jack Murtha to be Majority Leader. If you have been exposed to any cable television, then it is clear that the entire party is falling apart over this and we might as well just pack it in.

Clearly Pelosi is finished, according to this narrative, and only a turn to the right can save us. (Have I ever mentioned that the bobble heads on cable TV are idiots?)

If you, sensibly, have been ignoring cable television, then you realize that only political junkies, reporters and members of Congress really care much, and that since Murtha is a decent guy (despite being involved in the ABSCAM mess) then this isn't much of an issue. Sure, the right wing blogs will try to make something of it, but they don't have much to work with right now.

Trent Lott is back, so that's something.

But if you wish, you can find out how your Democratic representative voted.

UPDATE: David Sirota ably explains why Hoyer's election as Majority Leader in the Democratic caucus is no loss for Speaker Pelosi:
If Murtha had won, she would have had a close ally as her number 2. With Hoyer winning under these circumstances, she has also won because she has let him know that his disloyalty to the Democratic Caucus in the past on major issues has created a strong block of opponents to him - and that the only way for him to mollify those opponents is to stay in line in the future, rather than continue publicly undermining the Democratic Caucus as he has many times before.

Not surprisingly, Hoyer’s victory statement was filled with declarations that he now appreciates Murtha’s leadership on the Iraq War (this comes after he attacked Murtha’s position on Iraq).

But the win-win nature of Pelosi’s intervention in the leadership race isn’t just limited to sending a message to Steny Hoyer. She has also won today because she has sent a message to the entire Democratic Caucus by letting every Member know that there will be unpleasant consequences to Hoyer-esque Democratic disloyalty.

Though Hoyer won the election, you can bet he didn’t enjoy having a spirited opponent. Every single member of the Democratic Caucus now knows that when they behave the way Hoyer behaved in the past, they may face similar pain.
Steny Hoyer didn't get the post of Majority Leader handed to him on a silver platter. He had to work for it and line up commitments from fellow Democrats. Majority Leader Hoyer now has an opportunity to prove his loyalty and show he's not a tool of big corporations. We hope he's changed his ways and will distinguish himself during the next session.

Study this

While the tee-vee talking heads bobble and the Iraq Study Group studies, the Iraq war keeps on destroying lives. There is a particularly heartbreaking account in today's Columbian about a young Marine who, among other things, served as a Camp David guard and was also a veteran of the terrible 2004 fighting in Falujah.

Marine's death unexplained
The remains of Marine Sgt. William C. Wold, a 2001 Mountain View High School graduate and a veteran of some of the bloodiest fighting in Iraq, were returned home to his parents here Wednesday.

He died Friday at Balboa Naval Hospital in San Diego of causes that remain under investigation. His funeral will be Friday in Vancouver.

Wold's mother and father, John and Sandra Wold of Camas, angrily charged that the Marine Corps failed to give their son adequate care for post-traumatic stress syndrome and drug abuse. She said her son was harassed and beaten by other Marines.

Sandra Wold said Marine Corps officers told her his cause of death won't be known for at least a month, but she said she believes he died either from an accidental drug overdose or by suicide.
There are many such stories around the country, of course, and sadly there will be more. Among the many important tasks facing Democrats is doing everything they can to make sure veterans get the medical care they need. There can be no excuses. Even though we are firmly opposed to the failed war policy in Iraq, those who volunteer to serve in the armed forces deserve not only the thanks of a grateful nation, but prompt and efficient medical services.

The allegations of other Marines attacking their own is particularly troubling. Wold's family deserves answers, and we trust that elected Democrats in Congress will see to it they are forthcoming.

The obvious post-election analysis - There is no room in the Republican party

I have been waiting for this point to be made by better political minds than mine. Floyd J. McKay came close yesterday in the Seattle Times, in a piece which concluded:
The 2006 election revealed Republicans are still in favor with white evangelical Christians, rural voters and the South — obviously, there is a huge overlap of these groups.

This is not a realistic base on which to construct a revival of the party whose leaders bragged a few years ago of a permanent Republican majority. Yet, having built loyalty among conservative Christians, the party cannot ignore them as it tries to moderate its appeal. Rove's strategy has turned on him and his party.
The point is, voters recognized that there is no room in the Republican Party for any but wingnuts, the ideologues of questionable competence.

This is a poser for Republicans. How do they broaden their base without "betraying" the Radical Right core group?

It is also the problem for the Democrats. How to accept all the factions, who deserve representation, without getting bogged down or trying to be all things to all people.

It is a problem for progressives. Some of the major problems the country and the world face do not lend themselves to compromise, or even gradualism.

The election was a week ago Tuesday. The best analysis -- the NYT and Robert Borosage of Campaign for America's Future -- was over by Thursday. Borosage said, among other things:
With this election, Republican dreams of consolidating a governing majority for a conservative era have run aground, shattered against the hard shoals of a reality that conservatives simply got wrong.

Before this election, Americans had already turned against the signature conservative initiatives of the Bush administration and the DeLay Congress . the pre-emptive war in Iraq, the trickledown economic agenda, the privatization of Social Security and the right-wing social agenda as reflected in Schiavo and stem cell research. In this election, Republican incumbents struggled to survive an angry electorate looking for a change.
Since Thursday, from what I've seen, it's been mostly the spinning of the narrative. It seems to be very important which version of the story is bought. I'm not clear why that is important. Every faction will have their own version, and they will all have to be re-spun after the next political event.

Perhaps mine is a narrative, too. If it is it's very simple:

Voters realized that there is no room in the Republican Party for anyone but the wingnuts and the corporate godfathers who manipulate them. The Dan Evans moderates do not have a home in this Republican Party. Voters also realized that a countervailing force is necessary, and they bought that the Democrats could be this force. Thus, no great splinter party action.

What that means for the GOP: They have to do a better job suppressing turnout. The Electorate no longer trusts them, which is a very bad thing for a party. It's going to be hard.

What that means for the Democrats: Old line party people who have been holding the fort will want leadership and power. People who represent new constituencies will want power. The entrenched corporate interests will begin to co-opt whoever they can.

What that means for Progressives: Progressives are just mainstream America who got there first. The Progressive agenda is founded on reality. Yes, it is inspired by principles and informed by logic and common sense, but its great strength is that it is a direct look at reality with a minimum of parochial slant.

It means that Progressives have to be very clear on who their political adversaries really are. The main political adversary of Progressives (and the planet) is the corporate aristocracy. This is also the true constituency of the Bush clan. I am not talking about business, or even the majority of corporations. Democrats have been good for business, because spreading prosperity around is good for business.

In this respect Progressives have a lot in common with some of the incoming Democrats who may be social conservatives or Blue Dogs, but who have populist agendas. "Populist" in this election has meant for anti-corporate.

Progressives need action. Democrats need action. The people who voted us in want action. Part of that action is getting people in there who can demonstrate competence and integrity, much of which will have to wait until the Executive changes in two years.

Integrity and forward motion are fundamental to a continued majority.

The "First 100 hours" package is a start. The end to American presence in Iraq is next -- with the McGovern mileposts included. Health Care could be next. Very soon we have to engage the issues of environmental degradation of with an effort of the scale and commitment of a war.

Get something done and there will be enough influence for everybody in the Democratic Party. Not getting something done means all positions and power will be illusory.

Mrs. McCabe urges hubby to boink subordinates

Emmett at Olympia Time notices this fantastic letter to the editor.
After reading The Olympian recently, I have asked my husband the next time he feels the urge to get involved in a political campaign if he could please think of his family and instead get drunk, have sex with a female subordinate in a stall in the women's restroom at a large public arena and, when the police are called in, resist arrest.

I'm urging this course of action since history shows he will receive more generous treatment on the editorial page of our hometown newspaper than if he pursued his interest in politics. He has kindly promised to consider this.

Susan McCabe, Olympia
Of course, BIAW chief Tom McCabe could also consider not being the biggest right-wing reactionary in the state. Maybe backing extremist judicial candidates and "property rights" initiatives is not the key to success in Washington politics. I have been wondering, though, just how hard Democratic legislators are going to laugh when they hear about proposed BIAW legislation. Is the proper response a guffaw, or more of a chortle?

The sex in the stall thing could be a winner, though. It's always nice to see public figures work on improving their image.

But remember, the Thurston County prosecutor who was arrested a few weeks ago during a Seahawks game was charged with trespassing for being in the women's restroom. So McCabe better be sure to do it in the men's restroom, but then his female subordinate would be arrested. Hmmm. I can't think of an obvious solution.

And as Emmett adds at the end of his post:
I would kindly suggest to the McCabes that when they choose a local arena for which to arrange sex between Tom and a female subordinate, they should choose Husky Stadium. At least one person should be enjoying themselves during a game.
Oh, drag the poor Huskies into it, that's cold. The Huskies actually completed a few passes last week. The BIAW-it's on its on own one yard line and it's fourth and twenty five. For the next two years, minimum. Maybe they should draft a new quarterback.

Glenn Beck: a threat to the health of my television

Apparently right-wing blowhard Glenn Beck didn't get the memo about respect for the office. From Media Matters:
On the November 14 edition of his CNN Headline News program, Glenn Beck interviewed Rep.-elect Keith Ellison (D-MN), who became the first Muslim ever elected to Congress on November 7, and asked Ellison if he could "have five minutes here where we're just politically incorrect and I play the cards up on the table." After Ellison agreed, Beck said: "I have been nervous about this interview with you, because what I feel like saying is, 'Sir, prove to me that you are not working with our enemies.' " Beck added: "I'm not accusing you of being an enemy, but that's the way I feel, and I think a lot of Americans will feel that way."
Ellison attributed his victory to an anti-war coalition that included people of all faiths.

While Ellison has had some past dealings with the Nation of Islam (which an idiot like Beck should know is a thoroughly American organization, whatever one thinks of it) he also drew a key endorsement from a Jewish newspaper in his state. Ellison appears to have distanced himself from the Nation of Islam; probably a good move considering its long record of anti-Semitism.

Beck is catering to the ignorant, counting on the fact that too many people on the right view all of Islam as the enemy, and are stupid enough to extend that to American black Muslims. Which reveals Beck to be the clownish, racist jerk many of us always suspected.

Democrats should consider placing Ellison on whatever committee is likely to hold hearings on media reform, and make sure Mr. Beck is invited to testify, along with his boss from CNN. We have a feeling there are some questions Democrats would like answered, like why CNN thinks it is appropriate to question the patriotism of a newly elected member of Congress.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

The critics...sigh

While this last election was a memorable and historic win for Democrats, we didn't win in some of the important races that we invested a lot of time, money, and energy in. Here in Washington State, that would be the congressional district races, especially the 8th and the 5th.

Look across the country, do the math, and you'll find a sizable number of netroots candidates, all Democratic challengers, who did not win - an unsurprising result. That puts Darcy Burner and Peter Goldmark in pretty good company.

If we were interested solely in our win/loss ratio, we'd probably look back at the last couple of years and conclude we made some poor decisions. (Is it any wonder why interest groups are so eager to put resources behind incumbents?)

But winning was not at the top of our priority list. And that is what critics don't seem to understand. Nobody in this organization or the larger Pacific Northwest progressive community seriously expected to win WA-08, WA-05, or WA-04 - though we all did have high hopes. And we worked hard to try and make it happen.

The plain and simple reality in America is that taking out an incumbent is extremely difficult, whether or not the winds are at your back.

Our strategy was, and is, to invest in races to make them competitive.

Nationally, we didn't much care about the political leanings of a district or state; it wasn't a factor in where we placed our resources. We were interested in candidates who were willing to put in the work to put up a strong fight even if they hardly had a prayer of winning.

We wanted to support candidates who would listen instead of just talk.

In our region, examples would include ID-01 and WA-05. We didn't win, but we forced Republicans to spend a lot of resources defending their candidates.

It all paid off. We retook both houses of Congress.

Every candidate we invested in during the last cycle was a pillar of our effort. Every one. It's interesting how they're willing to talk at length about our candidates who didn't make it over at unSoundPolitics. They keep mentioning Peter Goldmark and Ned Lamont (and now Darcy, even though she came extremely close).

But they haven't talked about James Webb, Jon Tester, and Jerry McNerney, who emerged the winners in high profile races that got national attention.

Maybe it's because those three were all victorious movement candidates backed by the netroots who triumphed over entrenched GOP incumbents. All three of them also had to make it through Democratic primaries where their opponents enjoyed a not-insignificant amount of establishment support.

They faced a hostile environment. And yet all three won. And they're not the only ones who did. Just three examples - two in Western states.

Take a look at the others and you'll notice that many of them were not first-time candidates. They were running for office again after having lost before. That's why it's so important that Darcy Burner and Peter Goldmark try again in 2008.

We didn't get any of our congressional challengers elected here in Washington State, but we enjoyed enormous successes in legislative races statewide and we won on all the initiatives. There's no downplaying the significance of that, especially on I-933, which was endorsed by the state Republican Party.

After Oregon's Measure 37, the Farm Bureau certainly wasn't expecting the huge defeat they suffered on Election Night. Neither were the folks at the "Property Fairness" Coalition. Here's a snippet of what they sent out on October 27th:
LATEST POLL SHOWS DEAD HEAT

Preliminary results from a Moore Information poll commissioned by the Property Fairness Coalition shows voters evenly split on I-933, with a large percentage still undecided.

This is very good news.

Despite millions of dollars being spent to blanket the airwaves with misleading ads against us, the opposition still can’t convince a majority of voters to agree with them.

But they won’t give up. And neither can we!

We need all of you to keep up the good work talking to your friends and neighbors, writing letters to the editor, sending I-933 postcards to your family and colleagues, calling radio shows, and doing all you can to inform voters. Undecided voters need to hear from you!

We can win this campaign if we keep up the intensity!
That didn't sound like a group of people who were anticipating defeat. Despite all of their efforts, they were soundly beaten, and not just by TV ads, either.

As for our legislative victories - while it wasn't so apparent that the netroots community here was invested in those races, we were.

We at NPI went out of our way to support candidates like Eric Oemig, Rodney Tom, Roger Goodman, Larry Springer, Deb Eddy, Claudia Kauffman, and so on. Particularly those first two I listed - we did interviews and or guest posts with them.

We're also strong supporters of Progressive Majority Washington, a terrific movement organization, which had a field day on November 7th. Consider this:
  • Progressives now dominate both houses of the legislature with HUGE majorities and can pass legislation over conservative roadblocks in the state Senate. In the words of one GOP blogger, we progressives scored "massive" victories.
  • Progressive Majority won 4 out of 5 State Senate Races: There is now an 8 seat Democratic majority in the state Senate. The last time the Democrats had a majority this large was in 1965.
  • Tim Sheldon has been marginalized. When Progressive Majority opened its Washington state office, the Senate had a one vote Republican majority. Today, the margin is 32-17. With the progressive Democrats in control, we progressives no longer have to worry about Democrats in Name Only like Tim Sheldon.
  • The number of people of color in the state Senate doubled. The Senate now includes great Washingtonians Claudia Kauffman Redmorningstar, a Native American woman. She is the fifth Native American to be elected to the legislature since statehood.
  • The number of people of color in the state legislature is the highest in state history, with 14. This is nearly 10% of the legislature!
  • Progressive Majority won five new state house seats, while protecting five incumbents that were in danger. When PM opened its office in March of 2004, many thought that the Democrats would have a one-seat majority after the 2004 elections. Instead, we protected our vulnerable incumbents, picked up 3 seats in that election, and picked-up a lot more this election. While there are several close races still to be called, the majority could be as high as 63 - 35.
NPI's home legislative district is now completely blue, thanks to the work of groups like Progressive Majority who gave our district's candidates training and support that helped them cross the finish line first.

We're having an impact on politics at all levels, whether or not that is readily apparent on an Election Night scorecard. We're a people powered movement. The grassroots are organized like never before. The Internet is opening doors that were difficult to open before.

The future presents many opportunities. Our strength will grow. Our influence will grow. And so the political establishment in D.C., and to our critics, we say: You ain't seen nothing yet.

Bush wants to increase troop levels in Iraq?

The Guardian is reporting that George W. Bush wants to send more troops to Iraq, in a move the British newspaper describes as "a last big push." There's a summary at the end of the Guardian article that lists the supposed "four point strategy" being considered by the Iraq Study Group:

Four-point strategy
  • Increase US troop levels by up to 20,000 to secure Baghdad and allow redeployments elsewhere in Iraq
  • Focus on regional cooperation with international conference and/or direct diplomatic involvement of countries such as Kuwait and Saudi Arabia
  • Revive reconciliation process between Sunni, Shia and others
  • Increased resources from Congress to fund training and equipment of Iraqi security forces

If The Guardian report is accurate, then the "new" policy won't be so much new as a re-working of the already failed policy.

They can work this around the margins all they want, but it's not going to change the fundamental dynamics of the situation in Iraq. While politicians jockey for position, our troops and ordinary Iraqis pay the price.

The Iraq Study Group may turn out to be nothing more than political cover. How one "revives the reconciliation process" between factions that completely hate each other is beyond me. Someday maybe. In the next year? Right.

I suppose the Saudis and the Kuwaitis might be prevailed upon to lend some diplomatic credence to the effort, but let's not forget that Saudi Arabia has its own internal issues. And it has its own external agenda.

As for "Iraqi security forces," that has become pretty much a joke. Half the time it seems like those forces are active participants in the carnage.

Democrats need to be prepared to stand up to the Bush administration and act decisively to end the fiasco in Iraq.

Tragedy

This tragedy is sending shockwaves through the political community in Seattle and Olympia: Three people hit in crosswalks; one dies
Tatsuo Nakata, a 29-year-old man struck while in a West Seattle crosswalk Tuesday morning and described as "a bright shining star," has died.

Nakata, the chief of staff to City Councilman David Della, was on life support Tuesday awaiting his parents' arrivals from out of state, according to Councilwoman Jean Godden, who said she was at the hospital Tuesday with scores of others.

"Tatsuo was just the sweetest and loveliest guy," she said. "Here was somebody with so much promise."

Nakata was walking in a marked crosswalk at 47th Avenue Southwest and Southwest Admiral Way at 7:41 a.m. when he was struck by a station wagon, according to Seattle police. The 35-year-old driver, who was not identified, was questioned and released, said police spokeswoman Debra Brown. Police are still investigating.

Nakata was taken to Harborview Medical Center and died Tuesday afternoon, according to a hospital spokeswoman.

A graduate of Seattle University, Nakata was the council's youngest legislative aide and the youngest president of the Seattle Chapter Japanese American Citizens League. Before joining Della's office, he worked as a legislative aide to a state representative.
Our deepest condolences to the family and friends of Mr. Nakata.

James Carville compares Dean to Rumsfeld

James Carville, continuing his attack on Howard Dean, has compared the DNC chairman to Donald Rumsfeld.
Democratic strategist James Carville says his party should dump Howard Dean as chairman of the Democratic Party because of incompetence.

Carville, during coffee and rolls with political reporters today, said Democrats could have picked up as many as 50 House seats, instead of the nearly 30 they have so far.

The reason they didn’t, he said, is the Democratic National Committee did not spend some $6 million it could have put into so-called “third tier” House races against vulnerable Republicans.

Carville said the other Democratic campaign committees had borrowed to the hilt.

He said he tried to meet with Dean to argue for additional spending for Democrats in the final days of the campaign, but Dean declined and gave no reason why.

Asked by a reporter whether Dean should be dumped, Carville replied, “In a word, do I think? Yes.”

He added, “I think he should be held accountable.” He added, “I would describe his leadership as Rumsfeldian in its competence.”
It would be best to simply ignore Carville, seeing as he has repeatedly acted as the worst sort of buffoon, but the cable TV executives need buffoons, clowns and assorted jerks to keep their ratings up...or so they think.

If you want to know why Hillary Clinton can't be Democratic nominee in 2008, you need look no further than James Carville, a partner in the firm of Carville-Matalin.

These people are self-aggrandizing snakes. I've never understood the rose-colored glasses with which people view the Clinton years anyhow. Hillary bears some of the blame for the healthcare plan that the Clinton administration couldn't get through, and Bill helped us lose the Congress, yet somehow these are the people who we need to turn to?

People like Carville don't seem interested in Democratic unity. Nor do they seem interested in trusting anybody outside of the political establishment.

Dean comes from the movement, and doesn't take orders from consultants or other big shots. That's apparently what's bothering Carville. He may as well shut up now before he causes us further embarrassment. Dean isn't going anywhere.

We also need to steer clear of triangulation (or as I called it "tri-strangulation").

We can have a big tent. What we can't have is people who will actively work to subvert the party. Howard Dean was elected chair of the DNC by its members. If Carville wishes to change that, he can stand for election or support a different candidate in 2008.

And if he isn't interested in belonging to a party that is driven by a people powered movement, he can join the GOP. It's evident they're remaining an establishment party.

Missouri's Fugitive Girl Act

It's too bad NPR doesn't put up transcripts of their stories sooner. This morning they had an excellent report on Missouri's Fugitive Girl Act. You can listen to it for now by clicking on the link, but here's the summary:
Morning Edition, November 15, 2006 · The Missouri Supreme Court hears arguments on a law that would allow parents to bring civil lawsuits against people who assist a minor in getting an abortion without parental consent, even if the abortion takes place out of state. The law is similar to a federal effort to enact criminal penalties for those who help minors cross state lines to get an abortion. Kathy Lohr reports.
I found an analysis of an attempted federal version of the law at TomPaine.com.
There are people I respect who believe in required parental notification: Even minor medical procedures require parental consent; parents should be involved in the most consequential decisions of their children's lives; who wouldn't want to talk with their daughter about a choice this fundamental to her future? Those who see abortion as murder view the new prohibitions as a way to reduce their toll and protect young women from a morally destructive act. They see themselves as the new abolitionists.

But to me these arguments abstract the actual lives of the young girls who are pregnant. We need to do everything we can to encourage our children to talk with us about all kinds of difficult choices. But we're not talking about idealized families where trust and harmony prevails. We're talking about situations where trust has broken down to the point where a girl fears to tell her parents that she's pregnant. The reason could be physical violence, incest, or pervasive verbal abuse. It could be a tone of unremitting judgment that makes a girl fear condemnation no matter what choice she makes. It could simply be the certainty that her parents will force her to have a child for which she is unready.
This isn't some abstraction, and it's especially disturbing that the people pushing these laws seem to have some very big problems with sexuality. Frankly, I used to think it was a cheap shot to joke about Christian conservative hang-ups and perversions, but there have been too many instances of alleged Republicans and Christians engaging in twisted behavior.

It doesn't get discussed much, but at its core the anti-abortion movement is not really about abortion. If it was conservatives would spend their time trying to find practical ways to reduce unwanted pregnancy, even if it meant passing out condoms. But they don't do that, of course.

Instead, they spend their time trying to pass destructive legislation like the Fugitive Girl Act and endorsing abstinence-only education...which just isn't a realistic solution.

I guess I don't understand what happened to conservatives to make them so afraid of their own sexuality, and my understanding of psychology is severely limited. But at an intuitive level, most Americans are probably starting to understand that when a man sings too loud on Saturday night and prays too loud on Sunday morning, it's best to go home and lock the smokehouse. (Props to Harry S. Truman's grandfather.)

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

This is a long term movement

Last night Darcy Burner called Dave Reichert, and according to him (and his staff), conceded. Reichert seemed to have no trouble revealing what was said in that conversation. He could have waited for Darcy to announce it herself in her own way, as she did anyway this morning in a news conference at 11 AM - but he didn't.

Concessions are little more than a public acknowledgement that a candidate is no longer really hoping to win a race. And with the way the trends have been, it's completely reasonable that Darcy might feel that way.

Props to her for being gracious and kind in her apparent defeat. Dave Reichert, on the other hand, has acted snobbish and boastful. He doesn't appear to have been humbled even though his bid for a second term was nearly axed by a bright candidate who started out with near zero name recognition.

Even now he can't resist sniggering and trying to pin Darcy with that "inexperienced" label again. It's evidently a pathetic little maneuver that Reichert's supporters have picked up - like Eric Earling at unSoundPolitics, who stupidly keeps trying to attach it to me as well. (Apparently, we progressives are ALL inexperienced - isn't that interesting?).

We had hope that each of our three Democratic challenges might prevail this year and join in a Democratic House of Representatives. None of them did win.

But it's not a surprise. Taking out an incumbent is a tall order and a tough task. And in the end, the clock ran out. Given that she started out as a virtually unknown candidate, Darcy could have used more time to meet more voters and get her message out. If she chooses to run again in 2008 - and she should - she'll be able to build on all her accomplishments this year.

But that decision will be up to her.

No one is more disappointed than me to have to witness this. It's heartbreaking to have to see Darcy lose. I personally invested a lot in this campaign, as did everyone at NPI. We stood beside Darcy just about every day, week, and month of her campaign. And we'll stand beside her now in this difficult hour as well.

The plain and simple truth is that this is a long term movement, and you don't necessarily end up winning your first attempt at elected office.

I found this out the hard way - four years ago, when you could have justifiably said that I was not very experienced. It was 2002, and several months before Election Day (in February) I had founded Permanent Defense to oppose Tim Eyman.

I was optimistic, confident, and ready for the election to arrive at the end of October. Polls showed we were winning. I thought the NO on I-776 forces had waged a strong campaign, and I was proud of Permanent Defense's contributions.

On Election Night, I was expecting victory as I arrived at the party.

But victory didn't come. Instead, Tim Eyman's I-776 passed narrowly and we lost. At the time, there was no knowing exactly what that meant. It certainly seemed like Sound Transit's Central Link light rail line could be at worst dead - at best in some kind of trouble.

I could have given up then. I might have even contemplated it. But I knew I wasn't a quitter. And so I sent a message to the few people who had joined Permanent Defense since its founding and I said, "We're not quitting. We're going to stay in this fight no matter how many times we lose until we get rid of this threat to our communities."

Since then Tim Eyman has gotten exactly one initiative passed, and that initiative wasn't tax cuts or spending limits. It was performance audits. An overload, yes, but nowhere near as awful as his other initiatives.

I-267? Defeated. I-807? Defeated. I-864? Defeated. I-892? Defeated. R-65? Defeated. I-917? Defeated.

And Sound Transit's Central Link light rail line? Under construction, and on target to be completed in the year 2009. The agency got the federal money it needed and saw with the NO on I-776 vote that the people within Sound Transit's boundaries wanted Central Link.

So though that first battle may have been lost, just about every subsequent battle we've waged against Tim Eyman has been won.

If at first you don't succeed....try again.

That loss in 2002 helped steel and prepare me, in any case, for Kerry's defeat in 2004 (whether he really lost is a matter of some debate due to Blackwell, Diebold, & Co.'s shenanigans in Ohio).

And that loss has similiarly prepared me to handle Darcy not winning this year.

So if we assume that when the count is certified he will still be in the lead, thus having won reelection - what then for Reichert?

He will return to a Democratic Congress having lost his subcommittee chairmanship and much of his claimed influence. He will have to serve the entirety of his second term knowing that a third difficult campaign lies ahead of him in 2008.

Reichert's narrow victory didn't happen because voters really like him and wanted to return him to Congress (if they did, why didn't he win easily last week?) It happened because too many of them were unsure about Darcy Burner. Reichert has been a fixture in county politics for years; Darcy hasn't. Name recognition was the hurdle she had trouble overcoming, not "inexperience".

Conservatives and Republicans had better save any gloating for some other time. They haven't got much to cheer about this year. Their right wing initiatives failed, as did their Senate candidate, and a whole bunch of Republicans got cleared out of the state Legislature, including in NPI's own legislative district, which will now be represented only by Democratic legislators.

The Eastside is turning blue. The 48th and the 45th, at the heart of the suburbs in King County, will no longer have Republican representation in Olympia.

Sooner or later the same thing that happened to Toby Nixon and Luke Esser will happen to Dave Reichert.

Conservatives have built an infrastructure that has helped them dominate elections in this country, cycle after cycle. 2006 was the first year in a long time where we dominated all over the map. So many Democratic challengers won that we took back both the U.S. House and the U.S. Senate.

But still, that doesn't mean we've built the kind of progressive governing majority that we want. There is a lot of work still left to do. This is a long term movement, and we have a long way to go yet.

Frontline tells Jim West story tonight

Slog catches the fact that the PBS documentary series Frontline is telling the story of Spokane's Jim West, whose secret life foreshadowed the Foley and Haggard revelations.

