Sunday, January 30, 2005

With Apologies to Martin Frost

I've written two posts recently on the DNC Chair election that focused on Martin Frost. The posts were written in large part out of a reaction toward his statements, and those made on his behalf, regarding his belief that Howard Dean would be a bad choice for DNC chair for the Party. My anger here was not directed so much at this opinion, as it was toward the way this opinion was made: through behind the scenes meetings and spokesman, and by spreading false fears and personal attacks directed toward Dean. I've seen this personal attack style before in Iowa, and find it really repulsive. To me, attacking someone by trying to invoke fear of their success is a GOP tactic. It also seems to me to be an attack on the grassroots and Blogosphere that arose out of Dean's campaign, and further through DFA.

I started the first post with this sentiment:
You know, I'm getting really fed up with these status quo Democrats always trying to bring Dean down by spreading fear and rumor behind the scenes. That's a GOP tactic, and shows cowardice in my book. If you want to go after Dean, show some spine and do it publicly.
Rather than staying on topic at this point, I went off on Frost's representative speaking on his behalf. In hindsight I'm not sure this was the right approach to make my argument, as in the end it turned out as though I was strictly going after Frost. In fact, the rant was directed toward all the status quo Democrats who, just as in Iowa, were sniping at Dean behinds the scenes and spreading fear of doom for the Party should Dean win the DNC Chair. If they could have found a McGovern annology to use in the DNC Chair race, I'm sure they would have used it rather than taking on Dean's positions directly. The title "The Cowardly Democrat" was too specific, and should have been plural, but instead I focused on the material at hand, which happened to be from the Frost camp.

In my second post, I took issue specifically with the claim that Frost stood up to DeLay by running for re-election rather than retiring. I still stand by the basic premise that running for re-election when one is already and incumbent is something anyone should do. But my use of Chet Edwards as a comparison to prove a point came across looking as though I was trying to compare Frost to Edwards directly. To clarify, I was trying to show that others in Frost's situation had also been redistricted, had also been targeted by the GOP, and also had the GOP noise machine working against them. In this post I even noted Frost's greater difficulties:
I'm sure Frost had the harder to the two roads here. I'm sure he was the victim of political dirty tricks that may yet still be ruled illegal. I'm sure what happened to him was a travesty and removed from congress a Democrat with an excellent voting record for our side.
My point was not that Frost should have run as Edwards did. In many ways he did. My point was that Frost was not alone in this situation. Others faced similar conditions and also ran for re-election. Edwards won.

Bubba at Southpaw has some excellent background on Edwards' race, and points to his use of similar tactics Frost used to cozy up to Bush to be more palatable to conservative Texas voters. To quote Bubba:
First, it should be noted Chet Edwards ran a similar campaign to Frost (as did Max Sandlin, who lost): 1) They each painted themselves able to work across party lines; 2) They both noted their independent streaks; 3) They depicted their opponents as far right extremists. And finally they both noted issues on which they supported Bush.

Edwards's commercials stated, "Chet Edwards is a respected national leader on Homeland Security who has strongly supported President Bush's war on terrorism" and "Chet Edwards voted with President Bush on his education bill and to end the marriage penalty and death tax" and "Arlene Wohlgemuth stated she would slash the budget President Bush wanted for veterans by over a billion dollars." I can quote more examples of Edwards supporting Bush, if needed. As Frost said in the BOR interview, lots of Democrats have supported Bush on particular issues, talked up that bipartisanship, and still worked hard for the Democratic, including Dean himself.
But here is where I will again try to clarify the difference. Disappointingly, Edwards used the GOP frames just as Frost did, and ran as a conservative Democrat who was bi-partisan and supported Bush on certain issues. But Edwards is not running for the DNC Chair. Edwards' representatives are not touting his campaign as a model for a fifty state strategy. Edwards is not spreading doom and gloom about a Dean DNC Chairmanship. Frost is.

So I find myself writing this because, as Jason Goojar writes at MyDD, we have to find some way to heal the divides in our own party. One of these divides that resonates with me is the feelings left over from Iowa due to the opposition of the status quo from within our own party. Many in the Blogosphere, myself included, feel this was an not just an attack on Dean, but an attack on those in the grassroots. The feeling that the status quo was more interested in Iowa in keeping the party status quo, than supporting Dean, a man who would have truly shook things up in the party still remain. The feelings are being played out again as if elected DNC Chair, Dean stands for reformation of the party and a change the power structure.

Does this mean that Dean is the savior and Frost the devil? Hardly. But often these feeling surface in ways that make partisan blogs even more partisan with regard to inter-party loyalties. For all the candidates there is baggage. In my mind, Frost's campaign for re-election crossed lines that I feel will hurt the party at a fundamental level should he lead it. His concern voiced about being attacked by anonymous emails regarding completely authored blog posts shows his lack of understanding of the Blogosphere and the huge advantages for participation presented by it. I've also written about the pitfalls Dean may present. By now all the candidates have baggage the GOP could use against anyone of them.

For me, it comes down to a true desire for reform of the Party structure from the bottom up. Frost does not represent that to me based on his statements and those of people in Texas who know the man's history better than I do.

But regardless of my feelings for Frost as Chair, the reason for this post is that I regret that my writing may be seen as the same type of attack on Frost that I am accusing him of doing to Dean. For this I offer an apology. As I noted in my second post, Frost does have an excellent voting record in congress, standing up for traditional democratic values. His touting in his latest campaign ads that he "broke ranks" and was proud to stand with Bush trouble me deeply and disqualify him in my mind for the leadership of the party. But they should be taken with the perspective provided by Bubba, and not used to disqualify the man in the future. As a future senator from Texas, he might be again an asset within congress for our side again.

The divides within the party are great. Losing breeds division. All the more reason in my mind to try a new direction. This will not be easy. I feel who ever wins there will be resentment. The question is, will the next DNC chair be able to hold the party together in the way Bush has done for us up until now.

Saturday, January 29, 2005

GOP Jump SS Bush

You know the President's misleading and devastating plan to privatize Social Security is in trouble when Republicans go on record opposing it. From There Is No Crisis:
Chairman Bill Thomas said of the president’s plan to privatize Social Security, “And I'm looking forward to those discussions and not a continual beating of what will soon be a dead horse of their proposal.” [Washington Post, 1/19/05]

Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) Said She Would “Certainly Not Support Diverting $2 Trillion from Social Security.” Senator Olympia spoke out against the president’s plan saying, “Well, I'm certainly not going to support diverting $2 trillion from Social Security into creating personal savings accounts. I don't object to personal savings accounts per se, but that's got to be a part of a larger retirement security picture, as one dimension. But the existing program, as it has been developed in the last 70 years, provides a stable monthly income that has prevented seniors, almost 50 percent, from falling into poverty. I don't think we want to erode the principles of that system. [CNN, Inside Politics, 1/23/05]

Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) Says He is “Strongly Opposed” to Benefit Cuts. Republican Senator Arlen Specter writes on his website, “Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan urged Congress in February of 2004 to deal with the country’s escalating budget deficit by cutting benefits for future Social Security retirees. I strongly oppose this approach…I am convinced that any restructuring of the Social Security system must ensure that no senior citizens who have spent their working years paying into the system be denied benefits or be removed from the Social Security rolls.” [http://specter.senate.gov/index.cfm?FuseAction=Issues.Home&Issue_id=12]

Sen. Lincoln Chafee (R-RI) Called This the “Wrong Time” for a Social Security Plan that Will Require Massive Borrowing. Republican Senator Lincoln Chafee said of the president’s plan to privatize Social Security, “It's the wrong time, and I regret that we're looking at this in the context of huge deficits.” [Providence Journal, 12/8/04]

Rep. Rob Simmons (R-CT) Asked “Why Stir Up a Political Hornet’s Nest?” “Why stir up a political hornet's nest . . . when there is no urgency? When does the program go belly up? 2042. I will be dead by then.” [Washington Post, 1/11/05]

Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-MO) Said, “I Haven't Seen Anything I Can Support Yet.” “U.S. Rep. Denny Rehberg, Montana's sole House member and a Republican, says he's a long way from feeling comfortable about ‘privatizing’ or allowing ‘personal accounts’ with Social Security funds, as suggested by the president. ‘I haven't seen anything I can support yet,’ he says.” [Great Falls Tribune, 11/17/04]
Dead horse. Hornet's nest. Strongly Opposed. "Nothing I can support." From Republicans no less. That's not good for Bush.

So keep up the heat.

Standing up to DeLay?

By now you may have read that Martin Frost is challenging Dean in his private conversations with DNC members arguing "that Dean would be a poor choice because he could hurt Democratic efforts to compete in less liberal areas of the country."

Then yesterday, The Note ran this bit from Texas DNC chair Charles Soechting attacking Dean on Frost's behalf:
"...Martin refused to back down against enormous odds - standing up to DeLay and Rove by refusing to retire when their illegal redistricting scheme forced him into a 65% GOP district."
He refused to retire? He ran as an Washington incumbent against a Republican challenger! That's refusing to back down? I wonder what other Democratic congressmen would have done if faced with redistricting.

In the case of Rep. Chet Edwards: run and win.

