Saturday, December 15, 2007

I'm one of the new Vice Presidents of LACYD

Yesterday evening I was elected Vice President of Communications of the Los Angeles County Young Democrats. I'll be posting about our activities and what we're up to. You can check out our site here.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

dday takes Nunez staffer behind the woodshed for a beating

I have to give massive props to my friend dday, who had the temerity to give Steve Maviglio of Speaker Nunez' office an absolutely brutal beatdown for coming onto Calitics to concern-troll us about the resolution to censure Feinstein.

Read the full thing here.

If this were old-time SEC football, it would be called an ass-whoopin'.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Resolution to censure Feinstein: here's the procedure

As you may know, the Courage Campaign and the Progressive Caucus of the California Democratic Party are pushing a resolution to censure Diane Feinstein. It stands very little chance of passage, but it's a good start nonetheless in making people squirm. For those interested in the nitty-gritty, here are the details in how it would work, as per my comment on the Daily Kos diary about the subject:

this will be submitted as a late resolution at the meeting of the Executive Board of the California Democratic Party in Anaheim next weekend.

It is a great way to show that we're pissed off about Dianne Feinstein, but since it is a late resolution, all it takes is one of the 15 or so members of the Resolutions Committee to object to it so as not to let it pass--late resolutions are required to have the unanimous consent of the Resolutions Committee before being allowed to come before the Committee for alterations or votes for passage.

This resolution will draw at least one objection, which will kill it in Committee. The authors have the right to collect signatures of executive board members to bring it to the floor for ratification, and there is a strong likelihood that they'll be able to do that. But the Executive Board as a whole is not the most progressive of bodies--they voted against my resolution to call for the impeachment of Alberto Gonzales in August because they thought it would make the party seem too "radical."

So assuming it moves in that direction, the resolution will fail on the floor.

Which doesn't mean that I don't wholeheartedly support it: I'm a co-sponsor. But I just like to make sure everyone knows exactly what will happen to this at every step of the way.

My friend Matt from Crawfordsville, Indiana

This past weekend I attended the California Young Democrats retreat in South Lake Tahoe, California. I'm from Los Angeles and it's an 8-hour drive to Tahoe, so I decided to offer the extra space in my Prius to anyone from the area who wanted to carpool with me.

One of my fellow young Democrats who the organizers arranged to go with me was a freshman at Claremont McKenna College, a small liberal arts college with an excellent reputation (though with a price tag to match). Matt hails from a small town in Indiana an hour outside of Indianapolis called Crawfordsville, with a population of about 18,000.

I spent a good deal of time talking to Matt over the course of our 16 hours of car time together, and I feel his family's story is one we would all enjoy.

See, you may all be wondering how it came to be that a young man from a small town in Indiana came to attend a small liberal arts college in California. I certainly was; during my Crashing the States trip a year ago, I got to spend a lot of time in rural Indiana with Barry Welsh, who was--and still is--running for Congress against Mike Pence in IN-06.

Now, Crawfordsville isn't in IN-06, but the principle is still the same as what I wrote about last year. Crawfordsville sits in Indiana's rust belt--an area that used to be in the heartland of automobile part production, but whose factories have long since shut down, whose jobs have long since been lost, and where opportunity doesn't knock unless you knock first.

As Matt describes it, it's an area with significant challenges for progressive beliefs; an area where racism exists in force as a subtext behind community interaction, and an area where "moral conservatism" plays a prominent role in the ethos of a parochial population. But Matt's parents are both Democrats, and Matt himself is a proud Democrat who is not only attending a liberal arts college, but is also actively involved as a freshman in his College Democrats organization. How did that happen?

Well, to hear Matt tell it, his parents used to be the type of conservative Republican endemic to the area back when they both had stable factory jobs. The type of Republican who would complain bitterly about their tax dollars going to support the indigent in the welfare state. But then something happened: The factories closed down. And at that point, all of a sudden that social safety net and welfare state didn't look too bad, and they started to come around to a different way of thinking about political issues.

But that wasn't the end of the story. Matt said that at that point, when his parents were trying to pick up the pieces of their lives after what was essentially the basis of the local economy got shut down, his mom was pretty solidly in the Democratic camp, but his dad was still wavering back and forth, still leaning toward the Republican end of things.

Matt's dad ended up getting back up on his feet and founded a headhunting business. Now, the Republicans would like to think that small business owners would tend to vote their way because of their fanatical fear of taxes and regulations--but just the opposite happened. Matt's dad was now in the unfortunate position of having to provide healthcare for his employees, as opposed to simply accepting it as part of a benefit package at the factory and not thinking about it any further. And Matt's dad saw that being a responsible employer and providing health coverage to his employees was not only ridiculously expensive alredy, but constantly increasing, and that the private sector was simply not accomplishing what the Republican ideology said it could accomplish.

kos told the story recently about his grandfather-in-law, who was a Republican, but then complained about the outrageous costs of his prescriptions. And like the commentary in the link above, it's certainly justifiable to have a slightly derisive attitude to those who are coming around to realizing that taking care of people is a good idea only when they're in need of being taken care of. But lapsed Republicans are indeed lapsed Republicans--and if the idea of a social safety net and public health care are making inroads in rural Indiana, I'd say that our time on these issues has finally arrived.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Dirty Tricks Initiative using direct mail

I wrote a post for Calitics about the direct mail piece I accidentally received from California Counts, the organization funding the "dirty tricks initiative" designed to siphon off at least 20 electoral votes from California to the Republican nominee in 2008. That post was then picked up by California Progress Report.

The post is basically the same in both places, so go check it out.

In addition, we also now know who's funding the initiative--turns out, once again, it's a bunch of GOP operatives, including the California Republican Party. So, I'm not exactly sure how Darrell Issa can keep claiming it's non-partisan, but I'm sure he'll still find a way to keep on pushing Hillary Clinton's non-partisan worst nightmare.

United Hollywood

I live in Los Angeles, and obviously, the Writers Guild strike is a huge deal. I had the good fortune of being brought on by the WGA to help them with creating a blog and with outreach to other online communities. I'm happy to say that the fruit of our collective labor is the new blog written by the captains of the Writers Guild, United Hollywood.

I wish the writers the best of luck in getting their message out over the top of the trade publications like Variety, which tends to have its coverage slanted toward the AMPTP side of things. And I hope they get the percentage of internet revenues they so richly deserve.

Friday, September 28, 2007

A minor whine re: Rush Limbaugh and Paul Hackett

A minor quibble, but important, since I am part of that "long tail" of the blogosphere and my blogging reputation comes not from this site, but from my DailyKos account:

I was the first one I know of to mention that the Rush Limbaugh censure motion should include a reference to Paul Hackett. You can see my original comment here.

And therein lies the difference, and one of the problems of the blogosphere: if I had posted the same thought here originally, nobody would have seen it or cared. But over there, it matters.

did you come here looking for spiders?

If you came here looking for spiders, I'm really sorry. It's actually a political blog with a spider sidelight every so often. But the fact that every single search that comes here is spider-related gives me an idea: I should do a blog entirely devoted to spiders.

Dirty Tricks initiative abandoned!

Via my friend and Calitics colleage shayera, it seems like the Republican operatives who were behind the "Election Reform Act" are abandoning their efforts to give at least 20 of our electoral votes to the Republican nominee. For whatever reason, it seems like their fundraising isn't coming through as planned.

I personally find it intriguing that these guys would decide to close up shop right as we internet extremists closed in on the initiative's ties with Giuliani supporters. And I also don't know why they wouldn't spend money on the signatures and force us to spend money defeating it. But hey--I'll take it!

And for old times' sake, here's the blogger video:

Bush will veto Defense bill--because of teh GAY!!!

[Cross-posted from my Daily Kos diary]

It has been a long, arduous battle to get federal hate crimes legislation expanded to include acts of violence based on sexual orientation. The House has already passed legislation incorporating such an expansion of the original 1968 Hate Crimes statute covering religion, race, color and national origin, but the bill--a bipartisan effort of Senators Gordon Smith (R-OR) and Edward Kennedy (D-MA), just made its way through the Senate with the minimum 60 votes needed for passage.

Now, I know this is on the front page, but what kos' post didn't tell you is that the Hate Crimes expansion in the Senate was tacked onto the defense appropriations bill currently being debated--and that Bush is expected to veto the whole thing, just because of this amendment.