Frontline airs this evening at 10 pm in Seattle, 9 pm in Portland and Spokane.

Murray to leadership position

According to Daily Kos, Patty Murray has secured a leadership position in the Senate:
Patty Murray, Secretary of the Conference

As Secretary of the Conference, Senator Murray will play a critical role in helping shape and set the Democratic agenda.
I was just watching Murray speak on CNN, and she pointed out some of the issues that have been neglected by the Republican Congress, like financial aid for college students and making sure veterans have adequate services.

Change is good. All of the Democrats were emphasizing that it's time to represent the people who sent them there. Easier said than done, of course, but if they stick to that as a guiding principle things will be much improved.

It's the failed policy, stupid

In the pantheon of ignominious foreign policy adventures, none stirs strong emotions like the Vietnam War. It's relatively close in historical terms to our own time, unlike say, the Philippine Insurrection, and one would think our experience in Vietnam would result in some public discussion of what happens when it becomes clear that our policy has failed.

The Iraq War policy has failed. There were no WMDs, so the rationale for the war was undercut from the beginning. The bad planning, corruption and negligence that has marked every aspect of the neoconservative-engineered occupation is infamous worldwide.

Iraq is not Vietnam, but the United States is still the United States. Our country seems to have some long-held assumptions about war that many thought were forever vanquished after Vietnam, but as we have experienced, they were only slumbering. And so we find ourselves in a different failed war, but reacting in much the same manner.

As anti-war sentiment grew in this country in the late 1960's, the Nixon administration attempted a policy called "Vietnamization." Having promised a plan to end the war during the 1968 campaign, Nixon felt compelled to start trying to turn the war over to the Saigon government.

It's worth reviewing part of a transcript from "Vietnam Online," a companion to the acclaimed 1983 PBS series "Vietnam: A Television History." From the episode "Peace is at Hand: 1968-1973:"
NARRATOR: In July 1969, President Nixon had good news for the troops. They could soon go home, and leave the fighting to the South Vietnamese. He called the policy "Vietnamization."

MELVIN LAIRD (Secretary of Defense): The policy of Vietnamization was to turn over the responsibility for the ground combat and air combat to the South Vietnamese. It was a policy of giving them the equipment and the training so that they could follow up their responsibility to their country. You cannot guarantee the will and the desire of any country, but you can give them the tools to do the job.

NARRATOR: The Saigon administration faced a new political challenge -- the Vietcong pro-claimed themselves the Provisional Revolutionary Government. America was still committed to troop withdrawals.

HENRY KISSINGER (National Security Adviser): We made up our minds from the beginning that we were going to try to disengage from Vietnam. And, all of the debate afterwards were really about, with the moderate critics, were about rates of disengagement, not about the fact of disengagement. So it had to be a high priority.

MELVIN LAIRD: The pressures were on as far as the American people were concerned. The pressures were on as far as the Congress was concerned and, if we wouldn't have moved in the direction of Vietnamization, our whole military force structure would have been destroyed in the United States and we would not have been able to meet the NATO commitments and the other commitments which were treaty commitments that had been made but, had been made by the American government.

MORTON HALPERIN (National Security Council staff): The major preoccupation of Kissinger and Nixon was U.S./Soviet relations. They believed that world peace depended on getting the Soviet Union into a relationship with the United States so that it ceased to do things which threatened American security interests. And, it was in this context that they approached every issue from the Middle East to China to Vietnam.

Vietnam was important because the United States had made it important. Kissinger was always fond of saying that we inherited 500,000 troops in Vietnam. We didn't put them there.
Sound familiar? Change a few names around and you have a similar debate going on right now.

It was utterly clear to anyone who cared to look by 1968, or even earlier, that our war policy in Vietnam was doomed to failure. Corruption and incompetence in the Saigon government could not be offset by the sheer and brutal application of American force.

More importantly, by viewing the Vietnam War almost exclusively through the lens of the Cold War policy of containment (also known in shorthand as "the domino theory,") U.S. leaders failed to understand the fundamentally nationalist nature of the struggle in Vietnam. People like self rule. Even possibly self rule under a nondemocratic government.

And it should be noted even pro-war types had become disillusioned, a story told well and in heartbreaking detail in Neil Sheehan's 1989 classic A Bright Shining Lie: John Paul Vann and America in Vietnam.

While it continues to be a popular right-wing myth today, any claim that the US military "fought with one hand tied behind its back" in Vietnam ignores the use of free fire zones, strategic bombing against a rural enemy and the myriad other uses of force like Agent Orange and napalm.

You cannot defeat a determined nationalist movement with force, at least in perpetuity. The French learned this in Vietnam (then referred to as Indochina) and again in Algeria. While Congressional Republicans were busily denouncing French fries in 2003, the French people had to be (and were!) shaking their heads at the American conservative agenda.

While many pundits in the United States continue to focus on "al-Qaeda in Iraq," the fundamental aspirations of Iraqis to be free from foreign domination is largely ignored. While the chaos in Iraq has led to a foothold for Islamic terrorists, that particular genie is out of the bottle, and continuing a failed policy will do nothing to address it.

Anyone can certainly make the argument that by continuing this administration's failed policies, we are sustaining an environment that is hospitable to Islamic terror. It's a point worthy of debate.

What we don't need is another two years of discussing Iraq as if it is World War II or the Cold War. That was one of the biggest mistakes during the Vietnam War: presenting the war to the American public by drawing lines on a map and talking about "Munich."

Every time I hear a news anchor use the term "front lines" in regards to the Iraq War I wish to ask him exactly where the front lines are. Obviously the front lines are everywhere in Iraq.

Islamic terror is a real and present threat, but neither is it a conventional global superpower like the Soviet Union. Before we invaded Iraq, there was no Islamic terror in that country, and that is not to engage in saying "I told you so" but to point out that Iraqi society did not naturally foster a large Islamic terror movement. It may be true that Saddam "kept a lid on things," but hey, so did the Shah next door in Iran. Look what happened there.

To view Iraq solely through the lens of the "war on terror" would be just as mistaken as viewing Vietnam solely as one domino in a larger Cold War battle. Vietnam went communist, but Thailand didn't. Most of the ensuing tragedy in Cambodia was directly attributable to our meddling. Arguments that withdrawing from Iraq will result in some horrendous new hotbed of terrorism kind of miss the point--Iraq is already severely dysfunctional, and the Middle East is already a dangerous place.

To most Americans, democracy is a nearly sacred goal, one that any politician must pay homage to. But our notions of democracy are also closely linked to our economic view of the world, which led to absurdities in Iraq that have created lasting damage. Iraqis needed order, clean water, food and medicine, and the Young Republicans' Tigris Office tried to give them a flat tax and stop smoking clinics. Our arrogance is so deeply resented, just as in Vietnam, in some quarters in Iraq that it's hard to see how we can make amends.

This isn't going to be pretty, either domestically nor in Iraq. The factional fighting in Iraq shows no signs of abating, putting the lie to the ridiculous idea put forth by neo-cons that "it was all designed to influence the US election." Sadly, ordinary Iraqis will continue to suffer and die. And so will more of our troops.

Here at home, it is a safe bet that the administration will try to salvage something, anything at all, out of this fiasco in Iraq. Papa Bush is sending the grown-ups, but it's probably too late.

The far right in the US will employ some version of Dolchstosslegende in order to avoid culpability, and the media will probably buy into it to some extent. The "one hand tied behind our back" myth from the Vietnam era has survived over 30 years, after all.

So the question for progressives is this: is it better to continue the suffering on all sides in Iraq, suffering that stems in large measure from our continued presence, or is it better to avoid the "Vietnamization" phase altogether? If we engage in a similar attempt to "turn things over" to our clients in Iraq, and it lasts a comparable time as "Vietnamization," we will still have large numbers of troops in Iraq in 2011. A sobering thought.

While our political opponents here at home will continue to attack us as "not understanding the enemy," perhaps it would be wise for the US to shift its attention to Afghanistan. You know, that place next to Pakistan where the Taliban let Osama bin-Laden set up shop. It seems the Taliban is making a comeback while American politicians try to save face in Iraq.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Progressive members of Congress should support John Murtha

A year ago, John Murtha was marginalized by the press and became the object of the White House attack machine under Karl Rove. He gave as good as he got, stood up to Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and a Congress dominated by Republicans, and let the chips fall where they might.

He was supported by Nancy Pelosi.
"We should follow the lead of Congressman John Murtha, who has put forth a plan to make America safer, to make our military stronger, and to make Iraq more stable. That is what the American people and our troops deserve."
It would be an immense symbolic step forward if, one year later, it is Murtha who emerges with power. Right now, the media is cooling its heels waiting for the Baker Commission to put forward its plan. That is staging. If the House Democrats elect Murtha as Majority Leader, they take back the stage.

This face, this ex-Marine, this patriot can be the leader that gets results soon on Iraq. The Democrats behind Murtha, with his stand-up courage and his credibility within the military, can dictate the terms of withdrawal. Democrats can take control of the timetable.

We cannot wait to see what hell evolves in Baghdad. The McGovern answer is the right answer. Can it be delivered? Murtha favors a redeployment option that is possibly the politically practical answer. The two can work together.

Progressives do not need to approve of Murtha's politics or answers across the board. But he has proven himself to be a leader and to have Pelosi's trust. These are difficult times.

We have been in similar situations before. Take Christine Gregoire She has earned progressives' support not so much because she's a progressive visionary, but she is a unwavering leader in a time when we need that kind of leadership.

Below is the press release from Nancy Pelosi, from which the quote at the top is taken.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE November 30, 2005
CONTACT: Brendan Daly/Jennifer Crider
202-226-7616

Pelosi: ‘The President Has Dug Us into a Deep Hole in Iraq; It Is Time for Him to Stop Digging’ Washington, D.C. – House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi held a news conference today in response to President Bush’s speech on Iraq. Her remarks are below:

"What we heard today was a commitment to the status quo – a status quo that is not working.

"The ‘Plan for Victory’ backdrop against which the President appeared at the Naval Academy today was no more accurate than the ‘Mission Accomplished’ backdrop he used over two and a half years ago on the USS Abraham Lincoln.

"The President did not have a plan for victory when he went into his war of choice in Iraq, and he did not have a plan for victory today.

"The American people expected that the President would do more today than just put a new cover and 35 pages of rhetoric on old sound bites. What the American people wanted from the President today was some evidence that he has heard their concerns.

"Clearly, the President fails to understand that a new course is needed in Iraq. The President has dug us into a deep hole in Iraq; it is time for him to stop digging.

"He offered a status quo plan that would not accelerate the training of Iraqi security forces, would not motivate Iraqis to assume security responsibilities more quickly and bring American troops home.

"Instead, he suggested that we send more troops and spend more money in Iraq. That is not what the American people want.

"The President says that the security situation in Iraq is getting better. But just because the President says it, does not make it so.

"226 American soldiers have been killed in Iraq in just the last three months. The Generals have told us that the presence of large numbers of U.S. forces in Iraq encourages the insurgents. The President provided no specifics on how, or when, the number of troops will be reduced.

With more than 2,100 American soldiers killed, thousands more wounded grievously, and hundreds of billions of dollars spent, the President owes the American people more than he provided today.

"We should follow the lead of Congressman John Murtha, who has put forth a plan to make America safer, to make our military stronger, and to make Iraq more stable. That is what the American people and our troops deserve."
The same situation exists today.

Murtha's record isn't spotless. As some commenters have noted, he's been tangled up in the ABSCAM mess. And in the past he has seemed more interested in doling out federal grants for pet projects than fiscal responsibility. Nobody's perfect.

But if we want to "clean House", Steny Hoyer is not the man for the job. He's too tied to corporate interests. As David Sirota has noted:
You remember, it was Hoyer - the Democratic Whip - who refused to whip votes together to try to defeat the corporate-written Central American Free Trade Agreement. When Pelosi tried to build opposition to the disgusting bankruptcy bill, it was Hoyer, the second-ranking Democrat in the House, who not only didn't whip against the bankruptcy bill, but actually voted for it, after pocketing massive campaign contributions from the banking industry.

And when Pelosi worked to keep her caucus together in opposing the GOP Energy Bill, it was Hoyer who voted for the nauseating legislation after pocketing more than $300,000 from energy/natural resource industry cash. That legislation that literally gave away billions of taxpayer dollars to the energy industry profiteers who proceeded to bilk Americans with higher and higher gas prices.
Murtha is more likely to have a fruitful working relationship with Speaker Pelosi and listen to voices in the progressive movement than Hoyer is. Hoyer has a history of undermining the Democratic caucus and creating division rather than unity.

He didn't fight the bankruptcy bill. Or the energy bill. He has criticized his fellow Democrats' support of a timely Iraq withdrawal. On too many important issues, Steny Hoyer has the wrong positions. We feel that Murtha would be a better leader in the House Democratic caucus, and we'd like to see him get the chance to prove himself.

Despite Reichert's lead, it's still not over

Dave Reichert widened his lead over Darcy Burner this evening with a significant increase in votes, and took over the lead in King County by just a handful of votes.

Reichert's campaign is reportedly declaring victory and traditional media outlets are falling over each in other in the rush to agree. We'll stay out of that spectacle, though, and maintain our position: this race has been close since Election Night, and it would be premature to jump to any conclusions until all, or almost all, of the votes have been processed and counted.

There's no reason and no need for Darcy Burner to concede. We don't know for a fact that Dave Reichert is the winner. Certainly things have been trending his way, but that is what Slade Gorton thought for days and days and days after Election Day in his battle against Maria Cantwell.

In that statewide race, Gorton ended up seeing his seemingly cushy 18,000+ margin evaporate overnight. And furthermore, Cantwell later ended up surpassing him once the last batches of ballots had been counted and reported.

Reichert would undoubtedly love for the count to stop now. But it's not going to. Let's see what the remaining voters whose voices have not been heard yet have to say. Then we'll know whether Reichert has narrowly escaped from a strong challenge or whether he has amazingly and surprisingly fallen victim to a people powered movement to oust him.

Will traditional media catch up?

The immediate results of the blue wave that has cleaned America are now readily apparent: Rumsfeld's gone, Mehlman's gone, and Dubya has been humbled. Rove appears to have retreated to his lair, Cheney to his crypt (well, sort of).

We the people were felt on November 7th.

We can't say the same about the media. We can boycott and mount campaigns against station owners like Sinclair (remember that in '04?) who show obvious propaganda, but it doesn't always work (remember ABC's "Path to 9/11"?). See also, "Armstrong Williams."

Last week, even before the counting was over, the corporate media were trying to spin Democratic victories as conservative wins because all the Democrats who won were "moderates" or "conservatives."

Progressive strategists and bloggers have noted that trend.

Fact is, based on issues like ending the Iraq occupation, repealing massive tax breaks for multimillionaires, banning torture, joining the Kyoto Protocol, and getting the NSA out of our phone calls and e-mail messages, 27 of the 29 newly elected members of the House can indeed be considered progressives.

Media Matters highlight's Time's double standard here.

And there's the President, who openly lied about keeping Rumsfeld until the end of his term. Nobody effectively challenged him on that, and Tony Snow (you know, the guy yanked from Fox News (also known in some circles as the White House Farm Team), where he provided "fair and balanced political analysis") easily brushed it off in the daily gaggle.

The Democrats overcame an enormous amount of conservative smearing, voter apathy, outright and indirect attempts at voter suppression, and flaccid traditional media to win the midterm elections.

It took an absurd amount of hard work from the grassroots and netroots, along with blatant blunders from the right, to help Democrats capture Congress last Tuesday.

So it would appear that Democrats now control 2/3 of the government. Don't fall into that trap. The truth is, we only have half.

The traditional media is still made up of corporations who control the agenda. And most corporations have a decidedly conservative slant, from the top down.

News, to them, isn't information, it's a product. It is a commodity, bought and sold; it is not a public service. It's entertainment.

Consequently, what you see on ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, CNN and others has been focus-grouped, marketed, massaged and packaged specifically to be consumed, not integrated into a well-informed citizen's daily life. Most of it - with notable exceptions - is a travesty of journalism.

So along with the work we still have to do in getting out of Iraq, reclaiming our civil liberties, stemming global warming and stopping torture, we also need to support organizations like FAIR, Media Matters for America, and Free Press.

We need to return to the Fairness Doctrine or find a stronger replacement. And we need to stop corporate media consolidation.

The "Fourth Estate "has always been our "containment field" for runaway government. In the years since Reagan, though, it has merely been a reliable mouthpiece of the right. That's a cheap recipe for fascism.

But progressives have momentum and the ear of the electorate - media reform is certainly within our reach if we have the political will to pursue it.

Democrats to push for troop draw downs

The week ahead could be dominated by news that Democrats will start pushing for troop withdrawals from Iraq. Via Reuters:
Democrats, who won control of the U.S. Congress, said on Sunday they will push to begin withdrawing American troops from Iraq in the next few months but the White House cautioned against fixing timetables.

The Iraqi government must be told that U.S. presence is "not open-ended," said Sen. Carl Levin, a Michigan Democrat expected to be chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee in the new Congress that convenes in January.

"We need to begin a phased redeployment of forces from Iraq in four to six months," Levin said on ABC's "This Week."

President George W. Bush has insisted that U.S. troops would not leave until Iraqis can take over security, and has repeatedly rejected setting a timetable for withdrawal.

The White House, however, said that Bush is open to new ideas and the president will meet on Monday with the bipartisan Iraq Study Group, which is considering alternative approaches.
And things are already being recast on the conservative side, according to this Newsweek report about key figures from George H.W. Bush's presidency playing an active role.
The American people, as politicians like to say, spoke last week—and spoke in no uncertain terms. The 2006 vote does not suggest an eagerness for a sharp left turn. It seems, rather, to be a plea for a shift from the hard right of the neoconservatives to the center represented by the old man in Houston. The re-emergence of Iraq Study Group voices such as Baker, Gates and Alan Simpson—all longtime friends of Bush Senior—is not unlike the entrance of Fortinbras at the conclusion of "Hamlet." These are 41's men, and the removal of Rumsfeld—an ancient rival of Bush Senior's from the Ford days—is a move toward the broad middle. The apparent triumph of pragmatism over ideology on Iraq was welcome news, at least to the public. In the new NEWSWEEK Poll, 67 percent favor Bush Senior's internationalist approach to foreign policy over his son's more unilateral course.
Whether Papa Bush and friends can save the day is an open question. The eggs are already broken and the omelet is burnt. There is no grand coaliton, as in 1990-91. His son made sure of that.

Exactly what change in strategy or tactics might lead to a different result in Iraq is fairly difficult to imagine at this point. The Iraqi government is incapable of governing or maintaining order, and the various factions continue to kill at an alarming rate. Calls for partitioning Iraq seem desperate at best, a recipe for endless regional conflict at worst.

The right wing noise machine will likely crank itself up yet again, and their devotees will doubtless start in with their attacks on Democrats' patriotism. Sadly, a good deal of that yammering will insert itself into the regular media.

As Democrats begin to act on behalf of the American people, it's important that we not allow the right wing noise machine to define the terms of the debate.

Demands for simple solutions should be dismissed. We've had enough platitudes, aphorisms and insults over the last six years from the right-wingers to last a lifetime. It is far past time for the regular media to ignore those who cannot make reasoned arguments, and it is especially overdue for the regular media to stop promoting the voices of hate as "entertainment." Our country needs to have a serious discussion about the war in Iraq.

It's going to take a great deal of hard work, creativity and good luck to extract ourselves from this debacle, and if the Iraq Study group comes up with some good ideas, we should be all ears. But it needs to be a two way street.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

This lame duck may fly

Most observers predict a desultory period between now and the new year, with the current Republican Congress content to wrap up the mess in a plastic bag and leave it on the doorstep of Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid.

Specifically, the talk is that unfinished spending bills will be dumped into a continuing resolution and later an omnibus bill, so as to give plenty of time for unemployed Congressmen to construct their resumes and start knocking on the doors of K street.

Does the GOP want to leave a bitter taste in the mouths of the electorate? Isn't their only future to take the Dems up on the offers of bipartisanship?

What with new rules for lobbying on the horizon and the loss of both houses, K street already has a big surplus of right wing ideologues. The only Republicans with influence will be those who can work with Democrats.

Voters and Democrats have already gotten more action on Iraq, with the firing of Rumsfeld and the nomination of a pragmatist, in the few days since the election than they did in the entire year previously. They may get similar movement elsewhere in the agenda.

A few predictions:
  • Republicans will write the appropriations bills and pass them in good order. The leadership will want to leave a sense of competence in the minds of the electorate. They will come back after Thanksgiving to get it done if they have to.
  • Middle class tax cuts will be passed. The so-called "extenders," the deductions for state sales taxes and for student tuitions, along with the R&D tax break will be passed. The GOP used their power to extend the tax breaks for the rich last spring -- into 2010. Will they really leave town without extending the rational tax breaks for the middle class into next year? [You'll remember Senator Cantwell took a courageous stand against cutting the minimum wage for tipped workers and announced it on the Official Blog. That bill also had the extenders in it as well as the evisceration of the estate tax. The voters and Senate Democrats look pretty good today for having stood up then.]
  • Confirmation of Gates. The Pentagon won't have to wait until January to expel Rumsfeld. Gates will be confirmed in December, though Senators will make sure they're not buying the Baker commission's prescription in the blind. (Gates was a member of the Iraq Study Group headed by James Baker and Lee Hamilton. That group has a report coming in January. A better one is already on the table from George McGovern and William Polk. See our treatment.)
  • Rejection of Bolton. John Bolton will have to kick his dog and terrorize his office staff somewhere other than the UN. Confirming him may be Dubya's priority, but I see a swirling pattern and a flushing sound in Bolton's future.
That will be a bunch. Particularly the budget work. Only two of, I think, thirteen spending bills have been passed. A $5.2 billion transfer from domestic programs to the military is not accounted for, which means an untoward changing of the rules or even deeper cuts in domestic programs.

The voters and the Democrats can be very satisfied if it gets done. If it doesn't, the Republicans need to explain why -- on camera.

High wind watch for this evening

Much of the region remains under a high wind watch for this evening.
URGENT - WEATHER MESSAGE
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE PORTLAND OR
340 AM PST SUN NOV 12 2006

340 AM PST SUN NOV 12 2006

...HIGH WIND WATCH NOW IN EFFECT FROM THIS EVENING THROUGH LATE TONIGHT FOR THE LOWER COLUMBIA...THE I-5 CORRIDOR IN COWLITZ COUNTY...THE GREATER PORTLAND METRO AREA...THE GREATER VANCOUVER AREA...THE CENTRAL AND SOUTH WILLAMETTE VALLEY...THE NORTH OREGON CASCADE FOOTHILLS...THE CASCADE FOOTHILLS IN LANE COUNTY AND THE SOUTH WASHINGTON CASCADE FOOTHILLS..

THE HIGH WIND WATCH IS NOW IN EFFECT FROM THIS EVENING THROUGH LATE TONIGHT.

A DEEPENING LOW PRESSURE AREA WILL MOVE TOWARD THE NORTH OREGON COAST THIS AFTERNOON...THEN MOVE ACROSS WASHINGTON TONIGHT. SOUTH WINDS OF 30 TO 40 MPH WITH GUSTS TO 60 MPH ARE POSSIBLE TONIGHT. THESE POTENTIAL STRONG WINDS OVER THE INLAND VALLEYS AND FOOTHILLS OF SOUTHWEST WASHINGTON AND NORTHWEST OREGON WILL DEPEND ON THE EXACT TRACK AND STRENGTH OF THE LOW AS IT MOVES INLAND TONIGHT.

A HIGH WIND WATCH MEANS THERE IS THE POTENTIAL FOR A HAZARDOUS HIGH WIND EVENT. SUSTAINED WINDS OF AT LEAST 40 MPH...OR GUSTS OF 58 MPH OR STRONGER MAY OCCUR. CONTINUE TO MONITOR THE LATEST FORECASTS FOR UPDATES ON THIS DEVELOPING SITUATION.
You can always check the National Weather Service-Portland web site if you wish. You can find other cities in the region or country at that page by typing in a city and state name in the box at the upper left.

Coastal areas of Oregon will likely take a pounding, so hang tough out there, folks.

And hey, did you remember to take in the patio umbrella like I told you yesterday? You didn't? Me neither. It'll be more fun to fight it as the wind starts to pick up anyway...

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Not much changing in the battle for WA-08

After two more days of updates, Darcy Burner still trails Dave Reichert by a few thousand votes. The new difference between the two candidates is 3,514 after today's report from King County.

Analysis indicates that most of the recent batches tabulated are coming from the southeastern part of King County, which is an area that was projected to vote more strongly for Reichert. Pierce County has not released any new figures since Thursday and won't until next Monday.

Within King County Darcy has remained ahead. She has 81,593 votes to Reichert's 80,949. King County Elections tabulated 38,228 absentees today, bringing the total number of tabulated ballots to 318,964 thus far.

179,565 ballots from polling places have been tabulated so far. This total does not include provisional ballots.

While not much is changing - the gap has widened and narrowed slightly - there's no telling what will happen next. The old saying, "it's not over until it's over" certainly applies here.

Anyone has grounds to make the case for their viewpoint. Reichert supporters can justifiably say they're optimistic. So can we. That doesn't mean Republicans will end up victorious , nor does it mean Democrats will. We just don't know.

The situation has remained tight - just like it was six years ago when the outcome of a close race between Senator Maria Cantwell and Republican Slade Gorton was unknown for months. In fact this race is eerily similar.

On November 15th, 2000, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer ran a 757 word article from reporters Joel Connelly and Lise Olsen which began this way:
The reporting of 96,000 absentee votes in King County yesterday allowed Democrat Maria Cantwell to wipe out much of an 18,000-vote lead by GOP Sen. Slade Gorton in the country's last undecided U.S. Senate race.

But late returns from his small town and rural base in Yakima, Skagit, Kittitas and Klickitat counties kept Gorton in front by about 3,300 votes.

Cantwell and Gorton are intense baseball fans, and last night it seemed that their race wouldn't be decided until the bottom half of the ninth inning.

A week after the election, about 186,000 ballots have yet to be counted, and valid absentee votes are still arriving at county election offices.
And as we all know, even though Gorton was ahead for days in the returns after Election Day, Maria Cantwell eventually prevailed and become Washington's junior U.S. Senator.

Even a week later - after the publication of the article I just excerpted - the conventional wisdom was that Gorton was going to make it through the election and return to the U.S. Senate. On November 21st, 2000, the P-I ran this headline at the top of another article by Joel Connelly and Lise Olsen:
Shift in Gorton base may give him victory; Republican winning in Magnuson Country
[Excerpt]: Gorton has steadily built a power base in other parts of the state. Six counties that originally went for Magnuson in 1980 are now backing the man who beat him: Cowlitz, Grays Harbor, Kitsap, Pacific, Skamania and Wahkiakum.

Final returns aren't due until tomorrow, and the tiny margin separating Gorton and Cantwell guarantees an automatic recount. "It's not over yet," Cynthia Bergman, a Gorton aide, cautioned yesterday.

Gorton's lead shrank to less than 1,300 votes yesterday, as Cantwell unexpectedly picked up support in Whatcom County. Although Gorton is still favored to win a fourth term, Cantwell "is back in the race," said her press secretary, Ellis Conklin.
Cantwell was indeed back in the race, and she emerged as the victor. The same thing happened to Christine Gregoire - she was behind early but at the end it was apparent that she had won - though the Rossi camp disagreed and persisted in challenging the election, to no avail.

Nobody really likes waiting and not knowing what the outcome is. But it's important for democracy's sake that King County Elections and the Pierce County Auditor count every legitimately cast ballot as carefully as possible.

We've set ourselves up for situations like this with our state law which says voters have until Election Day to get their ballots in the mail. That almost guarantees a drawn out period of waiting in any close race. Some would argue that law should be changed and others would argue against changing it.

But for now it's irrelevant. We'll keep waiting and watching to see what happens - and not jump to any conclusions.

A conservative tautology in D minor

Note-Before this week ends, I thought it would be helpful to review just what a terrible week this was for progressives. I have summarized how this is so using conservative logic culled from a variety of sources. Any resemblance between this post and writings appearing on conservative blogs, living or dead, is strictly coincidence.

