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June 14, 2005

More on our two senators

By Jim Dallas

SurveyUSA has polls. Hutchison is among the nation's most popular senators with a 64-26 percent approval spread; Cornyn's approval remains in the abyss, at 40-36. That's actually a lower raw approval rating than Rick Santorum in Pennsylvania (although Sticky Rick's 45-44 spread is technically worse).

Could Cornyn be vulnerable to a strong challenge in 2008? Redistricted Congresspersons, I'm looking at YOU.

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Hutchison added as a cosponsor to the anti-lynching resolution

By Jim Dallas

I had no idea that Senators could sign on as cosponsors after the fact, but Senator Hutchison has. The resolution passed last night by unanimous consent; as Kos explained, technically nobody voted against it. Which is good.

Senator Cornyn, however, remains on the Wall of Shame.

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June 13, 2005

Jackson acquitted of all charges

By Jim Dallas

Our long national nightmare is over. Back to missing white females and shark attacks!


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June 11, 2005

Take My Retirement -- Please!

By Jim Dallas

Kevin Drum has an insightful post on the political reality of raising the Social Security retirement age.

You know, as an eager young goof-trooper, it's easy to say "aww, shucks, sure, I'll work until I'm seventy." Work, when your'e 23, is pretty cool stuff. It's what sets you apart from your younger friends, and it helps buy cool stuff (like food and rent).

Though, now that I think about it, I may really feel differently about this in forty years. So I suppose Old Man Drum is correct.

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June 08, 2005

Cornyn for Supreme Court?

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

Coming out of right field (because there is little that is left about John Cornyn) is this story that Texas Senator John Cornyn is simply "flattered" that people think he's make a good nominee for Supreme Court Justice.

Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, is flattered to be mentioned as a possible Supreme Court candidate and would consider the job if it were offered.

"You can never rule out something like that, but it is not something he is looking for or something he has asked for," spokesman Don Stewart said.

Stewart said Cornyn, a former Texas Supreme Court justice and state attorney general, likely will run for re-election in 2008.

The White House has kept quiet on its choices for the Supreme Court, which will have a vacancy if ailing Chief Justice William Rehnquist steps down. The short list often includes J. Michael Luttig, a Texan on the Richmond, Va.-based 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, another former Texas justice.

Among the Texans thought to be in a second tier of possible candidates are Cornyn and U.S. District Judge Ricardo Hinojosa.

Of course, picking a sitting Senator (slightly better than picking your nose) helps Bush's chances of getting his nominee through, gasp, the Senate Judiciary Committee which Cornyn, gasp, is a member of! Then again, picking Cornyn means that Governor "Don't you dare run against me" Perry would get to anoint appoint a replacement. And that little issue makes this story particularly juicy, as if the Texas Republican "which office should I run for" dance wasn't complicated enough.

Maybe KBH could become Governor, and then appoint herself back to the Senate if she realized it wasn't all that it's cracked up to be. At which point Perry could battle off Strayhorn in a special election for Guv. Oh, the possibilities are endless...

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Katherine Harris to run for FL Senate

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

Don't say you didn't see it coming, but the infamous Florida Bean counter responsible for being a major pain in the punch card is running for the Republican nomination for Florica Senate against incumbant first term Dem, Bill Nelson.

She would likely be a favorite to win the nomination, but of course, there are many Republicans that feel she may be a weaker polarizing choice against Nelson. But if she led the Republican ticket, it would be sure to galvanize the Florida Democrats who don't have much to be all that cheery about these days. Wait and see...

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June 02, 2005

The Dots Are Now Connected

By Andrew Dobbs

One of the big questions I've had during all the DeLay scandals was how long it would take to finally reach George W. Bush.

Wait no longer.

The Texas Observer is reporting that criminal lobbyist, DeLay crony and Bush "Pioneer" Jack Abramoff strong armed the Coushatta Indian Tribe (the same tribe he bilked for $82 million) into donating $25,000 to Grover Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform in return for a private meeting with Bush. Abramoff also got the tribe to donate $1 million at the same time to a nonprofit started by the lobbyist. Essentially, Grover Norquist used his corrupt friend Abramoff to turn the White House into a pay-for-play amusement park. Whether Bush knew about the situation or not is still up in the air, but there seems to be no denying that he was the bait for an elaborate scheme to fish for campaign cash.

From the Observer:

Four months after he took the oath of office in 2001, President George W. Bush was the attraction, and the White House the venue, for a fundraiser organized by the alleged perpetrator of the largest billing fraud in the history of corporate lobbying. (...) Abramoff was so closely tied to the Bush Administration that he could, and did, charge two of his clients $25,000 for a White House lunch date and a meeting with the President. From the same two clients he took to the White House in May 2001, Abramoff also obtained $2.5 million in contributions for a non-profit foundation he and his wife operated.

Abramoff’s White House guests were the chiefs of two of the six casino-rich Indian tribes he and his partner Mike Scanlon ultimately billed $82 million for services tribal leaders now claim were never performed or were improperly performed. Together the six tribes would make $10 million in political contributions, at Abramoff’s direction, almost all of it to Republican campaigns of his choosing. (...)

According to a source close to the tribal majority, Chairman Poncho recently “revisited that issue” of his visit to the White House. He had previously denied it because he thought he was responding to press inquiries that implied he had a one-on-one meeting with Bush. He now recalls that he in fact did go to the White House on May 9, 2001. Tribal attorney Kathryn Fowler Van Hoof went with him, although she did not get into the meeting with the President. That meeting lasted for about 15 minutes and was not a one-on-one meeting. At the meeting, Bush made some general comments about Indian policy but did not discuss Indian gaming. Abramoff was at the meeting—for which he charged the Coushatta Tribe $25,000. The change in Poncho’s position is odd in light of the fact that he and his spokespersons have maintained for more than a year that he did not meet with President Bush in May 2001.

Norquist has not responded to inquiries about using the White House as a fundraiser. It is, however, a regular ATR practice to invite state legislators and tribal leaders who have supported ATR anti-tax initiatives to the White House for a personal thank-you from the President. A source at ATR said no money is ever accepted from participants in these events. The $25,000 check from the Coushattas suggests that, at least in this instance, Norquist’s organization made an exception. The $75,000 collected from the Mississippi Choctaws and two corporate sponsors mentioned in Abramoff’s e-mail suggests there were other exceptions. Norquist recently wrote to the tribes who paid to attend White House meetings. His story regarding that event is also evolving. The contributions, he told tribal leaders in letters that went out in May, were in no way related to any White House event. That doesn’t square with the paper trail Abramoff and Norquist left behind, which makes it evident that they were selling access to the President.

The White House press office has not responded to our questions about other visits Jack Abramoff might have made to the White House or about Norquist using the official residence of the President to raise funds for Americans for Tax Reform. None of the political contributions Abramoff insisted the tribes make as yet have been returned.

Either President Bush is a dupe who didn't realize that his political allies were using him and abusing the White House in order to make money for themselves, or he has put the "people's house" up for the highest bidder. Either way, this scandal dwarfs any of the nonsense the GOP crowed about all during the Clinton years.

Bush needs to answer some questions, and Abramoff needs to go to jail.

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May 31, 2005

Deep Throat Revealed!

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

It's W. Mark Felt. We think. Maybe. For now.

Update: It's him, WaPo and W&B confim it. Read.

Previously.... Most news outlets are putting it somewhere between top news story to something a couple notches down. The main reason being it is Mr. Felt that has said it is him, rather than the Washington Post or Woodward and Berstein. From the MSNBC story..

In 2003, Woodward and Bernstein reached an agreement to keep their Watergate papers at the University of Texas at Austin.

At the time, the pair said documents naming “Deep Throat” would be kept secure at an undisclosed location in Washington until the source’s death.

Bernstein issued a statement neither denying nor confirming Felt's claim. Bernstein stated he and Woodward would be keeping their pledge to reveal the source only once that person dies.

The Washington Post had no immediate comment on the report.

Who was the real Deep Throat was long a source of speculation and rumor.

Among those named over the years as Deep Throat were Assistant Attorney General Henry Peterson, deputy White House counsel Fred Fielding, and even ABC newswoman Diane Sawyer, who then worked in the White House press office. Ron Zeigler, Nixon’s press secretary, White House aide Steven Bull, speechwriters Ray Price and Pat Buchanan, and John Dean, the White House counsel who warned Nixon of “a cancer growing on the presidency,” also were considered candidates.

And some theorized Deep Throat wasn’t a single source at all but a composite figure.

The last time there was a flurry of focus on Felt was in 1999, when a high school senior in New York claimed that Bernstein's son let the secret slip at a summer camp.

At the time, Felt denied he was the man.

“I would have done better,” Felt told The Hartford Courant. “I would have been more effective. Deep Throat didn’t exactly bring the White House crashing down, did he?”

So is it him? Is this the finale, or do we have to wait a few more years once again? Your thoughts?

Posted at 03:44 PM to National Politics | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

May 28, 2005

Justifying Abortion

By Jim Dallas

Nathan Newman has a post on the rhetoric of abortion which ought to provoke considerable thought about the first principles of the pro-choice movement.

As an aside, the "pro-choice" moniker was adopted in large part to put the focus on the libertarian rhetoric Newman criticizes. So I think there's very little doubt that Newman has at least correctly identified the dominant mode of anti-prohibitionist rhetoric, viz., that abortion is not good, but criminalization is and would be bad (or worse). Newman cites Howard Dean's statement last Sunday as Exhibit A:

I don't know anybody who thinks abortion is a good thing. I don't know anybody in either party who is pro-abortion. The issue is not whether we think abortion is a good thing. The issue is whether a woman has a right to make up her own mind about her health care

For what it's worth, I'm going to make a few remarks defending the libertarian perspective against Newman's critique.

First, I take issue at Newman's claim that the pro-choice perspective is amoral:

Abortion is not just some individual decision with no effects on broader society. That kind of rhetoric is a copout that is unconvincing. Allowing abortion is critical to equality for women and whether unwanted children are forced on parents is bound to have effects not just on those families but on our communities. Most abortion rights activists have not been libertarians who thought individual choices have no effect on broader society, but people who thought the availability of abortion causes profound and needed changes in that broader society: increasing women's ability to participate equally in the workplace, changing power relations between men and women within the family, and encouraging family planning so that children were wanted and not abused.

This is not to say that abortion does not raise moral dilemmas or should be encouraged indiscriminately, but those in favor of abortion rights have to argue that, overall, we have a better society because abortion is legal than if abortion was criminalized.

Abortion politics should not be a choice between moral injunctions from the rightwing and amoral libertarian platitudes from the pro-choice side. It should be a choice between two visions of creating a good society, with progressives arguing that their vision is the more profoundingly just and moral alternative.

I'd argue in response that there is a strong moral position in defending the autonomy and dignity of women, and that is precisely what the "amoral libetarian platitudes" of the keep-your-laws-off-my-body crowd amount to. Indeed, I'd argue that such strong claims are necessary to respond to the equally moralistic injunctions of the save-the-zygotes posse. When the other side is comparing you to Hitler and claiming that abortion is the worst moral crisis since slavery and the Holocaust, you really can't respond with blunt utilitarian claims about crime and the economy.

Of course, it would be unfair of me to characterize Newman's critique as being only that; clearly, Nathan Newman does have profound respect for womens' rights and their equal participation in society.

Let me draw an analogy. I was having a discussion with another law student yesterday about the death penalty, which she opposes strongly and I am, at best, lukewarm about (more against than for, but definitely mixed). In this discussion, she pointed to the well-documented disproporitionately large number of black men on death row and the inherent racism which can, and should, be logically inferred from this.

My argument, however, was that disparate impact is, quite frankly, a "racism problem", not a capital punishment problem per se.

Here's the analogy - if women need abortions to be equal in society, then I'd suggest we've got a much bigger sexism problem to deal with. Now, I suppose it could be argued that this isn't comparable - women have a monopoly on the baby business, and certainly there is considerable strain placed on women individually and as a class because of this. That said, I am still not convinced that abortion is the "great equalizer", and even if it were that this would be a per se justification for legal abortion by itself.

The libertarian position, however, affords an opportunity to subtly shoe-horn these concerns into an argument without really claiming they make all abortions A-OK. That is, in discussing personal autonomy, the issue of compassion towards women generally has to be discussed. The right-wing groups like Focus on the Fetus, err, Family has spent years attempting to humanize a clump of cells and dehumanize adult women as criminals.

A final issue I'd like to address is the issue of selectivity. The libertarian position, of course, does not claim that abortion is a "good thing." But that is not the same as claiming that all abortions are unjustified. Indeed, when Newman asks, "if abortion is never a good thing, then why should anyone have the option to have one," he is touching on this, albeit in a way which misses the subtle distinction between characterizing abortion generally and some abortions specifically.

For example, "war" is not a good thing and very few people hanker for Four More Wars. Yet, almost everybody aside from a few absolute-pacifists can think of a war that was worth fighting.

Certainly, conceding ground in cases where abortions are not justified but merely rationalized on some abstract principle is not exactly a good opening move. But in the larger picture, it may be a better way to piece together a pro-choice majority than trying to argue abortion is not a sin needing justification whatsoever.

At the very least, I think what Newman is proposing is a very long-term project, moving public opinion at a glacial pace. Given the fact that pro-criminalization politicians and activist-judicial nominees stand ready to crush reproductive rights at virtually any moment, I'm not sure it's a practical proposal.

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May 25, 2005

"Killing Nine Lives to Create One"

By Byron LaMasters

It's nice to see a pro-life Democrat point out the sheer lunacy and hypocrisy of the arguments of those who oppose embryonic stem cell research. Since half of embryos of potential "snowflake babies" do not survive the "thawing" process, a consistent pro-lifer would argue that such process constituted "destruction of a human life in order to save a human life". Hmmm... that sounds familiar.

For pro-lifers conflicted on embryonic stem cell research, read this post on Greg's Opinion.

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May 24, 2005

Forcing the Veto on Stem Cell Research

By Byron LaMasters

Good news from the U.S. House:

Ignoring President Bush's veto threat, the House voted Tuesday to loosen limits on embryonic stem cell research, approving a measure supporters said could speed cures for diseases but opponents viewed as akin to abortion.

Bush called the bill a mistake and said he would veto it. The House approved it by a 238-194 vote, well short of the two-thirds majority that would be needed to override a veto.

The bill has the votes in the senate, and when it passes the senate, the bill will force a veto. It's a shame that countries like South Korea will be taking the lead on the issue of embryonic stem cell research, but hopefully other states will follow California's lead in instituting broad statewide programs.

However, forcing Bush to veto a bill that would not save a single life will allow the America public see how Bush is beholden to the interests of the pro-life absolutist / theocratic wing of the Republican party over the bipartisan pro-science and research majority in Congress. The bill would only use embryonic stem cell lines that would be thrown out anyways, will force Bush to veto a popular issue and hopefully see his approval ratings drop further. Any bets on when he will dip below 40%?

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May 23, 2005

On the Filibuster Compromise

By Byron LaMasters

While I don't like the compromise, it was probably the second best solution for Democrats (with the best solution being a defeat of the proposed rule, but from what I've read - Reid only had 49 or at best 50 votes, so Frist would have won).

My guess is that Reid signed off on this at the last minute, and then prepared to declare victory. I'm disappointed that three right-wing activist judges will be confirmed, but most importantly, senate tradition has been preserved, and that Democrats will have the option of filibustering a radical Supreme Court appointment. In addition, two more right-wing judges will either be defeated or withdrawn. Furthermore, this is a huge defeat for Bill Frist. He's already an anathema to Democrats of all stripes, and now the far-right James Dobson / theocrat wing of the Republican Party are hyperventilating over Frist's failure to unite the GOP caucus.

Reid's statement is great:

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D.-Nev.) released the following statement Monday after 14 senators struck a deal to avert the nuclear option and allow votes on certain judicial nominees.

“There is good news for every American in this agreement. The so-called 'nuclear option' is off the table. This is a significant victory for our country, for democracy, and for all Americans. Checks and balances in our government have been preserved.

“The integrity of future Supreme Courts has been protected from the undue influences of a vocal, radical faction of the right that is completely out of step with mainstream America. That was the intent of the Republican 'nuclear option' from the beginning. Tonight, the Senate has worked its will on behalf of reason, responsibility and the greater good.

“Abuse of power will not be tolerated, and attempts to trample the Constitution and grab absolute control are over. We are a separate and equal branch of government. That is our Founding Fathers’ vision, and one we hold dear.

“I offered Senator Frist several options similar to this compromise, and while he was not able to agree, I am pleased that some responsible Republicans and my colleagues were able to put aside their differences and work from the center. I do not support several of the judges that have been agreed to because their views and records display judicial activism that jeopardize individual rights and freedoms. But other troublesome nominees have been turned down. And, most importantly, the U.S. Senate retains the checks and balances to ensure all voices are heard in our democracy.

“I am grateful to my colleagues who worked so hard to achieve this agreement. I am hopeful that we can quickly turn to work on the people’s business. We need to ensure our troops have the resources they need to fight in Iraq and that Americans are free from terrorism. We need to protect retiree’s pensions and long-term retirement security. We need to expand health care opportunities for all families. We need to address rising gasoline prices and energy independence. And we need to restore fiscal responsibility and rebuild our economy so that it lifts up all American workers. That is our reform agenda, the people’s reform agenda. Together, we can get the job done.”

The full text of the agreement is here.

Posted at 10:09 PM to National Politics | Permalink | Comments (14) | TrackBack

Y'all Just Don't Get It

By Andrew Dobbs

Late last week I took on NARAL for their endorsement of Republican Senator Lincoln Chaffee in Rhode Island. Unfortunately, many people have no knowledge of what is going on there and declined to read my post terribly closely, so I need to respond to the criticisms here.

There are NO pro-life Democrats in this race. The only two Democrats running-- Matt Brown and Sheldon Whitehouse-- are both pro-abortion rights. Jim Langevin was considering the race, but dropped out when NARAL started gathering support for Brown in particular, but pro-abortion rights Democrats in general. So NARAL didn't stake out their independent position on their single issue by supporting a pro-abortion rights Republican over a pro-life Democrat, they supported a pro-abortion rights Republican over not one, but two abortion rights Democrats.

That is my problem. I don't expect NARAL, or the Sierra Club or the NAACP or any other left-liberal single issue organization to support Democrats universally-- they are independent of our party. Republicans likewise do not expect the NRA or the Chamber of Commerce to support them just because they are Republicans. But when there is an issue where the parties are dramatically opposed, it makes no sense to support a candidate who supports a minority view within his party when he'll simply turn around and vote for leadership opposed to that cause. NARAL's endorsement of Chaffee will go a long way to helping him defeat his pro-choice opponent, and thus usher in pro-life leadership in the Senate. If they had any political sense they would have waited for the Democratic primary and then supported the Democrat. But they screwed themselves over and stabbed the only party that cares about their issue in the back. It was an idiotic move on their part.

In PA, I expect NARAL to issue a "no endorsement." If the race in Texas is Kay Bailey Hutchison versus a pro-life Democrat (say, Charlie Stenholm, who is not expected to run), I would expect them to endorse KBH. Come to think of it, they can totally make this up if they very publicly endorse KBH in the GOP primary. Are you listening, NARAL? You do that, the GOP nominates the roundly disliked Perry for governor and we beat him in November. Now THAT would be good politics.

Posted at 04:17 PM to National Politics | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Judges, Filibusters and Conservativism

By Andrew Dobbs

It is very likely that May 24, 2005 will be a day that future generations of Americans will read about in their history classes (assuming they still teach history at that point, an increasingly unlikely prospect). The passage in their textbook will begin with the battle over the filibuster, saying that in from the 1910s to the 1970s opposition to the filibuster was a liberal litmus test. Liberals, a majority of the Congress from the 1930s until the 1970s, saw the act as a way that the Senate's right-wing, often anti-civil rights minority kept socially progressive bills from getting an "up-or-down vote." It will then say that with the divisions of power that began in the 1970s and continued until the 1990s the filibuster became less important and less of an issue for both sides. This consensus ruled until an absolute Republican majority came into power in 2003 and was strengthened by George W. Bush's reelection in 2004 and the minority Democrats (since the 1970s, realigned as an almost exclusively liberal party) began using the process to block judicial nominations to appeals courts. Republicans began threatening to end the practice, and on May 24, 2005 launched what had been termed the "nuclear option"-- the barring of the filibuster for judicial nominees. After Bush had all of his nominees to appeals courts approved on slim up or down votes, Republicans and others began wondering why the process would be needed at all, even for legislative priorities. In 2006, as minority Democrats began resisting Social Security privatization and regressive tax reforms, Republicans managed to end the filibuster for legislation thus ending the Senate's traditional role as a moderating force on the more reactionary elements of the House.

This is a tragedy, and a confusing development as well. The filibuster is a fundamentally conservative institution. The founders of the Senate and its reformers who helped to codify the current filibuster rule in the early part of the 20th century were fearful of government power. They knew that the natural instinct of humanity was towards self-interest and grasps for power and wealth, politicians being the worst culprits in this regard. Thus they divided the powers of government into three coequal branches with checks on one another's power. Still, they knew that the legislative branch was the most likely to become a hotbed of popular passion; close to the people, it could easily be consumed by mob rule. In order to quiet the passions of the heedless masses they divided the legislative branch into two chambers-- a House that would be directly elected and proportioned by population (and thus more susceptible to passionate masses) and a Senate that would be appointed by legislatures, two from each state, and far more deliberative. When establishing the rules of the Senate, the body's founders-- 10 of whom had been delegates to the Constitutional Convention, 4 of whom had signed the Declaration of Independence, including such luminaries as Rufus King, Richard Henry Lee, James Monroe and Samuel Johnston-- developed the idea of unlimited debate. Any member could continue debate indefinitely, thus allowing the body to easily thwart offensive or extreme pieces of legislation. The filibuster required legislation to be mainstream-- if a significant number of Senators were seriously opposed to a measure, it would be blocked. This process kept government power in check for generations, and is part and parcel of the founders' ideals of limited and divided government.

But now the conservatives want to get rid of an institution that promotes classically conservative values. The whole scenario seems odd until you consider the the recent history of American conservativism. American conservativism is a peculiar movement, in that it is essentially the morphing of two diametrically opposed traditions that almost everywhere else in the world form opposite sides of the political divide. Conservativism in the US is essentially the marriage of classical liberalism (which in Europe and elsewhere usually led to the formation of a Liberal Party) and traditionalism (which typically meant a Conservative Party that defended the church, the aristocracy and the crown abroad). The two have managed to work out a nice compact, wherein American conservatives recognize that virtue is the highest public good, but that virtue based on coercion is morally bankrupt. Therefore conservatives enforce strict political liberty and promote traditional values. The process has created a powerful political movement and a series of great leaders-- from Alexander Hamilton and John Calhoun until Robert Taft and Barry Goldwater.

But now the movement is in trouble. Since the late 1970s the traditionalist element of American conservativism has been ascendent. Where the two elements once provided a check on one another (traditionalism trumping the libertinism inherent in lassiez-faire thought, liberalism defeating the paternalistic impulses of traditionslists), the creeping moralism of traditionalists has spread further with each election. With the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 the one thing that kept either side from trying too hard to grasp ultimate power-- the united front against communism abroad and leftism at home-- was interrupted. The moralists now had an opportunity to grasp the whole movement for themselves, and the beginning of the War on Terror in 2001 now created a new struggle based not so much on economics and politics (as was the battle against Communism), but rather religion. It became clear that religosity would now be a litmus test of conservativism. Essentially, the libertarian elements of conservativism are being choked off, creating America's first classically conservative party. No more are they interested in checking government power, but rather in promoting traditional social establishment-- the maintenance of class order, the expansion of federal power, the establisment of quasi-official religion and restrictions of discourse in the name of traditional ways of life. As the libertarian-right is further marginalized, the liberal movement in the US is reacting to the movement on the right. Now Democrats have become a traditionally liberal party-- promoting social experimentation, greater autonomy and political involvement and secularism. The divide now defines American politics.

Right wing movements abroad, which have always been predominantly traditionalist, have typically depended on the courts for the promotion of their policy. Iran provides one example (before Republicans start screaming, I'm not comparing the GOP to Iranian Islamists, just saying that Republicans belong on a significantly less extreme part of the traditionalist political spectrum), Francoist Spain another. The lifetime appointments and absolute authority of the courts harken to a more aristocratic and royalist past. Executive authority is of course another element of traditionally conservative government. The end of the judicial filibuster is simply the Senate prostrating itself in front of the power of a mighty executive-- the President-- in his quest to create a traditionalist consensus on our nation's highest courts. The Senate has a plurality of traditionalists, led by Bill Frist, that are moving in this direction even if they don't realize it. The Democrats make up the opposition liberals and a small number of typically American conservative Republicans in the mold of Goldwater and Taft (John McCain, Chuck Hagel, John Warner) make up the third element. Whether the American conservatives decide to listen to the liberal aspects of their philosophy or the traditionalist aspects of it remains to be seen, but their decision will swing tomorrow's action.

With all of this talk of the Senate and larger political movements, it must be remembered that Bush himself is simply doing what Presidents used to do, but have been to timid to do in the face of an increasingly powerful Congress over the course of the last 20-30 years-- appointing daring jurists who stand boldly for the president's ideology. The Supreme Court is a sad example of the timidity of both parties, but particularly Democrats, over the last two decades in the realm of court appointments. Where is the Oliver Wendell Holmes, the Earl Warren, the William O. Douglas or Abe Fortas? The best jurist on the court, despite my personal disagreements with his philosophy, is undeniably Antonin Scalia. If you reflexively disagree with me, I would challenge you to read his opinions (or even better, his dissents). They are magnificently written, tightly reasoned (from a philosophical position, originalism, that I tend to be skeptical of) and intellectually stimulating. They seek to lay down a broad vision of the constitution and a general philosophy of government. While Rhenquist and his compatriots find ways to narrow the streams of thought trickling down from the Court, Scalia seeks to flood the traditions of American government with a downpour of constitutional thought. Yet at one point the Court was full of men like Scalia (and as of yet they have all been men as O'Connor lacks the force and vision, while Ginsburg is closer, but still no cigar), particularly on the liberal side of the equation. Democrats have been gunshy of Congressional approval though, and Clinton chose to nominate bland and short-sighted, if technically qualified candidates. Reagan and Bush I made the same mistakes, though Reagan did nominate Bork and Scalia (both brilliant men that I disagree with) and Bush thought he would be doing well with Thomas, who simply lacks the intellectual power of Scalia. Bush seeks to remake American jurisprudence by putting brilliant, visionary, ideologically serious candidates on the Court. Democrats should do the same thing when they get the opportunity.

In the end, this is a tale of an ongoing tectonic shift in American politics. Party realignment has made dramatic shifts from the mid 1780s until the early 1800s, from the 1820s until the late 1850s, from 1890s until the 1920s and from the 1960s until the 1980s. We are now in the beginning of the latest restructuring, and this realignment has the curious result of taking American politics into a structure that looks remarkably like 19th century European or early 20th century Latin American politics. A nationalist, traditionalist, elitist, classically conservative party is emerging from the ashes of a long-standing conservative consensus; an internationalist, experimental, secular, liberal party has risen from the wreckage of a populist-progressive coalition. The debate is no longer whether government should be expanded or not, but rather if it should be used to strengthen the traditional bastions of the powerful, or to radically rearrange the structure of our society. Both are worrisome, and if May 24, 2005 goes down in history as it appears it will, it will be too late to unring the bell that tolls for the American way of life.

Posted at 02:20 PM to National Politics | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

May 22, 2005

Exile on Main Street

By Jim Dallas

A few days ago, Slate's Timothy Noah wrote an essay denouncing what he perceived to be the new happy-to-be-exiled Democratic Party:

What's shocking about this new Democratic enthusiasm for retreat is that it is being expressed not on narrow special-interest issues, but on broad issues affecting the entire Democratic constituency: regaining a Senate majority, redistributing Social Security benefits, democratizing Senate procedures. It might be argued that the Democrats are merely imitating the winning strategy the Republicans used to regain the House in 1994: Spurn the glad-handing incremental victories favored by Newt Gingrich's predecessor as House Republican leader, Bob Michel, and instead propagandize your way to political victory. But congressional Democrats differ from congressional Republicans in three crucial ways. First, the Republicans, in becoming obstructionists, didn't change their positions on the issues, as Democrats are doing. Second, the Democrats haven't been shut out for many decades, as the House Republicans had been when they announced they were fed up with accommodation. The Democrats' obstructionism comes off seeming petulant and unearned. Third, Democrats, unlike Republicans, actually want to achieve something. Governmental paralysis, practically by definition, is agreeable to conservatives, but it's anathema to liberals, at least in the long run. Or rather, it should be.

Frankly, I'm all for enjoying minority status, and I'm not convinced by Noah's attempts to distinguish the 1980s House GOP from the 2005 House Democrats. They seem to be distinctions without a difference, and he doesn't really explain why any of them are really relevant, besides recycling conventional wisdom and, dare I say, GOP talking points.

If Democrats appear clunky playing the role of the blowhard, it's probably because we're not particularly experienced at it. What's missing is the fact that, while the GOP establishment for years remained, well, establishmentarian, the grassroots never quite were, and there was always a cranky-conservative-movement wing of the Congressional caucuses. Even before Goldwater. The difference that matters, I think, is that Democrats aren't very smooth when it comes to watering the grassroots.

Moreover, I think Noah overlooks the many positive aspects of being a blowhard.

Paradoxically, is that presents opportunities to form new proactive coalitions. It's a proven fact that it's easier to unite people by declaring what you're against than by stating what you're for; by bringing strange bedfellows together, oppositionalism should serve as a catalyst for laying out a post-New Deal grand strategy.

Moreover, this presents us with a natural opportunity to ditch principles that aren't working and adopt ones that will. This might seem opportunist or at best philosophically pragmatic, but the thing about pragmatism is that, by definition, it works. When the overlying principle is "no," it makes it a lot easier to re-shuffle the ideological deck while nobody is looking.

If nothing else, minority status ought to force us to get back in touch with real people in real communities. Inevitably, the majority "goes native"; indeed, there's a strong case to be made the GOP majority became captives of institutional interests years ago.

Finally, the blowhard isolates himself from tomorrow's outrage at today's excesses. It's possible, of course, that the GOP really knows what they are doing, and, in fact, we will all look back and praise mightily their righteous words and deeds. That said, such an outcome is highly improbable.

I should note, I think, that all of these rationales are long-term rationales. Being a blowhard is not a means of attaining power in the short-term, because nobody likes a downer. Exile is defensible on one ground and one ground only - that at some point in the future, we're going to stop being in exile. That at some point in the future, we're going to break out of the cocoon of the present and become a beautiful butterfly.

I suppose I would share Noah's concern, then, if I thought that the Blue State blues were terminal; however, insofar as this is a phase we're working through, it can be a very beneficial experience.

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May 21, 2005

Priscilla Owen Rated Worst Justice by the Houston Bar Association

By Byron LaMasters

The Houston Bar Association rated the six (all Republican) Texas Supreme Court Justices (along with many other judges) that have served on the court since July 31, 2004. The Houston Chronicle reports (via Kuff):

The poll, which is completed every two years, asked HBA members to rate judges "outstanding," "acceptable" or "poor" in seven categories, including following the law, demonstrating impartiality, paying attention in court and using attorneys' time efficiently. It also assigned them an overall rating. The poll included federal, state, county and municipal judges.

About 1,200 lawyers, 11 percent of the association's membership, responded to the poll. Most judges were not rated by every attorney participating in the poll because lawyers were asked only to consider judges they have worked with directly.

"It doesn't necessarily mean that a judge is good or bad," said Rocky Robinson, a civil attorney and HBA president. "It is an indication of the attorneys' perceptions of the judges' performance in those categories based on their experience in front of the judges." [...]

Supreme Court of Texas

Judge Outstanding Acceptable Poor
Scott A. Brister (422) 36.9 20.7 42.4
Nathan L. Hecht (327) 40.3 17.4 42.3
Wallace B. Jefferson (270) 53.4 29.7 16.9
Harriet O'Neill (334) 55 30.5 14.5
Priscilla R. Owen (350) 39.5 15.2 45.3
Dale Wainwright (316) 48.7 25.7 25.7

Of the six Texas Supreme Court Justices rated, Priscilla Owen had the highest "poor" rating, and the second lowest "outstanding" rating. Furthermore, Owen has the largest negative difference between respondents ranking her "poor" over "outstanding" with 5.8% more "poor" ratings than "outstanding".

The results are even more telling when the details are examined:


Number of Attorneys Rating This Judge: 350

Question Outstanding Acceptable Poor
Is attentive to oral argument? 45.8 20.3 33.9
Interacts constructively with counsel during oral arguments? 42.6 19.5 37.9
Opinions demonstrate well reasoned, clearly - written disposition of the case based on proper application of the law to the record? 38.4 15.3 46.3
Is impartial and open-minded with respect to determining the legal issues? 34.6 16.6 48.8
Overall rating? 39.5 15.2 45.3

Are these ratings from a non-partisan organization of lawyers who have worked directly with Justice Owen reflective of someone who deserves a promotion? I don't think so...

More at Kuff.

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May 20, 2005

NARAL Screws Self Over, Stabs Dems in the Back

By Andrew Dobbs

Well, it's not every day that you see Kos taking on a liberal activist group like NARAL, but he makes an excellent point in his post today.

Earlier this year it appeared that Rhode Island Congressman Jim Langevin (D) would be running for the US Senate. Langevin, one of Congress' few disabled members (he is a quadripeligic), was leading Rhode Island Republican Lincoln Chaffee by several points and looked to beat him in 2006, adding yet another D to the Senate. But Langevin had one problem-- he is a pro-life Democrat and Chaffee is a pro-abortion rights Republican. What to do? NARAL, the National Abortion Rights Action League, sprang into action and ran Langevin out of the race by getting a bunch of out-of-staters to start raising money for potential primary opponents. Langevin dropped out in favor of two pro-abortion rights Democrats-- Secretary of State Matt Brown and former Congressman Sheldon Whitehouse. Neither are doing as well as Langevin in the statewide polls, but NARAL seemed to get what it wanted, a Democratic nominee who would fight for access to abortion.

Now, as my one-time roommate Ezra Klein points out, NARAL has greeted this opportunity to knock off a Republican by endorsing Lincoln Chaffee for reelection. Chaffee is indeed pro-choice, one of the country's last prominent liberal Republicans, but he is a Republican no less. The first vote he cast this year was for Bill "James Dobson is My Homeboy" Frist as Senate Majority Leader. Langevin's first vote was for Nancy Pelosi as Speaker. It seems as though NARAL could realize that their causes are better served by ANYONE other than Chaffee, and now that they have two Democrats on their side in the race, why wouldn't they wait to support the eventual nominee? It is truly confounding.

As a Democrat, I am angered and as someone who is pro-life I am appalled. Jim Langevin would be a phenomenal Senator, as his record in the House attests to, and would join Bob Casey (assuming he beats Santorum) as a new and exciting pro-life leader in our caucus. While they are unlikely to turn our party pro-life, they would send a clear message to anti-abortion voters who agree with us on other issues that it is okay to vote for us-- we aren't beholden to any special interest. Now NARAL has not only demonstrated to anyone paying attention that our party is hostile to pro-life candidates, but has abandoned us in favor of a Fristian Republican. It's a lose-lose situation for Democrats.

For those who support access to abortion NARAL is still the nation's primary advocate for their cause, but it lost a bit of credibility today. It is time for us to realize that all the petty differences in the world are meaningless-- in a partisan age, partisan politics must be played. Here's hoping Langevin shows them up by reentering the race, winning the nomination and taking out Chaffee (or possibly the right-winger that beats Chaffee in the primary). We need him in the US Senate.

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May 13, 2005

Military Musical Chairs

By Jim Dallas

An old friend brings to my attention that the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) committee has made its recommendations about which bases to close. Looks like the Navy is taking the biggest hit, particularly in Texas.

Ft. Sam Houston in San Antonio is getting bigger, as is Ft. Bliss.

Texas stands to net 9,000 jobs overall; the closures in Corpus Christi and in Ralph Hall's district being offset by units being shifted from other states.

UPDATE: Still, a net gain in jobs does not make up for the many communities which are going to be sorely disrupted by the fifteen base closures scheduled for Texas. The Chris Bell campaign put out a PR to that effect:

The Pentagon today recommended closing a long list of military bases in Texas against zero in Oklahoma, bringing up yet another example of Rick Perry’s failed leadership.

“Texas and Oklahoma have two Republican senators and a congressional delegation dominated by Republicans. What does Oklahoma have that Texas doesn’t have? A Democratic Governor. Maybe we should get one of those,” said Jason Stanford, spokesman for the Chris Bell for Governor Exploratory Committee.

I'm not sure comparing the military presence in Texas to the military presence in Oklahoma is quite fair, but certainly what we got ain't the product of any great success on the part of Governor Perry. On the other hand, the 147th TANG is staying at Ellington Field, and I know Senator Hutchison's been fighting pretty hard for that.

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Nuclear Text Messages

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

So, we keep waiting to know when the Senate goes Nuclear. I'm on the edge of my seat (though maybe I should hide under it to protect me from the fallout).

Sign up with the People for the American Way's text message alert, which will also give you the number of the Senate Offiers to call as soon as the trigger is pulled. That way you can be part of the instant response while the vote is open.

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May 12, 2005

DeLay and Frist: Out of Control

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

It's not often that I pay much attention to DSCC emails, but today's gave noticed to a really powerful ad they've developed. Watch and donate here. I'm impressed to say the least, about ethics of all issues. Can we say campaign theme '06?

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May 10, 2005

Well boys, I reckon this is it -- nukyular combat, toe to toe with the GOP

By Jim Dallas

Word is that Frist is threatening to go nuclear over Patricia Owen this week.

I agree with PandaJesse. Texas Supreme Patricia Owen is really not all that bad compared to, say, California Supreme Janice Rogers Brown. (That's not an endorsement, just a comparison.) I'd almost reckon that Frist's boastings about Judge Owen are almost an intelligent form of bluffing to encourage Senate Democrats to make the compromise.

Though it looks like Fightin' Harry Reid is in no mood to compromise. "Bring it on."

Update: It takes a special class of "bad" to be unfavorably compared to a judge Alberto Gonzales accused of "unconscionable judicial activism." I just cannot stand the thought of Janice Rogers Brown being a federal judge. Whereas Judge Owen has very strong opinions about what the law ought to be, Judge Brown seems to have extremely bizarre interpretations of twentieth century history (or in the words of Kieran Healey, " a heady and unstable mix of libertarian obiter dicta, Randian bromides, culture-war cliches and, um, Procol Harum lyrics. No, really.").

As Daniel Patrick Moynihan said, we're all entitled to our own opinions, but not our own facts. That's where I draw the line between the two nominees.

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May 08, 2005

Meanwhile, in Ohio...

By Jim Dallas

It's often fairly easy to get down on the Texas lege; the number of questionable stunts pulled each and every session seems to be almost innumerable. But looking at the big picture, sometimes you have to hand it to the Ghost of Legislatures Past for putting together some fairly sensible laws.

One lege horror story this year which was frustrating for at least a few of our readers involved a House committee basically shunning a bill to eliminate the statute of limitations for child molestation. In another post, I argued that Texas's statute was already fairly generous to victims (with limitations running ten years after the victim's 18th birthday, which could in theory be as long as 28 years), and hence I was skeptical of abolishing it.

Nonetheless, the idea of abolishing the statute of limitations is a worthy idea that deserves consideration. Several commenters disagreed strongly with my skepticism, and I'd note that at least a few were no idle contrarians, as they've been toiling awfully hard in his pursuit of justice. But, even despite the indefensible shenangins of Reps. Keel, Hodge, et al., the status quo being defended could be a lot worse.

How much worse? Well, try Ohio. According to Joe-in-DC of Americablog, in Ohio limitations run in only two years. Let me repeat that: two years.

That's pretty awful, and you might've guessed that everyone'd be for changing it to a Texas-style law, at the minimum. And indeed, every one says that they are - in principle. As the Toledo Blade story linked to by Americablog Joe, the trouble arises over whether to allow a one-year "look back" window for the filing of civil suits by victims who, previously, had very little recourse:

The Toledo Catholic Diocese is stepping up its efforts to defeat a bill that would rewrite Ohio's statutes of limitations for victims of child sexual abuse.

Bishop Leonard Blair sent a letter to diocesan priests this week stating that Senate Bill 17 "should be of serious concern to all of us," and urged them to contact their state representatives to voice opposition to the legislation.


key provision of S.B. 17, which was passed 31-0 by the Ohio Senate in March, and this week was sent to a House committee, is to extend the statutes of limitation for filing lawsuits over allegations of child sexual abuse.

Ohio law now requires civil suits to be filed within two years after the victim turns 18. The current bill would lengthen the statutes to 20 years after turning 18.

The diocese and the victims' advocacy group SNAP (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests) are in agreement in calling for the statutes to be lengthened to 20 years after reaching adulthood.

Such a change in civil cases would match Ohio statutes for criminal law, which were extended in 1999.

But Bishop Blair and the state's other Catholic bishops strongly oppose an amendment that would set a one-year "look back" period during which victims could file civil suits over abuses that occurred as long as 35 years ago.

Although Ohio Catholics have an interest in wanting to avoid legal battles (and I think Joe in DC is a bit reductionist, unfairly to the Catholics, when he portrays this as merely being about covering up pedophile priest scandals), I think it is just to say that putting much-needed reform on hold for that reason is extremely unfair and unreasonable.

Rep. Terri Hodge's crazy ramblings aside, Texas does not have this problem. We have a decent (although reasonable people can disagree on whether or not it is the best possible) statute of limitations. And at least in theory, we can have a fairly civil discourse about the issue.

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May 06, 2005

Greed, for lack of a better word, is good

By Jim Dallas

The Associated Press does a poll:

Most people say they are not willing to give up some of their promised Social Security benefits to save the poor from having their payments cut.

About 70 percent of people surveyed do believe President Bush's warning that Social Security is running out of money. But most also say they do not like the way the president is handling the issue, according to an AP-Ipsos poll...

The poll, conducted for the Associated Press by Ipsos-Public Affairs, found that 56 percent of respondents are not willing to give up some guaranteed benefits, while 40 percent said they would. Majorities of Democrats, Republicans and independents were opposed to losing any benefits.

"If I were guaranteed that the poor would get what they're supposed to, that would be fine, but I'm not sure they would," said Margaret Normandin, 80, a Democrat from Laconia, N.H.


Celinda Lake, a Democratic pollster, said persuading the middle class to give up benefits is a hard sell.

"The middle class feels like it's barely holding on," she said. "And Social Security is perceived to be the original middle-class support program."


When asked whom they trust more to handle Social Security, 48 percent of respondents said Democrats and 36 percent said Republicans. The president still faces strong opposition to his approach to Social Security, with 60 percent of those surveyed saying they disapprove.

The AP-Ipsos poll of 1,000 adults was taken May 2-4. It has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

Last week, when the President gave his speech, we heard a lot of crowing about how he had finally changed the dynamic and forced the Democrats to choose between faux-progressivity and defending benefits for Republicans, or whatever.

In retrospect, can anyone think that such a claim is anything but ridiculous? It's a false choice, akin to asking middle America whether we'd prefer a kick in the nuts or a lead pipe to the kneecap. It's a false choice because it presumes that any solution must be revenue neutral - even when the entire "surplus" scheme engineered in 1983 came with the implicit promise of higher taxes on the wealthy.

Finally, the claim was and is ridiculous because, even as Americans have worked themselves into a panic over Social Security's solvency at some distant date, trust in President Bush in the immediate present has hit its own crisis point. Telling the American people that he wants to cut their benefits is not exactly the best way to sweeten that pot.

What Democrats must do is attack, because when you scratch the surface, the Republican plan continues to be the destruction of Social Security for the benefit of the rich and powerful. You can spin, but you can't hide.

To the extent that the people's own enlightened (or unenlightened) self-interest encourages people to grasp these key facts, and indeed support universality (in that weird sort of paradoxical Rawlsian way) the more, the better.

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May 04, 2005

Filibuster Frist

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

Princeton University is now around their 200th hour of filibustering at thier incredibly awesome idea, Filibuster Frist. Check out their page, live webcame, and extensive media coverage. If only we had the time here at UT, I'm sure this would have been a project our UDems would have liked to have done as well.

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April 28, 2005

These Men Have A Plan, A Plan to Destroy Social Security...

By Jim Dallas

Bush and DeLay made the front page of the Houston Chronicle together last night. Meanwhile, Brad DeLong gives the Galveston Plan the golden raspberry. As does the H-Chron.

Someone please cut an ad. If you don't I will. And I know how to use Flash now so you all better be scared!

In other news, former Senator (and 2004 Dem VP nominee) John Edwards was in town last night. I missed because I was studying for exams, but I hear it was good!

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April 26, 2005

Heber Taylor on the Galveston Plan

By Jim Dallas

Heber Taylor, Galveston County Daily News managing editor and voice of sweet reasonableness, wrote on Sunday:

As the hometown newspaper, we're sometimes asked what we think of this plan. We're open to changes in Social Security but don't think the Galveston Plan is the best model for change. The plan has two problems.

The first is that it benefits workers at the top of the pay scale more than it benefits those at the bottom. We'll admit that's a hotly contested conclusion. We've followed the debate. We've studied the arguments on both sides.

The conclusions that make the most sense are those drawn from a study conducted by the Government Accounting Office in 1999. In general, the study found that the alternate plan benefited higher-paid employees. The study found that low-income workers would fare better under Social Security.

Obviously, that's a problem that any attempt at reform should avoid.

The peple who most need an adequate guaranteed income are those at the bottom of the pay scale. Any effort to reform Social Security must take that truth as a starting point.

The second problem with the Galveston Plan is that a worker can opt out of the deal. Some county workers have done so. Over the years, we've talked to some who cashed in their chips, bought a new car and started looking for work elsewhere.

What do they have to show for their time with the county? Nothing. No Galveston Plan. No Social Security.

What happens when those workers retire? The burden of caring for them probably will fall back on the public. That burden is one of the things Social Security was designed to alleviate.

If you think about the analogy between Bush's proposal to reform Social Security and the Galveston Plan you'll come to one conclusion. The analogy is awfully superficial.

Bush wants to let workers invest some fraction of their contributions in the stock market. The county's alternate pln invests all of an employee's withholdings and county's contributions into conservative investments such as insurance annuities.

People who are looking at the Galveston Plan in hopes that it will shed light the President's proposal should look elsewhere for illumination.

Nonetheless, if President Bush wants to claim his plan is "like" the Galveston Plan, then I'm more than willing to make him "own it."

P.S. Incidentally, there seems to be a bit of cognitive dissonance about the Galveston Plan. Initially put forward of as proof that a privatized system could work, subsequent criticism has resulted in other privatizers backing off the claim and, indeed, blaming the "liberal media" for even suggesting the analogy. Did Dubya get the memo? Apparently not. He's not getting many of the memos these days.

(Also, George, we're putting the coversheets on all TPS reports. Did you get the memo about this? If you could just go ahead and make sure you do that from now on, that would be great. Uh, I'll go ahead and make sure you get another copy of that memo, ok?)

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April 24, 2005


By Karl-Thomas Musselman

From Washington Whispers for all of those interesting in the head of our Party...

Let's just state the obvious: New Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean is no Terry McAuliffe . Where the flashy former Clinton fundraiser was a gregarious ringmaster accustomed to the bling-bling of the highest non-publicly elected Democratic job around, Dean is almost a seminarian in his approach to the post. And, oddly, his style seems to fit with the party's bid to build its blue-collar base--just as McAuliffe's meshed with the DNC's need to raise gobs of money and go high tech.

What's so different? McAuliffe would limo around town, dropping in at the Palm to huddle with Washington big shots. The 2004 presidential hopeful, by contrast, takes the bus or subway, buying his own $1.35 ticket. Sometimes he bums rides from staffers or walks the four blocks to the Capitol for meetings. "Please Call Me Howard" never flies first class and always carries his own bags.

Other signs of the ex-guv's modest style: He eats at his desk, stays in a cheap D.C. hotel, and likes oxford shirts and penny loafers. Affectionately dubbed a "geek" by pals, he's often glued to his cellphone and loves E-mail. "His expertise is grass roots and his lifestyle is no different," says an associate. So far, Washington likes what it sees, surprised he's not the oddball that newsies pegged him as last year. Says an aide, smiling: "They're giving him a shot."

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April 13, 2005

The battle is joined

By Jim Dallas

Noam Scheiber (via Amy Sullivan) - Democratic libertarianism bad!:

Far more interesting--and politically more consequential--is an emerging Democratic split between social libertarians, who emphasize privacy, and what I'll call communitarians, for lack of a better word. Like social conservatives, the communitarians believe the government has a role to play in Schiavo-like dilemmas. If they prevail, it could help the Democratic Party reclaim its popular majority.

William Galston - Democratic libertarianism good!:

Undermining the conservative vision of freedom is the essential first step for a liberal recovery. But no movement ever built a governing majority just by criticizing its adversaries. To regain the initiative, liberals must return to their historic mission of modernizing and promoting freedom.

To be sure, Scheiber and Galston are taking this from slightly different angles, and there's probably much they can agree on. That said, are you ready to RUMBLE!?!?

... and silly me, I forget to reference Greg's Opinion.

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April 12, 2005

Filibuster Veterans for Truth

By Jim Dallas

The filibuster debate continues onward, with Mark Schmitt and Nathan Newman representing the pro- and anti- filibuster viewpoints in the blogosphee.

Meanwhile, the Alliance for Justice Action has launched a Schoolhouse Rock-style flash campaign to "Save Phil" (as in, Phil A. Buster). While public education on this topic is a great idea, I'm not sure the tone of the campaign is serious enough; it almost seems like a South Park-style parody.

Of course, one silly campaign deserves another (and note, this is my best crack at designing the most offensive attack ad possible, not at expressing my true feelings).

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April 08, 2005

Public Dis-Service Announcement

By Jim Dallas

Amy Sullivan reminds us that in order to blame, the people need to know who to blame.

Repeat after me...

"The Republican politicians in Washington."

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April 07, 2005

If it ain't fili-busted, don't fili-fix it.

By Jim Dallas

There seems to be some dissent in the blogosphere about Democrats vowing mutually-assured destruction as the Republicans mull going "nuclear" on the filibuster. Some ask, is the filibuster even worth fighting for?

The fili-doves includes Matt Yglesias and Nathan Newman; the hawk-ibusters include the sagacious Mark Schmitt. Kevin "Switzerland" Drum is sitting on the fence.

As for me, I suppose it's true that one could argue that the filibuster is anti-democratic; but then again, any body that is Constitutionally required to give Wyoming the same number as votes as California is not exactly a democratic institution. On the contrary, the Senate was expressly designed largely to impede progress and trample the will of the people (err, well, state legislatures elected by white property-owning men). When the powers that be decide to deal with bigger obstructions to democracy, such as the electoral college and gerrymandering, maybe then we can talk about nuking the filibuster under such pretenses.

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April 06, 2005

Cornyn on Tape

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

Think Progress has the video of Sen. Cornyn's Violence Against Judges remarks on the Senate Floor.

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April 05, 2005

If you can't beat 'em, join 'em

By Jim Dallas

For the last week we've heard the word that right-wingers think that the polls that showed that Americans disapproved of the moralistic totalitarianism of the "save Terri" caucus were meaningless push polls, even though, frankly, they weren't.

Failing to convince anyone, LifeNews proceded to... commission Zogby to do their own poll, using loaded questions only tangentially related to the matter at hand, apparently designed to produce pre-determined results. Of course, Michelle Malkin says its "honest."

I'm sorry, but I'll change my opinion only when Zogby publishes, oh, the sample size and demographics (which as far as I can tell, they haven't). And stops using loaded language.

Moreover, Zogby just put out another poll:

On the Schiavo issue, DeLay consistently has stated that his constituents backed his decision to lead Congress into the dispute over whether to continue nourishment to the severely brain-damaged Florida woman.

But nearly 69 percent of people in the poll, including substantial majorities of Democrats and Republicans, said they opposed the government's intervention in the long-standing family battle.

Respondents in the Chronicle survey also were critical of DeLay's individual role. Nearly 58 percent disapproved of his decision to get Congress involved.

Maybe I'm wrong, but I don't believe Tom DeLay's Sugarlanders are any more "pro-death" than the average American constituency. Then again, they did elect Tom DeLay to Congress. But I digress; the more important point is, Zogby knows how to appease his clients, and this whole episode makes me skeptical of any poll results his firm puts out.

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Counter-Cultural Ninjas

By Jim Dallas

Commenter Scoop Jackson Democrat on Gregsopinion wrote recently, in a colloquy:

Indeed, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I am so troubled by MYDD, DAILY KOS, the Kossacks, the Deaniacs, ACT, MOVE.ORG and Michael Moore precisely because they remind me of the "Get Clean for Gene McCarthy" crowd in 1968, McGovern's Army in 1972 and the people that a man I used to despise named Spiro T. Agnew called the "Rad-Libs." He went even farther than that. Agnew, a true hate monger and a crook convicted of taking kick backs, called the Rad-Libs "nattering nabobs of negativism," a phrase that I believe that the frequently sneering and supercilious William Safire coined for him.

I've been reflecting on this for a few days, and I think I've realized a few things.

First, I think if you did a poll of people who volunteered for Howard Dean, and similarly, Kossacks, I think you'd find enough differences between our clique and the 60's "Rad Libs". To be sure, you'd also find similarities, and, particularly among the younger supporters, some genuine respect for post-civil rights radicalism. But, like myself, I think you'd find a lot of the younger bunch that didn't actually remember the 1960s may very well have a lot to learn. Nonetheless, this is a different bunch. The real hippies, after all, were for Kucinich. Moreover, the new-new left is a lot more pragmatic and classicly-minded than a lot of people give credit for.

I posted a couple of weeks ago about "protest culture", and about a week ago the American Prospect ran a critical essay on the "spirit of '68." Quoting that essay:

The idea’s salience arises from its respectable lineage in American political thought, which stretches back to Thomas Jefferson and John Dewey. Dewey believed democracy required a home in the local neighborhood where discussion and association took place. When members of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) gathered in Michigan in 1962 to write the famous “Port Huron Statement,” they outlined the demands of participatory democracy and invoked Dewey’s ideals. But they also invoked a jargon of authenticity taken from existentialist philosophy. While embracing “a democracy of individual participation,” they hoped to find “a meaning in life that is personally authentic.”

But there’s a problem with proclaiming both of those as goals: Authenticity of the self and actually living in a democratic community with other citizens who hold varying opinions are two very different -- if not, in fact, irreconcilable -- demands. In Chicago, the two ideals clashed, and authenticity won out. Protesters pitted themselves against the inauthentic masses -- the police, those who believed in the Vietnam War, the “pigs.” When this occurred, participatory democracy no longer supplemented representative democracy but replaced it; authenticity displaced the challenge of deliberating with other citizens who might disagree. To be authentic meant to give direct expression to desire rather than to work through a longer process of changing representative institutions. It focused on what George Cotkin, the historian of American existentialism, called “catharsis.”

The Washington Monthly article I linked to in my original post did not get as philosophical, but hit on the same point: that protest became symbolic and expressive rather than pragmatic and effective.

Which brings me back to the Dean campaign. To what extent did support, particularly towards the end, become more about making a personal statement (and from the campaign's view, about mass numbers) rather than about actually winning the election? To an extent, I think for a lot of us the means became the ends.

This phenomenon was not limited just to Perfect Stormers. The entire Democratic effort seems to have been focused on the wrong things. Rather than adopt a business-like attitude, as the GOP machine did, we focused so much on being authentic that critical gaps in the campaign emerged, which, ironically, resulted in the grassroots getting detached from their own communities, and in mobilization rather than persuasion.

The new-new left (or the counter-counter-counter-culture, since the Deanies and Kossacks and MoveOn are as much a response to the centrist politics and distancing-from-the-nutters of the Clinton-era as they are a continuation of the original counter-culture) is faced with the choices which the "Rad Libs" were faced with 40 years ago. How do we walk that thin line of being pragmatic and effective while at the same time not perceiving that we are "selling out"? Needless to say, the Rad Libs flunked that test pretty badly.

I don't know. But I encourage you all to think about this problem. As well as brush up on philosophy (do we need a new grand unified theory of everything? probably. is it possible? perhaps not.)

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March 31, 2005

Terri Schiavo Dies

By Byron LaMasters

Thankfully, this national tragedy is now over, but it won't stop Tom DeLay from shameless hypocrisy and overarching hysteria on the issue. My thoughts and prayers are certainly with the entire Schiavo family, and I hope that our nation can benefit from this national incident. Please join Jim's request and fill out a living will. At the very least, speak with your loved ones, and make sure that they know what treatment that you wish to receive if you are incapacitated or otherwise unable to make such decisions.

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March 28, 2005

Schiavo Protesters Force Elementary School Closing

By Byron LaMasters

Even though the Schiavo family asked protesters to go home on Easter, the Randall Terry militant pro-life crowd won't go away. Their antics have forced 600 elementary school kids from their school a block away from the hospice where Terri Schiavo is staying:

Students enrolled at the elementary school near the hospice where Terri Schiavo lives will be sent to other facilities this week, a move designed to keep the children away from the gauntlet of media and protesters covering the ongoing saga.

The 600 students at Cross Bayou Elementary School will be split among three neighboring schools, said Pinellas County schools spokesman Ron Stone. The school is located just west of the Woodside Hospice, where protesters and media have gathered since Terri Schiavo's feeding tube was removed March 18.

That was the school's last day of classes; it was closed last week for spring break. Many students were absent on the day the tube was pulled, something school officials attributed to the frenzy outside the hospice.

Meanwhile, another poll shows that Americans decidedly oppose the actions taken by Congress and the President in this matter.

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March 25, 2005

Lock up your daughters and hide your bibles: the liberals are coming!

By Jim Dallas

Smarter people than myself, such as Ruy Teixeira and Chris Bowers have already blogged on this, but I've got a few comments following up the buzz over Christopher Hayes's article "How to Turn Your Red State Blue".

I would respectfully dissent from the thesis that the number of conservatives has actually gone up since the 1960s as the result of any kind of mass conversion. Rather, the amount of activity generated by conservatives and the number of "hard-core" ideologues has increased. This is important because it changes the inflection of the article.

Texas Party Self-ID and Ideological Self-ID
CBS/NYT polls pooled (based on data from Erikson, Wright, McIver)

Epoch D R I Lib. Mod. Con.
1976-1982 48.9% 17.8% 33.2% 18.2% 41.2% 40.6%
1983-1989 39.8% 28.3% 31.9% 18.2% 40.4% 41.4%
1990-1996 36.8% 30.9% 32.3% 19.1% 40.8% 40.2%
1997-2003 34.8% 33.4$ 31.8% 19.0% 40.9% 40.0%

(Approx. Pooled N = 4000 for Epoch 1976, 6000 for Epoch 1983, 9000 for Epoch 1990, and 8000 for Epoch 1997.)

The best numbers I have show basically no change in ideological composition in Texas since 1976 - and very little partisan change since 1983 - although in fairness, Texas has undergone massive demographic shifts in the last 30 years. However, other states show only modest shifts (Mississippi and Arkansas +5 more conservative; Alabama, Louisiana, and Georgia unchanged; much of the north and South Carolina several points less conservative). Moreover, Chris Bowers' own national numbers, from exit polls (a different source) show basically no underlying shifts.

(Moreover, Chris's numbers suggest that liberal and moderate voters made up Ronald Reagan's margin of victory in 1984; had Ronnie's electorate looked more like today's, we might have had President Walter Mondale. Indeed, the massive decrease in Republican support by self-identified liberals is one reason why the last election was close - and had we had fewer defections, there's a good chance that we'd have won.)

Simply put, conservatism isn't growing, despite the major efforts being expended to make it happen. Indeed, liberals have been amazingly successful, in part because there's a slight bias towards being an ideological conservative and an operational liberal.

What's happened has been that the number of conservatives who have been "activated" has gone up considerably. This may be in part simply because of partisan shifts - when people are not cross-pressured by conflicting ideological and party cues. And undoubtedly, mobilization has had something to do with it.

Of course, I am not suggesting that prosyletizing does not work. I think part of the reason why conservatism hasn't actually become the vast-majority ideology (as opposed to the dominant, plurality ideology, which it is) has been its own excesses, as well as (let's give credit where credit is due) to the DLC and Bill Clinton for making conservatism look less appealing by comparison to a vibrant moderation.

(Of course, our success in undermining the growth of conservatism is contingent upon the DLC being worth a damn - and that means they need to put forth new ideas instead of threaten Michael Moore with castration. If they won't lead, we will!)

Where I'm going with this is, will "converting" people to progressivism work? I don't know. My gut feeling is that in order to acheive the amount of change that is contemplated by Chris Bowers is probably not possible in the short term.

It may be true that conservatives outnumber liberals two-to-one, but its also true that moderates tend to vote with liberals more than with conservatives. Acheiving parity, of course, requires winning an overwhelming number of moderates, which is no easy task (Kerry, after all, came up a little short even with a 10 point lead among the mod-squad). Accordingly, any gains we get will be more than welcomed and Chris's goal of "growing liberalism and shrinking conservatism" is laudible. But they won't make the difference by themselves.

A better strategy is to re-vitalize the Democratic Party, energize those who would-be activists who are sitting at home watching the boob tube, and make sure that we get every moderate and liberal and "left of right-wing" voter to the polls. That's basically what the GOP did in its hey-day, which I believe is quickly passing.

Let me re-emphasize the point about energizing people. I think there's a lot of latent liberalism floating around in America, that has yet to be tapped into. That's why I've previously recommended voter education. Note how this is different from prosyletizing in that it seeks to capitalize on "soft-ideologues" instead of convert new ones, and I think it's a lot more effective. Consider - what's more effective for religious prosyletizers - tapping into "latent religion" (people who went to church when they were kids, but stopped going in their young adulthood), or trying to win an argument with a committed atheist? The surest way to "grow liberalism" is fire up liberals and moderates-who-are-really-liberals-but-don't-know-it-yet.

(And yes, of course there've been atheists who've found Jesus, but that's not the majority of the people packing the pews on Sunday. More to the point, I know there are some hard-rightists that come over, but it's rare, and usually among the young and flexible. When I grew up and switched to the good ol' liberal brand, it was from the position of being a moderate who grew up in a moderate-to-moderate-conservative family.)

A few books on point which I will finish reading and which I encourage you to start. Most obvious is Rick Perlstein's Before the Storm, which apparently the entire blogosphere has already read, but I've only gotten half-way through it.

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March 24, 2005

Diagnose Me!

By Byron LaMasters

Have a medical problem and can't afford a doctor? Easy. Send a video to Senator/Doctor Bill Frist and you'll get his expert diagnosis.

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March 23, 2005

John Edwards at UNC Law School

By Andrea Meyer

The former senator from North Carolina has a new job. John Edwards is the now the head of the UNC Law School's new Center on Poverty, Work and Opporuntity. Regardless of politics, the former senator has a reputation as an outstanding trial lawyer, and also has firsthand savvy of the implications of poverty, the lack of fortuity for many, and how this affects the future of America through its youth. I see this as a great opportunity for Edwards, as his talent and knowledge will certainly continue to have a positive impact on society and benefit others. As it is part-time, he will have plenty of time to care for and support Elizabeth through her illness and to spend with his younger children. This will hopefully be a positive experience for the Edwards family, and I wish him well in his new endeavor.

Read more here.....

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March 22, 2005

Another City Race...

By Andrew Dobbs

So we've talked a lot on this blog about Austin races, and perhaps a little about San Antonio (but not enough, I'll start putting up some posts soon), but there is a big municipal race this year that I am always interested in- the mayoral election in New York City.

The New York Times reports that Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer is well ahead of the pack for the Democratic nomination for mayor, with Manhattan President C. Virginia Fields coming in second and several others- including Council Speaker Gifford Miller- pulling up the rear.

Ferrer also leads mayor Michael Bloomberg by several points, 14 in one poll, 7 in another. He caught some flak recently for claiming that the shooting of Amidou Diallo wasn't a crime and might lose some ground in the Democratic field for that one. Still, with a Texan running his campaign, we know that anything is possible.

Ferrer came in second place in the 2001 Democratic primary and has served in city government for years. He's a progressive thinker, though his website is short on any kind of specifics in terms of policy. The last 12 years have been very good to New York- going from squalor and crime to vibrancy and safety. Rudy Giuliani has a lot to do with that, and Michael Bloomberg has more or less just stayed out of the way of smarter people doing the heavy lifting. Ferrer needs to take the things that they have done right and add to them by putting a progressive spin on things. If he can keep New York prosperous and safe, he'll be a good mayor.

I'll post soon on San Antonio and I'll keep the dispatches on NYC to a bare minimum. Still, I figured everyone would be interested in this one...

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Bush Flip-Flopped on Schiavo-like Cases

By Byron LaMasters

Funny how rally-the-base political opportunism forced Bush back to D.C. to sign a law in contradiction to a Texas law that he signed in 1999:

The federal law President Bush signed to prolong Terri Schiavo's life in Florida appears to conflict with a Texas law he signed as governor, attorneys familiar with the legislation said Monday.

The 1999 Advance Directives Act in Texas allows for a patient's surrogate to make end-of-life decisions and spells out how to proceed if a hospital or other health provider disagrees with a decision to maintain or halt life-sustaining treatment.

If a doctor refuses to honor a decision, the case goes before a medical committee. If the committee agrees with the doctor, the guardian or surrogate has 10 days to agree or seek treatment elsewhere.

Thomas Mayo, an associate law professor at Southern Methodist University who helped draft the Texas law, said that if the Schiavo case had happened in Texas, her husband would have been her surrogate decision-maker. Because both he and her doctors were in agreement, life support would have been discontinued.

Bush signed this law as Governor of Texas in 1999, but now he's against such a law for Terri Shiavo's family. The Bush campaign came up with a word for that in their campaign last year. Flip-flopping.

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Ditto to what Jim Said

By Byron LaMasters

Congrats, Jim for getting a top ranked Kos Diary. Next time, be sure to post on BOR as well!

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March 19, 2005

"Christian Statesman Targeted"

By Jim Dallas

Prayeralert.org asks you to pray for Tom DeLay. The Indianapolis Star writes:

Pray for Tom DeLay.

This is not my advice. This is an urgent alert issued on the Internet with the headline: "Rep. Tom DeLay Under Fire, Christian Statesman Targeted."

It is possible that DeLay needs your prayers because the GOP House majority leader is indeed taking incoming fire these days. It happens that this high-ranking lawmaker has a persistent problem with ethics. Three times in the last year he has been admonished for official misconduct. Then there is the long-running investigation back home in Texas that threatens DeLay with a criminal felony indictment for skirting the laws regulating campaign finance.

... but he is trying hard to save Terri Schiavo!

(Hat tip to BCho).

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"The time has come to let Terri Schiavo die"

By Byron LaMasters

I could not say it better myself. I will simply say an Amen to this column. I would urge you all to read it.

I could not imagine the horror of living 15 years attached to a feeding tube without the ability to think or communicate for myself. Given the choice of a brainless PVS existence or death, I would choose to die - the choice that Terri Schiavo and her husband have made. That is much more humane than allowing someone (and their spouse) to suffer for years on end. I pray that their suffering is nearing its end.

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March 18, 2005

Terri Schiavo Must Not Die

By Andrew Dobbs

[Ed. Note. Andrew has written a follow-up post changing his position on this issue. I would urge you to read it. - Byron]

I don't know if any of you have been keeping up with this case, but this is one that has been muddled by the various social issue special interest groups when this the law is clearly being ignored.

Terri Schiavo is a woman from Florida who had a massive heart attack in 1991, causing her heart to stop beating and depriving her brain of oxygen. This resulted in massive brain damage. Her husband argues that she is in a Persistent Vegitative State (PVS), her parents argue that this is not true. She is able to breathe on her own, but has to be fed through a tube. Her husband-- who has lived with another woman since 1995-- wants to remove the tube, commencing a two-week process of starvation and dehydration to end Terri's life. Her parents want no such thing. Law suits have been waged, and now Congress has been trying to pass a law to save her life. So what is the controversy?

First, diagnosing PVS isn't a cut and dry sort of thing. Because people with significant brain trauma typically have radically disrupted sleep cycles, it takes several hours of observation over the course of several weeks to establish a diagnosis of PVS. The doctors Schiavo's husband has hired observed her for about 45 minutes each. Furthermore, an MRI scan is standard in these sorts of things, as one would imagine. But shockingly, Schiavo has never had an MRI scan, and in fact has only had a CT scan (considered much less conclusive) almost 15 years ago. So the diagnosis is really not well established.

Secondly, there is ample evidence that Schiavo is in fact not in a PVS. PVS cases, by their very definition, have no awareness of the world around them- they are unable to respond to stimulii and do not recognize their surroundings. Schiavo is able to feel pain- she moans and grimaces when struck for various reflex tests- she also recognizes her family and smiles when they are around. If someone can feel pain it seems horrific to starve them to death.

Also, Terri has not received the treatment typically given in PVS cases. Some doctors who have examined her feel that physical therapy could dramatically improve her state. She'll never be the same, but perhaps she could regain some of the lost brain functions. Her husband has put her into a hospice that does not provide such care. In fact, a series of bed sores and other indications suggest that she might be facing neglect in the hospice. When there are indications that a person could get better, it seems cruel to simply end their life.

Finally, why wouldn't her husband simply divorce her and move on with his life? The answer lies in the fact that in the early 90s he was awarded a $750,000 malpractice settlement, with the money earmarked for her teatment. If he divorces her what is left of the money (as much as $450,000 of which has gone to legal fees in his fight against her parents) will go to her next of kin- her parents. However, if she dies he keeps the money. He claims that she said that she did not want to be kept alive with "artificial means." However, she is not on a respirator, only a feeding tube and there is no evidence that she claimed this other than Schiavo's testimony.

In the end, Terri Schiavo is being deprived of her life without due process. Her husband paid for a series of "expert witnesses" who will say anything for the right price or are well-known advocates of the "right to die" movement. The judge bought this testimony, despite a lack of scientific evidence, and now Terri Schiavo will begin starving to death over the course of the next several days. Something is wrong with a country that will let its most vulnerable citizens be put to death for no reason other than her husband wants to move on with a chunk of cash meant to treat her illness.

Republicans have taken the lead on this issue, but that is no reason not to start fighting for her as well. The Democratic Party is the party of the weak, the forgotten, the downtrodden and those who have faced grave injustice. We must stand up for Terri Schiavo if we want our party to mean anything in the future. Terri Schiavo must not die.

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March 14, 2005

Andrew's Abortion Post

By Byron LaMasters

There are now 45 Comments on Andrew's post regarding his evolving views on the abortion issue. Several conservative/Republican blogs have picked up on Andrew's post leading hundreds of viewers to the post. Two female friends of mine have called me in the past day regarding their thoughts on Andrew's post on the issue. I hope that Andrew's post can serve as a starting point towards debate in the Democratic Party. I've said before that my position is unequivocal - I am 100% pro-choice and I believe that abortion is an issue not for me, but for the woman, her partner, her doctor and her God.

Having said that, I think that pro-life and pro-choice people ought to do more to work together to reduce abortion. I oppose anything that would punish woman for choosing abortion, but I think that steps should be made to encourage women with unwanted pregnancies to choose adoption (along with the obvious steps that should be taken to reduce unwanted pregnancies). I would like to see the Democratic Party be more serious about the belief that abortion should be "safe, legal and rare". Abortion is rarely an ideal solution, but I don't think that women should feel shame over making responsible reproductive decisions either.

I don't have much else to say on this, but this is a debate that needs further discussion. I would very much like to have a pro-choice woman's perspective on this debate, and if there is anyone out there who would like to contribute to this debate in the form of a guest post, please email me at: Byron AT BurntOrangeReport DOT com. Thanks =)

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March 10, 2005

Gold Star

By Jim Dallas

Joe Lieberman voted against the bankruptcy-deform bill.

Good for him.