First of all, I'm a little uncomfortable with the strategy of attaching this bill to something like the defense appropriations bill--but then again, the Republicans did similar stuff to us so often in their time in Congress that turnabout is more than fair play. I just think the practice should be outlawed...but regardless...

Yes, my fellow Americans, that's right. It's so important to George Bush that GLBT people not be given the legislative protection of an expanded hate crime bill that he will veto the entire defense spending bill just to make sure it doesn't happen. As Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) says:

"This bill will get vetoed," Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) warned. "The president is not going to agree to this social legislation on the defense authorization bill."

Graham contended that the hate-crime provision puts in jeopardy a bill that would fund armored vehicles, pay raises and other things for the troops.

"When I go to Iraq, I don't have a lot of people coming up to me and saying we need to pass the hate crimes bill. They do need better body armor."

That's right, Lindsey. Because when the Republicans were in charge of Congress, you guys did such a fantastic job of prioritizing the soldiers in the field that they had to buy their own armor. Good to know that you and your colleagues care so much about body armor, but protecting gays from violence--including from fellow soldiers in the military--is simply unacceptable.

You know what else I love? The argument that we shouldn't even have hate crimes legislation at all:

Opponents argued that the bill would create special classes of crime victims.

"All crimes of violence are crimes of hate," Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said. that token, we shouldn't have had the original hate crimes legislation of 1968...or maybe that's exactly what John Cornyn thinks! But the fact of the matter is that the law creates special classes of crime victims precisely to demonstrate to society that certain crimes are especially execrable. That is why we have special circumstances for police officers, trial witnesses and so many other groups of people. Saying that we shouldn't create special classes of crime victims and opposing an expansion of hate crimes on that basis is unashamedly hypocritical. But hey--what else would you expect from your local Republican these days?

But here's what I know--Mr. 25% will think nothing of vetoing the entire defense spending bill just to make sure that gays don't get legal protections they deserve. But if he does veto the whole thing over this, we will need to keep the pressure on our Congress (I hear the sighs, and I sympathize) to make sure they don't cave. And we'll see which Republicans stand with Mr. 25%, as opposed to "putting the troops in danger by not passing the bill." I'm ready for a game of chicken on the railroad tracks with this. Let's see who swerves first.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

America's "reality" culture

I was watching college football yesterday when I saw an advertisement for a Ford minivan. The advertisement depicted a woman who supposedly had her Nissan Murano switched out for a Ford minivan for a week, and was giving testimonials about how much better she liked the Ford than the Murano.

All good, right? Well, this is what the narrator said:

We switched her Murano out for a Ford somethingorother. We told her it was marketing research, but we were actually from Ford!

Umm...I work in marketing research. Have for a decade. In my time, I've been around a lot of automotive research too. And guess what? Having someone use a diferent car for a week and then asking them what they like and don't like is a standard company-sponsored marketing research activity!

So basically--presuming the advertisement was based on a legitimate marketing research study--it was marketing research and they were from Ford. But could the advertisment actually say that and be honest? No.

Instead, we get subjected to this lying, manipulative crap about how the woman in the advertisement was supposedly duped or deceived. We, as a culture, have an increasing, and increasingly incomprehensible, obsession with "reality" programming--namely, any show where supposedly "real" people get duped, deceived, hurt or humiliated by others--or do those same acts to themselves--so that viewers with apparently nothing better to do can feel better that they're not quite as bad off as the people on the show--and that, only because their own humiliating experiences haven't been featured on camera just yet.

Now, it's one thing to set someone up to be "punk'd" from the beginning. I understand why that can be entertaining. But seeing this form of entertainment gain such widespread popularity that we must start taking acts that were perfectly legitimate and giving them the cover of illegitimacy purely to increase their entertainment value makes me retch.

At this point, we're just barely above Idiocracy. Remember what the top-rated show is in that movie? Well, at the rate we're going, it's not going to take us 500 more years to get there.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

How far will they go to "support the troops"?

It has long been clear that the Republicans in Congress have been hiding their support of Bush's permanent occupation under the skirts of the notion of "supporting the troops." Well, the Webb amendment has finally forced some sort of separation between those two concepts--and now we finally get to see whether Republican Senators are more loyal to the United States military, or more loyal to Bush.

It's clear where John McCain stands:

Apparently, McCain not only supports Bush's dead-end policy, he's willing to lie about the Constitution in order to get it done.

Webb points out the passage in question on the Constitution, but for the sake of the readers, here is the exact language from Article 1, Section 8:

The Congress shall have Power to...make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces;

Pretty darn cut and dry, if you ask me.

But even more impressive is what Webb says when the CNN anchor asks about Bush's veto threat:

Let's see if he dares. And the same goes for the Republicans in the Senate. If they really want to filibuster this, let them be on record as obstructing Senate business for hours and hours and hours just to make sure the troops don't get longer leaves of absence. Let them filibuster, Senator Reid. Make it hurt.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Burn Bush for Burner

Today is the beginning of the online fundraising drive for Darcy Burner, designed to coincide with George Bush's appearance for loyalist Dave Reichert.

Our goal is $100,000. Help out.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Some thoughts on McNerneygate

[cross-posted from my frontpage post on Calitics]

First things first:  there are other issues besides quotes in the media about the occupation of Iraq.  First of all, there are all of Jerry's votes in Iraq.  Someone else besides me--I think it was kid oakland, and I for some reason can't find the post--made a list of all of Jerry's votes about Iraq.  Except for McGovern, they were exactly what we would want and expect.  And Jerry had his own reasons for the McGovern bill that he explained to me in an interview with me when I went to DC.

Now, this doesn't mean that how Jerry is quoted in major beltway media outlets isn't important.  It is, especially when it seems like he's flip-flopping to cater to two different audiences.  If nothing else, we like consistency in our politicians.

But we have to remember two things.  First of all, Jerry is a freshman incumbent who doesn't have very much experience with media and wasn't a politician to begin with.  And secondly, especially given the grumbling complaints that a few of us have expressed with Jerry's staff in DC, the message his staff seems to be trying to create for him will only serve to amplify the complaints about how Jerry deals with interactions in the media.

That said, I think that we in the netroots tend to take a much bigger focus on the media than anyone else in the country does because that's what we're all about as an enterprise.  One of the main raisons d'etre of our entire movement is media accountability, which leads us to place an excessive amount of attention to anything said and done in traditional political media establishments such as the Washington Post.  So a centrist-style flip-flop in the Washington Post will alienate us a great deal, but I can just about guarantee you that it's not what the average voter in Lodi and Stockton is living and dying on.

All this talk about removing Jerry from ActBlue pages or other stuff is insane, in my book.  The only reason anybody is even contemplating it is because, well, we all put a lot of work into Jerry's campaign.  That's true.  But because of all the effort we put in, we put Jerry on a pedestal that perhaps no candidate belongs being on.  He became a netroots hero,  primarily because of the contrast between him and Richard Pombo.  And there still is that huge contrast, and a few quotes out of context in the Washington Post written by a reporter who is intentionally trying to push a "Dems in disarray" storyline isn't going to change that.

But expecting someone--especially a freshman with little political experience--to say and do the right thing every single time is a bit naive, especially in the face of DC staff who might be pushing messaging that we in the netroots would be opposed to.  And it's especially not going to happen in a district that still leans Republican and which the NRCC has identified as one of their top targets.

Finally, there are so many issues at work here besides the occupation of Iraq.  There is the problem of health insurance.  Energy and environment (where Jerry has been an extremely strong leader, statewide and nationwide).  Restoring the constitution.

I think, honestly, that we should hold the "we've been betrayed" talk for a time when we've actually been betrayed.  Jerry will have his disagreements with us on a few issues.  But hey--imagine if any of us ran for Congress.  We disagree with each other a lot of the time, and if any of us ran for office we would have wide areas of agreement with each other on the vast majority of issues, but we would have disagreements on strategy a great deal of time.

Bottom line is, hanging Jerry out to dry because of some quotes in the Washington Post is a horrible idea.  If anything, Jerry needs on-the-job training on how to deal with media, because the truth is, he wants to end the occupation of Iraq.  And the other truth is that we need Republicans to help us end the occupation of Iraq.  I think it's naive to believe, as Jerry apparently does, that they'll willingly come to the table without more strong-arm tactics.  But if you take what Jerry actually said--namely, that sometimes we don't agree with the Democratic leadership, and that we need Republican help to end the occupation--both of those are true.  How often have we on the blogs said, "what the heck are they doing, anyway?"

