Monday, December 31, 2007

Ron Paul: Bridging the Gap to 19th Century Treason

I decided to spend a little time today hopefully coming up in the blogrolls of hundreds of Paultards. It seems that a little attention should indeed be paid to their savior-in-chief, Sir Congressman Ron Paul of Texas (also referred to by Paultards as: Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine, Patrick Henry, Jesus, George Washington, Han Solo, Benjamin Franklin, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Adam Smith, and Gandalf).

It seems that he had some choice words on Meet The Press for America's greatest president, Abraham Lincoln.

MR. RUSSERT: I was intrigued by your comments about Abe Lincoln. "According to Paul, Abe Lincoln should never have gone to war; there were better ways of getting rid of slavery."

REP. PAUL: Absolutely. Six hundred thousand Americans died in a senseless civil war. No, he shouldn’t have gone, gone to war. He did this just to enhance and get rid of the original intent of the republic. I mean, it was the–that iron, iron fist.

MR. RUSSERT: We’d still have slavery.

REP. PAUL: Oh, come on, Tim. Slavery was phased out in every other country of the world. And the way I’m advising that it should have been done is do like the British empire did. You, you buy the slaves and release them.

Never mind the fact that most of the civilized world thought America's notion of 19th century freedom was a joke while it still held men, women, and children in slavery.

Never mind the fact that insinuating that Abraham Lincoln was a power-hungry dictator is unbelievably prolific in the rhetoric of disenchanted white supremacist confederates.

And never mind the fact that there wasn't a snowball's chance in hell that the grandchildren of the same men who fought for slavery and (later) against integration would 'phase out' slavery. It had to be taken from them - plain and simple. Abraham Lincoln understood that, Lyndon B. Johnson understood that, but not surprisingly, Ron Paul doesn't measure up.

No my friends, Ron Paul isn't just a moronic, pie-in-the-sky, head-up-the-ass, libertarian and presidential candidate for the socially malformed, he also hates Abraham Lincoln and the Emancipation Proclamation. Oh...and the 1964 Civil Rights act too:

MR. RUSSERT: You would vote against the Civil Rights Act if, if it was today?

REP. PAUL: If it were written the same way, where the federal government’s taken over property–has nothing to do with race relations [...]

it has to do with the Constitution and private property rights

So my lovely Paultards, I hate to break it to you. But your candidate is not only assbackwards, but he is way out of the American mainstream and conscience. I shall be laughing heartily at your antics when he gets 8% in Iowa, 5% in New Hampshire, and 5% in every other state. I only pray that he mounts an independent bid so the chuckles can continue.

The Pakistan Test

After the Bhutto assassination, the Washington Post's lead editorial on Saturday was called The Pakistan Test. They looked at how the candidates from both parties addressed the assassination and its aftermath. Who performed admirably? Who looked like an absolute idiot?

THE ASSASSINATION of Benazir Bhutto presented U.S. presidential candidates with a test: Could they respond cogently and clearly to a sudden foreign policy crisis? Within hours some revealing results were in. One candidate, Democrat John Edwards, passed with flying colors. Another, Republican Mike Huckabee, flunked abysmally. Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican John McCain were serious and substantive; Republicans Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani were thin. And Barack Obama -- the Democratic candidate who claims to represent a new, more elevated brand of politics -- committed an ugly foul.

Let's start with Mr. Edwards, who managed not only to get Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf on the phone Thursday but also to deliver a strong message. The candidate said he had encouraged Mr. Musharraf "to continue on the path to democratization [and] to allow international investigators to come in and determine what happened, what the facts were." Those are words the Pakistani president needs to hear from as many Americans as possible. He has yet to confirm that the Jan. 8 parliamentary elections will go forward and risks a destabilizing backlash against his own government unless he delivers a full and credible account of the authors and circumstances of Ms. Bhutto's killing.

Ms. Clinton and Mr. McCain also endorsed Pakistan's continued democratization. Each cited an acquaintance with Ms. Bhutto or Mr. Musharraf and opportunistically trumpeted their foreign policy experience -- but both also offered some cogent analysis. Ms. Clinton rightly cited "the failure of the Musharraf regime either to deal with terrorism or to build democracy," adding that "it's time that the United States sided with civil society in Pakistan."

At the other extreme was Mr. Huckabee, whose first statement seemed merely uninformed: He appeared not to know that Mr. Musharraf had ended "martial law" two weeks ago. That was better than the candidate's next effort, when he said an appropriate U.S. response would include "very clear monitoring of our borders . . . to make sure if there's any unusual activity of Pakistanis coming into our country." The cynicism of this attempt to connect Pakistan's crisis with anti-immigrant sentiment was compounded by its astonishing senselessness.

By comparison, the Giuliani and Romney statements were anodyne -- they deployed slogans about fighting terrorism or "jihadism" while avoiding serious comment about Pakistan. Mr. Obama similarly began by offering bland condolences to Pakistanis and noting that "I've been saying for some time that we've got a very big problem there."

Then Mr. Obama committed his foul -- a far-fetched attempt to connect the killing of Ms. Bhutto with Ms. Clinton's vote on the war in Iraq. After the candidate made the debatable assertion that the Iraq invasion strengthened al-Qaeda in Pakistan, his spokesman, David Axelrod, said Ms. Clinton "was a strong supporter of the war in Iraq, which we would submit was one of the reasons why we were diverted from Afghanistan, Pakistan and al-Qaeda, who may have been players in the event today."

When questioned later about his spokesman's remarks, Mr. Obama stiffly defended them -- while still failing to offer any substantive response to the ongoing crisis. Is this Mr. Obama's way of rejecting "the same Washington game" he lambasted earlier in the day? If so, his game doesn't look very new, or attractive.

It's interesting that on ABC's This Week, conservative George Will seemed desperate to dismiss what Edwards did by calling Musharraf, and then also tried to dismiss his populist campaign. The more it looks like he could actually win Iowa, the more Edwards is freaking out the Beltway pundits who've been wrong on just about everything.

One of the attacks I've seen directed at Edwards is that he's not sincere. Well, the parasites that make up the Beltway punditocracy in this country certainly seem to think he's the real deal, otherwise they wouldn't be shitting their pants over his candidacy.

Mike Huckabee, Gays, and Necrophilia

Mike Huckabee was on Meet The Press yesterday, and Russert kindly smacked him around on Motherfuckabee's comparison of homosexuality to necrophilia and pedophilia (and oddly sado-masochism as well...which also seems to be improperly placed. I mean sure, I think it's odd and a bit frightening, but are whips and chains really as bad as having sex with a corpse? Come on).

Watch for yourselves - it's really frightening how smoothly, eloquently, and convincingly he's able to play this stuff off.

On NBC’s Meet The Press this morning, host Tim Russert asked former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee if he believed “people are born gay or choose to be gay?” “I don’t know whether people are born that way,” responded Huckabee, “but one thing I know, that the behavior one practices is a choice.”

In 1997, Huckabee requested an amendment to a state Senate bill stating “that it is Arkansas public policy to prohibit sodomy to protect the traditional family structure.” [Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, 1/23/1997]

Translation: President Huckabee would outlaw any chance for me to have sex EVER AGAIN. He MUST be stopped.

You Might Be a Republican If....

A nice list that I found on DailyKos. It also has the top 10 stupidest things Bush said. Anyway, here's the list.

You think "proletariat" is a type of cheese.

You've named your kids "Deduction one" and Deduction two"

You've tried to argue that poverty could be abolished if people were just allowed to keep more of their minimum wage.

You've ever referred to someone as "my (insert racial or ethnic minority here) friend"

You've ever tried to prove Jesus was a capitalist and opposed to welfare.

You're a pro-lifer, but support the death penalty.

You think Huey Newton is a cookie.

The only union you support is the Baseball Players, because heck, they're richer than you.

You think you might remember laughing once as a kid.

You once broke loose at a party and removed your neck tie.

You call mall rent-a-cops "jack-booted thugs."

You've ever referred to the moral fiber of something.

You've ever uttered the phrase, "Why don't we just bomb the sons of bitches."