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Kansas Yes, Colorado No

By Andrew Dobbs

So when should you kick out a chairman of a party? Dallas County is pondering that right now- though they can't really kick the Chair out- but this post (blessedly) isn't about that. I am not terribly familiar with the situation up there and I try my damndest to stay out of intraparty squabbles. This is a post about Colorado

While Chris Bell and Byron are right to suggest that we can learn from Kansas 2002, let's make sure we don't pay attention to Colorado 2005. Greg posted this bit of news from the Associated Press:

Chris Gates, at the helm of the Colorado Democratic Party when Democrats won a U.S. Senate seat and took control of the Legislature, has been voted out as chairman.

Democrats upset with the handling of Mike Miles' unsuccessful Senate campaign helped engineer the upset in Saturday's election by the Democratic State Central Committee. Gates said he will challenge his 187-184 loss to Pat Waak of Erie, who has called for more grassroots organizing and respect for candidates like Miles. (...)

Gates led Colorado Democrats last November, when then-Attorney General Ken Salazar, a moderate Democrat, defeated Republican beer executive Pete Coors for the open seat vacated by Republican Ben Nighthorse Campbell. That victory and the win in the 3rd Congressional District by Democrat John Salazar, Ken Salazar's brother, were hailed as among the few bright spots for the party that lost the presidency and lost ground in Congress.

Democrats also seized control of both chambers of the Colorado Legislature for the first time in about four decades. President Bush carried the GOP-leaning state, but his margin of victory narrowed slightly from 2000.

Those accomplishments left party insiders shocked by Gates' loss to Waak, who lost a bid for the 4th Congressional District seat in 2002. (...)

Miles, an El Paso County educator who opposed the Iraq war, said Gates urged donors not to give to his campaign after Salazar, who is more conservative, entered the race.

"He created a lot of obstacles," said Miles, who distributed a letter supporting Waak.

Gates said he didn't endorse Salazar but acknowledges that his apparent ouster as chairman "exposes a disagreement, a rift in the party that is very real."

Miles campaigned for two years and won top-line designation on the primary ballot after winning more votes at the state Democratic assembly. He garnered only about 27 percent of the vote in the primary.

His supporters, however, have maintained their loyalty and have met regularly since the primary election in August. Vicki Rottman of Denver said she and other supporters worked to elect Waak.

"People are ready for a change," Rottman said.

Wow. This is stunning. So the chairman was intelligent enough to realize that in a largely moderate/conservative state, the ultra-left wing loony who has never run for office before probably isn't as good of a chance to win as a moderate Democrat who has been elected statewide. And the supporters for the loony kicked him out of office, even after the Democrat (who, by the way, three-quarters of the party suppored in the end) was elected to the US Senate. Are they completely daft?

This is the problem with the leftward shift of our party in recent years. I'm all about progressivism, particularly on the state level. But 60% of something is better than 100% of nothing, and winning is the most important thing. We have too many people who think that the reason we lose is because we aren't left wing enough. We lose because we run boring, unintelligent, uninteresting candidates on one hand (Tony Sanchez) or psychotically out of touch left wingers on the other (Kerry, one could argue). We have to have candidates that fit the electorate's values, and we have to keep ourselves from eating our young.

Kansas is a great example of what is right. We ran a moderate Democrat when the Republican Party was split over social issues (read all about it in the better-than-expected What's The Matter With Kansas) and she won. We ran someone with some experience, intelligence and who represented mainstream values of her home state. Colorado is likely to turn out to be an example of what not to do- fight fights that you lost not once, but twice, and try and move the party away from the common ground in your state. Texas needs a Kathleen Sebelius or Ken Salazar, and I think we are headed that way right now.

Just my two cents. Oh, and in Dallas, I think that there are legitimate concerns from the activists and some legitimate arguments from the Chair. Still, the war is hurting our party and one side needs to back down. The activists aren't going anywhere it seems, particularly since this movement is firing them up right now. So I suspect that it would be a good idea for the Chair to resign. That way this energy can be translated into a grassroots movement to take back Dallas County in 2006 across the board. But that's beside the point and I could be completely wrong...

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March 02, 2005

Now where would they get an idea like that?

By Jim Dallas

Indiana House Democrats disappear, breaking quorum.

P.S. Apparently, they haven't left the state, and the Indiana GOP did this before.

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February 28, 2005

The GOP's Reframing Of The Debate

By Vince Leibowitz

I recieved an email today with a link to a Think Progressive that discusses conservative Political strategist Frank Luntz's 160-page "playbook" (download it here) which devotes a lot of discussion to reframing the debate on a myriad of issues.

Evidently, someone acquired a copy of the book and scanned it and made a PDF of it. It first surfaced on DailyKOS earlier this week, and was followed up with subsequent posts, both linking to Think Progressive's posts.

I haven't had the chance to read the entire thing yet, but I did find some interesting tidbits.

First, this little tidbit:

Taxation, Litigation, Innocation, Education. Remember those four words for they are at the core of your message, your policy and your response to the critics of corporate America. Here is the policy answer to the outsourcing challenge that offers a solution without selling out conservative free-market principles. The four words should be strung together, repeated often, with an adverb attached: too much taxation, too much litigation, not enough innovation, not enough education. That should be your mantra. Remember it. Fortunately, the four words rhyme, which means your audience will remember it as well.

God, I think I'm going to be sick.

I actually decided to Google the bolded phrase above and, in a Google news search, the State of the Union transcript actually came up first. Though Bush doesn't use all of that language or the exact same language, he follows the "adverb" rule:

Because of excessive litigation, everybody pays more for health care.

And, he used "innovation," but not exactly in the reccomended context:

In this century, the greatest environmental progress will come about not through endless lawsuits or command-and-control regulations, but through technology and innovation.

At any rate, the document, which is evidently entitled "The New American Lexicon," since that appears in the footers of several pages, covers just about everything a conservative should know when it comes to "reframing the debate." There are sections (which include "do"s and "don't"s to say) on ANWR, energy policy, tort reform (which should never be called that, according to the report), healthcare, Social Security privitization (which should be called "personalization" by Republicans, the report notes), the tax code and on and on and on.

There are even sample speeches in the document you can take, personalize, and deliver to the local Rotary Club!

While this is all very interesting, what I'd really like to get my hands on is a Texas version of a "playbook" like this, specifically the pages that deal with "tax relief" and "education reform." I'm sure some Texas consultant (probably Royal Massett) has written one. I'd also love to know the Texas GOP's "buzz words" they'll use when they have to justify leagalizing casino gambling as a means of funding education. Instead of saying "casino gambling" they'll probably say something like "speculative enterprise lyceums," or "recreational monetary venture facilities."

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February 27, 2005


By Jim Dallas

One thing I'm absolutely tired of is the perception that Democrats' "cultural problems" are issues which pertain specifically to the South, and modest changes will result in restored competitiveness throughout the entire South (as if it were a monolithic voting bloc!)

Look, about the only places in this great country where we might not be at risk of losing votes because of being identified with the cultural left are a few precincts in San Franscisco, New York, and Boston. This includes black precincts, white precincts, poor precincts, white precincts, holy-roller boxes and secular boxes. Just a small adjustment - a dozen votes in every precinct worth of adjustment - in message would have made the difference in Ohio, New Mexico, Nevada, and Iowa - and none of these states are in the South. And it was is those four states that John Kerry lost the presidency.

Yes, I think Mudcat Saunders has some good points; but I think the most apparent benefit of moderating on some cultural issues isn't that we'll start carrying Southern states. We won't: Southern conservatism runs a lot deeper than just "God, Gays, and Guns," and the assumption that we can win the South (outside of Florida, Virignia, and urban centers) just by appealing to economic populism is probably bunk.

The first sign we're doing something right will be that we'll be able to carry the rest of the country with substantial enough margins such that losing the South won't matter.

A more important concern than winning, though, is always the ultimate issue of morality. I very consciously used the term "risk" above because I think it accurately sums up my thinking: we take risks by standing up for what is right, but the risk itself doesn't justify inaction.

At any rate, "the South" is turning into a McGuffin: instead of thinking about maximizing our vote totals among those 12 or 13 voters per precinct that would have delivered us the White House; or even those places in the South which really are competitive now; we've fixated on an entire region of the country which is probably going to be rather hostile for the forseeable future. There's only so much good that "positioning" can do. In the end, the only effective way to return the South to the "D" column (on the national level) is community organization and shifting the entire national political discourse to the left, and not by treating this big amorphous monolithic South as just another special interest.

Kevin Drum has some thoughts here.

Also, read Ed Kilgore's take on this.

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February 24, 2005

Yay! Gannon/Guckert/whatever is Back!

By Byron LaMasters

How cute. Gannon's website is back up ready to "battle the Left", while the Talon News website has taken a hiatus. Nothing like watching a few right-wingers give fuel to a story that would otherwise be dead or dying. Blogging Out Loud explains it in sexual terms, and of course, America Blog covers all the details.

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Bet He Misses Stenholm Now...

By Andrew Dobbs

Saw this post on Kos today, about how Bush's Social Security package is starting to founder because of a complete unwillingness on the part of Democrats to back him up on the matter. Now, I have expressed an openness to the idea of Social Security choice in the past, and I still feel that way. But the opportunity to derail his administration like Republicans did to Clinton following his health care proposal is quite appealing.

The sad thing for Bush and those of us who would like to see a reformed Social Security system is that it needn't be this way. One of his top allies in the effort to change Social Security was Charlie Stenholm. A solid Democrat who was nonetheless a conservative, Stenholm could be counted on as someone who would work with both sides of the aisle. He was and is a good man and was a great congressman, but Tom DeLay targeted him and George W. Bush worked to defeat him, campaigning with his opponent even though Bush needed to campaign in the Panhandle like Kerry needed to campaign in Berkeley- he had no possible chance of losing there. Stenholm would have stood with Bush on Social Security reform and would have brought several other Democrats over with him. Now that Tom DeLay's lust for power has gotten rid of him, Bush might just be sunk.

The shortsightedness of this administration isn't just in its policy, but in its tactics. The desire for a single-party country with only a weak and meaningless opposition has rotted the soul of a party that used to boast men of vision and compassion. And with my party slowly selling its soul to the academic and European Left- a nihlistic group that sees America as the source of all the world's problems and sides with dictators over their own elected representatives- the GOP might just get their wish. America needs two strong parties that the people can trust, but this whole episode just goes to show that Bush has poisoned American politics in a way that we never could have foreseen.

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February 23, 2005

Kelo v. New London Calling: Eminent Domain... F*** Yeah!

By Jim Dallas

There's nothing we love over here at Burnt Orange Report more than our rights to life, liberty, and property. Especially property. Especially if said property is the last bottle of beer in the cooler.

While I can't speak for my Burnt brethren, I've been following the Kelo case (1 | 2) with great interest, and not merely because it could potentially make everything I'm learning in Property about "public use" obsolete.

Oral arguments were yesterday, and the inimitable Dahlia Lithwick writes up the whole story in Slate. SCOTUSblog reports that the city of New London will probably win this one... big... and governments everywhere will have unbridled authority to turn your living room into a Wal-Mart.

But, thankfully, the American Prospect pitches an idea to use all of this awesome power for good instead of evil. At least until the administrating agency is captured by the pharmaceutical industry:

Unless the drug industry starts to negotiate significantly lower prices, it may find itself battling debt-strapped states for control over the manufacture of drugs. States already take land and other property in order to benefit the public by building things such as roads and schools. Now some legislators and officials are saying they should be able to take away a drug company’s intellectual property, its patent. They want to give these patents, which allow a company to manufacture a product, to competitors that agree to sell the drugs to the states at much lower prices.

Patents are the key to huge drug-company profits. The industry will fight vociferously to protect them. In West Virginia, where the issue came up last summer, industry lawyers warned a legislative advisory council away from proposing such action on patents, claiming it would be unconstitutional. With virtually unlimited resources, the drug companies could drag states through courts for years. Still, the specter of states compelling companies to license their patents to other firms terrifies the industry. And even the fight to do this would open the industry to further scrutiny on pricing policy. All of which, some officials hope, could make drug companies more willing to negotiate discounts.

I had this idea about a month ago, but I thought it was too crazy to even consider asking the Prof about (and after all, I'm supposed to be learning about real property, not intellectual property). Maybe my initial gut feeling was right -- it's so crazy, it might just work.

Remember, the number one top reason why drugs are so expensive is because the government aids and abets the monopolistic instincts of Big Pharma.

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February 21, 2005

Goldilockboxes and the three bars

By Jim Dallas

Matt Yglesias:

Noam Scheiber observes that -- shockingly -- Charles Krauthammer's take on Social Security is shot-through with logical problems. On top of the problems in question, let's also note Krauthammer's commitment to the rightwing doctine of Currency Fictionalism:

Let's start with basics. The Social Security system has no trust fund. No lockbox. When you pay your payroll tax every year, the money is not converted into gold bars and shipped to some desert island, ready for retrieval when you turn 65.

By this standard, not only is my bond porfolio not real, my bank account isn't real, and, in fact, the cash in my pocket isn't real. The only "real" money, apparently, is stacks of gold bars. Now once upon a time, your U.S. currency was redeemable for gold bars and, thus, one might consider it real. Alternatively, perhaps U.S. currency in the gold standard days was a "mere I.O.U." Either way, we've been off the gold standard for some time now, and people would be alarmed to learn that this means their money is fake. Does the Post pay Krauthammer in dubloons? Do we need to revisit Krugman's "Goldbug Variations" from his good old days at Slate?

We know that Matt is a Harvard Man and a member of the coastal illuminati... etc., etc., but yes, Matt, you will. It was only four years ago, after all, that the Texas Republican Party endorsed abolishing the Federal Reserve and going back to the gold standard. You're going to have to explain this slowly and clearly, just so that reasonable people can understand just how insane that is. (The TxGOP has since moderated the language to "audits" of the Federal Reserve).

P.S. Gary Polland, who is a big whig and former county chair here in Houston, still adamantly supports returning the gold standard. Party like it's 1899!

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Count Us In

By Jim Dallas

I think I speak for everyone here when I concur heartily with Kuff in endorsing the Count Every Vote Act.

(That said, we might not all agree in endorsing Senator Clinton in 2008; but this is now and that is then.)

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Southern Strategy

By Vince Leibowitz

The New Orleans Times-Picayune has an interesting article regarding Democratic party strategy and the South.

In particular, the article focuses on the desire of some Democrats to "write off" much of the South entirely.

The article notes:

With Republicans having tightened their grip on the region in 2004, some Democrats openly advocate writing off the 11 states of the Old Confederacy as a lost cause. But others are busy hatching plans to regain a footing in a region the party dominated for much of the 20th century.


Hewing to the adage that success in life mostly involves just showing up, Dean believes that visibility in the South is the key. He said in his DNC acceptance speech that he plans to replicate the success of his own Internet-powered, grass-roots fund-raising efforts and will hardwire a network of activists throughout the South. He also said he plans to spend a lot more time below the Mason-Dixon line.

"People will vote for Democrats in Texas, in Utah, in West Virginia if we knock on their doors," Dean said. "I believe more people are aligned with the beliefs of the Democratic Party than they are with the beliefs of the Republican Party."

That's a curious conclusion to draw judging by the most recent presidential election. In 2004, President Bush expanded his margin of victory in every Southern state except North Carolina, the home state of Democratic vice presidential candidate John Edwards. According to one post-election analysis, Bush won 85 percent of all Southern counties and 90 percent of those that have white majorities.

I think Dean's right about alignment of beliefs, but the people don't know it. Clearly, since the South is ripe with poverty, unemployment, and with states generally regarded as being some of those usually considered "near the bottom," in areas like healthcare, education, and what not, the average voter should realize that his or her beliefs, wants and needs are most clearly aligned with or will most likely be met by the Democratic Party. However, the "3 Gs," (gays, guns, God--not necessarily in that order) tend to shift those people over to the R's column on election day. And, he's right about people voting Democrat "if we knock on their doors." During the last election cycle, heavily Republican Smith County had more than 3,000 new Democratic voters for president than in the previous cycle--likely thanks to serious "knock and drag," efforts by the Congressional campaign of Max Sandlin--which I believe clearly had a role in the number of "up ballot" Democratic votes cast.

As for Bush winning 85 percent of the Southern counties, those stats are a little skewed. I'm not sure how many counties Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Virginia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia, and the other Southern states have a piece, but Texas probably has at least one quarter--or perhaps more--of all the counties in the South within its borders. With this being the home state of Bush, it's no surprise that many of our counties went Bush. So, that "85 percent," stat is probably a little misleading. And, even in the President's home state, we had counties like Hays County which made tremendous gains and Rockwall County--a huge GOP stronghold which also made good gains in terms of numbers of new Democratic voters over 2000.

The article continues:

The news doesn't get any better for Democrats as they glance down the ballot. All five retiring Democratic senators from the South, including Louisiana's John Breaux, had their seats claimed by Republicans in 2004. And University of Maryland political scientist Thomas Schaller said even Democrats' once-solid grip on statehouses in the South has loosened. In state legislative races in the region last year, Democrats lost 36 House seats and 11 Senate seats, he said.

Schaller, a Democrat, said the party should fold its tent and abandon the South. That's essentially what Democratic nominee John Kerry did in the 2004 presidential contest, pulling campaign finances from every Southern state except Florida after Labor Day to boost his campaign operations in other parts of the country.

Though the "36 House seats and 11 State Senate seats," sounds pretty dire, Texas alone lost at least half that number of house seats in 2002, after redistricting. Plus, he's made no allowances for competitive races--like several we had in Texas but didn't result in Democratic victories. And, there is no mention that in the GOP stronghold of Texas, we actually gained more seats (one) in the House than we have in more than a decade. Schaller also doesn't evidently turn his eye to some statewide races in which Democrats were competitive (and perhaps more competitive than they were in recent years) even though they didn't win.

Too, in Texas, in races that could and should have been much closer like the Glaze/Hughes race in HD 5, where "independent voters" who would have voted for Bush but for downballot Dems like Sandlin, Nickerson or Hughes, we had the GOP sending out mailers coupling their GOP opponents with President Bush and intimating that if a voter was voting for Bush, they should also be voting for the other guys with their smiling faces right along his. If a marketing study were done on this, you'd better believe this does alter voting patterns.

As for "folding our tents and abandoning the South," that's a pretty dumb idea--and certainly not a way to regain control of statehouses, much less put Southern electoral votes in the Democratic column come November, 2008.

The entire reason the South is in the shape it is in is because the national party--though it didn't fold its tent, did evidently put up a big "out to lunch" sign, resulting in us being written off when it comes to national campaigns. Remember that national campaigns often generate the momentum necessary to win or make competitive down-ballot races. When Southern Democrats know that their vote in a Presidential election has no impact whatsoever, there is at least some desire among a select portion of the voting age populous not to bother to go to the polls at all. Too, keep in mind that (at least in my experience), most people who are going to vote for a Democrat for President in the South are going to vote a straight Democratic ticket.


Schaller said the party should attempt to portray Republicans as the "Party of the South," in a negative sense. He would attempt to tar the GOP with the South's legacy of opposition to civil rights and remind voters elsewhere that some Southerners are still fighting over displaying the Confederate flag.

"Don't conservatives talk about Democrats as Northeastern liberals?" Schaller said.

Schaller said Democrats could make some inroads in the South if voting districts with black majorities were redrawn to make them more racially diverse. Some, he said, are 70 to 80 percent African-American, which virtually ensures minority representation from those areas in Congress but stifles black turnout for what are frequently uncontested races. With more than 90 percent of African-Americans voting for Democrats in many elections, Schaller said it takes a toll, albeit an indirect one, on Democrats running statewide.

I'm not sure how the "Party of the South" argument would really work, and I'm not sure it's worth a try, either. The good folks who go to the honky-tonk on Saturday and then sit in a Baptist church on Sunday morning are so easily brainwashed with "moral" issues (abortion, etc.) that we could do everything possible to point Republican hypocricies (and, by the way, using "the GOP voted against Civil Rights" as a "wedge issue" in the South is still about 15 years ahead of its time--the generation who wouldn't vote for Ron Kirk because he's black and Tony Sanchez because he was Latino is still alive) and still not come out ahead.

Until we're able to reframe the debate on abortion and the "Three G's," and discipline our candidates from the top down to deliver the party's message consistently in that regard, we could have some trouble. Reframing the debate--especially over abortion--is essential to our survival in the South. The debate has to shift from "baby killers" vs. "The Godly Saints of Christianity" to "government telling you what you can and cannot do with your own body" vs. "the people who think they know what's best for your uterus". And, this is where Democrats--especially in Texas and at all levels--fail miserably. Dozens of Democrat I've heard on the stump or in a debate have botched questions about this that they should have been able to answer better. Instead of answering with a "it is not the government's place to decide what's best for a woman, period," they go into long, drawn-out, spiels about "I'm a Christian and I don't believe in abortion but..." and end with either a "if we make them illegal we'll have people in back alleys with coat hangers" argument, or a "that's what the Supreme Court says we've got to do, and I'll uphold the law if I'm elected," type argument. Both are no-gos, period.

Too, far too many Democratic candidates want to get off the issue quickly and say something like, "What I want to focus on is all the kids without healthcare, etc.," while Republican candidates will use all of their alloted time talking about the evils of abortion. We look like we're running from a question where we should be standing our ground. It wouldn't hurt for us to point out that this isn't a "religious" issue, it's a constitutional issue.

Anyway, more from the TP:

The candidate doesn't have to come from the South, but in the words of North Carolina political consultant Mac McCorkle, "It sure helps."

McCorkle said Clinton was successful in the South--he captured five Southern states in his two campaigns--not simply because he hailed from Arkansas, but because he had his regional bona fides in order.

"He could sing 'Amazing Grace' without looking at the hymnal," McCorkle said. "The candidate has to look comfortable with the traditions and the culture of the South. If he does, people will give him room to maneuver even if he's not from there."

Makes sense, but I don't think that's all of it. I think message had more to do with it. And, inasmuch as I've become no fan of the DLC message of late (I guess I'm getting more liberal, if that's possible), I do think it was the message that put Clinton over the top. After all, though he may have been able to sing 100 hymns verse by vers sans a hymnal, Hillary, sadly, was no help to him here. She was bashed relentlessly, and not just for the infamous "cookies and tea" remark. And, likely as Teresa Heinz Kerry did to her husband, it cost Clinton votes. (Yes, no one likes to admit that a politician's spouse could cost him votes, but remember, sometimes voters do make up their minds based on strange things).

More from the article:

A key to Democratic acceptance, strategists say, is not alienating Southerners on social issues. At a conference in Atlanta in 2003 called "God, Guns and Guts," the Democratic Leadership Council counseled Democrats to embrace what it called "values centrism."

Will Marshall, president of the Leadership Council's think tank, said Republicans have been successful at framing issues such as gun control, abortion and affirmative action in a way that puts Democrats on the defensive. He said Democrats shouldn't avoid those issues, but rather change the terms of debate.

[HEY! I just said that!]

Democrats should acknowledge a constitutional right to bear arms, he said, but emphasize the need for responsibility in owning guns and the need for better enforcement of gun laws. And whatever you do, he said, don't be snooty.

What the hell is "values centrism?" Sounds like an herbal supplement you get at 7-11. Seriously, though, while some of that is perhaps appropriate (if we look at the country as a whole, the majority do fall in the "middle," and not necessarily on the far left or (we hope to God) on the far right. We've also done exactly what he said about guns. Clinton did it. It's already been done, and proven to work.

But, do we go so far as selling out everything our party stands for to be adopt an attitude of "values centrism?" I think not. The Republican Party is a prime example of why such selling-out is a bad, bad idea. A lot of rank-and-file, non-radical-right-wing Republicans I talk to recall a time a few decades ago when their party focused on things like budgets and stuff, and not the fire-and-brimstone, Pat Robertson-esque garbage they're focusing on now. Why did they change? Because they knew playing on religious values would get them more voters.

Should we change because we know it's going to get us more votes?

The jury's still out on that one. Do we sacrifice to be able to serve, and ultimately do more good in the long run? I mean, Clinton ran on the DLC platform, and still did more good (and promoted liberal ideas after getting in office) than Reagan, Bush I, Bush II, and perhaps even Carter combined. After all, a lot of Democrats in Texas already do this by necessity. You run to the right of the middle and go to Austin or DC and come back with a voting record that gets you hammered come November because, by God, you voted your consience, your party and what's really best for the people you represent.

Vince Leibowitz is County Chairman of the Democratic Party of Van Zandt County.

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February 18, 2005

That Jeff Gannon thing...

By Byron LaMasters

I finally decided that I should at least make a mention of the story that has taken the lefty blogosphere by storm this past week. For those that haven’t followed the story, here’s the Cliff’s Notes version. Jeff Gannon, the "White House Correspondent" for the right-wing news website Talon News asked President Bush a loaded softball question at his press conference last month (... how can you reach out to Senate Democrats when they have divorced themselves from reality?). The question prompted Democratic bloggers to investigate as to who exactly is Jeff Gannon, and what the heck is Talon News?

Well, it turns out the Jeff Gannon’s real name was James Dale Guckert, Gannon is gay, owned the website hotmilitarystud.com among others, had profiles at several gay escort sites including an active one, and had dozens of nude pictures of himself taken for those profiles (details here). Also read the Washington Post story for an overview of the matter.

Among articles written by Gannon include an October 2004 article entitled; "Kerry could become first gay president" – designed to demonstrate John Kerry’s pro-GLBT record in a highly unflattering manner to the conservative readers of Talon News.

To me, there are two key issues at stake here...

First, is of the hypocrisy of Jeff Gannon / James Guckert. It’s utterly disgusting that a closeted gay man (gay escort at that) used anti-gay scare tactics to advocate for the election of President Bush. I have mixed feelings about public outings of closeted gay people, and of delving into the personal lives of public figures in general. Gay public officials and opinion leaders who choose to remain closeted, but who do not take anti-gay positions, or use anti-gay scare tactics should have their privacy respected. However, complete hypocrites like Jeff Gannon should and ought to be exposed for what they are – Uncle Tom’s and whores.

Second, and much more critically is the issue of how Jeff Gannon got access to the White House and to the president. On one level, I disagree to an extent with many others who have written on the topic. The fact that Gannon worked for a right-wing website, or wasn’t a true "reporter" doesn’t bother me too much on the surface. The media is evolving, and non-traditional sources of media are on the rise. I would one day like to see a media culture where the leaders of the blogosphere – both left and right – such as DailyKos, Atrios, PowerLineBlog and Instapundit would have the opportunity to ask questions of the president. The key issues should be balance, creditability and transparency. There should be relative ideological balance among people able to participate in presidential press conferences, those people should have creditability among their peers, and there should be full transparency to the public of who has access to the president. Unfortunately, there's much more to the story.

Not only did Jeff Gannon use a pseudonym, but he received press credentials before becoming a reporter for Talon News. This is where the Bush administration must be held accountable. Does a reporter using a pseudonym approach the level of creditability expected of reporters that cover the president? What security measures and background checks were in place? How did a man not affiliated with ANY news organization receive access to the president and the president’s spokesman? Were Jeff Gannon and Talon News involved with the leaking of the identity of Valerie Plame? Was there any relationship between the White House and Jeff Gannon – financial or otherwise? With the recent revelations that the Bush administration paid reporters to promote their agenda, it is certainly reasonable to conclude that there might have been some sort of arrangement between the White House and Jeff Gannon. Democrats in Congress and the mainstream media must demand answers to these questions.

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February 16, 2005

From the Department of "Revenue Enhancement"

By Jim Dallas

President Bush, State of the Union address, two weeks ago:

We must not jeopardize our economic strength by increasing payroll taxes

Bush today (as reported by the AP):

Bush, meanwhile, said he has not ruled out raising taxes on those who earn more than $90,000 a year to help bolster Social Security's finances. Under the current system, payroll taxes are paid only on the first $90,000 in wages.

Actually, this is not a truly awfuk policy flip-flop, but it perplexes me; if the solution is to tax the rich, then why not, you know, tax the rich? The current general revenue budget deficit... which could be laregely closed by repealing the President's tax cuts for the top one percent... is probably the single biggest threat to Social Security's long-term future right now.

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February 15, 2005

Liberals Need to Condemn Lynne Stewart

By Andrew Dobbs

Yesterday I got an email from a reader talking about one subject or another that I can no longer remember. I can't remember what it was because of something in the email itself- an image that said "Support Lynne Stewart." I knew that I couldn't take anything this person said seriously at that point.

For those of you not familiar with Lynne Stewart, this is a good non-ideological starting point. In short, she is an old school radical- communist, still talks nice about Stalin and Mao, etc.- and was an activist attorney for years. Her highest profile client was Sheik Omar Abdel Rachman, also known as the "Blind Sheik" and the mastermind behind the 1993 World Trade Center bombings as well as an attempt to blow up the UN building, an FBI building, 2 tunnels and a bridge in New York City. A high profile Egyptian terrorist, Rachman's organization the Islamic Group killed 62 tourists, many American, in Luxor, Egypt in 1997. In short- he's a really bad dude who wants to kill a lot of Americans.

Stewart was his attorney, which is fine. He was given the right to representation (though as a non-citizen he really isn't entitled to such a thing) and it is Stewart's job to make the state prove their case. Unfortunately, Stewart decided to do one better and to break the legal agreement she entered when becoming the terrorist mastermind's attorney and started secretly passing messages from the Sheik to his terrorist group in Egypt. One of these orders was to end the ceasefire they had declared towards the Egyptian government, meaning that she transmitted a call to war to terrorists. She also had her translator send messages from Rachman's group to the Sheik and praised groups that were perpetuating terror in the name of seeking the Sheik's release. In short, she supported, promoted and facilitated terrorism against the United States and its allies by a bunch of religious fanatic fascists.

Stewart was indicted on several charges of supporting terrorism and after taking the stand and calling for the violent overthrow of the American government during a trial that made it very clear that she was quite guilty, she was speedily convicted of the crimes. That's the good news.

The bad news is that now a bunch of far Left groups- the type that thought that 9/11 was something we deserved, that opposed the campaign in Afghanistan, you know the type- have started calling for her release and have actually tried to explain away or praise her work. One of those people appears to be the person who emailed me yesterday. Some Republicans are trying to stain our entire party with the inanities of a few people who typically don't support us anyways (because we are part of the corporate/capitalist/imperialist/blah blah blah system) by saying that we are the party of Lynne Stewart. Most notably the new NY State GOP Chair claimed this and has since been repudiated by several Democrats as well as the Republican governor of that state. In the end, they might succeed in making us out to be a terrorist sponsoring party if we don't speak up.

The answer? Liberals need to speak out against Lynne Stewart, in support of her conviction and against the GOP slanderers who would associate a woman as far to the Left of our party as neo Nazis are to the right of the GOP with the Democratic Party. Anyone- Left, Right or otherwise- who seeks to kill innocents to promote their worldview is evil and ought to be condemned, and anyone who facilitates that and supports that ought to be called out and taken to task for this crime. Lynne Stewart is a wacky woman to begin with and when you throw in support for terrorism we must speak out.

I'm proud to see the mainstream of our party standing with the mainstream of our country in condemning this woman and her actions. This isn't attorney client privelege- that exists to ensure that an attorney can effectively and confidently represent his or her client. This is an attorney abusing that sacred right in order to promote her criminal client's illegal activities. No different from a mob lawyer ordering hits from a jailed client, and the punishment should be at least as severe.

Please join with me in supporting Stewart's recent conviction and in condemning her criminal activities. Unless the Democratic Party is recognized for what it is- the only mainstream party left in this country- we will continue to lose.

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February 13, 2005

Why Is No One Raising Hell About The Bush Budget?

By Vince Leibowitz

[This post has been updated. Click on "read more" link for updates.]

On Friday, the White House released a 233-page document detailing the impact of President Bush's budget cuts.

They released the list on Friday just in time for it to get lost in the weekend news cycles. Of course, the administration didn't really want to release the details of the cuts until someone asked, via Reuters:

The White House provided the list in response to a request from House of Representatives Budget Committee Chairman Jim Nussle, an Iowa Republican.

The Bush budget cut $420 million in grants, training and other assistance programs that the Homeland Security Department issues for state and local governments.


Another $146 million would be cut from job training grants to states and local governments under the Workforce Investment Act of 1998. Bush has long argued the need for job training programs to meet the needs of a changing economy.

The OMB said the Workforce Investment Act needs comprehensive reforms because currently "governors have too little control and flexibility, and programs do not train workers for jobs in high-growth industries.

Bush would cut $145 million in funding for the Army Corps of Engineers, a civil construction program long cited by critics as a prime source of congressional pork.

The OMB said the Corps currently has a $50 billion backlog of authorized construction work.

A $497 million cut was made in federal assistance to the nation's airports for repairing runways and other facilities. The administration also said airports could make up some of the money through passenger fees.

Also in the budget was a $39 million cut in funds for taxpayer assistance, which the White House said could be absorbed because of increased efficiency.

A number of education programs were slated to get no funding at all in 2006, including the Even Start family literacy program and the Perkins loan program that gives money to colleges and universities to make low-interest loans available to needy students.

A program to help communities hire more police officers would be abolished under the budget as would a program that provides block grants to help improve the juvenile justice system.

According to the report itself (which is actually on the OMB Website, with--not surprisingly--no link from the press area of the White House Site) notes:

Terminations of Discretionary Programs in 2006 99 programs terminated in the 2006 Budget 59 of those terminations have been proposed in previous years $8.8 billion savings over 2005 Enacted

Major Program Reductions in 2006
55 programs have major reductions in the 2006 Budget
27 of those reductions have been proposed in previous years
$6.5 billion savings over 2005 Enacted

Major Reform Proposals
16 programs have major reform proposals
$4.7 billion savings in 2006 over 2005 Enacted
$2.9 billion in costs in 2006 over 2005 Enacted

Some of the actual cuts in the proposal are just downright stupid.

For example, the program plans to eleminate the Safe and Drug Free Schools State Grants Program. Instead, the administration proposes increasing funding for the National SDFS program, claiming this will "support projects with measurable outcomes and strong accountability mechanisms to help ensure that Federal funding in the area produces positive results."

The budget also eleminates HSRA Emergency Medical Services for Children grants, which sends money to states to help improve EMS care for kids.

Evidently, though, Bush decided our children ain't healing right or something, because he slashed the program:

The 2006 Budget proposes no funding for Emergency Medical Services for Children (EMSC)program at the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA). The EMSC program has not demonstrated that its activities have led to improvements in the health outcomes of children and adolescents who have required emergency medical care. The objectives of this program can be achieved by States through programs funded by the much larger ($724 million in 2006) Maternal and Child Health Block Grant.

I'm sure emergency room physicians and pediatric ER nurses everywhere would disagree.

And, of course, it wouldn't be a Republican budget without trying to screw the poor out of housing. Bush slashed the HUD program Revitilization of Seriously Distressed Public Housing, claiming it had exceeded its goals and was too slow:

The 2006 Budget proposes to terminate the HOPE VI program. The

program has surpassed its primary goal to demolish 100,000 severely distressed public housing units by 2003. While the
program has achieved success in removing dangerous public housing, the 2005 PART analysis showed the program to be slow at completing construction and more costly than other programs that serve the same population. The Budget proposes to cancel 2005 funding for this program (and requests no further funding in 2006) and to redirect the dollars to more cost-effective alternatives such as Section 8 Tenant-based Rental Assistance.

I guess, since 1992 and 2005, no existing public housing structures have become "dangerous." That's nice to know. As for putting that money in Section 8, I've always thought Section 8 was a much more expensive option for housing the poor than actual public housing or subsidized apartment complexes. Guess I'm wrong again.

One cut in particular that really burns me up (no pun intended) is cuts to the Rural Fire Assistance program. I live in a rural area served by a rural VFD, as does everyone in Van Zandt County. Even the city volunteer departments are classified as such.

But, Bush says:

The 2006 Budget proposes to terminate the Rural Fire Assistance program. The program is duplicative of other fire assistance grant programs. The items and activities funded by these grants could be funded with existing Department of Homeland Security and Forest Service grant funding. Instead, the Department of the Interior will focus more of its fire preparedness resources on training and certification of local firefighters so that they are qualified to assist with fires on Federal lands.

The White House claims this program is duplicative because the Department of Homeland Security also has a similar program. If anyone in the Bush administration bothered to wander into a rural firehouse in the past decade, they wouldn't be cutting this program. Rural firefighters put their lives on the line just like paid big city firefighters do--with less equipment, old trucks, and the best training they can get/afford.

And, Bush wants to cut Community Oriented Policing (COPS) grant funding, a Clinton administration program to put 100,000 new police officers on the street, saying it's served its purpose (118,000 officers):

The 2006 Budget proposes to terminate the COPS Hiring Grant program as have previous Administration budgets. The program has accomplished its goals. The lack of demonstrated results as well as a crime rate at an historic low call into question continued funding for the program. The Budget proposes to cancel funding for this program and to redirect the dollars to other higher priority programs.

What a load! Community policing is not a high priority program for this administration? Again, come to a town or county that has benefitted from these programs, Mr. President. Furthermore, given the fact that 9/11 has happened and his administration has previously said all local police agencies share in the homeland security burden, is it really wise to cut this program? This program is a drop in the budgetary bucket.

The budget also cut a Department of Labor program, Reintegration of Youthful Offenders, which helped offenders under 35 get job training. It replaces the permanent program with a four-year program.

What is so dumb about this cut is that in the very document explaining the reason why the program is cut...

The 2006 Budget proposes to terminate earmarked funding for the Reintegration of Youthful Offenders program, and better serve this population through the President’s Prisoner Re-entry Initiative. Proposed in the 2004 State of the Union address and the 2005 Budget, this four-year initiative will offer a range of job training, housing, and mentoring services and harness the experience of faith-based and community organizations. The 2006 Budget includes $75 million in new funding for the President’s Prisoner Re-entry Initiative to address the problems faced by ex-offenders in a more effective way, through services provided by the Departments of Labor, Housing and Urban Development, and Justice.

...it expounds on the very need for such a program:

More than 600,000 offenders are released from prisons each year and face multiple barriers upon their return to society, including inadequate job skills and housing. Approximately two-thirds of prisoners are re-arrested within three years of their release, and half return to prison during that same period.

Perhaps they wouldn't return to prison if they had adequate job skills and housing? Duh!

These are just a few of the program eleminations. I could go on for hours about the rest of the eleminations--not to mention the cuts.

I know the privitization of Social Security is taking up a lot of media attention, but I think this is deserving of some, too.

I've noticed mentions in magazines, editorials, and on blogs of late that Bush is trying to eleminate all of the good things of Roosvelt's New Deal and Johnson's Great Society.

For those of you among us who also remember the 1990s and the Clinton Administration, Clinton fought for the enaction of a number of important programs like COPS. Granted, they may not have been as groundbreaking as New Deal or Great Society programs, but they are just as important to the welfare of our country.

Essentially, the Bush administration is attempting a wholesale slaughter of major programs enacted by during three of the most domestic-policy progressive Democratic administrations in American history.

And what are we going to do about this?

Of course, we can't expect our Governor or either of our U.S. Senators to raise hell about this. They're all Bush Republicans. But, I'd think at least a few State Senators and State Reps--especially those in communities which benefitted from the very programs Bush is trying to cut--would have something to say about this. Hopefully, over the course of the next few weeks, they will.

Update: Via AP, here is a comprehensive list of budget cuts:


- Agriculture Department

AMS Biotechnology Program

Forest Service Economic Action Program

High Cost Energy Grants

NRCS Watershed and Flood Prevention Operations

Research and Extension Grant Earmarks and Low Priority Programs

- Commerce Department

Advanced Technology Program

Emergency Steel Guarantee Loan Program

Public Telecommunications Facilities, Planning and Construction Program

- Education Department

Comprehensive School Reform

Educational Technology State Grants

Even Start

(High School Program Terminations:)

Vocational Education State Grants

Vocational Education National Activities

Tech Prep State Grants

Upward Bound

Talent Search


Smaller Learning Communities

Perkins Loans: Capital Contributions and Loan Cancellations

Regional Education Laboratories

Safe and Drug Free Schools State Grants

(Small Elementary and Secondary Education Programs:)

Javits Gifted and Talented Education

National Writing Project

School Leadership

Dropout Prevention Program

Close Up Fellowships

Ready to Teach

Parental Information and Resource Centers

Alcohol Abuse Reduction

Foundations for Learning

Mental Health Integration in Schools

Community Technology Centers

Exchanges with Historic Whaling and Trading Partners

Foreign Language Assistance

Excellence in Economic Education

Arts in Education

Women's Educational Equity

Elementary and Secondary School Counseling

Civic Education

Star Schools

(Smaller Higher Education Programs:)

Higher Education Demos for Students w/Disabilities

Underground Railroad Program

Interest Subsidy Grants

(Small Job Training and Adult Education Programs:)

Occupational and Employment Information

Tech-prep Demonstration

Literacy Programs for Prisoners

State Grants for Incarcerated Youth

(Small Postsecondary Student Financial Assistance Programs:)


Byrd Scholarships

B.J. Stupak Olympic Scholarships

Thurgood Marshall Legal Opportunity

(Small Vocational Rehabilitation Programs:)

Vocational Rehabilitation Recreational Programs

Vocational Rehab (VR) Migrant and Seasonal Workers

Projects with Industry

Supported Employment

Teacher Quality Enhancement Program

- Energy Department

Hydropower Program

Nuclear Energy Plant Optimization

Nuclear Energy Research Initiative

Oil and Gas Programs

- Health and Human Services Department

ACF Community Service Programs

ACF Early Learning Opportunities Fund

CDC Congressional Earmarks

CDC Preventive Health and Health Services Block Grant

CDC Youth Media Campaign

Direct Service Worker Delivery Grants

HRSA Emergency Medical Services for Children

HRSA Health Facilities Construction Congressional Earmarks

HRSA Healthy Community Access Program

HRSA State Planning Grant Program

HRSA Trauma Care

HRSA Traumatic Brain Injury

HRSA Universal Newborn Hearing Screening

Real Choice Systems Change Grants

- Housing and Urban Development Department


- Interior Department

BLM Jobs-in-the-Woods Program

LWCF State Recreation Grants (NPS)

National Park Service Statutory Aid

Rural Fire Assistance (BLM, NPS, FWS, BIA)

- Justice Department

Byrne Discretionary Grants

Byrne Justice Assistance Grants

COPS Hiring Grants

COPS Interoperable Communications Technology Grants

COPS Law Enforcement Technology Grants

Juvenile Accountability Block Grants

National Drug Intelligence Center

Other State/Local Law Enforcement Assistance Program Terminations

State Criminal Alien Assistance Program (SCAAP)

- Labor Department

Migrant and Seasonal Farm Worker Training Program

Reintegration of Youthful Offenders

- Transportation Department

National Defense Tank Vessel Construction Program

Railroad Rehabilitation Infrastructure Financing Loan Program

- Enviromental Protection Agency

Unrequested Projects

Water Quality Cooperative Agreements

- National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Hubble Space Telescope Robotic Servicing Mission

- Other Agencies

National Veterans Business Development Corporation

Postal Service: Revenue Forgone Appropriation

SBA: Microloan Program

SBA: Small Business Investment Company (SBIC) Participating Securities Program

- Agriculture Department

Federal (In-House) Research

Forest Service Capital Improve and Maintenance

Forest Service Wildland Fire Management (incl. supp. and emergency funding)

Biomass Research and Development


CCC - Bioenergy

CCC - Market Access Program

Farm Bill Programs (EQIP

Farm Bill Programs (CSP)

Farm Bill Programs (WHIP)

Farm Bill Program (Farm and Ranchland Protection)

Farm Bill Programs (Ag. Management Assistance)


Renewable Energy

Rural Firefighter Grants

Rural Strategic Investment Program

Rural Business Investment Program

Value-added Grants

Watershed Rehabilitation

NRCS Conservation Operations

NRCS Resource Conservation and Development Program

Water and Wastewater Grants and Loans

- Commerce Department

Manufacturing Extension Partnership

- Education Department

Adult Education State Grants

State Grants for Innovation

- Energy Department

Environmental Management

- Health and Human Services Department

HRSA Children's Hospitals GME Payment Program

HRSA Health Professions

HRSA Rural Health

SAMHSA Programs of Regional and National Significance

State, Local & Hospital Bioterrorism Preparedness Grants

- Housing and Urban Development Department

Housing for Persons with Disabilities

Native American Housing Block Grant

Public Housing Capital Fund

- Interior Department

Bureau of Indian Affairs School Construction

National Heritage Area Grants

Payments in Lieu of Taxes

USGS, Mineral Resources Program

- Justice Department

Federal Bureau of Prisons Construction Program

High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas Program

Juvenile Justice Law Enforcement Assistance Programs

- Labor Department

International Labor Affairs Bureau

Office of Disability Employment Policy

Workforce Investment Act Pilots and Demonstrations

- State Department

Assistance for the Independent States of the Former Soviet Union

- Transportation Department

FAA - Facilities and Equipment

FAA - Airport Improvement Program (Oblim)

FRA - Next Generation High Speed Rail

- Treasury Department

Internal Revenue Service - Taxpayer Service

- Environmental Protection Agency

Alaska Native Villages

Clean Water State Revolving Fund

- National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Aeronautics: Vehicle Systems Program

Jupiter Icy Moons Orbiter

- Other Agencies

Archives: National Historical Publications & Records Commission

U.S. Institute of Peace, Construction of New Building

Agriculture: Rural Telephone Bank

Commerce: Economic and Community Development Programs

Homeland Security: State and Local Homeland Security Grants

Homeland Security: Transportation Security Administration, Recover Aviation Security Screening Costs Through Fees

Labor: Job Training Reform, Consolidate Grants Program

Transportation: Amtrak

Army Corps of Engineers (Civil Works): Performance Guidelines for Funding Construction Projects

U.S. Agency for International Development and Department of Agriculture: International Food Aid

Vince Leibowitz is County Chairman of the Democratic Party of Van Zandt County.

Posted at 08:53 PM to National Politics | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Now I'm Excited

By Vince Leibowitz

I must admit, I was among the skeptics who didn't really think it would make a difference who ended up as Chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

And, though Howard Dean still has a lot to prove, as a county chairman, I was very excited to read about Howard Dean's Plan for the DNC.

If you are a Democrat and don't get at least a little excited reading this, you may need to check your pulse:

1. Show up! Democrats should never concede a single state, a single district, or a single voter to the Republicans. We must be active and compete in all 50 states and work with the state parties to build a true national party.

2. The success of the national party depends directly on the success of the state parties — we must better integrate our operations by:

* Having the DNC pay the salary of each state party executive director to help ensure that the state parties have adequate funds.
* Collectively building and sharing supporter lists between the national and state parties.
* Recruiting, training, and encouraging candidates to run for office at every level — building tomorrow's farm team from the ground up.
* Actively grow local Democratic committees and communities by working with neighborhood activists who can reach out in their communities and enable the grassroots to support state and local candidates.
* Maintaining a permanent campaign in every state. We need to establish an ongoing, active presence, which does not have to be recreated every four years for four months.

3. Set core principles that define the Democratic Party and what we stand for and take a bottom-up approach to the development of the Party's message;

4. Use cutting-edge Internet and other technologies to fundraise, organize, and communicate with our supporters;

5. Strengthen our political institutions and leadership institutes to promote our leaders and our ideas — these organizations must work together in a coordinated and integrated fashion to elect Democrats at every level, so that we can take this country back.

I am particularly interested in this one:

Collectively building and sharing supporter lists between the national and state parties.

Does this mean that the Texas Democratic Party can now get the fund-raising list from the DNC they used to raise something like $19 million dollars (may be wrong about that figure) from Texas?

If so, this would represent a major shift in DNC policy going back at least two decades. If I were Charles Soechting, I'd call the DNC Monday morning and ask for a copy of that list.

Also, I wonder if this means that county parties can get the list of DNC contributors in their counties? Just for the fun of it, I think I'll call the DNC Monday morning and ask for this list.

I am slightly confused as to why Dean didn't specifically include any language mentioning county parties, the true backbone of the Party. He mentioned "community activists," and maybe it all means the same thing.

Also, just thinking out loud here, since Dean is now the DNC Chairman, does this mean he would headline a major fund-raiser like, for free? I'll ask when I call Monday. It'd be great if East Texas Democrats could have a huge multi-county fund-raiser in a place like Tyler and split the proceeds.

I may have to whip out the old Rolodex and get with some of my East Texas contacts to see if they'd like to do something like that--Dean or no Dean. In fact, the more I think about it, the cooler the idea sounds.

I'd better stop this post because I'm already thinking about locations and designing logos in my head. Damn you, Howard Dean for getting me even more excited about being a Democrat!

Posted at 11:36 AM to National Politics | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

February 12, 2005

Dean New Chairman, DNC Wants Blogger Support

By Vince Leibowitz

I guess all the regular contributors are taking a much-needed rest, digging through capitol waste baskets for their next scoops, or just otherwise occupied. (Perhaps they are at the DNC meeting?)

So, since it's Saturday and I obviously don't have anything else to do until later, I'll pick up a little slack by announcing:

Howard Dean is the new Chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

I'll comment no more on this except to say I eagerly await the fulfilment of his campaign promises.

But, I do think it is cool that the DNC is now actively soliciting support from Bloggers, via this link. I guess if every blogger who supported Dean's presidential run were to contribute, the DNC would make a pretty penny today.

While you can give to the DNC if you want, I'll instead encourage everyone to help out here in the home state first, by giving to Take Back Texas or the Texas Democratic Party.

Or, visit your local party's website. Most county parties in Texas now have a links where they can accept contributions on line, too.

Why not celebrate a day on which grassroots activism has taken the center stage by giving at the local level?

I'm quite confident that Byron, Andrew, Karl-T or Jim will post a far suprior post to one I could write on Dean and his new position, so I'll be eagerly awaiting that.

I would, however, like to know the vote breakdown. Perhaps one of those guys will have that information.

Posted at 03:37 PM to National Politics | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

February 04, 2005

A Tale of Two Connecticut Yankees

By Jim Dallas

The Senior Senator.

The Junior Senator.

Posted at 02:27 PM to National Politics | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 03, 2005

Liberty for Some

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

It's one of the most concise posts I've seen over at dKos and it sets up a really good contrast when talking about "Liberty".

How does Bush square this:

Two weeks ago, I stood on the steps of this Capitol and renewed the commitment of our Nation to the guiding ideal of liberty for all. This evening I will set forth policies to advance that ideal at home and around the world.

To this?

Because marriage is a sacred institution and the foundation of society, it should not be re-defined by activist judges. For the good of families, children, and society, I support a constitutional amendment to protect the institution of marriage.

"Liberty for all". Unless you're gay.

Posted at 02:40 PM to National Politics | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 02, 2005

SOTU Liveblogging

By Byron LaMasters

Nate liveblogged it over at his blog, Common Sense. Liveblogging.org has a full list of other bloggers that liveblogged the speech. I frankly didn't give a shit about what Bush had to say, so I found other ways to entertain myself tonight. I'll catch the details on the Daily Show.

Update: The Red State also Liveblogged the speech.

Posted at 11:15 PM to National Politics | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

February 01, 2005

Ideology, Schmideology

By Andrew Dobbs

Today Howard Dean sewed up his election for chairman of the Democratic National Committee, and frankly I'm disappointed. Two years ago it would have been among the happiest days of my life, but now I can't say that. And I have a good idea why. My old arguments to my quite Left wing friends in support of the admittedly more-moderate-than-he-looks Dean was "it isn't the man- it's the message and the movement." In other words, it isn't important who the candidate is, it is important the message he is spreading (make the Democratic Party more Leftist) and the movement of people he has attracted.

Now that argument has turned on its head, or perhaps I have turned on mine. His message is mistaken and his movement is destructive, and I think that there is a good chance Democrats will suffer as a result. I am not giving up hope yet, but without some signs in the right direction soon, I'll have no other choice.

His message is my primary problem. It seems that Dean and his college of sycophants believe that the reason Republicans win is because they are wholly, universally and unwaveringly committed to a far-Right philosophy and Democrats aren't similarly committed to a Left wing alternative. This is the source of Deaniac bellyaching about Frost's Bush-friendly commercials, their constant mouthing of Paul Wellstone's "Democratic Wing of the Democratic Party" quip, the origin of their hostility to "DINOs" of all varieties. His supporters wish to play amateur political consultants, and they are very bad at it.

They are bad at it because they are completely wrong. They are incredibly wrong about the GOP. The GOP is the master of adapting their message to the place where they are running with enough in common everywhere for national candidates to rally around. In the Mountain West they run Barry Goldwater libertarian-conservative types- not terribly interested in social issues, more interested in a hands-off approach. In the South they tend to run religious right types. in the Northeast they run moderate to liberal Republicans. They pick their battles and shift their message accordingly.

In places with strong Unions they run labor-friendly Republicans (Rudy Giuliani), and in places with weak unions they run labor-not-so-friendly Republicans (Dick Armey). In places with mostly pro-choice people, they run mostly pro-choice candidates (Mitt Romney), and in places with mostly anti-choice people they run mostly anti-choice candidates (Roy Moore). In places with a lot of environmentally friendly people, they run environment friendly candidates (Chris Shays, Christine Todd Whitman), and in places where people don't like hippie tree-huggers they run people who hate the Earth (Tom DeLay). In places where people are cool with gays, they run candidates cool with gays (Arnold Schwarzenegger) and in places with people who aren't into gays, they run gay bashing candidates (Bob Dornan, for example). In other words, they are flexible.

Furthermore, they have some serious ideological strain in their own party- much like ours. Business conservatives and social conservatives don't tend to get along. Business conservatives want cheap labor, so they like the status quo with immigration, social conservatives don't like immigrants so they don't like the status quo. It is a brewing battle that might just blow up in their face in the next 4 years. Social conservatives don't like vice, while virtually every big vice- booze, cigarrettes, gambling, corporate porn- has an even bigger lobby that gives lots of money to the GOP. That is a source of strain here in Texas. So the GOP is hardly the picture of ideological rigor that the Deaniacs fancy it as.

The issue isn't ideology- Democrats need not move to the Left (as the soon to be crowned King Howard III would say), nor to the Right (as the disgraced Duke Tim would argue). The issue is organization, structure and money- three things Dean has little to no valuable experience in and which my guy, Frost, had in spades. The GOP has a strong state organization in EVERY SINGLE STATE. Don't believe me? Name a state with a weak GOP. Illinois? Short term hiccups because of some personality problems. Massachusetts? They have a GOP governor. California? Ditto. In fact, there is only one state- New Jersey- without at least one Republican elected statewide. There are several, including Texas, that don't have any Democrats. The Republicans have a great national organization, Democrats don't and that is the problem, not that we are too liberal or too conservative.

If ideology were our problem, Dean would be perfect for the job. With a distressingly large army of nihlistic Bush-hating Leftists he could push our party to the Left better than almost anyone. But as it stands, his record is not good at handling our real problems- resources, organization and strategy.

In his presidential campaign Dean burned through $40 million bucks like Paris Hilton tears through overpriced god-awful skanky couture. In fact, we might want to see if that is where the cash went, because god knows it didn't go to winning votes- he could only eek out a win in a state he had been elected to statewide office in 7 times. $40 million bucks and nothing to show for it- even the Cowboys can do better than that (well, actually...).

In that same bid he managed to get more volunteers and more organization than any other campaign in Iowa by several orders of magnitude. Yet in the comparably simple task of winning Iowa (as opposed to the 49 other states and District of Columbia), he couldn't close the deal. He had more money, more people and better support from more important figures (Tom Harkin, Al Gore, AFSCME and SEIU etc.) than anyone else and he came in a rather distant 3rd. If he can't use an unprecedented and unparalleled organization to convince a plurality of 100,000 committed Democrats to rally around his cause, what makes us think he can get a majority of 100,000,000 mostly hostile people to do the same?

And in terms of strategy, his campaign was very good at this from time to time. Unfortunately it had nothing to do with Dean. Before Joe Trippi, Howard Dean was an anonymous candidate with no money, little organization and a Kucinich of a chance of winning. After Trippi came on, the emails started rolling in, the cash was flowing and his name was on everyone's lips. Save for peaking too soon things might have worked out differntly. But Dean is obviously not the genius, Joe Trippi is. And Trippi endorsed the now former-candidate Simon Rosenberg.

Furthermore, when Dean decided to keep his campaign list annoyed (or enraptured, as the true believer caucus seems to have done) and form Democracy for America, his candidate selection process was nothing if not senseless. David Van Os got his support- who had absolutely no chance of winning. But so did some candidates who had absolutely no chance of losing. In fact, the only real strategic consideration that seems to have been taken into consideration was paying back people who supported him in his race for the Presidency. As a result an insignificant minority won and almost all of them would have won anyways. The rest recieved little more than a mention on his website and few small donations from supporters who couldn't possibly contribute to all of the list of Dean's Dozen. Ask Katy Hubener how well his endorsement did- she lost and Dean's support made little to no difference. Strategy is clearly not Gov. Dean's strong suit.

In the end Dean is uninspiring, but not quite distressing. What he says to the people on the inside is different from what he says when the cameras are rolling. Not contradictory, nothing controversial, just his rhetoric is toned down and his proposals are a bit more specific. More money to state parties, funding much of their core staff, etc. Many of these ideas are worth listening to and I hope that they work out for the best. Indeed, it seems that his followers are a bit snowed over- Dean is hardly the Wellstone-esque crusader for ideological purity, the dot-com-age William Jennings Bryan that they envision him. Rather, he is a typical urban pol done good. He knows how to fire up a crowd in the front and cut a deal in the back. He knows just what words will rally the masses to his standard even as he rubs shoulders with the CEOs and millionaires in back. This isn't an indictment, quite the contrary, but it is a much-needed dose of reality for his starry-eyed cadre of communicants. Don't get your panties in a wad over the good governor.

In the end, our party does need to do what the GOP has done- learn how to create a viable national message that can be adapted to the ideological proclivities of particular constituencies and disseminate it with 50 states' worth of first class organization. Texas should have pro-life candidates, Minnesota probably shouldn't. Alabama should have candidates who are less than vocal for their support of gay marriage, California probably shouldn't. Candidates in Mississippi don't need to be 100% union all the time, candidates in Ohio a bit more so. You have to compromise because without 218 Congressmen you don't have shit, without 51 Senators you don't have shit and without 270 electoral votes you don't have shit. We have to build a national coalition and being extremist just won't do it. What will unite us is a message that we are the party of the American Dream- if you work hard, play by the rules and want a better life tomorrow than today and a better world for your kids than this one, you can have it, and we can help. It should be disseminated by neighbors, co-workers and members of your church. It should be on the radio and on the TV, in people's yards and on their cars' bumpers. It should be unavoidable and undeniable until everyone interested in the continued magnificence of this country stands up and asks to be counted with the Democratic Party.

If Howard Dean can manage to achieve that he will go down as the best DNC Chair in history. I'm willing to give him the chance, and I pray that he does.

Posted at 10:43 PM to National Politics | Permalink | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Liveblogging the SOTU

By Nathan Nance

I'm planning on liveblogging the State of the Union Address tomorrow over at my blog, Common Sense. Come on over, it'll be fun. I'll pop some popcorn and bring some licorice. Really, it'll be great.

From what I understand, the speech will be divided evenly between foreign and domestic policy. That should make it interesting since I'm more of a domestic policy wonk, and not a foreign policy specialist.

For those of you who were thinking of skipping it, I have a way to make it fun: a drinking game! The rules are very simple.

If he says "freedom", take a shot of tequila

If he says "liberty", take a shot of vodka

If he actually uses the phrase "freedom is on the march" and then smirks and pauses for applause, eat the worm

If he says "ownership society", sip you beer

If he says "personalized accounts", hit the Jack Daniels

This way, everybody can enjoy the SOTU... and Jenna won't have to yawn during the speech. I should probably put in a disclaimer that this game should not be attempted by anyone, since it is almost sure that he will use each of these phrases several dozen times in the 40-minute speech. You'll get alcohol poisoning before he's done talking about his privatization scheme.

Posted at 08:08 PM to National Politics | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Well, good.

By Jim Dallas

Ward Churchill is taking a demotion (why not more?).

Granted, we're all here for academic freedom. But there's a fine line between controversy and idiocy. And if making it clear that we don't tolerate idiots involves partaking in the kabuki dance of disassociation, then, let's boogie down.

One of my favorite professors at UT is Bob Jensen. You may not like Bob, but he's a nice guy. He's controversial to a hilt, but he doesn't say things just to upset people.

(And Prof. Churchill makes Bob look like Captain America by comparison.)

Posted at 03:05 AM to National Politics | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 31, 2005

Back to the Future

By Jim Dallas

The ACS blog has a thorough post on Dr. Thomas Woods' "politically incorrect" (which is to say revisionist, at best) history of America.

Some times I have to thank the blog gods for timely coincidences; in this case, I must be thankful for Amitai Etzioni's post this week on collective guilt:

Etzioni, the grand old man of communitarianism, writes:

Communal responsibility is based on the fact that we are born into a community and share its history, memories, identity, achievements, and failures. We are not simply individual human beings, who can retreat behind a Rawlsian "veil of ignorance," secure in our universal rights and historical innocence. We are also members of specific families and communities. We cannot help but share their burdens, just as we share in their treasures; their responsibilities as well as their privileges. Thus, an American inherits both the proud memory of the Boston Tea Party and the agony of slavery; both the marvelous work of the Framers of the Constitution and the slaughter of Native Americans; the vigilant protection of freedom--from Greece to Korea--and the killing of innocent children, women, and other civilians in My Lai. The memory of slavery is particularly telling. Abolished some 134 years ago, before the ancestors of most contemporary Americans had even immigrated, slavery is still part of the American past; we cannot erase or ignore it. Most important, our aggrieved past commands us all to act, not merely the sons and daughters of plantation owners. We are all co-responsible for that which our community has perpetrated and condoned, for both past sins of commission and omission.

It needs to be stressed that Etzioni (who is Jewish) explicitly notes that he is not arguing in favor of "blood guilt." What's he's arguing is that, just as our children (as well as new immigrants) inherit our national debt in perpetuity, or our environmental catastrophes, so to do they inherit moral obligations, by virtue of being members of a collectivity, regardless of their race or religion.

Dealing with these obligations requires some maturity; Etzioni has some suggestions about that:

● First, it cautions not to look for easy scapegoats. While not denying, or diminishing their importance, one can never blame select power elites ("the Nazis did it, not the Germans"), objective conditions ("it happened because of runaway inflation, massive unemployment"), or even third parties ("Hitler was caused by the humiliating armistice imposed on Germany at the end of World War I") for the dark moments in one's communal past. I am not suggesting that external forces and objective conditions do not play a role in a nation's history; but they do not exempt one from sharing the responsibility for one's community and its course of action.

● Second, remember the past. Each generation of parents is obligated to recount the formative events of the past to its children. In the United States, we still mourn the circumstances, savagery, and massive bloodshed of the Civil War. Without drawing any parallels, it is a credit to Germany that as a community–albeit not every single German–it has learned to do the same concerning the history of the Nazi era.

And yet neo-Confederates and their sympathizers are ignoring both of these points, seeking out scapegoats and obfuscating our rememberance of the past.

Were it true that slavery was (as Woods apparently claims) not a cruel institution; were it true that the legacy of racism was not a stain on our history; were it true that America didn't have a history that involved the killing of labor organizers, were it true that our nation hadn't a history of imperialist aggression - were all these things true, perhaps history wouldn't be such a painful thing to read. All glory, and no shame, the way it ought to be.

I would hope, though, that we'd be big enough such that we'd engage history head on, instead of tuning out what we don't want to hear.

Posted at 05:31 AM to National Politics | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 30, 2005


By Jim Dallas

CNN on the string of costly government info-tech boondoggles.

I've been involved in a couple minor-league, private sector boondoggles. They're not fun, and usually attributable to poor planning.

Posted at 05:10 PM to National Politics | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack


By Jim Dallas

Newt Gingrich is blogging trying to get together Newt Meet-ups.

And darn it, I find this at once both fascinating and highly worrisome, speaking as a Democrat.

On the other hand, I'd really like to see the Republicans go back to the 1990s, when they were making sense. That would be good for America.

Posted at 05:43 AM to National Politics | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

January 29, 2005

Rosenberg, Dean Pick up DNC Votes

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

While many more DNC votes will likely be made public after this weekend (and while Frost is busy makeing the Dean v. Frost race about ideology again instead of reform), Rosenberg and Dean make their final round of DNC endorsements.

First, Dean picks up the endorsement of former DNC Chair candidate Harold Ickes, the best indicator of what the Clintons may be thinking...

While Ickes would not comment on the Clintons' preferences, he is a close ally and would not be endorsing Dean against their strong objections. No one was immediately available in Sen. Clinton's office to comment.

Ickes said Dean "has a real ability to communicate with people in leadership, but also to grass-roots and average Americans. He understands the need for party building."

Ickes' endorsement comes at a critical time in the chairman's race and gives Dean almost 50 of the more than 215 votes he would need to win the post.

Also, Dean picked up just under 20 more DNC votes today, many from California, but a mix as before.

Steven K. Alari - California DNC Committeeman and DNC Executive Committee Member

Jeremy Bernard - DNC Member-at-Large

Rachel Binah - California DNC Committeewoman, Former Chair of the Environmental Caucus, California Democratic Party

Mary Ellen Early - California DNC Committeewoman

Ed Espinoza - California DNC Committeeman

Jimmie Farris - Tennessee DNC Committeewoman

Hon. Mike Fitzgerald - DNC Member, Chair of National Association of Democratic State Treasurers

Alice Huffman - California DNC Committeewoman and Chair of 2004 Democratic National Convention

Hon. Pete Jorgensen - Wyoming DNC Committeeman

Johnnie Patton - Mississippi DNC Committeewoman

Alexandra Gallardo Rooker - California DNC Committeewoman, Vice-Chair of the California State Democratic Party and Vice President CWA Local 9400

Aleita J. Huguenin - California DNC Committeewoman

John A. Perez - California DNC Committeeman and UFCW Local 324 Political Director

Garry S. Shay - California DNC Committeeman

Smith Bagley - Former DNC Finance Vice-Chair

Hon. Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.)

Hon. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.)

Debra DeLee - Former Chair of the DNC and CEO of 1996 Democratic National Convention

Hon. Grace Napolitano (D-Calif.)

Notice the Labor tags on a couple of those endorsements. Could be indicative of where labor is going, or at least that Dean is making sure he isn't getting left out with that crowd.

Also, Rosenberg announces 4 DNC votes, bumping him up in the "DNC Votes Not From My Home State" category. DNC Members Mark Bryant (MO), Gloria Nieto (At-Large, NM), and Moretta Bosley and Jo Etta Wickliffe (KY) are behind him now. (The Simon for Chair website is down so I have no link.)

Posted at 12:43 AM to National Politics | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

January 28, 2005

Jimbo's first official 2006 endorsement.

By Jim Dallas

It's January and I'm already getting letters from the very senior Senator from Massachusetts.

Rest assured, Senator Kennedy, I support your re-election! I just don't have any money right now.

Posted at 06:03 PM to National Politics | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 27, 2005

A County Chair's Words

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

The following comment was left by the County Chair of Taylor County (Abilene) on an older post of mine about how grassroots Democrats in SD 24, one of the more Republican districts, are organizing on their own to Change the Equation. They also happened to all endorse Howard Dean.

Karl's article says the vote for Dean for DNC at the SD24 county chairs' meeting earlier this month was "unofficial" and many of us weren't "rabid Deniacs" last summer.

I was there, and it was unanimous. I don't know what it takes for something to be "official."

And I don't know what our feelings last summer have to do with our choice for DNC chair now.

I think use of the term "rabid Deniacs" plays into the hands of the Republican opposition, which has said some very desperate things to discredit Gov. Dean. Like about the "scream" speech. Those who check into it can see he was trying to speak above the roar of his ecstatic volunteers, and the mike the networks used was unidirectional, capturing only his words and not the background noise.

That said, I wouldn't mind being called a "rabid Deniac" last summer or now, even though I was as loyal to Kerry after his nomination as anyone else.

-Dave Haigler
Taylor County Democratic Chair
Abilene, Texas

At the time I didn't have duplicate confirmation of the vote that was taken to endorse Dean being something that was public or not, so I went on the cautious side with my language. And my use of the "rabid Deaniac" statement was not to be degrading but to further highlight the point that since such an endorsement was coming from a region where many of the chairs were for other candidates and not "drinking the Dean kool-aid" like I was, their endorsement is all the more telling of the opinion of those on the ground in Texas.

Because it isn't news if a DFT poll says Dean supporters support Dean or if Texas DNC members support Frost... (I'm comprimising with you Byron) But I think it is news when there are multiple signs of the everyday Democrat and county level Party folk speaking up for Dean. If the MoveOn.org vote in the state shows the same thing, there is only so far you can run with the "well, that's not a surprise" meme until you have to deal with the possibility that maybe, just maybe, the majority of the "Democratic National Committee of Millions of Democrats" are on the same page.

Posted at 04:19 PM to National Politics | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Young Democrats, You Control 3 DNC Votes

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

If you are a member of a Young Democrats chapter, you can vote for DNC chair in the Young Democrats of America online Poll, which will determine where the 3 votes we control go for DNC chair.

So all you University Democrats at UT-Austin and otherwise, head on over and make your voice heard. Unlike DNC members from Texas not paying attention to the wishes of the grassroots of the State Democratic Party, you can make a difference this time.

Vote in the Poll Here.

Byron, since it's a rigged poll, I wouldn't expect you to vote in it. :)

Also, if you are in Arizona, your State Chair actually wants your imput on how to vote. So you can go vote here as well!

Posted at 02:56 PM to National Politics | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack

More DNC votes for Dean

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

Though I'm sure Byron will end up in Frost's camp at some point, giving him one of few precious blogger endorsements, Dean announces today at least 6 more actual voting members of the DNC. (Plus the endorsement of Mame Reiley, Chair of the DNC Women's Caucus and DNC member from Virginia yesterday.)

Passing over (former) fellow Congressman Frost would be Congressman Elijah Cummings of Maryland, immediate past chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, who endorsed Dean (and is having a public breakfast with him on February 24, for those of you in Maryland).

Next would be Joel Ferguson — Vice Chair DNC Black Caucus, which I find interesting considering Yvonne Gates, chair of the DNC Black Caucus, endorsed Dean as well this past week. Makes you wonder if something is up in the Black Caucus...and also where some of Webb's votes will go after he's falls out of the voting, and if the one Texas DNC black caucus member who held off from endorsing Frost because of the Black Caucus doing it's own thing means anything...

Other voting members include...

Patricia Ford — DNC Member-At-Large, Former International Exec VP SEIU

Hon. Joe Moore — Chair of the National Democratic Municipal Officials Conference (DNC member)

Gus Bickford — Massachusetts DNC National Committeeman

Patsy Arceneaux — Louisiana DNC National Committeewoman

And in the world of non-voting but important people endorsements (you know, the kind that Rosenberg has a lot of) are...

Bill Lynch — Former DNC Vice-Chair and Deputy Campaign Manager for the Kerry-Edwards campaign

Michael A. Brown — DNC National Finance Vice-Chair

Posted at 02:20 PM to National Politics | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack


By Byron LaMasters

Hotline provided the Cliff's Notes version of my interview with Martin Frost for those of you not interested in reading the entire thing:

LaMasters Questions LaFrost

Frost had a Q&A with Burnt Orange Report blogger Byron LaMasters. For more click here, but for now, here are excerpts:

  • Frost: "Here's how I'm different: I am the only candidate for DNC chair who has actually accomplished these goals -- reforming, funding and successfully managing a national party committee, investing national resources in state and local party structures, organizing at every level of politics, and most importantly devising creative strategies to win for Democrats in the most difficult areas of the country."
  • On whether the party needs "sweeping changes" or "just some tinkering around the edges": "The party needs major structural, strategic and communications reforms."
  • On IA and NH retaining 1st-in-the-nation status: "This is a serious issue that requires fairness from the new Chair."
  • On Washington Monthly's Sullivan's article "Fire the Consultants": "I can say that I agree with it's general point, and, as I will explain briefly, have been putting it into practice for my entire political career."
  • Frost: "One final point: If agreeing with President Bush on some issues disqualifies you to be DNC chair, then Howard Dean and I are both wasting our time (as are the rest of the candidates in the field, I imagine)" (1/27).
Posted at 01:42 PM to National Politics | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 26, 2005

Martin Frost Q&A

By Byron LaMasters

Here are the questions by Texas bloggers for Martin Frost in his campaign for DNC Chair. I must credit Charles Kuffner of Off the Kuff for his help specifically with several questions, and all of the Texas Tuesdays patron blogs for their input. I'm personally impressed with the depth in which Martin Frost answered each of the questions. It's certainly worth a look, even if you support another candidate for DNC. I would like to personally thank Martin Frost, and his campaign staff for taking the time and effort to address many of the questions and concerns of bloggers.