First let's read a bit about TX-17 from Edwards' site:
The 17th Congressional District of Texas is a new district, created in 2003 by the Texas Legislature. The 17th is a geographically diverse district—spanning from the suburbs of Fort Worth in the North, through the Heart of Texas in Waco and to the Bryan/College Station area in the South. The district includes all of Bosque, Brazos, Grimes, Hill, Hood, Johnson, Madison, McLennan and Somervell counties and part of Burleson, Limestone and Robertson counties.
That doesn't sound so bad. Maybe his district actually favored Democrats and he was able to campaign to an easy victory. But that's not what the GOP thought of TX-17. The National Republican Congressional Committee had this to say about Rep. Chet Edwards, his GOP opponent and his "endangered" status:
Republican state Rep. Arlene Wohlgemuth will face Democrat Rep. Chet Edwards in the general election to represent the people of Texas’ newly redrawn 17th District. After squeaking out two narrow victories in the 2000 and 2002 races in the former 11th District, Edwards is considered an "endangered incumbent" by Congressional Quarterly’s "Politics in America." The 17th Congressional District seat favors Republicans, which also gives Wohlgemuth a distinct advantage in the race. Republicans view this seat as a pick-up opportunity.
OK, so the GOP saw Edwards' district as favoring Republicans and Edwards as an "endangered incumbent." So I guess he would have to tone down the Democratic rhetoric since he was running in a newly redistricted area of a solidly red state. The following is from the front page of Edwards campaign website:
"I believe government should not try to solve every problem. But private enterprise and government—working together—should ensure that everyone willing to work hard and play by the rules has a fair chance for a good job, a decent home in a safe community, affordable health care, and a quality education for their children and retirement security."

This race is about giving the citizens of our area an effective voice in Congress on issues that matter to us and our families in our day to day lives: jobs, safe neighborhoods, quality schools, affordable health care and retirement security.
Now to be fair to Frost, he was facing a real uphill battle with a tough redistricting that put him at a disadvantage. Or to use the words of Tom DeLay:
"He can work hard and raise all the money he wants," Mr. DeLay said. "But that district wasn't drawn for Martin Frost."
Althought this is a precious quote, it still leaves this quote from Frost out there to contrast with Edwards' quotes above (emphasis mine):
"I am a proud Democrat, but I am just as proud to stand with President Bush whenever he is acting in the national interest. I broke with a majority of my own party to support the President's decision to send American troops to Iraq to remove Saddam Hussein and his murderous regime. Two years ago, I was the only Democrat on the Select Committee on Homeland Security to vote to create the new Department of Homeland Security and, unlike my opponent, I supported President Bush's bipartisan 'No Child Left Behind Act' to improve public education."
In the end, Edwards beat Wohlgemuth 51% to 47% in TX-17. Frost lost to Sessions 54% to 44% in TX-32. I'm sure Frost had the harder to the two roads here. I'm sure he was the victim of political dirty tricks that may yet still be ruled illegal. I'm sure what happened to him was a travesty and removed from congress a Democrat with an excellent voting record for our side. But Edwards was a target of the NRCC too. He too was redistricted. He too was equally a target of the GOP and their noise machine (the Club for Growth spent more than $230,000 in advertising against him).

Yet Edwards won. Soechting's claim that Frost running for re-election as an example of standing up to DeLay or that Frost's campaign is an example for Democrats in a red state just doesn't hold water. In fact, it's laughable.

Friday, January 28, 2005

The Cowardly Democrat

You know, I'm getting really fed up with these status quo Democrats always trying to bring Dean down by spreading fear and rumor behind the scenes. That's a GOP tactic, and shows cowardice in my book. If you want to go after Dean, show some spine and do it publicly. Case in point, Martin Frost from The Note:
On behalf of Rep. Martin Frost, Texas DNC chair Charles Soechting sent DNC members a defending an ad that Frost ran in his 2004 race against Rep. Pete Sessions.

[...]

"Here in Texas, we're used to Republicans like Karl Rove and Tom DeLay using damned lies and dirty tricks to launch character attacks against tough, effective Democrats like Martin Frost. Whoever made this attack clearly has no idea what it takes to win in tough districts — in "Red States" like Texas or anywhere else in the country."


"In fact, Martin's 2004 campaign could serve as a model for Democrats who are running in equally tough territory around the country. The campaign involved hundreds, if not thousands, of volunteers, including Democrats of all races, union members, and many of the most ardent progressives in a tough, aggressive grassroots campaign. Martin refused to back down against enormous odds - standing up to DeLay and Rove by refusing to retire when their illegal redistricting scheme forced him into a 65% GOP district."

Responded one Dean ally "It's ironic that two days after Martin Frost sent out an e-mail attacking Howard Dean, his supporters are writing their hands about receiving two ads that Martin Frost himself appeared in and approved that disparages Ted Kennedy and suggests that [Frost's] a Republican."
So much to rant about, and so little time to type...

Let me understand this. Running ads that highlight how he was proud to stand with Bush, and "broke ranks" with his party, is a model for Democrats in Red states? How exactly is this standing up for what Democrats believe in? Is this the fifty state strategy here? Act like a Republican if you run in a red state? Way to reinforce the GOP talking point that Democratic core values are something to be ashamed of.

Secondly, I keep hearing that he stood up to DeLay and Rove by refusing to retire. How is that exactly standing up? You ran for office - as an incumbent no less - and lost. Boy that's backbone. You did what anyone would have done. Stop the pity party.

Finally, if "their illegal redistricting scheme forced him into a 65% GOP district" why did it work? I mean, if it was so illegal? If it was illegal, shouldn't there be some recourse? I don't know the complete story here, but if you keep crying "what happened to me was illegal!" then why did it work? After all, it was illegal.

Bottom line is I'm tired of this ABD crap. I'm tired of these damn status quo types sniping at Dean in private. I'm tired of the character assassination. I'm tired of the "Dean will fracture the Party" talk. If Dean can get the votes by opening speaking his mind and campaigning for reform, then the party should be fractured so it can be rebuilt.

If you think you can do the job better, then stand up and lead. Tell us why you are better than Dean. Tell us why you'd reform the party better. Prove to us you mean what you say. If you can't get more votes than Dean by doing this, you don't deserve the job. If you have to campaign like a Republican - using negative stereotypes and fear tactics in behind the scenes meetings - then you aren't the guy for the job. If you are a leader, than demonstrate why you are better than Dean to the 400+ voting members and the rank and file in the base who's support you'll need should you win the job. If you can't do that, stop whining about Dean and shut up.

Mr. Frost, here in the Blogsphere, we're used to Republicans Democrats like Karl Rove and Tom DeLay Joe Lieberman using damned lies and dirty tricks to launch character attacks against tough, effective Democrats like Martin Frost Howard Dean.

If you are the leader you claim, then lead. Don't stab other Democrats (or bloggers) in the back in private meetings or have people like Soechting do you attacking for you. If you want to lead, stand up and have at it with Dean publicly so we can see what you're made of.

This behavior is cowardly. That's not what we need leading the Party.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Ya Make Me Proud

Alberto Gonzales was approved and sent to the full Senate today. But in this defeat, we have been given something to be proud about. All eight of the Democrats on this judiciary committee voted no. No defectors. No capitulation. No false bi-partisanship. No breaking ranks.

To the following Senators, I salute you:

Biden (DE)
Durbin (IL)
Feingold (WI)
Feinstein (CA)
Kennedy (MA)
Kohl (WI)
Leahy (VT)
Schumer (NY)

This is what an opposition party looks like. Leaders make statements like this:
Leahy:
"Judge Gonzales has championed policies that are in fundamental conflict with decades of our laws, sound military practice, international law and human rights."

Kennedy
"We have a torture problem. The FBI says so. The Red Cross says so... Additional allegations of abuse are being reported on a daily basis. Yet Mr. Gonzales can't remember any details of how it happened."
And more like this:
Schumer:
"It's hard to be a straight shooter when you're a blind loyalist."

Biden
"Even voting against him [Gonzales], he's a significant improvement over the attorney general we have there now."

Schumer:
"[being] less polarizing than John Ashcroft is not enough to get my vote."
So now the debate moves to the Senate floor. This man tried to legalize torture, place the President above the law, and blew off the Geneva Conventions. All this will be noted when the opposition continues on the Senate floor, as highlighted by none other than the minority leader himself:
Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid:
"I think that a man who gave the legal advice to the president to allow this to take place is someone that deserves to be talked about on the Senate floor."
I'm proud that at least some Democrats have finally found the backbone to stand up and talk.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

No on Gonzales

So let me get this straight. He helped author the memo that basically said torture was OK for the US to use on people we held captive. He's referred to the Geneva Conventions "obsolete" and "quaint." He helped shape detention policies in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Guantanamo Bay where people were locked up indefinitely without recourse. And he's loyal to a fault to the President, making him hardly an objective administrator of the law.

Yet he's the nominee for Attorney General of the United States.

I'm with Armando and the dKos management on this one:
With this nomination, we have arrived at a crossroads as a nation. Now is the time for all citizens of conscience to stand up and take responsibility for what the world saw, and, truly, much that we have not seen, at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere. We oppose the confirmation of Alberto Gonzales as Attorney General of the United States, and we urge the Senate to reject him.
Of course, the Republican majority in Congress and DINOs in our own Party probably won't listen to us.