You've ever said, "I can't wait to get into business school."

You've ever called a secretary or waitress "Tootsie."

You answer to "The Man."

You don't think "The Simpsons" is all that funny, but you watch it because that Flanders fellow makes a lot of sense.

You fax the FBI a list of "Commies in my Neighborhood."

You don't let your kids watch Sesame Street because you accuse Bert and Ernie of "sexual deviance."

You use any of these terms to describe your wife: Old ball and chain, little woman, old lady, tax credit...

You scream "Dit-dit-ditto" while making love.

You've argued that art has a "moral foundation set in Western values."

When people say "Marx," you think "Groucho."

You've ever yelled, "Hey hippie, get a haircut."

You think Birkenstock was that radical rock concert in 1969.

You argue that you need 300 handguns, in case a bear ever attacks your home.

Vietnam makes a lot of sense to you.

You point to Hootie and the Blowfish as evidence of the end of racism in America.

You've ever said civil liberties, schmivil schmiberties.

You've ever said "Clean air? Looks clean to me."

You've ever referred to Anita Hill as a "lying bitch" while attending a Bob Packwood fund-raiser.

You spent MLK Day reading "The Bell Curve."

You've ever called education a luxury.

You look down through a glass ceiling and chuckle.

You wonder if donations to the Pentagon are tax-deductable.

You came of age in the '60s and don't remember Bob Dylan.

You own a vehicle with an "Ollie North: American Hero" sticker.

You're afraid of the "liberal media."

You ever based an argument on the phrase, "Well, tradition dictates...."

You've ever called the National Endowment for the Arts a bunch of pornographers.

You think all artists are gay.

You ever told a child that Oscar the Grouch "lives in a trash can because he is lazy and doesn't want to contribute to society."

You've ever urged someone to pull themselves up by their bootstraps, when they don't even have shoes.

You confuse Lenin with Lennon.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Difference Between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney

Happy New Year Bruin Dems!!!

As a special treat, want to know what the main difference between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney is? Obama let's us in on a little secret.

Senator Barack Obama was asked by a self-declared registered Republican at his town hall event in Knoxville, Iowa, to outline the differences between himself and Governor Mitt Romney.

Obama chuckled, “That’s a long list!”

He then referenced an interview he said he listened to this morning with Romney. “Somebody asked him, has he ever cursed, and he said, ‘Well, of course, but not the real harsh ones.’ I have to tell you, I’ve used some really harsh curse words. So, the really good ones, the juicy ones,” he said with a smile.

It's good to know someone's standing up for the F and C bombs!!! This is America after all. To me, cursing is as American as a good slice apple fucking pie.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Friday, December 21, 2007

Obama Girls to Bush: You're So Lame

From the folks at Barely Political, which brought us the Obama Girl, comes their end of 2007 "tribute" to George W. Bush.

Murder by Spreadsheet at UCLA

DailyKos blogger nyceve is known for her relentless diaries exposing the corrupt for-profit health care industry. Today, she alerted us to a case at the UCLA Medical Center, where a 17-year-old girl was near death and in need of a liver transplant. However, CIGNA had denied the treatment. What's appalling are the excuses CIGNA threw up to prevent the treatment.

In a Dec. 11 letter to CIGNA's transplant department, four UCLA physicians said that Nataline "currently meets criteria to be listed as Status 1A" for a transplant and urged the company to "urgently re-review her case" and their denial. CIGNA said it denied the care because their benefit plan "does not cover experimental, investigational and unproven services," to which the doctors replied, "Nataline's case is in fact none of the above."

On Dec. 14, Hilda Sarkisyan was told by the hospital that a healthy liver was available, but because CIGNA had refused authorization, the family would have had to make an immediate down payment of $75,000 to proceed, an amount the family could not afford.

What's the point of having insurance if they won't do jack shit when you actually need them? The letter from the UCLA doctors is truly damning, refuting CIGNA's excuses to save money. Well, nyceve wasn't having that, and let the blogosphere know about it.

In a stunning turn around, insurance giant CIGNA has capitulated to community demands, and protests that the California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee helped to generate, and agreed to a critically needed liver transplant for Nataline Sarkisyan, a 17-year-old girl in the intensive care unit at UCLA Medical Center.

A national web of friends and family of Nataline, CNA/NNOC registered nurses, doctors, members of the Armenian community, healthcare advocates, and netroots supporters pitched in on an unprecedented national day of action on Nataline’s behalf.

The centerpiece of the protests was an impassioned rally today sponsored by CNA/NNOC with the substantial help of the local Armenian community that drew 150 people to the Glendale offices of CIGNA. Hundreds of phone callers clogged the lines of CIGNA offices around the country, all demanding that CIGNA reverse its prior denial of care.

"This is an incredible turnaround generated by a massive outpouring around the country that proves that an enraged public can make a difference and achieve results," said CNA/NNOC Executive Director Rose Ann DeMoro. "CIGNA had to back down in the face of a mobilized network of patient advocates and healthcare activists who would not take no for an answer."

The netroot protest was organized by Eve Gittelson, an influential health policy blogger who writes on Daily Kos as nyceve, and many of the calls were also the product of work by the Armenian National Committee.

Success!! Or so we thought....

ABC story

WESTWOOD -- A Northridge teenager awaiting a liver transplant died Thursday after she was pulled off of life support.

CIGNA Insurance Company initially refused to cover the cost of the transplant for Natalee Sarkisian, saying the surgery was too experimental.

On Thursday, friends, family and members of a nurses association held a protest outside CIGNA headquarters in Glendale, urging the insurance company to reconsider.

During the protest, Natalee's mother got word CIGNA had changed its mind and would make an exception for Natalee's surgery.

But the decision came too late for Natalee. Just after six o'clock tonight, her condition worsened.

Natalee's family took her off life support and she passed away.

Attorneys for the Sarkisian family may pursue legal action against CIGNA HealthCare.

We're still in shock. Just mere hours after caving in and approving the transplant, the girl dies. For how many weeks and months had CIGNA been dicking around the Sarkisyan family? It's tragically ironic they stonewalled up until hours before she died. So in the end, CIGNA gets to keep their money anyway.

And people still think you can negotiate in good faith with these heartless bastards?

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Fox News attacks Edwards/Obama

For freezing Fox News out, Edwards and Obama are now subjected to smears and attacks from Fox News. Brave New Films put together a compilation tape of evidence. One or two times may be brushed off, but when you have dozens and dozens of examples, that says something.

The Politics of Christmas

Seasons Greetings Readers! Below you'll find an inside-look into the campaigns' various attempts to:

A. Win votes,
B. Influence campaign narratives, and of course,
C. Wish people a Merry Christmas

First on the docket is Barack Obama's ad, entitled 'Friendship,' which I find fairly boring, particularly Obama's stilted delivery. I'm sure no one is surprised I thought that, since I'm not a fan. However in my eyes the ad itself is redeemed by the adorable factor of his daughters - so a win for Obama.

Next up is Hillary Clinton, who takes a very amusing and lighthearted approach in her ad "presents." I like this ad, think it's amusing and funny, and am distracted by the shining wrapping paper and pretty music. This shows the Clinton's campaign's attempts to make Hillary more likable and presentable, and it accomplishes this well.

Edwards takes a much more serious approach, perhaps reminding folks that in the season of Christmas we should try to act more Christ-like by caring for the least among us. I like this ad (but not as much as Hillary's). And for obvious reasons, this is just oozing populism.

Next up is Rudy blathering on about what he wishes for for Christmas in 'Same Gift.' Donning a sweater that deserves to be taken out back and shot, he goes through laundry list of what he wants to do to with America. It ends with him talking about giving Americans a fruitcake (is he h8ing on the gays, hmmmmm?). This ad is boring, mundane, and stupid.

And lastly, the one that started it all, 'What Really Matters' from Mike Huckabee. He's been catching some flak lately for the apparent subliminal roving cross in the bookshelf behind him. The ad is loaded down with religious rhetoric and allusions to Jesus. His charm though and apparent sincerity help pull it off.