[To prevent any confusion, I submitted these questions via email to the Frost campaign last Thursday to which I received a response today. There was also a seperate conference call with bloggers / BlogPAC and Martin Frost tonight where other questions were asked. This post does not include those questions, although there was some overlap.]

Feel free to repost any of this, just credit the Burnt Orange Report (BL = Byron LaMasters, MF = Martin Frost):

MF: Thank you for these questions. They are an important opportunity to communicate with Democrats and other progressives throughout the country.

The Q&A after the jump...

BL: Why are you running for DNC Chair? What distinguishes you from the other candidates in the field?

MF: All of the candidates agree that the Democratic Party needs to undergo fundamental reforms. I strongly believe that the next Chair must pursue a 50-state party-building and campaign strategy, focus the DNC around winning elections (instead of its own internal politics), make long-term political plans and invest in local and state races, and energize traditional Democratic constituencies while at the same time bringing in new voters. To accomplish these goals, from Day One the DNC must be professionally managed and accountable to the Chair personally. That is the only way to ensure it can afford to become the modern, integrated and nationwide party structure we need to defeat the GOP. The DNC must fund and build professional state parties in every state; empower local and state Democrats to carry forth our message and convince their neighbors to join us; and create a Strategic Communications and Research Center to provide Democrats with unbiased, scientific and long-range message guidance. Finally, the Democratic Party must challenge this dishonest, corrupt and elitist Republican Government at every opportunity, and we must organize, organize, organize.

Here's how I'm different: I am the only candidate for DNC Chair who has actually accomplished these goals – reforming, funding and successfully managing a national party committee, investing national resources in state and local party structures, organizing at every level of politics, and most importantly, devising creative strategies to win for Democrats in the most difficult areas of the country.

Taking over the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee after Newt Gingrich’s “revolutionaries” took the House of Representatives in the 1994 elections, I completely revamped the committee – shifting our focus to organizing, and pioneering new programs like the DCCC’s first investment in minority turnout; expanding the playing field by aggressively targeting Republicans in even the toughest territory; investing in state and local parties; running localized campaigns; and creating new fundraising methods that shattered all prior records. As a result, Democrats netted 14 Congressional seats in my two cycles as DCCC Chair – and drove Newt Gingrich out of Congress.

Additionally, my political experience is unmatched in this race. My personal experience in the nuts-and-bolts of campaigns and party politics dates back to the voter registration program I ran in 1972 for Democrats in North Texas – a program that registered 50,000 new voters by knocking on the door of every minority household in the county twice. Since then, I’ve been a successful candidate who has won in a Red State while defending core Democratic values like civil rights and a woman’s right to the privacy of her own health care decisions. I’ve had to be a disciplined national spokesperson, taking on Republicans on TV in Washington, and then campaigning for Democrats in tough races in their home districts in every region of the country. And I’ve had to be a political party leader at home – where I began a serious commitment to my state and county parties decades ago, long before it became a fashionable campaign promise.

BL: How does your experience as chair of the DCCC prepare you for the job of DNC Chair? What skill sets do you bring to the job that other candidates lack?

MF: In addition to what I've written above, I'd add a couple of other points.

First, at the DCCC I proved I know how to successfully reform and manage a major national political party organization, and that I know what it takes to succeed on the only scale that matters -- against the GOP. (That is experience that no one else in this campaign has.)

I learned how to make the hard decisions -- like firing consultants, distinguishing between promising new ideas that can help win elections and expensive gimmicks that simply make you feel good, stretching a budget to make long-term investments, saying "no" to a candidate you like so that you can say "yes" to someone the Party needs to win.

This is crucial because today's DNC is a huge political operation that can and should raise and spend hundreds of millions of dollars during the next chair's term. Democrats deserve a DNC Chair who can hit the ground running and manage an operation of that size -- making the hard decisions to effectively and efficiently deploy resources to win now (in 2005 and 2006), and to invest for the long-term (by focusing, for instance, on the down-ballot races in 2006 that will determine which party has stronger gubernatorial candidates in 2010). Democrats who invest in our Party deserve to know that their money will not be wasted.

Second, I know the importance of challenging conventional wisdom, rethinking the "way it's always been done," and embracing new ideas and bringing in new talent. When I took over the DCCC, Democrats were out of power in Congress for the first time in 40 years. Almost every "smart" Democratic operative and political pundit -- including some of my predecessors -- advised me to hunker down and just try to survive. Newt Gingrich and his "revolution" were on the ascendancy, the old ways of operating were no longer available to us, and others didn't see that we had any other options.

Well, I did. So, I completely revamped the committee: changing our strategy to emphasize energizing base Democrats as well as reaching out to swing voters, adjusting our targeting to challenge Republicans in even the most GOP-trending states, investing in new fundraising methods, expanding the field staff, and creating new programs to directly spend national resources on grassroots efforts.

And because it paid off -- we netted 14 seats and drove Newt Gingrich from Congress -- ever since then, I've never had to heed the voices of conventional wisdom when they claim that Democrats can't win or that "we don't do things that way."

Third, I proved I can take on the nastiest Republicans in Washington on national TV -- and can also campaign for Democrats in tough races in their own homes districts in every part of the nation.

Fourth -- and this is related to the third point -- I learned that a Party Chair must never become the dominant story himself or herself. Your job is to help other Democrats win, and that means ensuring they get the spotlight when they need it. So you have to be willing (and able) to step aside and put other Democrats in the spotlight -- sometimes because they have special credibility, and sometimes because that's one of the ways you help them win.

BL: What did you learn from your race against Pete Sessions? How will that experience make you a better chair than any of the other candidates?

MF: It reinforced for me two principles that I have long held -- and that will guide me as DNC Chair.

First, no matter the odds, it is worth it to stand and fight. As many will recall, Tom Delay and Karl Rove had lost so many fights to us in Texas that when they finally won mid-decade redistricting in 2003, they didn't mess around, putting me in a 65% Republican district.

Instead of walking way after 26 good years in Congress fighting for Democratic values, I raised more than $4 million -- with significant help from the online community -- and built an unprecedented grassroots operation. We organized every precinct, contacted Democrats in some of the most GOP-dominated precincts in Texas -- many of whom hadn't heard from a Democrat in years -- and more than doubled Hispanic turnout. The result: We held my Republican opponent, Congressman Pete Sessions to only 54% (11 points below the district's GOP performance), and turned out enough Democrats to elect four Democratic officials in Dallas County. (News accounts focused on our history-making election of Lupe Valdez as Sheriff, but overlooked the fact that Democrats had not elected a county-wide official in the prior 20 years.)

The second principle is this: Democrats should never cede any issue to Republicans, and should never be afraid to challenge them on their so-called “home turf.” In my race, our research found a vulnerability -- Sessions was one of only a few Members to vote against airline security -- and we hit him hard, pointing out that he was so far out of the mainstream that he'd opposed even other Republicans (like Bush, McCain, etc.). Not only did it throw him on the defensive, it gave tremendous energy to our grassroots program when Democrats in North Texas saw that a Democrat was challenging a Republican on security.

BL Do you believe that the Democratic Party is in need of sweeping changes in terms of message and strategy, or just some tinkering around the edges? In either case, how do you plan to bring about the changes you envision?

MF: The party needs major structural, strategic and communications reforms. We need a National Political Audit of all electoral races in the country – so that we can take a rigorous and long-term look at all of the Democratic Party’s priorities and ensure we are letting no opportunity slip by. We need to build a modern, integrated and truly nationwide party structure, one that connects voters in every community to Democratic officials and candidates at all level – from county officials and state legislators, to Members of Congress and Senators, to Governors and Presidential candidates. We need to build a DNC Strategic Communications and Research Center, which can provide all Democrats with research-driven, scientifically tested guidance on message strategy, and which can devise strategies to effect fundamental changes in the rhetorical and issue frameworks of political discourse.

To accomplish all these goals, the DNC must empower, fund and professionalize state party operations. It must utilize all the tools of the new politics to empower, organize and communicate. It must invest in technology and testing. It must be willing to challenge conventional wisdom about Party operations. And it must submit every bit of its infrastructure and planning to a simple test: How does this help Democrats win elections – now and over the long-term?

BL: What role do you see the blogosphere and netroots as playing in the Democratic party. What would you do to utilize the netroots as chair of the DNC?

MF: I view it a core component of the progressive community and the Democratic Party – a critical communications vehicle for 21st century politics and a vital resource full of energy, ideas, volunteers, donors and voters.

I want to ensure that you can become more involved in the DNC – in organizing as well as in working with us on message development, message delivery and rapid response. We need a strategy and structure to fully incorporate into our communications strategies the power the blogosphere.

Also, we need the netroots to be seamlessly integrated in our grassroots organizing efforts. This is a network with enormous potential to impact the delivery of campaign messages and to build the type of “neighbor-to-neighbor” campaigns that Democrats historically excelled in – and that worked in some places this year (like in the Iowa Caucuses, and in the general election in Dallas County).

To do this, the DNC must engage in an ongoing, substantive and two-way conversation with you. That includes everything from regular conference calls to special online events. Structurally, we should regularly review and re-evaluate the performance of our technology systems and resources (just as we do other committee resources). At the staff level, Internet organizing and technology staff must participate in strategic political and communications decisions.

As we build and professionalize State Parties, we must make it as central to their operations as are traditional departments like Finance, Communication and Research. That requires that the DNC make it a priority, and provide resources, tools, staffing and training. The DNC may also need to release its hold on information and technology so that local and state Democrats can make use of them. I see this as an important way to reverse the long-term decline that has sapped many local and state party organizations of their organizational (and thus political) strength.

The Democratic Party has made great strides in the past year or so, but it’s clear that there is much more that we can do. As folks who have worked with me can tell you, I’ve never won any awards for hipness, but I’ve always looked for new and better ways of practicing politics – because my overriding goal is simply to win for Democrats. That is why I find the power of the new politics so exciting.

BL: What experience do you have with Internet organizing? Should Internet organizing be an integral strategy of the DNC? If so, how would you implement such a strategy?

MF: I believe I covered this question in Answer 6 (above), but let me add one point of emphasis:

For my entire career in politics, I have believed that organizing is crucial to winning elections for the Democratic Party. Today, it is clear that Internet organizing is vital to our future success. The days of turning over campaign strategy to media consultants have long passed. I’ve always run grassroots-heavy campaigns – as the thousands who have volunteered on my races can tell you – because I never bought into the myth that TV could replace the power of personal communication in politics. (That is why I reformed the post-1994 DCCC to focus on organizing; it’s also why my final campaign spent more of its $4 million budget on organizing and turnout than it did on TV advertising – despite the enormous per-point cost of the Dallas-Fort Worth TV market).

BL: What is your position on the order of the Democratic Presidential primary races? Should Iowa and New Hampshire retain their "first in the nation status", or should there be reform?

MF: This is a serious issue that requires fairness from the new Chair. There is a substantive and competent commission working on this issue, and because I do not want to unfairly affect their work, I will withhold judgment until hearing from them.

BL: Obviously, you're an expert on the redistricting issue. Do you support national redistricting reforms? What are your thoughts on the idea of a nonpartisan/bipartisan redistricting commissions being pushed by members of both parties (i.e. Democrats in Florida, Republicans in California)? Furthermore, as DNC Chair what strategy would you implement to tackle 2010 congressional redistricting now?

MF: Your first question is a crucial strategic one that I prefer not to discuss in public – i.e., with our Republican opponents – at this time. As to your second question: Throughout my career in politics, I’ve always devoted whatever resources and power I have to advancing Democrats through redistricting, and it will be a top priority at the DNC. I will ensure that we have a comprehensive long-term strategy for post-2010 redistricting -- a strategy that starts now by seriously targeting the key state races (legislative, gubernatorial and down-ballot) that will determine control of the process in each state in 2011 and 2012, and by beginning the legal preparation needed for an enterprise of this magnitude.

BL: You are now advocating a 50-state strategy, yet in previous blog Interviews you said:

"We cannot afford to swing wildly at every pitch hoping for a homerun. We need to pick our pitches carefully, hit singles and doubles and run bases aggressively."

Did you change your mind? What is your strategy for finding and funding viable candidates in unfriendly territory? Do you believe Texans in general and Texas Democrats in particular would have been better served by a "254-county strategy" in 2004? Why or why not?

MF: This question gets to the nub of the problem with the DNC over the past several years. State leaders like me have had to design strategies to fit their resources. Because the DNC did not make significant investments in non-presidential states, Democrats in places like Texas were forced to fend for themselves with the limited resources they were able to raise on their own, and as a result had to limit their investments.

So, yes, Texas Democrats and Texans in general would have absolutely been better served by a “254-county” strategy. And I don’t know of anyone in America who has spent more time, effort and personal political capital than I have on fights with the DNC for more resources for my state.

Of course, no matter how many times the DNC told us “no,” I never gave up on Texas Democrats. Instead, I worked extraordinarily hard to personally raise national money for campaigns and state and local parties in Texas. But as one Congressman – and even as the DCCC Chair -- I was never in position to fund an entire statewide operation in a place as large as Texas, where a statewide race costs tens and tens of millions of dollars.

Frankly, that is one of the reasons I want to be DNC Chair: So I can finally use the DNC to make the investments in state and local party-building for which I’ve been fighting. Again, my record at the DCCC is illustrative. While we never had the resources available to the DNC today, I adopted a strategy of expanding the playing field and challenging Republicans everywhere possible. We ran races in states that never came close to making the map used by the DNC and Presidential campaign (despite my best efforts to convince them to forgo their presidential-only targeting).

In closing on this point, I want to make sure I don’t mislead anyone. Even the DNC lacks infinite resources. And any honest strategist will tell you that the baseball analogy cited in your question – picking your pitches carefully – applies to every resource allocation decision you make. If you have fewer resources (as we did in Texas), then you can only afford to seriously invest in fewer races. If you have the DNC’s resources, then you can swing at more pitches – but if you flail about wildly, you’ll probably just end up wasting a lot of money as you strike out. (For more on this point, see Answer 11 (below)).

But unlike everyone else in this race, I’ve had years of experience in strategically managing the resources of a large political party committee. So when I’m Chair, the DNC will make smart and significant investments in building strong party structures and in supporting campaigns at all levels – especially with an eye toward down-ballot candidates whose short-term success determines the strength of our farm team and the long-term success of our Party. After years on the outside of the DNC looking in, I’m eager to get inside and start making these reforms.

BL: Have you read Amy Sullivan's article in the Washington Monthly entitled Fire the Consultants? What is your response to what she says?

MF: Not until you asked about it. But now that I have, I can say I agree with it’s general point, and, as I will explain briefly, have been putting it into practice for my entire political career.

My overriding political goal is simply winning – because that’s the only way you achieve the power you need to stand up for the people you represent. So I never have rewarded poor performance by consultants, and I never will. When I took over the DCCC, we cleaned house and opened up the consulting process to new blood (including at least one person named in the Sullivan piece as a potential next-generation strategic genius.) It was a difficult and contentious process, but when you personally understand the nuts-and-bolts of campaigns and party politics, you are not dependent on consultants to make the tough decisions.

While I was DCCC Chair, we maintained a very clear and very bright line between the committee staff whom we paid to service campaigns, and the outside consultants whom the campaigns paid. We had no situation like that described in the Sullivan piece. In short, I would not allow any consultants to rich skimming off the committee and its donors (or even simply by pocketing a percentage of the TV buy, which is an arrangement I did not allow at the DCCC).

Also, when you fund State Parties sufficiently (a key reform in my Plan to Win), then they can hire and keep experienced, talented staff – which makes the Party less dependent on consultants. And by establishing research-driven Strategic Communications and Research Center at the DNC (another key reform I’m proposing) we will ensure Democrats have unbiased, scientifically tested guidance for developing message strategy.

One final point – which relates to the discussion in Question 10: It is long past time that the Democratic Party make a concerted effort to bring the scientific method into electoral politics to help target limited resources toward the most effective means of delivering our message and votes. It happens in the marketplace everyday, and Republicans have been conducting well-thought-out experiments in areas like voter turnout to learn more about what works in each election. We should be doing the same – and applying it to all our practices, from traditional methods like door-to-door canvassing, to relatively new political tools like online organizing.

BL: Some Democrats have criticized you in recent days for running advertisements in your 2004 campaign featuring prominent Republicans, including President Bush (i.e. DailyKos.com, MyDD.com, annatopia.com/archives.html, etc.). Why did you run such ads, and what would you say to Democrats who feel that you did not emphasize the fact that you were a Democrat in your past campaign?

MF: First, I’d refer you to my answer to Question 3 (above), which also largely addresses this question.

And I’d add this: Instead of retiring last year after Tom DeLay had illegally redrawn my district to make it 65% Republican, I fought back (just as I’d fought him and the White House throughout 2003 as they tried to redo redistricting). The ads you referenced put my GOP opponent on the defensive on the key campaign issue of homeland security, and helped energize many of Democrats who turned out to vote – scoring historic victories for Dallas County Democratic candidates. I’ve always believed in challenging Republicans where they think they are strongest.

Now, this is a hotly contested campaign for DNC Chair, and I understand that my opponents and their supporters are trying to win. So I’d simply urge Democrats to look past the misleading attacks and to look up the facts of my commitment to Democratic Party principles and my record of winning for Democrats.

For instance, take a look at my most recent vote ratings from some groups with whom I’ve been extraordinarily proud to work -- while at the same time beating back repeated multi-million-dollar GOP challenges in Texas: AFL-CIO 93%, Hispanic Leadership Agenda 83%, Human Rights Campaign 88%, Leadership Conference on Civil Rights 92%, League of Conservation Voters 85%, NAACP 95%, NARAL Pro Choice America 100%.

One final point: If agreeing with President Bush on some issues disqualifies you to be DNC Chair, then Howard Dean and I are both wasting our time (as are the rest of the candidates in the field, I imagine). As Gov. Dean said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week”: “…there's some agreement that I have with the President. I daresay other Democrats find some common ground with the President."

I’ve run and won as a Democrat for nearly 30 years; everyone in my area of North Texas knows that very well, and so do Republicans from Tom DeLay and Karl Rove, to the local precinct chairs in Dallas County. I spent 4 years traveling the country to rebuild the DCCC after the Gingrich revolution and in the run-up to impeachment – some of the most difficult times for Democrats in modern political history, And I invested my own time and effort to support my State Party for the past 30 years – especially when the DNC effectively pulled out of Texas.

Simply put, I’d put my credentials as effective partisan fighter for Democrats up against anyone’s. If that weren’t the case, I wouldn’t have spent the past 30 years working to successfully build Democratic Party structures and elect Democrats in some of the toughest territory – and I wouldn’t be campaigning to spend every day of the next four years reforming the DNC to win elections at all levels and in every state.

BL: To follow-up, as a DNC Chair, you will be the spokesman for the Democratic Party. Some critics believe that you would be an ineffective spokesman, because on television interviews clips could easily be run of your ads stating your support of President Bush on various issues. While they would certainly be taken out of context, some people feel that such clips could minimize your effectiveness in the typical role as the "attack-dog" party spokesman. What would you say to those critics?

MF: I’ve done national television interviews for more than a decade against some of the nastiest Republicans in Washington, so I’d welcome a softball question like you describe. Just as I’m sure Howard Dean would welcome any interviewer posing a similar softball question to him and running a clip of him talking about the “things we can support the President on.”

Nonetheless, here’s an example of the type of approach I’d likely take to an interviewer who posed these critics’ hypothetical question: “Time and again, the dishonest, corrupt and elitist Republican Government of George W. Bush and Tom DeLay has made Americans less safe– on everything from sending our troops to war without the body armor they need, to opposing the Department of Homeland Security and the 911 Commission, to trying to steal every American’s Social Security. But believe it or not, there are Republicans in power in Washington who do even done more than George W. Bush to weaken America’s security. Pete Sessions is one of them. So is Senator Rick Santorum – who is trying to help Wall Street brokers by taking your Social Security.”

As I said before, I believe that the best way to beat Republicans is to challenge them aggressively and consistently – no matter what they or the media throw at you.

Posted at 08:50 PM to National Politics | Permalink | Comments (17) | TrackBack

January 25, 2005

Strange turn of events

By Nathan Nance

It's actually kind of funny because Jim posted on Social Security today, and I'm writing about the DNC chair race.

Jerome has the latest round-up of the race and all accounts put Dean squarely in the front-runner seat. There seem to be three distinct groups, Dean supporters, Anybody But Dean supporters, and then everybody else. The largest group is the everybody elses, but I think they'll vote for one of the other two groups once it gets down to the wire.

I'm not totally discounting Fowler and Rosenberg, but the dynamic of the race seems to follow Dean and those inside the DNC who would rather have anybody but him. If you haven't read it already, this Newsweek piece basically describes how that group has been searching desperately for a candidate to run against Dean, even though that group's front-runner seems to be Martin Frost. I think the problem with Frost is that anyone inside the DNC who wants to see substantive reforms and a focus on netroots won't be attracted to him and he can't appeal to Dean/Fowler/Rosenberg voters to gain a majority.

I don't think it really means anything that Frost has the support of people in his home state. If he didn't, that would be an important marker that his candidacy was in vain. But I think that most Democrats, even those inside the DNC, want real, substantive changes. That leaves us with the Dean/Fowler/Rosenberg axis with Dean being the most popular.

A quick sidenote: If this race were soley between Fowler, Rosenberg and Frost, do you think Newsweek would be covering this race? I think several of us here at BOR have made the point that Dean brings lots of celebrity and media attention to this race and to the position that the others just can't match.

Nate is sports/news clerk at the Waco Tribune-Herald and writer/editor of Common Sense a Texas-based Democratic Web log. He can be reached at nate_nance@yahoo.com.

Posted at 07:35 PM to National Politics | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

DNC Chair: Does It Really Matter?

By Vince Leibowitz

I got a call this afternoon from one of the high-school aged Democrats in Van Zandt County asking me about, of all things, the race for Chairmanship of the Democratic National Committee. It seems this young man wanted to write on the subject for a current political events paper for high school government class.

This call got me to thinking very seriously about the DNC race when I was asked, "Does it really matter who wins the DNC race? Will it really change the way the party does business at all levels?"

I'm afraid the 18-year-old political novice who asked this question of me may have hit the nail right on the head: Does it really matter?

I know it sounds stupid that any Democratic activist and County Chairman such as myself would even spend time pondering this question. But, what's even more frightening to me is that the answer may be--at least in part--a resounding 'no.'

Yes, to a great extent, it matters whether or not Martin Frost or Howard Dean or whoever is named Chairman of the Democratic National Committee. After all, the DNC is the national party. It sets the policy and should drive the trend.

But, to your average party activist--and perhaps to some party leadership--it makes no difference who is at the top because I have yet to see any evidence that there will be true and substantive change within our party just because there is a different man (or woman) at the helm of the ship.

Mind you, this is in spite of the fact that, for the past few years, "grassroots activism" has become the buzzword of the Democratic Party. It's such a buzzword everyone wants to call their campaign a "grassroots" effort. And everyone is building their local party with "grassroots" support. And the "netroots" are all-important, too.

So, then, if growing the party from the grassroots is so vital, why are all of the announced candidates of the political establishment and not of the "grassroots" body politic?

A good question, no doubt. And, there are some obvious answers. First of all, you've got to be known, be a proven leader, be proven fund-raiser, and have existing relationships within the party to expect to get anything accomplished. That understandable and legitimate.

But does it have to be that way? Is there not a way for us to have our cake and eat it, too? Can we not have the marquee politician and the backroom political junkie working hand-in-hand at the DNC to help us rebuild?

To give you an example of what I mean, let me say this: Every time I think of the current DNC chairman, I think of seeing his name on a fund-raising letter. I think "that's someone Democrats know and will send money to." Think about it: An average Democrat gets a letter from Martin Frost or Howard Dean or any number of the candidates and it's going to have instant name recognition. Charities use the same principal. Remember the National World War II Memorial fund-drive? I must have recieved half a dozen letters from Academy Award-winning actor Tom Hanks asking me to send in $15. But was Tom Hanks the one running the day-to-day operations of the Memorial association? I think not. He's an actor.

Granted, it makes more sense to have a politician running a political party than an actor running a veterans' memorial, but does it--really? How many politicians--or even of the current candidates for DNC--really, truly know how to get in the trenches and run a campaign--not a race, mind you, but a campaign? Or a party?

How about Frost? How about Dean? Granted they've both run races, but who ran their campaigns? I dare say Martin Frost wasn't sitting in a back room somewhere with a database printout ID'ing potential donors. And I dare say Howard Dean wasn't sitting in a back room somewhere personally organizing and developing a strategy to attract Internet voters. Do these guys understand how to address the problems facing the Democratic Party in Lamar County, Texas or Dade County, Florida or Wayne County, Iowa?

And, why would they? As candidates and politicians, they've got better and more important things to do: They're the candidates, they drive the message and develop the policy, not organize the fund-raising, rallies and GOTV. That's what staff is for. The pols themselves may go out and glad-hand for the money, or make personal appearances for the money, but believe me, they aren't the ones running the data, sending out the mailers and wondering what in the heck a "carrier route saturation" is or how much radio advertising costs in Des Moines, Iowa.

I have no doubt that Martin Frost or Howard Dean could reform healthcare, fix Social Security, or combat terrorism. But I remain unconvinced that they are what the Democratic Party needs right now in the way of leadership. As DCCC Chair, Frost has proved he has what it takes to rake in the cash and win back House seats. As a candidate, Dean proved he had personality to unite the masses and the wisdom to try new and unconventional ideas. But being party chairman isn't just about raking in the cash, uniting the masses, and winning seats. It's about the Democratic Party fulfilling its promise and living up to its name. Winning seats isn't enough anymore. A unified party with a clear, concise message making a return to its roots among the rank-and-file citizenry is a must. We've got to rebuild our party in the people's image. And by that, I mean a return to our liberal, New Deal, Great Society roots, not a continuation of the stuck-on-high-center Republican-lite brand seemingly favored by many politicians.

So, does it matter who is at the head of the party, as long as it's a good and big name that will bring in the cash? No...and, yes.

No, because any marquee politician can perform that task adequately and perhaps very well. Yes, because it takes a special person--a special Chairman--to change the way the party does business.

So, as we bloggers tumble head-over-heels trying to predict the next Chairman of the DNC, let's consider the following:

If we're seeking change from the grassroots, don't we need more "grassroots" people on the DNC and in party leadership as opposed to ex-chairmen, ex-politicians, and current politicians?

If we're to truly change our party and rise out from the hole we're in, don't we need both a chairman who's a "marquee" fund-raiser and seasoned political junkie who knows how to oil and grease every nook and cranny of the political machine from behind the scenes?

If we're to truly change, should it not come from the bottom up and not the top down, anyway?

It we are to be successful at winning elections, don't we need a DNC--and a chairman--that looks outside the beltway and realizes the need for an operating strategy that involves everyone from the DNC down to the precinct chairs?

If we are to truly grow "from the roots," then do we not need a chairman who will pay as much attention and place as much importance on the Democratic Party in the most red county in the most red state as they do on the bluest counties in the bluest states? Don't we need a chairman to whom the voters and leaders of Van Zandt, or Travis, or Dallas or Smith County Texas mean as much as the voters and leaders of counties in blue states?

I haven't decided who to support for Party Chairman. I believe both Howard Dean and Martin Frost have some of the qualities I think a Chairman needs, but I'm not sure I'd be truly happy with either one.

But I do know this: whomever our party chairman is needs to realize that the red states and red counties need as much attention as the blue ones. After all, in the blue areas, they're growing their parties. In the red areas, we're building--or rebuilding--ours.

Whomever the new Chairman happens to be, they will have their work cut out for them. And, hopefully, after a couple of years on the job, we will be able to answer the question, "Does it really matter who is DNC Chairman?" And, hopefully, we'll be able to answer it by saying "Oh, yes. Yes, it does."

Vince Leibowitz is County Chairman of the Democratic Party of Van Zandt County.

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To Infinity And Beyond

By Jim Dallas

Jesse tells us why Don Luskin is the "stupidest man alive" (according to Brad DeLong).

Actually, my qualm is this. If you assume this crazy infinite-horizon thing is the way to measure Social Security's financial situation, then is a $10.4 trillion deficit really that bad?

(Incidentally, what's the per annum cost: 10.4 trillion divided by infinity? That's, uhh, zero, isn't it?)

But for context, $10.4 trillion is the size of the U.S. gross domestic product. If we could commit five percent of GDP for twenty years to save Social Security FOREVER, would it be that bad?

And considering that our current budget deficit is nearly 5 percent of GDP already...and could easily be closed with a little common sprinkled into the pages of our tax code...

(Incidentally, that last off-the-cuff mathematical statement was economically wrong-headed; because GDP grows considerably faster than inflation - something like a percent or two annually - by the twentieth year $520 billion would be a lot less than 5 percent of GDP).

Needless to say, the point of this exercise is to point out that even a big scary like $10.4 trillion is neither big, nor scary, nor indicative of any rational reason to muck around with a Social Security system that is running a slight fever, but otherwise fit as a fiddle.

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More Dean Endorsements

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

Following in the tradition of endorsements that actually matter, Blog for America has the latest series of inside baseball endorsements. Worried about Dean becoming the frontrunner and crashing again? I wouldn't, because this time around, there isn't much the media can actually do and the spotlight is so far removed from the race in comparison to the primaries.

This group includes voting members of the DNC, former chairs of the DNC, congressional members and an array of prominent Democratic leaders.

Supporters include:

Reverend Willie Barrow, DNC Member-at-Large

Don Beyer, Former Lt. Gov. of Virginia and Chairman, Kerry-Edwards Virginia Victory '04

Alma Arrington Brown, philanthropist and wife of former DNC Chair Ron Brown

Joseph Cari, Jr., Former DNC National Finance Chair

Yolanda Caraway, DNC Member-at-Large

Martha Dixon, Arkansas DNC Committeewoman

Bob Farmer, Former DNC Treasurer and Finance Chair of the Kerry-Edwards campaign

Hon. Yvonne A. Gates, Chair of the DNC Black Caucus

Steve Grossman, Former DNC National Chair

Hon. Jesse Jackson, Jr. (D-Ill.)

Ben Johnson, DNC Deputy Chair

Wanda Lockridge, Chair of the District of Columbia State Committee

Hon. Gloria Molina, DNC Vice-Chair

Minyon Moore, DNC Member-at-Large

Mirian Saez, DNC Member-at-Large

Hon. Diane Watson (D-Calif.), DNC Member-at-Large

David Wilhelm, Former DNC National Chair

Looks like some new support from the "black and brown" category as well as past DNC chairs. In addition, that vote from California may be indicative of what supposedly is next week's endorsement of the California delegation of 'a particular candidate'.

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January 24, 2005

Pop Quiz

By Jim Dallas

Do you support:

Our Troops?
Combatting Terrorism?
Our Veterans?
Higher Wages for American Workers?
Little Children?
Lowering the Cost of Prescription Drugs?
Election Reform?
Fiscal Responsibility?
Reducing the Number of Abortions?

If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, then we have an agenda for you!

Update: [Byron] It's online at the Senate Democratic website here. You can become a "citizen cosponsor" here.

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Dean Sweeps Texas Polls

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

I told you something big was coming on Monday here at the Burnt Orange Report. The following was released from Democracy for Texas just now. Major points bolded. I have class so I will add my thoughts later.

I’m writing to you today to let you know about the results of two polls conducted by Democracy for Texas, the largest progressive grassroots organization in Texas, with over 40,000 members. These polls sought feedback from the grassroots on their preference for DNC chair.

We first polled DFT members. Not surprisingly, Governor Howard Dean won this vote in a landslide with 90% of the vote of those responding. I say “not surprisingly” because our organization is an outgrowth of the Dean campaign. In fact, the majority of our members are people who were never involved in politics before, but were so inspired by Governor Dean and his message that they became, and continue to be, active.

We decided that a more objective measure of grassroots support would be polling all people who were eligible to attend the State Democratic Convention in Houston last June, who would reflect a wider range of opinions. We sent emails to all of them who provided email addresses and we now have results from the respondents. They are compelling.

Howard Dean 69%
Martin Frost 25%
Others 6%

Many of those who provided comments mentioned Governor Dean’s commitment to a 50-state strategy (before it was fashionable), and his campaigning for Richard Morrison and David Van Os. Others talked about his amazing fund-raising ability. Some talked about the number of new voters, particularly young people, he brought into the Party. Still others said they were not Dean supporters during the primaries, but were impressed with the hard work he did on behalf of the national ticket and candidates across the country, including many “Dean Dozen” candidates who won in red states.

And there were many who talked about how the training in Austin last year subsidized by Dean’s PAC, Democracy for America, helped them organize, get out the vote, and win races in Texas.

The vote is yours, but we feel it’s important for you to know what your constituents are thinking.

Thank you for your service to the Democratic Party. Our steering committee looks forward to seeing you in D.C. in February.

Fran Vincent
Executive Director

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January 23, 2005

The answers you seek

By Nathan Nance

DFA was helpful enough to provide a transcript of Gov. Dean's interview on This Week with George Stephanopoulos on their blog.

I thought he did a good job presenting his ideas and showing where he wants to take the party. My favorite part of the interview is where he discusses what we could do to start winning:

Look, Newt Gingrich—who I'd agree agree with almost nothing about in terms of policy—but Newt Gingrich decided that he was going to try to take back the Congress by drawing a clear distinction between Democrats and Republicans. And he succeeded. Before that, the minority in the House—Republicans—were really kind of around the edges of what the Democrats were doing and they weren't getting anywhere. I think we've got to draw a clear distinction.

We have different moral values than what the Republicans say they have. They say their moral values are about making sure gay people don't get ahead and making sure that women can't make up their mind about their own kind of health care. I say our moral values are feeding hungry children, having job opportunities and educational opportunities for every single American, and restoring a foreign policy which is not just based on a very strong military—which I'm very proud of—but also strong moral authority, which this president has abdicated in the world.

To me, that's the path to electoral victory. Drawing clear distinctions betwween where Republicans stand, and where we stand. Republicans stand for making rich people richer and for ruining the environment. They can come up with all the rhetoric in the world to say they're not but the policies they put forth show that is exactly where they stand. It should be our job as the opposition party to show that to the people and tell them how we're going to fix it.

I think Howard Dean is one of the few people running for chair who really understands this. Couple that with the other things we've discussed in the past (you're going to have to do your own searching) and I think Dean is just the best choice for DNC chair. Just one of the things to keep in mind as Feb. 12 approaches.

Nate is a sports/news clerk at the Waco Tribune-Herald and writer/editor of Common Sense a Texas-based Democratic Web log. He can be reached at nate_nance@yahoo.com.

Posted at 07:41 PM to National Politics | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

DNC California Round-Up

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

There seems to have been a lot of on the ground reporting out of the California Western DNC Caucus this weekend so here are all the links we could find.


Live from Sacramento
The Most Detailed Report
Add-on Observations

Adriel Hampton blog: writer for this SF Examiner DNC article

Bob Brigham, BlogPAC consultant, on the race for chairman of the Democratic National Committee: “With Howard Dean we will get a movement, with Simon Rosenberg we'll get an empire, with Martin Frost we'll get an exodus, with Donnie Fowler we'll get a monarchy and with Tim Roemer we'll get a Republican.”

Daily Kos

100% Dean Endorsements at DNC/CDC Meeting

"Some of you in the DNC may see us as barbarians at the gate. Some of us see ourselves as the cavalry. The truth is, we are fresh horses."

Marisa's Report (a good read)

Swing State Project

Caucus Update 1
Caucus Update 2
Caucus Update 3
Caucus Update 4

If you find anything else out there, leave links in the comments. I encourage you to read through these, or at least glance over them and pick out the parts that are of interest to you.

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January 22, 2005

Maybe we'll get some answers

By Nathan Nance

In answer to Byron's earlier post, I'll let the good doctor speak for himself. He's appearing on ABC's This Week with George Stephanopoulos Sunday morning. That's 9 a.m. on KVUE in Austin.

Posted at 02:25 AM to National Politics | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

January 21, 2005

Bush, the Great Crusader

By Jim Dallas

As the old proverb goes, one is a fluke and two is a trend. Looks like we got a trend - even conservative pundits are expressing skepticism of Bush's new liberation theology (perhaps manifesting the traditional conservative's (i.e. Edmund Burke's) skepticism of anything bold or revolutionary-sounding).

Peggy Noonan (via Greg Wythe):

The inaugural address itself was startling. It left me with a bad feeling, and reluctant dislike. Rhetorically, it veered from high-class boilerplate to strong and simple sentences, but it was not pedestrian. George W. Bush's second inaugural will no doubt prove historic because it carried a punch, asserting an agenda so sweeping that an observer quipped that by the end he would not have been surprised if the president had announced we were going to colonize Mars.

A short and self-conscious preamble led quickly to the meat of the speech: the president's evolving thoughts on freedom in the world. Those thoughts seemed marked by deep moral seriousness and no moral modesty.

No one will remember what the president said about domestic policy, which was the subject of the last third of the text. This may prove to have been a miscalculation.

It was a foreign-policy speech. To the extent our foreign policy is marked by a division that has been (crudely but serviceably) defined as a division between moralists and realists--the moralists taken with a romantic longing to carry democracy and justice to foreign fields, the realists motivated by what might be called cynicism and an acknowledgment of the limits of governmental power--President Bush sided strongly with the moralists, which was not a surprise. But he did it in a way that left this Bush supporter yearning for something she does not normally yearn for, and that is: nuance.

The administration's approach to history is at odds with what has been described by a communications adviser to the president as the "reality-based community." A dumb phrase, but not a dumb thought: He meant that the administration sees history as dynamic and changeable, not static and impervious to redirection or improvement. That is the Bush administration way, and it happens to be realistic: History is dynamic and changeable. On the other hand, some things are constant, such as human imperfection, injustice, misery and bad government.

This world is not heaven.

The president's speech seemed rather heavenish. It was a God-drenched speech. This president, who has been accused of giving too much attention to religious imagery and religious thought, has not let the criticism enter him. God was invoked relentlessly. "The Author of Liberty." "God moves and chooses as He wills. We have confidence because freedom is the permanent hope of mankind . . . the longing of the soul."

Peter Robinson:

Aw, gee. He’s our guy, I like him, and his performance since 9/11 has proven brave, steadfast, and completely admirable. But this speech? It was well-written — in places actually beautiful — and well-delivered. (I dissent from Jonah Goldberg and others who fault Bush for his delivery on the ground that they’re forgetting to multiply his score by the degree of difficulty. Just try standing outdoors, in freezing weather, using a sound system that echoes, and then delivering a speech to an audience that consists of more or less the entire planet. Denny Hastert couldn’t even administer the oath of office to the vice president without misspeaking. Bush delivered his entire text without a flaw.) But the speech was in almost no way that of a conservative. To the contrary. It amounted to a thoroughgoing exaltation of the state.

Bush has just announced that we must remake the entire third world in order to feel safe in our own homes, and he has done so without sounding a single note of reluctance or hesitation. This overturns the nation’s fundamental stance toward foreign policy since its inception. Washington warned of "foreign entanglements." The second President Adams asserted that "we go not abroad in search of monsters to destroy." During the Cold War, even Republican presidents made it clear that we played our large role upon the world stage only to defend ourselves and our allies, seeking to changed the world by our example rather than by force. Maybe I'm misreading Bush — I'm writing this based on my notes, and without having had time to study the text — but sheesh.

On domestic policy, a "broader definition of liberty?" Citing as useful precedents the Homestead Act, the Social Security Act, and the G. I. Bill? Compare what Bush said today with the inaugural address of Lyndon Baines Johnson and the first inaugural address of Ronald Reagan and you'll find that Bush sounds much, much more like LBJ. He as much as announced that from now on the GOP will be a party of big government. I can only hope that Chris Cox, Dana Rohrabacher, and other Republican members of Congress standing on the platform behind the president today were thinking to themselves, "Not so fast, buster." Bush may yet win critical conservative victories in this second term — notably by managing to enact private retirement accounts. But his "broader definition of liberty" makes me mighty nervous.

Tell me I'm wrong. Please.

Posted at 09:12 PM to National Politics | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Why I can't stand to Listen to President Bush

By Byron LaMasters

Aside from the content, the over-the-top religiosity, the dishonesty and hypocrisy on the liberty and freedom talking points and the whole lying in his oath to uphold the constitution, it's more basic than any of that. Mike points out what a professor of speech communications said about Bush's inaugural speech that makes a lot of sense:

There is something about Bush’s speeches that has always bothered me (aside from the content) and until the other day I couldn't quite say what it was. But yesterday NPR interviewed a professor of speech communications who analyzed Bush's inauguration speech and I think he nailed it. He replayed specific parts of Bush's speech and showed how Bush puts the emphasis on the wrong words. For example, when Bush says "At this second gathering..." he puts the emphasis on the word 'gathering' rather than on the word 'second.' He also pauses at awkward moments and doesn't have a natural rhythm in his cadence. What is sounds like is somebody struggling to read a difficult passage for the first time, with no idea how the sentence is going to end before they start reading it.

The professor noted that past presidents like John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton could make a speech sound better than it read on paper. Bush, he said, is the opposite. His speeches are better when you read them and sound worse when you hear them.

The professor speculated that Bush just doesn't like public speaking and is perhaps daydreaming about being back on his Crawford ranch in the middle of his speeches. He certainly doesn't make me want to continue listening. I am usually upset by some of the things he is saying, but then hearing him struggle through the speech like a junior high school kid being forced to read aloud from his textbook in front of the whole class is just painful.

Well, I'm glad that I missed it. Jon Stewart informed me as to the highlights of the event - Freedom defeated Liberty 27-15, Dick Cheney still has a LESBIAN daughter, Bill Clinton still can't dance, and Joe Lieberman will stand up for Social Security. That pretty much covers it.

Posted at 01:25 PM to National Politics | Permalink | Comments (10) | TrackBack

George W. Bush, the Constitutionalist

By Byron LaMasters

Yesterday, President Bush put his hand on the bible and swore to uphold the Constitution of the United States. If his first term is any indication, he won't. Juan Cole gives us a pictoral overview of how Bush upheld the constitution in his first term.

Posted at 01:07 PM to National Politics | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Liveblogging of the Inauguration Protest

By Byron LaMasters

From an Austinite...

St. Edward's University senior Jake McCook is studying in D.C. this semester, so he liveblogged the Inauguration protest yesterday on his blog here. Check out the other posts as well for lots of pictures of the festivities.

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Some Questions for Dean

By Byron LaMasters

I blogged last week on the reasons why Howard Dean is not my first choice for DNC Chair. A lot of folks have asked open questions to Martin Frost on this blog and also over at Kos, MyDD and Annatopia. A lot of the questions for Frost are quite legitimate. What type of reforms would Frost like to see at the DNC? How would Martin Frost engage and utilize the netroots? Why did Martin Frost run those ads featuring President Bush and other Republicans? Well, I've asked Martin Frost those very questions, and I should be getting responses sometime soon.

Now, I have questions that I would like to ask Howard Dean and his supporters for DNC Chair:

What did Howard Dean actually do for the candidates which Democracy for America endored - i.e. "Dean's Dozens"? I've not been involved with Democracy for America, and I'm very pleased that it has brought so many new people into the process. However, I think that we should judge an organization by their results. What did Democracy for America do for the candidates they endorsed? As I wrote earlier, with the exception of Richard Morrison, I believe that DFA was ineffective in the races it targeted in Texas. What would Howard Dean do differently as DNC Chair?

To follow up, what was the process of targeting for races for Democracy for America? One of the races targeted by DFA was that of David Van Os for State Supreme Court. Now, Van Os is a nice guy, and a damn good Democrat, but he really never had much of a chance. DFA's endorsement of Van Os seems to be more about payback for Van Os's endorsement of Dean's presidential bid than of well thought out targeting.

Another one of Dean's endorsements was of May Walker, a candidate for Constable in Houston. It was an overwhelmingly democratic district, and Walker won with over 80% of the vote. Was she worthy of support? Sure. But should it have been a race to which Democratic resources were poured into (that could have gone to a competitive race)? I would say no.

I'm all for a 50-state-strategy, and a 254-county-strategy for Texas. As Democrats we should never concede a state, or even a county for that matter. Having said that, we need to invest our resources where they can have the largest impact. I would argue that DFA's endorsements of Walker and Van Os were ineffective uses of resources. Imagine if someone like Kelly White (for state representative) were targeted. She lost by less than 200 votes, but a few thousand more dollars, and things might have turned out differently.

My question is quite simple. What was the targeting process of Democracy for America in 2004? Did Democracy for America consult with state and local parties as to how they could best make a difference? My guess is if the Texas Democratic Party had been consulted, the targeting choices might have been different. Dean advocates working with state and local parties now in his DNC Chair race, but is that a strategy that Dean practiced as the leader of an influential Democratic organization? I'd like to know.

Amy Sullivan's article on consultants in the Democratic Party made quite a splash this month. Howard Dean certainly wasn't immune to getting sucked into bad strategic decisions in his presidential campaign by various consultants. As Anna notes, lots of us remember some of Howard Dean's horrific television ads during the Democratic primary campaign. I'd be interested in learning what Dean learned from his primary loss. What mistakes did Howard Dean make, and how has he learned from them?

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DNC Polls Released Monday / Dean +1

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

I attending our Democracy for Texas / Democracy for America House Party tonight to help raise some money for Dean's DNC Chair race and meetup with our Dean leaders in the state.

Of interest are the results of two polls that have been run in Texas regarding the DNC race. These numbers, while announced on the conference call, are not yet public (though I know them) and will become available to DNC members and the press on Monday. I have gained permission from those who ran the poll to publish the results right here on Burnt Orange Report on Monday. One of the polls should turn some heads for sure. Until then, anything you hear are just rumors and should not be given credibilty or passed around as tends to happen on the Internets.

Also, it appears that Dean has picked up the endorsement of yet another actual voting DNC member, Robert Bell, from Democrats Abroad Canada.

I have endorsed and will vote for Howard Dean for Chair of the Democratic National Committee because I believe he has the proven experience to manage the organization, the vision to successfully direct and enlarge our party, and the presence and personality to be a respected voice rebutting the Bush Administration.

I founded Democrats Abroad Canada in the late 1970's. I have been Treasurer and then Chair of Democrats Abroad Canada, Vice Chair of the Americas Region, and DNC Member representing the DPCA. I am in my second term as DNC Committeeman.

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January 20, 2005


By Byron LaMasters

Via Matt Stoller, Terry McAuliffe puts it best:

Departing national party chairman Terry McAuliffe: "If I truly wanted to match Bush's accomplishments, I would max out my credit card, take out a second mortgage and steal my mother's Social Security. Instead, I'll just spend it with my five kids and, in the spirit of the second Bush administration, we're going to rent 'Titanic.'"

It's hard to top that. The only inauguration coverage I plan to watch is whatever The Daily Show puts together tonight. My friend Chris is attending some of the Inauguration protest activities. It's not something that I'd spend 16+ hours in the car to do, but to each his own. I'm sure that he'll have an interesting report on the trip when he returns to Florida.

There's not too much news out of Texas this week, because our state legislature is adjourned until next Monday. They've simply abdicated their responsibility to the voters of Texas by going to this weeklong party in Washington D.C. when Texans have such important issues such as the budget and school finance (and of course, the critical need to re-defend marriage from the all those gays). Why are all the Republican state legislators going on the lam? I just don't understand it. At least the Democrats went somewhere boring like Ardmore. I don't remember any high-dollar parties or lavish balls in Oklahoma.

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And an Update

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

To show my point from the previous entry, this post over at Blog for America came up while I was writing it. Stories from the Washington Post (front page of Section C), LA Weekly, and the Boston Globe.

I begin to wonder how long it will take for a repeat of Dean Dean Dean Dean Dean...

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January 19, 2005

A New Perspective

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

If there is one thing that I have noticed about this DNC chair race (and isn't it a wonderful thing that for the first time in about 15 years, we are having a true public debate over the operation of our Party) it is that there is one person driving the media coverage (outside of the blogosphere). If you haven’t noticed, every time Dean makes a move, whether it is his formal announcement or endorsements he drives a media response from the press. It makes the front page of Yahoo and CNN, it gets discussed on cable news, and of course gets batted about on the Net. And in these stories, there is a choice quote or two from (usually) Frost (and earlier Roemer) and the obligatory listing of "also running are..."

My point in this is not to yammer on about Dean, it is to point out that aside from an occasional story on Frost now, and less so Rosenberg or Fowler, the media won't lead or write a story about the DNC race. And even if they do, what do you find? The second quote in the story is almost always from Dean.

The media knows what sells. The horserace sells, but even better, a horserace with a well known figure outside of the Democratic Party sells even better. Now, just for a minute, I would like to ask you to picture all of the DNC Chair Candidates as actual Chairs. In each case, they release a press statement or get scheduled for an interview or "crossfire" like event on cable. Of all the candidates, who do you think will get "message airtime"? Who will the media actually pay attention to? More importantly, who do you think average viewers are going to see and listen to, and then go "I remember that argument, because I know who is saying it and it sticks in my mind for longer than 3 minutes"?

You get my drift. Though it may not be a primary reason to support someone for DNC chair, there are other far more important issues, Dean does get attention because average people, even if they didn't agree with him in his Presidential bid, know who he is and will, if anything, give him credit for "changing the way politics is waged". Yes, there are some that think Dean and go "howling Vermont Liberal" but these are partisan Republicans who continue to push this line to discredit a threatening Democrat, Democrats supporting other candidates for Chairman, or people who have bought the story, don't believe it personally, but fear everyone else does. It reminds me of the "must vote for Kerry because he's supposed to be electable, even if I don't like him and don't know personally know swing voters that truly think he is more electable."

The DNC chair should be partisan, they should be bold, they should take the Party down the path of Reform, and they should make waves and get noticed. Having the right message does no good if you have no spokesperson to carry it that people will stop and listen to. We have these people in our Party. John Kerry and Hillary Clinton should continue to be loud in the Senate and carry the Democratic message there. Bill Richardson should keep speaking up as a Governor. Other leaders like Al Gore or most of the 2004 Democratic Primary field should speak up and not be afraid to offer their input. Having our Party's Operational Chief coordinate and also be a key speaker is an important factor, something that is not going to exist if someone like Leeland or Roemer or even Rosenberg or Fowler is the 'voice'.

I know it doesn't seem to be important, but step back from the echo chambers of the Internet for a minute, put yourself out in the fresh air where the TV is running all day while middle class families are putzing around the house doing chores, and tell me who they are going to stop and listen to. These are the busy citizens, casual voters, people that care about issues but are not set in partisan ways.

Reform will win the day, internal technical operations will be enacted, and our message will be reframed. But after all that, we still have to make sure that citizens notice us.

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Context Context Context

By Andrew Dobbs

I just watched that Channel 11 (Dallas) story about how Frost wouldn't say that he was a Democrat and was sucking up to the GOP leadership. Looks pretty damning, particularly if you are willing to do anything to keep Martin Frost from winning.

But as Byron has noted, you have to keep it all in context- that portion of the ad shown was taken out of context. The ad wasn't there to show that Martin Frost loves the GOP, but rather that Pete Sessions is out of the mainstream of his own party.

What bill was Frost talking about? Was it some abortion ban bill? Was it some corporate giveaway? Was it gutting social security or some other respected and helpful program? No- it was a bill that made airline companies fortify the doors on airliner cockpits so that terrorists can't break in. Frost- along with virtually every Democrat and almost every Republican- voted for the bill while Pete Sessions joined only 8 other members of Congress in voting against the bill, which he feared was "too tight." That is what the ad shows before the part culled by Channel 11- Pete Sessions is an extremist out of touch with the mainstream, Martin Frost is willing to side even with political opponents when its for the good of the country. Sounds like a great ad and a great message.

DNC chair is a partisan position, and I am about as partisan as they come. But as the GOP moves further and further to the Right, we should be the party that envelopes the rest of the spectrum, until we have one mainstream party and one extremist party. We should make it clear that country comes before party, and that is what distinguishes us from Republicans. That Martin Frost joined every congressional Democrat and all but 9 Republicans in supporting a bill introduced by the President doesn't disqualify him, and that he pointed out his opponent's inability to lead doesn't disqualify him. Martin Frost will do what it takes to win, and he has proven himself many times over.

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Slap! I'm Joe Biden beyotch!

By Nathan Nance

Guest post by Nate Nance

I watched some of the confirmation hearing for Condi Rice today on C-SPAN. It was day 2 and it seemed to me that the questions were a little more pointed. It probably had something to do with the good press Sen. Boxer got for her words yesterday.

But, Sen. Joe Biden (who I'm totally convinced is running in 2008) got the most meorable line in today. He said (and this is from memory because it is damned near impossible to find a transcript on the Web) "and don't listen to Rumsfeld, he doesn't know what the hell he's talking about." Or something to that effect.

Could it be that our elected Democrats are finally getting their backbones in the mail?

Of course, he followed that up by admitting that he was going to go vote yea for her confirmation in five minutes, so the answer is probably no. But it made me wonder if maybe senators should vote no for the confirmation of people they don't think would do a good job in the position they've been nominated for. I know there's "politics" involved, I'm not blind to the fact that voting nay could get them in trouble later on. But I would rally like to see some of the Democrats just be the opposition. Vote against the Republicans. Do something. Don't get get in lines like that and them capitulate because you think it is inevitable that she's going to be confirmed.

Biden's office, and indeed lot's of people, has serious concerns with her assertion that 120,000 Iraqis have been trained to fight the insurgency there. He's stated that the number is closer to just 4,000, which is a big difference. If she's going to be the Secretary of State, she's got to know this and be more forthcoming with the American people about our chief foreign entanglement.

But that didn't happen and Rice has been approved by the foreign relations committee.

This is a guest post from Nathan Nance. He can be reached at nate_nance@yahoo.com

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January 18, 2005

6 More Votes for Dean

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

Blog for America reports today (in addition to Florida) 6 state party leaders from 5 more states have announced their support for Dean for DNC.

Florida: Chairman Scott Maddox, Vice-Chairwoman Diane Glasser
Mississippi: Chairman Wayne Dowdy
Oklahoma: Chairman Jay Parmley, Vice-Chairwoman Debbe Leftwich
Utah: Vice-Chairwoman Nancy Woodside
Washington: Chairman Paul Berendt
Vermont: Chairman Peter Mallary

So much for the Chair's Association giving a united endorsement. I went over the full list of DNC members by state and have noted them below for these states. It's no sure bet that fellow DNC members will follow their state chair, but this is the world of Party Politics we are talking about and they do have influence. These numbers do not reflect Members at Large and other positions, just the average State by State elected DNC members.

Florida: 11
Mississippi: 4
Oklahoma: 4
Utah: 4
Washington: 6
Vermont: 4

That is 33 possible total votes of which we know 17 officially have endorsed Dean. And here is the thing, these endorsements matter because these people actually vote and are closest to the other voting members. You can have as many Congresspeople and Governors as you like (and it doesn't hurt) but as far as direct impact, well, you get my drift.

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Oppose Frost for DNC?

By Byron LaMasters

Fine. Just do it for the right reasons.

Some examples of good reasons to oppose Frost?

Off The Kuff, Greg's Opinion, Southpaw, The Scarlet Left and TAPPED are a few examples. So are some of the thoughts posted by Karl-Thomas and Nate on this blog.

Martin Frost has some weaknesses that I'm uneasy about. As I've said before, Frost is not the most tech/net-savvy guy around. He's not the most reform-oriented candidate in the field, but overall on the balance, he's one of my top choices. I've said all this before.

I'm no Martin Frost hack, but I do think that the many of the blogosphere attacks against him have not been intellectually honest. Throwing up a picture of Frost and a Republican doesn't prove that Frost endorsed a Republican. It doesn't even prove that he's a conservative or a Blue Dog. It only proves that he was fighting like hell to win a seat where he should have gotten 35% of the vote.

It especially annoys me that the same people that attacked Tim Roemer for not standing up and fighting in 2002 when he would have had a tough reelection are attacking Martin Frost for doing exactly what Tim Roemer did not do - standing up and fighting the race of his life.

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And there's more attacks on Frost...

By Byron LaMasters

Now it's these ads. Martin Frost ran ads at the time attacking Pete Sessions for being an extremist. Pete Sessions was one of nine congressmen who voted against supporting reinforced cockpit doors, putting air marshalls on our airplanes, toughening security in our airports and ensuring that our baggage screeners are well-qualified professionals.

Frost did join George W. Bush, Kay Bailey Hutchison, John McCain and Dennis Hastert in supporting this legislation, but he also joined just about every member of the Democratic caucus in supporting it as well. Just about everyone supported the legislation... except Pete Sessions.

I did a post on this in October. Here's part of the Frost press release on the ad:

"Too Tight"

Our second ad this week reinforces the advertisement we aired last week highlighting Sessions' vote against President Bush's major air safety plan to fight terrorism. 510 Members of Congress voted to support the anti-terrorism plan, while Sessions joined a band of only nine dangerously out of touch Members who voted "no". What's more, the ad shows Sessions himself explaining his vote by saying security at our airports is "too tight" because people like "even Senator Ted Kennedy" might be delayed.

"Stronger vs Weaker Homeland Security"

Virtually every American knows that everything changed on September 11, 2001.... but not Pete Sessions. While Republicans, Democrats and Independents came together to fight terrorism and protect America, Pete Sessions continued following an overtly partisan and dangerous ideology that puts raw politics ahead of American security. It's an attitude President Bush has described as a "September 10th mentality." Throughout his career, Congressman Frost has been willing to stand up to the leaders of either party in order to make sure that our Nation's defenses remain the strongest in the World and that the safety of those he represents comes before any partisan or ideological pursuits. Sessions' voting record and his own words demonstrate clearly that he can't be trusted to keep America safe.

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Another Attack on Frost

By Byron LaMasters

Kos goes on the attack again. Kos attacks Frost for running a television ad where he mentioned that the Dallas Morning News endorsed both Frost and George W. Bush. I don't particularly see a problem with the ad. Frost did not endorse Bush. Frost did have to appeal to Independent and moderate Republican voters though. The rest is copy+pasted from comments on Kos:

The Dallas Morning News is one of the most conservative newspapers in the country. They endorsed Barry Goldwater in 1964. I'm sure that they've endorsed every Republican nominee since then. They rarely endorse Democrats, and when they do, those endorsements are almost always token endorsements in noncompetitive races. Everyone in Dallas knows that. The fact that Frost won the DMN endorsement in a highly comptetive race was quite significant. When the DMN endorses a Democrat in a competetive race, it gives that Democrat instant creditability among Independent / Moderate Republican voters, because such an endorsement is so rare. Frost was smart to emphasize that.

Frost was running in a 60-65% GOP district that was going to support Bush by a large margin. So what did he do? He ran a campaign that played up his moderate credentials while trying to paint his opponent as an extremist. It's not what a lot of us Democrats would like to see, but that's the race that Frost had to run in that district.

Finally, if you think that Frost's ads hurt Democrats in the Dallas area, just take a look at the results. Frost's media campaign spent $4 Million on putting up a Democratic message on the DFW airwaves. It didn't hurt Kerry. It didn't hurt local Democrats -- in fact, Frost's media campaign and GOTV opperation helped Dallas County Democrats to their most successful election in decades.

Dallas County Democrats elected a Hispanic, lesbian Sheriff, Lupe Valdez and three judges countywide (giving Democrats 4 judges countywide, Democrats won their first judical race in Dallas County in over a decade in 2002). Finally, John Kerry was not hurt by this ad. Even though Texas was not in play, Kerry lost Dallas County by only 10,000 votes, compared to Gore's loss of the county by 47,000 votes.

Bush/Cheney - GOP - 322,283 52.55%
Gore/Lieberman - Dem - 275,281 44.89%

Bush/Cheney - GOP - 346,246 50.32
Kerry/Edwards - DEM - 336,641 48.93

Anyway, there are legitimate reasons to oppose Martin Frost. He's not as reform oriented as someone like Dean or Rosenberg. He's not as tech/web savvy. Oppose Martin Frost for those reasons, but don't distort his record. He's a good Democrat.

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Steny Hoyer Endorses Frost

By Byron LaMasters

Via Martin Frost Press Release:

WASHINGTON - House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (Md.) - the 2nd-ranking Democrat in the U.S. House of Representatives, chair of the DNC's Democratic Business Council, and a former Democratic leadership liaison to the Democratic National Committee - today endorsed former Congressman and former Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Martin Frost to be the next DNC Chair.

"Martin Frost is one of the most successful political strategists and organizers in either Party because he is as innovative as he is pragmatic," Hoyer said. "He focuses on the bottom line - beating Republicans - and he challenges conventional wisdom and embraces new strategies to get it done. That's how he reinvented the DCCC after the debacle of 1994, leading Democrats to the historic victories that drove Newt Gingrich out of Congress. No one in this race can match his track record of successfully building and managing Democratic Party operations at all levels."

Frost and Hoyer served together in the House Democratic leadership, and worked together in the House of Representatives for more than two decades.

Frost said, "Steny Hoyer's support is so significant because he personally has seen me deliver for Democrats, and because he knows how to win without sacrificing our Party's principles."

Again, Hoyer's not a DNC member, but he certainly has some sway among the House Democratic Caucus and the Maryland delegation. Josh Marshall has some interesting thoughts on the endorsement.

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Rosenburg fighting for 3rd?

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

I like Simon Rosenburg. I met him in Atlanta and was impressed by his thoughts and ideas. If he wins the DNC race, I'll be happy. If he loses, I hope that he's brought on board anyways.

His latest e-mail sounds like something from someone still behind in the race. And while he is, I don't know if I'm supposed to get that impression...

Dear Karl-Thomas,

Our very strong week last week and good performances at the first two regional DNC meetings have put us in the upper tier of candidates to be the next DNC Chair.

"Dean, Frost and Rosenberg have been cited most often as front-runners among party leaders." ...

Last week our endorsements ran from Alaska to Alabama to New York to California, including leaders from all parts of the party and from across the country. Chris Heinz joined us from the Kerry world, former DNC Chair Joe Andrew from the Gore world, Mike McCurry and Christine Varney from the Clinton world and of course Joe Trippi joined us from the Dean campaign. Ron Brown's former Chief of Staff Rob Stein also came aboard. Ben Chandler, Artur Davis, Jonathan Miller and Michael Thurmond joined us from the South; Tony Knowles, Loretta Sanchez and Adam Smith from the West; Joe Andrew from the Midwest; and Adolpho Carrion and Jack Markell joined from the East. And this is only the beginning.

Endorsements do not elect a DNC chair, DNC votes do. Maybe in their respective states, it will make those DNC delegations look at Rosenberg. Unless they are calling members in support...

And as to the Hotline Poll, here is the campaign's Spin on it (even if they claim to No Spine Zone it)...

Finally, we learned a few things from a "poll" conducted by Hotline that ran last Friday. Stripping away the spin, the data shows that three-quarters of all DNC members are undecided; this race is wide open. Of the quarter that have a preference, those candidates with the best name ID -- unsurprisingly -- are doing the best during this early stage, yet they too have only a tiny fraction of the votes needed to win (as little as 15 percent). And despite my relative late entry into the race and the fact that the poll was conducted before all of last week's endorsements were unveiled, I am tied for third. The bottom line is: we are in a strong position to win this race.

It is true that the race may be open, but I don't know if anything is fundamentally changing as these DNC meeetings go on. People know Dean, old-partyline-steppers are slowly getting the drift that Frost is "the man" even if he doesn't excite, and the rest are left scrambling to put together a come from behind second/third choice strategy, because I'm sure they are seeing that they aren't going to come out ahead of Dean on the early ballot rounds.

Should be fun to watch as always, and maybe Hotline will throw us another poll conducted after the Regional Caucuses.

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Looks like I'll have to start Defending Martin Frost....

By Byron LaMasters

I was going to do a post responding to Nate's post on Martin Frost, especially after anti-Frost posts have popped up on MyDD and Kos. I have to say that Kos is off the mark on this one. Frost is not a conservative Democrat, he's a moderate Democrat. Look at his lifetime voting record. I'll do some research, and hopefully I'll have time to respond to some of the charges against Frost in the next day or so.

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Complete Summary: Donnie Fowler Conference Call

By Byron LaMasters

Donnie Fowler made a compelling case for DNC chair in the conference call today. Fowler’s strengths are clearly his understanding of grassroots organization and technology, and his commitment to reform. I’m still a little bit concerned how he would fare in the party spokesman role. Fowler clearly represents a new generation of leadership, and he definitely will have a seat at the table for years to come.

An interesting comparison came up in several of my conversations with friends today about Donnie Fowler. I don’t think that 37 is too young for a DNC Chair, but I just have a sense that Fowler is significantly less polished than someone like Simon Rosenberg – who is only about three years older than Fowler. It might just be my own biases, but I know I’m not the only one who’s thought this. Anyway, overall, Fowler’s an impressive guy. Take the jump for my full summary of the conference call.

Fowler first addressed the fact that we were celebrating the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, and that King represented the values of the progressive movement in our country. Fowler noted that the liberal tradition in America has in many ways been one of radicals. Our founding fathers were radicals – suggesting that break allegiance to the British monarchy. The abolitionists, the Suffragettes, and the leaders of the Civil Rights movement were all radicals in their time, but today they are part of the liberal tradition that represents the best of America.

Fowler repeatedly touts his grassroots expertise. He likes to note that he was “grassroots before grassroots was cool”. He got his start in grassroots with Dick Gephardt, then Jesse Jackson in the 1988 presidential campaign. Fowler praises Terry McAuliffe as the right chair for a time when fundraising needed to be revamped. He credits McAuliffe and the netroots for the Democrats ability to nearly match Republicans in small donors this cycle. Now, Fowler says that his skill set matches the needs of the DNC. Those needs, Fowler notes, are rebuilding state parties and speaking to the grassroots.

First, Fowler thinks that we need to formulate a national message that speaks of our Democratic values – tearing down boundaries, opportunity, access, a fair shake, hard work, etc. Second, Fowler wants to ask strong state parties, and elected officials, especially those who have won in red states (i.e. Sen. Ken Salazar D-CO, Gov. Janet Napolitano D-AZ, Gov. Brian Schweitzer D-MT, etc) what works. Also, Fowler intends to bring the net/grassroots to the table, and ask how the DNC can embrace their issues. Finally, Fowler seeks to “build the pipeline” for communications with a two point approach. First, he wants to build a “message delivery system” to counter FOX News and right-wing talk radio. Second, Fowler thinks we should have training and resources for ground organizers, phone programs, mail, email, blogs, etc. Ultimately, the job of the DNC is to win elections, regain power and enact a progressive agenda.

Fowler took questions from everyone that wanted to ask one. He repeated the talking points that everyone is using on a “50 state strategy”. He expanded though to say that we should move organizing out of D.C., and that we should look to the successful organizers, consultants and state parties outside of D.C. to set benchmarks and find the best practices. Fowler also wants the DNC to show the netroots more respect, and bring the netroots into a decision-making role at the table, instead of just seeing the netroots as a source of money.

In another question, Fowler expanded upon why it was critical to moving organizing out of D.C. First, local organizers better understand local issues. Fowler noted that what the D.C. consultant / pundit class considered important – the Washington Post and Tim Russert, rarely reflected the concerns of those outside the beltway. When Fowler worked in Michigan this past cycle, he noted how Michigan had several unique issues such as Canadian garbage and a disproportionate number of Arab-American and Muslim voters that were best understood by local activists. Fowler used Spanish-language advertising to make another point. Simply hiring a translator and making an ad in Spanish isn’t enough. Before making a Spanish-language advertisement its critical to understand the composition of the local Hispanic population as Mexican-Americans, Puerto Rican-Americans and Cuban-Americans speak in somewhat different dialects.

When I had a chance to ask Fowler a question, I first thanked him for coming to the state democratic executive committee (SDEC) meeting in Austin last Monday. Most candidates probably skipped the event as Martin Frost will likely win most (if not all) of the Texas DNC delegate’s votes. However, Fowler spoke to the SDEC and asked to be considered as a second choice. It may not win him any votes on the first ballot, but if Frost falters early in the balloting for some reason, Donnie Fowler certainly won some brownie points with the Texas delegation, and would certainly receive strong consideration.

Before the conference call, I asked a few people what more they would like to know about Donnie Fowler. Since Donnie Fowler’s strength is his grassroots and work in the field, I decided that I’d ask him more about his communications skills. He admitted that he’s not as experienced as some others, and that his television appearances were more limited to state and local television, public radio, etc. However, Fowler pointed out that the next RNC Chair, Ken Mehlman is 38 – only a year older than him.

I also asked Fowler to elaborate on his proposal for a “message delivery system”. He repeated much of his previous points with more detail. His agenda focused on reaching out to local news as opposed to just the national news, regionalizing local and communication operations through forums and meetings and dramatically improving technology.

After some more questions, Fowler concluded that the DNC must change, and that he had the skill sets needed to implement the changes needed in 2005.

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Florida DNC Delegation for Dean

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

First a short note to point out a post by Scott Goldstein on Blog for America, whom I was traveling with on his book tour over the winter break. He goes into more detail about out meeting in Birmingham concerning a homeless man and Martin Luther King, Jr.

And now, word that that all 11 DNC members of the Florida delgation have come out and endoresed Dean for DNC Chair. Some of the best quotes in the piece...

The Florida delegation to the Democratic National Committee has voted unanimously to endorse Howard Dean to be the party's next chairman, bucking an effort to orchestrate an endorsement of one candidate by all 50 state party leaders at the same time later this month.

The decision, announced yesterday by Scott Maddox, the Florida Democratic chairman, is a major lift for Dr. Dean, a former governor of Vermont, and it is a shift in a contest where most Democrats have been holding back from endorsing any candidate in the crowded field.


"The only knock against Howard Dean is that he's seen as too liberal," Mr. Maddox said. "I'm a gun-owning pickup-truck driver and I have a bulldog named Lockjaw. I am a Southern chairman of a Southern state, and I am perfectly comfortable with Howard Dean as D.N.C. chair."

If you like, the entire list of the 440 DNC members is available here. Texas has 12 members if I remember correctly. (PDF)

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January 17, 2005

Donnie Fowler Conference Call

By Byron LaMasters

I'm on it. Annatopia is liveblogging it. I'll have some thoughts when it's over.

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Roemer and the Big Tent

By Jim Dallas

Tim Roemer's fussing about litmus tests. Personally, I wish the focus was on Tim Roemer's votes on Bush's tax cuts, his position with a right-wing libertarian think-tank, etc. were taking priority over his position on abortion.

Our senate minority leader and many members of Congress are opposed to abortion-on-demand, which I'm perfectly fine with that. In fact I thought we were going to get some peace from the old pro-life canard that Democrats are excluding anti-choice people from power. If we're going to have litmus tests, how 'bout one that makes some sense, e.g. sticking with the New Deal consensus?

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Once bitten...

By Jim Dallas

Old Man Wythe says it's time to stop fighting. Agreed. Texas Democrats unite! The only thing you have to lose is... umm, well, what haven't we lost yet...

(OK, we can agree to lose the cabal of Beltway consultants -- but let's do it in a productive way. Jokes about incompetent Democratic party consultants are only surpassed in antiquity by the old "circular firing squad" joke. That probably tells you something about the way things go down in Dem circles, doesn't it?)

I still haven't met Greg; although I should have, had I gotten down to the HCDP's Sharpstown voter reg drive (with which Greg did a wonderful job) instead of doing the campus drive instead. I've always imagined though that he might wear a monocle and a top hat and enjoy shaking a walking stick at younger people, especially hippie-Deanies (but in a "it's for your own good" kind of way). Sort of like the Monopoly Guy or Scrooge McDuck. Not that there's anything wrong with that; after all, without Uncle Pennybags you can't pass go and collect $200.