Before the election, all Democrats were too liberal. After the election, the Democrats who won are conservative, and despite a host of progressive ballot issue wins, conservative ballot issues did better because they are conservative.

Progressive Democrats don't understand what has happened, because they are not conservative, so they probably won't get jobs from the conservative Democrats. The Democratic Party is a mirror image of the Republican Party and any deviation from accepted ideology (conservatism) will result in banishment. That is the conservative way.

Conservative Democrats will thrust progressives aside, because that's what conservatives do. In the end, conservatism will win out, because real conservatives will go back to the real conservatism of Ronald Reagan, who was really conservative. Unlike George W. Bush, who was never really conservative, we just supported him because he said he was conservative.

Sadly, progressive Democrats don't understand the world. Specifically, they don't understand economics, which is conservative, nor military strategy, which is conservative, nor do they understand regular people, who are conservative because they elected conservative Democrats and voted for conservative ballot issues.

Dear al-Qaeda in Iraq: Step off

Al-Qaeda in Iraq seems to think they have some kind of say in American politics. From the BBC:
A statement purportedly from the leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq hails the defeat of Republicans in the US mid-term polls.

The audio message, whose authenticity has not been verified, was published on Islamist websites and was said to be the voice of Abu Hamza al-Muhajir.

The Democrats' victory in Tuesday's Congressional elections was a move in the right direction, the speaker said.
And naturally certain lunatics on the American right are publicizing this, which is kind of confusing, because until Monday you were a traitor if you showed a picture of an insurgent. But that's just typical American right-wing lunacy.

The important part is this: none of us are under any illusion about what Islamic fundamentalism represents. It represents theocracy, intolerance and hatred, and as such it is our firm belief as Americans that Islamic fundamentalism must be defeated.

We happen to differ with the current occupant of the White House about how best to achieve that. While solid police and investigative work by law enforcement, intelligence and defense agencies may not give the glamorous appearance of landing on an aircraft carrier in a flight suit, we believe that efficient use of those tools will yield great results.

Where military foce is warranted, we believe the United States will act swiftly and with maximum force to destroy those who would destroy us. But we discard at our peril the wisdom of uniformed military officers and civilian analysts who have chosen to spend their careers protecting the American people. The deliberate smearing of people must end.

Progressives are continually and relentlessly accused of "not understanding the threat" by our domestic political opponents, which is a sad and unfortunate comment on how our opponents choose to conduct themselves. Charges that progressives somehow "are on the side of the terrorists" are not only insulting, but frankly idiotic.

But it behooves us on this Veteran's Day to not only thank all those who have served, and are currently serving, but to reiterate our dedication to the basic principles of American democracy, as embodied in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

In short, al-Qaeda of Iraq, your transparent attempt to score public relations points has failed miserably, and only a fool would point to your statement as evidence of anything but your own debauched view of the world.

Put away the patio umbrella

Forecasters say it could get very windy Sunday evening around the region.
SPECIAL WEATHER STATEMENT
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE PORTLAND OR
351 AM PST SAT NOV 11 2006

HIGH WIND OUTLOOK FOR NORTHWEST OREGON AND SOUTHWEST WASHINGTON
FOR SUNDAY NIGHT..

COMPUTER MODELS ARE CONTINUING TO SHOW THE POSSIBILITY OF A SIGNIFICANT WIND EVENT FOR SOUTHWEST WASHINGTON AND NORTHWEST OREGON SUNDAY NIGHT. MOST COMPUTER MODELS SHOW A VERY DEEP LOW PRESSURE CENTER COMING ONSHORE ACROSS SOUTHWEST WASHINGTON SUNDAY NIGHT. IF THIS OCCURS...IT COULD PRODUCE VERY STRONG AND DAMAGING WINDS ALONG THE COAST AND OVER THE COASTAL MOUNTAINS AND EVEN IN THE CASCADES. WINDS COULD ALSO GUST TO AT LEAST 60 MPH IN THE INLAND VALLEYS...WHICH COULD PRODUCE SIGNIFICANT PROPERTY DAMAGE. DAMAGE COULD BE EXACERBATED BY THE VERY WET SOILS FROM THE PERSISTENT RAINFALL AND FLOODING OF THE PAST SEVERAL DAYS.

A HIGH WIND OUTLOOK IS ISSUED TO ALERT USERS OF THE POTENTIAL THAT A HAZARDOUS WINDSTORM MAY DEVELOP. IF CONDITIONS CONTINUE TO PROGRESS TOWARD DEVELOPING HIGH WINDS SUNDAY NIGHT THEN A HIGH WIND WATCH WILL BE ISSUED LATER TODAY. PEOPLE ARE ENCOURAGED TO CONTINUE TO MONITOR THE LATEST FORECASTS AND DISCUSSIONS ON THIS POTENTIALLY DAMAGING HIGH WIND EVENT.
The 1995 wind storm came on kind of suddenly, if I recall correctly. So at least we have some heads up, if this one happens.

Friday, November 10, 2006

The pragmatist's view of impeachment

In the aftermath of the Democratic victory on Tuesday, talk radio -- progressive talk radio, anyway -- has been dominated by cries for impeachment.

It was taken "off the table" by Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid and the Democratic leadership. This is an outrage to patriots and other ardent fans of the U.S. Constitution and the rule of law.

As a pragmatist, I support fellow activists in their determination to see justice done and principle dominate. As a pragmatist, I also support the Democratic leadership in taking impeachment "off the table." Yes, I can have it both ways. Let me offer an explanation.
  1. Removing Bush from office leaves Dick Cheney in charge. (Feel that chill?)

  2. Impeaching the two together would be like Nuremburg goes to Hollywood.

  3. Not taking it off the table in DC means that's all any of the press will want to talk about. Taking it off the table means if the press wants to talk about it, they will have to talk to activists and outraged citizens.

  4. Placing the Democratic leadership between Bush and the lynch mob will stimulate a certain amount of attention by Dubya to the Dem's agenda.

  5. Action on the Democratic agenda means an end to Republican relevance. The public will see who gets things done, who protects them, who listens to them, and who they can trust.

  6. Problems of climate change, health care, world poverty, social security, debt, and the economy need the Democrats' attention to solve.

  7. Corruption is pervasive. Focusing on impeaching Bush gives the Republicans the king of scapegoats. With Bush off the table, we could start with Cheney, Halliburton, the House (including the highly culpable Doc Hastings), and the rest. Look at what happened to the GOP when they tried to impeach Bill Clinton. Even if Dubya deserves impeachment, that doesn't mean it's what we should pursue. We want to be about wise governance, not getting even.

  8. Off what table? The case for impeachment dot org could be the next great web site. As the crimes and misdemeanors come out in official testimony -- and God help the first man to plead the Fifth -- the groundswell will grow. Determined people and the enough revelations will find a table. If the groundswell grows, it grows.

  9. If the case is forced night after night, either by the activists or in hearings or public debates of another type, the public will get to see Pelosi, Dubya and the Shooter juxtaposed. And that's a good thing.
This organization has confidence that Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid can trailblaze a successful path to a stronger America and a stronger legislative branch. They can ensure that we will in a good position to make the case to the American people that the Democratic majority should be expanded in 2008.

Dunn pulls into lead in 17th LD

As we head into the weekend, here's a quick update on a Clark County legislative race we've been tracking. Unfortunately, it looks like Democrat Pat Campbell will likely not make it. From The Columbian:
Republican incumbent Rep. Jim Dunn pulled ahead of Democrat Pat Campbell in the latest election returns and appeared to have won another term representing the 17th Legislative District.

With 36,202 votes counted in the race as of Friday and only about 800 still to be tallied, Dunn had a 308-vote lead over Campbell, a retired corrections officer who raised $189 for his campaign.

“We’ll live with what the result is,” Campbell said.

The campaign, his third run for the Legislature, likely will be his last, he said.

“I have lots of other things to do. I have a grandson. Fridays are my grandson days. I think I’ve done my public service at this point,” he said with a laugh.

“I’ve really enjoyed this race,” he added. “I’ve been in touch with some real decent people who gave me some insight into what people are thinking. Some of them probably changed my thinking more than they’ll ever know.”

Dunn declined comment.
Dunn is winning and he won't even mouth a few platitudes? That's pretty sad. But not as sad as the prospects of a Republican passing a bill.

There is, however, one last chance for me to excerpt this. It's part of Campbell's answer to a Lifepac questionnaire:
13. Will you work to legislate substantially greater emphasis on abstinence education in Washington public schools?

No. Abstinence based education is generally the norm now and works to an extent. We need to supplement it with practical medical based education as well. After all, the Army I was in didn't address this area with just Character Guidance classes by Chaplain Roy. First Sergeant Snarley gave rather graphic supplemental demonstrations of how to equip a broom stick with a condom. I would guess that what First Sergeant Snarley explained to us had at least the same amount of effectiveness as what Pastor Roy counseled.
I think Campbell would have made a great legislator.

Robo-call impact

Paul Kiel discusses the impact of the nasty GOP robo-calls in close races at TPM Muckraker. Short version--they probably had an impact.
In at least seven of those districts, the Democrat failed to unseat the incumbent by only a couple thousand votes. The NRCC's calls may have been the difference in those races.
My opinion is that the blasted things should be outlawed altogether. Indiana has done so, although they had to go to court to enforce it.

It's not freedom of speech to harass voters with computerized calls. While our side uses tamer, legal calls, if neither side could do it then the playing field is level. And really, we pay for our phone service, why should any politician be entitled to use it for their commercials?

Democrats in the Legislature should definitely consider a blanket ban on automated calling. Voters would thank them for it, and there would be one less potential dirty trick in the GOP/BIAW bag.

CLARIFICATION-- Obviously automated systems that perform a public safety or information function should be exempted, like school notifications and emergency warning systems.

A thank you from Senator Maria Cantwell

Senator Cantwell wants to say "thank you" in a big way to the netroots and grassroots activists who supported her campaign. She's recorded a video message for volunteers and supporters which we urge you to watch.

We look forward to working with Senator Cantwell to build a more progressive America over the next six years of her second term, and we emphatically congratulate her on her much deserved reelection.

Lamont's challenge to Lieberman in Connecticut was a victory for the movement

I was working on a post to explain how we won in Connecticut by targeting Joe Lieberman (even though Ned Lamont did not ultimately defeat him in the general election) when I observed this morning that Markos had already written something like that for DailyKos.

And since our friends over at unSoundPolitics have already tried to jest at Markos for the loss (which is hilarious, considering that we had a huge series of victories while they lost big) I'm going to excerpt him instead:
In some DC circles, there's a lot of chortling about Lieberman. But we did what we set out to do -- to make clear to the party leadership that the war was going to be this year's decisive issue. Until Lamont won his primary, that obvious point wouldn't pierce the DC bubble. So we had to make our point in a dramatic fashion.

Furthermore, Lieberman will caucus with the Democrats. That's fine. Hopefully he's learned his lesson and will actually go back to representing the people of Connecticut. If he does, he'll be fine in six years.

If he doesn't, he'll be right back where we started and will face an even more mature people-powered movement. And all he has to do is look at the 2008 Senate calendar, and the almost dozen serious Democratic pickup opportunities, to realize that any thoughts of switching parties would be a short term power-play at best.

Lieberman has been neutered. If he leaves the caucus for short-term gain, he loses all leverage and power and harms his long-term interests. Yet he doesn't stay in the caucus as a Democrat, but as an independent. And in that capacity he can criticize the Democratic Party all he wants without it being a story of "Democrats versus Democrats". He can flirt with Bush without it being a case of "bipartisanship".

In any case, Lieberman is the old. An artifact of a bygone era. Let him sunset in the Senate as we look to our future leaders -- people like Tester, Webb, Klobuchar, Brown, McCaskill, Whitehouse, and so many exciting new faces in the U.S. House.
Our challenge to Joe Lieberman was a victory for people powered politics. We didn't even expect to beat him in the Democratic primary, but we did, and that had an important effect on dozens upon dozens of races across the country.

Could Lamont have campaigned harder after winning the primary?

Probably. He didn't have to lose momentum by waiting to see if Lieberman just might change his mind. He could have benefited from a slight change in strategy.

I am not sure what other commentators have meant they said our challenge of Joe has given him all this power and leverage. Joe was already a traitor to the party. He could choose to caucus with the Republicans, yes, but what's in it for him?

A final act of desertion would have to be permanent. Neither caucus would tolerate him going back and forth. And if he caucused with the GOP, he could easily end up in a smaller minority after 2008. Joe knows this, and that's why he and the Democratic establishment have made a deal.

Lieberman is indeed ultimately irrelevant. We will continue electing populist progressive champions to the U.S. Senate in the effort to build a people powered governing majority.

Haunted By Their Own Words

As we look back at the historic Democratic landslide that has reverberated across the country, we're taking a look back at what Republican candidates, elected leaders, and party officials have said over the last few months (before the election) and have a chuckle or two at their expense.

Today, we're going to have some fun with State GOP Chair Diane Tebelius.
"I don't ever think that [money] is the defining issue," Tebelius said, noting her party has "probably the best crop of candidates we've seen in years."

- Tebelius, November 2nd, 2006 (Seattle Times)

"I don't believe we'll see a tsunami here."

- Tebelius, November 3rd, 2006 (Associated Press)

"The momentum shift is clearly in the Republican direction on a national level - our base is 'coming home' and that is critical in the closing days of this election."

- Tebelius, November 6th, 2006
(Washington State Republican Party press release)
Really, Diane? When your spokesperson sent out that news release, did you really think that the momentum was on the side of the GOP? Or were you just saying that to project confidence?

There never was a groundswell of polls or any other believable indicators showing that Republicans were making up lost ground. A few pundits tried vainly to assert that the tide had turned - or something of that nature. They were proved completely wrong on Tuesday night.

Mike McGavick got crushed worse than George Nethercutt did two years ago. Democrats cleaned Republican incumbent legislators out of suburban and rural districts around the state. Right wing initiatives were rejected by voters.

There never was any "momentum shift" "in the Republican direction". Tuesday's decisive results have certainly dispelled any such laughable notion.

P-I slams Dino Rossi

Today the Seattle Post-Intelligencer is sending a message to Dino Rossi in what has to be one of the newspaper's best editorials - ever:
Take note of the trouncing your party took in this state on Election Day. Not only did voters shift dramatically the balance of power in both houses of the Legislature, but the ballot initiative you came out to promote -- I-933 -- was roundly defeated.

Perhaps your leadership reputation would have been better burnished had you spoken out last year in opposition to Initiative 912, the failed attempt to cut transportation funding. But you were busy trying to sell a book about leadership rather than exercising it.

A lot has changed in two years, and there's nothing to make things look rosy for Republicans two years out, either.

There is no longer any rational questioning of Gov. Chris Gregoire's legitimacy. Democratic legislative majorities have swelled.

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Mike McGavick's 39 percent share of the vote against a vulnerable Maria Cantwell fell short of George Nethercutt's 43 percent share against Sen. Patty Murray in 2004, and Helen Craswell's 41 percent cut against Gary Locke in the 1996 governor's race and even John Carlson's 40 percent against Locke in 2000.

So, carefully temper any dreams of comeback in '08 with the realities of '06.
In 2008, we will reelect Governor Christine Gregoire and keep her in Olympia working for the people of Washington State. We've already defeated Dino Rossi once, and we can do it again - this time, by a a decisive and incontestable margin.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Campbell-Dunn race tightens in 17th LD

In the 17th LD (in Vancouver) in Washington state, the race between Democratic challenger Pat Campbell and Republican incumbent Jim Dunn has tightened up.
Republican State Rep. Jim Dunn pulled to within 144 votes of Democratic challenger Pat Campbell on Thursday as Clark County election workers continued to tally thousands of last-minute ballots.

“I’m not gloating yet,” Dunn said after the latest counts were released. “I feel a little better right now than I did an hour and a half ago because the possibility is there and it’s trending my way.”

“I’m not ecstatic yet,” he said.

On Wednesday, Dunn was trailing Campbell by 828 votes in the 17th District race.
I'm not even going to hazard a guess on this one now. But Campbell would be an interesting addition to the House Democratic caucus, for many reasons, but you have to love his sense of humor.

According to The Columbian, there are some 5,000 votes still to be counted. I don't know why, in a vote by mail county, the votes still to be counted would favor one candidate over another.

Maybe the vaunted GOP turnout machine is saving Jim Dunn, the least effective member of the Washington state House of Representatives. Some victory.

New votes in WA-08, but no clear outcome

The latest reports from King and Pierce Counties put Dave Reichert at 50.9% and Darcy Burner at 49% respectively. The gap between them has widened ever so slightly to 3,120 votes (it was 2,736 yesterday).

New figures are in but this race is still not over - nor is there any clear outcome in sight, as I have said yesterday and the day before. If we were to guess on what might happen it would be that the situation will only get tighter and the numerical difference between the two candidates narrower.

King County will continue reporting new numbers during the next few days (always in the evening - usually before 8 PM) but Pierce County will not report again until the beginning of next week. Pierce County has been kind to Reichert - he currently has 56% of the vote there - but Darcy has put up a better fight than Dave Ross did in 2004, and it's not a big blowout.

Pierce County is disproportionately affecting the results right now - it's overrepresented in the total because it's only roughly around a fifth of the voting total of the district. And most of the votes in Pierce County have been counted.

King County is the other four fifths, and it still has a lot to report. Today King County counted and released very few votes - there's reportedly been power outages which have made it hard to tabulate.

Darcy continues to win in King County, where she has 70,340 votes. Reichert has 69,302. That's a lead of only 1038 votes. If Darcy is to win she will need to increase that lead. Time will tell what happens.

Karl Rove, like Tim Eyman, was wrong

We've already poked some fun at Karl Rove at being totally deluded about the outcome of the 2006 elections, but why stop at one post?

Here's a juicy excerpt from a somewhat contentious interview Rove did with Robert Siegel of National Public Radio (this was pre-election):
ROVE: Yeah, I'm looking at all these [polls], Robert, and adding them up, and I add up to a Republican Senate and Republican House. You may end up with a different math, but you're entitled to your math, I'm entitled to THE math.

SIEGEL: Well, I don't know if we're entitled to our different math, but you're certainly -

ROVE: I said THE math. I said you're entitled to yours.
Well, guess what, Karl? Not only did we get the House, but we got the Senate, too. You were completely wrong. I'd like to see the "math" you were using.

The problem with making boldfaced predictions is, of course, that you're taking a big gamble. And when you lose big, you end up looking pretty dumb.

There are a lot of similarities or parallels between Karl Rove and Tim Eyman. Both are unelected divisive figures who are very active in politics. Both have been embroiled in scandals. Both are experienced at media manipulation. And both have a reputation for shooting their mouths off and displaying a cocky swagger.

Tim Eyman has already been humbled in 2006 and in the immediate years preceding, with a growing list of failed initiatives. Now it's Karl Rove's turn. He didn't temper his political forecasting and he's paying the price. It's a huge blow to his reputation. Any political observer who dares to call him a genius is as deluded as he is.

A true genius would have found a way to accomplish a miracle for the right wing - saving a corrupt Republican majority from being swept out of power. Rove couldn't manage it, despite deploying an arsenal of dirty tricks. He was outplayed and outfought. His strategy, like Eyman's failed.

In September 2005, before the November elections, Tim Eyman famously declared to his supporters and to the media:
"Same goes for I-912, the gas tax repeal initiative. Put a fork in it, it's done. It's going to be approved overwhelmingly in November. Why? Because we've beaten this coalition of opponents (Big Business, Big Labor, politicians, and the press) year after year after year in these same tax battles. Even opponents know it's over."

- Tim Eyman
And in the end, when it was in fact "over", Eyman was humiliated. His gleeful taunting came back to haunt him. He was dead wrong. I-912 didn't pass, it was defeated overwhelmingly, just as I-920 and I-933 were this year.

Karl Rove was wrong too. He and others - pundits who confidently followed him - lost big on Tuesday. They will have to contend with the realization that they are now the minority party. Democrats control both houses of the legislative branch in both Washingtons - our state and the District of Columbia.

We will move America and the Evergreen State forward in a new direction. The days of Republican fear are over. The days of Democratic hope have begun.

Bolton nomination thwarted - by a Republican

While the cable channels' legions of pundits talked of a new "bipartisan era," Dubya renominated John Bolton today. (Props to Daily Kos.)
The White House resubmitted Bolton's nomination to the Senate today in a last-ditch effort to get him confirmed before the new Congress takes power.

Bolton's long-stalled nomination was already blocked by the current Republican-led Senate after President Bush nominated him last year. His chances looked dead in the water after the new Democratic-led Congress convened in January.
Exactly what purpose it served Bush to do that is beyond me. Playing to the conservative base? Does Bush not understand that conservatives are busy on C-SPAN and elsewhere exhuming Ronald Reagan?

As many have noted in the alternative media, the only way for the right wing to avoid being labeled failures, which they are by any objective historical standard, is to declare that the fault lies not with their rank and file but with Bush.

Knowing the Bush family, that could get interesting.

UPDATE: Partisan gridlock, indeed:
The President's and new Speaker's comments before the press started at 1:04 pm today and concluded at 1:08 pm.

At 1:22 pm, the White House sent John Bolton's controversial nomination to serve as US Ambassador to the United Nations back up to the Senate.

Luckily, Lincoln Chafee would have none of it -- suggesting that such a nomination is clearly not in the spirit of what happened electorally in this country this week. By 2:15 pm, Chafee put an end to the Bolton confirmation process by formalizing his previous "informal" opposition to Bolton in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Wait a second - Lincoln Chafee isn't a Democrat! (Okay, maybe he's decided he wants to be one. But he's still a Republican for now).

A new Democratic majority is in power. The people have spoken. They've had it with "stay the course". If Dubya thought dismissing Donald Rumsfeld was good enough, he was wrong. Democrats will hold the administration accountable and restore our system of checks and balances.

That's not gridlock. It's democracy in action.

Site maintenance

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Redirects have been applied to any recent posts that have been taken off line, so that readers can get to the blog instead of the standard 404 error page.

A few local conservatives have mistakenly and stupidly jumped to conclusions that we have removed posts under the orders of some authority within the Democratic Party. Those kind of allegations are completely ridiculous.

We appreciate your patience and apologize for any inconvenience.

Spilt milk

Would it be "overreaching" for Democrats to say, hold hearings on all the money that is missing in Iraq?

Because we wouldn't want to knock the milk over, lest we suffer a horrible fate at the hands of the tee-vee pundits.

Best to steer a safe, bipartisan course, being careful to neither overreach nor say anything of import. Democrats better go back to accepting Republican memes, and cowering in fear. Because, you know, we won so many elections when we did that.

Google fun: reaching is dangerous

Apparently Democrats better not knock over the milk.

Reaching for things is obviously dangerous, and overreaching for things, well, that's just stupid.

Of course, nobody can actually name what horrible fate will befall Democrats, or if knocking over the milk will occur because Democrats want to work on health care or a logical end to the war in Iraq or whatever, but consider yourself warned.

If you knock over the milk, you will pay a heavy price in 2008. Because the TV bobble heads say so.

Allen conceding in Virginia senate race

It's the final cut.
Republican George Allen of Virginia will concede the election for his U.S. Senate seat to Democratic challenger Jim Webb on Thursday, sources close to the senator said Thursday.

A victory for Webb will give the Democrats control of the Senate, as well as the House of Representatives.

Allen scheduled a news conference for 3 p.m. ET. Webb has scheduled an appearance with reporters at 4:15 p.m.
Democrats ran the table in the Senate races. Considering how close so many of those races were, it's fairly astounding.

Allen was looking at a presidential bid in 2008; now he's looking at retirement. Maybe he can find a nice lake property with lots of trees and slave quarters a guest house.

Three messages from the voters the Dems need to deliver

Tuesday can be an object lesson in democracy, for ourselves and for the world, but only if the messages sent by the electorate are delivered.

If there is anything like "business as usual," the frustration and cynicism factor will poison our Republic. This election will have meant no more than the Iraqi election staged by Bush & Co.

Three messages that need to be delivered:
  • The war was a mistake and it is being run stupidly
  • The kitchen economy is in the red and going the wrong way
  • The culture of corruption needs to be wiped out completely
In reverse order:

Throw the Bums Out
. That is what the voters did themselves, to a large extent. But their targets were not just the Conrad Burns of the Congress, but the "culture of corruption" that every Republican bears a responsibility for.

Voters want to see housecleaning completed with an exclamation point. Pelosi's "most honest and open Congress in history" is code for doing that. Fumigating the place.

But it has to go right into the corporate fraud and profiteering in Iraq and into the corporate fingers in the Medicare bill and Energy plan and every other piece of legislation. The lobbying firms on K street now are overloaded with ex-Republican legislators. Let them find honest work. "Witch hunt" is going to be used a lot. I still like "fumigating the place."

Strategically it is very important for Democrats to do this right. This is the opportunity to prove themselves to be the honest stewards of the public's business, and the chance to show, in the conservative metaphor, that the Republican Daddy is an unreliable drunk and cheat.

The Economy
. The most pathetic thing about Dubya's news conference the day after the election was his befuddlement around the economy. "The economy is strong," he said, and shrugged his shoulders in bewilderment that voters turned out in droves against the party in power.

This guy just doesn't get it. He is completely out of touch with Americans on Main Street. I personally am infuriated by the top-heavy debt-loaded economy in which the Middle Class is the beast of burden.

But it was a different, less abstract anger about the economy that came to the voting booth. It was the Middle Class using the credit card to buy groceries and the working class choosing between health care and rent.

Income has stalled. The price of necessities like health care and energy and housing are going up. Corporations and the rich are grinning. That's why Bush doesn't get it. He can't see Middle America looking at the stack of bills on the kitchen table and wondering what happens if they get old or sick.

The War
. When you run halfway around the world, invade a country rich with oil, and drag in a spurious national defense angle for justification, you have a built-in PR problem. When the war blows up in your face -- or in the face of your constituents' children -- you have a bigger problem.

The only thing that could have saved the Republicans would have been another 9-11. That would have meant they'd failed to protect us, but it would have raised the fear level high enough to hide this disaster in Iraq for another couple of months.

There simply has to be a change. Politically Democrats do not need to come up with the plan. They can let the president twist in the wind.

Every way out of this mess is ugly, so whatever is decided needs to have everybody's fingerprints on it. Morally, Democrats do need to push the pace and make sure competence is rewarded. And as above, the fraud and waste and war profiteering needs to be exposed and stopped. (Rebuilding the country is a good place to start returning Iraq to the Iraqis.)

If these clear pronouncements from the voting booth are acted on, Democrats can be the majority party for a long time. It will mean "your vote counts when you vote Democrat." It is just for that reason that Republicans will do everything they can to stop the messenger.

The current show of bipartisanship is going to be a one-way street.

It is up to us to make sure it happens, with support and -- if necessary -- criticism.

Karl Rove - what a genius!

So much for the genius of Karl Rove. From Mathew Yglesias last night:
It's worth pointing out that this election ought to demolish the Myth of Karl Rove. From the GOP perspective, while losing five senate seats is worse than losing four, losing six is much worse than losing five. Since the 2006 climate clearly wasn't favorable to the Republicans, the obvious thing to do would have been to concentrate resources on Republican incumbents running in red states -- Virginia, Montana, Missouri, and Tennessee. I feel like there's good reason to think the GOP could have won two out of those four had they focused. Instead, they tried an ambitious strategy of picking off Democratic seats in New Jersey and Maryland, two solidly blue states.
Yglesias goes on to point out that in 2000 and 2004 Rove basically got lucky, and of course he had some help from the Supremes in 2000.

Whether this means the end of Rove's dominance in the GOP hierarchy is not clear. There were reports that Bush is furious with Rove, which would be about right.

We've contended before that Rove is not some kind of genius, but rather a Nixonian political thug. It seems the American people have grown weary of such tactics, and are endorsing a progressive approach.

Observations of a King County poll watcher

I spent Tuesday volunteering with the Darcy Burner campaign, where they assigned me to be a poll watcher. I spent the day at the Mercer Island Boys and Girls' club polling station. Having never poll - watched before, it was a new and interesting experience for me, and left me with some insights I hadn't really thought about before.

Cost

Running a polling station is expensive. The station I was at covered six precincts. Each precinct had one dedicated poll worker to sign voters in and give them their ballots. In addition, there was a guy who ran the e-voting machine, and another fellow (the Inspector), who oversaw the whole venue, handled provisional ballots, change of address forms, etc.