The only difference is that we don't go saying that crap to reporters at the Post who are out to hurt our efforts.

Last point:  I'd like everyone to think about the storyline that would be created by a public abandonment of Jerry because of some Washington Post quotes.  I don't think it's a good one.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

California Democrats file for national popular vote

You may have heard about the Republican attempt to steal the 2008 presidential election outright by passing a ballot initiative that would award California's 55 electoral votes to the winner of each of its 53 Congressional Districts, plus 2 for the statewide winner. Since California has 20 Congressional Districts that would likely vote for the GOP nominee, this basically has the impact of giving the Republicans an Ohio-sized chunk of California's electoral votes.

In the comments to the diary linked above, I mentioned that we would be well-armed and well-funded in our efforts to defeat this measure--and indeed, California Democrats have taken an important step toward real electoral reform by proposing The National Popular Vote initiative statute.

First, I should mention that there are promising poll numbers about the Republican coup attempt, but they reveal that educating voters about the actual impact of the initiative will be key to defeating it. Via Rasmussen:

a theoretical sense, 45% of voters nationwide think that’s a good idea. Thirty percent (30%) disagree while 25% are not sure. However, even that tepid level of support dissipates when voters learn that a change in California could significantly increase the number of Republican Electoral Votes. Once that is factored into the equation, support drops to 31% and opposition increases to 43%.

It’s interesting to note that Republican support for the measure barely increases when told of the potential benefit to their own party. That may be due to a sense of fairness or a nagging realization that the same thing could happen in other states where the GOP would lose votes. Forty-five percent (45%) favor the concept in theory and 48% favor it after learning how it would impact the results in California. Among Democrats and unaffiliated voters, support plunges dramatically once the electoral implications of a change in California are explained.

So, bottom line is: even with low-information about a proposal that seems more fair, support can't even break 50%, and traditionally in California, ballot initiatives have nowhere to go but down from their first poll numbers. It seems like even if the Republicans do spend millions to get their coup on the ballot, it's not likely to pass.

And that's without what California's Democrats have just done.

Democratic consultant Chris Lehane is filing for a ballot initiative that will compete with the Republican coup attempt by proposing the National Popular Vote amendment in California. For those that don't know what the National Popular Vote movement does: it is a law that guarantees that the electoral votes of a particular state will go to the candidate that wins the national popular vote, but only after states whose electoral votes exceed the 270 required for victory pass the law. In other words, if California passes the Lehane amendment in 2008, California's electoral votes would still go to the state winner because not enough states have passed the National Popular Vote law; but the moment that enough states have passed the law so that the total number of states sponsoring the law have electoral votes exceeding 270, then the law kicks in in those states, guaranteeing that the winner of the popular vote wins the presidency.

The national popular vote has warmer support here in California. From the Rasmussen poll quoted earlier:

Overall, 54% of voters would like to get rid of the Electoral College and have the winner of the popular vote become President. Thirty percent (30%) disagree. Democrats strongly support this approach while Republicans are evenly divided. Women are more enthusiastic about it than men.

The Republican consultants are saying that if the national popular vote passes, what voters in Los Angeles or Santa Monica say won't have nearly as much impact. Of course, that argument is a stinking pile of horsecrap, because as it is right now, a voter in California, no matter who, has far less impact than a voter in Montana or Wyoming. A national popular vote would empower California voters, and make it worthwhile for both Democrats and Republican to come out here to campaign for votes, as opposed to being ignored because we're a "safe blue" state.

For continuing coverage, as well as other California political coverage, come check out

Thursday, August 16, 2007

I'm featured in L.A. CityBeat!

Check it out.

And while you're at it, check out the Ron Shepston campaign.

My resolutions are up on the CDP website

First, there's the resolution I wrote opposing subsidies for coal liquefaction...

And, there's the gutted resolution about Alberto Gonzales (actually a sausage-resolution boiled down from separate resolutions authored by me and by Peter Rudinskas).

Senator Denham (R-Merced) attacks himself on budget obstruction

So, Republican CA State Senator Jeff Denham (R-Merced) proposed an amendment to pay state vendors during the budget crisis. And then, in a gut-churning, rage-inducing display of shameless self-promotion, he put out a TV ad about his amendment:

(Notice how comments became disabled on the video?)

Now, honestly here--if you didn't come to Sacramento to allow politicians to hold schools hostage, then why are you and your fellow Senate Republicans refusing to vote for the budget unless we gut CEQA, which isn't even a budget-related issue? Especially when our Governor, who is also a member of your party, has promised further cuts to satisfy your extremist agenda? If you don't like politicians holding schools hostage, then vote for the damn budget that the Assembly already made deep compromises on.

Bob Brigham did us the favor of posting a price cut-and-splice job in response, and to let everyone know about Dump Denham:

The extremist Republicans in our state never cease to amaze.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Hey idiots: the terror attacks prove OUR point, not yours.

It's getting to be as reliable as an atomic clock.

Every single time there's a report of a terrorist attack, real or foiled (any place except Iraq, of course, which we'll get to later), the right-wing fanatosphere gets all up in a tizzy, cumulatively--and quite on cue--jumping up and down screaming something whose main message seems to be something like:


I submit as just the latest in what has become a very panicked parade of handwringing the piece from the RedState frontpage about the carbombs in the United Kingdom over the weekend.

Please allow me one short reply:

Yes, we read the news too. And contrary to what you think, it proves OUR point.

See, the meme constantly conveyed by Republicans to America through their media empire is that Democrats are just blind to the harsh realities of terrorism, or that we don't understand the threat that terrorism poses--despite the fact, of course, that the urban centers of population most likely to be hit by terrorists all vote in overwhelming numbers for Democrats, which should tell you something.

Regardless, every single time there's an attack on the West, or a threat of an attack--even if it's from seven homeless martial artists in Jamaica--we're subjected to how we dont understand the harsh realities of terrorism. And to this day, I'm not sure whether the perpetrators of this frame actually believe that we don't understand terrorism, or whether they just use that as a form of political opportunism.

I'm inclined toward the latter view. See, for this administration, terrorism serves as an argument for voting Republican no matter whether attacks happen or whether they don't. If there hasn't been an attack, it's because the Republicans have been keeping us safe. If there are foiled attacks, it's proof that we need Republicans in power because they understand how to keep us safe. And, of course, if there are more successful attacks, that'll just make us appreciate the sincere efforts of those who tried to keep us safe. (Because we all need a few more 9/11s to really appreciate Bush, remember?)

There's no accountability--just like Iraq, where if violence is down, it's proof that Bush's policy is succeeding, but if violence is up, it proves that the attackers are desperate, which is in turn proof that the policy is succeeding. Just like Iraq, the Republican framing on terrorism is designed to eliminate any scenarios that could be used as proof of a failure of policy. And we can't let them get away with it.

Because like I said above, the fact that terror attacks are happening--especially homegrown terror attacks like what Great Britain has been seeing--is, in fact, proof of the fact that Bush's Cheney's entire approach to terrorism has been an utter disaster, and that the "taking the fight to them" concept has absolutely no meaning if "they" are not a particular people in a particular location, but can in fact spring up right in your own backyard given the proper mix of social and economic conditions.

The rise of homegrown terrorism proves that winning the battle of ideas is just as important as winning the battles with boots on the ground.

The rise of homegrown terrorism inspired by Osama bin Laden and Al-Qaeda proves that maybe--just maybe--we should have gone after them instead of starting a bloody civil war by conducting a botched occupation of what was a repressive and cruel, though secular, Arab dictatorship.

The stories of how these attacks were foiled proves that torture and blanket surveillance of American citizens (i.e., making the haystack you're trying to find the needle in even bigger) really doesn't hold a candle to the proven-effective methods of disciplined inter-agency cooperation, targeted surveillance, citizen awareness, and blind luck.

In short, my dear, right-wingers: Here on the left, we "get" terrorism. And one of the things we get is that you don't get it at all.

Monday, June 11, 2007

I'm featured on the California Democratic Party website!

Just saw this link on the Chairman's Corner of the CDP website. I'm looking forward to beginning my work at the E-board meeting in July...

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Well, I guess I'm an insider now!