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DNC St. Louis

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

Another on the ground report has popped up in this MyDD diary.

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January 16, 2005

From the DNC in St. Louis...

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

Some thoughts have been offered up in this Daily Kos diary.

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January 15, 2005

Models for health care reform

By Jim Dallas

The Washington Monthly's cover story this month suggests the VHA as a model for health care reform.

I've got a better idea - the United Federation of Planets:

KIRK Doctors, doctors, this is highly unprofessional --

He gives the Doctor a swift, sure, Judo chop. Gillian and the nurses gasp...

Bones, muttering as he passes the device over Chekov.

Chemotherapy... fundoscopic examination... dealing with medievalism here!

Sorry, I couldn't help myself. Is Longman correct about the need for a technological revolution in medicine? Yes. Although sometimes he sounds like Dr. McCoy, ranting about the Dark Ages.

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DNC Second Round

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

MyDD has some information on the second regional meeting for DNC members. I'm not sure how much new information policy wise will be coming out from candidates at this point, but I'd look to MyDD for horserace information.

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Michelman Won't Seek DNC Post

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

Buried in this otherwise interesting article discussing the 60.7% national turnout in the 2004 election which also tells us...

The organization also found that Kerry ran behind his party's statewide candidates -- governors and senators -- who were up for election in 30 of 37 states. Bush fared much better, winning fewer votes than Republican candidates in just 16 of 37 states.

The report noted that although turnout reached new heights, more than 78 million Americans who were eligible to vote stayed home on Election Day. The group estimated that Bush won just 30.8 percent of the total eligible voters.

At the end of this story was the unrelated nugget..

Kate Michelman, the former president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, has decided not to enter the race to lead the Democratic National Committee and instead will lead, as she put it, an "effort to reassert the party's leadership on women's fundamental rights."

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January 14, 2005

Dean Leads, Frost Second in DNC Poll

By Byron LaMasters

The Hotline polled all of the DNC members, and 187 (42%) responded. Dean leads with 31% to 16% for Frost (everyone else in the low single digits with 40% undecided) for first choice. When first and second choices are combined, Dean goes up to 40% and Frost emerges with 27%. Fowler comes in at 11% with Webb and Rosenberg at 8% and Roemer at 6%.

What should we make of all this?

Roemer has no traction. Roemer polls behind most everyone. Duh... because Roemer is a DINO on key issues that define the Democratic Party. Everyone except the D.C. leadership gets that. Time for them to wake up...

I think that some people will be surprised with Frost's strong showing, but I'm not. Frost has near unanimous support of the Texas delegation, and has contacts in most every state from his days of running the DCCC. Right now, Frost appears best positioned to consolidate the vote of those looking for someone other than Howard Dean. The endorsement of former DNC Chair Bob Strauss certainly helps as well.

Howard Dean is in a strong position, but after Tim Roemer, Dean is the most polarizing candidate in the field (the poll for last choice for DNC had Roemer at 16% and Dean at 11%). Both Dean and Roemer have the largest percentage drop in support from first choice to second choice. I can easily imagine a scenario where Dean leads the first round or two of balloting, but ultimately loses as the field shrinks. Dean supporters are the loudest, but I think that many DNC members (40% of those polled, and probably an even higher percentage of those who did not respond to the Hotline survey) are holding their cards until someone else emerges.

As for the others - Fowler, Webb, Rosenberg, etc. One of them may emerge into the top tier. I think Rosenberg is best positioned to be a compromise candidate (for example, if Dean realizes that he can't win, Rosenberg could be a potential compromise candidate if Dean threw him his support). Everybody seems to like Donnie Fowler, but he's not many people's first choice. Wellington Webb may get African-American support early, but I doubt that his support will go much deeper than that. More importantly is where African-American support will go after Webb drops out. I could see it going to either Dean or Frost.

Make what you want of it all. More at MyDD.

Update: More details now at MyDD (again) and Political Wire.

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DNC Pictures

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

I can't believe that I have taken as long as I have to get all the pictures loaded from the DNC Atlanta meeting. If you want to page through four pages of pictures from the Sleepless Winter Book Tour, start here.

And here are some selected photos that I know you will love...

The Missing Fish

Florida Ballot Box (funny)

Dean and Georgia for Democracy

Karl-Thomas and Al Sharpton!

Karl-Thomas and Simon Rosenberg

Donnie Fowler and us bloggers

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January 13, 2005

Speaking of the DNC Race...

By Byron LaMasters

Annatopia liveblogged the Blog PAC interview with Howard Dean.

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Why I don't support Dean for DNC

By Byron LaMasters

I've meant to write this post for awhile now, but I wanted to wait until I could better express my thoughts. I proudly join Karl-Thomas, and probably every writer for this blog as a "Reform Democrat". I also think that I can speak with some creditability as a member of the progressive wing of the Democratic Party on most issues. Why have I not engaged in the general blogosphere euphoria over Howard Dean's campaign for DNC? It's really pretty simple. It's all about the record.

First, I should state my criteria for a DNC Chair. The chair must be a creditable spokesman for the Democratic Party on the core issues that define our party. That immediately eliminates Tim Roemer, who does not have creditability to be a spokesman for Democrats on the important issues of choice, a balanced budget and social security. Next, a Democratic chairman should be refom-minded. We cannot continue running elections as if it were still the twentieth century. We're in the twenty-first century. We need to throw out the consultants that suck and learn from the folks that actually win elections (and if you haven't read the Washington Monthly article yet, you should read it). A DNC Chair should understand how to use the Internet and know something about blogging. Finally, the DNC Chair should have a record of results. This final criterion is where I have a problem with Howard Dean.

It's not that I think that Howard Dean would be a bad DNC Chair. I think that he would do a good job as chair. He is clearly reform-oriented, and would probably steer the party in the right direction. Having said that, I think that we have better choices. Howard Dean brings some baggage. Ezra has more on the issue of Dean baggage that I tend to agree with. Dean has been unfairly pegged as a screaming liberal, but fair or not, that's the image that many Americans have of Howard Dean. That image is not one that I want for DNC Chair.

However, I have more substantial concerns about Howard Dean's candidacy as well. On the record of results, Howard Dean doesn't really have the profile I'm looking for. Yes, Howard Dean understands the Internet, knows how to raise money off the Internet, and has mobilized countless thousands of new people into politcs. That's great, and there are some good reasons for Dean to be DNC Chair. Kevin Drum's post outlines the best ones. But lets take a look at the results of Dean's fundraising and of the candidates which he endorsed in his "Dean's Dozens".

Dean raised tens of millions of dollars in his campaign for president, but he fell into the same consultant trap that has plauged many Democrats over the past few cycles. After New Hampshire, Dean had squandered all of his money, and had no backup plan in case he lost Iowa and New Hampshire. That's not a record of sucess.

Of the Dean's Dozen candidates, 33 won and 58 lost. Sure, that's a losing record, and I don't fault him for that. After all, whether you're a fan of Kos or not, Democrats ought to praise the Daily Kos for its work in raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for Democratic candidates for Congress, even if none of the Kos Dozen candidates won. As for Democracy for America, it's a great organization that has mobilized thousands of new people into politics and the Democratic Party, but what did Democracy for America actually do for the candidates that it endorsed? I can't speak for the entire organization, but looking at the Texas candidates endorsed by DFA - I don't really see what DFA did. DFA endorsed four Texas candidates: David Van Os for State Supreme Court, Katy Hubener for State Representative, Richard Morrison for Congress and May Walker for Harris County Constable. David Van Os never really had much of a chance, May Walker was going to win regardless, and Richard Morrison surely received a good deal of money from DFA, but he got money from many Internet sources, so big deal.

Where I really have some insight into the activities of DFA is with the Katy Hubener campaign. In a debriefing with some folks that worked for the campaign, they said that the DFA folks didn't really do too much for the campaign. DFA sent out an email endorsing Katy Hubener, but that was about it. A couple of hundred bucks came in, but that was all. That's no way to help candidates - send one email with a dozen candidates on it, asking for donations? The only way that the Katy Hubener campaign capitalized from the DFA endorsement was by looking up Texas donors to the Dean campaign and sending them a seperate fundraising letter. That raised several thousand dollars, but that was something that should have been done by DFA.

I tend to agree with Joe Trippi that there are others who better understand the climate of 21st century politics than Howard Dean. Trippi writes this in his endorsement of Simon Rosenberg:

If our party is to win in the 21st century, we have to have a strategist who knows how to practice 21st century politics. That means expanding participation, embracing technology, and building an apparatus that can counter the Republican machine. Simon Rosenberg was among the first in politics to acknowledge the power of the movement we built with Dean for America and he wasn’t afraid to speak up about how we were fundamentally changing politics. He knows that in the age of the Internet, our politics must be interactive and participatory to engage citizens. He knows the Internet is not just an ATM for candidates and parties, but a tool for bringing in millions of Americans who want to be a part of the political process. For Simon, building a new progressive politics for our time is not just lip service, it is a passion backed up by his record. I’m backing Simon for chair because I know I can work with him to help build a modern, winning Democratic party.

Simon Rosenberg and Martin Frost are my top two choices for DNC Chair. Why? Because they're the only two candidates in the race who actually have a record of success. Frost oversaw the DCCC efforts of unprecedented gains for the incumbent party in the sixth year of a presidential term. I'm a little bit biased to Frost as I'm a Democrat from Texas, and I know that Martin Frost understands first hand how important down ballot statewide and state representative races are in determining national politics. Had Democrats won the races for Comptroller and Lieutenant Governor in 1998, or had we won another state senate seat or two in 2002, re-redistring would never had happened. If the DNC had been there, things might have been different, but they weren't. Martin Frost wouldn't allow the DNC to make that mistake again. Like him or not, Martin Frost is a pit bull and a fighter. As for Simon Rosenberg - he has been an innovative leader for change in the party as Joe Trippi notes above. Read more about Simon Rosenberg - he's one of the folks that really gets it in terms of strategy and in understanding the net/grassroots.

I've been in touch with folks in both the Rosenberg and Frost campaigns, and I hope to have some more material from both campaigns in the near future. I won't be endorsing in this race, but Frost and Rosenberg are my top choices by far, because I believe that they are the candidates that have the best records of actually achieving results in the field.

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January 12, 2005


By Jim Dallas

This makes me cry:

A number of other well-known and bright conservative judges, including Frank Easterbrook and Richard Posner of the Seventh Circuit and Alex Kozinski of the Ninth Circuit, are unlikely appointees in light of their libertarian bent and occasional departures from social conservative doctrine. Indeed, it seems likely -- given the sharp and close divide in today’s political world, in which one or two votes on the Court could made a significant difference in constitutional interpretation for years to come -- that the heavily ideological Bush administration will do everything it can to ensure that its nominees are clearly and consistently conservative. At the very least, it will seek to avoid a repeat of what it views as the catastrophic Republican appointment of Souter, who lacked a conservative “paper trail” and, subsequently, addressed cases with an open mind once he got the Court.


My humble experience in reading Judge Posner's opinions is, that he has a tendency to make even natural dissenters agree with him by using sweet pragmatic reason (which is why about every other assigned reading has a footnote to the effect of, "and Judge Posner said this, and lots of people agree with him"). That, of course, doesn't necessarily mean he's right, but sometimes it's the appearance that counts.

Judge Easterbrook (in Hill v. Gateway 2000, Inc., which I had to read for a class), at least, made me laugh.

I've heard good things about Kozinski.

Typical. We're gonna get stuck with a winger and the Supreme Court is going to drift on, bereft of any titanic legal minds, a mere pawn in the political chess between Washington extremists.

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January 10, 2005

DNC Atlanta Report: Part 3 of 3

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

Having finished up parts one and two from my time at the Atlanta DNC Southern Caucus meeting, now for the bit about Texas.

Of the dozen or so DNC members from Texas, it is likely that they will end up voting for Martin Frost in the early rounds, not because they may believe that he is the best candidate, but because he's a Texan, and it's just the proper thing to do. What was causing some consternation is that our State Chair, Mr. Charles Soechting, planned on introducing a resolution of support at today's State Democratic Executive Committee meeting to be voted on. The SDEC has 60 odd voting members, of which many are Dean folk that won elections for the seats at last year's State Convention.

No one likes to be railroaded into having to vote a particular way. In fact, my SDEC district representative met with 11 of the 21 county chairs in our region this weekend. I was proud enough that they had put forth a strategic planning statement and program to be submitted to the chair about how to work with counties for future success. Then I was told over the phone that the 11 County Chairs endorsed Howard Dean for National Chair and urged our SDEC rep to make that known.

This was shocking to me. Those County Chairs weren't Deaniacs or swept into office in local coups. They are hard working, older Party folk who want to win and restore the Party in the very rural areas which they represent. The fact that this crowd at the bottom of the ladder is in favor in Dean could be an indicator that there is more support out there for real reformers than we are seeing on the surface. It also jives well with ruminations that Dean is actually the fallback choice of much of the Texas delegation should Frost be knocked out.

Below are some thoughts from David H., one of Texas's DNC members whom had given me permission to share some of his relevant thoughts.

Make an effort to meet Simon Rosenberg. If there wasn't a Texan in the race, he would get my vote straight-away.

The Austin meetup went pretty well last night. Most of the people there were for Dean, of course, and I am not opposed to him, but there are and were elements who get pretty militant about Dean and his cause.

Like I say, I'm not against Dean in this. I have known Simon for ten years and after seeing his talents I think he'd make a great chair. He is part of a think-tank that is forefront on Progressive issues and his organization spent more on Hispanic targeted ads than either the Kerry campaign or the DNC, from what I understand. He gets the new activist dynamic.

And Frost, being a Texan, would mean great things for Texas and red states like it. He ran the DCCC like most people are saying they want to see the DNC run. He has a great record of working with candidates in every state - not just battleground - and candidates far down the ballot. He surrounds himself with great people.

So, Dean comes in somewhere after them for me, personally.

I think all Texans will vote for Frost as long as he is in it.

Frost as chair would probably mean more for Texas as far as money and support go (instead of it being sucked out of Texas to other states). But in this case I have to be a Democrat before a Texan, and to put 1 state ahead of the other 49 is shortsighted.

(Should there me more to report on after today's SDEC meeting, I'll be sure to file an additional Burnt Orange Report.)

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January 09, 2005

DNC Atlanta Report 2 of 3

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

This is the second of three posts on my experience at the DNC Southern Caucus meeting in Atlanta. The third post will be on events related specific to Texas and Texas candidates.

As far as message is concerned, it's starting to remind me of the Democratic Primary where Dean ended up defining the message and other candidates, seeing where the Party was, ended up with similar thoughts. For me, a Reform minded Deanocrat, this of course is encouraging and the question now becomes, of those pushing for reform, how much is politics and how much is sincere. For me at least, it seems if the battle is not Dean v. Anti-Dean, it's Dean v. Dean light...

That being said, I attending the Atlanta meeting with an open mind, and an intent to report on what I saw to better offer a view into a decision that isn't ours to make in this type of election.

In the order that the candidates spoke, below are my thoughts on style and my personal meetings at their separate events.

Simon Rosenberg

I attended Simon's Meet and Greet event earlier in the day, and was able to personal chat with him some about blogs, technology, and the interface of the DNC with the lower levels of the Party. The Tennessee crew came in as well and held a Q and A with him. His passion for the job was much more apparent in this meeting than in what was visible in the general meeting that C-SPAN captured. His answers were complete (if at times a bit too long) and he did focus on relating his job experience running the NDN to the DNC saying he was ready to step into the job without a learning curve.

Being one of the younger candidates, he comes off maturer than Fowler does, but this is likely due to his executive position and background. His Chair Campaign had raised about $150,000 and had recently been endorsed by CraigsList, with supposed other endorsements coming this week. He had little 'campaign material' though and mentioned at one point how he supported the invasion of Iraq. He "gets it" though on the question of reform and if were elected chair would have my support and confidence. I feel that his positive aspects were not as well conveyed to the DNC audience though in the panel Q&A, and they are the voters, not me.

Tim Roemer

Tim Roemer, as hard as he may try, sounds like the ex-Congresscritter that his is, and seems artificial. His "meet and greet" event was centered on food and Max Cleland's endorsement. He had zero campaign materials. He did the traditional "Thank you for that very good question, I appreciate your question, That is perhaps the most important question" shtick in the Panel Q&A. Draped in security and patriotism in excess, he was one of the few asked specific questions about his negative points (being outside the mainstream of the party on Choice, Social Security, voting against Clinton Economic reforms, etc.) In his responses, it appeared that he was trying to set himself of as an "anti-Dean" candidate, such as saying he would not "run the party to the Left (Dean sitting on his left as he waves in that direction) or take it to the right." But so long as both he and Frost are in the hunt, they split up similar voters, helping the real reformers.

Howard Dean

The most well known of the candidates, there is less of an education issue with the delegates when it comes to policies or who the candidate its. In that sense, he has an "incumbent advantage" on those fronts one could say. DNC members that are paying less attention to the specifics of the race but are looking for reform, could quite possibly go Dean's way simply because they don't know of any alternatives. As knowledgeable as I would wish every member of the DNC would be, I get a sense from talking to some of them, that those of us racking this race online in the blogosphere have collectively a better understanding of the people and the issues at hand.

Dean drew crowds in the lobby when he would be sanding around, and was very at ease on a person to person basis He gave fresh insightful remarks in the Q&A round, much to my surprise as I was expecting something more along the lines of his stump speeches. Dean was the only candidate to be interrupted (twice) by applause in his 90 second opening remarks. Though he won't officially announce until a day or two, his campaign was in gear. The other candidates know it just as Dean does, that if he doesn't get elected, it will only be because Dean comes in second place in the final ballot between himself and the winner. His name is not one that will be dropped off in some earlier stage of balloting on the way to finding the next DNC Chair.

Wellington Webb

The former Mayor of Denver, Wellington Webb likes to tell you that his name is Wellington Webb. In the Q&A session, it was brought up about three times. Though his speaking style is clear and direct, I kept trying to figure out if he was still trying to increase his name ID. His meet and greet event was rather sparsely attended, not physically organized, and the only delegates seemingly supporting him were members of the Southern Black Caucus. Webb is a good man, and he cares about whom he represents. It appears though, that he represents the African American voice in this election, which is not enough to elect him as the Chairman. Seeing Al Sharpton in Atlanta (and getting an obligatory picture with him), it made me hope that at some point, the Democratic Party will have Black candidates for these National level offices that represent more tan "putting forth the issues and concerns of the Black community."

David Leeland

Former director of Project Vote and Chairman of the Ohio Democratic Party, David Leeland is otherwise unknown. Entering the race so late that he had no name placard for the event or and meet and greet, little is known about his policies. His answers did not go far in answering the question of what he brings to the race or what he stands for. For the most part, his responses were bland and repetitive (at least twice he stated "I think all of us up here have the same view on the answer to this question..."). Other than gaining Ohio's DNC votes, I don't see a base of support or unique appeal. I can see hi being one, if the only, of the 7 candidates in attendance to drop out before the February vote is actually held.

Donnie Fowler

Son of former DNC Chair Don Fowler, the younger Don is also one of the candidates that "gets it". I had a chance to personally speak with him up in his suite with blogger Scrutiny Hooligans. While one of his volunteers was very hot under the collar about Dean (not exactly the best thing to do talking to Dean campaign bloggers), Fowler actually got a question into me first, asking off hand, "I bet you want to know if I can code an HTML e-mail?" Fowler's answers were not canned and he draws energy and knowledge from his fieldwork and I much appreciated the openness of his meet and greet.

In the general session, he was quick, witty, charming at times. While some of his jokes didn't get the laugh lines they deserved (tough crowd) he identifies with this Regional Caucus. There is a concern I have though, and that in a race where DNC members' votes may be cast on identity (on race, ideology, relative time in the party) that quite a few won't identify with his enthusiasm or youthful unkempt vigor. I do, but then again, I'm 20, a blogger, and not a DNC member which makes it all quite pointless unless DNC members are reading the blogosphere. And if they are, they are probably already true Reform Democrats. Fowler probably gained more ground than most, and is now a better known quantity that sticks in your head, but this was also some of his more friendly turf. If Mr. Fowler wins, I will have every confidence that the Party will be better because of it. But first he would have to win.

Martin Frost

Martin Frost is the other former Congresscritter in this race. His meet and greet consisted of many Texans (not that those votes are unexpected). He seemed to be interested only in those in the room with official white DNC Member nametags, and if you were anything else... Hard to approach, disconnected, and not particularly compelling in his later answers to the full session, where he regularly cited Congress or people he knew as ways to answer questions.

While he may have headed up the DCCC for a couple cycles, I do not remember those being the most recent ones where the Internet and the issue of Reform has come into play. Plus, as the lead man on Democratic Redistricting after the 2000 census, I find it a bit ironic that he lost his seat in Dallas due to redistricting here in Texas. In response to a question on seeking higher office after being DNC chair, he responded "I am no longer interested in offering my name for public office" which should be interesting to Texans as his name has been bandied about as a Statewide candidate of some sort.


Not in attendance, but with their name placards sitting empty on the table were Molly Beth Malcolm former Chair of the Texas Democratic Party and Mr. Blanchard whom I thought had already officially pulled out. Molly Beth would be a bad choice, but it is unlikely that she would enter so long as another Texan was in the race (Ron Kirk dropped out as there were too many Texans as it was).

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DNC Atlanta Report: 1 of 3

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

In this entry I will present some of the points that were made by the "introduction" speakers at the general session. The following entry will be a DNC candidate by candidate discussion. The third entry will be on the Texas angle and the "Texas Tussle" that is ongoing.

The Southern Regional Meeting of the DNC on January 8 almost ended halfway into it as those in charge claimed that seating to the general session was limited and only those with preapproved credentials would be allowed in, and if there was space after that, others would be accepted. By the time I was reluctantly let in, there still appeared to be dozens of open chairs and I am thankful that the obstacle was "fire codes" rather than disallowing bloggers, as was the case in Florida.

Governor Phil Bredesen of Tennessee gave a good speech in which he said we "need not a regional strategy but a national message that speaks to a culture of America because the people we need to reach out to are beyond the South".

He gave two suggestions to the party.
1) Get out of Washington! "The aspirations of the people are out in the nation, in red states and blue ones."
2) We need some Focus. "It needs to come from the top; we need a coherent world view."

Next up were proposed DNC Rule Changes put forth by Don Fowler, former DNC chair and father of DNC candidate Donnie Fowler. He offered them saying that he had been in charge before and sometimes responsible for the very rules which he is now proposing to alter, which would take power away from the Chair and put it in the Regional Caucuses and States. In summary they are...

1) Reduce the number of At Large DNC Members appointed by the DNC chair from the current 75 to 25 (out of the 440 or so total members) and give 12 or 13 to each Regional Caucus to appoint.

2) Reduced from 11 to 7 the number of executive committee appointments made by the DNC Chair, giving one to each Regional Caucus.

3) Related to making the management of the DNC budget to be more open and accountable.

A presentation was made by Pollster Dave Beattie on targeting. His quotable line? "Like Vietnam, Democrats cannot hold the cities and lose the countryside, and expect to win the war." His suggested target groups...

1) Catholics "We don't need to change who we are for this one."
2) Small Business "We can be the Party of Main Street over Wall Street".

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DNC Atlanta News

By Byron LaMasters

Karl-Thomas will surely post his thoughts on the Atlanta meetings soon, but here's two other takes on the Atlanta meetings while we wait:

MyDD with comments from Matt Stoller who is working for Simon Rosenberg.


Scutiny Hooligans who spoke with Karl-Thomas, and has some thoughts.

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January 08, 2005

DNC Atlanta Report On its Way

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

I am now in North Carolina after spending the last two days in Atlanta, learning a heck of a lot about what is going on in the DNC chairs race and getting a much better personal read on the candidates, their styles, ideas, and interests.

Dean will be announcing his official candidacy on Monday; the campaign to be headed by a Tom .... from outside his Democracy for America leadership. Blanchard and supposed new entrant, Mary Beth Malcolm were absent and had no materials on their respective tables today. Mr. David Leeland of Ohio was unimpressive, had no campaign organization present, no separate "meet and greet" event during the day, and lackluster answers that added nothing that wasn't already said or represented by the current candidates.

I managed to attend all the meet and greets with the candidate, have pictures (one with Al Sharpton who attended for some reason) all of which I will post on Monday evening. In addition I will have a report on some Texas maneuvering and issues that involves Texas DNC candidates, DNC members, and the State Democratic Executive Committee.

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January 07, 2005

Thus Saith DeLay

By Vince Leibowitz

Guest Post By Vince Leibowitz

This morning, I recieved several e-mails from Democratic lists I'm on attacking Tom DeLay over a scripture reading during the Congressional Prayer Service earlier this week. Always weary of e-mail rumors from listservs, I decided to investigate further to see if Tom DeLay did, in fact, hop on the Religious High-Horse. Sure enough, he did.

The only major media outlet I could find mentioning Tom DeLay reading scripture which many are interpreting as him saying the Tsunami victims got what they deserved was the "Quick Takes" column in the Chicago Sun-Times, which noted: "House Majority Leader Tom DeLay [read] from Scripture at [the]Congressional Prayer Breakfast Wednesday comparing those not faithful to Christianity to "a fool who built his house on sand," noting that "the floods came, and the winds blew, and buffeted the house, and it collapsed and was completely ruined."

Why has the mainstream media been silent on DeLay's latest gaffe?

Bloggers have been far from slient on the issue. Via various bloggers like American Coprophagia, we know that DeLay read the following scripture, but I'm unsure of the version of the bible he used (it appears to be the King James Version):

"Not every one who says to me, "Lord, Lord," will enter the kingdom of heaven; but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.

Many will say to me on that day, "Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name? Did we not drive out demons in your name? Did we not do mighty deeds in your name?

"Then I will declare to them solemnly, 'I never knew you: depart from me, you evil doers.'"

Everyone who listens to these words of mine, and acts on them, will be like a wise man, who built his house on a rock:

The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew, and buffeted the house, but it did not collapse; it has been set solidly on rock.

And everyone who listens to these words of mine, but does not act on them, will be like a fool who built his house on sand:

The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew, and buffeted the house, and it collapsed and was completely ruined."

Scott over at DemWatch had this to say about DeLay's latest folly:

I know what it sounds like DeLay is referring to. A Christian nation is like a house built on a rock -- solid. A non-Christian nation is foolish, built on a foundation of sand. That's rhetoric I don't agree with one iota, but still just metaphoric rhetoric. But in the aftermath of the recent Indian Ocean tsunami, with so many houses collapsed and completely ruined when the floods came, in a largely non-Christian part of the world, it's rhetoric that is completely unacceptable. Tom DeLay is either blindingly stupid or heartlessly cruel. Either way, he should be ashamed of himself.

Oddly enough, right-wing Focus on the Family stayed away from the DeLay affair entirely when it published its sappy press release about the Congressional prayer service.

You can view the entire prayer service via C-Span. You can also right click on this link to save an MP3 of DeLay's reading, via DemWatch.

Vince Leibowitz is County Chairman of the Democratic Party of Van Zandt County. He is a regular contributor to the Political State Report and founder of the now discontinued Texas politics blog, Free State Standard. He and his two dogs, Ellie and Lyndon, reside in Canton.

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Sleepless Winter Book Tour: Birmingham

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

I'm reporting in for Day 2 of the Sleepless Winter Book Tour with Scott Goldstein, 19 year old author of The Tea is in the Harbor ($8.96), a book on Democracy, the Dean Campaign, and the future of our country. I was asked to write a subchapter for the book, and have now joined him on the second half of his tour. Complete schedule is here. Our next meeting will be Friday evening, in Atlanta, at...

Quaker Meeting House - 7 PM
701 West Howard Ave, Decatur Georgia 30030

But as for today, we departed from Nashville around noon, traveling south to Birmingham. We made a noticeable transition into Alabama when the Interstate suddenly became very poor in condition and a billboard asked us... "Are you going to Heaven or Hell? Follow the straight and narrow path!"

But Birmingham is not like the rest of the state. The part of the city we traveled through was quite urban, and reminded me a bit of Austin, as if this was the closest thing to it in this state.

Before we went to the event held at the Safari Cup Coffee Shop (a wonderful place owned by what seemed to be a South African), Scott and I walked downtown towards the historic 16th Street Baptist Church (picture there). As we were crossing the memorial park, the most interesting event occurred.

A homeless African American man named Juan, noticed us looking at the MLK, Jr. Statue and approached us. He began to tell us about it, and then proceeded to tell us about the park, and the symbolism of all the statues there. From what we could gather he was quite young at the time, six or so maybe, and went to school nearby. We told us about the Children's March, and the dogs, and the Historic Black Business District, and the history behind a number of the building in the nearby area. He spoke from experience and the heart, and pointed out the cracks still visible on parts of the Baptist Church. It was something that cannot be described very well in words, and less so in pictures, though I do have some which are posted in this gallery of pictures from the Tour so far. It was one of those experiences that you don't forget, and could never plan or expect to have in life. He just asked that we remember, and in return we offered him some cash in return. Sharing his story, for now, is his way of sleeping each night.

Soon after that, we were back at the Coffee house for the Book Tour stop. Over a dozen people were there, progressives from the local area, a more urban and younger leaning crowd than in Nashville, people concerned about their party and their state. These are not people who have given up home because they are in Alabama, but they are people quite dissatisfied with the way their state party is run, though they have more confidence in the Jefferson County Party apparatus.

Scott and I will of course be taking on our collective knowledge on the tour to Atlanta tomorrow and to the DNC meeting Saturday. Until then, and with the hope I find Internet access once more, goodnight.

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DNC Candidate Meetings

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

So far, the following is what I am aware of as far as candidate meetings in Atlanta. More may appear, and if you know of any, please leave a comment.

DNC Caucus Held in Atlanta at...
Sheraton Gateway Hotel
1900 Sullivan Road
5:30PM - 7:00PM

Howard Dean
Private Event on Friday (7th) around 3-4 p.m.
I'll be there for Burnt Orange Report

Simon Rosenberg
Saturday, January 8, 2005
10:30 am – 11:30 am
1900 Bar and Grille
Sheraton Gateway Hotel
RSVP event, not sure if public

Donnie Fowler
Saturday, January 8
Noon - 12:45 PM
Sheraton Gateway Suite 1034
public, open to "grassroots and netroots activists"

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January 06, 2005

DNC Regional Meetings

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

Southern Caucus Meeting
Saturday, January 8th
Sheraton Gateway Hotel
1900 Sullivan Road
Atlanta, GA 30337
5:30PM - 7:00PM

(Attending in Atlanta will be me for Burnt Orange Report, Georgia's Blog for Democracy and Scrutiny Hooligans.

Midwestern Caucus Meeting
Saturday, January 15
St. Louis, Missouri
(no other information yet)

Western Caucus Meeting
Saturday, January 22
Radisson Hotel
500 Leisure Lane
Sacramento, CA
1:00 PM - ?

Eastern Regional Caucus
Saturday, Jan. 29th
Roosevelt Hotel
Madison Ave at 45th St.
New York City
10 AM- 12 PM
To attend, apparently you must register with the NY state Dem party

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DNC Chair Liveblogging

By Byron LaMasters

Annatopia is liveblogging a blogger conference call with DNC Chair candidate Simon Rosenberg. Some interesting material there...

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January 05, 2005

Sleepless Winter Tour: Nashville

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

I flew into Nashville this afternoon, after a slight rain delay and being pulled aside for a security screening in Austin. Of course, I seem to get pulled aside for security checks most of the time, I'm not sure why, but I did have a good chat with the 70 year old in a wheel chair who was pulled aside right after me. Together we must have been a formidable duo in attempting to take down national security.

I met up with Scott Goldstein and his sister at the airport and continued on to the SEIU local #205 for the night's book tour stop. About a dozen people gathered, including the interim state director Mark Naccarto for Democracy for Tennesee.

Scott should soon have a report up on Blog for America, so I can offer a couple thoughts on events in Tennessee. Like other places, former Dean people have managed to gain a level of control over their couny apparatus, but at the state level, less so. Still, and this seems to be something that Scott has found so far, at the local level, the greatest complaint with the party is that there is not enough support for the county operations. But the DFT folks here are running people for local officers, such as Road Board, and understand the idea that sometimes you have to simply start running candidates, even if they lose, and then have them run again, and again, building the base and the local party.

Of course, in many counties in Texas, we are not even running people against Republicans, but if we start to, or even run people for non-partisan offices, we can build up candidates that have bonded with their communities just like the Republicans did 20 and 30 years ago.

It is indeed early in the trip, but I feel that "All politics is local" might be one of the themes that develop.

So, tomorrow night (Thursday) we will be in Birmingham, Alabama at 7 pm. Come see us, or buy the Tea is in the Harbor at...

Safari Cup Coffee Shop
300 Richard Arrington Jr. Blvd N
Birmingham, Al 35023

Upcoming Tour Schedule

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What about Timmy?

By Nathan Nance

Guest post by Nate Nance

With all this talk about Frost's sudden consolidation of support, Fowler campaigning hard and Murtha supporting Dean, we've forgotten about Tim Roemer.

Roemer has two people supporting him that show, ithink, the kind of battle the DNC chair race really is. Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi seem to be the only ones endorsing him, and they're the suits. What most people seem to want is a change, something anti-establishment. That's not Roemer.

Josh Marshall also points to two votes Roemer made as a congressman that point to why he definitely should not be in a leadership position.

Roemer was one of the Democrats that voted against the Clinton budget of 1993 -- the one that in the end won by a single vote and cost Marjorie Margolies-Mezvinsky and so many others their seats. (Not just the big vote, but a number that led up to it.) Then he was one of an even smaller number of Democrats who voted for President Bush's 2001 Budget bill. If I'm not mistaken, he was one of only 9 Dems in the House to vote to make the Bush cuts permanent the following year.

That really leaves us with Dean, Frost, Fowler and Rosenberg. I haven't really heard much from Rosenberg. He's had a lot of support from bloggers, but he seems to have fallen prey to the early-frontrunner syndrome. Talk of him burned out too early while Dean hasn't really made a move to run or announce that he is not running, thus leaving us anticipating it. He learned his lesson. I had all but discounted Frost, but I'm glad to see him still maneuvering like a skilled politician.

The way I see it now, Roemer is the congressional leadership's choice because they want to have control over the DNC's money. I think the Anybody but Dean group will put their support behind Frost because he is a little bit reform a little bit establishment. Dean will have support from those who want serious changes while Rosenberg and Fowler will siphon votes away from him. That leaves us with a Frost chair, which should make some BOR readers happy.

Of course, there is still lots of time before the DNC members vote and I've got to do what I can to win that bet with Andrew.

This is a guest post from Nathan Nance. He can be reached at nate_nance@yahoo.com.

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Slap me silly

By Jim Dallas

I was in the Houston airport a few days ago and saw the cover of this year's Time "Person of the Year" edition. I thought it was pretty cheesy to call Bush an "American Revolutionary." I didn't buy it though, because I'm more of a Newsweek person and also I was running short on cash.

Matt Taibbi, via James Wolcott, on the other hand, did buy the magazine, and here's what he has to say:

Every damned year we go through this.

But this year, Taibbi writes, was the worst.

"The 'Person of the Year' issue has always been a symphonic tribute to the heroic possibilities of pompous sycophancy, but the pomposity of this year's issue bests by a factor of at least two or three the pomposity of any previous issue. From the Rushmorean cover portrait of Bush (which over the headline 'An American Revolutionary' was such a brazen and transparent effort to recall George Washington that it was embarrassing) to the 'Why We Fight' black-and-white portraiture of the aggrieved president sitting somberly at the bedside of the war-wounded, this issue is positively hysterical in its iconolatry. One even senses that this avalanche of overwrought power worship is inspired by the very fact of George Bush's being such an obviously unworthy receptacle for such attentions. From beginning to end, the magazine behaves like a man who knocks himself out making an extravagant six-course candlelit dinner for a blow-up doll, in an effort to convince himself he's really in love.

Now I'm thinking I should have bought the magazine just to see the train wreck myself.

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DNC Race and Another Political Adventure

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

Democratic Party news for the next month or so will be centered on discussions about where the party needs to go and what it wants to do organizationally as the DNC Chair vote approaches.

Well, being a loyal Burnt Orange Reporter (and the fact that I seem to have this urge to travel the country each January) I'm going East and will be attending the Southern Regional Meeting of the DNC in Atlanta. In stunning DNC speed, the time and location of the meeting had been announced 5 days in advance of the actual meeting.

Thanks to the Blog for Democracy Blog in Georgia...

Mayor Shirley Franklin & the Democratic Party of Georgia is hosting the Southern Regional Meeting of the Democratic National Committee.

The Southern Caucus members of the DNC along with the newly elected Democratic Party of Georgia State Committee Members and the candidates for DNC Chair are the main attendees of this meeting, but as always, Democratic Party events are open to the public.

Here's the date, time, and location:

DNC Southern Caucus Meeting
Saturday, January 8, 2005
Sheraton Gateway Hotel
1900 Sullivan Road
Atlanta, GA 30337
5:30PM - 7:00PM

Here are all the DNC members in the Southern delegation. From Texas, member David Holmes will actually be attending the Wednesday (Jan 5) Democracy for Texas MeetUp at Sholtz at 7 p.m. before he heads out. Ron Kirk, who dropped out and endorsed Frost today, is a DNC member himself.

The official Dean Blog has been quite silent on the issue, offering us such choice nuggets as...Governor Dean continues to hear from people across the country about the race, and is making calls seeking advice. Stay tuned for more news about the race and thoughts on the future of our party. If he's learned anything, it's not to be the frontrunner for any office at the beginning of January. Ha.

So stay tuned here at Burnt Orange as well as the Georgia Blog since Dean will be arriving in Atlanta the day before and will be at a book signing. Which of course brings me to the real reason for my flight from Austin to Nashville tomorrow.

I'm joining up with Scott Goldstein on his book tour, for his recently published (second book at the age of 19) titled, The Tea is in the Harbor. Buy it here for less than $10!

Why? Because I'm in his book, four pages (33-36) of print as a "Sons of Liberty" chapter. He has already driven from New York through Ohio and Indiana as part of the tour, and I'll be joining him for Nashville, TN then Birmingham, Alabama, and then to Atlanta, where we will be having an extra meeting with Howard Dean who is coming in earlier in the day (say 3-4 pm) to speak with the local Democrats and Dean folk, and will hopefully be signing some copies. I'll try to buy/snag a few to bring back to Austin and maybe then you'll come to a MeetUp or something.

So if you are in Nashville on the 5th, Birmingham on the 6th, Atlanta on the 7th, come out and see us (locations available here, all events should be at 7 pm) There may (but very well may not, be an event in North Carolina as we head back to DC but I will let you know).

So look out for reports from the road coming to a blog near you.

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Unbought, Unbossed

By Vince Leibowitz

Guest Post By Vince Leibowitz

Many Democrats across the country this week were saddened to hear of the passing of former Democratic Congresswoman and 1972 presidential candidate Shirley Chisholm.

Black or white, male or female, Democrats everywhere owe a great deal to the "unbought and unbossed" Congresswoman from Brooklyn.

Not only was Chisholm the first black woman to serve in congress, and the first woman to seek our party's nomination for president, she was a true liberal who fought for what she believed in, fought for her constituents, and symbolized a better America.

The Arizona Republic summed up Chisholm in an excellent editorial this week, noting:

Many Americans remember Shirley Chisholm as an outspoken liberal, a symbol of Democratic politics in the 1960s and 1970s.

They know that she was the first Black woman to serve in Congress and the first woman to run for her party's presidential nomination in 1972.

But they don't know that when George Wallace was shot that same year, she visited him in the hospital, a gesture of such respect and kindness that Wallace, the prototypical segregationist Southern politician, was moved to tears.


Chisholm was respected--and despised--as a loud and unbending advocate of minorities and women, a critic of the political establishment of her day.

Some may recall how she challenged House leaders when, in 1968, they assigned her, a first-term congresswoman from Brooklyn, to the agriculture committee.

She later had the pragmatism to support Hale Boggs of Louisiana over fellow Black John Conyers for majority leader. She was rewarded with a seat on the Education and Labor Committee.


Whether you agreed with her politics, she made a difference. She cleared a path for others, Black and White, male and female, to follow.

The New York Post noted of Chisholm, "She was, appropriately, a trailblazer — and she made clear from the outset that she was not one to sit quietly and mind her place. Her fiery passion made her someone to be reckoned with."

But more than being a trailblazer, more than being an expert on early childhood education, and more than her firey passion, Shirley Chisholm had the heart of a true public servant.

She was fond of saying, "Service is the rent we pay for the privilege of living on this earth."

Chisholm serves as an excellent example for those of us who aspire to serve our counties, our state, our nation and our party. Hopefully, from her example, we can rest assured in the knowledge that we must challenge convention, work to clear the path for the next generation, and safeguard the less fortunate among us.

In our state, nation and party today, we need people like Shirley Chisholm: people to challenge, people who won't take "no" for an answer, and people with a firey passion for the people.

It's time for us all to pay our rent.

Vince Leibowitz is County Chairman of the Democratic Party of Van Zandt County. He formerly published the now discontinued blog Free State Standard. He is presently a regular contributor to the Political State Report.

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Letter from Ron Kirk Endorsing Martin Frost for DNC Chair

By Byron LaMasters

Dear Fellow DNC Member:

Over the past several weeks, I've been honored to discuss the DNC Chairmanship with many of you. But after consulting with my family, friends and supporters, I have decided that I will not be a candidate for DNC Chair, and will instead endorse my friend Martin Frost for that position.

I care deeply about the future of the Democratic Party and of the DNC, and so I've given this decision serious consideration.

During my service as Mayor of Dallas and as the Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate from Texas, I've had the opportunity to meet Americans from all walks of life and from coast-to-coast. I'm convinced that the majority of Americans share the values and priorities of the Democratic Party. I intend to continue working to build a stronger Party, and to elect Democrats across the nation.

My relationship with Martin Frost transcends partisan politics. I consider him a friend, a wise counselor, and a gifted and dedicated public servant. I sincerely believe he is the best choice to lead a reformed Democratic Party. Martin is the complete package for DNC Chair - a winning strategist, innovative grassroots organizer and tough, disciplined spokesperson who has proven Democrats win in Red States by fighting back, energizing the base and engaging new voters.

Moreover, Martin combines an unshakeable commitment to core Democratic principles with the proven ability to win in the reddest of the Red States. He understands that a "50-state" strategy cannot be an "either/or" strategy. He knows - because he's done it himself - that the only way Democrats can defeat Republicans in tough territory is by energizing our base and winning over new voters.

Together, with Martin's experienced and trustworthy leadership, I am
confident in the future of the Democratic Party.

Ron Kirk

You can read Martin Frost's letter to DNC members here.

Update: The Martin Frost for DNC Chair website is under construction here.

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Ron Kirk Drops DNC Bid, Endorses Martin Frost

By Byron LaMasters

[I just noticed posts on the same topic below, but I'll keep all the posts up as we take somewhat different angles on the news.]

The AP is reporting that both Ron Kirk and Harold Ickes have dropped their bids for DNC chair. Kirk wrote a letter to DNC members urging them to support Martin Frost. I'm a bit surprised that one day after Ron Kirk got some renewed blog buzz that he would decide to drop out. Then again, Ron Kirk never showed complete interest in the DNC job. Kirk seemed more interested in having a spokesman role, and letting someone else handle the inside-the-beltway, day-to-day executive director type duties of the job.

For Martin Frost's letter to DNC members announcing his run for chair, click here. More thoughts at MyDD on Kirk, and MyDD also gives Martin Frost a big up arrow this week. It appears as if Frost has consolidated some insider support this week.

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The race narrows

By Nathan Nance

Guest post by Nate Nance

Apparently Ron Kirk and Harold Ickes are both dropping out of the race for DNC chair, which is kinda funny because they didn't exactly officially declare they were running for it. But that's all technicality stuff.

The person who seems to be working the hardest to win right now is Fowler. Check out his offical DNC chair campaign Web site. It's a lot of fun.

And popping over to NDN's site shows that Simon Rosenberg has a lot to say. Really easy to find links to his remarks in Orlando and his statement about the future of the party and about Simon.

Hat tip to Greg.

This is a guest post from Nathan Nance. He can be reached at nate_nance@yhaoo.com.

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January 04, 2005

They have a word for that

By Jim Dallas

I'm more impressed by Atrios's indignation than by Senator Frist's inconsistency on judicial filibusters.

Why? Because we know these guys are lying liars, and I'm plum out of indignation. I wish the Senate Majority Leader would give us a few good months of honest, effective government so that we can recharge our snark cannons.

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January 03, 2005

Will Kerry run in '08?

By Nathan Nance

Guest post by Nate Nance

Newsweek has a special interview with Sen. John Kerry online that I found very fun to read. Among other things, Kerry felt that he didn't "connect" with voters, but that he did run a good campaign nonetheless. He also felt that he wasn't well-served by Bob Shrum. Go figure.

Whatever you think of the failures of Kerry's campaign, George W. Bush's re-election was caused more by the failure of both campaigns to educate voters about their positions. An uninformed electorate will make the wrong choice every time.

KErry says he plans to learn from his mistakes which could be interpreted to mean he plans to run again in 2008. He'll have a national platform from which to announce, he'll remain a senator until his seat is up in '08, and he still has people in place for another go around. And about $15 million in the bank leftover from the '04 campaign.

With no popular incumbent to run against, he could very well win it. The question is, will Democrats vote for him again? We seem to have a one strike and your out policy for our nominees, so the liklihood of Kerry getting the nomination again is slim. I think it's worth asking why we always seem to want to start over from scratch with our candidates, but the consultants keep getting recycled. Don't we want some kind of name recognition and brand loyalty?

Like I said, his chance of regaining the nomination is slim. As evidence, I offer how fast some Democrats were quick to criticize him after we lost in November. Or how Kerry staffers quickly became the best source of gossip about Mrs. Keinz-Kerry and her role in the campaign. If we didn't like the guy, why did we nominate him?

We've got four years to really think about how we nominate our party's standard bearer and how we campaign for the presidency. Kerry says he will learn from his mistakes, I think we should learn from them, too.

This is a guest post from Nathan Nance. He can be reached at nate_nance@yahoo.com.

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January 02, 2005

Martin Frost's Letter to DNC Members

By Byron LaMasters

This is the letter that Martin Frost has sent to DNC members in the past weeks stating his reasons for running for DNC chair. I'll probably be posting a good deal on the DNC race this month, and especially the Texas candidates. I'm not supporting one candidate or another, but I hope that we can use this opportunity to have a discussion on BOR about the future of the Democratic Party. Karl-Thomas's post on Reform Democrats yesterday is a great start. Anyway, for the full text of Martin Frost's letter to DNC members, take the jump to the extended entry.

Dear Fellow Democrat,

The decision on who will serve as Chair of the Democratic National Committee is critical not only to the future of our party, but to the future of our country as well. The current GOP leadership in the White House, Congress and dozens of States is driven by the very worst influences in public life and dependent upon political choices made out of fear rather than hope and narrow self interest rather than public good. Too many times in too many places, we have allowed Republicans to organize unchallenged, define patriotism and morality on their own narrow and partisan terms and then dominate the political exchange at every level.

I have been honored and gratified by the many calls suggesting that I run for Chair of the Democratic National Committee. It is an effort that no one should take lightly. After speaking with many DNC Members and other party leaders, I have decided to join the race for DNC Chair. While others of talent and promise are seeking the post, I believe I am the candidate whose perspective, experience and abilities combine the most important qualities needed in a new Chair.

First and most important, I believe in, and will fight for, the fundamental issues that define us as a party and separate us from the Republicans. I¹ve run competitive Congressional races for over 20 years. I¹ve gone toe-to-toe with Newt Gingrich, Tom DeLay and the worst the GOP has to offer. And, through it all, I never backed down in my support for civil rights, a woman¹s right to choose, collective bargaining and workplace rights, access to the civil justice system or a strong and secure Israel. It would be a fundamental mistake to turn our backs on our traditional friends. We must build on the loyalty of traditional Democratic constituencies and reach out to new voters and those rural and suburban voters who have drifted away from us in recent years.

In this connection, we should have a forthright discussion of moral values vital to our nation and make it clear that there is room for people who hold differing views under the Democratic tent. Too often, we have been unwilling to even enter into a dialogue on these issues.

However, some would use the election of DNC Chair as a symbolic gesture to win non-traditional support. Should we follow that approach, America will have little more than two Republican Parties, and we would forfeit our responsibility to be an aggressive, hard-hitting opposition that speaks to the core values of a majority of the American people. While our candidates must always be able to run on a broad and tolerant platform, it is critical that our Party Chair believe deeply in our party¹s basic values. Our party cannot be adequately led by someone whose primary qualification to serve as Chair is his opposition to core Democratic beliefs.

The new Chair of the Democratic National Committee must be someone who can rebuild the party structure from the ground up in all 50 states, utilizing the best talents from within both our elected leadership and our party leadership. The Chair must be able to articulate our views
persuasively, but also understand that there are many strong voices within our party and that often the best messengers don¹t sit in Washington, DC, but rather live throughout the nation. The new DNC Chair must have a keen and deep understanding of our party¹s base and its foundation built upon opportunity, fairness, justice and love of country. There are elections to run and races to be won in every state. We must challenge Republicans everywhere ­ even on their own turf - and never concede the moral high ground.

I am the only person seeking the DNC leadership post who has successfully chaired a national party committee. I served as Chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee from January 1995 until December 1998. I took over as Chair just weeks after Democrats had lost the majority in Congress. Politicians and pundits alike were predicting even more dramatic losses in the years to come. However, I refused to accept conventional wisdom and immediately went about the work of transforming the committee. Both the political and finance divisions were restructured. For the first time, the DCCC invested heavily in small donor direct mail, a new national large donor program was instituted, a new strategic polling program was implemented and, for the first time ever, the DCCC invested directly in state party campaign programs designed to maximize minority turnout in specific congressional districts. Over the four years that I served as DCCC Chair, Democrats picked up a net total of 14 seats and raised a then-record $80 million. No subsequent national party committee has performed as well.

At home in Texas, I took the lead in working with my state and local parties to mount multimillion dollar campaigns to hold a narrow majority in the State House, protect a majority in our Congressional
delegation and hold key State Senate seats. During the height of the Bush era in Texas, we held our majorities in the House and Congressional Delegation. In fact, these majorities were lost only after Tom DeLay¹s illegal redistricting scheme that is currently under criminal investigation and court challenge.

I have a proven track record of successful party building with mainstream sensibilities and a deep understanding of the party leaders and candidates who must run and win in the most challenging areas of our nation. The DNC must start the rebuilding process at the state and local levels in every area of the country, rather than focusing on a narrow scope of battleground states that may or may not determine the outcome of a Presidential election. Our efforts should be focused on statewide, legislative, local and Congressional races that will be held in 2005 and 2006. Winning those races will allow us to go into 2007 ready to work on the 2008 Presidential race from a position of strength and with a party strong enough to win elections for the remainder of the decade.

DNC Chair is an important job, and I do not enter this race lightly. I will devote myself full time and all my energy to rebuilding our party. In doing so, I not only best serve the Democratic Party, but best serve our country as well. I respectfully ask for your support and your vote.

Martin Frost

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Congressman Matsui dies

By Nathan Nance

Guest post by Nate Nance

I didn't know much about him other than he was a California Democrat and and as the third-ranking member of Ways and Means, he was our pointman against privatization of Social Security. But there was way more to him. He was born in 1941 and a year later, his family was put in a Japanese internment camp for the rest of the war. He was one of the members of Congress who helped pass legislation years later to officially apologize for the internment and give survivors compensation.

He also had some issues he was at odds with the part over, like global free trade. But he had given ever indication the passed few weeks before his death that he was going to fight against Bush and his partial-privatization scheme. I think Nancy Pelosi said it best, "With the passing of Bob Matsui, our country has lost a great leader and America's seniors have lost their best friend in Congress."

This is a guest post by Nathan Nance. Nate is a sports/news clerk at the Waco Tribune-Herald and writer/editor of Common Sense a Texas-based Democratic Web log. He can be reached at nate_nance@yahoo.com.

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December 23, 2004

I'm just wild about Harry

By Nathan Nance

This is a guest post by Nate Nance

This is just a really funny piece I saw in Slate about Sen. Harry Reid, the new minority leader. It's mostly about how not-boring he is, despite common knowledge to the contrary.

This is a guest post by Nate Nance. He can be reached at nate_nance@yahoo.com.

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December 22, 2004

How to get rid of Abortion Clinic Protesters

By Byron LaMasters

Planned Parenthood of Central Texas has raised over $18,000 in the past three years by urging people to Pledge-a-Picket - meaning donors can pledge to donate a certain amount of money per protester at an abortion clinic.

It's a great idea, that I hope organizers will take nationwide. Abortion clinic protesters don't help prevent unwanted pregnancies or abortions, but rather they intimidate and harrass mostly low-income women. That does nothing to help advance the abortion debate in this country.

The Planned Parenthood tactics remind me of when the University Democrats and Voices for Choice protested the anti-abortion group, Justice for All in the west mall of the UT campus in the Spring 2002 semester. Justice for All (JFA) decided that they could really make a big statement and disgust everyone by putting up huge 15-foot high pictures of aborted fetuses as we were all walking to class in the morning.

Instead of engaging in shouting matches or counter-demonstrations, I thought of a more effective counterprotest - ask students walking by to donate 10 or 25 cents to a pro-choice organization for every hour that JFA had their demonstration. As people donated, I posted a big sign with the amount of money that we were raising per hour of their demonstration. Not surprisingly, they cut their demonstration a day short, and have had significantly toned down demonstrations since then. We, on the other hand, raised about $300 for the Lilith Fund.

I agree with Andrew and Greg that we need to have a debate about abortion in the Democratic Party, and keep pro-life Democrats in the tent. I'm willing to consider a ban on late term abortions, but ONLY if there is an exception for the health of mother, but Republicans would rather play politics. I wish that Republicans would spend half of the time and energy that they spend trying to pack the courts with pro-life judges on working with Democrats to actually do something to reduce abortions - most of us are sincere when we say that we would like to see abortion to be "safe, legal and rare". Unfortunately, most Republicans seem to have little interest in addressing the root cause of abortions in the first place - unwanted pregnancies. I'm certainly open to ideas, but as long as both sides play politics instead of looking for solutions, we probably won't get anywhere.

Planned Parenthood story via Lean Left.

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December 20, 2004

Bush Contributes to the War on "Merry Christmas"

By Byron LaMasters

Will the Committee to Save Merry Christmas now go after President Bush?

It affects you (via Atrios) points to President Bush's news conference today in which Bush begins with this greeting:

PRESIDENT BUSH: Thank you. Please be seated.

Good morning and happy holidays to you all. I thought I'd come and answer some of your questions.

I'm with President Bush on this one - I'm generally a "Happy Holidays" person. If I owned a store, I'd probably instruct my employees to wish people a "Happy Holidays". Why? It's not political correctness run amuck, but simply an inclusive greeting for the holiday season which includes Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, etc. So, it makes good business sense for a company to instruct their employees to be inclusive in their greetings to customers, considering that we live in a pluralistic, multiethnic, religiously diverse society.

I think there are times when "Merry Christmas" is more appropriate. When I go to Christmas Eve services this Friday, I'll be wishing those around me a Merry Christmas. But this past week at Christmas / Holiday parties, I felt more comfortable wishing people a "Happy Holidays" as many of my friends are Jewish or non-religious, and many acquaintances of mine that I saw at those events, I simply don't know their religious persuasion - so instead of guessing, an inclusive greeting such as "Happy Holidays" is most appropriate.

There are other issues such as changing the words of Christmas carols sung in public schools, or calling a Christmas Tree a "Community Tree" instead a Christmas Tree where I can sympathize with evangelical Christians. I don't particularly care if public schools and public facilities allow Christmas carols, Christmas plays, Christmas decorations, etc. As long as they allow for other religious symbols, and don't require students to participate in such activities, I don't see the problem.

On the other hand, the whole attack on the "Happy Holidays" greeting is a bit silly. There are times where "Merry Christmas" is most appropriate - with friends, family, at church, etc., and times where "Happy Holidays" is more appropriate - with non-Christain or mixed friends, and in settings with people in which you don't know their religious background, i.e. with acquaintances or in a store.

There was a good article in the New York Times Week in Review yesterday that I would recommend as well.

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HRC '08?

By Byron LaMasters

She polls better than I would otherwise expect (although, consider the source):

Hillary Clinton: 40%
Bill Frist: 33
Other/not sure: 27

Hillary Clinton: 41%
George Pataki: 35
Other/not sure: 24

Hillary Clinton: 46%
Jeb Bush: 35
Other/not sure: 19

John Kerry: 45%
Jeb Bush: 37
Other/not sure: 18

Is HRC qualified to be President (YES/NO/UNDECIDED):

Overall: 59/34/7
Men: 53/39/8
Women: 64/29/8
Democrats: 84/10/6
Republicans: 33/59/8
Independents: 58/33/9

HRC isn't my first choice, but I think that she would make a decent nominee, although I don't see how she expands the playing field in ways that someone like Mark Warner could. I do think that HRC is a polarizing figure, but then again, she's no more polarizing than President Bush. However, I'd prefer to start the campaign with someone with significantly lower negatives. John Kerry was just as polarizing as George W. Bush by election day, but it took the right-wing smear machine most of year to get it that way. Then again, Ezra might be right - that the whole 'Hillary is polarizing' mantra could just easily be "nothing more than a bunch of liberals too sensitive to the caterwauling of a fringe group of conservative misogynists". I don't know.

Personally, I'm inclined to agree with one of our earlier commenters yesterday. Two people that I would like to see more from are Russ Feingold and Mark Warner. Russ Feingold is one of the most honorable and principled men in politics, and Mark Warner is the type of southern governor in the Carter/Clinton mold that has proved to be the only winning combination for Democrats (like it or not) in the past thirty years. It's still early, and who knows what the national political landscape will look like in 2008, but its never too early to talk about it.

MyDD has some thoughts as well.

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Religious Right Scares Even the Religious Right

By Andrew Dobbs

Saw this story linked by Andrew Sullivan and thought that it made some very interesting points. To wit:

No one can honestly question my commitment to pro-life, pro- family, conservative causes. That being said, the Religious Right, as it now exists, scares me.

For one reason, on the whole, the Religious Right has obviously and patently become little more than a propaganda machine for the Republican Party in general and for President G.W. Bush in particular. This is in spite of the fact that both Bush and the Republican Party in Washington, D.C., have routinely ignored and even trampled the very principles which the Religious Right claims to represent.

Therefore, no longer does the Religious Right represent conservative, Christian values. Instead, they represent their own self-serving interests at the expense of those values.

It also appears painfully obvious to me that in order to sit at the king's table, the Religious Right is willing to compromise any principle, no matter how sacred. As such, it has become a hollow movement. Sadly, the Religious Right is now a movement without a cause, except the cause of advancing the Republican Party.

Now, before you start celebrating, this guy isn't the most mainstream of the Religious Right leaders. The guy was the U.S. Constitution Party Vice Presidential nominee this year, so this guy seems to believe that Bush et. al are actually way too liberal. But that position isn't necessarily unreasonable- Bush has vastly increased the size of the federal government, trampled on states' rights and pushed us into massive deficits. He has abandoned traditional conservative ideology for a radical "big government conservativism." I would reccomend reading the rest of the story, as it has a lot of good info.

I myself am actually a person of deep faith. I don't write about it very often, and I have recently become more in touch with my beliefs than in the past, though I have been a Christian for some time. I have a conservative faith- I believe the Bible to be the inerrant (though not necessarily literal at all times) Word of God, I believe in the Virgin Birth, in Christ's divinity, in His crucifixion and resurrection, etc. But I vote for the Democratic Party. I am in the distinct minority of evangelical church-going Christians. For Democrats to start winning again we have to reach out to people like me while keeping our coalition intact.

But the issues that drive out the evangelicals are impossible for either side to compromise on, it seems. Abortion being the biggest issue. It is a tough issue for me- something I've been praying about a lot more lately. On the one hand, Psalms clearly says that God "knits" us while we are in the womb- and aborting that process seems to be an abominable sin. But on the other, God gave us free will and for the government to coerce people into following God's law seems to be taking a power into their hands that God did not even grant Himself. Others, however, aren't as concerned with the latter as I am and see abortion as murder plain and simple. Obviously they can't vote for a party who supports legalized murder no matter how cleverly they "frame" the issue. It is a principled position, as is ours, and neither can meet the other halfway.

So what is the solution? Perhaps it is to drive many of the Religious Right voters into third parties over GOP positions that aren't in coordination with their beliefs and reduce GOP numbers enough that our coalition is bigger. That seems rather difficult. Another is controversial, and I'm not sure I support it, but hear me out.

On abortion- which is really the biggest non-negotiable for the Religious Right- we can point out that short of a Constitutional amendment or massive sea change in the courts, nothing is going to happen. Constitutional change will almost certainly never happen and only Senators and the President have any say in the Supreme Court's makeup. In every other election, the prohibition of abortion isn't really an issue. What we WILL support (once again, I'm not saying I support this, I'm just throwing it out there) is as much legal restriction to abortion as is legal and prudent. Abortion is a devastating procedure which ought to be "safe, legal and rare." We'll keep 1 and 2 down, and on 3 we'll support parental notification, waiting periods, a ban on abortion for sex selection and bans on abortion after a certain point of time. If we can stomach these provisions and make the case that banning abortion completely is a non-issue for offices other than Senator or President, I think we can start focusing on other issues and win on those grounds.

And once an elected official at the Congressional or state level has proved him or herself to be a trustworthy official concerned with the issues important to religious people, they should be able to compete for religious votes for Senate or President.

What do you all think? Are the tradeoffs too high? Why not put those restrictions in place? The floor is open to all of you.

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December 19, 2004

Big tent vs. little tent

By Nathan Nance

Guest post by Nate Nance

As the 2008 presidential race draws near, I get closer and closer to making a pact with Satan to win the Florida panhandle and the election. So concessions are not out of the question when we get there. And you know I'm going to vote for whoever gets the nomination. I don't care if he's a convicted murderer, I'll still be on the phones talking to swing voters about how more evil the GOP is with their cuts in Head Start and pell grants and whatnot.

But right now, I'm not sure how much I welcome the idea of just anybody being in the tent when it comes to abortion rights and the very foundation of the party. I will concede that it is inevitable and probably good for the party to have more varied positions if everyone else will concede that not having a single, unified message with a solid front when Bush appoints up to 3 uber-conservative Supreme Court justices might mean the end of a woman's right to choose. At least PR wise, it makes sense for all Democrats to be pro-choice, even if they are anti-abortion.

"All Democrats are united around the idea that we should make abortion safe, legal, and rare," but "we also have to be open to people who are pro-life," said Simon Rosenberg, the president of the New Democratic Network who is mulling a run for the DNC chairmanship.
Democrats could accept a leader who opposes abortion rights, but would not tolerate a weakening of the party's position on abortion, (Louise) Slaughter said. The failing, she said, is that the party has not articulated its position well: "I don't think we ever said we're for abortion. We're for choice."

If this is going to be the new position for our party, we really need to figure out how we are going to articulate why some Democrats are for abortion rights and some aren't. The Republicans are going to get a pass on this one, but we have to have an answer that does not say "we compromised our position on abortion so that we would get more votes."

Does anybody have any suggestions?

This is a guest post by Nathan Nance. Nate is a sports/news clerk at the Waco Tribune-Herald and writer/editor of Common Sense a Texas-based Democratic Web log. He can be reached at nate_nance@yahoo.com

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Looking good in '08

By Nathan Nance

Guest post by Nate Nance

If we've already started forming alliances to vote somebody off the island, then I am firmly in the Anybody But Hillary camp. I'm sure that Sen. Clinton is an intelligent woman, but she is much too polarizing a figure. The argument would quickly become whether we want Bill Clinton to have a third term or not. I know we all like Bill Clinton, but we need to get away from the Clinton years.

His charisma got him into office and got him re-elected to a second term. The Democratic party's infrastructure had slowly been in decline since Carter and he did nothing to to help rebuild it when he was in power. At a time when we should have been learning to compete with the Republicans for small donations from grassroots organizations, he was finding the biggest checkbooks he could and coaxing just a little more money out of them. When campaign finance finally got passed, we were at a disadvantage. Only by extreme foresight did we get the Dean campaign that got the ball rolling on Internet Meet Ups and small donations. When we learn to harness the full power of the Web, we will have a source of revenue and political action the likes of which has never been seen before.

I guess what I'm trying to say is, we need to move on. We need to look for new leadership from up and comers and less-establishment players. Our presidential nominee should not be whoever the current party leadership chooses, it should be who best represents all Democrats.

As an interesting aside, I've heard no one talk about Biden running. Watching him speak on Meet the Press this morning, it seemed fairly obvious to me that he has higher office ambitions. He knows he can kick Bill "I'm a doctor, which is what I am, a doctor" Frist's ass in the general, and he probably sees McCain and other moderate Republicans as not having a chance in their own party in 4 years. This is by no means an endorsement for him to run, I just think the only reason he didn't run this time was because he assumed Bush was going to win and he didn't want to screw up his one chance to actually win.

This is a guest post by Nathan Nance. Nate is a sports/news clerk at the Waco Tribune-Herald and writer/editor of Common Sense a Texas-based Democratic Web log. He can be reached at nate_nance@yahoo.com

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10 Commandments for Alabama Governor

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

via the AP

Ousted Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore said Friday he is considering running for governor in 2006.

"I'll be praying about it and considering it," told reporters.

Moore was ousted in November 2003 for defying a federal judge's order to remove his 5,280-pound Ten Commandments monument from public display in the state judicial building. He appealed his ouster to the U.S. Supreme Court, but lost.

If Moore were to run as a Republican, he could face a GOP primary battle with Gov. Bob Riley, who has not yet said whether he will seek a second term.

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December 18, 2004

The Young and The Restless

By Jim Dallas

No complaints about this here:

They are opining, organizing and running for party chairman. A wave of young Democrats is demanding not just to be heard but to take charge. "This generation is looking for ways to participate because we're tired of losing," says Jamal Simmons, 33, a consultant who has worked for presidential hopeful Wesley Clark and several other Southern candidates.

Simmons and his fellow "Young Turks" worry about the Democratic Party's dependence on interest groups, their relations with minority groups, the stereotypes that they are weak on defense and values, the Republican appropriation of the "reformer" label and the swaths of America that Democrats seem to have written off.

Young Democrats believe that the party is dominated by people who came of age politically in the 1960s, and it's time for them to make room for new ideas and new voices. Theirs.

On the other hand, while I think I agree with the basic thrust of this quote, can't we all just get along?

A former aide to Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., Gerstein wrote in The Wall Street Journal that Democrats have "fallen right back into the elitist, weak-kneed, brain-dead trap" they thought they'd escaped with Bill Clinton.

He called for more muscle in foreign policy, more respect for religion and "banishing Bob Shrum and his tone-deaf Chardonnay populism" from future presidential campaigns. Shrum, 61, was nominee John Kerry's top adviser.

The way you get change is by taking the reins away from the dopes driving us off a cliff - not throwing people off the wagon. There's a subtle but palpable difference.

Via Political Wire.

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December 17, 2004

Will Texas Lose its Biomedical Research Talent to Blue States?

By Byron LaMasters

It's very possible. Seeing the success of the California initiative on stem cell research, other states are making proposals to attract biomedical research talent to their states as the federal government is highly unlikely to move forward on the issue.

Blue states New Jersey, Wisconsin and Illinois appear to be the first to act:

California's embrace of stem cell science has triggered strong reactions elsewhere:

• New Jersey, Wisconsin and Illinois are budgeting taxpayer dollars or proposing California-style initiatives to try to prevent a brain drain of biomedical researchers to the West Coast. (Advanced Cell Technologies, a Worcester, Mass., company, is shopping for land in Northern California to build a branch facility.)

Illinois Comptroller Dan Hynes, a Democrat, will ask the Legislature next year to place on the ballot a proposal to grant researchers $1 billion. The money would be raised by a new tax on Botox injections, liposuction and other "vanity" treatments.

In Texas, U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (news, bio, voting record) has asked Gov. Rick Perry, a fellow Republican, to do what it takes to prevent California from stealing scientific luminaries from medical research centers in Houston. Pro-research bills are likely to be considered next year by legislatures in Massachusetts, New York, New Hampshire and Washington state.

• Social conservatives in several other states are fighting embryonic stem cell research. Eight states - Arkansas, Iowa, Louisiana, Michigan, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Virginia - now ban or limit such research. All but one, Michigan, were "red states" that backed Bush in this year's elections. South Dakota passed the most recent ban, in February.

Next year, legislators in Missouri, Kansas and Louisiana will consider barring at least some types of embryonic stem cell research.

• In Congress, both sides in the stem cell debate are gearing up for battles next year.

I think it's possible that Texas move forward on stem cell research in the next few years, but clearly, that will probably require a new governor. On the other hand, Texas Republicans could join Republicans in Missouri, and elsewhere in taking an anti-science, anti-jobs stand.

More after the jump.

In Kansas City, Mo., business leaders are hoping that the privately endowed Stowers Institute for Medical Research, which opened in 2000, will be the seedbed for thousands of jobs. But proposals by two Republican state lawmakers to criminalize embryonic stem cell research could change that. Stowers trustees say they'll build a 600-job facility elsewhere if Missouri outlaws somatic cell nuclear transfer.

On the other hand, California will be spending ten times what the federal government is spending on stem cell research - an amount that puts California on equal footing with most other countries pursuing such research:

In California, the ballot initiative known as Proposition 71 was spearheaded by wealthy parents of children with life-threatening diseases and was backed by Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. It passed with a 59% majority. The state will sell bonds and give out $300 million a year in research grants for 10 years.

It's a sum that dwarfs the $24.8 million that the National Institutes of Health spent on human embryonic stem cell studies this year.

"It puts California on equal footing with whole nations that have made stem cell research one of their national priorities - nations like South Korea, Singapore, Israel, Sweden," Daniel Perry says.

I'll keep a lookout to see what happens here in Texas, but if blue states start pouring money into stem cell research, and Texas does nothing, we will surely see our top biomedical research talent go elsewhere.

George W. Bush and Rick Perry: Building a bridge to the 19th century.

Via MyDD.

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December 15, 2004

Silver Bullet

By Nathan Nance

Guest post by Nate Nance

I touched on how important I think education is earlier, but now it's time to talk about it seriously. I know I don't have to tell anyone here how hard it is to get money together to pay for an education. So this post about Jesse Jackson's Pell Grant OpEd doesn't come as a surprise, but it is shocking nonetheless. Cutting pell grants for a million students to save $300 million dollars while simultaneously planning ot vote to extend tax cuts for the wealthy for another $30 billion.

Couple that with the insistance of some that superstitions and theology should be taught as science to America's school children and you start to see a pattern. There is some kind of method to the madness, and the method involves keeping people ignorant.

People are easier to control when they don't know what is happening to them. History has shown that to be true numerous times. Education is the silver bullet that solves all of the problems of the world. Education brings new ways to get people out of poverty, education brings new alternatives to feed starving people and education finds peaceful solutions to confrontations. Wherever there is education, there is hope for a better future.

But there seems to be this intense hatred of education among many people in this country. If I may riff off of What's the Matter With Kansas?, people seem to be voting not only against their own economic interests, but against their's and their children's education interests. They want judges who only enforce the Ten Commandments. They want people to teach creationism as if it were a real science. All the while they doom their children to an even worse life.

We are the party of education and hope fighting against a political party that wants to keep people ignorant so that they can be controlled. I think history will show that we already had half the fight won because people everywhere seek hope. It's just a matter of shining a light in the darkness.

This is a guest post by Nathan Nance. Nate is a sports/news clerk at the Waco Tribune-Herald and writer/editor of Common Sense a Texas-based Democratic Web log. He can be reached at nate_nance@yahoo.com

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Jeb Bush Likes Books

By Jim Dallas

My friend wise master Matt asks, "Sex is an emerging threat?"

Hint: Enlarge the image of the book and look at the bottom for Jeb's money quote.

Hint: Then read the customer reviews to find out what a "special brand of love" means.