That's 8 people right there, and they said that two folks hadn't shown up to work. So for an average sized polling station, that's ten people (I gather that my station was more or less of an average size, judging by the official list of king county polling locations which was posted up on the wall).

Pop quiz: raise your hands, everybody, who knew that poll workers got paid. Anybody? Heck, I didn't. I always thought they were strictly volunteer positions. But no, there is some cash that comes along with the job.

Not a lot - - one poll worker I talked to said she got about $100 for the day's work - - but times 10 workers per station, that adds up. That's 1.66 workers per precinct, at a rough average.

Again, going by the list of polling locations, I estimated that King County has about 2500 precincts. I'm sure the exact figure is available online somewhere, but we're just making rough estimates here anyway. 2500 precincts * 1.66 workers/precinct * $100/worker comes out to a bit over $400,000.

Then there's rental for the facility, costs for the electronic voting machines, the paper ballot booths, and printing costs for the huge number of ballots and assorted other forms needed to run a polling station, plus the other county election officials. Add it all up and it's got to run into seven figures, easy.

With as large a fraction of absentee voters as King County has, no wonder Ron Sims floated the idea of following Oregon's lead and going to an all mail - in vote. I can certainly see his point.

One thing that surprised me was the very large number of people who hand delivered their absentee ballots to the polling station. There's a separate slot in the side of the ballot tabulating machine where people can put them.

Having registered a couple of years ago to vote absentee, it hadn't really occurred to me not to just mail it in, but I can see the appeal.

All the advantages of voting on a guaranteed paper trail, in the comfort and leisure of your own home, plus the security of knowing that you delivered your ballot into safe hands rather than worrying about what the post office might do with it.

If I were Ron Sims, I'd continue to push for an all absentee vote, but I would additionally advocate placing vote collection / provisional vote sites in every post office in the county.

You could drastically reduce the number of polling locations that way, save a lot of money, and still give people the option of mailing in their ballot or hand - delivering it to an elections official.

Electronic Voting

The polling station had six traditional ballot - marking booths, and one electronic voting machine (manufactured by Diebold). The machine was outfitted with a printer, which produced a paper trail that voters could inspect before leaving the station.

Voters who used the machine seemed to have no problems registering their votes the way they intended. Voters were given the choice of paper or electronic ballot, and by an overwhelming margin (more than 10 to 1), they chose the paper.

Those who chose to use the machine tended to do so for of the novelty of it, or because they thought it would be "more fun."

The tendency towards paper was doubtless influenced by the poll workers themselves, who encouraged people to use paper whenever someone would ask which was better.

The poll workers definitely preferred people to use paper, because the electronic ballots required an extra form to be filled out, causing an extra piece of paper that the poll workers had to track in order to reconcile their counts of votes cast with their record of voters who had showed up.

Basically, there's one record per precinct that lists all the voters who have come to vote. That record is posted on the wall for anyone who wants to see it. Then there's the official voter roll, which you sign on the line designated for you when you get there. Then there's the stack of individually numbered ballots per precinct.

If everybody gets a paper ballot, then the number of the top ballot on the stack should match the number of people listed on the public roll, which should match the number of entries in the voter roll with the signatures.

But with electronically produced ballots, the number on the topmost ballot in the stack gets out of step with the rolls, and the poll workers have to keep referring back to their collection of voter forms to reconcile the counts.

A similar but opposite thing happens when there is a spoiled ballot (i.e. the voter messes up and asks for another).

In that case, the numbers on the ballot stack would get ahead of the numbers on the roll, whereas with the ballots they get behind.

With all these factors in play, it becomes very difficult for the poll workers to know that their records are current and accurate; many times throughout the day I watched the workers go back through everything to double - check that they hadn't made any mistakes. When there was a mistake, it was very difficult to track down because all the records are on paper.

I salute the poll workers' dedication to accuracy and an error - free election, but the whole process certainly doesn't make that an easy task for them.

The extra form generated by a electronic vote, plus the fact that votes pull their counts in a different direction than spoiled ballots, make the poll workers jobs much more complex than you'd think. No wonder they quite preferred people to stick with the paper.

I could not observe the actual user interface of the Diebold machine during the casting of a ballot, because the machine provided no way to demonstrate that without actually casting a ballot, and naturally I couldn't stand over someone's shoulder and watch them vote. Privacy and all.

But I was encouraged that no one seemed to be having any problems, and I was encouraged by the paper trail process. There was a separate poll worker, not assigned to any precinct, who was in charge of running the machine.

He explained that the machine produces two copies of an initial report, before the poll opens, to show that the counts are all at zero. Then at the end of the day, it produces three copies of the whole day's results, which get routed in various ways (sadly I neglected to write down the details) that make tampering sound pretty hard.

Paperwork concerns aside, the electronic voting machine did appear to be slower than the paper method. Partly this was because voters had to wait while the machine operator encoded a plastic card with their precinct information on it (different precincts can have different ballot measures listed, so the machine has to know what precinct the voter belongs to), which they then inserted into the machine in order to activate it.

A completely configured electronic polling station would, I think, need to issue the card encoder devices to the poll workers who run each precinct, or else the card encoding process would become a serious bottleneck.

Even so, this extra step would still slow things down quite a bit by adding an extra 20 seconds or so per voter when they sign in. During busy times in a busy polling station, 20 seconds per voter really adds up fast.

Democrat vs. Republican Poll Watching

As a poll watcher, I was there for two primary reasons. One, to make sure everything was kosher at the polling place, going according to proper procedures, and that everyone could cast their votes.

Two, to collect data from the voter rolls, off of the posted lists of who had actually come to vote from each precinct, in support of the campaign's get - out - the - vote (GOTV) effort.

To those ends, I was given a packet containing an authorization letter permitting me to inspect various materials at the polling station, some forms and instructions for what to do if there were any irregularities while I watched, and a list of "targeted voters". This list was a per - precinct list of registered democrats who were expected to come vote.

As people came in to vote, they would sign in with the poll workers, show their voter ID, and write their names down in the log.

When the log sheets filled up, they were posted on the wall, and I could then check the names against my list, thus getting a count of who had come from the list and how many total voters had shown up.

Periodically through the day I would call this information back in to the coordinators. At the end of my shift (4:30 PM) I took my list back in so that targeted voters who hadn't yet voted could be called and reminded to go to the polls. I showed up at the polling station in the morning, at around 8:00, and stayed until 4:30.

Naturally, I wasn't alone. The Republicans also had a poll watcher, although their procedures, and goals, seemed to be a bit different. First, my Republican counterpart didn't show up until about noon.

She checked names off her targeted voter list, hung around for a while, then took off. That was it. I watched her as she worked, taking a peek at the materials she had brought with her. All she had was a targeted voter list, plus her authorization letter. She had nothing, as far as I could tell, that had anything to do with reporting of any irregularities or problems at the polls.

It was pretty clear that her job was solely to collect GOTV data, and that she had no instructions to watch for or report any problems. No interest, therefore, in actually trying to protect people's franchise. It's a little detail, maybe, but I find it telling.

Incidents: when things go wrong

And there was, as it happened, a problem while I was watching. Around 2:00 on Tuesday, the machine which collects and tabulates the paper ballots stopped working. You'd put a ballot into the slot, and instead of being whisked into the machine and tallied, nothing would happen.

The rest of the day to that point had been so trouble free that my reaction was more "Oh my goodness, an incident! What do I do?" I looked through my packet, read the procedure, and followed the instructions.

Basically, my instructions were to watch what was going on, write it all down in detail on an incident report form, and call it in to the hotline. So, I did.

The folks at the hotline gave me some further guidance on that specific problem (namely, that while the machine was down ballots should go in the absentee ballot slot on the side of the machine), and told me to call back in an hour or so to let them know what was happening.

The poll inspector (the fellow in charge) couldn't immediately rectify the problem, so he had voters do exactly what I had been told. Eventually, the absentee slot jammed because the extra ballots were a different size (they were unfolded) than the envelope - sealed absentee ballots.

The inspector had me and one of the poll workers witness him unlocking the slot to clear the jam, re - pack the absentee envelopes all neat and tidy, and lock things back up. I give the inspector great credit for being dedicated to handling the situation in a completely appropriate and aboveboard manner, making sure everything was witnessed, that voters were told what would happen (namely, as soon as the machine was back up that he would run their ballots back through), and so forth.

After about an hour, he finally managed to reach someone at the election's tech support line. Their recommendation: reboot it.

So he did, and it was fine. He then opened up the absentee slot (again, witnessed), fetched out the 41 ballots that had collected there during the downtime, and fed them through one at a time while I watched to make sure they all tallied up correctly.

In the end, I talked to the folks at the incident hotline three times, witnessed some stuff to make sure the ballots were handled appropriately, and filled out a form. No big deal, all's well that ends well.

But what I think is important to note is this: the Democrats had a whole apparatus in place - a hotline that was well staffed, election lawyers standing by to help and give advice, forms for me to report things on, and clear instructions as to where to call, etc. There were resources ready to spring into action if it had looked like any actual dis-enfranchisement was going on.

Thankfully, they weren't needed. But what is telling is that, unless they happen to read this post, the Republicans will have had no idea that this incident even happened. Their poll watchers were gone well before this all happened.

Anyway, it was an interesting day's work, and I'd happily volunteer to do it again. It's fun being part of the electoral process, and helping with the GOTV effort.

The netroots' impact on the blue wave

As the reality of becoming the majority party in America continues to sink in, it's certainly worth taking a look back and examining the impact we had.

The Democratic Party's series of huge wins across the country on Tuesday night were historic and decisive, and made possible by people power. Grassroots and netroots activists came together in huge numbers to volunteer and raise money for Democratic candidates across the country.

In many districts the progressive movement worked to support candidates recruited by the party's campaign committees in Washington, D.C. But in other districts, the movement took the lead in helping recruit candidates to run and then investing in their campaigns to make the fifty state strategy a reality.

The netroots helped put race after race across the country on the radar of the Democratic establishment, making the political landscape more competitive and forcing Republicans to play defense in an increasing number of districts. The movement put money and resources into long shot campaigns that were relegated to a low-tier status by D.C. political observers.

We achieved our goal of leveling the playing field, but we also (amazingly) won in many of the races we invested in. As Chris Bowers noted:
Welcome to our new generation of victorious netroots candidates:
  • PA-07: Joe Sestak
  • PA-08: Patrick Murphy
  • CA-11: Jerry McNerney
  • MN-01: Tim Walz
  • NH-02: Paul Hodes
  • VA-Sen: Jim Webb
  • MT-Sen: Jon Tester
I would like to point out that when we picked these candidates, none of them were top tier. In fact, I'm pretty sure that right up until the end most people thought Murphy, McNerney, and Walz would still lose. But they didn't.

And we picked up a bunch more "hopeless" races as well, that dramatically expanded the palying field, and came far closer than anyone thought would come:
  • WA-08: Darcy Burner. Votes still being counted--outcome unclear.
  • NC-08: Larry Kissell down by 400 votes, recount imminent.
  • WY-AL: Gary Trauner down by less than 1,000 votes, race undecided.
  • NY-29: Eric Massa not conceding, down by less than 2%
  • NJ-07: Linda Stender loses by only 2%
  • ID-01: Larry Grant down by 5% with most votes counted.
  • IL-10: San Seals loses by only 6%
And there is this history too:
  • CT-Sen: Ned Lamont shocks world to win CT-Sen primary.
  • OH-02: Still competitive in 2006. We fought when few others would.
There isn't a single one of these races that was top tier when we picked them. We were trying to expand the battlefield. Even when we didn't win, we left a strong, local netroots scene in place for future challenges.
The effort to build a progressive governing majority in America is, as Markos has said, "a marathon, not a sprint." Compared to what happened in 2004, our successes this cycle have been remarkable, and we're poised to chalk up even more in 2008.

The right wing is obviously frustrated with the result of the midterm elections, and the online division of the Republican Noise Machine is already spinning away.

Some of the commentators I've read or heard seem to have forgotten that our movement actually invested in races besides CT-Sen (Lamont versus Lieberman, which we didn't win for a number of different reasons).

We invested in long shot campaigns in noncompetitive districts and we got a terrific return on our investment. That's worth celebrating. And by the way, if we're going to talk about win/loss records, how about the horrible showing of Rightroots?

Local Republicans (including the crew at unSoundPolitics) doubtless frustrated by their party's disastrous performance, are gamely trying to change the subject by talking about how "fractured" or "ideologically splintered" the new Democratic majority is and predicting it will fall apart before too long.

That's funny - we heard the same kind of gleeful sneers two years ago after Election Day 2004 was over. I can remember reading confident predictions that Bush and his congressional allies would have no trouble pushing their agenda through.

There was talk of a mandate. There were boasts about the strength of conservative power in Congress. There was gloating about the defeat of Senator Tom Daschle of South Dakota, who had been the Democratic leader.

And yet, despite having lost seats in Congress, Democrats pulled together and rallied. These last two years, they've been pretty united on a number of important issues. Social Security privatization was thwarted. Bolton's nomination was stalled (ultimately Bush used a recess appointment). Arctic drilling was successfully filibustered (that effort led by our own Senator Cantwell). That's the beginning of a long list of examples.

Republicans are saying the same things they said two years ago about the Democratic caucuses. The only difference between then and now is that this year we knocked the Republicans out of power and became the majority party.

Republicans would like to see a Democratic House and Senate get mired in big intra-party battles. Unfortunately for them, that's probably not going to happen. Democratic officeholders aren't going to forget the hard work that went into putting all these victories together, and congressional Republicans' self-destruction is undoubtedly fresh on their minds - as it is on ours.

We will stand up to the Democratic establishment in Washington D.C. if and when our representatives and senators make poor decisions. But we will also stand with our party's elected leaders in fighting off Republican attacks, especially those aimed at Democrats that we helped send to Congress.

There will be disagreement and fighting, but there will also be cooperation, between the movement and the establishment. And very likely more of the latter than the former.

It's also curious to see this talk of "fracture" given that the Republican caucuses don't seem to be in tidy order. The Republican ranks have been depleted and the GOP leadership is in sorry shape.

In the House, Dennis Hastert is stepping down. Tom Reynolds has barely survived a strong challenge in his own district. Tom Delay ("the Hammer") is gone and his seat is now held by a Democrat. Republicans have to reorganize and pick a new leadership team. They've got their own problems to solve.

The 2006 elections are, in most states and districts, over with. But our work - the work of electing a populist, progressive governing majority - will continue.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Darcy Burner edges closer to Reichert

King and Pierce Counties earlier this evening released the results of thousands of ballots tallied during the day. King County released about 28,500, while Pierce released about 2,750. The new numbers have tightened the race ever so slightly, and Darcy Burner now trails Reichert more closely than before.

The difference between the two candidates is currently 2,736 votes.

Despite the new influx of ballots and an amended total, the race remains too close to call, with no clear outcome in sight.

Around 152,500 ballots have been counted so far in the 8th District. King County has at least 31,500 known ballots left to count, but tens of thousands more are expected to arrive in the mail within the next couple of days or so.

The number of votes left to count in Pierce County is substantially less than that. In fact, Pierce doesn't even normally comprise a fifth of the district's total vote (it's about 19%). Most of the people of the 8th District live in King County.

If Darcy continues trending upwards, slowly but surely she will eat away at Reichert's lead until it is virtually nonexistent or she surpasses the Republican.

A few traditional news outlets had curious headlines on their websites earlier today, such as "Reichert appears headed for victory" or "Almost in the bag" or "Reichert win likely." That's jumping to conclusions - foolishly.

In two nationally watched U.S. Senate races, the Democratic candidates trailed the Republican incumbents by slim margins but then came from behind to seize the lead. Those candidates? Claire McCaskill and James Webb.

Earlier in the evening last night, at Election Night parties, many Democrats I met expressed skepticism that either was going win. I was asked by a fellow progressive what I thought about the chances of getting the U.S. Senate and I confidently replied that I thought we would take it.

I got an incredulous look, but I explained that I was holding out hope for McCaskill, Webb, and Tester - all of whom seem to have prevailed. (Allen and Burns have not yet conceded - Talent has).

McCaskill and Webb surged ahead late because a lot of the votes from their urban strongholds were not tallied and reported until late into the night.

What's happening in Washington's 8th is similar to what happened in those other races. Here everything is being drawn out because the outcome hinges on the mail-in ballots, and Washington law sets the cutoff date for postmarked ballots as Election Day itself. So in tight races, it takes a while to learn the end result. In the last few elections, on average, somewhere between seventy to eighty percent of the county's voters have cast their votes by absentee.

The point is that Darcy may end up taking the lead away from Dave Reichert in the coming days, just as McCaskill and Webb emerged out in front after trailing early. And if the final result is close, we may have to endure another recount or two.

Then again, that scenario may not happen. We just have to wait and see - and until then, not jump to conclusions.

The people have spoken: we are the majority

With James Webb's victory in Virginia (media outlets are now calling the race for him) Democrats have swept Republicans out of the majority in both houses of Congress, captured a majority of the governorships, made inroads in state legislatures, and put an end to numerous, regressive right wing ballot measures across the country.

The Democratic Party is the majority party now. The people have spoken. The voters have decided. Corrupt Republican one party rule of the United States is over. The conservative agenda is firmly repudiated. Voters have once again embraced progressive values - our finest traditional values.

America is waking up.

America is electing leaders who are committed to the fundamental principles that have made our nation great. Fairness, opportunity, prosperity, open two-way communication, honesty, cooperation, and service to our community.

We all deserve clean air to breathe, clean water to drink, access to a college education, the right to quality healthcare, a living wage, and policies that protect our people and our communities. That's what Democrats will fight for. Democrats are also going to clean up Washington, D.C. and end the widespread corruption that has plagued our nation's capitol.

Democrats have a plan to get this country back on track. The voters have trusted our party to govern, and that's exactly what Democrats intend to do. Govern wisely, fairly, carefully, and honestly.

Today begins a new era in our country. Decades from now it will be remembered as a day when the cover of Republican darkness was broken.

So let the light be free. Let our democracy be liberated and strengthened.

It's not over in WA-08: Neither Darcy Burner nor Dave Reichert assured of victory

The race for Washington State's 8th Congressional District remains extraordinarily and unsurprisingly tight as of this afternoon.

Tonight, King County is due to report more more absentee (or mail-in) votes, which should give us some clues about future trends.

A few political observers have all but predicted a Reichert victory, with some commentators saying they expect Reichert to hold on. Such speculation is premature and unwarranted. This has been a close, hard fought race, and there is no clear outcome in sight at the moment.

That Darcy Burner was able to come out of nowhere and mount such a strong challenge to Dave Reichert is a testament to her incredible knowledge and skills. She raised over $3 million, built a grassroots army, and inspired activists and voters throughout the district to believe in a better future for America.

She forced Dave Reichert to bankrupt his war chest, to go negative, and to defend his abysmal record in Congress (which he could not manage to successfully defend - instead, he ran on his "experience").

Now she is on the cusp of a squeaky close but stunning victory.

Certainly there is a possibility that won't happen - that Darcy will lose, and Reichert will win reelection. But either way, it's surely going to be close. Again, though, that speaks volumes about Darcy's ability to compete despite not having any advantage in the name recognition department.

Darcy's candidacy, whether it translates into elected office or not, is already a great victory - for her, for us, for the Democratic Party, and for the people of the 8th District and Washington State.

Darcy created and ran a campaign that was not orchestrated by D.C. political operatives, but was directed and led by a people-powered movement within and around the district.

Darcy's campaign, like the candidate it backed, was open, friendly, and welcoming. Darcy made an effort to respect not only the progressive netroots and the Democratic grassroots, but also working families in the district who are not very involved in politics but are concerned for their own future and that of their childrens'.

Darcy's campaign was fresh, invigorating, inspiring, and original. Whether Darcy becomes the next Representative from the 8th or not, her candidacy will serve as a model for other Democrats in future election cycles, both here and in other states. She should be very proud of that.

As for this election, there's no reason for progressives and Democrats not to be optimistic. We've come out ahead in close elections before, like in 2000 when Maria Cantwell won or in 2004 when Christine Gregoire won.

(And though the local right wingers would have you believe it's due to foul play, that's simply not the case. Washington's a blue state. Naturally, it stands to reason that Democrats would have an edge in close elections).

And Darcy Burner is already outperforming Dave Ross, who was defeated by Reichert two years ago after getting nastily hammered late in the campaign by the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC).

If any predictions are to be made about what will happen, the only sound prediction to make is this: the race is going to get tighter. Support from Pierce County has been giving Reichert an edge thus far, but votes from there are drying up. What we're seeing now just may be Dave Reichert's high water mark.

King County Elections is counting absentees slowly and deliberately - and for good reason. After all the criticism of the division after the close gubernatorial election in 2004, the department really wants to ensure that mistakes and other embarrassing snafus are avoided. They are making strides towards better management.

The mail in ballots yet to be counted and or reported will determine the outcome in this race. We'll be watching and remaining optimistic about Darcy's chances.

Virginia Senate: Webb Still Leading

This situation is still in flux, but it looks pretty good for Webb, still leading by about 7,000 votes. Vote canvassing will be done by Friday, so we should have firmer news by Monday. If it does end up in a recount--and Allen's camp has been conspicuously quiet as to whether they'll push for it--the news is even better for Webb. But it will take weeks to find out.

Historically in Virginia, recounts have never produced more than a 20-30 vote flip for any candidate. So, barring any underhanded maneuvers--oops, barring any more underhanded GOP maneuvers in manipulating this vote, the momentum definitely stays with Webb.

Wipe out

As it seems likely Democrats will enjoy large majorities in the Legislature, I wanted to note a Clark County race in the 17th LD.

Democrat Pat Campbell was leading Republican incumbent Jim Dunn 51.7% to 48.3% after the count last night. Campbell was the surprise victor in the Democratic primary who spent oh, $68 or so in that race. From The Columbian:
Campbell declined to declare victory Tuesday. He said that if the results held, he would start contacting constituents this week to get advice about how he could serve their needs in Olympia.

Dunn did not concede Tuesday and could not be reached for comment.

In the other 17th District race, Rep. Deb Wallace, a Democrat, easily defeated Republican Paul Harris for election to a third term in a race marked by acrimony on both sides and lopsided spending. Wallace raised $235,000 to $9,000 for Harris.

Democrats last held both House seats in the 17th a dozen years ago, before the Republican sweep of November 1994. That year Republican Marc Boldt defeated five-term incumbent Democrat Kim Peery and Republican Don Benton won an open seat after Holly Myers, the Democratic incumbent, decided not to seek re-election.
Which brings me to something I wanted to touch on. As delighted as we all are with results in the US House and Senate, notice that a lot of the damage to the GOP has been done down-ballot.

What this does to a political party is destroy the farm team. It makes it that much harder to find good candidates to run and move up, and the quality usually goes down, something the GOP can't really afford anyhow.

Or even if they recruit a candidate who looks good on paper, as the GOP did with Harris in the other 17th race, they have a very hard time raising money and bucking the trends.

Harris was a long time school board member with deep community roots whose campaign amounted to almost nothing. (To be fair, Wallace raised something like eleventy billion dollars and probably spooked potential Harris contributors. But that's the game.)

Over the years many people speculated about what was wrong with Clark County Democrats. The simplest answer is 1994 was what was wrong with them. When you get wiped out that badly, it takes a long time to come back.

Now the shoe is on the other foot, and I'm guessing it's even more severe for Republicans in other areas of the state. Republicans down here were lucky that their state senators in the 17th and 18th Districts were not up this year.

Which means they are up in 2008.

Progressive movement must stand up the D.C. political establishment

A fair amount of bobble-head babble last night and this morning focused on how a Democratic landslide represents a victory for groups like the DLC (Democratic Leadership Council) or the conservative Blue Dog Coalition because "so many centrist Democrats won."

Such conjecture ignores the significant influence of the progressive netroots and grassroots, not to mention other factors.

As Ezra Klein notes, the Republican-generated idea that a smashing Democratic victory is not validation for progressives is nuts .
The ideological spectrum is a tricky thing. Take Heath Schuler, exhibit A in the right wing Democrats meme. He's a cultural conservative, no doubt. But however far right he drifts on those issues -- which, under a Democratic Congress, he won't be voting on because they won't be brought to floor -- he's notably left on economic issues. Today, for instance, he's giving a press conference under the auspices of the United Steelworkers with Great Liberal Hope Sherrod Brown, where they'll discuss the need for new trade policies and their success in making active opposition to NAFTA a winning issue. That's not centrist Democrat. It's not moderate liberal. That's populism, kids, and it's leftier than polite company has allowed for quite some time.

So is Shuler right-wing? Seems like a tough case to me. Sherrod Brown? Liberal as they come. Defeating South Dakota's abortion ban initiative? Passing Missouri's stem cell initiative? All those progressives who toppled liberal Republicans in the Northeast? Somebody think they won in the blue bastions with roaring conservatism? Meanwhile, the most conservative of the serious Democratic challengers this cycle, Harold Ford, went down to defeat.

Bravely fought race, tough environs, etc. But with an out-and-out liberal winning Ohio and a right-of-center Democrat losing Tennessee, we're really going to call this election for conservatism?
We knew before the election that the mindless centrists who brought us twelve years of hell would immediately try to throw progressives under the bus. And sure enough Rahm Emanuel has already started that attempt..

Of course, Emanuel has his strengths. He’s a decent strategist. He deserves some credit for backing candidates like Darcy Burner and not trying to micromanage their campaigns. But he also his weaknesses. And one of those weaknesses is that he does not have faith in a populist, progressive agenda. Another is that he tried to interfere in some districts by leveraging the DCCC’s influence behind handpicked candidates while ignoring the district’s grassroots base.

If we are to have, "the most open and ethical Congress in history," as Nancy Pelosi just said in some televised comments, then Democrats are going to have to crack down on K-Street. And some establishment Democrats don't really want that to happen.

The newly enlarged Democratic caucus is unique and diverse, and it’s difficult to easily apply ideological labels to all of its members. For example, as Klein noted, it’s hard to argue Heath Shuler is a conservative.

We will not be able to maintain our majority in Congress for long if we worry about “moving to the center” or just doing whatever has the most bipartisan consensus. In the face of the most extreme administration in American history, meeting the Republicans halfway is not moderation, it's capitulation. Democrats’ fortunes have improved because Democrats have started putting up a tougher fight. Less rolling over, more standing up for what we believe in.

Pundits and reporters in the traditional media are already putting out misleading narratives that lend credence to the claim that the country is still somehow conservative or right of center. It’s not. The key thing for progressives to do is to respond and reframe quickly to such claims.

Democrats campaigned on a promise to lessen and end the culture of corruption in Washington, D.C. Now Democrats need to follow through. It can’t happen unless the whole caucus commits to cleaning out the House. Progressives who were elected to the chamber thanks to the netroots and grassroots know they don’t need to be beholden to K Street. They know what people powered politics is all about.

But others in our party – those who call themselves “New Democrats” or “Blue Dogs” have long been part of the establishment and are used to Republican one-party rule where corporations and special interests get what they want. It’s that culture we have to change.

And furthermore, we can’t go back to the “triangulation” strategy of the last decade. We need to stand on our own values and ideas – not the Republicans’. Not doing so would be a recipe for disaster.

Conservative Democrats and Democrats who like to style themselves as “centrists” should not be taking credit for this week’s electoral victories. Cooperation is what’s needed in the Democratic caucus. Newly elected progressives must be accepted as full partners.

It’s their call. If DLC members and Blue Dogs push for the caucus to abandon progressive values in the name of “centrism” or “triangulation”, we’ll keep fighting. They can cut that crap and work for unity… or they can do damage to the party and our majority by not doing so.

Republicans will, as usual, try to treat progressive policy prescriptions as "extremist," but that is hardly the case. Working toward a sensible end to the war in Iraq, health care coverage for all Americans and improved environmental protections is not radical at all --it's mainstream.

To be clear, this isn't so much about policy as it is attitude. Sure, there are policy issues to be worked on. But let’s be clear here: the progressive movement is a hugely important part of the Democratic Party. Many in the Democratic establishment in our nation’s capitol want nothing to do with the movement. People powered politics, how quaint!