But we'll remember who does.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

A Double Edge Sword

If you've read any of my posts, you know one of my catch phrases is "I just don't get it." Sure I'm just a rank and file Democrat who's become an active member of my party only a couple of years ago. Sure I don't have a degree in Political Science and have not held a position as a paid staffer for a campaign. I'm not a wonk, and expert in foreign policy, or even a journalist. No, I'm just a guy with a blog in the suburbs who now watches C-Span instead of his beloved Chicago Bears.

I'm watching C-Span now because a vast sea change in political activism has taken place due, in my opinion, to the explosion of the political Blogosphere. It was the Blogosphere that facilitated my entry, as well as millions of others, into party politics. It was the Blogosphere that finally put the Democratic Party on par financially with the GOP. It was the Blogosphere that actively involved me in a campaign rather than as just a donation source for a campaign. It was the Blogosphere that gave local people like me the tools to keep my neighbors informed about what is going on in Washington.

And it seems to me the Blogosphere that the Democratic status quo fears, loathes, mocks, and by all visible posturing would like to keep from ever having a seat at the Party table.

So once again, I just don't get it.

Here we are, a vast source of motivated, politically active, technologically savvy, message aware, committed Democrats, ready and willing to back the Party to the hilt. We can facilitate message delivery, offer a public relations role, mobilize the base, neutralize the opposition's message, and financially support a wide range of candidates. All we ask for in return is a seat at the table and a voice in of the process. That's all any of us has ever asked for, only now we have a medium thanks to blogs from which to organize and project our requests from.

But such benefits come with costs. Case in point, Rep. Tim Roemer's treatment lately. By the reaction of his staff, he was none too pleased that leading blogs like MyDD or dKos would post about where his affiliations lie, detailing his involvement with the Mercatus Center. Heaven forbid we actually know that Rep. Roemer - a candidate for the leading position in our party - is affiliated with the Mercatus Center. Or that the Center's donor base consists of the largest donors to conservative think tanks. Or that the retreat he is promoting sponsored by Mercatus has prominent seminars with Right-wing titles like "Social Security Reform I: The Coming Fiscal Crisis." Or that he's encouraging Democratic Chiefs of Staff to attend this retreat. Heavens to Betsy, why should we need to know about that?

Because knowledge is power. And that's the sea change my friends. The once mindless ATM now has a brain. We have thousands of bloggers out there now who will dig into the facts. Opposition research is now 24/7/365 in real time. And, it's not just for the opposition anymore. If you are on our side and want a leadership position, the same old same old is not going to cut it anymore. If you run ads that tout "I broke with my party..." everyone in the Blogosphere is going to know about your willingness to break ranks to stand with the President.

And many of us are not going to be pleased.

But that's what the cost is going to be to have access to a pool of volunteers, a message network, 24/7 fact checking, and an ATM the likes the party has never seen before. So here's the deal. The Blogosphere is indeed a double edged sword for those of you in Party leadership roles. If you want the considerable support of the Blogosphere behind you, then give us a seat at the table and a voice in the process. Continue to shut us out and undermine something many people find one of the most promising aspects of political activism in a long time and we will turn off the ATM and motivate your base in ways you may not like. And last time I checked, the Blogosphere represented a good percentage of that base.

And as more people read political blogs, that percentage is growing.

Friday, January 21, 2005

What Do We Stand For?

Today, Kos posted the following bit from The American Prospect:
We believe in freedom and liberty, and we're for low taxes, less government, traditional values, and a strong national defense.
Say what you want about the honesty of it, but that’s the “elevator pitch” for the GOP. The challenge was to come up with a similar pitch for the Democratic party.

What ensued was 536 comments listing ideas of what we as a party stood for. They ranged from the poetic to the banal, the trite to the insightful, the short to the too damn long.

And you know what the common thread was? We don’t share a vocabulary. We know what we stand for. We just can’t tell you.

As I was reading through, browser chugging along under the weight of all those comments, I came upon this one, part of which seemed to sum up the frustration I was feeling:
…Seriously, folks, there is no consensus among progressives sufficient to enable an elevator speech. This is wishful thinking. We have to do the groundwork first, and we haven't.
Since I was stupid enough to volunteer to pull this thread’s comments together, and too honor bound to walk away from such a pledge (although I thought about it), I’d like to start some of that groundwork here if you’ll indulge the length of it.

Rational:
First, I believe that we can’t just come up with an elevator pitch that sounds good, or even one like the GOP model. What we need is to define what a Democrat stands for, but also contrast ourselves to the GOP.

Secondly, as noted in the comments, the GOP model was something anyone, even our side, would agree with. Seriously, who is against freedom and liberty? Who doesn’t like low taxes and less government? Who wants a weak defense? So whatever we come up with needs to be equally palatable to all Americans. After all, elevator pitches are made to convert, not to the choir.

Finally, this GOP pitch uses language that is easily understandable, but generic. You don’t need a PhD or a background in philosophy to understand it. Whatever we embrace needs to be just as accessible to fit into our sound bite worldview.

So I’m starting by breaking the GOP model into its two part, General Belief and What We're For:

Part 1: General Belief:
We believe in freedom and liberty, and we're for low taxes, less government, traditional values, and a strong national defense.
They believe in freedom and liberty. Duh. Who doesn’t. But this ties nicely into Bush’s talk of spreading freedom throughout the world and many other of their talking points.

In the comments, freedom and liberty were often listed. But, in order to contrast who we are, I think we need to find some other general principals that say “Democrat” loudly. This doesn’t mean we don’t believe in freedom or liberty. Everyone does. Instead, what has our party stood for, espoused, and fights for?

In the comments the terms that kept coming up were a combination of individual freedoms and shared responsibilities. Think of the four freedoms: freedom of speech, freedom to worship, freedom from want, freedom from fear. These are the bedrock of who we are as a party, and provide a rich heritage we should draw upon. But none of them exist in a vacuum. They only exist when we share responsibility for them. To the GOP, freedom is individual. It exists in a vacuum in which individual liberty trumps the good of group. There are winners and losers. Defining freedom as based in sharing responsibilities is a key contrast between us and the GOP.

Part 2: What We’re For
A: Tax Policy:
We believe in freedom and liberty, and we're for low taxes, less government, traditional values, and a strong national defense.
In the comments, taxes were directly talked about the least. I think that is because as a party we tend to look at things from a group perspective, rather than through an individual perspective like the GOP. To us, taxes are a shared responsibility the group needs to protect and promote individual freedoms. To the GOP they are an affliction visited upon the individual. At their root they deal with money.

The terms “fairness” and “responsibility” were used repeatedly in place of the tax line. These concepts were often tied to “fiscal responsibility” through “reduced deficits” or “balanced budgets”. Again these provide an opportunity to contrast the GOP’s individualist focus on money to the Democratic value of taxes as dues paid on the behalf of America.

Part 2: What We’re For
B: Government View:
We believe in freedom and liberty, and we're for low taxes, less government, traditional values, and a strong national defense.
Here the GOP cloaks their “starve the beast” mentality with the simple idea that government is bad. Democrats do not see government necessarily as bad, but as something that needs to serve the group.

The words used in place or conjunction with the description of government were “open” “honest” “transparent” “effective” “accountable” and the like. These terms were aimed as describing a government that serves the people, rather than one who afflicts the individual through taxes.

Part 2: What We’re For
C: Value Beliefs:
We believe in freedom and liberty, and we're for low taxes, less government, traditional values, and a strong national defense.
The GOP cloak their right wing views in terms like “traditional” when describing their values. Who’s traditions are we talking about here? The first generation immigrant who tries to retain his culture here in America? Nope. I don’t think so.

In my mind this is a huge opportunity to undermine the GOP, and especially the Right’s talking points. Many value systems were named in the comment section, but the one that stuck out took a page out of Obama’s speech notes. Where the GOP stands for their conservative Christian idea of “traditional”, Democrats stand for American values. The contrast could not be clearer.

Part 2: What We’re For
D: National Defense:
We believe in freedom and liberty, and we're for low taxes, less government, traditional values, and a strong national defense.
Naturally, the last one was the hardest. Of course the GOP, having the individual centered, fear based value system, would require an outward show of strength. They need to be strong to stand alone as individuals. Only the weak need others to help them along.

This area was probably where our vocabulary took the largest diversity. There were those who wanted to globalize our role through a healthy environment. Others wanted to be just as strong as the GOP in defense. Some wanted philosophical differences based on reason and rational arguments. Many argued peace and tolerance.

In the end, for me at least, the comments that seemed to cover all of these aspects focused on leadership. Unlike the GOP which focused on our individual strength as a nation, the idea that Democrats believe in leadership through example seemed to me the best contrast that we could draw, and one that fits well with our would view. We do not wish to be strong to mold others to our would view, but instead desire to be strong leaders in the world community.

*****************************************************************

So there you have it. If I ever volunteer to sum up a post with over 500 comments again, please super troll rate me out of existence so that I may come to my senses. In the end, this entire summary reflects what I thought to be the common values within the comments made in attempts at an elevator pitch for Democrats. I’m sure some word smithing and debate will remain and be healthy for this goal. But in the end, I’ve tried to boil down 536 comments into 30 words. So, here goes:

We believe in:
We believe in individual freedom and shared responsibility, and we're for fiscal responsibility, a government of, by and for the people, American values, and our strength as leader among nations.