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Ron Kirk Makes "Big Splash" at Orlando Meeting

By Byron LaMasters

I spoke with someone who worked for Ron Kirk's 2002 U.S. Senate campaign about the DNC race tonight, and heard some things that might explain how Kirk came out of nowhere into essentially a three way tie for the lead in an informal exit poll of DNC members last weekend.

Take the jump to the extended entry to read what Hotline Editor Chuck Todd had to say on CNN about Ron Kirk's performance in Orlando:

WOODRUFF: Well, just a few days ago in Orlando at the end of last week, the Democratic state party chairs from around the country, got together, they heard from some of these candidates. What do you hear about the reaction?

TODD: The guy who made the biggest splash was a candidate that nobody was even sure he was going to be a full-time candidate. That is Ron Kirk, former mayor of Dallas, former nominee for the U.S. Senate in Texas. He was the most charismatic of the group. He stole the show. He went last when he gave his statements. He was the one to acknowledge that -- the sadness that there was no woman candidate, that went over very well. It's not clear who his constituency is but he left a good feeling and got more people talking about the idea of a two-headed DNC where Kirk would be the messenger and he might team up with say Harold Ickes. That is a rumor that is as substantial as any rumors that you hear these days.

WOODRUFF: If those people are still in the running are there any who didn't go over so well?

TODD: One that didn't go over well was former Michigan governor Jim Blanchard. He was trying to be the DGA's unofficial candidate. He fell flat, from the folks I talked to. And Leo Hendri (ph), who was the big donor, he went down there and left after four hours. Nobody knew him and he left and didn't tell his staff. They were sort of surprised. So that was his way of sort of dropping out. But I think the big news was Kirk and Wellington Webb did himself well. Harold Ickes didn't do as well as some thought but he wasn't as popular with this crowd. The state chairs and ACT didn't always get along. ACT was the leading 527, and so there was some tough talk there.

Ron Kirk is one of the most charismatic candidates that I've ever met. He certainly made mistakes in his senate campaign, and managed to piss off some of the Democratic activist base by basically spending most of his ads talking about how he "supports the president" on this and that, and did not really carry forth a strong affirmative Democratic message. Still, the largest contribution I ever made to a political candidate was to Ron Kirk in 2002. He just has this charm where he remembers your name, acts like he cares, and when you have the chance to meet and talk to him, he quickly wins you over.

I'm not saying he'd be a good DNC chair. I don't really know enough to make a solid judgement on that, although as I said with Martin Frost, I like the idea of a Texas DNC chair if for no other reason than that I know that someone at the head of the party will be looking out for Texas. And while I'm not one to bash Terry McAuliffe - I think that he's done a lot of good things for the party, the current DNC hasn't really done shit for Texas.

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December 14, 2004

Some Good News from a GOP pollster

By Byron LaMasters

This admission by GOP pollster Frank Luntz is certainly good news for the future of the Democratic Party:

On the importance of voters aged 18-29, based on the Nov. 2 election:

"They are going to be the battleground for the next four years. [Of] first-time youth voters, 62 percent supported Kerry; 35 percent supported Bush. They are, for the Democrats, the beginning of a core constituency if they hope to return to power. The Democratic Party cannot win without the youth voting in even larger numbers."

On the news-consumption habits of young voters:

"Sorry, ladies and gentlemen, but [young people] are not reading your newspapers. And I am sorry, too, [for] the anchors of the networks, but they are not watching them, either. A greater degree with every passing month are getting their information from the Internet."

If Democrats learn to understand this demographic, and don't do stupid things like kick bloggers out of meetings, but find ways to integrate the Internet, blogs and interactive multimedia into a coherent message and outreach towards young people, there's no reason why the 18-29 demographic should not be solidly Democratic.

This is a demographic that is largely turned off by the social conservatism of the Republican Party. It's a demographic that hasn't made a lot of money yet, so they're less drawn to the GOP on taxes. It's a demographic that has seen many of their generation have trouble finding jobs and affording higher education. If Democrats can mix a solid message with modern technology, there is no reason why young people should not be one of the major demographic constituencies of the Democratic Party. Now, if only we could get 'em to vote...

Via Smart Ass.

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December 13, 2004

DNC Roundup

By Byron LaMasters

Greg links to Simon Rosenberg's ASDC Meeting - Orlando Speech and likes much of what he reads, as do I.

MyDD has the "post-Orlando" cattle-call, along with an informal exit poll of members of the DNC. The verdict? "Outsiders" such as Howard Dean, Wellington Webb and Ron Kirk seem to have made a strong impression, and "insiders" such as Simon Rosenberg, Martin Frost, James Blanchard and Harold Ickes are well behind. Then again, the poll is a small sample, and could easily be marred by some sort of groupthink mentality among ASDC (Association of State Democratic Chairs) attendees.

Jerome has a rant about getting kicked out of various meetings at the ASDC. Geez, some of these people still just don't get it. Ignore bloggers at your peril.

Panhandle Truth Squad has decided after today's anti-Dean editorial in the Amarillo Globe News that Howard Dean is obviously the man for the job.

Speaking of Howard Dean, he has a column today about moral values. Democrats often cringe when asked to talk about values. Social liberalism is often equated to moral relativism, when in fact liberals simply see moral values as something more than God, gays and guns:

It is a moral value to provide health care. It is a moral value to educate our young people. The sense of community that comes from full participation in our Democracy is a moral value. It is a moral value to make sure that we do not leave our own debts to be paid by the next generation. Honesty is a moral value.

Dean has the right message, here. Democrats so often feel squeamish when talking about our values, because we often squirm at religious sounding rhetoric mixed in political discourse. It's a fear that we must overcome, as we find ways to project our values in a sincere and honest manner. I don't think that Howard Dean is the right messenger for that task - for all his talk in the primary about "southerners who drive pickup trucks with confederate flag stickers" - I don't think that Dean understands the root values of those very people he liked to talk about. In many ways, I don't either, but I do believe that we ought to elect as chair someone who has at least made a serious attempt towards reaching out beyond the Democratic Party base.

Simon Rosenberg's work in Alaska and Oklahoma certainly places him in that category. Ron Kirk and Martin Frost have similar experiences in running uphill races where appeal beyond the Democratic base was a requirement. Both achieved some success in that department, but not enough to win. I'd like to hear more about other candidates as well. We shall see.

Update: Anna weighs in on the race. Her preference? Howard Dean, or "someone who has a clue".

Another Update: Matt Stoller posts his endorsement of Simon Rosenberg.

Via comments, another Rosemberg blogger endorsement at KY Dem.

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December 12, 2004

And behind door number 3, Ron Kirk!

By Jim Dallas

A semi-formal survey of DNC voting members suggests that former Dallas mayor, 2002 senate candidate, and all around good guy (I say this from personal anecdotal experience, your mileage may vary) Ron Kirk may be building momentum towards being the next DNC chairman.

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December 11, 2004

Bye, bye Bernie

By Nathan Nance

Guest post by Nate Nance

Bernard Kerik has taken his name out of nomination for Homeland Security Director. He stated "personal reasons" involving the immigration status of a nanny as the cause.

Josh Marshall and others have been doing some investigative journalism (remember when reporters used to do that?) and found some interesting things. For instance, though he was police commissioner of New york on Sept. 11, he quit that job soon afterwards. He also had a job training Iraqi police to take over the duty of securing the country whihc he left after only a few months. It's all moot now, but still interesting. This is stuff that is available in a quick Google search, but still most people don't know it; like Iraq not having WMD.

This is a guest post by Nate Nance. Nate is a sports/news clerk at the Waco Tribune-Herald and writer/editor of Common Sense a Texas-based Democratic Web log. He can be reached at nate_nance@yhaoo.com

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The Democrats Da Vinci Code

By Christina Ocasio

Guest post by Christina Ocasio

This is an ecellent article that needs to be read by all Democrats and progressives. It just may hold a key for future success in Texas.

*The Democrats' Da Vinci Code*

*By David J. Sirota,
The American Prospect.Posted December 9, 2004 *

As the Democratic Party goes through its quadrennial self-flagellation process, the same tired old consultants and insiders are once again complaining that Democratic elected officials have no national agenda and no message.

Yet encrypted within the 2004 election map is a clear national economic platform to build a lasting majority. You don't need Fibonacci's sequence, a decoder ring, or 3-D glasses to see it. You just need to start asking the right questions.

Where, for instance, does a Democrat get off using a progressive message to become governor of Montana? How does an economic populist Democrat keep winning a congressional seat in what is arguably America's most Republican district? Why do culturally conservative rural Wisconsin voters keep sending a Vietnam-era anti-war Democrat back to Congress? What does a self-described socialist do to win support from conservative working-class voters in northern New England?

The answers to these and other questions are the Democrats' very own Da Vinci Code - a road map to political divinity. It is the path Karl Rove fears. He knows his GOP is vulnerable to Democrats who finally follow leaders who have translated a populist economic agenda into powerful cultural and values messages. It also threatens groups like the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC), which has pushed the Democratic Party to give up on its working-class roots and embrace big business' agenda. These New Democrats, backed by huge corporate contributions, say that the party must reduce corporate regulation and embrace a free-trade policy that is wiping out local economies throughout the heartland. They have the nerve to call this agenda "centrist" even though poll after poll shows it is far out of the mainstream. Yet these centrists get slaughtered at the ballot box, and their counterparts - the progressive economic populists - are racking up wins and relegating the DLC argument
to the scrap heap.

The code's seven lessons are clear, and have been for some time. The question is, will party insiders see the obvious and finally follow their real leaders? Or will they continue mimicking Republican corporatism, thereby hastening their own demise?

*Fight the Class War*

If patriotism is the last refuge of scoundrels, crying "class warfare" is the last refuge of wealthy elitists. Yet, inexplicably, this red herring emasculates Democrats in Washington. Every time pro-middle-class
legislation is offered, Republicans berate it as class warfare. Worse, they get help from corporate factions within the Democratic Party itself.

But as countless examples show, progressives are making inroads into culturally conservative areas by talking about economic class. This is not the traditional (and often condescending) Democratic pandering about the need for a nanny government to provide for the masses. It is us-versus-them red meat, straight talk about how the system is working against ordinary Americans.

In Vermont, Rep. Bernie Sanders, the House's only independent and a self-described socialist, racks up big wins in the "Northeast Kingdom," the rock-ribbed Republican region along the New Hampshire border. Far from the Birkenstock-wearing, liberal caricature of Vermont, the Kingdom is one of the most culturally conservative hotbeds in New England, the place that helped fuel the "Take Back Vermont" movement against gay civil unions.

Yet the pro-choice, pro-gay-rights Sanders' economic stances help him bridge the cultural divide. In the 1990s, he was one of the most energetic opponents of the trade deals with China and Mexico that destroyed the local economy. In the Bush era, he highlighted the inequity of the White House's soak-the-rich tax-cut plan by proposing to instead provide $300 tax-rebate checks to every man, woman, and child regardless of income (a version of Sanders' rebate eventually became law). For his efforts, Sanders has been rewarded in GOP strongholds like Newport Town. While voters there backed George W. Bush and Republican Gov. Jim Douglas in 2004, they also gave Sanders 68 percent of the vote.

Sanders' strength among rural conservatives is not just a cult of personality; it is economic populism's broader triumph over divisive social issues. In culturally conservative Derby, for instance, a first-time third-party candidate used a populist message to defeat a longtime Republican state representative who had become an icon of Vermont's anti-gay movement.

The same message is working in conservative swaths of Oregon, where Democratic Rep. Peter DeFazio keeps getting re-elected in a Bush district. For DeFazio, the focus is unfair trade deals and taxpayer giveaways to the wealthy. When Republicans promote plans to "save" Social Security, DeFazio counters not by agreeing with privatization but with his plan to force the wealthy to start paying more into the system.

The message is also used by Mississippi Congressman Gene Taylor, who represents a district that gave 65 percent of its vote to Bush in 2000 and was previously represented in the House by Trent Lott. Taylor bucks his district's GOP tilt by mixing opposition to free trade with what the Almanac of American Politics calls "peppery populism" and a demeanor that is "feisty to the point of being belligerent." "Unlike the policy hawks who never leave Washington ... I know the owners of factories, the foreman, and the workers, and they'll all tell you it's because of NAFTA that their factories closed," Taylor told newspapers in late 2003, criticizing the trade deal signed by President Bill Clinton.

This message contrasts with that of the DLC centrists, who promote, for instance, Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh's free-trade, Republican-lite positions as a model for winning in red states. What they don't say is that Bayh comes from one of Indiana's most beloved political families and wins largely by virtue of his last name, not his ideology. Where a corporate message like Bayh's has been put to a real challenge, it has been a disaster. In Louisiana, for instance, the state's tradition of electing Democratic populists like Huey and Russell Long gave way to centrist politicians like Sen. John Breaux, a man best known in Washington for throwing Mardi Gras parties with business lobbyists. When a Breaux clone ran to replace the retiring senator, he was crushed by a moral crusading Republican.

In North Carolina, instead of following John Edwards' class-based formula, Democrats anointed investment banker Erskine Bowles as the nominee to replace Edwards in 2004. At the time, party insiders brushed off concerns that, as a Clinton White House chief of staff, Bowles was an architect of the free-trade policy that helped eliminate North Carolina's manufacturing jobs. But Bowles' opponent, Rep. Richard Burr, made the Democrat pay for his free-trade sellout. "You negotiated the China trade agreement for President Clinton, which is the largest exporter of jobs not just in North Carolina but in this country," Burr said at one debate, robbing Bowles of an economic issue that might have offset North Carolinians' inherent cultural suspicions of a Democrat. On election night, Bowles went down in flames.

*Champion Small Business Over Big Business*

The small-business lobby in Washington is a de facto wing of the Republican Party. But Democrats are finding that, at the grass-roots level, small-business people are far less uniformly conservative, especially as the GOP increasingly helps huge corporations eat up local economies. While entrepreneurs don't like high taxes and regulations, they also don't like government encouraging multinationals to monopolize the market and destroy Main Street.

As a small-business man himself, Montana's 2004 Democratic gubernatorial nominee, Brian Schweitzer, figured out how to use these frustrations in one of America's reddest states. He lamented how out-of-state corporations were using loopholes to avoid paying taxes, thus driving up the tax burden on small in-state companies. He discussed taxing big-box companies like Wal-Mart that have undercut local business. In the process, he became the state's first Democratic governor in 16 years.

In the Midwest and New England, progressives are focused on small manufacturers. These traditional GOP constituencies, which sell components to large multinationals, have been decimated by a trade policy that encourages their customers to head overseas in search of repressive, anti-union regimes that drive down labor costs. "When the economy turned soft [in 2001], we anticipated the business would come back," one owner of a factory-machine business told BusinessWeek. "But it didn't. We saw our customer base either close, or migrate to China."

Free-trade critics like Democratic Reps. Mike Michaud, Ted Strickland and Tim Holden, who perpetually win Republican-leaning districts, are rewarded for their stands with support from these kinds of businesspeople, who had previously been part of the GOP's base. The U.S. Business and Industry Council, which represents America's domestic family-owned manufacturers, now lists these and other progressives at the top of its congressional scorecard.

Unfortunately, these kinds of trailblazers are not yet being rewarded by their own party in Washington. According to reports, the House Democratic leadership is considering promoting some of the most ardent free traders to the Ways and Means Committee, the panel that oversees trade policy. Apparently Democrats have not yet lost enough seats in the heartland to honestly address their Achilles heels.

*Protect Tom Joad*

Northern Wisconsin and the plains of North Dakota are not naturally friendly territories for progressives. Both areas are culturally conservative, yet their voters keep sending progressive Democrats like Rep. David Obey and Sen. Byron Dorgan, respectively, back to Congress.

No issue is closer to these two leaders' hearts - or more important to their electoral prospects - than the family farm. In Wisconsin, corporate dairy processors have tried to depress prices for farmers' dairy products. In North Dakota, agribusiness has squeezed the average farmer with lower prices for commodities. But unlike other lawmakers who simply pocket agribusiness cash and look the other way, Obey and Dorgan have been voices of dissent. They have pushed legislation to freeze agribusiness mergers, a proposal originally developed by populist Sen.Paul Wellstone of Minnesota. As Dorgan once wrote, "When Cargill, the nation's number one grain exporter, can buy the grain operations of Continental, which is number two, the cops aren't exactly walking tall
on the antitrust beat."

Dorgan and Obey also opposed the Republican-backed "Freedom to Farm Act," which President Clinton signed into law. Instead of pretending the subsidies in the bill were good for the little guy, Obey told the truth and called it the "freedom-to-lose-your-shirt" bill. He noted that the new subsidies would primarily go to large corporations, encourage overproduction that depresses prices, and reward big farms over small ones.

Other Democrats are catching on. In South Dakota, Rep. Stephanie Herseth used her family-farm roots to woo Republican voters. As most of Herseth's House Democratic colleagues buckled to corporate pressure and helped pass a free-trade deal with Australia in 2004, the first-term congresswoman attacked her GOP opponent for supporting the pact, arguing that its provisions would undercut American ranchers. She won re-election in the same state where Republicans defeated Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle.

Similarly, in conservative western Colorado, John Salazar won a House seat by touting his agricultural background. His campaign slogan was "Send a Farmer to Congress," and voters obliged.

And the opportunities for progressives are growing. Instead of neutralizing Democrats' advances on agricultural issues, the GOP is digging in, already planning to repeal country-of-origin labeling laws that help small farms differentiate their products from larger corporate producers. House Majority Whip Roy Blunt, who has pocketed more than $360,000 from agribusiness, wants to kill the measure, claiming, "I can't find any real opposition to doing exactly what we want to do
here." Clearly the GOP hasn't talked to any family farmers lately.

*Turn the Hunters and the Exurbs Green*

For years, conventional wisdom has said that culturally conservative hunters and exurbanites will always vote Republican. But the GOP's willingness to side with private landowners and developers is now putting the party at odds with these constituencies. And that could create a whole new class of Democratic-voting conservationists.

In Montana, Schweitzer criticized his opponents for trying to restrict the state's Stream Access Law, which protects anglers' rights to fish waterways that cross through private land. He also promised to prevent the state from selling off public land. It was one of the ways he outperformed previous Democrats in rural areas and won his race.

In Colorado, when the Bush administration tried to allow development in wildlife areas, John Salazar pounced. He noted that many of the Bush administration's plans went "against what nearly every local elected official on both sides of the aisle has asked for." Salazar's opponent, who was a former lobbyist and industry-friendly state environmental official, was unable to effectively respond.

Meanwhile, successful Colorado Senate candidate Ken Salazar trumpeted his record of creating land-conservation programs, and his surrogates communicated that message to the state's culturally conservative hunters. "Ken's background in resolving water, access and big game habitat, and natural resources issues best qualifies him to be Colorado's next senator," wrote the group Sportsmen for Salazar in an open letter to outdoorsmen. The Democrat had transformed his environmental advocacy from a potential "liberal" albatross into an asset in conservative areas.

*Become a Teddy Roosevelt Clone*

"Tough on crime" has always been a reliable Republican mantra. Now, though, progressives are claiming that law-and-order mantle for themselves. Led by state attorneys general, Democrats are realizing the political benefits of fighting white-collar crime, big-business rip-offs, and corporate misbehavior.

In Republican Arizona, former Attorney General Janet Napolitano became known as a tough prosecutor of corporate crime. She charged Qwest with fraud and negotiated a $217 million settlement with scandal-plagued accounting firm Arthur Andersen on behalf of investors. The record helped her become the state's first Democratic governor in more than a decade.

In New York, Democrat Eliot Spitzer, who had never held elective office, eked out a victory against a Republican incumbent in 1998 to become the state's Attorney General. He then did something that seemed like political suicide: He took on Wall Street. Specifically, Spitzer used state law to charge investment firms with bilking stockholders. Though opponents labeled him anti-business, he countered that he was pro-business because he was protecting the integrity of the market. Four years later, he won re-election in a landslide, improving his performance in many parts of the conservative upstate.

On Capitol Hill, some senior Democrats have been slower to take up this fight. For instance, as chairman of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee in 2002, centrist leader Joe Lieberman refused to seriously investigate the Enron and Arthur Andersen scandals. Not surprisingly, both companies had been bathing Lieberman and his New Democrats in cash for years. The Connecticut senator's refusal to aggressively investigate the matter became an embarrassing public admission that he and his kind had been castrated by their corporate financiers. So rank-and-file lawmakers are filling the void. North Dakota's Dorgan, for instance, brushed past Lieberman by leading high-profile hearings on Enron's misbehavior. As TV cameras rolled, Dorgan dressed down executives who had deceived shareholders.

Sanders, meanwhile, won the hearts of Vermont's Republican-leaning IBM employees by fighting to prevent the company from illegally reducing their pensions. And Mississippi's Taylor continues stumping about corporate traitors. He pushed legislation to prevent taxpayer subsidies from going to companies that ship jobs overseas.

This Teddy Roosevelt-inspired posture is potent for two reasons. First, the GOP's reliance on corporate money means it cannot muddle the issues by pretending to meet progressives halfway. Second, the GOP is increasingly using corporate lobbyists and executives as its candidates for public office. Last year alone, Republicans ran corporate lobbyists and executives for top offices in Indiana, South Dakota, Colorado, Montana, and Florida. These kinds of candidates will never be able to fight off progressive opponents who make corporate crime and excess a major campaign issue.

*Clean Up Government*

In the early 1990s, Newt Gingrich attacked Democrats as corrupt, wasteful, and incompetent, eventually leading the Republicans to reclaim Congress. Now, though, progressives are using the tactic for themselves.

In Montana, voters grew tired of state policy being manipulated by corporate lobbyists while the economy was sputtering. In Gingrichian fashion, Schweitzer criticized his GOP opponent for becoming a corporate lobbyist after a stint in the Legislature. He also asked why his opponent had spent $40,000 of taxpayer money to redecorate the secretary of state's office during a state budget crisis.

Schweitzer was following Arizona's Napolitano, who was making headlines by cutting out almost $1 billion of government waste at a time the state budget was in the red. Her crusade was reminiscent of how deficits have been used by South Carolina Rep. John Spratt to symbolize government mismanagement and win his Republican-leaning district. It also echoed Colorado Democrats, who used deficits to win the state Legislature for the first time in 40 years. "The Republicans' obsession with narrow cultural issues while the state's looming fiscal crisis was ignored drove a deep wedge between fiscally conservative live-and-let-live Republicans and the neo-conservative extremists with an agenda," wrote one Denver Post columnist.

In the conservative suburbs of Chicago, Gingrich's corruption theme arose as Republican Rep. Phil Crane took fire for accepting junkets from companies that do business with Congress. Democrat Melissa Bean, a first-time candidate, used the issue to defeat him. The same thing happened in conservative New Hampshire, where Democratic businessman John Lynch hammered Republican Gov. Craig Benson over cronyism allegations. Lynch painted Benson as "a governor with ethical problems overseeing an administration wrought with scandal," according to The (Manchester) Union Leader. Lynch won the race, making Benson the first New Hampshire governor in almost eight decades to be kicked out of office after just two years.

*Use the Values Prism*

In 2004, pundits seem to agree that the national election was decided by "moral values." And though many believe the term is a euphemism for religious, anti-abortion, and anti-gay sentiments, it is likely a more general phrase describing whether a candidate is perceived to be "one of

It is this sense of cultural solidarity that often trumps other issues. For example, many battleground-state voters may have agreed with John Kerry's economic policies. But the caricature of Kerry as a multimillionaire playboy windsurfing on Nantucket Sound was a more visceral image of elitism. By contrast, successful red-region progressives are using economic populism to define their cultural solidarity with voters. True, many of these Democrats are pro-gun, and some are anti-abortion. But to credit their success exclusively to social conservatism is to ignore how populism culturally connects these leaders to their constituents.

In Vermont's Northeast Kingdom, Sanders' free-trade criticism not only speaks to conservatives' pocketbook concerns but also to a deeper admiration of a congressman willing to take stands corporate politicians refuse to take.

In Montana, Schweitzer's plans to protect hunting access not only attract votes from outdoorsmen but also project a broader willingness to fight for Joe Six-Pack and the state's way of life. As focus groups showed, this stance garnered strong support from Montana's women, who saw it as a values issue.

Wisconsin's Obey may be a high-ranking national Democrat, but he keeps winning his GOP-leaning district by translating legislative fights into values language at home. Debates over Title I funding, for instance, become a venue for Obey to question whether America should provide huge tax cuts to the wealthy while its schools decay. Battles about whether to change antitrust rules become an Obey rant about out-of-state media conglomerates pumping obscene radio shows into his culturally conservative market.

In North Dakota, Enron may have had almost no direct effect on locals. But Dorgan made the company's antics a values commentary on the problem of unethical corporations. "This is disgusting to me," he said to the cameras during an Enron hearing. "[This is] corporate behavior without a moral base."

Mississippi's Taylor flamboyantly challenges free-trade supporters to visit his district to see the effects of their positions. "Some of [those who voted for free trade] knew better, and those are the ones I'm really mad at," he said. "[They] looked out for the big multinational corporations at the expense of average Mississippians and average citizens, even from their own states."


In these seven ways, successful red-region Democrats have tacked back to a class-based populism that puts them firmly on the side of the little guy. And because voters implicitly know that big guys with lots of cash dominate the political system, that populism projects a deeper sense of values and a McCain-like authenticity.

In the aftermath of the recent election, the stale cadre of campaign consultants who helped run the party into the ground now say the solution is for Democrats to simply invoke God more often and radically change their positions on social issues. But the point is not to impulsively lunge rightward in some cheap, unprincipled gesture to red America that would reek of political strategizing.

The point is to follow red-region Democrats who have diminished the electoral impact of traditional social issues by redefining the values debate on economic and class terms. Granted, the progressive populists profiled above do not uniformly hew to the standard liberal line on social issues: some are pro-life, some pro-choice; some pro-gun ownership, some pro-gun control; some pro-gay marriage, some anti-gay marriage; some vociferous about religion, some subdued. But they have shown that there is another path that moves past wedge issues if the party is willing to fundamentally challenge the excesses of corporate America and big money.

Critics may say populism will not appeal to middle-class voters because that portion of the electorate is economically comfortable. But polls show that outsourcing, skyrocketing health costs, and other alarming indicators mean that even those who are getting by do not feel financially stable or secure.

Historical revisionists will claim that the centrist Clinton's ascension in the 1990s directly refutes the electoral potency of class-based populism. But Clinton's 1992 campaign was not the free-trade, Republican-lite corporate shilling that many propose as a Democratic panacea. It was, by contrast, populist on all fronts. "I expect the jetsetters and featherbedders of corporate America to know that if you sell your companies and your workers and your country down the river, you'll be called on the carpet," candidate Clinton promised in 1991. On trade, it was the same. "I wouldn't have done what [George Bush Senior] did and give all those trade preferences to China ... ," he said. "I'd be for [NAFTA] but only - only - if [Mexico] lifted their wage rates and their labor standards and they cleaned up their environment so we could both go up together instead of being dragged down."

Clinton, of course, proceeded to break these pledges, reducing corporate regulation, coddling big business, and leading the fight for NAFTA and free trade with China. Worse, well after these policies were wreaking havoc on working-class America, high-profile Democrats kept pretending nothing was wrong. "[Congress'] NAFTA vote had about a two-week half-life," said Clinton's chief trade negotiator, Mickey Kantor, years after NAFTA was sucking U.S. jobs south of the border. "Even today trade has very little political impact in the country."

Populist red-region Democrats might beg to differ with Kantor, who is now a high-priced corporate lawyer. They know firsthand that the embrace of a big-business agenda arguably did as much long-term damage to the Democratic Party's moral platform as any of Clinton's sex scandals or the battles over social issues. Because, really, how moral is the "party of the working class" when the president it still worships led the fight for trade agreements that hurt that same working class? Where are the principles of a party that has high-profile leaders so tied to big business that they are unwilling to seriously investigate white-collar criminals? And what are the core values of a party that keeps venerating its corporate apologists while marginalizing its voices of reform?

This is why populism is ultimately the way back for Democrats. Because, as red-region progressives show, having the guts to stand up for middle America - even when it draws the ire of corporate America - is as powerful a statement about morality and authenticity as any of the GOP's demagoguery on "guns, God, and gays."

All the Democratic Party has to do is look at the election map: The proof is right there in red and blue.

/David Sirota is a fellow at the American Progress Action Fund, a progressive advocacy organization in Washington, D.C./

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December 10, 2004

Blogging the DNC Race

By Byron LaMasters

Jerome Armstrong and Matt Stoller have some great coverage of the State Directors Meeting in Orlando over at MyDD.

Matt has an aside about the Young Democrats Dork Problem. As a member the Texas Young Democrats executive committee, I can definitely see where he's coming from (without, of course, naming any names). Then again, aren't most bloggers dorks?

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For the sake of Fairness

By Byron LaMasters

Since I was quite amused by the F*ck the South website, for fairness sake, here's a rebuttal.

The North Sucks.

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December 09, 2004

Let's try an open thread

By Nathan Nance

Guest post by Nate Nance

It seems to me a lot what I've spent my time doing today is explaining my dislike for the DLC. I don't see why anyone would really care why or if I dislike the DLC. I'm just a guy with a blog that maybe 10 people a day read. Byron and the guys have been nice enough to let me fill some space and some time here at Burnt Orange, that's all.

Then I ran across this piece at DailyKos about the waning influence of the DLC within the party to people like Simon Rosenberg at the NDN. Once the NDN was just a clone, but Simon has taken it in a different direction and, I think, in a better one. Not to mention the Hispanic-targeted ads that I think are more of a help than some realize.

So I want you guys to read that and tell me your opinions. Leave a comment, say whatever and I'll do another post discussing it and we'll all have gotten a say so that we can move on to other things, like protecting Social Security.

This is a guest post by Nate Nance. Nate is a sports/news clerk at the Waco Tribune-Herald and writer/editor of Common Sense at Texas-based Democratic Web log. He can be reached at nate_nance@yahoo.com

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It's the choice of a new generation

By Nathan Nance

Guest post by Nate Nance

Andrew has a post about who he would like to see as DNC chair as the race heats up and it's Martin Frost followed by Simon Rosenberg by a length.

It's no secret I'm a big Dean supporter, but I also like Rosenberg and Frost. I think Dean has something that the others don't have, he has media gravitas and a national platform. Outside of the Democratic party, no one knows Rosenberg and very few people outside of Texas know Frost (there is of course a lot media attention on him because of his recent race, but see if anybody really remembers that).

Dean is well-known and often invited to speak on national news programs. He has something of a reputation for being plain-spoken and for speaking his mind. With the right kind of people behind him, that image could be cultivated to help reach moderates when election time rolls around.

I think all three, Dean in particular, want to change the way things are done and start building the party. Without the infrastructure to run a ground game and the congressmen to help get things done, it doesn't matter if we win the White House. These guys understand that.

Andrew makes a very good point by saying Ickes doesn't need the chairmanship because of his ties to the Clintons. I'll go him one better and say we need to just stop paying attention to Bill Clinton. I know, I liked him when he was the president, too. He's not anymore. And when he left office, he left our party in shambles because it was all about him and not about us. It needs to be about us now.

I can't really convince you all of what you think is right for the party. We've all got our own motivations. Mine is to someday serve at the pleasure of a Democratic president and write speeches and change the world. Yours might just be to afford your kids college tuition or feel sure that you can one day retire. Whatever you decide, make your voice heard by contacting the state party chairs (helpfully supplied by MoveOn). I might be the one writing here, but your opinion is just as important as mine.

This is a guest post by Nate Nance. Nate is a sports/news clerk at the Waco Tribune-Herald and writer/editor of Common Sense a texas-based Democratic Web log. He can be reached at nate_nance@yahoo.com

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On the Race for DNC Chair

By Andrew Dobbs

I know that many of my critics will take my sometimes right-of-center beliefs about foreign policy (and increasingly a few domestic policies) to count my opinion out of this discussion, but they would be wrong. I am a Democrat. I support this party because I believe that at its heart it has the best interest of working Americans as its highest priority, which I can't say for the opposition. I believe that it has adopted a bunch of misguided and silly policies as a means of trying to cobble together a coalition, and that these policies aren't just bad for America, but bad politics as well. So I feel it necessary to stay in my party and fight for it to shed the burdens that are weighing it down. And on that note, I have some ideas about who the next chair should be.

I really should pick out the best candidate and bash him, as I did that the last time the state party picked a chair and I got a job out of the exercise. I doubt that history will repeat itself, though, so I will say that all of the candidates will be decent, but some will be better than others and some will be best for Texas.

As a Texas Democrat, I think that our biggest need right now is to expand into areas that aren't on the coasts, aren't dominated by labor unions and are currently "red." We need a leader who is used to winning in Red States and has the ability to run the party successfully. We need someone committed to ridding the party of its elitist mindset and that is willing to organize, fund and work with parties in states like Texas, Montana, Colorado, Arizona, the Deep South, the Mountain West, the Midwest, etc. I think that Martin Frost fits this bill.

I have some selfish reasons for backing Frost. Frost has helped keep the State Party here in Texas afloat for a long time and the prospect of him simply being Citizen Frost is a bit worrisome- will he be able to keep helping us? Furthermore, if he is the DNC chair you can bet that Texas won't be ignored in the future. As DCCC Chair in the late 90s he gained seats in the House at a time when no one thought that would be possible. He is a phenomenal fundraiser and though he lost his last race, he ran well ahead of Bush in his district- proving that he can swing voters. He is "an insider" but he's also an old political hack who is more than willing to "think outside the box." He brings the best of both worlds- a creativity and insatiable drive to win that we see in Simon Rosenberg and Howard Dean alongside an experienced, thoughtful demeanor we see in Ickes. He's also a moderate (like Rosenberg) from a Red state (like Webb) making him appealing to everybody.

Texas will benefit, other Red states will benefit and the party will benefit from his experience and vision. I don't know if he'll win, but if he can create a strong bloc among the Red state chairs and DNC members and get the votes of some insiders not too keen on the idea of Hillary 08 (Ickes' biggest problem), he can stay alive long enough to drive out some of the other candidates and pickup their votes. He knows how to win (present examples excluded) and I think he'll make a great chair.

Other candidates have strong points and weak points. I really like Simon Rosenberg, and he's my second choice. I would like to hear more about what he's willing to do to revive the party in Red states, but his record as a moderate activist and his experience in creative political organizing make him a very attractive candidate.

Howard Dean is a great guy and is a leader for our generation of activists, but I am afraid he'll push the party even further to the Left. People don't vote for an anti-war candidate in the middle of a war, particularly one that is going relatively well and had the unassailable goal of removing a brutal fascistic dictator from power. People aren't ready for a lot of the ideas he gets tagged with, but if he can be the Howard Dean I started supporting in 2002- conservative on fiscal issues, sensitive to rural values, driven towards creative market-based solutions to public policy challenges and interested in organizing a movement and not just a simple campaign- I think he'd be a great choice.

Harold Ickes is just too tied into the Clintons for my taste. I like the guy and I love the Clintons, but I think that a Hillary nomination would be disastrous at best. I am afraid that he would use his position to simply grease the skids for a Hillary nomination, and such would be the beginning of the end for our party for a generation or more.

Wellington Webb is a good man who quietly supported Dean early on and was a solid mayor of a major city in a Red state. But winning big urban areas isn't our problem, and as of right now reaching minorities isn't a problem (though that might be changing). I really don't see what he brings that we can't get in Frost or someone else.

Other candidates abound and as I have said, all have good and bad points. But with Frost in power, we can be assured of greater support for the Texas Democratic Party and the Democratic Party in other "Republican" states to start fighting the GOP on what they have taken for granted at their ground. Frost or Rosenberg are my two top choices. Who are yours?

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December 08, 2004

Seasons change, people change

By Nathan Nance

Guest post by Nate Nance

We all thought Snow was just going to leave, I guess it was a play fake or something. But he's staying, for how long is anybody's guess since Scotty Boy made it apparent that he doesn't know if he will serve the full four years. It's Anthony Principi that's leaving.

The Waco Trib will be doing a story on that tonight since Principi is Sec. for Veterans Affairs and we've had an ongoing struggle to keep the recently-renovated Waco VA Hospital open.

Still sitting pretty is Donald Rumsfeld. I think Stephen Colbert said it best last night on the Daily Show, it's not failure that gets you job security in the Bush administration it's "colossal failure." Rummy was trying to give a pep talk today to soldiers in Kuwait when Army Spc. Thomas Wilson asked him "why do we soldiers have to dig through local landfills for pieces of scrap metal and compromised ballistic glass to up armor our vehicles? And why don't we have those resources readily available to us?"

Rummy's answer is priceless, if only because of it's stark stupidity. He actually said "You go to war with the army that you have." Never mind that he's the guy in charge of making sure the army that we have is equipped to fight a war or that we didn't really have to go to war in the first place. You would think that in the $400 billion a year we spend on defense, and all of the billions of dollars in supplementals, we would have the money somewhere to make sure that all the Humvees the army uses are armored. You would be tragically mistaken, though.

This is a guest post by Nate Nance. Nate is a sports/news clerk at the Waco Tribune-Herald and writer/editor of Common Sense a Texas-based Democratic Web log. He can be reached at nate_nance@yahoo.com.

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December 07, 2004

"Intelligence" overhaul: UPDATED

By Nathan Nance

Guest post by Nate Nance

A deal was struck and the House passed the intelligence reorganization bill. The Senate should vote on the measure soon and then send it to Bush for signing.

I've got my share of problems with putting all our intelligence agencies under one umbrella; a centralized intelligence apparatus under the control of a political appointee, especially in the Bush administration, only exacerbates the problems we've seen when we need good intelligence to decide whether or not young Americans have to fight in a war.

I am glad for some of the other reforms in the bill, however. Some of them are:

creates a Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board to ensure regulations and policies do not threaten privacy rights or civil liberties.

* requires the secretary of homeland security to develop and implement a national strategy for transportation security, including steps to improve aviation, air cargo and maritime security.

* calls for greater coordination and communication between all levels of government and emergency response providers.

* requires the Department of Homeland Security to increase the numbers of border patrol agents by at least 2,000 per year and customs and immigration agents by at least 800 per year for five years.

* tightens visa application requirements; requires a face-to-face consular interview of most applicants for non-immigrant visas between the ages of 14 and 79.

* increases criminal penalties for alien smuggling and allows deportation of any alien who received military training from a group designated as a terrorist organization.

* provides new authority to pursue "lone wolf" terror suspects who are not affiliated with foreign terror groups.

* authorizes funding for better technology and other federal support to improve efforts to fight money laundering and terrorist financing; requires better coordination and building on international coalitions to combat terrorist financing.

Those are some long overdue policies that need to be adopted. If what I'm hearing about Bush using his "political capital" to get this through, then maybe he's not the son of Satan.

UPDATE: The Senate has also passed the intelligence reorganization bill. Their reworded version does not have immigration legislation that will apparently be worked out next year.

This is a guest post by Nate Nance. Nate is a sports/news clerk at the Waco Tribune-Herald and writer/editor of Common Sense a Texas-based Democratic Web log. He can be reached at nate_nance@yahoo.com

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Fun news fact of the day

By Nathan Nance

Guest post by Nate Nance

I've seen this in a few different places today, and it both sickens me and makes me laugh. Apparently, a youth minister from Des Moines, IA was picked by Bush to show how his tax cuts were working. Mike Hintz and his wife were delighted to help the president and had this to say:

"The American people are starting to see what kind of leader President Bush is. People know where he stands," he said.

"Where we are in this world, with not just the war on terror, but with the war with our culture that's going on, I think we need a man that is going to be in the White House like President Bush, that's going to stand by what he believes.

But that's not the end of the story. We find out today, that Hintz has turned himself in because last Spring he began an affair with a 17 year-old girl. He was also fired and is charged with sexual exploitation by a counselor.

Don't you just love those Repulican values?

This is a guest post from Nate Nance. Nate is a sports/news clerk at the Waco Tribune-Herald and is writer editor of Common Sense a Texas-based Democratic Web log. He can be reached at nate_nance@yahoo.com

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At least it ain't just us

By Christina Ocasio

Guest Post by Christina Ocasio

In news of the unbelievable, Senate Majority leader and medical doctor Bill Frist was unable to refute the claim when asked if one could get HIV from sweat and tears . Why would he even be asked such a question? Thanks to some serious dective work done by Rep. Henry Waxman's office, it has come to light that several of the leading federally funded abstience only programs are teaching our children just such "facts." But what takes the cake is when an board certified MD is unwilling to speak the truth about medical matters. For the record, it is impossible to catch HIV from sweat and tears.This past sunday Frist was on ABC's This Week and had the following exchange with George Stephanopoulos.

"STEPHANOPOULOS: Now you're a doctor. Do you believe that tears and sweat can transmit HIV?
FRIST: I don't know. I can tell you --
STEPHANOPOULOS: You don’t know?
FRIST: I can tell you things like, like --
STEPHANOPOULOS: Wait. Let me stop you there. You don't know that, you believe that tears and sweat might be able to transmit AIDS?
FRIST: Yeah, no, I can tell you that HIV is not very transmissible as an element, like compared to smallpox, compared to the flu, it's not.
STEPHANOPOULOS: ...Let me just clear this up though, do you or do you not believe that tears and sweat can transmit HIV?
FRIST: It would be very hard...for tears and sweat to -- I mean, you can get virus in tears and sweat. But in terms of the degree of infecting somebody, it would be very hard."

Can someone please explain this? A simple no would have done just nicely.

This is a guest post by Christina Ocasio. Christina is a scientist and writes her own blog at http://www.apathyiscool.com and can be reached at christina at apathyiscool dot com.

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December 06, 2004

I am a Deaniac, hear me roar

By Nathan Nance

Guest Contributor Nate Nance

I don't keep it a secret that I was a major Howard Dean supporter before the primaries. All the way through, I was very sad and very angry that Dean had been so mistreated in the media. And that's why I started to blog.

Howard Dean hasn't gone away though. After "The Scream", he melted away from the limelight until fairly late in the general election. His support for the Democratic nominee John Kerry was unwavering and his defiance of George W. Bush's policies was unquestionable.

So, I still like him. And he's apparently not forgotten about me and the millions of other Deaniacs, because he's running for the DNC chair. He's got a vision for the Democratic party and its future which he was going to share in a major speech Wednesday, but I guess he couldn't wait.

Democrats need to learn by our previous mistakes - we have tried being “Republican-lite” and it does not work. It is a mistake to run away from the things we believe and I think we can win in the so-called Republican states by being real Democrats.

We have to realize that there are no red states and no blue states, just American states. I believe the country is still more in sync with Democratic values than Republican values. Our task is to remind ourselves and the American people of the hallmark issues that distinguish Democrats from Republicans.

For example, Democrats historically tackle economic issues with bold, common-sense policies. Our last Democratic president created 22 million new jobs in this country. In the last four years, George W. Bush oversaw the loss of over 1.5 million. Democrats balance budgets, Republicans do not. Democrats consistently try to pass legislation that would provide some kind of affordable health care, Republicans do not. Democrats believe we ought to raise the minimum wage to help the average worker keep up with the cost of living, Republicans do not. Democrats believe corporations have too much power over our daily lives; Republicans do not - and to prove it, they have given away billions of dollars of our tax money to the biggest corporations in the world over the last four years.

On each of these issues, the majority of the American people are with Democrats not Republicans. Democrats have the right beliefs to win; we just execute a poor public relations plan. And, despite the enormous improvement in our ground game, the Republicans executed a more effective strategy. Republicans are far more successful because they work in a more unified, disciplined way with local supporters, especially with their base. They also avoid the Democrats chronic pitfall of listening to pundits from inside the Beltway.

So I'm hoping Dean can win this one, because I really think he's got the right idea at the right time. He and Joe Trippi seem to be on the same track, which is always good news, and I can't help but feel that we bloggers will have more of a say in how things are run if Dean were the DNC chair.

Nate Nance is a sports/news clerk at the Waco Tribune-Herald. He is also writer/editor of Common Sense a Texas-based Democratic Web log.

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Post with no name

By Nathan Nance

Guest Contributor Nate Nance

According to CNN Money, Sec. of Treasury John Snow is going to be replaced as soon as Bush names a successor. Among the names being mentioned are Chief of Staff Andy Card and former Texas senator Phil Gramm.

I had heard from several people that Snow was welcome to stay at Treasury, as long as it wasn't too long. Bush seems to want a whole new economic team, and this is the final piece. I can only speculate why he wants a new team; maybe he's tired of making up excuses for the lagging economy and piss-poor job creation numbers. I don't know.

I do know that Sec. Rumsfeld's job is secure for reason's not even God knows.

Nate Nance is a 21 year-old sports/news clerk at the Waco Tribune-Herald. He is also writer/editor of Common Sense a Texas-based Democratic Web log.

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I For One Welcome Our New Blue State Overlords

By Jim Dallas

This essay in Time contains some truths, but only once you get over the clumsy "red state-blue state" (for what it's worth, Cottle is not one of the worst offenders in this regard):

Day to day, liberals have the luxury of ignoring conservative America. Only occasionally does some red-state phenomenon like The Passion of the Christ intrude on our consciousness, and even then it's usually because of some outrage it sparks among a particular interest group on the left. Social conservatives, by contrast, cannot escape the world view of blue staters.

Every time they go to the movies or turn on the television or open their child's school books they're reminded that traditional values ain't what they used to be. (Many liberals will be horrified to hear that two-thirds of Americans think creationism should be taught alongside evolution in science classes.)

Forget aggressively raunchy shows like Sex and the City or Temptation Island. Even the mainstream megahit Friends featured a parade of bed hopping, divorce, lesbianism and out-of-wedlock births that would have raised howls of protest not so long ago.

If anything, social conservatives don't realize the full depth of blue-state America's condescension. They assume that liberals sit around all day thinking about how much smarter or more sophisticated or more enlightened they are than social conservatives.

Truth be told, most of the time liberals don't bother to think about social conservatives at all. Except at election time, when they suddenly become aware of them as some frightening, incomprehensible menace to their otherwise comfortably progressive society.

If you look at the country that way, it's only fair that conservatives have their moment in the sun. They may have won the battle, but their prospects for the broader culture war remain dim.

It took me a moment to realize what exactly my problem with that statement is, until I realized that the wording impies that only the slimmest of majorities (or zounds, perhaps even just the 48 percent who voted for Kerry!) controls culture in America. That "liberals" have complete control and whatever "conservatives" do is mere tilting at windmills.

But the thing is, American culture is just that.... American culture. It's heartily endorsed (or most of it anyway) by most Americans, not just "liberals." Cottle here seems to be playing into the far-right-wing fantasy that "blue state elitists" are oppressing "the red state masses" (both groups exist, dontchaknow, on the same metaphysical plane as angels and demons).

The reason why "red state culture" barely imposes on the rest of us isn't that we're aloof; it's that the vast majority of Americans don't care, either.

And I dare say that those elements of "red state culture" which do surface (The Passion, The "Left Behind" series, DC Talk, etc.) do so in large part because they tap into some marketable desire among "blue staters" as well. There's a little bit of Jesusland in each one of the fifty states, and among most (zounds!) Democratic voters.

And just the opposite is true. Although I'm highly skeptical, some claim that as many as 73 percent of Republicans are closet pro-choicers. And we clearly know that newly re-elected cultural warriors are (lets face it) going to be pretty ineffectual.

I suppose my main criticism is the implication that it's liberals who are responsible for all the crap on television these days. Don't look at us, America, corporate elitists are responsible for the crap on television these days.

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December 05, 2004

LA Run-Offs Results

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

Democrats picked up a Republican Seat.
Republicans picked up a Democratic Seat.

Voters turned off by negative campaigns, light turnout. Congress remains unchanged from Nov. 2 results.

More can be found in this news report.

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December 02, 2004


By Byron LaMasters

Via Kos diaries.

This is what Senator Kerry did today.

When will President Bush join Senator Kerry in paying his respects to the brave American men and women who have fallen serving our country?

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Sore Winners

By Byron LaMasters

Because merely winning just isn't good enough. The Austin Chronicle has a great overview of the way Republicans do business in 2004.

This is a party that thinks that getting 95% of their judges confirmed isn't enough, a party that would allow an indicted member to lead their caucus if convenient (after changing a rule originally intended to embarrass a Democrat a ten years ago), a party that would usurp the will of the voters since an 87-63 majority in the Texas House isn't good enough unless there's room for ol' Talmadge.

What will be next?

Via the Stakeholder.

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December 01, 2004

US Increasing Iraq Troops by 12,000

By Andrew Dobbs

The Source.

Brig. Gen. David Rodriquez, deputy operations director of the Joint Staff, told reporters that these moves would increase the size of the American force in Iraq from 138,000 today to about 150,000 by January.

That is the highest number of U.S. troops in Iraq since the invasion, he said. By May 2003, when President Bush declared major combat operations over, there were about 148,000 U.S. troops in Iraq, he said. (...)

Military officials have said repeatedly in recent weeks that they were considering whether more American troops would be required to provide sufficient security before Iraqis vote.

The moves announced Wednesday are in line with expectations — a combination of holding some troops in Iraq longer than scheduled and sending some fresh forces from the United States.

Unfortunately for our soldiers already over there, the bulk of the increase comes from simply extending the combat tours of 10,400 troops. The good news is that is seems that Bush is finally going to fight to win. We probably need more than 12,000 troops, but it is a good start.

These elections in Iraq are of incredibly high importance. If a government chosen by the people of that desperate country can come into power, the arguments of terrorist insurgents that the whole thing is nothing but colonial exploitation will whither in the wind. If they can establish a stable democracy, it will be a powerful example to other Arab dictatorships. The only evidence you need for how important these elections are for an American victory is the level of intensity our enemies are showing against the effort. They know their goose is more or less cooked if they go off without a hitch and without a stable base of operations, the loss of hundreds- if not thousands- of their comrades and the seizure of a large chunk of their weapons they are on their last leg. By this time next year things could be completely different if this is successful.

But victory will only come if we invest in more troops to train an Iraqi military, to secure the country in their absence and to defeat the fascist insurgency that threatens to throw Iraq back into the hellhole of oppression. 12,000 troops is a solid start, we need to keep the trend going until Iraq has a stable professional army, an effective police and domestic security force, a freely elected government, the beginnings of an economic/infrastructure redevelopment and a defeated or incredibly weak insurgency. We've succeeded in this sort of thing before and if we show the courage to do it again, we'll have a huge feather in our caps that we will celebrate for generations.

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November 30, 2004

That Old Time Religion

By Jim Dallas

One of my favorite Internet toys is the NORC's General Social Survey analysis site.

Here's an interesting statistic I discovered running the cross-tabulations module:

Of white "Strong Democrats", 77.3 percent either "know God exists" or "believe but have doubts" (334 respondants of 432 between 1992 and 2002). 58.8 percent "know God exists."

Of white "Strong Republicans", 88.1 percent do. (449 respondants of 510). 76.1 percent "know God exists"


Of white "Strong Democrats", 44.4 percent believed that hell "definitely" exists (36 of 81 respondants). 48.1 percent believe in religious miracles (39 of 81)

Of white "Strong Republicans", 69.8 percent believe that hell "definitely" exists
(67 of 96 respondants). 64.1 believe in religious miracles (59 of 92).

Ponder that. A pretty strong majority of both hard-core Democrats and hard-core Republicans believe in God, but Republicans by far are a lot more likely to believe in damnation and miracles.

What is really odd is that there doesn't seem to be a strong partisan divide over the nature of the Bible; white "Strong Republicans" seem to be slightly more likely to think the Bible is the literal Word of God, but only by about 10 points or so. Not like the big 30 point divide over hell.

I don't think that "literalism" or "fundamentalism" are the sine qua non of religious conservatism (which, let us stipulate, is a far more powerful force in the Republican Party); rather, I think, it's rooted in a sort of mysticism.

What I'd like to see is a partisan breakdown of belief in faeries and angels.

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Frost for DNC?

By Byron LaMasters

He's making the calls. The AP reports:

Defeated Texas Congressman Martin Frost is among potential candidates for chairman of the Democratic National Committee who are telephoning members about the situation, a leading Democrat said Monday.

"The following candidates are making phone calls to DNC members -- Howard Dean, Donnie Fowler, Martin Frost and Leo Hindery," said Mark Brewer, party chairman in Michigan and president of the Association of State Democratic Chairs.


Former Denver Mayor Wellington Webb has sent videos to the state chairmen promoting his interest in the job, Brewer said. Fowler is a Democratic strategist and son of a former national chairman. Hindery is a New York businessman and former chairman of the Yankees Entertainment & Sports Network LLC, a New York-based sports cable channel that televises New York Yankees baseball games.

Frost spokeswoman Susan McAvoy said: "Martin is taking some calls and has placed some calls" but emphasized he was merely exploring possibilities.

As a Democrat who grew up in Dallas, I've always been a fan of Martin Frost. Still, I think that my first choice would be Simon Rosenberg, and while I haven't done much posting on the DNC race, I'll be sure to post more on the DNC race in the next two months.

More thoughts from Political State Report and MyDD.

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November 24, 2004

Why simply rebranding won't work

By Jim Dallas

I like Oliver Willis, but it sure didn't take long for the twits* to turn the tables on us.

* by which I mean, those Republican apologists who are so smug as to be completely intolerable and worthless to us, politically speaking (as in, when you add up the people who are persuadable, they ain't them). I'm sure there are probably a few loyal readers of the conservative bent who think the same about me, for what its worth. Why resort to name-calling then? Because sometimes it's just inevitable, and I'd like to get the first shot in.

* Is anyone else disturbed by the cognitive dissonance that said twits employ, when, for example, they remind us (correctly) that some Democrats were right-wing crazies (e.g. segregationists), but then accuse us of all being left-wing crazies (e.g. Stalinists)?

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How did your Congressman Vote on the DeLay Rule?

By Byron LaMasters

The Daily DeLay and Josh Marshall have been doing great work in outting the GOP congresscritters who voted their values in allowing an indicted member to lead their caucus. The Daily DeLay has categorized the GOP House caucus into these groups:

Shays Handful (25) voted AGAINST the DeLay Rule
Refusers (14) simply REFUSED to say how they voted
Letter Writers (28) will WRITE LETTERS TO CONSTITUENTS with their vote
Loud and (Not So) Proud (53) voted FOR the DeLay Rule
Did Not Vote (29) NOT VOTING for a variety of reasons
What is the Story? (1) cannot get a STRAIGHT STORY about what they think

My only complaint is that nothing is listed for representatives-elect. It's hard to contact those folks, because they're just getting their office staff in place, and don't have their D.C. or district offices set up yet, BUT they do have a vote in caucus elections. So as soon as I get contact information for the new Republican Congressmen in Texas, I'll be sure to post it so we can start badgering these guys. (Although I'd be shocked if any of them voted against the DeLay rule. Tom DeLay got Marchant, Poe, Gohmert and McCaul elected, so I fully expect them all to be Tom DeLay's bitch on basically everything).

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November 22, 2004

Our Mis-Leader

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

Rawstory.com brings us this gem...

Mysterious ‘George W. Bush: Our leader’ Clear Channel political public service billboard graces Orlando freeway

A billboard recently put up in Orlando bearing a smiling photograph of President Bush with the words "Our Leader" is raising eyebrows among progressives who feel the poster is akin to that of propaganda used by tyrannical regimes.

"The first thing I thought was, when was the last time I have seen a president on a billboard?" wrote resident Dianna Lawson. "Didn't Saddam Hussein have his picture up everywhere? What next, a statue?"

The text on the bottom of the Clear Channel owned board says that it is "Not authorized by any candidate or candidate's committee. A public service message brought to you by Clear Channel Outdoor"

The original sighting brought to you by the Democratic Underground boards.

If you want to drop them a line, in order of impact...

For the Orlando branch....

Clear Channel Outdoor
5333 Old Winter Garden Road
Orlando , FL 32811
Phone: (407) 298-6410
Fax: (407) 297-8176

Outdoor Corporate HQ

Clear Channel Main HQ

A Daily Kos Diary has some great comparison pictures.

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Amend, but not for Arnold

By Byron LaMasters

Unlike the Federal Marriage Amendment, the recent proposals to amend the constitution to allow naturalized American citizens to run for president is a worthy idea looking into. For once, I think that Orrin Hatch is on to something. I agree with most of what Andrew wrote on the subject two months ago. My problem is not with the concept, but with the idea of amending the constitution to benefit one particular person. In the eyes of its supporters, this amendment seems to be less about a its merits, than it is about the political career of Arnold Schwarzenegger. All you have to do is take a look at the two leading supporter sites:

Amend for Arnold and Amend US.

This is also an issue where Democrats can easily get trapped. Patrick Ruffini, back to blogging after his stint as the official Bush / Cheney 2004 re-election blogger outlines an approach for Republicans to take on the issue. I'm personally doubtful that Republicans can pull off unanimity in support of the amendment. At the very least, Republicans will have to do a lot of convincing of the anti-immigrant and social conservative (why would most social conservatives support an amendment making it possible for the GOP's most popular social liberal to run for president) wings of the party. Still, Democrats have largely been silent on the issue -- something that poses problems for us. If Republicans are smart, they'll turn this into a campaign about supporting immigrants, and enlist prominent Hispanic elected officials and donors to bankroll the campaign. They'll turn this into a wedge issue to paint Democrats not supporting the amendment as anti-immigrant. And frankly, there's no reason Democrats should be running from this issue. After all, we've historically been the party of immigrants.

So how do we balance the concerns of supporting immigrants and of not wanting an amendment to our constitution designed to benefit one particular person? I see an easy solution that would take the politics out. As long as this amendment is seen as benefiting one politician or one party or another, there's no way that it will pass. There's no way it gets two-thirds majorities in both houses and three-quarters of the state legislatures if this is seen as a partisan issue. So take the politics out of it.

Pass an amendment that allows naturalized American citizens to run for president that are born after 34 years prior to the amendment's enactment. For example, should the amendment pass in 2005, any naturalized citizen born after 1971 would be eligible to run for president (assuming they meet the other requirements). Thus, no current politician would benefit, but within a few decades most leading non-U.S. born politicians would be eligible to run for president. My year suggestion may sound hopelessly arbitrary, but I think that it's nescessary in order to remove politics from this otherwise worthwhile amendment.

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November 20, 2004

Not these Democrats

By Jim Dallas

One of the many problems (among many), that Democrats face is our inability to market ourselves effectively. Granted, it's time to turn around the Democratic brand name.

But let's face facts: we're not going to accomplish a lot with a little bit of magic fairy dust.

Looking at the "Brand Democrat" logos put out, my Republican acquaintances (naturally, laughed). That was expected, because they're the folks you can't convince. Remember Jesus's parable about the seeds.

Moreover, though, some on the left found the "Brand Democrat" things to be, at best, a bit hokey. To wit,

"We Won World War 2"? Come on, America won World War 2. Franklin Roosevelt won World War 2. The kind of Democrats who used to inhabit Washington in the early 1940s won World War 2.

The kind of Democrats that now run the show did not win World War 2 (so they say).

And the same for domestic agenda items. "Civil rights came about because of the civil rights movement!" Labor rights? Social security? Blame the Wobblies and the pinkos for those.

Now, I'm not bringing these points up because I necessarily agree with them, but the point is this: looking in the mirror, are we the same sort of folks who would be able to accomplish any of the sort of things Democrats used to accomplish?

The temptation is to say "no, because unlike previous generations of Democrats, frankly, we suck." And that temptation can be an awfully strong one.

Nonetheless, I happen to think the answer is not "no," but "yes, we are!"

But the way to go about proving that isn't going to be through the magic of marketing. The way we prove that we rehabilitate our party's image is to shoot straight and shoot often (among other things).

There's a certain part of me that thinks that "Brand Democrat" conjures up all the excitement of Diet Sprite. Meditate on that for a moment.

(Hint: think about our party's tendencies (1) towards low risk/low reward politics and (2) away from bold, memorable pronouncements.)

For what it's worth, I still think that Oliver Willis's idea can bear fruit. But the Washington boys (and girls) really need to get their act together.

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November 19, 2004

Brand Democrat

By Byron LaMasters

It's Brand Democrat via Oliver Willis.

Good idea. I like it. Check it all out.

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November 16, 2004

GOP Values in Action

By Byron LaMasters

The DCCC is all over the recent GOP House hypocrisy -- where they've changed the House rules to allow Tom DeLay to remain leader even if when he's indicted. House rules previously required members in leadership positions to resign if indicted by a state prosecutor. When and why did they put the rule in place? Back in 1993 when they were targetting Rep. Dan Rostenkowski (D-IL), then-chairman of the Ways and Means Committee who was having ethics problems of his own at the time. Now that their guy is having some trouble back at home, the rule isn't quite as convenient.

You can help the DCCC elect Democrats in two Louisiana House runoffs by donating today.

Update: They've got a petition to sign here (blog post here).

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I drink green tea, maybe you've heard of it?

By Jim Dallas

Atrios and MMFA.

But what really pisses me off about Iowa was that they wouldn't let me buy a beer with a temporary drivers license (I lost my real ID before going to Iowa for Dean).

At any rate, we absolutely MUST rid America of these pinhead media elitists. As a former aspiring-pinhead-elitist myself, I hope this carries some weight.

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Lamar Smith Hates TiVo

By Jim Dallas

He's the sponsor of this odious bill.

This is a pro-Hollywood, anti-American, anti-freedom bill that must be stopped.

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November 15, 2004

Democracy Fest 2005: Austin Wins

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

DemocracyFest '05 will be held in Austin, TX on June 17th-19th. Mark your calendars now! Over 4,000 people voted, thank you to everyone who voted.

For more information on DemocracyFest '05--including proposed agenda and lodging info, please see here.

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November 12, 2004

The South

By Jim Dallas

Two things are causing me some distress:

First, "F* The South." In a word... no. The South is part of who I am, and I'd probably rather saw my arm off than concede defeat.

Second - and this is a long-term thing - the apparent complete lack of real pride on the part of a majority of Southern voters. The half of Alabama that voted not to drop segregation from the state constitution.

I was brought up to believe that pride does not mean wallowing in your own inequity, but rather to bring down walls of oppression with the full force of the hammer of righteousness. "We shall overcome, some day."

Take a look at yourself, people.

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November 11, 2004

Another Reason to Fuck the South

By Byron LaMasters

Even in 2004, a majority of the people in Alabama are racists. Democrats just don't have much appeal to racists in the 21st century. Winning is not worth pandering to people that support segregation. And if we have to sacrifice much of the south for that, it's a principled choice worth making. I think the future Democratic majority will be formed by finding ways to appeal to Hispanics, and in adding the southwest to the Democratic coalition. I'm increasingly convinced that winning the south (at least most of the "southern" states) is hopeless in the near future if our party is to stand for the values that Democrats believe in.

Via Atrios.

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November 10, 2004

From the Justice Department to the Ministry of Love...

By Zach Neumann

It looks like a fellow Texan may take up where (soon to be) former Attorney General John Ashcroft left off. The Washington Post reported today that Alberto R. Gonzales, White House Counsel and one time Texas Supreme Court Justice may take over at the Justice Department if he is able to make it through the Senate:

President Bush has chosen White House counsel Alberto R. Gonzales to be attorney general, succeeding John D. Ashcroft, administration sources said.

Because of Gonzales's close relationship to the president, his selection would give Bush tight control over the Justice Department. As governor of Texas, Bush put Gonzales on the state Supreme Court, and Gonzales had been mentioned by White House advisers as a possible candidate for appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court.

If his nomination is approved by the Senate, Gonzales, 49, would be the first Hispanic attorney general.

As White House counsel, Gonzales has served as the president's top legal adviser. His involvement with controversial administration policies on terrorism detainees could be an issue as the Senate considers his nomination to replace Ashcroft, whose anti-terrorism policies made him the focus of a fierce national debate over civil liberties.

Though I could be wrong on this one, I’m of the philosophy that anyone is better than John Ashcroft. Assuming Gonzales is approved, I am interested to see how he handles controversial issues like Guantanamo detainees and the Patriot Act. While he will probably follow in Ashcroft’s footsteps, there is a chance that he may loosen things up a bit. Who knows, if we’re really lucky maybe he’ll take the curtain off the semi nude statues in the main hall of the justice department…

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November 09, 2004

Last Chance to Vote for Democracy for Texas

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

On Thursday, time will run out to vote to bring more grassroots training and nationally recognized speakers to Texas in June, 2005.

Texas is competing with California and Virginia for the chance to host Democracy Fest 2005, a gathering of progressives from around the country. We have big plans, but we need your vote to win—and this time it doesn’t matter that you temporarily live in a red state!

Please go to myvoteismyvoice.com and look at the proposals. Unless you really want to go to California or Virginia if we don’t win, we ask that you vote “Texas, No Second Choice.” After you’ve voted, please forward the link to your friends and ask for their help.

Thanks for your support!

Your DFT Steering Committee —
Marla Camp, Glen Maxey, Teri Sperry, and Fran Vincent

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Ashcroft, Evans Resign

By Andrew Dobbs

Too bad that sentence doesn't suggest scandal, simply that they will soon be replaced by other right wing lunatics.

AP Story here.

As for replacements...

One name being mentioned for Evans' job at Commerce is Mercer Reynolds, national finance chairman for the Bush campaign, who raised more than $260 million to get him re-elected.

Speculation about a successor to Ashcroft has centered on his former deputy, Larry Thompson, who recently took a job as general counsel at PepsiCo. If appointed, Thompson would be the nation's first black attorney general. Others prominently mentioned include Bush's 2004 campaign chairman, former Montana Gov. Marc Racicot, and White House general counsel Alberto Gonzales.

I'm surprised Rudy Giuliani's name didn't make the AG speculation list. And Evans' departure makes me wonder if he has designs on the Texas Governor's race in 2006. He shot rumors to that effect down a few months ago, but the suggestion was he'd stay in the Bush Administration, which doesn't seem to be the case.

Still, the new cabinet is forming. I'm interested to see who the new foriegn policy team will be. Some had Dick Lugar's name running around for Sec. State, which I would endorse. And (I know you all will hate me for this one) I'd like to see Paul Wolfowitz Sec. of Defense. A more active Secretary of State and a smart, tough, creative Secretary of Defense would be much better than the pansy we have in the former and the easily distracted tough guy we have in the latter.

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Back to the minor leagues

By Jim Dallas

This is probably the most useful strategy memo I've read in a while.

I almost feel guilty for not paying much attention to the state legislative races this year.

I might have to reconsider this "year without politics thing," too, sense the more I think about it, the more I am convinced chipping down the Republican margin in the state legislature - and eventually retaking back one or both of the chambers - is probably the most important thing that we can do for our state.

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Yeah, he's a Shmuck

By Byron LaMasters

This is a fascinating read -- it's a very detailed, in-depth look at Jim McGreevey's career. It's interesting reading my initial knee-jerk reaction to McGreevey's coming out. On one hand, I can sympathize with his difficulty in accepting his sexual orientation, but what he did was pretty much inexcusable. His advisors put it best in the Newark Star Ledger article:

The consultants laid it out again.

"An affair, okay, not bad," one adviser told McGreevey. "A gay affair, that's a little bit worse, but okay.

"You hired your lover as the homeland security adviser without credentials, four months after 9/11 -- that's it. You can't withstand that. You'll be impeached. Democrats will join Republicans."

Yup. The American people are pretty forgiving of personal foibles -- look to Bill Clinton, but when it comes to jeopardizing our national security, Americans are a bit less forgiving.

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November 08, 2004

Dean for DNC Chair?

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

Like one must in politics, the trial balloon must be floated. Hey, it's time better spent than thinking about running for Prez in 2008...

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November 06, 2004

Bush Change? Don't Make me Laugh

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

After winning a so called "mandate" of 51% thanks to an underground hate based campaign, President Bush says he wants to unite the country, work with Democrats, and move forward.

These are three things he has failed to do for 4 years, even when offered the chance to do so after the 2000 election and 9/11. I expect him to lie as usual and continue to push his right-wing grounded agenda.

Because Bush Stands by Rejection of Kyoto Treaty even as Russia signs on with the rest of the intellectual world in attempting to do at least something for the future of our global environment.


"President Bush strongly opposes any treaty or policy that would cause the loss of a single American job, let alone the nearly 5 million jobs Kyoto would have cost," said James Connaughton, chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality.

Oh, President Bush, worried about JOBS! Haha, that's almost funny until I think about how many jobs he's lost with his own economic policies which are running this country and it's budget into the ground. And he wants to reform Social Security? With what? His good looks?

Well I'll just let him ponder that one while Insurgents in Iraq killed more Americans today.

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November 04, 2004

Lessons From Election 2004

By Andrew Dobbs

Okay, here's my 2 cents on the events of Tuesday night in the extended entry...

(Update): I forgot one, read the new Lesson 7 if you haven't already

1. People Don't Vote Out the President During a War
Most Americans think we are on the wrong track, think that Bush is not doing so hot and think that the economy is in the shitter. Turnout was the highest it has been in 36 years, usually a good sign for Democrats. Yet Bush was reelected relatively easily, the Senate gained 4 Republicans and the House got more Republican as well. Some of this can be attributed to continuing regional trends, but more than anything it is a sign that people will stick with a guy they disagree with when the bullets are flying. Only when the war is an undeniable quagmire (and most of the country as well as this observer would say it is quite the opposite) will they kick them out (see 1968). Bush had this going for him and it helped trump almost everything else.

2. Liberalism is On the Outs
In 9 presidential elections we have elected Democrats in only 3 of them (four if you count Gore, but that was a tossup really). Each time (including Gore), it was a moderate, southern religious type. Liberalism might benefit from the ground game we built for this election, much like conservativism was ultimately helped by Goldwater, despite his defeat. But except for the coasts and a small part of the Upper Midwest, the vast majority of America is fundamentally conservative. They are religious, anti-tax, pro-gun, pro-war. We can try to change their minds, but this trend goes back much further than Bush. The good news is these people split their tickets for moderate Democrats who support the general party line but still don't take their marching orders from the liberal wing. Montana elected a Democratic governor, Indiana reelected a Democratic senator, Colorado elected a Democrat to the Senate and the race was surprisingly close elsewhere. But if we want to win we need to return to a party of the middle class- a Clinton New Democrat kind of place.

3. Vote for the Guy Who Inspires You... Within Reason
Before Tuesday I thought that simply running a campaign of how much you hate the other guy would suffice. I thought that despite the lack of any real enthusiasm for Kerry, the hatred of Bush would put us over the top. I was wrong wrong wrong. Campaigns have to have a positive vision and an articulate, inspiring spokesperson. Bush inspires and excites his base- Kerry was just a stand-in for the more amorphous hatred of Bush. A candidate who could excite people on his own- Dean, Clark, Edwards- probably would have done better. In the end, don't try and pick someone because they are "electable," pick them because you think they are the most exciting. Obviously if Kucinich or Sharpton rocked your socks, you should consider voting for someone who doesn't look like a troll or have a history of hating white people.

4. Districts Drawn to Elect Republicans/Democrats Usually Do Just That
We had 5 candidates redrawn into shit congressional districts this year. Despite the great campaigns ran by all of them and the weak candidates at least 4 of them drew, 4 of the 5 lost. This isn't because the Republicans are better, and though we could have done better it isn't because the Democrats ran bad campaigns. It is because people a lot smarter than us drew maps to elect only a Republican, and it worked. We need to stop partisan redistricting if we want a truly representative and effective congress and Texas 2004 proved that.

5. Raising Money Is Priority Number One
The DCCC and other organizations designed to elect people to office pick candidates primarly on how much time they spend raising money. A good candidate spends about 6-8 hours a day or so doing that. A bad one doesn't. Jim Dougherty in Houston was a good candidate on the outside, but lost because he didn't raise the money. Without putting the time and effort into raising enough money, he got 44% in a Republican district. A better candidate could have won. If we want to win we need to recruit candidates who will do the work necessary to pick up the phone and ask for cash. It is a sad reality, but it is true.