But we are crashing the gate of the Democratic establishment. The head of the Democratic National Committee (Howard Dean) was swept in by the same movement that has just made Democratic victories across the nation possible. We are on our way towards a populist, progressive majority in Congress. That’s the future of Democratic politics.

Rumsfeld to resign

Defense Secretary Robert McNamara Donald Rumsfeld is resigning, according to the glowing box of entertainment. Rumors are that Robert Gates of the CIA will replace him. As I write the Preznit is saying so.

Last week Bush declared that Rumsfeld would remain at the Pentagon through the end of his term. Somebody needed to be expended and Rumsfeld was becoming too controversial to keep around.

Democrats claim Montana and Virginia Senate Seats

From the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee:
“Both Jon Tester and Jim Webb have won their races in Montana and Virginia but want to make sure that every vote is counted. We expect to have official results soon but can happily declare today that Democrats have taken the majority in the U.S. Senate.”
John Tester has reportedly claimed victory within the hour. (9:30)

UPDATE 10:29: CNN is projecting Tester as the winner! Tester wins, and corruption loses! This man will be a terrific United States Senator.

Jim Webb claimed victory late last night.

Democrats triumph in historic rout of GOP

It's a good day to be a progressive and a good day to be a Democrat.

As Representative Jay Inslee put it so well, "The days of Republican fear are over and the days of Democratic hope are beginning."

Last night Democrats stormed the gates of the Republican political establishment, crashing and knocking them into rubble. A blue tidal wave of epic proportions swept across the nation, wiping out Republican incumbents and Bush administration allies.

Democrats captured House seats, Senate seats, and governorships - all while holding strong against Republican attacks.

In the critical battle for control of the U.S. Senate, not one Democratically-held seat fell to the GOP, though Democrats defeated four Republican incumbents and stand poised to knock off two more (Burns and Allen).

Right wing ballot measures largely fared poorly across the country. In the Pacific Northwest, the right wing's schemes were being resoundingly defeated by Washington and Oregon voters. Washington State's I-920 and I-933 failed in astonishingly high numbers. The victory margins for both surpassed even the I-912 totals from 2005.

As the Seattle P-I noted:
Washington state turned a deeper shade of blue overnight. Election Day produced big wins for Democrats and progressive causes and broad losses for Republicans and conservative-backed proposals.
At the state level, Washington State Democrats saw their majorities padded and enlarged, as Democratic candidates in the 45th and the 48th held the advantage in early returns.

In fact, if the voting continues to trend the way it has, NPI's home district will turn completely blue. Instead of sending one Democrat and two Republicans to Olympia, the 45th will send three Democrats - Reps. Larry Springer and Roger Goodman, and State Senator Eric Oemig.

In Oregon, Governor Ted Kulongoski was reelected, while Democrats seized control of the state Legislature and mounted a strong challenge to House Speaker Karen Minnis (R) who may very likely lose her seat to Democrat Rob Brading.

The preliminary results from Idaho were largely a disappointment and did not reflect the national trend. Despite running a strong campaign, Democrat Larry Grant is losing to Bill Sali in Idaho's 1st District, and Jerry Brady is losing to Republican Butch Otter by a sizable margin.

One thing is certain: much work remains to be done to turn Idaho blue.

We can't expect to win everywhere, and what's really amazing is how few our losses were. Today is a day to celebrate and savor the sweet taste of victory. A victory that took an incredible amount of hard work and dedication.

All those dollars donated, all those hours of volunteer time...are paying off and reaping huge dividends.

There are a few tight races left in which the outcome remains unclear. One of those is Washington's 8th, where Darcy Burner hopes to defeat Dave Reichert. Another is of course in Virginia, where James Webb has a narrow lead over George Allen, in what is now becoming the nation's most watched race. Recounts are possible.

In Montana, Conrad Burns is getting too close for comfort and has erased much of Jon Tester's earlier lead. In order to win the U.S. Senate, we need to triumph in both Montana and Virginia.

But regardless of the tight races, today is a day for progressives and Democrats to smile, breathe easy, and treat themselves to something special. We've earned it.

Tom DeLay brags "we can turn this around in two years"

For reasons I can't understand, CNN had ex-Congressman Tom DeLay on the air just a short while ago giving his take on the 2006 elections.

During his interview, DeLay confidently and bizarrely bragged that "we can turn this around in two years" and insisted that most of the newly elected Democratic Representatives would be "one term freshmen".

That's hilarious. As if that's going to happen! Tom DeLay is used to getting his way - used to being able to cheat, lie, steal, do whatever he likes. But his arrogance has finally caught up with him. His shenanigans are dead.

DeLay couldn't manipulate the outcome of the election in Texas 22. The seat now belongs to Democrat Nick Lampson.

DeLay also claimed that American politics are still "right of center". But establishment observers are saying otherwise:
The political pendulum in American politics swung away from the right yesterday, putting an end to the 12-year Republican Revolution on Capitol Hill and delivering a sharp rebuke of President Bush and the Iraq war.
Ouch, that sounds like a pretty harsh obituary, coming from the traditional media. That's good analysis.

Democratic gains have been huge, and what's more, a lot of them have been in states that are blue - that have supported the Democratic candidate for president in recent election cycles. Democrats have built a strong majority that can withstand any attack the Republicans come up with in 2008.

What's more, Republicans will have a lot of seats to defend in 2008. Democrats can go on the offense again and force Republicans to play mostly defense - again. 2008 can and must be a banner year for Democrats.

Webb Declares Victory in Virginia

Jim Webb has declared victory in Virginia. We may get the U.S. Senate after all. But we still have to win in Montana. Though given Claire McCaskill's triumph in Missouri, anything is possible.

Did any Democratic incumbent lose?

I have not seen a Democratic incumbent loss, that I can remember. That might be the most amazing phenomenon of the night, if it is true. Leave a note if you know of one.

McCaskill Wins!

Claire McCaskill came back from being well down in early returns to take the Senate seat in Missouri, dumping Rush Limbaugh and incumbent R Jim Talent. The race was called with McCaskill taking 51% of the vote.

McCaskill is remarkable for her straight talk and easy manner, but she has a nose for what's important. She'll make a great Senator.

It was the only statewide election on the ballot. All incumbents won, leaving the ballance in the House representation: 5D - 4R.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Mahoney beats Mark Foley in Florida

Tim Mahoney took FL(16) for the Democrats in a narrow victory over Mark Foley, oh, er, stand-in Joe Negron. (Foley withdrew after his difficulties with text messaging, but Florida law did not allow his name to be removed from the ballot. A vote for Foley was actually a vote for Negron.

Whether or not Mahoney turns out to be as liberal as others, this was a huge victory for the progressive movement, since much of Mahoney's support was raised outside the district, and Negron had attracted the backing of Republican heavy hitters.

Counting the Foley seat the Dems split with the Republicans on the open seats. Only one Florida Republican incumbent was defeated. House representation in Florida: 10D - 15R.

And of course Katherine Harris fared horribly against incumbent Democratic Senator Bill Nelson. Unfortunately Republican Charlie Crist won the governor's seat, besting Democrat Jim Davis 52-45.

The revolution is dead, long live the revolution

At this late hour, Democrats are within two seats of taking back the US Senate. With Claire McCaskill's victory in Missouri, everyone is watching Montana and Virginia.

We likely won't know what happened for sure tonight. Virginia is razor thin, although at the moment Webb is slowly increasing his lead. Things look better in Montana.

People will, of course, ask what it all means. So the simple answer is: the "Republican Revolution" is dead.

It was a sham revolution anyhow. It claimed to act on behalf of ordinary people, and then acted on behalf of the powerful and the wealthy. It claimed moral superiority and righteousness, and then acted with turpitude. It claimed a superior knowledge of matters of state like national defense, then proved itself inept and criminally negligent.

As we know, this is but one step. Whether Democrats reclaim the Senate or not, we have pulled our country back from the edge of a great precipice.

The challenges ahead will still be great. The media will continue to fellate Republicans, and Republicans themselves are most unlikely as a party to learn many lessons from their defeat tonight. The mean, hateful and often racist among them will fight hard to continue their assault on basic freedoms.

The war in Iraq looms large. The American people expect now that Democrats will do something meaningful about it, and it will be our job in the netroots to see that happens.

We can now have a somewhat rational discourse about the war. Although we will still be called traitors in some quarters, the forces that led the Congress to declare war upon a fried potato have now been blunted. In short, the reality based community has prevailed.

Ohio punishes the cheaters

Democrat Ted Strickland beat the author of the Bush presidency J. Kenneth Blackwell for Governor of Ohio.

In many ways Blackwell was the Katherine Harris of the 2004 election. He is now consigned to whatever corporate board is going to have him.

Almost bigger news is the fact that progressive populist Sherrod Brown dumped incumbent Republican Senator Mike DeWine by 10%. It was expected, but Brown is a voice that has been missing in the Senate.

Kucinich Democrats are partying hard.

Three of the four open seats were taken by Democrats, one vacated by Brown. But otherwise incumbents have won.

Ohio's House representation is now 8 Democrats, 10 Republicans.

Pennsylvania throws the R out

Incumbent Democrat Ed Rendell won the Pennsylvania State House by 60-40. Bob Casey send the blight of life Rick Santorum home by nearly the same margin.

In the House, 11 of the 19 seats have been decided for the Dems. Two very close races have yet to be called, with Dems leading in both. In PA(06) Lois Murphy is leading her opponent by 1,800 out of 182,000. In PA(08) Patrick Murphy leads Gerlach by 1,500 out of 250,000.

If those go D, that will be 13 of 19. It would also mean that 5 Republican incumbents were thrown out. 5 out of 11 isn't bad.

New York is Democratic 23-6

Real weakness at the top of the ticket means losses down the line for Republicans in New York. New Governor Eliot Spitzer got 69% of the vote, Hillary got 67%, and 23 of 29 House seats are now in Democratic hands.

Goldmark trailing

Results from Washington's 5th District indicate Democratic challenger Peter Goldmark is trailing Republican incumbent Cathy McMorris. McMorris has 54.69% to Goldmark's 45.30%.

Nobody in their right mind gets in these things to lose on purpose. But Goldmark presented enough of a challenge that McMorris had to fight. So on this night where many of us are celebrating, let's give a round of applause to Peter Goldmark, who showed that there is no such thing as a permanently red district in Washington.

I really like this Goldmark fellow, I hope he can run again. And if he doesn't want to run for Congress again (not saying anything other than it's a huge sacrifice) then I hope state Democrats keep him involved in the party. People like Goldmark don't um, grow on trees.

McCaskill closing fast

Claire is now within 3% of Talent (49.6%-47%). This has been an incredible night, and it's not over yet.

UPDATE2 (10:41 p.m.) The lead increases for Claire: 49% to 47.7% Gotta love THAT trend.
UPDATE (10:13 p.m.) McCaskill is now AHEAD, 48.7% to 48.0%.

Washington state legislature-big gains

Ok, I know it's risky to steal things from The Stranger, especially now that Dan Savage will be looking for new things to name, but this post about state legislative races could signal that this was a great night.
Dwight Pelz just got up onstage at the Sheraton and announced the results from the state legislative races. Of 24 Senate races in Olympia, the Democrats are winning in 19.

In the House, of 98 races, Democrats are leading in 63.
Our Executive Director confirms this account of what Pelz said.

There are, of course, many positive things that a more thoroughly Democratic Legislature can achieve, but one of them is allowing voters to decide whether they wish to have simple majority votes when it comes to funding schools. It would require a state Constitutional amendment, but it's long overdue.

If Democrats have a larger majority in the state Senate, turncoats like Tim Sheldon will have no influence. Payback is a bear, as they say when they aren't allowed to swear on the blog.

First Muslim Congressman comes from Minnesota

Keith Ellison is leading with 55% of the vote in Minnesota's Fifth District. He is a Muslim. His Republican challenger is polling only 22% of the vote, only decimal points ahead of the Independence Party candidate.

The 5th is the most densely populated center of Minneapolis:

Ellison's victory statement:
Tonight, we made history. Because of you, we won a key election —but we did much more than that. We showed that a candidate can run a 100% positive campaign and prevail, even against tough opposition.

We showed that we are stronger when we build bridges between communities rather than trying to divide and conquer. We showed that people who believe everyone counts, and that peace should be the guiding principle of our nation, make up the majority of the 5th Congressional District.

And that is something of which we should be very proud...We are working for an America where everybody counts, where everybody matters, and where peace is our guiding principle. We'll do it together."
A footnote: The Democrats in Minnesota are officially known as the Democratic-Farmer-Labor party.

Hawaii 2 Goes Blue

With a whopping 13.8% voter turnout statewide (over 660,000 registered voters; under 92,000 voting), it looks like Democrat Mazie Hirono has destroyed the Republican challenger Bob Hogue by a ridiculous margin--62-36%.

Color District 2 Blue.

Hey Mr. Senator Condom Guy

Some readers may recall the ridiculous claims made by Washington state Sen. Brad Benson, (R-Spokane,) who told a group of supporters that Planned Parenthood deliberately distributes faulty condoms "because they have an interest in the follow-up product." (Props to Josh Feit at The Stranger.)

Well, get a load of this. Benson appears to be losing to Democrat Chris Marr, 56%-43%.

One less idiot in the Legislature. It's good, all good.

Georgia 8th and 12th: Blue

With 96% and 93% of the precincts reporting, I'll be bold and call the 8th for Jim Marshall and the 12th for John Barrow.

The ratios haven't changed much in the past few hours, and I don't know of any surprise precincts, but I reserve the right to be wrong.

Don't write off Missouri

Claire McCaskill is trailing in Missouri, but the heavy Democratic precincts around St. Louis and Kansas City have yet to be heard from.

Currently Talent leads 50.9% to 45.6%. But imagine Washington reporting without King County.

Owens winning big in Supreme Court race

In a final, bitter defeat for the BIAW this year, results from the last contested race for Washington Supreme Court indicate that incumbent judge Susan Owens is rather handily dispatching her opponent, Stephen Johnson. (The other two races were decided in the September primary.

Owens is pulling nearly 59% of the vote, so I guess maybe voters know a little more about the court races than people give them credit for. Late polls had shown a large number of undecided voters, so it's probable the late breakers went for Owens.

Basically a great night in Washington state.

Tightening in Virginia, 1757 votes separate Webb and Allen

This race is within a tenth of a percent. Webb 49.36% Allen 49.44%.

A recount is likely, since 1% is the threshhold.

This Senate seat won't be settled for days. It brings the reported FBI investigation of voter intimidation in that state right onto the main stage.

UPDATE 11:16

WEBB LEADS

Virginia is the most gerrymandered state in the Union, the only statewide office up for election was Jim Webb taking on the incumbent George Allen. Allen led all evening. But with 99% of the vote in, Webb now leads by 2%, less than 6,000 votes of 2.3 million, and may win without a recount.

Noteworthy in South Dakota...

The abortion ban measure in South Dakota has failed. I do believe we may be seeing a sloughing off of the ultraconservative mantle in this fine country.

On the other hand, other states are banning same-sex marriage.

Well, in the immortal words of a famous chimp, it's gonna be "hard work" to bring this country back to sanity, no matter how big the gains are tonight.

Virginia Senate Update

Jim Webb is now leading John Allen, after trailing by a hair for most of the evening. If the margin of victory is within 1% there, there will be an automatic recount. This looks likely.

Interesting: Nobody in either party has been screaming at the Green Party candidate in that election, who ended up with an impressive (but damaging) 24,000+ votes.

Initiative results looking good

In state-wide results for Washington initiative measures, both I-933 (so-called property rights) and I-920 (estate tax repeal) are going down to defeat.

I-920 is getting creamed with almost a 60% no vote. I-933 is faring better, but still suffers from nearly a 57% no vote.

I-937, renewable energy, is narrowly passing with 51%.

It's hard to argue with results like these. It goes to show that if the voters are informed about the truth of measures, they will display a lot of common sense. I-933 in particular would have been a disaster.

And the defeat that is being handed the newspaper owners who backed I-920 is pretty great as well.

California 11: Another flip?

Incumbent Republican Richard Pombo is trailing Democratic challenger Jerry McNerney in early returns, 51-49%. Incumbent Republicans in the 4th, 11th, and 50th seem to be holding their ground so far, though.

Montana Senate: Tester Looking Good

Jon Tester is leading Conrad Burns by about 6% in early returns (52-46%). With Virginia probably ending up in a recount and Missouri looking bleak, Montana would be a splendid state to turn blue.

Burner in a (ahem) barn-burner

There are some very tight numbers in the hotly contested race to represent Washington's eighth district.

Burner has 50.23% to Reichert's 49.77%.

Wow. Um, it's not going to be a long night, it's going to be a long week. Or more.

Could very well wind up with an automatic recount. We'll see. At any rate, it must be harsh for Republicans to be in such a close race with someone they so clearly look down on. Too bad for them. Burner is a highly intelligent, dedicated person.

I wouldn't wish a recount on her, but we won't let them pull another 2004, that's for sure. You can already hear the GOP lie machine cranking up in the distance. Is that a faint whir of Excel I hear?

Missouri: Talent leads McCaskill

With about half the precincts reporting in Missouri, Claire McCaskill is staring at a 6-point deficit between her and Jim Talent--roughly 51 to 45%.

Let's hope we can flush a bit more blue out of that race. That's too big a gap.

Maria Cantwell re-elected

Maria Cantwell wins re-election as a US senator from Washington state. Via the P-I:
With polls closed less than three minutes The Associated Press and CNN Tuesday projected Democratic Sen. Maria Cantwell the winner over former Safeco executive Mike McGavick.

Cantwell, a freshman who barely won her seat six years ago, and moderate McGavick had largely agreed on the Iraq war, but voters stuck with the incumbent who vowed to fight for a fresh course.
McGavick never had any traction, and his campaign stumbled badly with self-inflicted wounds like the botched DUI revelations. Cantwell ran a tightly controlled, "make no mistakes" campaign and is rewarded with a large margin of victory, 54%-43%.

Now about the war, Senator....

CNN: DEMS TAKE HOUSE

According to CNN projection reported on air. ABC News says so, too.

Twelve years of Republican control is over in the House.

So much for Karl Rove's "firewalls." So much for Republican scare tactics. The people's House has been reclaimed by the people, and we're going to make sure Democrats prove themselves worthy of that trust.

Never any doubt, right? Yeah, baby!

Savor this moment, folks. Savor it.

More on the House

CNN is wasting time, so let's check on Daily Kos and review the House situation quickly.
Called hot races:

Connecticut 05: Murphy (pickup)
Indiana 02: Donnelly (pickup)
Indiana 08: Ellsworth (pickup)
Indiana 09: Hill (pickup)
Kentucky 03: Yarmuth (pickup)
New Hampshire 02: Hodes (pickup)
Ohio 18: Space (pickup)
Pennsylvania 07: Sestak (pickup)
Vermont AL: Welch (hold)
OK, results are coming fast. CBS is reporting a net gain of 11 seats for Democrats so far, according to Hotline.

It's going to be fine. The Virginia U.S. Senate race is too close to call and may require a recount, but we still stand a shot at the Senate too. Missouri and Montana, the big "M's," will be exceptionally critical. Or M and M's, if you prefer.

Polls close in about seven minutes here.

CNN is reporting on air that Democrat Heath Shuler has won in North Carolina 11. Another Republican incumbent loses.

North Carolina Updates: 5, 8, 11, 13

Some news on districts in North Carolina:
  • In the 5th:Republican Virginia Foxx still has a commanding lead over Democrat Roger Sharpe, 56,000 to 38,000 votes
  • In the 8th: Same situation here, with Republican Robin Hayes leading Democrat Larry Kissell, 35,000 to 28,000 votes
  • In the 11th: A better story to tell here, with Democrat Heath Shuler erasing an early deficit to lead Republican Charles Taylor 68,600 to 62,400 votes.
  • In the 13th: Democrat Brad Miller now holds a slight lead over Republican Vernon Robinson, 12,500 to 12,000

Numbers are rounded.

UPDATE (8:00 p.m.) Looks like these numbers might hold; in fact, the 11th has just been called for Heath Shuler.

The House races

Again from Hotline on Call comes a sense that more Republican House members are being defeated:

ON THE HOUSE: At 10:14 pm, FNC calls that Zack Space (D) has won in OH 18, the district formally occupied by ex-Rep. Bob Ney (R). At 10:15 pm, FNC called that Rep. Don Sherwood (R-PA 10) has lost re-election. U.S. News’ Barone: "Well, those are two of those scandal seats.” Barone, on Padgett: “She was not the ideal candidate” (FNC).

At 10:11 pm, FNC calls that Rep. Curt Weldon (R-PA 07) has lost re-election. U.S. News’ Barone: “Which district are we talking about?” (FNC).

CBS on House seats: GOPers 155; Dems 144; Dems have netted 9 House seats.
Was watching CNN go through some House races a bit ago on the "big board." What they kind of didn't mention were all the asterisks beside Republicans' names, denoting incumbents. Let's remember we don't have to get all the close races, and that the CNN anchors are pretty much just fluffing the GOP. We need 15, we have 9 already. More is great, of course.

My sense at this point is that we will get more. Twenty five? Thirty? Not sure, but the House is going to be ours.

Hotline: New Hampshire Republicans in jeopardy

As we await more US House calls, here's a morsel from Hotline on Call regarding New Hampshire.
NHNewslink.com’s Bill Siroty reports: The GOP is in grave danger of losing both the state's congressional seats. While UnionLeader.com is not calling either race at this time, Paul Hodes is in a very strong position against U.S. Rep. Jeb Bradley in the 2nd District. Insurgent Carol Shea-Porter has taken Exeter by a thousand votes, lost GOP stronghold Londonderry by fewer than 700 and won Epping, putting her in position for a historic upset over U.S. Rep. Jeb Bradley.
If the GOP starts losing districts in places like New Hampshire and Kansas, in addition to Kentucky and Indiana, they are in deep trouble. And it would bode well for Democrats in places like eastern Washington and Idaho.

Still an hour to vote here, Democrats.

Georgia 8th and 12th: Updates

Interesting night in Georgia:

In the 8th, with 76% of the precincts reporting, Republican Mac Collins still has a razor thin lead over Democrat Jim Marshall, 50.6% to 49.4%, a margin of around 1200 votes. They'll be counting that one for awhile.

In the 12th, Democrat John Barrow has overtaken Republican Max Burns, 51.1-48.9%, a bit more comfortable margin.

UPDATE (8:20 p.m): This is nuts, but it's wonderful: Jim Marshall, with 92% of precincts reporting, is now WINNING, 50.9 to 49.1 over Mac Collins. Barrow is now the one maintaining a razor thin margin of 1% (50.5 to 49.5%) over his Republican challenger, Max Burns.

Kentucky 2nd and 3rd Districts: Blue!

John Yarmuth and Mike Weaver have (unofficially) posted Democratic victories in Kentucky's 2nd and 3rd Districts, respectively.

Yarmuth eked out a 50.6%-48.2% victory, while Mike Weaver showed a solid performance with a 53.8% to 46.2% win.

I hope they savor these bellwether victories. I know I will.

Indiana 02 a pickup for Democrats

Joseph Donnelly takes a seat away from the Republicans in the House. Republican Chris Chocola is the loser. A sign of things to come?

Rhode Island Senate: Whitehouse wins

CNN sez Sheldon Whitehouse wins the Rhose Island senate seat over Republican incumbent Lincoln Chafee. That's three, if you're keeping score at home. Meanwhile, Democrats have been holding on Maryland, New York, Michigan, and Minnesota.

Maryland Senate goes to Democrat Cardin

CNN has projected the winner in Maryland for US Senate, and it's Democrat Ben Cardin over Republican Michael Steele.

Democrats winning Senate seats in Michigan, Minnesota and New York

CNN is reporting some unsurprising projected Democratic winners in US Senate races in Michigan (Stabenow,) Minnesota (Klobuchar,) and New York (Clinton.)

These are all seats the party was defending and expected to win. Pickups so far include Brown (Ohio) and Casey (Pennsylvania).

North Carolina House Races

Assorted House races in North Carolina aren't looking so good early on:
  • In the 5th: Foxx (R) over Sharpe (D), roughly 20,000 to 14,000 votes (results from NC are crudely reported from their Secretary of State's office)
  • In the 8th: Hayes (R) over Kissel (D), about 25,000 to 8,000
  • In the 11th: Taylor (R) over Shuler (D), about 19,200 to 18,800
  • In the 13th: Robinson (R) over Miller (D), about 175 to 132
Still pretty early.

Closing in on KY-3: Yarmuth still leading

With 81% of precincts reporting in Kentucky's 3rd, John Yarmuth is maintaining his slim lead over Anne Northup 50.3 to 48.5%.

If this holds, it will be HUGE for Democrats.

UPDATE: IT HOLDS! With all precincts reporting, it looks like a Yarmuth win, 50.6-48.2%! This is an excellent sign--Democrats making inroads in the South.

CBS: Casey, Brown projected winners

In races for US Senate in Pennsylvania and Ohio, CBS is projecting that Democrats will take both seats.
CBS News estimates that when all the votes are counted, Democrat Bob Casey will have defeated Republican Sen. Rick Santorum in Pennsylvania — a second big pickup for the Democrats in their bid to win a majority in the Senate.

In Ohio, Democratic Rep. Sherrod Brown is the projected winner over incumbent Republican Sen. Mike DeWine.

Other critical Senate contests in Virginia, Tennessee, Maryland, Missouri and New Jersey were too close to call.
Santorum slides off the national stage, hopefully for good.

New Jersey Senate - early and close

Very early New Jersey senate returns have the GOP challenger, Tom Kean, Jr., ahead of Democratic incumbent Bob Menendez 51% to 48%. Note that's with only 1% of precincts in.

UPDATE--CNN projects Menendez the winner on air. CBS is saying the same thing.

GA 8 and 12: Mixed Bag

Good news for Dems in Georgia's 8th District: Democrat Jim Marshall leads Republican Mac Collins by a margin of over 5%--52.7% to 47.3%.

Different story in the 12th, however, where a feather could change the balance of this race: Republican Max Burns leads Democrat John Barrow by a nerve-wracking 0.2%: 51.1% to 49.9%.

In both districts, about 12% reporting.

UPDATE (6:05 p.m): Burns' lead has "blossomed" to 0.8% in the 12th. In the 8th, the race has flipped 52.1 to 47.9 in favor of Collins. Mea culpa: I may have read the early results wrong in the first place, but this update is indeed correct.

Virginia-2, 10 Bleeding Red

In Virginia's 2nd District, Republican TD Drake holds a slight edge (50.36% to 49.46% over Democrat PJ Kellam, with almost 20% of the precincts reporting in that district.

In the 10th, it's a bit worse:53.26% to 45.16%, and Republican FR Wolf leads Democrat JM Feder.

UPDATE: With about 90% of the precincts reporting in the 2nd and about 75% in the 10th, the leads have widened in favor of the Republicans. I don't think Kellam and Feder can come back from these deficits.

Indiana 09: tied up

Tighter than tight in Indiana 09, where Democrat Baron Hill hopes to unseat Republican Michael Sodrel. With 21% of precincts reporting, it's all knotted up at 48%-48%.

Still a little early to get a good sense of what is happening, but you have to like Republican incumbents in Indiana having to worry.

KY-2: A Bigger Dem Lead

With 58% of precincts reporting in Kentucky's 2nd District, Democrat Mike Weaver has opened up a 10-point + lead over his opponent, Ron Lewis, 55.1% to 44.9%.

Those are very encouraging numbers.

VA Senate: Dead Heat in Early Returns

With about 5% reporting, Allen is fractionally ahead of Webb, 49.47% to 49.31%. A long night ahead of the Blue team in Virginia.

Update: Allen now has a sliver of a lead in VA 50-49%. This could see-saw for quite awhile.

Bye bye Blackwell

CNN is reporting on air that Ted Strickland has defeated Republican Ken Blackwell for Ohio governor. Blackwell is the infamous Ohio Secretary of State who co-chaired the Bush Cheney 2004 campaign.

VA Buzz: One Exit Poll

In the Webb/Allen race for Senate, Mr. Webb is apparently polling at over 50% among women, according to Air America and CNN. Polls there closed 15 minutes ago; I'll have more morsels shortly.

Indiana 08: Democratic challenger leading early

In early returns from Indiana 08, Democratic challenger Brad Ellsworth is ahead of incumbent Republican John Hostettler 70% to 30%, with 13% of precincts reporting.