They believe in:
They believe in freedom and liberty, and they're for low taxes, less government, traditional values, and a strong national defense.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

George Cries Wolf. Again.

When is a crisis not a crisis? When Democrats say Social Security is healthy and successful, we are ignored, ridiculed, and called names like weak, short sighted, obstructionist or conspiracy theorists. It's only natural that we'd say stuff like this:
"It's a badly, badly flawed plan," Robert Rubin, the former secretary of the treasury and current Citigroup director, told me. "From a fiscal point of view it's horrendous. It adds to deficits and federal debt in very large numbers until 2060." He calculates that the transition costs of Bush's plan for the first 10 years will be at least $2 trillion, and $4.5 trillion for the second 10 years. The exploding deficit would have an "adverse effect on interest rates, an adverse effect on consumption and housing prices, reduce productivity and growth, and crowd out debt capital to the private sector. Markets could begin to lose confidence in fiscal policy. The soundness of social security will be worse".

Rubin adds that the stock market is hardly a sure bet. "You are not making social security more secure by subjecting people's retirement to equity risk. If you look at the Nikkei in Japan you get a sense of what can happen."
Ya, ya, another "expert" tells how Bush's plan is a scam. But he's a Democrat so he doesn't count. So what do some other guys have to say about the President's privitization plan :

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Bill Thomas (R-Calif.) predicted yesterday that partisan warfare over Social Security will quickly render President Bush's plan "a dead horse" and called on Congress to undertake a broader review of the problems of an aging nation.

Thomas, one of Capitol Hill's most powerful figures on tax policy, is the highest-ranking House Republican official to cast doubt on the president's plan for creating individual investment accounts. He said that as an alternative, he will consider changes such as replacing the payroll tax as Social Security's financing mechanism and adding a savings plan for long-term or chronic care as "an augmentation to Social Security payments."
George's plan called a "dead horse" by a Republican? I'm sure he was misquoted. He probably meant Bush's plan should be view as "stead for the course" or something like that. Wait. What's this a couple parargraphs later:
Rep. Phil English, Thomas "played a very important role in reminding those involved in the debate that there are number of things we can do that will improve the solvency from Social Security, quite apart from the creation of individual accounts," English said. "And he also correctly and directly made it clear that individual accounts by themselves will only marginally improve the performance of the system overall."
What's that? Another Republican claiming that Bush's plan might not actually solve the "crisis" Bush has made up to sell his plan? Say it isn't so my elephantile friends. Say it ain't so! Bush wouldn't sell us a terrible plan that didn't do what it was suppose to. Why, just look at his other wonderful plans, like his tax cuts or prescription drug bill. Those were great! Ya, well about that:
The tax cuts and the prescription drug bill were the President’s two principal domestic priorities during his first term. Together, these policies will cost at least five times as much over the next 75 years as the Social Security shortfall (if the tax cuts are made permanent). In other words, the President’s domestic policy initiatives will have resulted in fiscal problems much larger than the problem that he now says he wants to address.
Say it ain't so, George. The highlights of your first term are actually responsible for a crisis five times that of the fake crisis you are selling us right now! Why I just can't believe it. Apparently, most Americans can't believe it either. From ABC news:
CRISIS? – As noted, the administration also faces a challenge in simply getting the public to share its sense of urgency about Social Security. Bush declared last week, “The crisis is now.” In this poll, however, just 25 percent say Social Security is in crisis, actually down from 34 percent in an ABC/Post poll in 1998.
George, remember WMD's? You've cried wolf once too many times. We're not buying it anymore.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Fighting Time

So I'm reading Kid Oakland's diary Time to Fight at dKos and I'm thinking I've been ready for a while now. I and half the Blogosphere have been lamenting Kerry's lack of fight, the lack of fight against Blackwell in Ohio, the lack of fight from the Fainthearted Faction among our own leaders.

Time to fight? No kidding.

So I posted my natural response in question form (edited here for, ah, language issues):
How do we get our guys to start standing up? When to we start putting targets on the backs of those who don't? Where's the list?

Fighting is great. Fighting without a coordinated plan is stupid. Just look at Iraq.

Where's the plan? I've been ready to fight for a while. I've got that on my blog. What I want is a coordinated effort. There is no crisis is great, even if it does just negate a GOP frame in it's title. I want more of this. I want something that everyone of us can do.

And can do today.

Something simple. Something coordinated. Something that has an economy of scale and leverages the Blogosphere in a great big loud ass visible way that makes people in the fainthearted faction go "oh shit" and makes Rove stay awake at night. I want action you can see in the SCLM. I want people to rue the day they wrote us off as a bunch of tin foil conspiracy theorists. I want shock and awe. I want a display of our resolve that gives people nightmares. I want to quit letting the other side define who we are and what we will do next. I want my flag, my country and my party back.

And I want it now.
So shortly after I find the list of targets over at MyDD, thanks to Chris Bowers' insane work habits. Then I get an email from a Dean for Illinois leader I know directing me to this post:
Late last week, Gov. Dean specifically asked his supporters to write their state's own Democratic Party chairmen/women and ask for their support. He also specifically (please note) asked that we NOT write/call other DNC voting delegates in other states, or other delegates in our own state, unless we specifically know or are a constituent of that person (your local party committeeman, for example).

In our case the chairman of the Democratic Party of Illinois (and the man who holds most of the votes from this state) is IL House Speaker Michael Madigan.

SO...please start right now, right after reading this. Write a short, hand-written note telling him "here's how I'm personally involved now, and Dean's why, and he has energized state and local groups across the country, and you should support him for Party chair" notes (or words to that effect), to:

Hon. Michael Madigan, Chairman
Democratic Party of Illinois
PO Box 518, Springfield, IL 62705
Now I'm not stupid. Madigan is Mr. Status-Quo-Party-Machine-Guy. I wouldn't call him a reformer. I doubt he's one of those who is about to jump for joy at Howard Dean reforming the party either. He's also screwing over teachers by trying to eliminate or scale back their ERO and retirement incentives. But you know what? I said I wanted to give some party leaders a nudge in the ribs and say "Hey, we're still here and we aren't going away!" I can't think of a better guy to give a bit of a nudge to right now.

So, you ready to fight? Fighting starts at home for the heart of our party. Fighting doesn't mean being loud or disrespectful either. It starts by getting heard. And ladies and gentlemen it's time to start making ourselves heard.

So if you live in Illionis get out that pen today and send Mr. Madigan a short letter telling him about how politically aware you are now, and how you too are looking for the party to reform itself. Since he's the state party chair, reform starts with his vote for DNC chair.

And one more thing. Mr. Madigan: We're not going to blindly be the party's ATM anymore either.

Nudge, nudge...

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Time to Talk Seriously About Dean

By now I'm sure you've seen the latest news today about Dean's run for the DNC Chair:
Governor Howard Dean was endorsed today by several state Democratic Party chairs and vice chairs, adding to his broad, diverse and growing list of support both among the members of the Democratic National Committee (DNC). The list of voting DNC state party chairs and vice-chairs supporting Governor Dean include:

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

This list of supporters signifies that people in every region of the country approve of Dean's vision and structure that he wants to bring to the DNC.
I remember when Dean was endorsed by Al Gore. It was one of the happiest days I can remember from 2003. But I also remember what happened next. That's why my fellow bloggers, it is time to talk seriously about Howard Dean and discuss the baggage we fail to acknowledge due to our hopes for him.

Truth be told, I am leaning very much toward Howard Dean for the Chair. But let's all stop with the "Dean's the man" talk right now and sing his praises loudly another time. I want to openly discuss what the GOP, The Right, the SCLM, the DLC and the Wurlitzer will say and will do should he be named the head of our party. It's a discussion long overdue in my opinion.

I think the need for such a discussion has deep roots the Blogosphere. In all our good intentions we have glossed over Dean's faults, either real or perceived, based in hopes that a DNC Chair victory would vindicate the slanders and mischaracterizations visited upon the man in the primaries and beyond. Hopes that in such a victory, our belief in the man would be vindicated as well. Hopes we must put aside in order to see clearly the path to assure that Dean is not only elected Chair, but more importantly that he is successful in the position.

With this in mind, I'd like to have a serious discussion of the following bits of baggage that will immediately dog Dean in the Chairman's role:

The Scream
What I want to know is how does Dean propose to overcome the image of the crazy man that has been painted upon him by the SCLM and the right. I know all about the untruth behind that video tape. I defended him for weeks and weeks from my GOP friend, neighbors, coworkers and relatives. I don't care about the truth here. Remember, Al Gore invented the internet, right? Howard Dean is viewed as an object of derision by many outside of the Blogosphere. How does he overcome this, both personally, and as the head of the party?

Just as I commented about Frost being confronted by Russert with his commercial praising his backing of Bush, you can bet the ranch Russert will get at a minimum three or four replays of that speech the first time Dean is on MTP. Saying it ain't true won't cut it. I know it isn't accurate. You know it isn't accurate. Russert knows it isn't accurate. They don't care. I want to know what we and the party will do to cut this attack off at the knees. And I'd like an answer from Dean on this as well. To me, this is the white elephant in the room that no one to my knowledge has asked him directly yet.