I'm excited! My own personal quest to Crash the Gate took another step forward today--I received my letter from California Democratic Party Chairman Art Torres appointing me to the CDP's Platform Committee.

Every even-numbered year, the CDP approves a newly reworked platform crafted together by the members of the platform committee based on submissions from Democratic Clubs and members of the State Central Committee. And from what I've been told, the national Democratic Party tends to use the California platform as a template for its own national platform.

And I'm going to be on the committee that writes it! I'm thrilled, seriously.

I have a little question, for you, though--when was the last time you actually read the Party's platform to know what it officially stands for? Well, let me give you a chance to read the official platform of the California Democratic Party:

Official Platform of the California Democratic Party

Now, lots of it looks has a lot of "planks"...but it seems like there's something missing.

I don't see a separate plank for global climate change or alternative energy!

Well, during my time on the Platform Committee this year, I intend to change that--and I've asked the Energize America team to help me draft a plank in support of alternative energy and fighting back against the climate crisis.

So, that's my news for today! Like I said, I'm excited--and hopefully I'll get the chance to get something done! Hooray for Crashing the Gate!

Thursday, May 31, 2007

RNC fires ENTIRE phone banking staff

I kid you not. In a shocking move that not only demonstrates the difficulties that the Republican Party is having with its grassroots small-dollar base, but also reveals the direction in which the party is headed, the Washington Times is reporting that the RNC has summarily fired all 65 of its telephone donation solicitors.

So, why has the RNC abandoned its telephone solicitation efforts?

Faced with an estimated 40 percent fall-off in small-donor contributions and aging phone-bank equipment that the RNC said would cost too much to update, Anne Hathaway, the committee's chief of staff, summoned the solicitations staff last week and told them they were out of work, effective immediately, the fired staffers told The Times.

Ayup. The Republicans, who have historically always had a larger base of small-dollar donors than the Democrats, have pissed the base off so much lately that those small-dollar donations are finally beginning to dry up.

"Last year, my solicitations totaled $164,000, and this year the way they were running for the first four months, they would total $100,000 by the end of 2007," said one fired phone bank solicitor who asked not to be identified.

And what is it that is pissing the base off so much that they're no longer willing to contribute to the Republican Party? Why, it's the scary brown people!!

There has been a sharp decline in contributions from RNC phone solicitations, another fired staffer said, reporting that many former donors flatly refuse to give more money to the national party if Mr. Bush and the Senate Republicans insist on supporting what these angry contributors call "amnesty" for illegal aliens.
"Everyone donor in 50 states we reached has been angry, especially in the last month and a half, and for 99 percent of them immigration is the No. 1 issue," said the former employee.

Heh. Time catches up with everyone, it would seem. The Republican Party had done a fantastic job of keeping the theocons, neocons, paleocons and corporatecons united under a big tent by playing both ends against the middle--but eventually, that jig had to come to an end, and now we're seeing it in action with the immigration issue. Bush and the Republicans are compromising and "granting amnesty" to keep their corporate masters happy, and the base is finally getting around to realizing that they have, in fact, been sold down the river. And they've finally stopped parting with their dollars in the hopes that this election cycle will be different.

But far more interesting than the fact that the base is unhappy is what the RNC has decided to do about it. Now, it's obvious that the lack of fundraising certainly played a part in the RNC's decision to...let me its entire phonebanking staff. But just as important, says the RNC, was the fact that the phonebanking equipment itself was antiquated:

"The phone-bank employees were terminated," RNC spokeswoman Tracey Schmitt wrote by e-mail in response to questions sent by The Times. "This was not an easy decision. The first and primary motivating factor was the state of the phone bank technology, which was outdated and difficult to maintain. The RNC was advised that we would soon need an entire new system to remain viable."

So, faced with the prospect of needing to modernize its equipment to be able to maintain some contact with its unhappy grassroots base, or just abandoning the base altogether, guess what the RNC chose? The latter, of course. And why not? The corporate contributions just keep on rolling in:

The RNC spokeswoman denied that the committee has seen any drop-off in contributions.
"Any assertion that overall donations have gone down is patently false," Miss Schmitt said. "We continue to out raise our Democrat counterpart by a substantive amount (nearly double)."

There is no longer any doubt what side the Republican Party has chosen. They have chosen the corporate cons over the paleocons because the corporate cons have more money. And some of the quotes over at Freeperland (I break with tradition by including a link for your convenience and viewing pleasure) are priceless:

To: de meanr
I’m one of those former donors that told the solicitor a couple of weeks ago that they would not get another dime from me if that amnesty bill passed.

7 posted on 05/31/2007 2:50:49 PM PDT by lady lawyer

To: BenLurkin
Fire the messengers, rather than change the program.

There is only one conclusion:
The GOP is dead and waste of time.

9 posted on 05/31/2007 2:51:01 PM PDT by Diogenesis (Igitur qui desiderat pacem, praeparet bellum)

To: de meanr
"There has been a sharp decline in contributions from RNC phone solicitations..."

Payback is such a bitch...

8 posted on 05/31/2007 2:50:58 PM PDT by Czar ( StillFedUptotheTeeth@Washington)

And many, MANY more where that came from.

Popcorn, anyone?

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

My girlfriend is entering the Peace Corps!

My girlfriend Andi (seen here at Kerry's booksigning in Brentwood) got accepted to the Peace Corps a couple of days ago. I don't often--or perhaps, ever--write personal stuff on my political blog, but I just wanted to say how proud I am of her. As of now, she's slated to leave in May 2008 for an environmental development program in Eastern Europe or the Caucasus region.

She's a rare jewel and I couldn't be happier for her.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

For hell's sakes, just send him the same damn bill!

I know other people have said it, but I just want to reemphasize the point in light of the 222-203 vote sustaining the veto.

What troubles me--and many of my fellow Democrats--is this:

Democratic leaders have indicated that a new bill will likely drop withdrawal timelines, but will include benchmarks for the Iraqi government -- measures that are likely to win the support of some Republicans.

Don't even get me started on this. Why exactly is it necessary to win the support of Republicans for this, given the fact that there's only one Republican that matters? It's the Republican party that's out of touch with the country on this--let them go down in flames with their president by continuing to oppose bringing our troops home.

Ok, so we'll have benchmarks for the Iraqi government. And how exactly will those benchmarks be enforced? What exactly is it we're going to say? "You'll either have this much progress made toward disarming the militias by such-and-such date, or we'll wag a finger at you very angrily!"? And how is that any better than what's going on right now? What good is a benchmark without any enforcement mechanism?

Isn't that what the conservatives claimed was wrong with the UN's approach to Iraq in the first place? Then why do they tolerate it here?

Monday, April 30, 2007

CA Dem Party insiders kill net neutrality resolution.

This is the first in a series of posts about the convention. Today's entry focuses on what certainly appears to be an effort by certain factions higher up in the state party to kill a resolution on net neutrality.

First, some background on what exactly resolutions are for the California Democratic Party.

Resolutions, essentially, are statements of philosophical intent that are non-binding regarding any particular piece of party business, but are supposed to be used a guideline for the party in general, and shows that the party is on record as supporting particular stances or issues. Resolutions are considered for passage by the Resolutions Committee at the convention.

The process for getting a resolution to the Resolutions Committee is simple: get it sponsored by 25 members of the State Central Committee (i.e., delegates such as myself), or get it sponsored by any charted Democratic club. At the convention, any resolution that does not meet the "philosophical intent" guideline--say, a resolution calling for supporting a particular piece of legislation, or calling for a particular amount of funding to be given to a particular project--are referred to a more relevant committee for discussion and debate. If a resolution is not approved, it can still be brought to the floor by getting 300 signatures of voting delegates--or at least, that's the way it used to be. More on that below.

So, to the issue at hand. There was a resolution on net neutrality that was appropriately sponsored and made its way to the Resolutions Committee. When we checked the status of the net neutrality resolution, we saw that it had been referred to...the Labor Caucus.

Now, that made a lot of us say, WTF?. This is really strange, because a caucus has no legislative authority in the Party to be able to do anything with the resolution after the referral--it's essentially a death sentence for the resolution, since after the referral there is no longer any mechanism for bringing the resolution to the floor to be able to get it adopted. And why is that? Because of an obscure rule change this year which prevents resolutions from being brought to the floor by signature unless they are totally killed in Committee. So because the net neutrality resolution was not killed, but was just referred, it could not be brought to the floor by any mechanism in the party rules.