Merry Christmas Everyone!!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

California Assembly Passes Major Healthcare Initiative

Governor Schwarzenegger teamed with Fabian Nunez and other Assembly Dems to come up with a sweeping healthcare measure that would insure 3.7 million Californians.

The AP writes:

Of the 5.1 million people who are considered permanently uninsured in California, 3.7 million would be covered under the plan, according to Nunez's office. That includes children from low-income families, employees at small businesses that cannot afford to provide health insurance, and Californians with pre-existing medical conditions who have trouble finding coverage.

Insurance companies would have to provide policies to everyone and could no longer refuse coverage to people with pre-existing conditions.

The Assembly leader struck the deal last week with Schwarzenegger, a Republican who made health care reform his top policy priority this year and broke ranks with his party to get it done.

I have to give credit to Fabian Nunez. I've given him shit for a long, long time. I have long found him superficial, arrogant, overly ambitious, hyperpartisan, and incompetent, and most folks I know agreed with me. But being able to pull the California's Assembly's hyperuber-Democratic lefties into line behind this sweeping compromise is a true feat.

Arnold also deserves props for coming to his senses and sticking true to his 'post-partisan era' mantra. While I don't necessarily agree with it, I find his emphasis on healthcare and global warming to be inspiring - mostly because it's coming from a Republican.

So props to California's government actually working for a change! Now we'll just have to wait and see how this works out come November 2008 when it's on the ballot as a referendum. Republican legislators voted against it along party lines, so it will eventually be clear who carries greater heft in the California GOP - Arnold or the Republican assemblymen and senators.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

That Look

One of the most powerful diaries we've seen this entire year on the blogosphere was just written as the holiday season approaches.

The year we stole a Christmas tree

How impactful was it? When DailyKos diarist karateexplosions, known for his widely read satirical diaries mocking the White House press secretary's briefings, read that diary, he became an Edwards supporter. It was this comment that did it for him.

That look.

I've heard John Edwards talk about this before, that look on your fathers face when he realizes there isn't enough money. The guilt, the pain.

AND, not having done anything wrong, having worked hard, tried to get ahead, just to be left behind.

As karateexplosions writes:

I know that look too. But I never knew what that look meant until I saw it on my own face.

I have avoided picking one candidate up until now, for a number of reasons. Mainly, because I like all of our Democratic candidates (well, I guess I could do without Gravel). And I still like them all, and would still vote for any Democrat in the general who won the nomination. I have no desire to participate in the "I hate your candidate because..." diaries. I like them all.

But my primary vote goes to Edwards and his message of hope. I never wanted my children to have to see That Look. But now that they have, I want to work for an American future that means my children's children will never have to see That Look.

But I want to take this opportunity to talk about something I noticed when watching the CNN Las Vegas debate with the Bruin Dems last month. It was during this segment, and the response from most of the Bruin Dems in the crowd.

All of us are going to be fine. The question is: Will America be fine?

Now, that line was deeply impactful for many on the blogs. But at the debate-watching party, most of the Bruin Dems started laughing at that line, mocking him for how corny it sounded. Maybe we're just the "coastal elites", and the line works better among the middle and working classes. But I was surprised at the disconnect between those of us who are progressive.

Speculating here, but it may have to do with the socio-economic status we come from. I don't think anyone at the party was from below the poverty line. For those who come from upper middle class families and haven't been without in their lives, yeah, the line may sound corny. But to those who have experienced poverty or near-poverty, that line means something to them. That is why you had those two extremely powerful diaries on DailyKos, because of That Look. It is one of the reasons I am a Democrat.

I'd like to hear from the others as to why that line didn't connect with you guys, the way it hits home for so many others.

BTW, here's the music video that goes with the final quote from the first diary. It is the Christmas season, after all.

Douchebags in the News

Joe Lieberman (All About Lieberman-CT), the 2000 Democratic Vice Presidential nominee, is set to endorse John McCain tomorrow.

I seriously hope that in 2008 we get enough senate seats so we can kick his fat whiny ass out of the chairmanship of Government Oversight.

Why Clinton?

Today the Des Moines Register endorsed Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination (full endorsement here) and John McCain for the Republican nomination. The Des Moines Register is the most coveted newspaper endorsement and I can imagine that all of the candidates were waiting eagerly this morning, much like USAC candidates wait for Daily Bruin endorsements.

Here is an excerpt:
The choice, then, comes down to preparedness: Who is best prepared to confront the enormous challenges the nation faces — from ending the Iraq war to shoring up America’s middle class to confronting global climate change?

The job requires a president who not only understands the changes needed to move the country forward but also possesses the discipline and skill to navigate the reality of the resistant Washington power structure to get things done.

That candidate is New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton.

From working for children’s rights as a young lawyer, to meeting with leaders around the world as first lady, to emerging as an effective legislator in her service as a senator, every stage of her life has prepared her for the presidency.
The Des Moines Register also said that Barack Obama "also demonstrates the potential to be a fine president," but there is less love for the Register's 2004 pick, John Edwards.

Naturally every campaign (and their bloggers) will spin this their way, but only time will tell what impact, if any, this endorsement has.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Robert Gates: Stopgap to Cheney's Warhawk Agenda Against Iran?

The National Intelligence Estimate that was released a couple weeks ago has halted the Bush Administration's agenda to implement a military strike on Iran. It has basically refuted Bush's intelligence reports that Iran has been developing nuclear weapons and it is a threat to U.S. national security - beating the drums of war as Joe Bidden would say. But cooking intelligence has been a mainstay of this administration since 9/11. What happened that all of a sudden truth is beginning to seep out?

Introducing Robert M. Gates, Secretary of Defense. I was personally very apprehensive of his appointment because of his appointment either meant one of two things; he could have become a puppet for the administration allowing Cheney to be at the helm of the D.O.D. (as was the case when Rumsfeld was there) or Gates would actually assert that he's got a spine and would use his influence by asserting his rational, judicious character he displayed when he was the Director of the C.I.A. back in 1987, although this assessment comes with caution because of his complicit role in the Iran-Contra affair.

Nonetheless, if you recall his confirmation process, many senators had a consensus belief that he would bring change. Dana Milbank of the Washington Post encompassed this belief in his article that he wrote just over a year ago:
And so it came to pass, in the 12th month of the sixth year of the reign of Bush, that a prophet came forth to deliver us from the war in Babylon.

Actually, it was only Bob Gates at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee, but the rapturous senators seemed to regard the president's second defense secretary as a harbinger of the Second Coming.

The crux of the article is when Milbank points out Ted Kennedy's acquiescence.
The room went quiet as Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.), who had been questioning Gates, smiled and nodded in agreement. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) joined the nodding, and the smiles spread down both sides of the dais as Gates vowed independence. "I can assure you that I don't owe anybody anything," the nominee promised.


And in November he didn't break from his word emphasizing diplomacy:

This is from a speech he gave in November at Kansas State University which he ironically pledged for more money for the State Department. This coming from the Secretary of the D.O.D.

But, my message today is not about the defense budget or military power. My message is that if we are to meet the myriad challenges around the world in the coming decades, this country must strengthen other important elements of national power both institutionally and financially, and create the capability to integrate and apply all of the elements of national power to problems and challenges abroad. In short, based on my experience serving seven presidents, as a former Director of CIA and now as Secretary of Defense, I am here to make the case for strengthening our capacity to use “soft” power and for better integrating it with “hard” power.

Funding for non-military foreign-affairs programs has increased since 2001, but it remains disproportionately small relative to what we spend on the military and to the importance of such capabilities. Consider that this year’s budget for the Department of Defense – not counting operations in Iraq and Afghanistan – is nearly half a trillion dollars. The total foreign affairs budget request for the State Department is $36 billion – less than what the Pentagon spends on health care alone. Secretary Rice has asked for a budget increase for the State Department and an expansion of the Foreign Service. The need is real.


Now over the past year he maintained the same philosophy. In July he issued a letter proclaiming his accordance to Senator Clinton's general contingency for troop reduction, "Such planning is indeed taking place with my active involvement as well as that of senior military and civilian officials and our commanders in the field." Such preparation for a troop reduction, he said, "is not only appropriate, but essential."