That's a pretty high percentage for a Democrat in a red state, so it most likely won't hold, but it's another nice sign. We'll see.

First tidbits about exit polls

Things that make you go hmmmm. From the AP via the P-I:
Iraq and anger toward Bush appeared to drive voters to the Democrats, according to surveys by The Associated Press and the television networks of voters as they left voting places.

In those exit polls, two out of three voters called the war very important to them and said they leaned toward the Democrats, while six in ten voters said they disapproved of the war. About the same number said they were dissatisfied with the president - and they were far more likely to vote Democratic.
CNN was reporting on air that exit polling showed the issue of the economy is favoring Democrats, while voters were pretty evenly split on immigration and terrorism when it comes to party preference.

Box of salt, people, box of salt. Throw it over your shoulder and don't walk under any ladders with black cats while breaking mirrors.

Yarmuth has early lead in KY-3

As results trickle in from Kentucky, the 3rd Congressional District looks blue early on. John Yarmuth has a 67% to 31% head start over Republican Anne Northup in that race, with about 1200 votes counted.

This is a nice icebreaker and doesn't necessarily mean anything statistically, but even this early in a southern state, a big Dem lead like that really looks pretty doesn't it?

Update: With 15% counted, we get a more realistic 51.1% to 47.6% in favor of Yarmuth.

Update2: Northup now has the edge with about half the votes counted, but not by much: 49.6 to 49.3%

Update3: Yarmuth has now pulled ahead by a hair more than a percent, with about 66% of the precincts reporting.

Three E's for framing - Economics, Ethics, Environment

The day after the election will come -- hopefully with good news. But whatever the news this year, the different direction the country needs to find leads right into progressives' strengths. We can only communicate effectively, both factually and in terms of underlying principles. Some thoughts.

Economics

The kitchen economy: The economy is just as important to people as Iraq, polls have shown, and people trust the Democrats. Rather than play with the Republicans' sound bites, we need to remove ourselves from the spreadsheets and graphs, sit down with the folks at the kitchen table and go over their bills with them.

We can look at the doctor bill, the insurance bill, the gas card bill, the heating bill, the college tuition bill, and yes, the tax bill. But we should itemize the tax bill for social security, schools, roads, police, national defense and the rest. And we should itemize the other bills for corporate profits in health care and energy and environmental degradation.

Then we can put the paycheck on the table. We can say a lot about the paycheck.

This kitchen economy is what the "first 100 hours" package of the Democrats is aimed at. God willing, we will see that passed early on. But we need to stay at that kitchen table until we fix health care. It is a matter of a family's security -- financial and physical. Shifting the deductions and insurance charges and doctor's charges from one bill to another is not so difficult. If we can make the point that we save by shifting from for-profit, complex, inefficient health care to single-payer coverage for all, we will have the game won.

Ethics

This is the appropriate lens for the Iraq War. Progressives do not need to get bogged down in what the best way out is. First of all, there is no good way out. Second of all, we should be trusting our military and diplomatic professionals.

Our issue in Iraq should be ethics, the lies that got us in, the hypocrisy of Bush's "democracy" when the real purposes were domination and oil, the cronyism and incompetence at the top, the corporate fraud and waste and profiteering. And be sure to measure the cost in lives as well as dollars.

Congress is another hotbed of corruption, but Bush and Cheney are the poster boys for the subversion of the political process. Rumsfeld for incompetence. (I can't wait for the hearings)

The principle of the protective parent is at play here, but the issue of ethics targets the hierarchical principle of conservatives. These can't be the strong father they pretend to be if they're betraying the family like this.

Environment

Nothing plays better into the progressives' strengths than taking care of the environment. Competence, stewardship and prudence. It is important from a strategic point of view to get going on the environment, not only because we are so far behind already, but because it is the issue that is going to dominate the century. Democratic credibility will pay off big down the road. Republican obstructionism will hurt them bad.

Now let's see what the voter's say.

Republicans stink (bomb)

A Democratic candidate for Congress in Colorado, Jay Fawcett, had his campaign headquarters stink-bombed overnight.
The office, located in the 700 block of South Tejon Street, was sprayed with chemicals that emitted a smell similar to a skunk, said Lt. Rafael Cintron, Colorado Springs police spokesman.

Fawcett is running for the 5th Congressional District against Republican Doug Lamborn.

"It makes it very difficult to work with gas masks on," Wanda James, campaign manager for Fawcett, said in a written statement. She expects about 200 people to come to the office today and help with the campaign. "However, we are Democrats and we are working through it and getting the office cleaned up."

James said this is the second time Fawcett’s campaign has been under a "skunk" attack. She said the finance director’s car smelled like skunk last Tuesday. The vehicle was parked in front of the El Paso County Republican Office.
Lovely, just lovely. But don't blame the GOP: you're only allowed to blame the specific sinner criminal, who will be prayed for and restored.

Kind of like Henry Kissinger, Mark Foley and Ted Haggard.

Look over there! Hillary Clinton wants to take your guns!

More-- CNN mentioned on air this rather hilarious claim from the Tom Keane Senate campaign in New Jersey that the Democratic campaign broke keys off in their locks and padlocked a door. Funny how long that took to be reported. Maybe the Keane campaign really didn't want to report it immediately, seeing the wisdom of being above the fray, and--oh never mind.

You don't suppose?

Yeah, me too. Of course Republicans would vandalize their own campaign office after the media reports that a Democratic office has been stink bombed. The Republican Party, as an institution, is completely amoral. To them, it's no worse than a deliberate pass interference penalty.

Don't be disenfranchised

Wherever you are, don't let anyone stop you from exercising your civic duty and your right to vote. Some tips if you run into trouble:
  1. If you're a registered voter, do not leave your polling location without voting. Every registered voter is entitled to cast a provisional ballot.
  2. If you're in line before the poll's closing time, you are entitled to vote.
  3. You're entitled to view a sample ballot at the polling place before voting.
  4. If you experience any problems voting or observe any irregularities, immediately call 1-888-DEM-VOTE to report the incident. In addition to providing your polling place information, by calling 1-888-DEM-VOTE you can record a complaint or speak with an election protection monitor. The line is available in English and Spanish.
And above all - don't wait until it is too late. Vote NOW.

More information on problems around the country can be found at ProtectOurVotes.

A recap of NPI's endorsements

If you have not yet voted today, please do so immediately - whether that means going to the polls or mailing in your ballot at the post office. If you need some aid in voting, here is a recap of our endorsements for ballot measures and elected office this year:

Federal and statewide office:
  • U.S. Senate: Maria Cantwell
  • U.S. House, 8th Congressional District: Darcy Burner
  • U.S. House, 4th Congressional District: Richard Wright
  • U.S. House, 5th Congressional District: Peter Goldmark
  • U.S. House, 1st Congressional District: Jay Inslee
  • U.S. House, 2nd Congressional District: Rick Larsen
  • U.S. House, 3rd Congressional District: Brian Baird
  • U.S. House, 6th Congressional District: Norm Dicks
  • U.S. House, 7th Congressional District: Jim McDermott
  • U.S. House, 9th Congressional District: Adam Smith
  • State Supreme Court: Susan Owens (previously endorsed in primary)
Justices Gerry Alexander and Tom Chambers were also previously endorsed in the primary, along with Judges Penoyar, Becker, and Quinn-Brintall, but they are unopposed in the general election, as their races were decided last month.

And a reminder that we have already released our positions for statewide intiatives on this November's ballot. Those positions are:
  • Initiative 920 - A resounding NO
  • Initiative 933 - A resounding NO
  • Initiative 937 - YES
See our 2006 ballot measures page for more information, including our rationale, the official description for each ballot measure, and links for additional information.

In legislative races, VOTE DEMOCRAT, especially in the 45th and the 48th, where we need to elect Rodney Tom, Deb Eddy, Eric Oemig, Roger Goodman and reelect Larry Springer and Ross Hunter.

In the N.E. Electoral Court race in King County, please vote for the only qualified candidate for judicial office - Frank V. LaSalata.

And if you're ready for better transit service, please vote YES on the King County "Transit Now" plan (Proposition 2).

Flooded? Contact your elections department

If you need to contact your county elections department, the Washington secretary of state's office has a handy clickable map of the entire state.

(Outside of King County, if you wind up on a "county auditor's page--you're in the right place. Look for "elections" or "elections division," every web site seems to be different.)

Several counties, including King, Pierce and Thurston have issued statements about flooding and what voters should do if they find themselves unable to cast ballots. So if you're one of them, contact your local elections department immediately.

Andrew posted detailed information about King County below.

If you're flooded in....

Even if you're flooded in, you can still ensure your vote gets counted. Here's the latest information from King County Elections:
King County Election officials continue to monitor polling places in Fall City, Duvall, North Bend, Snoqualmie, and Carnation hard hit by heavy rains and flooding. At this time no additional polling place closures are expected tonight, though election administrators are working with the King County Emergency Coordination Center to monitor flooding throughout the night and early morning.

"My top priority right now is to provide safe and accessible polling places for voters to cast their ballots," said Jim Buck, interim director of Records, Elections, and Licensing Services.

King County Elections and the ECC will continue to monitor the following polling locations throughout the night and early in the morning:

* Fall City Elementary, Fall City
* Fall City Fire Station Dist. 27, Fall City
* River View School Dist. Office, Carnation
* Vincent Community Club, Carnation
* Stillwater Elementary, Carnation
* Sallal Grange Hall, North Bend
* Mt. Si Senior Center, North Bend
* Duvall Church, Duvall

Nearby, alternative voting locations for flooding in the Snoqualmie Valley include:

* South:
Preston Community Club
8625 310th Ave SE
Preston, WA 98050

* West:
Redmond Fire Station #14
5021 264th Ave NE
Redmond, WA 98053

Timberlake Christian Fellowship
4505 236th Ave NE
Sammamish, WA 98074

Beaver Lake Middle School
25025 SE 32nd St.
Issaquah, WA 98029

Challenger Elementary
25200 SE Klahanie Blvd.
Issaquah, WA 98029
Voters in flood-impacted areas with questions encouraged to contact the King County Elections Voter Hotline at 206-296-VOTE (8683) between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m. on November 7, 2006

Updates will be provided as closures are determined and in conjunction with the King County Emergency Coordination Center.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Critical Mass?

We've analyzed polls, we've critiqued ads, and we've speculated on local races and the national situation. As progressive activists, we have given a lot of time, money, and thought to this election cycle.

Flashes of Republican election fraud, smear campaigns, disenfranchisement tactics of all manner, and just plain lies are no doubt swirling about the progressive consciousness now, with less than twelve hours to go before the polls open.

And the latest salvo of GOP robo-calls is a fitting way in which they will close their campaigns—in a panic, shedding their last scraps of integrity, stealing whatever they can.

No matter the results, though, even the mainstream media can't deny this: The American people are waking up. Iraq is a disaster and we should get out. Gay marriage is a red herring in the political landscape, and it doesn't actually threaten anyone else's marriage.

George W. Bush isn't “plain spoken,” he just has the vocabulary of a third-grader. “Stay[ing] the course” to the exclusion of reason and common sense isn't being resolute, it's being idiotically, dementedly stubborn.

It may have taken too long, but truth is beginning leak all over the place, scandal after GOP scandal, indictment after indictment, investigation after investigation. How many more disgraced Republican congressmen--and their henchmen--does this country need to see before the current cabal is ousted? I hope we as a nation have finally reached critical mass.

Poll Watch: Burner and Reichert in dead heat in WA-08

Democratic challenger Darcy Burner and Republican incumbent Dave Reichert are in a dead heat on election eve, according to a just released SurveyUSA poll. It's 49-49-3 with a MOE of 3.8%. The poll was sponsored by KING-TV in Seattle.

From the summary (formatting altered for readability:)
Early Votes Continue to Favor Burner, But WA8 Is An Exact Tie at Finish Line: In an election in Washington's 8th Congressional District today, Election Eve, incumbent Republican Dave Reichert and Democratic challenger Darcy Burner are exactly tied, 49% to 49%, according to this 4th and final pre-election tracking poll conducted exclusively for KING-TV Seattle.

The contest has tightened following SurveyUSA's most recent release, on 10/31, when Reichert led by 6. Since then, female likely voters have swung sharply to Burner.

On 10/31, she trailed by 3 among women. Today, she finishes up by 11 among women. Independents see-saw: on 9/27, Reichert led; on 10/18, Burner led; on 10/31, Reichert led; today, Burner leads.

Each of these swings has been small, among a group that represents just 25% of likely voters, but it illustrates just how important every vote is to the winner. Among those poll respondents who have already voted: Burner leads by 8 among those who tell SurveyUSA they have already voted. Reichert leads by 5 among those who tell SurveyUSA they are certain to cast a ballot before polls close, but who have not yet done so. 38% of respondents have already voted; 62% have yet to.
The swing among women voters could be huge. Reichert always risked alienating female voters with things like the "job intereview ad," so it's possible that backfired on him.

Another thing that must worry Reichert supporters is the weather. If this poll is true, Reichert continues to lead among voters who have not yet voted while Burner holds the edge in money in the bank, so to speak.

Well, it's Nov. 6 and it's pretty darn easy to vote by mail. Continued bad weather could play a small but important role in the outcome.

What gives us room for optimism is that in a Democratic year, things might break for Burner here at the end. Obviously nobody can say for certain what will happen, but it looks good for Burner.

And it's worth saying again that Burner is owed a debt of gratitude by everyone in the state for her courage and dedication. These kinds of campaigns are incredibly tough not only on the candidates but on those close to them.

In the glare of a relentless media spotlight this "untested" candidate has performed better than many veterans. Her performance in the campaign speaks not only to her tough and intelligent character, but indicates that she will be a fine representative for the people of her district should she prevail.

In any case, as many observers have predicted, this thing is way too close to call. So if you're in WA-08, call your friends, high school acquaintances, in-laws, people you met at the grocery store and anyone else you can think of if they are leaning towards Democrats.

Should be quite the night tomorrow.

In many cases saying "your vote matters" is not exactly true, but in this case it does matter a great deal.

Pre-Election Humor

Well, at least I thought it was funny. Bush makes a special trip to Florida for a GOP fundraiser. Jeb's hopeful replacement, Charlie Crist, is supposed to emcee and introduce the President, but decides to, well, "cut and run." Rove and W were not pleased. To send a clearer message, Republicans who want to win apparently need to scream, "Dammit, George, I'm tryin' to win here! Stay home!"

Katherine Harris was there, though. Yikes.

Reichert campaign broke

On the P-I's political blog, Joel Connelly reports that Dave Reichert needs more money-the day before the election.
On election eve, the campaign of Republican Rep. Dave Reichert has issued an urgent appeal for one last infusion of campaign cash.

"This race will be very close: We have had to spend our campaign coffers down to nothing and we still have critical Election Day activities that we must pay for. Can you help Dave in the final push by making a contribution?" wrote Eric Yates, Reichert's finance director.

It's a decided change of tone from early in the year. When Reichert passed the $1.1 million mark, the campaign's manager said his prowess at fundraising had put the 8th District race out of reach.
This is why Democrats competing in so many districts is crucial. Reichert has to go begging the night before the election for money to fuel his "election day activities." (What? Does the Reichert campaign wish to join in the "harass the voters with fake robo-calls campaign" or something?)

It's these situations where a seeming Democratic weakness becomes a strength. Usually it's the Democratic campaigns that run out of money.

We're used to doing things for free or efficiently, usually for not so much as a stale donut. Republicans, not so much. They're used to having things handed to them, when the real work starts they have to go hire help.

Republican desperation reaches new high

Republicans are so saddled with the heavy weight of corruption and sleaze that Democrats have seemingly become the default option for many voters - irregardless of each party's agenda or candidates.

The Republicans are trying to change that.
Tim Daly from Clarendon got a call saying that if he votes Tuesday, he will be arrested. A recording of his voic email can be found online here. The transcript from his voice mail reads:

"This message is for Timothy Daly. This is the Virginia Elections Commission. We've determined you are registered in New York to vote. Therefore, you will not be allowed to cast your vote on Tuesday. If you do show up, you will be charged criminally."

Daly has been registered to vote in Virginia since 1998, and he has voted for the last several cycles with no problem. He has filed a criminal complaint with the Commonwealth's attorney in Arlington.
That's one example. Here's an illustration of what the NRCC, via "Conquest Communications" is doing all over the country:
Your phone rings, there's a brief recorded intro that makes it appear the call is from a Democratic campaign or related group, and then a pause, and then a recorded message. If you hang up it calls you back six or seven times or more.

The goal is to make people think they are being harassed by the Democrats, and piss them off enough to change their votes. It works well enough to potentially flip some close races.

This is clearly illegal under some statutes & regulations, arguably illegal under others. It appears to be going on across the US, using the same format and methods.
More on fighting back against these illegal calls is available here.

Republicans will do anything to maintain power. Anything. If they're willing to attempt to illegally prevent voters from exercising their civic duty, they're undoubtedly also willing to tamper with electronic voting machines and vote-counting equipment to prevent Democrats from winning.

Yes, it's cheating. Yes, it's illegal. Yes, it's immoral. But Republicans don't care. They talk a good game about values and responsibility, but peel back the layers of rhetoric and you can plainly see that Republicans are desperate. Incredibly desperate to hang onto power at any cost.

Laws don't matter. Integrity doesn't matter. The Constitution doesn't matter.

Only winning does.

And ironically, Republicans are in the position they're in right now because they and their agenda have been a failure. They're not interested in governing, so we've witnessed poor decision making and terrible mismanagement of our nation's treasury, resources, and public lands.

Republicans have a huge infrastructure to back up their frame, their world view, and it's working in overdrive right now. As Lakoff has noted, a significant number of Americans actually believe in this strict father frame.

Others buy into what the Republicans are selling out of greed and self interest (like Frank Blethen). They have a short list of what they want, and if they can get it from the GOP, they'll shelve their other concerns.

Look at George W. Bush. He is flatly telling voters not to elect Democrats, because if they do, the terrorists will win and taxes will go up. It is laughably absurd! It doesn't even make sense! But you can see what the intent is: scare the electorate into voting Republican.

A great number of Democrats do not even know how to counter this nonsense. Many decide they can't win by fighting the "X Candidate will raise taxes" meme, so instead of fighting back against it, they try to turn the tables by pledging to vote for lower taxes.

But it's a trap. No matter what Democrats say, Republicans will keep saying our party just wants to raise taxes. Democrats are not reframing.

Even some of the most progressive campaigns in the country have failed to counter the narrative. Many have tried to respond with a basic counterattack, setting up a "Truth Watch" or something similarly named. So the response is essentially "That's not true!" That's not a good response. That's not reframing.

On a federal level, it is hard to fight back against the anti-tax frame because the federal government is so remote and far away.

Revenues and budgets are huge. So to many Americans, the federal government seems pretty vast and flush with wealth.

Given how many citizens are facing economic hardship, the promise of lower taxes sounds good. What's sad, of course, is that the gap between the "haves" and the "have nots" is only going to get bigger and bigger if Republicans stay in power.

Republicans are putting the American dream out of reach for most American families. And we can't stop their agenda unless we take back Congress. And to take back Congress we need to campaign hard and campaign effectively.

Democrats need to reframe to respond to Republican attacks effectively. But what does that mean? Here's what Democrats need to do instead of reinforcing the Republican message about tax cuts and keeping taxes low:
  • Change the way voters think about taxes. Example: "Taxation is paying your dues, paying your membership fee in America. Our infrastructure, like the interstate highway system or the Internet, cost money to build and it costs money to maintain. Taxes should be invested as wisely as possible to benefit the greater public good. I'll fight for wise investment of your money if elected to Congress."
  • Turn the tables on "lower taxes". Example: "Republicans are plundering our treasury and rewarding their wealthy friends with refunds so that the rest of us will be stuck with the bill for the war in Iraq and the bill for maintaining programs like Social Security. That's not fair. If elected to Congress, I will fight for fairer taxes so families struggling to get by don't have to pay more than their fair share."
  • Turn the tables on "smaller government". Example: "Republicans don't really want smaller government. If they did, why are they supporting record deficit spending on a military invasion of Iraq? Republicans don't want to get rid of the FBI, or the military, or the court system that supports corporate law. It is the big government that they like. 'Smaller or bigger' is irrelevant. If elected to Congress I'll fight for a government that is more effective and accountable to you."
Coupling this with a promise to fight for fiscal responsibility would be an effective response to the conservative frame on taxes. Unfortunately, not enough Democratic candidates are reframing and responding correctly.

It may not matter this election cycle. Republican control of the federal government has been such a disaster that the party's tactics may not work, or they may actually backfire. But in future election cycles, Democrats cannot expect to enjoy the kind of advantage we have enjoyed this year.

Republicans have been self-destructing and Democrats are doing a better job of competing (though not reframing) but that still doesn't mean we'll get either house of Congress. Republicans are obviously worried sick about such a prospect. Now their desperation needs to be exposed and countered so their dirty schemes are neutralized. Republicans will stop cheating and playing dirty only when they realize they gain no advantage from doing so.

Poll Watch: Democrats not slipping

So a new Democracy Corps poll (that would be guys like Stan Greenberg and James Carville) is kind of interesting. They've been doing a poll that they describe as "kind of an experiment," where they ask about both the "generic" ballot and the candidates by name in 50 key districts. From the summary:

RE: STRONG DEMOCRATIC RESULT IN FINAL 50-DISTRICT
SURVEY (pdf file)
This final survey of the 50 competitive Republican districts, dialed Thursday night, Saturday morning and Sunday night, shows the Democrats with a 5-point margin in the named congressional ballot (49 to 44 percent).1 That is down 2 points from the middle of last week and up 2 points from a week ago. In fact, the Democrat has polled 49 percent in virtually every survey in October, while the Republican has been stuck, now at 44 percent. When the undecided is allocated based on leanings, the Democrats carry this Republican territory, 51 to 46 percent. With the Democrats ahead in the most vulnerable and safest tiers of seats, Democrats should expect to carry the great majority of them.

So what should people make of the national polls with the Democrats’ congressional generic margin slipping in most polls and overall?

First of all, they should insist next time that pollsters use the named ballot, because that has proven stable, with a slight shift to Republicans at the end (more on that below). In these 50 districts where a gazillion dollars has been spent educating the voters on the actual candidates, the generic ballot – always better for Democrats than the real ballot with known incumbents – suddenly aligned with the real ballot in the final weekend. The generic margin went from average of 10 over the past week to 4 points (4.4 to be accurate). The Democratic generic vote was actually stable but the engagement and partisan polarization has led Republicans to align their generic responses with their real vote at the very end.
This makes sense considering most knowledgeable observers of these things tend to caution about reading too much into the generic ballot polls in the first place.

I was never a huge poll junkie anyway. Reading cross-tabs is about as much fun as cleaning tile grout, to me at least. Just thought I would throw this out there for you tile cleaners. Go drop off or mail your ballot. It's just rain, what you made out of sugar?

Goldmark victim of harassing robo-calls in WA-05

Natasha at Pacific Views posts about deceptive automated calls targeting Democrat Peter Goldmark in WA-05. From a Goldmark campaign news release, according to Natasha:
Several individuals in Spokane and Stevens County have reported receiving multiple automated telephone messages in the last two days.

“The Goldmark campaign has not employed an automated call since Friday, Oct. 20, more than two weeks ago,” reported Goldmark campaign manager Jeremiah Levine. “And we are not planning to send another automated message during this campaign. If you receive an automated message or multiple messages, please report them to the Goldmark campaign at 838-4888.”

Cathy McMorris has been linked with a company that is making harassing phone calls intended to fool voters into thinking calls are coming from Democratic candidates. McMorris is listed as a client of Conquest Communications. Conquest Communications has been engaged on behalf of the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) to make negative robocalls intended to fool and anger voters (FEC filing for NRCC, Nov 3-4, 2006).

In other districts, NRCC calls contain an automated message something like: “I’d like to tell you about candidate X . . .” If the receiver hangs up, they instantly receive another call and are targeted to receive five or six additional automated calls with the same message. The recorded message does properly identify the source at the end of the call, but few voters stay on the line long enough to hear the entire message. ...
There is currently a recommended Daily Kos diary on the topic of harassing robo-calls funded by the NRCC. The best thing would be for the media to expose this obnoxious and possibly illegal tactic, but time is running short.

As always, if the GOP can find a way to cheat and get away with it through election day, they will. Just another cost of doing business. Pathetic.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Burner campaign surpasses $3 million

Darcy Burner has topped the $3 million mark in fundraising for her race against incumbent Dave Reichert in WA-08, according to the P-I's political blog.

Also, from a Burner campaign news release:
Before ending a rousing speech to nearly 200 supporters, Burner pointed out one more reason to feel optimistic about her chances.

"A long time ago, the Republicans announced that Reichert had raised enough money to put this seat out of reach of any challengers," Burner told the crowd. "They thought they could buy this seat. But I'm happy to tell you that about ten minutes ago, thanks to the thousands of supporters who have invested in this race, we passed the $3 million mark!"
So this "untested" candidate has put herself in the top five of all Democratic challengers in the entire country.

Republicans dump Iraq auditors

Incredibly, the already shoddy oversight of American spending in Iraq has been gutted by the GOP leadership. It happened in conference committee when the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction was surriptitiously terminated.

The New York Times reports that
"Tucked away in a huge military authorization bill that President Bush signed two weeks ago is what some of [Inspector General Stuart] Bowen’s supporters believe is his reward for repeatedly embarrassing the administration: a pink slip...."
'''
"The provision was inserted by the Republican side of the House Armed Services Committee over the objections of their Democratic counterparts during a closed-door conference on the bill."
The NYT article by James Glanz appeared Friday, and has not seen the light of local media. Mirroring it was an article in the Washington Post which noted that although the Pentagon has spent about $250 billion in Iraq, "the Defense Department's inspector general's office has only two investigators and a half-dozen auditors working there. As recently as last year, it had none."

In other words, the Office of the Special Inspector General was the only significant oversight in town. Now it's gone.

Need any more proof of the connection between corporate corruption and the Republican power structure?

Thirteen out of fourteen projects by one contractor, Parsons Corp, had significant problems. One contract was to build 142 health clinics. "Only six have opened. Yet Parsons will not have to return any of its profit, nor is it likely to face any kind of formal punishment."

Here and elsewhere, contractors fall into a legal Twilight Zone where they can rip us off and place soldiers and civilians at risk with little fear of retribution. The Post reports that a 2000 law that was intended to hold contractors responsible for crimes in war zones "has never been tested." Several civil cases, including one where Halliburton truck drivers charged that the company knowingly sent them into a raging battle, have been thrown out because, as the judge ruled, the Army, not Halliburton, is ultimately in charge in wartime.

Incredible.

Osama bin Laden neither captured nor convicted

As always, apologies to Atrios, but it's time once again for our local rip-off version of the popular Eschaton feature "Simple Answers to Simple Questions:"

Q: Won't the Saddam verdict impact the election?

A: No, because "Saddam" is just different sounding enough from "Osama" that most people can tell the difference.

Thank you for playing.

The final (fish) wrap, courtesy The Times

And the Seattle Times had to get in one more petulant dig at Darcy Burner in a re-cap of their execrable endorsements (the word "fish" is added, obviously.)

The final (fish) wrap
Our 8th District endorsement goes to Republican incumbent Dave Reichert, the former King County sheriff. This is one of the hottest congressional races in the country. Democratic opponent Darcy Burner has too thin a résumé to replace him.
Please allow me to translate that last defamatory sentence, as it really is quite illustrative of the key dynamic of this race:

In order to have a say in this country you must fit the pre-defined notions of what constitutes a leader that emanate from the media and business elite. Hairspray and a cowboy attitude are more important than the real life experiences of people like you. It's all about image, after all.

We laugh when people like you think you are important. Don't you get that?

You are not worthy, your job is not important and certainly being a good parent doesn't mean much. We know best how to protect children, at least when the kids are outside the halls of Congress.

Your family's service to this country is not of any note; people of your standing should expect to serve and have no voice. And die as needed.

We're trying to run an empire here, so please, it's been entertaining, but we know best.


So, loyal reader, be sure to not vote, your concerns pale in comparison to keeping the established order intact.