6. All Other Things Being Equal (or Even Kinda Unequal), the Candidate That Works Hardest Wins
Hubert Vo appears to have beaten the 20 year incumbent chair of the House Appropriations Committee, Talmadge Heflin. Vo knocked on several thousand doors, wore out several pairs of shoes and busted his balls to win that race. Of course, working the night shift and going to college all day only months after traveling to the United States with nothing but the clothes on his back prepared him well. Heflin, on the other hand, sat up on his coondog and expected incumbency to carry him to victory. On the flip side, John Otto busted tail in East Texas while 3 term incumben Dan Ellis decided to take it easy. Otto won and Ellis lost. If you want to win, you have to work and if you work harder than the other guy as long as the district is somewhat competitive and you have enough money to keep your name on people's lips (see Lesson 5), you will win. Hard work does pay off, and Talmadge Heflin and Dan Ellis learned that one the hard way.

7. (Added After Initial Post) Wedge Issues Work
The most surprising thing is that the number one issue on people's minds wasn't the War or the economy, but rather "moral issues." This doesn't mean voting out a leader who lies, exposes CIA agents and uses racism to keep himself in office, but rather keepin' queers from marryin' and keepin' ladies from abortin'. Karl Rove knew that he needed more evangelicals to vote if he wanted his boy to win, and he knew that guns, gays, God and abortion would turn them out. As a result, he played these issues up, got anti-gay marriage ballot initiatives on 11 ballots and got the church goers to the polls. Tada- Bush is elected.

There are two options here. The first is unacceptable in many ways- give up our positions on these issues. I think on guns this is preferable. Gun control doesn't really work, it pisses off a lot of people and it is lazy. We always argue that the solution to crime is in fighting the causes of crime- poverty, lack of education, etc. Banning guns is reacting to the sympton, not fighting the cause and we ought to jettison this issue. But abortion and the rights of all people- including gays- are non-negotiable for most of us. The second is to (as 'stina put it) reframe these issues and draw attention away from them. Gay rights is a civil rights issue and when Republicans bash them for political gain it is no better than when Southern Democrats used to use racism for gain. We ought to say so. Banning abortion is pushing one particular religious view onto other people, much like the enemies we are fighting do. We ought to say something similar. And then we ought to point out that the real problem is the crisis in marriage in general created in large part by financial insecurity and the high number of children born out of wedlock because of bad faith federal education funding. If we turn the gay/abortion debate into a debate about education and the economy, we can win. We ought to do this all over and it will succeed.

On a Texas specific side note, this has good implications for 2006. Essentially, the heart and soul of the Republican Party now belongs to the theocrats. In the South, the idea of a pro-choice woman winning a contested Republican primary with a viable pro-life candidate in the running is pretty far-fetched. Kay Bailey Hutchison may be popular, but 3-6 months of Rick Perry calling her a baby killer in her first contested GOP primary ought to put a stake in the heart of her campaign. And then, at the end of a brutal and nasty primary campaign, the unpopular Rick Perry has to fight off a Democrat. Texas could have a Democratic governor because of this issue if we simply reframe the issue as I have suggested above.

8. Things Are Looking Good for Texas Democrats
In 2002 only the very inner cities and the very Hispanic parts of South Texas went for the Democrats and only about 1/3 of the state could be considered "base Democrats." Now Democrats are starting to take over the biggest urban counties as Harris County saw an uptick in Dem voters, Dallas elected a Lesbian Latina Democrat as Sheriff and Democrats easily swept Travis County. Also, the inner suburbs- not the exurbs like Frisco, Georgetown or Katy- places like Grand Prairie, Pflugerville and Alief are starting to consider voting for the Democrats. In Grand Prairie, Ray Allen narrowly escaped defeat at the hands of an environmental activist Democrat. In Alief, Vo beat Heflin. In Pflugerville Mark Strama beat Jack Stick. If we can take the big 4 counties- Dallas, Harris, Bexar and Travis- with big numbers and add in their inner suburban counterparts, we can start winning statewide races.

But we also have to improve turnout in South Texas. Hidalgo County in 2002 had less than 72,000 votes for the biggest race on the ballot. In 2004, they had 115,000. In 2000, it was 101,000. In 2000, Webb had fewer than 32,000 votes for President. In 2002 it was just over 39,000. In 2004, it was 41,500. The turnout trend in South Texas is in our favor- if we can continue stoking these flames, we win races.

Finally, in 2002 Tom Ramsey ran for Agriculture Commissioner against incumbent Susan Combs. Neither really ran a campaign for the down ballot office and Combs was an incumbent. Ramsay got 37.8% of the vote. This year, neither campaign for Texas Supreme Court- David Van Os for the Democrats or Scott Brister for the GOP- did anything beyond some signs, bumper stickers and campaign speeches. David Van Os got 40.75% of the vote. That means that Democrats increased their base by roughly 3 points in 2 years. If we do that again before 2004, we start out with a base of 44% and need only increase turnout in South Texas, keep swinging the votes in the inner suburbs and big 4 counties and we have a race on our hands. This is good news for Texas.

So the summary is this: we need candidates with a positive, creative, inspiring message that doesn't fall back on old liberal cliches. We have to raise money and work hard and try and get districts that are fair for the people of Texas. And we have to either win this war or lose it bad if we want to start winning again. I would never cheer against our troops and I think we are doing a helluva job over there right now, so I suspect the former will happen before 2008. But in the end things are looking up for Texas right now and if we work hard and play our cards right, things will be even better in 2006.

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November 03, 2004

Dick Durbin for Senate Democratic Leader

By Byron LaMasters

Daschle lost. Fuck John Thune. I had the opportunity to meet Dick Durbin at the Democratic convention this summer, and he's a fantastic spokesman and leader in the Democratic caucus. He's a progressive / liberal Democrat with a backbone, but as a Midwesterner from southern Illinois it's hard to label him as a wild-eyed liberal. Also, I think it's important to have a Democratic leader from a solidly Democratic state. I think either Chris Dodd or Dick Durbin would fit the bill in that respect. Senate Democrats were hurt on many occasions in the past year or two by Daschle's need to show conservative credentials to the voters back home in South Dakota. That's a concern that Dodd or Durbin won't have.

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November 02, 2004

Mongiardo Leads

By Byron LaMasters

Very good early returns out of Kentucky Senate Race with 35.6% reporting:

Daniel Mongiardo D 303,342 54.3%
Jim Bunning R 254,964 45.7%

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October 27, 2004

Coburn: Blacks have "Genetic Predisposition" to Die Young

By Byron LaMasters

Chalk this up as another Coburnism from tonight's debate with Brad Carson:

COBURN: [35:54] If you die... If you're an African American male in this country, you die before the average... your average life expectancy is less than the retirement age of social security. How, what kind of plan is that that we're gonna take from those because they had a genetic predisposition to have less of a life expectancy. You're gonna steal from them and give it to somebody else. The fact is that we can solve the problem. We can't solve it if we won't talk about it. And we can do with what Albert Einstein said was the most powerful force on earth, which is compound interest. Get it out of the hands of the politicians. [36:29

I'd like to find an African American that would agree with Tom Coburn -- that the Social Security system discriminates againt Black people. Wow.

Update: Well, it looks like Kos got the same press release that I did.

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October 26, 2004

Republican Race Baiting In Colorado

By Byron LaMasters

Looks like Republicans are trying to scare people in Colorado - attacking Colorado Congressional candidate John Salazar on Immigration. Watch the ad to see the shadowy figures in the background, trying to tie a Hispanic candidate to illegal immigration. Pretty shady. Rick Perry ran similar ads against Tony Sanchez two years ago, attempting to tie Sanchez to drug dealers and the murder of DEA agents.

Via Colorado Luis.

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October 20, 2004

Is Katherine Harris doomed?

By Jim Dallas

My friend and blogger Larry, who is pretty Republican albeit an independent-minded one, voted for Jan Schneider instead of Katherine Harris.

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GOP Leadership Abandoning Coburn

By Byron LaMasters

Here's what Speaker Dennis Hastert said yesterday:

House Speaker Dennis Hastert predicted Tuesday Republicans will lose the U.S. Senate seat in Illinois being sought by conservative former U.N. Ambassador Alan Keyes.

"We have a race in Oklahoma that we are probably not going to win," Hastert told the Daily Herald editorial board. "That's a Republican seat we are probably going to lose. Same thing in Illinois."

Hastert's a realist, Alan Keyes, on the other hand is in La-la land:

Keyes, appearing separately before the paper's editorial board Tuesday, refuted the notion he'll lose Nov. 2.

"No, because I'm going to win this election. It's that simple," Keyes said. "Based on the fact that I am articulating things that represent the heart and conscience of a majority of people in Illinois and we will see that registered on Election Day. The response I'•getting around the state suggests that that is true. So brace yourselves."

Media polls show Keyes trailing Democratic state Sen. Barack Obama by 40 percentage points or more.

Alan Keyes is soooo much fun! And pay Brad Carson a visit. I'm confident Carson will win, but not quite as convinced as Dennis Hastert yet.

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October 17, 2004


By Jim Dallas

Matt Yglesias puts down in words what I've been thinking (as well as, apparently, Kevin Drum, Michael Froomkin, and a whole bunch of other people who are smarter than I am):

There are disturbing parallels between the Bush White House and the Putin government in the Kremlin.

Look, it'll be a bright and sunny day for freedom when Bin Laden gets his just desserts, but walking the rain-slicked streets of the gray present, I must wonder what is happening to America, and worry what will happen if we keep on the road we're on.

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October 12, 2004

Right Wing 3rd Parties Might Swing PA Sen. Race

By Andrew Dobbs

From a DKos Diary Entry (reccomend this one- it is good), Arlen Specter's once inpenetrable lead is slowly deflating as more people learn who Joe Hoeffel is and as conservatives bolt the party. Quoting an unlinked article from the Harrisburg Patriot News:

Specter says Hoeffel supporters pulled what he believes is a "dirty trick" by helping Jim Clymer, a Lancaster County conservative attorney - who opposes Specter, abortion and gun control, in that order - to get on the ballot. (...)

But for Specter, Clymer might be one opponent too many. Specter has watched his numbers fall from the safe, just-over-50-percent range, to the more tenuous, 45-46-point range, as Clymer rose from 2 percentage points months ago, to 7 points among likely voters in the Keystone Poll last week.

That poll shows Specter leading Hoeffel, 44 percent to 35 percent, among likely voters, 46-32 among registered ones.

But it also shows Hoeffel getting the support of only half of self-described Democrats, and shows half of the voters haven't heard of Hoeffel. So he has a lot to do, but also a lot of relatively easy ground to gain. As the Democratic nominee, Hoeffel figures to get, at minimum, 42 to 44 percent on Election Day.

So, do the math: If Clymer gets the 7 percent he is polling and Libertarian Betsy Summers gets 1 to 2 percent, as Libertarians can get statewide, that leaves 91 percent to be split between Specter and Hoeffel. That means you don't need 50 percent to win, just 45.6 percent.

If the Pat Toomey crowd boosts the conservative Clymer up near 10 percent - his political mentor, Peg Luksik, reached double figures twice when both major parties nominated abortion-rights supporters, like Hoeffel and Specter are -"Arlen is in a lot of trouble, very vulnerable at that point," said Sen. Vince Fumo, D-Philadelphia, a longtime quiet Specter ally.

That's right, the Constitution Party candidate and the Libertarian might soak off enough Right wing votes from the moderate Specter to allow the disappointing Hoeffel campaign to actually eek out a victory. Pat Toomey has repeatedly endorsed Specter, but most of his supporters simply aren't having it.

This is a great strategy and we really need to start promoting this where available. I was hoping for Aaron Russo, a charismatic, wealthy Hollywood producer to pick up the Libertarian nominationa as he would have been a formidible threat to Bush. Instead Michael Badnarik- who I met last week, incidently (he has lots of nose hair)- a nutjob got the nomination. Still, Dems should look into spending a few hundred bucks in swing precincts for every kind of race to put out some cheap Libertarian fliers. If we can split conservatives- social versus business, statist theocrats versus libertarian types- we can break the party in half and have a period of Democratic dominance.

Keep an eye on PA, it might just give us some ideas for the future.

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DMN: No Speaker DeLay

By Byron LaMasters

They took a day off from their GOP cheerleading:

GOP House Majority Leader Tom DeLay escaped an independent counsel investigation last week. But the Texas Republican's now damaged goods. It's hard to see him ever becoming speaker of the House.

The House voted along party lines to reject siccing an outside counsel on Rep. DeLay. That's just as well. The vote was a Democratic trick to get Republicans to support their controversial colleague, knowing they could use the vote against Republicans in tight congressional races.


But the sheer volume of charges is hard to ignore. It smacks of a pattern of abuse. Worse, it reveals a contempt for how the House should work. This business of getting an agency to track down Texas Democrats was about as brazen as it gets.

Add that to all the editorials yesterday and over the weekend.

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October 11, 2004

Understatement of the Millenium

By Jim Dallas

Ezra at Pandagon:

"...it's thus a shame that current FCC commissioner Michael Powell has, thus far, been something of a tool."

P.S. I suppose it bears clarification: Ever since I started paying attention to the FCC (in 1996, when I got my ham radio ticket), I have never seen a Commission so devoted to carrying water for big corporate interests, except, of course, when women's breasts are involved.

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Everyone Editorializes Against DeLay

By Byron LaMasters

Well, pretty much everyone.

Just a small sampling:

Louisville Courier-Journal
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Virginian Pilot
Allentown Morning Call
Denver Post
Washington Post
New York Times
Chicago Tribune
Wilmington Morning Star

Via Off the Kuff and the Stakeholder.

Also, be sure to read up on Streakin' Pete Sessions:

Hard to believe, but Sessions, the Texas Republican who decried Janet Jackson's Super Bowl public nudity incident in January took part in a raucous, two-night streaking rampage when he was a freshman at Southwest Texas State University in San Marcos.


"Just taking off your clothes and running around is kind of a free spirit thing," said Sessions, who was two weeks shy of his 19th birthday and a physical education major. He would later transfer to Southwestern University.

Haha. I think we know what this spells... H-Y-P-O-C-R-I-T-E...

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Mocking Oklahoma

By Byron LaMasters

I'm a good sport about having BOR in Crimson and Cream this week. I'm not going to complain. We'll be back in burnt orange on Wednesday night, but I do think that it's only fair to spend each of these three days with at least one post a day mocking Oklahomans. Today's victim? It should come as no surprise... Tom Coburn (heck, he just might be tomorrow and Wednesday's victim, too!).

The man is obsessed with lesbianism. Atrios has the latest of Coburn on the issue:

Rampant Lesbianism

Listen to the Republican candidate for senator from Oklahoma say this:

You know, Josh Burkeen is our rep down here in the southeast area. He lives in Colgate and travels out of Atoka. He was telling me lesbianism is so rampant in some of the schools in southeast Oklahoma that they’ll only let one girl go to the bathroom. Now think about it. Think about that issue. How is it that that’s happened to us?" - Tom Coburn, 8/31/04

Only in Oklahoma...

Update: The Carson campaign had this to say about Coburn's statement:

"This is one in a long line of outrageous statements Tom Coburn has made during the course of this campaign," said Carson for Senate spokesman Brad Luna. "As Tom Coburn continues on his own far out personal agenda, Congressman Carson will continue fighting for the people of Oklahoma. We deserve a Senator who's focused on creating good paying jobs in Okahoma, fighting for road money to improve our state's infrastructure, and trying to lower skyrocketing health care costs -- not someone who is focused on this type of crazy nonsense."

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October 07, 2004

DeLay Indictment Still Forthcoming?

By Byron LaMasters

TAPPED reports on the thoughts of U.S. Rep. Chris Bell (D-Houston) in a conference call with reporters this afternoon:

Rep. Chris Bell made a pretty intriguing point about the Ethics Committee’s decision to defer an inquiry into Tom DeLay’s Texans for a Republican Majority PAC (TRMPAC) shenanigans, pending further developments in Travis County DA Ronnie Earle’s criminal investigation. [...] According to Bell, this decision is the “strongest indication yet that Mr. DeLay himself is the target of an investigation by the Travis County grand jury in Austin. Mr. DeLay could face a felony indictment in the very near future.” I asked Bell to elaborate a bit:

The committee states in its memorandum that it has been following the investigation in Austin quite closely. Mr. DeLay has claimed that he’s not a target of the investigation, but if he’s not a target then there would be no reason for the Ethics Committee to defer action. They apparently seem to believe after following the case that there’s a strong possibility that he is a target and that an indictment will be forthcoming, and that’s a thought that I share. I think that Mr. Earle has made it quite clear that this is an ongoing investigation and that he is in no way, shape or form tried to lead anyone to believe that Mr. DeLay is off the hook. So I think by deferring action on that particular account, the ethics committee seems to believe that Mr. DeLay could very well be a target.

Emphasis mine. Continue to keep your eyes and ears open on the DeLay mess. DeLay's political career is dying a long slow death, and it's a privilege to be able to watch it.

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Pelosi and Hoyer Slam DeLay

By Byron LaMasters

Via The Stakeholder.


"Mr. DeLay has proven himself to be ethically unfit to lead his party. The burden now falls upon his fellow House Republicans.

"Republicans must answer - do they want an ethically unfit person to be their majority leader, or do they want to remove the ethical cloud that hangs over the Capitol?"


"Twelve years ago, a Republican member took to the House floor and stated: 'When someone is in power for an inordinate amount of time, then this kind of oversight, this kind of corruption, if you will, continues and builds upon itself and sort of feeds on itself.'

"Two years later, that same member stated: 'We need to clean our own House for the sake of the institution.' That member was Tom DeLay. It is time for the American people to clean this House."

Taking on Tom DeLay has the news roundup from this morning.

Help the DCCC take down Tom DeLay, and donate today.

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October 06, 2004

Run A House Campaign

By Byron LaMasters

Ohio House candidate Jeff Seemann has a great idea here - let his onling supporters and the blog community choose his schedule for tomorrow. So, vote for what you'd like to see Jeff do, and it'll be interesting to see what type of coverage it works.

If it turns out well, I could see a candidate like Richard Morrison doing something similar.

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Secret House Ethics Committee Yesterday

By Byron LaMasters

Very interesting. Andrew posted earlier that a DeLay censure may be coming down this evening. Now, word is leaking out that there were secret metings of the House Ethics Committee yesterday:

The Hill:

First, potential political damage will hinge on the results of the indictment of DeLay’s allies by Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle, the Senate and Justice Department investigation of DeLay’s former aide Mike Scanlon, and the pending ethics complaint against DeLay filed by outgoing Rep. Chris Bell (D-Texas).

The ethics committee met yesterday in secret, a meeting that committee observers speculated was for the purpose of voting on how to proceed on the Bell complaint. An aide to Hefley announced yesterday afternoon that the committee would issue no statement on the proceedings.

Fort Worth Star-Telegram:

The House ethics committee met Tuesday to consider how to proceed on the complaint against House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Sugar Land, but did not disclose the proceedings.

Lou Dubose says that things will only get worse for Tom DeLay over at Truthout (via Salon.com):

September was a bad month for House Majority Leader Tom DeLay of Texas. The year to come will likely be worse.

And finally, the conservative public advocacy group, Judicial Watch has called on Tom DeLay to resign his post as majority leader:

Judicial Watch, the conservative public interest group that investigates and prosecutes government corruption, today called on Rep. Tom DeLay to step down as House Majority Leader in the wake of the bipartisan House Ethics Committee’s recent findings that he acted improperly in attempting to win a vote from Rep. Nick Smith in exchange for endorsing Smith’s son in a congressional primary. It is the second time that DeLay has been chastised by the ethics panel.


“Frankly, the ethics report was too kind to Mr. DeLay and the other House members implicated in the controversy. Mr. DeLay’s actions in trying to trade a political endorsement for a vote were inappropriate and unacceptable, and given this grave ethical lapse, he should step down as Majority Leader. The Republican Party should not countenance its leadership violating House rules and standards of ethical behavior,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton.

Also following the story around the blogs are Off the Kuff, Taking on Tom DeLay and Gregs Opinion.

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DeLay Rumor from DC

By Andrew Dobbs

Word round the campfire is that a DeLay decision will come down tonight, probably around 7 PM CDT. Word is there will be a CD-ROM released, which suggests exhibits, evidence that sort of thing. "Censure" has been on a lot of lips. Can't confirm it, but where there's smoke, there tends to be fire.

Just reporting what I've heard, don't shoot the messenger.

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October 04, 2004

On Agreeing With InstaPundit

By Jim Dallas

Wow, I thought I'd never see the day:

Personally, I'd be delighted to live in a country where happily married gay couples had closets full of assault weapons.

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Annoy Tom Coburn

By Byron LaMasters

The man called the good folks of Oklahoma City "crapheads". Now, I certainly disagree with the average Oklahoman on a number of issues (not the least of which being who's gonna win in Dallas next weekend), but I've never called them "crapheads". On the other hand, the Republican that wants to represent them in the U.S. Senate has done just that:

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September 28, 2004

Does Wohlgemuth Represent Ohio Values?

By Byron LaMasters

Yesterday, State Rep. Arlene Wohlgemuth campaigned with President Bush in Ohio:

Republican Congressional candidate Arlene Wohlgemuth traveled with the president to a couple of campaign stops in Ohio Monday and walked down the stairs of Air Force One with President Bush Monday night in Waco.

As state representative, Arlene Wohlgemuth authored the bill to cut over 130,000 kids off the CHIP program:

State Rep.'s bill has caused 130,000 Texas children to lose health insurance; Results in higher local taxes and health insurance premiums.


Wohlgemuth, as chair of the Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee, wrote the law that "reorganized" the Texas Health and Human Services Department. The bill, HB 2292, has made it more difficult for working families to qualify for CHIP by cutting continuous eligibility in half (from 12 months to 6 months) and imposing a 90-day waiting period on new CHIP applicants. CHIP is intended to serve working families who make between 100%--200% of the poverty level—up to $37,700 for a family of four. Congress designed CHIP to help families making too much money to qualify for Medicaid, but too little to afford private insurance.

Wohlgemuth's bill also eliminated dental care and eyeglass coverage from CHIP. CHIP is not free—families pay a monthly premium to enroll in the program.

Arlene Wohlgemuth votes against health care for poor kids. Arlene Wohlgemuth campaigns with George W. Bush in Ohio. Does Arlene Wohlgemuth represent Ohio values (or heck anything other than her own right-wing extremist agenda)?

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September 24, 2004

RNC: Liberals are Evil

By Byron LaMasters

First, Oklahoma GOP Senate candidate Tom Coburn cast his race as good vs. evil.

Then, the RNC sent mailers to Arkansas and West Virginia saying to vote Republican because liberals will ban the bible.

Now, they're hitting New Mexico and Florida with radio ads that mimic Coburn's good vs. evil rhetoric:

A Republican radio ad airing in swing states in this presidential election— including New Mexico— paints voters' choices as between good and the threat of evil.

"There is a line drawn in America today," the Republican National Committee ad says. "On one side are the radicals trying to uproot our traditional values and our culture."

In a bitterly fought presidential election, the ad minces no words in laying out the differences facing a polarized electorate, although it never mentions President Bush's re-election effort.

The ad alludes to gay marriage and accuses "radicals" of conspiring against the conservative agenda: "They're fighting to hijack the institution of marriage ... plotting to legalize partial birth abortion ... and working to take God out of the Pledge of Allegiance and force the worst of Hollywood on the rest of America."

"Are you on their side of the line?" the ad asks. "Or do you believe our values made our country great by keeping our families strong?"

The ad encourages listeners to register to vote and to support "conservative Republican candidates."

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September 23, 2004

Anyone else see a Theme?

By Byron LaMasters

Repeat after me. Repeat in every congressional district where ARMPAC has dumped money. ARMPAC money is DeLay money. DeLay money is dirty money. Dirty money is very, very bad. If you have dirty money, you should give it back. If you don't give back dirty money then you're just a typical corrupt, worthless, no-good Tom DeLay lackey congressional pawn, and it's about time you got the boot.

Every Democrat in a race against an ARMPAC Republican should hammer away at the issue and demand that the Republican return their check. A brief google search shows the issue taking hold in House races across the country:


A spokesman for U.S. Rep. Max Sandlin on Wednesday challenged Republican congressional candidate Louie Gohmert to return "tainted cash" he has received from groups affiliated with U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay.


"As a young man, my parents taught me to never revel in the troubles of others, so I was disappointed, but not surprised, to learn that three of Tom DeLay's top lieutenants, and many of his cash contributors, were indicted for illegal campaign activity," Sandlin, D-Marshall, said in a statement.

Gohmert, whose campaign has received $10,000 from Americans for a Republican Majority, said Wednesday that the investigation should have no bearing on his campaign to unseat Sandlin in the 1st Congressional District.

AZ-1 (PDF file):

The Paul Babbitt campaign today called on Rick Renzi to return $15,000 in campaign funds from ARMPAC, a political committee named in felony indictments in Texas and run by House GOP Leader Tom DeLay (TX). ARMPAC’s executive director Jim Ellis and other aides to DeLay were indicted yesterday by a grand jury for money laundering, a first-degree felony.

“Rick Renzi has received thousands of dollars from a political committee involved in a felony money laundering scheme. Rep. Renzi should immediately give Tom DeLay his tainted money back,” said Paul Babbitt.

Using an accounting trick that credited a March 2003 contribution of $5,000 to the previous election cycle as “debt retirement,” Renzi has accepted $5,000 more than from ARMPAC than the legal limit of $10,000 per election cycle.


U.S. Rep. Rob Simmons, R-2nd District, and his challenger, Democrat Jim Sullivan, continued to fire away at one another Wednesday, with Sullivan calling for Simmons to return a campaign contribution from a political committee whose aides were indicted the day before.


At the center of Sullivan's demand was the indictment Tuesday of three men, including Jim Ellis, a top aide of House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, and John Colyandro, executive director of his political committee, Americans for a Republican Majority, or ARMPAC.


Simmons has received $10,000, the legal maximum, from ARMPAC, which has distributed more than $780,000 to Republican candidates in the current election cycle.


Democrats on Thursday called on New Jersey Rep. Mike Ferguson to return $10,000 in campaign money he received from a political committee named in felony indictments and associated with House Majority Leader Tom DeLay of Texas.

Good to see Dems turning up the heat on Tom DeLay's congressional lackeys... help the DCCC expose them all with a donation.

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September 22, 2004

Why to give to the DCCC?

By Byron LaMasters

Because unlike any other major national Democratic committees, they can make the difference between winning and losing in the final weeks of the election. And for everyone complaining that Texas sends millions of dollars to the D.C. committees and doesn't get a cent in return, give to the DCCC. Texas has six competetive congressional races this cycle. SIX! That's about two more than any other state. So for the first time in a long time, Texas (via the DCCC) will see money coming into it from other states. Read Joe Trippi on the Stakeholder on how the DCCC really does make a tangible difference in these races that we're talking about everyday on here.

If he makes as much sense to you, as he does to me, send them a few bucks.

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Well, Your Honor, It's Funny That You Mention That...

By Jim Dallas

Justice Scalia says its time for the Court to stop hearing so many morally-charged, "political" cases.

Funny, I feel the same way.

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The New and Improved Democratic Party

By Jim Dallas

Apparently this was under the radar until tonight, but tomorrow we're going to get the unveiling of the DCCC's version of the Contract with America.

Here's to hoping the best for the D-trip's manifesto.

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September 20, 2004

Thoughts on an Idea

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

The other week my mother sent me a very interesting e-mail with an idea in it which I have been meaning to post here for your review so here goes...

I feel so frustrated every time I watch the news and read the paper because of the war, but yesterday with the death toll at 1000 American soldiers really got to me. And all for nought, such needless, senseless deaths for such a bogus sham of a war. I guess because I am a mom I always think, that was someones boy, that could have been my boy.

I wish there was something that I could do to make people more aware of the situation, surely we have not all forgotten Vietnam.

I was thinking, is there anyway to find out where or who made those yellow Lance Armstrong wristbands?

I would like to see the company make black ones with white letters that say "NO MORE WAR". And they would cost a dollar and the money would go to making a memorial for all those fallen soldiers. This would be a non-partisan action, it would be for anyone that wants to make the statement that the war needs to end, that there should be no more wars like it. It would not be a money maker for anyone (except to cover the costs of the wristbands of course)

Would do you think I could contact? Would putting out a note on the Burnt Orange or the Daily Kos work asking for someone who knows someone to see about this? I feel that a statement should be made, and the Armstrong wristbands were a very powerful message.

So here goes, comments anyone?

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September 17, 2004

More on Oklahoma

By Byron LaMasters

Since the Oklahoma race is my adopted senate race this cycle (since Texas doesn't have one), I thought I'd post the good news.

SoonerPoll.com shows Carson with a seven point 42-35% lead. Note that the SoonerPoll.com is a Republican poll.

So what's the latest in the race?

Republican Tom Coburn has pissed off Oklahoman Native American tribal leaders:

In a news release Thursday, tribal leaders quoted Coburn as calling treaties between the United States and Indian Nations "a joke" and "primitive agreement(s)."

"I mean, this is a joke," Coburn was quoted as saying. "It is one thing for us to keep our obligations to recognize Native Americans, but it's a totally different thing for us to allow a primitive agreement with the Native Americans to undermine Oklahoma's future."

Ya know, those primative Injuns! That's how Republicans think I guess.

And of course, the woman whom Tom Coburn sterilized without her consent is speaking out:

Angela Plummer says Coburn removed a fallopian tube without asking - while operating on her for an ectopic pregnancy. It happened during emergency surgery in Muskogee in 1990.

“Doctor Tom Coburn sterilized me without consent, verbal or written; I know he's stating he got oral consent, that's not true.”

And check out Brad Carson's latest TV ad entitled "Heard it all". Brad Carson's wife can vouch for Brad. He's not evil.

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169,000,000 Cell Phone Users Can't be wrong

By Byron LaMasters

Except when they're not polled.

Oh and check out the internals of the Gallup poll while your at it. No wonder they have Bush with a double digit lead when they sample 40% Republicans and only 33% Democrats. That's an eleven point swing from 2000 - where Zogby estimates that 39% of voters were Democrats and 35% were Republicans.

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September 16, 2004

Amend the Constitution- Let Naturalized Citizens Run for Prez

By Andrew Dobbs

CNN just talked about US Rep. Dana Rohrbacher's (R-CA) proposed constitutional amendment to let naturalized citizens run for President of the United States. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) has, of course, offered similar legislation in the Senate. While these people appear to be boosting Arnold Schwarzenegger's chances for the top job, I think that there is a better reason to pass and ratify this amendment.

Because it is the right thing to do.

You see, the constitutional prohibition against naturalized citizens running for president is actually one of the least reasonable parts of the document. Rather than springing from the thoughtful philosophy of federalism or republicanism or a wise protection against tyranny, the prohibition was born of pure political partisanship. Opponents of Alexander Hamilton, who was born in England, wanted to keep the frequently enervating (the man was killed in a duel for chrissakes) Hamilton out of the office of President. So naturalized citizens since then have been barred from the White House because a handful of otherwise brilliant men let their conniving get to them.

Naturalized citizens can serve in any office except for President or Vice President. We have had naturalized cabinet members (Madeline Albright), Congressmen (Tom Lantos), Governors (Schwarzenegger, MI Gov. Jennifer Granholm), Mayors, Senators and every other office imaginable. They have yet to overthrow our democracy in the name of the Kaiser or any other "prince or potentate" as of today and I don't believe serving as president would make things worse.

The people who choose to go through the naturalization process work incredibly hard and develop a deep love and knowledge of our nation. People who want to harm us do not bother with that process. This is the last great discrimination written into our election laws (with the possible outstanding violations of the District of Columbia and paroled felons)- it is time that we got rid of it. I'll be writing my congressman and senators to urge them to support this constitutional amendment.

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September 14, 2004

Dick Morris's readers don't really like him that much.

By Jim Dallas

Well, OK, mayyyyybe it's just me.

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Tom Coburn in a Sentence

By Byron LaMasters

Tom Coburn really is about the nuttiest U.S. Senate candidate with a chance of actually winning (thus, Alan Keyes is excluded here) since Oliver North. If you haven't been following the race, check out Salon for the latest. Atrios posted on Coburn yesterday, too. Anyway, I decided to have a little fun with Tom Coburn's wackiness tonight, and came up with a sentence:

Tom Coburn is an death penalty-prescribing (for abortion doctors), yet abortion-providing, homosexual-obsessing, female-sterilizing, medicaid-defrauding, name-calling, Schindler's List-condemning, base-closing, farm-destroying, road-decaying, ski chalet-owning, Club for Growth-pandering, hatemongering, hypocrite who says he won't raise taxes, but wants a Senate pay increase as Oklahoma's next senator.

So yeah, donate to Brad Carson. If you donate to one senate candidate, donate to Carson, because 1) Obama will win, 2) Coburn is the scariest senate candidate with a chance of winning since Oliver North, and 3) a senate majority will be gained only through a victory in Oklahoma.

Update: Kos has the latest independent poll numbers for the race showing a statistical tie.

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September 13, 2004

Better late than never

By Jim Dallas

Funny, I don't remember the national media really mentioning this until today:


Studies done by pro- and antigun groups as well as the Justice Department show conflicting results on whether the ban helped reduce crime. Loopholes allowed manufacturers to keep many weapons on the market simply by changing their names or altering some of their features or accessories. (Assault weapons ban to expire Monday)

Gun shop owners said the expiration of the ban will have little effect on the types of guns and accessories that are typically sold and traded across their counters every day.

At the Boise Gun Co., gunsmith Justin Davis last week grabbed up a black plastic rifle resembling the U.S. military's standard issue M-16 from a row of more than a dozen similar weapons stacked against a wall.

The civilian version of the gun, a Colt AR-15 manufactured before 1994, could be sold last week just as easily as it can be sold this week. "It shoots exactly the same ammo at exactly the same rate of fire," said Davis.

Of course, I'm sure this means that drug-dealers and terrorists will now all be lining up to buy newly-legal assault weapons like TEC-9s. Out the door and around the block.

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September 11, 2004

In the Wings

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

It's almost 4 pm and I can't believe that none of the other Burnt Orangers have written a Sept. 11 post. So neither will I.

As much as I'd like to reflect on today as a great day or mourning and remembrance, which it is, the more immediate questions is whether or not American's are making the sacrifice to reduce terror and the causes of it around to world.

In George W's mind, that of course means Iraq, which thanks to him actually has become a new front in the 'war on terror'. And just this last week, we acknowledged that 1,000 American's sacrificed their lives for Bush's lies.

Roberto Abad and Robert P. Jr. Zurheide

What do these two men have in common? They are the "A" and "Z" of 1000 Americans and in between them lie 998 more pictures of soldiers now gone from this world because of lies.

That is the most moving thing I have seen in months. Thanks to the New York Times (and George Bush) the Thousand Image Roster of the Dead.

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September 09, 2004

Can anybody hook a person such as myself up with an AK?

By Jim Dallas

Starting Monday, the answer is... sortof (to the extent that any AKs not banned by previous legislation will be legal).

CNN: No vote to renew Assault Weapons Ban

Regardless of your feelings on this (and my feelings are mixed), why do I get the feeling that Frist is making stuff up?

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Congress will not vote on an assault weapons ban due to expire Monday, Republican leaders said Wednesday, rejecting a last-ditch effort by supporters to renew it.

"I think the will of the American people is consistent with letting it expire, so it will expire," Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, a Tennessee Republican, told reporters.

The 10-year ban, signed by President Bill Clinton in 1994, outlawed 19 types of military-style assault weapons. A clause directed that the ban expire unless Congress specifically reauthorized it.

The Daily Cougar had an article about this on Tuesday.

P.S. Yes the title was changed, on the grounds that it was potentially offensive.

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September 08, 2004

They told us it would be Easy

By Byron LaMasters

Remember Shock and Awe? Remember how we'd crush Iraq in a matter of days with swift, coordinated attacks and the best military technology in the world? Well, we did. And that was the easy part. If only they would have had a coherent plan for the peace...

Why couldn't the war have just lasted one month as Bush would have led us to believe when he said "Mission Accomplished"?

Seriously, how can anyone make a rational case for Bush's leadership in Iraq? He told us that all the major combat opperations were completed, only to see more than four times more Americans lose their lives than before major combat opperations were completed - not to mention entire cities are still uncontrollabe and ungovernable.

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September 07, 2004

The crisis of libertarian fundamentalism

By Jim Dallas

Matt Yglesias notes a particularly egregious example of the quasi-libertarian/corporate mouthpiece junkscience.com's "deny the problem exists" reflex.

It's arguable that Matt over-reaches here when he implicitly ascribes the pollyanna position to libertarians generally, but I think it has some merit. I'm come across too many people who are desperate to deny global warming or second-hand smoke or... whatever.

Matt asks:

[W]hy all the libertarian interest in these sort of debunkings (or, at times, purported debunkings) of public health research[?] Would the philosophy of individual rights suddenly become false if it could be conclusively proven that a 50 cents per bag tax on Doritos would improve American life expectancy?

And that's the thing. There are, as far as I can tell, three kinds of libertarian rhetors (and this template applies also to liberals and conservatives and... whatever... but in different ways):

(1) People who deny that problems exist, in the process making themselves look silly;

(2) People that acknowledge that the problem exists, but insist that any solution incompatible with their ideology be excluded from consideration on moral grouns; and

(3) People who are willing to constructively propose solutions that are compatible with their ideological views, and accept some solutions that are not compatible as compromise.

Needless to say, I have very little patience with the first group of libertarians (or liberals, or commies, or conservatives); I disagree heartily with the second, but respect them; and with the third I am in general agreement.

But it seems to me that (largely due to corporate influence, and John Stossel, I think) this first group predominates. And as long as that happens, I think it's clear that libertarianism is going no-where.

UPDATE: Sorry about the lack of clarity. Forgot to insert a key word in the last graf as I was reworking it.

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If at first you don't succeed fail, redefine success failure.

By Jim Dallas

Kevin Drum's insight on the No Child Left Behind Act:

Later on the story quotes some suburban parents who are concerned that labeling their local school a failure will cause their property values to fall. This might actually be amusing if it weren't for the fact that labeling schools as failures isn't an unexpected consequence of NCLB. In fact, it's precisely the point of NCLB — at least for some people.

As I mentioned last year, NCLB mandates that each state has to set standards for student achievement, and by 2014 every single student must meet those standards. Any school with less than 100% success is deemed to be failing. What's more, even in the period between now and 2014, while pass rates are "only" 80 or 90 percent and we're still working our way toward the El Dorado of 100%, there's an absurd concoction of thinly sliced categories mandated by the act, and failure in any one category marks the offending school as a failure. It's pretty obvious that there are a suspiciously large number of ways to fail, and as the years go by the number of "failing" schools will slowly increase to 100%.

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September 04, 2004

Should the U.S. House Investigate Abu Ghraib?

By Byron LaMasters

Republicans say no! Via the Stakeholder:

Four More Years? The vote to establish an independent House investigation was held on May 20, 2004. Out of 228 Republicans, 6 did not vote, 0 voted Aye, and 222 voted No, including:

Renzi (AZ-1); Beauprez (CO-7); Simmons (CT-2);
Shays (CT-4); Shaw (FL-22); Burns (GA-12);
Crane (IL-8); Hastert (IL-14); Nussle (IA-1);
Hostettler (IN-8); Ryun (KS-2); Northup (KY03);
Graves (MO-6); Terry (NE-2); Ferguson (NJ-7);
Wilson (NM-1); Gerlach (PA-6)

Don't forget about DeLay, Sessions and Neugebauer. All three Texas Republicans voted not to investigate what happened in the Abu Ghraib prison.

Send them a message by donating to Morrison, Frost and Stenholm.

Update: It looks like Charlie Stenholm is attempting to "fill the boot" by raising $10,000 online in September, so help him fill the boot.

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September 03, 2004

How to Nominate a Minority Republican

By Byron LaMasters

I think its a good thing that Democrats and Republicans have collectively nominated five Hispanics and African-Americans for U.S. Senate (Obama D-IL, Keyes R-IL, Salazar D-CO, Majette D-GA, Martinez R-FL) in this cycle. While there are currently no Blacks or Hispanics in the U.S. Senate, there will likely be two or three next year. That's a good thing for the progress of race relations in America. But what's not good for America is the manner in which racial minorities campaign in order to win the acceptance of a party that is super-majority White, has no African-American congressmen, and only one non-Cuban Hispanic congressman.

In order to win the Republican nomination, minorities must prove to the base of the Republican Party that they can hate just as well as Tom DeLay, Tom Tancredo and Rick Santorum. For Vernon Robinson - who emerged from nowhere to almost win a GOP primary in North Carolina last month - it was about hating immigrants. For U.S. Senate nominees Mel Martinez and Alan Keyes, its about hating gay people.

The Boston Globe reports on Mel Martinez:

Martinez, a former secretary of Housing and Urban Development in the Bush administration who ran as a moderate, created a furor in the last weeks of the Republican primary campaign when he accused opponent Bill McCollum of being hostage to the ''radical homosexual lobby" because McCollum, a former US House member, supported hate crimes legislation. Martinez also said McCollum was antifamily because he backed embryonic stem-cell research.


But Democrats say Martinez's remarks about gays in a television ad and a campaign mailing reflect a ''bigoted" GOP agenda, followed by recent remarks by Alan Keyes, the Republican US Senate nominee in Illinois, that gays, including Vice President Dick Cheney's daughter Mary, were guilty of ''selfish hedonism."

''Why don't they have Alan Keyes, who said what he said about Dick Cheney's daughter, and Mel Martinez, who bashed Bill McCollum as a sympathizer with the 'extreme homosexual lobby,' on the podium? They can show the true diversity of their party: an African-American Republican and a Cuban-American Republican who equally hate gay people," said Brad Woodhouse, spokesman for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

In the Republican Party, supporting additional penalties for hate-related crimes is considered giving in to the "radical homosexual lobby". I can only see two possible explanations. Either the Republicans are soft on crime, or Republicans hate gay people. Any of my Republican friends care to answer that question?

In fact, Martinez's attack were so hysterical, that the St. Petersburg Times rescinded their endorsement of Martinez in the final week of the campaign:

The Times originally recommended former U.S. Housing Secretary Mel Martinez to Republican voters in Tuesday's U.S. Senate primary, but that was before Martinez took his campaign into the gutter with hateful and dishonest attacks on his strongest opponent, former U.S. Rep. Bill McCollum. The Times is not willing to be associated with bigotry. As a result, we are taking the almost unprecedented step of rescinding our recommendation of Martinez.


No matter what else Martinez may accomplish in public life, his reputation will be forever tainted by his campaign's nasty and ludicrous slurs of McCollum in the final days of this race. The slurs culminated with Martinez campaign advertisements that label McCollum - one of the most conservative moralists in Washington during his 20 years as a U.S. representative - "the new darling of the homosexual extremists" because he once favored a hate crime law that had bipartisan support. A few days earlier, the Martinez campaign arranged a conference call with reporters in which a group of right-wing Martinez supporters labeled McCollum "antifamily." Why? Because McCollum supports expanded stem cell research to find cures for deadly diseases - a position that is identical to those of Nancy Reagan, Connie Mack and many other prominent Republicans.

At Friday night's Republican Senate debate, McCollum confronted Martinez and called on him to repudiate his campaign's sleazy, homophobic advertisements. Martinez refused. Later, he said he "wouldn't be in favor of that kind of rhetoric." But the rhetoric calling McCollum "the new darling of the homosexual extremists" and accusing him of making "statements in order to appease . . . the radical homosexual lobby" was included in advertising paid for by the Martinez campaign. If Martinez failed to review the ads before they were sent out under his name, he was irresponsible. If he knew what was in the ads and is now trying to distance himself, he is being dishonest. Either way, Floridians deserve better in a U.S. senator.

We don't need any more hatemongers in the U.S. Senate. Donate to the Democrat in the race, Betty Castor.

As for Alan Keyes - it's pretty much the accepted conventional wisdom that he's a certifiable nutcase, but in case you missed it, he took the opportunity to attack Dick Cheney's family at the very convention that was renominating him for Vice President. It would have been comparable to Barack Obama calling Jack and Emma Claire Edwards "dumb, retarded little kids". Here's what Keyes said about Mary Cheney:

Alan Keyes, the Republican candidate for Senate in Illinois, told a radio reporter at the Republican National Convention that gays and lesbians are "selfish hedonists," including Mary Cheney, the lesbian daughter of Vice President Dick Cheney.

A spokeswoman for the vice president called Mr. Keyes's statements "inappropriate.''

Mr. Keyes, a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination in 2000, made the comments in an interview with Sirius OutQ, a radio station aimed primarily at a gay and lesbian audience. Asked about his views of same-sex marriage, Mr. Keyes said he believed marriage should be limited to heterosexuals because it is grounded in sexual reproduction. Same-sex relationships, he asserted, manifested "selfish hedonism."

Asked if that meant Mary Cheney was a "selfish hedonist," too, Mr. Keyes said, "Of course she is," according to a transcript.

Memo to minorities running in GOP primaries (or wanting to get appointed to a nomination after the primary winner's divorce records are unsealed) - If you can convince the rank and file that you're one of them, talk about how much you hate gay people. It's a guaranteed winner.

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September 02, 2004


By Jim Dallas

First we had the "national sales tax" trial balloon from Speaker Hastert. Now we have LaRouchie conspiracy theories. (Link to Off the Kuff).

Get this man away from the levers of power now!

In other news, I'm still emotionally mixed about the Zell Miller speech. As I've intimated, I think that this speech had some potential to "turn-on" some Republicans and right-wing independents. I say this because in the last year I've learned that, when it comes to rhetoric, insanity is relative. I was in the convention hall with Howard Dean during the infamous "scream" speech, and I liked it. So I guess Republicans and other kool-aid drinkers are entitled to think positively about Miller's blood-curdlingly bellicose speech.

(Has it ever occurred to you that the Internet is populated by extremely partisan hacks? Or am I just projecting?)

And as always, I feel mixed about the man myself. It's unfortunate, but this year I've pretty much lost all respect that I had gained for Zell after he stood up against the media for making fun of hillbillies.

(This is the point where I was going to compare Zell Miller to Al Sharpton, but then realized I couldn't say it in a way that didn't sound blithely politically incorrect).

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August 30, 2004

The Alan Keyes drinking game

By Jim Dallas

DailyKOS: Alan Keyes is not making sense.

Every time he says the word "corrupt", take one shot.

Every time he implies Barack Obama "can't win", take two shots.

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August 29, 2004

Stop it.

By Jim Dallas

TAPPED has a little ditty implying that John O'Neill should be disbarred.

There are lots of things which ought right to be done to John O'Neill (one of the Swifties), but disbarment, at least for the reasons cited in the TAPPED post, is probably not one of them. To begin with , 8.02 seems to apply strictly to judicial candidates - judges, district attorneys, and attorneys general. Why drawing the line there would make sense ought to be obvious. But if it doesn't consider the reasoning in comment 8.02.1 - "Assessments by lawyers are relied on in evaluating the professional or personal fitness of persons being considered for election or appointment to judicial office and to
public legal offices, such as attorney general, prosecuting attorney and public defender. Expressing honest and candid opinions on such matters contributes to improving the administration of justice." It is this duty to uphold the administration of justice that creates a special obligation for attorneys not to engage in gutter-campaigning against judges and other attorneys.

Second, 8.04 would, I believe, is extremely general, almost a sort of catchall "don't do bad stuff." And the thrust of it, as far as I can tell, is that it is aimed at stuff that lawyers do in their capacity as lawyers, or that would reflect upon their lawyering. That said, I think the Swifties stuff makes O'Neill look hackish, but that doesn't necessarily change my opinion on his other professional activities.

If you're going to start pulling rules out of thin air, oughtn't the Bar ignore you?

This is just silly. Stop the "hunting of the Bush lawyers" on flimsy grounds.

UPDATE: On the other hand, the case against Ben Ginsburg is looking pretty solid.

Rule 8.02 Judicial and Legal Officials (a) A lawyer shall not make a statement that the lawyer knows to be false or with reckless disregard as to its truth or falsity concerning the qualifications or integrity of a judge, adjudicatory official or public legal officer, or of a candidate for election or appointment to judicial or legal office. (b) A lawyer who is a candidate for judicial office shall comply with the applicable provisions of the Texas Code of Judicial Conduct. (c) A lawyer who is a candidate for an elective public office shall comply with the applicable provisions of the Texas Election Code. Comment: 1. Assessments by lawyers are relied on in evaluating the professional or personal fitness of persons being considered for election or appointment to judicial office and to public legal offices, such as attorney general, prosecuting attorney and public defender. Expressing honest and candid opinions on such matters contributes to improving the administration of justice. Conversely, false statements by a lawyer can unfairly undermine public confidence in the administration of justice. 2. When a lawyer seeks judicial or other elective public office, the lawyer should be bound by applicable limitations on political activity. 3. To maintain the fair and independent administration of justice, lawyers are encouraged to continue traditional efforts to defend judges and courts unjustly criticized.

Rule 8.04 Misconduct
(a) A lawyer shall not:
(1) violate these rules, knowingly assist or induce another to do so, or do so through the
acts of another, whether or not such violation occurred in the course of a client-lawyer
(2) commit a serious crime or commit any other criminal act that reflects adversely on
the lawyers honesty, trustworthiness or fitness as a lawyer in other respects;
(3) engage in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation;
(4) engage in conduct constituting obstruction of justice;
(5) state or imply an ability to influence improperly a government agency or official;
(6) knowingly assist a judge or judicial officer in conduct that is a violation of applicable
rules of judicial conduct or other law;
(7) violate any disciplinary or disability order or judgment;
(8) fail to timely furnish to the Chief Disciplinary Counsels office or a district grievance
committee a response or other information as required by the Texas Rules of
Disciplinary Procedure, unless he or she in good faith timely asserts a privilege or other
legal ground for failure to do so;
(9) engage in conduct that constitutes barratry as defined by the law of this state;
(10) fail to comply with section 13.01 of the Texas Rules of Disciplinary Procedure
relating to notification of an attorneys cessation of practice;
(11) engage in the practice of law when the lawyer is on inactive status or when the
lawyers right to practice has been suspended or terminated, including but not limited to
situations where a lawyers right to practice has been administratively suspended for
failure to timely pay required fees or assessments or for failure to comply with Article
XII of the State Bar Rules relating to Mandatory Continuing Legal Education; or
(12) violate any other laws of this state relating to the professional conduct of lawyers
and to the practice of law.
(b) As used in subsection (a)(2) of this Rule, serious crime means barratry; any felony
involving moral turpitude; any misdemeanor involving theft, embezzlement, or fraudulent
or reckless misappropriation of money or other property; or any attempt, conspiracy,
or solicitation of another to commit any of the foregoing crimes.

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August 27, 2004

Gosh darn it to heck!

By Jim Dallas

Looks like I'm gonna have to endorse Barack Obama after all.

They're giving me no choice.

At least in high school they had an "election" so nerds like Alan Keyes (and me) could get trounced by the popular kids the old-fashioned way.

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Annoy Zigzag Zell

By Byron LaMasters

The good folks at Zellout spell it out for anyone who isn't already convinced that Zell Miller has turned into a not-so-closeted Republican. His office staff should have done what Rodney Alexander's office staff did when he switched parties, and resigned. They didn't, so take this opportunity to annoy his office staff by flooding Zell's email account in response to his nomination of George W. Bush.

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Try the salmon.

By Jim Dallas

Brad DeLong presents us with a socratic dialogue at a buffet with the ghost of Daniel Webster (need I say more?).

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And I ran... I ran so far awaay...

By Jim Dallas

Rep. Henry Bonilla (R-Texas) on why he loves New York City:

Favorite NYC Memory: "Going to see the band Flock of Seagulls in 1983 for only $1.00. After the concert we saw David Bowie walking down the street. It was a great night and great memory."


UPDATE: The Stakeholder notes something a little more interesting about NYC-loving Republicans Rep. Richard Pombo (Calif.) and Gov. Linda Lingle (Hawaii).

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August 24, 2004

Alan Keyes on Sex

By Byron LaMasters

Because, well, that's what Alan Keyes really likes to talk about, and what the Illinois Senate race should be about if you ask him:

''First, no study has made such a determination. . . . And I say that unequivocally. I've looked at the question many times. Second, we are all in a certain sense genetically and biologically predisposed to a kind of sexual promiscuity. We want to engage and indulge our sexual appetites in ways that have no respect for basic human requirements, conventions, family responsibilities and so forth. That's not just true of homosexual people. That's true of heterosexual people. Healthy, red-blooded males who are sexually attracted to every attractive woman they see, and vice versa.

''We as human beings cannot assert that our sexual drive is uncontrollable. If we do, civilization is ended. These are not things we can't control. Our passions are precisely subject to our moral will and our rationality. That's what makes us human. So if you're going to tell me that the sexual impulse of anybody -- not just homosexuals -- is uncontrollable and you've got to do it, then you have removed us from the realm of human moral choice and you have consigned us to the realm of instinctive necessity and animal nature. And we are not there. I will not deny our humanity.

''So I think that in this area as in all the areas of passion: our anger, our greed, our resentment, our jealousy -- these are all passions that can be very strong in us but which we know must be disciplined and regulated by our moral will for the sake of conscience and human community. And we have to expect that of one another. Do you realize that the very idea of freedom and self-government is absurd if we are, in fact, subject to uncontrollable passions? Then we're not free. We're slaves to our passions. But that's not so. We believe in this country, in liberty, in . . . true moral choice. And that moral choice is possible with respect to sexual action to such a degree you don't even have to engage in sexual activity. You can refrain from it altogether, if you think that is required by the dictates of moral conscience. And that capacity shouldn't be denied in any human being. And I don't think it's a question of homosexual or heterosexual. It's a question of humanity.''

That's nice Alan. Now, why don't we go back to the real issues that people care about.

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Red State / Blue State Suicide Rates

By Byron LaMasters

I generally find these type of statistics stupid. Both Republicans and Democrats will both take various statistics to prove that Blue / Red America is more advanced, patriotic, American, etc. than the other. Having said that, I found these suicide statistics interesting from the Boston Globe over the weekend:

WHEN DEMOCRATS and Republicans decided where to hold their national conventions, they probably didn't know that Massachusetts and New York have the lowest suicide rates in the nation, about 6.5 per 100,000 people per year. The national average is 10.7, and states with the biggest problem are in the 19 to 20 range.

Suicide rates in the United States generally rise as you go south and west. Earlier this year, I got interested in the exceptions to that rule, so I decided to create a map. States with lower than average suicide rates I colored blue; the rest I colored red.

And there it was: an approximation of the year 2000 presidential election map.

Thirteen states and the District of Columbia have lower than average suicide rates. All but one voted for Al Gore. Of the remaining 37 states, 29 voted for George W. Bush. The five states with the most lopsided Bush vote (Alaska, Montana, Wyoming, Utah and Idaho, with a margin of 25 percent or more) were all among the top eight for suicide.


In a 2002 study, Dr. Jean McSween of the University of Virginia found that people who identify themselves as Republican and conservative are less likely to favor government spending for mental health. Her research also showed they are more likely to fear violence from the mentally ill and want to keep their distance from people with mental disorders. It's not surprising that the Wellstone Mental Health Equitable Treatment Act has languished in the Republican-controlled Congress despite having numerous cosponsors.

I do think that there is a point here. Mental health should not be a political issue. It's a human issue that should be above politics. An arguement could be made from this research that more Democratic / liberal / blue states spend more on mental health and thus have less suicides and vice versa for Republican / conservative / red states. It's an interesting point, but there are surely many other factors at work here. Take it for what it's worth.

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August 23, 2004


By Byron LaMasters

I went to Oklahoma on Friday to volunteer with the Brad Carson for U.S. Senate campaign. My only regret is that I didn't take a camera. It was quite an experience. I have a friend that is working on the campaign out of the Ardmore office, so I offered to canvass with him on Friday afternoon. Ardmore is only about an hour and a half from north Dallas, and I got out of the city before rush hour so it was a surprisingly pleasant drive. Of course, it wasn't my first time to Ardmore either. I made it up there a year and three months ago when 51 Texas Democratic state representatives made the Holiday Inn their home for a week in order to delay redistricting. I blockwalked in the town of Madill, OK, population 3502.

I've always liked canvassing (except when it's a summer job in 100+ degree heat as I did for Tony Sanchez in 2002). It's much more fun than phone banking, because you can interact with people personally, and try to make a personal connection and sales pitch on behalf of your candidate. Elderly people are especially responsive. I've told many people that canvassing and speaking directly to voters is more of an education about politics than any government or political science class. But Madill was a bit challenging for me. I'm very outgoing, so it's usually easy for me to connect with people when I canvass. I have a good deal of experience canvassing in urban and suburban areas. Canvassing urban areas makes me feel right at home. There's lots of minorities, gays, young people, union folks, etc. - Democrats, my people. Suburban areas aren't as much fun, but growing up in suburban north Dallas, I'm good at connecting as I can pretty much come off as just another neighborhood college kid.

But Madill, OK is rural. Very rural. So when I knock on the door and a woman wearing a "I heart Sunday School" t-shirt opens, I know I have a difficult task ahead. Then I tell her about Brad Carson, and ask about her party affiliation. Sure enough, about thirty seconds later she goes into a rant about "those lesbians kissing on tv and those gays marching around like it's nothing" and a comment or two about abortion. Here's a woman who lives in a tiny house in a town where the average household makes $22,457 a year and lives in a house worth $46,000 that cares more about her daughter or grand-daughter not seeing gays accepted on television than whether that child will be able to grow up in an America where they have guaranteed health insurance and a real opportunity to go to college.

I understand wealthy people who vote on social issues. I mean for wealthy people it doesn't really matter. It doesn't really matter whether you can buy a house with four bedrooms or with five. It doesn't really matter if you can buy a second home or a yacht. But it does matter if you can afford quality health care, feed your children and take care of elderly parents. Maybe I'm just going on an unintelligible liberal rant. It's not that I don't understand why people can have different opinions on social issues than myself. I understand that. But I can't understand why poor people in communities across America allow their social concerns to trump their economic self interest. Especially in a state like Oklahoma where their senate candidate, Brad Carson is just as conservative on social issues as most Republicans.

Anyway, I'll have more on Oklahoma throughout the week. I have several more stories to tell, and I'll get to them as I'm able.

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August 20, 2004

Solitaire was a big deal in 2002, but this?

By Byron LaMasters

Dallas County Democrats made a big deal of the fact that Judge Craig Fowler played Solitaire during court. Fowler's opponent, Lisa McKnight came within one percentage point of winning, and was one of the top Democratic vote-getters in the county.

Well, Oklahoma in 2004 has done us one better:

An Oklahoma judge facing removal over charges that he masturbated and used a device for enhancing erections under his robes during trials said on Wednesday he would retire from the bench.

Creek County District Judge Donald Thompson, 57, wrote to Oklahoma Gov. Brad Henry resigning effective Sept. 1, a move that will allow him to retire with a full pension.

A former state representative and a judge for 22 years, Thompson was accused by state Attorney General Drew Edmondson of using a "penis pump" to enhance erections during trials and exposing himself to a court reporter several times while masturbating on the bench.

The state Court on the Judiciary was scheduled to hear a motion on Friday to suspend Thompson.

The judge has denied the charges and did not refer to them in his letter of resignation.

"I have greatly enjoyed my public service and offer my gratitude for the public trust reposed in me during the terms I served," he said.

*Insert your Oklahoma joke here*

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August 14, 2004

More Alan Keyes Wisdom...

By Byron LaMasters

End the direct election of U.S. Senators:

Alan Keyes said he would like to end the system under which the people elect U.S. senators and return to pre-1913 practice in which senators were chosen by state legislatures.

The Republican Senate candidate in Illinois, asked about past comments on the election process, said Friday the constitutional amendment that provided for popular election of senators upset the balance between the people and the states.

"The balance is utterly destroyed when the senators are directly elected because the state government as such no longer plays any role in the deliberations at the federal level," Keyes said at a taping of WBBM Newsradio's "At Issue" program.

He said it was one of the reasons "there has been a steady deleterious erosion of the sovereign role of the states."

Now, I know that Republicans don't want people to vote, but it's a rare day when they'll actually admit it. So, kudos to Alan Keyes. He has the courage to say what Republicans actually believe, but rarely admit.

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August 13, 2004

Go Haley!

By Byron LaMasters

It's always fun to be able to recognize friends for a job well done. Well, today is one of those opportunities. My successor as President of the University Democrats - Haley Greer is "Staffer of the Week" for Campaign Corps. Haley graduated from UT this Spring, and now she's working on a targeted state representative race in Oregon. Via email:

Now that the 40 Campaign Corps staffers are out and in the field and working hard, we will be recognizing the exceptional work of one staffer each week with the "Staffer of the Week" competition. Attached is the first winner, Haley Greer, of Alvin, TX (who, incidentally was recommended to the program by '03 Alumna Audra Tafoya).

Kudos to Haley!

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August 12, 2004

In a totally serendipitous sort of way, Alan Keyes is making sense!

By Jim Dallas

Some say he's just crazy, but I say Alan Keyes is pandering to the key drum corps demographic.

With his stunning rendition of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," Keyes has surely locked up Cavaliers fans in Rosemont. And you know after winning four straight DCI titiles, you can't ever underestimate those people.

(If you don't understand what I'm talking about -- that's OK, although I think it's testimony to just how under-the-radar Keyes' nefarious coded appeals to band dorks are.)

In other Illinois Senate news, I keep confusing this guy with John Kerry...

(Hat tips to Cap'n Redbeard and Max).

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August 10, 2004

It's a Squeaker in Illinois...

By Byron LaMasters

To see if Barack Obama will defeat Alan Keyes by more than Paul Sarbanes and Barbara Mikulski did.....

1988: Sarbanes 62%, Keyes 38%.

1992: Mikulski 71%, Keyes 29%.

2004: Survey USA poll (PDF) - Obama 67%, Keyes 28%.

Personally, I'd bet on Obama between 62% and 71%, but then again you never know when Keyes compares himself to Lincoln, and Obama to slaveholders. The Illinois GOP could have at least tried to win this race, but this is more fun...

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Ok Kids, Here's a Question...

By Byron LaMasters

Which one of these four governors looks left out?

A. Guv Perry (R-TX)

B. Ahnold (R-CA)

C. Guv Napolitano (D-AZ)

D. Guv Richardson (D-NM)

Photo via the AP.

If you picked "A", you win! Ahnold is smart. He knows the good folks in California will appreciate it that he shares a laugh with two popular Democratic governors while giving the unpopular Republican the cold shoulder (Literally!).

Anyone that snubs Guv Goodhair earns points in my book. I just keep liking Ahnold even more...

Update: Or just suggest your own caption....

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August 07, 2004

Running Government Like a Business Insane Asylum

By Jim Dallas

The Houston Chronicle:

In 1960, there were 17 different executive titles in federal departments, and 451 people held those titles. The government resembled a pyramid, with most employees at the bottom, working on the front lines.

Today, the number of titles has swelled to 64 and the number of titleholders to 2,592, and the government looks more like a bloated pentagon, with a bulging middle and top and a shrinking bottom.

Light says this explains a lot — like why it's so hard to get someone to answer the telephone at federal agencies, or why there aren't enough FBI agents on the street or enough Border Patrol agents along the Rio Grande.

And, he says, it explains why people at the top of the heap often have no idea what's going on at the bottom. There are simply too many people in between, disrupting the flow of information up and down the line and distorting and corrupting it along the way.

"It's like that game we used to play as children, called Gossip or Telephone," he said. "You whisper a message to a child, the child whispers to the kid sitting next to him, and it is passed around the room. At the end of the game, you find out the message coming out is absolutely and completely different than the one you put in."

So is it any wonder that clues about the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks were not put together in time to prevent them? Is it surprising that top Pentagon officials were unaware of the photos showing abuse at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison, or that FBI officials didn't know about missing firearms and Los Alamos officials didn't know about missing computer disks?

And how was NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe to know that lower-level engineers were worried about damage to space shuttle Columbia's wing if no one deemed the information important enough to pass to the top people before the shuttle broke apart over Texas?

"The private sector experience has been that less is more in terms of layers," Light said. "The government philosophy is that more layers and more leaders equals more leadership and more accountability, and it's just not true."

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Shy Republicans

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

Thanks to the Patriot Act, enemy combatants being held around the world, and other Republican measures, we have learned how little Republicans really care about civil liberties and privacy rights. They aren't particularly worried about what all the FBI/CIA/ETC. can look into about you as far as information goes.

So I find it particularly ironic that the Florida Delegation to the Republican National Convention does not want to give out their names due to privacy concerns as reported here.

The Republican Party of Florida, citing security and privacy concerns, has refused to release a full list of the 112 delegates who will attend the party's convention in New York. The names of delegates, who formally endorse their party's candidate for the presidency, have historically been made public.

Democrats released a full list of their more than 4,300 delegates from around the nation, complete with many of their e-mail addresses and home counties, weeks before their party's convention in Boston. Other state GOPs also have released delegate lists.

But Florida Republican officials said they heard from several delegates who were concerned about their privacy or security.

"Our delegates' request for privacy and their well-being and safety are the top priority for the Republican Party of Florida," said spokesman Joseph Agostini.

Hahaha. I love it. Maybe they should ask Dick Cheney for some help keeping things secret, with all his experience from his energy task force dealings.

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State of the House

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

Two years ago, Congressional elections went very badly for Democrats as we lost seats thanks to a lack of message, spine, and money. Bush was King (in more than one way) and he led his party to victory. No one ever thought that in 2004 we would be where we are today. Kerry even or ahead in the polls, the Democratic Party flush with funds, and a base that is energized.

What may be even more stunning are stories like this where the topic is how Democratic leaders are saying how it's possible, possible to win back the House or come damn close to it. Who would have thunk it, eh?

How does the 1994 math look ten years later? Democrats see 33 seats across the country as competitive -- far less than the 68 in play in 1994, but then the Dems only need a net gain of 11 to win back the House. That means winning one out of every three competitive races -- easier, perhaps, than the one out of every 1.8 Gingrich's Republicans had to win in 1994.

Money is a second indicator encouraging Hoyer's optimism. Republicans have always raised truckloads more cash than Democrats in past elections. But for April, May and June of this year, House Democrats surged and by June 30, the Democratic campaign organization for the House had $18.5 million on hand compared with $20.2 million in GOP coffers -- a far narrower Republican cash-on-hand advantage of than in the past.

Also, the polls are looking better for Democrats. John Kerry has managed to survive the spring and summer barrage of GOP attack ads while President Bush's numbers have been sinking. But the polls to which congressional leaders in Washington pay more attention are the "generic" ones, where voters are asked whether they'll vote for a Republican or a Democrat in congressional races.

By early August 1994, Republicans had overtaken the Democrats in the generic polls and were leading by about two percentage points. In June and July of 2004, Democrats have had anywhere from a 6- to a 15-point advantage, depending on the poll.

Isn't it nice?

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August 06, 2004

Hart in Tennessee... Some Interesting Thoughts

By Andrew Dobbs

This story is getting quite a bit of traction in the online world. Turns out that the only Republican to file for the congressional primary in Tennessee's CD-8 is a White Supremacist booster of the discredited "science" of eugenics named James Hart. Good thing this is a solid Dem seat with 15 year incumbent James Tanner.

The local GOP declined to endorse Hart originally and supported a write in candidate who got about 20% of the vote.

Now here's the rub. This despicable guy is getting a lot of attention- I just saw a thing about him on CNN and we'll look at the papers over the next few days also. Most reasonable people and all members of the "unfavored races" as he calls them will be disgusted by such blatant racism and his psychotic policy proposals such as just printing more money to pay off our national debt (seriously). Having this guy's name on the ballot right under George Bush's can't help Bush and having him in the same party ties him to the president in a negative way. This guy has the potential to hurt Bush.

But there is a way Bush could get out of this bind- support Hart's Democratic opponent John Tanner. Tanner, according to the great new vote rating system from Progressive Punch is the 9th most conservative Democrat in the House. The American Conservative Union gives him a 43% lifetime rating and the Americans for Democratic Action give him a 46% rating. He's a conservative/moderate Dem and Bush could easily get away with supporting him, especially since the state and local GOP wants nothing to do with Hart. This would have the added benefit of making Bush look reasonable to many swing voters and Democrats a little uneasy with Kerry- it will be a big news story.

Bush, while he has traded in racism and used it to his advantage in the past (Bob Jones U., McCain's "Black baby," Haley Barbour, etc.) is not a racist as far as I can tell. He gains nothing from staying silent on this candidate and there is a perfectly viable option for him- support Tanner. Of course, Bush is far more interested in partisan oneupmanship than he is in doing the right thing so something tells me he won't say anything (or do like Perry did in regards to wingnut Steven Wayne Smith's 2002 candidacy for Texas Supreme Court- "I support all of the Republican ticket but I am pulling for some parts of it more than others") and as a result we should knock him in the jaw with this one. Barbour and Hart- two White supremacist bookends to sum up Bush's cynical views on race.

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Meeting Obama

By Andrew Dobbs

I don't know if you knew about this, but Barack Obama was in Austin last night for a fundraiser at former Land Commissioner Garry Mauro's Tarrytown home. Mauro planned the event long before last week's keynote address and was planning for maybe 50 people to join him with the senator. Last week's speech raised the stakes a bit so that he ended up with about 600 people crammed into Mauro's back yard in the sweltering August heat.

I heard about the event earlier this week and saw the event's organizer, political consultant (and great guy) Christian Archer in our office yesterday. I asked him if I could go if I promised to help out a little bit and he agreed. After helping with the throng at the registration table and running a rather frustrating errand (driving from Tarrytown to 5th and Lamar at 6:15 on a weekday- Austin residents understand the traffic situation) I got to mill around and drink a coulple of beers.

Mauro began by introducing all of the electeds and other important folks and then turned it over to Geronimo Rodriguez, a local political consultant and big time Edwards booster, who introduced Sen. Obama. Obama told some great jokes, including one about how much he loved Texas Democrats because progressives here aren't just doing it because its popular or it helps your career- you do it because you really believe it. He excited and amused the audience before stepping down to say hi to some people.

I managed to fight my way through the crush (being 6'5" and 300 pounds has its benefits) and got close enough to shake his hand and tell him that I supported him from the beginning- which is true, Byron introduced me to him months ago. I then got to have a picture taken with him (and a small group of people, but I was right next to him so I should be able to crop just the two of us out). It was exciting, it was marvelous and he is just as impressive and exciting in person as you would imagine.

I hope that Obama makes it as far as we all dream he could go- he can be the catalyst to a new progressive movement in this country. Not some movement based on outdated and ineffective liberal sacred cows but one that affirms all of our ideals. Obama is the key to all of our hopes and I am so excited to have him on our side. I will always remember last night and someday I will tell my kids all about the time I shook hands with the man they read about in their history books.

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Alan Keyes for Senate!

By Byron LaMasters

Tell Alan to Run!!!

But seriously, seeing the Illinois Republican Party implode is just completely priceless. Now, if only the Texas GOP would follow their leadership...

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August 04, 2004

Barack Obama Vs. Alan Keyes?

By Byron LaMasters

It's a possibility. The Chicago Tribune reports:

Illinois Republican leaders on Tuesday neared the end of their frustrating search for a candidate in the U.S. Senate race, selecting two African-Americans as finalists for the party's nomination to face Democrat Barack Obama, who also is black.

Following a meeting that lasted more than seven hours, the Illinois Republican State Central Committee selected Alan Keyes and Dr. Andrea Grubb Barthwell, two candidates who will likely face an uphill battle against Obama. Keyes has already lost two Senate races in Maryland and has few connections to Illinois while Barthwell boasts a long resume but has never run for elected office.

Still, the decision sets the stage for a historic Senate race in which for the first time in American history both major party candidates would be black. Both would be vying to become only the third elected black U.S. senator since the Reconstruction era.

With Keyes, 53, expected to fly into Chicago Wednesday to meet with the 19-member committee, the group planned to meet in the afternoon and make a final decision later in the day, Chairman Judy Baar Topinka said.

"We don't quite have white smoke yet," Topinka said, referring to the Vatican signal for the selection of a new pope. "But we have come up with two very good candidates."

A former GOP presidential candidate and conservative radio talk-show host, Keyes was pushed in recent days by Republicans who felt his stands on the issues sharply contrast to those of Obama, who the party has attempted to portray as too liberal for most of the state's voters.

I just LOVE how Republicans think. Hmmm, the Democrats nominated a Black guy, so we should, too! Then, the Black people will be confused and the White folks will salivate, because our Black guy is more in line with their values than their Black guy.