And Time has reported that Gates' role as Secretary of Defense has led the Department of Defense to stress the importance of non-military measures to curb Iran's nuclear plan.

However, Gates left no doubt where he stands on how to proceed, saying that the revised NIE shows that non-military measures are the best way to curb Iran's nuclear program. "If anything," he said in Kabul, "the new national estimate validates the Administration's strategy of bringing diplomatic and economic pressures to bear on the Iranian government to change its policies."

Time will only tell if Gates has enough strength to not only curb Iran's nuclear power but do the same to Cheney's.... err I mean Bush's contingency in attacking Iran in Bush's last year in office.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Final Dem debate before Iowa caucuses: Who won?

So tonight was the final Democratic debate before the Iowa caucuses, held by the Des Moines Register.

First off, this is quickly going around the Internet as Obama's YouTube moment. An awesome response to Hillary laughing at the moderator's statement. The audience lapped it up.

And in the post-debate analysis on Fox News (don't worry, the audience was made up of Democrats), Edwards and Obama scored VERY high, and Hillary... well, not so well. About half the audience thought Edwards won the debate, about half thought Obama won it. But notice, almost nobody came in there with Edwards as their #1 choice to begin with. He converted quite a few #3 choices into #1 choices for himself tonight.

And what were pundits and the media saying?

Rick Klein of ABC News: Edwards though wins on my scorecards -- he was relentlessly on message, sounding strong, and making a very good case to keep this a three-person race.

Chris Cillizza, The Fix: Edwards is, without question, one of the most gifted (if not the most gifted) debater on any stage. And, for the first 45 minutes of the debate his populist "us versus them" message really hit home. "Corporate power and greed have literally taken over the government," he said at one point; "You have to be willing to fight....I have been fighting these people and winning my entire life," he said at another.

Mark Halperin, TIME: Displayed with mechanized efficiency the same confidence and warm populism that he has nearly perfected on the campaign trail. Talked about his family's working-class roots and the daily struggles of real Iowans with the silky polish of the world-class trial lawyer that he once was. If enough Iowa Democrats watched the debate, Vegas harpies would be dumb as an ear of corn to bet too much against this guy in the caucuses.

Grade: A-

Vaughn Ververs, CBS News: If there was a winner, it may have been Edwards. His answers to almost every question hewed to his populist themes of sticking up for the disadvantaged and sticking it to corporate America. That should play well among Democrats in Iowa.

Chris Woods, Bleeding Heartland: I'm going to argue that John Edwards did indeed win the debate. He articulated a coherent message that blamed corruption, greed, and entrenched interests for the problems America faces. He also clearly told viewers that the only way to enact the policies and proposals that the candidates have promised is to elect a president that will unite America to stand up and fight back against these people. His criticisms were constant, his answers honest, and his leadership potential was clear. He told us how he is fighting for the middle class, and how he's the candidate to truly enact change.

Des Moines Register editorial board: "Somewhere in America tonight, a child will go to bed hungry." said Edwards. "Somewhere in America today...a father will lose his job." All of us are going to be just fine, he said of fellow candidates. "What's at stake is whether America is going to be just fine."

He's good.

(Here's the video of that clip.)

Don Frederick, L.A. Times: John Edwards no doubt benefited in today's debate from being next to last among the six Democratic presidential candidates present in answering what, if elected, he would aim to accomplish in year one. Still, when he got his chance, the son of a mill worker used it to drive home the unvarnished populism that has defined his second White House run.

After noting with a wry grin that those preceding him had made "an awful lot of promises" -- and quickly listing a few of his own -- he homed in on his core message:

"None of those things are going to happen unless we have a president of the United States who calls on the American people to join together to take this democracy and take this country back. Because what's happening in America today is absolutely clear: We have a small group of entrenched interests, corporate powers, corporate greed, the most wealthy people in America who are controlling what's happening in the democracy, and we have to take it back."

Of late, he's been delivering that class manifesto with less anger than previously. But win or lose, Edwards cannot be accused of mincing his words. And somewhere, the ghost of William Jennings Bryan must be smiling.

All this is why Republican strategists admit Edwards is the candidate they fear the most.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

CNN poll: Edwards DESTROYS GOP candidates

(also posted on DailyKos)

So CNN released a poll that matched up our top three with the GOP's top four (sans Thompson), and the numbers could not be more stark. John Edwards DESTROYS all the GOP candidates by the widest margins of our top three. So here, I do what I've done before in making a pretty graph to look at the numbers. For each GOP candidate, in the margin column I've bolded the race that would give us the best margin of victory.

CNN poll results (.pdf)

Clinton 51%Giuliani 45%Win by 6%
Obama 52%Giuliani 45%Win by 7%
Edwards 53%Giuliani 44%Win by 9%
Clinton 54%Romney 43%Win by 11%
Obama 54%Romney 41%Win by 13%
Edwards 59%Romney 37%Win by 22%
Clinton 48%McCain 50%Lose by 2%
Obama 48%McCain 48%Tie
Edwards 52%McCain 44%Win by 8%
Clinton 54%Huckabee 44%Win by 10%
Obama 55%Huckabee 40%Win by 15%
Edwards 60%Huckabee 35%Win by 25%

Notice a pattern? :-)

So, what does that translate to in graphical form? Visually, it becomes quite obvious.

Unfortunately, the CNN poll didn't provide demographic breakdowns like SurveyUSA always provides, so I can't do additional armchair analysis of what percent of Republicans cross over to vote for our candidates, or Democrats that choose to vote GOP. But I think here, the numbers speak for themselves.

The Edwards-Huckabee numbers are especially surprising, given that many of us were worried about Huckabee's economic populist stances taking away from Edwards. But if I may armchair pundit, perhaps we're seeing the reverse of the situation where you have a Republican versus a Democrat running as Republican-lite, and the voters choose the real thing. Here, you have a real economic populist, against a guy who talks a good game, but his Fair Tax bullshit sort of throws that out the window. Looks like voters go for the real economic populist.

It should be noted that some of these matchups differ wildly in other polls. For example, Rasmussen has Hillary doing better against Rudy than Edwards does. And that poll shows Edwards leading Huckabee by only a 44%-40% margin, quite a bit different from CNN's 25-point blowout.

So this CNN poll is just one poll. It may be a good or bad poll, we'll see. I'd like to see other non-partisan polling firms come out with these matchups to more accurately gauge what the national mood is.

But still, these CNN poll questions were asked of the same 912 registered voters, so to go from a 50%-48% McCain win over Hillary to a 60%-35% blowout of Huckabee by Edwards means there was a pretty significant chunk of that group that would prefer McCain to Hillary, but would rather back Edwards over Huckabee. That's a 27-point swing we're talking about. Over one quarter of the entire electorate! That's the difference between a nailbiter that comes down to one state, and the Democrat winning over 450 electoral votes in a landslide.

And assuming they produced about as close to a random sample as you're gonna get with telephone polls, that would indicate that in other samples, we should see similar movement towards Edwards. The problem with the Rasmussen polls I linked to is that those were asked of different samples of people, so the cross-comparison doesn't hold as much meaning. So while their Hillary-Rudy poll showed Hillary up by 3 points, perhaps if they had asked those same people about Edwards-Rudy, Edwards could have had a bigger lead. Who knows? It's just that in a separate poll, they show Edwards tied with Rudy.