Volvo Driving North Eastern Liberal
Next, I'd like to hear how Dean and the party will combat his image, again falsely painted, that he is another North Eastern flaming liberal somewhere to the left of Ted Kennedy and John Kerry. I know this is again far from the truth, but remember the truth doesn't seem to matter much in the SCLM or to The Right. I think he's answered much of this with his record with DFA. The endorsements above also help to douse this fire. But the question will come from the Russerts of the dark side, so I'd like to be prepared.

Resistance from the inside out
Finally, and probably most importantly, Dean's fever for reforming the party from the ground up is often one of his foremost selling points. It is one of his greatest positives in my mind. But it is also this drive for reform that will raise the most obstacles from those who might be reformed. How will Dean as the head of the party deal with a party machine that might not see eye to eye with his views, resist his changes, and work to undermine his leadership from the inside out? It is obvious Dean is looking to clean house. I think many of us agree with this greatly. But we're not the one's who stand to get cleaned. How will he deal with the Fainthearted faction and the Lieberman's of our party who will not agree or support him?

I think the world of Howard Dean. The questions I've raised above are not new, but I have yet to see any meaningful dialog on them around the Blogosphere or from Dean. I could care less if Dean pisses off the status quo and the GOP. Actually, I think that would be great for a change. But today for the first time I again see victory nearly within Dean's grasp. But unlike last time, I've seen what happens to front runners. I honestly believe if we do not blunt these issues now, and address our reaction to them preemptively, Dean will again face an onslaught from all directions aimed at taking him down. I rather not witness that again.

I yield the floor....

Monday, January 17, 2005

Blog upgrades...

I wasn't wild about the comment section. So I figured if it was good enough for Atrios, it's good enough for me.

Haloscan commenting and trackback have been added to this blog.

Now I just need to figure out how to do a RSS feed. Any help would be appreicated out there...

Mecham, MLK, and AZ

I lived in Arizona for nine years during my undergrad years, and then while my wife finished college. It was a culture shock in many ways to a kid who was raised in the suburbs of the city that works. Phoenix was surreal, both in its beautiful desert and closed "good old boy" culture. I remember being there when the debate was raised about whether Arizona should honor Dr. King's life with a holiday.

The fight was loud and public. The opponents claimed it was all about paying those lazy public servants for yet another day off. But with a governor who used the term "pickaninny" and other racial epitaphs in his public speeches, it was obvious this had little to do with state budgets. Although Gov. Mecham would eventually be impeached for his more criminal wrongdoings, the fight for the holiday was lengthy and incredible for someone from Chicago to witness.

It took years to get a paid holiday for Dr. King, embarassing Arizona nationally in the process:
1987    Arizona Gov. Evan Mecham signed executive order rescinding holiday "since authority to declare state holidays lies with the Legislature and not with the Governor". 

1988    In the final hours of the session, proposals to create a Dr. MLK, Jr. holiday were killed in the Arizona Senate.

1989    A bill to create a Dr. MLK, Jr. holiday and combine the state holidays for Washington and Lincoln into a Presidents' Day was passed by the Arizona House but was killed in the Senate.  By this time, 44 states legislated a Dr. MLK holiday.

1989    The Arizona legislature created a paid Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday and eliminated Columbus Day as a paid holiday.

1990    Arizona voters rejected Proposition 301 which would have established the MLK holiday and made Columbus Day an unpaid observance.  Prop 302 was also defeated which would have retained Columbus Day and MLK Day as paid holidays.

1992    Voters of Arizona passed Proposition 300 which established a MLK/Civil Rights holiday on the third Monday of every January.

1993    January 18th, Arizona observed first statewide King holiday.
In the end, I think the people of Arizona passed Prop 300 as much out of duty to Dr. King as from embarrassment of being the last state to recognize the man with a holiday. It was a shameful period in the state's history. Of all my time there, the fight for the holiday with Gov. Mecham and the treatment by the state of the Fort McDowell Apache over their casino revenues will always stand out in my mind as reasons I left that state.

Dr. King's I have a Dream is one of the most eloquent and uplifting speeches I've ever read. Below is a quote from it. The whole speech is here. Being unable to say nothing more about Dr. King that would do the man any greater justice, I'll leave you with his words:
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal." I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slaveowners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood. I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a desert state, sweltering with the heat of injustice and oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice. I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Kennedy vs. Frist on Social Security

So today I'm watching the Sunday morning funnies, a.k.a. the political shows, as is my usual Sunday morning routine to get the blood pressure up. I'm flipping back and forth, and start with Face the Nation, and Sen. Kennedy, a leading liberal voice for our party, talking about several issues, Social Security among them. I flip over to ABC and watch Sen. Frist, GOP majority leader for the dark side, on This Week with George Stephanopoulos, who is also talking about Social Security. The contrast in the arguments could not be greater.

I sat there stunned, remote falling from my hands, as I watched Sen. Kennedy reinforce the GOP frame, and at one point actually talk about raising taxes to fix social security. In horror, I pick up the remote and flip over to see Frist on point, on message, and reframing several very tough questions just to repeat his message on his terms. I sit there shaking my head and again wondering why.

Their guys get it. Our guys don't. Point by point below.

I'll begin by paraphrasing Frist (I'd link to a transcript, but ABC doesn't post them, but instead sells them. Today's show was not yet available anyway):

Frist started nearly every response by talking about how Social Security was in crisis. He was methodical in using the word "crisis" in every response. When asked about Social Security being solvent until 2042, he reframed the question into when is a crisis a crisis, linked it to a medial diagnosis (he is a doctor), and how he viewed solving something before it was a crisis as the moral thing to do. This statement was ended with a questioning look and a tone that seemed to ask, " George, why don't you understand?"

One answer in particular I though showed a deft ability to link the common awareness of the recent tsunami disaster to the Social Security "crisis" Frist was selling. I can't remember the response verbatim, but Frist referred to the "tidal wave" of disaster such a crisis could bring upon our seniors if Social Security wasn't reformed now when we had the chance to avert such a crisis. The guy was brilliant. On message. Completely relentless.

Now let's contrast that with our side's representative this morning: Sen. Kennedy. This one has a transcript available. The response is to a question by Dan Balz, political correspondent of The Washington Post. Note even Balz uses Bush's frame of "private savings accounts" in his question (emphasis mine):
Mr. BALZ: Let me turn now to the biggest domestic battle that's seen on the horizon which is President Bush's plan to try to introduce private savings accounts into the Social Security system as a way to reform it and guarantee its financial stability. It was reported today in The New York Times that the president and the White House have enlisted the Social Security Administration to help make the case that the system is in crisis and to push for his accounts. What's your reaction to that and what should Democrats do about it?

Sen. KENNEDY: Well, there's a number of reactions. First of all, it seems that this administration tries to make a crisis on any political problem. We've got a crisis in Social Security, in the funding and the financing which we don't. We have a crisis in the medical malpractice as the cost for health care and it's not there. If the president wanted to really do something in terms of the health care, they could have signed the Patients Bill of Rights and provided more protection for people and to deal with this other kind of malpractices unless it's $2 out of every health dollar.
Note right out of the box Kennedy repeats Bush's statement of crisis, not only for Social Security but for medical malpractice as well. Yes he's adding a negative at the end of the statement, but the frame is being firmly reinforced by the way Kennedy is stating his response. Even his attempt at a jab Bush's is muddled and ends with a statement that makes little more sense in print than it did spoken.
So now we have the crisis in terms of the funding of Social Security that is non-existent. It's solid till 2042. And without any help, it'll be able to continue to 2075 with three-quarters of the benefits if there was going to be no help and assistance to it. All you have to do is raise the payroll tax on that and that would solve most of the kind of a problem that you'd have, other kinds of ways to dealing with it. And that is certainly something we ought to think about.
Again, he returns to his possibility of a point by again stating the president's frame, again with the negative tacked on to the end. He then goes on to name several facts without tying them to anything real or emotional. Then actually proposes raising taxes to solve the Social Security crisis that does not exist. But this is certainly something we should think about? Good God, he just keeps going willy nilly:
The Democrats aren't for looking for new ways to try and deal with the Social Security. President Clinton talked about private savings accounts. And if you had the kind of economic conditions that we had with President Clinton, Democrats would be saying, `Let's go about that and let's try that out now as a supplement to Social Security.' So we are prepared certainly. Democrats are prepared to deal with those particular kinds of challenges.
Sigh. Democrats aren't looking for new ways. President Clinton linked to the very thing Bush wants to do. Ending with the wonderful concept that Democrats would look at doing this if the economy was better, when Bush keeps saying that the economy is better. At least he buried the phrase "as a supplement to" in there towards the end. Small victories.

Could we do any worse in response to this debate? Rhetorical, of course. I'm just glad Frist was on another channel, so the two weren't seen by many people side by side. Never was Bush's plan directly refuted. Never was Bush's plan questioned. Never was Bush's plan referred to as privatization of Social Security. Never was the fact that such privatization would not fix the shortfall that Bush claims it will fix, but only made the shortfall worse. Never was the word "risk" "loss" or "gamble" used. Never. Not once.