Poll Watch: Cantwell with commanding lead

Maria Cantwell has a commanding lead in the final MSNBC/McClatchy polls released this morning. From MSNBC
In Washington, incumbent Democratic Sen. Maria Cantwell has maintained her sizeable lead over Republican challenger Mike McGavick. She now leads by 16 percentage points, 54 percent to 38 percent, with 7 percent undecided. Last month she led by 15 percentage points (52 percent to 37 percent).
The poll was in the field in Washington Oct. 31-Nov. 2, according to MSNBC, and surveyed 625 likely voters. The margin of error is reported as "no more than plus or minus four percent."

The article has poll sumaries from all the key Senate races around the country. Bottom line: the GOP might barely hang on to the Senate. It's not a done deal, but logically that is the most likely outcome at this point. It's hard to run the table.

But just like ballgames, there's a reason elections are not held by the media. A strong tide could still change things at the last minute. Remember, the Pacific Northwest is unique in how far we have gone to vote by mail. There are other forms of early voting and vote by mail around the country, but many Americans will still be going to the polls on Tuesday.

Bushit on the economy continues

Look who's misleading the public again:
“Americans are finding jobs and they’re taking home more pay,” Bush said. “The main reason for our growing economy is that we cut taxes and left more money in the hands of families and workers and small business owners.”

--George W. Bush, (last Friday)
That's not the economy here on the ground, Dub.

First, there's the taxes you don't admit.
  • The health care tax -- premiums have doubled for employers and employees over the past five years.
  • The corporate gas price tax -- gas prices went through the roof, generating hundreds of billions of dollars in profits for Big Oil.
  • The deficit tax -- Every dollar borrowed by the Bush regime must be repaid. Yes. Taxes are down this year, on the rich, but the debt is exploding, but every dime has to be repaid, with interest -- with taxes. Maybe that's you. Maybe that's your children. But it's SOMEBODY'S taxes.
Then there's the fact that more money is not in the hands of "families and workers and small business owners."
The tax cuts for the high rollers have very little to do with the economy's activity. What action there is comes from federal spending increases and the big time debt in the residential housing balloon. Wait till after the election.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Doc Hastings' ethics fail again

Bob Ney finally resigned, but not because of House "Ethics" Committee Chairman Doc Hastings. Doc has done everything he can to keep all the corruption -- and there's been a bunch -- under wraps, even while he gladhands the folks back home in Washington's 4th District. Four senior Republicans have resigned in the past two years amid scandal. Doc sees no evil.

Ney long ago pled guilty to corruption charges, but retained his House position until yesterday. As House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said,
"The Republican leadership has allowed Bob Ney to receive his paycheck and benefits for seven weeks after his admission of guilt to criminal conspiracy charges -- it is an embarrassment to this institution and an insult to the American taxpayer. House Republican leaders have a long pattern of covering up and protecting Republican Members, and their culture of corruption comes at great cost to the American people."
No telling what else is going to come out after the election. If Hastings retains his House seat, it will be a crime in itself. Nobody has done more to nurture the culture of corruption than Doc.

Cantwell demands energy company pay its fair share

Maria Cantwell, along with fellow Senators Diane Feinstein and Ron Wyden, are criticizing the Bush administration for failing to properly collect royalties from Chevron. From a Feinstein Senate office press release on Thursday:

Senators Feinstein, Cantwell, Wyden Urge Administration to Stop Protecting Energy Companies at the Expense of American Taxpayers
Washington, DC – U.S. Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) today sent a scathing letter to the Administration, calling on the Interior Department to stop protecting energy companies at the expense of American taxpayers.

In a recent New York Times article, it was reported that the Interior Department decided not to seek repayment of disputed amounts from Chevron Corporation identified by the Department’s own auditors. The consequences of this decision could cost the Treasury Department hundreds of millions of dollars in royalties from other energy companies drilling in federal lands and waters.

“We continue to be dismayed that the Interior Department is abdicating its responsibility to collect royalty payments from the oil and gas industry producing on federal lands and waters,” the Senators wrote in a letter to Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne.

“It is obvious that the Interior Department is spending too much time protecting the oil and gas industry and too little time protecting the American taxpayer. It is time that the Department do its job, thoroughly audit oil and natural gas companies, and collect all the royalties that are due to the American taxpayer.
So while the right wing blogosphere is desperately pushing sleaze in a vain attempt to help their candidate, Cantwell is fighting the energy companies on behalf of Washington residents. It's your choice. Use it and vote.

Poll Watch: I-933 in big trouble

This is a new poll by the University of Washington. It's been in the news lately, so in case you missed it here is a bit of The Olympian story about it from yesterday. Brad Shannon chose to lead with the the lack of support for I-933, which works for me. Go read the whole article if you wish, there are some more numbers at the bottom.

Survey: Tax repeal, I-933 face defeat
The state's first-ever Washington Poll found that a majority of voters oppose Initiative 933, a land-use measure on the ballot in Tuesday's general election.

The poll shows that a majority also oppose an initiative to repeal the state's estate tax.

Of the three initiatives on the ballot, only I-937, the alternative energy proposal, had the support of a majority of registered voters in the survey.

In other results, voters said they preferred incumbent Democrat U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell over Republican challenger Mike McGavick, but they couldn't quite decide whom to support in the remaining state Supreme Court race.


Of course, the only poll that matters is the one you participate in by casting your ballot. Do it!

Reichert's boast keeps finger story alive

The story of how Dave Reichert bragged about getting a school bus driver fired for flipping off the Preznit appears on the USA Today web site this morning.

If McNewspaper has picked it up, the story ain't dead.
Rep. Dave Reichert, R-Wash., bragged at a Republican Party picnic last summer that the day after a school bus driver flipped off President Bush, he called the district's superintendent, leaving picnic-goers with the impression that he was responsible for getting the driver fired.

That differs from a version of the story told by Issaquah School District officials and Reichert's staff this week: That Reichert didn't speak to the superintendent for weeks, and that by the time he did, the bus driver had already been fired. His press secretary said Friday the discrepancy was "not a big deal" and that at the picnic Reichert was just telling a story, not trying to reconstruct the timeline exactly.
And:
Niegowski also said the firing was not about who the driver flipped off, but because she made the gesture in front of students.

Chris Dugovich, president of Council 2 of the Washington State Council of County and City Employees, disputed that Friday. No children saw the driver's gesture because she held her hand high out the window while the children were all looking at the president, he said. He added that when the district fired the woman in September, officials cited "a presidential aide" as the source of the complaint.

"She did this in a manner in which the kids clearly would not see it," Dugovich said. "She also apologized immediately to the school district. In 25 years I can't recall an instance where that type of incident would warrant that type of penalty."
What's not funny is that The King County Journal has decided to open up the bus driver to possible harassment by revealing the driver's name and current employer. (We could play the "find the link yourself" game, but it's already been reported in the national media, and there is some reporting that impacts on the actual campaign in WA-08 in The Journal article.) From The King County Journal:
The Burner campaign isn't planning to use the incident as political fodder in the waning days of the race, according to its spokeswoman, Jamie Smith. Smith isn't even sure Burner has seen the press reports about the bus driver.

Voters will decide whether this matters, she said.

"This isn't a big deal," said Kimberly Cadena, Reichert's spokeswoman.

It is, she said, another example of how the Burner campaign and the Democrats are trying to make the race about Reichert and Bush, not Reichert and Burner.
Give Cadena a brownie and a juice box for pointing out the obvious.

This is not a good way for the Reichert campaign to be closing, to say the least. The media seizes upon narratives that seem to enforce pre-conceived notions about candidates, and in Reichert's case he has done himseslf no favors by going around bragging about getting someone fired for such a relatively minor thing.

Remember how in 2000 the Bush campaign went around re-assuring the national media that Bush would be surrounded by "grown-ups?" And then we found out that the "grown-ups" who lead the GOP are a bunch of immature, spiteful crybabies who can dish it out but not take it?

Same deal with Reichert. Here is a man who boasts of his long career in law enforcement. He even used it when telling people at the picnic he got the driver fired.

So Reichert either decided to use his power to exact revenge on someone who disrespected him, or decided to make up a story that he did so. Either way, it's pretty pathetic and damaging in a race this close.

Naturally Republicans will continue to sputter about "respect for the office," but most people know Bush has disrespected the presidency more than any simple gesture could convey.

My crystal ball is still in the shop, but if Reichert loses by a narrow margin, "Finger-gate" could be one thing wags look back on as a minor but crucial gaffe. When will politicians learn that in the age of camcorders and digital technology, you can't lie?

Reichert is paying a heavy price for a few guffaws at a picnic last summer.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Paging Inspector Reichert

So rather than admit that world scientific opinion has determined that global warming is a serious threat, Dave Reichert has said he still needs to investigate it.

It's been a month since Reichert made his stunning pronouncement, so the Darcy Burner campaign has invited Reichert to report the findings of his "investigation" tomorrow at a community gathering in Bellevue.
Darcy Burner, congressional candidate in Washington's 8th district, is calling for international action on global warming and is inviting Congressman Dave Reichert (WA-08) to do the same.

Burner will address an expected crowd of 100 Project Hotseat volunteers about the need to take action to address climate change. Congressman Dave Reichert, who has also been invited to attend, remains unconvinced that global warming is caused by humans.

It has been exactly one month since Reichert announced he would be investigating global warming after a firestorm erupted when Reichert, a member of the House Science Committee, said he didn't yet believe in its existence.
The event will be tomorrow, Sat. Nov. 4, 2006, at Bellevue Downtown Park, 10201 NE 4th St. in Bellevue, according to the Burner campaign, and starts at 1:30 pm with something called "aerial art."

The election is almost over, so even if Reichert can't make it to the park tomorrow, voters in WA-08 deserve to know what conclusion he has reached.

Dave Reichert gets himself in trouble again

As election day draws year, Dave Reichert's campaign is struggling mightily to make a good showing as it crosses the finish line - whether that be first or second.

As already noted by our staff, today Reichert's habit of relating silly, rambling anecdotes to friendly Republican crowds is coming back to haunt him.

The state Democratic Party has released an audiotape which shows Reichert caught in a Tim Eyman - in other words, he's now in a situation where it can be proven he's given two different accounts of the same story, using different facts.

One of them must be wrong...so either way, Reichert is lying.

This isn't the first time Reichert's gone shooting off his mouth, either.

I've said before that Reichert is a lying hypocrite, and he is. But dustups like these are funny because there's no way out...no way to defend yourself. It'll be interesting to see if the cabal at unSoundPolitics can think of any excuses. The King County Republicans could only manage this:
Michael Young, chairman of the King County GOP, said he could not confirm the authenticity of the recording. But he said if it is authentic, it is a "protected communication."

"I'm surprised. If they have a purloined copy, they need to surrender it right away," Young said.
Oh, please. Whether you agree with Young or not...since when have Republicans cared about privacy? You mean like how our phone conversations are supposed to be "protected communication"?

How about we get rid of that domestic spying program?

This is the IOKIYAR principle in action - It's OK If You're A Republican.

Reichert's campaign hasn't yet thought of anything:
Cadena did not immediately return a phone call or an e-mail seeking comment Friday.
That's funny. Sources tell us that Cadena has sent out three press releases today for the Reichert campaign - one of them a correction to an earlier release - so she must be around.

The first release screams at Darcy Burner for not condemning advertising her campaign is not responsible for. The second accuses her of wanting to raise taxes (big surprise) and the third release is a correction to the second.

Perhaps if Dave Reichert actually talked about the issues that matter, as he said he wanted to do two years ago when he first ran for Congress, he wouldn't be in the rotten position he's in now.

But that's not our problem. We urge voters to cast an emphatic vote for the only sensible choice in this race - Darcy Burner.

Reichert caught in flip-off fib

Yesterday I posted briefly about the bus driver who flipped off the president. I didn't think this story was that big of a deal, but it looks like I was wrong.

The story still has legs because Dave Reichert has multiple accounts of what happened. To summarize, Reichert either did or did not get a school bus driver fired for giving a one-finger salute to Dubya.

Postman gets the credit for blogging about it this morning. David Goldstein has weighed in as has Noemie Maxwell, sans blue language.

Noemie notices that the story has gone national on our side of the ball too. From TPM Cafe:
Reichert Caught In Lie About Driver Who Flipped Bird To Bush
One day after? One week after? Which is it? Taking Reichert at his own word, it looks as if Reichert did get the woman fired for giving the Prez the finger. We've checked in with the Reichert campaign to see if they can account for this, shall we say, inconsistency.
TPM Cafe has an audio link. Noemie rightly comments in her post at Washblog:
What's saddest to me about this sound file is how Reichert rouses the crowd to celebrate that the busdriver lost his job. President Bush got off scot-free for flipping off the media... And Cheney is allowed to say "F*** yourself" to Senator Patrick Lehey on the floor of the Senate. They don't get fired or even reprimanded for their scorn and dishonor of their offices and the whole country.
Indeed. Republicans cheering the destruction of someone's life is hardly new. That particular vicious tendency is why talk radio thrives on the right. Sure, it's maddening to be flipped off, but it happens.

Sometimes you wonder how some Republicans manage to drive around in cars. Do they make sure anyone who honks at them loses their job? What plans do they have for people who put 15 items in the 14 item express check-out at the grocery store?

It's quite simple, really. If you don't shut up, you are an enemy to be destroyed. Ask former general Eric K. Shinseki what happens if you disagree with the GOP. Or any of dozens of other high-profile figures who have been smeared.

Now the power of a Congressman may have been used to exact revenge upon an average citizen. That is not acceptable in America, even if the gesture was a crude one.

Connelly calls Reichert ad "condescending"

In a column about negative advertising this morning, P-I columnist Joel Connelly says a recent Dave Reichert ad is about as bad as he has seen-ever. From the P-I:

Negative ads target viable challengers
What of Burner?

She has been demonized, "defined" in consultant parlance, by negative TV spots. The latest is the most condescending, sexist TV ad that I've seen in decades of campaign watching.

It shows a ditzy blonde showing up for a job interview. She is unable to list any qualifications or give coherent answers and is sent away.

Waiting in the wings, as she leaves, is Dave Reichert with a sly look on his face.

"Every woman who works in this country understands that smirk: It's a sense of entitlement. It says, 'Get out of my way,'" said Ellen Malcolm of EMILY's List, which raises seed money for Democratic House candidates.
Connelly points out what he views as some unwarranted negativity directed at Republican senate candidate Mike McGavick, but it kind of pales in comparison to what has been done to Burner. After all, McGavick actually did lay off Safeco employees, and he really did receive a golden parachute.

Personally, I didn't view the ad in quite the same way as Connelly, but I did call it "asinine."

The Reichert ad was simply lame, in two ways. It prompted people to discuss whether the Reichert campaign was being sexist, and it distracted from the GOP message in the closing days.

So the big question is: can Dave Reichert sing?

MORE-- Emily's List has obtained a copy of Reichert's job evaluation. (click to play audio file.)

No 1% Solution for Climate Change

A brilliant article by Julia Whitty in the latest Mother Jones sets it up for us vis-a-vis the global disasters being hatched by human-caused climate change. We need to realize these aren't happening somewhere else, they are in our neighborhood, in our back yard, and staying indoors is not an effective answer.

The twelve tipping points -- from the deforestation of the Amazon, which will turn that region from a huge CO2 consumer to a net CO2 producer, to the melting of the Greenland Ice Sheet and the consequent 23 foot rise in sea level -- are cogently described. But what is brilliant is not these narrative clips. What is brilliant is the weaving in of the 13th tipping point, "the shift in human perception from personal denial to personal responsibility."

The author's dispassionate scientific eye lays out our near certain doom -- in this neighborhood -- should things not turn around. The same dispassionate eye deals with the scientific literature on the possibilities for salvation -- the potential for altruism, the dynamics of a society with cohorts of naysayers and of alarmists bracketing a range of other world views, the survival value of democracy, and more.

Her brief is fascinating and calming in a way for its vision -- vision both in terms of the view of the world and in terms of the process of seeing and that organ of insight which sees.

Whitty's piece gives a necessary balance to another piece out recently, the 700-page report by Sir Nicholas Stern, former chief economist of the World Bank, which concluded that a prudent approach to climate change which began immediately might cost only 1% of GDP and would avoid a price tag of up to 20% of GDP should we delay.

With all due respect to my fellow economist, and admitting I have not read anything other than the London Times account of the Stern Report, I object strenuously to the idea that we can manage the risk of continued environmental degradation with any certainty. We are not going to be able to send a check to the global warming account and drop it in the mail on our way to the Mall.

If one environmental system breaks, others will fall like dominoes, or like interrelated systems. It will do no good to live 30 feet above sea level, or far from a frozen Europe, or be able to afford some mitigating device. Part of the needed and eminently possible shift in perception is the fixing of a certainty that climate change is coming to our town.

Many of the studies cited and findings explored here in this look at the 13th tipping point posit small group or community frameworks. The shifts they describe will not work so long as we can hide out as one of a million, or one of a billion, or the one with a secret country home, or the one who doesn't have to take responsibility because we're doing other important work.

Reichert caught abusing taxpayer mailings (again)

Dave Reichert has been campaigning using taxpayer funds again. Big surprise:
Voters in the 8th Congressional District are getting thousands of pieces of official mail in the weeks leading up to the election from Dave Reichert's Congressional office. The mail is "franked," meaning Reichert pays no postage for sending the official mail to constituents.

How can he do that when there is a ban on franked mass mailings within 90 days of an election? It's not mass mail. Each of 130 different letters that have gone out since June go to no more than 499 people. And House rules in the franking manual define "mass mailing" as 500 or more pieces of mail.

In the parlance of Capitol Hill, these are pieces of "499 mail." House members can send out as much official mail as they like with no pre-election cut off as long as each letter goes to no more than 499 people.
Postman also wrote about this in his column today.
Reichert's chief of staff, Mike Shields, said 130 different letters have been mailed since June, when the pre-primary mass-mailing ban went into effect. Because the primary and general elections are so close together in Washington, the blackout period carries through to the general election.

Shields said not all the mailings went to 499 people. Sometimes the mail goes to a random selection of 499 constituents; other times it goes to people identified as interested in a specific issue.
Many readers will recall that Republicans made hay out of a franking "scandal" in 1994, so it appears the shoe is firmly on the other foot.

Obviously many pieces of "official" mail that regular folks get from Congress critters and state legislators is thinly disguised campaign propaganda. So it would be easy to go find examples of mailings from Democrats that are glossy and simple-minded. You can bet the Reichert people will be doing just that.

But the key point with Reichert's franked mail is how fiendishly systematic it all was. You don't have to be a brain surgeon to figure out why there are long, boring House rules about the frank-it's because over the years there has been so much abuse.

So rather than simply compete with Burner on an even playing field, Reichert has chosen, in essence, to cheat. And he's been doing it for a long time.

The bald hypocrisy of Reichert, who runs on his law enforcement credentials, resorting to gaming the rules is pretty apparent. Reichert wants to portray himself as a straight-shooting sheriff, but in reality he's just another Republican lackey who does what he's told.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Hacking Democracy debuts on HBO despite Diebold's protests

HBO this evening premiered a new documentary film, "Hacking Democracy" that takes a look at electronic voting machines and the ease in which they can be tampered with to change election results:
Electronic voting machines count about 87% of the votes cast in America today. But are they reliable? Are they safe from tampering? From a current congressional hearing to persistent media reports that suggest misuse of data and even outright fraud, concerns over the integrity of electronic voting are growing by the day. And if the voting process is not secure, neither is America's democracy. The timely, cautionary documentary HACKING DEMOCRACY exposes gaping holes in the security of America's electronic voting system.
The film of course has a focus on Diebold, and unsurprisingly the company is not happy about the way it's portrayed. The company had called for the documentary to be pulled - to no avail. HBO has refused to put up with Diebold's nonsense. As its spokesman noted:
"We stand by the film," said Jeff Cusson, a spokesman for HBO, which is a unit of Time Warner Inc.

"We have no intention of withdrawing it from our schedule. It appears that the film Diebold is responding to is not the film HBO is airing."
Cusson is most likely absolutely correct.

As for Diebold, though, they won't rest until every municipality in America uses their proprietary software and systems. Because it's not who votes that counts. It's who - and what - that counts the votes.

Diebold - Privatizing Democracy

Dave Reichert isn't running a clean campaign

In 2004, when Dave Reichert first ran for Congress as a Republican, he famously displayed both his hotheadedness and his lack of political experience when he abruptly walked out of a candidate forum at the Mercer Island Rotary Club.

Reichert said he left because he was offended by direct mail critical of his Republican credentials from his primary opponents, including Diane Tebelius and Luke Esser, and brushed off criticism that he had a "glass jaw".

Afterwards, at the time, Reichert said this:
"I want to run a clean campaign, I want to talk about the issues. Today I'm making a statement. And I think that the only way for this to stop is someone has to stand up and say it's wrong, it's absolutely wrong."
Oddly enough, two years later, Dave Reichert has forgotten all about that pledge. He's the one running a negative, dirty, mean-spirited campaign. And what about his desire to "talk about the issues"?

In the Seattle Times sponsored debate earlier this month, Reichert did not show a firm grasp of the issues. He couldn't even answer all the questions. As he said, he's "not familiar" with media consolidation.

He's confused about Net Neutrality. He says he's still "investigating" whether global warming is caused by human activity...or not. He struggled for months trying to decide whether to support stem cell research.

On other issues, such as the war in Iraq or taxes, he repeats Bush talking points laced with bragging about his political experience or his career in law enforcement.

Dave Reichert said two years ago he wanted to talk about the issues. But he can't talk about them, even after nearly two years in Congress. Evidently all those years of public service did not adequately prepare him to represent the people of the 8th District. That must be pretty embarrassing.

And he's clearly forgotten about or is no longer interested in "clean campaigning". Just look at his ads. Set to bizarre music, they paint a glowing portrait and are filled with boasts about experience. The major issues facing our country are given a low priority while false attacks against Darcy Burner are prominently featured, purposefully and dishonestly designed to scare the electorate.

Reichert's most recent ad insults career women in what his campaign says is supposed to be humor. It's pathetic, sloppy, and derogatory.

There's nothing funny about the ad and there's nothing funny about the problems facing America right now. Problems that this Republican Congress and Dave Reichert have either created or made worse.

Two years ago, Dave Reichert said:
"I'm disappointed that there are a couple of people who are on this stage with me today that decided that it's more important to mislead and misinform the public, and as we refer to the dirty politics across the country and in our community and in our state, I, for one, am sick and tired of it."
Reichert's disgust with dirty politics didn't last long. This year, rather than condemning scare tactics, fear mongering, and attempts to deceive voters, he has without hesitation made such schemes the centerpiece of his campaign.

It's about time somebody called him out on his double standard.

No, Dave Reichert isn't standing up and speaking out against negative campaigning - he's engaging in it. Instead of denouncing the NRCC's gutter-style attacks, he's copying them in his own paid media!

Two years ago, he said what he's doing now is "absolutely wrong". So why is he campaigning this way? Evidently the forceful public promise made two years ago meant nothing then and means nothing now. Reichert has decided that holding on to power and winning elections are more important than staying true to his word.

Two years ago, Dave Reichert said:
"This is all about guts...this is about me standing up and telling people like it is."
But the actual truth is that Reichert has no "guts" at all. He's weak minded. If he's so gutsy, why isn't he running a positive campaign?

Why isn't he bucking politics as usual?

Reichert's mean-spiritedness isn't just limited to his advertising or rhetoric. After a recent joint appearance with Darcy Burner sponsored by the Newcastle Chamber of Commerce, Reichert refused to shake Darcy Burner's hand, or thank moderator Connie Marshall. He just turned, slunk away, and left like a bitter coward.

Maybe his handlers have pushed him to approve the ads he did, to talk about Darcy in the demeaning way he has. After all, he's admitted his friends pushed him into politics and pushed him into the Sheriff's office. He's publicly admitted it, just as he's admitted he gets orders from his masters in Washington, D.C.

In 2004, he accepted the resignation of his political consultant, Bruce Boram, because Boram had been orchestrating a series of nasty attack ads paid for by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to smear a Democratic candidate for Attorney General - Deborah Senn. Why? Because Reichert didn't want somebody advising him who was engaged in dirty politics.

Yet Boram has remained on Reichert's campaign payroll. So far this cycle (2005-2006), Boram and his company, Catalyst Consulting, have received over a whopping $145,000 from Reichert's campaign. Close to $30,000 has gone to the similarly named "Catalyst Group" in Washington, D.C., for the same thing - political consulting. You can look it up at the Center for Responsive Politics. Catalyst Consulting is number one on the expenditure list.

Boram has also served as a spokesman for Reichert, and was quoted in Roll Call in an article just last April (this year) as saying:
"The 8th is a swing, Democratic district," concedes Reichert’s political consultant Bruce Boram. "Any Democratic opponent who runs against Reichert starts at 43 percent [of the vote]."
Dave Reichert just wants to stay in office, at any cost. The House Republican leadership needs foot soldiers, and Reichert is willing to serve.

Party loyalty supersedes all else - Reichert's confessed as much. He's confessed the leadership tells him when it's okay to vote against the party, so they can protect him.

The voters of the 8th District clearly cannot trust Dave Reichert to run a "clean campaign" or represent them with honor or integrity. Reichert runs a sleazy operation and he doesn't care.

Dave Reichert talks a fine talk...of moderation, independence, thoughtfulness which Frank Blethen's editorial board is eager to buy. But Reichert doesn't walk the walk. His actions do not reflect his claims or his promises.

Dave Reichert and George Bush

Dave Reichert is happy to have George W. Bush, Newt Gingrich, Dick Cheney, Karl Rove, and Tom DeLay come out here to Washington State to raise money for him. They all have in the last three years.

Bush, Gingrich, and Rove were here in the last six months. Despite this, Reichert wants us to believe he's independent and thinks for himself.

If he can think for himself, why can't he raise money for himself?

Why does he need the help of Republican bigshots at private, lavish, closed-door fundraisers, over and over and over again, just to stay competitive with Darcy Burner's surging grassroots campaign?

The Republican agenda has been a catastrophe for America. Our state and our nation cannot afford rubber stamps like Dave Reichert who do the bidding of the Bush White House and its congressional cronies.

The 8th District should not be represented by a lying hypocrite who does his best to hide the truth and sell himself as something he's not. The 8th District is Democratic, but it is not represented by a Democrat. It's time for that to change. Voters have a choice. They can vote to stay the course with Dave Reichert, or vote to head in a new direction with Darcy Burner.

It's telling that Darcy has run a powerful, inspiring and uplifting campaign while Reichert has resorted to gutter-style politics in violation of his own pledge two years ago to not participate in negative campaigning.

While Darcy has talked about the issues, Reichert has slimed her, insulted his constituents, abused his franking privileges, broken his promises, and proven that he is not fit to represent Washington's 8th.

Dave Reichert isn't running a clean campaign, nor has he demonstrated that he deserves to be in the U.S. House of Representatives. We strongly urge voters to ensure that Reichert's first term will be his last.

Evangelical leader resigns amid sexual allegations



CNN has an interesting headline tonight - Evangelical leader quits, denies male escort's allegations
The president of the National Association of Evangelicals resigned Thursday after denying an accusation by a male prostitute that the pastor paid him for sex over three years.

The Rev. Ted Haggard said he is also temporarily stepping aside from the pulpit of his church in Colorado Springs, Colorado, pending an internal investigation by the church.
I have to confess, although I try to track the rabid religious right, I had never heard of Haggard. So who is this guy, besides one of the Dobson-Hutcherson crowd? Most recently he was in the news because he objected to the film Jesus Camp, in which he appears.

From the Denver Post on Sept. 15: Fire, brimstone around "Jesus" film
Haggard was upset with his cameo, in which he jokingly says "repent" to the camera and declares that evangelicals determine elections when they vote.
So he um, botched the joke then? Again, the Denver Post:
In an e-mail, he called the film yellow journalism, with "a strong agenda like any Michael Moore film with the cinematography of 'The Blair Witch Project."'
Personally I thought it was more like "Red Dawn" meets "Deliverance," but hey, whatever. Once more from the Denver Post:
"Jesus Camp" shows children in camouflage and prayers about spiritual warfare, militarist imagery that Haggard said most Christian groups stopped using after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

"It does represent a small portion of the charismatic movement, but I think it demonizes it," said Haggard, a charismatic Christian who does not usually speak in tongues from the pulpit. "Secularists are hoping that evangelical Christians and radicalized Muslims are essentially the same, which is why they will love this film."
Um, we're not "hoping" fundamentalist Christians are as insane as radical Islamists, we're fearing it. Slight difference there, Reverend Ted. Look, Haggard is denying the allegations, so duly noted. But his accuser is on the record and on camera.