So what causes this huge shift in Edwards' favor? Average Republicans. They're willing to vote for Edwards over their party's candidate by at least a 20% clip in quite a few key swing states, including Ohio. (Even 30% or more if the candidate is Romney.) Average Republicans like this woman:

And as mentioned before, the margin of victory is also crucial in that it needs to be greater than the GOP's margin for theft, chicanery, and voter suppression. Did you guys really think the GOP is gonna suddenly stop intimidating black voters or shredding registration forms? I don't think so. A 3-point lead can be stolen, and nobody bats an eyelash, because it was all within the margin of error. But if the polls show our candidate up by double digits, and they lose, most Americans WOULD bat an eyelash over those results.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Six Degrees of John Edwards

The John Edwards campaign has set up a Six Degress of John Edwards site detailing ways people in Iowa can help the campaign. This was inspired after Edwards picked up the endorsement of actor Kevin Bacon. He, along with UCLA alum Tim Robbins, are joining Edwards on the campaign trail. Some Bruin Republicans actually protested outside the awards ceremony when Tim Robbins received UCLA's Alumnus of the Year award back in 2003, calling him "UCLA's shame" for... well... being CORRECT about the Iraq War. Here's video of him campaigning for Edwards in Iowa this week.

And for you 24 fans, First Lady Martha Logan... er, actress Jean Smart, is also on the Edwards train.

Keeping Track of Endorsements?

If you haven't here's the list.

This message brought to you by the Opus Comic Strip:

Friday, December 07, 2007

Best Club Ever

In case you missed it, here are pictures from the Beat 'SC Parade. The Bruin Democrats constructed the greatest float ever and won the "Best Spirit as a Float" Award. Yeah, we are kind of the best.

Our float featuring "Kyle" the donkey.

Our crew with our trophy.

Thanks to everyone who made our award possible!

Edwards racks up more endorsements

Showing his labor strength, this week John Edwards has received the endorsements of UNITE-HERE Midwest and the Nevada Communications Workers of America. And just yesterday, longtime activist and singer Harry Belafonte announced his support for John Edwards too! Belafonte was a close friend of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Like Robeson and other African-American entertainers, Belafonte's success in the arts did not protect him from racial discrimination, particularly in the South of the United States. As a result, he refused to perform in the South of the U.S. from 1954 until 1961. In 1960, President John F. Kennedy named Belafonte as cultural advisor to the Peace Corps. Belafonte was an early supporter of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s and one of Martin Luther King's confidants. He provided for King's family, since King made only $8,000 a year as a preacher. Like many civil rights activists, he was blacklisted during the McCarthy era. He bailed King out of the Birmingham City Jail and raised thousands of dollars to release other imprisoned civil rights protesters. He financed the Freedom Rides, supported voter registration drives, and helped to organize the March on Washington in 1963.

Here's the news video of his endorsement.

And now today, Edwards picked up the endorsement of the Valley Daily News, a small daily in rural Shenandoah, Iowa. This shows that Edwards has appeal in the rural areas of the country.

There are many reasons why we're supporting John Edwards as the Democratic nominee for President - not the least of which is his proven ability to unite voters from a variety of cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds.

Unlike his Democratic challengers, Edwards' support doesn't come from a single demographic, but rather from all demographics.

Simply put, he represents the best of what this country has to offer.

If given the opportunity, we believe the former senator from North Carolina will work tirelessly to fight for the little guy as he has done for the past 30 years.

As the only Democratic candidate with rural roots, Edwards knows first hand about the daily trials and tribulations of the working poor. As a result of his upbringing, he has by far the most specific, most progressive and most far-reaching ideas to improve our nation.

And remember, this week began with Edwards getting the endorsement of Rep. Bruce Braley (IA-01), a freshman Democrat who was one of the 30 Democrats that helped us win back the House last November. Braley is the first Democrat to represent that seat in almost 30 years. You may remember Braley as the one who did such an awesome job grilling Lurita Doan back in March for misconduct at the General Services Administration, for politicizing the non-partisan office into helping elect Republicans for 2008. Of course, Braley is also a trial lawyer, so he knew what he was doing when asking those questions. :-) Here is the video of her testimony that made her look as bad as Alberto Gonzales did under testimony.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

The Iowa caucuses: a primer

Here's a fun and cheesy primer for those wondering just how the heck a caucus works. It's provided by the John Edwards campaign, so there's obviously the pro-Edwards message there, but it's still quite informative.

For an even more detailed look at what goes on leading up to the caucus, Kossack desmoinesdem has provided us a very detailed description of what goes on beforehand, how the different campaigns win over supporters, and the intricacies of caucus math, in a series called How the Iowa caucuses work.

Part 1 (basic elements of the caucus system)
Part 2 (who is over- and under-represented when delegates are counted)
Part 3 (why it's hard to turn out caucus-goers)
Part 4 (more on why caucus turnout is low)
Part 5 (on second choices and caucus math)
Part 6 (on the importance of precinct captains)

FWIW, desmoinesdem herself is a precinct captain for John Edwards. What I'd like to highlight to show how bizarre the caucus system can get is from Part 5. This is the money quote.

I have told this story before, but I will tell it again because it permanently altered my thinking about the caucus system. The first time I was able to vote was in the 1988 Iowa caucuses. My brother and I flew home from the east coast (I was a college freshman, he was in grad school) to caucus for Paul Simon.

When voters divided into preference groups, Simon had a plurality in my precinct. Michael Dukakis was second, and Bruce Babbitt was third. No other candidate was viable. My precinct assigns 6 Polk County delegates. It looked as though Simon would end up with 3 delegates, Dukakis 2, and Babbitt 1.

Then the Dukakis and Babbitt people got together and realized that if enough Dukakis supporters switched to Babbitt, it would affect the caucus math. (The Dukakis supporters knew that Babbitt was not a threat to finish ahead of their candidate in Iowa, but Simon was.) When people were given the chance to make their second choice, Babbitt gained enough supporters to get a second delegate from my precinct.

Since caucus math is a zero-sum game, Simon, Dukakis and Babbitt all ended up with 2 delegates from my precinct, even though no one defected from our Simon group.

How mad was this idealistic 18-year-old, who had been excited to participate in the caucuses for the first time? Screwy caucus math erased the numerical advantage that Simon had in my precinct.

To see for yourself how a scenario like this can develop, I encourage you to read this post by Drew Miller. Drew was one of the founders of the Iowa progressive community blog Bleeding Heartland. He now works for the Iowa Democratic Party, so has had to stop blogging, unfortunately. But in his post on caucus math from earlier this year, he included a link to a "caucus calculator" he created in Excel format.

To use the calculator, you enter the number of county delegates awarded by your precinct. For most precincts, this number is between 4 and 9.

You then enter hypothetical raw vote percentages for up to six candidates. The calculator tells you how many delegates each candidate would get from the precinct under that scenario.

Prepare to waste a lot of time if you are enough of a political junkie to download this calculator. I entered 6 delegates, which is the number awarded by my precinct, and spent too much time playing around.

With three viable candidates, if candidate 1 has 42 percent of the voters, candidate 2 has 35 percent, and candidate 3 has 23 percent, then 3 delegates would be assigned to the top candidate, 2 to the second-place candidate, and 1 to the third-place candidate.

But look! If the supporters of the second and third-placed candidates pull a stunt like what happened in 1988 in my precinct, we might end up with the raw votes looking like this: 42 percent for candidate 1, 30 percent for candidate 2, and 28 percent for candidate 3. Drew Miller's calculator now tells me that each of the three viable candidates will get 2 delegates from the precinct.

Because caucus math is a zero-sum game, the gain for candidate 3 comes out of candidate 1's hide, even if no one leaves candidate 1's group of supporters.

Now, let's talk about second choices. Most voters will never need to express a second choice, because their first choice will be viable in their precinct. So it's a little misleading to look at statewide poll results and say, "Candidate X leads among second choices." I don't really care who the second choices of Edwards supporters in my precinct are, because I know Edwards will be viable. I am more interested in the second choices of the Richardson and Biden supporters in my neighborhood.

Similarly, I don't care about the second choices of college students who support Obama, because I assume that he will be viable in every precinct on or near a college campus. I am very interested, however, in knowing the second choices of the Obama supporters who live in precincts dominated by voters over 50.

Have I convinced you yet that neither you nor I nor any pollster will be able to calculate in advance who will benefit most from second choices? If not, read on.

You might assume that when it goes to second choices, caucus-goers can only choose among the candidates who were viable on the first division into preference groups. However, that is not the case. If one candidate is just a bit short of viability in the first count, it may be possible to bring over enough people to reach the threshold at the second count. That happened in my precinct in 2004. Dean was just one or two people short of the 15 percent threshold at the first count, but he did end up with a delegate in the end.