Compare this to Krugman's response to a similar question in Rolling Stone:
You've been sold a scare story. Right now Social Security has a large and growing trust fund -- a surplus that has been collected to pay for the surge in benefits we'll experience when the baby boomers start to retire. If you're twenty now, you'll be hitting retirement around 2052. That's the year the Congressional Budget Office says the trust fund will run out. In fact, many economists say it may never run out. If the economy continues to grow at an average rate, the trust fund could quite possibly last forever.
I'm just amazed and frustrated. Is this really the best our side can do? Have we learned nothing? I think half the people in the Blogosphere could have framed this argument better.

Frist won this one. Luckily it was just a political talk show this time. If our side doesn't get on the ball though, I fear this talk show comparison may just be acted out in Congress.

Friday, January 14, 2005

AOB: America OnBush

I got my feet wet in the big bad Internet way back in 1995 thanks to AOL. Then I realized that my feet were really in AOL's backwater, not the actual Internet at all. So I moved on and became more knowledgeable about the net. I'd guess I'm up to about a 16-year old's level now.

Whatever I thought of AOL's service then, I love AOL's new free virus protection ad campaign. You've probably seen it. It's the one with the guy saying in an underwhelming voice "I'd like my hard drive to fry like a cheese stick." I love it so much I'd like to see some enterprising video student rip it off and start an America OnBush campaign. Just imagine the script:
"I'd like to have my civil rights repressed." NY-GOP convention protestor in handcuffs

"I'd like my government to start a war based on lies." Rural farmer on tractor

"I'd like tax cuts for America's wealthiest instead of healthcare for America's kids." Working mom at grocery store with kid in cart

Voiceover: "Millions of Americans are just asking for government corruption because the Bush administration is not as honest or trustworthy as they think it is. That's why America OnBush is giving away billions of taxpayer dollars to the most influential Americans to keep them thinking that way."

"I'd like Social Security reform that gambles my retirement savings in the Stock Market." Mechanic working on car

"I'd like energy company executives to write America's energy guidelines." Executive in cab on cell phone

"I'd like my vote not to count." Black man in long line at an Ohio precinct.

Voiceover: America OnBush. Who wants a better government.
Can't you see it? What's your best "I'd like..." line for this administration?

Buy Blue v2.0

I don't know why they had to redo their list. I hear rumors certain businesses didn't seem to like being called out for supporting the GOP. I guess these businesses wanted to keep their support of the GOP a secret. Too bad. So sad. Secret is out of the bag.

That's right boys and girls: Buy Blue is back with two new lists and hand dandy little dots (graphic hint guys: they could be bigger) that tell you at a glance just how blue a company is. You can look up a company by name here, or you can look up the bluest or reddest companies here.

I first wrote about changing my holiday spending here. I'd guess that their list helped me to move over $400 away from GOP supporting businesses that I normally would have shopped at this holiday season. It didn't take any extra time. It actually saved me money as I was able to get my saw on sale for less than I would have spent at Home Depot. And best of all I supported businesses that support the political party I support.

Buy Blue. Support those who support Democrats.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

The Cost of "Your Money"

Hey, remember when President Bush said that the taxes we Americans pay are not the government's money, but our money. I think this was waaaaaay back in the presidential campaign in October 2000 or so. Great rhetoric there George. So great, George got selected. Fast forward a bit and George pushes through a Republican majority congress (with help from the fainthearted faction) huge tax cuts. Huge cuts in taxes. Of course these benefit the most wealthy tax payers in America, but that's not important.

Of course all this talk about giving back our money was done when a Democratic congress and President balanced the budget and paid down the deficit so there was actually a record surplus to "give back". Faced with new realities in the form of a Bush recession, and since George is never wrong, George changed his tune from it being our money, to tax cuts as the one and only means of economic stimulus.

Don't you see sillies? It's not really our money. It's their money. You know. The job creators. Those ultra rich elite 3% Americans who can get their accountants to deduct everything down to the family pet, errr, that would be therapy dog, who wind up paying less tax than your average fast food manager. Yes, those job creators. President Bush has assured us that those are the people who create jobs. After all, someone has drive them to the airport for that Aruba getaway, wax their Jag, tutor their kids, and walk the therapy dog.

So today we get news that the budget deficit isn't all that bad. Or at least not as bad as expected. From CNN:
The Treasury Department said Wednesday in its monthly budget statement that the deficit from October through December totaled $118.61 billion, down from $130.16 billion during the same three months in the 2004 budget year.

The government ran up a record deficit in dollar terms of $412.3 billion for the 2004 budget year which ended last September 30. President Bush has pledged to cut the deficit in half by the end of his second term.
Gee, that's swell. We're running 8.9% below last year's record budget deficit. That sure makes me feel better. I wonder what that will do to the long term deficit situation? Good thing a few paragraphs later CNN tells us:
The Congressional Budget Office estimated in early September that the deficit for 2005 would shrink to $348 billion with the shortfalls gradually easing to $65 billion by 2014. That would give a 10-year deficit total of nearly $2.3 trillion.
Only $2.3 Trillion over ten years. That's peanuts. You know, I'm sure George would agree that this economic stimulus has worked so well, reducing the deficit 8.9% and all, we ought to make those tax cuts permanent. With all that job creat'n I'm sure it would help out that deficit some more. Or not:
The CBO estimates making Bush's tax cuts permanent would add $2.2 trillion to the shortfalls through 2014, including the government's added borrowing costs. Easing the alternative minimum tax's impact on middle-income earners would cost another $435 billion.
Damn that liberal media. I'm no math whiz. But I thought all those tax cuts for those job creat'n rich people and their therapy dogs were suppose to help the economy and cut the deficit. I could be wrong here, but isn't another $2.2 trillion dollars almost as much as $2.3 trillion dollars, give or take a few hundred million. Doesn't that mean we would just about double our deficit if we make the tax cuts permanent?

Hey, call me math impaired, but I bet even the therapy dog could figure this one out.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

We're Just Bloggers

Hey you. Sitting there in front of the computer. Yes you. What do you think you are doing anyway? Oh, you're blogging. Gesundtite. Oh, the political kind. You're all blogging this, and blogging that. Ooh. Look at you type.

Come on. Do you really think you are doing anything. I mean, really. Oh yes, you are all hot and bothered about the DNC chair, you're up on all the latest Rathergate stuff, and I won't even get you started on Bush or Ohio. No, I'm not going there. But come on. You don't have a vote for DNC Chair, Rather and his staff are gone, and Bush is in the White House. What'd you do about it?

Oh yes. You typed. You typed hard and fast. You typed with righteous indignation. You typed the truth, the fiction and the tin foil. You cursed. You cried. You flamed away. Some of you even cursed, cried and quit smoking all at the same time. Bravo. But just remember, after all is said and done, you're just a blogger.

Pissed off yet?

That's right boys and girls, we're just bloggers. We're the ATM. We're the nut case conspiracy theory unwashed rabble somewhere between the media and the guy running for school board member. A bunch of geeks in our pajamas sitting around typing away, railing for change, change, change out here in the cold of cyberspace. Boy that stereotype gets me pissed off quickly.

If we're just out here doing nothing, why were we named Person of the Week by ABC news? Why is every pundit under the sun choking on the term "web-log" as they try to define it and set up their own? Why are we having an impact? Case in point:
Legislation that would have required mothers who had failed to report fetal deaths to the police within 12 hours of the delivery to face a possible misdemeanor sentence will be withdrawn, its patron said on Monday.

"I've elected to withdraw HB 1677 from consideration by the General Assembly this year. The language is just too confusing," Del. John Cosgrove, R-Chesapeake, told The Augusta Free Press.

Cosgrove's surprise move came after a firestorm of controversy spread across the World Wide Web over the weekend about the possible far-reaching effects of the measure.
Poorly written and confusing legislation withdrawn. Gee, how did that happen. Could it have been due to this post from Maura in VA? Surely the media would have caught this. Eventually. Just like they would have caught this Pennsylvania bill that gave goodies to Verizon while outlawing municipal wireless. From jsundman:
Thanks to a mini-firestorm of citizen protest generated by blog land (several other bloggers wrote their own analyses), some of the very worst aspects of this bill were toned down before it was, alas, signed into law.
Now we're in our pajamas creating mini-firestorms. How special.

Since we are dressed for work, let's not forget about our President's $40 million inaguration party! We're so overjoyed about that event that bloggers have outdone themselves typing up storms like Not One Damn Dime Day, the ever popular New Orleans Jazz Funeral, and who can forget the graphic stylings of Black Thursday protests just to name a few. These bloggers are typing so rightously that they even got a nod from the Associated Press and then invited to go on Hannity to be chastised. Hell, Chris Bowers at MyDD even was quoted on George Stephanopoulos "This Week" on ABC. Now that's righteous typing indeed!

These are just from the posts I've seen this week that show just how much our blogging is actually doing. I wish I could link to more, but my blogging time is limited by my nearly 4-year old daughter. She doesn't see the intrinsic value of blogs. Something about not being able to read them or something. Hey, I wonder if Barbie has a blog...

Hi. My name is Michael. We're just blogging.