Right now it's a case of "he said, he said."

Yet another allegation of sexual misbehavior against a conservative leader is the last thing the Republicans need.

It's certainly not nuts to speculate that this is tied to the election, but then, let's break out the world's smallest fiddle for the poor old GOP. Lee Atwater didn't repent until he was almost dead and Karl Rove probably never will repent.

Haggard isn't some obscure backwoods preacher, this guy was the head of a very large and very powerful fundamentalist organization upon which the GOP relies heavily. ABC is reporting:
Haggard, who is often credited with rallying conservative Christians behind President George W. Bush for his 2004 re-election, talks to Bush or his advisors every Monday, Harper's Magazine reported last year.
My goodness. This could be quite damaging to the administration as well.

Then there is the personal reaction that Americans must be having to this round of news stories, which is to shake their heads and wonder: what on earth is wrong with these people?

MORE-- A Colorado TV station reports that Haggard has "admitted to some indiscretions."
The church's Acting Senior Pastor, Ross Parsley, tells KKTV 11 News that Pastor Haggard has admitted to some of the indiscretions claimed by Mike Jones, but not all of them.
Well then, isn't that special?

Cantwell pledges to protect Social Security

Maria Cantwell stopped her bus tour in Vancouver this morning for a rally at a union hall. With her was seatmate Patty Murray.

The Columbian has a nice report (Cantwell brings election tour to Vancouver)
Cantwell pledged to stop the administration if it resurrects its privatization proposal next year as it has vowed to do.

“I don’t care what they call it, anyone who tries to take money out of the Social Security fund and invest it in the stock market is wrong,” she said. “Patty Murray and I will work to make Social Security a priority so that you have it when you retire as well.”
Figuring out the future of programs like Social Security is taking a bit of a back seat to understandably important issues like the war in Iraq. But Social Security is vitally important, and let's not forget that the GOP wanted, and still wants, to privatize it.

Sometimes I don't understand the Republicans. They know seniors vote in large numbers, yet they keep trying to mess with Social Security and they screwed up Medicare. Part "D" onerously stands for "Disaster."

Minutiae Watch: flipping the bird goes national

The King County Journal is having a field day with this oh-so important story:
Now, what seemed like a routine war story from the campaign trail has grown into a minor political tempest with mention on Fox News and Rush Limbaugh's nationally syndicated radio talk show.

"We are that issue right now, I believe," said Sara Niegowski, an Issaquah School District spokeswoman.

The Journal has received e-mails from the East Coast, as well as locally, supporting the firing of the bus driver, but others have castigated Reichert for calling the school district.

The Issaquah School District has been inundated with calls from local and national media and on Wednesday, Supt. Janet Barry issued a press release, outlining the district's reasons for firing the bus driver.
And the attempts at distraction continue apace. Hopefully the bus driver didn't botch any jokes, that would be bad, bad.

Behold the liberal media at work.

I want your sexism

Whether Dave Reichert's "job interview ad" is sexist or not, it's still asinine. But that's the way the game is played by Republicans.

It's a reflection of the inherent sense of entitlement they have. We saw it after the election of Bill Clinton, when the right went went into paroxysms of outrage over things like black UN helicopters.

Large segments of the Republican base cannot grasp that others might legitimately disagree with them, and many cannot grasp the idea that people who do not fit their vision of "leaders" could actually do a good job. And all the while they ignore the tremendous failings of their own leadership.

To conservatives, Bill Clinton could never be a legitimate president because of his moral failings - as they put it. And to Reichert supporters, Darcy Burner cannot be in Congress because she hasn't met their twisted, narrow definition of leadership.

The ability of conservatives to feign outrage or anger over any perceived flaw in a Democratic politician is well known. And when reform-minded candidates like Burner get up off the couch and decide to change the country, they are doubly offended. Burner is a threat to a particular, insular GOP constituency that likes its world view replete with codpiece and hairspray.

Truth be told, there is some advantage to having experience in any job. Darcy Burner has a little bit of a bar to pass on that front, but given how she has conducted herself in the campaign, it's pretty clear she is up to the task.

And I know the Patty Murray comparisons wear thin, but there really is a similarity between the two. Murray faced many of the same charges as Burner when she ran the first time - that she was too inexperienced, that she couldn't serve as ably as others could, that she should wait...and so on.

I remember people asking me what Murray was really like, and I would honestly tell them that the media characterizations of her as a lightweight were all wrong. Time has born that out.

There are undertones of classism, ageism and sexism in Reichert's campaign, but that's not the point. The Reichert campaign would likely have reacted the same way to any challenger who has so threatened him, albeit with a different message, but still mocking and arrogant.

I'm sure that Darcy's campaign will respond to the Reichert ad in a prompt and efficient manner, but I can't resist putting in a long-shot plug for a mocking ad against Reichert based on this bit of silliness by yours truly.

It would certainly give Burner a bimp in the polls.

Thursday morning manifesto

There's an interesting column in this morning's Washington Post from Robert Kagan, who among other things is a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. He traces some of the differences between European and American attitudes towards war, and seems to suggest that Europeans are in for a letdown even if Democrats re-take the Congress:

Staying the course, win or lose
The reasons for this prolific use of military force have to do with the nation's history -- Americans have been fighting what they considered just and moral wars since the Revolution and the Civil War. And it has to do with Americans' relative power. It is no accident that the United States began to use force more frequently after the fall of the Soviet Union.

Those who imagine that the Iraq imbroglio may change this approach could be right, but the historical record suggests otherwise. Less than six years after the defeat in Vietnam, Americans were electing Reagan on a promise to restore American military power and engage in a concerted arms race with the Soviet Union.

Even today leading Democrats who oppose the Iraq war do not oppose the idea of war itself or its utility. They're not even denouncing a defense budget approaching $500 billion per year. While Europeans mostly reject the Bush administration's phrase "the war on terror," leading Democrats embrace it and accuse the administration of not pursuing it vigorously or intelligently enough. Nor do leading Democrats reject the premise of the United States as the world's "indispensable nation" -- a notion that most Europeans find offensive at best and dangerous at worst.
I'm relatively certain Kagan intended this as a clear-eyed warning to folks in London and Paris, but it also comes across as an argument for the status quo in Iraq.

To speak of the differences in American and European attitudes towards war without examining World War I and World War II is really rather shabby of Kagan. But he manages to cram in the invasion of Panama.

Such articles from the US foreign policy establishment are a precursor of the battles that will start early in the evening of Nov. 7, as the D.C. power structure tries to assimilate the incoming heathens.

It will go something like this:

A-there is no mandate
B-even if there is a mandate, the new people (Democrats) are naive morons
C-even if the new people are smart, they can't be trusted because they're libruls

And so on.

We should be under no illusions that things will magically change on Nov. 8, despite the probable victory. We've witnessed all too clearly in recent days that the media is still in the tank and will fawn over and fight for the radical neo-cons at any opportunity.

We also know that half or more of our own party will bend to the false promise of imperial splendor, despite three and one half years of disaster. It's going to be the job of the netroots to continue the good work that has been started, and to hold Democrats' feet to the fire so that this country ultimately winds up with a sane, smart and decent foreign policy.

Our adventure in Iraq cannot be salvaged. The vapid, unreasoned and unreasonable discourse in 2002-2003 has led to a policy with no strategic, tactical nor moral underpinnings in 2006. This is not Iwo Jima, nor Omaha Beach. It is, sadly, a quagmire in the sand every bit as awful as opponents of the initial invasion had feared.

Far from making us safer, the incompetence and hubris of the Republicans has made the Middle East a more dangerous place, an astounding and infamous achievement. From their uncritical encouragement of Israeli aggression in Lebanon to the ridiculous pounding of war drums regarding Iran, the Republican administration and its enablers do us great damage on the world stage. In short, as the old playground aphorism goes, it doesn't mean much if you can't back it up. The GOP can't back anything up, in part because they have hollowed out our military to a dangerous point.

Our progressive movement will continue to be attacked for pointing out the truth, but power does not answer but to power. Luckily, a relative handful of people with internet connections can influence people and policy in ways unimagined a few short years ago.

Power is passing, rather quickly in historical terms, from a few guardians of information to the many citizens who will, hopefully, wield it for the greater good. It's an uneven process, as any glance in the direction of right wing blogs will attest, but still represents a transformative possibility in our politics that is nearly unparalleled.

We must use that power wisely, deliberately and to good effect. Dissent from our views, when informed and at least marginally reasonable, is to be encouraged within our movement. But our movement must never make the mistakes of substituting wishes for fact or using dogma in lieu of critical thinking.

The value of forgiveness should not be overlooked. We all make mistakes, and if we extend an olive branch to those who sincerely wish to do better for our country, then we will all benefit.

That is not to excuse crimes by government officials, nor to suggest a specific course of action such as impeachment. If we are serious, then let the evidence and the process, conducted in good faith, lead where it may. Grave injustices have been committed, and the answer is not hysteria nor trial by public opinion, but the rule of law.

It is our opponents who wish to summarily smear and defame people in order to cling to power, and it is their downfall.

This is a revolution, albeit a peaceful and law-abiding one. Whether we prevail on Nov. 7 or not, things will not be the same. The repugnant tactics of this administration and its lackeys in Congress have been forever exposed to a cleansing sunlight, and it will be our duty to see that Democrats follow through on their Constitutional obligations.

There will be no compromise when it comes to the rule of law and basic standards of human decency.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

John Kerry has nothing to apologize for

The furor that has erupted over John Kerry's comments in California earlier this week about George W. Bush's failure to do his homework before launching a preemptive invasion of Iraq is a manufactured controversy that Republicans and right wing media outlets have seized on in a desperate gambit to go on the offense.

Kerry, who has admitted what he said was not what he meant to say, has nothing to apologize for. He's free to do so, but he shouldn't feel obligated to.

He did not insult America's men and women in uniform. It is the administration and its Republican allies who have done that - by sending our troops into harm's way for no good reason without proper equipment. Remember Donald Rumsfeld saying "you go to war with the army you have?"

What about an apology from Bush about the administration's failure to prepare for and respond to Hurricane Katrina? What about an apology for rolling back worker and environmental protections, running up huge deficits, and giving huge tax breaks to the wealthy - or subsidies to America's biggest, most profitable corporations at the expense of working families?

All this outrage over a botched joke - as Kerry put it - well, where's the outrage over this Republican administration and Congress' terrible decision making?

Kerry's intent was to poke fun at Bush:
"I can't overstress the importance of a great education. Do you know where you end up if you don't study, if you aren't smart, if you're intellectually lazy? You end up getting us stuck in a war in Iraq."
And as the Seattle P-I has noted, even if you disregard Kerry's intent and put it aside, and take his spoken words literally, he would still have had a point:
Although there are plenty of well-educated people in our armed forces -- Kerry was one of them -- military service has long been an opportunity employer for those with less education and fewer skills than they need to work in the private sector. Indeed, the military sells itself as a place to garner skills and to help pay for higher education.

And wars, including this one, are often fought by those less privileged -- albeit no less smart -- than the sons and daughters of those who lead us into them.
Fortunately, despite intense pressure from the Republican Noise Machine, Kerry showed us, at least initially, he's learned his lesson from 2004, and fired back with a strong response.
"If anyone thinks a veteran would criticize the more than 140,000 heroes serving in Iraq and not the president who got us stuck there, they're crazy. This is the classic GOP playbook. I'm sick and tired of these despicable Republican attacks that always seem to come from those who never can be found to serve in war, but love to attack those who did.

I'm not going to be lectured by a stuffed suit White House mouthpiece standing behind a podium, or doughy Rush Limbaugh, who no doubt today will take a break from belittling Michael J. Fox's Parkinson's disease to start lying about me just as they have lied about Iraq.

It disgusts me that these Republican hacks, who have never worn the uniform of our country lie and distort so blatantly and carelessly about those who have.

The people who owe our troops an apology are George W. Bush and Dick Cheney who misled America into war and have given us a Katrina foreign policy that has betrayed our ideals, killed and maimed our soldiers, and widened the terrorist threat instead of defeating it.

These Republicans are afraid to debate veterans who live and breathe the concerns of our troops, not the empty slogans of an Administration that sent our brave troops to war without body armor.

Bottom line, these Republicans want to debate straw men because they're afraid to debate real men. And this time it won't work because we're going to stay in their face with the truth and deny them even a sliver of light for their distortions.

No Democrat will be bullied by an administration that has a cut and run policy in Afghanistan and a stand still and lose strategy in Iraq ."
When you're attacked, you don't bend to pressure. You respond from a position of strength, not weakness. You counterattack and you reframe - you turn the tables. You change the discourse.

Democrats need to stop rolling over under fire. Democrats who have decided to come out and criticize Kerry for "disparaging our troops" are not only wrong, but they are playing into the Republicans' frame - reinforcing it. And they're hurting our party's unity needlessly.

Republicans were shocked in 2004 when we Democrats refused to yield and concede the election to Rossi when he was barely ahead after two counts. Then we stood fast against the revote nonsense and defended our candidate in a drawn out legal challenge, with the facts on our side. And we won a huge victory.

Politics is not for the faint of heart. Democrats can't afford not to play hardball. Otherwise, we lose - because the Republicans will, and they do. So the lesson here is: don't allow the other side to capitalize on your mistakes...and don't apologize just because the opposition is demanding you do so.

Don't play their game. Reframe and respond from a position of strength.

Newspapers say NO to I-933

Initiative 933 is such an awful, badly written right wing initiative that almost no editorial board in Washington State has dared to endorse it...even editorial boards endorsing a straight Republican ticket and yes on I-920 (the estate tax) this year are saying no thanks to I-933.

That's because I-933 is a complete disaster, a huge nightmare waiting to happen. I-933 would turn entire idea of fairness on its head. I-933 will, if it passes, destroy our quality of life. I-933 is just as bad, if not worse, than any initiative Tim Eyman has ever sponsored.

We've set up a scoreboard on Permanent Defense's website to illustrate how lopsided the newspaper endorsements have been. You can check out the scoreboard here. The score is currently 22 to 2. 2 newspapers support I-933, while more than ten times that number are on the record as opposed to one of the worst initiatives Washington's ever seen.

Remember to vote NO on I-933 if you haven't mailed in your absentee yet, or if you vote at the polls.

Connelly: Dan Evans to appear in McGavick spots

According to P-I columnist Joel Connelly, Mike McGavick will bring in Dan Evans in an attempt to salvage his campaign and, in a way, reprise his role in Slade Gorton's 1988 victory over Mike Lowry.

Long time observers of the Washington political scene may recall that McGavick was managing Gorton's campaign, which was trailing badly, according to Connelly. McGavick brought in Evans, who was retiring as senator, to respond to a late Lowry attack. Evans wore hip waders to "wade through the mud."

Yeah, I know. Quaint, isn't it? If I had a dollar for every time some journalist pined for "Dan Evans Republicans..."

Connelly says Evans will appear at a McGavick press conference and in television spots this weekend.

Of course, things are very different now. For starters Cantwell hasn't run a negative campaign, and most people probably no longer have any idea who Dan Evans was. And they probably have no idea there were ever moderate Republicans.

Plus the people who need hip waders are Democrats.

Still, it's poignant and touching and reminds me of this.

Another Reason for Election Reform

We have to take this seriously in the next two years. Since the mainstream corporate media won't dare get the "geek perspective" on how bad the situation is with Diebold and Sequoia, this post from Ars Technica is worth a serious read.

Among other things, they say you don't even need proper hacking skills to manipulate the vote.

Taking America Paperless

More Blethen donations for I-920

The Stranger's Josh Feit notices a campaign finance report involving free newspaper ads for Initiative 920. (Yeah, it's the Seattle Times Co. Did you really have to ask?)

Feit also remembered that Frank Blethen, the publisher of The Seattle Times, told reporter/blogger David Postman that he wouldn't be making political donations to I-920. From The Seattle Times on Aug. 3 of this year:
Blethen said he doesn't plan to make any political donations to Initiative 920, which would repeal the state estate tax. But the corporate side of The Times is involved.

"Jill has been having some conversations with some of the folks who are putting together the campaign," he said. "We may be involved on the periphery because people keep calling us. But we're not going to make any political donations, and I may do the things I normally do, which is talking to groups like minority groups."
I suppose we could parse this all out, and talk about what is and is not a political donation, but nah, don't think so. In-kind, cash, whatever. Free ads are worth a lot, in this case around six grand or so.

Obviously Blethen's earlier statements were rubbish. He lies to his own reporters?

What the heck, let's do some parsing. Technically Blethen said he "had no plans," so maybe he changed his mind. (Probably because I-920 is getting spanked.)

And it was "the corporate side," so even though Blethen owns the newspaper, he is technically not a corporation. So Blethen could have been planning all along for the corporate side to make in-kind donations.

OK, that's enough parsing for now, there's enough parsing going on in the political world right now.

Baloney is baloney. I-920 is baloney. Vote no.

UPDATE: David Postman reports the free ads for I-920 are running in Times-owned newspapers in Walla-Walla and Yakima.

The first paragraph of this post has been changed to accurately reflect that it is the Seattle Times Co. giving the free ads.

Five Bads Bush will push past the election

Anxiety over what Republican smears and dirty tricks might be at hand in the last days of the Congressional campaign may be dominating, but what is not said is more important than what is said, if past elections are any indicator.

Both Al Gore and John Kerry were roundly criticized for not focusing on the key Democratic issues of economy, environment and social security. Gore chose "character" and Kerry sort of chose the war in Iraq.

At the same time, hundreds of decisions the administration and or Congress have to make are being pushed beyond the election. In mid-November 2004, Condoleezza Rice replaced Colin Powell as Secretary of State and Bush unveiled his plan to privatize Social Security.

What are the issues that are being pushed beyond November 7, 2006? Here is a guess about five:
  1. Mark Foley -- Keeping his record intact, House "Ethics" Committee Chair Doc Hastings, from Washington's 4th District, will issue no findings or reports on any ethics violations. Arguably the most corrupt Congress in the past 100 years looked clean to Do-Nothing Doc. Oversight is a Congressional responsibility the GOP has confused with "overlook" in the cases of Hammer DeLay, Bob Ney, Duke Cunningham, the Abramoff coterie, and Iraq. Hastings' motto as "Ethics" Committee head has been "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."

  2. The End of Democracy in Iraq -- Although not getting the media attention of "stay the course," the term "democracy" has also fallen from the official sound bites coming out of the White House. The pretense of a functional democracy in Iraq is over except as a myth for Middle America. The need for that myth will end with the closing of the polls on election night. The new regime propagated by the Neocons will be authoritarian and ruthless. It may arise under the guise of partition.

  3. The Economy -- The "political business cycle" is the practice of the incumbent executive to concentrate expenditures so as to gin the economic till in the months leading up to the election. Occasionally a compliant Fed will arrange interest rates to help. No doubt this most corrupt regime of the past 100 years has done all it can in this regard. But the ability of the Republicans to push the issue of the economy past November 7 is in part due to the absence of Democratic emphasis on this issue.

    Massive and rising indebtedness (both public and private), a tremendous $3 billion per day trade deficit, and the demonstrably growing gap between the rich and the rest of us are big issues to Americans. An ABC news poll demonstrated this: 22 percent identified Iraq as the most important issue for voters in the midterms, but 21 percent picked the economy, and economic issues like health care (13 percent) and gas prices (5 percent).

  4. The Coming Attack on Iran -- The neocons would love to attack Iran. This is similar to the privatization of Social Security, in that it cannot be admitted before the election, but any strength at all for Republicans' war mongering will be immediately translated into a drumbeat to attack. The neocons have spotlighted Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has no constitutional authority or power in the Iranian government. At present the logistic support centers are not in readiness, but with the elections behind them, don't be surprised if the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld-Rove team to starts trying to justify such an invasion. It may be that the near certain massive disruption to oil flows that are sure to follow will cause the administration's corporate con backers to rein in such a plan, if they can. A Democratic Congress could apply brakes as well.

  5. The Immigration Policy Fiasco -- The 700 mile, $1.2 billion fence along the Mexican border will be continued so long as it feeds a favored corporation, but the immigration issue will be quietly discarded. Its only purpose was to give the right wing something other than Iraq, the deficit, corporate corruption and administration incompetence to talk about. Adjustments to NAFTA and the trade rules that have cut the incomes of the poorest Mexicans in half are a practical route to slowing migration north. But don't expect that to happen anytime soon.
As we go forward, progressive influence will be determined on how well we frame the issues and set the agenda around the economy, environment, social security and health care, development, of developing nations, and interaction with the international community.

After the election, the question will be, "What next?" Calm competence will be the order of the day. A Democratic win will be only the first step in the campaign to take the country back.

A media rant

If you're understandably a little confused, and even angry, about how the media is now behaving in an irrational manner, as usual Atrios sums it up nicely:
The longer version is that the entire Washington press corps has, since Clinton, been fellating the Republican power structure. The great thing about the Republican power structure is that it doesn't go away, it just sets up shop in DC office buildings and continues its symbiotic relationship with conservative lickspittles like Mark Halperin, Andrea Mitchell, John Solomon, Steno Sue Schmidt, Gwen Ifill, Karen Tumulty, and the rest of the gang of 500 wankers. It's a structural issue which will not go away no matter how many Democrats win elections. It's how this generation of journalists, if we generously call them that, was trained. It's in their genetic code.
You can be forgiven, loyal reader, for not understanding why the media, a week from the midterms, suddenly decides to focus on placating conservatives.

Basically it's fear.

Conservatives are going to scream even louder than usual starting on Nov. 8 that they would have done better if not for "the MSM." And they will keep that screaming up until 2008. So the media will, as usual, search out any and all minor gaffes, errors and ginned-up outrages to show media "balance."

It really is quite peculiar. Some kind of weird Stockholm syndrome combined with massive insecurity I guess. The focus on minutiae is truly astounding. We lost over 100 troops in October, who in their right mind is focusing on possible copyright law violations as a flipping serious campaign issue?

Do you hear much talk in the media that Bush should apologize? Of course not, because questioning the Preznit would bring down another cavalcade of noise machine attacks that the media would dearly love to avoid. Inside every reporter must lurk the secret fear that they might become the next target.

There's a hint and maybe then some of violence in the air, after all. Maybe it's best to throw the neo-cons and theocrats a few bones.

Of course, the real news of the day is that we are so screwed in Iraq that it's not even funny. But somehow finding a soldier takes a back seat to attacking John Kerry. Kerry is thankfully fighting back.

Support the troops indeed.

Election Day Points to Ponder

In the spirit of the old Bill Nye segment, Consider The Following, here are a few morsels to chew on as you tend to your ballot:
  • If you're considering I-933, consider this: It originated in a rich New York libertarian's head. According to the AP, Howard Rich is a real estate investor, a board member of the Cato Institute and a member of the Club for Growth. Think of a national version of Tim Eyman. A Grover Norquist clone. He wants to limit government and cut taxes, consequences be damned. Along with I-933, he's sponsored or driven similar initiatives in 14 states this year. Washington State conservatives - you're being played. Again.
  • If you're considering a change at the state Supreme Court level, consider this: We already have enough Republican partisan hacks on federal benches. We don't need another one representing our state. Keep Susan Owens. Reject Stephen Johnson. His stance on abortion and his conservative leanings are alone enough to disqualify him. The BIAW and big businesses know they'd have a ringer on the bench in property rights cases—look at how much money they've thrown at judicial races this year.
  • If you're considering teaching Maria Cantwell a lesson, please wait. Yup, I've scratched my head over a few of her votes, too, but she's done great things for the environment, and she successfully stood up to the Enron cartel while Republicans looked the other way. If progressives have any hope of reclaiming our democracy from theocratic corporatists, we will need every last Dem we can find. Vote Cantwell.
  • If you're considering I-920, consider this: Odds are, it won't affect you. TicketMaster doesn't tack on a surcharge to gain entrance to the Pearly Gates, and there is no winnings fee as you attain Nirvana. Death tax is an inaccurate but emotionally charged phrase designed to stir outrage in conservatives. Yes, they're being played. Again.
  • If you're considering Dave Reichert, consider this: He does what W tells him to. Newsflash, Dave: You're supposed to represent your constituents, not your deranged puppeteers in DC. If you want a responsible, responsive voice in the 8th District, vote for Darcy Burner. You deserve better than a cagey yes-man.
  • If you're considering ANY Republican this year, consider the following: Katrina, Foley, Cunningham, DeLay, Ney, Abramoff, Weldon, “stay the course,” Halliburton, body armor, Haditha, 103 US Military deaths in October, Scooter Libby, Jeff Gannon, waterboarding, “no-brainer,” Military Commissions Act, torture as policy, a PR arm for the Pentagon, Rush Limbaugh on Michael J. Fox, Rush Limbaugh on Abu Ghraib, WMD, “freedom is on the march,” the Taliban, Iraq Civil War, NSA wiretapping, habaeus corpus, posse comitatus, missing armaments in Iraq, missing 7 billion dollars in Iraq, “cut and run,” “I'm the Decider,” Donald Rumsfeld still has his job, “Brownie, you're doin' a heckuva job,” election fraud, Kenneth Blackwell, no-bid contracts...
Our complete endorsements are available here.

McGavick pulling ads in Seattle

Make of it what you will, but Mike McGavick is cutting back television ads in Seattle. From The Seattle Times:
Republican Mike McGavick canceled political ads at three Seattle television stations Tuesday.

While often a signal of a campaign in trouble, McGavick's spokesman, Elliott Bundy, said the change of course was needed to target money toward direct-mail and voter-turnout operations.

"You make these decisions as you move along," Bundy said. "There's nothing to read into that."
You can go read the article for the exact amounts cancelled by McGavick. Suffice it to say that pulling ads this late is a sure sign of a campaign in the dumper.

The McGavick campaign will probably dream up a last desperate stunt or two, but he's not running against John Kerry, he's running against Maria Cantwell. And so far McGavick has failed to offer voters much reason to make a change.

Poll Watch: KING-TV SUSA poll has Reichert with narrow lead

KING-TV in Seattle has released the latest results of polling done in WA-08 by SurveyUSA.

The interesting thing is that Burner appears to be winning among those who have already voted. (from SUSA-formatting altered by us for readability and emphasis.)
Republican Reichert Hangs On In WA8, But Early Voting Favors Burner:

In an election in Washington's 8th Congressional District today, 10/31/06, Republican incumbent Dave Reichert appears to edge Democrat Darcy Burner, 51% to 45%, according to a SurveyUSA poll conducted exclusively for KING-TV Seattle.

Compared to an identical SurveyUSA KING-TV poll released 10/18/06, Reichert has gained 1 point and Burner has lost 2 points. Reichert had led by 3, now leads by 6.

But: 25% of those judged to be "likely" voters in WA8 have already voted, and among those who have already voted, the Democrat Burner is up by 8 points.

Reichert leads by 11 points among those who have not yet voted but who tell SurveyUSA they are "absolutely certain" to vote.

If Reichert succeeds at getting his supporters to mail ballots or go to the polls, he wins. If the Republican Get-Out-The-Vote operation falters, Burner is within striking distance.

Reichert leads by 9 points among men and by 3 points among women. Reichert gets 91% of Republican votes. Burner gets 83% of Democrat votes. Independents favor Reichert 5:4. Those who approve of President George W. Bush's performance in office support Reichert, 98% to 2%. Those who disapprove of Bush support Burner, 73% to 22%. President Bush's Job Approval, among likely voters in Washington's 8th Congressional District, is 36%. Reichert was first elected to Congresss in 2004.
I'm not a huge poll watcher, but it's always interesting to get a snapshot this close to the election. When you consider that Burner was up by two in the Majority Watch poll released Monday, one has to conclude this race is a toss up. In fact, Washington Post gurus Dan Balz and Chris Cillizza have WA-08 listed that way.

Traditionallly, races tighten near the end as voters start to consider whether to "sign" with one candidate or another in their own minds. That seems to be happening in this case. It's not worth over-analyzing anyhow. The bottom line is....this is a dead heat. There's no guaranteed outcome.

Barring a big media score one way or the other, nothing really matters now except turnout. Please volunteer - this thing is going down to the wire.