Anyway, my only question if Keyes gets the nod is if he can do worse against Barack Obama than he did in his 1992 Senate run against Barbara Mikulski in his home state of Maryland:

1992 U.S. Senate, General Election:

Barbara Mikulski (D) - 1,307,610 (71%)
Alan L. Keyes (R) - 533,688 (29%)

Hmm. I like Obama with 72%.

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August 03, 2004

Missouri on the Line

By Byron LaMasters

For everything you need to know and more about today's Missouri Democratic primaries, check out Archpundit or more specifically, Archpundit's Blog Saint Louis. Three big races in Missouri today. First is the race to succeed Dick Gephardt. The son of former Guv. Mel and former Sen. Jean Carnahan, Russ Carnahan seems to be the favorite, but the progressive / blog folks seem to be for Jeff Smith. In the Guv primary, incumbent guv Bob Holden seems poised to lose to Claire McCaskill. The conventional wisdom is that Holden is unpopular and would likely lose reelection to the Republican, whereas McCaskill would be able to run on a reformist message of change that would coordinate well with Kerry's message in a swing state. So, I'll be hoping for a McCaskill victory out of Missouri tonight. Archpundit offers his endorsement of McCaskill here. The third race of interest is vote on gay marriage. Basically, gay marriage is already illegal in Missouri, but it's critical that in order to save marriage that they have a vote to make it more illegal. Follow that logic, or read Archpundit's take on the matter. Anyway, I'll try my best to get some results posted tonight.

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July 21, 2004

Feds Cut Off Funds for Migrant Workers' Kids

By Andrew Dobbs

To crib (and paraphrase) an old joke from Saturday Night Live, Bush's score so far is conservative= 1,754 compassionate= 0. From the Associated Press:

Funding is being eliminated for a federal program that pays the children of migrant workers across the country to stay in school instead of working in fields.

The Department of Labor program pays some young people minimum wage to stay in school while migrating with their parents, who travel across the country looking for seasonal farm work.

Coordinators in 31 states and Puerto Rico were told there was no money to operate the program this year, leaving them to find alternate sources, petition Congress or drop the program. (...)

Repeated telephone messages left this week for Labor Department officials weren't returned.

The Migrant and Seasonal Farmworker Youth Program is designed to combat extraordinarily high dropout rates among seasonal migrant youth workers and the children of adult seasonal migrant workers. It also attempts to end cyclical poverty and low socio-economic levels plaguing that population. (...)

Dropout rates among migrant youths are estimated at 60 percent, according to the federal Office of Migrant Education in the U.S. Department of Education. (...)

Despite the stipends, most of the young people still work because their families need supplemental income. The average income of an adult farm worker is less than $10,000 a year.

Nationally, more than 2,500 youth ages 14 to 21 participated in the program last year. Many came from California, Texas and Florida.

The program also provides job placement, tutoring, mentoring, vocational training and career counseling services. It also funds child care and health care.

Four years ago, programs across the country were dividing a healthy $10 million a year. This year, all funding was eliminated and coordinators were told to use money from last year until it dries up.

God, I have trouble wrapping my mind around Republican policy. This is a program which is successful at keeping poor kids in school so they can pull themselves out of staggering poverty. It provides necessary services to people who couldn't otherwise afford it. It serves only to help people who are among the poorest yet also most important workers in our society. And they want to get rid of it.

So much for being the "education president." Bush's administration has cut loose the poorest of the poor of our young people from the hope of a decent education. Now these kids have to choose between letting their families starve to death or dropping out. Which do you think they'll choose?

Great job, George. Quietly killed off a successful program in the name of promoting ignorance and poverty. Jesus I hate this president.

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July 17, 2004

The LA Times

By Jim Dallas

Kevin Drum often complains about Michael Kinsley losing his touch. I'm beginning to agree.

Fun with the LA Times and WMDs.

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July 12, 2004

Tom DeLay and Enron, Ken Lay and Redistricting!

By Byron LaMasters

Yay. More trouble for Tom DeLay. The Washington Post connects the dots with their front page article today:

In May 2001, Enron's top lobbyists in Washington advised the company chairman that then-House Majority Whip Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) was pressing for a $100,000 contribution to his political action committee, in addition to the $250,000 the company had already pledged to the Republican Party that year. DeLay requested that the new donation come from "a combination of corporate and personal money from Enron's executives," with the understanding that it would be partly spent on "the redistricting effort in Texas," said the e-mail to Kenneth L. Lay from lobbyists Rick Shapiro and Linda Robertson.

The e-mail, which surfaced in a subsequent federal probe of Houston-based Enron, is one of at least a dozen documents obtained by The Washington Post that show DeLay and his associates directed money from corporations and Washington lobbyists to Republican campaign coffers in Texas in 2001 and 2002 as part of a plan to redraw the state's congressional districts.

I'll have to read the rest of the article when I have more time to look at all the research the Washington Post did (it's a long article). Anyway, take a look.

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Jolly Olde England

By Jim Dallas

Caught an interesting documentary last night on The History Channel (are there any other kind?) about the various threads of the King Arthur legend and their historical roots. I think it was narrated by Capt Jean-Luc Picard Patrick Stewart.

It's a bit sad though that there were some pretty important/obvious things about medieval Britain that I had never known before, e.g. the Battle of Badon Hill, and the role of british-descended Bretons (from Brittany) in aiding William I's Norman invasion ("revenge is a dish best served cold" ~ old Klingon proverb). Chalk that up to me not having a really good formal education in British history. For shame.

Not to suggest that we should be monocultural, but the history and customs of Britain are probably the single most important influence on American legal and political culture. So I try to pay attention.

Strangest applications of Anglo-trivia: the time I invoked William Pitt the Elder at a pro-choice rally ("The poorest man may in his cottage bid defiance to all the force of the Crown. It may be frail; its roof may shake; the wind may blow through it; the storms may enter, the rain may enter,—but the King of England cannot enter.") There's also a nice Burke quote at the exit of the Rainforest at Moody Gardens ("No one could make a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could do only a little.")

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July 10, 2004

I knew Lyndon Johnson, Lyndon Johnson was a friend of mine. You, sir, are no Lyndon Johnson.

By Jim Dallas

Well, uh, not exactly, since LBJ died nine years before I was born. But DHinMI reveals how President Bush doesn't measure up to the standards of the only real Texan to occupy the White House.

(And yes, I imagine some one in the comments is going to say something like "yeah, LBJ killed 58,000 kids while Bush only killed 1000." That would be historically accurate, but probably unfair, for reasons I'd be glad to debate in comments.)

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July 09, 2004

Republicans Strong Arm Congress Into Keeping the Patriot Act Intact

By Andrew Dobbs

From the Associated Press:

House Republicans used an extra-long vote to derail a drive to weaken the USA Patriot Act, handing a campaign-season victory to President Bush (news - web sites) and angering Democrats and GOP conservatives who led the unsuccessful effort.

"You win some, and some get stolen," said conservative Rep. C.L. Butch Otter, R-Idaho.

He was a lead sponsor of the provision that would have prevented authorities from using the anti-terrorism law to demand information on book buyers and library users.

The proposal, which had drawn a veto threat from the White House, was defeated 210-210, with a majority needed to prevail. House GOP leaders extended what is normally a 15-minute roll call by 23 additional minutes. That was enough to persuade about 10 Republicans to switch their votes to no (...)

As the amendment's prospects shifted to defeat from an apparent victory, Democrats chanted, "Shame, shame, shame." The tactic was reminiscent of last year's House passage of the Medicare overhaul measure. Then, GOP leaders held the roll call open for an extra three hours until they got the votes they needed (...)

Otter and Rep. Bernard Sanders, I-Vt., led the effort to block one section of the law that lets authorities get special court orders requiring book dealers, libraries and others to surrender records such as purchases and Internet sites visited on a library computer.

The lawmakers contended the provision undermines civil liberties and threatens to let the government snoop into the reading habits of innocent Americans.

"We are all in that together," Sanders, one of Congress' most liberal lawmakers, said of the anti-terror effort. "In the fight against terrorism, we've got to keep our eyes on two prizes: the terrorists and the United States Constitution."

So yeah, this is just further proof that the GOP is full of reactionary despotic assholes. I mean, I am not a huge fan of the Patriot Act but I'm not as opposed to it as most people on the left are. Most of the powers weren't new powers- they just couldn't be used against terrorists until it passed. Still, whether you like it or not, breaking the rules so that the president doesn't look bad is pretty fucking despicable.

This is why I'm not a Republican and don't ever plan on being one. I mean, if you are a conservative there is a place for you in our party, but if you are a liberal you are run out on a rail of that party. They do their business in a dishonest way because it seems they are more interested in power than in governing for the empowerment of all people. It is wrong, they are wrong and we have to beat them this year.

Good news- every Texas Democrat in the House except for 2- Stenholm and Edwards- cast their ballot for the amendment and 1 of the 18 Republicans to vote for it was from Texas, Ron Paul. Thanks Lloyd, one of the last major votes you'll take on behalf was the right one- I'll miss having you as my congressman.

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July 02, 2004

A love story about two people who hate each other

By Jim Dallas

About four years ago, my father predicted the Republicans were on the verge of a total meltdown. "Verge" wasn't the right word, since, at that time, the GOP was able to rally together around (a) hatred of Bill Clinton and (b) love of George W. Bush.

Ezra over at Pandagon catches Andrew Sullivan observing that these two factors may no longer be significant enough to prevent catastrophe for the GOP. Are inter-partisan squabbles in Texas and elsewhere signs of impending doom for the American Right? Possibly; a boy can dream, can't he?

BONUS POINTS for any reader who can tell us which tagline for a Woody Allen movie the title of this post comes from (hint, it's after Take the Money and Run and before Annie Hall).

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July 01, 2004

Bush "Honors" Civil Rights Act

By Andrew Dobbs

So I was just watching Bush on CNN as he talked about how great the Civil Rights Act of 1964- 40 years old this week- was for America. He's right on that point, but its interesting to note that at the same time that Act was being passed George Bush's father was running for the U.S. Senate here in Texas on a platform of staunch opposition to the Act. Other opponents included recent focus of obsession Ronald Reagan and pretty much all of Bush's ideological forebears.

I suppose it is a good thing that the vast majority of conservatives have moved past explicit opposition to basic civil rights for racial minorities, but one realizes that the lineage of their rhetoric and ideology can be traced straight back to those who tried to defeat the Act. When Bush cries out against "judicial activism," he is quoting John Stennis. When he celebrates "states rights" he is cribbing the name and philosophy of Strom Thurmond and his segregationist compatriots. When he suggests that 3-5% of the population should be constitutionally barred from access to certain legal institutions, he is continuing in an awful tradition that began with those who tried to kill the Civil Rights Act.

Finally, while I do not think that Bush is an explicit racist and I know that he holds no candle for segregation, he has chosen to associate himself with those who are unreformed. In 2000 he infamously campaigned at Bob Jones University- a campus that forbade interracial dating- and said nothing negative about the policy. At the same time when neo-segregationists were arguing for the right to fly the Confederate flag over the capitol of South Carolina (a tradition that began not with the Civil War but with resistance to the Civil Rights movement in the 1950s), he declined to urge them to remove it. In 2002 he campaigned for and raised money for Haley Barbour in his ultimately successful race for Governor of Mississippi. Barbour attended events hosted by the white supremacist Council of Conservative Citizens, was featured on their website alongside articles denying the holocaust and decrying integration and when asked if he would request to be removed, he said that he didn't mind being there. Bush was affiliated with him, helped him get into office and helped make him money. That is unconscionable and outweighs all of the nice things he says on days like today.

Bush doesn't appear to be a racist, but he is willing to turn a blind eye to racism when it means more power for himself. He certainly isn't a segregationist but he has benefitted from their patronage. I don't know what he should have done instead, but I just find his words empty when such injustice goes unspoken, and unapologized for.

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June 26, 2004

It's the End of the Quarter.... you know what that means!!

By Byron LaMasters

It's June 26th, and the end of the quarter is four days away, so I decided to make my end of the quarter donations tonight. I'm a student, working part-time this summer, so I figured I could spend a little bit of money giving to candidates that I support. I'd encourage all of you to donate to the candidates of your choice at the end of the quarter (so within the next four days). End of the quarter reports can make a second tier candidate a first tier candidate. They can make seemingly uncompetetive candidates viable. Small contributions can make a difference, especially when they're bundled. That's why I decided to donate money to Kerry (which has become a monthly thing) as well as three of the dKos 8 candidates. I didn't contribute to the three top congressional races across the country, but I contributed to three races where my $10 contribution bundled with hundreds of others could make a difference.

  • John Kerry - $25.00. He's the next president of the United States. He needs our money to fend off hysterical attacks like the latest Bush WebAd comparing Kerry's attacks to Adolf Hitler. It's outrageous and it's one of the main reasons that inspired me to contribute to John Kerry again today. Anyway, I still think that Kerry is running a great campaign, and he deserves our support.
  • Richard Morrison - $10.01. Sure, it may be a longshot. We probably won't beat Tom DeLay. But it's important to send Tom DeLay a message that we don't like what he's doing. Tom DeLay is responsible for making the U.S. Congress the most partisan and uncivil Congress in recent history. At the very least, he needs a serious challenge, so that he'll at least have to watch his back.
  • Stan Matsunaka - $10.01. He's running against Congress's number one hater - Marylin Musgrave. She's the sponsor of the Federal Marriage Amendment, and is obsessed with gay people. All she seems to care about it denying rights to gays and lesbians. She doesn't give a flip about her district. She's a one-issue congresswoman and she's out of touch. Her district deserves better. She won in the 2002 GOP landslide in Colorado, but Stan Matsunaka saw that she was looking vulnerable in the polls and decided to take a second shot at the race. He deserves our support.
  • Jim Stork - $10.01. Jim Stork is running against Clay Shaw in a district that Al Gore carried in 2000. Democrats nearly won the district in 2000, but recount technicalities kept it in GOP hands. This coastal Flordia district is Democratic, and ought to have a Democratic congressman. Jim Stork has experience as a small business owner and as a mayor. Stork is also openly gay, so his election would mean that we'd have four openly gay members of congress (out of 535, house + senate). Of course, Florida already has a gay member of congress, Mark Foley, but he refuses to discuss his sexual orientation. It would be nice for Florida to have an openly gay Congressman.

There's other great candidates to consider as well. Stan Matsunaka is one of the candidates advertising on BOR, but there are others advertising here as well that are worthy of your support:

  • Betty Castor for U.S. Senate in Florida - She's one of the three Democrats running for Bob Graham's seat. She's been leading in many of the recent polls. The Democratic primary is in September.
  • Lorenzo Sadun for U.S. Congress - Lorenzo is who I'll be writing in for Congress this November. I live in his district, and he's my candidate. He's a UT professor and he's been making his rounds in the district. Help him make a serious campaign this November.
  • Tom Daschle - for U.S. Senate - Do I need to say anything more? Tom Daschle is the most endangered Senate Democratic incumbent this cycle. John Thune is running again, and Republicans would like nothing more than to take out our Senate leader. Tom Daschle needs our support.

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June 25, 2004

Bush is Delusional

By Andrew Dobbs

From the Associated Press:

President Bush defended his decision to invade Iraq and insisted most of Europe backed the move during a tense interview Thursday on Irish television (...)

Bush was asked whether he was satisfied with the level of political, economic and military support coming from European nations in Iraq.

"First of all, most of Europe supported the decision in Iraq. Really what you're talking about is France, isn't it? And they didn't agree with my decision. They did vote for the U.N. Security Council resolution. ... We just had a difference of opinion about whether, when you say something, you mean it."

Y'know what? I don't think that Bush is lying- I really think that he is either too stupid, too misinformed by his toadies or in too much denial to realize that all of the world and now a majority of his own country think that this war is ridiculous. At the time the war began Europe was united against it- if memory serves me correctly (and polls and election results stick out in my mind) about 70% said they opposed the war. Europe is so radically against the war that it has become conventional wisdom to not the continent's opposition.

Bush doesn't realize that. He believes that only France opposed his war, when virtually all of Western Europe was opposed to it. How can he effectively lead the free world if he doesn't even realize what is going on in it? We know that he doesn't read newspapers- he lets his aides bring him targeted clippings. This raises a rather serious question- is it possible that Bush's aides are simply keeping this information from him? Are they whitewashing and glazing over the facts in order to keep him happy? If so, America is in some deep deep trouble and the person who is supposed to be most equipped to help us out is completely paralyzed.

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The Unintended Consequences of the Gag Rule

By Byron LaMasters

It seems harmless. The "gag rule" is put in place by Republican administrations to prevent funding for abortions, and facilities that perform abortions around the world. What's the big deal if a mother doesn't have money or access for an abortion. Conservatives seem to think it's harmless. The mother will just carry the child to term, then either raise the child or give it up for adoption. In their eyes, the global "gag rule" saves the lives of countless children. Wrong! The "gag rule" only helps to spread the worldwide AIDS crisis, especially in parts of the world where the crisis has reached endemic proportions. Take Ghana for example. It's a small country in western Africa hard-hit by AIDS, where the Bush "gag rule" has served to defund organizations that encourage abstainance, monogamy and condom use (in that order). Sounds like something that conservatives would encourage.... but no.

Here's the viewpoint in today's Dallas Morning News by Barbara Crossette:

From a small building on the outskirts of the crowded West African capital of Accra, Ghana, a new national organization for youth is taking shape. It's called Young & Wise, and part of its mission is to promote condom use to stop AIDS.

It doesn't distribute them willy-nilly. Its message is measured, its partners are churches and mosques, and its ABCs would be familiar to many conservative American Christians: abstain, be faithful and use a condom when the time is finally right to engage in sex. On the walls little stickers say, "True love waits."

The problem is that the supplier to Ghana of the best condoms, the U.S. Agency for International Development, can no longer give any to the project. Does this make any sense?

"It's the 'gag rule,' " explains Delah Banuelo, the organization's program officer. He is referring to the Republican ban on giving aid to groups that counsel people on abortion, whether or not the groups actually perform abortions.

The Bush administration is in effect punishing a promising effort in Ghana because Young & Wise is part of the Planned Parenthood Association of Ghana, which in turn belongs to the International Planned Parenthood Federation, an organization on the no-no list in the White House.

The gag rule has also harmed another funder of reproductive health programs in Ghana, the United Nations Population Fund. The United States has withdrawn all contributions to the fund because of unfounded reports that it supports abortions in China.

In Ghana, the trickle-down effect of the gag rule has been widespread. And because Ghanaians – Christian and Muslim – are a religious people, the effect has been to undermine many programs that conservatives could support.


At the Ahmadiya Muslim Mission in Accra, Hafiz Ahmad Saeed is in charge of another reproductive health program, one that has also felt the loss of American funds. Yet any Islamic program, he points out, must preach abstinence and no sex outside marriage.

Do conservative Christians in the United States understand that they are doing in their fellow Christians and moderate Muslims? If they do, they don't let that get in the way of their absolutist stand.

Anyone visiting Ghana would see the need for wide-ranging family planning programs. Only 19 percent of couples in Ghana use contraception. Large families are the norm; men tend to object to contraception; sex education is minimal and teen pregnancy is on the rise. In the meantime, maternity wards are crowded with exhausted, anemic women who could die in the next pregnancy, and HIV/AIDS is a pervasive threat.

Can American money alone help solve such problems? Yes. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is picking up some of the slack to help Young & Wise, and more aid would only increase the effectiveness of organizations that have proved they can change behavior, cut birthrates and raise health standards.

The message is clear: American conservatives should replace their blanket ban on family planning aid with real knowledge and nuance. One trip to Ghana would help them see the light.

A great question. If only conservative Christians in America would understand the problems that their fellow Christians in Ghana faced, perhaps they would reevaluate their position on the "gag rule". Unfortunately, this is yet another example of where conservative ideology trumps common sense and basic human decency.

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Sen. Zell Miller (R-GA)

By Byron LaMasters

Seriously, it's time to kick out Zigzag Zell. He's speaking at the GOP convention:

Georgia Sen. Zell Miller, the highest profile Democrat to endorse President Bush for re-election, will speak at the Republican National Convention later this summer, a congressional aide said Friday.

Miller drew a sharp rebuke from the dean of Georgia's congressional delegation, Democratic Rep. John Lewis, who called the senator's decision "a shame and a disgrace."

According to the aide, who spoke on condition of anonymity, Miller will give his address on Wednesday night of the four-day convention in New York that begins Aug. 30. The Bush-Cheney campaign was expected to make an official announcement later in the day.

Thankfully, the article goes on to point out Zigzag Zell's hypocrisy. John Kerry has been the Junior Senator from Massachusetts for twenty years now. Yet, Zigzag Zell seems to have dramatically changed his opinion of Kerry over the past three:

In May, Miller spoke at the Georgia Republican convention and criticized Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry (news - web sites) as an "out-of-touch, ultraliberal from Taxachusetts" whose foreign and domestic policies would seriously weaken the country.

"I'm afraid that my old Democratic 'ties that bind' have become unraveled," Miller said.

In 2001, Miller had told a Georgia Democratic Party gathering that Kerry, the four-term Massachusetts senator and decorated Vietnam War veterans, was "an authentic" American hero who had worked to strengthen the military.

Even worse, the "taxachusetts" rhetoric is a sham as well. Atios pointed out last month that Georgia has a higher state and local tax burden than Massachusetts:

First of all, since Kerry happens to be elected to the Federal government he has little control over state and local tax policy in his home state. But, since Zell wants to play that game, let's turn to the facts.

According to those lovable nuts over at the Tax Foundation, Taxeorgia's state and local tax burden ranks 18th in the nation, at precisely the national average of 10% of income.

While in small government loving Massachusetts, the state and local tax burden ranks 36th in the nation, at 9.6% of income.

What about business friendlyness? Well, Zell, sorry to say once again your tax-loving commie state of Taxeorgia with its totally complicated tax code appears to be downright hostile to business! At least compared to the free market haven of Massachusetts! You see, Massachusetts, according to the Tax Foundation, ranks 12th in the nation while Taxeorgia ranks 25th!

And, hey, what do you know? It appears you welfare lovers in Taxeorgia are sucking at the federal government's teat! Taxeorgia gets more from the federal government than it sends in taxes! For every buck you freeloaders send to DC you get $1.01 back! What of Massachusetts? Well, suprise surprise! Massachusetts is supporting layabouts like Taxeorgia! A whopping $.25 of every dollar Massachusetts sends to the Feds is stolen from them and redistributed to states which can't manage to take care of themselves, like Taxeorgia.

And good for John Lewis and Georgia Democratic Party Chair, Bobby Kahn. They apply the Zigzag Zell smackdown:

"I think he has sold his soul for a mess of pottage," Lewis said, a reference to a speech Miller gave 40 years ago in which he argued that President Johnson was abandoning his Southern roots by pushing some civil rights issues. Pottage is defined as a thick soup or stew of vegetables.

Bobby Kahn, the chairman of the Georgia Democratic Party, said he wasn't surprised.

"Maybe I'll switch to the Republican Party so I can speak at the Democratic Convention and bash Bush," Kahn said. "It makes about as much sense."

Kahn was a top aide to Democratic Gov. Roy Barnes, who appointed Miller to the Senate following the death of Miller's predecessor, Republican Sen. Paul Coverdell.

"I advocated his appointment," Kahn said of Miller. "He said he would be independent and he was for a while, but he hasn't been lately. He's been in lockstep with the Republicans and I don't know what's happened to him. It's really kind of sad."

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Ryan Out, Obama Shines

By Byron LaMasters

Illinois U.S. candidate Jack Ryan will withdraw from the race today:

Illinois Republican candidate Jack Ryan intends to abandon his Senate bid after four days spent trying to weather a political storm stirred by sex club allegations, GOP officials confirmed to the Tribune.

A formal announcement was expected within hours, officials told the Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

Ryan conducted an overnight poll to gauge his support in the wake of the allegations made by his ex-wife in divorce records unsealed earlier this week. Aides said in advance his only options were to withdraw or to redouble his campaign efforts with a massive infusion of money from his personal wealth.

Republican party leaders spent an hour this morning on a conference call discussing Ryan's candidacy and the process of replacing him, a source familiar with the call told the AP on condition of anonymity.

I'd love to see what those overnight poll numbers showed. Hehe. Meanwhile, the Democratic candidate Barack Obama has continued to not comment on Ryan's troubles. Rather, Obama received another glowing review - this time from the Washington Post:

Who is Barack Obama, and why is everybody talking about him?

Well, not quite everybody -- yet. But if there is a media darling in this year's election, it is the 42-year-old Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate from Illinois. Obama has been the subject of sympathetic profiles in the New Yorker and the New Republic, and more national attention is on its way. Already there's speculation that he may be the first African American president of the United States -- and he's only a state senator.


His is a political mind that can incorporate the opposition's best arguments into his own -- by way of answering them -- and then take clear and unequivocal positions.

Obama is someone who can make staunchly progressive positions sound moderate by being quietly reasonable. And he breaks with his own side's conventional wisdom not in search of a phony bipartisanship but to advance a stronger critique of the status quo.

When I sat down with him recently, for example, Obama said the Democrats' main argument should not be about "how we lost a certain number of jobs versus how we've now gained a certain number of jobs." Stimulating the economy with huge tax cuts was bound to produce some jobs eventually.

The numbers story can distract from the larger story Democrats need to tell. "Instead of having a set of policies that are equipping people for the globalization of the economy," he says, "we have policies that are accelerating the most destructive trends of the global economy."

Obama is also set to give the weekly Democratic radio address this weekend. If he does not yet have a prominent speaking role at the convention, John Kerry would be smart to give him a slot where all of America can see and hear him. He's phenominal. Anyway, for all the late breaking news out of Illinois, be sure to head on over to Archpundit.

Update: Those overnight poll numbers I were talking about are here. Apparently, they showed Obama with a 54-30% lead over Ryan. Obama also leads all possible GOP replacement candidates by between three (former Gov. Jim Edgar) to eleven (State Treasurer Judy Baar Topinka) points.

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June 24, 2004

And the Least Progressive Senator is...

By Byron LaMasters

Progressive Punch has the results, and it's Texas' very own, John Cornyn, who clocks in at 1.56 of 100 on the Progressive Punch scale. That ranks him 100 of 100 in the US Seante. For the record, Kay Bailey Hutchison ranks 71 of 100 on the Progressive Punch scale among U.S. Senators.

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June 22, 2004

Kinky Republicans

By Byron LaMasters

Score one for the Republican family values hypocrisy department. This time coming from the jerk in Illinois who hired a stalker to follow his opponent into the bathroom with a camera. The Chicago Tribune reports:

Republican U.S. Senate nominee Jack Ryan's ex-wife, TV actress Jeri Ryan, accused him of taking her to sex clubs in New York and Paris, where he tried to coerce her into having sex with him in front of strangers, according to records released Monday from the couple's California divorce file.

Jack Ryan denied the allegations when they were made in 2000, when the couple was engaged in a bitter child custody battle a year after their divorce.

The papers were released by California Judge Robert Schnider following his decision last week to unseal portions of the Ryans' divorce file.

Attorneys for the Tribune and WLS-Ch. 7 sought release of the records, but the Ryans had fought disclosure because they said it could harm their son. The Ryans decided not to appeal Schnider's ruling.

The political impact of the revelations on Jack Ryan's candidacy will play out over the next several days. One prominent Illinois Republican, U.S. Rep. Ray LaHood of Peoria, said he was "shocked" that Ryan would run for public office carrying such baggage and called on him to get out of the race.

The best part of it all is that Ryan's Democratic opponent, Barack Obama is just staying above the fray. He doesn't have to say anything about Ryan's past. Ryan can self-destruct quite well on his own. Notice how Ryan's last four press releases of spin control on the divorce records.

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June 19, 2004

It's on the way...

By Byron LaMasters

The following is packed and ready to leave our warehouse:

Bill To: Byron LaMasters
Ship To: Byron LaMasters
Address: **** ****** **** **.

1 $21.00 My Life
ISBN:0375414576 Jun 18, 2004
$21.00 Net Product
$0.00 Free Shipping & Handling
$21.00 Total Shipment
$21.00 Credit Card

Don't expect to hear too much from me when I get my copy. I plan on curling up on a sofa, or laying out by the pool for about two days until I finish it.

You can get your copy, too:

June 14, 2004

SCOTUS: Newdow doesn't have standing

By Jim Dallas

A lot of people on other blogs are carping about the apparent loss in the Pledge of Allegiance case, Newdow v. Elk Grove. The court decided by an 8-1 margin that Michael Newdow, the California atheist, couldn't sue on behalf of his daughter because of ambiguities stemming out of a custody suit between himself and his ex-wife.

In short, the case was thrown out on a technicality. Some people see this as a dodge by the court and a de facto defeat for the seperation of church and state. On the other hand, I think this was probably a politically deft move by a court which has lost the faith of many Americans, a court that desperately needs to build a consensus in order to do the right thing.

Now, not being a lawyer (nor even a first year law student, yet, although August 23rd is coming up mighty fast!), my opinion means very little here. But I actually think this outcome is better for the country and for the judiciary.

At any rate, I have argued elsewhere that I think the phrase "under God" in the pledge of allegiance - represents an unconstitutional establishment of religion, regardless of whether students are forced to say it or not. (If the Congress declared that attendance at First Baptist Church was an essential part of being a good American - suppose they rewrote the pledge to say "One nation, which attends First Baptist Church, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all" - such declaration would still be unconstitutional even if they didn't actually do anything to get people to go to First Baptist, right? "Under God" simply being a tad less specific on the time, place, and manner of woeship than "First Baptist Church.")

But the political backlash for doing the right thing would be overwhelming.

And hey, look at it this way. If the court really wanted to screw us over, they wouldn't have dodged the issue; they'd have taken it up and then ruled against Newdow. My gut tells me the majority on the court knows what they have to do, they're just taking their merry time in doing it.

UPDATE: Bloomberg informs us that the majority opinion was written by Justice Stevens, who seems to have been in cahoots with Kennedy, Ginsburg, Souter, and Breyer. Kennedy, I suspect, probably would have been a swing-vote for Newdow given previous statements he has made on other cases involving "ceremonial deism," such as the football and graduation cases (can't remember the parties involved, sorry). That's five votes.

Scalia didn't participate, since he shot his mouth off and had to recuse himself. Ouch.

So, my guess here is that we were headed towards another 4-4 train wreck with Kennedy unable to come to a real decision; wanting to avoid a defeat more than gain a victory, the four liberal justices probably made the offer to punt the issue. Again, I suspect what you're seeing here is the Stevens-Ginsburg-Breyer-Souter block in the drivers' seat.

All just random speculation on my part though. Take with a boulder-sized grain of salt.

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National Delegate Race

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

I have probably promised Byron 5 times this past week that I would write a post about the state of the National Delegate Race in my District (24). So here it is, at 4:20 in the morning!

First off, so you have a handle of the district, here is map of SD 24 in .pdf format. The Senate District is anchored by Bell County (Temple, Killeen) and Taylor County (Abilene). It goes all the way south to Kerrville/Fredericksburg. The district is huge: 21 counties; but half of the delegates come from just two of those (Bell- 51, and Taylor-24) There are only about 140 odd delegates total.

As for my race to be the Kerry Male National Delegate. Fortunate for me, there are only 7 people officially filed. Me, down in Gillespie County, the Clark State Organizer, Bob Gammage in Llano (though he's running for an at large spot as far as I know), and 5 people from Abilene.

Most of them are Clark people, which is not surprising. There is only young challenger to me from Abilene and he is the only one I have seen mail-outs from. So that's my main opponent (deamed by me). Slight problem in his letter though, he didn't actually mention what he was running for and didn't officially ask for anyone vote.

I had the first piece of mail out to the delegates. In addition, e-mails were sent about every 4 days from myself. They included the endorsement of Young Texas County Chair Vince L. from Van de Zandt County, and my own County Chair. All of these pointed back to my campaign website at www.musselmanforamerica.com. (I'd also appreciate any donations if you want to send some my way.)

Just the other day, I called a lot of the smaller counties in the district as well as county chairs. I now have 8 of the 21 Chairs in my column pubicly, though I did not reach all of them. Postcards were sent out today to all delegates as well.

I do know that I have the full support of about 4 Hill Country delegations, which isn't much, but it's enough to offset Abilene. The big mystery prize in this race is Bell County. I've made friends with the County Chair, as well as their candidate to the SDEC. They don't have a dog in the race, so hopefully that will help.

So at this point I guess I'm the favorite in the race with the Abilene student being second.

Now, for the SDEC race... Bill Perkison from Bell County is challenging incumbant Jesse Martin. This past week saw some blistering letters come out on Jesse's behalf, one of which probably harmed him more than helped. Writing in support of Jesse were Jim Mattox (old friends), Clara Lou Sawyer (past SDEC Committeewomen) and past Burnet County Chair. Notice the "Past" in all of those. The current Burnet County Chair is for Perkison, as is the entire delegations of Gillespie and Kerr and I know others as well. Even half of Taylor County is for Perkison I'm told and with that, he should have more than enough votes to take our Mr. Martin.

Part of the reason for this is style and professionalism, both of which Perkison has more of than Jesse in this round. That, and the fact that the small counties felt ignored by Mr. Martin, and Bell County has 51 delegates and has the muscle to change things if they please.

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June 12, 2004

Another fine Bush Republican

By Jim Dallas

From Taegan Goddard's Political Wire:

It Can't Get Any Closer:: In an unofficial tally of the Republican congressional primary in New Jersey's First District, the Philadelphia Inquirer notes that salesman John Cusack leads lawyer Daniel Hutchison by a single vote: 4,170 to 4,169. The eventual nominee will move on to challenge powerful Democratic incumbent Rep. Robert E. Andrews in this heavily Democratic district.

Still the close race hasn't dampened the Republican challengers' hopes. Said Cusack: "I'm ahead by one vote. I'm taking that as a mandate from the people."

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I wonder who he was talking about...

By Byron LaMasters

When Ron Reagan Jr. said this earlier today:

Dad was also a deeply, unabashedly religious man. But he never made the fatal mistake of so many politicians wearing his faith on his sleeve to gain political advantage.

Update: More thoughts on Washington Monthly.

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June 11, 2004

A Capitol Romance

By Byron LaMasters

Well this is certainly interesting. Stephanie Herseth has been in Washington D.C. just over a week and it looks like she's already found herself a man - from Texas. The Fort Worth Star Telegram reports:

Now that Democrat Stephanie Herseth of South Dakota has won a special election and been sworn in as the state's congresswoman, U.S. Rep. Max Sandlin, D-Marshall, can say he is enjoying a congressional romance.

Sandlin, who is divorced, and Herseth, who is single, were together often in Austin last summer during the redistricting saga. And Sandlin helped raise money for her congressional race.

This is not Sandlin's first high-profile political romance. He dated Christine Pelosi, daughter of House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi of California and chief of staff to Rep. John Tierney, D-Mass.

Roll Call reported the news today as well in the "Heard on the Hill" column. Here's part of it:

Sorry, guys. The newest, most eligible bachelorette in Congress appears to be off the market.
Rep. Stephanie Herseth (D), who just won the special South Dakota election, had a boyfriend waiting for her on Capitol Hill when she arrived last week.

He’s Democratic Rep. Max Sandlin, a four-term Texan.

The couple met during Herseth’s failed 2002 election bid against then-Rep. Bill Janklow (R-S.D.), who recently was released from prison for his second-degree manslaughter conviction. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which has its own version of a “big buddy” program, appointed Sandlin to be Herseth’s mentor during that campaign.

Maybe the DCCC should have a match-making business on the side?

“Representative Herseth and Representative Sandlin met during the last election cycle. They remained friends after the 2002 election and have had a relationship for approximately a year,” her spokesman, Russ Levsen, told HOH.

Sandlin, who is divorced with four children, also worked hard to campaign and raise money for his girlfriend during her winning campaign against GOP state Sen. Larry Diedrich in the June 1 special election.

He said having just arrived in Washington, the new Congresswoman has not found permanent housing yet. For now, he said, she’s staying at the Capitol Suites.

But Herseth, 33, and Sandlin, 52, were seen Wednesday morning in front of Sandlin’s apartment building near D and First streets Southeast.

Cool. Let's keep the latest capitol couple in Washington D.C.

Donate to Max Sandlin.

Donate to Stephanie Herseth.

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Well, Shit...

By Byron LaMasters

A friend of mine called me this afternoon saying that she no longer had a job, because the candidate that she was working for dropped out of the race. That's not cool at all - the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate in New Hampshire (granted, he was a longshot), has dropped out. Politics NH reports:

State Sen. Burt Cohen (D-New Castle) is ending his bid for the U.S. Senate just one day before the period for candidates for that office to sign up ends.

"Burt Cohen will not be filing for the U.S. Senate," Cohen spokeswoman Meghan Scott said. "There is a situation with the campaign and we thought that it would be unfair to the [Democratic] party to continue."

Cohen, a seven-term state senator, began his campaign to unseat U.S. Sen. Judd Gregg (R-Rye) 18 months ago. He officially kicked off his campaign at a Manchester rally last Wednesday.

Because Cohen was the only Democrat in the race, his departure has put state Democrats in a scramble to find a candidate in less than 24 hours.

Cohen let the party know of his decision late mid-afternoon on Thursday.

State Democratic Party chair Kathy Sullivan is reportly working the phone to find a candidate. There is an informal list of four names rumored to be called.

I would have posted on this when I heard the news at 6 PM CST yesterday if I had computer access, but kos got to the story yesterday evening. Anyway, my friend lost her job, and she's looking for a campaign job that is hiring in Texas for the summer, so if you know anyone that is hiring, let us know!

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June 10, 2004

More on Zig-Zag Zell

By Byron LaMasters

The Hill notes that he might make an appearance at the GOP convention so that Republicans can gloat about the supposed bipartisan support that George W. Bush has for his reelection. Very well, we'll bring Jim Jeffords to our convention:

Some Republicans are hoping that sharp-tongued Democratic Sen. Zell Miller of Georgia will appear at the GOP’s national political convention this summer.

“It would be great if he could be there,” said Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.). “Zell Miller is a Harry Truman kind of Democrat. He tells it like it is. He’s plain-spoken. He doesn’t mince words. He’s the person he is, and a patriotic American.”

An appearance by Miller would help President Bush try to re-establish his bipartisan credentials at a time when he has lost his polling edge on such issues as education and the economy.

The centrist Democrat has aided the GOP’s political goals since he was appointed in 2000 to fill the term of the late Sen. Paul Coverdell (R-Ga.). Miller provided a critical stamp of bipartisanship to President Bush’s tax cuts.

More recently, Miller has expressed a willingness to assist Bush’s re-election, “if there’s any way that I can help him,” and has delivered scathing remarks about Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) at public events.

Meanwhile, Democrats are lining up the nation’s most prominent independent officeholder — Sen. James Jeffords (I-Vt.) — to attend their convention.

Centrist Democrat? Zell is the most conservative "Democrat" in the Senate. Forget about the Jon Kyl, "Miller is a Truman kind of Democrat". Zell Miller is a Republican kind of Democrat, who ought to make it official.

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June 08, 2004

Strange Days in South Carolina

By Jim Dallas

South Carolina primary results, short version.

It'll be Beasley and DeMint in the SC GOP Senate runoff. Whoever wins will be bloodied and vulnerable. Inez Tenenbaum cruised to victory in the Democratic primary.

Meanwhile, the Republican Speaker of the House was defeated 51-48 by a political neophyte in his primary. Not something you see every day!

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Three-For-One Special

By Jim Dallas

Zell Miller, taxes, and religion. Oh my!

Don't get the wrong impression. Just because I'm romanticizing the South (just this once!), ranting about taxes (I rarely do it!), and not in complete agreement with the ACLU (just this once!) doesn't mean I've suddenly gone over to the Dark Side. I promise! Really!

I also quote a lot from the L.A. Times, so obviously I am a liberal.

1. I'm inclined to sympathize with Zell Miller. Just this once.

2. Surely we can do better than the federal income tax?!?

3. A few words about the Pledge and the L.A. case (or, sometimes I'm with the ACLU, and sometimes I'm not.)


I've said lots of nasty things about Zell Miller here, and here. I stand by my previous assertioon that "I wish Senator Miller didn't have a driving need to make himself the bête noire of Democrats generally and Southern Democrats specifically." Herein is a fuller exposition of that theme.

The L.A. Times has a profile of ZigZag Zell today, which, among other things, profiles why Sen. Miller - one of President Bush's most outspoken (and increasingly obnoxious) supporters - would remain a Democrat:

Growing up in the mountains of northern Georgia, one of the few places in the South with a genuine two-party system back then, partisanship was more than just something a person thought about on election day. Democrats shopped at the Democrat-owned filling station, bought their groceries from a Democratic grocer and were expected to date and marry only members of their own party. Same for the Republicans, going all the way back to the Civil War. "When I meet my maker," the senator says, "I fully expect my mama and daddy to be somewhere close around. And I want to be able to look at them and say, 'Hey, I stayed a Democrat.' "

My grandma and grandpa, both Democrats in northeast Tennessee (which was GOP before the GOP was cool), have been a tremendous influence on my political worldview, and shared many of the same experiences in life that Miller did.

And somewhere along the line I picked up a strong sense of nostalgia for the "old days," albeit not of the same sort of magnitude that seems to animate Zell Miller these days.

Here's what the history books say (and if it looks like I'm cutting selectively, I am, since nostalgia is inherently a selective and biased reading of history):

There was plenty to stimulate their efforts. Regional, ethnoreligious, and economic fault lines ran throughout American society, dividing Democrats from Whigs... What distinguished the parties were their cultural and ideological perspectives. Democrats tended to be drawn from the "outsider" groups in Anglo-Saxon society: the Scots-Irish, Presbyterians, and other nonconforming religious and ethnic groups, who had long been in conflict with the dominant groups in the British Isles. They feared a powerful government and were hostile to the aggressive commercialism of the dominant Anglo-Saxons.

All this gave the Democrats the air of an egalitarian party challenging the nation's ruling elite. The role played by the party's leader, Andrew Jackson, in these efforts differed from earlier ideas of political leadership. He conveyed, by words and deeds, a few simple truths about republican purity and democratic striving and served as the symbol of a Democratic crusade against greed, unfairness, and the domination of a manipulative elite.

And so I look back on this, I gotta ask: ain't these my roots? Ain't these my values? Even through the lens of 150 years of change-for-the-better, and the knowledge that a lot of these roots went rotten with the scourge of racism, hatred, and ignorance, there is still, in this, a strong and powerful bond between their past with my present.

(The history books also say this about the origins of the GOP, which may or may not still be relevant post-Nixon... I'll let you, dear reader, ponder that.)

...A new Republican party shrewdly played on the nativism and antisouthern sentiment to build a movement to resist southern and Catholic "assaults" on the American nation.

It's a universal human desire to want to have an ethnic and cultural identity (see the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, Article 8). It is also worth noting, however, that no romanticizing of the past can make up for past or current moral failings, on either the individual or cultural level. Therfore, it is often necessary to honor the spirit of the past by breaking with those tenets (in this case, most obviously Jim Crow) that contravene contemporary standards of morality and public honor.

(Accordingly, I have no intent to be an apologist for the Dixiecrats or the Confederacy, even if history will specify that as "our" heritage. Confederate flag activists and David Duke make me ill; reason, compassion, and pride ought to animate and inspire people to make the future better than the past.)

Back to the topic. I don't happen to think Zell Miller is (particularly) a vehement racist, statements made years ago (see Carvllle and Begala, Buck Up, Suck Up) notwithstanding.


"In the 1970s, '80s and '90s, nobody labored in the vineyards of the Democratic Party as consistently and loyally, from the national level to the state level, as Zell Miller," said Keith Mason, who served 10 years ago as staff chief to then-Gov. Miller and still regards him with great affection and appreciation. "That's why so many Democrats were surprised when he suddenly and consistently supported the president." Bobby Kahn, the chairman of the Georgia Democratic Party, put it more succinctly: "Something went bad wrong."


Why Miller chooses to ventilate that anger against his party is a puzzlement to a great many observers. Some plumb for psychological reasons, saying he craves the attention, or wants to get back at those Democrats who talked him out of his contented retirement. Some say Miller has given voice to a sentiment a lot of Democrats feel ? that the party needs to focus more on the kitchen-table concerns of average Americans ? but taken the argument to a reckless extreme. "He's gone from the guy who'd like to see his party changed and turned into the guy who'd like to see his party abolished," said James Carville, the Democratic strategist who helped make Miller governor then, at his behest, helped get Clinton elected president.

Worse perhaps, many Democrats simply dismiss Miller as irrelevant. "If he wanted to get the attention of the party, there are a thousand ways to do that other than endorsing the Republican candidate for president and becoming their attack dog," said Ed Kilgore, who served as an aide to then-Gov. Miller and now directs policy for the centrist DLC. "This isn't having a dialogue with people. This is walking out of the room."

So I have a great deal of sympathy for Zell Miller when we talks about being a Democrat out of affection for the memory of Mama and Papa Miller, and all the Millers from the 1830s to the present day. And affection for the South. And what have you.

Upon serious consideration, I think it would be a mistake to kick Zell out of the party, as some people have suggested.

But I cannot stand, like so many other observers, the fact that he has proceded to go so completely off the reservation (I think Carville hits the nail on the head when he says "he's gone from the guy who'd like to see his party changed and turned into the guy who'd like to see his party abolished").


Grrr. I am really starting to hate the income tax. And I just got my tax refund check back, too.

Don't get me wrong; I still believe that the federal income tax is better than any major proposals floated by the Republicans recently. And a state income tax would work wonders for school finance in Texas.

But we're talking about comparing something utterly and completely mediocre with (a) GOP proposals which are, simply, crap and (b) the status quo in Texas, which (sad as it is to say), is crap. Sort of like when Sen. Inhofe compared prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib to prisoner abuse under Saddam Hussein. Excuse me if I cannot summon real enthusiasm for continuing on with a tax which is rapidly becoming the most complex, asinine joke ever told.

The fact of the matter is that any tax on income is going to ultimately require that we define "income." And over the course of the past four years, we've had the President and the Congress continue to whittle down this definition to "earnings from hard work", as inheritance, capital gains, and other forms of non-labor income have gotten exempted. To be fair, this is a proceess that began 75 years ago, but it's now getting outrageous. Coupled with regressive payroll taxes, it's actually the middle class that seems to be paying the highest marginal tax rates. This is bad.

We're getting to a point where we need to explore scrapping the federal income tax in its entirety, for there are more progressive and more common sensical ways to raise revenue.

The Decembrist blogs on a progressive consumption tax. Specifically, he notes a proposal from the New America Foundation that proposes a tax on the amount of money you spend each year (your income minus your net savings). The NAF proposal drew remarks from TNR's Noam Scheiber Kevin Drum and Max Sawicky. A more workable solution might be a modified Value-Added Tax. (Also here, , and here for a different opinion).

Of course, we could also just tax the Almighty Taco, as the Bexar County GOP head recently proposed:

With the dilemma of school finance still unresolved, Bexar County GOP Chairman Richard Langlois proposed a unique solution to the problem: Tax a taco.

"The whole state has tacos, but we have the best," Langlois said. "We could fund the entire state."

A few words on the ACLU

Uggh. The ACLU is embarassing itself over a barely-visible crucifix on the Los Angeles (Calif.) county seal. In case you haven't heard Bill O'Reilly screaming his lungs out about this, take a gander at this editorial right here. The ACLU threatened hell if the county supervisors didn't remove a cross which represents the historical significance of Spanish missionaries founding the city of Los Angeles. Hmm... Los Angeles. Maybe the ACLU will sue LA for pushing angels on us next?

Why can't the ACLU stick to legitimate complaints like the transparently establishmentarian language in the Pledge of Allegiance? Although I doubt the SCOTUS will agree with Michael Newdow, they ought to.

A coherent theory of the Establishment Clause has to rest upon the intent and effect of the alleged slight.

In the LA case, it is pretty obvious that this is simply a recognition of the history of the city and county of Los Angeles. The cross is a convenient way to symbolize a significant part of the region's history, which cannot really be disputed.

It's pretty clear to me also that "under God" in the pledge was added both to assert the supposed religosity of Americans (in contrast to the godless commies). For the Congress to make a claim about the religious character of America in the official Pledge of Allegiance suggests a pretty strong normative, religious claim. Those that claim it is mere "ceremonial deism" are asserting that the Pledge of Allegiance does not mean what it says. That's not exactly comforting as defenses go.

Practics and common sense have whittled down the role of religion in government, which many 19th century Americans expected to be quite large (see Joseph Story's commentaries on the Constitution). Indeed, the role of religion is going to be (and should be) tiny in a liberal republic; but the logic which the ACLU is using in the LA case would whittle it completely out of existence and take out a good bit of freedom of speech as well. Kinda self-defeating if you ask me.

I wish the ACLU would pick their fights more carefully.

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More Good News with the House

By Byron LaMasters

The GOP redistricting plan in Colorado that was struck down by the Colorado Supreme Court last year has been upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court. By a 6-3 vote, they refused to hear the case (4 votes are needed to hear it). Currently, Democrats have a shot at picking up as many as three seats in Colorado this year. The redistricting would have made it possible for Republicans to pick up a seat. The delegation is currently 5-2 GOP. Here's the NY Times article:

The battle over a new Congressional map for Colorado, one of the country's most closely watched redistricting cases, ended Monday in a Democratic victory at the Supreme Court. Falling one vote short, the justices refused to hear the Colorado Republicans' appeal of a state high court ruling that invalidated an unusual second redistricting plan the Republicans had pushed through the legislature in the closing days of its 2003 session.


In invalidating Colorado's new redistricting plan last December, the Colorado Supreme Court said it was relying completely on the state Constitution to conclude that Congressional redistricting could be conducted only once a decade. That decision meant that the district lines reverted to those drawn by a state court in early 2002, after the legislature failed to agree on how to draw new lines following the 2000 census, which gave Colorado a new Seventh District. Under that plan, Colorado Democrats say they have a good chance to pick up two seats.

In November 2002, Republicans gained control of the Colorado legislature. Over Democratic objections, they pushed through a new plan in the final days of the 2003 legislative session.

In drafting an appeal to the United States Supreme Court, the Republicans' challenge - as it had been in Florida after the 2000 presidential election - was to find an issue of federal law to provide jurisdiction. In their appeal, Colorado General Assembly v. Salazar, No. 03-1082, they argued that the federal Constitution's "elections clause," giving state legislatures the power to make rules for Congressional elections, did not allow that power to be transferred to state courts. Consequently, they maintained, the court-ordered plan did not count, and the 2003 legislative plan should prevail.

The appeal evidently provoked a behind-the-scenes struggle among the justices, who considered it at five consecutive weekly conferences before turning it down on what was apparently a vote of 6 to 3, one short of the four necessary to hear a case. The majority offered no comment, and only the dissenters - Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist along with Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas - identified themselves.

Chief Justice Rehnquist's opinion, which the other two signed, was reminiscent of his opinion in Bush v. Gore, the Florida case that decided the 2000 election. He said the state court decision, "while purporting" to be based on state law, actually made a "debatable interpretation" of federal law in validating the initial court-ordered redistricting. The decision should be reviewed, he said.

You gotta love how conservatives like Rehnquist just love state's rights until the issue benefits Democrats. When Democrats benefit from state's rights (Bush v. Gore, Colorado General Assembly v. Salazar), conservatives seem to forget about state's rights and toe the party line. Such principle.

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June 07, 2004

Ronald Reagan

By Byron LaMasters

I was six years old when Ronald Reagan's second term ended, so on a personal level, I don't have any connection to Ronald Reagan than of the occasional news about his fight with Alzheimer's Disease. Nor do I have much affinity for his politics or ideology as I have studied them in history class, government class or on my own time. Having said that, I can respect the way that Reagan played the political game. I can respect Reagan as a man. And I respect his ability to comunicate an optimistic message to the American people in good times and bad. While I never would have voted for the man, Ronald Reagan helped give America the confidence in itself again, that we lost throughout Vietnam, Watergate and the Iran hostage crisis. In many ways 2004 is similar to 1980, and John Kerry subtly makes those observations in his press release on Saturday:

“Now, his own journey has ended-a long and storied trip that spanned most of the American century-and shaped one of the greatest victories of freedom. Today in the face of new challenges, his example reminds us that we must move forward with optimism and resolve. He was our oldest president, but he made America young again.

Will Bush benefit or be hurt by the Reagan nostalgia that is sure to ensue in the following days and weeks? I don't know. Surely, some conservatives will be motivated to rally to Bush and the conservative movement. Others, may decide to think about it a little longer. Is George W. Bush really the compassionate conservative in the Reagan tradition that he says he is? George Strong takes a careful look:

On a woman's right to choose President Reagan talked the conservative line but did not do much to try and outlaw abortion. As Governor of California he even signed a bill permitting abortions. As Lou Cannon said in his book on Reagan "Reagan was not as obsessive about anti-abortion legislation as he often seemed. Early in his California governorship he had signed a permissive abortion bill that has resulted in more than a million abortions. Afterward, he inaccurately blamed this outcome on doctors, saying that they had deliberately misinterpreted the law. When Reagan ran for president, he won backing from pro-life forces by advocating a constitutional amendment that would have prohibited all abortions except when necessary to save the life of the mother. Reagan's stand was partly a product of political calculation, as was his tactic after he was elected of addressing the annual pro-life rally held in Washington by telephone so that he would not be seen with the leaders of the movement on the evening news. While I do not doubt Reagan's sincerity in advocating an anti-abortion amendment, he invested few political resources toward obtaining this goal"

Contrast that with our current President and you might conclude that George W. Bush is much more conservative. From his first action in the White House President Bush has been strongly anti-choice. Too bad he does not just talk the right's game.

And on Gay rights I seem to remember that President Reagan refused to take an anti-gay stand. He told his staff that he had many homosexual friends in the "picture business". Cannon in his book The role of a Lifetime, said "Reagan's presidency coincided with the emergence of the AIDS epidemic. Reagan's response to this epidemic was halting and ineffective. In the critical years of 1984 and 1985, according to his White House physician Dr. John Hutton, Reagan thought of AIDS as though "it was measles and would go away." What changed Reagan's view was the death in October 1985 of his friend Rock Hudson".

On gun control he was mostly silent. On women he appointed the first Woman Supreme Count Justice. Reagan changed the Supreme Court. He appointed the first woman to the high court, Sandra Day O'Connor, fulfilling a pledge he had made during a low point of his 1980 presidential campaign. Reagan's strategists came up with the idea of putting a woman on the Supreme Court". And of course Justice O'Connor is now the swing vote on the court on many social issues. Thanks to Mr. Reagan/

According to Cannon "Reagan did not devote much energy to other aspects of his so-called "social agenda." Some of the items, such as his call for a constitutional amendment to restore prayer in schools, were never more than throwaway lines intended to comfort the Religious Right."

Today the Religious Right are in control of many of our Federal agencies and they make every effort to force their positions on Federal Government policy.

I never voted for Reagan, but I did like him as a man and respected him as a man who was our President.

I believe the most conservative President in the history of our country is the current one in the White House, George W. Bush and his compassion as a conservative seems have faded between Austin Texas and Washington D.C.

Reagan almost comes across as a moderate when compared to George W. Bush. His only major failing on social issues that in my opinion, will permanently tarnish his record was his complete failure to address HIV/AIDS in a serious way until it was too late. On almost every other social issue, he was successful in placating the religious right without coming across as a moralizing preacher to most Americans. Rather than focusing on social issues, Ronald Reagan helped us win the Cold War in a way that united the world to embrace freedom, capitolism and democracy. While the Soviet Union was falling under its own weight, and I believe that its collapse was inevitable, Reagan had a lot to do with expediating the process. Even though liberals can fairly criticize Reagan on some foreign policy adventures (Iran Contra, supporting Iraq in the Iran-Iraq war, and funding right-wing dictators in Latin America), Reagan's overarching achievement is leading us to victory in the Cold War. That will be his enduring legacy, and for that he'll be remembered not just by the conservative movement, but by all Americans.

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June 06, 2004

Vernon Robinson for Crazy Bin

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

Vernon Robinson is running for Congress as a Black Republican in North Carolina. He's been called the Black Jesse Helms. And on the crazy scale, he's right up there.

Just listen to his radio ads on his website. I'm speechless.

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June 05, 2004

The world's second, third, and fourth "radioactive environmentalists"

By Jim Dallas

Respectively, Matt Yglesias, Mark Kleiman, and Brad DeLong.

The common argument goes like this: we're really, really, really running out of oil; and coal is really, really, really leading to global warming (which is real!) that means we should bite the bullet and go nuclear, which may or may not have real dangers.

I have sympathy for this argument, although it ought to be noted that this testifies to the utter incompetence of our national energy policy for, like, the last quarter century. And Dick Cheney isn't helping either.

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June 03, 2004

Bush and the Pope

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

ROME (Reuters) - President Bush will award Pope John Paul the Presidential Medal of Freedom Friday, the highest U.S. civilian award, a U.S. official said Thursday. The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the pontiff was being honored for "years of fighting for freedom and for his important moral voice."

Bush is to meet the Polish pope at the Vatican Friday.

The pope strongly opposed the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq and last week publicly condemned torture as an affront to human dignity, seen as a veiled reference to American abuse of Iraqi prisoners at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison.

In November the U.S. House of Representatives approved a bi-partisan resolution to encourage Bush to give the 84-year-old Roman Catholic leader the medal for his contribution to the fall of communism and his defense of freedom throughout the world.

Ok, that's all very well and fine, but I have this sneaking feeling that the other reason behing this is that Bush-boy is trolling for Catholic votes. (John Kerry is Catholic, remember.)

The last time this medal was given to a Pope was in 1963, when JFK (surprise, surprise!) gave one post-humously to Pope John XXIII. So I'm thinking the whole Catholic connection might be there.

Catholics continue to be one of the religious denominations that are fairly evenly split between the parties. Part of is it is regional, with Massachusetts and Hispanic border region areas being Democratic and middle America less so. But part of it is also the fact that many Catholics still believe in the whole helping humanity, help those less fortunate, the meek will inherit the Earth idea. Because of that, white Catholics like me, believe in a sense of equality and compassion for the less fortunate. We tend to be those voters in the religious arena that can vote for Democrats that foucs on the social contract arguement of government plus health care and education.

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By Jim Dallas

Former Director of Central Intelligence Stansfield Turner, on George Tenet's resignation:

I think the president feels he's in enough trouble that he's got to begin to cast some of the blame for the morass that we are in in Iraq to somebody else."

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The Dominoes Begin to Fall

By Byron LaMasters

CIA director George Tenet announced his resignation this morning. Who's next?

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June 02, 2004

Why Herseth's Win Matters

By Andrew Dobbs

Last night was a very good night- Stephanie Herseth, a progressive Democrat who had lost a race for congress less than two years ago won election the the US House from South Dakota, handing the state its first all Democrat congressional delegation since 1937. Herseth's win give the Democrats a 2-0 record in special elections heading into the general election. Republicans say that this is unimportant, but they are dreadfully wrong. From the Nation:

Special elections results, especially when they follow upon one another and begin to form patterns, mean a great deal in American politics. In the last two election cycles where Democratic challengers defeated Republican Presidents, those wins were preceded by patterns of Democratic wins in special elections for House seats vacated by Republicans. Before the 1976 presidential election, Democrats swept a series of special elections in traditionally Republican districts--even winning the Michigan House seat vacated by Gerald Ford when he accepted the vice presidency in Richard Nixon's collapsing Administration. In 1976, after assuming the presidency, Ford was defeated by Democrat Jimmy Carter.

Similarly, before the 1992 election, President George Herbert Walker Bush was embarrassed when his Republican party lost special elections for seats it had held. Of particular significance was the June 4, 1991, election of Democrat John Olver to the western Massachusetts seat vacated by Republican Representative Silvio O. Conte, a close Bush ally. (...)

But there is no question that the South Dakota result represents bad news for the GOP. Coming not long before fall elections, when Republicans must defend the White House and narrow margins of control in the House and Senate, a pair of special-election wins for Democrats running in traditionally Republican House districts will set off alarm bells within the headquarters of the Republican National Committee. (...)

During the contest that preceded Herseth's election by a 51-49 margin over Republican Larry Diedrich in Tuesday's statewide voting, the Democratic and Republican Congressional campaign committees poured more that $2 million into television advertising that targeted fewer than 300,000 South Dakota voters. Vice President Dick Cheney and First Lady Laura Bush swept into the Plains state to campaign for Diedrich. And, after Herseth won, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi was declaring early Wednesday morning that "Stephanie Herseth's win to tonight sends a clear message to President Bush and Congressional Republicans: Americans are ready for change."

Allowing for predictable hyperbole, Pelosi is hitting closer to the mark than the Republicans who claim this one election has no meaning. The Democrats do, indeed, seem to be on something of a roll in special elections for the House this year.

Between 1991 and 2003, Democrats failed to win a single special election for a House seat vacated by a Republican.

In 2004, Democrats have won two such seats: First in the rural 6th District of Kentucky, where former state Attorney General Ben Chandler secured a lopsided special election victory in February, and now in South Dakota with Herseth.

For all the protests from Republicans about how the South Dakota race was unique, it is difficult to imagine that if President Bush were riding high in the polls and public confidence in the stewardship of Republican House and Senate leaders were equally high Herseth could have prevailed. South Dakota knows how to vote for Democrats--the state sends two Democratic senators to Washington--but the House seat Herseth won had been safely in Republican hands for years. Republican Rep. John Thune regularly won the seat with as much as 75 percent of the vote until he gave it up in 2002. Former Governor Bill Janklow then won the seat with a solid margin over Herseth. (Janklow's involvement in a deadly driving accident cut his Congressional career short, provoking the special election.)

The author fails to mention that in 1994 the coming Republican landslide was foretold by a string of surprising GOP wins in special elections. Special elections are like spring training in baseball- they dont' necessarily mean that your team is going to win a pennat but if you are struggling real hard you have to shape up quick or you'll be in last place real soon. Right now the GOP is looking bad- two losses in two states that should have been sure things where they poured enormous amounts of cash. $2 million in South Dakota is a fortune and Cheney and Laura couldn't even save Diedrich. Albeit, it was quite close but Herseth is going to have a lot of help in the Fall.

Essentially, the GOP is very weak right now. They have lost two special elections for the House, they are looking at losing Senate seats in IL, OK, CO and AK and Bush's numbers are in the tubes. Unless something dramatic happens, a Democratic sweep is a very real possibility. A Herseth loss would have meant the GOP has stemmed the Democrats' momentum but as we saw last night, things are looking up for our party in 2004.

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Democrats Can Thank Native Americans Once Again

By Byron LaMasters

For two South Dakota Elections in a row, two small, rural counties have put Democrats Tim Johnson and Stephanie Herseth over the top in their elections. Shannon and Todd Counties are both home to Indian reservations. Both are impoverished and collectively vote about 90% Democratic. Here's how they've made the difference for both Tim Johnson and Stephanie Herseth:

2002 US Senate Race - Johnson v. Thune:

Todd County: Johnson 2027, Thune 464
Shannon County: Johnson 2856, Thune 248

Johnson margin in Todd and Shanon (+4171)

Statewide Margin: Johnson 167481, Thune 166957

Johnson margin statewide (+524)

2004 US House Race Herseth v. Diedrich:

Todd County: Herseth 1646, Diedrich 313
Shannon County: Herseth 1989, Diedrich 138

Herseth margin in Todd and Shannon (+3184)

Statewide Margin: Herseth 132236, Diedrich 129292 (796/798 reporting)

Herseth margin statewide (+2944)

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Alabama (Roy Moore) Primary Recap

By Byron LaMasters

It looks as if Roy Moore supporters were one for four tonight, but the wing-nuts have taken to a little gloating tonight with the victory of a Roy Moore judge over a pro-business moderate. The AP reports:

A supporter of former state chief justice Roy Moore earned the Republican nomination for a seat on the state's high court Tuesday, but three other candidates who supported Moore's stand on a Ten Commandments monument fell short.

In what amounted to a referendum on Moore's effort to acknowledge God in public buildings, the GOP's business wing for the most part fended off social conservatives intent on keeping the ousted justice's fight alive.

The only high court justice seeking re-election Tuesday, however, lost to former Moore aide Tom Parker. Parker had 105,654 votes, or 51 percent, compared to 102,446 votes, or 49 percent for Associate Justice Jean Brown, with 96 percent of precincts reporting in the unofficial count.

``It was obviously a very difficult race since she outspent us 6-to-1 and had paid staff, where we were able to get by with just an army of volunteers who were so motivated about this issue that they jumped into something that they had not been involved with before,'' Parker said in a telephone interview shortly before his supporters knelt in a prayer of thanksgiving.


Moore supporter Jerry Stokes was in second place and well behind Jefferson County Probate Judge Mike Bolin in a four-way race in another of the three Supreme Court seats up for re-election. But with 96 percent of precincts reporting, Bolin barely had the 50 percent of the vote needed to avoid a runoff with Stokes.

Shelby County judge Patti M. Smith defeated Pam Baschab, a judge on the Court of Criminal Appeals with Moore's support, in a primary race for the third court seat. Smith had 58 percent of the vote to Baschab's 42 percent, with 96 percent of precincts reporting.

The Ten Commandments issue was little help for Moore's attorney, Phillip Jauregui, who put up a GOP primary challenge to six-term Rep. Spencer Bachus. Bachus trounced Jauregui, garnering 87 percent of the vote with 100 percent of the precincts counted in the congressional district.

So, overall, tonight was a vote for sanity in Alabama, and hopefully Tom Parker can get knocked off in November by the Democrats if he manages to prevail tonight (as the current results seem to suggest).

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Herseth Wins!

By Byron LaMasters

South Dakota Public Radio just announced that the AP called the race for Herseth.

With 95% of the returns in, here's the results:


(R) DIEDRICH LARRY 120975 49 765 / 798 reporting
(D) HERSETH STEPHANIE 123961 51 765 / 798 reporting

Update: I posted the picture so Andrew, Jim and every other straight guy out there can gawk at the official, new, hottest member of the United States Congress.

Update 2: Aww, man. Kos is using the same picture. I just can't imagine why...

Update 3: AP Story here.

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SD-AL: Counting the missing.

By Jim Dallas

The latest results show that 31 boxes (out of 798) are still out. Herseth is up by 2,946 votes. Here is a list of counties with boxes outstanding, and there 2002 Johnson/Thune results. Note that this is all what they call "DefCon Math" in the Army; I may have rounded down when I should have rounded up. At any rate, Pennington and Custer are GOP bastions; Davison is toss-up, and all the rest should be big Dem precincts.

COUNTY (Boxes Out/Total Boxes) ['02 Johnson % (To Nearest 5%)]

PENNINGTON (5/42) [35%]
DAVISON (2/8) [50%]
CUSTER (7/10) [30%]
MINER (2/8) [60%]
SPINK (1/9) [55%]
SHANNON (5/10) [90%]
TODD (9/9) [80%]

Overall, looks like an edge to Herseth.

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June 01, 2004

Romero Wins Chance to Take on Heather Wilson Again

By Byron LaMasters

In a race of some interest to bloggers, New Mexico State Senate President Richard Romero won the Democratic nomination tonight to take on Heather Wilson for the second cycle in a row. He defeated Miles Nelson, who ran a grassroots campaign and ran BlogAds on this site and many others. It's a shame, because Nelson looked to be a strong candidate that could have beaten Wilson. However, Gov. Bill Richardson endorsed Romero in the closing days and helped boost his campaign when it looked like it might be in trouble. Anyway, here's the results:

U.S. House Dist 1 Dem -- 416 of 448 precincts reporting (93%)

Dist 1 Dem

Richard M. Romero 19,930 58%
Miles Jay Nelson 14,313 42%

Update: On both New Mexico primary races with 100% reporting in CD 1 -

U.S. House Dist 1 Dem -- 448 of 448 precincts reporting (100%)
Dist 1 Dem

Richard M. Romero 20,507 58% (X)
Miles Jay Nelson 14,684 42%

U.S. House Dist 2 Dem -- 483 of 515 precincts reporting (94%)
Dist 2 Dem

Gary King 20,306 64% (X)
Jeff Steinborn 11,643 36%

King is a former state legislator, and the son of the former governor of New Mexico, Bruce King.

Kos has more.

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The Crazy Man is Baaack

By Byron LaMasters

David Duke is out of prison - and he still has supporters, even after stealing their money:

Fresh out of prison for bilking supporters, former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke hosted a weekend gathering of enthusiastic backers eager to hear him as he lashed out at Jews, blacks, immigrants and the “Zionist-controlled media.”

About 250 of them chanted “Duke! Duke!” as he took the stage Saturday night during his “unity and leadership conference.” None cared that he had just served time for swindling contributors out of hundreds of thousands of dollars in a direct mail scheme.

So when can we send this nutcase back to prison?

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May 30, 2004

The Roy Moore Primary

By Byron LaMasters

While the big race on Tuesday will be the special election for the open At-Large seat U.S. House seat in South Dakota, it'll be interesting to take a look at the returns from the Republican primary in Alabama. Ten Commandments judge, Roy Moore, who was removed from office after defying a federal order to remove them from his court is not on the ballot, but his lawyer and spokesman are on the ballot, among other Moore allies.

The New York Times had a story about the races today. The best place for coverage of the Alabama primaries is The Birmingham News. There are Moore allies running for three Supreme Court seats and one Congressional seat. The Birmingham News reports:

The significant races on Tuesday's ballot are largely those on the Republican side, where the party is choosing nominees for three Supreme Court seats, a Civil Appeals court seat and the 6th District congressional seat.

n the GOP primary, analysts say a low turnout could be a plus for those candidates who have linked themselves to former Chief Justice Roy Moore and his fight to keep a Ten Commandments monument in the state judicial building.

Gerald Johnson, director of the Alabama Education Association's Capital Research Survey Center, said the lower the turnout, "the higher and stronger the Moore impact will be."

"And if his vote turns out, it will probably have the deciding impact on the election for the court races," Johnson said.


In the GOP nomination fight for Place 1 on the Supreme Court, Tom Parker, a top aide to Moore when he was chief justice, is running against incumbent Jean Brown. The winner of this race will face Democrat Robert Smith in the Nov. 2 general election.

In the nomination fight for Place 2 on the high court, Criminal Appeals Court Judge Pam Baschab, who has cited Moore's support, is matched against Shelby County District Judge Patti Smith. The winner will face Democrat Roger Monroe in November.

In the nomination race for Place 3, retired Covington County Circuit Judge Jerry Stokes has been the most vocal in his support for Moore. The other candidates in the race are Jefferson County Probate Judge Mike Bolin, Montgomery County District Judge Peggy Givhan and Houston County Circuit Judge Denny Holloway. In November, the winner will face Democrat John Rochester.

Moore was removed from office last year after refusing to obey a federal court order and move a Ten Commandments monument he had placed in the judicial building.

Phillip Jauregui, who is Moore's chief attorney in his legal battle to regain his job, is also on Tuesday's GOP primary ballot. Jauregui is opposing six-term incumbent Spencer Bachus for the 6th Congressional District nomination. The winner of that contest will be virtually assured of election on Nov. 2, because there is no 6th District Democratic candidate.

Under a normal situation, I'd probably be hoping the crazy right-wing Moore allies win the GOP nomination. However, considering that this is Alabama, and in all likelihood the Moore allies would win in November, I'm hoping the the Alabama GOP voters show some sanity and nominate the moderate pro-business folks. We'll see. I'll be following these returns along with the South Dakota House race Tuesday night.

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May 28, 2004

Abu- What?

By Byron LaMasters

I mentioned after listening to the Bush speech on Iraq on Monday that he stumbled over the two words that were probably most important that he get right: Abu Ghraib

The Nation has the full Bushisms of how to say Abu Gharib.

It's supposed to be: "abu-grabe"

Bush's first attempt was: "abugah-rayp"

Bush's second attempt was: "abu-garon"

And his third attempt was: "abu-garah"

Most people probably wouldn't have noticed if he was wrong consistently. Sure, it might have sounded a little odd, but then again most words with more than two sylables sound a little odd coming from Bush's mouth. We all misspeak, but I think Bush's unpreparedness on the name of the prison where the abuse of Iraqi prisoners occured, coupled with the small amount of time spent on the subject during his Monday speech and his unwillingness to hold anyone in his administration show an alarming lack of respect for the victims of the abuse by American soldiers and the Geneva Convention.