Monday, January 10, 2005

No Pundit Left Behind

Would you like to track down other "journalists" the Bush administration is paying to "promote" their Orwellian programs? Do you have a pension for sifting through data and doing research. Do you like a good mystery? Need a good subject to do your Masters or Doctoral thesis on?

Then do I have a project for you.

Today, Armstrong Williams, the pundit who was paid $240,000 by the Bush administration to promote NCLB on his national television show, was quoted as follows:
"This happens all the time," he told me. "There are others." Really? I said. Other conservative commentators accept money from the Bush administration? I asked Williams for names. "I'm not going to defend myself that way," he said. The issue right now, he explained, was his own mistake. Well, I said, what if I call you up in a few weeks, after this blows over, and then ask you? No, he said.
Over at Daily Kos in response, blogger and former government employee GregP has posted a "distributed research project" used to track down other pundits that the Bush administration has greased to push their programs. Through on-line research that will direct Freedom of Information Requests, this project looks to spread the research throughout the blogosphere in attempts to uncover just how many pundits are on the take. The project is called No Pundit Left Behind, and Greg describes it this way:
Since this story hits a raw nerve in the punditocracy, though, I think the blogosphere is really the right forum for breaking this story... It's going to take some time and effort -- a few months probably -- but if we can "out" a few more Armstrong Williams' it's well worth it!  From what Williams let slip today, it sounds like he may be just the tip of the iceberg, and misuse of federal funds for political purposes may be much more widespread in the Bush Administration.
Come on. I know itching to go after the SCLM. Imagine being the one to find out that Tucker Carlson or Tim Russert has been paid off. Just imagine...

Sunday, January 09, 2005

DNC's Southern Caucus Impressions

I must be sick. Rather than watching the NFL playoffs what do I do? I watch C-Span and their coverage of the Southern Caucus of the DNC. That's right, while the Packers were getting beat by the Vikings, I was watching a bunch of guys sitting at a table, dressed in bad suits, answering questions from a bunch state party officials. Politics has so ruined me.

For me this caucus was a great opportunity. I've read about all the candidates, but this was the first time I was able to see them all speak, and get a gauge of their personality and speaking style. I trust their views on the issues to my reading more than their campaigning, and knew most of their positions already. So I was watching mainly to see what kind of a spokesman for the party each of these candidates would be. As Simon Rosenburg pointed out in one of his answers, it was more important for the DNC Chair to take on a Ken Melman or Karl Rove on Meet the Press than going up against Bill Frist or George Bush. Of course he's correct in this, as the DNC chair always debates other party chairs or operatives, rarely the other party's candidate.

So with an eye to who would be better in a pressure situation on MTP or Face the Nation, here's a average Democrat's take on the party candidates for DNC chair. The candidates are in order of their seating:

Simon Rosenburg:
Well spoken. Good ideas. Good points. Cold. Serious. Businesslike. Intellectual rather than passionate. I think he'd hold his own on the Sunday morning talk shows, but he didn't come across with much passion or warmth or excitement.

Tim Roemer:
Name dropping. Politician's politician. He just stood out as status quo. Generalized answers. Filibuster. Lots of words, little substance. Answered questions round about, and in ways that didn't satisfy. He turned me off. Ken Melman would turn this guy into a pretzel or I'd change the channel due to lack of content. Uninspiring.

Howard Dean:
Quick wit. Well received. Spine. Informed. Human. Still stammers. Exciting. Passionate before intellectual. Obviously taking framing seriously and used this to advantage in his answers several times by changing the frame of the question. Didn't say the same things as the others. He would be fun to watch debate Ken Melman and would hold his own well.

Wellington Webb:
Deep cool voice. Intelligent. Not always on point. Nothing new said. Cool. Calm. Rational. No spark. I don't think he'd get a word in edgewise in a debate with Rove or Melman.

David Leland:
Lisp. Looked weak or henpecked. Made good points. Unexciting. Uninspiring. I just couldn't take him seriously. Reminded me of the Sicilian from Princess Bride. Inconceivable to see him on MTP in a debate with Melman.

Donnie Fowler:
Too cute personality. He looked too young not just in looks but in mannerisms and responses. Unprofessional. Bad jokes. Bad suit. Didn't look like a national party spokesman. For goodness sake comb your hair. Good points on grass roots organization, but they always seemed self aggrandizing. Views seem right, but there was a street smart con feel to him. He turned me off rather quickly. Russert would eat him for breakfast.

Martin Frost:
Statesman. Well spoken. Unthreatening. Un-aggressive. Warm. Genuine. Unexciting. Safe. Low key. He seemed soft. I just couldn't see him shouting anyone down, but instead being talked over by Melman. I took a liking to him, but can't see him as a national spokesman for the party.

Again this had little to do with what each was saying. They all had good points and good answers to question posed, with the exception of Tim Roemer who seem flustered by a couple questions regarding minority issues. To me the two who stood out greatly were Howard Dean and Simon Rosenburg. Each had great answers and looked the part of a national party spokesman. I'd give Dean the edge due to his ability to reframe the questions and come up with points not made by any of the others on the panel. Rosenburg's answers were good, but they were expected, like telegraphic a punch. He was also very intellectual and lacked some human warmth. Even so, his depth of understanding and speaking style allowed him to stand out.

Saturday, January 08, 2005

The 4-Year Old's Filibuster

By now, you've probably heard about Armstrong Williams, the black commentator the Bush administration greased with $240,000 to effectively "promote" their NCLB legislation, hoping to increase support among the black community. But what I find interesting is the reaction by Williams to being exposed for a lapse in journalistic ethics so eggregious that it allowed Tribune Media Services to axe his syndicated contract in a decision that "wasn't even close" for the managing editors.

To quote Inigo Montoya, "Allow me to sum up:"
The Secret Action:
Williams, a prominent commentator, is paid $240,000 to promote No Child Left Behind in his national television show in obvious violation of journalistic ethics.

When Caught:
Williams says it was a poor choice and showed bad judgment, but that he "believed" in NCLB.

The Actions:
Williams refuses to return the taxpayer money, noting that "he earned it."
Funny. This behavior looks strangely familiar. I have a nearly 4-year old daughter. I recognize this pattern of statements and actions. Any parent should. It goes like this:
The Secret Action:
Swipe a cookie before dinner even though mom and dad said you couldn't have one.

When Caught:
In a round about way, admit you did something bad, but that you were really hungry.

The Actions:
Eat the cookie anyway, then go play.
From a little kid's perspective, parents can be easily manipulated and any action easily justified no matter how wrong it might have been. All you have to do is rationalize your actions and say what the parent wants to hear. The concept of consequences never enter this thought process. The idea is to filibuster the consequences and live to swipe another cookie another day.

Funny how the Bush administration thinks this way. Case in point, Alberto Gonzales:
The Secret Action:
As Bush's chief council, Gonzales justifies legal use of torture, ignoring the Geneva Conventions, and promotes the War President as being above any law he sees fit to violate.

When Caught:
During his confirmation hearings for appointment to Attorney General, Gonzales states he believes deeply in the rule of law and is against torture in any form.

The Action:
Gonzales is most likely to be confirmed as the next Attorney General of the United States.
You and I could play this game all day, just pick a Bush administration official. But what is important is to see the pattern so brilliantly played out in child like fashion by the Bush administration. It's so simple it's child's play to them. And just like any child, they fully expect that when they put on that sad puppy dog face and say all the things we as parents want to hear them say that we, being overly forgiving and gullible parents, will indeed forgive. But more importantly, that we will forgive and forget the consequences.

Any parent knows what will happen when consequences are forgotten. The bad behavior only gets bigger and the excuses greater.

It's time for some consequences again.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

The One Senator with Balls is a Woman

Last night I asked who would represent me. Senator Barbara Boxer of California stood up and said "I will." For that I will always be grateful, and will happily contribute to her reelection campaign. She did what Kerry could not do. She stood up in the face of overwhelming GOP domination and fear mongering, and seemingly caught them off guard by signing Representative John Conyers objection to the certification of Ohio's Electors. Bravo Senator. Bravo.

What ensued was political theatre the like of which has not been seen since 1877. Allow me to provide the "Poor Bloggers' Summary" of this debate for you:
Dem: Fight for electoral justice.
GOP: Sour grapes. Gripe, gripe, gripe.
Dem: Voter injustice, long lines, right to vote.
GOP: Get over it, Bush won.
Dem: Not about Bush, About constitutional right to vote.
GOP: Get over it. Bush won.
Dem: Constitutional amendment regarding right to vote.
White House: Conspiracy theories. Bush won.
Dem: Every ballot must be counted.
GOP: Sore losers. Accept defeat.
Dem: Right to vote is cornerstone of our democracy.
GOP: This is a waste of time and taxpayer dollars!
Dem: 4500 votes in a county with 800 registered voters.
GOP: Lies, Liars, Lies!!
Dem: Blackwell repeatedly violated Ohio election laws.
GOP: Crazy talk. Michael Moore is the devil.
Dem: ATM's provide a receipt, why can't voting machines?
GOP: Kerry conceded. Get over it.
Dem: The right to vote secures all other rights we have.
GOP: You evil Democrats are sowing Insidious seeds of doubt.
Dem: Differences in voter treatment based on wealth and race.
GOP: Don't you know there's a war on terror!
So I took liberties. You get the picture. The Democrats want every vote counted. The GOP doesn't. The Democrats argued for election reform and investigation into election issues. The GOP called them names and told them basically to shut up and get over it. So based on this America, which party do you in charge of election reform?