Secondly--why the Labor Caucus, of all places, especially when there's a Technology and Internet Caucus? Well, the answer may likely have to do with AT&T and the Communications Workers of America (CWA). For some background on why CWA is opposing net neutrality, please read this piece by Matt Stoller at MyDD.

So, okay then. CWA opposes net neutrality. So what does that have to do with the Resolutions Committee of the California Democratic Party? I'll let Juls at Calitics take it from here. You should read the whole piece, though I warn you that some of what she has is as of yet unconfirmed.

In this case they knew that AT&T, a major party donor and sponsor of the convention, opposed the deal. Since Alexandra Gallardo-Rooker, 1st Vice-Chair of the Party sits on the Executive Board of CWA #9400 they knew about CWA's issues with net neutrality. They also knew that Jim Gordon, Chair of the Labor Caucus, is also with CWA. Thus, they could be assured that the concerns of the organization would be addressed when the resolution is heard at a later date. In addition, one must be a member of a union and a dues paying member of the Labor Caucus to be heard at their meetings. Those supporting net neutrality would be unlikely to have someone to carry this for them at any meeting.

Now, there were obviously conversations between the Resolutions Committee and party leadership about the resolutions that had been proposed. That's par for the course, and it is, of course, impossible to know what was discussed about the net neutrality resolution, or who said what, and there's no foolproof way to know which party officials would have been most responsible. But to sum up the facts once again:

A resolution on net neutrality which would countervail the desires of a major party sponsor and a party vice-chair, was killed by referring it to a caucus (after which it can no longer be passed by petition) that not only has no legislative authority to deal with it, but whose chairman also belongs to the same union that is opposed to the deal and whose membership is the most exclusive since you must be a card-carrying union member to have voting rights.

Stuff like this is why we need to have more people with our values at the higher levels of party infrastructure--so we can know what's going on with little tricks like this and hold people accountable. I myself am going to request an appointment to a Party committee this week--I hope that some of my fellow delegate bloggers do the same.

ouch. just, ouch. Poor McCain.

Friday, April 27, 2007

At the CDP convention

I'm at the California Democratic Party convention right now--I'm a delegate from the 42nd Assembly District. I will be doing my best to liveblog throughout the convention, but I may be running around for a lot of the time.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

For the last time: there is no war to lose.

I've said it before. clammyc has said it. thereisnospoon has said it repeatedly (all separate links). And in light of Senator Reid's recent comments about the Iraq "war" being lost, it's high time someone said it again: THERE IS NO WAR TO LOSE IN IRAQ.

I would have thought that our elected officials would have understood this by now. I don't know why it's so hard to understand that we are not at war with Iraq. We are occupying Iraq and receiving heavy resistance from a variety of insurgent groups with different motivations--many of whom hate each other as well.

That makes a big difference.


To many, it may seem like a minor difference in terminology, but this distinction makes a huge difference when it comes to framing and popular support--and proper use of this frame might just help us not only get our troops home faster, but also increase our election chances in 2008. Here's why.

As you can read in any one of the diaries I linked to above, in a war there are only two outcomes: you win, or you lose. In an occupation, there are also only two outcomes, but they are different: annexation or withdrawal. The only question for an occupying power is what level of losses that power is willing to accept in order to get whatever benefits they're receiving from occupying the country in the first place.

Now, the main reason that the majority of the American public supports withdrawing the troops is because more than four years and over 3,300 sacrificed soldiers later, the people are beginning to realize that this is not, in fact, a "war" where two opposing armies try to outslug and outmaneuver each other like a boxing match and in the end, only one will remain standing. This is not Gettysburg, nor the Ardennes forest. It is, instead, a slow and constant bleeding of money and lives, with no forseeable end in sight--because that's what all occupations are: it's just a question of whether you're getting a good enough return on the investment.

The American public is quickly realizing that the the investment is not worth it, no matter how much the Administration tries to tell them it is. And one of the main ways the Administration and its allies try to convince the American people to keep going is by continuing the idea that this is a war--because wars either end in victory or defeat, and the American people don't like to lose.

The truth is, we're occupying Iraq. And an occupation is a totally different thing from a war. Wars are won or lost based on the troops that fight and the generals that command. Occupations, however, succeed or fail on the basis of much more than military strength: their success is based on large part on the competence of the administration doing the occupying.

So, when Senator Reid says that "the war is lost", what he's implying is that our troops were not good enough for the task--and even if the only reason for that is that the Administration put them in an impossible position, it still doesn't matter. And the reason it doesn't matter is that he's playing into the Administration's meme about the occupation of Iraq still being part of a war that can be won or lost.

This won't make me all that popular around certain parts, but when Senator Reid says that the "war is lost", he sounds like a defeatist. And anyone who supports those comments sounds like a defeatist by extension, no matter how much those comments may be defended in light of the recent uptick in violence.

Instead, what needs to be repeated--over and over again--is that the occupation has failed and is not worth continuing. Americans like to win wars, but they don't like to be seen as occupiers. Not only that, but saying that the occupation has failed puts the blame of the failure squarely where it belongs:

On the Administration, rather than the troops it put into harm's way.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

IRS audits of middle class have TRIPLED since 2000

was hopping mad enough when I read theKK's diary from this January about IRS officials pushing auditors to prematurely close audits of big corporations, despite the potential to collect additional billions of dollars of revenue in taxes legally owed to the United States.

Typical, I thought. The Bush administration using enforcement policies to enahnce the effect of its pro-big business tax legislation. Not surprising.

But now it's worse. Not only is the IRS treating big companies with absurd laissez-faire, they're making up for it by tripling the audits of middle class taxpayers.

Why is it happening? Well, the IRS says it's part of a strategy to deal with having fewer agents with an increasing population.

The increased focus on the middle class is part of a broad I.R.S. strategy to deal with a major reduction in the ranks of the tax police as the population continues to grow and Congress has made the tax system ever more complex.

The I.R.S. has fewer than 13,000 revenue agents, down from more than 17,000 at the peak in 1988.

The core of the new strategy is to audit more individuals and businesses, even if the examinations are more cursory. Without more audits, I.R.S. executive say, people may behave as if no one is watching.

Oooookay. I'm curious about something. Why is the number of revenue agents decreasing?? It seems to me that if you have agents conducting audits, they can more than pay their own salaries by collecting additional tax revenues owed to the federal government. Furthermore, it's not just that there are more people and fewer agents--the tax code has become more complicated too. And guess who's to blame for that:

Chris Edwards, director of tax policy at the Cato Institute, a libertarian research and advocacy group in Washington, said that Congress is driving the need for more audits. Since 1995, he said, “the Republicans greatly complexified the tax code, contributing to tax evasion and making the I.R.S.’s job more difficult.”

Fine. I'll ignore all that and just go along with the point: The IRS has fewer auditors for more people with a more complex tax code, so they have to increase cursory audits to catch more cheaters.

Ok. So let's see who's cheating.

Critics have said the increased revenue from enforcement actions shows only how widespread tax evasion has become and how easy it is to find tax cheating. The I.R.S.’s most recent estimate is that $290 billion in taxes due were not reported and paid. But studies have suggested the figure is higher, mostly from hidden investment gains, multinational businesses and entrepreneurs.

Right. So let's see how that shapes up in terms of enforcement. Here are some snippets from the article:

Audits of these middle-class taxpayers rose to nearly 436,000 last year, up from about 147,000 returns in 2000. For these 61 million individuals and married couples, who make up nearly half of all taxpayers, the odds of being audited rose from 1 in 377 to 1 in 140.

Right. Audits for middle class taxpayers tripled. Ok. What about for those who made more?

Audits of those making more than $100,000, the 11 percent or so of Americans who pay about 80 percent of individual income taxes, rose to more than 256,000 from just fewer than 100,000, a jump of 163 percent. The odds went from 1 in 104 to 1 in 59.

The increase in auditing percentage of those making over $100,000 is about half of the increase in auditing percentage for middle-class taxpayers. But what about the super-rich?

At the very top, those making more than $1 million a year, the data showed that from 2004 to 2006 the number of audits rose 77 percent, from almost 9,600 to 17,000. But more than half of those audits were only letters asking for documentation.

From 2004-2006, the increase percentage was only 77%. And even at that, most of the audits were just letters, instead of actual auditors! It's not just the corporations that theKK wrote about earlier--here's another example of the Bush administration using enforcement to further the class war against middle America--because the legislation itself apparently wasn't enough.