Let's say that Edwards, Clinton, Obama and Richardson are the only viable candidates in my precinct at the first count. Maybe the delegates would be split 2 for Edwards, 2 for Clinton, 1 each for Obama and Richardson. But what if the Obama and Richardson supporters have people to spare? They might get together and realize that if they transfer some of their supporters to Biden, they can bring him up to the 15 percent threshold in my precinct without falling below 15 percent themselves.

If they did that, Biden would automatically get a delegate, and Obama and Richardson would still get one each. But now either Edwards or Clinton would lose a delegate to keep the total number of delegates awarded by my precinct at 6.

If you think this kind of mischief won't happen on caucus night, think again. The best-organized campaigns (Edwards, Clinton, Obama) are going to make sure their precinct captains understand caucus math. They will have training sessions and conference calls shortly before the caucus.

They will give their precinct captains cards showing exactly how many individual supporters they need to get 1, 2, 3 or more delegates from their precinct. Once the precinct chair announces how many people have signed in, I will be able to check my card to see how many Edwards supporters I need to get to 15 percent, and how many additional people I need to be guaranteed of each additional delegate for Edwards.

What do the Clinton and Obama campaigns in Iowa have in common? They are more worried about beating each other than beating Edwards. They have decided (wrongly, in my view) that Edwards is not a threat to win the nomination, even if he wins Iowa. They would like to win Iowa outright, and they would also like their main rival to come in third or worse.

Now, no campaign is likely to admit to this publicly. But I would not be surprised if Clinton and Obama precinct captains are told privately that it's ok to mess around with the caucus math to deprive the main rival of a delegate, even if that means Edwards or Richardson getting an extra delegate.

By the same token, Obama precinct captains may be told that if Obama is not viable and can't persuade enough people to get to the 15 percent threshold on second preferences, it's better to send supporters to Edwards than to Clinton.

These tricks won't affect the delegate counts in every precinct. And those who try them had better be very sure that they know what they are doing. In the comments below the post by Drew Miller I linked to above, Bleeding Heartland user corncam wrote, "At my 2004 caucus, the Kerry people shifted some votes to Edwards, thinking that it would cost Dean a delegate, but they miscounted, and the new Edwards delegate came from Kerry, not Dean."

I'll (hopefully) clarify a bit about that weird caucus math. Because there are a fixed number of delegates per precinct, they need to be divided up so that they match up the percentage of support without overestimating their support as best as possible. In her 42%-35%-23% scenario, the best way to divide up 6 delegates is 3-2-1. The 3rd place candidate has 23%, which is greater than the 16% (1 out of 6) threshold needed to fully earn a delegate, and the 2nd place candidate has more than the 33% (2 out of 6) needed to earn two delegates. But the 1st place finisher hasn't actually earned three delegates, which would imply that person has 50% support. So there's an 8% bloc of support that the winner hasn't really earned. But if you went 2-2-2 in that scenario, then you're saying the 3rd place finisher has 33% support, which is a 10% bloc of support that hasn't been earned. Hence, 2-2-2 is a worse allocation than 3-2-1, because the 3-2-1 allocation screws over the least percentage of voters.

BUT... if caucus math mischief causes people to switch around so that it's now 42%-30%-28%, then the fairest division of the 6 delegates would be 2-2-2. The 2nd and 3rd place candidates haven't really "earned" that second delegate. So, there's a 3% overestimation of support for the 2nd place finisher and a 5% overestimation for the 3rd place finisher, for a total of 8% getting screwed. But it's "fairer" than a 3-2-1 allocation, which would overestimate the 1st place finisher by 8% AS WELL AS the 2nd place finisher by 3%, for a total of 11% of voters getting screwed. (The 3rd place guy isn't getting screwed under this rule, as he hasn't earned a second delegate because he's didn't reach the 33% threshold.)

Confused yet? :-) Yeah, that's how the caucuses will work come January 3rd. Get ready for a wild ride.

Monday, December 03, 2007

CBS Evening News covers GOP ballot fraud

Good news, this has jumped from the blogs all the way to the CBS Evening News. Possibly the best way to stop this is to shine the spotlight on what they're doing and the underhanded tactics they're using.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

An Hour With Karl Rove

Love him or hate him, Karl Rove is an interesting guy. He spent an hour with Charlie Rose recently. True to form, he said some rather interesting things, particularly that the White House did not want Congress to vote on the Iraq War Resolution in October 2002. According to Rove, the timing of the vote politicized the Iraq issue and forced the White House to rush too quickly into war. I'm not going to comment on the interview for two reasons. First, I haven't watched all of it yet. And secondly, I think it would be interesting to hear people comment on the interview instead of comment on my comments about the interview. Have at it!

Friday, November 30, 2007

Breaking News: Man takes hostages at Clinton campaign office

Let's all hope for a peaceful outcome.

A man claiming to have a bomb was holding one or more hostages at Hillary Clinton's campaign office Friday, police said.

The man had what appeared to be a bomb strapped to himself, said Bill Shaheen, a top state campaign official. The two hostages were volunteers, Shaheen said.

Clinton was not believed to be in the office at the time.

Authorities were sending a tactical bomb unit to assist local police, and the area was evacuated, said Maj. Michael Hambrook of New Hampshire State Police. A nearby school also was in lockdown.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

GOP Debate

It's going on right now - share your thoughts. And someone please, please remind me why Huckabee is a bad guy. Right now he's praising government's abilities to educate undocumented students. Sounding like a liberal smacking Romney around..

He's just so likeable and (not) chubby!

Bill Clinton Tells Iowans He Opposed Iraq From Start

I have to admit Bill Clinton (Slick Willie) was a better president than Bush, but he was a supporter of the war in Iraq and he blazed the path to the war in his own presidency. His own sanctions were responsible for the deaths of 500,000 INNOCENT CHILDREN. Now he tells us he is against the war in Iraq? Can we trust someone who lied to us before? The images below are a testament to his lies.
Former president Bill Clinton said yesterday that he "opposed Iraq from the beginning," glossing over the more nuanced views of the war he has expressed over time. Clinton made the remarks while campaigning for his wife in Iowa -- a state where many Democrats are against the war -- and as he expressed bitterness over getting a tax cut with money that could have been spent on the military.

But past remarks made by the former president do leave open a question about how fervently Clinton opposed the war at the outset and before it grew widely unpopular. In immediate hindsight, Clinton did not sound like a fierce critic.

"I supported the president when he asked for authority to stand up against weapons of mass destruction in Iraq," Clinton said on May 18, 2003, during a commencement speech at Tougaloo College in Mississippi.

Monday, November 26, 2007

SCHIP and GOP stupidity

In writing my part 2b, there was a big chunk I was leaving out when it came to health care, which the NYT article touched upon.

That economic populism extends, for many candidates, to a new emphasis on expanding health coverage. Congressional Democrats who lived through the Clinton administration’s failed effort to create a national health insurance plan, which many believe was a crucial factor in the Democrats’ losses in 1994, have been wary of broad health legislation for years. (And being in the minority, they were unable to do much about it, regardless.) But the class of ’06 is adamant that something major can, and will, be done.

As noted in the NYT article, expanding health care is an economic populist issue. The battle over SCHIP was a prime example of that. Even some Republicans admitted that Bush vetoing the SCHIP expansion and House Republicans helping him sustain the veto was going to hurt the GOP in a major way in 2008.

Other Republicans are concerned about the political cost the debate over SCHIP could have in November 2008. “What will happen is they’ll lose the override. They’ll make cosmetic changes and our guys will cave,” Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.) said Tuesday during an appearance at the National Press Club. “And at what cost? Our guys will get beaten up ... SCHIP is a dumb fight.”

And denying children health insurance just sounds so... cruel.