Hopefully this historic debate will bring about some change in the sorry state of elections in this country. At the very least, I hope it will help put a few Republicans on the defensive by providing some great video for Michael Moore or one of their Democratic opponents next election cycle.

Regardless, Bravo to Representative Conyers and Senator Boxer. I thank you for representing me.

And I will not forget.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Bite Me John

Did you get the Kerry email today? You know, the one that starts out like this:
No American citizen should wake up the morning after the election and worry their vote wasn't counted. No citizen should be denied at the polls if they are eligible to vote. And, as the greatest, wealthiest nation on earth, our citizens should never be forced to vote on old, unaccountable and non transparent voting machines from companies controlled by partisan activists.
Boy that sounds great John. So what are you doing about it:
Tomorrow, members of Congress will meet to certify the results of the 2004 presidential election. I will not be taking part in a formal protest of the Ohio Electors.

Despite widespread reports of irregularities, questionable practices by some election officials and instances of lawful voters being denied the right to vote, our legal teams on the ground have found no evidence that would change the outcome of the election.
News flash: It's not all about you John. Just because you may not be able to overturn the result, it doesn't mean election fraud didn't happen and doesn't need to be investigated. You of all people are in the perfect position to see that this happens, since you are a senator and can object to the Ohio results. But no. You are not leading. You are getting out of Dodge on your fact finding mission. Way to lead there Mr. Kerry.
But, that does not mean we should abandon our commitment to addressing those problems that happened in Ohio. We must act today to make sure they never happen again.
You mean actions like not participating in the demands for an investigation into these widespread irregularities?
I urge you to join me in using this occasion to highlight our demand that Congress commit itself this year to reforming the electoral system. A Presidential election is a national federal election but we have different standards in different states for casting and counting votes. We need a national federal standard to solve the problems that occurred in the 2004 election. I will propose legislation to help achieve this.

Florida 2000 was a wake up call. But the Republicans who control Congress ignored it. Will they now ignore what happened in 2004?
The GOP will ignore it again? No kidding Sherlock. They are a bigger majority in 2004 than they were in 2000. If you allow the Ohio vote to go unchallenged by running away from it for political reasons, you miss the historic mother of all opportunity to draw attention to the problem that may have cost you the election.

But it just gets better:
I want every vote counted because Americans have to know that the votes they stood in line for, fought for, and strived so hard to cast in an election, are counted. We must make sure there are no questions or doubts in future elections. It's critical to our democracy that we investigate and act to prevent voting irregularities and voter intimidation across the country. We can't stand still as Congressional leaders seek to sweep well-founded voter concerns under the rug.
So it's critical that voting irregularities and voter intimidation be investigated you say. But you, being in a position to object to the Ohio Electors and thereby force a debate and an investigation, is something you are running from.

I've never been so disappointed in a candidate I've supported.

Forget about 2008 John. Just forget about it.

Ohio

Much has been written about Ohio lately in the blogosphere. Too much. So much in fact that people have started to tune out, get nasty, and become obsessed. To quote Marcos' now infamous "fraudster" post:
George Bush won. It may not have been "fair and square", not when you run a campaign based on lying about your opponent's record, but he did get more votes than our guy, both in the popular column, and in the Electoral College. We hate it. it sucks. But it's reality.
But you know, all this talk, right or not, leaves me hollow. In the pit of my stomach I know such talk is wrong. Not that it is wrong because I think Kerry won, or that I think Kerry was cheated out of the White House. It's wrong because it focuses on the result rather than what happened in Ohio.

Bush winning, even if he didn't win "fair and square", does not negate the fact that something happened in Ohio. And this "something" needs to be looked at for at least three reasons: What happened in Ohio was wrong. What happened in Ohio was a miscarriage of the fundamental tenets our democracy. What happened in Ohio should never be allowed to happen again.

So tomorrow congress meets in a joint session to ratify the results of the Electoral College. If one representative and one senator object to these results, then real debate and investigation, as well as media attention and investigation, might actually happen. Representative John Conyers, ranking minority member of the House Judiciary Committee, will object to the counting of the Ohio Electors. But in a repeat of 2000, as of yet there is no senator to object with him.

The one man most affected by this, John Kerry, has gotten out of Dodge for the week on a "13-day fact finding" mission to the middle east. Again, if I was him, I might have done this as well. But this also leaves me hollow. Kerry was suppose to be our leader. The man we rallied around. The man we fought for. The man who promised every vote would be counted. Yet with 100,000 plus votes uncounted, Kerry has removed himself from the process. This disappoints me to no end, but I'm not in Kerry's shoes.

So who's it going to be. Word on the blogs has it that Senator Boxer (D-CA) has said she is "considering it", whatever that means. But everyone else has remained mum. This leaves me feeling disappointed beyond belief. Why are the Democratic Senators all running and hiding? Bush won. So what. Ohio election laws were violated repeatedly. Things happened in Ohio, that if allowed to become the norm, will undermine our democracy. Where are our Democratic leaders? Where are these people who are suppose to stand up and represent me? Why are they not en masse lining up as a group to force an investigation into what happened in Ohio? Why? Will somebody represent me in Washington? Please?

I just don't get it. If we as a democracy value the right for everyone to vote, why are our elected leaded allowing this to happen without so much as a whisper? If ordinary bloggers and professors and amateur journalists can did up concrete violations of Ohio election law, why are none of our elected leaders standing up for and questioning the results. To quote Michael Moore of all people:
Congressman Conyers and a dozen other members of Congress have some serious questions about how the Republican secretary of state in Ohio (who was also the state's co-chair of Bush's reelection campaign) conducted the election on November 2. The list of possible offenses of how voters were denied access to the polls and how over a hundred thousand of their votes have yet to be counted is more than worthy of your consideration. It may not change the outcome, but you have a supreme responsibility to make sure that EVERY vote is counted. Who amongst you would disagree with that?
Who amongst them indeed. Georgia10 has an excellent post on dKos about some of the documented irregularities that occurred in Ohio. Irregularities like Bush precincts certified with 98-124% turnout, reducing voting machine numbers in 85% in Democratic precincts, and every irregularity favoring Bush. Every one.

So I ask it again. Which one of our Senators is going to represent me, an American voter? Or will we begin Bush's second term in the same way we began it last time: by capitulating, giving up and giving in.

Will somebody represent me, please?

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Do As I Say.

You've got to love hypocrisy honed to a fine art form. The Republican party has raised hypocrisy to a level nearly Orwellian. Case in point, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, who's been preaching the "evils" of the filibuster rule relentlessly lately has in fact actually voted to filibuster judicial nominees his very own self. No way, you say? Way. He's a certifiable hypocrite. From Center for American Progress via Atrios:
In recent weeks, Frist has been relentlessly preaching about the evils of judicial filibusters. Speaking to the Federalist Society on November 12, Frist said filibustering judicial nominees is "radical. It is dangerous and it must be overcome." [1] Frist called judicial filibusters "nothing less than a formula for tyranny by the minority." When Bill Clinton was President, however, Frist engaged in the same behavior he is now condemning.

In 1996 Clinton nominated Judge Richard Paez to the 9th Circuit of the United States Court of Appeals. Conservatives in Congress held up Paez's nomination for more than four years, culminating in an attempted filibuster on March 8, 2000. Bill Frist was among those who voted to filibuster Paez.
That's a solid performance! The judges give Frist a solid 9.5 for hypocrisy by differentiating nominees by president. You see under GOP rules, it's OK to filibuster under the immoral President Clinton, but it's "evil" to filibuster under the virtuous (cough) President Bush. Why I haven't seen such great use of the Clinton rule since... last week. Nice play. But now it's on to the second round: The "Lie about your record on national television" round. Again from CAP:
Frist was directly confronted with this vote by Bob Schieffer on Face the Nation (11/21/04). Schieffer said "Senator, a group called The American Progress Action Fund sent me a question to ask you. And here's what it says: 'Senator Frist, if you oppose the use of the filibuster for judicial nominations, why did you vote to filibuster Judge Richard Paez when President Clinton nominated him to the 9th Circuit?'" Frist replied "Filibuster, cloture, it gets confusing--as a scheduling or to get more information is legitimate. But no to kill nominees."
Ooh, Frist is leading with the ever faithful GOP deny and obfuscate the issue falsehood approach. The judges seemed to like that one, giving it a 9.8 added for national media degree of difficulty to pull that whopper off. What's that? Hold everything here folks. That evil liberal watchdog group has thrown the red flag onto the field. Time to review Frist's play:
But American Progress has obtained a document that proves Frist was not, as he suggested, voting to filibuster Paez for scheduling purposes or to get more information. He voted to filibuster Paez for the very reason he said was illegitimate – to block Paez's nomination indefinitely.
Upon further review, Frist's claim is denied. At the time of the filibuster vote, the Senator sent out a press release bragging about filibustering the evil Clinton nominee. The claim of lack of filibuster is overturned. Frist is a hypocrite. Democrat's ball on the 20 yard line.

Yet another case of the Republican mantra: Do as I say, not as I do.