Sick, disgusting malfeasance.

On "not influencing a particular investigation"

So I just went took a break from work to go into my local Starbucks and order an iced venti soy vanilla latte. While I'm waiting, I pick up a copy of the L.A. Times, where I see an article about Gonzales' impending testimony--which he has pre-released--and in that article, I find the following cited from the testimony in question:

"I know that I did not, and would not, ask for a resignation of any individual in order to interfere with or influence a particular prosecution for partisan political gain. I also have no basis to believe that anyone involved in this process sought the removal of a U.S. attorney for an improper reason."

My first thought was: what a load of crap! But on retrospect, I began to think--hey, wait a minute...the slimy weasel could be telling the truth and not perjuring himself...just, not the whole truth.

See, Gonzales may be telling the truth here: The attorneys weren't fired to influence a particular investigation--but they were fired in retaliation for not fanatically pursuing things the Badministration wanted pursued. But the statement "they weren't fired in retaliation for not applying the scales of justice evenly and engaging in partisan witch-hunts" isn't in Gonzales' testimony, is it?

First off, let's take one of the most egregious cases in the US Attorney firing scandal: David Iglesias, former US Attorney for New Mexico. As I'm sure most of you know, David Iglesias was a loyal Republican. Why was he put on the list by Rove at the behest of Senator Domenici? Because he wouldn't issue indictments of Democrats in time to be able to influence Heather Wilson's election in NM-01.

So he was fired. But was he fired to influence those investigations? NO. He was fired in retaliation for the fact that he refused to comply with previous tampering efforts. So when it comes to David Iglesias, Gonzales' testimony is technically correct.

Next up, we can take the case of John McKay, US Attorney for Western Washington. John McKay was fired because he did not bow to pressure to pursue indictments based on voter fraud claims involving the 2004 gubernatorial race for which there was absolutely no evidence. So, after repeated pressure from Republican operatives, he was fired. But he wasn't fired to influence those investigations--he was fired in retaliation for the fact that he dispensed justice even-handedly rather than pursue a witch-hunt.

Other Attorneys, such as Bud Cummins or Margaret Chiara, were apparently fired simply to make way for Bush or Rove loyalists. That doesn't count as influencing particular investigations either!

It is with Carol Lam, however, that AGAG stands the greatest chance of perjuring himself. After all, given Kyle Sampson's explicit emails about "the problem we have with Carol Lam" and other similar statements regarding an explicit denial of an extension for her specifically to continue in her office, it would seem that her firing was done precisely to impede her corruption investigations into the Dukester, Dusty Foggo and Rep. Jerry Lewis.

Now, given the explicitly political nature of the circumstances surrounding the firing of Carol Lam, there are only a select few ways that AGAG could avoid perjuring himself conclusively:

1) AGAG did not order the firing of Carol Lam; or
2) The discussions around the firing of Carol Lam centered not around removing her to influence a particular investigation, but rather to intimidate anyone who prioritized investigating corrupt politicians (i.e., Republicans) to begin with.

Kyle Sampson's emails make this argument more difficult, but still, most likely, plausible enough to avoid a perjury conviction.

And the other part of Gonzales' testimony: that whole "improper reason" bit? Well, it all depends on who you ask! Jeffrey Dahmer didn't consider skin suits improper, after all. "Improper" is all up to who you ask, especially when you're dealing with people who openly believe that politically-motivated firings are fair game.

Still--it seems that the "not fired to influence a particular investigation" gambit will likely become the new talking point for the right-wing noise machine about the firings. And for the most part, it's actually true. We'll need to fight it with our own talking point--which, in my opinion, is:

Refusal to participate in partisan witch-hunts against Democrats.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

What part of "power of the purse" don't you understand?

Of all the diaries I've written, my favorites are the ones that start off by quoting the Constitution of the United States. So here goes. From Article I, Section 8 of the United States Constitution:

Section. 8.

The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States;

To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water;

To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years;

To provide and maintain a Navy;

To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces;

Now, to me, all of that actually means something--and it was written that way for a reason.

See, it seems to me that the Founding Fathers gave the power of declaring war and funding the military to Congress for one major reason: to prevent a renegade executive from having the power to use the armies of the United States as he or she saw fit, and to make sure that the lives and fortunes of the citizens of the United States would only be sacrificed for a war which had the approval of those same citizens as manifested by their election of Representatives of like mind.

So, when we see something like this from the Executive Branch:

On the one hand, Bush extended an offer to meet with lawmakers Tuesday. On the other, the White House bluntly said it would not be a negotiating session.

it makes it seem remarkably clear that the President clearly does not understand that he is not in any position to dictate terms to Congress. And the reason that he's not in any position to dictate terms to anyone is simple: because it's in the Constitution. In fact, given the power of the purse assigned to Congress by the Constitution of the United States, it is the obligation of the Executive to negotiate with Congress on the terms and conditions of any supplemental funding for military operations.

But Power of the Purse implies something else as well: It is definitely true that the Executive Branch is co-equal to the Legislative Branch and has the authority of veto power. However, if the President, in his co-equal capacity, vetoes the funding decisions of the duly elected Representatives of the people when according to the Constitution it falls under the sole discretion of Congress to raise funds for military operations, that means that Executive Branch is in fact responsible for preventing Congress from doing its job to fund our troops in the field.

This logic would apply universally, but it is true a fortiori when the opinion of the American public stands with Congress and not with the President (which, incidentally, is what led to the election that created this impasse in the first place).

So, while I appreciate it when Reid says:

He has to deal with Congress. We are an independent branch of this government, and by our Constitution we have equal say that he has. And he’s got to listen to us. Because we are speaking for the American people; he isn't.

the fact is that the Majority Leader is actually underplaying his hand. The truth is this: Not only is Congress co-equal; not only does the Congressional bill have the support of the American people; but just as importantly, Congress has the weight of the Constitution and the entire history of United States governance behind it.

That's quite a position of strength. Let's hope our Representatives don't forget it.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

A Moment on Earth with John and Teresa Kerry

The title of this post is a play on the title of John and Teresa Kerry's new book, This Moment on Earth--a treatise on the nature of the modern environmentalist movement.

As I mentioned in my diary on Tuesday, Senator Kerry was in the Los Angeles area yesterday at a bookstore in Brentwood as part of his book tour.

I got to meet a few friendly faces there, including SusanG, whom it was an absolute pleasure to meet in person. shayera was also there--I had only seen her once since YK, and that just happened to be an "Inconvenient Truth" screening with Al himself. I took some photos, but unfortunately no notes--I didn't bring my laptop. I might be able to get an audio recording for download, but there are some technical issues we're working through right now, so stay tuned on that :-)

The event was held in the outdoor courtyard at Dutton's Brentwood--you can follow the link to see a picture of the courtyard in question. It was a little more than slightly chilly--John remarked that we were such a welcoming crowd that we had even managed to bring Boston weather out to Los Angeles to meet him.

And despite the weather, it was indeed a warm welcome--everyone was surprised by how many people came out to see the Senator and Teresa speak. The entire courtyard area was packed, and people were sitting on both sets of stairs and standing on the upper balconies as well. It was exciting to see that type of turnout--I'm hoping it bodes well for the future of the movement.

Senator Kerry began by giving an exegesis of sorts on the problems, solutions and principles contained in the book, weaving a narrative filled with facts, humor and passion. It's worth noting that his initial presentation included so much scientific data and information about CO2 levels, melt rates, positive feedback cycles, peer-reviewed publications (986 of them, to be exact!) that I began to wonder whether I was listening to the 2004 Democratic nominee or the 2000 Democratic nominee. On that note, it's worth pointing out that Kerry teamed with Al Gore to hold the first Senate hearings on climate change back in the 80s.

My memory may be faulty--it's certainly not photographic--but I don't really remember anything groundbreaking in the Senator's speech--just a affirmation of the dire need for reform of our nation's environmental and energy policies, and a reaffirmation of the fact that we have the capability to do something about it just as long as we have the political will. Perhaps others who attended--such as SusanG or Kevin in Long Beach--can weigh in on particular points I might have overlooked.

Before taking questions, John turned the mic over to Teresa, who spoke on environmental issues relating more to women. This included what was probably one of the more humorous (and informative!) moments of the evening--a discursus on disposable diapers! Seriously, I had no idea that "disposable" diapers took 500 years to make good on their commitment to biodegradability.