Via Roman Candles.

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May 26, 2004

Barney Frank Gears Up for Senate Run

By Byron LaMasters

When John Kerry is elected President this November, it'll create a senate vacancy in Massachusetts. And Congressional Quarterly indicates that U.S. Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) is gearing up to run for the U.S. Senate in what would be a 2005 special election after Kerry resigns his seat:

Massachusetts Democratic Rep. Barney Frank in 1987 became the first member of Congress to make a personal acknowledgment of homosexuality, and he has been an outspoken advocate of gay rights.

But he had never sought the endorsement of the Victory Fund, a leading national organization that supports openly gay candidates and officials -- until this year.

Frank, who is seeking a 12th term in Massachusetts' 4th District, said he'd never asked for the group's backing before because "the only tough races I had were in [19]80 and '82, and the Victory Fund did not exist back then."

Yet Frank says it is not this year's House race that spurred him to contact the fundraising organization -- even though he has drawn a challenge from Chuck Morse, a former radio talk show host and staunch conservative who is running as an independent.

Rather, the congressman said he is trying to build up his campaign treasury, in advance of a possible bid for the seat Massachusetts Democratic Sen. John Kerry would vacate were he to win the White House this year.

Not only would Frank become the first openly gay U.S. Senator if elected, he is perhaps the best debater in the U.S. House, and would bring his extraordinary legislative talent to the U.S. Senate.

Interestingly, Frank's conservative challenger this year, Chuck Morse is an admitted right-wing extremist. CQ continues:

Morse has, however, been embroiled in past controversies that have led Frank and the Victory Fund to label him as "anti-gay."

In his 2002 book "Why I am a Right-Wing Extremist," Morse wrote: "Frank, a self-described homosexual, exhibits the type of aggressive male behavior that is perhaps enhanced by a life without the civilizing influence of a woman."

I don't think that Barney Frank has too much to worry about this year, but I'm sure a special election in 2005 would be a barnburner, especially if Frank were the Democratic nominee.

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May 25, 2004

Help Out Max Sandlin!

By Andrew Dobbs

Sorry we got started late today, maybe we can make this a two day push because Max Sandlin is a great candidate and a great guy. Check out the Texas Tuesdays site and also, vote for him in this online poll. He's a great guy and he is providing the kind of leadership we need so be sure to drop some cash in his purse, add .36 so he'll know where it came from!

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Confessions of a Texas Republican Drama Queen

By Jim Dallas

Nick Confessore of TAPPED links to this Salon.com story about the ongoing spat between GOP majority leader Tom DeLay and former GOP majority leader Dick Armey.

Now, Armey is pretty off-the-charts nuts, but I'm starting to get a little nostalgic for the old times when he and Gingrich would just tease us and call us names ("Barney Fag"), instead of beating us to a bloody pulp as they do now-a-days.

Note that Armey (who we already knew opposed the Medicare farce and the insane budget deficits, as all honest liberals and conservatives have) also claims to have lobbied President Bush not to invade Iraq.

The money quote in this story, though, comes not from Armey but from AEI wonk and Roll Call contributor Norman Ornstein:

In the long run, Armey says, Republicans will be stronger if they allow genuine internal debate. But that is hardly the trend in the House, where DeLay "has taken every norm the Legislature has operated on and shredded it," the AEI's Ornstein said. Once, Republicans lambasted Democrats, when they were in the majority, for denying them the opportunity to amend bills on the House floor. Today, congressional leaders have gone even further by barring Democrats from participating in key conference committees, where final deals on legislation are worked out. In Texas, DeLay engineered a mid-decade redistricting of congressional seats designed to oust incumbent Democrats, breaking the tradition of realigning only after a 10-year census. "On a scale of 1 to 10, Democrats abused their majority status at about a level 5 or 6," Ornstein observed. "Republicans today have moved it to about an 11."

Yes, America, the current governing cabal, all of whom are Republicans (but not all Republicans are part of the current governing cabal) is corrupt beyond your wildest nightmares.

Sweep the bums out!

P.S. May be this is why a GOP aide claimed that it's "extremely difficult to govern when you control all three branches of government." If by govern, of course, you mean "crush all dissent."

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May 21, 2004


By Jim Dallas

Yes, I know I can be a little fatuous with all these polls, selectors, and quizzes (what can I say, I was turned to the dark side while working at the Texan alongside some serious TheSpark.com addicts).

Scottm brings us this selector which purports to answer the question, "which Democratic senator do you have the most in common with?"

As for me:

1: Ernest "Fritz" Hollings (South Carolina) (100%)
2: Daniel Inouye (Hawaii) (80%)
3: Jon Corzine (New Jersey) (80%)
4: Patrick Leahy (Vermont) (80%)
5: Edward "Ted" Kennedy (Massachusetts) (76%)
6: Robert C. Byrd (West Virginia) (76%) [Ed. note, tie with 5th]


20: Joseph Lieberman (Connecticut) (46%)
21: C. William "Bill" Nelson (Florida) (36%)
22: Blanche Lincoln (Arkansas) (33%)
23: John Breaux (Louisiana) (33%)
24: Max Baucus (Montana) (20%)
25: Zell Miller (Georgia) (16%)

I'd say that's mostly accurate; it's a shame Hollings is leaving the Senate, and past time for Miller to go. Although I do admire the fact that Breaux has a certain somethin'-somethin' that keeps him so popular in Louisiana. Daschle and Kerry both scored in the middle (63% and 50% respectively).

I'd conveniently note that while Hollings and Breaux are riding off into the sunset, you can and should consider donating to Inez Tenenbaum and Chris John (or John Kennedy). Also, Tom Daschle could use a pat on the back, and John Kerry needs turkee too.

Unfortunately, it leaves out a few pretty powerful senators (e.g. Feingold, Landrieu, Edwards) to squeeze into selectsmart's 25 selection limit.

P.S. I know it made me feel warm and fuzzy when Kerry noted his original support for the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings Act. Although some would deride it as mere show, the G-R-H Balanced Budget Act eventually lead to the adoption of PAYGO rules under the first Bush administration and under Clinton. As such, I would say G-R-H is probably the most important piece of legislation adopted in the last twenty years; Congress should adopt new PAYGO restraints soon, as our national fiscal crisis is the most serious problem we face today (worse even, I think, than Operation Iraqi Quicksand).

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"They'd rather be alive than free, poor dumb bastards."

By Jim Dallas

I have, for some time, wondered why so many professed right-libertarians are so unabashedly for the War in Iraq (one example here), even when we get news about American soldiers coming home in "transfer tubes," Americans getting their heads chopped off, prisoners being abused and civilians getting shot up at weddings. I mean, golly, there's certainly a lot of "initiation of unjust force" going on from both the Coalition and from the Iraqis (not to say there is moral equivalence -- just to say that we're knee-deep in a violent quagmire to which there is, apparently, no real exit; apparently, libertarians are supposed to be against wars.)

Then I stumbled on to this interesting passage (from LEFT LIBERTARIANISM: A REVIEW ESSAY, Barbara H. Fried, Stanford Law School Research Paper No. 63, September 2003):

2. Self-ownership

The locus classicus for the libertarian concept of self-ownership is of course the famous passage in John Locke’s Second Treatise on Government: “Though the Earth and all inferior Creatures be common to all Men, yet every Man has a Property in his own Person. This no Body has any Right to but himself.”15 What practical conclusions follow from this moral imperative has been subject to endless discussion.

The conventional right libertarian view is concisely set forth by Vallentyne, paraphrasing G. A. Cohen: “The core idea is that agents own themselves in just the same way that they can have maximal private ownership in a thing. This maximal private ownership is typically taken to include the right to fully manage (to use, and to allow or prohibit others from using); the right to the full income; the right to transfer fully any of these rights through market exchange, inter vivos gift, or bequest; and the right to recover damages if someone violates any of these rights. Redistributive taxation (e.g., of income or wealth) is incompatible with these rights of maximal private ownership.”16 For our purposes, the critical point is the last: that from the cardinal “principle that each person is the legitimate owner of his own powers,” it necessarily follows that redistributive taxation is tantamount to theft.17

In the hands of right libertarians, this absolutist view of self-ownership, coupled
with the belief that logical deduction can take us from the general principle of selfownership to detailed legal arrangements, has led to conclusions that will strike most people, for good reason, as absurd. Take, for example, Samuel Wheeler’s argument that taxation is morally akin to physical violence: “No significant moral difference in kind exists between eliminating my ability to play softball by taking my knees away and eliminating my ability to play the market by taking my money away. Crimes against property are just crimes against persons which tend not to produce immediate sensations of pain. Theft, taxation, and disembowelment are different forms of the same kind of violation of rights.”18 Rather than engaging all of the moral difficulties inherent in the assertion that disemboweling someone and levying an 8 percent sales tax on his luxury purchases is “the same kind of rights violation,” Wheeler has simply relocated these difficulties in the concession that they are “different forms” of that same kind. In this hermetically sealed world of formal analogic reasoning, questions like, “But might there be some reasons why we would condemn forcibly removing someone’s kidney or sticking a knife in someone’s back that don’t necessarily carry over to the state’s imposing an ad valorem property tax” are treated as nothing more than longwinded rhetorical questions, to which the only possible answer is “no.”

I guess it's all relative...

More credible explanations are welcomed.

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Obama Blog

By Byron LaMasters

Check out the Blog of my favorite 2004 U.S. Senate candidate, Barack Obama (D-IL) here.

I made a small donation to the campaign last month and you can donate to his campaign here.

Obama is the Democratic nominee for the open U.S. Senate Seat in Illinois. If elected, he will become only the third African-American Senator since reconstruction. It's by far our best pick-up opportunity, and Obama is an absolutely amazing candidate (check out his website for more info).

Speaking of Obama, he's the victim of a political stalking. His opponent, Republican Jack Ryan has hired a personal stalker to follow Obama everywhere he goes. The Chicago Sun Times reports:

For the past 10 days, U.S. Senate candidate Barack Obama hasn't been able to go to the bathroom or talk to his wife on his cell phone without having a camera-toting political gofer from his Republican rival filming a few feet away.

In what has to be a first in Illinois politics, Republican Jack Ryan has assigned one of his campaign workers to record every movement and every word of the state senator while he is in public.

That means Justin Warfel, armed with a handheld Panasonic digital camcorder, follows Obama to the bathroom door and waits outside. It means Warfel follows Obama as he moves from meeting to meeting in the Capitol. And it means Warfel tails Obama when he drives to his campaign office.

"It's standard procedure to record public speeches and things like that," Obama told reporters as the bald, 20-something operative filmed away. "But to have someone who's literally following you a foot and a half away, everywhere you go, going into the restrooms, standing outside my office, sitting outside of my office asking my secretary where I am, seems to be getting a little carried away."

Warfel interrupted Obama several times with heckling questions, but wouldn't respond when reporters asked him about who he was and why he was filming Obama's every move.

"You'll have to speak to the campaign office," Warfel said tartly to practically every inquiry.

Good God. Political stalking is nothing new, but following someone everywhere they go? Jesus. I think it basically says something about the Jack Ryan (GOP nominee) campaign. The guy thinks he has no chance unless he is able to catch Obama making a gaffe. Stupid Republicans....

Sun Times link via Political Wire and the Obama Blog.

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May 17, 2004

It's not Everyday...

By Byron LaMasters

When you've finished your last exam for the semester, ironically where one of the questions in my Southern History since 1865 exam was on the Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka, KA.

And today would be the 50th Anniversary of that landmark civil rights case that brought down the folly of "seperate but equal".

And today would also be the first day that gay marriage is legally recognized in the United States, albeit only in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, although New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer has vowed to recognize Massachusetts marriages in New York.

So in celebration of fifty years of progress on school integration in America (of course, there's still much work to do), and legal same-sex marriage in America, here's a picture of an interracial gay couple married today in Massachusetts:

Heck of a day, huh?

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May 13, 2004

America is Segregated

By Byron LaMasters

I did a post a few weeks ago on the "self-segregation of America into Red and Blue". I had some people agree with my thesis that I hope to explore when I have a chance - that the "social movements of the second half of the twentieth century have led to the self-segregation of many subgroups of American people" which leads "to a greater divide between Red and Blue America". Anyway, it's good to see I'm not alone here. Today CNN's Inside Politics interviewed the Austin American Statesman's political blogger Bill Bishop. The topic was Bishop's May 2nd (that I somehow missed) article on the segregation in America of the red and blue. What specifically interested me in the article is the vast increase of "landslide counties" (counties won by over 60% by a presidential candidate) and the vast decrease of "competitive counties" (counties won by 10 points or less) over the past thirty years.

The paradox of American politics is that as presidential elections have become closer nationally, the results locally have grown further apart. In 2000, 105 million people voted, and only a half-million ballots separated Gore and Bush. The candidates were within 10 percentage points of each other in just 772 counties out of more than 3,100.

The majority of these politically competitive counties are in the 18 states where Bush and Kerry are conducting their presidential campaigns today, according to an analysis conducted by the Statesman's statistical consultant, Robert Cushing.

Only six states have a majority of voters living in counties where both parties were competitive in 2000: New Hampshire, Nevada, Iowa, Maine, New Mexico and Florida. Even some battleground states are highly polarized. Tennessee, for example, had fewer competitive counties than the national average in 2000, but the state is politically balanced between a highly Democratic west and a very Republican east. In most of the country, presidential candidates face an electorate sorted into communities that have voted consistently Republican or Democratic for a generation.


The trend toward more politically segregated communities began sometime in the 1970s. When Democrat Jimmy Carter defeated incumbent Gerald Ford in 1976, 46 percent of all voters nationally lived in counties where the presidential election was decided by 10 percent or less.

In the1992 contest between Bill Clinton and President George H.W. Bush, 36 percent of American voters lived in competitive communities.

By 2000, only 25 percent lived in these politically mixed counties — and just eight states had an electorate as politically integrated as the national average 24 years earlier.

So why the changes? Social issues. The Democratic New Deal coalition of the 1930s was built on an incongruous range of social groups united behind an economic message. That coalition was largely successful on the Presidential level through 1964 and on a congressional level until 1994. However, between the mid-1960s and today, social issues have played a decisive role in the decisions that citizens make both in voting and in residence. The change also eroded the both the Democratic New Deal coalition and the Rockefeller wing of the national Republican Party. Instead of voting one's economic hopes, people vote their social fears (and this isn't necessarily a shot at Republicans, because we're all guilty of it). I fear that a second Bush term will further attack a woman's right to chose. I fear a second Bush term will continue to fight to deny rights to gays and lesbians. I fear that a second Bush term will continue to make America less safe by angering our friends and foes by sending our troops to unnecessary wars. Those fears motivate me much more than the hopes of a better economy or better health care that a Kerry presidency would likely deliver. Our fears on social issues also direct our residential decisions. People who feel more safe with a gun in their house are likely to feel safer knowing that their neighbors feel the same way, and vice versa. Gays, lesbians and feminists are more likely to live in places where their lifestyles and viewpoints are accepted or the norm. People who are wary of sending their kids to inner-city public schools are more likely to live near people in suburbs that feel the same way. People scared of illegal immigrants are more likely to live in gated communities among others who feel the same way. And this list could go on forever...

Studies, as well as the 2004 campaign thus far, reflect this divide (Bishop article, again):

The problem for candidates is that the country is polarized along a range of subjects. In the 1950s Michigan voters were divided on primarily economic issues. Today's candidates face voters who have roped off positions on race, religion, abortion, gay marriage, the war in Iraq and stem-cell research.

"The old game was safer," says Paul Maslin. "Let's just go for the middle and to hell with everybody else . . . If I had to say one true statement about the entire process you are describing at the national or state level, it's making life increasingly difficult for people who are trying to thread the needle, to find the swing voter."

Since the mid-1970s, when Democrats and Republicans were more likely to live in the same communities, American politics changed. Parties aligned with economic and social issues. Communities became predominantly Republican or Democratic. The number of voters in the middle declined.


The conservative backlash to President Bush's more liberal immigration proposals was just the kind of danger politicians face in this new world.

"My hunch is that it's just going to continue in the 2004 election," says Harvard University political scientist Eric Schickler. It's hard to reach out to new voters without alienating ones already in your camp, Schickler says. Meanwhile, "the polarization on Bush is accentuating, he says. "You have a good number of people who despise him and a good number of people who love him. And they live in different places."

Candidates are less concerned with persuasion — since only a small percentage of voters are uncommitted or live in politically diverse communities — and more obsessed with turnout. There is less need for debate in this kind of political environment. It's not to either candidate's benefit to confuse voters by discussing issues — after all, people who understand the other side are less likely to vote.

Everything people and the media say they deplore about elections — the negative advertisements and the issueless campaigns — is exactly what a population that is both divided and geographically isolated demands.

So is this good or bad for America? I'm not sure. On one hand, this type of campaign will lead to a president without a widespread mandate, who will be elected with a bare majority of the population and with no incentive to reach out much further beyond his base for fear of alienating it. On the other hand, social issues wedge an irreconcilable divide among Americans on one side or the other. Activists on both sides (myself included) are increasingly less likely willing to compromise. We are indoctrinated with passionate views that we know are right in our hearts and minds. Why compromise? I would say that this is simply the natural progression of politics and without serious economic problems (such as a Depression or double-digit unemployment) this is not an uncommon occurrence in American politics. We will see...

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May 11, 2004

The Vietnam Test

By Jim Dallas

To my horror, Jerome Armstrong documents some polling which indicates widespread ignorance among young people like us about the Vietnam War (hint - only 47 percent of 18-29 year olds knew which side we were fighting on!). This is a bad thing, since those who don't know history are doomed to repeat it.

While I am hardly an expert, I paid attention in history class. I've whipped up a few basic questions for you to answer. Since I am a big softie, I've made them multiple choice.

1. In the Vietnam War, enemy fighters were often referred to by the acronyms:

b. USSR and UAR
c. NVA and VC
d. NWA and RUN-DMC

2. US involvement in Vietnam began under which administration:

a. Eisenhower
b. Kennedy
c. Johnson
d. Reagan

3. Congress authorized the President to use military force in the _________ Resolution:

a. Bay of Pigs
b. Gulf of Tonkin
c. Gulf of Mexico
d. Pearl Harbor

4. The Secretary of Defense when the last US deaths (during the seige of Saigon in April 1975) was:

a. Robert McNamara
b. Caspar Weinberger
c. Donald Rumsfeld
d. James Schlesinger

5. Public support for the war was generally perceived to be strong until a series of battles referred to as the "Tet Offensive" in early _____:

a. 1966
b. 1967
c. 1968
d. 1969

Note: the answers are below.


1. c. (North Vietnamese Army and Viet Cong guerrillas)

2. a. US involvement in the region began shortly after the conclusion of the Geneva Accords in 1954, which created South Vietnam (which was backed by the United States).

3. b.

4.d. Donald Rumsfeld would not become Secretary of Defense until November 1975. US involvement technically ended with a cease-fire in early 1973; however, several detachments were left to guard US interests, such as the US embassy (which was abandoned April 30, 1975).

5. c.

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Are Texans* Cursed?

By Jim Dallas

Gallup Job Approval Score:

Lyndon Johnson, May 2, 1968: 46%

George H. W. Bush, May 7, 1992: 40%

George W. Bush, May 10, 2004: 46%

* Presuming, of course, that you count Bush I and Bush II (both born in Connecticut) as Texans.

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May 10, 2004

Utah GOP Kills off their Old

By Byron LaMasters

The dying moderate wing of the national Republican Party may have celebrated with the victory of Arlen Specter last month, but yesterday, the moderate Republican Governor of Utah failed to make the primary ballot at the Utah Republican convention. That's good news for Democrats. While Utah is arguably the most republican state in the nation, the Mattheson name carries some weight. The Democatic nominee will be Scott Matheson - son of a former governor and brother of Rep. Jim Matheson (D-Utah). Anyway, here's the story about the fall of the first female governor of Utah, the moderate seventy-three year old Olene Walker:

Mike Leavitt never experienced a day like his former lieutenant, confidant and successor did on Saturday. Current Gov. Olene Walker was eliminated from the 2004 governor's race by Republican delegates, who instead favored former U.S. Ambassador Jon Huntsman Jr. and Board of Regents Chairman Nolan Karras to compete for the state's highest office. Huntsman and Karras now face a June 22 primary. In three runs for governor, Leavitt -- though jeered at the 2000 convention -- each time emerged to the November election, unlike Walker, who took fourth place Saturday in her bid for four more years in the post -- the first incumbent Utah governor to lose at party convention since J. Bracken Lee in 1956. Leavitt, who was tapped last year by President Bush to head the Environmental Protection Agency, called Walker a "competent executive," who was excelling in her position.


A top Democrat said the Utah GOP was making a mistake by eliminating Walker, whom Democrats saw as a political moderate willing to work with the minority party.
"It's kind of like throwing your grandma from the train," said State Democratic party Chairman Donald Dunn, who had scheduled a news conference for this morning regarding Walker's elimination. "It just shows that the Republican delegates are nominated by kind of the right-wing agenda and I think they're out of touch with Utahns."
Mike Dmitrich, a Price Democrat and leader of the Senate minority party, said Republicans would have been smarter to embrace Walker and her politics. "They are passing up a very viable candidate for the November election. It indicates the party is further right than Republicans are known for."
The convention outcome aside, Leavitt -- whose pick of Walker as a running mate made her Utah's first female lieutenant governor and chief executive -- says Walker has made her mark on Utah. "History will remember her well," he said.

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May 09, 2004

Supporting College Democrats

By Byron LaMasters

It's always a privilege to see talented young Democrats run for office. One such candidate is Ashley Bell, the current President of the College Democrats of America. Bell is running for state representative in Georgia and is the Democratic nominee against a Democrat-turned-Republican incumbent in a district Democrats had held for fifty years. Anyway, you can help him out by sending him a few bucks if you so desire. His webpage is here.

Learn more about Ashley on his bio page. Impressive work.

While I'm on the topic of College Democrats, don't forget that we have a College Democrat here in Texas running for the state house - James Gilbreath.

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May 08, 2004

The Case for Wesley Clark

By Byron LaMasters

He's not my first choice for Vice President, but he made a hell of a case for the job with his Democratic Radio Address today. Here's part of it:

We owe the men and women in the Armed Forces a tremendous debt of gratitude. But we also owe them the proper equipment – the armored vests, the armored vehicles, the radios that they need so they can do the job safely. Yet, more than a year after the President sent them into battle, they still don't have this equipment. Some 200 lives might have been spared had they had the protective gear and armored equipment that the mission actually requires. 200 Lives. It’s an inexcusable loss. The Bush Administration should have addressed this issue long ago. It must do so immediately.

But the larger picture is also disturbing. Our President took us to war with exaggerated, hyped intelligence. He took us to war in Iraq without an imminent threat to our country. He took us to war before all the diplomatic options were exhausted. He took us to war before our allies were fully on board, and before we had a realistic plan or adequate forces to deal with what would happen after we reached Baghdad. And all of this campaign was a distraction from our pursuit of Osama bin Laden, who was after all our real enemy.

The truth is President Bush has made mistake after mistake as Commander-in-Chief, taking us first into a war we didn't have to fight alone and under false pretenses and now managing it so poorly.


With new American leadership we can gain real help from our NATO allies - and from countries in the region. With their help, we can create the conditions for free and fair elections, transition to a secure and free Iraq, and bring home much of our military.

My fellow Americans this is an election year. It is our duty as citizens to use the power of the vote and hold accountable our President. I believe we need new leadership in America to keep us safe at home, to win the war on terror and to regain respect for America abroad.

Amen to that.

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Tell Donald Rumsfeld to Resign

By Byron LaMasters

Sign the petition on John Kerry's website, here.

Here's the Kerry Campaign Statement:

The events of the last week are a stark reminder of the stakes in this Presidential election. John Kerry’s remarks yesterday painted a striking contrast to President Bush’s evasion of responsibility:

"As president, I will not be the last to know what is going on in my command," Kerry said. "I will demand accountability for those who serve, and I will take responsibility for their actions. And I will do everything that I can in my power to repair the damage that this has caused to America, to our standing in the world, and to the ideals for which we stand.... Today, I have a message for the men and women of our armed forces. As Commander in Chief, I will honor your commitment, and I will take responsibility for the bad as well as the good."

Show George Bush and show the media that you support John Kerry’s stand: Donald Rumsfeld MUST resign immediately.

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I'll have to tell my mother about this...

By Byron LaMasters

She's a member of Curves - a women's fitness chain, which also happens to be a large donor to militantly anti-abortion groups. Via, our favorite news source, FOX News:

With its 30-minute workouts, no men, no mirrors and no exorbitant membership fees, Curves International is the fastest growing fitness chain in America, helping more than 3 million women stay in shape. But in San Francisco, Curves is being called out over abortion because owner Gary Heavin donates millions of dollars to anti-abortion groups.

Ruth Rosen at The San Francisco Chronicle took issue with the pro-life, Christian businessman, writing in a recent op-ed piece that Heavin has given at least $5 million to some of the most militant anti-abortion groups in the country and Curves members who are pro-choice might want to take their business elsewhere.

Fair and Balanced FOX News, of course, goes on to question the assertion here, but others have looked into the political interests of Curves owner Gary Heavin. Here's what AlterNet found about the guy:

Heavin, like his next-door neighbor George W. Bush in Crawford, Texas, found redemption as a grown man. Before founding Curves in 1992, he went bankrupt, lost custody of his two children and served a six-month jail sentence for not paying child support. In prison, he became a born-again Christian.

In 2003, Heavin and his wife gave away $10 million – 10 percent of their company's gross revenues – to charities. At least half of that money went to three Texas organizations to fund "pregnancy crisis centers" supported by Operation Save America – the same organization that blamed the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on God's retribution for abortions and whose purpose, as described on its Web site, is to "unashamedly take up the cause of pre-born children in the name of Jesus Christ."

By offering the same health services provided by Planned Parenthood – except abortion – anti-abortion activists hope that privately financed alternatives would force the closure of any clinics that don't insist "you must carry your child to term."

Anyway, the debate started with an op-ed piece in the San Francisco Chronicle by Ruth Rosen. She concludes her op-ed stating that Curves is a feminist dilemma. What should women do about Curves?

Here, then, is a feminist dilemma. Curves targets Baby Boomer women -- many of whom consider themselves feminists -- precisely because it offers a refuge from gyms that cater to musclemen or singles. Yet Heavin's contributions to anti-abortion groups goes against many women's deeply held belief that they should have the right to make their own reproductive choices.

What to do? Your decision. There are alternatives, including just plain walking.

We'll see what comes of it. I apologize if I've disappointed some women out there that may be Curves members, but I think that it's important for all of us to know where our money as consumers is going.

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May 05, 2004

U.S. Out of Iraq?

By Byron LaMasters

The Hill reports that there might be a change of attitude within the Democratic House caucus:

Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.) told his Democratic colleagues Tuesday that he feared the war in Iraq is unwinnable if the U.S. military does not dramatically increase troop levels, provide more ground support and seek significant international involvement.

But Murtha — a Vietnam veteran, an early Democratic advocate of President Bush’s authority to invade Iraq and one of Congress’s staunchest supporters of the military — expressed serious doubts that those remedies are even faint possibilities, given current military deployments, a lack of support from NATO allies and widespread outrage over the mistreatment of Iraqi prisoners of war.

Coming from a senior appropriator with close ties to the Pentagon, Murtha’s bleak analysis led many colleagues to surmise that he believes a democratic Iraq is a lost cause.

The White House, however, notified Congress yesterday that it would ask for an additional $25 billion supplemental bill for military operations in Iraq and the war on terrorism. The request will most likely be attached to the 2005 defense appropriations bill.

Many Democrats, especially those long opposed to the war, welcomed Murtha’s apparent change of heart. Democrats continued to vent about the U.S. casualties, the administration’s planning for the war and the POW images.

Murtha declined to elaborate on his presentation, given in this week’s “leader lunch,” but several lawmakers and aides confirmed that he had delivered his dire warning.

And because of his stature among colleagues, Murtha’s increased gloom about Iraq may indicate a sea change within the Democratic congressional ranks, the sources added.

Murtha told The Hill that he would appear with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) at a press conference tomorrow to “talk about the situation, and to talk about the prisoner situation.”

Murtha supported the war from the begining. Now, he's begining to think that it might be unwinnable. I don't support pulling out of Iraq right now, because by invading Iraq, we made it a potential haven for terrorists. If we pull out, Al Queda and other terrorists could find an ally in a disorganized Iraq. By failing to build a broad international coalition to win the peace in Iraq, we've made our own troops vulnerable. So basically, Bush put us in a situation where we're screwed either way. If we pull out, Iraq becomes a haven for terrorists. If we stay in Iraq, more American soldiers will be coming home in body bags on a daily basis. A lot of folks don't understand John Kerry's Iraq policy, because it seems to differ little from the President's. That may be so, but John Kerry would at least have a chance at going to other nations and asking for their support with an ounce of creditability. President Bush's reckless and arrogant attitude in the months leading up to the war tied our hands, preventing a widespread international coalition for rebuilding Iraq. And, the revelations in the past days on prisoner abuse certainly don't help.

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May 04, 2004

The Fascist Test

By Jim Dallas

Despite being the (tongue-in-cheek) self-proclaimed "Number One DailyKOS Crypto-Fascist," this page says I'm on the low-end of normal when it comes to fascist tendencies. Which is a good thing.

Your F Score is: 3.2
You are disciplined but tolerant; a true American.

(The average in the original 1950 study of Americans that this page is based upon was 3.84).

[satire]Obviously, I'm being duped by a secret cabal of queer-masonic-muslim-commies from New Jersey who are trying to keep me from seeing the plain truth -- that we should nuke Mecca today! (The whales will get theirs in good time, after we string up the liberals and the French.)

(I guess I need to be reading more LittleGreenFootballs...)[/satire]

Hat tip to the LGF Quiz Blog.

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April 30, 2004

About Miles Nelson

By Byron LaMasters

I don't tend to focus too much on Democratic primary races, as the real fight is to beat Republicans. For that reason, I haven't said much about Miles Nelson - one of the BlogAds you see on the left side when you've logged on to BOR the past two weeks. Nelson's campaign is trying to raise $25,000 by May 5th (they've raised over $16,000 so far since April 17thth) to get their television ads on the air. He's running for the Democratic nomination to take on Heather Wilson in an Albuquerque based congressional district. It's a district that voted for Al Gore and Bill Richardson, but due to luck, a strong Green Party presence and poor Democratic challengers, Wilson has managed to hang on to her seat. Miles Nelson is trying to change that, and I wanted to give his campaign staff an opportunity to discuss his campaign:

We are currently engaged in a three way Democratic Primary set for June 1st. Our opponents are Eli Chavez (www.eliforcongress.com) and Richard Romero (www.richardromeroforcongress.com). We believe that Miles is the best candidate to take on Heather Wilson. Why?

Republicans have controlled our district since its creation in 1969. Yet,
Al Gore won the district in 2000, with Nader receiving a significant chunk
of the remainder. Bill Clinton won it handily in 1992 & 1996. Bill
Richardson won it in 2002. Richard Romero was the 2002 Dem nominee and
couldn't close the deal - even with Richardson's coattails. Romero lost by
the largest margin of any Democrat to run against Heather Wilson, even
without Green opposition. The Green Party took between 6-13% when Wilson
won in 1998 & 2000.

Richard Romero is an uninspired career politician running without a
platform. Many in Albuquerque's heavily Democratic South Valley are very
suspicious of Romero and didn't vote for him in 2002. Why? He deposed the
South Valley's Manny Aragon as President Pro-Tem of the state Senate. This
infuriated many of Manny's constituents. Eli Chavez's candidacy comes out
of the division and anger that Romero cultivated after his political coup -
that included a number of Republican state Senators - succeeded in unseating
Aragon. Richard Romero doesn't have a platform. Check out his website, he
doesn't outline a single position! Richard Romero is a divisive figure who
didn't come close to closing the deal in 2002.

Romero says he can win because the establishment supports him, he can raise
lots of money and "the second times the charm." Problem is, in 1998, the
Democrats ran the extremely well financed Phil Maloof twice - in a special
election and the general. Despite outspending Wilson, he lost both times -
because he was uninspired and didn't have the depth of knowledge on the
issues. Romero will be outspent 3:1 by Wilson and is equally uninspired and

Defeating Heather Wilson will require a new strategy. We need a candidate
who can unite the Democratic Party and who is willing to work hard. We were
the first candidate with literature, the first with a website, the first
with paid media. We're spending the money we have VERY wisely. We're
building an impressive grassroots campaign that relies on innovative
strategies to raise money and contact voters. Miles is constantly meeting
voters or on the phone. Once they meet him, they respond to his positive
vision for New Mexico.

Miles Nelson is the most articulate candidate with an incredible story.
Like John Edwards, he came from a very modest background. He's the son of a
sharecropper and a waitress. He's a former Teamster who worked his way
through the University of Alaska, Stanford Medical School and residency at
the University of New Mexico. He's a passionate orator who speaks credibly
on three very important issues:

Healthcare. As a physician, he speaks with total validity on this very
important issue. He believes that healthcare is a fundamental right. His
message resonates amongst the voters of our district.

Environment/Energy. Miles Nelson lives in an energy efficient home that he
and his wife designed. He talks the environmental talk - and walks the

Jobs/Labor. A former Teamster, Miles Nelson understands the issues that
face New Mexico's working families. He will fight for fair trade, quality
education and job creation right here in New Mexico.

We have 5 television and radio commercials in production. They'll be on our
website by next Sunday. We need to raise $25K by May 1 to get them on the

Anyway, check out his website to learn more.

Update: Nelson has recently been endorsed by one of his primary challengers.

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April 29, 2004

Dude! Sweet? Dude? Sweet!

By Jim Dallas

Even if it weren't for Brad DeLong's strained attempt at being cute, this would still be a pretty interesting (and devastatingly obvious) post about why the dollar is heading down, down, down...

(And while I would not be qualified as an economist to say with certainty, but I would imagine that any further drop in the dollar presages increases in the price of crude oil (which is dollar denominated) and, consequently, a likely increase in the price of gasoline.)

In short, there's only so long you can get the rest of the world to fund your wild shopping sprees, and payback could be a b*tch (although your mileage may vary).

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April 28, 2004

Bad Zell

By Jim Dallas

Atrios expresses bewilderment over Zell Miller's support for repealing the 17th (Direct Election of Senators) Amendment.

(Off the Kuff talked about this recently, also).

It's really pretty simple:

Miller, who is retiring in January, was first appointed to his post in 2000 after the death of Paul Coverdell. He said Wednesday that rescinding the 17th Amendment, which declared that senators should be elected, would increase the power of state governments and reduce the influence of Washington special interests.

Miller, who knows a lot about Washington special interests, is essentially saying that the Senate should be the toy of special interests in Austin, Atlanta, and Sacramento. It's saying that Tom Craddick ought to call the shots, not "Washington special interests" like the AARP and the Sierra Club. That's why Tom DeLay likes this idea.

Miller, who knows a lot about being a partisan hack (for the other party), is saying that state politics should revolve entirely around who is gonna support which party's special interest Senator. Suppose you live in Jack Stick's district, and you like Jack Stick and want to vote for him - but you can't, because he'd vote to send John Cornyn (you'd prefer to be represented by Jim Turner) back to Washington. If you're a national-level Democrat, or Republican, that means you got to toe the same line when you vote for state representative and state senator (rather than having this degenerate luxury of being able to vote "the man" instead of the party at all levels of government).

Say buh-bye to swing voters.

Repealing the 17th Amendment has become the latest conservanaut fad because it furthers the cause of oligarchy, graft, and greed. Duh!

Now here's a challenge for the conservanauts - name one concrete example of how having direct election of senators has "corrupted" the country.

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Speaker Pelosi?

By Byron LaMasters

Sounds awesome to me.

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April 27, 2004

PA Primary Results

By Byron LaMasters

Here they are:

Democratic Presidential Nomination:
Precincts Reporting: 9147 Of 9416 (97%)
John KERRY - 566,394 - 74%
Howard DEAN - 78,075 - 10%
John EDWARDS - 74,663 - 10%
Dennis KUCINICH - 29,667 - 4%
Lyndon LAROUCHE - 17,622 - 2%

Republican Senate Nomination:
Precincts Reporting: 9212 Of 9416 98%
Arlen SPECTER - 517,409 - 51%
Pat TOOMEY - 501,192 - 49%

U.S. House District 13 Democratic Nomination (Incumbent Joe Hoeffel is the Democratic Nominee for U.S. Senate):
Precincts Reporting: 501 Of 509 98%
Allyson SCHWARTZ - 23,993 - 52%
Joe TORSELLA - 21,920 - 48%

U.S. House District 13 GOP Nomination:
Precincts Reporting: 501 Of 509 98%
Melissa BROWN - 22,463 - 39%
Ellen BARD - 20,240 - 35%
Al TAUBENBERGER - 15,304 - 26%

U.S. House District 15 Democratic Nomination (Toomey's seat):
Precincts Reporting: 306 Of 310 99%
Joe DRISCOLL - 17,946 - 56%
Rick ORLOSKI - 14,032 - 44%

U.S. House District 15 GOP Nomination:
Precincts Reporting: 306 Of 310 99%
Charlie DENT 24,739 52%
Joseph PASCUZZO 15,701 33%
Brian O'NEILL 7,311 15%

Specter limps on to the GOP nomination. He's clearly the favorite against Hoeffel in November, but he may have to worry about the conservative turnout in November. The Club for Growth succeeded in making many Republicans believe that there's no difference between Arlen Specter and John Kerry.

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Low Turnout in PA

By Byron LaMasters

Which is good news for Pat Toomey. The Philadelphia Inquirer reports.

The polls close at 8 PM Eastern Time in Pennsylvania (7 PM CST).

I won't be here to post this evening, but the best place to check for results is probably the Philadelphia newspaper.

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The Self-Segregation of America into Red and Blue

By Byron LaMasters

Yesterday, the Washington Post ran a great front page story on "Red America" (the second in a series of three) highlighting Sugarland, Texas (the home of Republican majority leader Tom DeLay). I've recently been fascinated by the divide in America between Red States and Blue States. In reality, the divide is more than Red vs. Blue. The divide is between Red counties and Blue counties. Look at a map of Red Counties versus Blue counties for the 2000 election. It would be hard to imagine that Al Gore actually won more votes than George W. Bush by viewing the sea of red across much of the country. Even California, which is considered safe for Kerry after Al Gore carried the state by 1.3 Million votes saw more counties won by Bush. Gore's margin of victory came from his 800,000 vote margin from Los Angeles County, and his similar margin from Metro San Francisco (margins of 220,000 in Alameda Co. 190,000 in San Francisco Co., 140,000 in Santa Clara Co., 85,000 in San Mateo Co., and 80,000 in Contra Costa Co.).

California is just one example, though. Most of the Blue states rely on a few major population centers delivering overwhelming margins for Democrats to make them "Blue states". Just as many urban counties are delivering increasingly overwhelming margins for Democrats (Al Gore carried New York City 78%-18% in an election that ended in a virtual tie. Gore's margin was larger than the margin that Lyndon B. Johnson carried the city in his 1964 landslide victory over the far scarier, trigger-happy, anti-Civil Rights GOP nominee Barry Goldwater), rural and suburban counties have become GOP strongholds in many places.

For the first time since the late nineteenth century, there have been three consecutive presidential elections where the winner received less than 50% of the vote. I attribute this to the increasing divide in America. Why?

I'd like to write a paper on this subject, and here's what I would like to argue as my thesis:

The social movements of the second half of the twentieth century have led to the self-segregation of many subgroups of American people. This self-segregation has led to a greater divide between Red and Blue America as individuals put themselves in social surroundings that reinforce and strengthen, rather than challenge their political viewpoints.

There are several glaring examples of this. The first and most significant is the "white flight" to the suburbs over busing that began in earnest in the 1970s and emerged in the 1990s with the rise of Republicans in the southern congressional elections (especially in the 1992 and 1994 elections). The Washington Post article mentioned earlier gives a great example of how this self-segregation and largely homogeneous community has led to political groupthink among residents in Sugarland, Texas.

It's Wednesday afternoon now and Stein is there with two friends, Craig Lannom and Lance May. They are three husbands, three fathers, three Bush votes, three guys watching ESPN and drinking some beers.

Round Number One:

"They make me feel like I have no hope. They make you feel like, why wake up in the morning?" Lannom says of Blue Americans he sees on TV or hears on the radio. "It's like every time I hear Al Franken speak, the world we live in is sooo bad, everything is going sooo wrong. Is it really that bad?"

"We see life as it is," May says.

"They seem bitter," Lannom says. "They just never seem happy. Every time you hear them talking, they're bitching about something."

"They're whiners," Stein agrees.

Round Two:

I have a cappuccino maker," May confesses.

"You have a what?" Stein asks.

Round Three:

"It's early in the morning, when the sun comes up behind that bank of fog," Stein says, describing his favorite thing about hunting.

"It's when you're fishing, and you look around, and you're the only guy around," May says.

"Fly fishing in Colorado. It was a religious experience," Lannom says.

Round Four:

"I feel it's safer out here. I feel it's more stable. More my kind of people," Lannom says of the appeal of Sugar Land.

"Where the grass is green and the trees are trimmed," Stein says.

"You live in planned neighborhoods where your investment is fairly safe," May says.

"The first time I put my trash out, I put it by the curb, and my neighbor came out and said, 'We don't curb our trash here in Sugar Land.' " Lannom says, laughing. "I had some cinch bugs in my front yard or something, my neighbor says, 'Craig, I want to talk to you about your brown patch.' "

"It's so predictable here," Stein says.

"But that's not bad, though," Lannom says.

"No, that's not bad," Stein says.

Time to go.

Red America. People in Red America like to feel safe, and away from the problems that exist in many cities. Jokingly, one political analyist in 2000 said that one of the best indicators of voting behavior was the proximity of a person to a Starbucks and a Wal-Mart. The greater proportion of Starbucks to people in a community, the higher the Democratic performance. The greater proportion of Wal-Marts to people of a community, the higher the Republican performance. The article also addresses family and religious issues. It's a great read, so check it out.

Of course, I like to pick on Republicans, but liberals are also guilty of self-segregation. Gays and lesbians (in particular) are likely to self-segregate themselves into cities where they are more accepted and can be more open about their sexual orientation. I'm guilty of this. I don't care if I was offered a starting salary of $100,000, I wouldn't move to somewhere like Midland, Texas, because I'd spend most of my salary getting out of there every weekend. Austin is about the smallest sized city where I can see myself living. Gays and lesbians aren't the only ones, though. We self-segregate ourselves by the universities we attend either on the right (Bob Jones, Washington and Lee) and on the left (Wesleyan, Oberlin) - just to name a few of the more extreme examples. We self-segregate ourselves by the books we read, the television we watch and the radio we listen to. The increasingly partisan political books, FOX News and right-wing talk radio (along with the emergence of the leftist Air America Radio) have seen both liberals and conservatives encourage and reinforce their ideology rather than challenge it.

The reallignment of the parties have followed these changes. Throughout much of the century, both parties had two wings. The Democratic Party had a northern liberal wing, and a southern conservative wing united by the New Deal. The Republican Party had a liberal Eastern (Rockafeller) wing and a more conservative, isolationist western wing. Evenually, these intraparty fights were decided. The western wing won control of the Republican Party with the nomination of Barry Goldwater in 1964 and of Ronald Reagan in 1980. The northern wing of the national Democratic Party won with the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act. Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton were only able to win their Democratic Presidential nominations by their abandonment and denouncement of the conservative segregationalist policies of their predecessors. The party reallignment has continued to merge as conservative southern interests have alligned themselves with the Republicans, and liberal northeasterners have alligned themselves with the Democratic Party. The rise of DeLay and Gingrich from suburban "white flight" districts have come to define Republican Congressional leadership. Likewise, the election of Nancy Pelosi as Democratic House Minority leader is reflective of the evolition of the national Democratic Party.

Anyway, I'd like to research this further. Does anyone have any thoughts on my thesis?

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Specter vs. Toomey

By Byron LaMasters

The primary is today, and it's a dead heat. I've personally beem torn about this race. For those of you that haven't been following. Right-wing Congressman (with a populist touch) Pat Toomey is challenging relative moderate Senator Arlen Specter for the GOP Senate nomination in Pennsylvania. The Democratic nominee is Joe Hoeffel.

Many Democrats are all but openly cheering for a Toomey victory. The conventional wisdom is that Democrats would have a much better shot at picking up the seat against a relatively unknown right-winger (with heavy Club for Growth support), than against the popular moderate Specter. Others think that Toomey will energize the Republican base and cut into some Democratic union support helping Bush in the state as well as sending a more conservative Republican to Congress. Toomey argues that his Allentown based congressional district was carried by Al Gore in 2000, yet he's won it without too much trouble. He credits his success to "Reagan Democrats" that responded to his populist conservative message. Specter on the other hand, has the full support of President Bush and our good friend Senator Rick Santorum. Many pro-choice suburban Philadelphia voters that would vote for Specter are unlikely to vote for Toomey. Also, the money that flows to incumbents and presumptive winners that Specter would have in the fall would be much less likely to go to Toomey. Some Republicans have openly speculated that Pennsylvania would be out of play in the presidential election if Toomey wins tonight. Several million dollars that would be spent getting out GOP voters probably won't be there for Toomey (although the Club for Growth would make up for some of it, much of the money would go to Hoeffel). Finally, today is a test for the Bush campaign team. The Bush campaign has prepared for this election as a test run for its election day campaign team. They're testing the effectiveness of their blockwalking, phonebanking, television, radio, direct mail, etc. strategies. A victory for Specter is a victory for the Bush campaign team. A victory for Toomey is a defeat for the Bush campaign team. For that reason, if for no other, I'll be pulling for Toomey tonight. I'll post the link for returns when I find it.

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April 26, 2004

Clinton Memoirs to go on sale in June

By Byron LaMasters

Good news here. There was some concern that the Clinton memoirs would be released after the Democratic convention and take attention away from John Kerry. Well, that won't happen. In fact, the Clinton memoirs could help build up excitement to the Democratic convention:

Former President Bill Clinton's highly anticipated memoirs about his political career and scandal-plagued presidency, entitled "My Life," will go on sale in late June, publishing house Alfred A. Knopf announced on Monday.

The book, for which Knopf reportedly paid between $10 million and $12 million, provides an account of Clinton's life through the White House years, Sonny Mehta, president and editor in chief at Knopf, said in a statement.

John Zogby also thinks that this development is good for Kerry:

"Anything that reminds people about the enormous prosperity in this country under Bill Clinton's leadership is a good thing for us," said Stephanie Cutter, a Kerry spokeswoman.

Republican consultant Nelson Warfield argued Clinton's book could hurt the Kerry campaign.

"Kerry wants to be the story, he needs to be the story and Clinton will hog the spotlight as only a Clinton can," said Warfield. "Instead of talking about Kerry's challenge to Bush, people are going to be talking about what does Bill Clinton think about this."

Independent pollster John Zogby disagreed, saying the impact would be positive for Kerry "especially this year where it's all about getting the base out. Nobody gets the base out like Bill and Hillary."

"If the book were coming out in October, it would be a different story," Zogby added. "It would suck all the air out. June is a good time. It's aired, it gives a boost to Kerry and then he's not overshadowing him in October."

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April 25, 2004

Highest Concentration of Anti-Bush Voters Located

By Karl-Thomas Musselman


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April 24, 2004

GOP Minority Voter Intimidate Tactics Revealed

By Byron LaMasters

Great post by Andrew D. over at the Yellow Dog Blog last week. Why didn't you post it here, Andrew?

Anyway, he cites a New York Times editorial that shows the lengths to which Republicans in some places go to intimidate minority voters. I knew of some of these tactics, but I hadn't heard of others. Anyway, this year the GOP scare tactics have hit the traditionally Democratic Native American parts of South Dakota (where Sen. Tom Daschle faces a tough reelection fight with former Rep. John Thune):

It has been years since the bad old days when Southern blacks were given "literacy tests," and voting rights activists were beaten and killed. But blacks, Hispanics and Indians are still regularly discouraged from voting, often under the guise of "ballot integrity" programs that are supposed to be aimed at deterring fraud at the polls.

Minority vote suppression tears at the fabric of American democracy. It persists, however, for a simple reason: in close elections, when some minority groups are strongly identified with a single party, it can be the difference between winning and losing. In 2002, the Indian vote in South Dakota helped Senator Tim Johnson win by just 528 votes.

Today, in Bennett County, S.D., Indians say they have to contend with poll workers who make fun of their names, election officials who make it hard for them to register and — most ominously — a wave of false voter fraud charges that have been made against them, which they regard as harassment. Jo Colombe, a Rosebud Sioux tribal council member, said that when she worked as a poll watcher in a recent election she was accused of fraud simply for taking a bathroom break. When she returned, she said, white poll watchers charged her with copying the names of Indians who had not yet voted, and taking them out to Indians waiting in the parking lot. In January, prosecutors dropped a highly publicized case against another Indian woman, Rebecca Red Earth-Villeda.

With South Dakota's senior senator, Tom Daschle, running in another hotly contested race this year, Indians are bracing for more trouble at the polls. Many Indians feel their situation is similar to other so-called ballot integrity efforts over the last few decades. In the 1986 Louisiana Senate race, for instance, Republicans began a purge of tens of thousands of voters. An internal party document made clear that the goal was to "keep the black vote down." In North Carolina's 1990 Senate race, Jesse Helms supporters mailed 125,000 postcards to predominantly black voting precincts, misleading voters about residency requirements and warning that misstatements to voting officials could mean five years in prison.

More recently, Republican poll watchers in the 2002 Arkansas Senate election took photos of blacks as they voted, an intimidation tactic that has been used in other parts of the country. In last fall's Kentucky governor's race, Republicans announced plans to challenge voters in 59 predominantly black precincts. After the N.A.A.C.P. objected, the program was scaled back. And this year, a local Texas prosecutor threatened to arrest students at historically black Prairie View A&M if they tried to vote from their campus addresses, which the law allows them to do. He backed down when he was sued.

Intimidation of Hispanic voters has often focused on immigration matters. In one case that caused an uproar in California in 1988, Republicans hired uniformed security officers to serve as "poll guards" in Latino precincts in Orange County.

The editorial goes on to recommend remedies to the problems, but without widespread outrage, these activities will continue. It's important that Democrats publicize every time the other side attempts to undermine the democratic process. In fact, it's our duty and obligation to do so.

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April 23, 2004

Hyperbole of the Day

By Byron LaMasters

"We see this time as the climax of the civil war of values that's been raging for 35 years. This is the Gettysburg. This is the D-Day, the Stalingrad. We must oppose those who have done so much to create the mess that we're in."

- Dr. James Dobson of Focus on the Family regarding his support for Patrick Toomey over Arlen Specter in the Republican Pennsylvania Primary for U.S. Senate.

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April 20, 2004

A First for Me

By Byron LaMasters

I frequently donate to political candidates. I've given money to Howard Dean, John Kerry, (Texas Senate candidate) Paul Sadler, (US Congress candidate) Ron Chapman, (U.S. Senate candidate) Ron Kirk, (State Rep.) Eddie Rodriguez among others. I usually donate $10-$25. I consider myself a party activist who will donate to candidates that I believe in from time to time. However, I've never given money to an out of state candidate (I exclude presidential candidates as they're on the ballot in Texas) - until today.

Today, I donated $10 to Barack Obama - the Democratic nominee for the open U.S. Senate seat in Illinois. No, he's not running BlogAds on BOR, nor is he someone that I'll have the chance to vote for. Just listen to his campaign video (and campaign ads), and tell me that you're not inspired. I've spent the last hour or so listening to his ads and videos and I'm just inspired (yeah, I'm a dork). John Kerry would be smart to give this guy a prominent speaking role at the Democratic convention this summer. I endorsed Barack Obama before the Democratic primary in Illinois because he's just amazing. You can read my endorsement here, or check out his website here. God, I hope he wins. He'll be a national Democratic Party star overnight. He's almost too good to be true.

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Hypocrisy Anyone?

By Byron LaMasters

I don't write always write about the candidates running BlogAds on my site, but this race merits special mention. At first glance, it looks a bit obscure. Why is Robbyn Tumey, a Democratic candidate for state representative in Arkansas running BlogAds?

Well, she has an interesting opponent: Timothy C. Hutchinson. Does the name ring a bell? It did for me. He's the 30 year old son of former Sen. Tim Hutchinson (R-AR), who was defeated by Sen. Mark Pryor (D-AR) in 2002. So here's another son of another Republican politician trying to work his way into politics. No big deal, right?

Wrong. Timothy C. Hutchinson has a little bit of a past. Sure, everyone makes mistakes when they're young. I know I have. But Timothy C. Hutchinson didn't just make a mistake. He was responsible for the deaths of two Texans in a car accident in 1996. Here's what the New Orleans Times-Picayune wrote on March 16, 1997:

The son of a U.S. senator was fined $50 for his role in a car accident that left a Texas couple dead.

Timothy Chad Hutchinson, the 22-year-old son of Sen. Tim Hutchinson, R-Ark., pleaded no contest to driving left of the center line and operating a car whose tire tread had worn thin. He also was ordered to pay $100 in court costs Tuesday.

Hutchinson's car crossed a highway during a storm Oct. 31 and hit a car carrying a family to a funeral. A tractor-trailer then hit the two cars.

Jack Clinton Watlington, 69, and Reba Beavers Watlington, 66, of Center, Texas, were killed. Their son was injured.

So lets see here. This guy is responsible for the deaths of two people and he gets off with a slap on the wrist. Now he's running for the Arkansas legislature as a "law and order" candidate. The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette wrote on the race on February 21, 2004:

Timothy Hutchinson, a former deputy prosecutor in Sebastian and Benton counties, said he's a "law and order" candidate.

I'm not sure about the partisan flavor of the district, but the Democrat running in the race is Robbyn Tumey, so if you are so inclined, drop her a few bucks.

There's more on the story over at Arkansas Tonight.

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April 17, 2004

Damn Good Flash Ad

By Byron LaMasters

This is perhaps the best Flash Ad I've ever seen. It has clips compiled by the Joe Hoeffel U.S. Senate campaign in Pennsylvania of the debate between Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) and his stronger than expected conservative challenger Pat Toomey (R-PA) in the upcoming GOP primary. In the debate, both candidates went out of their way to out-conservative, out-Reagan, out-Bush and out-Santorum each other (but fail to say anything about creating new jobs for Pennsylvania). It's quite amusing.

Take a look

Via Atrios.

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April 14, 2004

Taking a byte out of terrorism

By Jim Dallas

Commission Vice Chairman Lee Hamilton (D-Indiana), said during a press conference today after the conclusion of Robert Mueller's testimony that the government was "getting hundreds of bytes per minute" in information about terrorism, but was having trouble making sense of it. "One byte of information doesn't reveal a plot," Hamilton opined, but 10 or 15 or 100 might.

Hundred-byte/minute throughput would be pretty impressive, except for the fact that the last paragraph contained 370 bytes of information (a byte being eight bits, or approximately one character).

I hope the ghostwriters and commission staffers who write the final report are a little more tech-saavy.

Although, given the fact that earlier testimony today revealed that Internet access at the FBI's Washington field office is limited to only one Internet terminal per floor, you kinda have to worry that Commissioner Hamilton might be on to something.

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April 13, 2004

Bush vs. Bush (Actionable Intelligence Edition)

By Jim Dallas

More flippety-floppetyfrom Gee Dubya.

"Some have said we must not act until the threat is imminent. Since when have terrorists and tyrants announced their intentions, politely putting us on notice before they strike?" - President Bush, Jan. 28 2003.

"There was nothing in [the 08/06/01 PDB] that said, you know, there's an imminent attack. There was nothing in this report to me that said, oh, by the way, we've got intelligence that says something is about to happen in America." - President Bush, April 12 2004.

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April 10, 2004

Carson Attacked for Linking to Liberal Bloggers

By Byron LaMasters

Here's another addition to the silly Republican attack department. The Republican Senate Campaign Committee has attacked Oklahoma Democratic Senate Candidate Brad Carson for linking to liberal bloggers such as Brad DeLong and Daily Kos. Here's what they said.

A Republican campaign committee is accusing U.S. Rep. Brad Carson of promoting radical, anti-President Bush Web sites while claiming to be a conservative Oklahoma Democrat.

"I think this speaks volumes as to the type of people Carson would associate with if he were to get elected to the United State Senate," said Dan Allen, commu nications director for the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

Allen based his criticism of Carson on entries the lawmaker has made on his campaign's official weblog, encouraging supporters to read other Web sites.

He said one Web site by a California university professor, Brad DeLong, suggests that Bush should be impeached, and another, the Daily Kos, attracts users who post rants against the war in Iraq along with claims that Americans, including Republicans and the media, do not care about the troops dying in battle.

Get it? The guys at the RNSC don't like the idea of informed debate of the issues. Brad Carson has linked to both liberal and conservative weblogs that he feels contribute to the political debate in this country. Carson ought to be commended for personally embracing the concept of the blog and contributing to his own campaign blog himself. The campaign's response was perfect:

Carson's campaign dismissed Allen's accusation and defended its use of its "blog" as a source of diverse information.

"Our Web site, www.bradcarson.com, links to the best scholars, both liberal and conservative," said a campaign spokesman, Brad Luna.

"Roughly half of the sites we feature . . . are conservative, pro-Bush sites, and the other half are liberal sites that question the administration's policies.

"But they all have the common thread of trying to promote thoughtful discussion and engagement in our political process," he said.

The Carson campaign believes in a robust exchange of ideas instead of a presentation of political propaganda, Luna said.

"Apparently the National Republican Senatorial Committee prefers propaganda," he said.

I have a hard time understanding Republicans on this. You would think that they would work with conservative bloggers to establish a netroots community of their own, much like the DNC has. Instead, Republicans have simply let Democrats dominate the medium. They tried to smear Stephanie Herseth on the issue as well, but it didn't work. Will they learn?

Regardless, while we wait for them to catch up, drop a few bucks over with the Carson campaign. Along with Illinois, Alaska and Colorado, Oklahoma is one of our best pick-up opportunities in the U.S. Senate this year.

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April 08, 2004

Clarke: Rice’s Testimony Affirms his Claims

By Byron LaMasters

Here's what Richard Clarke said on ABC News today:

I think that Dr. Rice's testimony today, and she did a very good job, basically corroborates what I said. She said that the president received 40 warnings face to face from the director of central intelligence that a major al Qaeda attack was going to take place and she admitted that the president did not have a meeting on the subject, did not convene the Cabinet. She admitted that she didn't convene the Cabinet. And as some of the commissioners pointed out, this was in marked contrast to the way the government operated in December of 1999, when it had similar information and it successfully thwarted attacks.

The full transcript with Peter Jennings is available, here.

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April 07, 2004

Watch Condi

By Byron LaMasters

I'll try and get up to watch her. It's on at 8 AM CST. Not sure if I'll make it, but I'll set my alarm.

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A Victory for Workers

By Byron LaMasters

Yeah, I'll admit that I've shopped at Wal-Mart before. Heck, I even have some stock in the company from some trust or inheritance, but they're one of the most irresponsible companies in America. Not only do they not allow their workers to unionize, they squeeze out competition wherever they move in, taking away decent paying grocery (among others) jobs. They're forcing grocers across the country (most recently seen in California) to lower their wages to remain competetive. Anyway, I'm pleased to see communities stand up to Wal-Mart. The most recent example was Inglewood, CA:

Voters rejected a ballot measure that would have cleared the way for a colossal Wal Mart in this Los Angeles suburb, one of several communities across the nation to resist the retailer's advances.

Activists who opposed the measure -- which would have allowed Wal Mart to skirt zoning, traffic and environmental reviews -- said it would hurt the community by inviting the Supercenter to drive out small business and encourage sprawl.

With all 29 precincts and absentee ballots counted late Tuesday night, Inglewood voters opposed the measure 60.6 percent to 39.3 percent, said Gabby Contreras of the city clerk's office.

The tally was 7,049 votes against the initiative and 4,575 in favor. Contreras said there are about 40,000 registered voters in the city.

"This is very, very positive for those folks who want to stand up and ... hold this corporate giant responsible," said Daniel Tabor, a former City Council member who had campaigned against the initiative.

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April 05, 2004

Veepstakes 2004

By Andrew Dobbs

Alright, so this seems to be the political parlor game of the hour, so I'll get in the act again. The most recent news is that the next Speaker of the House and the hottest woman in Congress Nancy Pelosi is pushing John Kerry to have a running mate by May 1. Political Wire says that the timetable is in the ballpark of 8 weeks. This means that there will be very little time to vet the choice- a solid, breathtaking oppo-style background job can take several weeks and that is the kind of fearless moral inventory necessary for these sorts of things. Jim Johnson, Kerry's VP selection committee chair, knows first hand what can go wrong when you don't have enough time to research your VP selection's background. In 1984 Walter Mondale gave him one day to look into Geraldine Ferarro's history. Ferarro's husband's financial dealings of course came back to hurt Mondale and to wipe out any advantage nominating the first woman on any major party ticket in history might have given him. Johnson surely learned his lesson and he will not want to make the same mistake. This then becomes the key to the race- who do we know enough about already to not be surprised come campaign time?

Everyone wants a candidate too quickly for a real hard look but no one wants a candidate that hasn't gotten a real hard look. The answer? Pick someone who has already been in the media spotlight- pick someone who was on Gore's shortlist in 2000 or one of the 2004 candidates. Most likely, this will be the field Kerry plucks his choice from.

There were 7 realistic candidates for president this year. One of them is the nominee, one (Lieberman) has no real interest in running for VP again, one (Dean) is too New England for Kerry and the other four- Clark, Edwards, Gephardt and Graham- all seem interested in running for the spot. Add into that calculation Bill Richardson whose name was tossed around quite a bit in 2000 and you have a pretty realistic field. Reports say that Kerry has also talked to Tom Vilsack and the name Mark Warner was thrown around long before Kerry had won the nomination. These 6 candidates- Clark, Edwards, Gephardt, Graham, Vilsack and Warner seem to be the most likely to choose from while some others- Mary Landrieu, Kathleen Sebelius, Bill Cohen (who I thought I just came up with out my ass but is actually getting talked up by real journalists now), John McCain and some others all have a shot but seem more like novelty candidates than likely choices.

The question now becomes, what do we need to win. It seems as if the West Coast and New England is locked up and the South and Mountain West belong to Bush (with the possible exceptions of Florida and Colorado). That leaves the Southwest and the Industrial Midwest to be battled out. Bill Richardson would turn out voters in the Southwest, Gephardt and to a lesser extent Vilsack in the Industrial Midwest. Graham might turn out Florida, but his incredibly weak showing in the campaign and his inability to connect with voters makes me think that he'd be a very bad choice for VP. Everyone seems to like Edwards, everyone except for the Kerry people it seems. Many stories have made it into print as to Kerry's doubts that Edwards could be the kind of attack dog the VP needs to be. They are right in this criticism and having another Senator on the ticket makes it a very DC-centered campaign. Clark was another weak candidate and he doesn't really provide anything to the Southwest (except maybe the military cred, but Kerry has a lot of that already) or the Industrial Midwest. Gephardt would be great in the Industrial Midwest but Kerry/Gephardt might be the most boring, most DC-insider ticket since Mondale/Ferraro. Warner has lots of money, but once again- i'm not sure that we'd have time to give him a good hard look. If they've been working on it already he might be a pretty good choice but his tax hikes will make him great fodder for Bush ad spots and he doesn't gain anything in the Industrial Midwest (excpept maybe West Virginia) or the Southwest Richardson is exciting, an outsider, would lock in New Mexico, Arizona and make Colorado a lean-Kerry from its current status as tossup/lean Bush and put Nevada into play. Still, his record at the Energy Department kept him off the 2000 ticket and is unlikely to win him any votes of confidence against George "Steady Leadership blah blah blah" Bush. That leaves Vilsack.

Early in 2002 I wrote Vilsack an email asking him to run for President as I felt that he provided the kind of leadership and biography you have to love. An orphan adopted by abusive parents he worked his way through college and law school and moved to Iowa from his native Pennsylvania and worked as a lawyer for his father in law before serving as Mayor and State Senator from Mount Pleasant. He then went on to run for governor in a race everyone thought he would lose. He didn't, of course, and was elected as Iowa's first Democratic governor in more than 30 years. He was easily reelected in 2002 and provides a great progressive voice in that state. Pro-labor, good on agriculture and a tough as nails progressive he would help us carry any number of states and would make a great running mate. Seeing as he has not been vetted as well as the others, he might lose out to Gephardt or Richardson in the end, but he is probably the best choice.

This isn't to say that I wouldn't jump at the chance to nominate John McCain. Sure, Bush would run an ad that says "Look at John McCain flip flopping- saying he wouldn't run and then running, working for me and then for Kerry, serving as a Republican and running as a Democrat." But it would lock in Arizona and put any number of other states in play as he could focus on Republican states and play up a "national unity" theme. The bounce in the polls would likely be enormous for Kerry, big enough to carry him through Election Day assuming he doesn't screw up. Still, I don't think McCain will do that. More likely, I think that his recent anti-Bush comments are setting him up for perhaps leaving the GOP to become an Independent in the Senate. Still, Kerry/McCain would be probably unstoppable.

To sum up- the truncated VP selection schedule means that the most likely candidates are the former Presidentials and Richardson with Vilsack thrown in as he seems to be getting a lot of attention early from the Kerry camp. Vilsack is the best, with probably Richardson right behind him, then Gephardt, Edwards, Clark and Graham. McCain would be great, but is unlikely to take the job and others are probably just novelty names thrown around.

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March 31, 2004

Man charged with offering beer for vote

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

Off the Beaten Path News is reporting what is a sad personification of politics and education today. I call it the Buy a kid beer for a vote against raising his property taxes for the kid's education plan.

A man tried to buy a vote with a 12-pack of beer, according to police in northern Kentucky. Edward Lucas offered the beer to an 18-year-old student at Ludlow High School in exchange for a no vote on a proposed increase in school property taxes, Ludlow police officer James Tucker said in an affidavit.

Lucas was charged Friday with making or receiving expenditures for vote, a class D felony that can land him in prison for one to five years. Lucas, 40, denied the charge.

"I don't know the boy, and that's not exactly what was said," Lucas said.

"I said, 'I hope it doesn't go through and if it doesn't, I'm going to have a big beer party.'"

Lucas was arrested Friday and released on bond Saturday. Police dispute his version of the exchange, but declined to give specifics. The tax increase was on the ballot Tuesday and lost. It would have generated about $75,000 a year for school construction projects.

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Is the WH Trying to Out Richard Clarke?

By Andrew Dobbs

You may have noticed that in the last two days all of the coverage of Dick Clarke has included vague references to his "personal life." Wolf Blitzer, according to Atrios, said that "there are some weird aspects in his life as well," I saw Joe Scarborough make a reference to how Clarke "has no personal life"- a claim that seems both impossible for him to know and completely irrelevant to any discussion of his claims, and others are making some curious references to his "personal life" as well. Clarke is in his 50s and has never been married. The implication, it seems, is that Richard Clarke is gay.

Clarke may very well be gay- I have no idea, the WH seems to think so and they'd be the ones to know. Wonkette says that there are some questions being raised among media types by the White House of a more explicit nature. Of course, this has absolutely no bearing on whether or not he's telling the truth or whether or not this president ignored the threat of al Qaeda, but you can believe that the WH will use it to distract the media from these important issues and you can believe that they will eat it up.

Bush should know that those in glass houses ought not throw stones- there are plenty of gay Republicans in positions of authority and they don't want to start this little game. If being a homosexual makes you unqualified to serve in government, we'll see if a few GOP congressmen/cabinet officials/governors want to resign after we even the score a little. I know that might be a sleazy thing to do, but if Bush wants to play character assasination, we can play right back with him. Say what you will about Clarke- believe him or not- but let's keep this on the issues.

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March 29, 2004

Finally! A Candidate in Georgia...

By Byron LaMasters

It took long enough, but it finally looks as if Democrats will be fielding a decent candidate in Georgia: U.S. Rep. Denise Majette. Majette, if you will remember defeated former U.S. Rep. Cynthia McKinney in the Democratic primary two years ago, and (I think) is one of the more conservative members of the Congressional Black Caucus. In fact, she was elected, in part, because of cross-over Independent and Republican votes in the primary. She seems like the kind of candidate that has a chance to win statewide. The Atlanta Constitution Journal reports:

U.S. Rep. Denise Majette confirmed today that she is running for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Zell Miller. Majette conceded it is late to dive into a statewide race. But she said she felt moved to run as a counter to GOP messages she finds extreme. "The Republicans keep trotting out their right-wing rhetoric on God, guns and gays in an attempt to divide the electorate and distract from the serious problems they're not addressing," she told reporters.


Democratic leaders say Majette, who rose from obscurity to defeat 10-year incumbent Cynthia McKinney in 2002, has not sought wide party support or consulted them about seeking higher office.

Former state Rep. Billy McKinney, father of Cynthia, was on hand for today's announcement.

McKinney said Majette's decision to leave her seat to run for the Senate does not mean his daughter is a shoo-in to win back her old congressional seat. He said the race is "wide open."

"With the Democrats and the Republicans working hard against us it'll be a tough race," he said.

Asked by a reporter if Cynthia McKinney would support Majette's Senate bid, McKinney responded "Hell no. You've got to be crazy."

Since Miller announced his retirement, Majette was one of several names mentioned to run for his seat, but hers did not make the short list that the party has been discussing in recent weeks.

Until now, all signs indicated that Majette was preparing for a highly anticipated rematch against McKinney, whom Majette defeated with stunning ease in the 2002 Democratic primary. McKinney, Georgia's first African-American woman in Congress, declared her candidacy Saturday.

McKinney would be smart to count her blessings. While I'd prefer to see someone else hold that congressional seat, McKinney has a decent shot at winning it back (now that it will be open), but if she antagonizes Majette's supporters, it will be more difficult. As for the Senate race, it's still the Republicans best pick-up opportunity, but it's no longer a sure thing.

A few weeks ago From the Roots (DSCC blog) posted an entry saying that, "We are hearing some good news in GA so stay tuned on that front. A great candidate could emerge soon. So stay tuned... ". Is Majette the "good news" they were referring to then? I think that Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin, the Lt. Governor, the Attorney General or the Secretary of State (all three are Democrats) would have been a better candidate, but Majette could be interesting. We'll see soon.

Posted at 12:31 PM to National Politics | Permalink | Comments (8) | TrackBack

March 28, 2004

Clarke: Bring It On

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

The Republicans fear Clarke's testimony. So of course the best solution is to assisinate his character and claim that he lied, even if you don't have proof. Of course, Bust is used to lying without proof, but that is beside the point.

So Republicans wanted to push to declassify some of Clarke's past testimony in hopes that he lied. But Clarke isn't backing down as being reported...

Richard Clarke, the former chief counterterrorism adviser at the White House, who has criticized the Bush administration’s preparedness for the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, told NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday that he “would welcome” the attempt by leading Republicans to declassify his two-year-old testimony before Congress.

Clarke also said Rice’s private testimony before the commission should be declassified, as well as e-mails, memos and all other correspondence between Rice and Clarke.

“Let’s declassify everything,” Clarke said to NBC's Tim Russert, moderator of the program.

He also accused the administration of waging a “campaign to destroy me professionally and personally,” and called on the White House to “raise the level of discourse.”

Clarke also fired back at the administration by reading Bush’s response to his resignation letter.

Noting it was in the president’s handwriting, Clarke said the letter read that he would “be missed. You served our nation with distinction and honor,” and had “left a positive mark on our government.”

“He thinks I served with distinction and honor,” Clarke said, while “the rest of his staff is out there to destroy me.”

Bring. It. On.

Posted at 01:26 PM to National Politics | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

March 27, 2004

Deny Bush's Loan and Help MoveOn.org

By Byron LaMasters

I'm sure that most of you all saw this already, but click here to stand up to the irresponsible spending of the Bush administration, and help MoveOn.org at the same time.

Posted at 06:07 PM to National Politics | Permalink |