It was back in 1993, as the Clintons prepared to roll out their new universal healthcare plan, that Bill Kristol wrote a memo to fellow conservatives and Republican lawmakers on Capitol Hill warning them that their goal must be to "kill," not amend, the Clinton plan. "Healthcare," Kristol wrote, "is not, in fact, just another Democratic initiative ... . It will revive the reputation of the ... Democrats, as the generous protector of middle-class interests."

That's why bloggers call him William "The Bloody" Kristol. Of course, it'll be the GOP that gets bloodied up when ads like this really start running all over the country, say, in October 2008.

But how effective will those kinds of emotional ads be? Is the public really behind this effort to expand children's health insurance, even if it means paying higher taxes? Why, yes. I did a detailed diary on this very issue back in July, focusing on the New York Times/CBS News poll (.pdf). Check out these numbers to see what Americans really think.

Should government guarantee health insurance for all?

      Yes    No
Now   64%   27%
2000  62%   29%
1996  56%   38%

Would you favor or oppose expanding this program to include ALL uninsured children?

      Total  Rep  Dem  Ind
Favor    84   72   93   82
Oppose   11   21    5   11
DK/NA     5    7    2    7

Yes, even 72% of Republicans favor expanding SCHIP. But the nail in the coffin is the final question that completely destroys the GOP's talking point about higher taxes, which is absolutely fundamental to their core ideology. Of the 84% of Americans that said they'd favor expanding the SCHIP program, they asked this question on taxes.

What if that meant you would have to pay more in taxes? Then, would you favor or oppose expanding the government program to include all uninsured children?

      Total  Rep  Dem  Ind
Favor    80   79   82   80
Oppose   15   17   14   15
DK/NA     5    4    4    5

80% of 84% is 67.2%. So over two-thirds of all Americans would favor personally paying more taxes in order to insure the uninsured children in this country. There was basically no difference in the partisan breakdowns for this question. (This is also assuming exactly 0% of that 11% that would oppose expanding the program in the first place, and that 5% who weren't sure, would want their own taxes raised to pay for it; otherwise the 67.2% would be even higher.)

Now, that poll was from July. And it's only one poll. Any given poll can be an outlier. Well, in October, the Washington Post/ABC News poll basically verified everything in the NYT/CBS News poll.

Bush and the Republicans may also be headed for a political setback from the fight over the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), even if Congress does not override Bush's threatened veto.

More than seven in 10 in the poll support the planned $35 billion spending increase, and 25 percent are opposed. About half of all Americans "strongly" support the increased spending; 17 percent are firmly against the additional funds. Eighty-one percent of Democrats, 69 percent of independents and 61 percent of Republicans are in favor.

Scroll down to Question #9 for the SCHIP question. The respondent was informed that the expansion would be paid for via an increase in cigarette taxes. Given that information, along with quick pro and con statements, a whopping 72% of Americans supported the SCHIP expansion that Bush vetoed last month, including a supermajority of 61% of Republicans.

Enough House Republicans stuck with Bush in helping him sustain the veto, even though 44 Republicans did cross the aisle to join Democrats on the veto override vote. For that, they should suffer the consequences at the ballot box in a major way next November. We're just gonna have to help remind voters of this, over and over again. :-)

Part 2b: Populism and 2006

OK, so before I get to part 3, as an addendum to part 2, I came across this New York Times article written the weekend after the midterm elections. It came up in the GOP's meme that the elections were actually somehow a "victory" for conservatism. Hah! Markos and DemFromCT (who's taught at UCLA previously) both dispelled that myth quite nicely. The Financial Times even got it.

Defeated Republicans have found solace in the fact that many of their victorious Democratic opponents are "social conservatives". They point to James Webb, who surprised everyone by winning the bitter and close Senate race in Virginia on Thursday, giving his party a majority of one in the upper house tom complement its decisive victory in the House of Representatives.

However, neither Mr Webb nor the majority of the Democratic freshmen who won elections this week can so easily be fitted into that category. Punching the air and holding up the dusty boots of his son who is serving in Iraq, Mr Webb told cheering supporters in Arlington that his election was as much a vote for economic fairness as it was for a change of course in Iraq.


One or two of his colleagues, including Bob Casey, the new senator for Pennsylvania, and Heath Shuler, a Democratic representative for North Carolina, are "pro-life" but the large majority of new Democrat lawmakers support the woman's right to choose.

More significantly a majority of the intake, including Mr Webb, are economic populists who are deeply suspicious of free trade and quick to blame China and other developing countries for the loss of US jobs. Some, such as Sherrod Brown, the new Democratic senator for the key Midwest state of Ohio, which has lost 200,000 manufacturing jobs since Mr Bush came to power, won the election virtually on that issue alone.

"We will focus on economic fairness in a country divided too much by class in an age of the internationalisation of American corporations," said Mr Webb in a victory rally speech that devoted more to the economy than all other themes combined. "At a time when profits are at a record high and wages are at a low, we will focus on bridging the class divide."

The New York Times got it. The headline of that article was Incoming Democrats Put Populism Before Ideology. In interviewing many of the new freshmen Democrats, they came to this conclusion:

Many of them say they must also, somehow, find a way to address the growing anxiety among voters about a global economy that no longer seems to work for them. There is a strong populist tinge to this class.


Conservatives tend to highlight the conservatism in the new class as a sign that Democrats are essentially ceding ground to the right on issues like gun control and abortion.

But many of these freshmen Democrats are hard to pigeonhole ideologically. Even among the most socially conservative, there is a strong streak of economic populism that is a unifying force.

Heath Shuler, for example, the former professional football player and newly elected House Democrat from North Carolina, is anti-abortion and pro-gun, but sounds like an old-style Democrat on economic issues.

“I was taught at a very, very young age about faith and personal responsibility, and through that, that responsibility was about helping those who cannot help themselves,” Mr. Shuler said. “If you look at what the Democratic Party stands for, it is about helping others who can’t help themselves.”

Like other Democrats, he supports legislation to increase the minimum wage and make college tuition tax deductible. He also opposes trade agreements that he says have led to a 78 percent loss in textile industry jobs in his state.

Similarly, Ms. Boyda of Kansas, a first-time office holder who relied on lengthy newspaper inserts to make her case to the voters, said, “The rural economy has been left out.” She added: “A lot of my district feels a great deal of insecurity about their jobs, their health care, their business, their family farm. They feel like they’re just kind of hanging out there.”

Carol Shea-Porter, a social worker and new House member from New Hampshire who considers herself a populist, said, “The theme of my campaign was, I’m running for the rest of us.” She added that no matter how much the Bush administration boasted of job growth, her voters “understood those were Wal-Mart jobs.” And, she said, “They understood when they talked about the stock market boom, that half of Americans aren’t even in the stock market.”

Jim Webb, who defeated Senator George Allen of Virginia, campaigned heavily on the idea that the middle class was increasingly at risk in an age of growing inequality. Bob Casey, who overwhelmingly defeated Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, said he looked forward to “a really intensive focus on health care that I hope to be a part of.”

That economic populism extends, for many candidates, to a new emphasis on expanding health coverage. Congressional Democrats who lived through the Clinton administration’s failed effort to create a national health insurance plan, which many believe was a crucial factor in the Democrats’ losses in 1994, have been wary of broad health legislation for years. (And being in the minority, they were unable to do much about it, regardless.) But the class of ’06 is adamant that something major can, and will, be done.


Representative Sherrod Brown, who is moving to the Senate from the House after beating Senator Mike DeWine of Ohio, argued: “Tell me a whole lot of Republicans won’t work with us on finding a way for middle-class kids to get a college education, to vote for embryonic stem cell research, to raise the minimum wage. John McCain is already out there talking about prescription drug issues.”

The entire article is well worth the read, with additional interviews and quotes from freshmen Dems Dave Loebsack (IA), Steve Kagen (WI), Ron Klein (FL), Ed Perlmutter (CO), Gabrielle Giffords (AZ), Joe Sestak (PA), and Tim Walz (MN).

Finally, some more on Mr. Shuler and the others from former Bruin Dem Ezra Klein (who's getting more and more TV time on MSNBC now, woo-hoo!), who debunks even more of that win-for-conservatism myth.