After Teresa spoke, members of the audience got to ask questions--and though the preferred topic was environmental issues, the questioners also touched on Iraq, immigration, and a host of other issues and current events--lots of which ended up boiling down, in essence, to environmental and energy policy.

From murphy in the comments on my DailyKos diary: Kerry was asked who he was leaning toward in the 2008 primary, and said that he didn't know yet because none of the candidates had come out as strongly on environmental issues as he would like.

But by far my favorite part of the evening was actually talking to the Senator Kerry in the signing line! If you read my diary on Tuesday, you can see that I asked him whether he had heard of Energize America, and he sounded interested. Well, I brought some materials about Energize America with me including some background information about the Neighborhood Power Act, one of EA2020's signature legislative ideas, and gave them to the Senator--and he turned to his aide and said, "put these with my papers--and make sure I have it!" I think that was my first time ever lobbying a sitting Senator or Congressman, and I definitely hope I can repeat the experience.

This little personal experience also wouldn't be complete without mentioning my girlfriend Andi, who came with me--she has been a lifelong environmentalist and was a supporter of Kerry back in the 2004 primary because she found his environmental record so appealing. And because I told her that I thought the event would be inside so she probably wouldn't need a jacket, she spent a good deal of time shivering...but she thought it was worth it!

If there were any other Kossacks there beyond the ones I've mentioned, please speak up and state your opinions! Like I wrote in my earlier diary, I had no idea until now that Kerry was such a strong leader on environmental issues. Seeing his level of conviction makes me all the more happy that we have people like him and Senator Boxer heading up our Senate committees rather than Senator Inhofe. Elections have consequences, so let's keep winning!

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Senator Kerry talks to me and other bloggers on the environment

Earlier this evening I joined with a few other Los Angeles area bloggers in a conference call with Senator Kerry. Also on the call was SteveAudio, Pamela Leavey of The Democratic Daily (and kerrygoddess on DailyKos), and last but not least, DailyKos frontpage editor SusanG.

The conversation is part of his ongoing tour to promote his and Teresa's new book, This Moment on Earth. (The Senator will be at Dutton's Brentwood Wednesday 4/4 at 6pm as part of his book tour, if you're in the L.A. area.)

Below is are some rough notes of the questions we asked, and some rough notes of the Senator's comments. The conversation focused chiefly on environmental issues, as that is the nature of the book, but we did touch slightly on Iraq and foreign policy.

Opening remarks: The book is a broad effort by Teresa and me to try to focus on a lifetime of effort on the environment, and focus people’s energy on how and why the grassroots of America is ahead of Washington, and why there’s urgency on not only global climate change, but also air quality, water quality, toxins, food, air and water—a moment where we have to decide whether we’re going to make responsible choices about the future, or capitulate to a series of tipping points—fisheries, pesticides, chemicals and so forth.

This is as critical a moment for the environment as the original earth day in 1970. The book is about how individuals in America are taking initiative to hold the government accountable.

SteveAudio: The EPA is refusing to discuss the melamine-infected wheat gluten, and the Endangered Species act.

Kerry: These guys are so Orwellian it’s not funny. They’ve taken away the “polluter pays” principle, and put it to the “everyone pays”. They’ve undone the roadless forest rule—it’s a shocking, negligent malfeasance on issues critical to our national welfare and safety. If it weren’t true, you wouldn’t even write it as fiction. They’ve been beholden to the oil industry—and they’re blocking renewable alternative fuels from getting into the marketplace. The sooner Gonzales resigns, the better

Hekebolos: Regarding the Mass. v. EPA decision—where does this go from here?

Kerry: Mass and Cali are now free to do what they want. Kerry wants to proceed forward on these issues in the Senate and the Commerce committee efforts. We’ll try to set a standard—require people to push the technology curve, and respond to the urgent demands of global climate change.

SusanG: There’s a lot of pressure from corporations for this deregulation. I’m puzzled about the human nature that would allow them to continue these deregulation patterns. Do they think that their families are exempt from the things occurring in their own bodies?

Kerry: I think that a lot of them haven’t had time to look at the facts and the issues, and also, a lot of them are forced into thinking about the short term because that’s the way Wall Street has worked. It’s not always the way it works, because there are exceptions. There’s a “quarterly report” short-term syndrome that’s infected a lot of corporate leaders, and lots of them are just not aware. It’s not as conspiratorial as people think, but it’s definitely negligent. And there are corporations that are exercising responsibility. The Climate Change Action Partnership has Dow, GE, IBM, BP, Layman Brothers—they’re exerting enormous leadership, and showing people that it’s good business and good bottom line to engage in energy efficiencies and adopt different practices. They’ve all reduced emissions voluntarily and found that they’re saving money as a consequence. Part of the purpose of the book is—chapter 7 and 6—the conclusion, there’s a lot of money to be made, wealth to be created. The environmentalists have been fringed by a myopic group that has said that they care more about a snail than a job—and that’s a false straw man presentation. But in fact, responding to these things that we’re promoting are in fact, job-creating and increases health and tens of thousands of jobs. China will confront this issue headlong of how it provides for its power demand without killing everyone through pollution, and that requires them not building one pulverized coal plant, and the only way to do that is embrace carbon sequestration and clean coal technologies. What we used to think of as a two-fer, this is a five-fer, and minimum. You do one good thing and you get 5 benefits out of it. Reduce hospital visit, create jobs, improve American security, expand your tax base. All of these things happen as a consequence of tackling these issues, and the real test here—and this is in the book—if we’re wrong after 928 peer-reviewed studies each of which documents that human activity is creating this—then even at that, the worst that can happen is you still get all those other benefits. But if they’re wrong—if Jim Inhofe and the flat-earthers are wrong—the worst that happens is absolute global catastrophe. So which side of the ledger do you want to be on?

Hekebolos: have you heard of Energize America 2020, the netroots-built energy policy platform?

Kerry: No, but I think it’s a fascinating idea. It’s a wonderful, welcome development and it just goes to show how the grassroots and the blogosphere are ahead of Washington on these issues. I'm looking forward to see it, and we’ll try to incorporate them in the finance committee and commerce committee.

SteveAudio: There’s a growing movement to encourage you and your colleagues to just say “go screw yourself” to Bush if he vetoes the funding, and not send any more supplemental bills to his desk. Does that have political merit?

Kerry: We have to find a legitimate mechanism to end the war. I joined with Russ Feingold. This confrontation is good, healthy. His simplistic exploitation of the issue is exactly what’s gotten us into this hole. He hasn’t dealt with the realities of how this will be resolved. Kissinger just said there’s no military solution. So in that case, where’s the diplomatic and political solution. And that’s what we need, and that’s what will support the troops and address American interests at the same time.

As for my own personal commentary--I previously hadn't been aware of Senator Kerry's commitment to environmental issues, but I am a lot more aware now. My girlfriend is an environmentalist, and she told me no more than a couple of days ago that when she was making her decision on whom to support in the 2004 primary, she took a look at the environmental platforms of all the candidates and Senator Kerry was by far her favorite.

I also continue to appreciate Senator Kerry's efforts to reach out to bloggers and activists on these issues, even though he's not seeking any higher office than the one he currently possesses.

I will be attending the booksigning tomorrow and will post a report and perhaps some photos from that event.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Fair and Balanced

Just saw this on Crooks and Liars:

Yes, that's definitely "Fair and Balanced". Now, I don't have a problem with partisan news media--I am partisan news media in my own little way. I just have a problem with partisan news media that presents itself as mainstream.

I guess it just means that the American people want defeat...right Fox?

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

White House oil hack admits tampering global warming reports

It seems like not a day can go by but what we get even more evidence of the Worst Administration in History™ doing yet another scandalous thing to cover up evidence, falsify data, and generally endanger humanity.

Todays outrage du jour comes courtesy of The Australian, which reports that Phillip Cooney, a current lobbyist for Exxon Mobil and former Chief of Staff of the "White House Council on Environmental Quality" (how's that for Orwellian!), rewrote scientific reports about climate change to water down the degree to which global warming was likely anthropogenic.

Now, before I even get started on this, I'd like for everyone to ask themselves exactly what all the right-wingers would have said if the Clinton Administration had been caught rewriting and falsifying scientific data to achieve a political end. I hesitate to think about such an egregious possibility--the scandal would never die down! It just shows how hopelessly evil and corrupt this administration is that something that would be considered notorious in any preceding administration will likely barely get a "yeah. so?" out of the audience assembled here.

"My sole loyalty was to the President and advancing the policies of his administration," Mr Cooney told the house government reform committee. He defended aligning supposedly independent scientific reports with the White House political view on the environment by saying the changes reflected a comprehensive 2001 National Research Council report on the issue.

That report, while firmly stating the case that the earth was being endangered by greenhouse gases, was unable to answer all questions on the causes of climate change completely, leaving room for those who believe environmentalists are overstating the case - the predominant view within the Bush administration and its friends in the business sector.

Now, I don't know how many times I need to go over this--because I've gone over it before in a number of other areas as well: policy is, and ought to be, a response to facts on the ground. Facts should not be altered to suit a pre-existing ideology. Or, wait...what was that phrase that Downing Street used? "Facts were being fixed around the policy"? Yeah...I was wondering where we'd seen something like that before.

But let's talk about loyalty for a minute. It would have been one thing if this reprehensible hack of an oil lobbyist had come out and told Waxman's committee that he did what he did simply on political grounds to try to get policies enacted that were favorable to his favorite industry...but he didn't do that. Instead, he said he did what he did out of loyalty to Bush! What type of soulless lackey to you have to be--how devoid of any values or moral rectitude--to knowingly lie and re-write scientific data out of a sense of personal loyalty? If you actually do something like that professionally over the long term, how do you manage to sleep at night? That's really something I'd like to ask these guys--how exactly it is that they manage to sleep at night without the albatross of their multitudinous and egregious sins against truth and justice oppressing their consciences.

And again--I've written on this before, but I'll say it one more time. Why exactly is it that scientists have to be able to answer 100% of all questions concerning global warming in exact detail before it becomes legitimate, in the eyes of some, to take the threat seriously? We don't do that with foreign policy threats. We don't do that with economic policy. Insurance companies sure as hell don't write actuarial tables that way. Why is it that anything less than 100% certainty about this issue obviates the need for action?

Yeah, I already know the answer to that question: they're a bunch of Milton-Friedman-worshipping hacks. Moving on.

Now, even scarier than previous reports of political pressure on scientists is the shocking number of alterations and revisions that were made:

Documents released by Democrats yesterday revealed that in 2003 Bush administration officials made at least 181 changes to a plan to deal with climate change that were aimed at playing down the scientific consensus on global warming.

There were another 113 changes that made less of the human causes of climate change, and even changes made to herald potential benefits to higher temperatures.

"These changes must be made," according to a note in Mr Cooney's handwriting. "The language is mandatory."

The Environmental Protection Agency was so against Mr Cooney's alterations - saying they were "poorly representing the science" - that it chose to leave the entire section on climate control out of its 2003 State of the Environment report.

Yes, that's right--this hack, who used to work for the American Petroleum Institute and now works for Exxon-Mobil, rewrote so much of the EPA's scientific findings that the EPA was forced to omit the entire section from its report, rather than put its name on scientifically inaccurate (that is to say, false and politicized) data.

But of course, it gets worse. The White House didn't just seek to edit this one EPA report--it sought to control any communication between scientists working at NASA's climate institute about global warming. James Hansen is a top expert in climate change who works for the aforementioned institute:

"In my more than three decades in the government I've never witnessed such restrictions on the ability of scientists to communicate with the public," says Hansen.

Restrictions like an e-mail Hansen's institute received from NASA in 2004. "... there is a new review process ... ," the e-mail read. "The White House (is) now reviewing all climate related press releases," it continued.

The CBS/60 minutes article cited above is worth reading in its entirety--and there's also a video player there where you can watch the 60 minutes interview with James Hansen--who said that he was also invited to go on NPR, but that NASA wouldn't allow it because it was "too liberal."

I'm not sure about the finer points of law--but somewhere, somehow, some of this has got to be a crime. And I'm really hoping that Henry Waxman's committee can lay bare even more of this unconscionable coverup of a scientific data that concerns the very future of our species' existence on this planet.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

US Attorney doc dump includes TALKING POINTS!

Let's cut right to the meat here--the document dump by the DOJ concerning the US Attorney scandal is pure gold.

I picked out a random PDF from the recent dump on the House Judiciary Committee website and reviewed the comments on TPM Muckracker to see what had been covered in the document I was reviewing. I only found a couple of references to one page--which I'll get to in a bit--but the other stuff I found in this one particular document is fascinating.

I'm referring to document section 1-9, release date 3-19-07--which contains talking points!

If you want to read it yourself, go to the link above and start on page 9.



U.S. Attorneys serve at the pleasure of the president:

United States Attorneys serve at the pleasure of the President. Thus, like other high-ranking executive branch officials, they may be removed for any reason or no reason. That on occasion in an organization as large as the Justice Department some United States Attorneys are removed, or are asked or encouraged to resign, should come as no surprise. United States Attorneys are never removed, or asked or encouraged to resign, in an effort to retaliate against them or inappropriately influence a particular investigation, criminal prosecution or civil case.

Well, see--they serve at the pleasure of the President. So, see, we can hire them and fire them when we want, for whatever reason we want, and you don't have a right to care! Well, not that we could ever do that of course. Heh heh. I mean, we wouldn't do in inappropriately. Of course, it all depends on how you define "appropriate." Heh heh. The fact that we seemed to fire all the USA's who were investigating Republicans or refused our demands to pursue partisan witchhunts against Democrats to help our election chances? Pure coincidence. Of course, you couldn't do anything about it even if we did, because they serve at the pleasure of the President!

Now, I have to tell you, I'm not going to sit down and type the whole thing out for you, because I don't have character recognition software that would do it for me! So instead, I'll give you an interesting synopsis of some of the finer points:

--A defense of the necessity of inserting the clause that expanded the AG's appointment power (after all, the fact that it was so necessary is why it had to be done so stealthily!)

--The talking points memo is followed by a "fact sheet" about the new nominees to the US Attorney positions. Included in the "fact sheet" is a statistic--I kid you not--about how Bush's nominees have more experience as prosecutors than Clinton's nominees! You can find that on page 18 of 50 of the document. Because we all know that this is really about the incompetence of the Clenis! (I mean, seriously--I'm looking forward to the day when some right-wing hack doesn't respond with "well, Clinton..."

Now, it seems clear that this section of the document dump is pure talking point defense--so it's no surprise what comes next! At page 21, there is a bio of Tom Griffin--who was appointed for the district of Eastern Arkansas the same day that Bud Cummins, the previous attorney, submitted the resignation that was "requested" of him. Now, Griffin is the only one mentioned in this section of the "talking points" document dump, and it's no surprise that they did--all you need to do is take a look at the TPM link just above to see just how bad this guy is.

They knew they were in trouble on him, so they had to create a talking point just for him.

Now, here's what I'd really like to know: First of all, who wrote the aforementioned talking points--and on top of that, to whom were they sent? Fox News, perhaps?

But the real kicker is the email on page 26. It's from Margaret Chiara, the ousted U.S. Attorney from Western Michigan, who was let go supposedly for "poor performance." Here's her email to Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty about her firing:

Paul: I respectfully request that you reconsider the rationale of poor performance as the basis for my dismissal. It is in our mutal interest to retract this erroneous explanation while there is still time. Please simply state that a presidentially appointed position is not an entitlement. No other explanation is needed.

As you know, I have assiduously avoided public comment by pursuing an informal version of the "witness protection program" in order to elude reporters! However, the legal community in Grand Rapids and organizations throughout Michigan are outraged that I am being labeled as a "poor performer." Politics may not be a pleasnt reason, but the truth is compelling...

But they'd never fire anyone for political reasons. Of course not.

Read the docs for yourself. Have a blast. I am.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Global Warming: The IPCC was a CONSERVATIVE estimate

From a diary by my friend (and energy policy expert) Adam Siegel.

For all those who were using the IPCC report as "proof" that Al Gore was blowing a bunch of hot air, or saying that the report proves that things aren't bad yet:

The IPCC report only took into account what we could model for fairly certain, and didn't include any consequences of modeling positive reinforcement cycles. And it was also altered due to political pressure from our "ally" Saudi Arabia and our frenemy, China.

Please stop embarrassing yourselves by citing the IPCC report in your denials. Thank you.