What it does have to do is punch back against the remarkably coordinated and quick campaign from the right (and sometimes the right includes the left) seeking to paint this election as some sort of victory for ... conservatism.

The ideological spectrum is a tricky thing. Take Heath Schuler, exhibit A in the rightwing Democrats meme. He's a cultural conservative, no doubt. But however far right he drifts on those issues -- which, under a Democratic Congress, he won't be voting on because they won't be brought to floor -- he's notably left on economic issues. Today, for instance, he's giving a press conference under the auspices of the United Steelworkers with Great Liberal Hope Sherrod Brown, where they'll discuss the need for new trade policies and their success in making active opposition to NAFTA a winning issue. That's not centrist Democrat. It's not moderate liberal. That's populism, kids, and it's leftier than polite company has allowed for quite some time.

So is Shuler right-wing? Seems like a tough case to me. Sherrod Brown? Liberal as they come. Defeating South Dakota's abortion ban initiative? Passing Missouri's stem cell initiative? All those progressives who toppled liberal Republicans in the Northeast? Somebody think they won in the blue bastions with roaring conservatism? Meanwhile, the most conservative of the serious Democratic challengers this cycle, Harold Ford, went down to defeat. Bravely fought race, tough environs, etc. But with an out-and-out liberal winning Ohio and a right-of-center Democrat losing Tennessee, we're really going to call this election for conservatism?

I don't think so. That distorted interpretation is being promoted by an array of right-wingers and self-styled centrists anxious to constrain the new majority's perceived range of motion. Some of them are conservatives trying to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. Others are "centrist" Democrats look to grad defeat from the jaws of victory. Both are, for ideological reasons, afraid that a Democratic majority will govern like...Democrats.

Keep all this in mind about where the message of economic populism can get us.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Torres Gives Passionate Defense of Feinstein

California Democratic Chairman Art Torres gave a rigorous defense of Senator Dianne Feinstein at her censure hearing, shortly before the measure was crushed. He even pulled out the A and S words (ageist and sexist) in response to the ubiquitous online use of pictures of Feinstein walking carefully while clutching onto President Bush.

In any event I'm rambling, check out the short video yourself. It's definitely worth a watch if you've been following this hoopla.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Man + box turtle, question mark?

Yes!!! These videos are now online on the Daily Show website!! This first one was one of the funniest videos in all of 2004. Sadly, it turns out Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) did not actually say that part. It was written by a speechwriter, and included in the press packet that went out to reporters, but Cornyn at least had enough sense to remove that portion when he gave the actual speech.

The second was one of the best examples of Jon Stewart exposing Fox News for how they use the question mark to shape opinion and make insinuations, all while posing as a real news network. CNN isn't much better in this regard.

GOP's dirty tricks on CA electoral vote caught on video at UCSB

Erik Love of the Courage Campaign has the story. At UCSB, these petition gatherers are asking students to sign a petition involving money for cancer research. Awwwwww.... who wouldn't sign that? But then they ask the students to sign two or three more other papers underneath, with a rubber band holding the papers together right where the text of the petition is, so the student can't read the rest, unless they first remove the rubber band. And unless they're suspicious, they usually don't.

Here's the video of them on the UCSB campus.

Notice that they do say what the petition is for, but only says they're "trying to redistrict the electoral college". WTF does that even mean? You "redistrict" congressional districts after a census (and mid-decade too, if you're Tom DeLay). The guy is spewing nonsense, hoping he's not caught in his bullshit. And while it's not on video, the student interviews show that those guys are lying to UCSB students about what the petitions are truly for, which is a crime under California election law.

Hopefully the Courage Campaign will go back with hidden cameras, posing as UCSB students (or get real students to help them out), and capture these guys on film openly lying about the petitions. Because these people need to be sitting in prison for pulling a dirty trick like this.

The stench of 15 rotting corpses

Maybe this isn't the post you want to read right before Thanksgiving, but it is important to highlight the corruption and fraud and waste that's going on in Iraq.

Vanity Fair has a very disturbing story about massive fraud and war profiteering by Kellogg, Brown & Root, a former Halliburton subsidiary, including the nauseating tale of a container with rotting corpses being used to store ice for our soldiers. Read the whole story, if you dare.

Consider the case of Grayson's client Bud Conyers, a big, bearded 43-year-old who lives with his ex-wife and her nine children, four of them his, in Enid, Oklahoma. Conyers worked in Iraq as a driver for Kellogg, Brown & Root. Spun off by Halliburton as an independent concern in April, KBR is the world's fifth-largest construction company. Before the war started, the Pentagon awarded it two huge contracts: one, now terminated, to restore the Iraqi oil industry, and another, still in effect, to provide a wide array of logistical-support services to the U.S. military.

In the midday heat of June 16, 2003, Conyers was summoned to fix a broken refrigerated truck—a "reefer," in contractor parlance—at Log Base Seitz, on the edge of Baghdad's airport. He and his colleagues had barely begun to inspect the sealed trailer when they found themselves reeling from a nauseating stench. The freezer was powered by the engine, and only after they got it running again, several hours later, did they dare open the doors.

The trailer, unit number R-89, had been lying idle for two weeks, Conyers says, in temperatures that daily reached 120 degrees. "Inside, there were 15 human bodies," he recalls. "A lot of liquid stuff had just seeped out. There were body parts on the floor: eyes, fingers. The goo started seeping toward us. Boom! We shut the doors again." The corpses were Iraqis, who had been placed in the truck by a U.S. Army mortuary unit that was operating in the area. That evening, Conyers's colleague Wallace R. Wynia filed an official report: "On account of the heat the bodies were decomposing rapidly.... The inside of the trailer was awful."

It is not unheard of for trucks in a war zone to perform hearse duty. But both civilian and U.S.-military regulations state that once a trailer has been used to store corpses it can never again be loaded with food or drink intended for human consumption. According to the U.S. Army's Center for Health Promotion and Preventive Medicine, "Contact with whole or part human remains carries potential risks associated with pathogenic microbiological organisms that may be present in human blood and tissue." The diseases that may be communicated include aids,hepatitis, tuberculosis, septicemia, meningitis, and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, the human variant of mad cow.

But when Bud Conyers next caught sight of trailer R-89, about a month later, it was packed not with human casualties but with bags of ice—ice that was going into drinks served to American troops. He took photographs, showing the ice bags, the trailer number, and the wooden decking, which appeared to be stained red. Another former KBR employee, James Logsdon, who now works as a police officer near Enid, says he first saw R-89 about a week after Conyers's grisly discovery. "You could still see a little bit of matter from the bodies, stuff that looked kind of pearly, and blood from the stomachs. It hadn't even been hosed down. Afterwards, I saw that truck in the P.W.C.—the public warehouse center—several times. There's nothing there except food and ice. It was backed up to a dock, being loaded."

As late as August 31, 11 weeks after trailer R-89 was emptied of the putrefying bodies, a KBR convoy commander named Jeff Allen filed a mission log stating that it had carried 5,000 pounds of ice that day. This ice, Allen wrote, was "bio-contaminated." But to his horror, on that day alone, "approx 1,800 pounds [were] used."

Conyers and Logsdon say that R-89 was not the only truck that was loaded with ice after being used as a mortuary. They attribute this state of affairs to a chronic shortage of trucks brought about by systemic failures in KBR's operation. The firm had purchased some 200 reefers in Iraq, but only a quarter of them worked. "We had crap-assed trucks they'd bought from local dealers," Logsdon says. "Often you'd be driving one they'd pieced together from several just to get it on the road." He and other former KBR workers say that even new vehicles, some of which cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, often broke down because of an absence of affordable spare parts. Instead of paying to repair them, the company often burned disabled trucks in pits or by the side of the road. Conyers tried repeatedly to draw his superiors' attention to these and other alleged abuses, but to no avail. (In an e-mailed statement, KBR denied that it "did or does" order defective vehicles, adding that it disposes of equipment only with "the approval of designated Army personnel.")

Even more disgusting is that the Department of Justice would be trying to stonewall Grayson's investigations.